• The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19).
  • Wednesday, 13 March 2013


    In the New Testament the idea of “church” is applied at four levels among the community of believers. The first level consists of the house churches, gatherings of believers, perhaps within walking distance of one another, who joined together regularly for worship, prayer, sacraments, and the ministry of the Word.
    These house churches, mentioned in various places in Paul’s epistles, seem to have been the most basic cellular units of the Body of Christ, having all the identity, privileges, and responsibilities of all other churches.

    We are perhaps most familiar with the second way that the idea of “church” is expressed in the New Testament, that of the church within a city – as in Corinth, Ephesus, and so forth. These city-wide churches were comprised of the various house churches which appear to have joined together regularly as larger communities for worship and other duties, including the exercise of church discipline and generating resources for missions and relief of other Christian communities. The house churches met regularly and so did the city churches, and both levels of the Church were equally the Body of Christ.
    The third sense in which the word “church” is used in the New Testament is in a regional sense: as in the “church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria”, which “had peace and was being built up” in the early days of the Christian movement (Acts 9:31). Paul seems to have regarded the “churches in Galatia” in the same manner, addressing one letter to them all in order to clarify some doctrinal issues and instruct the church in Galatia in matters of Christian practice.
    Peter seems to be doing the same in his first epistle. Some commentators have also argued that the seven churches to which Christ wrote in Revelation 2 and 3 were regarded as one regional expression of the Church, since their geographic locations form a kind of circle in that part of Asia Minor. During the first Christian centuries, as house churches and city churches continued to multiply, city churches organized as synods in which bishops and pastors met frequently to consider matters of importance affecting all the churches within their geographic region.
    Finally, of course, “church” is applied to the whole worldwide body of Christians in every place. This is the Church which represents Christ in His fullness as He is working to fill all things with the knowledge of God and His glory. That application may also be extended to the Church universal, in every age and place.
    All these expressions of the Body of Christ are important, and if we fail to maintain any of these in our day, then we must be provide good reasons for setting aside the counsel of Scripture and the practice of the early Church for whatever may be our preferred way of thinking about “church.” Believers are members of the Body of Christ at all levels – in your local church (which today has replaced the house church), the Church within your community, the churches which make up the Body of Christ in your geographic and cultural region, and the worldwide Church of the Lord. Since the Church at each of these levels is the Body of Christ, we should expect that here is where we may hope most to experience the reality of the risen Christ as well as to express Him through our individual and collective gifts and callings.
    Believers are members of the Body of Christ. We cannot possibly hope to fulfill the unique demands and opportunities of our individual “membership” unless we are vitally connected to the other members of Christ’s Body in meaningful and significant ways. If in any way we and our churches are not working to achieve expression of the Body of Christ at all the levels indicated in the New Testament, then we are compromising our reason for being and frustrating our mission and calling to fill all things with the knowledge of Christ by making disciples of all nations. And since this is the case with almost every church and every member of every church, it is not surprising to see the Church so compromised and lacking in power to turn our world rightside-up for Jesus Christ.

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