There are two churches. There’s the Church and there’s the church. Uppercase C Church is the body of Christ, the universal church, all true believers everywhere. Lowercase C church is a local part of the Body, a gathering of believers in a single location. That’s what it is supposed to be, but in the local church there is often a mixture, the good and the bad fish, the wheat and the tares, the true and false prophets. The Church is defined only by true believers, those united with Christ individually, so that they are joined and knit together into His one Body, which is the Church.
Read these earliest descriptions of the church. What characteristics describe the Church?
Acts 2:42-47 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 4:32-35 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
List the characteristics. See if you can come up with at least seven.
I’m going to give you one more description of the church. This isn’t a description of what was happening, just a description of how a church is supposed to operate.
1 Corinthians 12:12-20 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
Here are a couple of more verses about the body.
Ephesians 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 1:22-23 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
The Church is the Body of Christ. The local church is to be an expression of the Body of Christ, full of selfless love. We’re all to be His, but we’re all to belong to each other as well. We are one body and each do our own part to help the rest of the body grow in love.
Lesson Point: The church should be an expression of Christ on earth, the embodiment of love.
Challenge Question: Can you even imagine your church being like this? Pray that they will become this! God wants to restore the church to the way He designed it to be. Ask for His vision for what church should be. Pray for it to come about.