House Churches/Biblical Churches Part 2
In the last series of posts we looked specifically at the “house” church movement and how it differs from the “institutional” church. In this post, we are going to attempt to define what a church is, and in the next post we will examine what elements are necessary for a church to function properly.
When examining Scripture to determine what elements are essential to a church, one must take the time to define what a church actually is. This is fairly simple, I Corinthians 12 reveals that the church is the body of Christ. It is made of many unique individuals who through Christ have joined with each other for the purpose of serving one another and to become like Christ. This may seem simplistic, but it isn’t. The first part of this definition is that a church is made up of unique individuals. It possesses diversity, this is not in reference to racial or creedal diversity, but instead to diversity of ability and talents. The first part of 1 Corinthians 12 reveals that God through the Holy Spirit endows believers with spiritual gifts to benefit the church as a body. A church needs multiple people with different gifts so that the body as a whole functions better.
Secondly, 1 Corinthians 12 shares that each member of the body is placed by the Holy Spirit. Just because an individual attends a church does not mean that the individual is a part of the church. Just as each part of the body must have blood flowing through it in order to be functioning, so also must each member of the church have the Holy Spirit flowing through it in order to be a functioning member. In other words, each member must be a born again Christian who has been saved by Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, there must be a recognition of the authority of God in the individual’s life. This may seem obvious, but when we inspect 1 Corinthians 12 we see that the various body parts grumble or are jealous because of where they have been placed, thus the church is interrupted. Recognizing that God has placed us into a church body, makes it much easier to serve within that body. It should result in our being thankful for the opportunity to serve the rest of the body. When we are thankful and submissive to the Father, then we can truly rejoice when one part of the body is honored or weep when one is injured.
Additionally, we see that they have voluntarily joined with each other. They were not forced into being a part of the body, they were made to be a part of it. However, they choose whether or not to become a part of it. This is why this passage emphasized so much the necessity for unity. Unity is a choice which demonstrates thankful service to He who saved us.
Finally, the church is made up of unique individuals bound to each other by Christ who seek to serve each other. A church is made of servants, and not lords. We are each called to serve each other, just as Christ served us. There is not a more fitting picture of this than when Christ washed the feet of the disciples. Here we have the Creator of the Universe, bending down to wash the filthy feet of those who would scatter from Him in fear, and even of those who would betray Him within the next few hours. He gained nothing by this act, He didn’t add to His glory, but He did model what the church is meant to be. We should not consider our own benefit, but each others. We ought to lovingly serve each other.
In conclusion the church is made up of only believers. It is made up of unique believers who are sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is made up of unique empowered believers, who are bound to each other recognizing the authority of God. It is made up of unique and empowered believers who, following the example of Christ, use their gifts to voluntarily serve the rest of the body to which they are an invaluable part.