In commemoration of Gethsemane B-P Church’s 30th Anniversary
Dear Gethsemaneans,Thirty years have passed since our church was established. Only a handful in our present congregation were there when it was started. Most of us were added to the church along the way. Now, it is an appropriate time for every member to ponder over some pertinent questions, like: Why am I part of this church? Do I regard the church as God’s Word teaches us about it? Have I been conducting myself as a genuine member of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ?
We must reckon our church just as our Great Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, instructs us in His Word. If we neglect His counsels concerning the church, we will certainly incur His wrath. His warnings and condemnation against every form of foolish, irreverential misconduct within the church are fiercely vivid and ominous. For His avowed exhortation has constantly been: “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:16; see also 2:5; 3:3). Christ also declared rewards and honour to those who persevere joyfully to do His will in the church. His promise to His faithful people in the church is: “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b; see also 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21).
As we prepare for the 30th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service (on the Lord’s Day, 25th March 2018), I am moved in my spirit to contemplate and write on the biblical doctrine of the church.
What is the “Church”?
The biblical definition of “church” is that it is a group of people whom God has called and assembled as His people through Jesus Christ. Hence, the church consists of the people whom God saves through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and who have been incorporated into His body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.
The church is a “called out” people of God.
The New Testament Greek word for church (ekklesia) means the “called-out ones”. It refers specifically to the assembly of a people whom God has called out of sin, falsehood and the world for Himself. This truth is best expressed by the apostle Paul when he wrote to the church in Corinth – “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2; cf. Romans 1:6-7).
As a church, we are a separated entity of God’s people for God’s own purpose and glory. Only when all of us in the church joyfully and passionately respond to the call of God can our church be truly a faithful and fruitful church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The church is called to belong to God.
The frequently used New Testament description, “church of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 3:5), indicates that the local churches like those in Corinth belong to God. God owns the church, having purchased it for Himself with the blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 20:28).
Because the church belongs to the Lord God, it is also depicted as “the house of God” in 1 Timothy 3:15. The church is God’s household. It is not an institution or organisation that should be controlled and directed by human ideologies and fancies which are contrary to God’s revealed purposes in His Word. No man should assume absolute authority over the church. God has made His Son, Jesus Christ, the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). So, no one should ever lord over the church.
The church is called to be an assembly of saints.
The church is made up of those whom God has called out of the darkness of sin and the world to be an assembly of holy people. Hence, Paul explicitly speaks about the members of the church as those who “are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2b; cf. Roman 1:7). The word “sanctified” (hagiazo) means “to be separated from profane things and be dedicated to God for His use”.
It is through Christ that God sanctifies us from our sins for His holy purposes. Christ cleanses our sins by His blood and imputes His righteousness to us, that we may be separated from sin unto God for His service. Scripture says, “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). In Ephesians 5:25-26, Paul said, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word”.
Note also what Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:2 concerning the church: the members of the church were “called to be saints”. The calling of the church is to function as a congregation of saints. All members of the church are summoned by God to live a life of holiness in this wicked world. Every member of the church who lives in worldliness and sin without genuine repentance defies God’s call and corrupts His purpose for His church. So, let us cease from every sin and live a holy life that pleases our blessed Master, who loved us and gave His life for our sanctification. Nothing weakens the church as much as the sins of its people! Thus, we must separate ourselves from sin and falsehood.
Scripture reminds us again in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 – “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” Indeed, the Lord has “saved us, and called us with an holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9a). So dear church, let us walk in holiness, in obedience to the calling we have received from the Lord.