The Bible doctrine of the church is very important. Believers can know this for at least several reasons which include:
The New Testament deals extensively with the history, doctrine, organization, etc. of the institution of the church, which, until the Marriage of the Lamb, is made up of local assemblies of believers.
The institution of the church was very important to Christ. Christ “loved the church and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ep. 5.25-26).
“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Ti. 3.15).
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Co. 1.18). To summarize this most important point:
“Ephesians 1:21-23: ‘Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.’”
Thus, the Lord concludes Ephesians 1 on a tremendously high note. The Lord, through Paul, is writing to the church at Ephesus and by extension to all local visible churches; see also 1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” in context. A local church under Christ is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of (authority over) that church in all matters. Hebrews 2:8: ‘Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.’
“At the present time, only local assemblies built by Him and Him alone and under Him and Him alone make up the institution of the church on earth founded and ordained by Christ. There are many organized groups, churches, assemblies of people coming together for some cause or reason who are not listening to the Lord Jesus. One will sometimes find some children of God, born again believers, sprinkled in among those in such churches. These believers are paralyzed. You see, the most tragic sight to see is a child of God lying on a bed, helpless, as if his brain is detached from his body. I’ve seen many churches that have been like that, and there are many individual Christians today who act as if they are detached from Christ, the head of the body. He says, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’ In other words, I can wiggle my little finger because my head is in charge of it; and when He wants you to “wiggle” down here, you do it because of love, or else you’re not attached to Him. How important this is! The Lord pictures the church (which consists now of local New Testament spiritual assemblies or bodies) and our relationship to Him in this way: ‘For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.’ (1 Co. 12.12). The Lord says to the church at Corinth in 1 Co. 12:27: ‘Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.’ The thing we need to see is that Christ is the head of the body, made up of His churches, and we are under Him.” [Paraphrased from Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Ephesians, pp. 61-62. Click here to go to a Bible study of Ephesians.
A church is also a temple, and as such corresponds to the temple of the Old Testament which was, in turn, preceded by the tabernacle of the wilderness. The comparison is self-evident. The contrasts between the church and the tabernacle and the temple in the Old Testament are sharp and striking.
- The tabernacle and the temple, for instance, were made of living trees of acacia wood that were hewn into dead boards. In order to form A church, God takes dead material and makes it into a living temple.
- The temple and the tabernacle were dwelling places for the glory of God. A church is a dwelling place for the Person of the Holy Spirit.
- Nor does a church have a ritual. It is a functional organism in which the Holy Spirit moves through the living stones. The tabernacle and the temple were for the performance of a ritual and the repetition of a sacrifice for sin. A church is built upon the one sacrifice of Christ in the historical past, a sacrifice which is not repeated: Hebrews 9:25-26: “Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
- Also, the church is not a “temple made with hands.” Acts 17:24-25: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
- Another sharp contrast to the Old Testament temple is the position of the Gentiles. Gentiles had to come as proselytes and were confined to the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was way off to the left as you look into the temple. The Gentiles did not get very close. That is why Paul says, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ep. 2:13). Gentile believers are now seated in the heavenlies in Christ!
Insights from Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Ephesians, Chapter 1 with modifications.
Note. Israel never did believe that God was confined to the temple. See 1 K. 8.27.
A church has a love relationship with Christ. That relationship, as Christ wants it to be, is beautifully described in Song of Solomon. Therefore, This study starts with Song of Solomon: Click the following to go to “Study from Song of Solomon”:
The lessons below teach the Bible principles, guidelines, organization, purpose, makeup, etc. of a church – in other words, what God desires a church to strive to be. Few churches strive to please God in these matters. Few churches and believers know New Testament Church doctrine. These studies will be added to until finished.
In 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus belong together. They are called the Pastoral Epistles. In these epistles, Paul deals with (1) the creed of a church which is within a church and (2) the conduct of church members which is on the outside of a church. For the church within, the worship must be right. For the church outside, good works must be manifested. Worship is inside; works are outside. Click the following links to go to the studies:
Study of 1 Timothy: In 1 Timothy, chapter 1 deals with faith, the faith of a church, its doctrine. Chapter 2 is the order of a church. Chapter 3 concerns the officers of a church. Chapter 4 describes the coming apostasy. Chapters 5 and 6 tell of the duties of the officers.
Study of 2 Timothy: The solution of man’s problems can come only through the grace of God. We need to recognize that God creates out of nothing. Until a man is nothing, God can make nothing of him. The grace of God through Jesus Christ is the way to transform and save mankind. That is what 2 Timothy teaches, and that is why it is important to study 2 Timothy.
Study of Titus: In chapter 1, Paul says that a church is to be an orderly organization (Titus 1.5). In chapter 2, he emphasizes that a church is to teach and preach the Word of God. “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). He says that a church must be doctrinally sound in the faith. In chapter 3 we see that a church is to perform good works. ”Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1). In other words, a church is saved by grace, is to live by grace, and is to demonstrate her faith to the world by her good works. Until a church has all aspects that Paul has outlined, it has no claim to be called a New Testament church.
Four men left Rome in A.D. 62 bound for Turkey. These men had four of the most sublime compositions of the Christian faith. When these men bade farewell to the Apostle Paul, each was given an epistle to bear to his particular constituency. These four letters are in the Word of God, and they are designated the “Prison Epistles of Paul,” since he wrote them while he was imprisoned in Rome. He was awaiting a hearing before Caesar Nero. The four men and their respective places of abode were: (1) Epaphroditus from Philippi who had the Epistle to the Philippinans (Philippians 4.18). (2) Tychicus from Ephesus who had the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6.21). (3) Epaphras from Colosse who had the Epistile to the Colossians (Colossians 4.12). (4) Onesimus, a runaway slave from Colosse) who had the Epistle to Philemon, his master (Philemon 10). These epistles present a composite picture of Christ, the church, the Christian life, and the interrelationship and functioning of all. These different facets present the Chritian life on the highest plane.
Click here to go to a study of Ephesians. Ephesians presents the institution of the church, made up of local autonomous spiritual bodies. The epistle is about the body of believers in a New Testament church, of which Christ is the head. Click here to go to 14 lessons on Ephesians (Questions and Answers).
Click here to go to study of Philippians. Philippians shows a church walking down here. Christian living is the theme; it is the periphery of the circle of which Christ is the center. Philippians presents Christian living with Christ as the dynamic. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4.13). Lessons on Philippians are linked to below. A great message from Philippians 2: The Mind of Christ by Charles Lawson.
Click here to go to study of Colossians. Colossians directs our attention to the head of the body who is Christ. The body itself is secondary. Christ is the theme. He is the center of the circle around which all Christian living revolves. Christ is the fulness of God. Christ is the Head of the local church. Click here to go to 6 lessons on Colossians (Questions and Answers).
Study of Philemon. Philemon gives us Christianity in action. We would say it is where the rubber meets the road, or in that day it was where the sandals touched the Roman road. It demonstrates Christianity worked out in a pagan society.
Study of Galatians. In Galatians, Paul is defending the gospel from those who would add law to justification by faith. Faith plus law was the thrust of Judaism. Faith plus nothing was the answer of Paul.