JETS                                                                                                   Dr. Jack L. Arnold

ECCLESIOLOGY

THE LOCAL CHURCH

Lesson 8

 

General Observations About the Local Church

 

I.               DEFINITION OF THE LOCAL CHURCH:  A group of professing Christians (and their children) in a given locality who have organized themselves for the purpose of doing the will and work of God.

 

II.             ENTRANCE INTO THE LOCAL CHURCH

A.   Some Independents.  Some Christians believe only belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is the criterion for being a member of a local church.  There are no more requirements to enter the local church than the universal church.

B.    Baptists and Independents.  Belief in Christ and water baptism by immersion are required for membership.  Some Baptists require baptism by immersion in their particular Baptist church or denomination.

C.    Presbyterians.  Most Presbyterians require a credible profession of faith in Christ, water baptism (any mode) and a testimony before the elders.

D.   Roman Catholics.  A person is born into the Roman Church and is saved and sealed at water baptism.

 

III.           CORRECT THINKING ABOUT THE LOCAL CHURCH

A.   A church is not where two or three are gathered (Matt. 18:20).  There must be organization with officers.

B.    A church is not a building but it is people.  It is not a place where we go to be entertained.  The church gathers to worship God and be equipped to do ministry.

C.    A church is not a social gathering of people.  It is the church gathered to do the will and work of God under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

D.   The word “church” is from the Greek word ekklasia, which means “called-out ones” (ek and kaleo).  It refers to the universal church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18) and the local church (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1).  As nearly as possible the local church should be a reflection of the universal church.  While there is no perfect local church, every church should be made up of true believers ( and their children.)

 

IV.           GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE LOCAL CHURCH

A.   The organization of the early church had officers—elders and deacons (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13).  The organization was mainly patterned after the synagogue worship and developed in a gradual manner.  In Acts 6, servants, possibly deacons, were chosen and appointed to relieve the Apostles of many duties.  Acts 8:1 tells us that persecutions caused the Christians to leave Jerusalem and more churches were needed in outlying areas.  There arose, therefore, the need of elders (Acts 11:30).

B.    At first the early church gathered daily (Acts 2:46), but apparently, as the church grew numerically and spread through the Roman Empire, it became a practical necessity to meet at an appointed time—Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).  Although we cannot definitely prove it, probably most of the meetings were at night because the slaves and others had to work all day, for Sunday was not a recognized holiday for either Jews or Romans.

C.    The early church in Jerusalem met in the temple and in homes (Acts 2:46).  We may conclude that the early church was not opposed to meeting in a building, but when persecution came they were forced out of the temple and into homes.  After this there is no mention of a church building for over 200 years.  Therefore, we may conclude that a building is nice but not necessary to a proper functioning of a local church.

D.   Church meetings were organized and regulated (1 Cor. 14:26-28, 34-35, 40).

E.    The church exercised discipline on its members (1 Cor. 5:13; Rom. 16:17).

F.    The church took care of the sick and widows (1 Tim. 5:9-10).

G.   The church collected money for the Lord’s work (2 Cor. 8, 9; 1 Cor. 16:1-2).

H.   Churches wrote letters of commendation.

 

V.             THE NECESSITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

A.   Why is the local church necessary?

1.     God ordained it.

2.     It is the basic unit for all of the Lord’s work.

3.     It is still the most practical way to get the task of building the saints and world evangelism done.

4.     It is the primary place to carry out church discipline, teaching of the Word and observing of the sacraments (ordinances).

5.     It is the only place that can minister to the whole man—from birth to death.

B.    What about para-church organizations outside the organized church?

1.     They are necessary only if the local church is not doing its particular ministry.

2.     They are helpful in crossing and bridging denominational lines.

3.     They must always be an arm of the church.

4.     Whenever a local church or churches do a ministry well, the para-church organization should move out.

5.     There will always be a need for para-church organizations because the church will never rise to its full potential.

6.     Para-church organizations will come and go but the organized church will be on earth until Christ returns.

C.    What is necessary and what is nice in the local church?

1.     Necessary

a.     Preached Word

b.     Sacraments

c.     Church discipline

d.     Training the saints

e.     Worship

2.     Nice but not necessary

a.     Buildings

b.     Music programs, choirs

c.     Youth programs

d.     Sunday School programs, etc.

 

VI.           CONTRASTING THE LOCAL CHURCH AND THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH

Universal Church

 

A.    Includes all Christians (Eph. 1:22, 23).

 

 

B.    Only Christians belong to this body (Eph. 5:25-27).

 

 

C.    Perfected forever positionally in Christ (Heb. 10:14).

 

D.    Held together by Christ whose building we are (Eph. 2:19-22).

 

E.    No Christians ever excluded (John 17; Eph. 1:4, 7, 13).

 

Local Church

 

A.    A group of organized Christians (Rom. 16:1; Acts 8:1).

 

B.    Should include only Christians and their children (1 Cor. 1:2) but no guarantee all are regenerate (1 John 2:19).

 

C.    Not perfect and are constantly exhorted to Christian growth (1 Cor. 1:11; Phil. 3:12-13).

 

D.    Held together by mutual consent and certain articles of agreement, hopefully from the Bible.

 

E.    Fellowship withdrawn because of sin (2 Thess. 3:14; 1 Cor. 5:13).