Part 1 / Lesson 1 – THE CHURCH
If you were to describe the first image that pops into your mind when hearing the word “Church,” what would you say? Many people would describe seeing a stain-glassed cathedral of stone and marble. Some would speak of a more humble structure with a white steeple and wooden pews. Still others would describe a particular denomination that is regulated by a religious manual. Sadly, few would describe the Church as it is depicted in the Bible, even though that view is vital to their understanding the expectations God has for His people, and to their realization of the status believers receive in God’s kingdom.
NOTE: Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible. Bolds, underlines, UPPERCASES, and [bracketed comments] were added for emphasis.
WHAT IS THE “CHURCH”?
The New Testament uses the word “Church” to reference those who believe and follow Jesus Christ. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes the “Pre-Christian History” of that term as follows:
Although ekklēsia soon became a distinctively Christian word, it has its own pre-Christian history; and to those, whether Jews or Greeks, who first heard it applied to the Christian society it would come with suggestions of familiar things. Throughout the Greek world and right down to New Testament times (compare Acts 19:39), ekklēsia was the designation of the regular assembly of the whole body of citizens in a free city-state, “called out” (Greek ek, “out,” and kaleı́n, “to call”) by the herald for the discussion and decision of public business. The Septuagint translators, again, had used the word to render the Hebrew kāhāl, which in the Old Testament denotes the “congregation” or community of Israel, especially in its religious aspect as the people of God. In this Old Testament sense we find ekklēsia employed by Stephen in the Book of Acts, where he describes Moses as “he that was in the church (the Revised Version, margin “congregation”) in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). The word thus came into Christian history with associations alike for the Greek and the Jew. To the Greek it would suggest a self-governing democratic society; to the Jew a theocratic society whose members were the subjects of the Heavenly King. The pre-Christian history of the word had a direct bearing upon its Christian meaning, for the ekklēsia of the New Testament is a “theocratic democracy” (Lindsay, Church and Ministry in the Early Centuries, 4), a society of those who are free, but are always conscious that their freedom springs from obedience to their King.
So, in the Old Testament, the Hebrew equivalent for “Church” is “Kahal” (see Strong’s H6951). Brown-Drivers-Briggs Hebrew Definitions defines “Kahal” as being an “assembly, company, congregation, convocation.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for “church” is “Ekklesia” (see Strong’s G1577). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon of the New Testament says “Ekklesia” is an “assembly of people called out.” This similarity is consistent throughout the Old and New Testaments. As a result we can determine that the “church” (“Kahal” in Hebrew, “Ekklesia” in Greek, “Church” in English) means a CALLED OUT assembly of people separated from the world and the world’s ways, and separated unto God. This CALLED OUT CHURCH (Assembly) was called by God to be a HOLY PEOPLE unto God. “Holy” in Hebrew denotes being separated or sanctified from something and/or to something. As a result, when God gave the nation of Israel (His called out assembly of people) His Word, their status with men and with God changed.
This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. This is he, that was in the CHURCH [Ekklesia] IN THE WILDERNESS with the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.
Acts 7:37-38 is quoting from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy.
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me: unto him ye shall hearken. According to all that thou desirest of the Lord thy God in Horeb [Mount Sinai] in the DAY of the ASSEMBLY [Kahal]….
Those obedient to God’s commands become a part of an assembly non-Jewish (non-nation), Gentile, Nation.
Now therefore, if ye will OBEY [“Obey” is “Shema” as found in Deuteronomy 6:4] my voice indeed, and keep my covenant [Law], then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an HOLY NATION. [“Nation” Strong’s 1471 Hebrew “Goy”: “A foreign nation; hence a Gentile.”] These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
This passage describes what happens when a saint of God is translated from their old fleshly identity and old natural genealogy into a new identity and a new relationship. The Bible compares this change to a marital covenant.
A WEDDING COVENANT
At Mount Sinai, God entered into a marriage covenant with the nation of Israel who became a KAHAL (assembly) (kehilat/congregation) of people in the DAY of the “assembly” (kahal/ecclesia/church) at Mount Sinai.
Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine ESPOUSAL [betrothal … the first of two steps in the Jewish wedding process], when you went after me in the wilderness [became the bride of God at Mount Sinai] in a land that was not sown
The marriage covenant between God and the nation of Israel in the day of the ASSEMBLY was the Law (the “word” or “teachings” of God). The people were to keep this covenant with the Lord. Instead, they became unfaithful and broke the covenant. God purposed His Word to be written upon the HEART of sincere believers. However, Israel did not prepare their hearts, and as a result, they disobeyed. As a result, the Bible says God’s Word was written on their HEARTS OF STONE. The Bible explains a “heart of stone” as being one that BREAKS the Law (Word) of God.
1 John 3:4
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:
Since Israel’s STONY HEARTS refused to obey the Word of God, the marriage contract between them and God was broken. But because of His love for His creation, God chose to pursue a NEW or a RENEWED contract with man. This renewed contract would also be WORD centered, but this time God Himself would engraft His Word on a believer’s HEART. He would this by removing their HEART OF STONE and replacing it with a HEART OF FLESH. This new heart would engraft God’s Word on the heart of every member of the ASSEMBLY of God’s people, thus empowering those souls so they can better KEEP God’s Word.
For finding fault with THEM [those who had the LAW written upon a HEART of STONE], he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new [renewed] covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah [the two houses of God called ISRAEL]. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they CONTINUED NOT in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the HOUSE OF ISRAEL after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my LAW into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people.
Remember, the “church” was at Sinai. Sinai is where the FIRST PENTECOST (SHAVUOT) occurred. Pentecost is called the “DAY of the ASSEMBLY” (Deuteronomy 9:10, 10:4, 18:16) in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament it is called the “CHURCH” (Acts 7:37-38). So, what happened in Acts 2 was NOT the birth of the church (like some wrongly believe), but instead is the time when God wrote His WORD upon the HEARTS of His people through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 2).
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put WITHIN YOU [Acts 2]: and I will TAKE AWAY the STONY HEART out of your flesh, and I will give you a HEART OF FLESH. And I will put my spirit WITHIN YOU [Acts 2]: and cause you to WALK in my statutes, and ye shall KEEP my judgments [LAW] and do them.
Ezekiel was referring to when God would replace a STONY HEART (which breaks the Word of God) with a HEART OF FLESH (which keeps the Word of God). This heart transplant helps a child of God better focus on doing God’s Will.
What did Ezekiel mean by saying that God would “cause” a person to “walk” in His “statutes” and to “keep” and “do” His “judgments”? God does this by putting His Spirit within a believer. His indwelling Spirit helps the recipient to not only know God’s Word, but also to know its author. This intimate relationship then helps a believer to better understand how God’s Word relates to their own life, which then helps them relate to both God and His creation.
THE LEADERSHIP OF THE CHURCH
Jesus is the head of His Church. He entrusts His Church leadership to God-called ministers. Being a part of this calling is something that is to be taken lightly, for God’s ministers are called to serve the Church’s spiritual needs in this life, and in the next life, they will stand in judgment for their stewardship to that calling.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Ephesians 4:11-12 AMP
And His gifts were [varied; He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers. His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church),
HOW TO PROPERLY INTERACT WITH CHURCH LEADERSHIP
God views how a person treats His “kids,” as being how they treat Him. As a result, how a saint of God treats their Church leadership—in God’s eyes—is equal to how they treat God (see Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:36-40,Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 9:1-5; Mark 12:28-34; John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:10-14, 1 John 3:10-24, 1 John 14:7-11).
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
Preachers will instruct the congregation to live by the Word of God. They will also preach messages designed to steer the Church away from spiritual hindrances, and to help keep the assembly on the straight and narrow.
2 Thessalonians 2:15
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Hebrews 13:7 AMP
Remember your leaders and superiors in authority [for it was they] who brought to you the Word of God. Observe attentively and consider their manner of living (the outcome of their well-spent lives) and imitate their faith (their conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things, the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ, and their leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness).
1 Corinthians 11:1-2
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
1 Corinthians 11:1-2 ESV
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary defines “tradition” as a “transmission, that is, (concretely) a precept; specifically the Jewish traditionary law: – ordinance, tradition” (see G3862). This understanding is derived from a Greek word that means to “surrender, that is, yield up, intrust, transmit” (see G3860). A “precept” is a command. So, a “tradition” is a command, and it is something to which a person should surrender. However, traditions never trump Scripture. Instead, they are to always follow biblical principles. Traditions meeting this qualification should be obeyed, if their purpose is to lead the Church into more spiritual maturity. This objective agrees with what Paul said was the purpose of both the preacher as well as the saints.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
The leaders and gifts available in a congregation are there because of God’s Will.
1 Corinthians 12:28
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
A saint’s attendance, faithfulness, and fellowship with other believers are vital to their walk with God. The term “Church” denotes plurality. From other believers come things such as encouragement, warmth, and love. God designed man to need these things. He is the One that said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (see Genesis 2:18). Because of this declaration, God made a woman for Adam. This meant there was now more than one person, thus there was a kahal/ekklesia/assembly of believers, i.e. “a church” in the Garden of Eden. Mankind assembling together is essential if the Church is to qualify as the many-membered “BODY” of Christ.
THE STATUS OF THE CHURCH
The Bible describes Jesus’ Church as receiving a new spiritual standing or status. The first of these is that the Church is called the “Body of Christ.”
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:
1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27
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. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many…Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
The next change of status refers to the Church being the “Temple of God.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
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.
2 Corinthians 6:16
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
The terms “Body of Christ” and “Temple of God” both refer to locations that “houses” the presence of God.
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
The Church is an assembly of believers that obey the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, and who minister to the needs of others in the name of Jesus Christ.
WHAT IS AN “APOSTOLIC?”
The short answer is “apostolic” means “relating to apostles.” But that does not explain how it actually applies to a person’s faith. Such “relating” has to do with adhering to the teachings of Jesus’ apostles. How this works begins in what the Bible says about these men and their teachings. The Bible says that the apostles were given “perfect understanding” of Jesus’ teachings.
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Jesus taught them all that was said of Him in the Old Testament, and how these teachings are to be properly applied in His New Covenant. Jesus said that His believers would come to know Him through the Apostles’ teachings.
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
As a result, labeling one’s belief as “apostolic” speaks of being committed to following those same apostolic teachings. These instructions are recorded in the apostles’ writings in the Bible, and they speak of One God and how a person is to enter and live within His kingdom.
WHAT IS A “PENTECOSTAL?”
“Pentecostal” is derived from the Old Testament Feast of Pentecost. The Feast of Pentecost occurs around May or June of each year. That day is also called the “Feast of Weeks,” because it occurs 50 days after the second day of the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.” It was celebrated to commemorate the giving of the commandments to Moses while he was on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19:1-8).
A believer calling himself or herself a “Pentecostal” should not be based on membership to a particular denomination. Instead, calling oneself a “Pentecostal” is a reference to their roots, or basic beliefs, being grounded in an experience that first happened on the Day of Pentecost. What I mean by that is, Pentecostals take their name from the experience that first happened to the 120 disciples on the Day of Pentecost. You can find this event in the second chapter the Book of Acts (see Acts 2:1-41). There the prophecies that both the Prophets and Jesus foretold came to pass. These teachings foretold of a (then coming) outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost). Acts 2 records the occurrences that took place during the time that this Gift of God was first received. It also records that this same “promise” would keep being poured out on as “many as the Lord our God shall call” (see Acts 2:39)…this means it is still available for me and you…
The next lesson in the GROW Discipleship Course Part 1 is entitled: The Eternal One God.
Copyright © 2000 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.