Social networking apps brought a new lingo, like "friending," a word used for adding someone as a friend on Facebook or a similar app. How about "churching" someone? We can use that for being in the same church. It is totally appropriate because, after all, the church is a relationship.
We often think of the church as a building or an event, like the worship service on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening Prayer and Bible Study gatherings. But these are only things that the church does, and they are not the essence and identity of the church. This is why we need to take a closer look at how the Bible defines it. Many who wrote about the nature of the church have advanced a useful distinction between passages in the Bible that refer to the universal Church and those that refer to the local church. For instance, Ephesians 5 refers to the church as the body of Christ, which includes all those who will belong to him all over the world and across all time. This would include those who are alive and those who are dead in Christ as well. This is often referred to as the universal Church, with a capital ‘C.’ Other passages refer to the gathering of believers as the church [Romans 16:5], where Paul sends his greetings to the church that was meeting at the house of Priscilla and Aquila. This is usually referred to as the local church, with a small ‘c.’
This view of the church is quite useful, but it overlooks a major aspect of the nature of the church, which applies to both the universal and local church alike. It is that church is a relationship. In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul the apostle makes a very interesting and powerful comparison between the marriage relationship and the church, which he calls the body of Christ. He says that the husband-wife relationship is to be patterned after the Christ-Church relationship, establishing a clear parallel between the two kinds of relationship. The church is a relationship between Jesus Christ and all who believe in Him; He lays down his life as a sacrifice for them, to make the Church pure and complete and take her for Himself. The church responds to Him by eagerly submitting to His headship over her. In essence, the apostle presents us with the idea that we are “Churched” to Christ and one another, as a husband and wife are married to one another. In fact, he presents the Church relationship as the foundation on which the marriage relationship is built and after which it is patterned.
How does this framework help us understand important relational dynamics, like the individual's authority and value? What does it mean for wives to submit themselves to their husbands? And husbands to lay down their lives for their bride to present her to God complete? For further study, I have included a list of Bible passages about the church, organized into seven themes. Read one per day for the next week and write down your observations. Start each day by praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you, then read the verses for that day and the whole chapter as well so you can have a feel for the context. Write down your observations regarding the Church relationship and take it a step further by evaluating your relationships with Christ and others. Is God asking you to make any changes? This is an important first step in transforming relationships. If you can, leave a comment on this post about what you have learned about the church relationship so others can benefit as well.
1. It is the body of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Ephesians 3:6, Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18, and Colossians 1:24).
2. The bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7–9).
3. The household of God (1 Timothy 3:15)
4. A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession (1 Peter 2:9)
5. The assembly of the righteous (Hebrews 12:22,23)
6. The dwelling place of God (1 Cor 3:16)
7. The pillar and foundation of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
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