Wednesday, July 6, 2016



 Much confusion exists today about the biblical word church. Without studying it in Scripture, many people conclude this word refers to a building for worship. The Bible teaches that the church is not a building, but that the believers themselves are the church. Others, who have come this far in their understanding, assume that anytime they find the word church in Scripture, it refers to them or truth about them; this is not true either. In fact, such a conclusion can lead to a multitude of practical and doctrinal errors.


In Scripture, the word church means "called-out ones." When translating from Hebrew and Greek into English, the same word rendered church is also translated "congregation" or "assembly." God uses these three words with great frequency-more than 25 times in II Chronicles and 117 times in the New Testament. It can be used to describe any group of people, from an angry mob to a group of saints gathered for worship. As it is with many words, it is critical to look at the context in which they are used to understand the meaning. With this in mind, we find that there are three different churches which refer to believers in God's Word.


As Stephen recounted his long chronology of Israel's history to the hard-hearted Jewish religious leaders in Acts, Chapter 7, he referred to "the church in the wilderness"  (v. 38). Who was he talking about? This church initially "refused" the leadership of Moses (v, 35), later followed him out of Egypt "after that he had shewed wonders and signs"  (v. 36), and "made a calf" for false worship while Moses was receiving God's "lively oracles" on Mount Sinai (vv. 38,41). This church "had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness" (v. 44) and as Stephen said, did "always resist the Holy Ghost" (v. 51). The context clearly identifies the nation of Israel in the Old Testament as being this "church in the wilderness."

God frequently confirmed Moses as the leader of the church in the wilderness. When the people "complained" about their journey, God's judgment was not abated until Moses prayed for them (Numbers 11:1-3). When Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses and tried to usurp his authority, Miriam was made leprous and Aaron was soon stripped of his priesthood (Numbers 12). When 250 sons of Korah challenged the leadership of Moses, God opened the earth and "swallowed them up" (Numbers 16:32).

God so validated the leadership of Moses that, centuries after his death, the nation of Israel recognized the "customs [or laws] which Moses delivered us" (Acts 6:14) as being binding upon them. They came to revere Moses as having been God's man, who represented the foundation of all the truths they held dear, which had been given to Israel throughout the Old Testament. Now, think about what this means. It means that there was a "church," or called-out group of believers, that was exclusively Jewish, had laws or requirements specifically for them, and had Moses as their leader. When we read about this church in the Old Testament, it does not refer to us. Therefore, we need to be careful NOT to indiscriminately apply to ourselves the instructions or promises that God gave to them.


 As the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ was nearing its end, the Savior told Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). The immediate and long-range context of this verse gives us key information that helps us identify who this church is and what kind of instructions they were given.

In the chapter immediately preceding the above reference, the Lord Jesus said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (15:24). Clearly, our Lord's ministry and message at that time was to the nation of Israel and not to us today. Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 23:5, Daniel 2:44, and Zechariah 8:3 promise Israel a King and a Kingdom of great blessing. Throughout the Gospel accounts, the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples went everywhere "preaching the gospel [or good news] of the Kingdom" (Matthew 4:23; 9:35), promising that "the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17; 10:7). In this overall context, the Lord Jesus asked Peter who people were saying He was and who Peter thought He was. Peter's answer was, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Our Lord's response was that He would build His church on the truth Peter knew: that Jesus of Nazareth was Israel's long-promised King. The Jews who chose to believe this message were being called out of the hard-hearted and unbelieving nation of Israel by believing that the Lord Jesus Christ was their promised King and that His Kingdom would soon be established.

Many Bible students refer to this church that Christ was building during the Gospel accounts as the "Kingdom church." Such a name identifies the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of Israel. It identifies the members of this church as being exclusively Jewish, with the hope of these believers being an earthly Kingdom where they would reign from Jerusalem with their King, the Lord Jesus. It further identifies a range of specific doctrines that the Savior taught as to how these followers were to live in anticipation of their Kingdom. For example, they would be forgiven only IF they forgave others; they were to "take no thought" about providing for their daily needs, but instead completely trust God to supernaturally provide for these needs; and they were all to perform miracles, such as casting out devils or drinking poison (Matthew 6:14,24-34; Mark 16:15-18). All these things were intended to verify the validity of the Lord Jesus Christ as Israel's King.

A "church," or called-out group of believers, certainly did exist in the Gospels and early chapters of Acts. But what is clear is that it does not refer to believers today in the Age of Grace. We too believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the national make-up, eternal hope, and instructions about how to live today are distinctly different from the Kingdom church. Therefore, when reading this section of the Bible, we must NOT indiscriminately apply instructions or promises to ourselves that were intended specifically for the Kingdom church.


 The Apostle Paul referred to a new group of believers over which the Lord Jesus Christ is "the Head" and it is called "the church, which is His Body" (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:16-18), or the Body of Christ. This is the distinctively different church that exists today.

Only the Apostle Paul wrote about "the dispensation of the grace of God" and only he, by divine inspiration, claimed that the doctrinal truths for our Age of Grace had initially been "given" exclusively through him (Ephesians 3:1-5). This is why he repeatedly wrote, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3: 17). The people of this church are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ from all nations. The "middle wall of partition" that once stood as a barrier between Jew and Gentile, and Gentiles and God, has now been "abolished" by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-16). Today, there is "no difference between Jew and Greek" (Romans 10:12; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). The eternal hope of this church is to be "raised ... up ... and ... sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6,7; I Corinthians 15:40-53; I Thessalonians 4:13-18). All of this stands in contrast to the two previous churches that are described in the Bible.

Believers today are members of "the church which is His Body" or the Body of Christ. The rest of our Bible was written "for our learning" (Romans 15:4), but the section of the Bible that contains our promises, instructions, and doctrine is found in the letters of the Apostle Paul. Let's look to the Books of Romans through Philemon as "our mail."

Dispensational Chart

How God Saves Men
Believing Christ DIED, that’s HISTORY.
Believing Christ DIED for YOU SINS and Rose again that’s SALVATION.
Read Romans 1:16, Romans 10:9-10 and 1. Corinthians 15:1-4

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 Posted By Cecil and Connie Spivey

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