It has become common to believe that the individual is “the church.”
Yet, throughout Scripture you cannot find Scripture to validate this statement. The more secular material we read, the more it becomes evident that the idea that “I am the church” is an idea created to take one’s-self out from under the AUTHORITY and ACCOUNTABILITY of the local New Testament Church, and use the excuse that “I am answerable to God”.
We know that we are answerable to God – even the unsaved are! However, God, in His wisdom has always had a “checks and balance” system of accountability.
The word church means “called out assembly”.
We are called out of the world (just as the nation of Israel was called out of Egypt) Acts 7:38. Through the Bible we discover that the church was given authority by God Himself, through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:18 the Lord says to Peter that the church would be built upon Himself (the Lord – not Peter).
The Church has organization.
Ephesians 5:23 shows us that “Christ is the head of the church.” The same passage also shows us that Christ died for the church (vs.25). In Colossians 1:18 it states again that “Christ is the head of the BODY,” then immediately the word body is defined as – the church.
No where will you find that the church is an individual. However, you will find that the church is the gathering of many saved individuals.
The church is to have structure.
With this structure comes accountability. In Acts 6, we find the selection of seven-men for the sake of caring for the widows who were being neglected in the daily administration. In Acts 14:23 they elect themselves elders. In I Timothy chapter 3 we find that He gives the qualifications and requirements for the pastor and deacons. These are more than just requirements, but they also hold the pastor and deacons accountable. In Numbers 16 we see that Korah and his followers get swallowed up into Hell because they tried to elevate themselves to the position that God had given to Moses (God’s man for the nation of Israel).
There is a lot of responsibility given to the church, and the members of that local church are to yield themselves to that local body of believers for accountability. This is how God designed it.
Church discipline is given to the church – not the individual.
In Matthew 18:15-17 we find that it starts with the individuals trying to work it out, but when the offender has not repented, the individual who has been wronged is to take it to two or three others so that now there are witnesses for every word that is spoken. If after the first two processes are not affective – THEN it is to be taken to the church!
God has given authority to the church in areas such as these: church discipline, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, commissioning missionaries, evangelists, the starting of other New Testament local churches, and others.
The local church is a collective group of believers that assemble beneath the structure and ordinances as outlines in God’s Word.
The responsibility, or ordinance, of baptism is given to the local church. Though Philip was alone in baptizing the Eunuch he did so through the authority of the church of Jerusalem.
The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was given to the church in I Corinthians 11:18. It was time for the man to examine himself, but he was commanded to do so amongst the other believers in the church. This was not to be a dinner for feasting or partying. This was to be a time of remembrance that the church did together – as a church (called out assembly).
Through Scripture we find that Christ is for local bodies (assemblies) of believers. All through the pages of the New Testament you will find that Paul addresses a local body. In Revelation, John writes letters to seven local bodies (assemblies) of believers.
We must steer clear of this idea that “we are all the body of Christ – every saved person makes up the body”. This is true in retrospect, but in application, Christ’s design is that believers place themselves under the authority of a local New Testament Church. Yes, those saved in other nations are part of “the church,” but they are not answerable to a church in the states. No, they are answerable and accountable to the church, or assembly of believers, where they attend or live.
The ultimate gathering of the saints is soon to come. But, since the rapture of the church has not yet happened; all the living saints of God are instructed to be part of a local assembly of believers. It is not scriptural to simply be part of an online-assembly with a Pastor and people who will never look you in the eyes, visit you in the hospital, marry your young or bury your dead.
Ask Ananias and Sapphira if the church of Jerusalem had authority over their lives. If they were “the church” they would probably not have felt the need to lie about their offering. However, because they were part of a local church, they became disillusioned with “keeping up with the Jones'” and decided to lie to the Holy Spirit, and they immediately became an illustration of what-not-to-do before their local church.
Authority and accountability are good for every Christian.
In our new age mentality we are trying to say that “I am the church”, but there is no Scripture to back up this belief. However, Scripture that refers to the church refers to a group of people gathering for one purpose, with one Spirit, and of one mind. (Acts 2:1; 15:25)
The church is a “called out assembly”. It is a group of people given authority from God, designed to help keep the believers accountable to God. Through this authority and accountability we are commissioned to accomplish something for Christ. We are to reproduce! We, as a church, are a living organism. Like every other living organism we are to reproduce. We are to be establishing other churches, sending missionaries, and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all around us.
As saved individuals we are the temple.
So many times we want to say that the church and the temple are the same, but they are not. In their very definition we find that they are different. In the way that they are used in the Bible we find that they are different.
- Church means, a “called out assembly”.
- Temple means, “a place where God dwells.”
When Jesus died on the cross we read that the veil of the TEMPLE was rent in twain. (Mark 15:38)
The veil separated the outer chamber of the temple from the Holy of Holies. When Jesus died on the cross, the need for a yearly High Priest was no longer necessary.
The Lamb of God, which would take away the sin of the world, was about to apply His sinless Blood to THE Mercy Seat in Heaven. We now, through the Blood, have direct access to the throne of GOD – through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The death of Jesus Christ abolished the need of the temple built by man (where the holy of holies once resided), and instituted the need of a temple made by God – our bodies. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)
Nowhere does God call you (the individual) the church, but He does call you, once you are saved – THE TEMPLE!
We are, if saved, the dwelling place of God! WOW! What a thought.
In Exodus 35 – 40 we find that God begins to give specific instructions to Moses for how the Tabernacle (mobile temple) was to be constructed. As we read through these chapters you will find that God only showed up when all the pieces were in place.
This is the same in our life. When we get saved, we crave the power of the Spirit of God. Salvation is immediate, but the development of the Christian life happens over time.
As we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ we begin to see the power of the Spirit work in a greater way through us.
As we get all the pieces of “the temple” in place, the Spirit get’s stronger in our life.
Now that we realize we are the TEMPLE of God we must also realize that there are things required of us. We are to never let the lamp, or light, of our temple go out. (I Samuel 3:3; Matthew 5:16)
Eli lost focus of the main responsibilities that God had given him. We must stay focused and realize that we are to let our light shine before men (Matthew 5:16). We must also keep myself clean, right, and holy because God dwells in us by way of His Spirit. We are to daily clean-house and make sure that the pieces of our lives are decent and in order so that God can dwell in a clean place, or pure temple.
As the Temple of God we must realize the importance to place ourselves under the authority of a local New Testament Church in order to grow properly, and obtain a balanced Christian life.
The church is like a spiritual green-house. Through the preaching of the pure, inspired words of God, the temple (saved believer) can grow and flourish. Every believer needs a church!
So, to conclude, the Bible does not teach us that the church is an individual. As a matter of fact we find the complete opposite. The church is an established institution, started by Jesus, with God-given authority.
A believer is to be a part of a local church in order to place one’s-self under that authority for accountability.
Lastly, the church is to reproduce after its kind and therefore, accomplish certain tasks for the Lord Jesus Christ. As individual believers, we are referred to as the Temple of God: “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?” – I Corinthians 6:19.
As a saved individual, the Lord dwells inside of us, and it is up to us to make sure that our life is in spiritual order so that we can be used and filled with the Power of God.
Let’s put man’s books of false doctrine down, and let us pick of THE BOOK and study for ourselves. There is clarity within the pages of Scripture, but we must be willing to study to shew ourselves approved unto God…