What is “the church”? The church is an assembly of people across the globe who have trusted in Jesus Christ, God the Son, to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of their lives. They have died with Christ to sin, and they have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).
They are those whom God called out from the world and unto himself and into his eternal kingdom. He called us to be his holy people, his possession, for his glory, and for his purposes. We are his body.
What the church is not: It is not a building. It is not an organization of human origin. It is not a church denomination or a corporation under the federal government. And, it is not a business of men. It is also not a civic organization or a social club or a group of political activists. And, it is not a group of people who do community projects or have bazars, and the like. As well, it is not a place to get clean family fun and entertainment.
Although these things, and more, have often been what it was turned into, this is not the church. The church is the people of God, believers in Jesus Christ. It is a living organism, not an organization. It is of God, not of men. And, it is led by the Holy Spirit, not by human marketing schemes.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. Acts 2:42-43 ESV
So, when the church gathers together, it should be a body of people who have genuine faith in Jesus Christ, who have the Spirit of God living within them, and who are following our Lord Jesus in obedience and in surrender to his will.
Yet, even in the early days of the church they had unbelievers in their midst, at times, and they had problems with people living in sin, and falling into error, and being led astray by false doctrines, so they weren’t perfect.
But, these things were being dealt with by the apostles, and they were exercising church discipline, and the apostles gave many instructions to the early believers on holy living, and on the meaning of God’s grace and his salvation. And they gave many warnings, too, against falling into sin, and into error, and against being led astray by false teachers.
But, when they gathered together, it was to give honor and praise and glory to God and to God alone. The purpose of their gatherings was for instruction in the Word of God, for Christian Spirit-filled fellowship, for community prayer in the Spirit, and for the breaking of bread in communion, in memory of our Lord and of what he did for us in dying on the cross for our sins.
And awe came upon every soul! Wow! And, many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. Double wow! And, why was this true? Because they were filled to overflowing with the Spirit of God, they were living separate from the world of sin, and they were following the Lord in obedience to his will and to his ways. And, the people witnessed this, and they were filled with the awe of God, because God was among them.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Acts 2:44-45 ESV
They didn’t suddenly become socialists, though. This was not forced upon them. They did what they did out of the free will of their own hearts out of love for God, love for their fellow believers in Jesus, and love for the people of this world. Because God was living within them, by his Spirit, his love was also dwelling within them. And so they were just doing what people do when they are filled to overflowing with the love of God. They minister his love and grace to other people, and they help meet others’ legitimate needs.
Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jn. 13:35 NIV
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 ESV
It is my understanding that the early Christians, by meeting together at the temple, were meeting out in the court and porches of the temple which were open to the Gentiles. And, it was a place where they could worship together in public and where they could also preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who were there who would listen. Jesus spoke there, as I believe did also the apostles. But, not everyone is agreed on this, and I will not debate it.
The point is, they didn’t just meet once a week. They met daily, and out in public, as well as they met together in one another’s homes, and they shared meals together, too. And, they were thankful to God, and they praised him at these gatherings, too.
Basically, their faith in Jesus Christ was not tied up in a once a week worship service in one specific location. They lived their Christian lives around the clock. And, they worshiped God and talked about Jesus, and they had Spirit-filled fellowship together whenever they got together, it appears.
They lived out their faith daily, and it showed! They witnessed for Jesus Christ daily, and they worshipped him out in public daily where everyone could see. And, their fellowship together was not just getting together to eat a lot of food and then talk about everything but Jesus. They shined for Jesus on a daily consistent basis, and because of that, many people came to faith in Jesus Christ.
The Church of Today
The church of today, at least here in America, seemingly for the most part, is not like the early church. Often their “fellowships” are more about just eating food (too much food) and then just being entertained, or playing games, or watching TV or movies together. And, often, it would appear, conversations are not about Jesus Christ but about sports, movies, video games, Facebook, the news, careers, and entertainment, in general.
There is not much of a distinction at all between the gatherings of the church and the gatherings of the world, at least those that occur on a daily basis or on an informal basis. The church has become so worldly, and so much like the world. They are often even encouraged to blend in with the world, and to be immersed in the world, so that the world would feel as though they are “one of them,” and so the people of the world will feel at home among us. But, we are supposed to come out from the world, Jesus said.
And, the more formal gatherings of the church appear to be, on a large scale, more about attracting the world to their gatherings by entertaining the world and by softening the message so as not to offend the world. And, instead of being led of the Spirit of God, they are more often than not, seemingly, designed by men and human marketing schemes geared at meeting the felt needs of the people of the world.
And, is it any wonder then that our nations (at least mine) are on a spiritual and moral decline, and immorality and wickedness are running free? And, Christians and the people of this world are most often indistinguishable? And, the grace of God has been cheapened to allow anyone “believing” in Jesus to continue in their wickedness without guilt?
So, we need to go back to the beginning, and we need to start all over, and we need to follow the example of the church at the very beginning, and we need to put into practice honoring God, and worshiping him with our lives, and having true Christian fellowship with one another daily.
And, we need to be encouraging one another in the faith and in walks of holiness. And, we need to be cautioning against worldliness and immorality, and helping one another to live godly and holy lives, for the days are evil.
Songs in the Night
An Original Work / December 18, 2013
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV ‘84
Lord, I praise You forevermore.
You, my Savior, I now adore.
Hope in heaven awaiting me,
Because You died at Calvary.
I have been forgiven,
And I’m bound for heaven.
Jesus set me free from
All my sin, I say.
I will praise Him always!
Lord, I love You for all You’ve done:
Overcame death, my vict’ry won!
Jesus saved me, and now I’m free!
I rejoice in His love for me.
I will walk in vict’ry!
My sin is but hist’ry!
I am free to please Him
With my life today.
I will love Him always!
Lord, I thank You for giving me
A new life bought at Calvary.
Loving Jesus, I meet with Him.
Tender mercies now flow within.
Lord, I am so thankful;
Through my Lord, I’m able
To sit at His table;
Fellowship with Him.
I will thank Him always!