What is the church?
BIBLE READING: Acts 17:22-34
KEY BIBLE VERSE: He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn't live in man-made temples. (Acts 17:24)
The church is not a building. Paul's address is a good example of how to communicate the gospel. Paul did not begin by reciting Jewish history, as he usually did, for this would have been meaningless to his Greek audience. He began by building a case for the one true God, using examples they understood (Acts 17:22-23). Then he established common ground by emphasizing what they agreed on about God (Acts 17:24-29). Finally he moved his message to the person of Christ, centering on the resurrection (Acts 17:30-31). When you witness to others, you can use Paul's approach: use examples, establish common ground, and then move people toward a decision about Jesus Christ.
BIBLE READING: Ephes. 2:14-22
KEY BIBLE VERSE: We who believe are carefully joined together, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. (Ephes. 2:21)
The church is people who believe. A church building is sometimes called God's house. In reality, God's household is not a building but a group of people. He lives in us and shows himself to a watching world through us. People can see that God is love and that Christ is Lord as we live in harmony with each other and with what God says in his Word. We are citizens of God's kingdom and members of his household.
BIBLE READING: 1 Cor. 3:10-17
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? (1 Cor. 3:16)
The church is a living building. Just as our bodies are the "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:19), the local church or Christian community is God's temple. Just as the Jews' temple in Jerusalem was not to be defiled, the church is not to be spoiled and ruined by divisions, controversy, or other sins as members come together to worship God.
Two ways to destroy a building are to tamper with the foundation or to build with inferior materials. The church must be built on Christ, not on any other person or principle. Christ will evaluate each person's contribution to the life of the church, and the Day of judgment will reveal the sincerity of each one's work. God will determine whether or not he has been faithful to Jesus' instructions. Good work will be rewarded; unfaithful or inferior work will be discounted. The builder "will be saved, but like someone escaping through a wall of flames" means that unfaithful workers will be saved, but like people escaping from a burning building. All their possessions (accomplishments) will be lost.
BIBLE READING: Rev. 2:1-7
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Everyone who is victorious will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. (Rev. 2:7)
God cares deeply about the church. Does God care about your church? If you are tempted to doubt it, look more closely at these seven letters. The Lord of the universe knew each of these churches and their precise situation. In each letter, Jesus told John to write about specific people, places, and events. He praised believers for their successes and told them how to correct their failures. Just as Jesus cared for each of these churches, he cares for yours. He wants it to reach its greatest potential. The group of believers with whom you worship and serve is God's vehicle for changing the world. Take it seriously—God does.
What does the church do?
BIBLE READING: 2 Tim. 4:1-8
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. (2 Tim. 4:2)
The church spreads the gospel. It was important for Timothy to preach the gospel so that the Christian faith could spread throughout the world. We believe in Christ today because people like Timothy were faithful to their mission. It is still vitally important for believers to spread the gospel. Half the people who have ever lived are alive today, and most of them do not know Christ. He is coming soon, and he wants to find his faithful believers ready for him. It may be inconvenient to take a stand for Christ or to tell others about his love, but preaching the Word of God is the most important responsibility the church and its members have been given. Be prepared, courageous, and sensitive to God-given opportunities to share the Good News.
BIBLE READING: Ephes. 4:1-16
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (Ephes. 4:12)
The church has God-given responsibilities. God has given his church an enormous responsibility—to make disciples in every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). This involves preaching, teaching, healing, nurturing, giving, administering, building, and many other tasks. If we had to fulfill this command as individuals, we might as well give up without trying—it would be impossible. But God calls us as members of his body. Some of us can do one task; some can do another. Together we can obey God more fully than any of us could alone. It is a human tendency to overestimate what we can do by ourselves and to underestimate what we can do as a group. But as the body of Christ, we can do more by functioning together than we would dream possible working by ourselves. Working together, the church can express the fullness of Christ.
BIBLE READING: Psalm 84:1-12
KEY BIBLE VERSE: How happy are those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. (Psalm 84:4)
The church is a place of refuge. The psalm writer longed to get away from the bustling world to meet God inside his dwelling place, his holy temple. We can meet God anywhere, at any time. But we know that going into a church building can help us step aside from the busy mainstream of life so we can quietly meditate and pray. We find joy not only in the beautiful building but also in the prayers, music, lessons, sermons, and fellowship.
How does the church work?
BIBLE READING: Neh. 2:11-3:2
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Then Eliashib the high priest and the other priests started to rebuild at the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set up its doors, building the wall as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and the Tower of Hananel. (Neh. 3:1)
Everyone has a role in the church. The high priest is the first person mentioned who pitched in and helped with the work. Spiritual leaders must lead not only by word but also by action. The Sheep Gate was the gate used to bring sheep into the city for temple sacrifices. Nehemiah had the priests repair this gate and section of the wall, respecting the priests' area of interest and at the same time emphasizing the priority of worship.
All the citizens of Jerusalem did their part on the huge job of rebuilding the city wall. Similarly, the work of the church requires every member's effort in order for the body of Christ to function effectively (1 Cor. 12:12-27). The body needs you! Are you doing your part? Find a place to serve God and start contributing whatever time, talent, and money is needed.
BIBLE READING: 1 Cor. 12:12-31
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into Christ's body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13)
Each believer has a significant contribution to make. Using the analogy of the body, Paul emphasizes the importance of each church member. If a seemingly insignificant part is taken away, the whole body becomes less effective. Thinking that your gift is more important than someone else's is spiritual pride. We should not look down on those who seem unimportant, and we should not be jealous of others who have impressive gifts. Instead, we should use the gifts we have been given and encourage others to use theirs. If we don't, the body of believers will be less effective.
BIBLE READING: Hebrews 10:19-39
KEY BIBLE VERSE: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)
Believers encourage each other. We have significant privileges with our new life in Christ: (1) we have personal access to God through Christ and can draw near to him without an elaborate system (Hebrews 10:22); (2) we may grow in faith, overcome doubts and questions, and deepen our relationship with God (Hebrews 10:23); (3) we may enjoy encouragement from one another (Hebrews 10:24); (4) we may worship together (Hebrews 10:25).
To neglect Christian meetings is to give up the encouragement and help of other Christians. We gather together to share our faith and to strengthen one another in the Lord. As we get closer to the "day of his coming," we will face many spiritual struggles and even persecution. Anti-Christian forces will grow in strength. Difficulties should never be excuses for missing church services. Rather, as difficulties arise, we should make an even greater effort to be faithful in attendance.
Handbook of Bible Application.