Updated: May 5, 2021
Article by Ron King
The word “church” has lost most of its meaning, sense of identity and significance today in comparison to its meaning, identity and significance in the first century. God’s heart is to see the church recapture her identity and significance in this present 21st century.
The church is not a building, a denomination, a sect, an extension of Judaism or a national entity or enterprise. The church is the body of Christ (Eph 1:23), the one new man (Eph 2:11-16). The church is the household and dwelling place of God, His holy temple (Eph 2:19-22). It is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15). The church is the army of the Lord (Joel 2:11; Rev 19:19; Eph 6:10-18). It is the citizenry and visible expression of the Kingdom of God ( Eph 2:19; Php 3:17, 20). She is the bride of Christ, His wife, love and desire (Rev 21:2; Eph 5:25-32).
In 1 Corinthians 10:32, Paul makes a distinction in people categories or ethnos [ethnicity]: (1) Jews [God’s chosen nation in the Old Testament] (2) Gentiles [all other nations] (3) the church [the new ethnos or nation chosen by God in the New Testament]. The church, the new ethnos, is referred to as a holy nation and a royal priesthood that is chosen from every tribe, tongue, people and nation ( 2 Pet 2:5-9; Rev 5:9). The church has no wall between Jew or any other ethnicity (Eph 2:11-19). The church is not called to be conformed to any other culture or ethnicity. The church is its own ethnicity and identity.
To conclude as to who the church is, we [the church] are the redeemed of the Lord who are being conformed to the image of Jesus (Ac 20:28; Rom 8:29).
RECAPTURING OUR IDENTITY
In the gospels, Jesus spoke of the Kingdom more than 130 times but made only 3 references to the church. Matthew 16:18; 18:17. The modern church, in contrast, has reversed the Divine order, ignoring her Kingdom-identity and relating only with select, visible congregations. Do I need proof? World-wide, there are more than 30,000 different registered Christian denominations. Each makes the claim that it is the correct one, has more truth than the rest, and is God's guardian of Scripture. To be spiritually correct, you must belong to it. Such bigotry guarantees the loss of Kingdom identity and power. To whatever degree churches promote self-centeredness and sectarianism, they cut themselves off from Kingdom authority. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you.'" I Corinthians 14:21. Yet, that is precisely what congregations have done. The result is dysfunctional churches and impotent ministries.
To recapture our identity we must have clear understanding of the nature of the church. Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Mat 16:18).
What is meant when we refer to the church? The word translated “church” in the Bible is the Greek word “ekklesia.” We find this word used 116 times in the New Testament. It is translated as “an assembly of people or a congregation.” We gain further understanding when we look at this compound word [ekklesia] ‘ek’ meaning “out of” and ‘kaleo’ meaning “to call.” From this we begin to grasp the true importance of the nature of the church. It is the assembly or congregation of those people called out of the world and separated unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we are “in Him [Jesus].” Our position and identity is found in Christ. John puts it this way in 1 John 4:17, “As He [Jesus] is, so are we in this world.” Paul said that the church is the body of Christ which is the fullness of Him (Eph 1:23).
The viability of His church [body] is not determined by her organization or structure but by her relationship with Him [The King_Jesus Christ] the head. We can never substitute structure for relationship. With that being said, we must also recognize the importance of structure [wineskin, Lk 5:37-38] for a healthy body. But, again, we must keep the horse before the cart.
RECAPTURING OUR UNITY
We find the word church used to express its nature in two realms. (1) The church is referenced to its catholicity or universal nature (e.g. Matt. 16:15-20; Eph 1:22-23). This is the assembly of all the redeemed in heaven and earth that comprise the church visible and invisible. There is only one church universal. This addresses our unity or oneness in Christ. The sevenfold expression of this oneness or unity is addressed by Paul in Ephesians 4:3-6. (2) The church is referenced to its tangible and visible assemblage in each locality or city (Matt 18:15-20; Rev 2:11, 17, 23, 29 ; 3:6, 13, 22). It was simply the church at Ephesus, Corinth, Sardis, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, etc. While there may be several gatherings throughout the city they were acknowledged as one. Like the church universal, the church in each city or locality is recognized by its unity or oneness. The reason is that Christ cannot be divided. Whenever we see the plural of the word church [i.e. churches] it is addressing the local churches of a region or nation [i.e. the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, Asia, Ohio, Michigan, America, etc.]. The unity of the church is recognized regionally as well as universally or locally.
Paul said we are to keep or guard the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace while we are maturing into the unity of the faith (Eph 4:3, 13). While there are different locations in a city or locality where the church meets it is still recognized as one church in the eyes of the Lord and should be in the eyes of the believer as well.
“The fact that Christians accept division in the Body of Christ as normal is proof they already have a distorted view of Scripture. Division is disease. It is a disorder, an abnormality. It is in direct opposition to the unity for which Jesus prayed.” John 17:21
God has made us one by His Spirit but it is our responsibility to see the incarnation of that oneness or unity in each city or locality. Doing so is a command not an option. Where the church is divided it is not representing Christ for His body cannot be divided. Division is the result of carnality and devilish wisdom ( 1Cor 3:1-9; Jas 3:13-18). We can walk out our unity simply by practicing the art of the twenty-three “one another’s” listed in the New Testament [see listing at end].
RECAPTURING OUR SIGNIFICANCE
Significance speaks of meaning, importance and consequence of something or someone. The loss of identity destroys the unity and the significance [meaning] of the church. The Lord is simply requiring us to “be” who we “are.”
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17-18 NKJV
Q: Who are we? A: His body. We simply need to be that.
Q: What did Jesus do on earth? A: Restored the kingdom of God by redeeming the lost, healing the sick and delivering the captives. We simply need to do that.
Q: What was Jesus’ plan to see this continue? A: Build His church and give them the keys to the kingdom of God. We simply need to be that and receive that.
The church is the visible expression of God’s kingdom on earth even as Israel was in the Old Testament. Jesus came preaching the kingdom (Matt 4:17, 23). The disciples were commanded to preach the kingdom (Lk 9:2; 10:9). Paul preached the kingdom (Ac 28:30-31). We have received the kingdom from the Lord because He was pleased to give it to us (Lk 12:32).
It will take a unified church [the one new man] in each city or locality to impact that city. Jesus said that our unity will be the evidence that the Father had sent Him into this world (Joh 17:21).
Our significance as the church hangs in the balance of recapturing our identity which requires embracing our unity. This will bring about the incarnation of the body of Christ in each city. Will we rise to the challenge?
PRACTICING “THE ONE ANOTHERS”
Jesus said a divided kingdom cannot stand therefore His kingdom cannot be divided (Matt 12:25). Since the church is the reflection of Jesus Christ and His kingdom we must walk in the same unity as the father and son walk in (Joh 17:21, 23). How do we practically do this? We can start by practicing the Biblical one another’s.
· Love one another Joh. 13:34
· Be devoted to one another Rom. 12:10
· Honor one another Rom. 12:10
· Live in harmony with one another Rom. 12:16
· Stop judging one another Rom. 14:13
· Accept one another Rom. 15:7
· Instruct one another Rom.15:14
· Greet one another Rom. 16:16
· Agree with one another 1 Cor. 1:10
· Serve one another Gal.5:13
· Bearing with one another Eph. 4:2
· Compassionate to one another Eph. 4:32
· Speak to one another Eph. 5:19
· Submit to one another Eph. 5:21
· Forgive one another Col.3:13
· Admonish one another Col. 3:16
· Teach one another Col. 3:16
· Encourage one another 1 Thes. 5:11
· Spur one another on toward love Heb. 10:24
· Do not slander one another Jas. 4:11
· Offer hospitality to one another 1 Pet. 4:9
· Humility towards one another 1 Pet. 5:5
· Fellowship with one another 1 Joh. 1:7
Imagine the incarnation of His body by simply doing this. The Greatest Harvest ever witnessed throughout the ages will be a fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) because of our obedience to the Great Commandment (Matt 22:36-40) for which we have received the Great Empowering (Ac 1:8).
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
Over the years various churches in the city have come together to co-sponsor or co-labor in conferences, divers events, outreach endeavors, etc. But, the church has not come together as a declaration of our unity and oneness. To do so does not violate or ignore our doctrinal differences and practices. What it does is announce to our city that we have the same Father, the same Lord, and the same Spirit. It is a statement and practice that we do out of a heart of love and in obedience to the Lord. We will guard or keep the unity of the Spirit until we come into the unity of the faith.
Then will the church embrace the reality that Christ cannot be divided!
 Article; Church Failure Versus Kingdom Power by Charles Carrin