Pastor’s Corner: The church backstory
A recent article by Pastor Nathan Steen spoke about the benefits of church attendance. I will add to his message some of the “back story” of what the Church is.
When the Apostles’ Creed states, “I believe in the holy Christian (Catholic) Church,” it demonstrates a thing that is a matter of faith. This “thing” is the whole assembly of souls who have been connected to God through Jesus Christ. “The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). This thing is “Catholic” insofar as it is the only universal assembly of saved souls.
Jesus makes this happen. In Matthew 16, after Peter confesses his faith that Jesus “Is the Christ,” Jesus refers to this statement of faith when he says, “On this rock I will build my church.” The Greek term for “church” is “ecclesia.” The people who responded to an invitation would be the “ecclesia,” that is, a group of people who have been “called together.”
Jesus, by the way, was an unusual teacher. In his day, a person would ask a notable teacher or rabbi if he could follow him, and thereby become his disciple. In contrast, Jesus did the inviting, for example, selecting twelve men to be his apostles. Through the Gospel, Jesus keeps inviting us. It’s like the parable in Matthew 22 where a King invites his realm to the wedding feast of his son. That party would be another “ecclesia.”
The English word “church” may come from the European term “Kirke.” This term refers to those who belong to the Lord. In other words, people of faith in Christ are the Lord’s people. Again, God gets all the credit for this connection. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
So it happens that a person “is” church before he “does” church. Paul explains in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is God’s work to bring salvation. He makes us the “sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). Therefore, as his “ecclesia,” we follow the pattern of those first believers: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). True fellowship takes place when Christ’s Gospel gathers us together, as he says: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Only by means of the Gospel can we follow up with Peter’s advice, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
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