Acts 15 Postlude – Doctrine of the Church – What’s a church?
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 15
The title is drawn from the subject matter of Acts 15.
This lesson material for points 1 & 2 is adapted mainly from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.
This is meant to be only an introduction to the topics covered.
The intent is to illuminate our previous 4 lessons on Acts 15 in light of the Doctrine of the Church.
This lesson will build a foundation that will assist us in our efforts to understand church unity and purity during next weeks lesson.
1) WHAT IS THE CHURCH
Ekklesia – the Greek word for church:
Its meaning is simply “an assembly of people called out for a specific purpose.”
The English word “church” appears in the New Testament 109 times in the ESV Bible.
Matthew 16:18 is the first time – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Revelation 22:16 is the last time – I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.
Church as local and universal:
Acts 8:1-3 should be familiar to us from our study on Acts.
In these verses, we see the church in Jerusalem as made up of specific individuals who met in houses – local.
Acts 9:31 goes even further and broadens the church to include Judea, Galilee and Samaria.
In this verse, we pull back and see the church as made up of many local churches – universal.
Church as visible and invisible:
“The invisible church is the church as God sees it.” – Wayne Grudem
2 Timothy 2:19 says the Lord knows those who are his.
In other words, there is no fooling God.
A person may physically attend a church and may have even joined, but if he is unsaved he is not a member.
“The visible church is the church as Christians see it.” – Wayne Grudem
In other words, it is a body of professed believers that will, in reality, include some non-believers.
Why do we have candidates for church membership and not just make them members right away?
Do you think we are too easy or strict in making members?
The church is fundamental to God’s purposes for believers:
Ephesians 1:16-23 tells us that Christ was made head over all things for her sake.
When we are consumed with the local and visible aspects of church, we can lose sight of the fact that we, the church, are the body of Christ and are called to do more than we could ever do in our own power.
In verse 19, Paul says that immeasurable greatness of power, the same power that raised Christ, is directed to those who believe!
Ephesians 3:20-21 also speaks of this power, the power at work within us.
John 15:5 also tells us that apart from me you can do nothing.
God has great plans for His church, and they will be accomplished by resting in His power!
Jesus actively participates in church growth:
Matthew 16:18, He tells us that He will build his church.
How does Jesus build the church?
Acts 2:47, Luke points out the Lord added to the church.
Adding certainly builds a church, but how does he add?
1 John 5:1-2, John tells us that we become born of God and then believe that Jesus is the Christ.
So, he adds to it by calling born again believers of Christ into fellowship with one another, and as we will see, for a specific purpose.
Yes…the real church is made up of believers only:
Acts 2:41 tells us that those who were added had received his word and were baptized.
Acts 4:4 tells us again it was those who heard the word and believed.
Revelation 21:27, speaking of the New Jerusalem, reveals it is only for those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Would Christ, who builds our church, build it with those who are not born again (those that are dead)?
Marks of a church:
According to Grudem, the marks of a true church became most relevant because of the Reformation.
He says, “…the Roman Catholic position has been that the visible church that descended from Peter and the apostles is the true church.”
Martin Luther and John Calvin obviously disagreed – as do we.
Luther, in his Augsburg Confession (1530), said this:
The church is “the congregation of saints in which the gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered.”
Calvin said this:
“Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.”
So the marks of a true church are right preaching/teaching of God’s word and Gospel message (doctrine) and the proper administering of the sacraments or ordinances.
What are the sacraments or ordinances?
Are they rightly administered in our church?
What is God’s word?
Is it rightly preached and taught in our church?
What is the Gospel message (see Paul’s sermon in Acts 13)?
Is it rightly shared in our church?
How are we to know if all these things are done rightly?
2) THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH
Throughout the Bible the church is referred to in a variety of different ways.
These descriptions reveal, to a large extent, the relationship between it and Jesus, its members, Scripture and God’s will.
They also provide insight into what the church is called out for.
2 Corinthians 6:18 – FAMILY – I will be a father…you shall be sons and daughters.
2 Corinthians 11:2 – BRIDE OF CHRIST – I betrothed you…as a pure virgin to Christ.
John 15:5 – BRANCHES ON A VINE – I am the vine; you are the branches.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 – GOD’S CROP – and only God who gives growth.
1 Peter 2:5 – LIVING STONES & SPIRITUAL HOUSE – to be a holy priesthood.
1 Peter 2:4-8 – BUILT ON CORNERSTONE – a cornerstone chosen and precious.
1 Timothy 3:15 – PILLAR AND BUTTRESS OF TRUTH – church of the living God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 – BODY OF CHRIST – you are the body of Christ.
These give insight into the purposes of the church by asking questions like:
What is the responsibility of sons and daughters to their father?
What is the bride to do up until the time the marriage takes place?
The 3 main purposes of the church:
Ministry to God – Worship
Colossians 3:16 – SINGING – singing psalms and hyms and spiritual songs.
Ephesians 1:12 – PRAISE – we who were the first hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
Eph 5:16-19 – MAKING MELODY – singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.
Melody and harmony are only possible if the musicians and singers are using the same music.
The next purpose, Ministry to Believers, is crucial in insuring we are “using the same music.”
The very reason Paul wanted to go on his second journey in Acts 15 – discipleship.
Colossians 1:28 – TEACHING – everyone…that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Ephesians 4:12 – EQUIPING SAINTS – equip the saints…for building up the body.
1 Cor 14:12 – BUILDING UP CHURCH – strive to excel in building up the church.
Are you equipped as well as you should be?
Ministry to the World – Evangelism & Mercy
Matthew 28:19 – GO & MAKE – disciples of all nations.
Luke 6:35-36 – LOVE – love your enemies and do good.
God drew you, a rebellious, evil, filthy and spiritually dead man walking, to him through his Son.
So, if a Holy & Righteous God can love and save a profane and evil man like you or me, the least we can do is love our fellow man as he commands.
It is important to note that young people are clearly drawn to churches that excel in this 3rd purpose.
And, sadly, many churches that excel here fall short in meeting the first 2 purposes.
Admittedly, this is my worst performer – what about you?