The Church - Part 4

We typically think of a local church as a group of Christians who meet regularly in a certain geographical location. The problem is that geographical location does not determine faith. Every Christian community is a mixed bag of those who truly believe in Jesus and those who don't. The difference between these two types of people is only distinguishable by God. We may have high confidence that someone has faith but only God knows for sure.

There is only one Church and that consists of ONLY true Christians. People who claim Christianity and do not bear fruit are not part of the Church (John 15:1-17). We are not part of the Church because we are part of a particular Christian community. We are part of the Church as individuals, not as groups. This is made clear by Paul's assertion that we "are the body of Christ and individually members of it (1 Cor. 12:27),"  and that our gifts as members of the body are apportioned by the Spirit "to each one individually as He wills (1 Cor 12:11)." The body of Christ is a metaphor that is referring to the Church. It depicts the physical aspects of us being His hands and feet on this earth since He is no longer physically here. This metaphor however is not being applied to the local church, it is being applied to the Church.

It is important to remember the mixed nature of Christian communities because it clarifies their roles. Christian communities mainly serve an organizational role in the Church. There is no instance in the Bible where God assigns particular significance to a particular group of Christians other than the Church. However, many churches like to claim that they have special status in the kingdom of God. The Roman Catholic church and others often claim (implicitly or explicitly) that they are the only "true" church.

To make the claim of being the "true" church requires some appeal to a human system. The Roman Catholic church claims the Pope is the successor to Peter. Closed brethren churches claim they are on the right side of every major church decision and have the right doctrine. Most of these claims are founded on right-me-ness and what little is found in the Bible is speculative at best. The problem is that all of these claims assume that a particular church is pure and run by true Christians. All of these claims fall apart if the "true" church is full of unbelievers. This is the problem, nobody knows what kind of people are in a Christian community, and therefore no arguments can be made that prove that one church is the "true" church because it depends on the righteousness of men not God. The Church is not built by the confidence of human reasoning but by the Spirit.

Every christian community should see themselves as individual members of the body of Christ, not as special groups of people in the body of Christ. God does not make distinctions based on groups but on individuals that are filled with His Spirit. "True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth (John 4:23)."


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