|Volume 21 Number 3 March 2019||
The term most often used in the New Testament is simply “the church.” In the original language of the New Testament (Greek), the term does not always refer to the church that Christ built. In Acts 19:32, it refers to “the assembly” of an angry mob. In Acts 7:38, it refers to the Israelites in the wilderness.
“The church” refers to a group of people, never to a building. In reference to the Lord’s church, it means those “called out of darkness into light” (1 Peter 2:9). Note the following ‘musts’ of those called out of the darkness of sin by the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:8-11):
We must never separate ourselves from the church, since Christ is its Head (Colossians 1:18). What we choose to do or not do to the church, we choose to do or not do to Christ Himself (Matthew 25:40, 45; Acts 9:1-5).
The church is also called “My church” by Christ (Matthew 16:18) and “churches of Christ” by Paul (Romans 16:16). These words designate Christ’s ownership of the church. The church never belonged to any other man, but to Christ alone. When people speak of “my church” as “their church,” it demonstrates their lack of Bible understanding as to the true nature of the church; it shows they only know of the church as denominationalism defines it and as they defend it as their property. If men were not divided into different churches, by their different names, doctrines and practices, we would only speak of one church—His (1 Corinthians 1:10).
The church is referred to as the “house” or “family of God” (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19; 3:15). This means God is our Father and we are His children. We are brothers and sisters with brotherly love for other family members (2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26; Romans 12:9; 2 Peter 1:5-7).
The church is also called “the body of Christ” (Colossians 1:18, 24; Ephesians 1:10-23), emphasizing the Headship of Christ, the subjection of members to Christ and the functioning of members perfectly, while heeding the commands of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). If even one member is severed from the body, it cannot function properly. Note: The body never commands the Head. It is vital that those who wear the name of Christ, as part of His body, honor Him as Lord, in the name that is worn, the doctrine that is taught, in worship and in daily living (Acts 4:12; 1 Peter 4:16; John 4:23-24; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11-19).
Sharpening Our Axes
Solomon gave a great lesson in preparation in Ecclesiastes 10:10. A woodsman may be a powerful and energetic person. Yet, he will exhaust his resources if he does not take the time to prepare himself for his task. There is an important lesson for us today.
Far too many have assumed the role of teacher without proper preparation. They have become like the men of Ephesus who are “wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying of the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:7). It is a dangerous thing for a man to teach others the eternal truths of God. This is why Paul warned Timothy to “pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16), and James said, “let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
What, then, should one do to “sharpen his axe”? First, he must himself be a faithful, trustworthy man (2 Timothy 2:2). This means that he will not take liberties with God’s inspired Word. He recognizes that it is perfect and complete, and he must not tamper with it (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Second, he must be willing to ‘burn the midnight oil’ in intense study. He has to be a “workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). How does he handle accurately the Word of truth? He does it by study. He does it by meditating on the Word ‘day and night’ (Psalm 1:2).
If we want to be successful, we will prepare ourselves. Solomon concluded this verse by noting that “wisdom has the advantage of giving success.” Let us not be lazy in the handling of God’s Word. It is too important that we get it right!