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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Going to Church

I'm going to use a phrase which, I'm pretty sure, will conjure up an image to most of you with reasonable similarity. "I went to church last Sunday." Okay, now, I'm pretty sure that most of you now have some sort of an image that involves a building, a sign on the front, maybe a cross or something, a place in which people gather. And if I were to tell you that phrase, that image would be fairly accurate.

Here's the thing. Nowhere in Scripture can you find anything remotely like that image associated with the word, "church". Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." (Matt 16:18) I'm pretty sure that isn't a reference to a building program. At the death of Ananias and Sapphira Luke tells us, "And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things." (Acts 5:11) I'm confident that he wasn't talking about a frightened cathedral. Paul told the Ephesian elders, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28) I cannot picture these guys being asked to shepherd a building. No, "the church" in Scripture is not the building you think of first when you hear the term.

In the Bible the "church" refers to the Body of Christ (Rom 12:4-5). The word is ἐκκλησία -- ekklēsia. It refers to "the called out ones". The church is not a building or even a place, but people. The term refers to the elect, the people of God. We are called "the temple of God" (1 Cor 3:16) and the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:32). The church is us.

Suddenly, you see, the term takes on a new sense. Why go to church? Because we are the church. Why care about the church? Because we are the church. Why serve in the church? Because we are the church. In the New Testament the church met in houses (Acts 2:46; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15) and in places of worship. "Where" was not important. Because we are the church. So "church" becomes an investment in lives rather than a building in which we gather and worship. When we "go to church", the church arrives when we do and leaves when we do.

Is it okay to skip church? Not if fellowship means anything. Is it okay to just attend church? Not if "the called out ones", gifted by the Spirit, called by God means anything. Because, you see, the building you think of as church is not the church. We are. An allegiance to a building might be silly, but a failure to involve ourselves in the lives of fellow believers is sin.


Bob said...

i couldn't help notice the term used to describe the Church, "the called out ones" . perhaps the word is mistaken and we should we be called " the self determined ones" ? being free to choose and all...

David said...

Another point for universalism, if the church is the called ones and everyone is called, then everyone is in the church. Hi God, I found a loophole, you have to save everyone now.