In my first post on the church, I looked briefly at `what is the church?` In establishing the fact that the church is not a building, rather a group of people who have confessed Jesus as Lord, now I want to try to answer the question, `So what?` Or to state it a bit differently, `Why would this group of people be important to the average follower of Jesus?`
I think the first thing to look at is Jesus’ attitude toward the church. A person who says they follow Jesus should have a similar view as Jesus when it comes to the importance of the church. Ephesians 5:25, the apostle Paul makes a link between the relationship between a husband and a wife, and that between Jesus and the church. `Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.`(NASB) So, Jesus loved the church so much He willingly gave Himself up for it like a husband is to do for his wife. So I think we can at least say that the church (again, not the building, but the group of people who assemble themselves together for the sake of worship and edification) is extremely important for Jesus. To put it another way, His whole death on the cross for sin and His triumphant resurrection was so that people could place their trust in Him, be forgiven, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and be baptized into His church. It is this group of people that will be presented in heaven as His bride (Revelation 19:7-9; 21:9-11). So, we can easily conclude that this group of people is extremely important to Jesus.
Another passage to consider is 1 Corinthians 12:27. Now the whole chapter 12 is a good reference. But, the main thought I want to consider is in verse 27. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” This verse is stating that each follower of Jesus is a part of (“member of”) the “body of Christ”, which is a metaphor for the church. So, if this is true then we can make a clear implication. For the follower of Jesus, the church is as important to them as a body would be for a part of the body, like, let’s say, the arm. Without the body, the arm dies. So, for the arm, the body is vital. This is one of the main metaphors we can see in 1 Corinthians 12:27. So a clear lesson is, that for the individual member, the church is vital, and so is vitally important. Why is that? Well, the church is not only a group of people we worship the Lord with (which is a primary reason to gather together as a church), but it is also how we edify other believers with our spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4), is it how we are edified in our faith to walk closer with Jesus. Another proof text for this is Hebrews 10:24-25 (which my Bible study teacher read this morning in my Life Group as we discussed the need for fellowship as followers of Jesus).
So, in answering the question, “Is the church important?” the one who trusts in Jesus for daily living must answer a solidly: YES! So, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, a follower of Jesus should make it a major priority in their life to be a part of a local church in order to worship with other believers, edify other believers, be edified by other believers, seek to share the gospel together, stir one another up to love and good works, and to picture the reality of what a follower of Jesus professes: that they are part of God family, by faith in His Son, Jesus. Heaven will be one huge church gathering, so it should be pictured in small for here and now.
In my next post, I will look at “Purity in the church.” But until that post, I would love to hear your thoughts on this one. God bless.