About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
First Principle Of Church
While being raised in
1950's and 1960's style Evangelical Christianity, it appeared to me
that I was to stay clear of Baptists and Pentecostals because Baptists
believed in eternal security and Pentecostals spoke in tongues.
Back then, Christians had little interaction with those outside of
their denomination. That is no
longer the case. Christians in
the western-world church move from one church environment to another with
ease. This is partly due to a
secular commercialism that motivates us to shop for the church of our
choice. It is also due to a
lack of Biblical understanding of church.
When attempting to learn
anything, we must begin our quest with the basics. Concerning
church, the basics are found with the first time the word
"church" appears in the New Testament, and that just happens to
be from the mouth of Jesus. Matthew
"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
This verse has been
debated to death over the centuries. We've
argued over the word "rock" and Peter's role in the church.
In the process we have failed to understand the word
"church" as Jesus understood it.
Of course, Jesus didn't speak our English word "church."
Matthew wrote his gospel
account in first-century, Koine Greek, and thus, the Greek word
"ekklesia" that occurs 114 times int he New Testament is translated into English as
"church" in Matthew
16:18. An ekklesia was a group
of people who were called out of the general public for a specific
purpose. A governing
parliament would have been considered an ekklesia.
Matthew probably used the word "ekklesia" because it is
descriptive of church. Jesus
called people out of the general population for His specific purpose.
All of the above being
said, Jesus did not speak Greek. He
would have spoken Aramaic or Hebrew. He
would have spoken the word "synagoge," a word rooted in ancient
Hebrew culture that meant "the community of people belonging to
God." When our
English Bible says that Jesus will build His church, it means that Jesus
will build a community of people belonging to Him.
Understanding church as
a community of people belonging to Jesus is the most basic thing we must
know and understand about church. If
you build your thinking about church on any other foundation, your concept
of church is unbiblical. If
you leave community out of church, you have no legitimate church.
Community implies people
relating together because they share common characteristics.
Community, as seen in the New Testament, is expressed by the Greek
word "koinonia" that is translated as fellowship throughout the
New Testament. In Biblical
terms, koinonia, or fellowship, implies the sharing of your life with
those to whom Jesus has placed you alongside in His community.
The most important characteristic Christians share in common is the
Holy Spirit who resides within each Christian.
The Holy Spirit is, thus, the life blood of the Body of Christ, the
When thinking of the
Holy Spirit and church, the next basic point to consider concerning church
is the birth of the church that took place on the Day of Pentecost.
In Acts 2 we read that the Holy Spirit entered the lives of one hundred
and twenty believers. The Holy
Spirit not only united the individual to Jesus on that occasion, He
united the individual to the remaining one hundred and nineteen
individuals. The reception of
the Holy Spirit into the lives of these believers was just as much a
corporate event as it was an individual event, something that is often
overlooked. In fact, as 1
Corinthians 12:13 implies, each one of those believers was immersed into
the lives of his fellow believers, thus giving birth to the community of
Christ, the church.
With all this in mind,
North American Christians, and especially American Christians, have a
problem. Our cultural emphasis
on the rights and independence of the individual prohibits us from
experiencing Biblical community as Jesus would want.
That was not the case in Jesus' day.
Those who heard Jesus speak lived out community and would have
clearly understood what Jesus meant when He said that He would build a
community of people belonging to Him.
Knowing that church is
the community of believers in which the individual believer is joined by
the Holy Spirit to other individual believers to accomplish God's will, is
basic to the meaning of church. If
you understand that the Holy Spirit has united you to certain other
believers in Jesus' community for the purpose of accomplishing God's will,
you will not be so quickly influenced by our secular, commercialized
culture, to shop around for the church of your choice.