For the past month here on Scripture Dig, we have been examining the amazing and profound topic of salvation. In many ways, our next topic – the church – ties directly into this previous emphasis. You see, if you have been saved, if Christ’s blood has covered your sin and you have received new life in Him, you are part of His Church.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
In many of Paul’s writings, his passion for the Church of God shines through. He labored and literally poured himself out for small, struggling assemblies of believers in Jesus Christ – particular local churches which together comprised “the Church.”
In his letters we find that church life in the 1st century was very similar to church life in the 21st century – it was messy. These local churches were full of sinners who sometimes struggled to live like saints. They wrestled to discern doctrinal truth from error. Their leaders were imperfect, even though well-intentioned. Personal struggles and conflicts between believers (often women – go figure!) were evident.
Body life is messy, but it is absolutely essential. The New Testament knows of no such thing as a believer who is not an active part of a local church – if you are saved, belonging to, being held accountable by, and serving in the local church is a vital component of your growth.
The church is near and dear to the heart of God – local churches function as “the body of Christ” here on earth as we await His return. The church was, therefore, near to the heart of Paul… and it should be near to our hearts, as well.
For the next month here at Scripture Dig we will examine this topic of the local church – we will look at it’s Biblical roots, purposes, and necessity in our lives.
I write this knowing full well that some of you are walking around with deep wounds that spring from conflicts and issues in local churches. Some of you may have distanced yourselves from church altogether, seeking to avoid further pain and frustration. I pray that this series would not only change your perspective about the importance of actively belonging to a local church, but I also pray that you would know that we understand.
Each member of the Scripture Dig team is actively involved in our local bodies of believers, as staff, pastor’s wives, or lay leaders. I guarantee that all of us have been deeply wounded in local churches in various ways – it is a “package deal” when working to speak spiritual Truth into the lives of fellow sinners… and those situations often bring our own sin to the surface, as well. It’s difficult. It’s messy. It’s painful. And it is most definitely an essential part of what has helped to form us more into the image of Jesus Christ.
So, let’s dig into this topic together; let’s pray together that God will give us a heart like His for this imperfect but beautiful and precious thing called “the church.”