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Builders of Faith Explorer I:  Exploring Bible Truth

Lesson 14—The Church of Jesus

 

 

1.  Who founded the Christian Church, and what is it?

 

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  Matthew 16:18.

 

Answer:  Jesus Himself founded the Christian Church, as He told Peter in this text.  The Greek word for “church” means “a calling out”.  It is the same word often translated by the Septuagint (1st Greek translation of the Old Testament) as “assembly”, “congregation”, and “gathering”.  In other words, Jesus calls people out of the world and into His church.  This reflects God’s character as One of order, not confusion, for He wants His people to be organized.

 

 

2.  Can anyone who is not a member of a Christian church be saved?

 

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:12.  “That [Jesus] was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.”  John 1:9.  “…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts….”  Romans 2:14-15.

 

Answer:  Yes, when people who don’t even know Jesus or His Word live up to their conscience, they are viewed as following the Light called Jesus, and will be judged accordingly.  However, they would be happier knowing specific truths of Jesus and probably more likely to live by His Word than without it.  But for those who had no reasonable opportunity to know Jesus or His Word, it is possible for them to be saved if they think about serious things, thus discover truth in nature, and then follow it to the best of their ability.  However, it’s not likely that many people in those circumstances will do so.

 

 

3.  Upon what rock was the church of Jesus built?

 

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church….”  Matthew 16:18.  “Coming to Him [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Therefore it is also contained in Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’”  I Peter 2:4-6.

 

Answer:  Some believe that Peter was the rock on which Jesus said that He’d build His church.  But the Greek word for “Peter” refers to “a small rock or pebble”, while the word for “rock” in the text above refers to a large or massive rock.  In other words, Jesus used a play on words to refer to Himself as the Rock upon which He would build His church.  Peter seemed to understand this also, given his statement in I Peter 2:4-6.

 

 

4.  How is the New Testament Church pictured, and what does this tell us?

 

Answer:  The Church is pictured in seven different metaphors in the New Testament, as follows:

 

A.  Body of Christ—We mentioned this in our previous lesson on baptism.  Although it’s mentioned in several New Testament books, Paul develops the concept more fully in I Corinthians 12, where he emphasizes the principle of unity within the context of diversity of members and their spiritual gifts.  Therefore, all members should rejoice when one is honored, and all should suffer when one of them suffers.  The metaphor of Jesus as the Head of the Body means that one cannot accept Jesus without accepting His Church.

 

B.  Bride of Christ—This metaphor originates in the Old Testament but is developed most fully in the New Testament in Ephesians 5:22-23, where he Paul declares that as the Head of the Church, Jesus also “loved the church and gave Himself for her…that He might present her to Himself a glorious church….”

 

C.  Family of God—Believers in Jesus are members of “the whole family in heaven and earth” (Ephesians 3:15).  They are also of “the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19) and privileged to call God our heavenly “Father” (Romans 8:15) and fellow believers “brother” and “sister” (I Corinthians 8:11; Romans 16:1).  This suggests that Godly love should permeate the entire congregation so that members will lift up each other in familial love.

 

D.  Temple of God—The Church is called “the temple of God” in I Corinthians 3:16-17.  This metaphor means that members should respect all other members of the congregation as holy to the Lord, and to respect the place of worship as holy ground as the dwelling place of God, especially when His people are gathered there for worship.

 

E.  Pillar and Ground [Foundation] of the Truth—The Church is called this in I Timothy 3:15.  The Church should be a spiritual fortress protecting and defending the truth of God’s Word.  It should never depart from Scripture in order to please men or attract new members.

 

F.  New Jerusalem—According to Hebrews 12:22-23, the Church is identified with the “heavenly Jerusalem”.  In other words, Christians are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and are expected to obey heaven’s laws while rejecting worldly principles.

 

G.  Spiritual Army—In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul pictures believers as engaged in continual spiritual warfare against the forces of darkness.  If individual believers are Christian warriors, then the Church as a whole must be a spiritual army.  For any army to be successful, there must be real commitment and discipline in order to keep the soldiers in good spiritual, mental, and even physical condition.

 

 

5.  What are the primary purposes of the Church?  Why does it exist?

 

Answer:  There are at least 5 primary purposes of the Church given in the New Testament:

 

A.  To Reflect God’s Grace—I Peter 2:5, 9 says that Christians are a “holy priesthood”, a “royal priesthood”, a “holy nation”, and God’s “special people”.  This status with God should be seen in Christians’ character.  Through study of the Word, a deep prayer life, the singing of praises to His name, and in service to others, believers are to reflect God’s grace in our lives.

 

B.  To Proclaim God’s Grace—According to I Peter 2:9, the very reason that Christians are part of a royal priesthood and a holy nation is that they “may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”.  In proclaiming God’s grace, believers hope to influence those outside His grace to desire it for themselves.

 

C.  To Teach and Baptize—In the Great Gospel Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus told His followers to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them….”  Specific truths must be shared, for grace without doctrine is empty, as is doctrine without grace.  So the Christian Church is called to be the greatest evangelistic body ever created by God to teach His truth and baptize those who accept it.

 

D.  To Worship—See Lesson #16 for a discussion on “Public Christian Worship”.

 

E.  To Fellowship—Acts 2:42 tells us that the early Christian Church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and [the] fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in [the] prayers.”  The Greek text has the definite article (“the”) where we show the brackets, showing that these are four distinct things.  Fellowship helps bond church members together in unity just as much as public worship does.

 

 

6.  Besides baptism, what is the other ordinance of the Church?

 

“And as they were eating [Passover], Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  Matthew 26:26-28.

 

Answer:  This was the last Passover that Jesus celebrated with His closest disciples.  Luke 22:20 suggests that it was at or near the end of the actual supper that Jesus took the bread first and then the cup and blessed each and gave it to His disciples.  This is called the Lord’s Supper or the Communion service.  We know Jesus gave this to the Church as an ordinance to be repeated because Paul’s instructions quote Jesus as saying “in remembrance of Me” for the bread and for the cup (I Corinthians 11:24-25), and “…as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (I Corinthians 11:26).  This Holy Communion service appears to replace the Passover because the Passover supper especially concerned the eating of lamb, a symbol of Jesus.  Now the bread is associated with the body of Jesus, not a lamb, in the Communion service.

 

 

7.  What kind of bread and what kind of wine should be used in the Communion service?

 

“Then they shall eat the flesh [lamb] on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread….”  Exodus 12:8.  “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”  Matthew 26:29.

 

Answer:  The bread should be unleavened, that is, bread made without any yeast.  And the wine should be unfermented grape juice because Jesus called it the “fruit of the vine”, and grapes and their juice never come off the vine in a fermented state.  Besides, if the bread must be unleavened (leavening is a fermentation process), then so must the wine.  Remember also that these elements are associated with Jesus, so how could a fermented (spoiled) product be associated with Him?

 

 

8.  Do the bread and grape juice mystically also become the body and blood of Jesus, or are they symbols of His body and blood?

 

A.  Those who teach that the bread and wine also become the body and blood of Jesus believe that this Communion service is a reenactment of Jesus’ death as the Sacrifice or Offering for our sins.  It is significant to note that the words sacrifice and offering, or any related words, never appear in any New Testament passage in connection with this service.

 

B.  When Jesus declared that Passover night that “this is My body” and “this is My blood”, He was literally alive and present with His disciples.  So He could not at the same time also be dead and His body be actual bread nor His blood actual grape juice.  His human nature cannot be in more than one place at a time.

 

C.  In I Corinthians 11:26, Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”  Note that “death” is singular, not plural.  And notice that this service proclaims Jesus’ death, not that it reenacts it.

 

D.  I Corinthians 11:24-25 quotes Jesus as saying to eat this bread and drink this cup “in remembrance of Me”.  Again, this service is a memorial of something that happened only once.  See also Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; and 10:10 for repeated statements that Jesus died “once” as an offering for sin.

 

 

9.  Don’t some churches practice a foot-washing ceremony before the actual Communion service?  Is that really necessary?

 

“…Jesus…rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet….”  John 13:3-5.  “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you….  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”  John 13:14-17.

 

Answer:  Most churches ignore this ceremony by declaring that Jesus only directed His followers to be humble like servants to each other.  But note that Jesus was very specific that He had just given them an example for them to copy with one another.  In fact, three times in these verses Jesus tells them to do this.  So, yes, this ceremony is necessary.  In many homes in Jesus’ day, a household servant would wash the feet of any guests who came into the house.  The fact that Jesus delayed doing this means that no one had arranged for a servant and probably means that Jesus was waiting to see if any of the disciples would volunteer.  This practice makes it clear that it should occur just before the actual Communion service itself.  This foot-washing ceremony symbolizes (1) the humility of stooping down and being a servant to your Christian brother or sister, and (2) the willingness to allow “Jesus” to cleanse you from sin (a kind of mini-baptism).  To avoid embarrassment, men should serve men, women serve women, or married couples serve each other.  Unbaptized children of members should not participate because you should not receive a mini-baptism unless you have already been fully baptized.

 

 

10.  How often should the Communion service be conducted, and who is qualified to participate?

 

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”  I Corinthians 11:26.  “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”  I Corinthians 11:27-28.

 

Answer:  The Bible does not prescribe a specific number of times per year to celebrate the Communion service.  It only says that when you do so, “…you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”  Some churches celebrate it every week, and we cannot fault them for doing so.  At the same time, celebrating it weekly might tend to make this service less special in the people’s minds; so other churches celebrate it twice a year or every quarter (four times per year).  Participants should be baptized Christians since the foot-washing ceremony preceding it represents a kind of mini-baptism.  But since the Bible says that each person should examine himself, so we should practice Open Communion in which baptized members of any denomination are encouraged to participate.

 

 

11.  For the churches who teach that the Communion service is a reenactment of Jesus’ death, a priest must make the offering.  When did this come into the Church?

 

Answer:  In the early 2nd century, there developed the idea of the “three-fold order of ministry”, with one bishop and several elders and deacons under the bishop’s authority.  And then sometime in the second half of that same century, the idea that bishops and elders were priests and that the bread and wine of Communion constituted a sacrificial offering was widely accepted.

 

 

12.  How is the Greek word for “priest” (and its related words) used in the New Testament?

 

“…’You [Christ] are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.’”  Hebrews 7:17 (emphasis is ours).  

 

Answer:  In the Christian context, this Greek word and its root is used only to refer to Jesus as our high priest or to all members of the church.  Significantly, it is never used, not even once, to refer to any human leader within the church in distinction from all other believers.  This suggests that the Church should not have a special priesthood distinct from the other church members.

 

 

13.  Where did the Old Testament priests offer sacrifices, and what kinds of sacrifices were made?

 

Answer:  The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices at the Temple, which consisted of animal sacrifices of different kinds.

 

 

14.  What is the Christian equivalent of the Temple on earth, and what kinds of sacrifices are made there?

 

“Do you not know that you [the Church] are the temple of God….”  I Corinthians 3:16.  
“…you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  I Peter 2:5.  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”  Romans 12:1.  “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”  Hebrews 13:15.

 

Answer:  The Church is the Christian equivalent of the Old Testament Temple—the congregation and where they meet.  The New Testament makes clear that all members are priests, and that they are all to offer spiritual sacrifices, such as praise, thanksgiving, and our reasonable spiritual service to God.  The fact that all members are priests and identified as the Temple means that they do the equivalent work of the special priests in the Old Testament Temple.  Therefore, there is no place for a special priesthood that performs sacrifices for the rest of the church.  The special priesthood in the Church consists of one priest, our high priest Jesus Christ.

 

 

15.  Is it right that most churches distinguish between the clergy and the laity?

 

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light….”  I Peter 2:9.

 

Answer:  The Greek word for “people” is laos, from which the English word laity or laymen is derived.  It appears more than 140 times in the New Testament and almost always in the singular.  It is therefore a collective singular since it refers to all of God’s people as a singular, unified group.  Moreover, laos is never used to contrast some of God’s people with other parts of His people.  To put it another way, every church member is a layman, including pastors and other leaders.  This suggests that every member of the Church has a work of ministry to do for the Lord, not just the pastors and evangelists.

 

 

16.  Should Christians be wary of some titles that most churches give to their clergy?

 

Answer:  Given what we just learned from Question #15 above, we should indeed be careful not to elevate church leaders with titles that rightly belong only to God.  We should certainly respect our leaders, but be aware that they are as human as we are, and that we all belong to the laity.  It is safer to stick to the New Testament words for the leaders in the Church:  pastor, elder, bishop, deacon, and so on.

 

A.  Psalm 111:9:  “He [God] has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever:  Holy and awesome [reverend] is His name.”—Reverend is a title given to someone who is worthy of our reverence or worship.  It is like calling someone Awesome or God.  Therefore, this title should never be used in the Church even though it is commonly done in most churches.

 

B.  Matthew 23:9:  “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.”—This text speaks for itself that the spiritual title of “Father” should never be given to anyone.

 

C.  Matthew 23:8:  “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.”—While Christian churches per se do not use the title “Rabbi”, most Messianic Jewish congregations do use it to describe their leader.

 

 

17.  What is the “tithe” and on what principle is it based?

 

“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.”  Deuteronomy 14:22.  “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth….”  Deuteronomy 8:18.

 

Answer:  The word for “tithe” literally means “one-tenth” or “10 percent”.  Note that the first text quoted above says that one should return tithe on his “increase” (“profit”).  And the principle is based on our recognition of the fact that God gives us each the power to earn our wealth.  So if you own your own business, you would tithe on the profit you made, not on your gross receipts.  If you are a wage-earner or receive a salary, you should return tithe on the gross income because any taxes withheld from your paycheck do help the government to provide services to the general public, of which you are a part (regardless of your political feelings about government waste of your money).

 

 

18.  Does the New Testament endorse the return of the tithe?

 

“But woe to you Pharisees!  For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”  Luke 11:42.  “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?  Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”  I Corinthians 9:13-14.

 

Answer:  Yes, the New Testament continues the practice of returning the tithe to support the fulltime workers in Christian ministry.

 

 

19.  Where should the tithe be returned?

 

“Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’  In tithes and offerings….  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And  pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.”  Malachi 3:8, 10.  

 

Answer:  In the Old Testament, there was a literal “storehouse” at the Temple in which the tithes were stored for use by the Levites.  It is obvious, then, that the Christian storehouse is the Church.  But most of us live in a mostly non-agricultural economy, so we should return our tithe in the form of cash, check, or money order so that the church treasurer can secure it.  As in the Old Testament, Paul declares that the tithe should be used for those fulltime ministers of the gospel.  That is the reason that Malachi 3:8 states that there is a need for freewill offerings beyond the tithe, so that other functions of the church can be maintained from that part of the church budget.  You have done your part when you return tithes and give offerings to the church because that’s what God says to do; it is His business to correct matters if the funds are not spent according to their purposes.  You do your financial part, and God promises you blessings for doing so—although He does not specify the kind of blessings.  Leave that to the Lord as well.

 

 

Quiz for Lesson 14—The Church of Jesus

 

1.  Which of the following terms correctly addresses what the word "church" means? (3)

  “a calling out”

  “synagogue”

  “assembly”

  “gathering”

Answer

“a calling out”
“assembly”
“gathering”

2.  Who is the rock that the church is founded upon? (1)

  Peter

  John

  James

  Jesus

Answer

Jesus

3.  Which of the following are metaphors of the church that appear in the New Testament? (4)

  Body of Christ

  Temple of God

  Synagogue of Spiritual Jews

  Bride of Christ

  New Jerusalem

Answer

Body of Christ
Temple of God
Bride of Christ
New Jerusalem

4.  Which of the following represents a purpose of the church? (3)

  To dispense God’s grace

  To worship God

  To fellowship

  To proclaim God’s grace

Answer

To worship God
To fellowship
To proclaim God’s grace

5.  Which of the following are true statements about the Communion service? (3)

  The bread represents the body of Jesus.

  The wine represents the blood of Jesus.

  This service recalls the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

  This service re-enacts the sacrifice of Jesus each time it is conducted.

  The wine is just that; it is fermented (with alcohol) wine.

Answer

The bread represents the body of Jesus.
The wine represents the blood of Jesus.
This service recalls the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

6.  The word for priest in the New Testament church applies to Jesus as our High Priest and those who are qualified to conduct a Communion service. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

False

7.  What are examples of New Testament church “sacrifices”? (3)

  Praise

  Thanksgiving

  Bread and Wine in the Communion service

  Our reasonable spiritual service to God

  Holy water

Answer

Praise
Thanksgiving
Our reasonable spiritual service to God

8.  Identify the titles that Christians should not use for their congregational leaders. (2)

  Pastor

  Reverend

  Father

  Elder

Answer

Reverend
Father

9.  The word “tithe” means “one-tenth” and should be paid by Christians on their profit (for farmers and business people) or on their gross income if they are wage or salary earners. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

True

10.  Where should believers return their tithe? (2)

  the church treasurer

  the church “storehouse”

  directly to the pastor(s)

  directly to the poor

Answer

The church treasurer
The church “storehouse”