Why Church?

Why Church?

With this mini-blog-series I hope we will answer a number of questions including this one which I think aptly describes where many Christians are at these days in regard to the church – “Is the Church An old rusty machine that we are trying to crank up for another generation? Or THE REASON for all Creation? The Glorious Church?” (Sibs Sibanda)

And is Bill hybels right – is the local Church the hope of the world?

The other questions which we will be looking at in this first blog are as follows:

where did it start

what did Jesus think about Ch?

What came first the church or the NT?

What did the early church think of Church?

In future blogs:

what did Paul think?

so what is church?

what shd Ch look like today?

Sunday’s ?

worship?

Community?

  • outreach?

Organisation/administration/Rotas!!?

Leadership?

Where did it start?

Church or the word ekklesia is used in NT 111 times. Jesus only uses the word 3 times,  in Matt 16 once and Matt 18 twice.

Which brings us on nicely to our first question, in answering where did it start, you have to ask…

what did Jesus think about Church?

So we are going to focus on Jesus and his view of the church and then Paul’s view and the NT as a whole, this is partly to answer the accusation which is that Jesus wasn’t that bothered about the church and Paul wrecked what otherwise would have been a lovely cuddly bunch of people with no rules or hierarchy. We’ll come on to see that that is short sighted at best but more importantly we have to be careful we don’t fall into a trap of splitting up the NT into Jesus vs. Paul. We can only go so far in separating out the NT, what Jesus says and what Paul says in the end is all scripture, Jesus words, even if they are printed in red do not carry more weight than Paul’s or even the middle bits of Ecclesiastes!

My aim is help us understand that Jesus was keen on the church and those that might tempt us to think otherwise are basically wrong. In the end their greater failing is when they, whoever they are, fail to see that you cannot play Jesus off against Paul. So our focus is a chronological one, not a splitting Jesus and Paul up. So when I make a case for how much Jesus loves the church I will also use Paul’s words but I will hopefully explain it back into what Jesus was like in the gospels. A result should be that we see how similar Jesus and Paul were and how united scripture is on this subject.

So Jesus and the church – first of all let’s be clear, He loved it, or I should say he loved them/us

Go where you like, John 17 as he prays for his church – which we know he refers to as the ekklesia in matt 16 and 18, the called out ones and idea strong in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT.)

When commenting on Matt 16:18 and Jesus words about building the ekklesia on this rock – the ESV study bible says – “Some scholars object that Jesus could not have foreseen the later emergence of the “church” at this time, but the use of Greek ekklēsia to refer to God’s “called out” people has substantial background in the Septuagint (e.g., Deut. 9:10; 31:301 Sam. 17:471 Kings 8:14). Jesus is predicting that he will build a community of believers who follow him.”

In other words Jesus more than likely would have known that background and known more of what he was saying than some give him credit. Combine this with what he says in John 17 and you have a much clearer picture of Jesus’ thinking on his people and what they are to become.

It is this group of people in Matt 16, who he does call ekklesia who are the same ones in his mind in John 17 when he says of them v6  6 “I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world”….and v14  “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” 17

Can you see the theme and connection? the “called out ones” called out of the world, though in it. That’s Jesus’ ekklesia, called out, set apart. So John 17 is Jesus praying for his Church that will be.

So what about these 3 times Jesus mentions us by our future collective name  – ekklesia? Matthew 16 is this amazing encounter with Peter on whom Jesus says he will build his church. It won’t be built on earthly foundations but on this person and people like him who understand or have been shown who Jesus really is. Matt 18 maybe bizarrely is in the realm of church relationships and dealing with people who wrong us.

Perhaps that is not so bizarre in that is 90% of church life is relationships and people. Jesus understands this, he knows that people are the building blocks of church. Church is people, we are to be those who love people on his behalf. So where else can we go in the gospels to see Jesus’ love for his people, the church. Anywhere, the cross scene, where he gives his best friend his mum to look after, the garden, the feeding of 5000, whenever it says he had compassion on them, whenever he forgave or healed someone, this is all Jesus loving his potential ekklesia to come.

His whole life was about redeeming an ekklesia for himself, bringing them out, washing them in his blood and saying, go on then, you heal the sick, lead people to salvation in me and bring in my kingdom, you have my authority. That is the essence of what Jesus wanted for his called out people who are not of this world but who he wants to remain in it – he loved us, died for us and set us up to carry on his legacy.

That is a whistle stop tour of Jesus and his people, the church, the ekklesia

Before we can look at what Paul thought in the next blog we have a gap that is neither the recorded words of Jesus or Paul’s teaching, this gap is called Acts – recorded by Luke, one of the gospel writers. Acts helps us answer other questions that are floating about at the moment

What came first the church or the NT? Does it matter?

What did the early church think of Church?

These are massive questions because people’s assumptions behind such questions are, we’ve gone away from what Jesus wanted, what the early church wanted, and what’s more Paul didn’t help!! The thinking goes as follows: “we’ve taken Paul’s restrictive, organised approach even further and created an institutionalised monster. And I’m not talking about the monster of medieval times or before, I’m saying that anything that sniffs of organisation even though it could be Spirit filled, bible believing, because it has leadership, order and its well organised and owns a building – it is organised and institutionalised and not what Jesus or the early church was after.”

Paul gets a bad press. Some of what Paul wrote was narrative, but his teaching he talks about receiving from the Lord. James teaches and we have no qualms about where he gets it from. Thank God for telling Paul that gentiles are in, and for Paul squaring up to peter on the issue. But we’re not quite so grateful for Paul talking about order, eldership, appointing elders, deacons etc – YUK!!

This is where Acts is important:

What came first, church or NT?

What did the early church think of CHURCH?

Quick answer to the first one, Chicken and egg  – they came together!

The NT was being written as verbal traditions were recorded, not very old traditions, verbal accounts if you like.

By way of answering the 2 questions at the same time, which came first and what did the early church think of church?

Take a look at Acts 6 as it is a fascinating glimpse into the early church and its early organising of itself. We find leadership, delegation, releasing into ministry for both the leaders and these 7 servers (possibly the first deacons but not stated), we possibly find the first rota system but that might be me reading too much into the number 7!!

What we do see is that people (which is as we know from Jesus is the church) need organisation!!

Because they weren’t very organised but were still growing, Greek speaking widows probably because of the language barrier with the Aramaic speaking Jewish believers were missing out on daily food provision and so to solve this HUMAN NEED and to put people first, order and organistation and delegation were needed to be put in place to help people.

This isn’t the first bit of organisation in Acts either, it was important to replace Judas in the 12 in beginning of Acts.

So does organisation exist in the early church? Yes

Does organisation come about initially through the NT teaching or by the early church practice – by PRACTICE first.

Whats the goal? PEOPLE are the goal, the needs of widows is why it’s done in Acts 6 and to keep the apostles doing what they were supposed to be doing.

Let me suggest that if people, and God’s glory are the goal and it’s done in faith, it is organisation.

If it is for any other reason like keeping traditions alive or merely for the sake of it then its fake – it is organised religion and not the true religion of James, who says true religion is putting people’s needs first.

So that’s Jesus, the early church and questions about both hopefully answered to an extent.

Next blog we’ll take a look at the apostle who seems to be as infamous as “Darth Vader!” we’ll call him Paul!

But let me give you a sneak preview of what this misogynist, hyper hierarchical, over organiser thought about the church:

Eph 3

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If anything Paul only adds volume to the glorious vision Jesus set his disciples.

Earlier in Eph 2 this is what Paul says about Jesus and his church:

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

 

CONCLUSION

What I hope we can take from this is that Jesus saw the church for what it is = people, who he had called out and who he would die for and who he would build more people on top of and who would love each other and the world they are in.

That the early church did what is natural and not ungodly, they got organised as the needs of people dictated it.

What Paul does is add some grandeur and beauty to the purpose of the church – he raises the bar as we’ll see, he also adds some more organisation, but people are the focus and Jesus is the focus and none of that will be anti the spirit of what Jesus had in mind.

Paul always has Jesus’ glory in mind when he writes about the church, it is for him, he won us and we get to honour him in return.

More on Paul next time!!

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Posted May 5, 2011 by silklifechurch in Leadership

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