Lord’s Library contributor Ron Shultz offers an ecclesiology meaning for new Christians with relevant Scriptures and commentary. Check out his ministry Maverick Ministries for additional Bible studies and resources.
This resource addresses the importance and history of the church. Doctrines are often misunderstood or abused, and the doctrine of the church is no exception. Differences in understanding church membership and its importance can be substantial. Some groups consider it necessary for salvation, while others reject organized religion and church membership because they believe only in the “invisible church.” The church itself is often confused with Israel, resulting in confusion about the Old Testament and New Testament as well.
A clear understanding of the doctrine of the church is important because it affects your Soteriology (study of salvation), eschatology (study of last things or end times), hamartiology (study of sin), and any other doctrine. Ecclesiology can be complicated, but it need not be arcane. Towards that purpose, the K.I.S.S. (Editor’s note: or Keep It Simple, Saint) method is used in this resource.
Ekklesia and the True Church
1577 ekklesia (ek-klay-see'-ah); from a compound of 1537 and a derivative of 2564; a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): KJV-- assembly, church.
Matthew 16:15-18: “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
This is the first time we see the term church used. The term in Greek means “a group called out for a meeting or function.” This passage shows us that Christ did plan on a new called-out group. We are not spiritual Israelites. The old economy or Testament has passed away because it is fulfilled in Christ. See Galatians 3:24-25: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”
The conception of the church is contained in the above verses from Matthew. It remains in an embryonic form throughout the life of Christ and is finally birthed in Acts 2.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon someone to prophesy or to perform an extraordinary deed and then He left. In the true Church, in the body of born-again believers, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells the believer. In Acts 2, we see a new creation of the Church as well as a new creation of man through the new birth and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Romans 10:9-10 tells us how to be born again, to become a new man: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Abraham was called out from among his people and God created a new nation to be His. The Israelites were called out of the nations. The tribe of Levi was called out from among the tribes of Israel to be the priestly tribe. In each instance there was not anything special or even mighty about those called out. Indeed, the Israelites were the least of all peoples.
There are many examples of the meanings of “ekklesia” in both Testaments. It is important to note, however, that while Acts 7:38 speaks of the Israelites as the church in the wilderness, it does not mean that they are the same as the group that we call the church today: “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:”
Any group that is called out for a specific purpose can be called an “ekklesia.” A military training weekend could be called an “ekklesia.” But trust me, it will not be a church meeting even if you are a battling Baptist.
The word church was given to the group that was called out by Christ. In the verses above from Matthew, Jesus says that upon the bedrock truth of His being God incarnate He would build His church. Because it had not been built the Israelites cannot have been the “ekklesia” (or church) about which He is speaking. Acts 8:3 presents another example of the separation of Israel and the Church: “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.”
Paul was persecuting the Church and yet he was a Jew. He did not persecute anyone from the synagogue or temple. He was seeking out the group of believers in Christ until he was converted himself.
Initially, followers of Christ were known as disciples, believers, and other names. It was at Antioch that they were given the name Christians. The name stuck and the “ekklesia” of Christians became known thereafter as the Christian Church.
Denominationalism and the Body of Christ: The Universal Church
Amos 3:3: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
Doctrinal differences and issues have generated divisions and other names over the years. These differences can cause a schismatic division such as the Reformation, or divide a denomination itself such as the current debate over female ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention. These different names are also now necessary because not all who say they are Christians are truly Christians.
Some folks get upset over these different names, saying that we should all agree on some generic name and eliminate denominational names. That would be great were it feasible. It is very tough to walk together unless you agree on doctrine and practice. If not, you spend your time arguing over your differences and do very little that is positive and builds the Kingdom of God.
There are many differences between Catholicism and classical Protestantism. Classical Protestantism is being used for the purposes of this lesson because we are in an age of apostasy. Many Protestant groups no longer hold to the teachings of their founders. If these men knew what is going on in the organizations that claim them, they would be asking God to send lightning bolts upon them. In some cases, that would be more fire from God than they have had for decades. This statement is made sadly. Some Baptists are in the same boat.
The substantial differences within Protestantism make worship under one roof impractical. The worship service would be chaotic rather than decent and in order, see 1 Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Baptism is only one example of these differences. Some Protestants baptize by sprinkling, some by pouring, and others by total immersion. Whatever method is used, not a small number of the congregation will be upset or angered over what they believe to be an unscriptural practice. This example notwithstanding, total immersion is the only scriptural form of baptism.
Even within denominations, there are many differences. In some cases, these differences are minor enough that everyone can still work together. In other cases, the differences are of such a degree that working together is no longer possible. That is why there are different groups of Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Baptists, Church of Christ, and others. Indeed, this was predicted in 1 Corinthians 11:18-19: “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
Even in the first century church there were such divisions, see Acts 15:24, 1 John 2:19, and 1 John 4:1-6:
- Acts 15:24: “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:”
- 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
- 1 John 4:1-6: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. e are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
After reading the above scriptures from Acts and I John a question as to who is right or approved may arise. 2 Timothy 2:15 teaches that Biblical doctrine is how the approved stand out: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Some doctrines are essential or fundamental and must be believed to be a member of the true Church. Other doctrines are important but not salvation issues. We must, however, continue to search out and stand for the truth, always trying to be kind to those with whom we disagree on non-essential issues, see 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”
No group has everything right. No group is the only group that Christ speaks through. The Jews thought that they would always be the only ones that God used and spoke through, but the Gentiles were grafted in. Now the Jews must come to Christ and become part of the Church, see Romans 11:10-12: “Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back always. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?”
We were the other fold that He must bring in, see John 10:16: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
The disciples also developed a “we are the only ones” mindset and Christ rebuked them in Mark 9:38: “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.”
It may not always be possible to work closely with a person or group because of certain doctrines. If they are truly born-again, though, it is best to let them work in their field while working in the one assigned to you. Wesley, Knox, Calvin, and Luther had theological differences among themselves, and many modern Baptists have theological differences with these four men. But it may be said confidently that we will see them in Heaven. Conversely, some “good” Baptists will not be there. In fact, this is an age where fewer church members will see Heaven than in past eras.
Membership in the Universal Church and a Local Body
Throughout the New Testament, we are taught that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth, and that we should all be of one mind, one voice, and in unity of customs. See John 16:13, Philippians 2:2, and 1 Corinthians 1:10-16:
- John 16:13: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”
- Philippians 2:2: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:10-16: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.”
That is the ideal! We are to be one Church because there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, see Ephesians 4:5: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,”
Indeed, we should just be called the Church. Paul addressed the churches of Galatia. In Revelation, the seven churches are addressed as the Church of Ephesus, the Church in Sardis, and so on.
What is in a name? In the New Testament, the Church is also called the church of God/Theos, the churches of Christ/Christos, the churches of the Gentiles, and even just as the church in someone’s home. I doubt they had a sign that said the First Nymphian Church or Nymphas Memorial Church. See Acts 20:28, Romans 16:4, 16, and Colossians 4:15:
- Acts 20:28: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
- Romans 16:4: “Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”
- Romans 16:16: “Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.”
- Colossians 4:15: “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.”
The name of the congregation or group is unimportant. You must be born again into the Body of Christ for membership in the spiritual/universal Church. If not, then the name of your congregation will follow you to Hell.
In fact, maybe we should call ourselves the Body of Christ or Bride of Christ since both appellations are given to believers. They both speak better to the spiritual aspects of being a Christian. Church speaks mainly to the physical aspect as we define the word. The Church is a spiritual entity, but most people, including believers, only associate the word with a building or an organization.
- Ephesians 4:3-6: “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. here is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Should we rejoice in these divisions? The answer is clearly no in light of the instructions in verse three to seek peace and unity through the power of the Spirit. Martin Luther was correct, however, when he said, “Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.” We must love, but we must speak the truth in love and not just pass over truth in the name of love, see Ephesians 4:15: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”
The rest of the above passage speaks to the universality of the Church.
- 1 Corinthians 12:13-14: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.”
When the Spirit baptized you into the Body of Christ it does not matter in what corner of the world you live or what social standing you have obtained. You are part of one body, not many bodies. This is the universal Church. You are part of a supernatural Body and are to exercise your spiritual gifts within the local Body or Church.
- Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
It is impossible for the universal Church to assemble on a regular basis. It is possible for the local Church to do so. At one time this was a daily occurrence, see Acts 2:46: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,”
We assemble so that we might exhort one another and serve others. Too many people come to Church expecting to be entertained or served. They are attending for the wrong reason, self-gratification, and become discouraged. Consequently, they move from church to church seeking to satisfy self. They would do well to follow John the Baptists’ last testimony in John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
As He increases your heart and mind will be turned to exhorting and serving others. Were they to become givers, blessings would replace discouragement. If you are not getting much out of church, it is most likely because you are not putting much into it.
Structure and Purpose of the Local Church
Ephesians 4:11-16: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Here is some of the structure and purpose of the local church. This passage clearly refutes any arguments against organized religion. Are you not glad that your head stays in place and that your heart pumps consistently and rhythmically? Christ’s Church must have stability and rhythm as well.
The ministry of the leaders of a local body is the perfecting or maturing the saints. In doing this the Church, the Body of Christ, is edified or built up. Although some believe that ministry is solely the leader’s work, saints who have matured and found their spiritual gift are also to move into the work of ministry. Their obedience and work will also build up the Church. As a member you are a minister. A minister is a servant and we are all servants of Christ.
Just as our brain and heart function together to maintain the whole of our physical body, our individual spiritual gifts work together to build up the Body of Christ. See 1 Corinthians 12:12-22: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:”
Again, we see we are to be unified in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. The mature Christian will be able to receive the full amount of blessing and usefulness that God desires for him and is given to him by a measure of grace, see Ephesians 4:7: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
He will be able use his gifts like a fountain running over, see John 7:38: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
He will be fruitful to his limit, see Matthew 13:8: “But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”
An immature Christian will not reach their full potential. This is why we gather to exhort one another, especially as we see the day of His appearing drawing nigh.
Many do not reach this maturity because they fail to understand the Word. This results in them partaking of a spiritual smorgasbord and they wonder why they get a stomachache or ptomaine. They run from one group to another for the excitement, acting like the folks on Mars Hill because it is a new thing, see Acts 17:21: “(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)”
Because they are not grounded in the Word, they get confused. This confusion can lead them into strange cults or activities because the “teachers” of these groups are accomplished speakers. They know how to turn a phrase, making themselves sound erudite. They pose as possessors and instructors of esoteric knowledge that will be passed on to the neophyte for a price. That price usually means total commitment to that teacher and the group. Beware if you get near one of those groups.
Based upon John 10:4,5,27, I believe that a person that makes a profession of faith and later is permanently wrapped up in a cult is probably not saved:
- John 10:4: “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.”
- John 10:5: “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
- John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:”
A true sheep may stray, but will return. Some seemingly choice morsel or tidbit may lure them away from the flock, but the Shepherd will send a rock by their ear or in some other way bring them back into the fold. If they do not get a stomachache and run back to the Shepherd or hear His voice to return then they are not His sheep.
This is why doctrine is so important. This is why there will be divisions and denominations until He returns. There are many out there trying to deceive people. Satan will destroy many through unbelief and oddball religions. He will destroy as many or more through false doctrines and heresies labeled Christian. That is why we must speak the truth and combat the damnable heresies that some would try to bring into the Church.
The truth, however, must be spoken in love. We are not to hate the sinner, but only his and our own sin. Those caught up in a cult or heresy can be saved if we love them while sharing the truth. If we become mature saints grounded in the Word, we will save ourselves from heartache and deception. Others we will save from Hell or heresy. We will grow up in Him in all things!
The Head of the Universal Church
Who is the head of the Church? Ephesians 4:15 says it is Christ: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” You say, yes we know that, but who is earthly leader? There is no one. Each local Body is autonomous or self-governing. Paul spoke to that in Hebrews 13:7,17 when he told them to remember and obey those whom have rule over you.
- Hebrews 13:7: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
- Hebrews 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
In Titus 1:5-8, he sent Titus to ordain or appoint elders in every city based upon the same qualifications in 1 Timothy 3: “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;”
He probably only taught three weeks in Thessalonica and then left them for some time without anything but the Word. When Timothy was sent to check on them, he was able to give Paul a good report. Behold the power of the Word!
Some think Peter was the first Pope or head of the Church. Actually, James presided over the Jerusalem council. The primary purpose of the council was to be sure that the Gentiles had indeed been brought into the Church by God, and to deal with doctrinal errors that came out of Jerusalem. In the end, they determined there were things that the Gentiles needed to be taught about their culture and practices that would be unbiblical, though very common among them. Other than that, they felt no need to control or dictate to them how to run their churches.
As for Peter, we find Paul rebuking Him for duplicity. Paul called himself the least of the apostles and yet had no problem telling Peter his sin, see Galatians 2:11-14: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”
Neither James, Peter, John, nor the council in Jerusalem intimidated him. He boldly opposed the Judaizers and did not care if the pillars agreed or disagreed. See Galatians 2:1-10: “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”
Truth is not held in a small repository of a man or a council. It is omnipresent because it belongs to God and can be received by anyone who will hear God and obey.
In this passage, we also see that the maturity of every believer is important to the local Church. God will supply every need that the Christian or the Church needs, see Philippians 4:19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
The whole body is fitly joined or correctly put together in a compact organization. Sound like your own body? The Lord fearfully and wonderfully made His spiritual Body, the Church as well. See Psalm 139:14: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
That means that every part or member is important! Every joint or ligament helps to create this compact organization. Ligaments and joints are not major organs, but the body needs them to function. God knows everything that the Church needs to be healthy and fully functional. He supplies the people with the gifts necessary to the Church. Then why are the Churches having problems?
It says that the effectual working in the measure of every part makes increase or growth. In other words, all the parts must be working efficiently according to its duties for growth to happen. Pastors and deacons are often blamed for the Church not growing when in reality much of the blame lies in the pews. If all the members are not doing what they are called to do by their Master in the Body, the Body cannot grow. If the foot does not work, walking is hindered, let alone running. If one lung is not functioning, the Body is greatly hindered.
It is incumbent upon every believer to find his or her gift and use it to the glory of God. The Body then builds itself up in love of their Lord, each other, and their neighbor. Try any other way to build a church and it will ultimately fail though it might flourish for a time.
The Universal Church’s Relationship to Christ
Ephesians 5:21-33: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
Finally, we will look at a few things about the mystery or secret about Christ and the Church. Like any good teacher, He uses an analogy, which creates an understandable context for us. He is taking us from the known of earthly marriage and teaching us the unknown of the Church’s relationship to Him. Then He takes us back again to show us how to view the marital relationship as a symbol of the Church’s relationship to Him.
He loved the Church, died for her, and married her. She is His bride. We make up the bride’s body and yet we are of His body. This is also appropriate for marriage, making two people one flesh. Verse 31 speaks volumes about divorce and eternal security.
We see how the husband should treat his wife and how the wife is to respect and submit to the husband. We should die for our wives. Wives are to submit like the Church is to submit to Christ. Sadly, the Church is not always submissive. In our marriages, we have problems because neither man nor woman is living in accordance with this analogy. Christ is always the best husband, but we are not always the best bride. We will be purified and presented, though, without spot and wrinkle.
If we do not view the Church with the same love and respect that Christ has for it, we disrespect Him. Church life is important to us for many reasons, but maybe the biggest reason is that it prepares us to be better wives to Christ. How we view and interact in church life may affect our self-image. If we do not see ourselves as Christ sees us and seek to be better wives, we will not see our true worth or purpose in life. How is your church life? Are you a good Bride of Christ? How is your earthly marriage? Get with your earthly and heavenly spouse and see what is needed for improvement!
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- Ecclesiology Meaning: A Short Course on the Church - May 18, 2023