the weblog of Alan Knox

Church in the fullest sense of the word

Posted by on Jun 14, 2012 in blog links, definition | 13 comments

Church in the fullest sense of the word

Felicity at “Simply Church” has written a very good post called “What is church?” I love that her posts are usually very short and to the point, and this one is as well.

In this post, she briefly talks about three scriptural metaphors for the church: temple, living stones, and family. She spends a little more time fleshing out the familial metaphor.

Then, at the end of her post, she includes this very good quote:

When two or three true, born-again believers come together in His name, Jesus is in the midst. Jesus in the midst is church! It is a different experience than Jesus within. We cannot experience Jesus in the midst when we are alone. We can only experience Jesus in the midst when we are in company with others–at least one or two others.

But is it church in the fullest sense of the word? Yes, it is a church in the fullest sense of the word. It is the basic church. You can have more than two or three and it is still a church, but it does not become “more church” because there are more than two or three. It only becomes bigger church.

This is a pretty good explanation. The number of people gathered together does not make a group “more” or “less” church.


13 Comments

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  1. 6-14-2012

    I too enjoy Felicity’s writing.
    Prior to our current call, my wife and I did a lot of looking for a church. I had retired after 35 years as senior pastor and felt like God was giving me a much needed sabbatical. During that time, we had Sundays that we enjoyed doing our own thing. We would load up a couple of tracts of the songs we used in our ministry, do a little praising and then Bible study. We could both feel the Holy Spirit in our midst and there was no doubt we had been to church. Yes Simple church…but church.
    Great post Alan.

  2. 6-14-2012

    Alan, not sure we need to focus on ‘church’, but rather on ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’, and out of that hear His voice and be led within (the Kingdom of God within) to do the things that Christ did, and greater things than these (Jesus speaking). This is how Jesus said He would build His assembly, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Anything else, once again, is just our attempt to get to God by doing something we feel is right. Jesus wants us to do it His way. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give them eternal life….(He said) So, it begs the question….what is Jesus saying to you right now about what you should be doing? Man should not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God (every day) if we care to listen.

  3. 6-14-2012

    Thanks for this good post, Alan.

    Trevor, I think we all accept that we need to focus on Christ, the point is that we can focus on him both individually and in community. That’s why Alan quoted Felicity’s words that ‘Jesus in the midst is church!’

    Focussing on Christ in community is exactly what I was referring to on my own blog on 13th June

    http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/2012/06/letter-from-heart.html

    It seems we’re all writing about the same thing at the same time. Might that be because we’re all hearing the Spirit of Christ speaking to us about the same thing? I hope so! Have your way with your people, Lord. Have your way with me.

  4. 6-14-2012

    Jon,

    Thanks for sharing part of your story.

    Trevor,

    Thanks for the comment. For me, there is no church (regardless of the number of people) without Jesus. We are only the church in him. In the same way, Jesus brings us together as the church.

    Chris,

    Thanks. And, thanks for the link.

    -Alan

  5. 6-14-2012

    Hi guys, what Jesus saw as church and what we see as church are two different things. Look at the life of Jesus and He was always about the Fathers business, seeking the lost, healing the sick, looking for the least, mostly in the market place and quite often in homes of sinners.
    We on the other hand gather mostly for tradition, self help, some for a fix for the next week and even to work out the grand plans of those in charge. Jesus called church when we (Christ in us) meet unsaved men and women of peace (those with needs)to get on with the Fathers business. Of course Christ is there if you believe that God’s Kingdom is within us….that’s church. Not forgetting to assemble ourselves as Paul said was because the people were so in tune with our Fathers business that they forget to get together every now and then for eddification,encouragement, equipping and a good old love feast. When we change our paradigm, then Jesus can get on with building His assembly…..and the gates of hell will not prevail….

  6. 6-15-2012

    I spent some time in a church that made a great point of the context around Matthew 18:20, pointing out that it implies church discipline rather than a prayer meeting…they weren’t always so sensitive to context, however.

    Matthew 18:15-20(NET) “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven. Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.
    Mat 18:20 For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”

    While I admire the coverage of house/organic churches and really have no quibble with making the traditional use of the verse, perhaps someone can help me with a related struggle that I have. At least in traditional churches services/meetings/gatherings commonly include prayers and songs that are begging God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit to COME AND BE PRESENT at a service/gathering. Why is this?

    John 14:16-17(NET) Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.

    The Holy Spirit is inside each believer…what is it that they are asking for? heightened emotion? a special feeling? an outbreak of the sign gifts? Is it a residual image from the Old Covenant where the presence of the Lord filled the tabernacle? Or perhaps I should ask, “What would a gathering look like where somehow the Holy Spirit was NOT present, so I can tell if the prayer was answered?

  7. 6-15-2012

    Tom, there are lots of so called church meetings where the Holy Spirit is not present. Tell me, if the Holy Spirit is present at all church meetings, then why are churches shutting down faster that superman could ever fly? What, has the Holy Spirit lost touch with things? Can’t He handle the situation any more? Why are people leaving churches in their droves if the Holy Spirit is present? Why is Jesus knocking on the door of His church in Revelation 3 asking to come in? Yes, the way to go is narrow…..Jesus said so. Jesus is the head, we are the body…..church and religion has gotten in the throat and chocked the life out of the body. Real ‘church’ is living like Christ John 12:26 1 John 2:6….the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as Jesus walked.

  8. 6-15-2012

    Trevor,

    Do you gather for tradition, self-help, and a fix for the next week? We don’t. We do get together occasionally – as in Scripture sometimes daily, sometimes weekly – to encourage, edify, and equip one another in Christ and to share a meal together in him.

    Tom,

    That’s a good question. I never try to entice God to come or to invite the Holy Spirit to join us. He is already here.

    -Alan

  9. 6-15-2012

    Church in community? Or church in individuals? I believe this is not a case of either-or, and I thank Alan for the post, and God for the unity in mind and Spirit that He has provided for us who believe. Rather, a few distinctions in biblical terms should help us understand how both are relevant. (All my scripture references are taken from the ESV. Sorry for so many – I just couldn’t contain my enthusiasm! )

    Basically, I see the ‘church’ described as the body of Christ consisting of many members (1 Cor 1:2, 14:12; 1 Cor 12; Romans 12:4-5; and many more), whereas the individual believer’s body is a ‘temple’ for the Holy Spirit (John 2:21; 1 Cor 3:16, 6:19).

    Uses of the word ‘church’ refer to this assembly of Christ followers. References to the word ‘temple’ either refer to the physical place of Jewish worship, or the body of a particular indiviual. Sometimes, the word ‘church’ is equated with the singular body of Christ (Eph 5:23). Perhaps, that is where the confusion comes in about the ‘church’ being an individual’s body.

    However –and this deserves attention– the context of “For where two or three are gathererd in my name, there I am among them” (Matt 18:20) is NOT the definition of a church. Rather, it all starts out with “If your brother (or sister) sins aginast you…” (Matt 18:15).

    The critical verse in understanding this is Matthew 18:16, where you (who are sinned against) are instructed to “take one or two brothers (or sisters) along with you, totaling two or three, as a means of establishing evidence about the sin.

    In the legal system at the time, witnesses were used as evidence. That is why Jesus answered at His own trial, “Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” (John 18:21)

    What if four are gathered in His name? Four hundred? Is that not a church? Of course, it could very well be!

    Yes, as Trevor pointed out, we must be about our Father’s business, just as Paul has expressed his desire to do likewise several times, but not before we fully understand the gift of salvation and ALL it implies. Now that we have been saved, which requires no work at all (Eph 2:8-9), let us be sanctified by the truth (John 17:17) and perform the good works which God has prepared beforehand in Christ Jesus that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10).

    Where do we start? Ask the honest question, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)

    ~~~
    A few verses referring to Paul about the Father’s business…

    And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:11-16)

    For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. (Php 1:21-22)

    Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, (Col 1:24)
    ~~~

    In conclusion, I think it’s pointless to discuss whether church should be a small gathering in someone’s house, are a large crowd in a dedicated building. Either is okay, so long as God is the focus. It simply boils down to this: assembling for instruction in righteousness, worshiping God, edification and fellowship, caring for each other, carrying the burden of each other loads, for sharing in the breaking of bread, being a witness to unbelievers, and building each other up with spiritual songs, hymns, and psalms.

    In short, the exercise of loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; and loving our neighbor as ourselves. If we are open to receiving God’s love and His truth and grace, we just won’t be able to contain our enthusiasm !

  10. 6-15-2012

    Dwight,

    I’m not sure if you were writing to agree, disagree, or just continue the discussion, but, as far as I can tell, I agree with everything you wrote.

    -Alan

  11. 6-15-2012

    Alan,

    I wanted to add a little clarity before I fully agree. I’m not disagreeing and merely wished to further the discussion. I merely did that by writing a lengthy comment! Thanks for your feedback!

    A friend introduced me to this blog, and I’m glad he did. Thanks for your active participation with participants beyond posting frequent articles. I’m loving it!

    :-D wight

  12. 6-15-2012

    Dwight, I noticed in your conclusion that you gave much weight to pampering yourself in a ‘church’ setting, and one short snippet to the work of Jesus Christ….that is ‘ you shall be witnesses for me’. In His life on earth, Jesus demonstrated the opposite……he was in the market place and in homes predominately, and taught in synagogues (because that’s where people were under the old covenant looking for God). The rest of the time Jesus spent on the road with His disciples demonstrating the Kingdom of God as a means of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. The word ‘witness’ means martyr….we are to as it were martyr our lives for Him, and lead the same life as Jesus did. Jesus commanded us to do this….’the works that I do, you WILL do also, and greater works than these…’ If ‘temple’ worship was so important, how is it that Jesus not only propheseid and allowed it’s destruction, but never restored it? The truth is that God does not live in temples (buildings made by man), but in people…..and this cost Stephen his life when he preached that to people who insisted that temple worship was the go. We are meant to be the temple in which Christ lives and rules, and go about the work that Jesus started some two thousand years ago. What have we done? We have resorted to temple worship,(whether Judaic or pagan) which is the work of the ‘anti-Christ’ spirit which John said had already gone out from them some 2000 years ago. 1 John 2

  13. 6-15-2012

    Trevor said, “I noticed in your conclusion that you gave much weight to pampering yourself in a ‘church’ setting…”

    Honestly, I’m not sure what you meant. I only meant to elaborate on what I thought it meant to assemble as believers. (Heb 10:24-25) The clarity I thought that was especially needed was in regard to the use of Matt 18:20.

    You also said, “…one short snippet to the work of Jesus Christ…”.

    By no means am I minimizing the work of Jesus Christ! I simply wanted to contain my point in this comment to the use of the word ‘church’ in scripture. Perhaps, I should have included these verses from Ephesians 4:11-16…

    And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

    I generally find pastors (shepherds) and teachers in church, large or small, but not always. I met the pastor of my small house church at a weekly Bible Study held at my prior, large corporate employer. But I gather with him and others to not only share the word, but to worship God and build each other up with spiritual songs and hymns.

    I don’t think we neglect to meet together because as God’s workmanship we simply “go about the work that Jesus started some two thousand years ago.” We have to know what to say first, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).

    Rather, I think the primary goals for our assembling come from the verses above, that “we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” After all, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17) And to be effective in the ministry, we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds, for good reasons. (Romans 12:2)