The Church As The Means of God’s Government

God’s government is best seen operating in the Church. The Church is the primary means in which He establishes His rule in the earth.  His eternal purpose is demonstrated through the church and is revealed before the principalities and powers (Eph 3:19), which includes earthly authorities as well as angelic and demonic host.

To speak of God’s purpose, as being eternal is to declare that there never has been a time when this purpose did not exist and there will never be a time that it ends.  The Church of Jesus Christ, made up of both the natural Jews and Gentiles, is the demonstration of that eternal purpose.  This purpose was in Christ, before the foundation of the World.  As the Scripture proclaims,

And to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 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, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:9-12)

The Mystery

The mystery of God is the fulfillment of all that was prophesied concerning the people of God.  It is called the mystery of God, in that it was hidden from the prophets of old and revealed to the apostles of the New Testament (Col 1:26). Though the patriarchs of faith like Abraham, Moses, and David looked ahead and saw the day in which God would fulfill His plan in Christ, they did not fully comprehend this mystery. Abraham saw Jesus’ day and rejoiced (John 8:56). Moses saw Him who was invisible and David declared that Christ would be raised from the dead. Yet in all their understanding, the purpose of God remained a mystery.

Some people teach that the church is the unplanned thought of God in order to provide for those of us who were not of the natural Israel.  They often call the Church, “the mystery of God,” in that they believe the church is an afterthought.[1] However, according to Ephesians, the mystery of God is that the Church is be made up of both Jews and Gentiles.

That is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:3‑6)

The mystery seen in the church is not an extension of Judaism, nor a replacement of Judaism; it is the fulfillment of what it means to be the Israel of God.[2] For the Scripture says, Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:15-16).

Jesus’ disciples did not see a contradiction between themselves and the other Jews, except they had received the Messiah.  However, “they did not exhort their fellow Jews to a better practice of the Law, but standing beyond the eschatological rift arising out of the rejection of Jesus and His resurrection, they summoned all Jews to the fulfillment of the promise.”[3]

As we have mentioned, God already had a people in the wilderness called the “church.”  However, the Old Testament prophets did not understand that God intended to bring about the fullness of all things by bringing both Jews and Gentiles together in one body.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men)- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians. 2:11‑14)

The New Testament apostles and prophets were given the revelation of Christ’s body, the church.  Peter was given the vision of the sheet full of unclean animals and told to kill and eat (Acts 10:9-17). He objected to eating anything unclean.  He did not understand what God was bringing forth. God warned Peter against calling things unclean that He had called clean. God was revealing to him, that the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house were about to be ushered into the Kingdom of God even as the Jews were on the day of Pentecost. True to Jesus’ words, Peter had in fact been given the keys of the kingdom to open the door to the Jews with his message on the day of Pentecost, and now to the Gentiles at the home of Cornelius. This act of God’s grace was given to demonstrate the church from that point onward.  God’s eternal purpose was to reveal His glory in the earth through the people of all nations, called the Church.

The word for church, Greek “Ekklesia,” means the called out ones. It is in reference to the people of God, those who are called by His name.  God has always had a purpose in His foreknowledge to bring forth a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to give Him glory through out the ages to come.

The church is not an organization, denomination, or building.  It is a living organism.   In the scriptures the church is called the Holy Nation, His Body, the Bride of Christ, the Temple of God, the New Man, New Creation, His Vineyard, the Assembly of the First Born, Mt. Zion, a City, the Israel of God, His House, and His Building made up of living stones.

The Church is the expression of God’s glory and the dwelling place of God on the earth.  Though the scriptures declare that God is omnipresent, He has chosen to dwell specifically in His Church and to expand His kingdom through His people. The Church is made up of many members flowing together to make up His Body. In each local community where Christians gather practicing the sacraments, acknowledging the church and its leaders, there is an expression of His Body called the local church.

Christ made mention of His church twice in the Gospels identifying the two expressions of the church.  He identified the local church and the church universal or “extra-local.” The first time He speaks of the church He is speaking of the church universal, which is invisible.  In Matthew 16:18, He declares: I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

It is into the universal church that we are born anew.  A person does not join His church, but rather one is birthed by the Holy Spirit into membership of the universal church.  All who are in Christ belong to this “one body.” The second time Christ refers to the church “local” or visible church, we know He is referencing the local church because it is only on that level where things can be “told to the church.” In Matthew 18:15-18 we are instructed:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15‑17)

It is in the local church where Christ’s authority is revealed.  Later, we will call this “official” authority, meaning that practical and official business is conducted under local church authority.  This is the case mentioned here by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20. We see clearly from two scriptural references that Jesus’ Church is a universal church and where the Church is expressed in any locale, it is the local church.

In the New Testament no proper division is in the church except geographically.  Paul the apostle writes to the Ephesians declaring there is one faith, one baptism, one body, one Spirit, and one Lord.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.(Ephesians 4:1‑6)

“In the Word of God we find ‘the Church of God’ spoken of in the singular (I Cor. 10: 32), but we find the same Word referring to the ‘churches of God’ in the plural (I Thess. 2: 14). How has this unity become a plurality?  How has the Church, which is essentially one, become many? The Church of God has been divided into the churches of God on the one ground of difference of locality. Locality is the only scriptural basis for the division of the Church into churches. The seven churches in Asia referred to in the Book of Revelation included the church in Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, the church in Pergamos, the church in Thyatira, the church in Sardis, the church in Philadelphia, and the church in Laodicea.  They were seven churches, not one.  Each was distinct from the others on the ground of the difference of locality. It was only because the believers did not reside in one place that they did not belong to one church. There were seven different churches simply for this reason that the believers lived in seven different places.  Not only were the seven churches in Asia founded on the basis of locality, but all the churches mentioned in Scripture were founded on that same basis.”[4]

Scripture does not support divisions over petty doctrines, leaders, social class, nationalities, races, and denominations. “If we wish to maintain a scriptural position, then we must see to it that the churches we found in various places only represent localities, not doctrines. If our ‘church’ is not separated from other children of God on the ground of locality alone, but stands for the propagation of some particular doctrine, then we are decidedly a sect, however true to the Word of God our teaching may be.”[5] Sectarianism is an attitude that should be avoided even at high cost.  While certain church governments and structures are more given to sectarianism, one can be involved in such divisiveness whether in a denomination or without.

The challenge is to begin with a revelation of His Church and its expression in every community.  It becomes a pleasant embrace when one begins to see the church beyond his or her familiar surroundings.  To recognize the whole church in a community begins with respect for all the members regardless of our mental divisions.

A sobering revelation for many is that the Church of Jesus Christ is alive, active, and powerful far outside the reaches of their denomination, organization, or network.  Though it requires a spiritual union and trusting relationships to labor together in building the Church it behooves each believer and leader to see themselves belonging to the whole.  While it may be one thing to labor together in the work of the Lord, it is a scriptural requirement among those who are called saints to fellowship together.

May we never forget that when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, his rebuke was just as strong to those who claimed to be followers of Christ as it was to those who were divided over himself, Peter, or Apollos (1 Cor 1:12-13). The very impetus of unity in the church had become the force of division, that of apostles.  If apostles lay the foundation of Christ then unity should prevail when such foundational gifts are seen and recognized within the proper scope of Christ’s headship.  Once the revelation of His Church comes to bear, then it brings forth the requirement of acknowledging His gifts and authority in the Church.

[1] Clarence Larken, The Greatest Book on Dispensational Truth in the World, (Philadelphia, PA, Larkin Est., 1918) p. 152

[2] [The Israel of God.] The true Christians called here the Israel of God, to distinguish them from Israel according to the flesh. (from ADAM CLARK’S COMMENTARY)

[3] Searching Together, Volume 21:1-4, 1993 Edition, p. 29

[4] Nee, Watchman. The Normal Christian Church Life. (Washington DC:  International Student Press, 1962) p. 46

[5] Ibid. p. 67

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