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The Church

Rick Sutcliffe
for AFBC Bible Class Summer 2003

Who constitute the Church? Only those in a particular organization? All those in attendence at churches on a Sunday morning? Or is it more complex than this? And, what is a Church, anyway?

What the Church is

A. General meanings of the Greek word.

The word ekklesia is literally "a calling out of".

1. In the general sense the Greek word is used as in Acts 19:39

where the city clerk of Ephesus in attempting to quell a riotous crowd says If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. That is the word designates a body of citizens called out or called together to discuss the matters of state. In the earlier years, the Greek City States did not have a representative parliament, but the citizens were all eligible to gather when an assembly was called and decide on the issues at hand. (Of course, women and slaves were not eligible; not just anyone could go to an assembly; one had to be a citizen in order for the call to assemble to apply.)

2. Not all assemblies are ordered or peaceful. The clerk in the passage referred to above was addressing an illegal assembly, one that might attract the attention of the Romans and get some people charged with crimes or even killed.

Acts 19:32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.

Acts 19: 40-41 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it. After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

That is, an assembly could be illegal, a mob, even a riot.

3. In the Septuagint the word is used for the assembly of Israel (whether those who gathered for an occasion such as worship, or the entire nation in general terms), and there is one place in the New Testament where this meaning is preserved as well: Acts 7:37-38 This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ''God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.' He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.

4. The word is translated "congregation" (a collection together) in one place: Hebrews 2: 11-12 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."

So, although a Greek "assembly" could be any gathering, whether by chance, as a mob, or for sober discussion of state affairs, the primary meaning is that of a group deliberately and specifically called out for a specific purpose.

Interestingly, the word "Synagogue" is also translated as "congregation". Acts 13:42-43 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

That is, the term "synagogue" was used both for a local assembly and for the place of meeting.

B. The assembly in the context of Christianity.

In the Christian context, the word came to be specified to those called to or assembled in the name of Christ, as distinguished from the "gathered of Israel", i.e. the synagogue.

1. The word klesis, a calling, and the related verb kaleo, to call, from which ekklesia is derived are used frequently in the New Testament.

a. With a personal reference it means God's Divine invitation to accept the salvation of Christ worked at the cross.

1 Cor 1:9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

1 Thess 2:11-12 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

b. A calling can also mean a vocation or a destination, one's life's work or even one's destiny.

1Co 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

so in the general Christian context, the calling is the life-consequence of having been called by Christ, one's occupation as a result of the call, and/or one's final destiny in heaven with Christ (depending on the context).

(i) Ro 1:7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

1Co 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-- their Lord and ours:

Ga 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--

Col 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

(ii) 2Pe 1:10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.

Phil 3:14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Taking these two meanings together, we see right at the start that there is an implication of a changed occupation (vocation) as a result of the personal call of Christ. The calling is by Christ, of an individual, to a changed life. Thus the Church is not just a people called out of the others in this world, but a people called to the occupation of holy living in Christ.

There is an interesting play back and forth between calling in the ordinary occupational and Divine senses in

1 Cor 7 :17 -24 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you--although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.

Returning to the notion of the Church as the collection of these called persons, we have

2. The Church is the whole company of those effectively called by Christ in this present age.

a. It is important to say "effectively" because, although there is a general gospel call to repent and turn away from sin, to receive the salvation of God worked out by Christ on the cross, and to join the company of the redeemed, not all answer this call. So, the "called" are not just those whose ears record the words of the Gospel, but those who answer by giving their hearts to Christ, who accept the call on their lives and become his, become the "called out ones." A passage in Romans is instructive:

Romans 8:28-30 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Here it is made clear that the effective call is to those whom God foreknew. To our minds this is somewhat of a paradox, for answering God's call appears to us to be our free choice, but for God to be sovereign and his knowledge to be accurate (and it must be for he is God and cannot change) our response to his call was both known and sure in eternity past. So while we might be tempted to think that God picks and chooses arbitrarily, even at random, selecting one and rejecting another, his calling is in each case, according to this passage, with his perfect knowledge and determined purpose. Moreover, we could not answer this call positively without God giving us the ability to do so, as made clear in

Eph 2: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

where we learn that not only is the salvation worked at the cross by Christ given to us in grace, but so is the faith to answer the Gospel call and become one of the company of the redeemed.

b. There is a universality to this use of "the church" for it refers to all those who are redeemed, of any time and place, and whether now living on this earth or already removed to heaven. For instance, the church is called Christ's body:

Eph 1:22-23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Eph5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.

Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church;

It is clearly in this universal sense that Christ uses the word in

Matt16: 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

3. More specifically, when used in the singular, the church is a local assembly of such believers, or possibly several such groups in one district or city spoken of together.

1Co 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-- their Lord and ours:

1Th 1:1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.

1Ti 5:16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

3Jo 1:6 They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.

1Co 16:19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.

Re 1:4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,

4. It is particularly important to note that the Church belongs to Christ as his particular possession--not just by virtue of the individuals who make it up, but also as an organic whole.

a. Christ asserts this in the first mention of the church by that name:

Mt 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

b. That is, the church is not Peter's, it is not the pastor's, the elders' the deacons' nor does it belong to those who gather in a particular place. It belongs to Christ.

Heb 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

1Ti 3:15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

(In the latter verse we get a hint that the church is a prototype of the situation that will prevail when Christ is revealed as King of kings and Lord of lords, reigning over all.)

c. As previously noted, the Church is frequently referred to as Christ's body.

Eph 1:22-23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

d. It is also referred to as his bride. See for instance the parable in Matt 25.

Re 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

Re 19:9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

What the Church is not:

This is mostly by contrast to what has been said above.

1. The church is not a building

We speak somewhat carelessly of the place of assembly as though it were the assembly. This is misleading language, but the Israelites did the same thing in their use of the term "synagogue". Remember that some three centuries passed before the church "owned" any buildings. Buildings are incidental to worship. Their architecture and use ought to bring glory to God to be sure, but the church would still exist and be able to serve its purposes without any buildings.

2. The church is not a human organization

Although issues of church governance will arise whenever and wherever people congregate for a purpose, church organization (constitution, by-laws, meetings, policies, etc) are a human convenience; they do not define or constitute the essence of the church. God has called his church out; God has called his church together; human organizational considerations are very much secondary to the purpose of God in assembling a people to do his will and work. God's church would still exist (globally and locally) even if there were no formal organizations whatsoever. That this is true makes mock of any organization's claim to constitute the "one true church", for nothing that Christ ever said can be reasonably taken as founding an organization. Rather, per the meaning of the word, he began the process of assembling his people as a called-out and called-unto collection of the redeemed. As will be seen later, there are offices appointed by God for the appropriate direction and governance of the local church while it is here on earth

3. No human being can claim to be head of the Church.

As we have seen, Christ is the head of the church. Thus, any other claims to head the church are false and must be rejected. Indeed, whenever anyone else claims to head the church it is almost a sure sign of a cult, for this is a displacing of Christ from his rightful headship over his body, his bride, his church.

We must be careful not to lose sight of the church as a people gathered by Christ for his purposes.

The people of the Church

1. We have already learned that to be part of the church, one must have been effectively called. The church is the company of those who have, by the grace of God repented from sin and have been redeemed. This implies a radical change, and Christ uses radical language to describe it.

John 1:12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

Joh 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

Joh 3:7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'

1Pe 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

2. Thus, there are only two kinds of people:

- those who have been born again, part of the church, Christ's body and redeemed forever

- those who remain unregenerate sinners, destined to stay far from God forever.

Joh 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

Mr 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

John points out that the condemnation of the unbeliever is something that merely continues a presently existing state, and Mark displays the future aspect when that judgement will be pronounced.

We've also noted that the church is not so much an institution as it is, abstractly, the total collection of all the individuals so called and born again. However, this immediately leads us to the conclusion that there could be people who go along with a local church, take part in its activities and ministries, perhaps are even baptized, but are not in fact born again, have never been redeemed, and are still lost. That this has been true right from the start is evident from:

(i) John's remarks concerning people who lie about their reputed salvation

1Jo 2:4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

1Jo 2:22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son.

1Jo 4:20 If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

1Jo 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Part of the implication here is that one know that one is saved or not saved.

1Jo 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

(ii) Paul's comments about false teachers and false doctrines

Ga 2:4 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

1Ti 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer

1Ti 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,

(iii) James' comments about people who claim the faith but don't act like it

Jas 2:18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

(iv) Peter's warning about false teachers within the church

2Pe 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves.

2Pe 3:16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

3. The connection of a local church to the church of Jesus Christ is NOT institutional, but via the hearts of individuals. Thus, when one asks whether a particular church is part of Christ's kingdom, what one probably means to ask or should ask is whether the majority of the people in that group are born again believers. And, since we are not God to know the hearts of men and women, such questions can only be answered statistically (i.e. for the majority) and with probabilities (i.e. on the balance of evidence). After all, false faith can be professed, and false works of righteousness performed:

Matt7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

So, What is the evidence that a person or a group of people together are in fact part of the church, the called, the redeemed, the born again?

(a) they will profess the faith

Ro 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

That is, a person who is unwilling to say they are among the called very likely isn't.

(b) their faith will be based on the scriptures (not on a human teacher or organization)

2Tim3:14- 17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

That is, the scriptures were NOT authored by the church are not under the authority of the church. Rather they were authored by the Holy Spirit and are under his authority. The task of individuals in the historic church was to discern which writings were those of the Holy Spirit, acknowledge them, and submit to them. Those in the church today must continue to do so, for the word is timeless:

Mt 24:35, Mr 13:31,Lu 21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

(c) They will discern and believe in true doctrines and practices, rejecting the false

Ro 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Phil 1: 9-10 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

1Tim 6:3-5 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

2Tim 4:2-4 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Tit 1:9 He (an elder) must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Tit 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

A group of people who reject the scripture's authority or otherwise change doctrines to accommodate the times give evidence that they are not redeemed.

(d) because of the power of the Holy Spirit within they will begin to set aside the practice of sin

1Jo 3:9 No-one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

1Jo 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1Jo 3:3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Note the responsibility placed on the believer by this passage.

Jas 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Heb 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

A person or a people who continue on in their behaviour after making a profession of faith are giving strong evidence that their profession was just words and they are still unredeemed.

(e) because of the action of the Holy Spirit within they will begin to practice righteousness (that is, by God's evaluation and with the right motive) and take on the character (name) of Jesus Christ

1Jo 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

1Jo 5:4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Jas 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

(f) they will love one another

Joh 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

1Jo 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1Jo 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

Ro 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

Ro 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled the law.

Ga 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Eph 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Heb 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.

1Pe 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

1Pe 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

1Jo 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1Jo 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1Jo 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1Jo 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1Jo 4:12 No-one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

2Jo 1:5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.

The Scripture is plain. Those who don't love one another are not Christ's.

(g) They serve and minister to one another

1Co 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Ga 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Eph 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Eph 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1Th 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Heb 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Jas 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

These are the practical outworkings of love, the evidence that it exists. Those who harass, slander, or even ignore the believers are not part of the redeemed.

(h) They do not easily take offence and they do easily forgive one another

1Cor 13:4-5 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Take note of that last point. It means that those who truly love (and this is possible only in Christ) do not make, keep, or recite lists of what they think other people have done to them. Neither do they hold grudges.

Eph 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Col 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

The theology of forgiveness has a simple logic. Christians are the people of God precisely because having repented and turned to Christ in faith, they have been forgiven. Because they understand forgiveness, they are not only able to forgive others, it becomes a practice of their character to forgive. On the other hand, if alleged Christians never learn to practice forgiveness. i.e. it never becomes part of their character, they are giving evidence that they do not understand forgiveness, and therefore that they have not in fact been forgiven, whatever they may say. Note the parable in Matt 18:21ff This is not a parable about Christians who fail to forgive, but about those who reject forgiveness and show it by being unforgiving.

(i) because they do not fear judgement for their sin (because Christ has taken it on himself at the cross) but anticipate being in heaven with Christ for all eternity, they eagerly await Christ's coming

2Pet 3:10-14 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

Re 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

(j) because they understand that they are Christ's servants and their actions as Christians will be evaluated (judged, if you will) for Christ's approval and reward, they are eager to seek God's will in Christ and do it.

2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

[This is the so-called bema judgement by Christ of God's people, not the judgement for sin.]

Eph 6:7-8 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

Col 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Re 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.

(k) because they love one another and want the best for one another, they do not let sin go by without comment, but they offer assistance to a fellow believer to recognize and repent of sin and so gain a greater reward.

Mt 7:3-5 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Note that this does not to say to refrain from pointing out a fellow-believer's fault; but to do it in the right spirit.

Mt 18:15 "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.

Lu 17:3 So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

1Ti 5:1 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,

2Ti 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.

(l) likewise, because they understand that Christ is the only final judge of human hearts, they do not take their constructive criticism of an fellow believer beyond discernment and a gentle rebuke, and so intrude on what is God's task alone -- the judgement of hearts.

1Co 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

Jas 2:12-13 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Lu 6:37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

(m) Because the Holy Spirit is busy incarnating the character of Christ in them, they begin to display that character by service to the Father, obedience to his will and word, and diligence in the doing of his business.

Php 3:10-11 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Ro 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Php 2:5-13 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

1Jo 4:17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

1Pe 2:5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The bottom line: Christians are those who are visibly becoming more like Christ.

(n) When they form organizations for local churches, and otherwise in their general relations with one another, their bonds are characterized by

-- submission to one another

Eph 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

-- submission to the recognized leaders of the church

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

-- submission to God (see above)

Heb 12:9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!

Jas 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

(o) Because they serve and worship the living and only true God, their meetings together are characterized by prayer, attention to the word, fellowship, and observing the breaking of bread--all done in an orderly way.


1Th 5:17 pray continually;

Jas 5:13-18 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

The Word

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1Jo 2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

[characterizing the church collectively, not just some individuals.]

1Th 2:13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

Jas 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Fellowship and the breaking of bread

Ac 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

1Co 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

1Cor 11: 23-29 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. "In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.


1Co 14:40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

That is, the meetings of God's people are not to be spectacles for entertainment or wild outbursts of chaos, but purposeful, appropriate to worship, and instructive.

Specifically, with respect to tongues, for instance

1Cor 14: 2-5 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no-one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

18-19 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.

(p) because they understand that they belong to Christ, they are not grasping or greedy

Lu 11:39 Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness."

1Co 5:11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

1Co 6:9-10 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Eph 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

Eph 5:5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Tit 1:7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

(q) On the contrary, they are generous with the possessions and money he allows them to have temporary stewardship over, understanding that it all belongs to him anyway.

(i) In the Old Testament law, God commanded his people to give a tenth of their income to the Lord.

Le 27:30-32 A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock--every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod--will be holy to the LORD.

(ii) Even the Levites had to give a tithe to the priests

Nu 18:26 Speak to the Levites and say to them: "When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering."

(iii) God also made it clear that honouring him by obedience in this matter was required if they were to expect material blessings in this life

Mal 3: 8-12 Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, "How do we rob you?" In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, says the LORD Almighty. Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land, says the LORD Almighty.

(iv) There is an interesting discussion of these practices in

Heb 7:1-9 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace". Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest for ever. Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people--that is, their brothers--even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

Although the main point is to speak of the order of priesthood Christ has, and to observe that it is not Levitical, but greater, like that of Melchizedek existing before and apart from law, this passage incidentally indicates that the principle of tithing to the Lord through his representative also existed before and is therefore independent of the law. There aren't many other such institutions, though marriage is one obvious example.

(v) Christ himself approves of the people of Israel continuing this practice

Mt 23:23 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former.

(vi) One could argue that Christ's words were intended to address those of Israel, still bound by the law because they were spoken before the cross, and that there is no subsequent command in the New Testament to tithe, for that would be a matter of law rather than grace. Technically this is true, but the New Testament has much to say about giving:

Mt 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Mt 6:2-3 So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

Mt 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

Ro 12:20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

2Co 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

1Ti 6:18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Note that The New Testament takes giving to the needy for granted. It assumes as fact that the people of God will give and concerns itself with the attitude of the heart while doing so.

(vii)Moreover, there are New Testament examples of giving in practice:

1Co 16:1-2 Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

That is, it was the normal practice in the earliest church to take a Sunday offering. Paul concerns himself here with the purpose and the procedure, but not the fact of it happening.

(viii) We conclude then that the people of God in the New Testament era are expected to give to the Lord and to do so generously. In view of the law, we ought to take the tithe or tenth as a suggested minimum guideline for generosity, as the Old Testament people could also (and were expected to) bring freewill offerings to the Lord in addition to the commanded tithe. There appears to be no reason to suppose that the principles:

-- giving a tenth to the Lord

-- the prosperity that comes from this

-- the cursing and blight that will result when we are stingy instead

have ever been repealed. In this whole matter, the tithe is an insight into the mind of God on what He considers a minimum level of generosity. This is a matter we ought to pay attention to, for government figures show clearly that the average person who gives anything top charity or churches gives 3% rather than 10%. Most Canadians give nothing at all to anyone. They expect the government to do what is clearly the Church's responsibility in caring for the needy.

(r) they will obey Christ

This is an obvious point and has been touched on before in this study, so only gets a brief and somewhat general additional mention here. Those who love their master, and Jesus is Lord of all, will obey him. The Old Testament required obedience to the law of God, though it was made clear in many places that external or nominal compliance that was not the result of an obedient heart was detestable to God. The New Testament also talks about obedience for God's people:

Lu 11:28 He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

Joh 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command.

Joh 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

Joh 14:23-24 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Joh 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.

Ac 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!

Ro 1:5 Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

Ro 2:13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Ro 6:16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.

The message of the New Testament can be put in terms of obedience. The Gospel is a call to obedience. When, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit a person answers that call, submits to Christ and receives salvation, the Holy Spirit enters to lead, guide, and empower the believer to do what the natural man and woman cannot do at all--obey God. The whole Christian life can thus be characterized by obedience.

(s) In particular, those who are born again will practice their faith (this is called religion) by expressing God's will toward the poor, needy, and oppressed. They will never be numbered among the oppressors. This activity is consistent with the character and the activities of God Himself. A group who are truly God's people will reflect His character in this. The Old Testament is filled with comments on the subject:

De 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

De 24:17 Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.

De 24:19-21 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.

De 26:12-13 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. Then say to the LORD your God: "I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.

Ps 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Ps 146:9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Pr 15:25 The LORD tears down the proud man's house but he keeps the widow's boundaries intact.

Isa 1:17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isa 1:23 Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them.

Jer 4:5-7 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave to your forefathers for ever and ever.

Eze 22:7 (speaking of Jerusalem) In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and ill-treated the fatherless and the widow.

Am 5:11 You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.

Zec 7:10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'

Mal 3:5 "So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty.

The New Testament is not far behind in saying the same things, but often in even stronger language.

Mr 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Mr 12:40 (of the Pharisees and teachers of the law) They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.

Lu 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Lu 14:13-14 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Eph 4:28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

1Ti 5:16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

1Jo 3:17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

This giving and care for he poor and needy was practised not just by individuals but enjoined on and practised by the church as a whole.

Ro 15:26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.

1Ti 5:3-5 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

Heb 13:3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.

The church was also instructed not to show favouritism to the wealthy among them

Jas 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Jas 2:2-10 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbour as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law-breakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Of course if all this social concern is merely pro forma or done with a view to gaining recognition in the sight of God or man, it is a waste of time. Good deeds avail only if done by one who already knows and has responded to the love of Christ and does it out of that love.

1Co 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

OTOH, alleged faith that is lacking in such social concern and action is false.

James 2:14-17,26 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Christ's own words on this aspect of social words are more blunt still:

Matt 25: 31-46 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Summary: It is easy for a group of people to have some of the form of Christianity, even some flash and fire (whether preaching the Gospel, teaching accurate doctrines, or working miracles) and still lack substance because the whole gospel is not being realized in changed lives. It is possible to play hard at Church yet never be a part of the true Church of Jesus Christ, the redeemed for whom He died.

Those who both profess scripturally true beliefs and show evidence in their lives and relationships of practising those beliefs are likely among the redeemed. A group consisting mostly of such people, that is, as a group, teaches and practices the whole life changing Gospel and does the work of Christ is likely, on the balance of probabilities, to be a true local church.


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