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Biblical Community – Week 7 / February 12th
“…and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a
garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band….”
“…the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”
Revelation 1:13, 20
The Bible is clear about the fact that the people of God are a Kingdom under the dominion of God Himself. In the Hebrew Scriptures this took the form of a theocracy. The nation was to be a holy nation, separate from all other nations and regulated by a priesthood and sacrificial system. (Deuteronomy 7:6) In the New Covenant this changes as all nations are called into the household of faith and they are to be part of a gathering of believers called the ecclesia or “called out ones”. The temple is now not brick and mortar but people who have embraced Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the cross. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Their main purpose in life is threefold:
1. To be conformed to the image of Christ….and,
2. To be witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection in the world.
3. To give glory to God.
Their social interaction is transformed by Jesus living in them which means that they love and care for one another. Their mutual life together has no set structure other than that they should gather regularly for prayer, bible study, breaking of bread and fellowship. (Acts 2:42) This they can do in a building especially built for this purpose or they can gather in a private dwelling. However they gather they should and must be “set in order” meaning that they are under the spiritual protection and authority of ordained elders and gift ministries designated as Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Evangelists and Teachers. (Titus 1:5)(Ephesians 4:11-13)(Acts 13:1-2)
The Church in every generation is subject to pressure and persecution. (2Timothy 3:12) This may, as it did in the book of Acts, drive them together, for survival purposes, to live in closer proximity. (Acts 4:32-37) That is, in shared housing of some type. The early church in Jerusalem was forced to do this but elsewhere, as it took root, it structured itself differently. The style of housing is not important! Rather the purity and preservation of the believing community is. It is true that a Church in persecution and living in shared housing is more holy but it is equally true that a Church living in shared housing but free from persecution can end up in cultic and controlling behavior. Both of these insights are true.
What matters is not the housing style but the preservation of the life and witness of the church to Jesus. Some huge Churches, housed in big buildings are a great blessing filled with God’s life. This we cannot deny. On the other hand, as in China, the Church has grown and multiplied in homes. Its very existence was dependent upon it. In all aspects the rule of thumb is that we should not neglect our gathering together and we should assemble with those who uphold biblical faith and office. (Hebrews 10:19-25)
Here the writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us that being a member of a local church means:
1. Drawing near to God together (V22)
2. Drawing strength from our corporate confession (23)
3. Drawing on the life of Jesus in one another (V24)……..and;
4. Drawing on the strength that we get together when we focus on the return of Jesus. (V25)
A Church, so called, gathering in a house without ordained leadership is as much a problem and a contradiction as a Church in a fancy building without properly ordained leadership. Both problems exist. A Church “housed together” is a shelter from the storm but it could also be a breeding ground for manipulation and brain washing and thus a “storm in a shelter.” Our calling is to read the signs of the world that we are living in and structure the Body of Christ in a manner that enables the people of God to worship freely, be conformed to the image of Christ and bear testimony to the world of Jesus resurrection in the most appropriate manner.
Above all we should never devalue the importance, significance and power of the local Church. When it is properly constituted it becomes an indestructible force in the world because Jesus is in the midst of her. Even the gates of hell will be torn down by her! (Matthew 16:18)
©Malcolm Hedding Ministries