The Nature of the Church

MEMORY VERSE: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” —Ephesians 2:13


THE word “church” in the Bible translates the Greek word ekkiesia, meaning a calling out, or a called-out class. Applied to the footstep followers of Jesus it suggests that these are called out from the world to be associated with him in the outworking of the divine plan. Jesus said to his disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world.”—John 15:19

The ones to whom Jesus addressed this expression were by nature Israelites, and prior to the coming of Jesus these were the only ones God recognized as his chosen people. Through the Prophet Amos, God said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) This status was still in force when Jesus came. He explained to his disciples that he had been sent only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and he instructed his disciples not to go to the Gentiles, neither to any city of the Samaritans.

But after his resurrection Jesus broadened his commission, instructing his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. But this worldwide witness was not designed to evangelize all mankind in the sense of bringing about their reconciliation to God in the present age, but merely to reach as many as would accept the Lord’s invitation to separate themselves from the world and become the Lord’s “called-out” class, the church.

For a short time after Pentecost those thus chosen out of the world were believing Jews, but beginning with the conversion of Cornelius, Gentiles began to respond to the Gospel call, so much so that it brought about a problem in the Early Church. A conference was called at Jerusalem to deal with this problem, and Peter testified concerning his experience in connection with the conversion of Cornelius. Then James concluded that in fact God had visited “the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.”—Acts 15:13,14

However, this did not mean that thenceforth there were to be two churches, or two groups of called-out ones—a Jewish group and a Gentile group. It is this point that Paul discusses quite thoroughly in our lesson. The Jewish converts and the Gentile converts must learn that they are all one in Christ Jesus. Our memory verse covers the point—“Ye [Gentiles] who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

The next verse reads, “For he [Christ] is our peace [the One who has made peace between us], who hath made both one, and bath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” And then the 16th verse: “That he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” The 18th and 19th verses: “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”

Paul speaks of the position of the Gentiles prior to the breaking down of the “middle wall of partition” as being “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” (vs. 12) In Romans 3:1,2 Paul explains that the Jews had much advantage in that “unto them were committed the oracles of God.” These “oracles of God”—the divine promises pertaining to their association with the Messiah in his kingdom, constituted the “commonwealth” of the Jews, from which, as Paul explains, the Gentiles had been kept alien. But now this commonwealth was theirs also. They also could live and reign with Christ if they suffered and died with him.

Paul speaks of a spiritual temple which is being built, in which Jewish and Gentile believers are the stones, with Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone. Peter also refers to this “temple.” (I Pet. 2:5) The literal temple of Israel was the meeting place between God and the people of Israel. And now a much greater temple is being prepared—a temple constructed with “living stones.” This will be the “temple” of the Millennial Age, when the blessings God promised to all the families of the earth will reach the people through Christ and his “called-out ones” (see Galatians 3:8,16,27-29).


What is the meaning of the word “church”?

Of whom is the church composed?

What will be the future work of the church?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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