Introduction: It may not be necessary to cover this study prior to a person getting baptized-it may be used as a good follow-up study. However, if they come from a strong religious background and have questions or concerns regarding the church, it may be helpful to cover this topic prior to their baptism.
As always, start each study with a review of the previous studies that have been covered-repetition strengthens conviction. What did they learn from the most recent study? Was there anything that they did not understand or disagreed with? Etc. Remember, your goal is not just to “go through the studies” with them, but rather to help them develop their own convictions from God’s Word.
The purpose of this study is to help them understand God’s plans and expectations for His church. Many people have had many different experiences when it comes to “church,” so it is very important to help them to base their convictions on God’s Word.
Today we are going to take a look at what the Bible teaches about the church. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “church?”
The word for “church” in Greek is “ecclesia,” which means simply a crowd of people who have been called out. The Christian church is thus the crowd of people who have been called by Jesus out of the world and into His kingdom.
Let’s look at several characteristics of Jesus’ church from the scriptures.
I. HEAD OF THE CHURCH
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 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. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because ofa] your evil behavior.
- Who is the head? Christ.
- He is the one in charge of his church; whatever he says, goes
II. MEMBERSHIP OF THE CHURCH
1 CORINTHIANS 12:12-13
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized bya] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
When a person is baptized into Christ, they become a member of his body, which is the church
There are no requirements for membership in our Church beyond those of Jesus’ to be part of his body
It is important to be a part of a church where the members are truly members of Jesus’ body; that is, they are true Christians
III. RELATIONSHIPS IN THE CHURCH
1 CORINTHIANS 12:12-27
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized bya] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
- Others need you
- You need others
- In the body there is a mutual dependence on each other, like a family
IV. COMMITMENT TO THE CHURCH
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- Do not make a habit of missing church.
- Consider how you can help your brothers and sisters in Christ
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 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.
- Am I my brother’s keeper in the church? Yes.
- How can I strengthen my brother? Daily encouragement.
V. SUPPORT OF THE CHURCH
2 CORINTHIANS 8:1-15
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in youa]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”b]
2 CORINTHIANS 9:6-15
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”a]
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
- Your contribution pays for facilities, staff, helping the poor, supplies, etc.
- The Old Testament standard of giving was a tithe (10 % of their gross income.)
- The New Testament does not mention any specific amount, but does lift up the example of those whose “extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
VI. LEADERSHIP OF THE CHURCH
HEBREWS 13:17, 24
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-13
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
- God’s plan for the church includes human leadership. They play a crucial role in equipping disciples to be their best for God.
- It is important that we are all supportive and appreciative of their leadership.
VII. MISSION OF THE CHURCH
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To make disciples of all nations, to his glory
This is what the church should talk about and focus its resources on
Let’s read a description of the very first church, in Jerusalem. Look for each of the characteristics of Jesus’ church that we have outlined here in this passage.
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.