What is Salvation?
What is the Incarnation?
What is the Bible?
What is the Church?
Jesus said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18
It is interesting that before all things God chose to create a church whom he could bestow all his love and blessings on for eternity, and he did this for his own good pleasure. The New Testament begins with John the Baptist preparing the bride to meet the bridegroom, whom they would later find out was almighty God himself clothed in human flesh. The Bible goes on to say that Jesus chose certain men to be his apostles, to lay the foundation for what Jesus called "my church".
Jesus spent three years on the earth with them ministering to all who came, they carefully watched him heal the sick and the lame, and teach the multitudes, yet in reality he was preparing them to continue his work and to carry the same message throughout the whole world. He cheerfully told them that he must die and rise again so that he could invisibly enter their hearts and live inside them, to help them and to guide them, and not only them but every person in the world who received their message.
After Jesus died and rose again he commanded his apostles to wait in Jerusalem until the promise of the father, the Holy Spirit who would empower them to be his witnesses throughout the world. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came and entered the room where the apostles were waiting, and like a mighty rushing wind he breathed new life into something the world had never seen before... "the church".
If we were to try and define the word "church" we would find that the concept is very simple. The church according to the Bible are the believers who have heard the word about Jesus Christ, received the gift of the Holy Spirit to live inside them, and they are continuing his work and his message. They have become his hands and his feet in the world, so to speak, they are the body of Christ. Christ did not come into this world to save himself but to save others, and the body of Christ has exactly the same goal and purpose.
The word "Church" is the Greek word "ekklesia" which technically refers to people rather than a building, specifically meaning the "out called ones". It comes from two Greek words, "Ek" (out from) and "Kaleo" (to call). The word "ekklesia" always refers to the believers who are called out of the world which is passing away, to be part of the spiritual body of Christ which will never pass away. Every individual believer has a unique function within the body of Christ, with Jesus as the head of the body.
Ephesians 1:22-23 "And God hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
The English word "Church" mistakenly refers to a building, and comes from the Greek word "kuriakon" which is an adjective that means "the lord's house". This Greek word, however, was not the word Jesus chose to use but was adopted later (no earlier than the third century AD) to refer to the local building where the Christians assembled. The only words in the Bible referring to a building for a place of worship were the temple and the synagogue.
The true Church of god are all the believers around the world from every walk of life who have accepted Jesus, and received the Holy Spirit by faith, and have become spiritual members of the body of Christ, not an organization but a living organism. The greatest blessing is to be part of his great work, to be part of his church.
Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
Having accepted Christ as our Savior and therefore being a part of His Church, how then do we assemble ourselves together? (Heb 10:25)
"let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:22-25 NKJ
"So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching." Hebrews 10:22-25 The Message
Joining other believers in fellowship is exhorted in scripture because this is our new spiritual family and we are needed. We need our brothers and sisters and they need us. We need more than just our own thoughts in this life. We need input from others. We need experience and we can offer experience. We need love and support and we can offer the same. We need to learn the Word of God, and we may even be called to teach His word.
The Apostle Paul wrote,
"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:4-8)
Read a few exhortations from the Apostle Paul,
"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? " (1 Cor. 1:10-13)
"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil. 2:1-4)
Church counsels were set up to decide on disputes. (Acts 6, Acts 15) But this is all apart of the growth process. No pain, no gain. We need each other to grow. We are after all, sinners saved by grace and it's not going to be easy to transform us. In fact, Paul says that there is trench warfare going on between the new and old nature inside of us. (Galatians 5:17)
But there is much much good going on in the church. Would you want to stay away just to avoid the pain of growth? You can find out how God has gifted you, you can receive encouragement and love, you can be built up with His word, you can find friends and have a lot of fun. Ask God to lead you to a fellowship of believers where God's word is taught, Christ is exalted, and salvation is a gift from God by grace. One doesn't have to commit to any particular church for a lifetime. Some churches are better at some things than others. You may be brought to a fellowship to learn one aspect of God's nature and character and then moved by the Holy Spirit's leading to another fellowship to be equipped or perhaps serve in another aspect.
The important thing is to walk with Christ and listen to his voice in prayer and through his word so He can guide you.
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:4,5)
Dear Lord, thank you for saving me and making me a part of your church, your out-called ones! Please lead me to a local body of believers where I can grow and flourish. Give me discernment about your Scriptures and people. Help me to hear your voice clearly and to follow where you are leading. Thank you dear Savior for this precious gift of life.
"In essentials unity. In non essentials liberty. In all things charity."
Wikipedia - The Subject of the Christian Church
The Want of the Church by Charles Spurgeon
Bible History Online - Dr. Craig Johnson on being Born Again
Contributions from Bible History Online and Crossbridge Ministries.