The gospel was moving into the Gentile world, into places like Ephesus, which played host to all kinds of paganism, witchcraft, and idolatry. There was a great deal of culture shock as the church, which sprang up in heavily Jewish areas, spread and encountered populations who could not be more different than what they knew. As these populations believed the gospel and sought to join the church, the sinful tendency to exclude and reject those who are different came to the forefront.
Paul responds to this division by stressing the supremacy of Christ, one that overshadowed both Jew and Gentile. Paul reminded the church of the past work of Jesus: his death and his resurrection. He then connects that to the present rule of Jesus. Jesus is above every realm of power or person or entity with all things under his feet. He will be the endpoint of history with a rule that lasts forever.
Because of Christ’s supremacy, our eternal destiny is vaulted in the person of Jesus. No matter the fleshly identity, background, heritage, race, nationality, or religious upbringing, believers are secure in his life, death, and resurrection.
Why Join a Local Church? Jesus is Head of the Church
Paul clearly articulates that God gave Jesus as head over all things, specifically the church. His rule and authority have already begun in the church. We are told that whatever the future may hold, the church will not falter and will remain secure in the person of Christ. The promise that Christ will build His church and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it echoes strongly here.
Whether we gather in multimillion-dollar mega-churches in Texas, warehouses in Kentucky, huts in the South American jungle, or basements in China, we witness the fellowship of the church. The church is eternal and will rule in Christ forever.
Why Join a Local Church? The Church is the Body of Christ
Jesus is described as the head of the church, but the church is described as his body – the two are inseparable. Christ has decided to unite
His existence with her. He has made Himself a groom with the church as His bride. Together, they are one flesh, and you cannot say that you love one but hate the other.
Why Join a Local Church? We Can’t Join the Universal Church
We do not join the universal church. The universal church, which is worldwide, over 2000 years old, and composed of genuine followers of Jesus, is described as the invisible church. It is only the local church that makes the church visible. If you reject the local church and say, “I am a member of the invisible church”, then you are an invisible Christian, too.
Why Join a Local Church? Beliefs, Mission, Ordinances, & Discipline
A church is not just a generic group of multiple Christians. Local churches are covenanted together to define and display the gospel, and it’s through the local church that we also display our commitment to Jesus. Together in a covenant, the local church:
- defines belief in the Bible and teaches doctrine
- partners in preaching and mission in light of what we agree Bible says
- believes the same gospel and celebrates it through the Lord’s Table and Baptism
- holds one another accountable and practices church discipline
In total, we covenant to one another to believe the same, celebrate, obey, and share the same message.
Why Join a Local Church? The One Anothers
As an individual, you cannot obey the New Testament apart from the local church. There are over 23 “one another” commands given in the context of the church. We must love one another as we speak through mouthfuls of food at BFG. We must forgive one another as our kids tussle, fight, and generally disturb the peace. We must encourage one another through moments of weakness, depression, and grief. We need these “one anothers”, and we need to be bound together in the local church.
Why Join a Local Church? Jesus is Incomplete Without the Church
Jesus is incomplete without the church. How can this be? The text described Jesus as the one who fills all in all. And yet, He has made Himself inseparable from the church, and until the church is gathered to Him spotless, Jesus is incomplete. We experience similar incompleteness, too. Without meaningful church membership, we drift from the promises Christ makes to those who believe in Him.
Why Join a Local Church? Because We Love Her
Our covenant relationship to the church is like marriage, especially when it comes to the grace and commitment we are called to display. We love the church despite her flaws, we will suffer and sacrifice to be with her, we will be inconvenienced to serve and meet her needs, and we will be committed until the end. We also know that the church is not a maid slave who gives us what we want. She is not to be treated like your mother who picks up after you to make life easier. She is the living breathing body of Christ for whom Jesus died.
Why Join a Local Church? We Need to be Uncomfortable
Church membership is meant to shape you into the image of Jesus. We need accountability to grow, which doesn’t happen when we can run. We make a covenant to work out our differences in grace and mercy. We need people who are not like us, who disagree with us, but who will love us anyway. Jesus does not grow us in comfort. Thank God he doesn’t!
- The church’s eternity is secure in Jesus as her leader, protector, and provider. Why does this give us hope for our mission as a church?
- How does the church’s security in Jesus change the way you think about your pursuit of personal status and the agenda you have for your life?
- Jesus has promised to build His church through loving, serving, and protecting her as a husband does his bride. How should this inform the hope we often put in government and politics when it comes to the future of our country and the world?
- Why is it important to make a distinction between the universal church and the local church, especially in relation to community, accountability, and responsibility to love and serve one another?
- What is a local church? What makes a local church distinct? (Doctrine, ordinances, mission, discipline)
- Jesus doesn’t see himself distinct from His church. How should this affect the way we see our life in relation to the church? How should Jesus’ love for the church help you love the church despite her flaws?
- Why is covenant membership in a local church vital to your growth as a Christian? Why is the uncomfortableness of church vital to your growth as a Christian?
- How has local church membership helped you grow as a follower of Jesus? What do you love most about the church? What kind of struggles have you had to work through in relation to the church? How have you experienced joy in doing so?