The New Testament describes three pictures of the church:
- The body of Christ, with each believer as a member of that body (1 Corinthians 12).
- The building/temple of Christ, with each member serving as a ‘brick’ that’s lined up with Jesus as the cornerstone. Each member serves as His priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-10; cf. Exodus 19:5-6).
- The bride of Christ, with Christ as the bridegroom and the church as His bride (Ephesians 5:25-33). The family dynamic is a portrait of Christ and His church.
The word ‘church’ in the Greek is translated from the word ‘ekklesia,’ which means ‘called out ones,’ that is, called out from the kingdom of this world. Christ is present in the church by the Spirit who seals and indwells each believer (Ephesians 1:13-14); and also by His Word and the ordinances in which He has commanded us to preach and observe (Acts 20:24-28; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; 2 Timothy 4:1-5).
A church is marked by unity in Christ with no partiality due to background or race (Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 4:13-14), harmony in coming together with the different gifts (Romans 12:3-8), and is ready to, as mentioned previously, to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission (Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 28:18-20).
While each member of the church possesses specific and particular gifts, we see that each person does, should, and must possess the fruit of the Spirit, as found in Galatians 5:22-23:
For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, against which there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
Faithful, healthy churches make disciples using specific gifts and the singular fruit each believer has in order to strengthen the whole. Our goal is not simply to make converts and increase our baptism numbers, then leave them on their own. We must engage with those who do not yet know Christ, but we must also engage with those who know Jesus in helping to establish them in their walk.
- How do you understand discipleship? Do you see discipleship as a destination or as a direction?
- Do you use your specific gifts God has given you in service to Jesus in the church?
- As you look at the ninefold components of the fruit of the Spirit, would you say you demonstrate each of these? If not, with which areas do you struggle?
- When you think about engaging with unbelievers, or even engaging in discipleship with fellow believers, what emotion comes over you?