The famous historical figure of India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, once said about Christianity, “I like your Christ, but not your Christianity.” Gandhi liked and agreed with the teachings of Christ. He saw that Christ has the ultimate solution to the problem of racial discrimination. But sadly, he got disappointed with Christians when he tried to join a church for Sunday service and was rejected due to his skin color. Imagine how different it would have been if the church showed kindness. Because of Gandhi’s huge influence, he could have been key to Christianity having a major influence in India.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he talked about church unity despite ethnic diversity and religious background. There is no discrimination in Christ’s church. This epistle teaches about the church’s identity and its part to play in God’s eternal plan for the expansion of His kingdom.
If you read the whole of the book of Ephesians, you can find that in almost every chapter, Paul talks about the church.
The church is the body of Christ, as He was made the head of the church. As He is the risen ruler, everything has been brought into subjection under His feet, and it benefits the church. The fullness of the presence of Christ blesses and completes all things in all believers.
The Apostle Paul, who was a Jew, was very familiar with worshipping God in the temple. It had been something so precious to Him, yet when He gave His life to Christ, He understood that worshipping God is no longer limited to religious places but can be done anywhere, in Spirit and truth. He illustrates that the church is like a building but not a building. Like building a temple structure, we are parts being joined together to become one. This concept is not merely the organizational structure of the church but the harmony and unity that spiritual fellowship brings. In ancient architecture, they used stones as a solid material, and as they built the foundation, they used this very important stone—what is called the chief cornerstone. This big stone is what they used as a foundation and laid as a corner, which determined the direction of the rest of the construction. The chief cornerstone aligns all the other stones as they are laid. As a church, we lay our foundation upon Christ, our chief cornerstone. The growth and direction of the body of Christ, the church, should always be determined and built upon Christ, not upon man or any church program.
Since Christ has already destroyed the dividing hostility between Jews and Gentiles, both are now eligible to receive the promises of God. This is the power of the Gospel, where everyone who believes and receives Jesus as Lord and Savior, regardless of their background, can take part in the richness of God’s eternal inheritance. God wanted to reveal His manifold wisdom to both good and evil angelic beings by using the church. Through Jesus Christ, this great eternal purpose of God has been carried out.
Nothing is more disruptive, divisive, and destructive than sin. The effects of sin in any relationship can create animosity and a huge rift. Just as it crept into the heart of Cain, resulting in him murdering His own brother, Abel. The Apostle Paul appealed to the Ephesian church to heed God’s call for unity. The church must do everything it can to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This can be done when each part chooses to always respond in humility and gentleness, being patient with each other and learning to bear with one another’s faults. This must all be done out of love for God and people. Our confidence does not rest upon our capacity for peace and unity but upon the power of the Holy Spirit. He helps us to conquer our sinful nature and the sin that so easily entangles us. The Spirit helps us as we relate with one another, so we do not give in to hatred, unforgiveness, gossip, slander, and any other form of unhealthy conflict. Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and that He initiates and sustains the bond of peace. Our role is to listen and work with Him through and through. As a church, we have been called to be one body, one spirit, and one hope. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is in dominion over all, living through all, and in all.
According to Christ’s awesome generosity, we have received special gifts from God for the furtherance of His kingdom here on earth. So, Christ Himself gave these gifts and calling to the church—the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and the teachers. Christ establishes and uses these gifts, which we call the five-fold ministry, to build up His church. These leadership gifts operate in the church for the purpose of equipping God’s people to serve in ministry. As Christ desires a healthy and missional church, He builds it up in love and unity. We are called as His body to never give up on working for the unity of the body as we grow in our faith and intimately know the Son of God. Christ completes and fills us to overflowing as we allow Him to use us, with the gifts He has given, to build up the church. As God’s people are being equipped, the church grows to maturity and experiences a more intimate walk with Christ. This growth molds us to become more and more like Christ in maturity as we speak the truth in love. The goal is that we will not stay as immature baby Christians that are easily tricked and influenced by the cunning and craftiness of the world. The need for the church to become more mature is very much essential since the church is constantly attacked by deceptive and unbiblical teachings and influence. These threats can cause division among the body of Christ. But as the church maintains its focus on Jesus, it will always stay on course and protected. As we depend upon Jesus and His precepts, we are enabled to come together in perfect harmony. The strength of the church’s unity is only as good as its dependence on Christ.
Paul illustrates the church as a human body with its members as body parts. Each part, having its own special function, works properly for the good of the whole body. Demonstrating it this way shows the seriousness of keeping the unity by working with each other, for each other, and above all, for the head of the church, Jesus Christ. As the church works together in love and unity, it fosters greater growth. With each member of the body contributing to build up and not tear down, the church naturally grows healthy, building itself up in the love of Christ.
What are the marks of a true church?
As God called the Israelites in the Old Covenant to be a people set apart for Him, distinct from the pagan world, God has called His church to also be different. Christians are to regard themselves as no longer citizens of this world but citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). We no longer think, act, or speak as the world does. As we have become new creations, we have embraced a new lifestyle and new community in Christ.
If you look at its original Greek word, ekklesia, what we call the church actually means “called out ones” or “an assembly of people.” The distinguishing mark of the church is its love for God, love for fellow believers, and love for the lost. These are the marks of a true church:
1.Jesus is the Owner and True Head
Although the word “church” was never used or even mentioned in the Old Testament to refer to God’s people, it points to the church that will be created and established by Christ Himself. The New Testament first mentioned it in Matthew 16:18-19, after Peter confessed that Jesus is the Son of God. Here, Jesus calls Peter Petrus or “small rock,” and then he pointed to Himself and said that upon this petra, which means “big rock,” He will build His church. If you look at the core of the church, the acknowledgment that the church was founded and built upon Jesus, the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20-22), is the most important mark of a true church. When the church ceases to be faithful to this, it stands on very dangerous ground. The church should never be centered around personalities (e.g., a pastor or preacher) or any other agenda other than Christ. Jesus Christ should always be upheld as the owner and true head of the church, and everything should always be in pursuit of His honor and glory.
2. Salvation is only through Christ
Salvation can be found in no one else but Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12); by His grace and received through faith alone, not by human works. When a church starts to claim salvation exclusively by virtue of church membership, it is already violating and disrespecting the finished work of Christ. Church membership, following traditions, adhering to dietary restrictions, taking part in certain sacraments, and many other legalistic requirements can never bring salvation. Salvation can never be attained by human ways but only through trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Scriptures tell us more about the marks of a true church, and we will look into the book of Acts 2:42-47 to see how Luke describes the early church.
The early Christians demonstrated how the church really works. As they came together regularly, they had a devotion to God’s word through the apostles’ teaching, and there was fellowship, communion, prayers, and sharing of the Gospel.
3. Devoted to the Word of God
People can easily believe anything as long as it appeals to the flesh. Christians are to be spiritual, not carnal. The church can easily miss this important mark. Doctrines, standards, and foundations of a true church are not based on traditions, opinions, or people but on the eternal Word of God. God’s word is always the final say for the conduct of the church; to preach and teach the word to the body is a must. Like the early church, they devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles, which were always based on scriptures.
4. Fellowship with other believers
When Christians think that they can live a victorious life without community, they are setting themselves up for failure. Jesus established the church community for a good reason. It brings protection and growth. It is important that the church creates a healthy and authentic community through big and small group fellowship. Church fellowship must bring strengthening of relationships and unity of the church.
According to the book of Hebrews, fellowship is so important that we should always think of ways and opportunities of motivating one another to acts of love and good works. Sadly, some Christians habitually neglect regular fellowship. The Christian walk cannot be a lonely one. It is so difficult; that is why we need other believers to surround us. A buffalo surrounded by lions will be safe if it remains with the herd, but the moment it strays away, it becomes easy prey for the lions. The Christian life is like that; it is not meant to be a lonely walk because it is dangerous. It should be a continuous effort to maintain healthy and life-giving fellowship with other believers.
Prayer is not only our way of communicating with Go. It is also an acknowledgment that our dependence upon God is utterly important, for apart from Him we can do nothing. A church without prayer is powerless. A true church is marked by its dependence upon Jesus, the head of the church, through prayer—both corporately and individually. The church should never lose the priority of prayer but should grow in it.
6. The Great Commission
Lastly, Christianity does not serve its true purpose if it is just harboring mere spectators. The church is called to fellowship with God and other believers and reach out to the lost and be a friend to sinners, just like Jesus. As the kingdom of God forcefully advances, the church has to have the urgency to share the Gospel with the world. When we do not share the Gospel with the lost world, then we are like salt that loses its saltiness. Jesus, before ascending to heaven, commanded His disciples to make disciples of all nations—baptizing people and teaching them to obey all of God’s commands. The great commission is the church’s mission, and as we do it, Christ promises His presence will always be with us (Matthew 28:18-20).
Where in the Bible does it describe the church?
The Bible contains a lot of descriptions of the church, but the most notable verses describe the church as the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is the body of Christ, the family of God’s people, and the bride of Christ; it is an overcomer.
1. Temple of the Holy Spirit
Because of the finished work of Christ, we no longer need a physical temple. The church is now built up and joined together by Christ to become the dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
2. Body of Christ
Not only is the church the temple of the Holy Spirit but it is also like the human body, working in unity and growing together in Christ.
3. Family of God’s People
Since the church is united as one body in Christ, everyone who receives Jesus as Lord and Savior becomes adopted into the family of God’s people.
4. The Bride of Christ
The church as one body has that present and future glory of being the bride of Christ loved and cleansed by the head Himself, Jesus Christ.
5. An Overcomer
As we await that wonderful day when the church will have a grand union with Christ, our bridegroom, Jesus has declared and has built His church to be one that overcomes all things, even the gates of Hell.
What a beautiful and powerful picture the Bible has painted of the church of Jesus Christ. These are just a few highlighted verses but there are so many more that teach and encourage us about what the church is like.
What is the meaning of “without blemish”?
As God is holy and perfect, He also demands perfection from His own people. Since we are His bride, it is right that God deserves to be united to a bride without blemish. So, what does it mean to be the bride of Christ without blemish?
To be without blemish before God is to be pure and holy, without the stain of sin and worldliness. The church must not allow sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed, foolish talk, anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language to dwell (Ephesians 5:3-5, Colossians 3:5-8).
Sin made us God’s enemies and separated us from an intimate and eternal relationship with God. But because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we have been reconciled to Him. The substitutionary sacrifice of Christ imputed His righteousness into our lives. His righteousness becomes our righteousness also. Because of Christ, we can now stand pure and holy before God. Not only that, but He also continually sanctifies us daily; not just so that we can become better humans but to ultimately become like Christ.