under a special agreement with
under a special agreement with
Lesson 12: Christ's Treasure
Right now, the Man Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God. All of the Father's delight rests on Him. He is "crowned with glory and honor."
This great and wonderful Person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has a treasure here on earth. His heart is set on this treasure. What is it? It is His people, His church! The Bible says, "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25).
We have already learned about the heavenly Church, the spiritual Body of Christ. All believers are members of the heavenly church. But the Bible also speaks of local churches.
In every place where there are those who believe in Christ, these believers are to assemble—meet together—in Christ's name for worship, prayer, fellowship, and the teaching of God's Word. These assemblies of believers here on earth are called "local churches."
Thus we see that the Bible uses the word "church" in two ways. It can refer to:
The heavenly Church, which is composed of all believers from the Day of Pentecost until the end of this age. There is only one heavenly Church, the Body of Christ. The heavenly Church is not visible, but it is very real.
Local churches, which are assemblies of believers in different places here on earth. There are many, many local churches and these churches are visible.
What does the Bible say about the first local churches?
On the Day of Pentecost, when Christ first formed His Church, there was only one local church—the church in Jerusalem. Later on, we find that there were local churches in many cities.
This came about because of the persecution of the believers in Jerusalem. They were beaten, thrown into jail, and some were killed. Because of this persecution, the believers were scattered into other cities and nations.
Wherever the believers went, they told others about Christ. Many people believed on the Lord Jesus and were saved. When a number of people in a place were saved, they became the local church in that city. The Bible speaks of "the church in Antioch," "the church in Corinth," and "the church in Ephesus."
As the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus gave special gifts to believers in each local church. In each church, certain men were recognized as spiritual leaders. These men were called "elders." They were responsible to teach the believers and care for them. So the churches were strengthened and increased in number.
When did the believers meet?
They met on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. The Bible says,
"Upon the first day of the week...the disciples came together to break bread...." Acts 20:7
Christians meet on the first day of the week because this is the day our Lord Jesus rose from the dead. It is also the day when Christ met with His disciples after His resurrection. The New Testament calls Sunday "the Lord's day."
Where did the believers meet?
They met in one another's homes. They did not build expensive buildings to meet in. The place where the believers met was not of great importance. They knew that, wherever they met, the Lord Jesus would be there with them. He had said,
"…where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst [middle] of them." Matthew 18:20
What are the ordinances of the church?
An "ordinance" is a ceremony ordained by Christ which pictures a great spiritual truth. The Lord Jesus gave His church two ordinances: baptism and the Lord's supper.
What is baptism?
Baptism is a ceremony which pictures our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
When we stand in the water to be baptized, we are testifying to the fact that we have been crucified with Christ. When we are placed under the water, we picture our burial with Christ. And when we are lifted up out of the water, we picture our resurrection with Him. (See Romans, chapter 6.)
The Lord Jesus has commanded every person who believes on Him to be baptized in His name. Baptism does not save or help save anyone; it is for those who are already saved.
By my baptism, I am saying, "I now belong to the Lord Jesus. I was crucified with Him; I was buried with Him; and I rose with Him as a new person in Christ."
What is the Lord's Supper?
The Lord's supper is likewise an ordinance for believers. It is a time when believers meet together to think about the Lord Jesus and all He means to us. The "cup" which we drink represents His blood which was poured out for us. The "bread" which we eat represents His body which was broken for us.
The Bible says that the church is to observe the Lord's supper regularly until Jesus comes for us. The apostle Paul wrote,
"For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death till He come." 1 Corinthians 11:26
Now let us consider another great truth which concerns all believers.
All believers are "priests unto God."
In the Old Testament, we find that there were certain men who served God as priests. It was a great honor to be a priest, but only the men of one tribe—the tribe of Levi—could be priests. Ordinary believers could not come directly to God. They had to go through the priests.
In the New Testament, we find that all believers are "priests unto God." The Bible says,
"You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood...." 1 Peter 2:9
What does this mean? It means that now all believers can come directly to God in Christ's name. The Lord Jesus Himself is our great High Priest. Through Him we can come directly to God for forgiveness of sins or whatever we need. The Bible says,
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16
How does the church function?
The true local church is Christ's body in that place and it should function as a living body. Writing to the believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul said,
"Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular." 1 Corinthians 12:27
The body has many different members and all are needed.
In my body I have many different members—eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes. All are different, but all are needed. The local church is Christ's body in that place. It likewise has many members and they are all different; yet all are needed.
Every member should take part in the church.
If my eyes are not operating, I cannot see. If my ears are not functioning, I cannot hear. If my legs are not working, I cannot walk. When any member of my body is not working properly, my whole body suffers.
Likewise, Christ's body is handicapped when any member of His body is not working properly. As a believer you have a special ability that is needed by the body of Christ. Each of us should ask, "Lord, where do You want me to serve in Your body, the church?"
All members must obey the head.
In order for my body to function properly, all members of my body must obey the head. This is true of Christ's body also. The Bible says that we are to "hold fast the Head." This means that we must obey Christ. The Bible says,
"…Christ is the Head of the church ... therefore ... the church is subject unto Christ...." Ephesians 5:23-24
If we are subject to Christ, we will be subject to God's Word. We will also obey those whom God has placed in positions of leadership in the church.
All members must work together.
Christ wants a body—not a lot of single believers who are doing their own thing. The Bible says that we are "one body in Christ." I must work together with other members of Christ's body.
WARNING: Beware of false churches!
Not every church that uses Christ's name is a true church of His. Many ministers who claim to be servants of Christ are false teachers and they are teaching a false gospel. Many ministers do not believe that the Bible is the Word of God. These men do not preach the true gospel.
False teachers deny the virgin birth of Christ, they make fun of the miracles, they deny that Jesus Christ is God, and they deny that all men are lost sinners and need to be saved through faith in Christ and His blood which was shed for our sins. The Bible says, "From such turn away" (2 Timothy 3:5).
What are the marks of a true church?
A true local church will be a church where:
- The Bible is believed and taught as God's holy, inspired Word.
- Jesus Christ is the Way—the only Way—to God.
- Unsaved people are taught that they are lost sinners and must be born again.
- The true gospel is preached: that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again and that we are saved by faith in Him.
- Jesus Christ is supreme; a church where He is loved and honored.
- The people love the Lord Jesus and love one another.
Christ Loves His Church
In this world where so many hate God and reject His Son; in this world with all its sin and evil; there is something beautiful to Christ. What is it? It is the local, Bible-believing, Christ-honoring church. It is His special treasure. It is the only place where Christ is loved and honored.
When the church meets together, every believer is responsible to attend and take part. This includes children, young people, and adults. Every member of the body of Christ must answer to the Lord Jesus for his or her failure to attend the services of the local church.
The Bible says that in the last days, men shall be "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." Each of us should ask ourselves, "Am I a lover of God or a lover of pleasure?"
When the Lord comes, will He find me seeking my own pleasure or doing my part in a church where Christ is loved and honored? Christ will hold us responsible for the condition in which He finds us.
The church is Christ's "treasure"—His main interest now. If I truly love the Lord, I will find a church where Christ is honored, and I will faithfully attend the services. I will seek to find the special work the Lord has for me to do in His church.
"Lord Jesus, thank You for all that You have done for me. Thank You for teaching me about the heavenly Church, Your spiritual Body, and about the local church.
"I want to be with those who love and honor You. I want to be in a church where Your people meet, where they love You and love one another."