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Identity Crisis: What it Means to Be the Bride of Christ

Jan 17, 2021 | Rev. Dr. K. Rick Baker

THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH: What Makes a Church a Church?

Full Service

If you don’t know what/who you are or what you believe, you don’t know what to do.

  • Vitally important to God –“the church is God’s passion” (J. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology, 2005)
  • In competition with pragmatics, relevancy, ambition
  • Why this church and not that “church”

“You cannot have God as Father unless you have Church as mother.” (Cyprian 205-258 AD Tunisia)

“A living, breathing congregation is the only place to live in a healthy relationship to God. That is because it is the only place on earth where Jesus has chosen to dwell.” (Stafford CT 2005)

“Since the church is God’s creation, it must be ordered and operated according to His instructions.” (Hammett)


And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matt. 16:18

And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Rom. 1:6-7

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours 1 Cor. 1:2

1. “Called Out” – Ekklesia (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:6-7; 1 Cor. 1:2)

  • In ancient Greek--An assembly of people (called out citizens who came together to conduct business)—word chosen for the gatherings of believers.
  • God’s people in Hebrew—edah/qahal – edah - community (synagogue); qahal - only those who have heard the call and are following it. The ancients translated qahal as ekklesia (LXX—Septuagint)
  • Not just any group of people or any group of Christians, but an organized assembly

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. Acts 14:23

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41

Leadership (Acts 14:23) and recording of growth (Acts 2:41; 4:4)

  • Not just an organized assembly of Christians, but also for a purpose…advertising the glory of God’s presence and purposes on earth…

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 1 Tim. 4:13

If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need. 1 Tim. 5:16

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:4

Learning doctrine, fellowship, Lord’s Table, prayer (Acts 2:42), reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13), serving widows and needy (1 Tim. 5:16; 1 Cor. 16:1), spreading the gospel (Acts 8:2-4; 13:2-3)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, Eph. 3:10

  • Referenced in the NT in two forms – universal (all the redeemed—invisible Eph. 3:10) and local (visible)—citywide church of churches—each church fully a church

SO WHAT? - A church, as compared to a group of Christians, is an organized gathering of people called out of the world by God to follow Jesus Christ and to represent the presence and glory of God on the earth. The local church does not depend on a geographic location but it must be organized (leadership) and include provision for multi-family gatherings for worship, mutual growth and fully involved ministry.

2. The People of God—God’s Family—Belonging to God

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

From the OT conception of a people—Israel (Gen. 12:1f) to the NT new creation (Gal. 6:15) Church made possible by Christ (Matt 1:21; 16:18) and birthed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Jn. 16:7; Acts 1:9; 2:1-13)

SO WHAT? - “…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:21 – a people; not a collection of individuals. Not just any gathering or human institution—the church is GOD’S church! Called to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15—exclude unrepentant sinners Matt. 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5:13), loving (Matt. 22:37-39), a family (Jn. 1:12), a fellowship (Acts 2:44—the “one another” life)

3. The Body of Christ—Relationships with one another

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (I Cor. 12:27). In Christ…we, who are many form one body (Rom. 12:5)

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; Eph. 4:4-5

 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. 1 Cor. 10:16-17

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 1 Cor. 12:13

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 1 Cor. 12:4-5

…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Cor. 12:25-26

SO WHAT? - Unity in Christ required --“one faith” (Eph. 4:4-5); expressed in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16-17); commonly experienced in baptism (1 Cor. 12:13), a diverse unity needed (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:14-20); overcoming natural divisiveness and uniformity, mutuality in love and care (1 Cor. 12:25-26)

“The church members do willingly consent to walk together according to the appointment of Christ, giving up themselves to the Lord and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.” (Second London Confession 1677)

“We do, therefore, in His strength engage, that we will exercise a mutual care as members one of another to promote the growth of the whole body.” (New Hampshire Baptist Convention 1833)

“We believe a New Testament Church is a community of baptized believers voluntarily associated…for mutual edification and care;…” (Calvary Baptist Church, Oshawa, 1927- Christ’s return)

4. The Temple of the Spirit—Church as a Building/Divine Intimacy

“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18)

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building 1 Cor. 3:9

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 1 Cor. 3:16

In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Eph. 2:21-22

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

The church is a building, a very special building, God’s temple, a spiritual house (1 Cor. 3:9, 11-16; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Pet. 2:5)

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 1 Cor. 12:18

So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 1 Cor. 5:4

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. Rom. 8:9

SO WHAT? - A worshiping people called, arranged (1 Cor. 12:18), and gathering together for the purpose of worship; a holy priesthood leaders are never called priests because all believers are a kingdom of priests, not to operate independently, but collectively competently (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10)—ministers to the world and each other!; visible representation of Christ- where God meets with us and we meet him out to the world (Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:4; 6:11; Rom. 8:9; Eph. 2:21)

5. The Bride of Christ –Secure Authority

“And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Saviour.” “…for the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23; Rev. 19:7)

“It is significant that when the people of the covenant revolted against God, the figure used to illustrate and to remind them of their relationship to Him is that of betrothal and marriage.” (

“I gave my solemn oath and entered into covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.” (Ezek. 16:8) “Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her?” (Deut. 20:7)

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Col 1:18

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Eph. 5:25

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Eph. 4:11,15-16

SO WHAT? - authority the church is Christ’s church and unreservedly obeys Him, He is the Head—he is over all rival powers and the church ultimately takes her orders from the Supreme Head (Col. 1:18) and no other agency (lesser magistrates delegated authority include governments and church leadership). The primary way Christ’s authority is exercised and model for all lesser authorities is by provision (sacrificing, feeding, caring Eph. 5:25-33)- growth spiritually first and expansively out of that priority (from Whom the whole body…is caused to grow for building itself up. Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19… growing into Him, who is the head, that is, even Christ Eph. 4:15) and providing gifted leaders (Eph. 4:11) to equip people to carry out the mission.


The church is an organized gathering of people called out of the world by God to follow Jesus Christ and to represent the presence and glory of God on the earth, and pictured as the only People of God, the only Body and Bride of Christ, the only Temple of the Spirit.



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