"THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT" The Church "Universal" vs. The Church "Local" INTRODUCTION 1. The nature of "The Church Jesus Built" can be discerned when one... a. Considers the meaning of the word "church" itself 1) From the Greek word ekklesia, it means "an assembly" 2) Which is used most frequently in the New Testament in two senses: a) The church "universal" - that company of souls redeemed by the blood of Christ b) The church "local" - Christians in a geographical area that work and worship together as a congregation of God's people b. Considers other terms which enhance our view of the "church" 1) The "body" of Christ 2) The "household" of God 3) The "temple" of God 4) The "kingdom" of Christ 5) The "bride" of Christ -- These expressions reveal different aspects of the Lord's great assembly! 2. Our understanding of the nature of the church can also be enhanced by... a. Contrasting the church "universal" with the church "local" b. Noting how the New Testament carefully delineates between the two 3. Failure to observe the distinction between the church "universal" and church "local"... a. Leaves one open to erroneous concepts of the church b. Makes one susceptible to false views of the church [In this lesson, therefore, I would like for us to notice ways in which the church "universal" is different from the church "local". Let's begin by looking at...] I. THE CHURCH "UNIVERSAL" A. COMPOSED OF ALL CHRISTIANS... 1. This is the church to which Jesus referred in Mt 16:18 2. As already noted, it is made up all the saved, both living and death - cf. He 12:22-24 B. THERE IS ONLY "ONE" CHURCH... 1. Remember, the universal church is called the "body" of Christ - Ep 1:22-23 2. There is only one "body" (Ep 4:4 ); therefore, only one church! C. BEGAN ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST... 1. In Jerusalem, following the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ - Ac 2:1-47 2. As Peter later referred to this day, it was the "beginning" - cf. Ac 11:15 D. ENTER ONLY BE BEING "ADDED" BY THE LORD... 1. One cannot "join" the church by their own volition 2. Rather, they are "added" by the Lord Himself when saved - Ac 2:41 ,47 E. THE LORD KEEPS THE BOOKS OF MEMBERSHIP... 1. There is no agency on earth that keeps the registry of true members 2. Enrollment is in heaven; only the Lord knows those who are truly His - He 12:23 ; 2 Ti 2:19 F. CONSISTS OF ALL THE SAVED... 1. The Lord is presenting to Himself a church holy and without blemish - cf. Ep 5:25-27 2. Those in the church who are sinning and refuse to repent are "cut off", "cast out", "spewed out" - cf. Jn 15:2 ,6; Ro 11: 19-22; Re 3:16 G. MUST BE IN THIS CHURCH TO BE SAVED... 1. For the Lord is the Savior of the "body" (which is His church) - Ep 5:23 2. Since the Lord adds one to His church when they are saved, one cannot be saved and not be in the church "universal"! H. HAS NO "EARTHLY" ORGANIZATION... 1. The church "universal" has organization - cf. Ep 2:19-22 ; 1 Pe 2:5 a. What organization exists is spiritual in nature b. E.g., Christ as the cornerstone, together with His apostles and prophets as the foundation, and all Christians as "living stones" 2. There is no earthly headquarters for the church; e.g., no telephone number to call to speak with the "head" of the church (for He is in heaven!) I. CANNOT BE DIVIDED... 1. For there is no earthly organization to divide! 2. If division appears to exist... a. Some unscriptural organization of churches must have been created b. Such an organization can have division, but the Lord's church "universal" cannot! 3. Those who would seek to divide the church through doctrine, conduct, etc., are simply cut off by the Lord Himself! -- There is and always will be, "one body"! - Ep 4:4 (we need to make sure we are remaining faithful to be in it!) J. DEATH DOESN'T AFFECT MEMBERSHIP... 1. The church "universal" is made up of the saved, both living and dead - He 12:22-23 2. When one dies, they are still with Christ! - Ph 1:21-23 ; 1 Th 5:10 [These ten things are true of the church "universal"; now let's contrast that with...] II. THE CHURCH "LOCAL" A. COMPOSED OF CHRISTIANS IN ONE LOCATION... 1. A local church is made up of Christians in one geographical area 2. E.g., the church at Corinth, the church of the Thessalonians - 1 Co 1:2 ; 1 Th 1:1 -- In contrast, the church "universal" is made up of Christians everywhere! B. THERE ARE "MANY" CHURCHES... 1. Paul had reference to local churches when he wrote Ro 16:16 2. And again when he wrote Ga 1:2 -- When it comes to the church "universal", though, there is just ONE! C. BEGINS WHENEVER PEOPLE JOIN THEMSELVES TOGETHER... 1. As the gospel spreads and people respond to it, those in a particular area start a local church when they agree to work together as one 2. Just as the church in Antioch began later than the church in Jerusalem - Ac 11:19-26 -- Whereas the church "universal" began in Jerusalem on Pentecost, "local" churches have begun at different places and different times! D. ENTER BY "JOINING" THE CHURCH... 1. When one wishes to become an accepted member of the local church, they must "join themselves" to that church 2. Such as Paul sought to do when he came to the church in Jerusalem - Ac 9:26-28 -- Whereas one is "added" by the Lord Himself to the universal church, we can seek to "join" a local congregation (if its members are willing to accept us) E. ENROLLED THROUGH HUMAN JUDGMENT... 1. Whether we are accepted into a local church is a decision made by the leaders or members of that church 2. Sometimes people are rejected when they should be received - 3 Jn 5-9 -- Evil men may succeed in kicking one out of a local church, but only the Lord determines who stays in the universal church! F. CONSISTS OF BOTH SAVED AND LOST... 1. Since enrollment occurs through human judgment, fallible decisions can be made 2. A local church may therefore have some who are nominal Christians - cf. Re 3:1-4 -- Hypocrites may become members of a local church; but they don't sneak by the Lord to become members of the universal church! G. DO NOT HAVE TO BE IN THIS CHURCH TO BE SAVED... 1. One can be saved, and not belong to any local church 2. Such was the case of the Eunuch immediately following his conversion, and of Paul when he was in transit between Antioch and Jerusalem - cf. Ac 8:39 ; 9:26 -- Of course, this should be temporary; in the universal church, it is impossible! H. HAS "EARTHLY" ORGANIZATION... 1. A local church when scripturally organized will have bishops and deacons - Ph 1:1 2. These bishops were also called "elders" and "pastors", whose role was to oversee and feed the local congregation - Ac 14: 23; 20:17,28 -- The only role or position ever given men over the universal church on earth was the apostles, and they were not replaced when they died - e.g., James in Ac 12:2 I. CAN BE DIVIDED... 1. Local churches can easily be divided over doctrine or personalities 2. Such was the case with the church at Corinth - 1 Co 1:10-13 ; 3:3 ,4 -- While we can't divide the universal church, we can be responsible for dividing local churches! J. DEATH AFFECTS MEMBERSHIP... 1. When we die, our membership in a local congregation ends 2. Just as when Stephen died, he was no longer a member of the Jerusalem church - Ac 8:1-2 -- But our membership in the church universal continues on after death! CONCLUSION 1. To illustrate the differences between the church universal and local, consider this table... The Church "Universal" The Church "Local" Composed of all Christians Composed of Christians in one location There is just "one" There are "many" Began on the "Day of Pentecost" Begins when people join together Enter only by being added by the Enter by "joining ourselves" Lord The Lord keeps the books of Enrolled by human judgment membership Consists of all the saved Consists of both saved and lost Must be in this to be saved Do not have to be in this to be saved Has no "earthly" organization Has "earthly" organization Can't be divided Can be divided Death doesn't affect membership Death does affect membership 2. Why note the difference between the church "universal" and the church "local"? a. To better understand how the word "church" is used in the New Testament b. To avoid confusion in our thinking when we use the word "church" -- When we are aware of the differences, we are also better able to identify the New Testamen church today! (see next lesson) 3. One could say that a key difference between the two is this... a. The church "universal" in essence concerns our relationship with Christ b. The church "local" basically concerns our relationship with one another -- Of course, our service in the latter can certainly affect our standing in the former! Is our relationship with Christ and each other what it should be?