A church is an assembly of people called out for a specific purpose, the nature and purpose of which must be determined by the context. The words “church” and “churches” are found 114 times in the King James Bible. It always refers to a called-out assembly of God’s people (except once, Acts 19:37). It is a misuse of the term to use it regarding a building or denomination. We must also understand that the word “church” is not exclusively used for this present dispensation (e.g. Acts 7:38).
Whatever God does, Satan seeks to corrupt and counterfeit it. Therefore, we know that there is false doctrine about the church and there are false churches (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15). How can we discern sound doctrine from false doctrine? How can we discern a true church from a false church? We must not look to the traditions and teachings of men, but we must look to the word of God, which is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16), and study it God’s way (2 Tim. 2:15).
The Church and Churches
The moment a sinner believes the gospel of the grace of God (1 Cor. 15:3-4), they are baptized by the Spirit into the church which is the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23). All believers in this present age of grace are called out of the world system and spiritually assembled in Christ. We are seated together with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). That is how Paul could be in the same Body with the believers in Rome before he had even visited there (Rom. 12:4-5). We can only learn the truth about the spiritual Body of Christ by studying Paul’s epistles, because that is where it is revealed and taught (Eph. 3:1-13). There is also a great emphasis in Paul’s epistles on the local church which is a visible assembly of believers. In fact, Paul used the words “church” and “churches” 61 times in his epistles, and 47 of those references are to the local church. There is only ONE Body of Christ (Eph. 4:4-6), but there are many local churches. There are 20 references to “churches” in Paul’s epistles.
There is one spiritual church that we become a member of upon SALVATION. There are local and visible churches through which believers SERVE the Lord together. The Body of Christ is a spiritual organism made up regenerated members. The local church is a visible organization made up of professing believers. The Lord used Paul to deliver the proper doctrine and order for the church (Titus 1:5).
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: (Eph. 1:1)
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: (Phil. 1:1)
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Col. 1:2)
The best way for the spiritual reality of our union in Christ with other believers to be demonstrated is in the local church. A local church is a microcosm of the Body of Christ in a community (1 Tim. 3:14-16).
Microcosm – A community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of something much larger.
The Importance of the Local Church
When it comes to the Body of Christ and the local church, it is not an either/or scenario.
Beware of two extremes:
- Denying the importance of the spiritual church
- Denying the importance of the local church
Some teach that God is no longer using the local church in these last days. They point out that the church is not mentioned in 2 Timothy. Yet, Paul wrote that epistle to the pastor of the church at Ephesus to encourage him to stay true and faithful to what Paul had taught him. Also, the church is not mentioned in Titus, but the theme of that epistle is the proper order of the local church. It is not a good testimony for someone to emphasize the importance of the one Body of Christ if they can’t faithfully serve God with other believers in a local church.
The apostle Paul was all about the local church (2 Cor. 11:28). The Lord used him to start many local churches. He wrote his epistles to churches or leaders of churches. Paul never COMMANDED that we assemble, he just took it for granted that believers would desire to assemble with other like-minded believers, which is fitting in this present age of grace. Paul would have found it very strange to hear of professing believers who didn’t care about the local church.
There are many “churches” in our country, but there is a GREAT NEED for churches that believe the King James Bible and rightly divide it. Sadly, there are very few churches today that are “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
What to Look for in a Church
The important things to look for in a church are not programs, activities, and music. It is sound doctrine and the sincere desire to walk in it and share it with others.
The main questions you should ask when looking for a church are:
- Do you believe the King James Bible is the inspired and preserved word of God?
- What is the gospel of our salvation?
- Do you preach and teach the Bible rightly divided?
- May I have a copy of your doctrinal statement?
- What is the purpose of the ministry?
Sadly, most “churches” today are nothing more than worldly social clubs teaching the philosophies and traditions of men. For those who do not have a Bible-believing church in their area, we recommend that they study the Bible at home and take advantage of the sound Bible preaching and teaching that is available online. If you are being edified through the online ministry of a local church, you should support it through prayer and giving. Perhaps the Lord could use you one day to help get a good church started in your area.
There may be a church in your area that you may not agree with on everything, but they believe the Bible, preach salvation by grace, study the Bible dispensationally, and are headed in the right direction. Perhaps you could be a blessing to them. Remember, church should be about serving, not being served.
Why Go to Church?
We should not go to church out of religious ritual or with selfish motives. Going to church with the right motives will help us to be faithful and to get more out of it.
- Serving God – We are in Christ, and He is in us. We don’t have to go to church in order to worship God. We are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). We have full and free access to God. Yet, we know it is God’s will that we assemble together with other believers. If we love Christ, we will love His church. What is important to Him should be important to us. God is pleased with the corporate worship of believers who are endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). We should assemble together to serve God and be edified in His word. A church must put the Lord before people. We assemble first and foremost for His glory.
- Serving one another – We are not only members of Christ, but we are members of one another (1 Cor. 12:12-27). We are in the same spiritual family (1 Tim. 5:1-2). There should be a warm and loving atmosphere among God’s people.
With great privilege and blessing comes responsibility. Going to church is not just about sitting around and enjoying each other’s company. God has given us a work to do. Yet most people that go to church have the attitude, “What are you going to do for me?” We are to be servants, faithfully serving God and one another. There is something for everybody to do.
- Edification (Eph. 4:12-16) – Build up one another in the faith by the word of God.
- Evangelism (1 Thess. 1:8)
- Bearing one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
- Giving (Gal. 6:6-10) – We should all have a part in supporting our local church and the cause of world missions. We are not under the law of tithing, but we are to be grace givers (2 Cor. 9:6-8). Why would believers under grace give LESS to support the Lord’s work than Israel was required to do under the law? Paul had much to say about giving (Acts 20:35; Rom. 15:26-28; 1 Cor. 9:1-14; 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8-9; Gal. 2:10; 6:6-10; Eph. 4:28; Phil. 4:10-19; 1 Tim. 5:17-18; Titus 3:13-14). If every member gave cheerfully according to what they have, it would make a difference and meet the need.
- Praying with and for one another (Col. 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:1-4)
- Comforting one another (1 Thess. 5:11)
The local church is a family of believers. Do not merely attend church as a spectator. Be a faithful part of what God is doing in and through His people!