When we study the doctrine of the Local Church, it is very important that we distinguish between the Church which is the Lord’s body and a local assembly of believers called a church. They are not the same thing and they should never be confused.
Every person who is saved is baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Jesus Christ [1 Cor 12:13] and thus we become members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones [Eph 5:30-32]. His body is called the Church and He is the head of his body [Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18]. As such, the church is to be subject unto Christ [Eph 5:23-24].
The Lord loves the church [Eph 5:25]. After the rapture, the Lord is going to bring forth the church from his body and she will be his bride in the same way that Eve came forth from Adam’s body and became his bride. This marriage won’t take place until after the judgment seat of Christ, so that the church can be completely cleansed before the marriage [Eph 5:25-27, 2 Cor 11:2]. The marriage will take place in heaven before Christ’s Second Coming [Rev 19:7-9, notice the Second Advent begins in Rev 19:11].
The Church is a living organism of which every born again child of God is a member [2 Cor 12:13-27]. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to each born again believer to fulfill his part in the body so that all believers can function together as one body. This body is the pillar and ground of the truth and is to bring glory to God through the Lord Jesus Christ [1 Tim 3:15, Eph 3:20-21].
Local churches, on the other hand, are organizations. And though they should be made up of born again believers, often they are not. You can be a member of a local church and not be a member of the body of Christ. Likewise, you can be a member of the body of Christ and not be a member of a local church. This is a very distinct difference between local churches and the Church, which is the Lord’s body. Also, there is one Church but there are many local churches [Acts 9:31, 13:1, 14:23, 15:41, etc.].
God established local churches to handle his work on earth while Jesus is in heaven. They are the means through which each of us as believers can do our part in the body of Christ. Thus, the local church is patterned after the body of Christ and should function like the body of Christ.
Christ is the head and leads through the pastor [1 Pet 5:1-4, 1 Tim 3:1-7]. The pastor is assisted in the ministry by deacons and other helpers [1 Tim 3:8-13, Acts 6:1-4, Rom 16:1-15]. The church functions to edify saints, do the work of the ministry and perfect the body of Christ [Eph 4:12]. It multiplies through the witness of believers [Acts 2:47, 9:31]. Its members grow spiritually through discipleship [2 Tim 2:2]. Members pray together for the ministry [Acts 12:5, Eph 6:18-20]. Members regularly attend its assemblies [Heb 10:25]. Money is collected for its ministries [1 Cor 16:1-2, 2 Cor 8-9]. Missionaries are sent out and supported by it [Acts 13:1-3, Phil 4:10-17]. Its members separate from the world to keep worldly influences from hindering its work [2 Cor 6:14-18]. Since it is one body it needs to function in decently and in order without division [1 Cor 1:10-13, 1 Cor 3:1-9]. It employs a means of discipline to correct or exclude wayward members for the health of the church [Matt 18:15-20, 1 Cor 5:1-7].
As you can probably surmise, it is the devil’s relentless objective to destroy the work and power of the church on earth through corruption of the word [2 Cor 2:17], through division [Rom 16:17-18, a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matt 12:25)], through splits and perversions [Acts 20:29-30], through false doctrine [Eph 4:14], and through worldliness [2 Tim 4:3-4].
Therefore, get saved so that you can be in the body of Christ and then get into a good local church that believes, teaches, and preaches the true words of God to the edification of the saints, the evangelization of sinners and the exaltation of God!!
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