The Church and Local Churches, Eph 5:23-31

In the Bible there is a clear distinction between the body of Christ, called the Church and local churches, also called the church.  The body of Christ is made up of all believers who have been saved.  At salvation, the Spirit of God baptizes you into Jesus’ body [1 Cor 12:13] and you become a member “of his flesh, and of his bones,” [Eph 5:30-32].  His body is literal and is currently seated in heaven and, therefore, since we are in his body, we are also seated in heaven [Eph 2:6].

The, Church, the body of Christ, has no ecclesiastical head, because Jesus is the head [Eph 1:22-23].  And all of us who are members of his body are set by God in the body as it pleases him [1 Cor 12:14-31].

Local churches, on the other hand, are supposed to be made up of people in the body of Christ who are functioning together for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and the edification of the body of Christ [Eph 4:12].  God gave us the gifts in Eph 4:11 for local churches to function under the headship of Christ.  So, our local church is not the body of Christ, but its members should be in the body of Christ.

Though there is a distinction, notice how many similarities there are between the Church and local churches:

  • Both are called church – 1 Cor 1:2; Eph 1:22-23
  • Both have members – 1 Cor 12:12
  • Both are joined – Eph 4:16
  • Both have baptism – 1 Cor 1:16 [believer’s water baptism]; 1 Cor 12:13 [baptism by the Spirit]
  • Both are loved by Jesus – Rev 3:19, Eph 5:25
  • Both have schisms [though they shouldn’t] – 1 Cor 1:10; 1 Cor 12:25

God planted our local church in Corpus Christi out of another local church in Green Bay, WI, First Bible Baptist Church.  In essence, our local church is part of the Lord’s body in that all of its members are comprised of souls who are in His body.  In other words, our local church is not just a bunch of individuals in the body of Christ functioning independently within this local church.  This local church is made up of members of the body of Christ functioning together “as” a body of believers under the headship of Jesus Christ.  And we are part of this church whether we are in this building or not, 1 Cor 14:23, Acts 14:27.

So, while our local church is not the body of Christ [like the Baptist Briders teach] there is, nevertheless, a strong connection between our local church and the Lord’s body.  It is partly for this reason that Paul planted churches [Acts 14:23] everywhere he went.  He didn’t just lead a bunch of scattered souls to the Lord and later report on their “professions.”

Because there should be such a close connection between local churches and the Church:

The Lord is to be the head of the local church just like he is the Church, Eph 5:23.  In his preeminence as the head of the Church, the Lord uses pastors to lead his flock.  As long as the pastor is under the headship of Christ and under the authority of the word of God then the local church will function properly.  When men insert themselves into this relationship [through elder boards, deacon boards, and committees] the local church ends up under the wrong head and schisms result, 1 Cor 11:18. 

Men are in control of most of the churches today.  This is wrong.  The local church should be under Jesus just like the Church is subject to Christ, Eph 5:24.  Then it can follow the church’s God-given leadership in its pastor.  When you step out from under your proper authority, you step right into the devil’s arena. 

Churches that are started like the modern mega churches are rightly called fellowships and not churches.  They are not Biblical local churches.  The idea of using rock and roll, worldly gimmicks, and programs to bring in crowds is the work of men, not the work of Jesus Christ.

We are to love our local church like Christ loves the Church, Eph 5:25.  We are to love this church.  Though we are an organization, we are not simply an organization; we are much more than that.  We are a body of believers in Christ.  Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one toward another”.  

When Paul described the diversities of gifts, administrations and operations in the Lord’s body in 1 Cor 12 and dealt with the contentions concerning tongues in 1 Cor 14, he sandwiched the great chapter on charity, 1 Cor 13, right in the middle.  Charity is the bond of perfectness [Col 3:14].

We are to preach and preserve the truth, Eph 5:26; 1 Tim 3:15.  In 1 Tim 3, Paul had just given Timothy instructions on how he ought to behave in the church.  He was referring to local churches.  Paul calls the church “the house of God, which is the church of the living God”.  And he refers to the church as the “pillar and ground of the truth”.  In our local churches we are the repository for the preserved words of God.  When local churches get away from truth they die.  

Our church is here today for one reason, the word of God.  If it weren’t for this Book [speaking of the King James Bible] we wouldn’t be here.  If we ever cease to be a pillar and ground of the truth, we will cease to be a church [we’ll be one in name only].  Even our work of soul winning is truly a matter of sowing, preaching and teaching the word of God [Acts 2:41, 2:42 w/ 2:47, 4:31, 6:7].  It should never be men using a persuasive presentation to elicit a profession of faith out of a soul.  As the word is preached souls are saved.  And as souls are saved they should be brought into the ministry of the local church to be edified and perfected.

We are to glorify God in the church, Eph 5:27 and 3:21.  Everything should be done to the glory of God.  Today most of what’s done in local churches is done to the glory of the man over the church or to the glory of the local church itself.  People come to church to assemble, worship God, hear from him, to exhort one another, and fellowship.  They should rejoice and glorify God in all of these.

We are to nourish and cherish her members, Eph 5:29.  The greatest example of this is what Paul did for the church in Thessalonica [1 Thes 2:7-11].  Pastors are to feed the flock and all the teachers should do the same [Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-3].

We are to be one as Christ and the Church are one, Eph 5:31.  We are to be perfectly joined together, likeminded and of the same spirit.  Unity, Fellowship, Strength, Encouragement, Service, Assurance, “we know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren”.  Cade praying for Pastor Hoots. 

There are to be no divisions in the church [1 Cor 1:10-13].  These divisions are the work of sin and men!!!

Conclusion: Love our church.  Preach and sow the word of God together so that the Holy Spirit can add more souls to the body of Christ and the local church.  Be faithful to our local church so that as needs arise in the church the gifts God has given you may be used for the work of the ministry.  And stand firm on the words of God, for without them and the Lord Jesus Christ our church is nothing.