In 2016 our church has spent the year in 1 Corinthians, at least the first 10 chapters. As we turn our attention to the birth of Lord in just a couple weeks, we took time to review a few aspects of ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) that we’ve seen in Paul’s letter. For now the debate about Trinity-gender analogies (1 Corinthians 11:3) and head coverings (11:6, 10) will have to wait.
In what we considered yesterday, I made seven applications from 1 Corinthians 1–10 related to the universal and local church. Here they are in list form. You can listen or read the sermon notes; study questions and further resources are listed below.
- The church is both local and universal.
- The universal church is made of local churches.
- Individual Christians experience the universal church thru the local church.
- The local church calls the universal church to walk together as disciples of Christ.
- The local church (not the universal church) has been given leaders who know their sheep.
- The local church has power AND wisdom to exercise the keys of the kingdom.
- The local church provides visible boundaries for the universal church.
All sermons in the series “The Life-Changing Gospel in God’s Local Church” can be found here.
The Biblical Genesis of the Local and Universal Church: Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 18:17
Matthew 16:13–20 — Jesus promises to build his Universal Church
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Matthew 18:15–20 — Jesus commands his people to take matters of discipline to their local church
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
- What is the “local church”? What is the “universal church”? Are these concepts new? Clear? Confusing?
- What is the predominate usage of ekklesia (“church”) in the New Testament—local or universal? Why might that be? (See points #2 and #3; and the articles below).
- What are common objections to joining a church? Are there any biblical reasons for not joining a particular church? What about not joining any church, any where?
- How might you counsel someone who is skeptical about church membership? Or, someone who has been burned by church leaders or hurt by a previous church? Is there biblical evidence for the church being God’s design for fellowship and community? If so, what is the evidence?
- What are the keys of the kingdom, and how does the local church exercise them appropriately?
- What are the benefits of maintaining a meaningful church membership? What are the benefits of not maintaining a meaningful church membership? Which, over time, produces the best environment for discipleship?
- Why might some believe that church membership is heavy-handed? What biblical, practical, and experiential arguments might be considered to evaluate this statement?
For Further Study
- The Church is an Embassy, Not a Social Club – Greg Gilbert’s ESV Men’s Devotional Bible article on the church helpfully explains what membership is and is not.
- Baptism is a Church’s Act – Bobby Jamieson considers what makes a baptism a baptism, and how both the individual and the church are making a statement in baptism.
- Authority – The most recent 9Marks E-Journal tackled the subject of authority, a grossly misunderstood and maligned virtue. One of the greatest challenges in the church today is rightly understand how and why the church exercises authority. This journal will recovers a biblical view of authority.
On the Local and Universal Church
- An Ecclesiology of Churches: Why the Universal Church Is Best Regarded as a Myriad of Local Churches
- “All [Ecclesiology] is Local”: Why Experiencing the Universal Church is a Local Occurrence
- Are You a Universal Church-er or a Local Church-er? by Jonathan Leeman
Soli Deo Gloria, ds