Sabbath school lesson 8, the church, in service to humanity
Lesson 8 for November 24, 2012
The Greek word used in the Bible for church is “ekklēsia”, an assembly or meeting of citizens in public session who usually discussed political issues. For example, this word is used that way in the New Testament in Acts 19:32 about the disturbance in Ephesus: “Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the church was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together”In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), theword ekklēsia is used very often to translate the Jewish wordkahal, that is used for the assembly of Israel as the people ofGod. “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the church I will praise You” (Psalm 22:22) In the New Testament, the word ekklēsia is used for a group of Christian believers (it is never used for the place or the building where they met) “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47)
The concept of church as the people of God isvalid for both the old Israel and the currentChristian church. Both churches are part of the “For you are a holy people “But you are a to the Lord your God, and chosenpeople of God in different historical periods. the Lord has chosen you generation, a royalIn the time of the apostles, the people of God to be a people for priesthood, a holygathered together in groups called “churches”. Himself, a special nation, His own treasure above all the special people, thatThose churches were part of larger peoples who are on the you may proclaimassociations: face of the earth” the praises of Him (Deuteronomy 14:2) who called you out1. Churches that met in private houses of darkness into (Romans, 16: 5) His marvelous light”2. Those churches met regularly with other (1 Peter 2:9) churches in the same city (1 Corinthians 1:2)3. Churches also grouped together according to their area, like churches in Galatia or in Palestine (Galatians 1:2; Acts 9:31)4. Those churches formed an only universal church (1 Timothy 3:15)
“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to behead over all things to the church, which is His body, thefullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23)Christ is the Head. He leads and governs the church just like thehead leads and governs the body.We have great privileges as the body of Christ. We have “the fullness of Him who fillsall in all”. “Christ has poured His fullness, His qualities, into the church, filling it with holy life; indeed, with abounding life.” (SDA Bible Commentary, on Ephesians 1:23) As the body of Christ, we also have great responsibilities. We must be a single unit made of many members, and we must be one with Christ. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all thenations, baptizing them in the name of theFather and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all things that I havecommanded you; and lo, I am with you always,even to the end of the age. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus wanted to make quite clear why He wanted his disciples to meet in “assembly” (ekklēsia). We all gather together to fulfill the mission He entrusted us. Church is a mission in that sense. Evangelism is the main mission of the church. Besides that mission, the church has more functions: Help in the believers’ growth (1Tim. 4:6) Worship (Eph. 1:6) Helping our society (James 1:27)
Could the church fulfill its mission without unity?Jesus interceded for the unity of the church.“I do not pray for these alone, but also for thosewho will believe in Me through their word; thatthey all may be one, as You, Father, are inMe, and I in You; that they also may be one inUs, that the world may believe that You sent Me.And the glory which You gave Me I have giventhem, that they may be one just as We are one” (John 17:20-22)Unity is a gift from the Father which each one ofus must ask.Unity begins with each one of us, individually, asfollowers of Christ—not just in name but in a lifeof true self-sacrifice, a life dedicated to a causeand a good greater than ourselves.
Organization is another important requirement to fulfill the church’s mission. Everything in church must be done “decently and in order” (1Co. 14:40) The universal church had its leaders from its beginning (Gal. 2:9; Acts 15:22). Every local church was also organized under the leadership of elders and deacons (1Tim. 3; Titus 1:5)The Adventist Church is governed by a “But not so among you; on therepresentative system of government; contrary, he who is greatest amongthe leaders receive authority from the you, let him be as the younger, and heparish gathered in assembly. who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, orJesus is the head and the greatest he who serves? Is it not he who sits atleader in Church. He made quite clear the table? Yet I am among you as thethat the foundation of every leader in One who serves” (Luke 22:26-27)church must be service.
“Through the grace freely given them of God, all will seek toanswer the prayer of Christ, that His disciples should be one, evenas He and the Father are one. Peace, love, mercy, andbenevolence will be the abiding principles of the soul. The love ofChrist will be the theme of every tongue, and it will no more besaid by the true Witness, “I have somewhat against thee, becausethou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4). The people of Godwill be abiding in Christ, the love of Jesus will be revealed, and oneSpirit will animate all hearts, regenerating and renewing all in theimage of Christ, fashioning all hearts alike. As living branches of the true Vine, all will be united to Christ, the living head. Christ will abide in every heart, guiding, comforting, sanctifying, and presenting to the world the unity of the followers of Jesus, thus bearing testimony that the heavenly credentials are supplied to the remnant church. In the oneness of Christ’s church it will be proved that God sent His only begotten Son into the world” E.G.W. (This day with God, March 20)