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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, May 16 2024

The Church - help for greater growth

Jesus has a close relationship with the members of His Church, describing them as "members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones" (Ephesians 5:30). We are also told "Christ is head of the church," providing loving care and leadership (verse 23).

The focus of church services is about worshiping God and learning more about His Word and how He wants us to live. It is a primary source through which God's truth is taught and learned. Paul describes the Church as "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

Jesus said part of His earthly mission was to "build My church," and He began by training 12 disciples and other followers (Matthew 16:18). The Greek word translated "church" is ekklesia, which essentially means "those called out to an assembly." Church services are also called "holy convocations" (Leviticus 23:2). "Convocations" means commanded assemblies, and they are "holy" because God commands or convokes them, expecting His people, whenever possible, to be in attendance.

Jesus told His disciples to "... make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). He also told Peter to "feed My sheep" (John 21:15-17), and Paul reminded the elders to "shepherd the church of God" (Acts 20:28), meaning to teach and preach the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17 and 4:2).

The Church was also intended to be a body of believers who help each other grow in godly character and assist each other with physical needs (Matthew 25:31-46; 1 John 3:16-18). Jesus said the primary identifying sign of His followers would be that they had “love for one another" (John 13:35), which is not just an emotion, but manifests itself in unselfish acts of service. "We know that we have passed from [spiritual] death to life, because we love the brethren….He [Jesus] laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:14 and 16). The most common fulfillment of "laying down our lives" is that we give of our time for our fellow church members.

Each member is a "work in progress," endeavoring to be "transformed" by God and gradually "conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 12:2 and 8:29). God expects those He has called to His Church to not only work on themselves, but also to love, forgive and encourage others. This fellowship with one another is actually an essential part of our fellowship with God the Father and Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9-10; 1 John 1:3 and 6-7), as they dwell within all the members of the Church through the Holy Spirit.

Some, due to health, age, geographical isolation or other factors are unable to meet regularly with other believers, but whenever we are able to attend Church services, we should not neglect this God-given opportunity, as Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs: "Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."

As mentioned in the previous article Satan would like nothing more than to discourage and distract us. Encouraging and supporting each other is crucial for our spiritual health. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:25-26: "The members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."

Jesus Christ loves His Bride, the Church, and He "nourishes and cherishes it." In a prophecy in Malachi 3:16-17, God takes special note of those who practice Christian fellowship: "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. 'They shall be Mine,' says the Lord of hosts, 'on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son, who serves him.'"