The Essence of the Church – Part 1

The Essence of the Church – Part 1

The church is God’s idea! We are His, we belong to Him, and are called out from the world to gather together before Him. We are called to be more than a bunch of people who meet for a common purpose. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, with God as our Father! He lavishes His love on us in Christ, and then asks us to show that love to one another and to the world around us – living and witnessing in a way that points others to the Lord Jesus is crucial.

In the natural, when a child is born, it is dependent upon others to meet its needs. As the child grows it learns and progresses towards independence. However, socially, people do not think in independence terms, they think in interdependence terms.

We belong to a family, a community, an area, a tribe, a nation, to a people group. God’s word paints a picture of us belonging together, because of our faith in Christ and unity in the Spirit, in His Church – interdependent as His family, Christ’s body, the Spirit’s building. It is a group of people where each is interdependent on another. Anything that prevents that true interdependence in Christ is destructive to God’s purposes.

There is to be a freedom and joy in our relationships together.


It is really interesting when I read about what God thinks of His Church. He speaks highly of it, in glowing terms. Church is the English word derived from a German word, kirihha which itself came from the early Greek kuriakos which means ‘belonging to the Lord.’ It is only used twice in the NT (1 Cor 11:20; Rev 1:10), ‘Lord’s’ or ‘belonging to the Lord.’

The word which the NT uses most often for what we often mean by the word, ‘church,’ is the Greek Ekklesia – used 112 times in the NT, and meaning: ‘a body of people called out;’ the word that conveys this word better in English is, ‘An Assembly.’

The Bible’s Unity

In the Old Testament [OT] this is what we are told about God’s view of creating a community of faith. Exodus 6:7, ‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.’  Israel was God’s people, the Church in the OT; although even in the OT, the community of faith was not made up exclusively of Jews – Gentiles were included, people like Rahab; Ruth; The widow at Zarephath; The inhabitants of Nineveh, etc. 

Israel were a covenant people – a people united to God by promise, faith, obedience and sacrifice: Exodus 19:5-6, 8, ‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel… 8Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.’

In the New Testament [NT], God is revealed as the One who calls all people to repent and believe in Christ, Jew and Gentile, a call to faith which, if accepted, adopts the believer into His family. The entrance into the Church was not by physical birth but by spiritual New Birth – born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ through the working of God’s Spirit.

The Church is also called a covenant people. 1 Corinthians 11:25, ‘In the same way, Jesus took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me as often as you drink it.’ This was written to a church with a large contingent of Gentiles in it.

The Church is also the Temple of the Spirit – a holy people. 2 Corinthians 6:16, ‘And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” We, the Church, are God’s dwelling by His Spirit. 1 Peter 2:4-5, ‘Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’

God’s Purposes for His people

The purposes of God in history are manifested through His people, the Church. It is beyond this blog article to write about every single purpose He has for us. The following four are sufficient for this week:

(a.) Israel is called by God’s election, Deuteronomy 7:6, ‘the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself,’ so is the NT Church in Ephesians 1:4, ‘just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.’ We are elected to a blessing to the world, and to be the means of the proclamation of God’s call to salvation to the world.

(b.) Israel was to be redeemed by God from the corrupt world they lived within. Exodus 6:6, “I will redeem you;” and so, in Christ, is the NT Church, Ephesians1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” 

(c.)  Israel was to share in the covenant, Exodus19:5, ‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine;’ and so the Church, each time it shares communion, restates this truth. 1 Corinthians11:25-26, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.’

(d.) In Chris Wright’s book, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, Wright states, ‘It is not so much the case that God has a mission for His church in the world, as that God has a church for His mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission – God’s mission.’ He also says, ‘Everything is mission…. Everything a Christian and a church is, says, and does should be missional in its conscious participation in the mission of God in God’s world.’

The Church is Missional

Interdependence in mission is what God’s Church is called to. The local Church is to be a people, and place, to which we commit who we are, what we are and what we have to worship and serve Christ, and participate in God’s mission, through Christ, by the Spirit to the world.

In doing this we serve God’s purposes in His world through His Church. This allows us to offer our unique gifts, our precious commodities of talents, time and treasure, and our lives to His mission – the local church being a training and equipping centre enabling us all to see ourselves as His missionaries on the frontline in His service.

As we do this we are working for the provision of that which is needed so that His missional commitment, in Christ by the Spirit, to Salvation, Redemption, Discipleship, Worship, upholding and caring for the Creation and Social Justice are revealed in and through us. This is a revelation of a local church filled with the word and Spirit’s power, and engaged in Kingdom work.

This brings the joy of both seeing His hand at work through us, His Spirit at work, and also us being obedient to His word stepping out in faith seeing righteous fruitfulness from our commitment to mission and discipleship. It is the church taking responsibility to proclaim Christ, reveal Christ and glorify Christ in its faithfulness to the call, loving worship, service and mission obedient to God’s purposes for it in the world.

Conclusion In this blog I am arguing for a new way of thinking about the essence of the Church. This explicitly presents God as the God who invites us to participate in His Mission to the world – He is the God who sends His people into His work. He sent Christ and the Spirit into the world to open a pathway of hope, salvation and renewal for all who will believe; and through His Church, the Gospel is still being sent into the world.

Christ and the Spirit sent Christ’s Disciples out to proclaim the Gospel living authentic Christian lives – and they are still sending Christ’s Disciples, you and me, out into the world to proclaim the Gospel and to live authentically as Christians should.

This sending includes recognising that it is God’s purposes in Christ, and His Kingdom, we are serving – not self-interest, nor the Church’s own religious priorities.

The old order of Missio Ecclesiae – the Church seeks to determine its priorities and primary focus, has been replaced by Missio Dei Trinitatis – The Mission of God the Trinity: Christ as Lord, the Spirit as the Church’s power and teacher, and God as its Creator and Father – God, Father, Son and Spirit, has a Church for His mission.

God is already out there before us in the world, through His Spirit, challenging and convicting people of their wrongdoing and awakening them to their need of Christ the Saviour, Redeemer, Baptiser in the Spirit, Healer and King. He is blessing in ways we cannot even imagine through His common grace, and in extraordinary ways through His redeeming grace in Christ and Spirit’s power. Hallelujah!