The Passion of the Church
Why and for whom does the Church exist? Prior to disclosing the verdict demanded by this inquiry, we must first understand what the Church is. The English word “church” descends from the Scottish term kirk, German kirsche, and Russian tserkov, each of which descend from the Greek word kuriakos which means “belonging to the Lord.” Another Greek word, ekklesia, designates “a called out assembly or congregation for political purposes.” In the New Testament ekklesia references believers in Jesus Christ who are a called-out group, paralleling the nation of Israel being called out to be separate from the rest of the world as a God-fearing example in the Old Testament era (Acts 7:38). Though the term “church” may elicit numerous definitions, the New Testament utilizes only two senses: 1) the universal Church (i.e. the Body of Christ) which includes all believers from Pentecost to the Rapture, and 2) the local church which is geographically and temporally limited yet is a visible and practical manifestation of the Church universal.
…The Passion of Christ was the catalyst for the ideological shift from the sacrificial and temple-centric system of worship to the church body of believers individually and collectively becoming the Body of Christ on earth, i.e. the literal bodily temple within which Christ would dwell by way of His Holy Spirit, our hearts thus becoming the Most Holy Place. Ultimate intimacy with our Creator is thusly achieved in that our individual physical bodies are His temple as opposed to an impersonal and more restrictive building/structure to be visited only on occasion. Moreover, worldwide persecution enables the Church to suffer His Passion as we are “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).
…The revelation of the Church was given following the exchange between Jesus and Simon Peter wherein Peter confessed his belief and conviction that Jesus was indeed “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15-18). To this Jesus responded with the promise “…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Despite much discussion as to whether Jesus meant His church would be built on Peter himself (his name, derived from petra, means “rock”) or upon his confession that Jesus was indeed the Christ, there need not be any theological murkiness for both answers satisfy Jesus’ prophecy, Roman Catholic practices of elevating popes as vicars of Christ on earth notwithstanding; Peter was an apostle and the apostolic era witnessed the founding and establishment of the universal Church, such made possible only by a completely convicting belief and confession that Jesus Christ was Who He said He was. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus unveils His prophetic purpose for the Church by advancing the great commission to “Go therefore and 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…”
…The relation of the Church to Christ answers explicitly the initial inquiry of this article: the Church has been saved and sanctified by Him (Eph. 5:25-29), purchased by Him (Acts 20:28), founded on Him (Eph. 2:19-20), built by Him (Matt. 16:18), is subject to Him (Rom. 7:4), and is loved by Him (Eph. 5:25). Further, the revelation of the mystery of the Church is found in the third chapter of Ephesians, the foundational program for it having been set previously in Matthew 28:19-20. Within this program we see a dual purpose for the Church: 1) Edification is necessary for equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12) so that disciples can be made of all nations. Without being edified (built up, encouraged, strengthened) disciples would lose their zeal and effectiveness in promoting the Kingdom; and 2) Glorification of Christ “…to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:21).
…The prior exposition conveys enough data for one to reach a basic comprehension of why and for whom the Church exists, yet my hope is to also promote thought and research beyond what is here written so as to inspire a thorough comprehension of the thesis. Perceived complexity may appear to plague the untested analyst, but the Word of God faithfully provides profound simplicity concerning profound interest. Therefore, I ask again, why and for whom does the Church exist? The Church exists because of Christ and for Christ, a verdict rooted in Scripture since the Father of glory put all things under Christ’s feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body… (Eph. 1:22-23)
…This Truth is even preserved and grandly proclaimed in the first verse of the great hymn The Church’s One Foundation by Samuel Stone and Samuel Wesley: “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; She is His new creation by Spirit and the Word: From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died…”