12. Ecclesiology: Understanding the Nature of God’s New Community
The Article: Survey of Bible Doctrine: The Church
In this article you will study the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ. In this day and age we desperately need to return to Scripture to get our “marching orders,” as it were. We will also discuss the two ordinances given the church, namely, water baptism and the Lord’s supper. We will then move on to talk about church government or the structure of the church and how various local and national church structures have arisen in the history of the church. We will also discuss leadership at the local level.
1. What are the two forms of the church? How do they relate to each other?
2. What is the purpose of the church? What is the key passage that defines our mission as God’s people in the world?
3. What are the ordinances of the church?
4. What are the major views of the structure of the church?
5. Discuss the New Testament view of the structure of the church.
6. What are two leadership positions in the church? What are the qualifications for each?
The Article: “One Another” Commands of Scripture
We live in a day and age when individualism reigns supreme and there is very little desire to cast one’s lot with a group of people and remain committed to them. Obviously, this spells difficulties for the church. For this reason, we have included in this section a series dealing with church life and another separate article which stresses the importance of relating to and committing oneself to a body of believers.
One Another Commands of Scripture is really a six part series dealing with the foundations and motivations for fellowship and encouraging other Christians. It includes topics such as: (1) hindrances to loving one another (i.e., envy, pride, judging others, speaking evil, etc.); (2) positive commands; (3) developing Christ-like attitudes and actions through meditation on the word; (4) using your personal freedom to love and serve others.
1. Discuss the various aspects of “fellowship”?
2. What are the various foundations for fellowship? Why is it important to understand these? What is the basic and overarching command with respect to fellowship?
3. Discuss some of the hindrances we face when we set out, by the grace of God, to genuinely love other people?
4. Discuss the positive commands of Scripture in keeping with our attitudes and actions. What was the point of this section of the series?
5. Growing into Christlikeness is a lifelong process. Why is meditation on the word so important in this process?
6. In a series on fellowship, why do we include an article on personal freedom? What is the connection? What is the relationship between our freedom and our commitment to love others?
The Article: Christian Unity (Ephesians 4:1-16)
The bottom line is that we are to maintain a balance between grace and truth. Jesus came, John says, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He didn’t fall off one side or the other. Neither must we. In many of our articles in this discipleship series, we stress the biblical truth about this or that concept. But, this should never be understood to mean that unity in the body of Christ is not important and critical to the health and witness of the Lord’s church (cf. John 17:22). We have a ugly tendency to divide the people of God over our own personal “hobbyhorses”—our pet doctrines which we elevate to the place of first importance when they are in reality only secondary. As you study the truth of God from Scripture, you must be careful that your further learning does not “puff you up,” as Paul says, and create in you an arrogant heart, unjustly critical of others.
Unity is extremely important to God and it should be to us. It is commanded in Scripture (Ephesians 4:1-6). But unity does not mean “simple conformity.” Rather, there is to be unity in the midst of diversity—a diversity which is to be celebrated, not just tolerated. Indeed, the various gifts that God has given us testify to the diversity he wants to see in the church. In summary, as this article makes clear, let us strive to walk in the truth and preserve our unity.
1. What details in Ephesians 4:1-6 indicate that unity is to be the mark of the body of Christ?
2. What is the relationship of the spiritual gifts to the diversity and unity of the church?
3. What are the primary equipping gifts in Ephesians 4?
4. Who is responsible for the ministry? Pastors? Teachers? The whole body? Read 4:11-12. Obviously, if God gave some to be pastors and teachers, then they will minister primarily to the saints, but what about the saints themselves?
5. What are various measures of the maturity talked about in Ephesians 4:13?