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41. The Nature and Body of Christ

Purpose: The purpose of this session is to focus on the significance of the local church.


1. The disciple will understand the true nature of the local body of Christ.

2. The disciple will understand the difference between the church today and the Old Testament saints.

3. The disciple will understand the unique relationship of the church to the Lord Jesus.

4. The disciple will learn the unique mystical union all believers have with each other.

5. The disciple will understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit more clearly.

6. The disciple will understand the implication of membership in the local church body.

Scripture Memory

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13


1. Prayer and sharing.

2. Recite memory verses.

3. Review session material

4. Discuss questions.

5. Discuss new terms.


It is not uncommon for those who get individual or personal help through discipleship to feel that those from whom they get help are the only ones who really have something worthwhile to say, and that they are the only ones who are doing anything as far as helping spiritual growth is concerned. This is not true, of course. It is important for everyone to appreciate the place and extreme significance of the Church in the life of the Christian. This section is primarily for the purpose of helping and encouraging involvement and commitment to the local body of Christ, which is the expression of the Church on earth—the Church militant!

I. The meaning of the word "church" is derived from and understood in the light of the original Greek--the word "ekklesia" or "the called out ones." The word never relates to buildings for worship. Nor in a true sense, could "church" ever be a description of a Buddhist organization or an organization like the Unity Society or Christian Science or a lodge.

II. The nature of the true Church.

A. The Church is the mystical Body of believers, 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:13-22, that is brought about through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.

B. The Church began on the day of Pentecost. It is a unique Body that did not exist in the Old Testament, and it is unique to this present day.

C. The Church is the Bride of Christ, Ephesians 5:30-32.

D. The Church expresses itself in local assemblies, Revelation 2, 3.

E. It is a Body that transcends all denominational boundaries. Not all church members of any denomination are members of the true Bride of Christ, nor is every true member of the Body of Christ a member of some local denomination. To be a member of the Church—the Bride—the mystical Body, one must have experienced the new birth and the baptism that is the experience of all who have experienced new birth. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.

F. To be related to the local church, one must be willing to submit to the pastoral authority of that local body, and to its discipline. Biblical qualifications are the new birth and submission to the authority and doc-trine of the body. Every new believer should submit to water baptism, but this is not an absolute condition for local church membership.

G. Christ's relationship with the Church. He is the Founder, Matthew 16:18; the Chief Cornerstone, Ephesians 2:20; the Head, Ephesians 5:23; the Savior of, Ephesians 5:23; and the Bridegroom, Ephesians 5:30-32.


This is a brief study to acquaint you with the Church, the Body of Christ. It is hoped that you will leave this study understanding that the Church is a unique organism in the world , certainly of a different nature than a lodge, a philanthropic organization, business organization, or groups like Hindus, Buddhists, Christian Science or the Unity organization.

1. The meaning of the word "church" is important to understand. Because there is no way to teach this in a study other than to just tell you what it means, let us simply define it. It is the word "ekklesia" in the original language and it comes from two words—ek" which is a preposition that means "out of" and "kaleo" which means "to call". Putting them together expresses what the true Church is —a group of "called out ones". It is basically a New Testament organism.

2. When did the Church begin? There is some controversy about this question in the thinking of people today. How did Jesus teach that the Church would originate in New Testament times? Matthew 16:18

3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 2:13-22, and Acts 1 carefully. See if you can answer the following questions from these verses.

a. How many Christians are members of the one true Church?

b. What puts us into the Body of Christ, the Church?

c. When did the Church begin, and what evidence is there for this?

d. Which denomination today is the true Church?

e. What baptism is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:13, and when does that baptism take place?

f. In your own words, state what you believe the Church is.

The Church is a group of "called out" believers who have been placed into one Body by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at the moment of their salvation. There is a mystical union of this Body so that similar bonds bind us all together. These bonds transcend denominational boundaries.

4. There is one true Church which is not denominational. That Church is the all-inclusive Body of Christ. But part of that Church is in heaven and the rest of it is on earth.

a. The Church in heaven is called the "church triumphant."

b. The Church on earth is called the "church militant."

c. The Church militant expresses itself in local assemblies. This has been true throughout the church age, Revelation 2, 3. What were the local churches in these two chapters?

d. Write the names of some of the local churches you know of today.

5. Now we want to look at some of the qualifications for membership in New Testament local churches. Read the following verses and write your answer concerning the particular condition for membership.

a. Acts 2:47

b. Acts 2:38-41; Matthew 28:19

c. Acts 2:42

In summary, all who are members of every denomination are not members of the one true Church, nor are all members of the one true Body members necessarily of a local church or denomination. To be a member of the Body of Christ that has mystical union, one must have experienced regeneration and the "one" Baptism (of the Holy Spirit) which puts him into that Body.

6. Now let's spend a few moments looking at Christ's relationship to His Church From the following verses, write the word that denotes His relationship to the Church.

Matthew 16:18

Ephesians 2:20

Ephesians 5:23

Ephesians 5:23 (again)

Ephesians 5:30-32

7. Finally, we want to consider briefly the chief purposes of the true Church in the world as it is expressed in local congregations. From the following verses, what is God's purpose for the Church?

a. Ephesians 1:4-6

b. Ephesians 4:11-15

c. Acts 1:8

Questions for Review and Discussion

1. How does the Church differ from organizations such as the Unity Society, Christian Science, Buddhism, etc.?

2. React to this statement. "I am not going to church. I am going to the place where the Church meets each Lord's Day."

3. What do you feel is involved in the chief mission of the Church on earth?

4. What is the meaning of the last part of Matthew 16:18?  

Life Application

Summarize the meaning and significance of the local church in your own life.

Related Topics: Discipleship

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