What the Church Does for Itself
What the Church Does for Itself
In the last lesson we saw how the church is like a body. We saw that people can be different from each other and still have unity. We finished the lesson by considering what we can do for others.
This lesson carries on the same theme. We have a duty to other believers. If we do not share with others, or strengthen others, we are hurting them. We can rob them of the help they need. This lesson should help you to do your part in the body of Christ.
This lesson is personal. It is for you to apply. You must find and do your duty. You might learn a great deal about the church. But it does not profit you or others if you do not apply what you learn. Ask God to help you do this.
The Sharing Church
The first Christians “spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and prayers” (Acts 2:42).
The word fellowship means “friendship, helping, and sharing.” This sharing is deep and personal.
When Paul was in prison, he did not have this fellowship. I believe he missed it. In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul talks much about fellowship. He speaks of fellowship in the gospel (Philippians 1:5), fellowship with the Spirit (2:1), fellowship in suffering (3:10), fellowship in trouble (4:14), and fellowship in giving (4:15).
The Strengthening Church
The terms fellowship and edify are related. The first term stresses the idea of “being together.” The second word means “to build or to strengthen.” Believers are not only to be together, they are also to help each other.
Although believers are responsible to build themselves up in faith (Jude 20), they must also build up others. When Christians meet, each has something to do to help. Although each one is different, “Everything must be of help to the church” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
This process of building up is never finished. Peter warned, “Be on your guard but continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17-18).
Speaking of the church, Paul said “each one must be careful how he builds” (1 Corinthians 3: 10). Sometimes Christians try to build the church by pride or ambition. These are the things that Paul calls “wood or grass or straw” (v. 12). Each man’s work will be tested.
How can believers help to build up the church? The Bible suggests some answers. One way is by working for peace in the church. “So then, we must aim at those things that bring peace and that help to strengthen one another” (Romans 14:19). Another way is by encouragement. “And so encourage one another and help one another, just as you are now doing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 11). Another is by love. “So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love” (Ephesians 4:16). Perhaps the best way is to reflect, or be like, Christ. “Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him and become stronger in your faith” (Colossians 2:7).
The Sanctifying Church
The word sanctify is related to the word saint. It means “to be set apart for God.” Those who have been sanctified have been set apart for God. They have been called out. They are to be holy just as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). The church is called a “holy temple” (Ephesians 2:21). The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon the church (1 John 2:20).
In one sense, the church is perfect in Christ. In another sense, it is moving to perfection. Sanctification is not a single experience nor a ceremony. It is Christ preparing the church. As the letter to the church at Ephesus says: Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. He did this to dedicate the church to God by his word, after making it clean by washing it in water, in order to present the church to himself in all its beauty, pure and faultless, without spot or wrinkle or any other imperfection (Ephesians 5:25-27).
The Bible says we should do all we can to make ourselves pure, or clean (without sin). “So, then, let us purify ourselves from everything that makes body or soul unclean, and let us be completely holy by living in reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
On the other hand, it is God who purifies us. The truth is that if we judge ourselves we will not be condemned by the Lord. This means that if we examine our lives and correct sinful actions, God will not condemn us for those actions.
In 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 we read: If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
I have a daughter. Sometimes she does not do what is right and I must correct her. I want to help her learn what is right. This is also true with God. As His son, I know that He corrects me. I do not enjoy correction, but I know it is best for me.
Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God’s correction should be an encouragement. It teaches us to respect God our Father (v. 9). It is for our good and our growth in holiness (v. 10). Therefore, we should submit to God’s correction.
If our brothers or sisters in Christ do something wrong, we should try to help them. We should not talk about them to others, but speak to them personally. We should love others and try to treat them just as we know God treats each of us.
Sometimes unbelievers will not accept Christ because they see sin in the church. This should not be! Paul applied Christ’s instruction on this matter to the church at Corinth. (See 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, 13.) Every believer must do his part to keep the church free from sin.