The church was to the Old Testament prophets a mystery; but in the beginning of the dispensation of grace, the mystery was made known “by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:3-6). It was first revealed to the apostles after Christ rose from the dead and appeared to them in a mountain in Galilee, and commissioned them to “Go…and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, 20). The Holy Spirit chose Peter to be the first to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48). Next Paul and Barnabas were chosen by the Holy Spirit to be the first evangelistic missionaries to the Gentiles. On their first missionary journey, they went first to the Jews (Romans 1:16). But when the Jews rejected the gospel (Acts 13:1-5), “Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles’ ” (Acts 13:46-49). They mystery that God revealed to Paul was that a Gentile did not have to become a Jew to be in the church. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). This is the mystery that was hidden from the men of the Old Testament.
To help us understand the doctrine of the church, the Holy Spirit, who is the author of the Word of God (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17), has given us seven metaphors or illustrations to help us understand the eternal relationship of Christ and His church. They are:
1) Christ the Bridegroom, the Church His Bride. The bride, in the resurrection, will have an incorruptible glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:51-58), and she will be presented to Him as a pure virgin (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27).
2) Christ the Good Shepherd, the Church His Sheep. The Shepherd leads, protects, and feeds His sheep (Psalm 23:1-6). When sheep are slaughtered, they never fight back; they are always dependent on the shepherd. When lost, they cannot find their way back to the sheepfold; they must be sought and found by the shepherd (Luke 15:3-7; John 10:11-16).
3) Christ the Head, the Church His Body. Christ is the “head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). Nobody can have more than one head; therefore it is wrong for any man, other than the Lord Jesus Christ, to claim to be the head of the church on earth or in heaven. His body has many members, and they are all equal in His sight. His church is one body with only one head, Christ, who has all authority over each member of His body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
4) Christ the Foundation and Cornerstone, the Church His Building. This building is made of “living stones,” alive with the life of Christ (1 Peter 2:5). We are built upon Christ, through the teaching of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:19, 20).
5) Christ our High Priest, the Church His Temple. The church is called a “holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21, 22). Each member of the church is His temple, and is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19, 20). A temple is a place of worship—we are to worship our God when alone or with others, who are a part of the holy temple (Matthew 28:16, 17). The most important thing we can do is to worship God.
6) Christ the Vine, the Church His Branches. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). In this church age, from Pentecost to the Rapture, every branch is to bear fruit. There are three stages of fruit bearing:
b.) More fruit
c.) Much fruit (John 15:1-5).
One of the fruits of a Christian is more Christians. You can be a fruit-bearing, soul-winning branch and be rewarded with the joy of the Lord in this life and in the life to come (John 15:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20).
7) Christ the Last Adam, the Church His New Creation. The first Adam was given life; the last Adam is the life-giver (John 1:4). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The church is the Lord’s; it is in the world, but not of it. For over two thousand years Satan has tried to destroy the church and failed, because Jesus said, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
38-1 The Church: A Holy Temple
Solomon’s temple was built in 966 B.C. and stood in its glory for almost four centuries, until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians destroyed it. The second temple was dedicated and completed seventy years later, in 516 B.C., and it stood for almost six hundred years. In A.D. 70 the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.
The temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem was a permanent building wherein God manifested His holy presence. There sacrifices to cover sin were offered, and there the priests and servants worshiped Him and prayed. It also provided a barrier which separated God’s holiness from the world outside.
Paul calls the church at Ephesus “a holy temple” (v. 21). The pagan Greek world also had it white-stoned temples where the Greek gods were honored and sought after. The Ephesians understood Paul’s figurative language. Note some striking lessons from this and other passages concerning the church as God’s temple.
1) In this age God’s temple is His church; it is called “a dwelling place of God” (v. 22). “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and hence does not live in a house of stone; but He does live in the born-again believer’s heart.
2) God’s Spirit indwells the church, His temple (v. 22). Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Holy Spirit indwells every believer, and this indwelling converts the believer’s body into a temple of God.
3) Christ said that He would “build” His church upon Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ”—the Messiah (Matthew 16:16-18).
4) At Pentecost the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) came to indwell all believers, as Christ had promised (John 16:7). Pentecost was the celebration of the fullness of the harvest, fifty days after the “first fruits” (Leviticus 23:15-17). Christ was the “firstfruits” (1 Corinthians 15:20) from the dead, and then came the harvest of His church, fifty days after the Resurrection.
5) The church, His temple, is now composed both of believing Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles in Old Testament days were “strangers” and “foreigners”—now they are “fellow citizens” and family members “of the household of God” (v. 19).
6) Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone; the teachings of the apostles and prophets are the foundation of His temple (v. 20; cf. Isaiah 28:16). The psalmist saw the Messiah as the rejected, then the confirmed, cornerstone of God’s temple (Psalm 118:22). His death for sin provided the theological basis for God to forgive believers. Jesus laid the foundation for the New Covenant teachings of the apostles whose New Testament writings are the infallible doctrines for the church.
7) The church was planned as a harmonious temple structure, all parts “being fitted together” (v. 21). This was an echo of Christ’s command to the church, “that you love one another” (john 13:34, 35). Those who unlovingly disturb the fellowship and unity of the church deface God’s temple.
8) The church is to be a holy temple (v. 21). The original tabernacle and temple provided a place where God, upon the mercy seat, could meet with man and be worshiped, and yet retain a separation between His holy presence and sinful man. The church is to be holy, just as Israel in the Old Testament was to be holy (Leviticus 20:7). This includes being separated from sin, and set apart for God’s service.
9) The church is to be a temple of prayer. Christ spoke of His earthly temple, and scolded the men of that age for making the temple “a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).
10) The church is to be a temple of teaching. Christ daily taught the truth about God in the temple (Luke 22:53). The early church continued to preach Christ in the temple as well as from house to house (Acts 2:46).
38-2 The Church: A Body
(1 Corinthians 12:12-31)
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. …For in fact the body is not one member but many” (vv. 13, 14). The apostle Paul sets forth the wonderful truth that the church (the body of believers) is, in a profound sense, Christ’s body now on earth. Just as Christ used the hands of His disciples to give the food to the five thousand (John 6:11), so today He uses the hands of His body, the church, to feed and care for His earthly children. “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (v. 27). Based on this truth, Paul sets forth the following teachings concerning the church:
1) God specifically commands that no member of His body think of himself as independently important (Romans 12:3). God warns us of this in a direct way because so many are prone to exalt themselves and lessen the worth of other believers.
2) Each member of the body has his own function. Sometimes a person who has a gift or interest in one area may criticize others who serve God in different ways. One may see his own area as of supreme importance; however, other areas are also important and necessary (vv. 15-18).
3) All members of the body belong to one another. All members, both prominent and obscure, are accepted servants of God; therefore all are to be honored (vv. 19-23).
4) Each member has different abilities given to him by God. It is improper to expect everyone to function well in all areas. God has given different members different abilities, concerns, insights, and interests. He did not intend for all to have the same talents and tasks. Each has a duty to God to pursue his or her own gift for His glory (Romans 12:6-8). The apostle teaches that each member should concentrate on performing his own job well, and not worry about what other members are doing (John 21:20-22).
5) Members have a duty to God to care for one another in the body (vv. 25, 26). If the foot is cut, the mouth does not laugh, but rather calls for help. We must help one another, not rival one another like immature children. Jealousy among Christians is a vestige of the old nature, and should not be allowed in the body of Christ.
38-3 The Church: Its Mission
The key Scripture passage for the mandate of the church during this present age is the passage we often call the Great Commission (vv. 18-20):
1) The church is commanded to make disciples of all nations (v. 19).
a) “Go” implies that the church, as a company of believers, is to be active and aggressive in winning the lost “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This shows us that our disciple-making must begin at our own home and continue moving outward until eventually, as a church, we reach all the nations of the world. We are to be active—not passive, defensive, or reactionary.
b) “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 you” (vv. 19, 20). This is evangelism. Every born-again believer is commissioned to go with the gospel and evangelize the world. We are to teach the lost their obligation to heed the Word of God, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
2) The church is commanded to baptize its disciples (v. 19). Surely this implies that they be admitted, recognized, loved, and accepted by His church. We are not to win them and then forget them; rather, we are to win them and establish them in the faith. Thus Paul did not merely preach the saving gospel; he also organized his converts into churches. He instructed them, cared for them, and visited and revisited them again and again. He admonished and encouraged them to obey the Lord in their service to Him and in their spiritual growth (Acts 15:36).
3) The church is commanded to teach its disciples “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (v. 20). Not only must we teach the lost so that they may believe and be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19), we must also teach those whom we have won to Christ to obey their Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and grow in grace and knowledge of Him.
38-4 The Church: A Mystery
In the ancient world the word mystery denoted a special meaning, different from our modern understanding of the word. Today we define it as a riddle or unsolved puzzle; but in the New Testament times it signified the secrets of a temple which only those who had been initiated were able to understand. With this orientation, the present passage suddenly becomes clear. Paul uses the word mystery three times (vv. 3, 4, 9). It is now clear that he is telling the secrets of God to those (the believers in Christ) who have now entered as full members into His holy temple. This newly revealed secret (the “mystery”) is His church. (v. 5).
1) Isaiah, seven hundred years before Christ, saw that the Gentiles would find their rest in Israel’s Messiah (Isaiah 11:10). That was not hidden. However, the following was hidden:
a.) The Gentiles would not have to become Jews (Acts 15:24).
b.) The Gentiles and Jews together would form one body of God’s children through faith in Christ (Romans 1:16).
The church was revealed to Paul and the other apostles by the Holy Spirit (vv. 3, 5). That the Gentiles and Jews would form this one holy, redeemed body in Christ was not explicitly revealed through Old Testament prophets—only the New Testament prophets understood this truth (John 10:16).
2) Through faith in Christ, Gentile believers are to become fellow-heirs of God’s promises of eternal blessing (v. 6). Israel, at the close of the age, will be saved; God will not nullify His promises to the patriarchs (Romans 11:26-28).
3) “The unsearchable riches” (v. 8) were to be the possession of those who become members of Christ’s church. These undoubtedly include spiritual riches such as forgiveness, righteousness, and holiness, as well as eternal life and bliss with Christ forever (Revelation 2:7, 17, 26, 27; cf. 3:5, 12, 21).
4) Loving fellowship exists in the church between Gentile and Jewish believers and Christ, as was never dreamed of by the ancient world (v. 9). The church will be Christ’s loving “wife” throughout all eternity (Revelation 19:7-9).
5) The church was eternally planned (vv. 9, 11). Since the beginning of the world, God had determined to save penitent people through the death of Christ, and to combine both believing Jews and Gentiles into His church.
6) The wisdom of God is made known by His wonderful plan of salvation, whereby Gentiles and Jews together are saved by grace, through faith in Christ (v. 10; Ephesians 2:8, 9).
7) The gospel message of salvation is the means of enlarging the church, as more believe in Christ, are cleansed, and are baptized by the Holy Spirit into His eternal assembly. No wonder Paul saw himself as unworthy of bearing such Good News to the Gentiles (vv. 7, 8). Paul says triumphantly, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
38-5 – The Church: It’s Builder
In this portion of Scripture, Jesus continued to reveal more of who He was and what He had come to do. First He asked His disciples two question; then, adding to their answers, He gave them new revelation concerning Himself.
1) “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They all gave the same answer: “One of the prophets” (vv. 13, 14).
2) “But who do you say that I am?” (v. 15) Peter answered, “You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the living God” (v. 16). Peter’s answer to his question was itself a revelation from God the Father (v. 17). Note its profound implications:
a) The incarnation of God’s only begotten Son was the fullest revelation of God’s plan of salvation. John said, “The Word [Christ, God’s Son] became flesh”, the Incarnation (John 1:14). God the Son was given a complete but sinless human nature, thus becoming the God-Man, having two natures in one person.
b) The next step in God’s revelation of eternal salvation was when God the Father’s only begotten Son was made to “be sin” for us. In His incarnation He was made flesh. He was not part God and part man; He was fully God and fully man. In His vicarious death on Calvary, He was made “to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). To be saved, one must believe in His incarnation (that He was virgin-born, conceived by the Holy Spirit – Luke 1:26-38), and that He died as our substitute on Calvary, was buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven with the promise to come again and resurrect the dead in Christ—His church (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; cf. Acts 1:6-9).
3) Then Jesus told them, “On this rock I will build My church” (v. 18). Jesus-who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), who walked upon the waters of Galilee (Matthew 14:22-36), who rebuked the wind and the raging of the water, causing the storms to cease (Luke 8:22-25), who spoke as no man ever spoke (John 7:46)—said, “You are Peter [petros – a stone], and on this rock [petra – a rocky ledge] I will build My church” (v. 18). There is no question about it: Christ is the one foundation of His church.
Christ is not only the foundation of His church; He is its architect and builder. The church is a holy temple, a habitation of God, through the Holy Spirit who indwells every born-again child of God (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). He is building His church ‘on the foundation [doctrine] of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-22). Israel drank from Christ, that “Rock” that followed them in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4); now He is the foundation and chief cornerstone of His church (1 Corinthians 3:11; cf. Isaiah 28:16). He is building His church upon Himself using only “living stones”, sinners saved by His grace. At no time did Peter believe that he was the foundation of the church. He spoke of Christ as the “living stone…chosen by God…a chief cornerstone, elect, precious,” but to unbelievers He is “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:4-8).
Master Outline 38 – The Nature of the Church
 The Church was what to the Old Testament Prophets?
 Who was the Church first revealed to?
 What was Paul and Barnabas’ message to the Jews?
 What was the mystery Christ revealed to Paul?
 What are seven (7) metaphors given by the Holy Spirit to help us understand the eternal relationship of Christ and his Church?
 What are the three (3) things a shepherd does?
 What are the three (3) stages of fruit bearing?
 The first Adam was given _____________________ the last Adam is the
 What did Jesus prophesy about his church?
 Who destroyed the second temple?
 List ten (10) striking lessons we get from scriptures concerning the Church of God’s temple?
 Paul set forth the wonderful truth that the Church (the body of believers) is what?
 Based on the principle of the “BODY”, what five (5) teachings did Paul set forth?
 Did God intend for all to have the same talents and tasks? YES or NO. Explain.
 We must ___________________ one another not ______________________ one another.
 What three (3) things are the Church commanded to do?
 What did the word “MYSTERY” means in the ancient world?
 What two (2) things were hidden from Isaiah 700 years before Christ?
 Through _____________________ _____________________ Gentile believers are
become __________________ _______________________ of God’s promise of eternal life.
 What are five (5) spiritual riches one experiences by being “in Christ?”
 The Church will be Christ _________________ ___________________ throughout all eternity!
 Was the church a last minute thought of God’s? YES or NO. Explain.
 What was Paul’s bold statement of mission in Romans 1:16?
 What two (2) questions did Jesus ask His disciples?
 What were the two (2) implications of Peter’s statement of who Jesus was?
 What truth did Jesus establish when he answered Peter in Matthew 16:18?
 Christ is not only the foundation of his church, what other two (2) things is he?
 Jesus Christ is building His _____________________ upon ___________________ using
only ______________________- ______________ ______________ ________________.
 Is Peter the foundation of the church? YES or NO. Explain.
The words, “in Christ” are used over 200 times in Paul’s writings!!!!