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Nature and foundations of church

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The church is the people called by God, who are united by their faith in Christ and by their common life in him. Various descriptions and metaphors emphasise the continuity between the people of God in the OT and NT.

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What Is the Church? Chapter One: The Church Is One

It was a prayer for Christian unity. Yet here we are, in the twenty-first century, and the church is probably more fragmented than at any time in church history. We’ve seen a crisis with the question, “What is the church after all?”

NT images of the church

The body of Christ

Romans 12:4–5 ESV
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
1 Corinthians 12:12–13 ESV
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

God’s building or temple

1 Corinthians 3:16–17 ESV
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
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A plant or vine

John 15:1–8 ESV
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
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Jesus Christ’s flock

John 10:14–16 ESV
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
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The bride of Christ

Revelation 21:2 ESV
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
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God’s household or family

Ephesians 2:19 ESV
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
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Abraham’s offspring:

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The people of God:

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The new Jerusalem:

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the Israel of God

Emphasising God’s call and authority in the church

Sons of God:

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The elect:

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Heirs of God and God’s inheritance:

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A priesthood:

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Descriptions applied to the church by outsiders

Followers of the Way:

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Christians; “the Nazarene sect” means people belonging to Jesus the “Nazarene” (Mt 2:23)

Descriptions used by Christians

The believers. All these titles are seldom in the singular, emphasising the corporateness of Christian life:

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The disciples:

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The “saints” is the most frequently used NT term for Christians. It means “set apart for God”, “made holy”:

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Other NT descriptions of the church

the pillar and foundation of the truth; The church of the firstborn. “the firstborn” is plural, referring to Christians as those born again through their union with Christ, who is the firstborn.

The foundation of the church

Jesus Christ as the church’s foundation-stone

1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
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Apostles and prophets as founders of the church

Ephesians 2:19–20 ESV
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
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The church as God’s people

A people chosen by God

1 Peter 2:9 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
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A people called by God

Romans 1:6 ESV
including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
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A people loved by God

1 Peter 2:10 ESV
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
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God’s covenant people

Hebrews 8:8–10 ESV
For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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