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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.


NT images of the church

The body of Christ

Romans 12:4–5 NASB95
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
See also 1 Co 12:12; 1 Co 12:27; Eph 3:6; Eph 5:23; Col 1:18; Col 1:24; Col 2:19; Col 3:15

God’s building or temple

1 Corinthians 3:16–17 NASB95
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
See also 1 Co 3:10; 2 Co 6:16; Eph 2:21–22; Heb 3:6; Heb 10:21; 1 Pe 2:5

A plant or vine

John 15:1–8 NASB95
“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 bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
See also Ro 11:17–24; 1 Co 3:6–8

Jesus Christ’s flock

John 10:14–16 NASB95
“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
See also Mt 25:33; Lk 12:32; Ac 20:28–29; 1 Pe 5:2–4

The bride of Christ

Revelation 21:2 NASB95
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
See also Eph 5:25–27; Eph 5:31–32; Re 19:7; Re 22:17

God’s household or family

Ephesians 2:19 NASB95
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,
See also Jn 8:35–36; Ga 6:10; Eph 3:15; 1 Ti 3:15; Heb 2:11; 1 Pe 2:17; 1 Pe 4:17

NT descriptions of the church

Emphasising continuity with the OT church

Abraham’s offspring:

Ro 4:16; Ga 3:7; Ga 3:29

The people of God:

Ro 9:25; 2 Co 6:16; Heb 13:12; 1 Pe 2:9–10

The new Jerusalem:

Ga 4:26; Heb 12:22; Re 3:12; Re 21:2; Re 21:9–10
Ga 6:16 the Israel of God

Emphasising God’s call and authority in the church

Sons of God:

Mt 5:9; Jn 1:12; Ro 8:15–16; 2 Co 6:18; Ga 3:26; Ga 4:5–6; 1 Jn 3:10

The elect:

Mt 24:22; Ro 11:7; 2 Ti 2:10; 1 Pe 1:1

Heirs of God and God’s inheritance:

Ro 8:17; Ga 3:29; Ga 4:7; Tt 3:7; Heb 1:14; Heb 6:17; 1 Pe 1:4

A priesthood:

1 Pe 2:5; 1 Pe 2:9; Re 1:6; Re 5:10; Re 20:6

Descriptions applied to the church by outsiders

Followers of the Way:

Ac 9:2; Ac 19:9; Ac 19:23; Ac 22:4; Ac 24:14
Ac 11:26 Christians; Ac 24:5 “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:

Ac 1:15; Ac 2:44; Ac 5:12; Ga 6:10; 1 Ti 4:12; 1 Pe 2:17

The disciples:

Ac 6:1–2; Ac 9:19; Ac 11:26; Ac 14:22; Ac 20:1

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

Ro 1:7; Ro 15:25; 1 Co 6:1; 1 Co 14:33; Eph 1:1; Php 4:21; Col 1:12; Jud 3

Other NT descriptions of the church

1 Ti 3:15 the pillar and foundation of the truth; Heb 12:23 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 NASB95
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
See also Mt 7:24–25; Mt 21:42; Ac 4:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Pe 2:6; Is 28:16; 1 Pe 2:7; Ps 118:22

Apostles and prophets as founders of the church

Ephesians 2:19–20 NASB95
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
See also Mt 16:18–19; Re 21:14

The church as God’s people

A people chosen by God

1 Peter 2:9 NASB95
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
See also Jn 15:16; Ro 8:33; Eph 1:4; Col 3:12; 2 Th 2:13; Jas 2:5; 1 Pe 1:2

A people called by God

Romans 1:6 NASB95
among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
See also Ac 2:39; 1 Co 1:2; 1 Co 1:9; Ga 1:6; 2 Th 2:14; 2 Ti 1:9; Jud 1

A people loved by God

1 Peter 2:10 NASB95
for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
See also Eph 2:1–5; Tt 3:4–7

God’s covenant people

Hebrews 8:8–10 NASB95
For finding fault with them, He says, Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers On the day when I took them by the hand To lead them out of the land of Egypt; For they did not continue in My covenant, And I did not care for them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people.
See also Ro 11:27; Is 59:20–21; Heb 10:16; Je 31:31–33
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