What is Church? – Part 1

Over the past two weeks, we focused on issues of particular importance during this time of global fear. First, we looked at what balance looks like because we needed to understand fear vs. faith. A healthy balance includes the fear (reverence) of the Lord. Second, we took a look in the mirror to discover what truly sets us apart as Christians—the message of Jesus Christ. (If you haven’t read these posts yet, check out A Church Set Apart, Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.)

The Message of Jesus Christ

What’s so important about the Message of Jesus Christ is that it shows us how God operates. God created the world through speaking, and he is recreating the world the same way—through the spoken word. In our previous series, we learned that we, as God’s people, are set apart because of this message. With this in mind, let’s move onto the idea of what constitutes “Church?” What does it really mean when we’re commanded to assemble together as God’s people? What does this idea of “Church” have to do with sanctification?

It’s all intimately connected.

What constitutes “Church?” What does it really mean when we’re commanded to assemble together as God's people? #church #biblestudy Click To Tweet

“Be the Church”

No doubt you’ve seen social media posts saying that the Church has an opportunity during this time to, “Be the Church rather than go to church.” There’s a measure of truth here, but the critical idea that we can’t forget is that we, as the people of God, are the church. No one individual constitutes the Church by themselves. And no building constitutes the Church.

There is a “we” in all of this. No matter what our views are on our physical meeting places, we must remember that we don’t go to Church, we are the Church. Now, some use this idea as an excuse to not assemble with the saints. Some refuse to assemble, saying that they’ve been hurt by the Church and that the Church is imperfect. There’s a saying that sums up the idea of a “perfect” church. It says, “If you find a perfect church, don’t go anymore or you’ll ruin it.”

The reality is that we, you and I, are what make the Church imperfect, but that should never stop us from assembling with each other.

People who use the excuse that “church is not a building” in order to stop attending are really just saying that they don’t like people and/or that they don’t like the system because they’ve been hurt.

No one individual constitutes the Church by themselves. And no building constitutes the Church. #church #biblestudy Click To Tweet

Building, System, or People?

On the other side of the spectrum are congregations which believe that whatever happens within their walls during a service always displays “true” Church. Therefore, if you’re not in their building every time the doors are open, then somehow you are violating a Biblical standard.

This is simply not true. These congregations even resist government orders to stop meeting in groups of ten or more, arguing that they are the only ones walking by faith. Or they comment, “We have to obey God, not man.” Well, the same Bible that tells us we should obey God is the same Bible that says, “Submit to governing authorities.”

We must walk in wisdom to protect ourselves from these two fundamental misunderstandings. We cannot be those who fail to see the “we” in Church. Neither can we be those who include their buildings and/or systems in the “we.” To believe either is to lack a good “Theology of Tools.” and we need to understand what tools should be used at what times, and how it will play out.

The Foundation

The term “Theology of Tools” comes from a pastor I respect, Doug Wilson but before we explore this idea further, let’s take a look at Hebrews 10:19-26. This passage is vital for our understanding of the issues we are considering. Let’s establish some Gospel truths and then we’ll move into the “Theology of Tools.”

Let’s dive in with Hebrews 10:19-22, these verses lay the foundation for what follows in verses 23-26.

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us…”

Let’s stop right there and look at the foundation which Paul builds on to give us the three “let us” statements which will follow in verses 22-26. What we see in this foundation is Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

The Fulfillment

Once per year, as required by Levitical Law, a Hebrew priest would be chosen by lot to enter the Holy of Holies and offer a sin sacrifice for the Israelite people. It’s interesting to note that the people would tie a rope on this priest’s leg in case he happened to die while he was in the Holy of Holies. With this rope, they could drag the priest out without having to enter into the presence of God themselves. We can see their fear of the Lord in the fact that they wouldn’t chance going in themselves, not even to drag out a dead priest.

But, rope aside, entering the Holy of Holies was a great privilege to the priest who was able to enter the presence of God. Fast forward to the New Testament and we see that when Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil was torn in two. That tearing of the veil, even as Jesus’s own body was torn, established that Jesus is now the only way to God. Jesus is now and forever our great high priest.

When Jesus died, the temple veil was torn. That tearing of the veil, even as Jesus’s own body was torn, established that Jesus is now the only way to God. #goodfriday Click To Tweet

Our High Priest

Because of Jesus, we have confidence to enter the Holy place. Why? Because his blood was sprinkled over us. Connecting this to the Old Testament and Levitical Law, we understand what is being communicated. Even as the priest would make a cleansing for sin by sprinkling blood on the Mercy Seat, Jesus cleanses us with his blood and enables us to meet God. Jesus alone brings us into a right communion with God.

This is why in Hebrews 10 we see Jesus’s body, which is the veil, broken for us. Where do we get this image of Jesus’s body broken for us? In Mark 14, we see Jesus, blessing the communion elements—his body, broken for us. What does his blood do? It is the New Covenant in his blood.

In the Old Covenant, blood was sprinkled over the Mercy Seat, in the Holy of Holies, and created cleansing for the people and opportunity to meet God. What would happen in this meeting? God would disseminate mercy.

Mercy at the Mercy Seat

The heart is the seat of our emotions. It’s the place from which our emotions, or lives, flow. The Mercy Seat was the place from which God’s mercy was disseminated to people. What’s really important to note is that the blood of Jesus and his veil, his body broken for us, was what made it possible for us to receive God’s mercy. Now we can commune with God.

We can meet with God because we are cleansed before God. God himself is the place of mercy. Without the sprinkling of Jesus’s blood, without his torn veil (his body), we’d have nothing. But because of what Jesus has done, we have everything.

Let’s Talk

In the next part of the series, we will delve into what “everything” means as we look at the reality of the abundant life Jesus has given us. Until then, I’d love to hear how you’ve viewed the idea of Church, and if that view has changed, or is changing. Comment below or email me at nathan@nathanfranckhauser.com.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: