“I’m a spiritual person, but I just don’t believe in ‘organized religion.’” Have you ever heard someone say this? So… they believe in disorganized religion? What is that? People bumping into each other and no one knowing what’s going on? Or how about the sentiment, “I like Jesus I just don’t like the church.” That’s like telling a man who is a dedicated, loving husband, “I like you I just don’t like your wife.” How do you think he would respond?
These ideas are fairly common but they are a bigger deal than you probably realize. If the church is what the Bible says it is, then to claim any religious or spiritual standing with God and yet to despise His church, is a great error.
Pastor and author Mark Dever, summarizing the Bible’s teaching on the church, puts it this way: “The church should be regarded as important to Christians because of its importance to Christ. Christ founded the church (Matthew 16:18), purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28), and intimately identifies Himself with it (Acts 9:4). The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), the dwelling place of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and the chief instrument for glorifying God in the world (Ephesians 3:10). Finally, the church is God’s instrument for bringing both the gospel to the nations and a great host of redeemed humanity to Himself (Luke 24:46-48).” In other words, the church is a big deal because it is a big deal to God!
The church is not the idea of any man or organization; rather, the church has its origins in the mind of Christ. Jesus says, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus not only is the founder of the church, but He is also the sustainer of the church. Some have claimed that the true church had left the world after the death of the apostles, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus not only said that He would build His church but that He would keep it. Jesus continues speaking to Peter and the other apostles, saying “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [the church].” (Matthew 16:18)
Why would Jesus continue to protect and keep His church? Jesus paid for the church with His precious blood upon the cross (Acts 20:28); therefore, He intimately identifies with His church – His people. When Saul is ravaging against the early Christians in the book of Acts, Jesus steps in, knocks Saul down, speaking out “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” As the followers of Christ are being persecuted Jesus is right there with them. He does not leave His people; He has and always will care for His church.
Finally, we must recognize that according to the Bible, the true church of Jesus Christ is not a building or an organization. No, the church is a supernatural entity made up of all those who have been born again by the Spirit of God. The church is the people who have been purchased by the blood of Christ. The church is to be found wherever and whenever true followers of Christ are gathered. Whether that is in a home, a coffee shop, a school, or a church building, the church is the assembly of the redeemed. As the Spirit of God dwelled in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, now the Spirit dwells in the people of God because we are the temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) That is why we no longer need a physical temple building in order to be near to God and serve Him. The people whom God has called out of darkness are the supernatural dwelling place of God. We are the church, we are the temple, we are what God by His grace has called us to be.
Being part of the church, therefore, is an awesome calling and a blessed privilege. It is a joyful thing to gather week in and week out together with others who have tasted of the grace of God. To be with those whom God is using to forward His kingdom. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ but you do not belong to a Bible-believing, Christ-centered church, I would encourage you to do so. Do not forsake gathering together with the people of God (Hebrews 10:25) but find joy in being part of the church Christ has built and is building daily through the salvation of His saints.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ