God's Provision Through the Local Church

Steve Viars January 25, 1992

- we're studying Basic Bible truths
   - so far we've completed 4 studies (assurance, growth,
     God's Word, prayer)

- today we're moving into a fifth topic - "God's Provision
    Through the Local Church"

Introduction:

  - I'd like us to begin this morning by thinking about some
    of the things being "said out there" about the concept of
    the church.

  

I. Why This Study Is Important

    A. The local church is God's primary provision for our
       growth and service

       - Matt. 16:18

       - when the Jews had officially rejected Jesus Christ
         (Matt. 12), the Lord began revealing His plan for
         the coming age
       - its critical that we note that Jesus began talking
         about the church

       - the church in general and local churches in
         particular are the central focus of God's plan and
         program for this age
       - when you think about what our Lord is doing today--
           it's right to think about the local church as plan
            A, B, and C
       - I'm sure if we could speak directly to the Lord
         about what is on His mind today--it wouldn't be long
         before He was talking about what's happening in the
         church
            - more important than the American economy
            - more important than the political events around
               our world
            - surely more important than whether Purdue is
              going to finish in the upper division of the
              Big Ten!

      - the local church is God's primary provision for our
        growth and service

      - that’s why the Bible places such a heavy emphasis on
        being a part of one
           - cf. Heb. 10:25

      - now we're not saying this (like some do)
         - that salvation comes through the church
         - or that you come to church to get your "zap", or
           your infusion of grace

      - salvation is a personal relationship with God through
        trusting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
      - it is an individual, personal relationship
          - but once a person is saved - the organism that
            Jesus has provided to foster and nurture that
            relationship is the local church

    B. The Bulk of the NT is Written to Local Churches

        - Because of what we said under point "A", its not
          surprising that much of the NT is written to NT
          churches
        - the book of Corinthians is written to the church at
          Corinth - I Cor. 1:1
        - the book of Ephesians... - Eph. 1:1

        - even the book of Revelation is written to seven
          local churches - Rev. 1:4

        - point is - a person is not going to be able to
           understand and appreciate (and certainly apply)
           God's Word if they're not a part of a church
             - a person who tries to do that is like the
               person who reads someone else's mail

    C. Even when the church had problems - the Lord didn't
       discard the church

       - Acts 6 describes some of the first problems in the
         church
       - read 6:1-4

       - point is - the Lord could have easily ordained
          another group/organization/something to take the
          place of the church

       - but the Lord didn't do that
           - instead they found a solution to the problem
             that helped the church run smoother

           - we said earlier in the introduction that some
             folks have declared the church to be a failure
           - as a result, they've concluded that there must
             be better ways to get God's work done than the
             church

           - this passage shows that's not true

- I want to be sure that we've said here that we're not
  necessarily opposed to other groups that service the church
  in one way or another

    - I'm talking about mission boards, colleges, children's
      homes, etc.
    - but those groups must be in submission to local
       churches
    - they must have a high view of the local church
    - its wrong for a college to think they can adequately
       train young people without a strong emphasis on the
       church
    - its wrong for a mission board to send missionaries out
      who don't have any accountability to local churches, or
      who aren't seeking to establish NT churches on the
      field (following the example of Paul in the book of
      Acts)
    - its wrong for groups to try to win people to Christ and
      disciple them if they're not going to encourage those
      disciples to become faithful members of a local church

    - the concept of the church hasn't outlived its
      usefulness, and one of the reasons we know that is
      because of the way the Lord solved the problem in Acts
      6

(another reason we need to study this subject is because:)

    D. To be effective, a church must be organized and
        administered biblically

       - today and in the next few weeks, we're going to
         study what the NT says about:
            - how churches are organized
            - who can be a member
            - what the church should be trying to accomplish
            - who does what and why

       - we need to study this topic, because we can only
          expect God's blessing if we're committed to doing
          things His way

II. What Is The Church?

    A. Common uses today

        - people talk about the "church" in several different
          ways
            - not all these ways are legitimate biblically,
               but let's mention them quickly

        1. a local congregation of professed believers

        2. a denominational group of congregations (cf. the
             Brethren church, the Baptist church, etc)

        3. the universal body of true Christian believers

        4. a building used for religious uses

            INPUT - biblically speaking, which of these
                legitimate? (2 and 4)

    B. Biblical uses

        - word church literally means "called out ones"
        - from ek (out) and kalew (to call)
        - cf. ecclesiology, ecclesiastical

        - in the Bible, the word is used primarily in one of
            two ways
        1. "universal" church

            a. definition - the spiritual body of all
                Christians from the Day of Pentecost to the
                rapture

            b. biblical evidence

                - predicted by Jesus - John 17:21

                - fulfilled even in imperfect churches -
                    I Cor.  12:12, 13

                - secured by the Holy Spirit - Eph. 1:3

                - perpetuated by biblical living - Eph. 4:3
                    (keep, not make)

            c. limitations

               - there are two important things to remember
                   about the NT teaching regarding the
                   universal church
               - 1) most of the uses of the word church speak
                    of the local church (which we'll study in
                    a moment), not the universal church
                       - therefore, don't take this doctrine
                          "to seed"
               - 2) there are real limitations to the
                     universal church

                1. it never meets in this age

                2. it never makes decisions

                3. it never administers ordinances

                4. it never preaches or sends missionaries


        2. the "local" church

            a. this is the primary usage of the word "church"
                in the NT (word used 115 times, refers to
                local churches over 90 times)

            b. definition - "a body of baptized believers
                 convening together for worship, growth,
                 fellowship, service, and to carry out the
                 commission given by its Head, Jesus Christ."

            c. missions - as taught in the NT, is the making
                of disciples and the organization of churches
                for the above purpose

- now let's stop and think about some applications from what
   we've been studying
- we're talking about a major Bible doctrine
- we're talking about the central focus of God's plan and
    program in this age
- we're talking about a concept the Lord discussed over 90
    times in the NT
INPUT - What kind of response should that produce in us?
         (there are so many things clamoring for your time,
          for your family's time
             - does the local church have the same central
               focus in your mind as it does in the mind of
               God?

             - is it apparent by your worship habits,
               thinking habits, attendance habits, serving
               habits, giving habits,
                          - the way you live - that the local
                             church has the proper place in
                             your life?

        - men - does it have the proper place in the way
            you're leading your family?
               - some men have led their family into such
                 materialism that the family is too exhausted
                 to effectively serve and get involved.

        - wives - does it have the proper place in the way
            you function in the family?
              - some wives will not develop the discipline
                necessary to get up in the morning and get
                things done so they are free to serve and get
                involved.

        - how about the goals you have for your kids?
           - how important is to you that they have the right
              view of the church?
                 - of the church leaders and programs?

           - how are you going to handle it when your kids
              get into youth group and decide they don't want
              to be involved in this or that?
           - what are you going to do if they have little
              league games on Sundays that conflict with
              service times?
          - what are you going to do when they want to get a
              job that will prevent them from attending or
              being involved in church?

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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