THE BUILDING AND
FUNCTION OF THE CHURCH
word “church” is from the Greek, “ekklesia” (ecclesia). The ecclesia is not a building or synagogue,
but it’s the people. It has to do with
people and their relationship with each other and with Christ. In Rom. 16:3 “the ecclesia” was in the house
of Aquila and Priscilla. The church was
in their house. The edification process
was taking place in their home, not because of the house itself, but because of
the Spirit operating within the people/the ecclesia within the house.
individuals today who believe the evangel of our salvation (Eph. 1:13; 1Cor.
15:1-4) belong to the ecclesia which is referred to as “the Body of Christ”
(Eph. 1:23; 1Cor. 12:13). This is the
ecclesia of which Paul became a dispenser in accord with the administration of
the grace of God that was given to him for us, and is part of the information
that completes the Word of God (Col. 1:24-27; Eph. 3:1-2).
ecclesia/the Body of Christ has within it many smaller ecclesias scattered
throughout the world. All such ecclesias
(churches), though they are small, together, make up the ecclesia/ the Body of
Christ/the complement of the One completing the all in all (Eph. 1:23). As believers today we all belong to this one
Body (1Cor. 12:13; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 2:15).
Paul was a
called Apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God (1Cor. 1:1), and was
severed for the evangel of God (Rom. 1:1), the evangel that he described as
“the evangel of uncircumcision” (Gal. 2:7-9).
This is the evangel of which Paul was appointed a herald and an Apostle
and a teacher of the Gentiles (2Tim. 1:11; 1Tim. 2:7).
God appointed Paul as our Apostle and teacher, we need to look at how he
founded churches and what he thought was important about them.
A PRACTICAL SEQUENCE
With this in
mind, we will begin in Acts 14:19-23. In
these verses we are given a pattern for the building and functioning of the
First, Paul proclaimed the evangel to the
city (v. 21). The evangelist precedes
the pastor and teacher. Individuals have
to hear the evangel and believe before they receive teaching and grow in
Then after some respond to the evangel,
the next step is for their souls to be established along with the encouragement
for them to remain in the faith (Acts 14:22).
This is the work within the local ecclesia (see Eph. 4:12-13; Gal.
does Luke mean when he writes, “establishing the souls of the disciples”? The soul is linked to our feelings or
emotions. Faith, however, is not based
on feelings, but on spiritual fact. Then
our faith causes our feelings to keep from being up and down like a roller
coaster. Our feelings, when based on our
faith, will become more steady and established.
In this current administration of grace, God establishes us in accord
with Paul’s evangel (Rom. 16:25).
the necessity of our souls being established, we all need encouragement to be
remaining in the faith (Acts 14:22).
Note – “the faith” – also refers to the complete set of doctrine and
instruction that the Apostle Paul received from our Lord. We are entreated to be remaining in “this
faith.” Why? One reason is because as we begin to live
devoutly, we shall suffer persecution and affliction. As Paul states, “through many afflictions
must we be entering into the kingdom of God” (v. 22). This is another reason why we need to be
established. The more established we
are, the more we will be able to remain in the faith, not being tossed to and
fro with every wind of teaching (Eph. 6:10-18).
when Paul mentions the kingdom of God in verse 22, he isn’t referring to the
future kingdom that Israel is looking forward to when that nation once again
becomes God’s covenant People. The kingdom
of God that Paul is referring to has a present
aspect to it. In Rom. 14:17 he defines
it as “righteousness and peace and joy in holy Spirit.” Likewise, in Col. 1:13 Paul thanks the Father
Who makes us competent and rescues us out of the jurisdiction of Darkness, and
transports us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” These are blessings that we as believers are
a part of now! Nonetheless, through many
afflictions must we be entering into righteousness and peace and joy in holy
Paul writes to Timothy, he reflects back to his first missionary journey as we
have recorded in Acts 13 and 14. He
“Now you fully follow me in my teaching, motive, purpose,
faith, patience, love,
endurance, persecutions, sufferings, such as occurred to me in Antioch, in Iconium, in Lystra:
persecutions such as I undergo, and out of them all the Lord rescues me. And all who are wanting to live devoutly in
Christ Jesus shall be
persecuted. Yet wicked men and swindlers
shall wax worse and worse,
deceiving and being deceived” (2Tim. 3:10-13).
order of the cities—Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. This is the same order in which Paul passed
through them in Acts 13 soon after he and Barnabas were severed by the holy
Spirit (Acts 13:2). Among the things
Timothy is to follow Paul in is his persecutions and sufferings such as
occurred to him when he was in these cities.
It is just a fact that all who live devoutly in Christ Jesus shall be
persecuted, yet it is worth it, for it is through such sufferings that we also
enter into righteousness and peace and joy in holy Spirit.
“within the local ecclesia the believers are to be exhorted in the faith!” (“UVB”
Third, there needs to be an emerging of
elders as a means of the ecclesia perpetuating itself (Acts 14:23). Notice “they did not send young people away
to seminary school to learn how to run a business. They were taught the word of God by the local
ecclesia and if they were faithful and desired the office of leadership it was
prayed about. If the individuals were
qualified they were then appointed to office” (“UVB” note #1376).
We have an
example of this in Titus. Paul had left
Titus in Crete and had given him instructions—first to amend what is lacking
(perhaps because they had deviated from Paul’s teaching) and then constitute
elders city by city (1:5). Paul wanted a
purity of doctrine and evangel proclaimed clearly. In order for this to be done, the
establishing of saints was necessary and then people who were faithful had to
be selected in order to perpetuate the teaching within the ecclesia.
instructions were given to Timothy. Paul
writes, “You, then, child of mine, be invigorated by the grace which is in
Christ Jesus. And what things you hear
from me through many witnesses, these commit to faithful men, who shall be
competent to teach others also” (2Tim. 2:1-2).
was to entrust others of what he heard from the Apostle Paul. Paul wanted individuals to be raised up who
would be faithful and would be competent to teach others. In this way the message and teaching would be
sustained. He knew he wasn’t always
going to be there for these ecclesias.
Therefore it was critical that others would be able to carry on the work
that God had begun with him. This was on
Paul’s mind when he told the elders of the ecclesia at Ephesus, “Now I
am aware that, after I am out of reach, burdensome wolves will be entering
among you, not sparing the flocklet. And
from among yourselves will arise men, speaking perverse things to pull away
disciples after themselves. Wherefore
watch, remembering that for three years, night and day, I cease not admonishing
each one with tears. And now I am committing
you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to edify and give the
enjoyment of an allotment among all who have been hallowed” (Acts 20:29-32).
establishing of souls and faithful men and women competent to teach others were
important in Paul’s day, how much more are these things necessary today? We are told to put on the panoply of God, to
enable us to stand up to the stratagems of the Adversary, for it is not ours to
wrestle with blood and flesh, but with the sovereignties, with the authorities,
with the world-mights of this darkness, with the spiritual forces of wickedness
among the celestials” (Eph. 6:11-12).
“The enemy comes against us hard and the local ecclesia is the first
line of defense against such attacks. As
believers come together, things lacking in their lives can be set in order and
they learn how to live in the status of who God made them” (Bill Petri). It is in the local ecclesia where we have the
establishing of our souls taking place and we are being exhorted and
encouraged. As individual members of the
ecclesia/the Body of Christ, as we have occasion, we work for the good of all,
yet specially for the family of the faith (Gal. 6:10), in order that we may be
adjusted for the work of dispensing, for the up-building of the Body of Christ,
unto the end that we should all attain to the unity of the faith and of the
realization of the son of God, to a mature man…(Eph. 4:12-13).
This is the
work of the local ecclesia. As
unbelievers hear and believe, they need to gather together with other saints
(believers) where their souls should be in the process of being established,
along with the entreaty to be remaining in the faith, and faithful men and
women emerge who will be competent to teach others also. In this manner, the evangel and “type of
teaching” to which we were given over (Rom. 6:17), will continually be perpetuated
until Christ comes for His ecclesia—His Body (1Thess. 4:13-18).
Article by Ted McDivitt