We've been in an extended study of the Good News Grace Gospel of Jesus Christ. We're getting back to the basics of Grace. Utilizing a question and answer format. So far we've seen under Grace, there is no condemnation. We've answered is God always pleased with us? Does He require anything of us? Today, I feel impressed to address an issue that affects many under Grace. What about the local church?
Has the local church been abolished under Grace? Do we no longer need Pastors and Teachers or Evangelists? Are these ministry gifts obsolete? Is church attendance and involvement somehow legalistic? What about the painful hurts and burdensome demands religion has perpetrated on the Body of Christ?
First, let's address the most pressing issue. The pain caused by religion. Church hurts, are not just people being hyper-sensitive. There are real hurts and pains people have suffered through controlling leadership and tradition ruled regulations. I am certain there are times we've all at one point allowed our emotions to rule a situation and made something out of nothing like someone didn't shake our hand right away. Though that is true, it doesn't discount the real pain religion has caused.
Healing in the Finished Work, healing for our hurts
1.) Love and Unity
We don't attend church weekly just to get something out of it. Church gives us an opportunity to express our love to other believers.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1 KJV
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10 NKJV
He joins and holds together the whole body with its ligaments providing the support needed so each part works to its proper design to form a healthy, growing, and mature body that builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:16
Being a part of a church allows us to abide in unity with each other. There we can build each other up in love. Belonging to a local church affords us the opportunity to be a blessing to our fellow believers. Sure you can love others in your living room. You can be a blessing anywhere. So why not leave your four walls and bring your love to a group of believers who have set aside time each week to worship Jesus? It isn't performance or works to bring your love to others in a corporate gathering.
2.) Ministry of the Holy Ghost and His gifts.
Being joined to a local church brings about a solid foundation where we can be encouraged through the gifts and ministry of the Spirit. It offers us opportunities to grow in exercising and flowing in these gifts ourselves. It allows us to encourage other believers.
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 1 Corinthians 14:1-4 KJV
Belonging to a local church allows for more of the corporate anointing to flow and bring about these gifts more and more. Again we can learn to flow more in these gifts and therefore build up others.
3.) Opportunity to bring your supply of the Spirit
For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:19 NKJV
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification 1 Corinthians 14:26 NKJV
Belonging to a local church offers us the chance to bring our supply to the Body of Christ. Never mind what religion, or friends our family have spoken over you, you have been given gifts by your Father in Heaven, you have a supply to bring. When we come together we can share insights, prayers, victories with others. We are corporately built up. We can help the hurting and downtrodden. Instead of keeping our gifts and insights to ourselves we can give to others.
4.) Belonging to a local Church provides fellowship for the Saints
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV
Belonging to a local Body of believers provides us with the essential fellowship we all need as Christians. Contrary to popular opinions, Christians aren't "lone wolves" or "mavericks". We all need one another. Let me touch on one subject that is of great importance.
Concerning fellowship with whom exactly do we fellowship within our Church? Do we only have Caucasians in our midsts? Or do we only have Hispanics among us? Or do we only have African Americans in our house of worship? Brethren this ought not to be so! We ALL need each other. There is no "white" church or "black" church. There is only ONE blood-bought Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Racism and identity politics is the way of the World. Not so for the believers in Christ Jesus! We are ALL brothers and sisters in Christ. Belonging to a local church allows us to fellowship across cultural lines if you will.
Keeping ourselves out of a church and because of bitterness or hurts creating "house" churches may not give us the opportunity to interact will all the Body. I refuse to go to a church that is only one "color" and others aren't welcome. I want to fellowship with ALL my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. You know each culture has something worthwhile to bring to the house of worship. While I'm on this subject let me just go all the way. This brotherhood and fellowship we have through Christ means there is no such thing as a "mixed" marriage. The Biblical definition of a mixed marriage is when a believer marries an unbeliever.
There is only one true color for Christians. It is red. Blood red! The blood of Jesus, amen! Let me make this as clear as I can. All cultures and "colors" are included in the Family of God if they have received Jesus as Lord. Therefore, I love all my brethren in Christ regardless of their skin color. If you're from Africa, or Russia, or China, or even Saudi Arabia and have received the Lord you are my family. I love you in Jesus Christ. The Cross is the great equalizer. We all need a Savior, so there is no superior ethnic group, we all were lost apart from Faith in Christ.
5.) The local church offers us a place to exhort one another
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 NKJV
Do you know the definition of exhorting? It means to comfort. It means to strengthen. It means to encourage. It also means to summon others to one's side. This is proof enough why we need the local church. We need each other! Again, church membership is not just so we can get something out of it. It is an opportunity for us to encourage and build up our fellow believer. We can be used by the Lord to stir up our fellow believers. What a great blessing to be a blessing!
6.) The gift of the five-fold ministry
God gave the Body of Christ a gift package. We haven't always received this gift package. Some have abused their gift that is sadly true. It doesn't negate the truth that a gift package has been given.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV
God gave these ministry gifts to the Church to build up the Church, to equip the Church. God raises up leadership to help us reach this World. There are some under Grace, who have claimed that these gifts are not for us today, especially the gift of the Pastor, that there never was any place for ministry gifts in the New Covenant because of the Finished Work.
God gave us the gift of the Pastor in the New Covenant. How can some deduct because of grace that the Pastor is no longer needed? The office or gift of Pastor is a New Covenant gift. How can one come to the conclusion it is a legalistic office or Old Covenant mindset? Sadly this is the apex of rebellious thinking.
Yes, many leaders have abused their position. That doesn't diminish the truth that there are sincere leaders in the Body of Christ. Let me also say this. It is not religious bondage or control to honor a Pastor or Teacher. I personally honor Pastor Joseph Prince because of the revelation of grace God has given him to share with the Body of Christ. The only time honor is out of order is when we must dishonor ourselves to honor a minister. When we create an atmosphere where the minister is the only one worthy of honor. We don't place anyone on a pedestal, or a status of "celebrity". A minister isn't "better" than anyone if you will. He does, however, have a gift from God for the Body of Christ, and we can gladly receive it. Think of it, if God gave us the office of Pastor then this is proof enough we need the local church.
7. Instruction of the Word of God.
Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word. Acts 6:4 NLT
2 Timothy 2:9 NLT
Finally, belonging to a local church affords us the opportunity to hear the instruction of the Word on a regular basis. This can bring much contention and disagreement because some will say I can find that on the internet or by buying a teaching message from a minister. That is true. However, being involved in a local gathering affords us to hear a right now word from one of God's ministry gifts.
Again, we as Christians we are not lone wolves or mavericks. We aren't a one-man Jesus show. We need each other. We need the fellowship of the brethren. Paul saw the need for the preached Word.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 NKJV
Hearing the Word preached has great benefit to us. It inspires us, it informs us and instructs us in the love and truth of God. Faith comes by hearing God's Word. Isolating yourself from others is never profitable and allows the enemy the opportunity to bring deception to derail your spiritual life, I didn't say cause you to lose salvation, we are secure in Grace.
In summation, it's clear we need the local church. Grace revelation doesn't do away with the local church. By His Grace, let go of all the hurts and misdeeds of others against you. Let the peace of God flow within you. Let His healing remove all shame and hurts from poor leadership. Find a loving, Bible-believing fellowship and bring your gifts to be a blessing there.
What about those who have no Grace ministry near? This is something we need the Grace of God to help us with. Because some have left the local church in pain they don't want anything to do with organized gatherings. Yet if we isolate ourselves we are preventing others from hearing this Good News Gospel and to find freedom from religion. Why are there so many Charismatic or Word of faith churches? Because, when they left the traditional denominational churches, they began raising up churches to proclaim those messages. We need to raise up by the Spirit Grace gatherings to minister to the lost and hurting.
If you are outside a local church, try to find fellow believers to fellowship with and don't isolate yourself. Find some good Grace teaching that is solid and Bible-based and continue to grow in Grace. Until there is a Grace gathering near fellowship with fellow Christians who are as close to Grace as possible. Remember, there is still One Church, One Body of Christ. No man is our enemy. We can show love even when some revile us. Remember, we all need each other, One family of God, just pray for our brethren to get an understanding of His Grace.
Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net