Screenshot of the FaithLife App
Jim contributed an article on the topic of “church” to the new FaithLife Study Bible. For his contribution, Logos has extended free access to the app to the Calvary Church congregation.If you have an iPhone or iPad and would like the FaithLife App, search for it in the App store. You have to register for the app as if you were going to buy it and then at the end you put in the coupon code — FaithLifeVIP. If you need additional assistance, you can check out the FaithLife website.
The FaithLife Study Bible describes itself as “an always-growing digital study Bible that works with many modern translations, allowing readers to delve through study notes and share them with groups. The FSB app puts a wide array of Bible study tools on your mobile device, including the following: ·
- NIV, ESV, NKJV, NASB, and several other popular Bible translations (license required)
- 3 layers of study notes
- Lexham Bible Dictionary (2,500+ articles)
- Lexham English Bible
- Shared notes and reading plans
- About 400 photos, videos, and infographics”
I spent some time playing around with the app. While it will take a little bit of time to figure it out, it does provide a lot of great free study resources at your fingertips that would have required a wall of bookshelves in the past — one of the great benefits of technology.
If you don’t have access to this technology, or already use a program that works well for you, Jim’s article is reprinted at the end of this post.
All is well,
The Greek word for “church” is the word “ekklesia,” which means “assembly.” The first two appearances of this word in the New Testament occur in Matthew’s gospel on the lips of Jesus. In the first instance (Matt. 16:18), Jesus says “I will build my church (i.e. assembly).” This is a reference to the Old Testament notion of the “assembly of Israel.” On the most important day in the history of the nation, Israel experienced God’s presence while assembled around Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19-20). From that day on, God continued to meet with his people as they assembled around the Tabernacle and later the Temple, linking Israel’s experience of God’s presence with their being in assembly. In Matthew 16: 18 Jesus proclaims for New Testament believers that He will create a similar assembly – what we know of as the church. This is why Jesus’ next reference to the church (Matthew 18:15-20) contains the promise “where two or three are gathered in my name there I am present with them in their midst” (Matt 18:20). The fundamental idea of church is that it is the assembly of people gathered in Jesus’ name in which Jesus is uniquely present. For this reason Paul can speak of Jesus being uniquely present when the church assembles for church discipline (1 Cor. 5:4), communion (1 Cor. 11:27-32), and worship (1 Cor. 14:23-25). God’s unique presence in and through the church is the reason why the church is where God’s power and glory can be found in a special way (Eph. 3:21), where we experience the heavenly assembly (Heb 12:22-24) and how we draw near to God (Heb. 10:19-25).
This basic idea that church is how we experience Jesus’ unique presence with us and the means through which we are uniquely connected to God is reinforced through other images used of the church in the New Testament. The church is identified as the Body of Christ (e.g. 1 Cor. 12, Col. 1:24, Eph. 1:22-23); the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17, 2 Cor. 6:16, Eph. 2:20-21); the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33); and the People of God (e.g. 1 Pet. 2:9-10).
Because church is the means through which we experience God’s unique presence, it is also the means by which we experience fellowship with one another (Acts 2:42-47; Eph. 2:10-14; 1 John 1:7), the means by which we grow and mature in the faith (Eph. 4:7-16), the means through which God accomplishes great things in this world (Eph. 3:20-21), and the means by which God makes visible the invisible Christ for the world to see (Eph. 1:22-23).
There are two different, but interrelated referents for the word “church”: the Universal Church comprised of all believers everywhere and specific local churches like the church in Corinth, which assemble together regularly in a specific location. These two referents are connected to one another so that just as Paul in the same passage Paul can say “we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor 12:13) speaking of the Universal Church, he can also say, “Now you are the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27) speaking of the local church at Corinth. Likewise in Ephesians when Paul speaks of Universal Church in Eph. 2:20 saying, “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord,” he then immediately turns around and speaks of the local church in 2:21 saying, “in him, you too are being build together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” The best way to understand the relationship between the Universal Church and the local church is to realize that each local church is considered a full manifestation of the Universal Church so that if you want to find the Universal Church participate in a local church.
Because the church is created by God for the purpose of allowing us to experience His unique presence in an on-going way, participating in a local church is absolutely essential. This is illustrated beautifully in an old story of a man who had once been an integral part of a church body but had slowly decreased his involvement at church to the point where he was no longer attending. The pastor of the church decided to pay him a visit. It was a cold winter’s evening. When the pastor arrived at the man’s home, he was cordially greeted, and the two men sat down for a conversation in front of a warm fire. The man waited for the pastor to begin speaking, while they both stared at the fire. After a minute or two of awkward silence, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it all alone, away from the flames on the hearth. Then he sat back in his seat. The two men watched together as slowly the once red-hot ember began to fade until it was cold and dead. The pastor then stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back into the middle of the fire. Immediately the ember was ablaze again with the light and heat of the burning wood around it. A smile of understanding crept across the man’s face. He led the pastor to the door and said with a tear in his eye, ‘Thank you for coming. I will be back next Sunday.” (taken from J. Samra, The Gift of Church, 2010).
Additionally, because the church is created by God for the purpose of allowing us to experience His unique presence in an on-going way, the church often finds itself under attack by the spiritual forces of darkness. Although Jesus proclaimed that the church would ultimately be victorious (Matt. 16:18), there are inevitable set backs along the way. As a result God’s presence in the church is often veiled by the sinfulness of humans who make up the church and church’s true beauty is often obscured. This was one of the points of the Shepherd of Hermas, a second-century Christian writing in which the church is represented by a woman. The narrator meets this woman at various points throughout the story. When he first meets her, he sees her as an aged, unattractive old woman. But as the book continues, the narrator becomes more aware of his own sinfulness and grows in his understanding of the grace God gives to the church. As he does so the church becomes younger and more beautiful each time he sees her. For this reason we sometimes have to look hard to find the beauty of God’s presence in the midst of the church.
Yet despite its flaws, the church was designed by God to allow us to continue to experience his presence in a very real and powerful way. Therefore, we conclude with the author of Hebrews, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as we see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:22a, 25).