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Old 08-02-2020, 02:45 PM   #1
Sons to Glory!
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Question What is the Church really?

We've had several interesting threads about the church (the universal ekklesia) of Christ on here. WL is infamous for saying something like "We are becoming God in life & nature, but not in the Godhead." (is that stating it accurately?) And maybe his statement is going too far in trying to grasp this mysterious concept. But to say the least, the depiction in Ephesians is that the church is something really awesome, high and glorious - God's masterpiece - above what human thinking can easily comprehend.

So I thought it would be good to start a thread about what we think the church actually is, and it's place in God's grand design. What do you see is the nature of this most amazing corporate entity we've been put into by Him?
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Old 08-03-2020, 09:26 AM   #2
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Default Re: What is the Church really?

The church is referred to in various places as the body of Christ, the assembly (paraphrased), the pillar and ground of the truth, and eventually, the bride of Christ (among other things). There is no singular definition of the collection of those who believe in and follow (obey) Christ, but rather a lot of description. The references to ekklesia make some implications about gathering. And in Hebrews there is the warning against failing to meet with others (though not expressly saying that such meeting is church).

Some would say that the church is the believers as they are actively engaged in following Christ while others may say that even in our often state of "floating along" we are still part of the church. I understand arguments both ways.

But I do not believe that there is any way to say that the church is some subset of believers based on any criteria. Surely the smaller groups in which we meet the assemblies are not the whole, yet they are part of the whole. There is both a practicality to church and a spiritual reality that transcends the practical. This is one of the problems with using a single word, like "church," to express so many aspects of the relationship of Christians to each other and with God. When we get too caught up in one aspect to the exclusion of the others, then change to another aspect, there is a tendency to become disoriented because of a kind of equivocation whether intentional or not.

'Nuff said.
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Old 08-04-2020, 01:11 PM   #3
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Default Re: What is the Church really?

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The church is referred to in various places as the body of Christ, the assembly (paraphrased), the pillar and ground of the truth, and eventually, the bride of Christ (among other things). There is no singular definition of the collection of those who believe in and follow (obey) Christ, but rather a lot of description. The references to ekklesia make some implications about gathering. And in Hebrews there is the warning against failing to meet with others (though not expressly saying that such meeting is church).

Some would say that the church is the believers as they are actively engaged in following Christ while others may say that even in our often state of "floating along" we are still part of the church. I understand arguments both ways.

But I do not believe that there is any way to say that the church is some subset of believers based on any criteria. Surely the smaller groups in which we meet — the assemblies — are not the whole, yet they are part of the whole. There is both a practicality to church and a spiritual reality that transcends the practical. This is one of the problems with using a single word, like "church," to express so many aspects of the relationship of Christians to each other and with God. When we get too caught up in one aspect to the exclusion of the others, then change to another aspect, there is a tendency to become disoriented because of a kind of equivocation — whether intentional or not.
Agree. And there's also the temple aspect - a dwelling place of God in Spirit. Body, Bride, Building . . . the city coming down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her Husband!

My local ekklesia has been going through Ephesians for some months now, really ruminating on each passage and verse. What prompted me to start this thread was reading the end of Ephesians 5 a couple mornings ago.
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Ephesians 5:25-32: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of His body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
I realized that we really don't have that much of an idea who we are as the church! We mouth the words, but what truly is this entity we are part of, which He bought with His own blood?
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Old 08-06-2020, 06:58 PM   #4
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Default Re: What is the Church really?

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..what truly is this entity we are part of, which He bought with His own blood?
When you ask "what truly is this entity" I refer you to the quote above it, from Ephesians 5: "This is a profound mystery". If Paul calls it a profound mystery, I daresay it's not an answer that you'll get through systematic theology, nor by some subjective euphoria. Both are, at least of themselves, false trails.

I'll ask a question which touches on OBW's comment on "disorientation" should one examine any terms too closely, as if some turn of phrase of itself could whisk one into a special "reality". What's the difference between the Apocalypse's Great Harlot Mystery Babylon, and the woman clothed with the sun? Not much, by appearance. Both are dazzlingly arrayed. But one's full of abomination and one isn't.

From where we are, we may get too dazzled, and fail to distinguish properly what really and truly is what. I've seen this, over and over again, in various iterations. We become enthralled by some concept, and fail to distinguish that the "reality" of our daily living is not that which seems to fill our vision. I speak from experience! Don't let your feet stumble, staring at the heavens!

Here is an example. I was reading the preface to the book "The glorious church" by Watchman Nee. They were saying that it was given during training messages in China from 1939 to 1942. Not long after that, the elders of the Shanghai church expelled Nee for fornication. So how glorious was the church? Were the elders really that stupid, that they in concert ejected the man who'd been leading them? The hand-picked elders of Nee? Was Nee really so bad at 'training' them that they couldn't even follow basic protocol of the NT and ascertain whether the one leading them was in sin, or not? Was Nee really so 'spiritual' that he allowed a false claim to overturn his glorious church?

Then it was followed, after restoration and resumption of ministry, by another sexual scandal, and again Nee went along with the charges...are we really to believe that Nee falsely confessed to a sexual crime because of some higher spiritual plane, knowing it would stumble so many (see, Ruth Lee, Lily Hsu, and others)?

Seems that either Nee lied, and confessed when he didn't actually commit the crime, in order to get a lighter sentence, even knowing that his lie would destroy the spiritual journey of so many [!], or else he confessed to the truth, that he'd actually been creating and holding pornography. Either way, he doesn't come off too well.

So where's that "Glorious Church" he dazzled so many with? I don't care how many verses he gave. They were merely supporting his chimera, a cup filled with abomination. There was no reality. Reality is how you love your neighbour (or not). And how can we tell how real our love is? Every hair on your head is numbered, but have you numbered them, or rather has God? Then leave the evaluation up to God, what's "glorious" about the ekklesia. Your biblical command is to love your neighbour as your self - in truth, in deed, not merely in word, or lip service. Let Christ love the Church.

It's so critical to remain basic, essential, grounded, away from snares of imagination, concept, and unfounded speculation.

And I'd reoeat that one should look at all Greek usage of 'ekklesia' as it predates the NT and Jesus Christ by centuries in the spiritual literature (LXX). And Jesus spoke of building "my ekklesia" - there are other ones besides that of Christ. Again, don't assume anything. For instance there's an ekklesia in the NT that's in danger of being called a riot. Doesn't seem too glorious to me. "And with these words, he dismissed the 'ekklesia' " ~Acts 19: 40,41
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Old 08-07-2020, 10:40 AM   #5
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Default Re: What is the Church really?

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When you ask "what truly is this entity" I refer you to the quote above it, from Ephesians 5: "This is a profound mystery". If Paul calls it a profound mystery, I daresay it's not an answer that you'll get through systematic theology, nor by some subjective euphoria. Both are, at least of themselves, false trails.

I'll ask a question which touches on OBW's comment on "disorientation" should one examine any terms too closely, as if some turn of phrase of itself could whisk one into a special "reality". What's the difference between the Apocalypse's Great Harlot Mystery Babylon, and the woman clothed with the sun? Not much, by appearance. Both are dazzlingly arrayed. But one's full of abomination and one isn't.
This reminds of something a brother I know said: "The world contains nothing of the church; but the church has everything in it from the world. What he meant was the world is the world, with its sin and dark system - Christ is obviously not part of that. But Christ is in the church, however, the elements of the world are in there too!

Therefore the world/fleshly Adamic, fallen system is easy to see, with all it's corrupted manifestations. However, Christ in the church is not always so easy to see, because the worldly things in it can block our view. Only He is able to do what He needs to do to "present her spotless and without blemish." The ekklesia: His body; His bride; and His dwelling . . . this is truly a great mystery how we will be gotten to that glorious point. But He'll do it!
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