Since the beginning, God has been active in the world through people. Adam and Eve were given the responsibility to tend and care for the Garden and to be fruitful and multiply. Noah was given the job of building an ark through which God would save his family and a pair of every animal type. God chose Abraham through whom He created a nation whose call it was to share God with the rest of the nations. After the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God established the gathering or community of believers to be His faithful witnesses to the “ethnos,” every ethnic group of people. God gave this community the charge to make disciples by baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and by teaching obedience to all Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20).
We find in Scripture a number of different labels for God’s community. We are known as the assembly, the saints, the Body of Christ, and the Bride of Christ. Early Christians were known as “people of the way” likely remembering that Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one got to the Father except through Him. As an aside and short study of language, the word “church” is not used in the New Testament. Our English word “church” comes from the Greek possessive “Lord’s” as in the Lord’s Supper or the Lord’s day. So, we are the Lord’s people.
The Body of Christ has been gifted with offices, and people have been gifted with abilities to fill the offices to lead and equip the saints. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…” (Ephesians 4:11 NASB). Today we think of apostles as those who cross cultural boundaries and barriers to take the Gospel to those who do not yet have it. Prophets are those who have a special gift of calling us to repentance. We ought all be sharing our faith, but some people have a special ability to share the Gospel; these are the evangelists. Other have been given the means to care for and teach God’s people. These are called pastors from the Latin word for shepherd.
Those who have been given the offices in the Church are not entrusted with doing the work of the Church by themselves. As we read in verse 12 of Ephesians 4, they are “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…” It is God’s desire and intent that all the saints, all the members of the Church, be involved in doing what the Church does. Thinking, again, of Matthew 28:18-20, we understand that our first task is inviting others to follow Jesus. “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
We understand, then, that it is through the Church that God is active today to bring people to Himself. The Church has been given God’s Word, the Bible, that we might know His will and purpose for us, that we might hear the call to repentance and know His mercy, love, and grace. It is through the Community of Saints that God speaks to and touches the lives of those around us. It is in the gathering of the Body of Christ that we hear the Law calling us to repentance and the Gospel proclaiming forgiveness and new life in Christ. It is His bride that God is purifying, his people that the Holy Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify. And it is then us He has assigned as ambassadors to proclaim His plan of reconciliation to the world.