Today I take a brief look at the doctrine of the church. This is commonly known as “ecclesiology.” I’m using the Evangelical Free Church of America’s statement of faith. That statement reads:
The Church. Article #7. We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
Photo Credit: Russ Harlan
I. JUSTIFICATION, GRACE, AND FAITH
It is through our faith in Jesus Christ that both Jews and Gentiles are made right with God (Gal 3:6-7). This is a free gift based on our confession and union with Christ, nothing else. In other words, believers have always been saved by faith (Gal 3:6-7; cf. Gen 22:16-18; Hab 2:4; Gal 3:11). For extra support on the doctrine of justification see Acts 13:38-39; Rom 3:19-26, 28; 4:1-5, 25-26; 8:29-30; Gal 2:16; Tit 3:4-7; Luke 18:9-14; Rom 1:17; 3:19-26; 5:19; Rom 1:17; 3:19-26; 4:1-5; 2 Cor 5:21; Tit 3:4-7.
Grace is the ground for justification because there is nothing that believers could have done to make themselves right with God (Rom 3:24-25). It is through the grace of God the Father that he sent his Son to die on behalf of sinners so that they could be made righteous. God’s grace provides the grounds for salvation, justification is the end result, and faith is what brings it all together.
It is through our faith in Jesus Christ that we are able to accept God’s grace and therefore be justified and made right with God, therefore making up the church of believers that are united by Christ alone (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12-13; Eph 1:22-23; 4:14-15; 5:23; Col 1:18, 24).
II. CHRIST AS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH
The body of Christ is united as one (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 10:16-17; 12:12, 27) and is also under the authority of Christ as its head (Eph 1:22-23; 4:14-15; 5:23; Col 1:18, 24).
III. THE NECESSITY FOR AND PRACTICE OF BAPTISM
Baptism is the visible expression of an invisible internal change (Acts 2:38; 9:18-19; Rom 6:1-11). It also serves as a public witness to others of the change that has occurred in the believer’s life. Broadly, it symbolizes the death of slavery to sin and resurrection to new life (Rom 6:1-14). However, the public water baptism is not a means of regeneration (Mark 16:16; John 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:37-38; Titus 3:5).
IV. THE NECESSITY FOR AND PRACTICE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
The Lord’s Supper is a tangible reminder of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us through his bodily death and resurrection. The Lord’s Supper, which we practice regularly, stems from Jesus’s Last Supper with his disciples (Matt 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23). Our practice of the Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of Christ’s death (Luke 22:19; Matt 26:27-28; 1 Cor 5:7; 11:26), communion with Christ’s life (John 6:53; 15:5; 1 Cor 10:16), fellowship with Christ’s body (1 Cor 10:17), and it is a foretaste of Christ’s second coming (Matt 26:29; 1 Cor 11:26).
V. WHY BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER ARE IMPORTANT
The ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are mandated by Jesus (Matt 28:19; Luke 22:19) and were done by the early church (Acts 2:38-41; 1 Cor 11:23). The ordinances are important in the life of God’s people because they serve as a reminder of what Jesus Christ has done. Christ is the linchpin of the Christian faith, and the practices of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are visible expressions of the spiritual work that has already occurred.