Friday, June 01, 2007

The Church

The universal Church of Christ is composed of all believers everywhere, both in heaven and on earth, but is specifically manifested in individual local churches. Such local churches are established, not by the authority of any form of successionism (baptismal, churchly, or official) but solely by the authority of Scripture (sola Scriptura). Therefore, local churches are formed when credibly professing disciples of Christ voluntarily covenant with one another to believe and obey the gospel of Christ on the basis of a common confessional statement. A local church’s confession of faith is a summary of Scriptural doctrine in small compass, and is to be used both for the instruction and discipline of church members.

The local church is autonomous, free from any hierarchy of organization. Its governing officials include elders (or bishops, overseers, pastors) and deacons. Both officers must meet the qualifications set forth in the Bible. Local church government is congregational, which means that under Jesus Christ and His Word, the highest authority and court of appeal is the church membership.

A true church consists of any group of disciples covenanted together and centered upon the true gospel of Jesus Christ.[1] But, a healthy local church is one in which the preached Word of God is central in the corporate worship service, the ordinances of professing believers baptism by immersion and communion are rightly administered according to the prescription of Scripture, and the pattern of church discipline revealed in the Bible is faithfully practiced.

Corporate worship is central in the life of the church, involving the preaching of God’s Word, the reading of Scripture, the giving of offerings, the offering of prayers, and the singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as well as any other elements revealed in the Bible alone. We are required to worship God in the corporate worship service only according to what He has prescribed in sacred Scripture and not by our own wisdom or innovation. Circumstances of worship should be ordered according to the light of nature so that they facilitate and support the elements prescribed by Scripture. The proper effects of corporate worship are the mutual edification of believers and evangelism of the lost.

While every gospel church has the same biblical charge and end, God gives churches members of varying spiritual gifts, such that the particular ministries of every local church will differ according to the gifts given.

[1] The true gospel of Jesus Christ includes the basic content of the ecumenical creeds (Apostles', Nicene, Chalcedonian, Athanasian) as well as the five solas of the Reformation (sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria).

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