To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:8-12)
What Is The New Testament Church?
The letter of Paul to the saints in Ephesus is a foundational study of the first-century church. During the apostle’s first Roman imprisonment he wrote a number of letters including Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians which came to be known as the “Prison Epistles.” The church had been in existence for less than forty years but had multiplied in great numbers with churches spread throughout the Roman Empire. As the early disciples (guided by the Holy Spirit) began formulating the organization, work, and purpose of the church there were many questions and problems to overcome as the infant body of Christ grew in size. Paul’s letter to Ephesus helped to cement the truth the church is the body of Christ, the church of God and the bride of Christ. Understanding the church comes from an examination of the book of Ephesians to see the purpose and design of the New Testament church. The work of the church is clearly defined: preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. In a world given over to entertainment, self-gratification and personal expression as a means of worship, the church of the New Testament needs to be restored in the minds of those who seek to follow the pattern of Bible authority. Two thousand years have passed since the first disciples were baptized into Christ and the church began to grow. The only way to be the New Testament church is to follow the authority of the pattern, organization, purpose, and design of what the early disciples established. Paul’s task was to preach the gospel. He did not use bands, fellowship halls, social promotions or political agendas to teach the gospel but rather opening up the word of God and showing lost souls the saving grace of God. The New Testament church is a place where the word of God is the focus of everything.
Many in the religious world view the church as a secondary part of fellowship with God. They may think of the church as an important part of being a Christian but not necessary or functional to the life of the disciple. Paul reveals the New Testament church as the eternal plan of God to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery hidden from the beginning of the ages. The church was not a mistake. It was not created as a stopgap to fill a void left when the Jews killed Jesus. For the early disciples, the view of the church was never a matter of convenience or something to be lighted treated as if it was a social club. The New Testament church was the fully revealed word of God manifested in the daily lives of those who professed to follow Jesus Christ. They assembled together every first day of the week without exception to honor the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God. It was an integral part of their lives to give themselves wholly to the work of the church whether in evangelism or benevolence for the saints. The New Testament church was not a passive movement but one filled with the glory of the Holy Spirit as the word of God turned their hearts toward the coming of Jesus Christ. Before Paul became a Christian, he persecuted all those who were of the Way (the church) with a great fervor making havoc of the church. The persecuted saints were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria preaching the word because the church was not a noble idea in their minds but the full intent of their hearts, minds, and souls. Why did the early Christians die for Christ? How could a man be willing to die for the church of Christ if the body of Christ had little meaning? The boldness and confidence of the New Testament church filled the lives of the early disciples and they gladly spent their lives to propagate, and purpose and plan the work of God in the church.
The eternal purpose of God is accomplished in Christ Jesus and His church. This is the picture of the New Testament church. Through the unveiling of the pattern of early saints, the church of Christ exalts the manifold wisdom of God revealed to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Angels look upon the church with eternal awe. Satan fears the church as the bastion of truth that is unmovable, unbreakable and unyielding. As the kingdom of God the New Testament church remains the eternal evidence of grace to undeserving man where men find the blood of Christ that flowed at Calvary to purchase the church. The New Testament church is the body of Jesus Christ where He is the head. If the church is not important then the body of Christ is of no value. Paul describes the church as the bride of Christ and yet men denounce the marriage feast of God’s Son to His eternal bride. As the family of God, the New Testament church fills the void of man who needs the love of the Father and the sharing of brothers and sisters in a familial relationship. There is no greater institution in the world than the church of Christ because it is the New Testament church that has existed for two thousand years unabated and unmoved. The trappings of men who have tried to recreate the church in their own image pale in comparison to the glory of what is found on the pages of the New Testament. There are many churches today but only one New Testament church. That church is found where it was planted: in the New Testament.