Part 14 of the Big Journey is entitled ‘God’s New Humanity’. It’s a PDF document illustrated in full colour throughout. Click on the PDF icon below to read or download it:
Outline of contents
As Christians, we’re not isolated individuals in fellowship with God. We’re part of God’s family, the Church. John Stott said, “. . . the church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God”. And being part of the Church is central to our own individual Christian lives. So what is the Church? And what does it mean to be part of it? These are the questions we’ll try to answer in this session.
We look at the symbols that God has given us to help us understand what the Church is like. It’s a temple, a body, and a household. Each implies an integrated, interdependent community. A temple is a single structure made up of many different components. A body is a single organism comprising an intricate assembly of cells, tissues and organs. A household is an economic and socially interdependent group of people who share a common life. Why is there such emphasis on community and interdependence? Because that’s how God made us. As we saw in Session 3, mankind isn’t just a group of unrelated individuals. We’re social beings. We’re all connected. As Donald Macleod says: “A life lived apart from community is a life that violates human nature”.
And, finally, Christ is the Husband of His Church; the Church is His Bride. We’re as closely related to Him as it is possible for any created being to be.
As we saw in Session 3, God commissioned mankind to be His priests, kings and prophets. As priests, we were to live in His presence and serve Him there. As kings, we were to subdue the earth and build a rich and godly civilisation. As prophets, we were to be God’s friends to whom He revealed His thoughts and plans – and to communicate them to others. Now God has made us, the Church, what He had always intended mankind to be. We are His priests, kings and prophets, and we explore these three themes in this session.
We also look at the gifts of the Spirit. The three images of the Church – the temple, the body and the household – all emphasise ‘unity in diversity’. The parts of the temple, the organs of the body, the members of the household, all make their special contribution to the whole of which they are part. God has given each one of us a different set of gifts to love and serve Him and our fellow-believers, and to build up and strengthen God’s people. We look at each of the twenty gifts that Paul names, as well as the roles of elder and deacon.
The New Testament Church gathered often to worship, pray and study. They spent lots of time together, sharing their lives, encouraging and supporting each other, expressing in day-to-day reality the unity and mutual love of the Body of Christ. We see in the pages of the New Testament, to borrow Donald Macleod’s words: “a degree of commitment, concern, involvement and intimacy far beyond what we usually find in churches today”. The single most important activity of a local church is to meet together as a church. Many of His gifts, particularly the spoken ones, will be used during these times. Why specifically do we meet? In David Peterson’s words: “Paul’s emphasis is on coming together to participate in the edification of the church”. The New Testament pattern suggests great variety in what takes place as we meet together. We look in turn at all the different things that may take place in our meetings – teaching, reading of Scripture, prophecy, messages of wisdom or knowledge, words of encouragement, testimonies, tongues and interpretation, and prayer, praise and adoration.
Finally, we explore the central act of any local church – the Lord’s Supper, or ‘breaking bread’. This was central to first-century local church life, and it’s pretty certain that in the early years of the Church it was celebrated as part of a full meal. And that’s very significant. In the world of the Bible, sharing a meal is far more than filling stomachs to stay alive. It’s a time of committed fellowship. Derek Prince wrote: “Amongst the peoples of the Middle East for many, many centuries it’s been understood that to eat bread with a man and to share the same cup were to make a very solemn and sacred commitment to him”. When we eat the Lord’s Supper, we enjoy a special time of fellowship with God, and with each other. Those who eat the Lord’s Supper are bound together by the New Covenant – ‘covenant’ means ‘solemn promise’ or ‘binding agreement’. Through this covenant God unites believers with Himself – and each other – in a sacred bond of loyal friendship and fellowship. We have become members of God’s family – with all the mutual love and loyalty that those family ties imply. All this was made possible by Jesus’s sacrificial death. So when we eat the Lord’s Supper, we eat bread and drink wine to symbolise Jesus’s body and blood given for us in death. We remember that it was His death that purchased our fellowship with God and each other and made us part of God’s family.
Part 14 of the Big Journey is available as a 16-page PDF document illustrated in full colour throughout. Click on the PDF icon at the top of this page to download it.