What makes a church unique from any other institution? How is it different than how God used Israel in the Old Testament? With a diversity of denominations, is it really necessary to come to strong convictions about the church? What is the church exactly?
Ecclesiology is the academic word for the study of the church that offers a framework for understanding what the church is supposed to look like and how it is to function. Over the years, there have been a lot of additions to that doctrine to the point that now church polity is for some an issue of militant separation.
The reformation took place (this is a very simplified explanation) when Martin Luther opposed the Catholic church’s doctrine of salvation: Soteriology. The Catholic church had taken a basic biblical model of salvation and added so much to it that it was completely unrecognizable to the biblical doctrine of grace: being a free gift. While Luther’s reformation was completely revolutionary and is still heralded by present day theologians, he did not do much for the doctrine of the Church.
I guess there is no wonder that the doctrine of the church has such little importance in our culture today. This is the reason we have to address questions like ‘why do we need the church?’, ‘why should communion be reserved for church services?’, and ‘why we should tithe to the church?’. This is why it is about time we start to call for a reformation of the doctrine of the church.
This week we are going to look at the essentials of the church and determine with authority why the doctrine of the church is necessary for us today.
To proceed, we must come to agreement that they authority of the church is founded on the teaching of the Word of God, the naming of the church was given by Jesus (Matthew 16:18), ‘all authority’ was given to the church (Matthew 16:19; 18:18), and finally that the great commission was given to the church not individual believers (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Bible is the foundation for all life and practice. Any doctrine should proceed out of the pages of Scripture not back into it. As scholars (and everyone should be one) we need to put away any notions or ideas other than the Bible is authoritative whenever we come to the pages to learn. It’s very easy to start with a notion and read the Bible in between the lines of our preconceptions. This ought to be a discipline that we develop as we seek to become better students of God’s Word and better members of Christ’s church.
Once we have established a good foundation, we will be ready to proceed with a proper exegesis (critical analysis) of some difficult passages about the church.