The Bible says the Church is nothing less than the Body of Christ. It is the Bride of Christ, the flock of God, the living temple of the Holy Spirit. Virtually all biblical figures for the Church emphasize an essential, living, love relationship between Christ and the Church. This underscores the key role of the Church in God’s plan and reminds us that —
… just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her Ephesians 5:25
If the Church is the body of Christ – the means of the head’s action in the world – then the Church is an indispensable part of the gospel, and ecclesiology is inseparable from soteriology.
In Scripture the earthly and heavenly sides of the Church fit together in one whole and do not leave us with two incompatible churches or with a split-level view of the Church. The Church is one; it is the one Body of Christ that now exists both on earth and in the heavenly realms. This view of the Church is sharply relevant for the modern age of reasons which are basic to the biblical view of the Church.
The Bible sees the Church in cosmic/historical perspective. The puzzle trades on the special status of cosmology as a historical, yet law-based science, with only one real model. While theists would certainly not expect the laws of chemistry to predict that water can transform into wine, they do believe that an exact historical account would include reference to those miracles that did occur.
God has chosen to place the Church with Christ at the very centre of His plan to reconcile the world to Himself. The Church’s mission, therefore, is to glorify God by continuing in the world the works of the Kingdom which Jesus began. This both justifies and demands the Church’s broader ministry —
… to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” Luke 4:18-19
The Bible sees the Church in charismatic, and not in institutional, terms. Experience of the Spirit, Anabaptists said, would enable believers to interpret Scripture reliably and faithfully. Martin Luther, in his early years, ascribed a significant rule to the Spirit in reading the text. The Bible “cannot he mastered by study or talent,” he said; “you must rely solely on the influx of the Spirit.’
The Church is not structured the same way a business corporation or university is, but is structured like the human body – on the basis of life. At its most basic level it is a community, not a hierarchy – an organism, not an organization.
The Bible sees the Church as the community of God’s people. As you may know, there is one chapter in the Bible known as “The Love Chapter,” and for good reason. 1 Corinthians 13 uses agape, one of several Greek words for “love,” nine times. That’s as much as in all four gospels combined. Only one other chapter in the Bible, 1 John 4, uses the word “love” more often. So if you want to know something about love, you’d do well to consult 1 Corinthians 13.
Samuel Escobar puts it this way,
“God calls those who become His people to be part of a community. So the new humanity that Christ is creating becomes visible in communities that have a quality of life that reflects Christ’s example.”