The Church of God in Jesus Christ is one of the most refreshing and important themes of all the Scriptures. Jesus of Nazareth, through his death, burial, and resurrection, has been exalted as head over his new people, those called to represent him in the earth and bear witness of his already/not yet Kingdom. To understand the Church’s role in God’s kingdom program is critical to every facet of personal and corporate discipleship; there is no discipleship or salvation apart from God’s saving action in the Church. Grasping what God is doing in and through his people empowers God’s leader to represent him with wisdom and honor. We invite you with enthusiasm to study the Church in order to fully appreciate the nature of ministry in the world today.
The first lesson, The Church Foreshadowed in God’s Plan, focuses upon how the Church is foreshadowed in God’s exalted purpose to bring glory to himself by saving a new humanity through his covenant with Abraham. You will see how the Church is foreshadowed in the unfolding of his gracious plan of salvation to include the Gentiles in his work in Christ Jesus, and learn of God’s intent to create for himself a unique and peculiar people, the laos of God. You will also discover the richness and meaning of salvation, what it means to be rescued from the lostness and separation from God caused by sin. Through our union with Christ we become joined to “the people of God” who inherit the Kingdom he promised. United to Christ is to be united to his people, those people whose hope is in God creating a new heaven and a new earth with a new humanity under the rule of God which will completely reverse the effects of sin and death on the world.
In our second lesson, The Church At Worship, we’ll consider salvation as the foundation of the Church’s worship. We’ll see that salvation comes by God’s grace alone and that human beings can in no way earn or deserve it. Worship, therefore, is the proper response to the grace of God. We will also explore some of the insights from Christian reflection about the Church’s worship, including a brief study of the terms “sacrament” and “ordinance” as well as varying views of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper applied to the Church’s worship. Furthermore, we’ll discover the theological purpose of the Church’s worship, which is to glorify God because of his solitary holiness, his infinite beauty, his incomparable glory and his matchless works. Approaching the triune God through Jesus Christ, the Church worships through praise and thanksgiving, and through Liturgy, which emphasizes the Word and the Sacraments. The Church also worships God through its obedience and lifestyle as a covenant community.
Lesson three is entitled The Church as Witness, and focuses on the mission of the Church. In this lesson we’ll cover the most significant aspects of the doctrine of election as it applies to Jesus Christ as the elect of God, to his chosen people Israel and to the Church, and to individual believers. We’ll discover Jesus Christ as the Elect of God, the One through whom God saves out of the world a people for himself, and briefly explore the dimensions and definition of the concept of God’s chosen people as it is defined both in Israel as the people of God and the Church of Jesus Christ. As God’s instrument of his Great Commission, we’ll take notice of three critical elements within it: the Church gives witness as she evangelizes the lost, as she baptizes new believers in Christ, that is, to incorporate them as members into the church, and as she teaches her members to observe all the things Christ commanded.
Finally, in lesson four, The Church at Work, we will discover the various dimensions and elements of the Church. Special attention will be given to how we may detect authentic Christian community by concentrating on certain marks which have been proven to be true signs of the Church’s actions and lifestyle. We’ll consider the marks of the Church according to the Nicene Creed, as well as according to the teaching of the Reformation. We will also look at the Church through the lens of the Vincentian Rule, a helpful guide to understand and evaluate traditions and teachings claiming to be binding upon Christians. We’ll end this study by concentrating on the ministry of the Church through various images of the Church mentioned in the New Testament, the image of the household of God (God’s family), through the image of the body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit (God’s agent of the Kingdom of God). We will also look through the lens of God’s army, as the Church does battle in the Lamb’s war. These images offer great insight into how we are to understand the Church’s identity and work in the world today. Without question, the Church of Jesus Christ is God’s agent for his Kingdom, and the people of his presence. May your study of this material and the Word of God produce in you a deep love and devotion to live for and build up the holy people of God, the Church!
Required Reading Texts:
- Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine
- Snyder, The Community of the King
- Davis, Sacred Roots
- Allsman, Jesus Cropped from the Picture