Eph.4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
New Testament scripture always points toward the fact that there is ONE church ... one universal church on the earth and one local church in each city. The local "churches" are all a part of the universal church. Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, all of the "churches" also are one according to scripture.
I'd like to develop the point that there are actually TWO churches (or at least two things that we call "the church") that are entwined together. One is the real church which consists of the people of God (the ecclesia) who are walking in HIS Spirit and focused on HIM (the one described above in Ephesians 4), and another which is the religious order which we often call the "church." This order is part of the "world systems." You can see it in operation when people are more concerned with liturgies, religious order, money, admiration of men, etc. When their love is for the things of the world. Understanding the difference can free God's people to better represent Jesus as they utilize some of the worldly assets of the "church" (buildings, leaders, finances, etc.) but remain focused on "life in the Spirit" and free of having those "things" become their main priority.
A LITTLE CONFUSION
It's easy for folks to get the two "churches" confused. The traditional mindset is that Christians "go to church." This view defines "church" as a building or location, a meeting or service, a leadership or ministry, etc. It usually provides facilities, leadership and programs which people subscribe to and support. In contrast, the scriptural concept is always that the "church" is a people, who ARE the church and are led and provided for by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word "ecclesia" is used in NT and means "the called out ones of God." It is sometimes translated "assembly" and refers to a community of people who are "assembled" together by God into HIS family. As a family, the ecclesia does come together to share spiritual life. In the book of Acts, we see them breaking bread daily in homes (eating, living, sharing life together) and gathering on the back porch of the temple to listen to the apostles. So we're looking at the differences between the "system of church" and the people who are the church.
The New Testament uses the word "kosmos" for the world, the people of the world, and the world systems. The systems include governments, businesses, education, arts, sciences, markets, finances, medical, and so on. The institution of "church" has also become one of the world systems --- it is essentially a business which provides services to a people group which pays for the services by donating assets.
World systems are not intrinsically good or evil, but, according to NT scripture, they are under the rule of the "Prince of this world," or Satan (Jn. 12:31, 14:30, 16:11.) Many of the world systems accomplish good and needed tasks, such as governments which bring order and focus to various states and nations. Some provide for the needs of people and administrate, serve, educate, build, etc. However, we need to make note that there are some things that world systems cannot do. Here are a few:
However, since these systems are under the rule of Satan, we can assume that there are some things that we should be aware and alert to:
Jesus said we were to be in the world but not of it. Also that He (and we) are the light of the world. In other words we as Christians are not to hide out and pretend the world systems do not exist. However, Jesus also said that we were to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" in handling the things of the world. Wisdom and care are to be exercised to assure that we don't come under the spell of the prince of this world as we walk out our witness for Jesus Christ in the world.
THE TWO CHURCHES
So, we are back to the "two churches." It takes great wisdom as we, the ecclesia, use (and even perhaps redeem) some of the things of the world (money, buildings, travel, education, etc.) for the purposes of God's kingdom. The worldly part of the church must be used with caution as it is placed into the service of the spiritual church in it's ministry to the world (Kosmos). Paul's revelation in Eph. 3:10ff is very relevant ...
Eph. 3:10 [The purpose is] that through the church the complicated, many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety and innumerable aspects might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) in the heavenly sphere.
Remember that the principalities and powers are some of the lieutenants and captains who report directly to the prince of this world, or Satan. They are rulers in the spiritual realm over systems of this world. This includes nations and people groups (ethnos) as well as specific governments, etc. Here's the good news ... according to the above scripture, the purpose of the church (ecclesia) is to make known to these rulers the wisdom of God. How do we do that? Here's an example that came to mind.
Most of the founding fathers of our country were men of faith and virtue. Because of who they were, and what they believed and lived, the foundations of our country were heavily influenced by faith and character. The many-sided wisdom of God was applied through these men to a particular world system (our US government.) Obviously the tide has turned to the degree that we currently have little Godly influence, but you see my point.
There are certainly two aspects of the church as we know it. The worldly part, which includes organizations, denominations, various assets and ministries, and the spiritual part, which is God's people (ecclesia) indwelt by His Holy Spirit, moving through the earth demonstrating the life and authority of Jesus Christ to every person on earth and even to those principalities and powers which rule over world systems. Physical assets must be used, but should be handled with caution as the Spirit leads. They should never be the priority of Christian life or service. Life in Christ is by far the higher priority. If physical assets are being used to meet needs and bring the life giving influence of Jesus into the world, then there is kingdom value provided by these assets. If not, then we must discern which system or spirit is in control. The Bride of Christ is not to be influenced or swayed by world systems ...she has eyes only for her husband and Lord. She is not part of the systems of the world.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
2 Cor. 11:14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
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