The Spiritual Nature of the Church – Gene Hill

Gene Hill

On the pages of the New Testament we read of a religious institution that has no comparison in the history of the world. The New Testament clearly claims that this institution is the focus of the eternal and divine plan of God for the salvation of the soul of man. God had this plan before the foundation of the world was even laid (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20-21).

This religious institution does not have a formal name so much as a descriptive phrase which informs us of its ownership as well as some of what it accomplishes. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus describes it as His church to which Luke said the Lord added the souls of those being saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:47). This institution makes known the manifold wisdom of God by its presence as well as its divinely appointed mission (Eph. 3:10). The apostle Paul even gave Timothy instructions on just how to behave in the house of God, about which language we will have more to say later (1 Tim. 3:15; Isa. 2:2-3).

The church Jesus promised to build (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:47; 1 Tim. 3:15) is not Plan B, but that plan which God had planned from the beginning and is the subject of fulfilled prophecy (2 Tim. 1:9). This promised church was prophesied by Isaiah:

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isa. 2:1-4).

From Isaiah we can see that all nations would flow into it (Acts 2:9-11; 8:4-5, 27; 10:28). We should also note that this mountain of the Lord’s house is also called the house of the God of Jacob and that from out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Observe again Paul telling Timothy how to behave in the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15).

The Bible also tells us when the prophesied church will be established in Jerusalem which again is a matter of prophecy. The prophet Daniel while interpreting the dream of the king, prophecies that time of the church’s beginning. Daniel prophesies of five kingdoms—the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian, the Roman, with the fifth one being the kingdom which would consume all previous kingdoms and be an everlasting one in nature (Dan. 2:44; 4:3; 6:26; 7:13-14; Luke 1:32-33; Heb. 12:28).

Jesus uttered words that are telling in Mark 9:1; He said that some listening to him would not taste of death till they saw the kingdom come with power. In Luke 24:44-49 just prior to His ascension into heaven, He told the assembled remaining apostles that the Gospel would go forth from Jerusalem (vs 47; Isa. 2:3) that at that time they would receive the Father’s promise (John 7:39; 14:16, 26; 15:26-27; 16:13 and be endued with power (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).

Remember from Luke 9:1 that in the lifetime of some standing there they would see the kingdom come with power. Jesus said in Luke 24:49 that the apostles receive that power which was the promise of the Father while they tarried in Jerusalem. In Acts 1:4-5 we see Jesus again mentioning the Father’s promise and also connecting with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:8 the Lord reiterates this promised power once again connecting it to the Holy Ghost coming upon them.

The question then is when did the power and the Holy Spirit come? The answer lies in Acts 2:1-4. The Holy Spirit came as prophesied in Joel 2:28-32. Peter gives the Holy Spirit’s explanation in Acts 2:16-21 for exactly what was seen and heard. Acts 2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Then, in verses 22-36 the twelve apostles proved the proof that Jesus of Nazareth whom they had crucified, was both Lord and Christ. Being pricked in their hearts by their guilt they asked what calling on the Lord (v. 21) entailed exactly. Peter gives answer in verse 38 that calling on the Lord requires repentance on their part and immersion in water by the authority of Christ in order to the remission of sin (Heb. 9:11-29; 10:1-11,22; 13:12; Rev. 1:5; 7:14; Acts 22:16).

We must now go back to John 18:36-37 when Jesus is before Pilate. When Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king and Jesus assures him He is. But Jesus adds that His kingdom is not of this world that would threaten the Roman Empire. This is in keeping with Jesus words in John 3:3-8 when Jesus teaches Nicodemus that entrance into the kingdom of God is being added to a spiritual kingdom that requires a new birth in water. In Mark 16:16 Jesus ties belief and baptism together in order for a soul to be saved by God’s grace.

Being born again is a requirement for salvation and entering into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5; Mark 16:16). Peter says that baptism is for the remission of sin. After his sermon in Acts 2 we find three thousand souls gladly receiving his word and being born again whereupon the Lord adds those being saved to the church (Acts 2:47). This is the church Jesus promised to build (Matt. 16:18). That the requirements for both kingdom citizenship and the remission of sins in order to be added to the church purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28) are one and the same. Therefore, we conclude that the church and the kingdom are one and the same institution (Matt. 16:18-19). The keys to the kingdom which Jesus gave to Peter and the other apostles opened the gates of the kingdom on Pentecost.

We understand what the nature of the church is based on statements of the Lord Himself. He said the kingdom of God is within you, and, my kingdom is not of this world (Luke 17:21; John 18:36). Our city is a heavenly city (Heb. 11:10; 12:22). Our country will be a better one (Heb. 11:16) and John describes the glory of this future abode (Rev. 21:2, 10-27).

Let us again note that the terms of entrance into the kingdom are the same for being added to the church (John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38-47; Titus 3:5). Observe also that the church and the body of Christ are identical (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18,24) and one is baptized into the one body (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4). The kingdom, the church and the body all have the same terms of entrance—baptism. It is our fervent prayer that all who have not done so will hasten to the saving of their souls.

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