Rev. Chip Hammond
Chapter 2 of the Form of Government in our Book of Church Order defines the Church: what it is, of whom it consists, how it is organized, what its work is, and how it carries out that work in the world.
The first paragraph affirms that Jesus, risen and ascended, has "erected in this world a kingdom, which is the church." It is important to understand what this does not mean. Unlike the Roman Church of the Medieval period, we do not understand the Church to be one more (the most powerful?) earthly kingdom among other earthly kingdoms.
That the Church is the Kingdom of God must be carefully defined. To say that the Church is the Kingdom means that the members of the Church are citizens of the Kingdom, her governors are stewards of the Kingdom (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-2), and she serves as the beachhead of the Kingdom's advance. It does not mean that the Church qua the Church has any authority inherent in itself. Her power is a ministerial and declarative power of the will of God revealed only in his Word.
Paragraph two deals with the definition of the Church, and specifically has in mind the visible universal Church. It says that she "consists of all those persons, in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and promise submission to his commandments." Unlike our Baptist friends, who deny that the children of believers have membership in the Church, we believe that this is so important that it must be stated, even at the risk of it causing a division. The biblical data that indicate that the children of believers are members of the Church is too numerous to list. (For a partial consideration, see Genesis 17:7-14; Deuteronomy 6:1-2; Joshua 24:15; Mark 10:14; Acts 2:39; 1 Corinthians 7:14.)
Paragraph three points out what is probably obvious to serious students of the Scripture. The "Church" in Scripture is not only spoken of in a universal sense (e.g. Ephesians 5:24 ), but also a regional sense (e.g. Acts 9:31 ; Galatians 1:2), and finally in a local, individual sense (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:2). This shows us that there is no such thing, biblically speaking, as an independent Church. The Church is interconnected, and interdependent. Our BOCO affirms that all such Churches should share a common faith, and submit to a common form of government.
Lastly, we believe that the work of the Church is made up, broadly speaking, of four things:
- fellowship with and obedience to Christ (1 John 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2)
- worship (Romans 12:1)
- edification of one another (Romans 15:2)
- witness to the gospel (Acts 8:4)
How we are to do this is not left up to the imagination. Everyone is not to do what is right in his own eyes. Again, the passages on which these elements are based are too numerous to list, but they should be quite obvious. "The means appointed by Christ through which the Church does this work are..."
- confessing the name of Christ before men (Matthew 10:32 -33)
- a fellowship of encouragement to one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11 )
- the reading, teaching and preaching of the Word of God (Revelation 1:3; 1 Corinthians 4:17 ; Acts 10:42 )
- prayer, singing, and fasting (1 Timothy 2:8; James 5:13 ; Matthew 6:17 )
- administering baptism and the Lord's Supper (Matthew 28:19; Luke 22:18ff)
- collecting and distributing offerings (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
- showing mercy (Jude 23)
- exercising discipline (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5)
The paragraph concludes with the words, "and blessing the people." All of the means Christ has given to His Church to accomplish its work will be a blessing to the people if they are faithfully followed. So let us pray together that the Lord will help us to faithfully follow these things, and become more of the Church Christ has called us to be!