Questions 100 & 101

When the word ‘church’ is used to talk about people who meet in a place, we call this a ‘local church.’ Sometimes the word was used for a small group of believers who would meet in one place, like a house. At other times, the word was used to talk about all of the believers in a city. So we hear Paul* talk about the church in Corinth.* That is, all of the believers who were meeting in the many different places in the city of Corinth.[1] The local church can also mean many groups in a larger area, like the churches in Judea and Galilee and Samaria*.[2]

 

What is the local church like? Luke* tells us many things about what the first church in Jerusalem* was like. He wrote this so that we could see now a local church is supposed to act.[3]

 

First, the church listened to what the Apostles* taught them. These were the closest followers* of Jesus. Before Jesus went to the cross*, he promised to give these men the Holy Spirit.* Then he told them that the Holy Spirit would help them remember what Jesus had said and done. Over the next years, God used these men and other men whom the Apostles taught to write the New Testament* scriptures. The Holy Spirit guided them as they wrote. The words of these Apostles would guide the church. The church believed that what the scripture said was what God himself had said. So, they listened with great care to what the Apostles taught.

 

The people in the first church in Jerusalem also shared their lives together. They helped those who were poor among them. And they cared for each other. Luke says that they shared everything that they owned.

 

The church also came together to pray. They prayed for one another. They prayed for the Holy Spirit to help them know what God wanted them to do. They asked God to provide them with the things that they needed. They prayed that God would protect them. They prayed that many people would hear the good news about Jesus and would believe it.[4]

 

Luke says that they ‘broke bread’ together. They shared meals together. We also know that they ate the Lord’s Supper together. The night before Jesus died, he shared a meal with his disciples.* In that meal, he broke bread and gave it to them. They also drank with him from the cup he gave them. He said that taking the bread and the cup was a sign and that they should do this when they met together. This would help them remember what he had done for them on the cross.

 

Luke also says, that whenever they met, they gave praise* to God. We know that sometimes they did this by telling what God had done for them. They would also sing together. Sometimes they would speak to one another with the words of the Psalms* that they knew[5].

 

The church is also where we learn. We learn the scriptures so that we can become wise. And because we learn together with other Christians*, they help us to live in a way that pleases God.[6]

 

Many people in Jerusalem saw what the church was doing, and they listened to what the Apostles were saying. Because of that, many people believed in Jesus. And just as John the Baptist* had baptized Jesus, the church baptized all of those who believed.

 

When we believe in Jesus, we must find a place where those who believe in Jesus meet. We should join with other believers in a local church. The writer of the book of Hebrews* says that we should not stay away from meeting with other believers.[7] When we meet, this is where we love and help each other. We can use our gifts that God has given us to serve other people. And we can comfort those who have problems and remind each other to do what is good.

 

Sadly, not every church does the same things that the first church did. They meet and teach. But some do not teach what the scriptures say. We are to listen to the teachers in the church who teach the word of God to us. But we must not listen to anyone who teaches anything that is not from scripture. If a church teaches things that neither Jesus, or any of the apostles or prophets* taught, it is not a true church. When we find ourselves in a place like that, we must pray that God will help us find a church that will teach and honor* the truth.[8]


[1] 1 Corinthians 1:12
[2] Acts 9:31
[3] Acts 2:42-47
[4] Matthew 6:13; John 17:20-21; Romans 10:1; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1
[5] Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16
[6] Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17; 1 John 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:8; Ephesians 6:16-18; James 5:16; Philippians 1:15-18; Galatians 2:11-16; Colossians 1:21-23
[7] Hebrews 10:24-25
[8] 1 Timothy 3:15