In the Apostle Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesians, he gives us a template for what the required characteristics are for the New Testament Local Church:
- A Teaching Church
- A Testifying Church
- A Preaching Church
- A Feeding Church
- A Building Church
These are the things that Paul emphasised during his ministry at the church of Ephesus for the three years that he was present with them. Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, and we are to follow his example.
And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. - Acts 20:18-35
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, - Acts 20:20
As Paul said, we should be a teaching church, and like Paul, we should not keep back anything that would be profitable to those attending. What are these profitable things that should be taught?
- Doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Godliness (1 Timothy 4:8)
- Good Works (Titus 3:8)
This teaching is manifested in two different ways, Public Teaching and Personal Teaching. The public teaching should include the expositional study of the Bible. That is a verse by verse study of each book of the Bible, where we teach what the Bible means by what it says. The personal teaching should include the encouragement for the members to study the Bible on their own, and it should also include personal work and soul winning.
Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. - Acts 20:21
The local church should be a testifying church. Paul said that he testified to both the Jews and the Greeks. This demonstrates that everyone is welcome. The Jewish and the Greek both came from very different backgrounds, but they were all welcome to attend. No-one is disqualified from attendance, regardless of what their personal history might be.
Next, we want to pay special attention to what Paul was testifying. We need to testify to the fact that Repentance is a requirement for maintaining fellowship with God.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. - Isaiah 55:7That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: - 1 John 1:1-6
Repentance requires us to turn from our Sin
We should be sorrowful over our sin:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. - Psalms 51:17
We need to confess our sin:
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. - Proverbs 28:13But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. - 1 John 1:7-10
We need to turn away from our sin and toward God:
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. - Acts 26:16-18
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the next thing that we, as a local church, need to be testifying. It is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that we can have our sins forgiven. We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; we only receive justification by the blood that he shed in our place:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. - Romans 5:1-9
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. - Acts 20:25
Preaching has not lost its importance in the local church. Preaching is the form of communication that God has chosen to deliver his message to his people:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. - 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Preach the Gospel
First and foremost, we are supposed to preach the cross. It is only by the cross that our sins can be forgiven. That is the gospel; the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The gospel is to be preached to everyone who attends a service at the local church.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. - 1 Timothy 3:16-17
We are also to preach correction in the local church. At times we need to receive reproof (our blame expressed). We need to be reminded that we are to be blamed for some things. That we need to get things fixed with the Lord. The Lord doesn’t just blame us, but with the reproof, he shows us how to get it fixed. This is where correction and instruction come into play. The Lord shows us what is wrong with us, but also shows us the right path and how to get on that path. Our preaching needs to include all of these elements. Click here for more on this subject.
Declare all the council of God
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. - Acts 20:27
All of the council of God is to be preached, not just the popular subjects, not just the exciting subjects, but all of the council of God. This is one reason that we teach the Bible expositionally. By teaching the Bible verse by verse we cover all of the council of God. We don’t side step the uncomfortable subjects. The Lord told Jeremiah at the beginning of his ministry that he was to preach what God told him to preach with no excuses:
But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for Iam with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant. - Jeremiah 1:7-10
Sometimes it is necessary to root out and to pull down and to destroy in your preaching, and sometimes it is necessary to build up and to plant a new seed in your preaching. We must preach it all!
And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. - Ezekiel 2:5-8
We are to preach what the Lord commands whether the “people” want to hear it or not, or whether they will give heed to it or not. That is between them and the Lord, but if we fail to preach all the counsel of God, that will be between God and us.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. - Acts 20:28
As a New Testament Local Church, we are required to feed the members the word of God.
- Milk for growth
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: - 1 Peter 2:2
- Honey for wisdom
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. - Psalms 19:7-10I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. - Psalms 119:100-104
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. - Acts 20:32
We need to be a building church (not just a church building). The Bible teaches us that on a personal level that there are two primary ways that God uses to build us up:
- The Bible
- Prayer (Jude 20)
For the Bible to build us up, we must read it daily. When you read the Bible, pay attention to what it is saying. Don’t just rush through it, so that you can place a checkmark on your daily Bible reading schedule. The Bible is not to be approached like a novel; we don’t read the Bible for entertainment purposes. We read the Bible to learn more about God, and what he wants from us. When you read the Bible, look for ways to apply what you have read to your daily life.
How much time do you spend in daily prayer? Think about it for a minute. Prayer is essential if you are to develop a personal relationship with the Lord. To develop a personal relationship with anyone you must spend time with them. You have to speak to them, and you have to hear what they have to say as well. The same holds true for your relationship with God. He has given us his word and prayer to fulfil these requirements.
Three ways the church builds people up:
Show concern for people
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. - Romans 15:1-2
To build people up, we must first be willing to put them first. We need to learn that what we want or need is not all that important. We need to be more concerned with the needs of others.
Minister to one another
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. - 1 Peter 4:10
Showing concern for others is the starting point, but then we must do something about their needs. That is where ministering comes into play. If we are going to build others up and help them to grow, then we must minister to their needs.
Help others to grow
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. - Ephesians 2:19-22
These are the five required characteristics of the New Testament Local Church. These are not just the requirements of the Pastor or leadership team but are the requirements for every member. Not every member can fulfil every one of these, but they can contribute by helping others to fulfil them. We are all part of the body of Christ, but we are all different members. Just like your physical body, all of the members need to work together to get anything accomplished. Make sure that you are doing your part.
Our hope at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is that this podcast provided some encouragement and has helped you to develop a closer relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ.