(This is a revision of the “Summary” from Section 7 of the AC Catechism. Questions/answers for this section will be available in the next post: Community & Kingdom Living: Q&A. To purchase the entire AC Catechism, please go here.)
Throughout the New Testament we see a glorious picture of salvation – all that God has done in order to rescue people from sin and death and restore them to himself. But, to say that all the New Testament describes is individual salvation is to miss one of its most important emphases. Moreover, to live your life as if all that matters is your personal relationship with the Lord is to miss one of God’s most precious gifts.
God’s work in this world is to redeem a people for his own possession. This new, redeemed community is what Scripture calls “the church,” or the ekklēsia – the assembly of those who have been called out by God and knit together as one people. There are numerous ways the Scriptures describe the church, but some of the most predominant metaphors are that of a body, a bride and a family.
The New Testament refers to the church in two senses: the universal church and the local church. The universal church (sometimes called the “invisible church”) refers not to a specific group of believers, but to every true believer from every place and every age. When one confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior, having been born of the Spirit, he or she is automatically welcomed into Christ’s universal church.
However, the reality of membership in this universal body is intended to be demonstrated in the context of a real commitment to a local church. A group of Christians simply meeting together for leisurely activities is not the “church” in this sense unless they are an ordered assembly of a specific group of believers in a specific place gathered with the goal of loving one another, making disciples and celebrating the ordinances that Christ passed on.
The church is the steward of two visible symbols which demonstrate the invisible reality of God’s grace: believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are discernible and tangible representations of the gospel and of our union with Christ through the gospel. With both ordinances, believers have an opportunity to “remember” God’s goodness and grace, especially as revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Baptism is a one-time symbol of a Christian’s union with Christ that takes place by immersion into water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Lord’s Supper is a recurring symbolic meal that consists of the eating of bread and drinking of wine in remembrance of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ until he returns.
These two ordinances are open to all believers in Jesus Christ who have repented of their sins and desire to symbolically reenact the truth of the gospel, thereby being moved to a greater understanding and appreciation of all that has been accomplished for them.
From Scripture, we can be certain that Christ’s church has a very clear mission on this earth: to make disciples and to worship and obey the Lord. This commission is fulfilled within the context of the local church as the people of God live according to his good design for his community, which can be seen, among other places, in Acts 2:42, where the church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship of the saints, the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Of particular note is the apostles’ teaching, which encompasses the commands of the New Testament concerning both orthodoxy (“right belief”) and orthopraxy (“right behavior”). In the church, believers in Jesus Christ are known for the intimacy and authenticity of their fellowship. The fellowship that so characterizes members of God’s household consists of deep relationships as brothers and sisters in Christ and a profound sacrificial love for one another.
Within the context of the committed relationships of the local church, believers in Jesus Christ also enjoy the gift of prayer, the pouring out of one’s heart in conversation with God. Though often viewed only as an individual and private activity, prayer is also intended to be a corporate activity. Jesus is often seen praying in crowds, teaching his disciples to pray “our Father” (not “my” as an individual) and, after his ascension and throughout the book of Acts, God’s people regularly gather for communal prayer.
In light of the entire counsel of Scripture, we see that we are called to pray to God our Father by the Spirit in the name of Jesus. Some pray “in the name of Jesus” almost as some mystical formula in order to get their prayers answered without realizing that, for the Christian, every prayer is always answered all the time (“no” and “wait” are still answers!). Rather, to pray in the name of Jesus is to pray according to the will of Jesus revealed in the Word of God and discerned through practice. One way to practice prayer to better understand God’s will is to master the pattern given by Jesus – namely, the Lord’s Prayer.
Still today, the Lord’s Prayer helps believers in Christ conform their prayers – and their lives – to the priorities and petitions of Jesus. The petitions of the Lord’s Prayer also serve as necessary reminders to us of our dual citizenship in the kingdom of this world and in the kingdom of God. When we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we are pleading for the priorities and principles of God’s kingdom to come to bear on our lives today. This is our aim as believers in Jesus Christ: to glorify him by loving him and by living as citizens of his kingdom here on earth.
If the Spirit of the living God resides within us and within our community chosen by Christ, then our lives and our congregations’ lives will be marked by love both toward God and toward one another so much that it spills out to the surrounding culture. By submitting ourselves entirely to the rule and reign of King Jesus, we serve as ambassadors for his kingdom, seeking to protect the poor, the widow and the orphan, declaring the good news of the kingdom of God, and representing its priorities and principles in this world while we wait in eager expectation for the return of our King.
Recommended Resources for this Section
Please note that resources are ordered with those aimed at the layperson first and more theological works at the bottom.
- Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community.
- Chester, Tim, and Steve Timmis. Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around the Gospel and Community.
- ——. Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission.
- Keller, Timothy. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.
- Stedman, Ray C. Body Life.
- Banks, Robert. Going to Church in the First Century.
- Clowney, Edmund. The Church.
- Dever, Mark. The Church: The Gospel Made Visible.
- Bounds, E.M. The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds.
- The Heritage Foundation. Seek Social Justice: Transforming Lives in Need (DVD).
 Q. 111
 Q. 112
 Eph. 1:23; 4:12
 Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7
 1 Tim. 3:15
 Q. 113; 1 Cor. 1:2; 12:27
 1 Cor. 12:13
 Q. 114; Acts 16:5; 1 Cor. 12:20-27; 16:19
 Q. 115
 Q. 116
 Q. 117
 Q. 117
 Qs. 118-119
 Qs. 120-122
 Q. 123
 Q. 116; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 12:30; 1 Peter 2:9
 Q. 124
 Q. 125
 John 1:1-4; Titus 1:9
 Matt. 28:20; 1 Tim. 3:15
 Qs. 115, 126; Eph. 4:25; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9-10; 1 John 4:7; 1 Peter 1:22
 Q. 127; Lam. 2:19; Ps. 142:1-2
 Matt. 6:6
 Matt. 6:9
 Q. 128
 Rom. 8:26
 Q. 129
 Q. 130
 1 John 5:14
 Rom. 12:2
 Qs. 131-132; Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4
 Qs. 133-134; Phil. 3:20; 1 John 5:2
 Qs. 135-136