Besides the word ecclesia itself, the New Testament describes the church with several images that further explain its nature and function.
Today we will look at just two crucial concepts regarding the church: the church as the people of God and the church as the body of Christ.
1. The “people of God” as a concept is applied in the Bible to the children of Israel (Deut. 14:2). Read 1 Peter 2:9, where the concept is clearly applied to Christians. How are we to understand what this means for us today?
Notice that even as the concept is applied to Christians, it is still used to describe the nation of Israel (Luke 1:68; Rom. 11:1-2). Evidently the New Testament applies the concept to the church in a way that suggests continuity and consummation.(See Gal. 3:29.)
Numerous ideas can be found within these texts, perhaps the most obvious one being the unity (see Wednesday’s lesson) that should be seen in the church. This is an idea expressed elsewhere in the New Testament, especially in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul writes: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” (1 Cor. 12:12-17).
Some people suffer from what are known as auto-immune diseases: their own immune system, which is supposed to protect the body, attacks it instead. Think about the implications of this analogy for the church as ‘the body of Christ’.