All of our studies on the Church and associated topics are being re-written.
Content is being updated and more material is being added. Please return later to see the updated work
Because of the sheer size of the material that could be shared, our presentation shall be made in several parts.
What we hope to accomplish is to bring us back to the beginning—to the very foundations and this is of vital importance as we have drifted away from the original blueprint.
This page lays down the foundation and on it, we shall look at the blueprint or the pattern used. God is working to a plan. We shall determine that Jesus alone is the foundation of The Church and that the building of His Church precisely follows a distinct pattern or plan from which we cannot deviate. We see this principle in Job 38:1-7 where God said-
“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
Subsequent references are made about this cornerstone that deserve mention and deserve inspection. They are- Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16-17; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:6-7.
Please look closely at the following-
We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!
So don’t forget that you were not born as Jews and were uncircumcised (circumcision itself is just a work of man’s hands); you had none of the Jewish covenants and laws; you were foreigners to Israel’s incredible heritage, you were without the covenants and prophetic promises of the Messiah, the promised hope, and without God.
Yet look at you now! Everything is new! Although you were once distant and far away from God, now you have been brought delightfully close to him through the sacred blood of Jesus—you have actually been united to Christ! Our reconciling “Peace” is Jesus!
He has made Jew and non-Jew one in Christ. By dying as our sacrifice, he has broken down every wall of prejudice that separated us and has now made us equal through our union with Christ.
Ethnic hatred has been dissolved by the crucifixion of his precious body on the cross.
The legal code that stood condemning every one of us has now been repealed by his command.
His triune essence has made peace between us by starting over—forming one new race of humanity, Jews and non-Jews fused together! Two have now become one, and we live restored to God and reconciled in the body of Christ.
Through his crucifixion, hatred died. For the Messiah has come to preach this sweet message of peace to you, the ones who were distant, and to those who are near.
And now, because we are united to Christ, we both have equal and direct access in the realm of the Holy Spirit to come before the Father!
So, you are not foreigners or guests, but rather you are the children of the city of the holy ones, with all the rights as family members of the household of God.
You are rising like the perfectly fitted stones of the temple; and your lives are being built up together upon the ideal foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, and best of all, you are connected to the Head Cornerstone of the building, the Anointed One, Jesus Christ himself!
This entire building is under construction and is continually growing under his supervision until it rises up completed as the holy temple of the Lord himself. This means that God is transforming each one of you into the Holy of Holies, his dwelling place, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you! Ephesians 2:10-22 (emphasis mine)
A close look at this scripture reveals that God never intended for us to be divided as we are today. His plan was for One Church comprising Jews and Gentiles alike—One body—One living temple in which the Holy Spirit resides.
When we become Christians, not by natural birth but by spiritual birth (discussed elsewhere) The work of the Holy Spirit changes and transforms us into what is described as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). At this transformation, we are grafted into the vine and united together in one body as Saints (being declared so by God and not by ordinances of man) and are actually integral parts or living stones of the building itself with Jesus as the chief cornerstone (see 1 Peter 2:5).
Close analysis reveals that this construction work, that we shall discuss in depth elsewhere, is still continuing.
As we shall see, the Church is still a work in progress.
Our studies on The Church are by no means all embracing. Paul called it a mystery but it is only a mystery to those who are not in a covenant relationship with God. This mystery has been revealed; is being revealed and will be fully revealed when we finally meet the Lord face-to-face in glory. See 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:9, 3:3-9, 5:32, 6:19; Colossians 1:26-27, 2:2.
The Church is a topic that has been discussed for approximately two thousand years and one that has produced am amazing array of opinions, debates, opposition, criticism, antagonism, mockery and in some instances different forms of abuse up to and including physical violence
It need not be so, but it should not be surprising. The reason is that The Church as God sees her is special and the devil does not like that. Many references to the Love God has for The Church exist. In Ephesians 5:25 for example, we see that Christ loves The Church and gave Himself for her and that The Church is likened as a bride.
By his very nature, the devil hates all men, but in particular hates both Israel and The Church.
For this reason alone, he had done all he can to undermine and thwart God’s plans.
One area that he has concentrated upon is to try to render The Church useless and ineffective and to create division within. As we shall see, he is not able to do that, because of Jesus’ own words stating that the gates of hell cannot prevail against His Church.
If by now you have noticed the capitalization I have used, it is for good reason. There are “many churches” but only one real genuine Church.
There are only two specific mentions of The Church in the Gospels and they are found in Matthew 16:15-20, 18:15-20, where Jesus said that He was going to build His Church.
By such a statement, there is really only one Church (His) and so we must look closer at what the Lord said. As we investigate further, some interesting factors are seen.
In the Gospel account and in the book of Acts, reference is made to (a) the Kingdom, (b) the disciples and (c) The Church, but in the Epistles, the Church and the Kingdom are mentioned, but the word disciples does not appear. There must be a reason.
From antiquity, God has progressively unfolded or revealed both Himself and His plan and purpose. Throughout scripture, there are various types and shadows and principles of revealing such things to consider. It is like the promise being made as a seed, then the seed germinates and the blade is revealed before the ear appears and then the full corn in the ear (Mark 4:28).
This may be likened perhaps to Jesus, then the appearance of The Church in Acts and then the Body of Christ revealed in the Epistles. There are many differing viewpoints, traditional ideas, concepts and activities associated with the term “Church”. They may include literal buildings and meeting venues, educational institutions, orphanages, medical centers, bible colleges and theological seminaries, missionary work, children’s ministries, aged care facilities and the differing groups and clubs and more that can be found. All may be good and perhaps necessary for the work that is done, but they are not necessarily The Church that Jesus intended.
As a pastor, I spent much time and effort in “my church” and everything associated with it as per the above, as most of us do. Like most of us I suppose, I used the term "my church" as a matter of convenience but that is wrong. It is not "my church" but the Lord's Church in reality. Whilst those things we all do are perhaps good and acceptable, we need to weigh up our activities, projects and programs against this progressive revelation of The Church and I ask myself if I really fitted into the pattern as we shall see later, or merely doing what most of us have been doing without seeing things from God’s perspective.
Are we really doing what God intended ? What is God’s plan?
Allow me to share what Paul said about this. We call it the Manifold Wisdom of God.
As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me.
As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ.
God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.
And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.
By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.
Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.
I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.
God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:3-11 (emphasis mine)
God’s purpose for The Church is to reveal the Manifold Wisdom of Himself to basically all of creation, but in essence to all spirit beings.
The Church, of which we are a part and I as a minister of the Gospel are part should, I believe, focus on that, rather on the “mechanics” of church life.
If we are to be His witnesses who demonstrate such wisdom, we need to ask ourselves what we are showing those spiritual principalities and powers.
It is all about revealing the King and His Kingdom.
The gospel of Matthew is the gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus presented this to the Jews who can be put into two distinct groups; the orthodox and religious Jews who rejected Him and the ordinary people who generally received and accepted Him. Jesus preached, taught and demonstrated the Kingdom that was not the kind of kingdom the Jews expected. Generally speaking, they were looking for a natural, earthly, political and materialistic kingdom that would overthrow the Romans. They wanted a kingdom like David’s that was fundamentally based on military might and power. The kingdom Jesus presented was spiritual that could only be entered by repentance and faith according to Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15.
The Church that Jesus said He would build is His Church. It is not churches (plural) but The Church (singular).
Of the many mentions of the church in Acts and the Epistles, only the singular is mentioned.
We never see denominational groups. This structure is like a single universal Church as we see in the following-
God has given Christ to be head over all things to the Church, which is His Body (Ephesians 1:22-23) Christ is the Head of The Church (Ephesians 5:23) Jesus loves the Church and loves Her so that The Church may be a glorious Church like unto Himself (Ephesians 5:24-32) The Church is the Body of Christ (Colossians 1:18) The Church is the Church of God (Acts 20:28) The Church is the Church of Christ (Ephesians 5:22)
The Church is thus a “catholic” church, or the Church “universal” that is to be found in every country of the world.
The word “catholic” is derived from two Greek words. The first one is katholikos that means universal or general. The second word is holos that basically means whole.
The Lord’s Church is thus a “universal” and a “whole” church. What we now know as the Roman Catholic church should thus be one part only of such a universal church.
We find that the Church is often referred to in a geographical setting.
When we see this, the word Churches appears in the plural. We see mention of “the Churches” in Judea, Galilee and Samaria (Acts 9:31), “the Churches” in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:41), “the Churches” in Asia (1 Corinthians 16:19), “the Churches” in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:1), “the Churches” in Galatia (Galatians 1:2, 1 Corinthians 16:1) and “the Churches” in Judea (Galatians 1:22).
In the first three chapters of the book of revelation, Jesus spoke to the seven Churches in Asia, or the Churches in specific geographical settings.
We thus see that there was “A” Church in every place, united and motivated by the Holy Spirit and not by an organization or formalized structure. Each comprised a single Body—the Body of Christ.
There was no central governing body or organizational structure.
Neither Jerusalem or Rome functioned as a “mother” church.
Our studies shall start with what Jesus actually said about the building of His Church in Matthew 16:13-19-
When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples this question: “What are the people saying about me, the Son of Man? Who do they believe I am?” They answered, “Some are convinced you are John the Baptizer, others say you are Elijah reincarnated, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” “But You—who do You say that I am?” Jesus asked. Simon Peter spoke up and said, “You are the Anointed One, the Son of the living God!” Jesus replied, “You are favored and privileged Simeon, son of Jonah! For you didn’t discover this on your own, but my Father in heaven has supernaturally revealed it to you. I give you the name Peter, a stone. And this truth of who I am will be the bedrock foundation on which I will build my church—my legislative assembly, and the power of death will not be able to overpower it! I will give you the keys of heaven’s kingdom realm to forbid on earth that which is forbidden in heaven, and to release on earth that which is released in heaven.” I will give you the keys of heaven’s kingdom realm to forbid on earth that which is forbidden in heaven, and to release on earth that which is released in heaven.”
Jesus had asked a question and received different types of answers. He then made it personal. Our relationship with God is a personal relationship. No other human being can facilitate it. Others may be able to help you on the journey, but it is one that each and every one of us has to do alone. It is with the heart we believe and with the mouth we make our declaration of faith to be saved and there is no other way, or intermediary. This is because Jesus is the way, the door, the truth and the life and He is building His Church according to a precise pattern and it is this pattern on which we shall concentrate in the next section.
Webster’s Dictionary describes a pattern as-
- a form or model proposed for imitation
- something designed or used as a model for making things (a dressmaker’s pattern)
- an artistic, musical, literary, or mechanical design or form
- a natural or chance configuration (frost patterns) (the pattern of events)
- a length of fabric sufficient for an art (as of clothing)
- the distribution of shrapnel, bombs on a target, or shot from a shotgun, the grouping made on a target by bullets
- a reliable sample of traits, acts, tendencies, or other observable characteristics of a person, group, or institution (a behavior pattern) (spending patterns)
- the flight path prescribed for an airplane that is coming in for a landing
- a prescribed route to be followed by a pass receiver in football
This is the first clearly defined pattern to look at.
In Genesis 6:14-16, God told Noah how to build it and this included the materials to be used as well as its layout and dimensions. The King James version uses the word fashion. The Hebrew describes this as a verdict or judgment, a sentence or formal decree, a Divine law and a Divine style. The Hebrew word Mishpat describes manner, likeness, similitude and order (Leviticus 5:10; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Genesis 1:26; Daniel 10:16; 1 Chronicles 6:32).
By obeying God, Noah was able to save himself and his family (Hebrews 11:7).
We understand that this ark symbolizes the salvation process. Deviation from it would have been disastrous. Deviation from the pattern of The Church could be disastrous.
The Tribes of Israel
Heathens made their altars according to their ideals and designs. Human hands shaped them, but God had specific designs or patterns that had to be followed and we later see that He forbade any tools to be used in such mannners in the construction of the Tabernacle.
In Genesis chapter four, both Abel and Cain made offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s sacrificial worship but rejected Cain’s.
God is very precise in what He does or does not accept. If we translate this into the activities of the church...any church, this implies that He will accept certain things but reject others. I say this because God does not change as we see in places like Malachi 3:6.
If therefore, Jesus is building His Church, according to God’s pattern, there can be no deviation from that pattern, one of which was clearly defined in Exodus 20:24-26-
You are not to make with me gods of silver, nor are you to make gods of gold for yourselves. For me you need make only an altar of earth; on it you will sacrifice your burnt offerings, peace offerings, sheep, goats and cattle. In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you. If you do make me an altar of stone, you are not to build it of cut stones; for if you use a tool on it, you profane it. Likewise, you are not to use steps to go up to my altar; so that you won’t be indecently uncovered.
We see references to sacrificial altars in Genesis 8:20-21; 12:7; 13:4, 18: 35:3 and1 Kings 18:30-39. Such altars pointed to the cross.
When God started to speak to the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He issued specific instructions as to the places they were to live and in particular to the women they married.
When Israel came out of Egypt traveled through the wilderness, God met with Moses on Mount Sinai, gave the commandments and instructed Moses to build the Tabernacle.
In Numbers chapters 1 to 8, God defined the way they were to conduct themselves, specifying where the various tribes were to be located, where the priests were to be located, the positioning of the Tabernacle, the collection of tithes and offerings and so on. The layout of Tabernacle and the people encamped around it was in the shape of a cross.
Acts 7:38 calls “the Church in the wilderness”.
A Divine pattern was evident.
The Ark of the Covenant
Exodus chapters twenty-five to forty go into much detail about the Tabernacle. God took the initiative, calling Moses to the task, so the plan did not originate in the mind of man, but emanated from the heart of God. From the beginning, He reveals the purpose and from the beginning we see that God had a very precise plan or pattern from which they were not to deviate.
They are to make me a sanctuary, so that I may live among them. You are to make it according to everything I show you—the design of the tabernacle and the design of its furnishings. This is how you are to make it. Exodus 25:8-9. See also Exodus 26:30; Numbers 8:4; Hebrews 3:1-5
Seventeen times in Exodus chapters 39-40, mention is made as to how Moses did as the Lord had commanded.
In simple terms, the Tabernacle was in itself a tent that could be taken down and erected as required, but we see that even in this, God was specific as to how everything was to be done. Certain tasks were allocated to certain people and no other person was permitted to do any task not allotted to them. Later, in The Church that Jesus is building, we see this principle continued.
In Ephesians 4:8-14 for example, Jesus appoints certain people to occupy particular offices in His Church and we call then the Five Ascension Gift Ministries (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers) that are dealt with elsewhere.
When the presence of God started to move, the people had to dismantle the Tabernacle and follow until the cloud stopped. When He stopped—they stopped and when He moved—they moved. Although the New Testament era differs somewhat, we need to remember that in all our endeavours in The Church, we must still “follow the cloud”, being led by the Holy Spirit.The principles remain the same.
We shall now break down the main elements in Tabernacle. We shall not deal with every individual item at length other than to say that each and every part, the dimensions and materials from which they were constructed had symbol and meaning. Our in-depth studies on The Tabernacle deal with this elsewhere.
The Tabernacle Complex
The Ark of the Covenant was the central element. God spoke to Moses about the Tabernacle principle in Exodus 25:1-8 and immediately stated that everything was to be constructed according to the pattern He had given. He then spoke in great detail about the Ark of the covenant in Exodus 25:10-22 before laying out everything else.
When humans build a house, we start on the outside and then complete the internal details later, but with God, He starts from the inside and works outward. We look at the externals, but God looks at what is inside first.
Everything associated with the Tabernacle related to His presence as signified by this Ark.
In Numbers 7:89, this was where the voice of God was heard. It was here where the Name of the Lord was called as we see in 2 samuel 6:1-2. It was here where the High Priest made his annual sacrifice to atone for the sins of the whole nation once per year.
All of the details of worship and approaching God were laid out in intricate detail in progressive stages from the Outer Court, towards the Tabernacle tent itself and continued like this inside the tent until reaching the veil, behind which the Ark was located. A divine order was instituted and this order or pattern extends to The Church.
The whole Tabernacle complex was carefully positioned within a precisely measured outer court surrounded by curtains as detailed in Exodus chapter 27. Only one entrance was provided and we find that there is only one way of access to God to this day, through Jesus Christ. This is a principle that applies to the building of The Church. In other words, there is only one way.
Once inside the Outer Court, there was a logical progression towards the Tabernacle proper. The First piece of furniture to be constructed was the Brazen Altar. This was the first item to pass before progressing towards the Ark. The second step was the Brazen Laver. Once inside the actual tent itself, the Golden Candlestick, the Table of Shewbread and the altar of Incense were all precisely located. Each and every item were made in accordance with the pattern God gave Moses and they all represent something of significance in The Church.
The Feasts of the Lord
On reading the lengthy descriptions of the Commands of the Lord in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7 and Numbers chapter 19, it may seem confusing to say the least, but everything had a purpose and function. Everything seen there pointed to Jesus and His Church in some way.
We see mention of the Burnt Offering, the Meal Offering, the Peace Offering, the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering. It talks about the Red Heifer, the Scapegoat, the priestly Oblations and more and each one symbolized the various aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry.
When reading about the sacrificial lamb for example, we can see that this lamb had to be perfect and without blemish. It had to be set apart and thoroughly inspected before offering to the Lord. Such things relate to Jesus, who, as the Lamb of God, had to be perfect and sinless.
Revelation 13:8 speaks of the Lamb as being slain before the world was created. Even then, a Divine Plan was formulated.
Leviticus chapter 23, Deuteronomy chapters 12 and 16 and Numbers chapters 28-29 talk at length about the Feasts of the Lord. The Gospel is revealed in these Feasts of Israel.
There are three annual festivals comprising Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.
Each are rich in detail and typology. Most Christians understand the connection between Passover and what we call Easter. The association between each of these festivals and the life and ministry of Jesus, His Church and events like the “rapture” can be seen in typology form. They form an amazing pattern that, although seem to relate to Jewish life and worship, form part of the plan of God concerning Christ and His Church.
We have already touched on the Ark of the Covenant and seen how everything associated with it had to be in strict accordance with God’s pattern. This included how the ark itself was to be handled. Numbers chapters 3-4 reveal some of the Lord’s requirements.
When Saul was on the throne, the Ark was captured and it remained in their hands for seven months. The Philistines had installed the Ark in their temple beside their false god Dagon, but the presence of God was too much for them to handle.
As a result, they placed the Ark on a bullock cart with offerings and released it.
In 2 Samuel chapter six, David wanted to bring the Ark back home. His intention was noble, but he applied it incorrectly. They had neglected to carry the ark in the way God had prescribed.
When the cart hit a pothole, A man called Uzzah instinctively reached out to steady it, but was struck dead.
God’s pattern was for the priests only to carry the Ark. When David later returned to bring the Ark back, he did so in the manner that God had prescribed. Worship was then made in due order according to the heavenly pattern.
This points to due order of worship in The Church. See John 4:20-24; Hebrews 13:8-15.
The Temple of Solomon was built according to a pattern. In 1 Chronicles 28-29 and 2 Chronicles 1-5, we see that David had told Solomon that he had been given the pattern of the house of the Lord. This included the place where the Ark of the Covenant was to be installed. See 1 Chronicles 28:11-12.
Ezekiel chapters 40-48 tell us about the temple of the Lord. Ezekiel 43:10-13 reveals that there was a Divine pattern that could be measured.