June 10, 2004, and December 7, 2006, are two great unforgettable events of my life.
What’s so spectacular about these days?
My eldest son, Joy, and my youngest son, Joe, were born. But they weren’t just born; they were also born into a family: my family.
Those who don’t have a family when they are born, don’t we call them orphans? A child is born individually but he grows and matures in a family. Family, especially a healthy family, plays a vital role in the healthy growth and development of a child.
Similarly, when a person is born-again through the gospel, they are born into God’s family, the church. The gospel not only converts the soul but also incorporates that soul into the body of Christ. A person who claims to be a Christian and yet has no church is a spiritual vagabond.
Let’s look into the Scriptures to understand the significant relationship between the gospel and the church.
THE LORD JESUS
Christ precisely declared His mission—“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10). Did the Lord come only to save the lost? What will He do thereafter?
The Lord Jesus spoke, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16). The purpose of the Lord was to save the lost and bring them into the fold of His saved community so that there will be one flock and one shepherd.
If a shepherd loses one sheep from a hundred, what will he do? According to Christ’s words, will he not leave the ninety-nine and goes on searching for the lost sheep until he finds it? (Lk. 15:4). And what will the shepherd do after he finds the lost sheep? Will he not add it to the ninety-nine flock of sheep?
Moreover, the inseparability between the gospel and the church is clearly seen in the words of Christ when He pointed out an individual leaving his biological family for the gospel. Such a person will gain more spiritual brothers or sisters or mother or father or children, i.e., the church (Mk. 10:29-30).
THE BOOK OF ACTS
The book of Acts predominantly reveals two things—the gospel of Christ was uncompromisingly preached. And all those who were saved through the gospel became members of local churches.
When Peter preached the gospel on the day of Pentecost, the Scripture records, “So those who received his word were baptized, and they were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
What happened next to these saved souls? Many fail to observe the very next verse.
Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The saved became part of the church where there was teaching, fellowship, breaking of the bread, and prayers. The lost became a community of the Living God.
Acts 2:47 also testifies, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Observe that joining a local church after being saved is not man’s idea; it is God’s will and work. Saving individuals and adding them to the church is a common phenomenon that echoes throughout the book of Acts.
Professor of New Testament, Joseph H. Hellerman, rightly observed, “Paul and other New Testament writers made it quite clear that getting saved and becoming a member of the people of God are inseparable, simultaneous events (1 Cor. 12:13). (When the Church Was a Family, pg. 124)
Do we find a single individual in the New Testament who was converted by the gospel and did not become a member of the body of Christ? Sooner or later, every saved soul became a part of the saved community. The gospel not only saves an individual from sin; it also matures that person in the community of God.
Of the 27 books in the New Testament, most of the 21 letters were written to the local churches and a few to individuals who were part of local churches. Even the book of Revelation was addressed to local churches. The authors assumed all disciples of Christ were a part of local churches. It would be unthinkable to them that someone be saved by the gospel and yet not became a member of a local church.
The message of the epistles is essentially about how the church was founded on the gospel of Christ and how they ought to grow together in the purity of doctrine and godly character.
For instance, we see the gospel and its effect explained in Ephesians 2:1-10. And then in 2:11-22, Paul describes the church, which is born of the gospel and is made up of both Jews and Gentiles who became one body, one temple, and one household of God. In the following chapters, Paul encourages the church to walk in unity and purity (of doctrine and character), reflecting their walk in a manner worthy of the gospel.
The beauty of the gospel is seen in the community born by it. For this reason, it is written, “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).
Well, all the letters to the churches are an encouragement to believers to grow together in the continuous work of the gospel among them. 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “you accepted it i.e., the gospel) not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” The gospel saves and sanctifies Christ’s blood-bought community.
Christ obtained the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He declared, “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). The ultimate purpose of the gospel is not to save merely individuals; it is to build His church, a community of believers for Himself. We cannot separate the gospel from the church, just as we cannot separate the heart from the body.
The pivotal lesson we learn from the New Testament is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the cause of the gospel, which is solely about His life, death, and resurrection. And the church of Christ Jesus is the effect of the gospel. Just as the sun shines forth light, the gospel shines forth the church.
The gospel gives birth to the church. There is no church without the gospel. The gospel and the church are inseparable.
Still, need more evidence?
Here it is in 1 John 3:23, “And this is his (GOD’S) commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ (GOSPEL) and love one another (CHURCH), just as he has commanded us.”
C. Stephen David serves as a pastor at Ekklesia Evangelical Fellowship, Hyderabad, Telangana. He is married to Chaitanya and they have two children.