One of the most fundamental concepts to understand concerning Jesus and His Church is that the local church is the vessel through which the Messiah is manifested in the world. Thus Jesus is mystically manifested in every community in the world where a local church exists. Indeed, a local church with Jesus as head should be exactly equivalent to Jesus personally present in bodily form himself. The phenomenon which started with one man in one place (Jesus in Jerusalem) has blossomed into this same man now being manifested throughout the world in thousands of local congregations. There may be cultural, lingual and other differences between these local churches, but they each have one thing in common: the direct lordship of Jesus the Messiah.
The message of the church, wherever located, is the “Kingdom of God.” We may study the Gospels to determine what is entailed by this message which Jesus preached. Some fundamental elements of this gospel are:
1. God coming to judge (rule) the world (Psalm 98:9); every other governmental authority will be abolished (Revelation 11:15);
2. He will accomplish this rule through His Messiah (Revelation 20:6);
3. God will introduce a period of “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21):
4. The seat of His government on this earth will be Jerusalem in the midst of the regathered remnant of Israel (Ezekiel 37:25); and,
5. Every person will be held accountable for what he has or has not done in this life (Philippians 2:10-11).
In order to accomplish its mission, there are a number of different activities in which the local church should be engaged. These include:
1. Encouraging Israel; particularly those who have returned to build up the Land of Israel (Romans 15:8);
2. Ministering reconciliation to those who call on the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:18-19);
3. Training disciples in the church (Matthew 29:18-20);
4. Making “spiritual warfare” against demonic principalities (Ephesians 6:12).
Churches should seek to maintain a balance between these types of activities.
God has provided the local church with a number of assets in order for Jesus to be manifested. He calls a number of individuals together to form a local body. God fills each member with His Holy Spirit and gives to each one specific gifts. Jesus promised to be present in such bodies (Matthew 18:20). When all of these gifts are brought together and are functioning as designed, the full ministry of Jesus is manifested in the local church. As the first seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are considered, (wisdom, knowledge, faith, discernment of spirits, miracles, healing and prophecy –1 Corinthians 12:9-10) it is discovered that these are exactly the types of supernatural manifestations which occurred directly through Jesus during His earthly ministry. The other two gifts, tongues and interpretation of tongues are special gifts designed to help believers grow to a position of confidence where they can believe to exercise the other seven gifts. Thus the local church has all the ministry potential that was and is in Messiah Jesus.
Beyond supernatural gifts, the Lord brings forth an array of natural service or administrative gifts that help facilitate the orderly working of the local church. Jesus designates certain individuals to function as special helpers for the local Church. These helpers or ministers include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). They serve by training and preparing the whole body of the local church for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Their function can only be considered successful when the body attains to the full stature of Messiah Jesus (Ephesians 4:13). The role of the minister is not to exclusively manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit but rather to train the body to function in this capacity. In other words, the body of believers should continue to mature until it is essentially equivalent to Jesus Himself being present in the body.
The function of the church is to proclaim the message of the kingdom of God. As it proceeds teaching this message, it should be prepared to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, cast out demons” (Matthew 10:7-8) as it is presented with the need. The church should be in a position to respond to social needs in people; yet this should not be the primary focus of the ministry.
Jesus said that his gospel of the Kingdom must be preached in every nation and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). The mechanism for the proclamation of this message is Jesus in the local church. Local churches made up of real, Spirit-filled believers are currently positioned in virtually every locality in the world. They must be energized! This may necessitate deliverance from denominational bondage and from unscriptural visions perpetuated by church tradition. As the Lord’s churches begin to function in their God-given role, then the end of the age and the coming of the Lord will be near.
*Article originally published in The Tzemach Letter – Autumn 2005