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  • Writer's pictureMarco Inniss

10 Key Bible Verses on the Church

1. Acts 2:42–47

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Read More

The Christian Community Shares a Life in Common. This is the first extensive “summary” in Acts. It depicts a number of activities characteristic of the earliest church.

The early church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching, which would have included Jesus’ earthly teaching plus what he taught the apostles in his 40 days of resurrection appearances. Fellowship (Gk. koinōnia, “participation, sharing”) included the sharing of material goods (Acts 2:44), the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46), which likely covers both the Lord’s Supper and a larger fellowship meal, and prayers in house meetings and likely also in the temple (Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46).

all things in common. Though some people have referred to this situation as “early communism,” this is clearly not the case, since (1) the giving was voluntary and not compelled by the government, and (2) people still had personal possessions, because they still met in “their homes” (v. 46) and many other Christians after this still owned homes (see 12:12; 17:5; 18:7; 20:20; 21:8, 16; Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philem. 2; 2 John 10). Further, Peter told Ananias and Sapphira that they did not have any obligation to sell their property and give away the money (Acts 5:4). In contrast to communist theory, the abolition of private property is not commanded or implied here. (See 1 Tim. 6:17–19; but also 1 Tim. 6:6–10.) On the other hand, there is a voluntary generosity in sharing possessions that is seen as commendable.

2. 1 Timothy 3:14–15

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Read More

In this very significant verse, Paul states his reason for writing 1 Timothy, providing one of the key NT descriptions of the church’s identity and mission. The use of household (Gk. oikos) and related words to describe the church and its ministry is common in Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 2:19; as well as 1 Tim. 3:4–5, 1 Tim. 3: 12, 1 Tim. 3: 15; 1 Tim. 5:4, 1 Tim. 5:8, 1 Tim. 5:14; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17). It describes the church as God’s family, especially with reference to authority and responsibility within the church and the home. The stress is on God’s authority over the church and the behavior of people in the church. Church of the living God highlights the church as the gathering (Gk. ekklēsia, “assembly”) where God most clearly manifests his presence. Thus, references to God as the “living God” in Scripture often refer to his reality and presence in the community of believers (cf. Num. 14:28; Josh. 3:10; Matt. 16:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 3:12; Heb. 9:14; Heb. 10:31). Identifying the church as a pillar and buttress of the truth is a way of saying that God has entrusted to the church the task of promoting and protecting the gospel (i.e., “the truth”; see note on 1 Tim. 2:4). The architectural imagery presents the church’s responsibility of “holding up” the gospel before a watching world, probably with a view to repelling the attack of false teaching. This picture of the church is striking. The role of advancing the gospel is divinely given to the church, not (at least not in the same way) to any other body. Parachurch organizations have value, but they must support and not supplant the church.

3. Romans 12:4–5

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Read More

The diversity and unity of the church is illustrated by comparison to the human body. Just as the human body is one with many members (lit., body parts, limbs), so the church is united though it is composed of many members. On the theme of the church as the body of Christ, see also 1 Corinthians 12 and Eph. 4:4, 12–16.

4. Colossians 1:17–20

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.Read More

in him all things hold together. Christ continually sustains his creation, preventing it from falling into chaos or disintegrating (cf. Heb. 1:3)

Christ Is Lord of Redemption. Christ is Head of the church and has accomplished reconciliation at the cross.

he is the head of the body. Paul spoke elsewhere of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), but he takes the image a step further here and envisions Christ as the head of the body (see also Eph. 1:22–23; 5:25). This metaphor conveys Christ’s leadership over the body and may also suggest his role in providing sustenance for it (see notes on 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 2:10; 2:19).

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. The “fullness” language here and throughout the letter is reminiscent of its use in the OT, where it was said that God “filled” the temple with his presence. For instance, the prophet Ezekiel exclaims, “I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (Ezek. 44:4). Jesus not only bears God’s glory, but all that God is also dwells in him. He possesses the wisdom, power, Spirit, and glory of God. To say that all this divine fullness dwells in Jesus is to say that he is fully God (see also Col. 2:9).

to reconcile to himself all things. As the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), Jesus will ultimately quell all rebellion against God and his purposes. For believers, this means present reconciliation to God as his friends. As for nonbelievers and the demonic powers, Christ’s universal reign of peace will be enforced on them, for their rebellion will be decisively defeated by Christ as conquering king (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24–28; Rev. 19:11–21; 20:7–10) so that they can no longer do any harm in the universe. The basis for Christ’s reign of peace is the blood of his cross. The cross truly is the pivotal point in human and cosmic history. On crucifixion, see note on Matt. 27:35.

5. Ephesians 2:19–22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Read More

So then. Christians have to know and be thoroughly convinced of who they are as saints and members of the household of God if they are to live accordingly. strangers. As in Eph. 2:12 (“commonwealth”), Paul employs a term that was common to political life in ancient cities like Ephesus. Strangers (also Eph. 2:12) were complete foreigners with no rights or privileges (see Acts 16:20–23); aliens were non-citizens who dwelt in the city and were accorded customary privileges as neighbors. Only citizens had full protections and rights in the city (see Acts 21:39).

joined together. Christians are the temple of God corporately; belonging to the visible church is not optional for followers of Christ. holy temple. Where God meets with his people in joyful worship and fellowship. Believers do not have to worship in Jerusalem today because they themselves have become the new temple of God (see John 4:21).

6. 1 Peter 2:4–5

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Read More

Peter alludes to texts in Hosea that refer to Israel (Hos. 1:6, 9, 10; 2:23) and sees them fulfilled in the church.

As you come to him indicates a daily personal relationship with Christ, beginning at but not limited to the time of conversion. As believers continue in fellowship with Christ, they “are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5). Just as his followers suffer persecution, Jesus also was rejected by men. Still, he is risen from the dead and hence is the living stone—the foundation of God’s new temple. He is God’s elect (chosen) one, and as the exalted Lord he is honored above all.

Believers are living stones in God’s new temple (i.e., spiritual house). Since the components that make up the house are “living,” the house itself is also growing: you yourselves . . . are being built up. Peter sees that the OT temple anticipated the new temple where God dwells (i.e., in his people). But believers are not only God’s temple but are also a holy priesthood, which offers spiritual sacrifices (cf. Rom. 12:1; Phil. 4:18; Heb. 13:15–16) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

7. 1 Corinthians 14:26

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.Read More

When you come together. This verse gives a fascinating glimpse into the kinds of activities that took place when the early church gathered as the body of Christ to worship the Lord. The worship included a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. In order to prevent discord and confusion (cf. 1 Cor. 14: 23, 33), Paul concludes his description of early church worship by emphasizing that all of these activities must be “done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14: 40). The goal of building up is analogous to the building of the temple (see 1 Cor. 3:16; cf. Ex. 25:8).

8. Hebrews 10:24–25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Read More

let us consider. The third and final exhortation in Heb. 10: 22–25 calls for serious thinking about other Christians with a purpose to stir up (or “provoke”) them in their love and service (good works). Christian perseverance is thus also a community endeavor. meet together. Community encouragement toward perseverance requires being together. That some were neglecting this duty may have been among the motives for the author’s warnings throughout this book. encouraging. Voicing exhortation with the goal of strengthening another’s faith (see Heb.3:13; cf. Heb. 13:22). the Day drawing near. The coming day of Christ’s return and judgment (Heb. 9:28; Heb. 10:37)

9. Revelation 21:2–3

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Read More

The holy city, new Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22–24), the church redeemed by Jesus Christ, will no longer be trampled by nations (Rev. 11:2) but rather, will be adorned as a bride

He will dwell with them. The greatest blessing of heaven will be unhindered fellowship with God himself. The goal of God’s covenant, “God with us” (Isa. 7:14), foreshadowed in the OT tabernacle and temple, will be achieved. his people . . . their God. See Lev. 26:11–12; Ezek. 37:27.

10. 1 Corinthians 12:12–26

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.Read More

Paul assumes the Corinthians know that the church is Christ’s body (see also 1 Cor. 12: 27; 1 Cor.6:15; 1 Cor.10:16; Rom. 12:4–8; Eph. 1:22–23; Eph. 4:4, Eph. 4:12–16; Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18, Col. 1: 24).

Since the Spirit is one, he unites peoples across lines of ethnicity and social class that would otherwise divide them. (See Rom. 10:12; Gal. 3:27–28; Col. 3:11.) in one Spirit we were all baptized. The same Greek construction (the verb baptizō plus en [“in”] plus the dative of pneuma, “Spirit”) is used here as in the other six “baptism in the Holy Spirit” passages in the NT (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16), and here it seems clearly to refer to the cleansing and empowering work that the Holy Spirit does in a new convert at the point of conversion. Baptism is used metaphorically here to refer to the Spirit’s work within the believer to unite him or her to the body of Christ, which is also the corporate body of believers. Water baptism is an outward symbol of this reality (cf. Rom. 6:4; Gal. 3:27). made to drink. Probably not a reference to the cup of the Lord’s Supper but to the outpouring of God’s Spirit on his people (cf. John 7:37–39; Rom. 5:5).

body . . . member. See Rom. 12:4–5; Eph. 1:22–23; 4:11–16.

whole body . . . an eye . . . an ear. See also 1 Cor. 12:19. One problem Paul seeks to address throughout 1 Cor. 12:1–14:40 is the elevation of one gift (probably speaking in tongues) above all others. The general principle applies to an unbalanced emphasis on any particular spiritual gift at any time or place in the church.

God arranged. The Corinthians’ thinking will be corrected when they consider God’s sovereignty in assigning gifts (cf. also 1 Cor. 12: 3, 11, 28).

many parts, yet one body. One of the key themes in these chapters is unity in the midst of diversity.

This probably reflects Paul’s assessment of how those Corinthians with the gift of tongues (and perhaps other more spectacular or “showy” gifts) were treating those with other gifts. The purpose of the gifts is to build one another up and to care for one another, not to flaunt one’s own spirituality.

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.



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