What Is the Church?
“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:12
Ahhhhh, church. The buildings we go to on Sunday mornings can present to us a cornucopia of feelings. Excitement, love, and empowerment may be the experience inside of our soul. But then again, guilt, fear, and pressure could be stirred up. It all depends on the message.
Here are some examples of common questions which should be answered clearly by church leaders:
- As a believer, am I complete in Christ or not? The answer is yes, we are complete. Our identity is final from the moment we first believe. What we do and think is not, but who we are is (see Colossians 2:9-10, John 1:12, Romans 12:2).
- Did the Cross really work, or was it only so-so? Yes it worked, and we cannot add to it nor take away from it in any way. The blood of Jesus is more powerful than anything we can possibly imagine in our finite human minds (see John 19:30, Hebrews 1:3, 10:19, Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:7, Matthew 26:28, Romans 5:9).
- At church, am I “calling down” God’s Spirit into this place, like so many people over time have done, and still do, while dancing around campfires to appease fake deities? The answer is no. He’s in us, in our very own spirits. We go into church buildings with Him already inside of us. Unlike those in tribal religions–who are actually summoning demonic forces–we don’t need to plead, “Spirit come! Please, please, Holy Spirit come!” He doesn’t show up in buildings based on begging, crying, and music. He is everywhere at all times. He is Spirit. Just the same, we don’t need to invite Jesus into our hearts again and again. For Christians, our connection with Him is final. We are one. He is inside of us 100%, never to leave again because of the event which occurred at the Cross (see 1 John 2:2, 1 Corinthians 6:17, Colossians 3:3).
- At church, do I need to “be still” so the Holy Spirit can “take control” and use me? No. You have full control of yourself. You’re not a limp noodle or a hollow tube. You’re a person. You have a personality, likes, dislikes, gifts, and talents. The Spirit is in you but you control you. You’re compatible with Him and you work together as a symbiotic team. He will never cast you to the ground nor cause you to rumble in your seat. Emotions are great, but you are under complete control of your body at all times (Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 2:13, 4:13, Colossians 3:23, John 15:5).
Friends, we need to be transparent about quite a few things in regard to our brick-and-mortar locations. That is, what did Jesus do for us, then to us, so that He can do through us? This stuff matters. When we aren’t clear about who we are and what the Cross has done, it causes panic, creates concern, and increases burdens–all of which are paradoxes of what Christ came to do (see Matthew 11:28-30).
The church is us, Christian. It’s you and me because Jesus’ Spirit lives in us. Sure, we go to a church building, but there’s nothing sanctified about a geographical location. Construction materials, which have been neatly compiled with a cross on top, are not holy. Strip clubs, Jehovah’s Witness halls, and mosques are built with the same type of two-by-fours and concrete. We are the sanctified ones–not a building (see Hebrews 10:10, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Acts 7:48, 17:24). Sanctified means holy. Holy means set apart. Our spirits are set apart from sin, from the world, and from hell.
By calling a place “sanctified” or a “sanctuary”–or claiming that it’s “holy ground”–does not make it true. No matter how out of control a person gets–hoopin’ and hollering as they wipe off heavy perspiration with a hanky–Christ destroyed the need for a holy physical location. The same goes for the most elegant, old, traditional buildings. No place on earth is holy, we are holy. Nor do we go to places to be more holy, either (see John 2:19, Colossians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:20).
I know this will hurt some people’s feelings, and I’m sorry, but you, Christian friend, are the true holy sanctuary. You are God’s holy ground. You are sanctified in full. Yes, our actions and attitudes are being sanctified but we are not. Our identity in Christ is final from the millisecond we first believe. The Spirit of Christ cannot live in non-sanctified, unholy places–and the Scripture is clear, He lives in us! We are temples of God! Just look!
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
The temple used to be a physical place for the Jews to receive forgiveness of sin. It was holy because God’s Spirit dwelled there. At this place, bloody animal sacrifices were made to God for the Hebrew people’s sins once a year at the Day of Atonement by way of Levitical priests (see Hebrews 5:1).
However, this building was but a man-made look-alike of the actual temple in heaven. Jesus, who is the final Priest, after He died and shed His blood, He entered into the real temple in heaven which was not made by human hands. While there, He presented His very own blood once for all time, for the sins of the entire world, rather than again and again each year for individual Jew’s sins by way of animal blood (see Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:22-26).
If you are new to this teaching on blood, which is the foundation of forgiveness from God, this might help: animal blood forgave sins year after year at the temple on earth. Jesus’ blood forgave all sins for all time, at the temple in heaven. Now, once we place our faith in His blood, we are forgiven once for all time–even future sins. How? All of our sins were in the future when Jesus presented His blood to the Father in the heavenly temple. He is not bound by our idea of time, which He created (see Hebrews 1:3, 10:10,12,14, John 3:16-18, 2 Peter 3:8).
In the temple on earth, there was a 60-foot high curtain–and very thick as well–only the priests could go past it to present animal blood on the altar. The very moment of Jesus’ death on the Cross, that curtain was supernaturally ripped from top to bottom. The dividing wall between God and man was now gone–literally–both for the Jew and the Gentile. Before this heavy veil was torn, we non-Jews weren’t included to present our best livestock for forgiveness (Ephesians 2:12).
The good news is, the requirement for temple sacrifices–or a temple whatsoever–was now obsolete because of Christ’s final Sacrifice!
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split” (Matthew 27:51)
The need for a building was over.
We are now the building because the Spirit of God can make His home in every person who believes in His Son. Before the Cross, He couldn’t. Blood was needed to draw near to Him because of sin (see Hebrews 7:22, 9:22, 10:19, 13:12). Blood could only be poured out at the temple behind the curtain. But now, through Christ’s blood, and by belief in its power to forgive us, we have been made holy, so we are now the temple. God can enter us, everywhere, all at once, by grace through faith.
Jesus explains this to the disciples; what would happen to them after He died and after Pentecost–not before:
“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)
Prior to His death this wasn’t possible, because of sin. That’s why He said, “On that day,” as in, in the future. Before this, the Spirit could be with people but not in them permanently. Just look at the Old Testament patriarchs, how God’s Spirit came and went all the time. But on this side of the Cross He never leaves us. Ever. Why? Because of the blood of Jesus which was poured out at Golgotha and then supernaturally presented to God at the temple in heaven which took away all of our sins.
Only sins could keep God from making His home in us. But Jesus has snatched those all up and tossed them into the sea of forgetfulness (see Hebrews 8:12, Micah 7:19). Animal blood covered, or “atoned for” sins, a year at a time. Jesus, He took them all away, permanently. No sacrifice for sin is left to be made at the temple for the Jews–and for the Gentile, Jesus is not dying again and again in heaven for each of our sins we commit. It is finished (1 John 3:5, John 1:29, 19:30, Hebrews 8:6, 9:26, 10:4,26-29).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling the need for church buildings. They serve great purposes! But many people are obsessed with the place and overlook the Person within their own temples. Friends, we take Jesus to church, we don’t go to church to get Him in us again and again and again and again and again. That’s worse than Judaism. “Once a year” was their deal, not 52 times a year (see Hebrews 10:3).
We must recenter how we view today’s church buildings. For the Jews, God’s Spirit stayed behind at the temple as they walked off. It doesn’t work that way according to the New Covenant. He’s infused with us forever from the moment we first believe Jesus has forgiven us. We take Him everywhere! (See 1 Corinthians 6:17, Hebrews 6:16-19, 2 Timothy 2:13).
I love church, but for many years I was taught two different Bible verses–used out of context, of course–causing me to believe that if I missed church my life would suffer greatly. Rather than teach me I was the church, I was led to think God would punish me for not going to church. Until I got my butt back in the pews and obeyed Pastor, I could expect a lot less blessings. This was false. Here are both verses used properly:
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (see Exodus 20:8). First of all, what is the Sabbath? The Sabbath is not Sunday morning–or Sunday at all. According to the Jews, to whom this commandment was given by Moses, it is from Friday to Saturday. This was one of the Ten Commandments. However, to double-up on this double-talk, unless we’re Jewish, we were never commanded to remember the Sabbath. We are outsiders, Gentiles. The Sabbath was a day of rest for the Jews, not us. But even if you are Jewish, you must keep all of the Law, not just this one command. It’s a package deal (see Galatians 3:10). Observing the Sabbath was part of the Law of Moses–613 commandments not just 10. From Friday through Saturday they weren’t allowed to work. That’s the premise of “remember the Sabbath.” It has nothing to do with attending a building on Sunday, or ever, for that matter. Their building was the temple and they were required to go there once a year on the Day of Atonement to receive forgiveness of sins by way of animal blood. Sadly, some grace-confused Christians want to say the Sabbath has changed to Sunday after the Cross, based on Acts 20:7. But the Law cannot be altered in any way so this is very wrong (see Deuteronomy 4:2). Sunday was simply a more convenient time for the early church to gather, but this gathering was not a changing of the Mosaic Law. The Jewish Christians knew full well that was impossible (see James 2:10, Romans 10:4, Colossians 2:16-17).
- Do not forsake the assembly of one another (see Hebrews 10:25). Those who find their identity in church attendance will use this verse like a sword in order to cut others. But let’s look at the entire passage for context, including the previous verse. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). I’ve used two different Bible translations for the same passage: A.) “Do not forsake the assembly” B.) “not giving up meeting together.” Both mean the same thing. I’ve done this because those who struggle with legalism have been mis-taught to believe the King James Version is the only perfect version of the Bible–which is wrong. The only perfect version is the original writings which came by way of the actual hand of the authors. The truth is, earlier transcripts have been found since the 1600’s–when the KJV was first translated. It’s been updated since then, so obviously it’s flawed in its rendering–as is every Bible version. To be clear, no Bible translation is flawed in overall content or Spirit, but instead, in language rewording. There are certain Greek words which cannot be translated perfectly into English. No matter how many scholars might try, it can’t be done. For example, Eskimos have around 50 different words for snow. Yet, to translate snow into English, we have one word. This same principle applies to Greek words. English cannot unpack this language perfectly clear. Also, rumor has it King James was not even a Christian and simply translated the Bible into English in order to become famous. Further, what makes us believe an English king who lived 1,600 years after the Cross is more authentic than the first writings? It’s silly. “1611 or you ain’t going to heaven” is a distraction from Satan which was meant to divide–and it has worked. “Do not forsake the assembly” was how English people spoke in the 17th century, but not now. So, this verse in Hebrews is not a law to go to church, but in context, advice for Christians to keep meeting up in groups! Why? To encourage one another! To stir up love and good deeds!
When we create a new commandment of “Thou shalt go to church!” the power of sin gets excited, the lost are repelled, and fear-factors grow in the minds of believers. Even more diabolical, the prideful egos of the religiously-devout are shot with steroids. To nip this in the bud we must understand that you and I are the church! Where we go, God goes–even into the buildings!
So today, my friends, know this: The church is a family. It’s not a place, but us. You, me, and every believer, all throughout the world, we form the church. Like any relationship, sure, we have our ups and downs. But we’re still a family. We are one, forever connected, in spirit!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, I want to thank you for the revelation of knowing I am the church. You’ve taught me that you live in me permanently. As a result, a confidence has grown unlike I knew in my younger years. Your Spirit in me was being rubbed wrong when I heard sermons that taught otherwise. Rightfully so. The Cross destroyed the need for a building or middleman to be close to you! How amazing! I AM the church! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of these dear people have been beat down by religion and it’s just not fair. I’ve been there. I understand what it’s like to be lied to about the building we call church–as if it’s holy ground or your house. It’s not. The church is not a building, and it never was. It’s always been us. Please ease their minds today as you teach them the truth of their identity as saints. They house you in their very beings! Let them know the church building can be a great place! Being around other believers, enjoying their hugs, encouragement, and worshiping you is spectacular! But first, we must know a foundational truth: WE ARE THE CHURCH. Build on this truth, in their minds, Dad. Give them a newfound peace about the topic of church, like never before. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 2. Get your copy here!