05 Mar True Church Life
There are two Greek words most commonly translated “church” in the New Testament. Koinonia, which we began to address last week, speaks of the special bonding of the saints in relationship. The other is ecclesia, which speaks of church order, structure, and government. We must have both of these to become the church we are called to be and to experience fellowship as God intended.
First, we can have the best people together in the best settings with the best plan and the best intentions with the best effort and not achieve koinonia. What makes koinonia happen is the presence of the Lord. He is the cement that bonds us together. There can be no other substitute. As we see in Psalm 133, it is when we pour oil upon the Head and it runs down covering the rest of the body that unity happens.
Koinonia is essential for true church life and is a demonstration of true Christianity. However, koinonia can become an idol if we seek it above the Lord. We can have great fellowship and a measure of unity, but we cannot have koinonia without keeping the Lord as the center and purpose of our gathering. We are to grow up in all things into Christ, not into koinonia. Koinonia is the result of a group being joined to the Lord. Without being joined to Him, it is not really possible. Where I have previously experienced a measure of koinonia, I also watched it fade away as the devotion to our special fellowship and unity began to eclipse our devotion to the Lord.
As Peter Lord often says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” The main thing is that we are all growing closer to the Lord. However, as we are told in I John 1:7, “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship (Greek word koinonia) with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” If we are truly walking in the light, we will have koinonia. We cannot be properly joined to the Head without also being properly joined to His body. If we are properly joined to the Head, we will be experiencing koinonia as well.
So what about the more than 50% of Christians who are no longer engaged in local church life? First, the popular modern form of church life is far from what local church life is meant to be. Many have left church because of being wounded or disappointed. Others have left out of sheer boredom, finding neither the presence of the Lord nor the koinonia that every Christian has a deep yearning for. Separations for either wounding and disappointment or boredom and emptiness could not happen if true koinonia was present. Church life must change if we are going to have true life back in the church as it was intended.
Many, if not most, of the largest churches are built on the ministry of a single person. That person may be an extraordinary teacher or preacher, and it is great to see so many hungry ones being fed, but when something happens to that one person on which everything has been built, the people fade away and little remains. If we want our work to remain, all that we build must be built on Christ. Even the best of His servants is no substitute for Him.
The theological principle called “the principle of first mention” basically implies that the foundational principle of a subject is established at the first mention of it in Scripture. This is not always the case, for it is a principle and not a law. Yet very often it is true. Therefore, it is true that much of what we need to understand about church life, we will receive by studying the first-century church. Of course, we are the twenty-first century church, not the first-century church, but the foundation of church life as it is meant to be was laid in the first century. It was first built on Christians who met in the temple as a large group to hear the apostles teach. Then they met “from house to house” in small groups. We need both for a healthy church life where koinonia can happen.