CHRUCH – In the NT, the Greek word ekklesia refers to any assembly, local bodies of believers, or the universal body of all believers.

The Church as People of God – Redemptive history demonstrates that God’s purpose are not limited to redemption of individuals. Instead, God’s intent was to form a people (Gen 12:1-3).

The OT relates God’s establishment of the Jewish nation, ruled by a king of His choosing, governed by divine revelation, and settled in the land of promise. The OT foresaw, however, a day when God would call Gentiles to Himself. After Pentecost, the apostles believed this prophecy was fulfilled as God created a new multinational, multiethnic church (Acts 2:14-42; 15:6-29). Jesus was the Son of David ushering in the eschatological ingathering of the nations (Acts 15:15-17). The church’s identity as the people of God is seen in terms of both Jewish and Gentile believers. Paul noted that the Gentiles have been “grafted on” to the people of God along with believing Israel (Rom 11:11-25). Pagans once cut off from God and excluded from the commonwealth of Israel became “fellow citizens” with the Jews in God’s and excluded from the commonwealth of Israel became “fellow citizens” with the Jews in God’s planned redemption (Eph 2:11-22 HCSB). Indeed, now there is “no Jew or Geek” in the church (Gal 3:28 HCSB). Using language once reserved only for Israel, Peter wrote of the church as a “holy priesthood” and a house of “living stones” (1 Pet 2:4-10 HCSB). Indeed, Peter, echoing Hosea (Hos 1:9), reminds but now you are God’s people” (1 Pet 2:10).

John’s end-time vision is of a vast multitude from every “tribe, people, and language” redeemed before God’s throne (Rev 7:9-10). Jesus commissioned His disciples to carry the gospel even “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The multinational, multiethnic character of the NT church testifies not only to the universality of the gospel message (Rom 10:11-12) and to the personal reconciliation accomplished at the cross (Eph 2:14-16), but also the the global extent of the coming reign of Christ (Psa 2:8). Thus, obedience to the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20) is not simply a function of the church but is essential to her identity as the people of God.

Similarly, worship is not incidental. Because God has assembled a people “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph 1:6), worship is necessary to the corporate life of the church. This is seen not only in Israelite practice but also in the practice of the earliest church (John 4:20-24; Eph 5:18-20).

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