God’s gospel is now embodied in the new community called the church.
7. We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God's grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
I don’t know what I would do if my best friend disparaged my wife. Actually, that’s not true. I do know what I’d do – I’d tell him that in order to remain my friend, he would have to learn to respect and appreciate my wife. Thankfully, my best friend has no such quarrel with my wife. However, surveying modern Christianity, Jesus apparently does have this problem as many of his self-professed friends often go to great lengths to disparage His bride, the church. By including a strong statement on the church in our statement of faith, the EFCC is in effect sticking up for our master’s bride – a stance that I believe will be well rewarded in his Kingdom.
The doctrine of the church is most carefully unpacked in the book of Ephesians. In the first two chapters, Paul speaks of the universal church described in the first two sentences of our statement of faith. Paul informs the believers that it was God’s plan “from before the foundation of the world” that when they “heard the word of truth, the gospel of [their] salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” he would unite them in His church “which is [Christ’s] body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (1:4,13,22). In 3:6, the universal church is called the mystery of Christ – that Gentiles and Jews are now members of the same body.
In chapter 3:7-12, however, Paul shifts his focus to the local church. Many evangelicals fail to understand Paul’s two-fold apostolic purpose described in this passage. Paul’s job description was not merely “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” but also “to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery”, namely, the church. Through the apostolic task of planting and establishing local churches, Paul was birthing visible expressions of the aforementioned mystery, displaying the wisdom of God before all heaven and earth. To despise the local church is to reject the wisdom of God and invalidate the ministry of the apostles.
Acts 20:28-29 chronicles the “passing of the baton” of local church oversight from Paul the apostle to mature local overseers. Ephesians 4:10-16 teaches that local churches are to be equipped by competent ministers, so that they may grow and mature. 1Timothy 3:1-7 prescribes that those who oversee God’s household are to be mature husbands and fathers of good character, consistent with the household model of the early church. Although there is a diversity of opinions on the roles of church leaders, the structure of church polity, and the role of women in leading the churches, I believe that it is important to make a strong statement that local churches do in fact have some visible leadership, as it is becoming more common for small emerging house churches to spring up which deny even the existence of and sort of ecclesiastical leadership.
In matters relating to the sacraments, the purpose of baptism is to outwardly proclaim one’s allegiance to Christ. Baptism is a ceremony, a symbol, and a start to the life of discipleship. North America baptism is often undervalued to our hurt. We could learn from Christians in other parts of the world how important this sign is in the life of a Christian.