The New Testament letters are proof Christ loves His Church(es)
Updated: Dec 3, 2021
Establishing churches in the NT
Christ is serious about His Church being rooted and built up in Him.
After the Gospel was proclaimed and people were converted, the New Testament puts a great emphasis on forming churches and those churches becoming established. The word used commonly in the New Testament letters to the churches that expresses this idea is the Greek word steridzo, which means to establish or strengthen. This was the very purpose the letters to the churches were written by the Apostles. A study of the word used in Acts and the Epistles shows what the New Testament concept of establishing churches consisted of. Here is a summary of the concept in these passages.
After disciples are brought together in committed partnership in a newly planted local church, the Apostles and their team members place a priority on an ongoing process of strengthening them in the teaching and practice of their new identity as the Household of Christ. The Apostles main concern is an ongoing faithfulness that does not waver in adversity to the darkness around them or the attacks within them so that they press on in the faith and advance the Gospel of Christ for the glory of His kingdom. The Apostles make it clear to the new disciples and the churches that they should not be surprised about adversity and affliction. Suffering is not to be avoided, rather it is the necessary forming process they must go through to enter the kingdom of God as it was for the Head of the Body, the Lord Jesus Christ. Hearts that are steadied and comforted and unified in the eternal truths of their new identity and purpose become the thrust of the letters and visits the apostles and their representatives make to the New Testament churches.
This receives priority in the New Testament even to the pausing of open doors to new Gospel possibilities if an existing church needed to be strengthened (2 Cor. 2:12-14). The apostles understood that it was wiser in the long run to strengthen an existing church first before pursuing other opportunities because existing churches are to be beachheads and bases for bringing the gospel to the new frontiers.
In order to establish and strengthen the churches it is key that they understand the eternal purpose the church has been appointed for--the church displays the glory of God in His multifaceted wisdom to the seen and unseen universe. Because of its great purpose, the Church must grasp Christ’s majestic plan for Her and see all of life from that fixed navigation point. In order to provide additional stability and leadership to the Household of God, qualified elders are appointed to teach the glories of Christ and His church to transform them by the Spirit and the Word into the likeness of Christ, and to lead the advance of the Gospel through disciples being made and churches planted and strengthened in accordance with Christ’s commission.
The continued pattern of the New Testament process of establishing churches can be summarized in the following activities.
After the Holy Spirit converts people through the proclamation of the risen Christ, the people were gathered into a new family where they were strengthened in the new life they had in Christ as a church (Acts 14:21-22).
Leaders were identified and appointed in the new church to guide and continue the mission (Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23).
The establishing process was not finished. Additional letters and visits and continued training for men to help in the strengthening deepened and anchored the church (1 Thess. 3; 2 Tim. 2:2).
The churches were strategic launching points, beachheads, for the advance of the Gospel to new frontiers. Their partnership in the advance of the gospel was crucial to fulfill Christ’s commission, so it was imperative that they were strong and established.
This process is repeated in the new frontiers for the glory of Christ.
Christ loves His church enough to see Her not stay as infants in a spiritual nursery, but to mature to growing Christlikeness, rooted and built up in Him.
Do I? Do we?
Originally Published 1/5/2016