Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Defining a God-centered congregation

Numbers 1:1 "Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying"

A God centered congregation has its life centered around God
As we turn our attention to the book of Numbers, the chief aim of the first four chapters of the book is to outline for us the essential elements of a God-centered congregation.  The children of Israel - at least in form - were to have their spiritual lives (Numbers 2); daily lives (Numbers 3) and work lives (Numbers 4) centered around God. 

What is a congregation? Called and Appointed by God
Seventy-seven times do we see the nation of Israel referred to the title "congregation".  The term translated "congregation" in Numbers 1:2, 18 and 19 refers to a group of people who are appointed by God.  The Hebrew word also tells us that these people were to keep appointments with their God.  God is a God of fellowship and relationship.  In fact, in Acts 7:38 we see Stephen refer to the Israelites in his sermon as the "congregation in the wilderness".  Stephen uses a Greek word that we find often used in the New Testament to describe the church, a word that means "called out ones".  Thus a congregation is appointed and called out by God. To be a called out and appointed people is essential to identifying a God-centered congregation. 

The Lord and His congregation
We must never forget that the local church, identified as a congregation, is owned by the Lord.  Here in Numbers, God wanted to take a census of the people whom He reigned.  Why? So that the people of God would have a means of identifying themselves and rendering their identity in the context of God's promises.  When any king took a census, whether for good purposes or bad, it was an excercise of that King's authority over the people. 

For instance, in Luke 2:1 we read: "Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth."  Just as Caesar, no doubt under the Providence of God, took a census of those under His realm to fix in his mind and his his subjects mind that scope of his authority over their lives - so too Yahweh, the Lord of Heaven and earth, wanted to fix in the people's minds His reign over them.  Christ of course is the Head over His church, of which He purchased with His blood. (Acts 20:28; Colossians 1:13-20) 

Things the local church must remember in aiming to be a God-centered congregation
If local churches in the 21st century would remember the following truths gained from consideration of this word congregation - I believe we could have more God-centered congregations in our local churches. 

First, let us remember that every aspect of our life is to be centered around God.  That is, not only our spiritual lives but also our daily lives at home and our work lives on the job.  Then secondly, a local congregation is not formed by men, but called by God.  We are appointed to keep appointments with Christ - who calls each believer by grace through faith out of the world and into His domain.  All truely converted and then baptized believers are to compose the membership of the local church.

Then finally, if we would remember that the congregation is the Lord's, we would excercise more care, consideration and compassion towards one another.  The Lord Jesus Christ paid for the church by His own blood.  We owe our lives and allegiance to Him. 

No comments:

Post a Comment