“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).
The New Testament church is distinctly privileged. Joined to God by intimate union of life, it serves on earth with God by grace through faith alone rather than for God by the performance of religious works.
The New Testament church has a distinct motive for existence. It is demonstrative of the selfless love, unfailing mercy and absolute justice of God.
The New Testament church has a distinct role in the kingdom of God.
During this present age, it is designed to vindicate the nature of God from angelic challenge and accusation and allow for the rapid repopulation of His kingdom from the elect of the densely populated Gentile nations.
The New Testament church is distinctly described in the twelve “kingdom of heaven” parables. The first seven describe the presentation of the message of divine authority manifested on earth from the heavenly realm during the Church Age and the consequent angelic and human response. The remaining five clarify the means by which human beings are privileged to submit to the authority of God manifested on earth from the heavenly realm during the Church Age.
The New Testament church is distinctly related to God. Rather than through means of covenant partnership, it relates to God as the primary beneficiary of the Eternal Covenant.
The New Testament church has a distinct calling. It is called out from the condemnation and wrath of God and called together into an intimate, shared-life community known as the ecclesia or the “assembly” of God’s chosen people.
The New Testament church has a distinct legality. By the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, it is justified from sin. Therefore, it is forgiven of all transgression of the rule of law; past, present and future and declared righteous according to law. The declaration was congruent with the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. As a consequence, the righteous requirement of the rule of law was fulfilled in the New Testament church and it was released from the rule of law. Forever holy and blameless before God, it is free to live.
The New Testament church is distinctly alive. Justified from sin, it is legally suitable to share life with Jesus Christ, the mediator of the Eternal Covenant. His indwelling life is the animating source of life for the New Testament church.
The New Testament church is subject to a distinct headship. Relative to the unconditional benefit of the Eternal Covenant, the New Testament church is eternally positioned under the federal and natural headship of Jesus Christ. Positioned under the federal headship of Christ, it shares the legal status of God in Christ. Consequently, it is representative of the righteous legal status of God on earth. Positioned under the natural headship of Christ, the New Testament church shares the life status of God in Christ. In an intimate union of shared-life with God, it is representational of God on earth.
The New Testament church is a distinct body. It is one spiritual body comprised of many individual members. The body of the New Testament church is animated, formed and cultivated on earth by the Spirit of Christ. It is animated by means of His regeneration, indwelling and leading; formed by His baptizing and sealing; and cultivated on earth according to His fullness.
The New Testament church is described by a number of distinct concepts and figures. An eternal, shared-life community created and cultivated by God alone, it is, among other things, a household, body, field, building, temple, bride, pillar and support of the truth, priesthood and flock.
The New Testament church has a distinct function and form. Its function is to facilitate fellowship between God and mankind. The corresponding form of the New Testament church is a spiritual body.
The New Testament church has a distinct purpose and mission.
Its fundamental purpose is fellowship with God. The corresponding mission of the New Testament church is to cultivate and protect its shared life fellowship with God. Consequently, God is communicated, revealed and shared on earth by means of the gracious overflow of His indwelling life and the “Great Commission” is fulfilled by grace through faith alone.
The New Testament church was distinctly manifested on earth. The most effective accommodation of its New Testament function, form, purpose, mission, headship, governance, doctrine and practice is small group community.
The New Testament church is characterized by a distinct simplicity.
It allows for animation by the indwelling life of God and, therefore, the production of spiritual fruit in a manner that is profoundly abundant.
The New Testament church has historically encountered opposition on the fallen earth. It has targeted both its function and form through persecution, doctrinal deception and simulation.
The New Testament church has a distinct government. It is theocratic in nature, mediated on earth by elect human beings. The mediatorial theocracy of the New Testament church is characterized by divine headship, the divine rule of indwelling life and the ordered equality of its elect brothers and sisters.
The New Testament church has a distinct Scripture. It is contained in the Holy Bible. While the entire Bible is beneficial for the church, it must be clarified that not all of it applies directly to the church.
Only the Gospels, Book of Acts and Epistles were written directly for benefit of the New Testament church. Generally speaking, the Gospels are foundational for church practice, the Book of Acts is descriptive of church practice and the Epistles are prescriptive for church practice.
The New Testament church has distinct values. The primary factors that shape its values are the leading of the risen, indwelling Savior; the teaching and tradition of the Apostles; and prayer.
The New Testament church has a distinct faith. Its cooperative faith is a righteous response to the grace of God; supported by knowledge of God; undergirded by agreement with God; demonstrated by trust in God; active and continuous; dependent; and evidenced by works.
The New Testament church is characterized by distinct prayer. Effectively originating from God by His indwelling Spirit, it is designed to move the life of the church. The New Testament church cooperates by faith alone.
The New Testament church has distinct works. They were predetermined before the foundation of the world to fulfill an eternal purpose; the vindication of the nature of God (cf. Ephesians 3:8-11). Consequently, the works of the New Testament church are divine in origin, eternal and living.
The New Testament church is characterized by distinct giving. Trusting in Christ alone for its provision, the church is designed to be unencumbered by debt. Through the faithful, prayerful, willful, cheerful giving of the saints, its headship and body are unrestrained in the fulfillment of eternal purpose.
The New Testament church has a distinct role for women. Jesus Christ is allowed His rightful place of headship. As a consequence, the role of women in church gatherings and church life in general is elevated.
The New Testament church has a distinct assembly. It was graciously predetermined to accommodate the eternal function of the church in a manner that is Christ-centered and Spirit-filled. The Scriptural conditions favorable include the intimacy of a small group environment that is interactive, intergenerational, moves from house to house and celebrates the Lord’s Supper as a full meal.
The New Testament church is characterized by a distinct supper; the Lord’s Supper celebrated as a full meal. The primary practice of the church, every other activity serves as an instrument to facilitate the celebration of Christ during the meal.
The New Testament church has distinct gatherings. The simple, spiritual gatherings of the New Testament church are Spirit-ordered. Characterized by the collective fullness of the Spirit and consequent sensitivity to His leading, New Testament church gatherings are evidenced by much prayer; significant worship in song; the fellowship of the Spirit; a celebratory feast; and spiritually gifted overflow ministry.
The New Testament church has distinct growth. It is a gracious act of God. Concordant with His promise and providence, the growth of the church was predesigned to occur by the reproduction of shared-life community on earth.
The New Testament church is characterized by distinct warfare. Fully armored in Christ, it does not need to fight to gain victory. The New Testament church is eternally secure, seated in a position of perfect victory at the right hand of the Father. From its lofty position it is privileged to look down from above and witness the unconditional victory of the incomparable power of indwelling life (zoe).