The Church: A Biblical Portrait - A New Testament Apologetic

Jesus Christ preached a Reign or Kingdom, the Kingdom of God (or of heaven).

Mt 4: 17
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

"King, basileus" and "Kingdom, Reign, basileia" must be understood in the sense that Scripture gives them. A "King" is that physical person who rules some public society of people, not by the choice of the people, but his own right. A "Kingdom" is that society of people governed by a king.

The term "Kingdom (or Reign) of God" occurs 50 times in the three synoptic Gospels (14 times in Mark, 32 times in Luke, and 4 times in Matthew).

The term "kingdom of the heaven" occurs 32 times, mostly in Matthew for designating that kingdom beyond the earth which God decreed to build through Christ.

Mt 4:17,23
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." ... He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
Mt 9:35
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.
Mt 5:3,10
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ... Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Mt 6:10
... your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Mt 13:24,31, 33,44,45,47
He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field." ... He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field." ... He spoke to them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast ... The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field ... Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. ... Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind."
Mt 18:23
"That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants."
Mt 20:1
"The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers ..."
Mt 22:2
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son."
Mt 25:1
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom."
Mt 6:10
" ... your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven."
Mt 10:7
"As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"
Lk 9:2
He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (the sick).
Lk 10:9
" ... cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.'"
Act 1:3
He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Jesus preached an end-times kingdom but one already existing on earth.

Mt 5:12
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."
Mt 13: 39, 49
"The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. ... Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous"
Mt 25: 31-34
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'"
Mt 24: 29-31
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."
Mt 25: 34, 46
Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' ... And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
Mt 12: 22-28
Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute. He cured the mute person so that he could speak and see. All the crowd was astounded, and said, "Could this perhaps be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man drives out demons only by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons." But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."
Lk 17: 20-21
Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you [ intra vos est; is within you]."
Mt 11: 12-15
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Jesus preached that the kingdom was primarily spiritual and internal but also visible and external.

Lk 15: 1-32
Kingdom of God parables: the one and ninety-nine sheep, the woman losing a silver piece, the prodigal son.
Lk 17: 20-21
Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you. [intra vos est; is within you]."
Mt 11: 12-15
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.
Mt 13:4-9
The parable of the seed.
Mt 13:18-23
The parable of the sower.
Mt 13:39, 49
... and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Mt 13:36-43
The parable of the weeds in the field.
Mt 13:47-50
The parable of the net.
Mt 10:27
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
Mt 10:32
Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
Mt 28:19
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations
Jn 3:3
Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above."
Mt 16:18
And so I say to you, you are "Rock", and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
Mt 12: 22-28
Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute. He cured the mute person so that he could speak and see. All the crowd was astounded, and said, "Could this perhaps be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man drives out demons only by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons." But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

Christ called and founded an exclusive, inner core group of twelve men called the "apostles."

The "Apostles, apostell" means "those sent." The term is used for that chosen core group of Christ 170 times in the Gospels.

The lists of apostles occur throughout the New Testament:
Mt 10:1ff
Mk 3:16ff
Lk 6:14ff
Act 1:13ff
Simon Peter
Simon Peter
Simon Peter
Peter
Andrew
James
Andrew
John
James
John
James
James
John
Andrew
John
Andrew
Philip
Philip
Philip
Philip
Bartholomew
Bartholomew
Bartholomew
Thomas
Thomas
Matthew
Matthew
Bartholomew
Matthew
Thomas
Thomas
Matthew
James Alphaeus
James Alphaeus
James Alphaeus
James Alphaeus
Thaddeus
Thaddeus
Simon Zealot
Simon Zealot
Simon Zealot
Simon Zealot
Jude
Jude
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot

The apostles were solely and specially instructed:

Mt 10:1-11
on the reason for exercising the task of preaching;
Mt 13:10-36 (Mk 4:10)
on the parables of the kingdom which were only explained to the Apostles;
Mt 18:1-35 (Mk 9:35)
on the manner of ruling and correcting the faithful in the Church;
Mt 24-25
on the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the end of the world and judgment, and on the permanency of the kingdom of God in the face of the persecution of its enemies.
Jn 13-17 (Mk 14:17)
on the mysteries of the divine life and on charity;
Mt 16:21; 17:22; 20:17; 26:2
on the death and resurrection of Jesus;
Mt 26:20; Mk 14:17; Lk 22:14; 1 Cor 11:23-26
on the new covenant founded on the blood of Jesus;
Act 1:3; Lk 24:25
on the immediacy of exercising the apostolate of theirs.

Christ committed His very mission to this twelve man inner core group, his Apostles, alone.

Jn 17:6-8
"I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me."
Jn 14:16-17
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.
Jn 20:21
(Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
Mt 28:18-20
Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

Christ gave to the Twelve, the Apostles, the power of ruling, teaching and sanctifying.

The threefold power:

Mt 28:18-20
Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

The power of teaching:

Mt 10:7, 27
As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' ... What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
Mk 3:14
He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach
Mk 16:15
He said to them (the eleven), "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature."

The power of sanctifying:

Jn 3:5
Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit."
Jn 6:52-53
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you."
Lk 22:19
Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me."
1 Cor 11:24
... and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
Jn 20:22-23
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

The power of ruling:

Mt 18:18
Amen, I say to you (the disciples who came up with a question to Jesus in v.1), whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Mk 9:35
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."

Christ obliges all people to submit to the power of the Apostles.

Mk 16:16
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned."
Mt 10:32
"Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father."
Mt 10:40
"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."
Jn 13:20
"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."
Lk 10:16
"Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

Christ at the same time instituted an obligatory hierarchical society for all people.

This was confirmed by the way the Apostles acted:

Acts 1 - 12
These chapters narrate the exercise of the threefold powers of the Twelve Apostles as well as the miracles through which God confirmed their apostolic powers.

The Apostles took to themselves and exercised the power of teaching:

Mk 16:19-20
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
Act 5:12-42
Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. ... (the angel of the Lord) ... said, "Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life." When they heard this, they went to the temple early in the morning and taught. ... Then someone came in and reported to them, "The men whom you put in prison are in the temple area and are teaching the people." ... And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus.

The Apostles took to themselves and exercised the power of sanctifying:

Act 2:14, 37-38
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them (the Pentecost crowd), ... Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, "What are we to do, my brothers?" Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit."

The Apostles took to themselves and exercised the power of ruling:

making laws

Act 15:1- 16:5
The Council of Jerusalem

making judgments

Act 5:1-11
Ananias, Sapphira and their deception regarding the sale price of their property

The Apostles understood that their powers were hierarchically conferred:

Act 1:16-26
in designating a successor to Judas
Gal 1:1, 12, 18 and 2:2, 7-9
in establishing, understanding and confirming the apostolate of Paul
Act 14:23
in designating priests for the churches
Act 6:1-6
in ordaining deacons

The Apostles also understood that their powers were to be exercised hierarchically:

Act 2:37-43
in uniting and governing the primitive church community
Act 8:2-25
in building and confirming all the churches of Samaria
Act 11:20-26
in building and confirming the church in Antioch
Act 9:31; 15:36
in the vigilance over the newly constituted churches
Act 10:1-48
in admitting gentiles into the church
Act 15: 1-31
in deciding the grave question of judaizing

This society which Christ instituted He called the Church.

The Greek, ekklesia, and the Latin, ecclesia, translates the Hebrew, qahal, meaning principally, assembly.

In the New Testament, the word occurs 114 times, 3 times in Matthew's Gospel, 23 times in the Acts of the Apostles, 63 times in Paul's epistles, 20 times in Revelation, and 5 times within the other epistles of the Apostles. The term ekklesia, ecclesia, church was used exclusively by the authors of the New testament for the gathering of Christians while the word, synagoge, was reserved to signify the gathering of Jews.

Mt 16:18-19
"And so I say to you, you are 'Rock', and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Mt 18:17
"If he refuses to listen to them (two or three witnesses), tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector."

This same church Christ willed to endure until the end of the world.

The promise of indefectibility:

Mt 16:18
... and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it (the church).

Christ instituted only one church, and that society was both formally and specifically a visible one.

Mt 16:18
"... upon this rock I will build my church" (Both "this rock" and "my church" are clearly singular in the Greek text.)
Jn 10:16
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Jn 17:20-21
"I pray not only for them (the Apostles), but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me."
Jn 21:15-17
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep."
Mt 28: 19
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit"
Mk 16:16
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.



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By Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl.
Catholic Biblical Apologetics, © Copyright 1985-2005, Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture texts are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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