Understanding the Church (Part One)

The concept of the church is difficult for many to understand despite the clarity of Scripture. The complexity is derived from man’s misuse of the word “church.” The English word “church” has become so corrupted as to be almost indecipherable from its Biblical concept. There are thousands of different kinds of churches teaching thousands of different doctrines. Which one is right?
To better answer this question we can turn to the Old Testament. Noah and the ark is one of the most famous stories in all the Bible. It has fascinated human minds for thousands of years. It is more than just a nice story, though. It teaches a multitude of lessons. For our purposes it powerfully illustrates God’s truths for the New Testament church.
We will be asking very simple questions about the ark that children can answer. Then, we will take these simple answers and make an application to the church and help us grasp concepts that men claim cannot be understood. In reality, they are so simple the smallest child can answer them. We don’t have to just agree to disagree on our understanding of the church. God intended us to understand it.
Before we begin, we must briefly relate the story of Noah and the ark. In Genesis 6:5 we read, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (NKJV). God repented that he had made man and commissioned Noah and his family, who had been found righteous, to build an ark and to save a remnant of people and animals so that life on earth could continue. The ark was built, people were warned and the animals gathered. The flood waters came and eight people were saved with the animals in the ark. After about a year the water subsided and they returned to dry land (Genesis 6-9).
The ark is a type of the Church. It represents it to our minds so that we can adapt one concept to the other for the purpose of deeper understanding. For example, Noah and his family were called out of the world into the Ark and the door was shut, thus saving them from death. The church means “the called out” of the world of sin and death (John 17:14-16).
First, how many arks were there? Children know there was only one ark. Genesis 7:1 says, “Come into the ark, you and your household because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” So if there was only one ark, how many churches are there? In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Ephesians 1:22-23 says that the church is Christ’s body of which he is the head. Christ has only one body so there is only one church. Indeed, Ephesians 4:4 says there is only “one body.” There are many congregations but only one church, as there was only one ark.
Second, did the majority enter the ark? No. 2 Peter 2:5 says, “and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.” Will the majority enter the church? No. Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” Most all of the people died in the flood because they were ungodly. Likewise, most people will not go to heaven because they are ungodly (2 Peter 2:4-10).


What can the story of the ark teach us about the church?

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

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