PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 12; the Church made up of Individuals

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090125_the_church_4.mp3

1/25 The Church; Made up of Individuals with Spiritual Gifts

We’ve been talking about the church. We’ve been focusing on the big massive truths about the church. We saw that the church is a community of people called out from the world by the Lord Jesus Christ, founded on his identity, and united by the new birth. We saw that the church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of Jesus and she will overcome. We took a look at what characterized the early church; they were filled with awe at the awesome works of God, they were filled with joy and generosity and praise, and they devoted themselves to studying and hearing God’s word, to intimate community life, to worship and remembering Jesus’ finished work, and to seeking God in intimate conversation with him.

Today I want to ask the question ‘so what’s my part?’ Paul says:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

So if we are Christ’s body, the church, and the church is made up of individual members, then what is my specific role and function in the group? As an individual member, what part do I play? What do I contribute? We are going to look at spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

There’s a lot of confusion in the air on the topic of spiritual gifts. In some churches there is an overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, especially a few particular gifts. In other churches, there resistance and fear to even talk about the gifts. Paul tells us that he doesn’t want us to be ignorant or uninformed about the gifts. We can’t afford to go through life not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.

We went on vacation one year to visit family for Christmas, so we were out of town for my work Christmas party. A few days after I had returned to work, they were cleaning up the holiday decorations and a co-worker came to by cubicle and said ‘hey, did you ever pick up your gift?’ What do you think my response was? ‘Eh. Whatever. Can’t you see I’ve got work to catch up on? I don’t have time for a gift.’ How many think that’s how I responded? How would you respond? ‘Gift? Gift! What is it? Where is it? I want it….now!’ How many of you know that it is more blessed to give than to receive? How many know that it is still pretty blessed to receive?

The word translated ‘spiritual gifts’ in our bible is just one word in the original; ‘pneumatikon’ [pneumatikwn], which simply means ‘of the spirit’ or ‘of the air’. You have pneumatic tires on your car. We had a pneumatic shop where I worked. Pneumatic simply means ‘of or relating to air; powered by air’. We built elaborate control systems that would operate by air power. We had a giant air compressor in a shed outside the building, and air lines piped in and run all over the ceiling, with air drops for connecting pneumatic equipment. We had pneumatic drills and pneumatic wrenches and pneumatic screwdrivers and pneumatic presses and pneumatic nail guns. Each tool had its specific function, but they all ran on air. When they were not connected to the air lines they were useless. When they were connected to the air source, they had great potential to get a lot of work done efficiently and effectively. They also had the potential to do a lot of damage if they were misused. The air press would neatly and efficiently press a part into place, but it also had the potential to permanently disfigure your finger if you misused it. The air nailer would effortlessly and precisely pound a nail into a 2×4, but it would just as effortlessly put that nail through your foot if you weren’t careful, as one of my co-workers found out. The things that are of or pertaining to the ‘Pneuma’; the Spirit are powerful tools for good, but they can also be used inappropriately and result in harm.

That’s one of the main reasons that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church. This church was misusing the gifts of the Spirit to their own harm. They were selfish and boastful and proud and Paul wrote to correct their problems and put them back on the right track. So Paul tells them up front ‘I do not want you to be uninformed concerning spiritual gifts.’ There are things you need to know about the gifts of the Spirit. Not just that there are gifts and which ones you have, but how to use them in a way that builds up the body and brings honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at what he says in v.2:

2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Notice he’s talking about being under the influence or control of another. The word he uses of being ‘led astray’ was the word commonly used of leading a condemned person away for execution. That’s the picture we have of our life before Christ – being led to worship worthless things by demonic powers. Paul is concerned not with the fact that what you say was supernaturally induced but where it came from. The spiritual source is revealed by the content of what you say. God’s Holy Spirit would never induce you to say something against Jesus. On the flip side, here’s a true gift of the Spirit of God: acknowledging that Jesus is your King! As Jesus told Peter ‘flesh and blood has not revealed this to you’; surrendering to Jesus as Lord and King is a supernatural work of the Spirit of God in your life.

He goes on to talk about the unity of the body in the diversity of the gifts:

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Gifts ‘charismaton’ [carismatwn] is from the root ‘charis’ [cariv] grace or free gift; there are varieties of gifts, there are varieties of service, there are varieties of activities; but the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God gives and empowers. Notice the triune God here? God is one; but God gives a unique manifestation of the Spirit to each individual. Pay careful attention to the last phrase: ‘for the common good’. That is key to the discussion of spiritual gifts. Your gifts are not for you. Your gifts are for others. My gifts are for your benefit. Selfishness and pride are contrary to the purpose of the gifts. You can’t hoard the gifts you have been given and you can’t boast about the gifts you have – they are gifts given freely by God as he chooses. The gifts are for the common good.

Let’s look quickly at some of the gifts. Understand there is no comprehensive list of gifts given in the bible. We’ll look at a few passages that list some of the gifts – but the point is not to exhaustively list them but to give us an idea of what kinds of gifts and abilities God has given to his church to use for the common good. And remember, don’t just go down the list checking off ‘that’s not my gift, that’s not my gift, does not apply…’ The gifts are for the common good, so although no one has all the gifts, we all benefit from the gifts of those around us, so an awareness and appreciation of those gifts in others will be beneficial to you as an individual and to us as the church. [I am indebted to pastor James MacDonald for the definitions of the gifts.] Buckle your seat belts, here we go.

8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,

Wisdom is the spiritual ability to understand God’s perspective on life situations and to share those insights in a simple understanding way; it is a capacity to relate the truth of scripture to real life situations.

and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

Knowledge is the spiritual ability to know things that were not learned through normal channels.

9 to another faith by the same Spirit,

Faith is the spiritual ability to trust God for what cannot be seen and to act on God’s promises. Faith is confidence in God. All believers have faith in God, but the gift of faith is an extraordinary ability to believe God for the impossible.

to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

Healing is the spiritual ability to be God’s channel to restore health. This is similar to the gift of faith, but specific to healing. I don’t believe this is limited to physical healing, but can include emotional and spiritual healing as well.

10 to another the working of miracles,

Miracles is the spiritual ability to receive and display exceptional interventions of God’s power in ways that bring him glory. By definition miracles are not frequent and typical but unusual and exceptional. Miracles are things that are not explainable by natural causes.

to another prophecy,

Prophecy is the spiritual ability to publicly communicate God’s word in an inspirational way that convinces unbelievers and challenges and comforts people. It is the ability to persuasively declare God’s word in a way that makes the truth come alive and people sense God himself is speaking. The gift of prophecy speaks God’s word with authority, bringing conviction of sin and awareness of its consequences. The gift of prophecy is not the same as the office of prophet. There are people today with the gift of prophecy, but we do not call them prophets.

to another the ability to distinguish between spirits,

Distinguishing spirits or discernment is the spiritual ability to distinguish right from wrong and to separate truth from error. It is the ability to discern motives and agendas. A word of caution is in order here. There are many so called discernment ministries that are hyper critical and find something wrong with every ministry and demonstrate no love or grace. The gift of discernment used in the flesh is a destructive and dangerous thing.

to another various kinds of tongues,

Tongues is the spiritual ability to speak a message from the Lord or to the Lord through divinely anointed utterances which are languages

unrecognized by speakers and hearers. Like all the gifts, the purpose of tongues is for the edification of the church. The whole point of this section is that tongues is a gift, but it is not the most important gift and it should not attract all the attention in the church. We have two main parameters that will keep us balanced in our thinking about tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:30 tells us that not all believers speak in tongues. It is a gift given to some but not all in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:49 makes it very clear that we are not to forbid speaking in tongues. If we stay between these two boundaries, we can maintain a biblical balance.

to another the interpretation of tongues.

Interpretation of tongues is the spiritual ability to make known to the church the message or interpretation of the one who spoke in tongues. It is in combination with the interpretation that tongues edifies believers. That is why Paul demanded:

1 Corinthians 14:27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.

Lets jump down to verse 27 where he adds some other gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles,

Apostles. The bible is clear that the office of apostle is closed.

Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

The foundational offices of apostle and prophet are not repeated, however there are people today with apostolic gifting. This is the spiritual ability to start new churches and ministries and oversee their development; these are ministry entrepreneurs with a boldness to take the gospel to uncharted territories.

second prophets, third teachers,

Teachers have the spiritual ability to educate God’s people by clearly explaining and applying the bible in a way that causes others to learn. It is the ability to equip and train people for ministry.

then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping,

Helping is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and take initiative to provide practical assistance to others quickly, cheerfully, and without need for recognition. Thank God for those with the gift of helping.

administrating

Administration is the spiritual ability to ascertain the gifts of others and recruit them for ministry. They organize and manage resources for effective ministry. Administrators have the ability to coordinate many details and execute the plans of leadership.

and various kinds of tongues.

We already talked about tongues. Let’s turn over to Ephesians 4 to see some more.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. … 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists,

Evangelist is the spiritual ability to effectively communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to unbelievers; the ability to sense opportunities to share Christ and lead people to respond in faith. Understand, we are all commanded to do evangelism;

2 Timothy 4:5 As for you, …do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

But some are specially gifted and evangelism comes naturally.

the pastors

Pastoring is the spiritual ability to care for the needs of a group of believers and equip them for ministry; ability to nurture people in spiritual growth and assume responsibility for their welfare.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Notice again the emphasis on mutual edification. Let’s turn over to Romans 12 to see some more.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving;

Service is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and to invest personal resources to meet that need. A person with the gift of service delights to do get the job done.

the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation;

Exhortation or encouragement is the spiritual ability to motivate God’s people to apply and act on biblical principles especially when they are discouraged or wavering in their faith; ability to bring out the best in others and challenge them to develop their full potential.

the one who contributes, in generosity;

Giving is the spiritual ability to generously contribute money and other resources so that the body of Christ might be strengthened and expanded; this person experiences tremendous freedom and joy when they give – they are open handed and open hearted with singleness of purpose.

the one who leads, with zeal;

Leading is the spiritual ability to communicate a compelling vision in a way that produces followers.

the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Mercy is the spiritual ability to recognize people who are hurting and take action to relieve their suffering. This person is extremely compassionate and gladly carries the burdens of others without feeling inconvenienced.

This was a fast overview of some of the gifts that God has blessed the church with. You might be asking ‘how do I know what gifts I have been given? You can get online and find spiritual gift inventories and questionnaires that will help you identify your gifts, but here’s the best way to really find out. Get involved! Show up. Be part of the body. Get involved in each other’s lives. Step out of your comfort zone. Be stretched and try new things. When you do, there will be three main indicators that tell you you’ve found your place: you will be satisfied; God will be glorified, and people will be edified.

If you have gifts that you are not aware of, or are hiding, we all are suffering. We simply can’t afford to go through life together not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Romans 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

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January 25, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Characteristics of the Church; Acts 2:42

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090118_the_church_3.mp3

1/18 The Church; What we are Called to Be and to Do

We’re spending a few weeks looking at the church – who are we and why are we here – and examining ourselves to see if we need to make any adjustments so that we can more fully be who we are called to be.

We looked at Matthew 16 and we saw that the church is a community called out from the world, founded on the identity of Jesus and united by the new birth. The person and work of Jesus – that he is the infinite Son of God, our creator and redeemer, and that he came to die for our sins – is the rock on which the church is built. Individuals are made part of the community by the creative work of God causing them to be born again. Seeing Jesus for who he is is not a natural response to the facts; it is a supernatural work of God in the heart.

Then we looked at the origin and destiny of the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she will overcome. The one who ‘upholds the universe by the word of his power’ (Hebrews 1:3) said:

Matthew 16:18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

That was a sovereign declaration of purpose, and it will infallibly come to pass. Christ’s church will be established, and she will be victorious over death and hell. And we saw that the church Jesus was talking about is spiritual, not physical; the body of Christ composed of all true believers and only believers throughout history and all over the globe.

Today I want to look at the nuts and bolts of what it means to be the church. If we are a local visible expression of Christ’s church, what should that look like? What should we be doing?

For that, let’s turn to Acts chapter 2, where we have the record of the birth of the church. Jesus had commanded his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit:

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”…8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

In Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, and Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the truth about Jesus. He declared the mighty works of God in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, and that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.

Acts 2:38 And 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. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Through Peter’s words God worked in the hearts of his hearers and …

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

That day the church was birthed by the Holy Spirit. The question I want to ask today is ‘what characterized the church; what did the church do?’ The next verse answers our question:

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Four things characterized the new church; apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and the prayers. These four things the newborn church devoted themselves to. This is what the church was committed to.

First on the list was the apostles’ teaching. This is absolutely stunning when you think for a minute about the background of the apostles. They were a bunch of fishermen from the wrong side of town, a tax collecting thief, and a radical religious zealot. The portrait we get in the gospels is that they were clueless most of the time. Jesus would speak metaphorically, and they thought he was talking about food. Jesus tried to teach them about servanthood, and they argued about who was the greatest. They tried to tell Jesus what he should and shouldn’t say. Jesus was on his way to the cross and they argued about who would get the positions of authority in the kingdom. He asked them to pray and they fell asleep. When he was arrested, they all ran away. When questioned, Peter denied he even knew Jesus.

Jesus himself said:

John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

After the crucifixion, they all went into hiding. When they were told about the resurrection, they didn’t believe.

These are the apostles whose teaching the new believers in Jesus devoted themselves to. These are the men that the church looked to for leadership and direction. No wonder Jesus commanded them to do nothing but wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them! There must have been a major transformation in these men. Jesus certainly packed much instruction into the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension. Praise God for the promise of Jesus

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…

Paul says:

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

The apostles and their teaching served as the foundation of the church. The apostles taught that Jesus was the promised Messiah, King of the Jews, the fulfillment of all the prophecies, and that he was crucified as a substitute for the sins of the people.

Peter himself understood his role as foundational. In 2 Peter, he wrote to the Christians:

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Peter knew he was going to die, and he wanted to leave a written record for the future. Later in the book he referred to Paul’s writings as scripture:

2 Peter 3:15 … just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

The church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching about Jesus, and we now have their teaching recorded in the New Testament. We must devote ourselves to the apostle’s doctrine.

The second thing the believers devoted themselves to was fellowship. You wouldn’t think fellowship would be something that you would have to devote yourself to. Fellowship should just happen naturally. Fellowship results from the sharing of interests or experiences. There is a certain camaraderie that naturally flows from shared interest. But the Greek word for fellowship is much deeper and richer than our English word. The word is koinwnia koinonia and can denote supportive friendship and encouragement, partnership based on a common belief, practical financial and moral support, personal participation and involvement.

The early church was passionate about a common theme – the apostles’ doctrine. They were passionate about Jesus Christ. Jesus was the rallying point that united the believers. Because of their passion for Jesus, they took Jesus’ command seriously:

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

This is no warm feeling for one another. This is not cozy conversation over coffee. This is not ‘I will help you as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me greatly or interrupt my plans’. This is a hardcore commitment regardless of cost to the bitter end. Come blood, sweat and tears, I will lay down my life for you for the sake of the Name. I am glad to sacrifice time and energy, family and convenience and comfort, even life and limb for my brothers and sisters in the cause of Christ. The fellowship that is mentioned here is a radical revolutionary counter-intuitive costly thing. This is the camaraderie of men in the trenches of war. Everything is at stake. Everything is on the line. Everything is sacrificed for the sake of the cause. One thing matters, and we will do what it takes. Brothers and sisters, we are in a war. Jesus has told us to storm the gates of hell and set the captives free. We need to live like we are in a war. We must devote ourselves to that kind of fellowship.

The third thing that the early disciples devoted themselves to was the breaking of bread. That sounds weird. Would they storm the bakery section of the local grocery store and destroy all the biscuits and bagels?

Breaking of bread was a symbol given by Jesus to remember his sacrifice

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

This is something the believers did regularly together:

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread…

Breaking bread together is an intimate fellowship with the believers and with the risen Christ

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Breaking bread together, or taking communion, or the Lord’s supper is a sacred act of worship and reflection on Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Breaking bread is a tangible physical act of remembering Jesus. We must devote ourselves to remember.

The last thing mentioned in Acts 2:42 that the early church devoted themselves to is ‘the prayers‘.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Followers of Jesus are devoted to the prayers. Prayer is an intimate form of communion with God, and in prayer we come to God with the expectation that he is both able and willing to help us. Prayer is a personal conversation with the holy God. This is an utter impossibility apart from God’s great mercy and grace. God is perfect in holiness and we are sinners that dare not approach him except for judgment. But through the blood of Jesus, God opened the way for us to approach him boldly and with confidence. God is a person, so we can address him in a personal and specific way. We can pray with confidence knowing that our prayers will be answered when they are in agreement with his will. Genuine prayer is not merely words, but a humble submission of our whole person to God. When we develop the habit of continual prayer, we orient our lives Godward. Prayer is primarily coming to God asking. We have needs and God has the supply. We are weak and he is strong. We are small and powerless and he is great and mighty to save. We are incompetent and he is all-sufficient. We are dependent and he is self-existent.

Let’s look at the rest of Acts 2 and see the attitude of the church.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

They were characterized by a sense of awe at the awesome works of God. They received everything with glad and generous hearts. The were constantly praising God. And by God’s grace, they were multiplying.

Let us be devoted to the truth of scripture, the apostles’ teaching, devoted to a rugged genuine hearty fellowship, devoted to remembering Jesus, his person and his finished work, devoted to passionately pursuing him in prayer and having our needs met and our longings satisfied in him. Let us be who we are called to be. Let us be the church.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church’s Origin and Destiny

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090111_the_church_2.mp3

1/11 The Church; Spoken into Existence by the Creative Word of Jesus; Our Origin and Destiny

We are taking a few weeks at the beginning of the year to think through together what the church is and what it should be, and I hope we can examine ourselves and make any adjustments necessary to be who we were called to be, to strengthen the areas where we are weak, and to be encouraged and emboldened to be who we are together in Christ.

Last week we looked at the identity of the church. The word ‘church’ literally means ‘the called out ones’ and we are talking particularly about Jesus’ called out ones; the assembly of Jesus. We looked at Matthew 16:18 and said that ‘the church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth.’ Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was, who his followers thought he was, and in response to the right answer, he went on to tell them about his coming death. The person and work of Jesus the Christ, infinite Son of God and Redeemer, crucified for sinners, died, buried, and raised again, is foundational to the church. Jesus, who he is and what he has accomplished for us is the rock on which the church is built.

We become members of this community by our new birth. God does a creative work in our hearts and makes us a new creation. Jesus told Peter that his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God was not a natural response to the information he had available to him. It was a supernatural work of the Father in his life. Peter tells us that God the Father…

1 Peter 1:3 … According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again …

1 Peter 1:23 …you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

So we are a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus as the infinite Son of God and Savior, and united by our being birthed into his family.

Today I would like to look at the origin and destiny of the church. Where did the church come from and where is she going? Here’s my answer, and it has two parts: the church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she will overcome. Look with me again at what Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus said he will build his church. Let’s review quickly who Jesus is: We’ll start in Colossians 1 He is God’s…

Colossians 1:13 …beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities––all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Did you get it? Jesus, beloved Son of the Father, is the image of the invisible God, creator of all things in heaven and on earth; visible and invisible, and all things were created for his good pleasure. Jesus existed eternally, and it is Jesus that sustains all things. Jesus is first place – preeminent in all things. He is first in time; he existed before anything else. He is first in authority; all thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities ultimately bow to him and do his bidding. He is first in importance; he is the Father’s beloved Son and all things were created for him.

Or consider John 1:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …10 …the world was made through him… 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus was in the beginning with God. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word that spoke everything into existence. Look at Hebrews 1:

Hebrews 1:2…his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  …8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, …10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

Jesus created the world and upholds the universe by the word of his power. Jesus is God on the throne forever and ever. Jesus is consistent – he never changes and he will have no end. Check out Mark 4

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

When Jesus speaks to his creation, all creation obeys his voice.

Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all things, and it is this Jesus that said:

Matthew 16:18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

That, my friends, is a statement of sovereign purpose. The Lord of all the universe has made a declaration of purpose. When Jesus says ‘I will…’ there is no power in heaven or on earth or under the earth that can stop him. Jesus did not say that he would try to build his church. In the beginning, Jesus said ‘let there be light’ and there was light. When Jesus said ‘Lazarus, come forth’ the man who had been in the grave for four days came out of the tomb. When Jesus said ‘I will build my church’, that was an omnipotent creative word that will be done.

That leads naturally to the next point – Jesus’ church will overcome. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. The sovereign power of the omnipotent Creator will triumph and his purpose will stand.

Now this requires some clarification What does it mean for the church to overcome? The church I was raised in recently closed its doors and sold their building. I’ve seen beautiful historic church buildings turned into museums or thrift stores or bicycle shops. Some churches that were once thriving are now merely a monument. Does this mean the word of Christ has failed? How do we understand this in light of what Jesus said? Let’s go to the book of Revelation for help. John is given a vision from God and is told to write what he sees in a book and send it to seven churches in Asia Minor. Listen to what God says to one of these churches:

Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: …4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Because the church in the city of Ephesus had left its love for God and for other believers, Jesus is threatening to unplug this church as a light in the world. I think that highlights an important distinction for us that is helpful in our definition of the church. There is the church local and the church universal; or the church visible and the church invisible. There is our local group of believers that gather here in this building, and there is the church of Jesus Christ that consists of every born again follower of Jesus throughout history and around the globe. When Jesus said that he will build his church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, he didn’t have in mind any specific building or geographic location or social/political organization. Peter tells us that:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Paul says it this way:

Ephesians 2:19 … you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

We tend to think of the church as a man made building, organization or institution. It is not. It is an organism, made up of believers in Jesus Christ. This is a sobering thought. There are many who attend a church service in a church building that are not part of Jesus’ church. There are people who go by the name of ‘Christian’ who do not know the Christ of the Bible and who have not experienced the new birth, and on that fateful day, Jesus will tell them:

Matthew 7:23 … ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So my first exhortation to you today is be sure you are part of Jesus’ church. Be sure you know Jesus and are being transformed by Jesus. Be sure you have become part of God’s family through the new birth.

Earlier in the chapter, Paul tells us how this happens:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved–– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

God in his rich mercy, made us alive by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Let’s come back to Matthew 16 and see what we can learn about our role as the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus says:

Matthew 16:18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The gates of hell will not prevail against it. Literally, it is the gates of hades -the abode of the dead. I want you to picture a walled fortress. Imagine an army attacking the city. They come against the weakest point in the city – the gates. If the gates are strong, the fortress is safe. If the gates can be penetrated, the city can be taken. Now think about what Jesus said about his church. What posture is the church taking in the war? If the church is not a building but a living organism, and if the gates that are described are not the gates of the church but the gates of hades, then the church is on the offensive storming the very gates of hell! I think too often we get the image reversed, as if Jesus said ‘I will build my fortress, and hell will not prevail against its gates’. Come hide inside the fortress and you will be safe. The church on the defensive is not the posture of the church of Jesus! The church of Jesus is to be on the offensive proving his promise true! A few chapters later, after his resurrection, Jesus came to his disciples and said:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Go, storm the gates of hell. Proclaim the gospel. Make disciples. I will be with you, Jesus said.

But how can we be sure that the gates will not be too strong for us? How do we know that we will overcome? Jesus said:

Revelation 1:17…“Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Jesus died, and he unlocked the gates from the inside! Jesus, our mighty conqueror, has gone before us, won the victory, unlocked the gates, and invites us to the plunder. Jesus now holds the keys of Death and of Hades. That gate can no longer be made secure by the enemy. And Jesus goes on to say

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, …

Peter, on the day of Pentecost, proclaimed the forgiveness of sins in Jesus, and unlocked the door of heaven to three thousand Jews. (Acts 2:38-41)

Later, in Acts chapter 10, Peter went to a Gentile’s house and taught about the death and resurrection of Jesus and proclaimed the good news:

Acts 10:43 ..that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

And the door was unlocked to the Gentile nations. This was not unique to Peter.

When Paul and Barnabas returned from their first missionary journey

Acts 14:27 … they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

God has given you authority to open the door of faith through the proclamation of the apostolic word:

1 Corinthians 15:3 … that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she will overcome. Be sure that you are a part of his church by the new birth, and be aggressive to take ground from the enemy, for the victory has already been won. Proclaim the good news and be confident that Jesus will build his church!

January 11, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church’s One Foundation; Matthew 16:18

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090104_the_church_1.mp3

1/04 The Church; Community founded on the Identity of Jesus and United by the New Birth

I want to take the next few weeks and look at the church. As we’ve come into the new year I’ve spent some time thinking about what my life looks like, what I want it to look like, and what adjustments I need to make so that I can be who I want to be and do what I want to do. I’d like to encourage us as the church to do the same thing. So I want to look at the church in the bible; who are we supposed to be and what are we called to do. I want you to investigate with me what Jesus says about his church and invite you to imagine with me how we might be the church. Let’s dream together what it would look like for us to be who we are called to be and do what we are called to do.

I want to start today by looking at the identity of the church. The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth. We will spend the rest of our time today filling out and understanding this definition.

Next week I’d like to look at the origin and destiny of the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and will overcome.

In the following week, I’d like to look at more of the nuts and bolts of what the church is and does – who we are called to be and what we are called to do in our community and in the world.

Let’s start by looking at the word ‘church’ and define what it is that we are talking about. The Greek word translated ‘church’ in our New Testament is the word [ekklhsia ekklesia] which refers to an assembly or gathering of people. The word comes from the root [ek ek] out of; and [kalew kaleo] to call; literally it means the called out ones; and can be translated congregation or assembly. In classical Greek it was used for the summons to the army to assemble. The church is a group of people who have something in common. As I said earlier, the church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth.

I want to center our attention on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18

Matthew 16:18 …on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Let’s look at the whole passage:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

The identity of Jesus is what’s at stake here. Jesus raises the question- ‘what’s the word on the street? Who do people say that I am?’ And he receives three answers; John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah or one of the prophets. I think it’s worth asking why people identified Jesus with these three figures.

John the Baptist would have been fresh in their memories. John was the cousin of Jesus, and he was a radical who lived in the desert, wore camel’s hair, ate bugs, and got in the face of the religious and political leaders of his day. He called the religious authorities names in front of the people they were supposed to be ministering to, and he sparked a revival in the masses. He meddled in the private sex life of the political leader of his day, telling him that God was displeased with his sexual sin, and this got him thrown in prison and eventually beheaded. Herod, who feared John, was paranoid and thought that Jesus was John raised from the dead. (Mark 6:14ff) Apparently Herod’s paranoia sparked a rumor that Jesus was this greatest of all prophets raised from the dead.

Elijah; [1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2] Elijah was a prophet from the Old Testament around 873-843 BC; about 50 years after King Solomon, at the time of Ahab, the evil king of Israel, and his wicked wife Jezebel. At his word there was a drought in Israel for three years. God supernaturally provided food for him during the drought. Elijah raised a young man from the dead. He challenged the idolatrous worship that was taking place in Israel to a showdown between Baal and Asherah, and YHWH, the true God of Israel. He had all the false priests executed. God took him to heaven in a whirlwind with chariots of fire and horses of fire. There was an expectation that he would reappear at the end times:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

But why Jeremiah?

Jeremiah was a priest and a prophet who was called by God to speak to rebellious Israel who were unfaithful to the Lord. He preached during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiachim, and Zedekiah (627-587 BC) until Judah was carried off into captivity in Babylon . He was called to speak against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people (1:18). Jesus quotes this prophet when he says

Luke 19:46 …“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jeremiah 7:11 ‘Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord… 20 therefore thus says the Lord God: behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched… 25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26 Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. 27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

Jeremiah was called to prophesy to the nation of Israel with the advance knowledge that his preaching would not bring repentance and restoration but rather greater accountability and condemnation. Because of this he was know as the weeping prophet. Yet he faithfully preached to the people up to the day they were carried off into captivity, even suffering arrest and abuse at the hands of the leaders of Israel.

I think this gives us some insight into the temperament of Jesus. Jesus was known as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

And we are told that he wept over Jerusalem;

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

John tells us:

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

So the people identified Jesus with John, who confronted the evil of his day and sparked a major revival; and Elijah, a fiery prophet who performed miracles, feeding the hungry and even raising the dead; and Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who foretold the fall of Jerusalem and was rejected. There is an element of truth in all these identifications of Jesus, but they all fall short.

Jesus said John was the greatest of men (Matt.11:11). But John was discouraged in prison and sent word to Jesus asking if he was the Christ or if they should look for another. Elijah was afraid of Jezebel and ran into the desert to hide and wanted to die. Jeremiah complained to the Lord. These were all prophets of God, used by God to do mighty works, yet they were all mere men, and they all had their own flaws and shortcomings. No one in Jesus day thought that he was just a good man or a great moral teacher or a really nice guy. They recognized him as a person invested with supernatural power and eloquence. He was a radical prophetic voice in the world. But their analysis fell short of who he really is. Jesus is the great Prophet; he is our great High Priest; he is a mighty worker of supernatural signs. But he is more than a man with faults and flaws. He is messiah, the anointed King of kings, the divine Son of God.

When Peter responded with the right answer, Jesus commended him and called him blessed, but he also clarified the source of this information. Peter did not come up with this on his own. The fact that Peter recognized Jesus for who he is was evidence of divine intervention; supernatural revelation from the Father.

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The identity of Jesus is the foundation stone of the church, and the true identity of Jesus comes as a revelation from the Father. Men may conclude that Jesus was a good man or a great moral teacher or even a prophet of God, but God bears witness about his Son that he is God in the flesh, the fulfillment of all the prophecies. There was a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night and had his own perception of who Jesus was. He called him ‘Rabbi’ and identified him as a teacher who came from God doing signs. Jesus challenged him on his need for a spiritual transformation so that he could see Jesus for who he really is:

John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus went on to reveal his identity as the only Son of the Father sent to bring eternal life and salvation to a world condemned by sin.

…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The new birth is necessary to see Jesus for who he is, and it is a work of the Spirit of God. Paul describes this as being immersed or baptized by the Spirit into one body – the body of Christ, his church.

1 Corinthians 12:12 …so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body––Jews or Greeks, slaves or free––and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

…27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church…

The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth and united by the new birth. The identity of Jesus is pivotal and foundational.

17 …“Blessed are you, …For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

We must have our lives built on the rock of Jesus. We must have his identity revealed supernaturally by the Father. We must be born again by the Spirit of God to truly know him for who he is. The identity of Jesus is the foundation of the church.

Jesus, we want to see you; to see you for who you really are. To get a vision of you in all the radiance of your glory; universe Maker, Lion of the tribe of Judah, King of kings and Lord of lords, infinite Word, exalted Son, Love incarnate, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, God with us – Jesus. Father, remove the scales from our eyes so that we can see Jesus for who he really is. Lord, if there are any here who have not been transformed by Jesus, I pray that you would cause them to be born again; cause them to come to you, to trust you, to be set free by you, to experience the abundant life in you. Holy Spirit, fall on us and overpower us.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment