PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Jesus Loves His Church

01/26/14 Jesus Loves the Church; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140126_loved-church.mp3

In the past weeks, we have been looking at what the bible has to say about the church. We defined ‘church’ as an assembly of Jesus-followers who believe and proclaim the good news about Jesus, that he is God, come in the flesh to die for our sins, that he rose from the dead and gives the free gift of eternal life with him to all who believe. The church is to be passionate about making disciples; the church follows Jesus and calls others to follow Jesus. The church is an assembly of people who devote themselves to the historic apostolic message, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus by the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. We saw that God has gifted some in this assembly of Jesus-followers with the responsibility to lead, to feed, and to care for his flock as a shepherd cares for his sheep. We have seen that membership in this thing called ‘church’ is not like membership in a society or club, but more like members of a body, each a unique body part with its own function, designed to be a healthy, connected, functioning part of the whole.

Many people today are down on church. There is a tendency to want to be independent, autonomous, to be free. There is a distaste, distrust, and sometimes even disgust toward ‘organized religion’ (as if disorganized religion is to be preferred). Why do we need church? ‘I feel closer to God when I’m alone in the mountains or at home with my family’ (as if how I feel is the ultimate determination of what is best for me). I have deeper discussions about God and feel more connected and accepted with my friends on facebook or with my buddies at the bar than I do with the local church body (as if church is primarily about having my social and intellectual needs met). Many are dismissing the church as irrelevant or outdated, some are abandoning the church altogether because, after all, what really matters is a personal relationship with Jesus, right?

I want to take some time today to absorb some of the things the Bible says about the church, to feel what God feels about his church, to listen to how God talks about the church. I hope this will stir in us affections for the church and a commitment to the church somewhat like God’s affection for his church and his commitment to his church.

Matthew 16

We need to remember that church was God’s idea, not some power hungry corporate heads who wanted control and to get their hands in your pocketbook. Jesus is the one who said:

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

There are some important things we can learn from this statement of Jesus. First, the church is founded on truth, supernaturally revealed truth. Jesus had asked his disciples:

Matthew 16:15 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…

The truth of the identity of Jesus is foundational to the church.

Second, the church belongs to Jesus. He claims it as his own. Jesus is possessive about his church. Jesus says ‘mine’. The church belongs to Jesus. Acts 20:28 tells us that the church was purchased with the blood of God.

Acts 20:28 …care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

At the ultimate cost, he made the church his own.

Third, Jesus claims to be the one who will build his church. So when we express our negativity about the church, we are disapproving of the work of Jesus. Granted, there are many institutions that pass themselves off under the name of church that should not rightly be considered as legitimate churches of Jesus Christ, who do not believe in him or follow what he taught. And in every legitimate Jesus-following church there are problems yet to be addressed. But when we grumble and complain about the church, we are ultimately expressing our impatience and displeasure toward the one Architect and Master-Builder of the church. Jesus said:

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

Fourth, Jesus promises to sustain his church. His church will be victorious. The gates of hell shall not prevail. It will not be overpowered. His church will withstand the test of time, the onslaught of Satan, the deception of false teachers, the lure of power and riches. Jesus promises that his church, his true followers, will stand. ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’

So in this one passage, we learn that the church is founded on the truth about Jesus, the church belongs to Jesus, the church is built by Jesus and the church is sustained by Jesus. It follows that to be negative toward his church is to be negative toward Jesus.

Ephesians 5

Let’s look at the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 5:22-33 is a section addressing the relationship between husband and wife, but it tells us much about the relationship between Christ and the church. It is for that reason that we look at it today. What can we learn about Jesus and the church from this passage?

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

First, in verse 23 we are told that Christ is the head of the church, his body. The relationship between Christ and his church is one of authority. Jesus is the head. He has all authority over his church. Verse 24 states this the other way. The church submits to Christ. The church is obliged to obey Jesus absolutely.

Second, also in verse 23, we see that Christ is the Savior of the church. There is a lot of talk in our day about a personal relationship with Jesus, and I understand what is meant by this. I am an American because I was born in America. But I cannot say that I am a Christian because I was born in a Christian family. There is no second-hand relationship with Jesus. I must become a follower of Jesus myself. That is unquestionably true. But this verse tells us there is more; that Jesus is the Savior of the church. Jesus came to save his church, as a collective whole, as a group. If we are part of this group called the church, we are saved. If we are not part of the church, we are lost. Of course, we know biblically that the way a person becomes part of Jesus’ church is that person is born again by the Spirit of God and justified through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and then identified publicly with the church through baptism. But Jesus’ purpose in saving individuals was not simply to save individuals and leave them as individuals, but to connect them with his body, that they would be a part of something bigger than themselves, that they would belong to the church. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the church.

Verse 25 tells us that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. There is a personal, individual sense where I can say that Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me”. This is how Galatians 2:20 puts it. But there is also a collective sense in which Jesus “loved the church and gave himself up for her” That is how Ephesians 5:25 puts it. We must not despise that which Jesus loves. We must not abandon what Jesus gave himself up for. If Jesus loved the church, we too should come to love the church. If Jesus died for the church, we should be unwaveringly committed to the church. “Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her”.

Verses 26-27 give us the goal of Christ’s love and purchase of his bride the church.

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Jesus bought the church with his own blood in order to sanctify her, cleanse her and present her to himself in holiness and glory. Jesus intends to sanctify his blood-bought bride. He does this through the ministry of the word. That is why there is an essential emphasis in the church on biblical teaching and preaching. Cleansing of the church happens through the washing of water with the word. There is an emphasis on holiness, blamelessness, freedom from wrinkle or spot or defect. It is interesting that in the gospel accounts, Jesus only used the word ‘church’ twice. Once, in Matthew 16, where he said ‘I will build my church’ and again in Matthew 18, in the context of sin and seeking the lost and forgiveness and reconciliation. He instructs us when someone sins against us to pursue reconciliation first privately, then with two or three witnesses, then,

Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

In the two places Jesus mentions the church, one is his foundation, possession, and preservation of the church, and the other deals with the purity of his church in dealing with sin in her midst. Jesus puts a priority on the holiness of his church. His goal is to present the church to himself as a bride in splendor. This implies two things. One, that the church is imperfect now. There are wrinkles, spots, blemishes, dirt and grime. The church is not now perfect. So we should not be surprised and dismayed when we find that this is true. The church is in need of cleansing and washing because she is not yet perfect. But this also tells us that she will be perfect one day. Jesus accomplishes what he purposes to do. The church will be sanctified, purified, made holy. We can look forward with longing to that day, and we can participate in the process.

Guys, how many of you have a friend who dogs on your wife? Every time he comes over to spend time with you, he has something negative to say about her? Uh-oh, here comes the old ball and chain. She obviously doesn’t ever sweep with that broom; does she ride it? She spent two hours in the beauty salon, and it looks like all they gave her was an estimate. If I were married to her and she put poison in my food, I’d eat it! I love what she’s done with her hair; how does she get it to come out of her nostrils like that? If your credit card gets stolen, don’t report it; the thief is sure to spend a lot less than she does. Maybe if she ate some of that makeup she could be pretty on the inside. All joking aside, I don’t have any friends like that, and I expect you don’t either. If I did, they would quickly cease to hold the status of friend. They might even go missing. I know that my wife is not perfect. But you don’t insult someone’s wife and expect things to go well in your relationship. So many today claim to love Jesus but hate the church. That just doesn’t work. Jesus loves the church. He gave himself up for her. He will present her to himself as a glorious bride, perfected.

Verses 29 and 30 of Ephesians 5 tell us that the church is the body of Christ, and Jesus nourishes and cherishes her.

Ephesians 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

Nourish. Cherish. Feed, care for (NIV); provide for (CEV); carefully protects (AMP); pampers (MSG); tenderly cares for (NRSV). If this is how Christ treats his bride, we ought to value her, treasure her, treat her with the utmost care and respect.

Ephesians 1

Just a few more passages in Ephesians to see what God says about his church. Ephesians 1 talks about the riches of our inheritance that the Father gives to his adopted children.

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

God the Father put all things under the authority of Jesus. Jesus is head over all things; head over every rule, every authority, every power, every dominion, every name, now and forever. This Jesus, God has given to the church. Jesus, ruler of all things is the head of his body the church. The church is said to be the fulness of Jesus, who fills all in all. What an honored and privileged position!

Ephesians 3

Look over at Ephesians 3:10. Paul says that by God’s grace he is a minister of the gospel; he has the privilege of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. He brings to light the hidden plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God. The eternal purpose of God is this:

Ephesians 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

What is made known? The many-faceted abundant textured variegated wisdom of God. The manifold wisdom of God is made known to whom? To the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The wisdom of God is being made known to all the angelic hosts how? Through the church! The church is the stage on which God puts his manifold wisdom on display to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. We, the church, become the instrument through which God’s limitless wisdom explodes into view. The familiar, flawed, faltering church is what God uses to put his own wisdom on display.

Look down at the doxology in Ephesians 3:20-21

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The goal, the purpose, the chief end of everything is to glorify God. To him who is able, to him be glory in Christ Jesus. We would expect that God be most glorified in his Son Jesus Christ. But look what else it says: to him be glory in the church! God is glorified in the church! In the assembly of broken, messed up, imperfect, independent, rebellious sinners God is glorified. In the church that God purchased with his own blood, in the church that Jesus is building and sustaining, in the church that Jesus loved and gave himself up for, in the church that he is saving, perfecting, nourishing and cherishing, in the church over whom he is given as head, God is being glorified. Oh, may we begin to treasure the church as Jesus treasures his bride. Bring God glory by being a healthy, functioning, connected, unifying part of this marvelous mysterious thing called the body of Christ, the church! 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

Advertisements

January 26, 2014 - Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: