The Church's Origin and Destiny ~ 20090111~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
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...
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:
Jesus said he will build his church. Let's review quickly who Jesus is: We'll start in Colossians 1 He is God's...
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:
Jesus was in the beginning with God. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word that spoke everything into existence. Look at Hebrews 1:
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
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:
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:
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:
Paul says it this way:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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
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:
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
God has given you authority to open the door of faith through the proclamation of the apostolic word:
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!