The Church ~ 20200518 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
05/18 Foundations: The Church; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200518_church.mp3
This is foundations; an overview of the basics of what Christians believe.
Last time we looked at God’s Grace in Salvation – God’s freedom & love; we looked at how God saves us; through substitution (taking our place), imputation (transferring our sins to Jesus and his righteousness to us), justification (declaring us legally not guilty), propitiation (appeasing God’s righteous wrath toward sin), reconciliation (restoring the broken relationship), redemption (buying us back out of slavery), regeneration (or new birth, giving us new life by the Spirit); our salvation is by grace alone – it is a freely given unearned gift. We receive it by faith; taking God at his word and freely receiving his gift.
Tonight I want to look at the church. What is the church?
New Covenant Community Created by Jesus
We are going to start in Matthew 16, where Jesus said he would build his church.
Jesus speaks of building his church in the future tense; ‘I will build my church.’ So the church is a new thing, different from what we saw in the Old Testament. The church is built on the foundation of the revealed identity of Jesus as the Christ, Son of the living God.
The church is the New Covenant community; the fulfillment of the inner Spirit wrought transformation that is promised in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 11, Ezekiel 36 & 37, and Jesus taught about in John 3, where he said ‘You must be born again’ (Jn.3:3, 7)
This is the background of Jesus’ statement in
Jesus said at the last supper, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk.22:20).
The Promised Spirit
In Jesus’ great commission to his disciples in Luke 24, he said:
I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, so wait. Jesus had told them in John 14 of the promised Holy Spirit,
The Holy Spirit, a person of the triune God, is everywhere present. As God, the Holy Spirit is always present everywhere. But Jesus is promising a new relationship that we have with God the Spirit. He said to his disciples, you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. This promise of the permanent ‘in you’ relationship of the Holy Spirit to believers is what was promised in the New Covenant.
John looks forward to the time when the Spirit will be poured out on believers in Jesus.
Luke continues his story in Acts:
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came on the apostles and Peter interpreted it as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2 of the Spirit being poured out on all flesh. He preached Jesus as the promised Christ, crucified and risen.
When the crowds heard Peter preaching about Jesus,
They were cut to the heart. By whom? This was the conviction of the Spirit of God through the word of God. Peter tells them to repent; turn from what they were trusting in and trust Jesus alone. And they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul in Romans 8:9 makes it clear that everyone who belongs to Jesus has the Spirit of God dwelling in them. Notice he says the promise is for everyone, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. God is cutting them to the heart and calling them to himself, to repent and believe in Jesus. The New Testament word ‘church’ is [ἐκκλησία], an assembly or gathering, literally those called out.
The Lord Building His Church
Those who received his word were baptized. They were immersed in water, an outward picture of what had happened inside, as they had been baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Notice the careful wording ‘there were added that day about three thousand souls’ and in verse 47 ‘the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved’. It was the Lord Jesus building his church as he had promised; ‘I will build my church.’
The Big Four
While we are here in Acts 2, notice what the church was about. Verse 42 tells us what they devoted themselves to; the apostles’ teaching. We have the apostles’ teaching today in the form of the New Testament. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship. The fellowship, partnership, communion, community. They were devoted to having things in common, meeting together, being together. They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, remembering Jesus together in communion or the Lord’s supper. They devoted themselves to the prayers. Praying together. Praising God, praying for one another, seeking the Lord together. Being constant in prayer. Teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. These big four are what the church devoted themselves to.
Exceptions in Acts: Samaritans and Gentiles
Now I want to alert you to some things you will see as you read through the book of Acts that may raise questions. In Acts 2 we see the Spirit poured out on the Apostles, and the Spirit promised to every believer in Jesus. And we saw Paul’s teaching that everyone who belongs to Jesus has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. But when we get to Acts 8, persecution headed by Saul (or Paul) had scattered the church, and Philip, one of the original deacons, ‘went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ’ (Acts 8:5). The people were believing the good news about Jesus and were being baptized, but we read in verse 14:
What is going on here? Peter promised and Paul taught that the Spirit baptizes believers. But these believers did not receive the Spirit until Peter and John came and laid their hands on them. We need to understand the background here. We are told at Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, that ‘Jews have no dealings with Samaritans’ (Jn.4:9). There was deep historical hatred and animosity between Jews and Samaritans. They had nothing to do with each other. Remember in John 17(:11, 21-22) when Jesus prayed for his followers, he prayed especially for unity. So when the gospel came to Samaria, there would naturally have developed a distinctly Samaritan Christianity, separate from Jewish Christianity. Except God saw to it that the Samaritans would know that the Spirit was given through the hand of the Jewish apostles, and the leaders of the Jewish church would see first hand that the Samaritans had been given the same Holy Spirit that they had been given.
There was deep hostility between Jews and Samaritans, and just as deep a hostility between Jew and Gentile. In Acts 10, Peter was waiting for dinner, and God gave him a vision where something like a sheet was lowered down with all kinds of unclean animals, and Peter was commanded to ‘rise, kill and eat.’ When he refused, claiming to have maintained his ritual purity, God said ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ Right then, a Gentile delegation from the house of Cornelius showed up at his door, looking for Peter. When Peter and a group of his Jewish friends entered the house of Cornelius,
He preached Jesus to them, his crucifixion and resurrection,
The Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles who hear the good news about Jesus. God did this in such a way that the Jewish believers could not deny that they had been united by the same Holy Spirit into one body.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus said:
This is an outline of the spread of the gospel through the book of Acts. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the Gentile nations.
Remember, when Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, Son of the living God, Jesus said to him:
God used Peter to open the door to the Samaritans and then to the Gentiles, granting access to the one body, the church.
Paul addresses the many Gentile believers in Ephesus:
Jew, Samaritan and Gentile reconciled, united in one body through the cross. Through Jesus, we all have access in one Spirit to the Father. We are members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. Jesus determines the shape of the building. His apostles and prophets form the foundation. Everything else must be built on that once for all foundation.
When Paul teaches about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, he says:
And he makes it clear that we each have “gifts that differ according to the grace given to us” (Rom.12:6). Other gifts are listed in other passages. We all have different gifts meant for the common good, to build up the body of Christ. In the church each of us has a unique complementary contribution to make to building up the body, divine enablements for service. We all need each other, and are incomplete without each other.
Godly Leadership Under One Head
Paul tells Titus
And he goes on to describe the godly character qualities required for one who serves as God’s stewards to oversee the church.
It will be helpful to make a distinction here. There is the Church (capital C) that is the body of Christ; Jesus will build his one Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This is the big C church, the Church universal (or catholic), that is every believer in Jesus everywhere. And then there is the little c church, a geographically defined gathering of believers who gather regularly to encourage one another, who are organized under godly leadership. We are now talking about the local small c church.
There are several terms used to describe leadership in the church; elders [πρεσβύτερος] in verse 5 are also overseers [ἐπίσκοπος] in verse 7. Elder speaks of maturity and wisdom; overseer is descriptive of one who watches over. Ephesians 4 speaks of evangelists [εὐαγγελιστής] or proclaimers of the good news, and shepherds or pastor/teachers [ποιμήν; διδάσκαλος].
1 Timothy 3 describes the qualifications for overseers, and also the qualifications for deacons; [διάκονος] is the Greek word for servant. In Acts 6, men of character and good reputation were appointed to oversee charitable distributions so that the apostles could focus on prayer and preaching the word of God.
Jesus is the head (Col.1:18; Eph.4:15), the Chief Shepherd (1Pet.5:4); the Cornerstone (Eph.2:20). We are to build on the one foundation, to lead and care for his flock as his undershepherds, to follow his lead and authority as the one head. Leaders are given to the church to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, to stand firm for the truth, to grow up in maturity in Christ.
The Bride of Christ
Another metaphor for the church is found in Ephesians 5.
Here marital picture of loving sacrificial leadership and respectful submission to tender authority. We see here a purpose of purity, holiness, without blemish. The church is the bride of Christ and is to be cleansed and beautified by the cleansing water of the word.
Galatians 3:28 says:
So in Christ there is an essential unity and equality, but there is also a functional submission to godly authority.
So we see the church is the New Covenant community created by Jesus, by his death and resurrection, birthed by the Spirit, united by the Father into one diverse body, devoted to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. The church is built by Jesus himself on himself as the cornerstone, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus is the one and only head, and each local expression of his church is to be led by men of godly character, elders/overseers, pastor/teachers, with every member gifted for service to build up the body in love. Every believer is to be equipped by the church for the unique ministry God has assigned to each. We are to glorify God and spur one another on to love and good deeds.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org