The Church ~ 20200518 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

05/18 Foundations: The Church; Audio available at:

The Church

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.

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, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

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)

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This is the background of Jesus’ statement in

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

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:

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, so wait. Jesus had told them in John 14 of the promised Holy Spirit,

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

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 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John looks forward to the time when the Spirit will be poured out on believers in Jesus.

Luke continues his story in Acts:

Acts 1:1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 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.”

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.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

When the crowds heard Peter preaching about Jesus,

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 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.”

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

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the 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.

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:

Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

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,

Acts 10:28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

He preached Jesus to them, his crucifixion and resurrection,

Acts 10:43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

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:

Acts 1:8 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.”

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:

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.”

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:

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but 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.

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.

Spiritual Gifts

When Paul teaches about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, he says:

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, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

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

Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

And he goes on to describe the godly character qualities required for one who serves as God’s stewards to oversee the church.

6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

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].

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds 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.

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.

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.

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:

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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 ~