The Church: The Kingdom of Christ

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13)

In one sense (as above), the church and the kingdom are used as synonyms.  Consider: (a) Christians, in the first century, were in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9).  (b) The church and the kingdom are entered the same way in the New Testament.  The church is entered by baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13 cf. Ephesians 1:22-23; Acts 2:47).  The kingdom is entered by baptism (John 3:5).  (c) Jesus seems to equate the church with the kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19).  (d) The kingdom was to come with power, in the lifetime of some who heard Jesus speak (Mark 9:1).   Power was to come while the apostles tarried in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49).  Power was to be received with the coming of the Holy spirit (Acts 1:8).  The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 2:4).  The church was established on that day (Acts 2:40-47).  The gospel did not come in word only, but also in power, and in much assurance (1 Thessalonians 1:5).  Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).  The kingdom existed in the first century (Colossians 1:13).  (e) One like the son of Man was to receive a kingdom after he came with clouds to the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14).  Jesus ascended with clouds (Acts 1:9-11).  He is now exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33).  “God has made this Jesus… both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  (f) The coming Christ was to be a King – Priest (Psalm 110:1-4; Zechariah 6:12-13).  Jesus is now High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 8:1).  He is a priest, after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:5-6; 6:19-20; 7:20-21).  Melchizedek was a King – Priest (Hebrews 7:1).

The Kingdom is used in different senses in the Bible: (a) In one sense, the Kingdom may refer to God’s authority or rule over all (Psalm 103:19; Matthew 13:47-50; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16).  (b) In another sense, the Kingdom may refer to God’s people.  I believe that God, in this sense, has always had a kingdom.  Israel was His kingdom (Exodus 19:6; Luke 21:43).  (c) In another sense, the kingdom, today, is the church (see previous paragraph).  The seed of this kingdom is the word of God (Luke 8:11 cf. Matthew 13:18-19).  (d) Finally, the kingdom, at times, refers to heaven (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 1:10-11).

Here are a few things to keep in mind about the kingdom.  First, “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” are used interchangeably (Luke 7:28 cf. Matthew 11:11; Mark 1:14-15 cf. Matthew 4:12-17; Luke 18:15-17 cf. Matthew 19:13-15).  Second, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ are used interchangeably (Mark 9:1 cf. Matthew 16:28; Ephesians 5:5).  One day, Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  Third, there is a sense in which the kingdom came in 70 A.D. (Luke 21:31-32 cf. Matthew 22:7).  Drew Leonard suggests, “A.D. 70 was a declaration, an exhibition, a display, a vindication of what had been in effect since Acts 2!” (Leonard, A.D. 70 – Taking a Look at Hyper-Preterism, p. 149).  The fact that the kingdom came in some sense in 70 A.D. does not mean that the kingdom was not present from Pentecost, in c. 30 or 33 A.D.

Now to the issue of this article: Why is the church referred to as the kingdom?  (1) It has reference to authority.  A kingdom implies a king.  The church is not referred to as an anarchy.  The church is not referred to as a democracy.  The church is not referred to as a representative republic.  The church is not referred to as an oligarchy.  The church is a kingdom.  Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).  He has asked, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Do we allow Him to truly reign?

(2) It has to do with territory and subjects.  Consider these passages: (a) “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘see here!’ or ‘see there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).  Burt Groves comments, “No marching army would conquer Rome, and no earthly monarch would sit on a throne… In the kingdom of God’s dear Son.  Men voluntarily submit to His rule” (Groves, The Gospel According to Luke Commentary, p. 182).  (b) Jesus was asked by Pilate if he was King of the Jews.  Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).  Jesus is King.  However, His kingdom is very different from the kingdoms of this world.  His kingdom was no physical threat to Rome.  It is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom.  It is the rule of Christ in the hearts, souls, and minds of men.  It has no geo-political boundaries. Discipleship is available to all men, regardless of nationality (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).  Are we allowing Him to truly rule within us?

(3) It has to do with citizenship.  The Bible speaks of the book of life (Exodus 32:32; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19).  Some think that this is an analogy from the ancient city rolls.  Foy Wallace Jr. has written, “This book of life is an allusion to a registry for worthy citizens, but names of deceased citizens are erased” (Wallace, The Book of Revelation, p. 98).  This seems to fit.  We are told, “There shall by no means enter it… but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:7).  “Our citizenship is in heaven…” (Philippians 3:20).

When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there” (Song: When the Roll is Called up Yonder by James M. Black).

 

 

 

 

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The Church: The Called Out

I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18).

The original word translated “church” is ekklesia.  It is commonly translated “church,” “congregation,” and “assembly.”  It comes from ek = “out” and kaleo = “to call.”

The original word was used long before Jesus built His church.  (1) It was used by the Greeks of: “a body of citizens gathered to discuss the affairs of state” (Vine’s); “assembly, as a regularly summoned political body” (BAG) “assemblage, gathering, meeting generally” (BAG); “among the Greeks from Thucydides down, an assembly of the people” (Thayer).  (2) It was used in the Septuagint of an assembly of Israelites (e.g. Deuteronomy 31:30; Joshua 8:35; Judges 20:2; 21:8; 1 Samuel 17:47; 1 Kings 8:14; 1 Chronicles 29:1).

The word is not used exclusively in the New Testament of the church of Christ.  (1) It is used of the Israelites in the wilderness (Acts 7:38).  (2) It is used of a mob (Acts 19:32, 41).  (3) It is used of a lawful civic assembly (Acts 19:38-39).

It is used of the church of Christ.  (1) It is used of the church universal (e.g. Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 1:22-23 cf. 4:4; 3:10; 5:23, 27, 29, 32; Philippians 3:6; Colossians 1:18, 24).   (2) It is used of the church local (e.g. Acts 8:1; 11:22; 13:1; 14:23; 14:27; 15:3-4; 16:5; 18:22; Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17; 14:33; Galatians 1:2).

Why are the saints referred to as “the called out” ?  (1) It has to do with separation from sin.  We are called by God through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  He “called (us) out of darkness…” (1 Peter 2:9).

The saved are in the church.  Wendell Winkler has written, “In New Testament times the Lord added to the church those who were being saved (Acts 2:47)… There was no such thing as a man being saved on Monday and joining the church the following Sunday. Rather, the moment he was saved, that moment he became a member of the New Testament church” (Winkler, The Church Everybody is Asking About, p. 106).

(2) It has to do with separation to God.  It is about sanctification.  He “called (us)… into His marvelous light: who once were not a people but are now the people of God” (1 Peter 2:9-10 cf. 1 John 1:6-7).  “God did not call us to uncleanness but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).  God’s will is for Christians to live sanctified lives.  “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality (fornication – B.H.); that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).  Our aim should be to live for Him (2 Corinthians 5:15).

(3) It has to do with fellowship.  “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).  John wrote, “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). The message of the New Testament is a call to fellowship.  Fellowship with God is conditional (1 John 1:6-7).

(4) It is about glory.  “He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14 cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:12).  “…the God of all grace… called us to eternal glory by Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 5:10).  A glorious existence awaits (Romans 8:17).  A glorious body like unto His awaits (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2).  He wants to bless us.

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The Church: The Army of the Lord

Finally, My brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy… that… you may wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18 cf. 6:12).

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

The New Testament frequently uses military and combat language when speaking of Christians and the church (e.g. Ephesians 6:10-20; Colossians 2:8 KJV; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 10:35 cf. Ephesians 6:16; Jude 3; Revelation 19:11-16).  Christians are soldiers of Christ.  Collectively, therefore the church is the army of the Lord’s.

Why is the comparison made?  (1) It has to do with warfare.  We are in a spiritual war.  “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  Our armor includes faith, hope, love, the truth and righteousness of the gospel, plus prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Ephesians 6:14-18).  Our weapon is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).  The stakes are high.  This war is for our souls, and the souls of others.  Eternity is at stake.

(2) It has to do with duty.  “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).  There are some things for which it is worth fighting.  Christians are to defend the faith.  Thomas B. Warren remarked, “Christianity is not what many people seem to envision it as being.  It is not a religion in which ‘just any and everything goes.’  Rather, the living of the Christian life involves fighting for the truth and fighting against false doctrine (Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Timothy 6:12;2 Timothy 2:3; Ephesians 6:10-17; et al).”  (Warren, Jesus – The Lamb Who is a Lion, p. 148).   Those who care about the truth, and the spiritual well-being of souls (self and others) should be ready willing and able to wield the sword of the spirit.  Thomas Warren has written, “A sword is not a toy.  A sword is not made for the purpose of giving mere ‘slaps on the wrist.’  A sword is a weapon of war… it is a weapon to be used in the battle for the souls of men.  It is to be used to affirm and defend the truth and to deny and refute false doctrine” (ibid).  It is our duty to contend for the faith.  If we do not, then who will?

(3) It has to do with hardships.  “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).  Soldiers at war face many hardships.  Even so, Christians must be willing to endure hardships.  Commitment is needed.  Paul wrote, “I suffer trouble (hardship  – B.H.)… I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:9-10).  Then, he encouraged and warned, “If we die with Him, we shall also live with Him.    If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

(4) It has to do with priority and loyalty.  “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:4).  A good soldier knows that he cannot become so entangled in the things of this life that he neglects his orders;  neither, should the Christian.  Commitment and loyalty are needed.

This does not forbid secular work.  Paul was a tent-maker (Acts 18:1-3).  He worked with his hands (Acts 20:34-35; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8).  Paul’s secular work was done – not only to support himself – but to help spread the gospel.  He was not confused about whom he served (2 Timothy 2:4 cf. 2:15; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2;4).

(5) It is about not being a coward.  “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward” (Hebrews 10:35 cf.  Ephesians 6:16).  Tom Moore commented on Hebrews 10:35, saying – “There seems to be an allusion here to conduct of weak and cowardly soldiers, who in the day of battle would want to throw aside their shields and turn their backs on the enemy” (ed. Devin Dean, Studies in Hebrews, pp. 214-215).

Imagine what we could accomplish, if every Christian took their duties as soldiers of Christ, as serious as those in the U.S. Armed Forces do.  (1) Imagine if we trained to use our weapons as if our lives and the lives of others depended on our proficiency.  Would any be negligent in studying the Bible at home?  Would any be AWOL from Bible class, or worship assembly?  For tent-making?  For sports?  For a day in the park?  Family time?  (2) Imagine if we each had each other’s back, as soldiers do in war.  Imagine that our aim truly was to help each other to heaven?  (3) Imagine if we would work together, as soldiers should.  All would be present (if possible) at the Gospel Meeting, and each would try to bring a friend.  The goal would be to win souls, and we would work together to do it.  (4) Imagine that each understood authority and did only what was authorized by the Commanding Officer. Too many are playing Christianity by their on rules, and by their feelings.  (5)  Imagine that discipline was practiced, and consistently practiced. High standard would be maintained.  Those who sowed discord and undermined an effort would not be tolerated.  Acts of treason would be punished.  (6) Imagine that we took our objectives as serious as a battlefield commander.  Imagine if we truly fought with zeal.  (7) Imagine if we were determined to leave no one behind. The U.S. Armed Forces tries to leave no one behind, even the dead. If we had this attitude, then no longer would fallen members be removed from membership rolls without effort to save them.

Have you ever noticed how may of the songs that we sing are based on this picture of Christians being soldiers of Christ and the church being the Lord’s Army? Here are several you will recognize…

“I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery, I may never fly o’er the enemy, but I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes sir! (Song: I’m in the Lord’s Army)

“I am a hard fighting soldier, on the battlefield. /  I am a hard fighting soldier, on the battlefield.  /  I am a hard fighting soldier, on the battlefield. /  I keep bringing souls to Jesus by the service that I give.  (Song: Hard Fighting Soldier)

“Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on, Strong in the strength which God supplies through His beloved Son.  Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty pow’r, Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror” (Song: Soldiers of Christ by Charles Wesley).

“Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; lift high his royal banner it must not suffer loss.”  (Song: Stand Up! Stand up for Jesus!  by George Webb).

“Onward Christian soldier, Marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before!  Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle, see his banner go! / Like a mighty army moves the church of God; Brothers, we are treading Where the saints have trod;  We are not divided; all one body, we one in hope and doctrine, one in charity” (Song: Onward Christians soldiers by Sabine Baring-Gould).

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The Church: The Bride of Christ

For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body…  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” (Ephesians 5:23-25).

The relationship of Christ and the church is likened to the relationship of husband and wife.  Why is this comparison made?  (1) It has to do with love.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).  Adam was put to sleep and had his side opened up to receive Eve (Genesis 2:21-22).  Christ freely gave up His life and even had His side opened to receive His bride (Acts 20:28; John 19:30-34; Ephesians 5:25).  Some in the Bible offered or gave a dowry for their brides (Genesis 24:53; 29:16-18; 31:41; 34:11-12; Exodus 22:16-17; Judges 1:12-13, 14-15; 1 Samuel 18:25; 2 Samuel 3:14; 1 Kings 9:16).  Jesus freely gave His life (John 10:17-18; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25).

(2) It has to do with oneness.  God created Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 2:18-24).  God’s ideal plan, from the beginning, was one man and one woman to be joined together for life (Genesis 2:24 cf. Ephesians 5:31-32; Matthew 19:4-6; Romans 7:1-2; 1 Corinthians 7:39).  Christ has one bride.  There is one church (Ephesians 5:23 cf. 1:22-23; 4:4). [Note: The spiritually wise carefully study and search to find that one true church, and how to enter it. They will accept nothing less. They will accept no counterfeits]

(3) It has to do with provision.  “Christ… gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).  He made all the provisions necessary for us to appear before Him glorious.  Albert Barnes comments, “In all this there is an allusion doubtless to the various methods of purifying and cleansing those who were about to be married, and who were to be united to monarchs as their brides” (Barnes’ Notes, Vol. 12, p. 110; see also, Clark’s Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 463). Consider: Esther 2:12; Psalm 45:13-14; Ezekiel 16:9-13.  He made it possible for us to stand before Him as His beautiful bride.

(4)  It is about authority, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church.  Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:23-24).  The church is to be submissive to Christ.

(5) It is about purity.  Paul wrote, “I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).  Sometimes the church is depicted as married to Christ (Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:22-32).  At other times, the church is depicted as espoused to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2), with the wedding day in the future (Revelation 19:6-9).  How can this be reconciled?  The solution is found in the Jewish customs of the day.  A woman betrothed (espoused) to a man was in a sense, legally considered married (Exodus 21:9; Deuteronomy 22:23-29).  Infidelity was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:23-29).  However, they did not yet dwell together.  The groom typically used this period of time to prepare a place for them (cf. John 14:1-3).  The wedding ceremony would occur at a later date.  Then, the bride would be taken home (cf. John 14:1-3)  The church is currently betrothed to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).  We are expected to remain faithful.  May we keep ourselves pure, and without spot for His coming (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27; James 1:27).

O Beulah land, sweet Beulah land, As on thy highest mount I stand, I look away across the sea, Where mansions are prepared for me, And view the shining glory-shore, My heav’n, My home forever more” (Song: Beulah Land by Edgar Page).

 

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The Church: The Temple of God

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

The church is being referred to as the temple of God.  Marion Fox comments, “The only correct usage of a plural pronoun to refer to as singular noun as its antecedent is if the singular noun is a collective noun.  The only collective usage of the word ‘temple’ in the New Testament is when the apostles have the church in mind” (Fox, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 235).

You also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesian 2:22).

The language is temple language (cf. Ephesians 2:19-21).  The church was in its childhood, still possessing miraculous gifts designed to bring it to maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 13:8-11).  The church is designed to be the temple of God.

I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

The church is called “the house of God.”  This is temple language (e.g. Psalms 27:4; 42:4; 66:13; 69:9 cf. John 2:17; 84:1, 4, 10; 122:1-2; 135:1-2; etc.).

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

The church is, by metaphor, the temple of God.  It is not built with non-living stones.  It is built with living stones, individual members of the church.

Why is the church referred to as the temple of God?  (1) It has to do with structure.  The tabernacle/temple was to be built according to a pattern (Exodus 25:40; Numbers 8:4; 1 Chronicles 28:11, 19; Hebrews 8:5).  Likewise, the church is to be built on the correct teaching (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20).

[Note: Some have wondered how Jesus could be the only foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11) and the foundation could also consist of the apostle and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).  It should be understood that the apostles and prophets preached Jesus (Acts 8:5; 8:35; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  Further, it should be understood that what they taught was from Jesus (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-14).  Finally, it should be understood that the apostles and prophets refers not to the men themselves but to their inspired teaching (Ephesians 2:18-20 cf. 3:5-6)].

(2) It has to do with worship.  “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).  The Old Testament temple was a place of worship [1 Kings 8:29 (cf. Exodus 20:24; Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 11; 16:16); 1 Kings 12:25-31; Matthew 21:13 (cf. Isaiah 56:7)].  The church is to assemble (Hebrews 10:25) and worship (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 13:15; Philippians 4:18).

(3) It has to do with relationship.  The tabernacle/temple was where God communed with Israel (Exodus 25:22; 1 Kings 9:1-3).  Jesus promised, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20 cf. Matthew 26:29).  He is with us, when we assemble together to do His will.

[Note on Matthew 26:19: The word “new” is Kainos, meaning new in form, quality, or meaning.  The Kingdom sometimes refers to the church (Mark 9:1 cf. Acts 1:8; 2:4; Romans 14:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, etc.)].

(4) It has to do with representation.  The tabernacle/temple of old did not literally house God.  It could not contain Him (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; 6:18; Acts 7:47-50; 17:24-25).  However, it did represent Him and His dwelling place (Exodus 25:8; 29:45-46).  He, at times, even manifested His presence in the tabernacle/temple (Exodus 40:34-38; Deuteronomy 31:15; 2 Chronicle 7:1-3).  God miraculously manifested Himself in the early church (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4, etc.).  The church is to represent Him on earth.  It should be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).  The church should support and uphold the truth, God’s word.  If we don’t, who will?

Oh, Lord, prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true; With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.

Lord, teach Your children to stop their fighting, Start uniting all as one; Let’s get together, loving forever, sanctuary for You”

(Song: Sanctuary by J.W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs).

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The Church: The Family of God

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but… members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).

What a change!  God made it possible for those who were once “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12), to become a part of His family.

He made this possible through the blood of Christ.  Those who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

This change takes place, today in baptism.  “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither make nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

Why is the church referred to as the family of God?  (1) It has to do with the love of God.  “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).  He loved us enough to make it possible for us to be a part of His family.  Moreover, He wants to bless us.  We are, “if children then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17 cf. Galatians 3:29; Titus 3:7; James 2:5; 1 Peter 3:7, etc.).

(2) It has to do with our relationship with Jesus.  He lived on earth in the same relationship to the Father, that we do.  “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren”  (Hebrews 2:11).  He came in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:17; 4:15).  He lived His life in submission to the Father” (John 6:38; Matthew 26:39; Hebrews 5:8).

(3) It has to do with relationship between Christians.  Paul told Philemon that Onesimus should be received “no longer as a slave but more than a slave – a beloved brother” (Philemon 16).  Paul told Timothy to exhort older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters (1 Timothy 5:1).  How great it would be, if every member so treated one another.  We are to “let brotherly love continue” (Hebrews 13:1).  We are taught, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).  Jimmy Jividen has wisely written, “One becomes a son of God when he is born into the family of God at baptism.  Because of this sonship, he immediately and automatically becomes a brother to every other child of God.  If God is one’s Father, then all of God’s children are his brothers.  Christians do not choose who their brothers will be.  They only recognize as brothers those who have been born into the family of God.  Brotherhood has nothing to do with ethnic background, social strata, economic level, or educational attainment or personal interests.  It has everything to do with one’s relationship with God” (Jividen, Koinonia, pp. 13-14).  Again, “One does not choose his brother.  He can only recognize him as a brother when God recognizes him as a son” (ibid, p. 91).

One should love the family, the brotherhood.  Peter taught “Love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17).  Jimmy Jividen has written, “Concern for the brotherhood outweighed any personal rights or selfish desires.  This mutual concern of the family causes all who are children of God to treat one another as special people.  They give preferential treatment to one another because of the family ties.  They are spiritual kinfolk”  (ibid, p. 35).  “Never, never does not hear of an inspired man speaking in a derogatory way of either the church or the brotherhood” (ibid, p. 47).

We’re part of the family that’s been born again / Part of the family whose love knows no end/ For Jesus has saved us and made us His own / Now we’re part of the family that’s on its way home /

And sometimes we laugh together, Sometimes we cry / Sometimes we share together heartbreaks and sighs / Sometimes we dream together of how it will be / When we all get to heaven God’s family” (Song: God’s Family by Lanny Wolfe).

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God / I’ve been washed in the fountain / And cleansed by His blood /  Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod / For I’m a part of the family the family of God (Song: The Family of God by Bill and Gloria Gaither)

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The Church: The Body of Christ

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body…” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

The book of Ephesians speaks of a body.  There is one body (Ephesians 4:4).  Christ is the Savior of this body (Ephesians 5:23).  The body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23 cf. Colossians 1:18a; 1:24).  It is composed of both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:16; 3:6 cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13).

Why is the church referred to as the body of Christ?  (1) It is a reference to authority (Ephesians 1:22-23).  God put all things under Jesus’ feet (a reference to dominion and subjection (cf. Psalm 8:6; Acts 4:37; Hebrews 2:8).  God positioned Jesus as the head of the church (a reference to positional authority cf. Ephesians 5:23-24).  A healthy physical body is submissive to the will of the head.  Even so, the church is to be subject to, and carry out the will of its head, Jesus Christ.

(2) It has to do with relationship of members (Ephesians 4:16 cf. Colossians 2:19; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31).  “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:4-5).  “For in fact the body is not one member but many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the healing? If the whole body were hearing, where would be the smelling… And if they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.'” (1 Corinthians 12:14-21).  The Holy Spirit gave, different members in the early church, different miraculous gifts (cf. Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11).  He could have given all members the same gifts.  He did not.  He wanted the church to work together, using these gifts for the work of the ministry, the edifying of the body, and the glory of God (Ephesians 4:12, 16 cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10-11).  While the church today does not possess a diversity of miraculous gifts, it is composed of members with different talents and abilities.  We are to work together, as a body, to the glory of God and the furtherance of the gospel and the cause of Christ.

We should care for one another.  “There should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).  J.W. McGarvey commented, “God intends that the church shall look upon itself as such an organic whole… ‘When a thorn,’ says Chrysostom, ‘enters the heel, the whole body feels it, and is concerned: the back bends, the fore part of the body contracts itself, the hands come forward and draw out the thorn, the head stoops, the eyes regard the affected member with intense gaze.  When the head is crowned, the whole man feels honored, the mouth expressed and the eyes look gladness.'” (McGarvey, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, p. 126.

(3) It has to do with the work.  “Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today.  He has no feet but our feet to lead men in the way.  He has no tongue but our tongue to tell me how He died.  He has no help but our help to bring them to His side” (Annie Johnston Flint).  The church is His body on earth to do His will.  If we don’t, who will?

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