DNA Reminded, the Church 2
We have been revisiting the spiritual DNA of our church together as a bridge between 1 Timothy 3 and 4. Our DNA is contained in our mission statement (For the glory of God we will build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ)
Gospel / Church / Glocal / Radical
We have been reminded of the gospel of the glory of the blessed God (1 Timothy 1:11) and we started to unpack the glorious community of the kingdom of God, the church.
The big idea in the last message and in this message is this: the church is not a throw away; rather the church is a necessity for the Christian.
This big idea should be a “no duh”, but often if a person would affirm this big idea their practice says something different. Here is a reminder of what we believe about the church:
We believe that God’s new covenant people (the church) have already come to the heavenly Jerusalem; they are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies. This universal church is manifest in local churches of which Christ is the only Head; thus each “local church” is, in fact, the church, the household of God, the assembly of the living God, and the pillar and foundation of the truth. The church is the body of Christ, the apple of his eye, graven on his hands, and he has pledged himself to her forever. The church is distinguished by her gospel message, her sacred ordinances, her discipline, her great mission, and, above all, by her love for God, and by her members’ love for one another and for the world. Crucially, this gospel we cherish has both personal and corporate dimensions, neither of which may properly be overlooked. Christ Jesus is our peace: he has not only brought about peace with God, but also peace between alienated peoples. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. The church serves as a sign of God’s future new world when its members live for the service of one another and their neighbors, rather than for self-focus. The church is the corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit, and the continuing witness to God in the world. (TRCC Statement of Belief)
The church is a glorious community.
Truthfully, there is more that can be said about the church. She is a grand expression and object of the grace and love of God, but for the purposes of revisiting our spiritual DNA we’ll keep to the highlights.
The church displays the multi-colored (multi-sided) wisdom of God
About the church Paul says, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold (varied, diverse, multi-colored) wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Ephesians 3:8-11)
Ephesians 3:8-11 says that through this community of the kingdom of God, the church, God’s multi-colored wisdom is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
First, note that the church is the vehicle through which the manifold / multi-colored wisdom of God is made known.
There are other organizations that have purposes to do great and good deeds on our planet for people and for nations, but only the church contains the special presence of Jesus Christ (see Revelation 1). This is not to say that we don’t experience the presence of the Lord daily when not gathered. We do. But being covenanted to the body of Christ is special and carries with it supernatural realities that church discipline removes, which is why Paul says to remove the unrepentant sinner from the fellowship. The disciplined sinner, once removed, no longer has access to the supernatural protection and presence of the Lord. Therefore, the “Christian” who does not covenant with a body but refuses to covenant with a body refuses, in a real way, to come under the influence of the Chief Shepherd and his supernatural shepherding.
Next, note that God’s manifold wisdom is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This is probably the whole host of heavenly beings; not merely angels or evil powers, but both (see 6:12). These heavenly beings, fallen and faithful alike, are assembled witnesses before whom God vindicates his wisdom (D.A. Carson, NBC). God vindicates his wisdom through the church which is the expression of his wisdom. And even deeper, verse 11 affirms that this is according to his eternal purpose that was realized in Christ. According to 1:9-10 and 2:11-22 the eternal purpose realized in Christ that vindicates God’s wisdom and shows it to be so glorious as to call it manifold / multi-colored is the unity of all things in Christ (1:9-11) and this unity is brought to expression in a local / global church where Jew and Gentile live and worship as one body in harmony with God and with each other in Christ. And this unity emphasized in chapters 4-6, to Paul, is the central witness to the powerful gospel. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 emphasized this unity under God purchased by Christ as the powerful witness to the work Jesus was about to accomplish on the cross. All this through the church!
Is the church a negotiable for the Christian? No way.
Therefore, we dare not minimize the church. We dare not neglect the church. We dare not abuse the church. We dare not mislead the church. We dare not segregate the church by race or age. We dare not think the church not capable of being the central organization in the global advance of the gospel and replace her with something else. She is precious. She is the bride of Christ. She is glorious. We are a glorious proclamation of the multi-colored wisdom of God!
The church is visible yet invisible
This glorious institution of the Lord that is making his wisdom known in the heavenlies is also visible and invisible. The visible church is the church as mankind sees it. The invisible church is the church as God sees it (Grudem, p. 1640 iBooks).
The Lord knows those who are his, Paul reminded Timothy (2 Tim. 2:19). Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the weeds to teach that in the kingdom there are true followers of Jesus and fake followers of Jesus. Some know and live the truth and some are deceived. Such is the case resulting from a devastating fall in Eden.
Paul warned the Ephesians that fierce wolves would come to them from their own number and devour the people (Acts 20:29).
So, the church exists as those who the Lord knows are his (invisible) and the organization (visible) the culture at large sees.
What are some implications of what the church is truly and what man sees as the church?
As far as it depends on us we want to display to our world what is to be displayed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. We want to put the glorious multi-colored wisdom of God on display in the church. What we are is on display to those outside. Here are a few implications regarding what we truly are and how it is viewed.
One, we must exercise church discipline in order to preserve the integrity of the church in the eyes of the world (not the world system opposed to the gospel, but the people of culture and society). We must also exercise church discipline to guard the fellowship from the leaven of rebellion against the Lord. Sin infects and affects the atmosphere/culture that everyone takes in and the spiritual affects of rebellion hurt everyone. If we don’t take holiness and righteousness seriously, we damage the reputation of Christ and we hurt others we are one with.
Second, we must also encourage perseverance for those who know and live the truth. The Lord knows and will not let his elect go. One of the means of the Lord keeping his people is by the providential encouragement of saints to other saints. Have you ever noticed how someone has an encouraging word at just the right moment?
Take note also, that this works the other way too. Satan hates the church and seeks our demise. Often you’ll find that one believing the lies of the evil one will have a damaging and deflating berating for you just as things are starting to look up? Satan and the rulers in the heavenly places are astute observers and seek to inject as much chaos as possible. This is all the more reason to make sure you are connected to the body and not segregated from the body. You need encouragement not berating.
Defecting from the faith robs God of glory publicly and in the heavenly places, destroys the defector and hurts the faithful. A timely encouragement is just what is needed.
Finally, we must maintain Christ exalting, Christ-centered worship because Jesus is our audience! When Jesus is the object of our preparation the people of God are built up. When we are the object of our preparation then we become idolaters and offer nothing truly transforming to the culture at large (it’s just a sub par concert). Christ exalting worship is part of making disciples and fills the earth with people who desire to make Jesus big.
The church is local and universal
As long as the gathering is observing the sacraments, engaging in the great commission by planting churches, engaging the domains of society, and making disciples through front door strategic engagement of unreached people groups it can be called the church. The church can take many forms inside culture as a local reality and a global reality.
A house church is called the church in Romans 16:5 and 1 Cor. 16:19.
The church in an entire city is called the church in 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1.
The church in a region is referred to as a church in Acts 9:31.
The church throughout the entire world can be called the church because Eph. 5:25 tell us that Christ gave himself up for his church (all of her not just part of her and that implies the entire body).
What are some implications of a local and universal church?
First, we must recognize the vital nature of being in covenant in the church. In other words, what we do on the local level has implications on the universal level. This is why there is church membership. In 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 Paul challenges the Corinthian church to judge those who are inside the church and leave judging outsiders to God. How did the Corinthians know who was in and who was out? They knew who Paul was talking about because some people had formally, publicly identified themselves with the church in Corinth while the rest of the city had not. Those who had covenanted with the church were inside the church. They were the church’s members. Those who hadn’t were not. This is not complicated.
One cannot be loved rightly if they are not willing to be accountable and hold others accountable. This is a local reality that has universal implications. What if a member sins against the body and leaves and takes that same sin to other fellowships and leaves a wake of personal destruction? That is a local reality that can have universal / far-reaching implications.
Finally, a local reality with universal implications is that we are members one of another with our family who is persecuted globally. This is, among many reasons, why the church must be engaged globally. It is necessary, if a church be a church, to be part of the global movement of the kingdom of God and help minister to those who are pioneering the gospel of the kingdom. The local church being part of and empathizing with and serving and helping the universal church advance the kingdom is a major way the church is local and universal.
In conclusion, the church has a mission and in that mission the church has functions, means, things to do. What are the functions of the church?
The functions of the church
Ministry to God (communion)
Ministry to believers (community)
Ministry to the world (collision)
As conclusion, you will recognize these three as what we call Radical Life. We won’t unpack these today; just bring them up as conclusion and launching for the remainder of our reminder of the spiritual DNA that drives our fellowship.
The book of Acts and the whole of the bible, really, identifies these three realities as the function of the people of God. People are made to worship the Lord. People who truly worship the Lord are brought into community with each other due to the indwelling Holy Spirit, and we become family. People who are worshiping the Lord as family will collide with the culture as the values of the world system of lies that stand against the gospel come into full contact with the values of God’s kingdom. How we engage in this collision is key to the advance of the gospel.
Do you rightly worship the Lord? Are you in community? Are you bringing the Kingdom of God to bear on the world system?