The Crucial Importance of the Church

The Crucial Importance of the Church

The Church, the body of Christ, is the fullness of God.

….the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him [God] who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22–23, NKJV)

God the Holy Spirit baptizes (places) us into the body.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13, NKJV)

He places us in the body as it pleases Him.

But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” (1 Corinthians 12:18, NKJV)

We then are one spirit with Christ. He is the head. We are the body and share His spirit.

“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17, NKJV)

We also have the mind of Christ.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16, NKJV)

We also are members of His flesh and bones. Our hands, toes and eyes are His flesh and bones.

For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” (Ephesians 5:30, NKJV)

We are therefore members of one another since we are part of the same body and share the same spirit.

so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:5, NKJV)

The Holy Spirit gives a manifestation (external evidence, gift, spiritual ability) to each Christian to be used for the profit of the other parts of the body for the overall health and growth of the body.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NKJV)

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11, NKJV)

 

A body is healthy only when all its parts are there and functioning according to their design. When a part of our body is not functioning or is functioning weakly, our body is not healthy and not growing as it should. The same is true of the body of Christ. Every part has a function. Every part is connected to every other part and must be aware of the impact it would have on the other parts of the body if it does not function as it should. There are no individual parts of the body just floating out in space. All parts are interconnected and have the same life and spirit flowing through them.

from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16, NKJV)

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.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor… But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that 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 the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
(1 Corinthians 12:20–27, NKJV)

Spiritual Gifts Listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12

Word of wisdom                                                                          Mercy

Word of knowledge                                                                     Leading

Faith                                                                                                Giving

Healings*                                                                                       Exhortation

Miracles*                                                                                       Teaching

Prophecy1                                                                                       Serving

Discerning spirits                                                                          Administration

Tongues*                                                                                       Helps

Interpretation of tongues*

Many of these characteristics, such as faith and giving, should be present generally among God’s people. But some are especially gifted by the Spirit in these areas.

There may be additional gifts not listed here, but many of these gifts cover a lot of areas. Gifts such as serving, faith, or helps have a broad range of applications.

God gives some men gifts to be used to equip others to do the ministry.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men…. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:7–13, NKJV)

And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers….
(1 Corinthians 12:28, NKJV)

The main point to remember is that you as a Christian have been given one or more of these gifts. God has given the gift to be used in and with the local body of Christ. There should be a consciousness and awareness of the rest of the body and how your gifts are serving for the edification of others so that the body is made stronger and healthier “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). This is to be intentional. It does not just happen. Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about this when instructing them about communion. It wasn’t general secret sins that Paul warned them about resulting in “some are weak and sickly among you and many sleep,” it was not discerning the Lord’s body. The body of Christ, the fullness of God,  with its many members was right there among them and they didn’t see it. They were just interested in themselves and making sure their personal needs were met.

For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Corinthians 11:29, NKJV)

Questions each Christian must ask himself:

  1. What is the gift or gifts the Holy Spirit has given me?
  2. How am I using my gift in the church to serve the Body?
  3. Am I a healthy member of the body functioning and interconnected with others?
  4. How is my gift strengthening the body, building up others in the body and helping the body to grow and mature?

*We believe these were special gifts given to the church to authenticate the apostles’ message and are no longer widely active today. This does not mean that God cannot or does not use these gifts in some special circumstances today.

1By prophecy we mean the Spirit enabled proclamation of the truth of Scripture, not the foretelling the future.

 

Battle Plan – Strategy 7 – The Reason for God’s Wrath

(The list of these strategies in chart form can be found here: http://rogert.me/2w6E0sK )

Strategy 7: I realize that participating in and supporting immoral, sexual activities is making me a part of the reason God’s wrath is coming on the world.

 In Ephesians 5:3 we read the following:

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;” (Ephesians 5:3, NKJV)

Paul continues listing sins and then concludes with this:

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.” (Ephesians 5:5–7, NKJV)

Paul gives another such list in 1 Corinthians:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10, NKJV)

So God is saying that people who live in the life styles listed here will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and God. Now before you get too self-righteous, be sure to notice that he doesn’t include just the sexually immoral. He also includes those who are characterized by covetousness, idolatry, drunkenness, and thievery and swindlers among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Then he goes on (in Ephesians 5)  to tell us why we shouldn’t involve ourselves with these sorts of behaviors. The reason is because these sins are the reason why God’s wrath will come upon the earth. How can we justifiably participate in activities that are the cause of God’s judgment? It doesn’t make any sense for children of God to live in this way.

When we come to Christ there is a basic change in our nature. In this same passage in verse 8, Paul writes:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8, NKJV)

There is a change. We’ve gone from darkness to light. It makes no sense to have fellowship or common bond with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph 5:11).

Priority Goal 7: Today, every time I am tempted to look at or participate in anything that God says is wrong, I will remind myself that it is because of these very things that God’s wrath is coming. Do I want to be a part of God’s reason for judging the world?

Battle Plan – Strategy 6 – Avoid the Second Look

(The list of these strategies in chart form can be found here: http://rogert.me/2w6E0sK )

Strategy 6: I’ve learned to control my eyes by avoiding the second look. I have made commitments not to look on or lust after evil.

Consider Job’s testimony: ““I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1, NKJV)

Also consider this commitment from David: “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.” (Psalm 101:3, NKJV)

These are examples of two men who made the decision not to take that second look. Sometimes we cannot help what we see at first, but we can turn our eyes away from those things which incite us to lust for things which God has forbidden.

Lust is the kind of thing that is never satisfied. We think that we will be satisfied if we just take one more look, or one more bite or view one more scene. But lust is going to come back stronger and will demand more and more from us. It is a powerful force!

When Eve was tempted to eat the fruit which God had commanded her not to eat, she looked at it too long. Look what the Scripture says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6, NKJV)

In Daniel 1:8 we learn that Daniel had purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the king’s food. This was a decision he had made ahead of time. We need to make that determination in our hearts and before God that we will respond in righteous ways when temptation is placed in front of us. Trying to make those decisions on the fly doesn’t work.

Priority Goal 6: Today I determine not to take that second look when confronted with any kind of temptation.

Battle Plan – Strategy 5 – Put on the Armor

(The list of these strategies in chart form can be found here: http://rogert.me/2w6E0sK )

Strategy 5: I have put on the whole armor of God so that I will be able to be standing when each skirmish is over.

Paul gives us this admonition in Ephesians 6: “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, NKJV)

We already discussed the fact that our strength and power comes from the Lord. As we work, He works (Philippians 2:12-13). Paul tells us here in Ephesians that we are to be strong in the power of His might. Obviously we are not strong in our own might. Our defeats day by day are enough evidence of that.

In order to stand against the schemes and tricks of the devil, we are to put on the whole armor of God as explained in this passage. There are pieces of armor for the head and for all the other parts of the body. They are mostly defensive, but He has given us the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, as our offensive weapon. We are to put it on. It won’t put itself on.

Why do we need this armor? Because we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of wickedness. This is a dirty battle and the enemy is deceitful and cruel. Therefore we need all the protection we can get.

We need the belt of truth. Don’t believe the lies, even the lies you tell yourself. Know the truth and base your life on it.

We need the breastplate of righteousness. This cannot be our own righteousness because our righteousness is porous – full of holes. Paul writes in Philippians: “[that I might] be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” (Philippians 3:9, NKJV)

We need God’s righteousness as our breastplate.

We are to have the gospel as our footwear. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves every single day. Christ died for our sins and paid the death penalty for us. He was raised the third day and is ascended into heaven where He makes intercession for us.

We are to have the shield of faith to quench those fiery darts. Faith is believing God, taking Him at His word. Faith involves acting on what He says. Faith which doesn’t act is not faith. As James tells us, such faith is dead.

We are to have the helmet of salvation. In other words, we are to be a regenerated person. A person who has been given a new heart, a new spirit and new inclinations toward God.

And we are to have the Word of God as our defensive and offensive weapon. Remember how Jesus responded to the temptations Satan brought him?  He said, “It is written.” We must now and use our Bibles effectively.

Priority Goal 5: Today I will make sure I have the armor on. I will think through the components of God’s armor and make sure I am securely protected by them. I will do this consciously and intentionally with my mind and heart focused on its importance for a successful battle. So that having done all, I will still be standing.

Battle Plan – Strategy 4 – Control the Body

(The list of these strategies in chart form can be found here: http://rogert.me/2w6E0sK )

Strategy 4: I have taken control of my body and mind, keeping them in subjection.

Consider the following passages of Scripture:

1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

2 Corinthians 10:5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

In the Christian life we are charged with responsibility to actively pursue the battle for our minds and bodies. We have the promise of God that as we work, He works (Philippians 2:13). He provides the strength and power to do what needs to be done. In these passages we see Paul’s determination to bring his body into subjection. Our bodies should not rule over us and dictate what we will do. Our body has its desires for food, pleasure and sex, but is not to set the agenda. Paul tells us in Romans 6:12 that we should not allow sin to reign in our mortal body. It’s our responsibility to set the terms for what our body does.

Even the thoughts of our mind are to be brought under control and “into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” That’s not an easy proposition, but nevertheless is it not impossible because of the victory Christ has already won for us.

Priority Goal 4: Today, I will take control of my body and mind by the power of the Spirit of God at work within me. I will keep my body and mind under subjection to the will of God.

Patience – Part 2

Patient endurance is required of all Christians. The passage under consideration  (2 Peter 1:5,6) tells us to be diligent in adding it to our faith. Peter also tells us in I Peter 2:20 that when we do good and suffer, it is commendable before God to take it patiently. Paul tells Timothy in I Timothy 6:11 that patience is one of the things a man of God is to pursue having fled from youthful lusts and other evils. In 2 Tim 3:10 we find that Paul commends Timothy for having followed his example in the area of patience among other things. An older man who would be a good example to the young men around him must have patience as one of his personal characteristics (Titus 2:2).  Patience is one of the attributes that commended Paul as a minister (2 Cor 6:4).

The kind of patience or endurance spoken of here is not the simple patience that we normally think of when we say we might need some patience when the car ahead of us is moving too slowly or something like that. Patience is the enduring of a trial whether that trial is directly from the hand of God for our discipline or is being applied by the world and its system in opposition to God and His people. We are strengthened by God Himself so that we might endure. (Col 1:11)  It is a goal to be sought after, not avoided. According to James in chapter 5 we are not to grumble against one another while enduring the trials. So rather than grumbling and complaining as we often do when going through hardships, we are to be joyful and accept the trial without complaint. That’s a tough assignment.

God shows his pleasure in this kind of endurance when he commends the Ephesian church in Revelation 2. He says in verse 2, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”

Being able to endure trials with endurance and patience is helpful in providing the support and encouragement needed by others coming after us who may face the same or similar trials (2 Cor 1:6-7).

As I mentioned earlier, there is a strong connection between patience and hope. We already looked at the fact that patience produces the proof in our lives which gives us hope. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he said he remembered their “patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Patience helps produce hope and hope also strengthens patience. When we have a sure hope, we wait for it more patiently like the farmer does for his harvest (James 5:7-10). Even though the word is different, Hebrews 6:11 says that “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” In other words through our patience we demonstrate the full assurance of the hope we have. Romans 15:4 tells us that through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.

One of the things that is most interesting to me is the close connection with endurance and the final reward. Heb 10:36 tells us, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” He goes on to say in verse 38 that the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.  In speaking in an “end time” context, Jesus tells us that His followers will be hated by all for His name’s sake. He then adds, “By your patience possess your souls.” In the same kind of “end time” context Matt 24:13 says that he that endures to the end will be saved. 2 Timothy 2:12 tells us that if we endure, we will reign with him.

Our pastor, in preaching on 2 Corinthians 4 called our attention to verse 8 which tells us that though we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed. Then in verse 16 we see the evidence of perseverance. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

In a message during prayer meeting he spoke from 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4. It was interesting to see the connection with what we are studying here. Paul boasted of the Thessalonians for “your patience and faith in all your persecutions.” He goes on to say in verse 5 that this is a “manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.”

Patience or endurance then is to be the hallmark of the Christian life. It is the pattern of life that results in God’s approval of our lives. We are told to run with patience the race that is set before us. Jesus said that the seed that fell on good ground are those who heard the word and keep it and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). This is the characteristic of a true believer. Love endures all things. As our lives are marked by the love of God, they will also be marked by the kind of endurance that only comes from the power of God at work in us for His glory.

(This article was first posted to Faithful Men Blog in October 2006)

Patience – Part 1

In 2 Peter 1:5, 6, Peter gives us characteristics which we are to diligently add to our faith. First we are to add virtue and to virtue knowledge. To knowledge we are to add self-control and to self-control perseverance. As I am studying through these characteristics, I wanted to take some extra time to delve into the meaning of perseverance.

Perseverance is a translation of the word “hupomone”, which means to remain under. The person who is persevering or enduring is remaining under some circumstance or pressure and he is doing so in such a way that his spirit is not crushed by the circumstances. Perseverance can be the result of remaining under the pressures which God brings directly in the form of discipline.  Hebrews 12:7 “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.” Perseverance can also be the result of enduring the pressures inflicted by the world and its system of evil and persecution. Either way we are to remain confident and strong in spite of the pressures.

In the passage under consideration, Peter instructs us to be diligent to add this trait to the others that are being added to our faith. Diligence means that we will focus our attention on and work toward accomplishing this goal of adding endurance to our faith. Endurance is gained primarily by practice. In order to be diligent in adding it to our faith, we will have to go through various trials and be diligent about taking those trials patiently. Needless to say, that is not an easy task.

What does the New Testament teach us about endurance?  James 1:3 tells us that the trying of our faith produces patience. Similarly,  Romans 5:3 tells us that tribulation works patience and patience brings experience and experience hope. This is why James says that those who endure are to be counted blessed (James 5:11).  It is also why he tells us to count it all joy when we come under the various pressures because we know that these trials will produce endurance in us. Perseverance/patience/endurance is a tremendous goal to reach for. Trials bring joy because we know the result will be good.

The word “experience” in Romans 5:3 is an interesting one which would take an entire study of its own. In essence it means proof or evidence. So the patience that comes from tribulation brings about the kind of experience that proves the genuine nature of our Christian life. Experience is not the flimsy, superficial feeling-oriented concept that we have today. It is the documentation of our Christian faith. Tribulation brings about patience which gives rise to the documentation of our genuine faith which then provides hope. Someone has said that hope looks to the future while endurance helps us get there. You don’t get there if you don’t endure. We will see hope in close proximity to endurance throughout this study.

(This article was first posted to the Faithful Men Blog in October 2006.)

Ephesians 1:15 -23

Ephesians 1:15-23

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

It’s an interesting study to go through this chapter and see the number of times Paul speaks of being in him or in Christ. Here we see that in Him we have received an inheritance. Later on Paul will describe God’s inheritance, but here we receive an inheritance because of our union with Christ. To describe this idea, Paul says that we were predestined. Predestination is not the same thing as election. Predestined means to determine the destiny or outcome ahead of time. In this passage, that destiny is that we should be to the praise of His glory. In other words, God has determined and planned that we will be to the praise of His glory. He works all things out according to the counsel of His will and if He determines and wills to accomplish it, it will be accomplished. We will be to the praise of His glory, because God knows what it will take in our lives to accomplish that task.

The Ephesians also trusted in Christ after they heard the word of truth, the gospel. That is the way we all come to salvation. It is always and only by trusting in Christ that a person is saved. It is always faith in the Word of God. Salvation never comes except through the Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. People cannot be saved without the Word, that is why missionary activity and preaching are so important.

Having believed, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Paul describes Him as the guarantee, earnest or down payment of our inheritance. Someone provides a down payment as a pledge that the rest will be forth coming. If the rest does not follow, the down payment belongs to the recipient. In this context, that would mean that if God does not follow through on the rest of His promise, we get to keep the Holy Spirit. It is foolishness to think that God would lose the Holy Spirit because of failure to fulfill the remainder of His promise and that is the point. God’s promise of our inheritance is that secure. The Holy Spirit is the down payment until the redemption of the purchased possession. What is that purchased possession? Us!

All to the praise of His glory.  These things are not for our glory but for His. Modern Christianity has made man the center. God does what He does for His glory including our salvation. Let’s give Him the glory He deserves.

Previously Published June 2005

Ephesians 1:7-10

Ephesians 1:7-10

Several things come to my mind as I read these 4 verses. I think of the key word “redemption” mentioned in verse 7. Here we have visualized the process whereby a slave is bought back. Someone has been sold as a slave and a kind person pays the price to buy him out of slavery and sets him free. I see that as a picture of how Christ has bought us back and set us free from guilt and sin. In fact that is what the next part of the verse talks about – the forgiveness of sins. There are some people who have no concept of how sinful they really are and therefore may not fully appreciate what forgiveness is. To be completely set free from the guilt and penalty of sin is an amazing thing. As we grow older and study the Word more, we realize how depraved we actually are and as a result we realize all the more the wonder of forgiveness. All of this of course comes from His grace. It is all undeserved by us. Sometimes I think we come to believe that God owes us something. But the Bible teaches us that it’s all because of His amazing grace.

Paul seems to delight in superlatives because he doesn’t just stop with the word grace at the end of verse 7. He tells us that this grace abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. His grace doesn’t come in a trickle. It is abundant and it doesn’t come out of God’s ignorance but through his great wisdom and insight. It’s a result of His character.
Probably the next two verses take a deeper study, but what I see here is an expression of ultimate purpose. It flows down through verse 12. But in this section I see that when time is complete and all of the ages roll together toward their ultimate conclusion, God is and will gather together all things in Christ and make Him the ultimate focus of everything there is. This not only includes the things in heaven but also the things on the earth. I imagine that this is why he tells us elsewhere that every knee will bow. Thinking about this certainly makes a lot of other things pale in comparison and much we focus on in life seems rather insignificant, doesn’t it.

Summary of God’s Curse or Blessing

To help you pull this together in your own mind, I’m including a list of truths that we have discovered in this study.

 

In the Old Testament, God gave statements of blessing and cursing. Those who keep all of the law are blessed. Those who fail in any of it are cursed.

 

There are two ways of living – under the law or by faith.

 

Those who are under the law are under that curse that God gave.

 

Abraham believed God and God blessed him and his seed.

 

The law that came later could not annul that promised blessing otherwise God is guilty of breaking his contract.

 

If we too believe God and accept His word of salvation through Christ, we are Abraham’s seed according to the promise and therefore recipients of the blessing that cannot be revoked.

 

Christ lived a perfect life and yet died on the cross and therefore was cursed because anyone hung on a tree is cursed. He bore the curse that was due to us.

 

The law cannot bring reform to our lives because with it comes the curse. It also stimulates sin and gives sin its power.

 

The law was in charge before the time of Christ, but now we are in an adult age when those who are Christ’s are adopted as adult sons into his family and are no longer under the guardianship of the law to keep us in line as though we were children.

 

God begs us not to look to the law as the answer to our sinful and fleshly ways. He reminds us that we, just like Isaac are children of promise and should live our lives in that light.