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This is the second session on the theme of true and false church. We’ve been examining how it comes about that there is a false church and we looked at the warning that Paul gave to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11 in the first verse where he pointed out the root of this problem which is another Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel. And wherever we turn away from the true Biblical, historical Jesus and begin to present some other kind of picture, a different spirit which is not the Holy Spirit moves in, a spirit of error. And then we end up with a different gospel. I was reminded as I was meditating on how to continue the solemn warning given by Paul in Galatians 1 where he says if anybody preaches any other gospel than this gospel, let him be accursed. And he says it again, I repeat, let him be accursed. And that word that’s translated accursed is one of the most powerful words in the Greek language. It’s a word that we use in English, anathema. There is no stronger word for that which God totally condemns and rejects. And so this is a very vital issue. It’s not peripheral, not secondary; it’s a question are we presenting, are we receiving the gospel of the New Testament? And if we have become involved in another gospel, unless we repent we come under the curse of God pronounced.
I was meditating on this one time and I thought to myself I saw a mental picture of multitudes of thirsty people, and just one source of living pure water, a spring. And then those who were called to be servants to bring the living water to the thirsty people. And I pictured how we would react if somebody took the living water and deliberately injected some harmful, poisonous substance. And so what was intended to bring life became an instrument of sickness and death. And that is just a very elementary picture of what’s involved in perverting the gospel.
I really don’t believe that the majority of us today realize how serious this issue is. I don’t want anybody to give any kind of public indication but I have a feeling that the Holy Spirit is showing me that there are some of you here who are listening to another gospel. I want to warn you, it’s poison. You are endangering your soul by entertaining another gospel. And any kind of other gospel will produce not a bride but a harlot. That is the source and origin of the false church. Another Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel.
And then I tried to give you a kind of general Biblical picture of the false church and one of the types that scripture presents us with is Jezebel, who was not an Israelite but married to an Israelite king and imported into Israel the worship of a totally evil and demonic being called Baal. Once she’d gained authority she became the main persecutor of the two prophets of God and maintained at her own expense and the expense of the kingdom 400 false prophets. And, was responsible for the death of a totally innocent man and his sons, Naboth. She was, in fact, very simply a murderess.
Now I’d like to go on with some other aspects of the Bible’s picture of this false church and most of this is found in Revelation and one particular chapter, the 17th chapter of Revelation. Which begins with an angel saying to John the revelator:
“Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters...”
And then a little further on in the chapter, verse 15, the angel says:
“The waters which you saw where the harlot sits are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues.”
So the picture is of a spiritual force that captivates vast numbers of the human race—peoples, multitudes, tribes and tongues. And the picture of sitting on them implies ruling over them, dominating them. In the Bible, the word sit is often used specifically of sitting on some kind of throne. This false church is pictured as enthroned over vast multitudes of the human race. In other words, it’s a major influence in the course of human history. It’s not just some little accident somewhere. This false church particularly seeks to win over and manipulate the rulers and the wealthy. I will offer you a little hint. Any group that aims particularly for the wealthy is probably in error. Jesus said the gospel is preached to the poor. That doesn’t mean we leave the wealthy out but when people go for the wealthy it’s usually not the Holy Spirit that is motivated. Thank God the wealthy can get saved. But, when a church goes for the wealthy in order to use their influence, that motivation probably doesn’t come from God.
Let’s look at some of the pictures here. Again we’re in Revelation 17 and we’ll read verse 2 which is a continuation of the previous verse.
“...with whom [that’s the false church] the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”
There the meaning of fornication if primarily spiritual. It’s false religion, it’s idolatry. But notice the first people listed as going in for idolatry are the kings of the earth, the rulers, the wealthy.
And then in chapter 18 and verse 3:
“For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication...”
Her false teaching which brings the wrath of God and leads people into spiritual fornication.
“...the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
So again the emphasis is on the kings and the wealthy. And in a certain sense, relating to her is a means to achieving wealth. It’s interesting in the book of Revelation how much emphasis is on merchants. It seems that the main wealth is in the hands of the merchants. And as someone that has been away from the continent of Europe a good many years and come back, I’m impressed how business has become the number one issue, and everything else is secondary to business. What political motivation could not do, business motivation seems to be doing. In other words, uniting the nations of Europe. If you read through Revelation you’ll see again and again the picture of the merchants who are supporters of this organization because it’s a source of wealth to them.
Now, wealth is not wicked. Wealth comes ultimately from God. But the pursuit of wealth by religious means, in my observation, usually lands you in trouble. I think there’s a very celebrated, publicized case of a radio evangelist that’s just been in our papers that is a very vivid example of the danger of using the gospel, or the so-called gospel, as a means of gaining wealth personally. I have to say the so-called gospel because I’m not going to name any organization but I think all of you know the one I’m speaking about. Ruth and I were invited to appear on that program about two or three years ago just before Christmas. Anyhow, four years ago, let’s say. We were theoretically the main participants for two hours. The first session, one hour, they took more than twenty minutes to raise money by selling dolls. And I had just about eleven minutes. The second session I had a little bit more. Theoretically this was a celebration of Christmas. There was no reason to suspect any of the things that subsequently came to light but I said to Ruth we will never come back here. Because, these people are misleading millions of people as to the real nature of Christianity. They’re giving them a totally false picture of what it is to be a Christian. I don’t pick on that particular individual, I pray God will have mercy on him. Maybe he has to take a hard road to the mercy of God. But I use it as a lesson for myself.
We’ll look a little further in this picture, we go back to Revelation 17 again and we look at the picture of a church living in ostentatious luxury and splendor. This is a very vivid picture, it’s emphasized. Revelation 17:4:
“The woman [that’s the false church] was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand the golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.”
And again, the golden cup is the teaching with which she seduces multitudes from the truth. But you notice that she was adorned with gold, silver, precious stones and pearls. Very ostentatious and showy wealth.
And then in chapter 18, verse 3 and then verses 11–13.
“For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
Notice again the merchants make their money by plying their trade in connection with this organization. See, I would have to observe it seems to me in western Europe, the United States, lands like that, if a thing makes money it requires no other justification. That’s all that’s needed. If a thing makes money, no matter whether it’s moral or immoral, whether it’s harmful or beneficial, if it makes money that’s its justification. And I think in a way what the Bible is showing us is the source of this is spiritual. It comes from the corruption of the church.
Anyhow, going on in Revelation 18:11–13:
“And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her [this is at her destruction], for no one buys their merchandise any more [once this organization has been destroyed]: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron and marble, and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and what, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots and bodies and souls of men.”
There again it’s a picture of a church that entices with tremendous lavish display, with tremendous ornamentation, with very magnificent buildings and architecture. See, as I read this something in me says it all appeals to the soul but not to the spirit. Its whole drawing power is connected to the human soul but it doesn’t touch the human spirit.
And then in verse 16 of that chapter, as they watched the destruction of this city they say:
“Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls...”
And as I was reading that verse one time it came into my mind to compare this with the attire of the high priest under the law of Moses. I noticed there was one significant difference. Let me read those words again and then I’ll go back to Exodus 28. She was clothed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls. Now, going back to Exodus 28:8 we have a description of the high priest’s ephod which was the distinctive garment that a priest wore. I want to read this and I want you to see if you can notice just one thing that the high priest had that the harlot didn’t have. The harlot had everything except this one thing.
“And the intricately woven band of the ephod which is on it shall be of the same workmanship, woven of gold and blue and purple and scarlet thread, and fine linen thread.”
What’s the extra thing? Blue, that’s right. The false church has the purple and the scarlet but only the true priest has the purple, the scarlet and the blue. And blue, I believe, always speaks of the heavenly, the realm of the Spirit. So this false church operates in the realm of the soul, its appeal is to the soulish in man—aesthetic, music, art—all of which are legitimate in their way but it does not touch the spirit of man. There is nothing of the blue in it. There’s nothing of the purity of the heavenly.
Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 2 that it’s very important for God’s people to learn to distinguish between the spiritual and the soulish. The way you’re looking at me tells me I need to read that chapter to you. 1 Corinthians 2, just reading the latter part. The essence of this is the distinction between the spiritual and the soulish. The word soulish is not used because we don’t have the word soulish in the English language. But we simply have to have it to translate the Bible rightly. Let me just say something. The Greek word for soul, writing it in English letters, is psuche from which the adjective is psuchekos. All right? The Greek word for spirit is pneuma from which the adjective is pneumatikos. If you can see that, they follow the same form. Now, how do we translate pneuma and pneumatikos? What’s the adjective? From spirit, spiritual. So, to be logical, if this word psuche is soul, psuchekos must be translated soulish. Do you see that? Now, we don’t have that word. In the Scandinavian language they have a word that corresponds to that but if you don’t translate it soulish you really miss the point.
I think this says the carnal or the sensual but whatever it says, I’ll say soulish. Okay? This is the Prince version amplified. Verse 13:
“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
I am always uneasy when people start to use the jargon of psychology and psychiatry to express spiritual truth. Because Paul says we don’t use that kind of language. It’s all right in its context but it’s not suitable for expressing spiritual truth.
“But the soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.”
You see, you have to have the difference between soul and spirit all the way. The soulish man cannot receive spiritual truth because it’s received with the spirit.
“But he who is spiritual judges [or discerns] all things, yet he himself is discerned by no man.”
Now here is the application. One of the essential things for spiritual success is to be able to discern between the soulish and the spiritual. And at the present time, according to my observation, most of God’s people cannot do it. I sit in meetings and I say to myself I wonder if these people realize what influence they’re under. The soulish appeals to the emotions. It sounds very good. It stirs you up. You can be soulishly motivated to give a large offering. But, it doesn’t do the things in you that need to be done. And basically, soulish Christians are very easily deceived.
Being a preacher for many years I understand what it is to put on an act soulishly that will get people crying and get them giving and get them excited—but it doesn’t change them. A week later they’re just the same. I have to say frankly there’s a lot of raising offerings in the church which is done in a soulish way. Why I say this is because the false church specializes in the realm of the soul. Everything about it is soulish. And if you’re living in the soulish realm you’ll be tremendously impressed, it will carry you away. You’ll be deceived. But if you’re able to discern between the soulish and the spiritual you’ll not be deceived.
I have seen this because I have the privilege of knowing Greek. I’ve seen this distinction for years but never until recently have I seen how urgent it is for God’s people not to be fooled by the soulish. I’m probably going to leave a lot of unanswered questions in your mind but that is a blessing because if you start asking the questions and asking God for the answers, He’ll give them. What I’m trying to emphasize is I don’t know whether I’m succeeding in communicating this false church operates in an area of the emotions, of the intellect. It can use very fine language. It can quote poetry. It can have very tremendous music. Whereas, very often the true church has very simple music and may sing the same chorus fifty times. And the aesthetically motivated say that’s not for me. I’m not advocating singing choruses fifty times but there are times when it’s spiritual.
Ruth and I were in a meeting once praying for the sick and God was really breaking through. This was in Australia. And somebody sang a chorus I never heard before, “It’s the blood, it’s the blood, it’s the blood that sets me free.” I can’t remember it but that’s all it is. “It’s the blood, it’s the blood, it’s the blood, it’s the blood. It’s the blood that sets me free.” By the time we had sung it about fifty times, you know what? We were set free! See? That’s not soulish, that’s not aesthetic. I don’t mean that God’s people can’t have wonderful music and that the truth cannot be expressed in fine language, but if its appeal is in that realm, it’s not from God.
I didn’t plan any of this, it’s not in my outline. But I absolutely feel pressured to emphasize this point. I’ve sometimes sat at the back of a meeting and just thought dear Lord, how long will it be that your people can be so easily fooled?
All right, let’s go on with the picture of the false church. The next statement is found in Revelation 17:5.
“On her forehead a name was written, a mystery, ‘BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.’”
So, in the spiritual realm the false church is equated with Babylon in Old Testament history. If you want to ask what are the distinctive features of Babylon, first of all, it was a persecutor of the true people of God. It destroyed the kingdom of Judah. But, its two main features were idolatry and the occult. Let’s look at just two passages. The first is in Isaiah 47, and this is addressed to Babylon. Verse 12 and 13 of Isaiah 47:
“Stand now with your enchantments, and the multitude of your sorceries, in which you have labored from your youth.”
What’s that, enchantments and sorcery, in one word? It’s occult, that’s right. And then verse 13:
“You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels, let now the astrologers, stargazers and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you.”
What’s that? Astrology, horoscopes. That’s what Babylon specialized in.
And then in Jeremiah 50 we have a similar picture. Jeremiah 50:2:
“Declare among the nations, proclaim and set up a standard; proclaim and do not conceal it, saying, ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is shamed, Marduk is broken in pieces. Her idols are humiliated, he images are broken in pieces.’”
Bel and Marduk are names of two pagan deities. And notice what’s the emphasis on? Idols and images.
And in the same chapter, chapter 50, verse 38:
“A drought is against her waters, and they will be dried up. For it is the land of carved images, and they are insane with their idols.”
So the tremendously distinctive feature of Babylon was it was the capital city of idolatry and the occult in the whole of the ancient world. The title given to the false church is spiritual Babylon.
You see, the church is being infiltrated by the occult. Particularly through the New Age movement. And there are a multitude of Christians that can’t distinguish between what the New Age teaches and what the Bible teaches. We have to be totally clear about the difference.
Actually, let me say this the right way. Throughout history the Roman Catholic church—and this is not an attack—has co-existed with idolatrous pagan superstition so that in many cases people in it don’t know which is which. And much of the missionary activity has Christianized pagans without changing their hearts. I hope you don’t think I’m critical but this is just a statement. It’s an indication that this is something that is happening in the church. The fact that people have certain supernatural abilities does not necessarily mean they are from God. That’s important.
I’m saying things I didn’t plan to say and I’m getting embarrassed. I trust the Lord.
The next statement I want to make should not be carried one inch further than what I actually say. But what I want to say is geographically Babylon in these chapters is particularly associated with the city of Rome. Looking in Revelation 17:9:
“Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.”
Now historically, all through classical literature Rome has always been known as the city on seven hills.
And then yet further in verse 18:
“The woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
Put yourself back in the time that those words were spoken and they’re in the present tense, the time of John the revelator. There was only one city in the world that answered to that description, one great city that ruled over the kings of the earth. And it was? Rome, that’s right. So why make a problem out of something that’s simple? There are lots of things in Revelation which are not necessarily easy but where we get something very clear and simple, we’re foolish if we set it aside.
And then this false church is the spiritual descendant of Cain. What was one of the marks of Cain? He was a murderer, that’s right. He murdered the righteous. This is brought out many times in this part of Revelation. In Revelation 17:6:
“And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her I marveled with great amazement.”
That’s a very, very strong phrase, isn’t it? The woman was drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. That’s not just an occasional person killed, that’s a massacre, a persistent ongoing massacre.
And then in Revelation 18:20 and 24, when her judgment is declared, a voice from heaven declares:
“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her.”
She was the persecutor of the apostles and the prophets.
And then in verse 24 of Revelation 18, one of the most amazing statements:
“And in her [that’s this false religion, this evil whatever you call it] was found the blood of prophets and saints and of all who were slain on the earth.”
Isn’t that an amazing statement? Prophets and saints we can understand but all who were slain on the earth. I believe if you go back to the picture of the religion of Cain and Abel you can get some understanding of it. What was the cause of the first murder that took place? False religion. Cain murdered because his religion was not acceptable to God and he was jealous of his brother. And what I understand the Bible is saying is if you trace all murder back to its source it has only one source—false religion. I leave that with you, you may not feel that’s the correct interpretation but it’s a statement that we need to take note of.
And then we look at the judgment of this evil religious system, organization, church, whatever you want to call it. Revelation 18:8–10:
“Therefore her plagues will come in one day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her. And the kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her, will weep and lament for her when they see the smoke of her burning...”
Notice again the emphasis on her influence over kings, rulers and the wealthy.
“...standing at a distance for fear of her torment, sighing, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”
So God is going to judge her. Judge her finally and totally. Swiftly in one act of judgment. And all those who were wealthy and influenced by her will stand a long way off and lament her judgment. I just offer this to you as a thought. It emphasizes that they stand a long way away from her. They don’t want to come close. It seems to me that it could indicate the use of a nuclear weapon. And because of the danger of radiation nobody will come near. That’s not a statement, it’s just something for you to consider.
And then we come to what is perhaps the most important of all the facts which is Revelation 18:4.
“I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her flames.”
So you see, it’s going to be very important to discern the true from the false. Because, at whatever point in history this becomes applicable, God’s believing people are going to be warned to disassociate themselves totally with this false religious system. I’m not giving an application but I’m just pointing out to you it’s going to be important to be able to recognize the true from the false.
And bear in mind the ultimate test is commitment to the Lord Jesus.
Now let’s turn for the latter part of this session to a picture of the true church. I’m going to try to pick out those aspects of the picture which particularly distinguish it from the false church. We’ll turn to Ephesians 5. In a way it’s a relief to turn to this. I was finding the other a little depressing. But there are times we have to go through, we have to face the facts. This is primarily teaching on the relationship between husbands and wives as Christians but it’s also used by Paul to illustrate the relationship between Christ and His church. Let me say to married couples who are Christians, you can be prophetic. Have you ever considered that? Because your relationship should show everybody the kind of relationship that Jesus has with His church. You don’t have to preach a sermon, you have to live Christian married life. So there’s a challenge. And I’m married so it applies to me, too.
Let’s look then at what Paul says about this relationship. First of all in Ephesians 5:23–24:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church, and He is the savior of the body.”
Now I know male preachers are very fond of that particular verse and I’ve heard it many times somewhat abused. I’m not going to dwell on that. I’m simply going to point out that Christ is the head of the church and He has the same relationship with the church as a husband has to his wife and that it’s the responsibility of the church to relate to Jesus as a good wife relates to her husband. Which is, love, honor, submission, faithfulness, loving service. So you see, the real point of distinction between the true and the false is the relationship with Jesus.
And then Paul goes on to describe the kind of church that will be produced by this relationship. Verse 24:
“Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
The church is subject to Christ. In submission to Christ.
And then he goes on, and again he’s talking to husbands. And let me suggest to you husbands that you focus on this verse and not on verse 22. Let the wives focus on verse 22 and you focus on verse 25.
“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it: that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
So, what is the true church going to look like? It’s going to be very beautiful, isn’t it? It’s going to be glorious, it’s going to be filled with the glory of God. The word glory denotes the presence of God in a form that is perceptible to human senses. So, the true church is going to be permeated by the perceptible presence of God. It’s going to be glorious. It’s not going to have spot or wrinkle. A spot I would understand to be unconfessed sin. And a wrinkle is some misformation of the church. It’s going to be without either. It’s going to be holy and without blemish.
How much preaching do you hear today about holiness? You hear a lot about success, prosperity and healing—all of which are wonderful—and power. But the Bible says without holiness no one will see the Lord. So if you have all the success and all the health and all the power but you don’t have holiness, it’s all in vain.
This passage I believe indicates one main method by which God will produce holiness in the church. It’s by the washing of the water of His word. And the word for word that’s used there, you know there are two words for word in Greek. Logos which means the word, the mind, the revelation. The Greek word logos, if you look it up in a lexicon it has about half a page trying to explain what it means. All of that is the logos. But this word is the other word which you’re familiar with, rhema, which means a spoken word. Faith comes by hearing the rhema, the spoken word. And so, what’s going to cleanse the church is the spoken word of God. In other words, the preaching and the teaching of the word of God. I don’t think fifteen minute sermons are going to produce it. I think it’s going to demand situations in which people are so hungry for the word that they’ll sit for two hours and listen. You can’t make people hungry and if they’re not hungry it’s a waste of time giving them two hours. But in many parts of the earth—and I know we have some brothers here from Ghana tonight. I’ve been in Ghana. You preach for three hours and they say why are you stopping? They tell me in China if a preacher arrives they hide his luggage so that he can’t go again. And they’ll keep him preaching for eleven or twelve hours, put him to bed and say we’ll be up at 5:00 A.M. for a prayer meeting!
We spoke about a church in Hungary that grew out of one of my cassettes. Ruth and I visited that church when it was still struggling and fighting a battle for existence. And they sat in a very small room, shut in, the windows covered, styrofoamed to keep any sound from going out to their neighbors. First of all, we were there for an hour and they just worshiped. I mean, they just worshiped for one hour. And my eyes were on a young woman, she never opened her eyes. I thought poor thing, she must be blind. But she just worshiped God with eyes closed for one hour and then she had perfect eyesight when she opened them. They were sitting on narrow benches not as wide as my Bible. Without any backs. And the heat was stifling because they couldn’t open any of the windows. I could have preached for three hours and they would have said why are you stopping?
So, what’s it with the church in the west? I believe that we have to have the cleansing, purifying ministry of the taught word of God. I travel widely and I notice that there’s a difference in the way groups worship. Charismatics basically are free in worship. But sometimes the freedom is very carnal, it’s very fleshly. It doesn’t have much anointing. Other times it’s pure and anointed and it seems to take you up to the presence of God. I’ve discovered in most cases churches that have that kind of worship spend a lot of time in the word. It’s the word that purifies us and cleanses us and makes us holy. And that’s part of the true church.
And then we look in Revelation 19:8, a picture of the church ready to be married. And notice all heaven is excited. I think heaven is much more excited than the church at the moment about the prospect of the marriage. It’s like all the relatives of the bride are excited and the bride is almost indifferent. Tragic. Anyhow, it says this:
“To her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
You see, when we receive Jesus as savior, His righteousness is imputed to us. But this is not imputed righteousness, this is outworked righteousness. It’s the righteous acts of the saints. I always think that our wedding garment is made up of many linen threads. And every thread is one righteous act that we’ve performed. And then I wonder to myself whether some of us are going to have much material to make a wedding garment out of. Some of you are pretty skimpy. If you don’t change I think you’re going to be embarrassed.
And then the church is going to be beautifully adorned with jewels which are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul thanks God for the Corinthian church. Some people say the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been withdrawn. That wasn’t Paul’s thinking, listen to what he says. 1 Corinthians 1, beginning at verse 4:
“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus. That you were enriched in everything by Him, in all utterance [that’s the gifts of utterance], in all knowledge [the revelatory gifts]; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you through the gifts, so that you come short [or you are lacking] in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ...”
Notice they’re going to be adorned with the gifts while waiting for the appearance of Jesus.
“...who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul envisaged a church that was beautifully adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, waiting for the return of the bridegroom.
Let me ask you this. A young man falls in love with a young lady. Ruth and I have just had a letter from a young lady that’s very close to us to whom this has just happened. She’s just accepted his proposal of marriage. But generally speaking, if he really loves her, in our culture, he’s going to buy an engagement ring. He’s going to get some diamond or other stone and set it in gold and present it to her. Can you imagine the young lady saying, “George, I like you but I don’t think much of your ring. I don’t want it.” Do you think they’d ever get married? I don’t believe the church that says to Jesus, “I don’t want your spiritual gifts” could ever become the bride of Christ. It’s totally contrary to all sense. We need to put on all the gifts. We need to be fully equipped. We need to be beautifully adorned.
Listen to what Isaiah says in Isaiah 61:10, one of my favorite verses.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. My soul shall be joyful in my God, for He has clothed me in the garments of salvation...”
That’s wonderful but it’s not all.
“...He has covered me with the robe of righteousness...”
Some Christians have got the garment of salvation on, they’ve never put on the robe of righteousness. You see, when you get saved Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to you. He cover you up with a robe of His righteousness. If you don’t get excited about that there’s something wrong with you, I think.
Then he continues.
“...as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
So it’s expected of a bride that she will adorn herself with her jewels.
And if you’d like to look in Genesis 24 in your own time you’ll find a beautiful parable of Abraham getting a bride for his son Isaac. And there are four main characters in that. Abraham who is a type of God the Father, Isaac who is a type of Jesus Christ the Son, the bride who is a type of the church, and there’s one other main character. The servant who is a type of? The Holy Spirit. And if you notice it wasn’t the father and it wasn’t the son that picked out the bride, it was the Holy Spirit. And when he arrived he had with him ten camels laden with gifts. And brothers and sisters, I’ve lived in a country with camels. Camels carry a lot. I mean, he was not stingy. And when he thought that Rebekah was perhaps the right young lady he said, if she is, when I ask her to give me water to drink she’ll give me water for my camels. Now that is faith and works because camels drink 40 gallons. And he had ten camels, that’s 400 gallons, you understand? When she responded he took out the first jewel and put it on her. And that marked her out as the chosen bride. From that moment she was set apart. Then he gave her other jewels.
What would have happened if she refused that jewel? She would have never married Isaac. Once he put the jewels on her he became responsible for her teaching, her guidance and everything that followed. And she set out, woman of faith, on a long journey to meet a man she’d never seen, and marry him. And all she ever knew about the man she was going to marry and his father she learned from one source, the Holy Spirit. That’s the place of the Holy Spirit in the church.
And finally we just have time to look at one other feature in Hebrews 9:28.
“Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time without sin for salvation.”
For whom will He appear? I didn’t hear you. For those who eagerly await for Him. Can you imagine a bride twiddling her thumbs and yawning when she hears the bridegroom is one the way? How eager are you in waiting for the bridegroom? It’s an essential mark of the true church.
A friend of mine who is a preacher said when Jesus comes back He’ll expect to hear from the church something more than, “Nice to have you back.”
There’s another passage in Titus 2 which says the same thing. Eagerly awaiting the appearing of the Lord.
Just for a moment ask yourself do I bear the marks of the true church? Not just as an individual but am I part of a body that is the true church or a part of the true church? It’s an important decision.