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What The Church Must Become

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Part 3 of 4: What Is Holiness? (Volume 1)

By Derek Prince

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Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

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Part of series, “What Is Holiness?—Volume 1”

Before I bring the message, Ruth wants to say something personal about our hearts.

RUTH: Yeah, I just wanted to follow on with what David said. What the Lord has really quickened to me in the worship this morning is that as we’ve known the Lord a long time, we don’t have the kind of fire that we had when we were first - _______________. I can compare it to my love for Derek. We’ve been married almost twenty years and we have a wonderful marriage. We’ve kept the romance in our lives. But my heart doesn’t leap the same way it did when we were first married. And I’ve known the Lord now almost twenty-eight years and I realize that I need a fresh fire in my life. I love Him so much. But it’s not that first love and Dale Garrett wrote a song a number of years ago. I don’t know if anybody knows it, Rekindle Your First Love. That’s the cry in my heart and I think maybe it’s the cry of someone else, that we’ll really go away from here touched by God in the depths of our hearts, that we love Him the way He wants to be loved. I think I’ve heard Derek quote the daughter of William Booth who said, “Jesus loves us passionately.” He wants to be loved passionately. So may He do that for us.

So, I don’t want to move into a different direction, but I don’t think we can get a passionate love by just wishing we had a passionate love. I think it’s something that God has to do as we continue doing what He’s given us to do. So this morning we’re going to make a proclamation from the second half of Ephesians chapter one.

And this we pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,

The eyes of our understanding being enlightened; that we may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power

Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,

Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Amen.

Some of you may not be familiar with our practice of making proclamations. I have to say that we have discovered this is one of the most effective ways of releasing the power of God into a situation. And we have a little booklet called Prayers and Proclamationswhich is the ones we have been using most frequently in the past. We’re continually adding new ones. Then if you want a little extra, you can have this teaching, Thanksgiving, Praise and Worship,which is a teaching on that theme and has the proclamation at the end.

Now yesterday I spoke about the fact that the church’s wedding gown must be made up of the righteous acts of the saints. And I specified three righteous acts. How many of you can remember which they were? Number one, widows and orphans. That’s right. Number two, the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. And number three, prayer and intercession.

Now today we are launching into the more positive side of the theme Holiness.And I have to confess I feel totally inadequate. If somebody else would do it better I would gladly make room for them. On the other hand, I feel it is absolutely essential that we come to grips with this issue of holiness, because it’s central to the whole of the truth of the Word of God. So all the messages that I will be bringing from now on will be in some way related to Holiness.

Now the one that I want to bring now is What The Church Is Intended To Become By God.I want to turn to Ephesians chapter 5 and read about three verses there. Ephesians 5:25, 26, 27. It starts with some good advice for husbands which is, I mean, a good introduction to the real theme.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,

That He might sanctify it 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.

That’s a tremendous program. If it wasn’t God’s program it would be hopeless. Now I want to consider some of the aspects of what Paul is saying there. First of all he’s saying in verse 27, this is the end; we’ll go back to the means.

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.

I want to focus first of all on the word gloriouswhich has a special significance for me because of my particular academic background which was in Greek philosophy, and especially the philosophy of Plato. Consequently when I turn to the New Testament I thought why is, whatever does it mean, because it was so different from Plato. So I wanted to take a little time to explain this to you. The Greek word for glory is doxafrom which we get doxology, etc. Now in Plato’s philosophy there was a very sharp division between knowledge and sense perception. In Plato’s philosophy, which I don’t think is correct, knowledge was the thing that was reliable. Actually he was really like Adam and Eve. He went to the Tree of Knowledge which is the history of mankind basically. And knowledge was something of the soul. He didn’t have any idea of the spirit. And it was extremely intellectual and he viewed it as being totally accurate. What he was aiming for in his philosophy was knowledge. He said a lot of sensible things. He wasn’t by any means stupid.

Then opposed to knowledge was doxathis word. But what it meant in Plato’s philosophy was the things you learned through your senses—your sight, your hearing, your touch and so on. And according to Plato that was unreliable which anybody can accept. I mean, we cannot rely on our senses. They don’t tell us the same thing twice running.

So when I came to study the New Testament in Greek with this background, this was my number one problem. What does doxareally mean? Because the Greek words have a history, they can change but their history is still behind them. I thought, “What has it got to do with what you perceive by your senses?” And I got the answer which I’ll share with you for absolutely free. It means that doxais that which impacts your senses. So the glory of the Lord is God’s presence perceived by the senses. And that’s what the church needs to be. It needs to be a glorious church. It needs to have the presence of God there in such a way that it impacts people. They may not know what is impacting them, but they are impacted by something. It’s not just a theology. It’s not just doctrine. But it’s the presence of God with His people in a way that can be perceived by the senses.

I always get excited about this. I have a rather interesting history with regard to the Greek New Testament, because when I was at Cambridge studying Greek, I said to my tutor, “I think I’m going to read the New Testament in Green in the long vacation.” My tutor was horrified. He said, “You’ll spoil your Greek prose style.” Well, of course that’s all I needed. I determined to do it. And I remember coming back from the long vacation and meeting a dear friend of mine and saying to him, “I’ve discovered the key to John’s Gospel.” I don’t remember what it was, but I—I was still unconverted, but I was kind of feeling my way towards something.

So, if the church is to be glorious it has to be filled with the sensible, if you want, perceived by the senses presence of God. It’s not just that you walk into a meeting and there’s a lot of people there. You walk into a meeting and there’s something there that isn’t people. And that’s really where we should be headed. We should not be satisfied with less.

I’d like to turn to 2Chronicles chapter 7 the first three verses. Whenever I read the word glorysomething happens inside of me because of my background. Something begins to tingle. So we read here, this is the dedication of Solomon’s temple. 2Chronicles chapter 7, verses 1 to 3.

Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house. [His presence was so powerful that no one could remain standing.]

When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying:

“For he is good,

For His mercy endures forever.”

I don’t really believe we can have worship in its true sense unless we have the glory of the Lord. Worship is more than a song service. I’ll come back to that.

And then going back to Ephesians 5, it says in verse 27,

That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, [a church permeated with the glory of God] not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing,

So what do we understand by that? I think it refers to the description of Jesus given in 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 19. We have to read verse 18.

Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,

But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

So there’s two statements there: without blemish and without spot. A blemish would be something that’s there at birth, some defect. But a spot would be something that comes on later. Jesus had neither. He neither had any original sin, nor did he have any sin that He Himself had committed. And Paul says that the glorious church should be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.There is only one way that the church can become like that. It’s by partaking of the righteousness of Jesus. Our own righteousness is totally inadequate. And so I’d like to turn to Isaiah, Isaiah 61. This is one of the most exciting verses in the Bible for me. Isaiah 61 verse 10.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

My soul shall be joyful in my God;

I’m going to divert a little bit just to air some of my favorite theme. The visionary said, “My spirit has rejoiced in God and my soul is joyful.” There’s a difference. Your spirit is the God-given part of you. It can know joy. Your soul can know happiness. And here we have in this,

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,

My soul shall be joyful in my God;

For he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,

And a bride adorns herself with her garment.

How can we enter into that which Paul is speaking about? This is something always excites me. He says, “He’s clothed me with the garments of salvation” That’s one thing. “But He’s covered me with a robe of righteousness.” That’s something else. A lot of people know that they’re saved, but they haven’t apprehended the fact that Jesus has clothed us with a garment of righteousness. Whose righteousness? His righteousness. So when the enemy comes against you, accuses you, you have to be wearing this garment of spotless righteousness in which he can find nothing to lay claim to. We have to be covered with the robe of righteousness. We have to know that there’s nothing of me showing out. I’m totally covered with the righteousness.

A lot of people are saved but they’ve never been covered with the robe of righteousness. It’s a provision of the Lord that we need to lay a hold of. And that is the only way that the church can come without spot or wrinkle is by being covered with a robe of Christ’s righteousness. You see they are two different things. One is to have your sins forgiven, to be saved. The other is to be clothed with the righteousness. Many, many people—I think the majority of the kind of Christians we’re familiar with would claim to be saved, they would claim to have their sins forgiven, but it would hardly enter their heads that they’re covered with a robe of Christ’s righteousness. There’s nothing in us that Satan could put his finger on. There’s nothing he can, no charge he can bring against.

So we come back to Ephesians 5. In verse 25 again.

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 [glorious filled with the presence of God in a way that impacts the senses.] without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that is should be holy and without blemish.

That is covered with Christ’s righteousness. So that is the purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus. Now if we turn to 2Peter chapter 1 verses 2 and 3 and 4.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, [It’s only in the measure in which we come to know God that these are true.]

As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, [So God has provided us everything that we need.] through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, [It is only in the measure in which we know Him. And then in verse 4.]

By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, [listen] that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

So it is only as we apprehend the promises of Scripture that we can become partakes of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. This is the picture of the church; glorious, holy, without spot or blemish. I want to point out to you that it’s only in the precaution in which we know the promises and apprehend the promises that this becomes a reality.

I really am deeply concerned about the present state of the what do you call, the charismatic movement—although I think in some ways it’s a charismatic standstill. If it’s moving I’m not sure which way it’s going. But people really pay very little attention to Scriptures.

Ruth and I were talking the other day about, we say the majority of charismatics hardly ever read the Bible. And very few of them have ever read the whole Bible right through. There are things there that they just don’t even know are there. And it’s exciting to have the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to have manifestations and all sorts of things. But it’s no substitute for knowing the Word of God and apprehending the promises. I mean these promises are breathtaking. “That we may be partakers of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Let me ask you this question. How far are you a partaker of the divine nature? How far have you really escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust? It's up to you to answer. I can’t answer for you and I’m not going to tell you about myself. But that’s the issue.

Now, how is Jesus going to do this? It’s His church, His bride. And I have some suggestions to offer you. In Colossians... You know where you are headed when you know which epistles you’re in. When you’re in Ephesians and Colossians you’re headed for the summit. Somebody said Ephesians reveals the church of Christ. Colossians reveals the Christ of the church. And again because of my background in philosophy, this is so exciting to me because it is so exact, it’s so perfect. Anyhow, let’s look in Colossians 1:13 through 14.

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.

That’s a mighty statement isn’t it? We’ve been delivered from the domain of darkness and translated, carried over, transferred, into the kingdom of the Son of His love.

In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

So there is a transition. We were in the kingdom of darkness, but by the power of Jesus we have been transferred into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. And then we go to Ephesians again, chapter 5 and verse 26, we go back to 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,

So “the” means that Jesus uses to make the church what He intends it to be is the washing of the water of the word. And without that, the church can never become what God intends. There is no substitute for the part of the word of God. I used to comment, and it’s probably still true, that when I traveled and preached in various churches there were churches that were responsive and got excited, but there wasn’t a real substance. There were churches that were in some way moving in God, and I came to this conclusion. In a church in which the Scripture is not regularly taught you can have excitement, you can have blessing, you can have power, but you’ll never have the real presence of God. It’s only through the washing of water by the word that we become sanctified. And I would recommend to those of you who are leaders, do something about it.

I can remember when in the Pentecostal movement in this country, if you got fifty people together it was a large crowd. I mean that was for a Bible study fifty people was a large number of people. But we did take time for the word. Every Wednesday night in most Pentecostal congregations was a Bible Study night. What has happened to Bible study? Maybe you can tell me. But most of the places I go now there is no time given for Bible study at all. It’s the responsibility of leaders both to teach the Bible and even more important to teach people how to study the Bible for themselves, and to give them a love for the Bible. I feel so sorry for Christians that live on the kind of diet that’s popular today, chips and fast food. There is no fast food in God’s kingdom. And better if it weren’t in ours either, I’ll tell you that. But that’s by the way. I make no extra charge for the.

1John chapter 5 verse 6, 1 John chapter 5 verse 6.

This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.

I believe the blood is Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice, but the water is the regular cleansing and sanctifying of the word of God. And the two have to go together. Without the blood we have no access, we have no life, but without the word we are not cleansed, we are not sanctified, our impurities are not washed away, we are not fit for the presence of God. And there’s a picture in the Old Testament of the laver which has become very vivid to me. You know the laver was the bronze big sort of basin that was in the temple in the tabernacle to start with, and then in the temple between the altar and the actual tabernacle. And this is the ordinance for it in Exodus 30 verses 17 through 21.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

“You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing.

As I understand that the metals in the tabernacle and in the temple, this is just my understanding, gold represents the nature of God and holiness; silver represents redemption; and bronze represent judgment. The altars were of bronze, the place of judgment. And also there is both pure gold and beaten gold. The pure gold is God Himself. The beaten gold is the church which has to be shaped into a certain form. I make no extra charge for that and I’m saying things which I don’t normally say because I can’t always back them up with Scriptures. But anyhow, let’s go back to this picture of the laver.

“You shall make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing.”

You know what the laver was made from? The mirrors of the women. Think of the sacrifice. They could no longer do their hair the right style. They didn't have a mirror. And I think in a way this is symbolic. We have to give up our concern with outer appearance in order to achieve what God wants. So ladies you have to be prepared to make a sacrifice. I won’t tell you how to make it. All right.

“You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it,

for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it.

When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water, lest they die.

We often emphasize how essential the blood is, but remember if the water was not applied the penalty was death. And then it says,

So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them—to him and his descendants throughout their generations.”

So this bronze laver about which we do not often hear much was an essential permanent part of the priestly ministry. And the priest could neither approach the tabernacle from the altar nor come back from the tabernacle to the altar without washing in the in the laver. And so when it speaks about the washing by the word, I think that’s exactly what it is.

And then we go back to 2Peter chapter 1 verses 2 through 4. Again this is one of those breath-taking statements that is hard to take in, but reading beginning at verse 2.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord,

As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, [We are not lacking anything. God’s power has given them all.] through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, [All it is all consists in getting to know Jesus and God. And then it says in verse 4,]

By which have been given to us exceedingly great and

precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, [what an astonishing statement. That through apprehending the promises of God we can become partakers of God’s nature.] having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

So this is the program of Jesus for His church. I want to go back now in the light of that and read it again. Ephesians chapter 5. I’m going to start with chapter 4 this time, verse 24, sorry. After all we’ve spoken about husbands, but let’s speak about wives too. Ephesians 5:24,

Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

That’s a very high standard, isn’t it? It has almost completely dropped out of modern theology. There’s very little, I mean in fact it would be considered heresy to a lot of contemporary Christians. But God hasn’t changed. And I thank God that He gave me a wife who is really basically subject in all things, and we do pretty well together. I never dominate her and she never manipulates me. You see you ladies, let me say this to you, if you want a husband who’s a head over you, you have to submit because otherwise it will be by force. And that’s not being a head. That’s dominating. If you don’t want to be dominated you have to submit. That’s that’s the possibilities. I mean I am so happy about it. I like it. Ruth and I enjoy it. She is no pushover, let me tell you that. If she doesn’t agree, she says. And then we come to the point where we arrive at a consensus, and woe to either of us if we don’t. So let’s go back to verse 24, which is there’s not extra charge for this.

Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

I mean you can try to reason your way out of it, but what it says is what it means. And I would like to add this and this is really explosive. I don’t think that a church will be more subject to Christ, than the wives are to their husbands. In other words, really in a way they set the tone. So that’s a big responsibility, ladies. But I’m sure you will rise to it. Now we’re going on. We’ve passed wives and we’re back to husbands.

Husbands, love your wives,

There was a book published a little, some years ago, I don’t suppose... The title was Do Yourself A Favor, Love Your Wife.And I mean it’s good advice. The best thing you can do is love your wife. It will do you good every way.

Husbands, love your wives, Just as Christ also love the church, and gave Himself for it

that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.

That’s what we have been speaking about in the last period. Sanctifying and cleansing with the washing of water by the word. And we all know that we have to wash daily. Yesterday’s bath doesn’t do enough for today. And I believe the same is true. The church needs to be sanctified and cleansed with the washing of the water by the word every day. And then we can be,

That He might present it to Himself a glorious church.

A church that’s permeated with the presence of God, so that people who come in say, “What’s here? I’ve never felt anything like this. It’s different. What do these people have that we don’t have?” That I believe is the glory of God and it’s awesome. And every time the glory of God was revealed to Israel the people fell on their faces. I don’t know what’s happened to people falling on their faces. I smile when we sing that hymn, “Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all. Let angels prostrate fall.” And there they are these stiff statues. It’s all right for the angels to fall prostrate but don’t please suggest that we should get on our faces before God. But we should. I will say this that Ruth and I never go to any major preaching assignment without spending time on the floor on our faces telling God, “God we have nothing to give except what you give. We are totally dependent on You.”

I like Bunyan’s little poem, He that is down need fear no fall, He that is low no pride.He that is humble ever shall have God to be his guide.When you get to the floor you can get no lower. That’s the best place to be. Amen? Amen!

And then we are “to be without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, holy and without blemish.” How can we achieve that? Only by being clothed with righteousness of Jesus Christ. We’ve got the garment of salvation but that’s not enough. It’s not enough to know that you are saved. It’s wonderful but it’s not sufficient. You need to be covered with a robe of righteousness so that no matter from what point of view Satan approaches you he can see nothing to accuse you of, because he can’t accuse the righteousness of God.

So that’s a picture of the church as God intends it to be. I think now we probably should take a little while just letting God confront us with His plan for the church, His plan for our individual lives and presence. My thought about these meetings is that I’m not going to be here to preach a dramatic sermon, but I’m going to share with you and then together we can seek God on the basis of what His word has revealed. So that I trust by the time we leave we will all have moved. We will be further along the road than we were when we came, because that depends on each one of us individually. But it is also a collective decision.

So I’m going to read those words just once more and then I suggest that we seek God and pray together on that basis.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also love 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.

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