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Subject: The Church: Universal and Local, Study No. 1. It’s important that we begin by understanding what we mean by that word Church. Doubtless you’re aware of the fact that the New Testament as we have it in the English language, was translated out of Greek. Not necessarily all written originally in Greek, but the original version that we have is in Greek. And so we will go behind the English translation to the original Greek word that’s used for a few moments. The Greek word is ekklesiawhich is written there at the top of your outline—ekklesia. Of course, Greek letters are slightly different but there’s no problem about writing them over into English.
From that word ekklesiawe have such well known English words as ecclesiastic, ecclesiastical and so on. I suppose there’s no word in all the history of Christianity, which has been so often misused and misunderstood, as the word Church.So it is important that we begin by clearing up some of the commonest misunderstandings.
Now the word ekklesiawas not invented by the writers of the New Testament. It was a word that was already in existence in secular Greek. Normally what the writers of the New Testament did was to take a recognized word already used in secular conversation and writing, and give it sometimes a special meaning. But the special meaning that they gave it was always related to the original secular meaning. This is true in connection with the word ekklesia.
Three times in the New Testament in the book of Acts, this word ekklesiais used with a secular meaning. So to get the basic idea we will turn to those three passages where ekklesiais used with a secular meaning. They all are in the 19th chapter of Acts and in three verses. Verse 32, 39, and 41. Let’s look at them for a moment. In each case what is referred to as the public assembly of the city of Ephesus. This is a kind of official body.
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another; for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
There it is, the assembly of the city of Ephesus. I would like you to notice the previous verse, verse 31 because it brings out already a very important point. Paul was contemplating going into this meeting to speak on his own behalf, but his friends dissuaded him from doing so, and this is explained in verse 31,
And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
Now there’s another English word theatrewhich is taken directly from a Greek word theatra. You will notice that the building where they met was not called the assembly. The building where they met was called the theatre and the people who met there were called the assembly. This is already there in secular usage and it always continues in New Testament usage. It’s very important to see that this particular had a recognized meeting place. It was a public theatre of the city of Ephesus. But the meeting place was never called ekklesia, it was called theatre. The people who met in the theatre, the group of living human beings, were called ekklesia,so that you’ll find the New Testament usage in this respect is always in perfect accord with the original secular usage.
Then in verse 39, the word occurs again. The town clerk of the city of Ephesus calls them to order and says the whole assembly has been disorderly and unconstitutional and he reproves them and he says,
But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.
A properly called and constituted assembly. And then in verse 41, the last verse, it says,
And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
Each of those three places, the Greek word used is ekklesia. Now if we go beyond usage to derivation, the noun ekklesiais derived from a Greek verb which is ____________________? which isn’t important, but that has also an absolutely clear specific meaning—it means to call out. So putting together usage and derivation, you arrive at a very sound basic definition. An ekklesiais an assembly formed by calling out those who fulfill certain requirements. For instance in the city of Ephesus people could not belong to the assembly unless they were residents of the city of Ephesus. Visitors has no right in the assembly. Secondly, slaves could not be citizens and therefore could not be member of the assembly. That cut out maybe one third of the resident population immediately. This is all true in relation to the use of the word ekklesia“church” by the New Testament writer. It never refers to a meeting place. It always refers to the people who meet there, and as an assembly it is formed by calling people out. By implication people are called out from the world, from humanity as a whole, and the basis on which they are called out is their personal relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. So only by language we can say, quite simply, that the Church in the New Testament is an assembly formed by calling people out from the world on the basis of their personal relationship to Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at the use of this word in the Gospels. It’s very interesting that the word for Church is only used in two passages of the Gospels. Each time it’s Jesus, Himself, who uses the word. Apart from this you will not find the word Church in any of the four Gospels. The two uses are found in Matthew chapter 16 and chapter 18. I believe each of them is crucial, absolutely significant.
Let’s turn to Matthew 16 first. Before we read this passage I want to draw a distinction which is familiar which is between the Universal Church and the Local Church. Without going into too much detail, the Universal Church is made up of all true Christians. The other word that is often used is the word “Catholic.” Now many, many people—particularly Roman Catholics—are not aware of the fact that the word “Catholic” is just derived from a Greek word and means “universal.” That’s exactly what it means. So whether you say universal or whether you say catholic, you’re saying one and the same thing in two different words.
The other church which we will study in our next study, the other form of the church is the Local Church. The church in a given locality. But for this first study we will confine ourselves to the Universal Church which is the logical order and which is the order which is followed in the discourses of Jesus. In Matthew 16, the passage we are going to look at now, Jesus clearly speaks about the Universal Church. Where as in Matthew 18, the next passage that we will look at a little later at the beginning of our next study, it is clear that He is speaking about the Local Church.
Now I’ll read in Matthew 16 from verses 13 through 18, reading the first few verses just to give the background.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ [the Messiah that is to say] the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell [or Hades] shall not prevail against it.
This is the first use of the word Church, and it’s extremely significant. It’s definitive. It’s the totality of all who believe in Jesus Christ. And the situation in which it is presented is significant. Jesus apparently, for the first time, challenged His disciples to make an acknowledgment of His true identity. They’d been with Him quite a considerable length of time. He introduced it by saying, “What do other people say? What does the world at large say about Me?” They gave Him a number of different answers. Jeremiah, one of the prophets, or Elijah or John the Baptist risen from the dead.
Then He came straight to the point and said, “But whom do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter who was usually the most impetuous came with a clear bold definite answer. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This is the first time that any of His disciples had specifically made this acknowledgment as to His identity. Jesus returns by pronouncing a special blessing on Simon Peter for this.
Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
The identity of Jesus is not revealed to the natural senses. The people that He had lived with in Nazareth for 30 years still did not know who He was. They just classified Him as the Carpenter’s son. The people who met Him in the synagogue didn’t know who He was. The true revelation of His identity could only come supernaturally, not by natural understanding or reasoning—not by the natural senses—but by a revelation granted by God the Father.
Then Jesus went on to make a statement in relation to Peter: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.” Now I’m aware of course that some people say that Peter is the rock on which the church is built. As far as I am able to understand, fewer and fewer people are seeking to maintain that today. However, this is not in line with the original language. You are probably aware that the name Peter in Greek is Petros. The word that’s translated “rock” is petra. They are not the same, but obviously they are related in sound and in meaning. But petrosmeans a small stone or a pebble. Petrameans a great towering cliff and the name is given to a place east of the Jordan called Petra because of the tremendous rock formation which is still there which many tourists go to see. So this is proof of the meaning of the word.
So what Jesus said to Peter was, “You are Peter [a little stone], and on this great rock I will build my church.” Peter was not the rock, but what was the rock? The revelation and the confession that Peter made, guided by the Holy Spirit. What was the nature, therefore, of the revelation and the confession? What new relationship did Peter enter into with Jesus as this point? Now I have sought to express it in the outline there, and I think it is a fair and accurate and objective expression of the relationship. I’ve stated, “Entrance into the church involves the relationship with each member of the Godhead.” Notice, the Father, by the Spirit, revealed the Son. This is very, very exciting to me. You can’t get into the church of Jesus Christ and bypass a single member of the Godhead. They are all intimately concerned with who gets into the church. It’s the most important question to be settled on earth. So the Father, by the Spirit, reveals the Son. And on the basis of this revelation, you have access to the church.
Now what did Peter go through in receiving the revelation? I outlined here four stages: 1) Confrontation 2) Revelation 3) Acknowledgment 4) Public confession. First of all there was a direct person to person confrontation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus and Peter were face to face. There was no one in between them, no mediator, no priest, but it was a direct person to person confrontation.
Secondly Peter received a revelation which was not a product of his own reasoning or understanding or sense knowledge, but was granted him supernaturally by the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, Peter acknowledged the revelation which is important. It is one thing to receive a revelation, it’s another thing to acknowledge it.
Fourthly, he made a public confession of what he acknowledged. He said out loud in public, “Thou art the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said, “On this rock [this relationship, this acknowledgment, this confession] I will build my church.” And I believe no one can at any time can enter the true church of Jesus Christ by any other route but this. A direct encounter with Jesus, a revelation of who He is by the Holy Spirit, an inward acknowledgment of that revelation in the heart, and an outward public oral confession of that acknowledgment. I believe that this is the only route into the true church of Jesus Christ. It is watched over and it is guarded jealously by Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You cannot dishonor, ignore or slight any member of the Godhead and enter into the church.
It must conclude with a public confession. There is in the long run no such thing as a secret Christian. It is impossible. Let’s just look at a passage in Matthew 10, just two verses there. Matthew 10:32–33.
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, [it is Jesus speaking] him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Notice, and this is so important, in the last resort you have only two possibilities. When God deals with you by the Holy Spirit, you’ve come to a place where you must either confess or deny. The refusal to confess is, in fact, a denial. Here is the place where there is no more neutrality. Jesus said in Matthew 12, “He that is not with me, is against me.”
Again, in Matthew 11, just to glance at one other text there, Matthew 11:27 we see how jealously this revelation of Father and Son is guarded. Jesus is speaking again and He says—we could read from verse 25 actually,
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father Lord of heaven and earth, because thou has hid these things from the wise and the prudent, [who are the wise and the prudent? The people who trust in their own intellectual ability. The kind of many who says, “If I can’t put God in my test tube I won’t believe in Him,” which is one of the silliest things that anybody has ever said, because a God who could be put in a test tube certainly wouldn’t be worth believing in. But that’s the type of person that is referred to as the wise and the prudent.] and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
Notice, the Son reveals the Father, the Father reveals the Son. In each case, it’s by the Holy Spirit. And upon this revelation depends the entry into the true church of Jesus Christ.
Those who have entered into this relationship with Jesus Christ are necessarily members of His church. In actual fact we have no option whatever of being members of the church. The only option that we have is our relation to Jesus Christ. If we desire to be related to Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, then we must be members of His church. It is impossible to be related to Him in that way without being a member of His church. If you decide you do not want to be a member of His church, then you must renounce your relationship to Him. You cannot have it both ways. Any person related to Jesus in this way by the Holy Spirit is, by that very fact, necessarily a member of His church.
Let me also point out what I sought to indicate at the top of that section opposite Matthew 16:15–18, in the Greek there is tremendous put upon two words, “I will build my church.” I will not go into the grammatical structure but it is such that those two words are emphasized. I believe it is important that we are talking about the church of Jesus Christ. It’s His church.
The church that we are talking about is the church that Jesus calls my church. He has unique sovereign right to do in it and with it and through it what He will and He needs to ask nobody’s permission. This is the church that we are dealing with.
Now let’s turn to a passage in John chapter 10 which I believe also clearly outlines the way of entry into the true church of Jesus Christ, the Universal Church. In John chapter 10 the church is presented in a parable under the figure of the sheepfold. Many, many times in the New Testament true disciples of Jesus Christ are presented under the title of sheep. Jesus in that relationship is presented as the Shepherd, and the church is presented as the sheepfold, the place of gathering together of the sheep. Now I will read John chapter 10, verses 1–9 and offer some comments on it.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, [It is Jesus who is speaking] He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them; but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heart them. I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
That ninth verse is particularly emphatic isn’t it. “I am the door.” In English, as in other languages, the word theis specific, definitive and exclusive. “I am the door and there is no other door.” Then He says, “If anybody comes in some other way, other than by the door, he is a thief and a robber.” This is proof of course that He is talking about the assembly of God’s people on earth. For there are no thieves and robbers admitted to heaven. This is not the church in heaven, this is the church while still on earth. The sheepfold is the company of God’s people on earth. Jesus did not say it would be impossible to get in some other say, but He said anybody that did get in some other way would advertise his real nature. He would not be anything else but a thief and a robber.
Now let’s consider the background of this parable and I believe you will see again that all three persons of the Godhead are involved. This is the way I express it. The Father is the owner of the whole estate, including the sheepfold, the sheep and everything else. The Holy Spirit is the Porter, but in modern English, the doorkeeper. And Jesus is first the door and second the Shepherd. You’ll find that He says each of those two things clearly about Himself. Maybe you wondered how can a person be both a door and a shepherd? Well, my answer is given here, “Jesus crucified is the door, Jesus resurrected from the dead is the Shepherd.” In other words, there is no way into the sheepfold but by Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sin on the cross.
Then when He rose from the dead He rose to be the Shepherd of all that would come to Him through the cross. This fact that through His resurrection He’s the Shepherd is emphasized in Hebrews 13:20 if you want to look at one very beautiful verse. We do not need to read the whole passage, but it is so good that I think I am going to read it anyhow, verses 20 and 21.
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Notice that the great Shepherd is the one that was raised from the dead by the Father. It’s through the blood of the covenant, the blood that was shed upon the cross, that we can be made perfect to do His will. So Hebrews 13:20 really brings out the same truth that Jesus crucified, is the door, the only way of access to God and Jesus risen from the dead is the Shepherd who takes care of the souls of those who trust in His work on the cross.
So again we have the total involvement of each person of the Godhead. The Father, the owner of the whole estate; the Son the Shepherd who is also the door; and the Holy Spirit who is the Doorkeeper. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t recognize you and your motives and your inner faith, He doesn’t open the door. And if the Holy Spirit doesn’t open the door and you want to get in and you don’t meet God’s conditions, you have only one other alternative which is to climb up some other way. If you do that you are a thief and a robber.
Notice what Jesus said in John 10 verse 8. This is a tremendously significant statement:
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
Now “all that ever came before me” I understand to mean all those who ever claimed in any previous age of human history to show man the way to God. That would include all the Oriental cults and philosophies such as Buddhism and Hinduism, the Greek philosophies such as Plato etc., and many, many others.
The New Testament is a very uncompromising message. Any person, before or after Jesus, who claims to direct any human soul to God other than by the way of the cross is a deceiver and a thief and a robber. And if he gets in and claims to participate in the blessings of Christianity, he’s laying claim to something that is not legally his. I have to say this, there are cults today and I could specify names but I will not, that talk about peace and joy and love, but they don’t come by Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The peace and the joy and the love that they talk about are not legitimately theirs. They are thieves and robbers.
That’s the way with a thief. He doesn’t advertise his intentions, he doesn’t advertise his identity, he’s sneaking, he’s underhand, he operates in secret. This is the truth about those that profess to be able to give you true joy and peace and salvation, but do not emphasize the necessity of Jesus Christ crucified on the cross for our sins. John 14:6—we know what that says,
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
If those words are not true, than Jesus was either deceived or a deceiver. But I believe they were true. I believe this is the door. I believe there is no other door. And I believe that is the only way of access into the company of God’s people on earth, is by Jesus Christ. Father, Son and Holy Spirit will bear testimony to this and will refuse acknowledgment by anybody who comes by any other way. That of course is what modern particularly dislikes. It’s being forced into a place of total commitment. As a matter of fact, most church members dislike it. When I say church members, I am say “church” in quote members. They do not uncompromising demand by almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that you make a definite personal public commitment on the basis of revelation.
Again, modern intellectual man does not like to acknowledge that he can’t work it out by his own reason, that he can’t understand it by his own senses, that he has to receive it as a revelation from God. This does not suit the pride of modern intellectual man. The average intellectual does not want to have to depend upon God for a knowledge of the truth.
Now let us quickly look at some of the pictures given in Scripture to present this church in various different aspects. There are two main pictures that I want to speak about tonight. The first is a picture of the church as a house or a building. The second is a picture of the church as a body. Let’s look first of all as a picture of a house. You’ll find this given in Ephesians chapter 2 and verses 20–22. We could read verse 19, Paul is speaking to Gentile believers and he says,
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord;
So the church as an entity, as an entirety, is presented in the picture of a building which is being raised up. Each particular believer is a stone in that building. This is stated even more clearly, I think, in 1Peter chapter 2, verses 4–6. Speaking about the Lord Jesus he says,
To whom [Jesus] coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, [that’s the King James version, but modern English would be living stones] are built up a spiritual house,...
So there’s a foundation which is Jesus Christ, and upon this foundation believers are stones, living stones, built up together into an holy temple or a building or a house—whichever word you like to use. But, notice that this word “church” is never applied to an actual material building made of stone or brick or timber or whatever it might be. Never once in any passage of scripture is it ever so used.
Then again, as I said, the church is compared to a body. Turn back to Ephesians 1:22–23. Speaking about Jesus Christ, resurrected from the dead and exalted in glory and power at God’s right hand, it says:
God hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body...
So the church as whole is the body of which Jesus Christ is the Head. Now each of these particular figures, or presentation of the church, tells us a certain fact. The fact that the church is a house tells us that it is God’s dwelling place. This is stated in 1Corinthians 3:16, if you which to turn there. It’s not necessary at the moment. “...ye are the temple of ... the Holy Spirit...” Ye, collectively the Christian believers, are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
2Corinthians 6:16 is even more specific about this picture of the church as the dwelling place of God.
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols/ for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people.
The Christians, the true believers, are the people in whom God dwells and moves. Because of this relationship, He is their God and they are His people.
In Ephesians 2:22, one verse beyond what we read just now, you will find that this is again stated. Verse 21 speaks about the church as a building,
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom [that is in Jesus] ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Notice again, all three persons of the Godhead are involved. In Christ God indwells us by the Spirit. The Father indwells those who are in the Son by the Spirit. The end purpose of the church here is to be an habitation, a dwelling place of God.
As a body, the church is God’s executive agent and personal representative. This can be illustrate from a human being. I have within me a soul and a spirit. I make decisions. I have intentions. I form plans. But in this world, to carry them out I have only one agent or instrument and that is my physical body. So to effect my will decided within, I have to use my body. This is true of the church. It is the instrument, it is the agent for the carrying out of the will of God in the world. It’s most important that we understand this. If Jesus does not have the members of His body at His disposal, than His will is frustrated. He has no alternative means to use, to carry out His intentions.
I honestly believe that the church has kept the Lord Jesus Christ waiting many, many centuries before making itself available to Him to do what He wants to do. In fact, my prayer and my intention is that even through these studies, those of us who are involved in them will become more fully available as instruments to Jesus Christ to effect His will.
I may have the deepest desire in me to move out of this room to move into another room, but if my legs are paralyzed I have not way to effect that desire. I cannot do it. This is true, I believe, of Jesus. Jesus has a tremendous desire to bless, to heal, to deliver, to bring peace, but He cannot do it unless the members of His body, the church, make themselves available to Him as instruments to carry it out. So each one of these pictures—the house or the building—and the body with its members tell us vital facts that we must understand to fulfill the purposes of God.
Now let’s look at a few extra facts which I’ve added there after these two great basic facts which we’ve established: the church as a house or a building; and the church as a body with members. Let’s look at a few more facts. If you wish, just for a moment, to see how the church is the personal representative and agent of Jesus, let’s look at those scriptures that are listed there only dwelling on them briefly. Matthew 10:40, Jesus is sending forth His first group of disciples. He says,
He that receiveth you receiveth me...
In other words, “You, my representatives. There is no other way that I can come to people is through you. If you go, then I’ll go with you. And if they’ll receive you, then they’ll receive Me.”
And again at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the same thought is presented in another way, Matthew 28:18–20.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,...
The authority has been given to me but to make it effective, you have to go. And until we use the authority that is committed to us through Jesus Christ, the world doesn’t know He has that authority. The only way the world can understand the authority now vested in Jesus is when the church goes in obedience to His command and exercises that authority and demonstrates. This is the only way that Jesus can effect His will. It is through us.
Likewise in John 20 if you want to see that for a moment, verse 21, another of these breathtaking statements.
Then said Jesus to them again, [that’s the disciples to whom He was appearing for the first time in a group after His resurrection] Peace by unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
“I’m sending you in exactly the same way that the Father sent me.” Well, Jesus came as the personal, authorized, visible representative of the Father. He said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” If we are sent in the same way we have an obligation to say to the world, “If you seen us, you’ve seen Christ.” Jesus said, “The words I speak the Father gave them to me.” What’s my obligation?
I’ve got to say to the world, “The words I speak, Jesus gave them to me.” Jesus said, “The works I do, I don’t do them. The Father that dwelleth in me doeth the works.” What do I have to say to the world. “The works I do, it isn’t I who am doing them. It’s Christ in me that’s doing them.”
This is what’s implied in this statement, “As my Father sent me, even so I you.” The church is the visible, authorized, personal, unique representative of Jesus Christ. If the church doesn’t do the job, there is no other means or way by which it can be done.
Now let’s glance at these extra facts. 1Corinthians 3:11.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
This entire building has one unique supreme foundation, and it’s already laid. We aren’t invited to lay it. We have to accept the fact that it’s laid, and it is Jesus Christ. Again it is important to understand that Christ is the only foundation. There’s a number of other scriptures in parenthesis there that we could look at rather quickly. I don’t want to dwell on it, but they do prove so clearly the fact that Jesus is the unique foundation. 1 Peter 2:6 speaking about the church being built as living stones upon Jesus. Peter quotes Isaiah in 1Peter 2:6,
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
Peter is quoting Isaiah 28:16. I think perhaps we should turn there just for one moment, Isaiah 28:16 where the Lord says,
Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation...
Peter clearly shows us this sure foundation, this tried stone, in none other than Jesus Christ. If you turn also to Psalm 62 I think this is again established with absolute incontrovertible clarity. Psalm 62:1–2 and 6–7. This is a Psalm of David.
Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. H only is my rock and my salvation;
Notice there is salvation in none other than God, and God only is the Rock on which salvation is built. Most emphatic, “He only is my rock and my salvation...” Verse 6 and 7, David repeats the words,
He only is my rock and my salvation:... In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
David so clearly and definitely links together the two things—the rock, the foundation on the one hand and salvation on the other. He states clearly that each alike is found alone in God. If we build on another rock, than we claim there is salvation in another than Jesus Christ. This is against the scriptures. He only is my rock and my salvation. He is the only foundation and no man can lay any other foundation than that that is laid.
Then again this church has only one Head. We’ve seen the scripture, but let’s look at it again for a moment. Ephesians 1:22, speaking about Jesus says,
...And [God] gave him to be the head over all things to the church.
This is very definite. He’s not the head over some things, but He’s the head over all things. Everything in the entire church is under His disposal and control. Nobody else can contest His authority. It is given to Him uniquely.
It’s very, very interesting to see that in prophesies concerning the close of this age we have figures of various different beasts that will emerge given in Daniel chapter 7 and in Revelation chapter 12 and 13. They are the end time political system. One interesting feature about them all is that they have many heads. In a certain sense, they are monsters. But one thing that will never have many heads is the church of Jesus Christ. It will never become a monster. I venture to say that the decisive spiritual issue that we have yet to confront is not speaking in tongues, but who is the head of the church. I venture to believe and suggest to you that the final lineup in Christendom will be on this issue. As for me, my mind is made up. The church has precisely one head and that head is Jesus Christ. It has one foundation and that foundation is Jesus Christ. Neither can we give it another head nor can we give it another foundation.
Then in Hebrews 12 we have another important fact about this church, that is its headquarters. Hebrews 12:22–23, the writer of Hebrews speaking to believers in Jesus Christ,
But ye are come into mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven [that’s a more modern translation]...
So this church is enrolled in heaven. The condition for being enrolled in heaven is being born again, becoming the firstborn, the first groups of the creation through faith in Jesus. It has one head and one headquarter. It is run and directed, not from any center on earth, but from one unique center which is in heaven.
Again, I have seen over the years the tremendous problems and frustrations that come from people trying to run the church from some earthly center. I was a missionary in East Africa with a mission that was run from Toronto Canada. Believe me, the frustrations of seeing a situation, calling a committee, making a decision, writing to Toronto and a “Mission” board meeting and coming up with their version of what should be done, writing back. By the time all this correspondence and committee meetings was concluded, the opportunity had passed. Action was really effectively ruled out. The church will never be a match for the devil because the devil is very high-powered and up-to-date operator, until the church realizes that it has one headquarters and that headquarters is in heaven. Every believer, every servant, every minister, every missionary has a right of direct access to headquarters.
I was preaching in a church once of a full gospel preacher. About once every day he would say to me, “I’ll have to go phone headquarters.” Every time he phoned headquarters, he came back more frustrated and confused than the time before. That caused me to stop and ask myself, “Where is my headquarters?” I remember at that time coming to a very firm decision. My headquarters are in heaven and that is where I have to go. When I go there it doesn’t leave me frustrated and confused.
Another interesting fact about this church and a very important one is stated in Galatians 4:25–26. There’s a contrast here between the Judaic church order with its center in the earthly Jerusalem and the New Testament church with its center in the heavenly Jerusalem. We have to see this contrast.
For this Agar [and he is talking about the concubine wife of Abraham through whom was born Ishmael] is mount Sinai in Arabia, [the place where the law was given] and answereth to [or corresponds to] Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
So every true church of Jesus Christ has one mother church which is the Jerusalem which is above, which is free. A free church begets free churches. Like begets like. Free in the sense that it is not bound. I have given a little list here which is as good as I can do. It’s not bound by legalism. It’s not got its headquarters in Mt. Sinai where the Law was given. It’s not bound by human rules, titles or traditions. The Jerusalem which is above is free. We are not bound by human traditions, legalism, human titles, all these things.
Now we have to show respect and honor to all men, to everybody who has a position of dignity or authority. But, where there’s a conflict between the revealed will of God and the decisions of man, then we come up with the same answer as the Apostle Peter, we ought to obey God rather than men. That’s simple.
Ephesians 4:4, going on with facts about this church, it says,
There is one body, and one Spirit,...
So the church of Jesus Christ is one body and it is controlled by one Spirit. What Spirit is that? The Holy Spirit. If there were many different spirits in control, the result would be chaos. Suppose that I decided to go through the door, and I said I’m going through the door but there were other spirits in me that refused to accept this decision and tried to force me in some other direction. I would be incapable of effective action. This is of course the condition of a person who is truly demon possessed. He looses the ability to do what he wants because there are other spirits at work besides his own spirit. But in the true church of Jesus Christ there is one Spirit only in control, and that is the Holy Spirit. It has one body to operate through—the church.
Romans 12, I believe we can just finish this page of outline and so I am going rather quickly. I hope you can keep up with me. Romans 12:4–5,
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: [or in modern English, function] So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
There is both unity and plurality. One body, but in that one body there are many members. Each believer is a member somewhere in that body.
In 1Corinthians 12, Paul amplifies this yet further. He says, for instance in verse 12,
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. [One body but with many members. Then he says in verse 18,] But now God hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath please him.
The choice of what member I will be and where I will function is not mine, but Gods. And directly following on from that in verse 28,
And God hath set some in the church...
So to be set as a member in the body corresponds to being set in your place in the church. And Paul points out that each member depends on the other. No member is independent of the others. They eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head cannot say to the foot, “I don’t need you.” But even the weakest members are the ones actually that are most important. No member on the outward, external section of the body is more frail, and more sensitive than the eye. Yet few, if any are more valuable. Notice how carefully nature has protected the eye all around. So that several other areas of my face, their primary function is simply to protect my eye. My eye gets all that protection and honor, not because it’s strong, but because it’s weak. Here is the way that the body has been knit together. The strong has to protect the weak. The ones that seem weak are nevertheless the most important. And that’s how the body is knit together. We cannot ignore, we cannot despise any member of the body of Christ. This is a vital lesson.
I remember again when I was a missionary in East Africa, people would come to my door (Africans) every day from six in the morning until ten at night. I got tired of talking to people and telling them I couldn’t do things for them because they all believed I could do anything for them in relation to education which was my field. Sometimes I was at the point of getting really irritated with them, and it would be as if the Lord would say, “Now take care because you are talking to one of My children.” I would have to pull myself up and remember I had no right to get irritated or impatient or to be contemptuous or despise any child of God. This is true of the members of the body. We need one another, we depend on one another, we have to honor one another. When one member suffers the other suffers with it. When one member is honored the others are honored with it. So that’s the universal body of Jesus Christ, the church.
There are two official public attestations of membership. Two baptisms that signal a person out as being accepted as a member of the body. The first is baptism in water, the second is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Now baptism in water is acknowledgment by a human leader. But the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a supernatural seal placed upon that person by the Head, Jesus Christ, acknowledging that he is a member of the body. Each baptism is an attestation. Baptism in water is an attestation given by fellow believers. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an attestation from the Head of the body, Jesus Christ.
Now each of these baptisms has one supreme purpose which is to make effective the unity of the body. Let’s look in Galatians 3 about water baptism and then in 1Corinthians 12 about baptism in the Spirit. Galatians 3:26–28.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. [What makes us children of God? One basic simple fact, faith in Jesus Christ.] For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
This is the meaning of water baptism. We lose our separate, national, racial, social identities. We become one in the body.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit has the same purpose. Turn back to 1Corinthians 12:13.
For in one Spirit [which is the correct translation—not by one Spirit] we were all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
So baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit alike have this supreme purpose—to help us to understand, to make vivid, to make effective our membership of one body and our membership of each other. We are no longer thinking about each other in terms of race, or class, or social background. There’s no longer Jew of Gentile, Barbarian or Scythian, bond or free, but there is a new unity in the body in Jesus Christ.
What has separated us from the old like is this double baptism: in water and in the Spirit.
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