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July 28, 2020 7:00 pm
Dr. Ken Casillas continues a chapel series entitled “Christ’s Body: The Church.” Today’s scripture passage is Ephesians 4.
The post 782. The Believer’s Relationship to the Local Church appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.
Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.
The school was founded in 1927. The evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Senior's intent was to make a school where Christ would be the center of everything, so he established daily chapel services today. That tradition continues with fervent preaching from the University Chapel platform today on The Daily Platform or continuing a study series about the role of the church can Casillas of the Bob Jones University seminary will bring today's message well my job this morning is to talk to you today about the believer's relationship to the local church and this is going be a thematic message were to be pulling from a lot of different passages across the New Testament because it is such a vast topic in the Bible has so many things to say about it, but I encourage you to turn to Ephesians chapter 4, and that's can be one of the passages that are referred to as we get started here. Ephesians chapter 4 we know the last decade or so has seen dramatic developments in technology and ways to stay connected with people in social media and we have multiple ways of staying in touch all the time with our family with our friends and and really with the entire world. We talk so much about networking and relationships and community. During the same time. In some circles there has been something of a revolt against the one community. As we heard last week that is at the center of God's redemptive program. Sometimes the church is referred to disparagingly as the institutional church as a way of kind of backing off of the emphasis of God's people living together and working to gather in a structured sort of way. This is part of what some people mean when they talk about Jesus versus religion that Jesus and religion ought to be contrasted if what you mean by religion is some kind of a legalistic system that is supposed to earn your acceptance with God, or if what you mean by religion as some kind of a deadness or some kind of hypocrisy but by religion.
Some people are also referring to religious institutions, including the local church. The idea is that Christianity is basically about my personal relationship with Jesus and that my relationship with other followers of Christ is something fluid. It is something that should be always spontaneous. It is something that is ideally unstructured and that is basically up to me to decide what I do and what I put into it.
The idea that concepts of authority and structure and expectations necessarily conflict with spiritual authenticity, or somehow undermine the grace and the freedom of Christianity that notion is been around for long time in the 20th century was a part of the Jesus people movement of the 60s and 70s and to various degrees is been floated recently by the emergent church movement. Hopefully we would land in extremes like that, but we certainly can drift into a kind of a loose attitude. A loose relationship to the local church that can happen, for different reasons.
Maybe we just don't realize how important the church is in the plan of God.
We sort of view, it is icing on the cake may be our perception of the church is that it's a place we go to hear a sermon every week and there's really not the sense of connection and commitment that the New Testament talks about.
Or maybe we understand some of that but we just haven't difficult we find it difficult to actually pay the price of a meaningful relationship with a local church. The reality is that church life takes hard work is something that require self-sacrifice and humility and vulnerability and endurance and we can be tempted to think that the church is ultimately just not worth it in the face of all of those wrong ways of thinking about the church this morning. I want to urge you to get connected and for the rest of your life to stay connected to the local church. When I bring up the topic of commitment to the local church and particularly church membership. One of the ideas or the responses that comes back is that there is not a chapter and verse that says you must sign up to be a member of a particular local church or your name must be on some churches role and that is true I like to share with you some preliminary considerations along those lines, and first of all, as a foundation to make the statement that gospel living is not something limited to obeying explicit commands of the Bible but it includes spirit led application of principles and patterns that the Bible is out. You recognize that the Bible is essentially a record of God's self revelation to other people in history and the way that it functions as our authority is by way of application is by way of drawing out realities and trues that racket that we recognize as having broader relevance than what is actually under discussion. In particular passages sometimes very simple and straightforward thing where we we know that certain commandments are certain prohibitions apply across the board. Other times it may not be that simple. It may be a matter of studying the word of God and saying that certain ideas certain general concepts recur and that they reflect the heart of God. The values of God and yielding to the spirit as we seek to work out those principles in the specifics of our life in this day and age, and as we talk about the church. Formal church membership, formal church membership is one of those applications of biblical principles and patterns talking here about the mechanics of how church membership tends to work.
Whatever process the church has weather giving a testimony or standing up in front of the church in presenting yourself and people voting on that or committing yourself to a covenant. The Bible does not require in so many words that kind of process but the concept is there and the idea of this level of commitment is all the way through New Testament were the qualifications I'd like to make as a relates to your life right now is that I recognized that you folks are in an unusual time unusual place in life you are here in this community temporarily. You perhaps have a church commitment back home and you're doing whatever you can to get connected to a church here in this area of the churches you have different ways of providing for people that are here like that temporarily like to stand up here today and dogmatize about exactly the steps you must take particularly at this stage of life. What would emphasize is that in whatever phase of life you find yourself the Bible is very clear that believers should be as committed as possible to a biblically faithful local church that will mean one thing for your life right now. It may mean something a little different and a little more serious and will more permanent. As you move on to go on in your service for the Lord what I want to do this morning to develop that is to present the biblical case the biblical rationale for church membership. What are these principles in patterns that I refer to that lead us to this level of commitment to a particular local church in the first idea is that the New Testament presents the Christian life as happening not as a solo endeavor, but as something in a corporate context and we see that in a lot of different ways and a lot of different passages I will highlight three ways in which this corporate context becomes apparent. First of all, do you realize that your own personal assurance of salvation. The Bible actually connects it with your relationship to other believers, we see that particularly in first John, and of various tests that we find.
Therefore, knowing whether I am a true believer. One of them that's repeated again and again such as in chapter 4, is that we know we are among the people of God. If we have love for other Christians.
The question would be how is that love demonstrated. Where is that love demonstrated what sort of relationship is going on where this kind of love would be shown and I will share with you a statement that occurs a little earlier in first John chapter 2 verse 19 they went out from us, but they were not of us.
For if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but they went out, that he might complain that they all are not of us.
In that context the apostle John is talking about Antichrist false teachers and people who could not endure the sound teaching of the Scriptures and who left because they believe and they taught something else. So that's the emphasis of that verse is how the church membership concept sort of identifies that someone is a believer in Orthodox teaching and people who aren't willing to put up with that to accept that to yield to that are saying something about their heart and what is the condition of their soul that verse doesn't mean that there is never a time that you should leave a particular local church. God moves us to other locales.
There may be a good reason why we should move from one church to another. But what it's saying is that there is an affinity in the heart of a true believer and affinity both for the teaching that goes on in the local church and for being connected with other people that believe those things. One commentator said about verse 19 that this contrary to fact statement is built upon the principle that genuine believers persevere in the faith, and in their association with other believers in other words, the assumption is that true believers will be visibly connected to an assembly and that if somebody is not wanting to do that or if they walk away and don't join some other Bible believing assembly. It raises serious questions about what's happening within them now as you go on to other passages and this one here in Ephesians 4 we see another demonstration of this corporate context of the Christian life. That's the relationship between our church life and our personal sanctification. Look with me at Ephesians chapter 4 and starting in verse 11. You probably recognize these verses they talk about different spiritual leaders that God gives to local churches.
They are God's gifts, but it doesn't end with them because their job.
Verse 12 is the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, and I want you to pick up on some of the language here. Verse 13 till we all come in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man under the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, but speaking the truth in love or spirit.
15 there is a weave there as well that we may grow up into him in all things was the head of in Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Just dropping into some of those statements to highlight this, we language this corporate language and what is it talking about is talking about how it is that God grows us into the image of Christ. This may cut against our Western individualism.
Do you recognize that scripturally sanctification Christian growth is something that goes on in a group context. It is a joint effort I can illustrate this weight is not an individual sport.
It is a team sport, and it really does take the contribution of every body in that assembly. As Paul says here every joint and every part for any of us to become by the grace of God. Everything that God wants us to be. Are you committed to that proposition is that thought just wired into your thinking about the Christian life about sanctification really want to urge you to make the local church thinking about even your own growth to make the local church a priority as you make plans for your life and thinking, especially those who may be graduating soon and you're looking into career opportunities you're looking to see what's out there by way of employment, to what degree in that decision. Are you considering the issue of a local church. As you look at those opportunities is a major factor that in whatever location you may end up there is a solid local church in that community.
Biblically that question about the church should not be a footnote should not be something that you consider sort of after-the-fact when you've already made your decision. I wonder if there's a church there in order to do in this area, but it is something that because it is so crucial to the purposes of God, including your own growth is at the very heart of the decision that you make, and it is not just for your own sanctification but actually it is also for what you can contribute to that assembly.
One of the other ways in which the corporate nature of the Christian life comes out is in the New Testament's teaching about spiritual gifts course at a very big topic I share with you. Romans 12 first Corinthians 1214 some the key passages that talk about how we are members of the same body and that every body in that group has a role to play has a capacity given by God to them in order to not just receive and grow, but so that you can contribute and the whole group can grow. Verse five. Romans 12 says for as we have many members in one body and all members have not the same office so we, being many, are one body in Christ and everyone members one of another. Normally we speak of the body of Christ were thinking of the universal church but really can't conclude that's what he's talking about here is talking about interaction between believers in a close context where you are ministering back and forth to one another in concrete ways and it's as though he saying, really, by conversion, there's a sense in which you are already members everybody in the same group but within the local context. That's where that reality takes on concrete form were to see some striking examples of this corporate context as we go on to our next thought here. Another part of the case for church membership is the specific patterns that we see in early Christianity. And I think first of all, of what happened on the day of Pentecost, we do refer to that as the founding of the New Testament church and how did things work out. Practically speaking, as Peter preaches that powerful sermon about the resurrected Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit.
What God is initiating on this day the people are moved and they they cry out what we supposed to do, how to respond. He says repent and to demonstrate the seriousness of your repentance and your faith in Christ, be baptized, but it doesn't stop there.
I want to read for you. What actually took place. It says in acts two. Then they that let that gladly received his word were baptized and the same day there were added unto them about 3000 souls, and they continued steadfastly in it goes on to layouts of the church practices that they began to take part in on a regular basis. My point is that here at the very beginning of this Christian movement. The church conversion baptism and incorporation into a local church are really all inseparably connected to be careful here. We recognize that salvation conversion is one thing. Baptism is another thing church membership is another thing.
And our baptism in our church membership don't constitute some kind of merit by which we are saved.
There is clearly a sequence and furthermore I would say that we don't need to be tied necessarily to the timing even of this passage we recognize it in other places where there may be is in as good of an understanding of of what always experiences me there might be some wisdom in waiting between somebody's conversion and baptism, church membership, but it is very clear that that in a sense this is a package deal to be saved includes being baptized includes joining a church in a just like all one, one continuous sequence.
Not that those other things we do constitute our salvation, but it becomes very hard to separate them as expressions of a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior. One book says.
The New Testament does not contain even a hint of someone who was truly saved but not part of the local church to see that reflected here from the very beginning. You see it as well as you read on the New Testament, and as you come to what we call the pastoral epistles your reading there of what was going on in local churches about 30+ years after the day of Pentecost and what you find is that the apostle Paul is commissioning Timothy and Titus to set things in order in their locales to get certain things in place in the churches at Ephesus and in Crete and there's a great deal of organizational structure you have the apostle Paul laying out distinctions of the jobs of people depending on the their gender.
You have other factors such as qualifications of the leaders what their responsibilities are even about them getting paid for their work.
You have policies being put into place, about how to determine which of the widows of the church should be helped on a financial basis and have some basic procedures for handling accusations and problems within the church.
My point is that all of that structure implies that these were well defined bodies with a recognizable membership and now actually the development of formal policies and procedures. It was not something amorphous. It was understood who is in and who is out in those books lay out for you now how do we operate now that we are members of this group and there are many things that you find in those passages but I want to highlight one of the great realities is our final thought here of New Testament church life. That is another argument for membership that you see in the pastoral epistles, but I want to highlight some other verses as well. That is the vital role of mutual accountability. This is a huge part of your sanctification.
We see that accountability displayed in different ways never picked up on the passages in Hebrews were these Hebrew Christians are struggling with following Christ and in addition to all that deep doctrine about Jesus.
There's just the basic point look stay in touch with other believers. They have a role to play there aware of what may be going on in your heart. God intends to use them to exhort you. In fact, chapter 3 verses 1213 says, exhort one another daily is not just a matter of showing up to a service once a week is the kind of relationship that is so close that there is actually daily access to our fellow believers, and they have the openness to address us about whatever needs they may detect and of course, Hebrews 10 is the well-known one about not for safely forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, what goes on when we get together we exhort one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching those passages, they assume a relationship that is established, it is regular and that is intimate enough to wear that kind of accountability can be freely given and freely received the accountability sometimes comes from those who are in actual authority over us in the church and you have passages like first Thessalonians 5 in Hebrews 13 that say recognize who your pastors are yield your hearts to the teaching of Scripture and the application of it to your life. Since the Lord has put them in a position of of oversight over you assumption is a believer has a pastor a believer has that kind of spiritual leadership.
He knows who the shepherd is in the shepherd knows who the sheep are when you become a member of the church that is one of the things that you're saying I want you or this group of men to be my shepherds and they say we want you. We we accept you, we commit ourselves to you to be your shepherd. And finally, as another display and in many ways the hardest displays of accountability is what we come to know is church discipline. Not really. Everything absent so far as a kind of church discipline, but in the narrow sense were talking about situations where there has been such a clear sand that the church corporately steps and following different procedures that the last resort of which is for the good of the person and for the good of the assembly to actually expel them or excommunicate them. Matthew 18 first printing five another passages and only say about that is this if there is the last resort of expelling somebody from a group. In extreme cases. How could that even happen if people don't know who is in the group to start with and is kind of our bottom line. Rationale for church membership that would have to be it in church membership. Fundamentally, you're saying I'm in and I am voluntarily submitting myself to the spiritual oversight of this group that is not an easy thing I want us to, and by just reminding ourselves of the positive redemptive context that were talking about and how God uses the church in our lives, something I've come to appreciate more and more over time been here for a long time at the University have always appreciated the challenge that Dr. Bob is given to to outgoing students to consider putting their careers on hold for a while and to finding some area where there is a smaller struggling church and just jumping in and using the training and using the resources to help that work on to the next level of always believed in that but actually over the last several years as I have gone to a smaller church is given me such a greater appreciation really for the difference that one person, or even one family can make whether talking about people that have been in that ministry for a long time and pouring their lives into it, keeping it going or whether talking about a new individual or family that comes and the relief that they can bring in the new opportunities that go along with having other helpers in effect. For me it is really created a whole new category of heroes. I love the theologians.
I love the preachers love the missionaries bought among my heroes these days are people like this, a widow who was known for her sweet and her joyful disposition and who faithfully print prepares the Lord's table every month or something like this. The owner of a salvage yard who every Monday morning holds a Bible study striving to reach people for Christ and it comes back to church regularly sharing opportunities.
The Lord is given in the witness or a mechanic with whom I recently sat at a Cracker Barrel just fellow shipping over passage of Scripture that he was getting ready to preach from or multiple man that I know are extremely busy and have a lot going on in their careers and with their families, but who month after month, are willing to spend late nights at sometimes tedious leadership meetings to guide the church and then maybe the weekend come out for a workday. Those kind of people are my new heroes, godly laypeople who are the backbone of the church of Jesus Christ and made each one of you join their ranks to the glory of God. You've been listening to a sermon preached at Bob Jones University by Dr. Ken Casillas, which is part of the study series. Christ's body, the church join us again tomorrow as we continue the series here on The Daily Platform