Are you part of this body of Christ? Have you been born of the Spirit?
Have you been supernaturally given new life to belong to Christ? Because that is the mark of someone who belongs to the church. Jesus said, I will build my church. And that church building has been going on for around 2,000 years.
But what exactly is the church? That's the question Pastor Don Green will begin to answer on this edition of the Truth Pulpit. Hi, I'm Bill Wright. We're so glad you're able to be with us as Don continues to teach God's people God's Word. And we're also glad to have Don with us right now in studio to get us started today.
Don? Well friend, we're continuing an important series called Key Questions Answered. And today we come to the question, what is the church? One of the ways that you can recognize a true Christian is that he has a love for other true Christians. And God established that we would share that love with each other in the context of a local church with biblically qualified leadership that follows Scripture.
Is that the desire of your heart? Learn more as we open the Bible today on the Truth Pulpit. Thanks Don. And friend, get ready for a compelling time of study in the Word of God as we go now to the Truth Pulpit. Today we come to answer the question, what is the church? What is the church?
And I want to give you a very brief, a very brief answer to that question as we start. The church is that group of people called by God and born of the Spirit who are true believers in Jesus Christ. The church is that group of people who are called by God and born of the Spirit who are true believers in Jesus Christ. There's a Trinitarian focus to the church. God called us.
The Spirit worked in our lives. Christ is our Lord and Savior. And so the church is a group of people.
It is not a building. The Bible does not use the word church to describe a building. The Bible uses the church to describe people who have been the objects of the redeeming grace of God mediated by the Spirit and grounded in the righteousness and blood of Christ. We have our own individual testimonies of which we are grateful to the Lord for, and yet the reason that there is a common thread to true testimonies, that I recognize that I was a sinner, I heard the gospel, I repented of sin and put my faith in Christ, and now my life has changed. That is the common thread of every true testimony of redeeming grace.
Every true Christian has some manner of every one of those elements expressed when he talks about why he is a Christian and how he became a Christian. And it's that commonality that we're alluding to here that the reason that there is that commonality is because we are all brought together into one great body of believers. And so we're going to unpack what we mean when we use the word church.
We're going to try to answer that question. What is the church? It is that group of people called by God and born of the Spirit who are true believers in Jesus Christ. Now, I'm going to give you four points and kind of outline this. Right now we're just trying to describe what the church is, and not so much talk about its purpose.
We'll save that for a future message. But what is the church? Point number one that I want to share with you. This is foundational.
This is the cornerstone of everything. Point number one is the church belongs to Christ. The church belongs to Christ. When we gather together as a local body, as we think about the broader group of people that belong to Christ throughout the world and throughout the ages, we need to be mindful that we are participating in a life that belongs to Christ himself.
And Scripture makes this very clear. In Matthew chapter 16 verse 18, you don't need to turn there, but in Matthew 16 verse 18, during his earthly ministry, Jesus told his disciples, I will build my church. That possessive pronoun, my church, is very important. The church belongs to Jesus Christ. The church takes its direction from Christ. The church gets its life from Christ. The church can stand before God as a redeemed people because of Christ.
The church is his. This is so fundamental for you and for me to understand where we fit in the whole scheme of reality in the life of the church. Christ, as we're going to see, Christ is the head and we are underneath that. We are the privileged recipients of divine favor, the privileged recipients of divine blessing. And because we have received blessing, we give honor to the one who bestowed it.
Because we have received blessing, we are in a role of submission to our benefactor. And that is so essential to forming a proper corporate approach to life in the church. Life in the church is not about what you or I in particular want, because the church belongs to Christ.
Ever more, ever and always, our preeminent question in any situation in the life of this local body is, what does Christ want? What does Christ say because the church belongs to him? That is the reality to which Scripture speaks. Turn in your Bibles to the book of Ephesians.
I want you to see this from a couple of different passages. Christ called it my church in Matthew 16. And as you read through the epistles of Paul in particular, you see him asserting the glory and majesty of Christ, and you see him asserting the authority of Christ over his people. Remember the church is a group of people, and Christ is over them.
The church belongs to Christ. Ephesians chapter 1. Remember in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 4, that Paul said that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and blameless before him. Now as you move on in Ephesians chapter 1, Paul is going to speak about the reality of that relationship between Christ and the people that God gave to him before the foundation of the world. And in verse 18 Paul says, I pray, he's in a spirit of prayer praying for the recipients of this letter, he says, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will 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 surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe. As the recipients of divine favor, as that people called by God, born of the Spirit to receive true salvation in Jesus Christ, we are the recipients of hope. We have an inheritance that is waiting for us, we are on the receiving end of a surpassing display of divine power that pulled us from sin, from the realm of Satan, and put us into the realm of the kingdom of his beloved Son.
We're a group of people that have been the objects of a work of God, and Paul here in Ephesians chapter 1 is praying and saying, I'm praying that God would help you grasp the significance of what it means to be a Christian, the significance of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. And so there in verse 19, he goes on and he says, these are in accordance with the working of the strength of his might, which, watch this, watch the focus on Christ now, look at verse 20, put your finger on it and follow along with me, which he brought about in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, in that position of authority. Verse 21, far above, far above, all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
We're talking about magnificent, unspeakably great spiritual realities here. And notice what Paul goes on to say about Christ and his relationship to the church in verse 22. He says, and he put all things in subjection under his feet, under the feet of Christ, and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Christ is the head of the church. The church gets its life from its head. The church, like the body does, gets its direction from the head. Christ has authority over the church, and that means that as we come together to worship him, as we walk through life as a body of believers together, we are ever, ever mindful of the fact that Christ is the one who has preeminent authority in the life of our body. Everything else is secondary to his one preeminent position as the head of the church. That may seem a little bit abstract, but beloved, it shapes the entire way that we think. It means that we think not in terms of what do I want or what does she want or how do we manipulate human relationships here.
We're ever looking up before we look horizontally. We're always conscious of the fact that what happens in the life of the body of a local church is done under the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. He sets the tone.
He sets the stage. As the head of the church, Christ gives direction to his people. As the head of the church, Christ gives spiritual life to his people. And let me remind you of a passage. Turn to Titus a little further back in your New Testament. A little further back to remind you of an important verse that I'm grateful to the Lord has been made prominent in the early life of our time together as truth community. Titus chapter 2 verse 13.
Titus chapter 2 verse 13. Paul says that we're looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus who gave himself for us, watch this, to redeem us. Notice the first person plural here, us as a body of believers. He gave himself for us to redeem us, plural, from every lawless deed and to purify for himself that it would belong to him, in other words, to purify for himself a people for his own possession zealous for good deeds. When we think about the church, as we think about what we do together corporately, as we think about the broader body of Christ throughout the world, our starting point in true and accurate thinking has to come down to this one central point. The church belongs to Christ. He owns it by right of authority.
He owns it by right of purchase. He purchased at the cost of his own life a people that they might belong to him, that they might be his possession, and that means so many different things. One of the things that it means as we think about the the trials and tribulations of life, that as a Christian there is a broader, deeper, more profound reality that defines the reason for your existence and that defines the purpose in your struggles and defines the future that belongs to you. It's not about so much. We take all of those individual difficulties that we go through and we gather them up and we realize, oh, everything that's happening is happening under this sovereignty and authority of my blessed Christ, and there is a purpose to this because I belong to him.
I'm not a free-floating free agent. I'm not disconnected from the reality that's around me. Above all else, I can define myself as one who belongs to Christ and therefore I not only belong to him, I belong to the body that he bought with his own blood. This shapes the way we think about everything. The church belongs to Christ. You know, I always think about that when you read secular columnists and self-appointed authorities on cultural events in the world now, they'll say, well, the church should be doing this or that. The church should be more concerned about the poor, more concerned about inclusion of disaffected groups. Well, whatever you think about those issues, realize that no one in the world, no one in the world, has any authority to speak about what the Church of Christ should do because the church belongs to Christ, and those people who are not believers who try to tell the church what to do are interlopers who have no business speaking about the life, the doctrine, and the authority of what the church should do. They have no jurisdiction to speak, and it is very critical for us to understand that so that we are always being influenced by what Christ says in his word about what the church should be rather than letting the culture try to define our life for us. We must be dogmatic and clear about this. We do not have the prerogative, and here in True's community we don't even have the desire to let people outside the church tell us what we should do. We could never do that.
That would be a betrayal of the one who bought us with his own blood. Any more than somebody should walk into your house and tell you how to arrange your furniture. What do you mean telling me you don't live here? You didn't pay for this building.
You don't know anything about this. What are you doing telling me how to arrange my furniture? That's the attitude that we have toward those outside the world who have no submission to Scripture, no submission to Christ trying to tell us what we should do. No, the church belongs to Christ and we take our direction from him. And so as a result of the fact that the church belongs to Christ, that affects the way we think about ourselves and the way that we think about each other and the way that we think about the world around us as we think about this great body of people who belong to Christ. It's like there's a triangle in our minds and there's everything but it all points up to one central point and that point is Christ. And everything flows from him as the head. Everything flows from him as the authority.
Everyone flows from him as the giver of spiritual life. It is a precious thing to be a Christian. Part of the reason that it's precious is because we belong to this body known as the church.
Well, let me move on to a second point here then. The church belongs to Christ. Who is it then that belongs to the church, you could say? The church belongs to Christ. Well, who is it that constitutes the church?
Let me give you a second point here. The church consists of true believers, genuine Christians, not simply someone who calls themselves a Christian but a true Christian. Point number two, the church consists of true believers. All true Christians belong to the church. Church with a capital C. We're talking about it the church universal here.
It's sometimes called that. The universal church. All true believers are part of the universal church of Christ. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 12. 1 Corinthians chapter 12. We'll just look at a couple of key verses here. 1 Corinthians chapter 12 in verse 12. Remember that we said the church is that group of people called by God and born of the Spirit who are true believers in Jesus Christ. Here in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 verse 12, you see that spiritual reality being laid out at the by the pen of the Apostle Paul. He says, for even as the body is one and yet has many members and all the members of the body though they are many are one body so also is Christ. Watch this in verse 13. For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body whether Jews or Greeks whether slaves are free we were all made to drink of one spirit Paul is saying that the Spirit of God is the one who brings somebody into the body of Christ and everyone who has been born of the Spirit is a part of the body of Christ there's no such thing as a true Christian who is not a part of the body of Christ in this universal sense and so the church consists of true believers God calls his people to Christ by a work of the Holy Spirit we become part of this church not by human effort but by a work of God and so the church consists of true believers and if you look at Acts chapter 2 you can see where the church was born the church was born by an act of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2 and I want to just point this out to you as well we believe that the church began at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 it's actually let's go back for just a moment to Jesus final words to his disciples before he ascended into heaven and look at Acts chapter 1 verse 4 Acts chapter 1 verse 4 gathering them together Jesus commanded them that group of disciples he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for that which the Father had promised which you heard of from me for John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now something was coming that had not yet occurred in their lives and so Jesus says wait and stay in Jerusalem until you are baptized with the Holy Spirit look at verse 8 he says you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and so he's looking forward he's looking to something in the immediate future and telling them to anticipate and to wait until it comes well in Acts chapter 2 we see the fulfillment of that Acts chapter 2 verse 1 when the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place and suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting and there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves and they rested on each one of them in verse 4 and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance now as you read on in Acts chapter 2 you see that that gift of tongues was the gift of known human languages that were previously unlearned God miraculously gave them the ability to speak in other languages get this as a sign that the Holy Spirit had come upon them there was a supernatural event that took place when the Holy Spirit came and gave birth to the body of Christ on that day of Pentecost and it was marked by the invisible coming of the Spirit was marked by a supernatural display a supernatural power of people doing what is humanly impossible to speak as adults and instantly with a language that you had never studied before and so the coming of the Holy Spirit those supernatural events surrounding the coming of the Spirit signified that something radically new radically different had occurred that had not been the experience in the prior progress of Revelation these believers were now baptized by the Holy Spirit and taking it together with what we saw in 1st Corinthians chapter 12 they were baptized into the body of Christ and the church was born on that day and so who is the church the church belongs to Christ and the church consists of all true believers in Christ who have been born of the Spirit and so you can't get very far in biblical doctrine anywhere before it becomes a question of have you been born of the Spirit yourself are you part of this body of Christ have you been born of the Spirit have you been supernaturally given new life to belong to Christ because that is the mark of someone who belongs to the church it's not enough to simply walk through the doors and be in this physical geographic location the question is whether a spiritual renewal has taken place in your heart whether you have new life that you did not have before and if that sounds foreign to you it's your opportunity to bow before Christ and say I don't know anything of this new life please save me because it frightens me to think that I'm outside the special body of believers that I don't have the spiritual life that marks the truth Church and so as we talk about the church in that sense we're talking about the universal church those who belong to Christ who have been born of the Spirit throughout time and those who who share the life of the Spirit right now regardless of their geographic location there's that aspect to the way that scripture uses the word church that's Don Green founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati Ohio with part one of a message called what is the church part of our series key questions answered next time Don will have the conclusion of this message so join us then on the truth pulpit right now here again is Don with a special invitation well friend if you are anywhere near the Cincinnati area and you don't have a good church home I invite you to visit us at Truth Community Church I'm in the pulpit almost every Sunday and we have a loving congregation that would simply be thrilled to meet you and welcome you to our body we are striving to manifest the principles that you heard taught today why not come and see us bill will help you find us on our website just visit the truth pulpit calm for directions and service times there you'll also find a link to Don's Facebook page once more that's the truth pulpit calm and thanks for your support of this ministry well that's all the time we have for today for Don Green I'm Bill Wright see you again next time as Don continues to teach God's people God's Word in the truth pulpit
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