Elders and church leaders are given their authority simply so that the Lord Jesus Christ, who himself is the head of the church, can carry out his intentions to bless his people that are found in the church. Thank you for joining us on the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hello, I'm Bill Wright. We're continuing a series called Key Questions Answered. Today, Don presents part two of a lesson answering the question, What is the Church? Last time, Don told us the church is that group of people called by God and born of the Spirit, who are true believers in Jesus Christ. Then we got the first two of four points that go a little more in depth. The church belongs to Christ, and it consists of genuine believers as opposed to those who call themselves Christians but aren't really.
On this edition of the program, we'll get points three and four. So grab your Bible and perhaps a pen and piece of paper and let's join Don as he continues to teach God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit. 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. 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 this special body of believers. That I don't have the spiritual life that marks the true 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 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.
But there's also, as we think about true believers, there's also a sense in which we can say that there is a church with a small c. The word church being used to refer to local assemblies of believers. Look at the book of Galatians with me. Galatians chapter 1.
Paul an apostle, chapter 1 verse 1, Paul an apostle not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead. And all the brethren who are with me, watch this, to the churches of Galatia. To the churches, to the multiple groups, the multiple assemblies of believers that are in that geographic region of Galatia. Churches, plural, referring to local bodies who are a subset of the true one body of Christ who gather together and assemble together for the purpose of worship and service to Christ.
The churches of Galatia. And so the church universal throughout the world, church with a capital C we might say, gathers together in local churches, small c, with local people in a local geographic region consistently meeting together to live out the manifestation of the body of Christ in their local area. And so, the church is a group of people who share common life in Christ, universally and then locally. The church is used in both ways. What is the church? Well, the church belongs to Christ. The church consists of true believers. Thirdly, the church has spiritual leaders. The church has spiritual leaders. The church of Christ, when you look at what the Bible says about it, is not a New England town hall meeting.
It's not a pure democracy that simply lets everybody have equal voices on whatever they want to say and whenever they want to say it. No, God says that things should be done decently and in order. And one of the ways that he establishes that decent order and structure to the life of his churches is that he establishes leadership in the local body.
Ask yourself this question. How does Christ lead his church when he's not physically present? How can Christ lead a people when he's not physically present to take care of the day-to-day operation of it, if you want to think about it that way? Well, he mediates his direction through men who are called elders, who have teaching and leadership authority to build the church. Look at Acts chapter 20. We'll just look at a couple of passages here. We covered elder leadership when we taught through Titus 1, and if you have questions about what we're going to summarize briefly here, I'd encourage you to go back and download those messages or get the CDs.
We're happy to provide those to you at no cost. But Acts chapter 20, verse 28, Paul is speaking to the elders at the church of Ephesus as he's about to depart from them. And he tells them, as he's about to leave, he tells them and gives them a charge, an apostolic charge, because he will no longer be there as an apostle and the weight of leadership is now going to fall on them. And he says, Be on guard for yourselves, Acts 20, verse 28, Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Elders shepherd the church. They guide, they lead, they feed the church.
That's the responsibility that elders have. Notice, as Paul is speaking to this group of church leaders back in the first century, that even then when he describes the church of God, he calls it and defines it by that which Christ purchased with His own blood. And so, as Paul is talking to these church leaders about the reality of the church, he ties it in with the sacrifice of Christ which purchased those people with His own blood, and he tells them, You're the leaders here. You've got to shepherd the people of God.
You have a responsibility to guard them and guard the flock and to give your life to that responsibility. Christ leads His church through men, spiritual leaders. Look over at the book of Ephesians again. Ephesians chapter 4.
Ephesians chapter 4, in verse 11. Paul says that Christ gave some as apostles and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers, watch this, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the service to the building up of the body of Christ. He's talking about the church. He gave leaders to the church to build up the church, verse 13, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Christ gives leaders to His church so that, and he tasks them with the responsibility to teach, to lead, to be examples so that the individual Christians that are within the realm of that local body grow up spiritually, go from being a baby to a young man to a mature man.
They grow spiritually by the impartation of truth, pastoral oversight and care, and the instruction and admonishment that the Scriptures call us to. That doesn't happen in a town hall meeting where everybody has equal authority. Christ has set apart certain men in local churches to bear the weight of the responsibility to give that kind of direction.
Now, those men, no one walks into that office. Not everybody can be an elder. In His Scriptures, Christ has given stringent biblical qualifications that a man's life must meet over a long period of time before he's qualified to be considered for the office of an elder. You find those qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus chapter 1. We've looked at them in the past.
We won't repeat them here. Simply to say that part of the way that Christ Himself has safeguarded the spiritual well-being of all of His people is that He's established leaders, but the way that He protects the overall flock is that there are stringent biblical lifestyle character qualifications assessed and put on that man before he can ever approach the office. And so that's the protection.
Here's what I want you to see, beloved. The way that Christ protects His flock is He gives the men to watch over them, and He does it even more carefully. He says this is how you can recognize a man who's fit for that office. And so, a lifetime of character is necessary before a man ascends into that position of leadership. Now, that's the leadership. What about the people who follow?
We need to look at this. It is the will of Christ for His church that church members respond to their leaders with a teachable and even using the word obedient spirit. Turn to the book of Hebrews with me. Hebrews chapter 13. Hebrews chapter 13.
There's a full circle that we're going to go through here, and there is a beautiful symmetry to life in the church that assures us the well-being of everybody involved. Hebrews chapter 13 verse 7. The writer of Hebrews says, Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Follow your church leaders, in other words. Look at their conduct, look at their life, and follow after them who have been put in that position. Verse 17 states it in a different way. It says, Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.
Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Let me say a couple of things about that. That spirit of submission is clear in what Christ has given to all of us to consider for the way life in the church is supposed to look.
Now, let's address that for a moment. That might be unsettling, especially in our culture that resists authority. Those of us that were raised on the idea of question authority, we freely acknowledge that this is in direct conflict with the spirit of our age. But Christ has established a beautiful symmetry in the life of the body to prevent abuse. Christ gives church leaders, and He says, You shepherd the flock. He goes to the flock and He says, You submit to the leadership of that spiritual authority that's established in the local body. But then He goes even further, and this is where it comes full circle, and this is where, when the biblical pattern is followed, there is no threat to anyone. There is no threat of abuse when the biblical pattern is followed, because Christ commands church leaders not to lord their authority over the church, but to care for the flock in humble godliness. Look at 1 Peter 5.
This is crucial. All of this is interwoven together, interlocked like the pieces of a puzzle. This is all woven together, and if there is breakdown on qualifications, if there is a breakdown on a spirit of submission, if there is a breakdown on the way that elders carry their authority, it is not going to be the pattern that Christ has set for His church. And so all of these are of equal importance. 1 Peter 5 verse 1. 1 Peter 5 verse 1. Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed. So here's what the elders are supposed to do. We just saw from Hebrews 13 what the flock does. Here's what the elders are to do, and how they are to do it. Verse 2, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.
Watch this now. Those of you who are elders, those of you who aspire after the office of elder in the future, watch this. Not for sordid gain, but with eagerness, nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Biblical leadership is given with an accompanying command from Christ.
Here is how you are to do it. Not for your own personal gain. Not so that you can lord it over the people that are under your charge, but so that you can be an example to them and shepherd them with care and according to the will of Christ. The church, we said, our third point here, the church has spiritual leaders. Here's what I want you to understand, beloved.
This is so vital and important. Christ gives authority to spiritual leaders in the church so that they can be a blessing to the church. Let me state this in a different way. Elders are not given their authority to increase power for themselves. Elders are not given their authority so that they can build wealth for themselves or for their families. A pastor, an elder, whatever term you apply to a church leader, if he is truly a servant of Christ, is ever mindful of the fact that with his authority comes a great responsibility, and he looks at that authority and he says, that is not for my sake.
It is not for me to accumulate things or power or influence for myself. I am given this authority, the elder says to himself. The elder is given authority so that and for the sole purpose that he can be an instrument of Christ's blessing to the people around him. When elders hold their position from that perspective, there is absolutely no threat to anyone in the congregation.
Rather, there is a sphere of security, a sphere of confidence that comes from the structure that Christ has instituted for His church. This is the way life in the body of Christ is supposed to work. Elders and church leaders are given their authority simply so that the Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself is the head of the church, can carry out His intentions to bless His people that are found in the church.
That's it. It's not so that elders can lord it over. It's so that they can be a blessing.
The spirit that Christ intends is analogous to the fact that He calls us to submit to Himself as part of His work and His plan and His will for us as a people of God, that there be a spirit of submission that marks the life of the body as well. And those of you that have come from churches where there's been that constant conflict, conflict between leaders and people, people against the leaders, leaders against the people, all of this should sound like a fresh spring of water to you to say, oh, it's not supposed to be that way. It's not supposed to be about angry meetings and conflicts and self-aggrandizing men taking power and wealth and influence for themselves and for their family.
It's not supposed to be that way. And God helping us, it will never be that way a truth community. Just so you know, that's the intention of the hearts of your elders here. We're mindful of the threat. We've seen it played out.
We don't want to go there. We just want to be what Christ wants His church to be. That means that elders have authority to shepherd. People have the responsibility to cooperate. That's the way life in the church is supposed to work. Final point.
Let's ask this question and then I'll give you the point. How do we know what to do? How do elders and the people know what to do as we go through life day by day, month by month, year by year, how do we know what to do? How do we live in the midst of this body that is called the church?
Point number four, very quickly. The church is subject to Scripture. The church is subject to Scripture. The Bible is where Christ directs His church in detail.
The leaders in the congregation are all subject to the authority of Scripture. Look at 1 Corinthians 14. 1 Corinthians 14, beginning in verse 37. Paul is writing at the end of a very long letter that is very practical in its instruction to the local body at Corinth and by extension to local bodies throughout the universal church of Christ. Notice what he says here in verse 37. 1 Corinthians 14, verse 37. If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you, the inspired apostolic writings, in other words, the things that I write to you are the Lord's commandment. When we read the Scriptures, we're not reading the words of someone who lived 2,000 years ago ultimately. They are the words of someone who wrote 2,000 years ago, but they wrote with divine authority so that their writings which are contained in the 66 books of Scripture are the commandment of Christ to His people. What we have in the Scriptures are the commands of Christ for His people.
And one final passage that I want to show you. 1 Timothy 3, beginning in verse 14. 1 Timothy 3, verse 14.
Paul again, I'll give you just a moment to get there. 1 Timothy 3, 14. Paul says, I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long, but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. What do we do as a church? We open up the Bible and we read it, and we study it, and we teach it. Individually, collectively, on Sunday we come together and we pore over this Word.
We look through it, we study it, we think about it, we contemplate it, we meditate on it. Because, beloved, because we are part of the church, and the church belongs to Christ, and He has authority, and He has expressed His authority in His Word, and in His Word He tells us how we are to conduct ourselves in the household of God. And a church that is anchored in Scripture, consisting of people who have been born again by the Spirit of God, true believers in Christ, who are submissive to Scripture with qualified leadership, and of supportive people around that leadership, that church is on its way to becoming what Christ intended it to be. Beloved, that church is what we want to become.
Want to join with us? Let's pray. Father, as individuals, it is a privilege to be a Christian, and that privilege multiplies even more as we realize that we're part of a greater body, which is the object of the redeeming love of Christ. We thank You for our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You for where He has made His authority known in His Word, and we thank You for bringing us together to share in this kind of life together. We pray that You would bless the future of Truth Community, that You would give us such a heart commitment to follow Christ, that whatever Christ says in His Word would be that which is a glad law upon our hearts and consciences.
Yes, Father, make us what You want us to be. Thank You for calling us together. We offer ourselves to You and pray that now You would have Your way with us as You continue to build Your Church, both around the world and here in our own midst. We pray these things in Jesus' name.
Amen. If a church is teaching precepts that are not biblical, be prepared to find one that is anchored in Scripture. As Pastor Don Green has reminded us today, a Christ-centered church is a Bible-centered church.
Well, now that we've defined what the church is, the next question is, why does it exist? That's our topic next time, so be sure to join us then on The Truth Pulpit. But right now, Don's here again with some closing words. My Christian friend, go to our website and download these programs so that you can listen to them again.
The repetition will help you meditate on it from different perspectives as you listen in different ways, and you'll be excited as you grow. And while you're at the website, drop us a note. Let us know how the program ministers to you.
We'd sure appreciate that. My friend Bill is here to give you the details on how to find us. Just visit thetruthpulpit.com. There you'll also find a link to Don's Facebook page. Once more, that's thetruthpulpit.com. And thanks for your support of this ministry. Now for Don Green, I'm Bill Wright, inviting you back next time as Don continues in his ministry of teaching God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-30 04:58:25 / 2023-01-30 05:07:22 / 9