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The Nature and Mission of the Church (Hafemann)

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The Nature and Mission of the Church

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

1.       The Purpose of Creation: To Fill the Earth with the Presence/Glory of God

(Theme: Isaiah 43:6-7[1]; Habakkuk 2:14[2]; Psalm 22:27-28[3])

A.       Genesis 1:26-2:3[4]: The Purpose of Mankind

B.       Psalm 19:1-4[5] and Isaiah 66:1-2[6]: The Purpose of Creation

2.       The Purpose of Israel: To Mediate the Presence/Glory of God to the Nations

(Theme: Isaiah 49:3[7], 6[8] [cf. Acts 13:46-47!]; Jeremiah 13:11[9])

A.       Genesis 12:1-3[10]: The Purpose of the Call of Abraham[11]

B.       Exodus 19:1-6[12]: The Purpose of the Exodus

(cf. Exod. 14:4[13], 17[14], 18; Ps. 106:7-8[15]; Rom. 9:17[16]; Ezek. 20:14[17])

3.       The Purpose of the King and Temple: To Mediate the Presence/Glory of God to Israel

(Theme: 2 Samuel 7:23[18])

A.       2 Samuel 7:4-16[19]: The Purpose of the Davidic Monarchy

B.       1 Kings 8 (cf. esp. vv. 29-30[20], 59-60!)[21]

4.       The Purpose of God’s Judgment/Mercy to Disobedient Israel: To Declare His Glory

(Theme: Isaiah 48:9-11[22])

A.       2 Kings 17:7-23; 23:26-27: Judgment for the Sake of God’s Name

B.       Ezekiel 36:22-23[23], 32[24]: Mercy for the Sake of God’s Name

C.       2 Chronicles 36:23[25]: Mercy for the Sake of the Mission

5.       The Purpose of the Church: To Mediate the Presence/Glory of God to the Nations[26]

(Theme: Eph. 1:4-6, 12, 14; Matt. 5:16[27]; 1 Peter 2;12[28]; Rom. 15:8-12; Rev. 5:9-10[29]; 7:9-12; 21:3[30])

A.       Matthew 16:13-20: Jesus will build his temple![31]

B.       Matthew 28:18-20[32]: We will build Jesus’ temple![33] 

6.       Our Prayer: Psalm 67:1-2. 

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,

That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. 


[1] Isaiah 43:6-7 – “I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” 

[2] Habakkuk 2:14 – “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

[3] Psalm 22:27-28 – All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. 

[4] Genesis 1:26-2:3 – Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”  And it was so.  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.  Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. 

[5] Psalm 19:1-4 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.  Their measuring line goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. 

[6] Isaiah 66:1-2 – Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD.  But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. 

[7] Isaiah 49:3 – And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

[8] Isaiah 49:6 – he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.  Cf. Acts 13:46-47 – And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you.  Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.  For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “’I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

[9] Jeremiah 13:11 – For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen. 

[10] Genesis 12:1-3 – Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

[11] The promise to Abraham that through him universal blessing would come to the “families” of the earth is repeated in Gen. 17:4-5; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14. 

[12] Exodus 19:1-6 – On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.  They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness.  There Israel encamped in the wilderness.  There Israel encamped before the mountains, while Moses went up to God.  The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 

[13] Exodus 14:4 – And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.”  

[14] Exodus 14:17 – And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen.  And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten gory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” 

[15] Psalm 106:7-8 – Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the Sea, at the Red Sea.  Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. 

[16] Romans 9:17 – For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 

[17] Ezek. 20:14 – But I acted for the sake of my name, that is should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. 

[18] 2 Samuel 7:23 – And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? 

[19] 2 Samuel 7:4-16 – But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in?  I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling.  In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’  Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you.  And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.  And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.  And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel.  And I will give you rest from all your enemies.  Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.  When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.  Your throne shall be established forever’” 

[20] 1 Kings 8:27-30 – “But will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!  Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be here,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place.  And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place.  And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. 

[21] Thus in Ps. 48:1-2 Jerusalem and Zion are said to be “the joy of the whole earth” because that is where the temple is located!  To be in the temple in the presence of the Lord is the highest good to which we can aspire (Ps. 16:11; 21:6; 27:4; 43:3-4; 23:6; 42:4; 65:4; 122:1, etc.).  The temple is the place where heaven touches earth (1 Kgs. 8:22, 29, 30, 31, 33, 35, 38, 42, 44, 48), the earthly manifestation of the presence of God.  God’s dwelling place is in heaven (Ps. 89:5-7; 123:1; 150:1), yet he dwells and reigns in Zion (Ps. 9:11; 14:7; 50:2; 53:6; 74:2; 128:5).  The Temple is the point from which God extends his rule over all the earth (Exod. 25:16, 21; 40:20; Deut. 10:5; 1 Kgs. 8:9; cf. also Heb. 9:4; Exod. 16:32-33; Num. 17:8-10).  The temple is thus also described as a courtroom where YHWH delivers judgments on the basis of the Law (Jer. 25:30; Amos 1:2), and Zion is the place from which the Law goes forth (Is. 2:2-3; cf. Micah 4:1-2).  Thus, the presence of God and obedience to his Law are closely linked because obedience to God’s will is required in God’s presence as the sovereign ruler!  This survey, as well as the essential aspects of notes 4 and 5 below are taken from Alan B. Vance, The Church as the New Temple in Matthew 16:17-19: A Biblical-Theological Consideration of Jesus’ Response to Peter’s Confession as Recorded by Matthew,” Th. M. Thesis, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 1992. 

[22] Isaiah 48:9-11 – “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off.  Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.  For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?  My glory I will not give to another. 

[23] Ezek. 36:22-23 – “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.  And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them.  And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes…

[24] Ezek. 36:32 – It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you.  Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. 

[25] 2 Chronicles 36:23 – “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him.  Let him go up. 

[26] John Piper, in his crucial book, Let the Nations be Glad!  The Supremacy of God in Missions, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993, pp. 184-188, points out that in order to understand Jesus’ “Great Commission” in Matt. 28:18-20 we must recapture the “atmosphere of hope” concerning their confidence that God’s truth would reach to all the people groups of the world which Jesus and his disciples felt in reading their Bible (p. 184).  To help us do this, Piper summarizes a sampling of this hope as found in Isaiah and in the Psalms in terms of four categories: exhortation, promise, prayers and plans.  These were the kinds of biblical passages which “set the stage for Jesus’ Great Commission” (p. 184).  If you want to get filled with hope, read these texts: 1) Exhortations that God’s glory be declared and praised among the nations and by the nations: Ps. 9:11; 47:1; 66:8; 96:3, 7, 10; 105:1; 117:1; Isaiah 12:4; Isaiah 34:1;  2) Promises that the nations will one day worship the true God: Ps. 2:8; 45:17; 47:9; 87:6; 86:9; 102:22; 111:6; Isaiah 11:10; 25:6-7; 49:6; 51:5; 52:10; 52:15; 55:5; 56:7; 60:3; 66:18-19;  3) Confident Prayers that God be praised among the nations: Ps. 67:1-5; 72:11, 17;  4) Plans to do one’s own part in making God’s greatness known among the nations: Ps. 18:49; 57:9; 108:3. 

[27] Matt. 5:16 – In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 

[28] 1 Peter 2:12 – Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 

[29] Rev. 5:9-10 – And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 

[30] Rev. 21:3 – And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 

[31] One of the major roles of the Messiah was to be the building of the final temple for God’s presence.  Hence, when Jesus is confessed to be the Messiah and then immediately begins to talk about building something, what they expected was the building of the new temple.  And Jesus is declaring his intention to fulfill the responsibility of the “son of David” described in 2 Sam. 7:12, the building of a “house” for God’s name.  For the coming of Jesus into the world was more significant than the temple and its builder, i.e., as Jesus said, “Something greater than the temple (and Solomon, 12:42) is here” (Matt. 12:6).  Yet what Jesus builds is not a new building, but his church, his people.  Jesus’ temple would not be made of mortar and stone, it would be made of those whom Jesus calls to himself and who, confessing him to be the Son of the Living God, follow him.  Note that it is Jesus who builds his temple, his church – only those whom the Son chooses receive the revelation of the Father (Matt. 11:27).  The secrets of the KOG have been given to the disciples, but not to others (Matt. 13:11).  This is true of Peter as well, that is why he is called “blessed” in v. 17.  Four points on the meaning of Matthew 16:17-19:

1.       The “rock” (petra) of the Church is Jesus in his messianic function, especially his suffering on the cross.  Peter is typical of all Christians in that he confesses Christ.  He is called “petros” (“stone”) because Peter is to be like Jesus, i.e., a little petra.  But the focus is not on Peter as the object of revelation, but on Christ as the subject of what has been revealed.  Note how the periscope begins with the question of Christ’s identity (cc. 13, 15) and ends with the command to keep silent about his identity (v. 20).  Jesus calls Peter’s confession a “rock” and then in 16:21 reveals why it will be a stumbling-stone to Israel (cf. Is. 8:14 and 28:16 [cf. Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8]; Ps. 118:22 [cf. Matt. 21:9, 23, 42 par.; Matt. 23:38f.; Acts 4:11 and 1 Pet. 2:4ff.]; and Dan. 2 [cf. Matt. 21:44]), since as the messiah he will suffer and this suffering becomes an essential element of the foundation of the Church, as well as that which is rejected by others (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11; Rom. 9:33). 

2.       The phrase “gates of hades” means that the temple is to be eternal, in contrast to those that have gone before.  In OT, “hades” or “sheol,” which it translates, is a place associated with literal death, and in the NT gains the connotation of judgment (cf. Luke 16:19ff.; Matt. 11:23; Luke 10:15).  In Revelation, Hades always appears in tandem with death as the two common enemies of all the living (Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14).  “Gates of Hades” occurs only here in NT, but is found in LXX and post biblical literature as a poetic way of describing death (cf. Is. 38:10; Wis. 16:13; Ps. Sol. 16:2-3; 3 Macc. 5:51).  It is synonymous with the phrase “gates of death” found in Job 38:17; Ps. 9:13; 106:13-20.  So the phrase “gates of hades” or “sheol” or “death” “denotes the one-way entrance to the realm of the dead from which there is no return” (Colin Brown, “The Gates of Hell; An Alternative Approach,” SBL 1987 Seminar Papers, Scholars Press, 1987, pp. 360f.).  The point of v. 18b is that the church will never face death as a result of God’s judgment upon it!  Unlike all previous temples, the church will be in God’s presence forever. 

3.       The idea of a “key” or “keys” occur in the OT only in Judges 3:25, Is. 22:22, and 1 Chron. 9:27.  In the Is. Text it refers to authority, in 1 Chron. It is used of the Levitical gatekeepers who have the responsibility of guarding the temple gates.  This led to later Judaism viewing the priesthood as having possession of temple keys (Syr. Baruch 10:18; 4 Bar. 4:3-4).  See esp. Targum Jonathon to Is. 22:22, where Eliakim’s responsibility is said to include the key of the temple.  The point of v. 19 is that the Church is now to be seen as the authoritative representative of the kingdom of God on earth.  Being given the keys was a privilege which carried great responsibility.  In Isaiah 22 and the Baruch texts the keys are mentioned to highlight the failure of those who possessed them to perform their duties.  The keys are transferred from those who have been unfaithful to those who will be faithful – this is the way Matt. 16:19 is to be understood.  What is being given to Peter is being taken away from someone else. 

4.       Jesus’ statement concerning our role in “binding and loosing” declares the Church to be the earthly mouthpiece of divine revelation so that the Church is the vehicle through which God’s rule extends over the earth.  See too Matt. 18:15-20.  These terms are to be understood in terms of the later rabbinic use of the same concepts, where they refer to the practice of “prohibiting and allowing” respectively.  The point of Matt. 16:19 is that the Church is to prohibit or permit only what is dictated from heaven.  The teaching of God’s word is at the center of the Church’s identity.  Note the use of the term elsewhere in relation to the Law (cf. Matt. 5:19; John 5:18; 7:23; 1 Cor. 7:27).  The parallel often pointed to in John 20:23 is therefore not the primary one.  The statement in v. 19b, however, is not a declaration of the church’s authority, but rather refers to her responsibility!  It should be translated, “Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven” (The statement uses the Greek form of the verb which grammarians call the “periphrastic future perfect passive tense.”  This form of the verb is used to indicate an action completed in the future).  It is the church on earth which carries out heaven’s decisions, not heaven which ratifies the church’s decisions (cf. Albright and Mann, AB on Matthew, p. 197).  Cf. Matt. 5:17f.  The Church is to be “the earthly mouthpiece of heavenly truth.  It is not a promise that the Church can say whatever she will and God will put his stamp of approval on it.  Rather, she has nothing else to say but that which is eternally true and has been revealed from heaven…. (so) The Church, as God’s mouthpiece on earth, must take great care to proclaim and enforce only that which God has declared.” (p. 82 of Vance’s ThM. Thesis).  For the failure to do this on the part of Israel’s leaders, see Matt. 15:3, 6, 9 and 23:2-4, 13; Luke 11:52.  In contrast, according to Matt. 28:20, the disciples must teach what Jesus has commanded!  The authority and responsibility of proclaiming and upholding God’s revealed will now belongs to the Church! 

[32] Matt. 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

[33] Chronicle’s ends with the triumphant note of Cyrus’ charge to rebuild the temple in 2 Chron. 36:23, who is then called a Messiah in Is. 44:28-45:1, since he has the task of building the temple.  2 Chron. 36:23 then provides the backdrop for the great commission in Matt. 28:18-20!  Matt. 28:18-20, like 2 Chron. 36:23, is a call to “temple-building,” so that the church, as the “new temple” is the vehicle through which God’s Law goes forth.  This is confirmed by the fact that Matthew structures his genealogy to conform to 1 Chron. 1-3, so that his gospel is patterned after Chronicles to make the point that Jesus is the eschatological Davidic King which Chronicles anticipated.  Both 2 Chron. 36:23 and Matt. 28:18-20 have three elements: the declaration of authority, the charge, and the promise of divine presence!  But the great commission escalates the point: Cyrus had been given authority only over the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus is given all authority in heaven and earth.  Cyrus speaks of God’s presence, Jesus speaks of his own.  Cyrus is charged with building a temple, Jesus charges his followers to make disciples, which the NT clearly sees as equal to building the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:10ff.; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19ff.; 1 Pet. 2:4-5).  The Church is the eschatological temple of God! 

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