“THE CHURCH OF GOD”
(A Sermon Series from 2 Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 10-22-06 2 Corinthians 1:1-2
Proposition: That by the will of God, His gifts, our fellowship, grace and peace are provided in the context of the Church of God.
- SOMETHING absolutely miraculous was birthed on the Day of Pentecost, 2000 years ago….and recorded in the Book of Acts chapter 2.
- SOMETHING of far greater significance than the tongues of fire that fell from heaven, or the mighty rushing wind….more important than the 120 disciples speaking in tongues.
- SOMETHING greater than the leaders present in the upper room, such as Peter, James and John.
- SOMETHING far greater than what was happening at that moment in world events….or with world leaders, such as Claudius, the reigning Caesar in Rome.
- THE word used to describe this miracle that happened in Acts 2 is used in only one other place in all of the Bible before Acts 2…and that is in Matthew 16:18.
- AND it follows the revelation of God to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah….which is who He is.
- AND Jesus says in response to Peter,
“…I will build My church; and the gates of hell will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18)
- AND that is why Jesus came as Messiah….to build His Church.
- THE Greek word for church in Matthew 16:18, is ekklesia.
- IN Jesus’ day, the word was used exclusively by the Greeks to describe how, in Greek society….
* A herald would sound a call in a city, summoning the legal citizens of that city to gather together.
* And the purpose of the gathering would be for the citizens to conduct the business of the city.
- JESUS seized that word out of the culture of His day and sanctified it to describe the process whereby….
* The Holy Spirit would sound a call summoning those who have been born again to gather together in local congregations.
* And the purpose of the gathering would be for the born again ones to conduct the business of the Kingdom of God.
- HIS death and resurrection provided a way for whosoever would come to Him to be born again and qualified as citizens of God’s Kingdom.
- THE day of Pentecost was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit whereby those citizens of the Kingdom were bound together in the power of God to be the Church of God in Jerusalem.
- AND over the next thirty years Jesus built His Church all over the world….in the face of opposition, persecution, world empires, and Satan’s attempt to destroy it from within.
- HERE is a map of the known world at the end of the apostle Paul’s lifetime.
* The grey represents the boundaries of the Roman empire in 65 AD.
* The red dots represent cities where history records the existence of the church of Jesus.
* The yellow shading represents regions known to contain Christians.
- AND today, according to the Encyclopedia of World Religions, 33% of the world’s population professes to be Christian….with Islam the next largest at 21%.
- DO you see why I say that the most important thing that happened on the Day of Pentecost was that the Church of Jesus was born?
- GOD is doing one thing in the world….He is building His Church.
- AND that church is made of congregations that gather all over the world…in church buildings, in houses, in caves and make-shift shelters.
- AND in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit signals the importance God puts on each one of those congregations by devoting a sizable portion of the New Testament to individual local churches.
- GOD is doing local church.
- PRAISE God for what He does through Mission agencies, and para-church ministries like Campus Crusade, and Promise Keepers.
- THESE ministries supplement and support the work of the local church, but God’s focus is on local church.
- THERE is no other model for Kingdom living….which makes what and how we live and work together of paramount importance to God.
ii. gifts and fellowship
- FOR the next few Sundays, we are going to examine what subjects the Holy Spirit brought to the attention of the local church in Corinth….the second epistle written to them by the apostle Paul.
- IN 1998, we did a sermon series together on 1st Corinthians…that took us about a year.
- 2nd Corinthians was written by the apostle Paul about a year after 1st Corinthians.
- HERE is a map that will give you a little background to set the stage for 2nd Corinthians:
1. Paul planted the church in Corinth during his second missionary journey.
3. Apollos leaves Ephesus, where he was trained by Priscilla and Aquila to pastor the church in Corinth.
7. Members of Chloe’s household in Corinth send word to Ephesus about problems and divisions in the church.
8. Paul sends Titus to Corinth.
9. Paul sends Timothy to Corinth.
10. Paul writes 1 Corinthians from Ephesus.
11. Paul leaves Ephesus because of the public uproar there against the faith and heads for Macedonia.
13. In Macedonia Paul meets Timothy and Titus and learns about the Corinthian church’s favorable reactions to his first letter, and from there writes the second epistle.
- I DID this so you could see the investment of time, passion, and personal striving on Paul’s part (inspired by the Holy Spirit) for just one of the congregations….called the church.
- ABOUT the city itself, if you remember the series on 1st Corinthians you remember that it is a mess.
* Population: 600,000.
* A busy, flourishing, wealthy seaport and trade center....with a growing gulf between the very rich and the very poor.
* There were 12 temples to the popular deities of Greek culture in Corinth.....the most famous being the Temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Over 1,000 sacred male and female temple prostitutes would come down from the prominent site of the temple to ply their trade in the city each evening.
* The culture was so obsessed with sex that in that time the phrase “to corinthianize a city” was used all over the world to describe the spread of immorality.
- AND to this dark, corrupt, city seething in sin….God sends a gift in the form of the apostle Paul.
- THE city did not recognize the gift he was….in fact, there was such opposition to his work from the city and religious people at first that the Lord appears to Paul in a night vision and says,
“Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10)
- SO, by the will of God, using the people who are His gifts to the city, and in the middle of the darkness, God builds His Church.
- AND in 2 Corinthians 1:1a, Paul writes,
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother…” (2 Corinthians 1:1a)
- THE first two things I would like to point out to you from this passage about the church of Jesus is…
1. God intends that the church be built by means of His gifts.
- Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus TO the church in Corinth.
- An apostle is someone…
a) …who has been with Jesus,
b) …is sent out by Jesus,
c) …and establishes a work of God where no one has gone before.
- In Ephesians 4:11, we learn that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are some of the gifts given by God to build the church.
- Paul was a gift to the church in Corinth, for the most important work of building the church….it is the will of God.
- What gift are you to the church by the will of God and how are you invested in the building up of God’s church here?
2. Second, Paul notes that Timothy is with him in the writing of the letter to the Corinthians…and that he is OUR brother.
- One of the richest blessings of the Church of Jesus is the fellowship we have with one another….the community.
- Timothy had just been with the Corinthians as their pastor…and Paul calls him OUR brother.
- In fact, when Paul informs the reader about who this letter is written to in the next part of verse 1, he mentions the Corinthian believers AND all the saints throughout Achaia.
- There was fellowship and community in the church by the will of God…are you in community with some of the saints who are throughout Westgate Chapel?
- THIS Church of Jesus has gifts and fellowship.
iii. the church of god
- LET’S move on with the rest of verse 1,
“To the church of God, which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are throughout Achaia.” (2 Corinthians 1:1b)
- WE are talking about the church OF God.
- THE preposition of denotes the ownership and identity of the church in Corinth.
- THE church belongs to God.
- WESTGATE Chapel belongs to God….not to me, not to the elders, not even to the members.
- IN Acts 20:28, the apostle Paul instructs the elders of the “church of God” in Ephesus by saying,
“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.” (Acts 20:28)
- DIFFERENT group of people in this verse…different leadership team, and different location (Ephesus)…but the same name and the same owner.
- HERE are the ramifications to this truth:
1. The owner deserves the highest praise. He paid the highest price to possess the church. You and I are simply His servants.
2. Wherever they may gather in Jesus’ name in some local expression, there they are His church, and are members with us regardless of color, race, or theological differences.
3. Honor each member. They belong to the owner…and if He went to such great lengths to purchase them, you and I don’t need to be trying to draw their allegiance to ourselves.
4. Never use the church to advance your own purposes. Like John the Baptist said in John 3:29, you and I are simply sent to prepare the way of the Lord into the hearts of others.
- EACH local expression is the church of God.
- THAT is our identity. Not the leader. Not the doctrine. Not the worship style. Not the history. Not the denominational affiliation.
- GOD the Father is our Creator, and the One who loved the world so much that He gave His Son…to reconcile us to Him.
- GOD the Son is our Redeemer and Savior. Through His life, death and resurrection we are saved into the family of God.
- GOD the Holy Spirit indwells us, seals our salvation, and empowers us to live in victory and do the work He has called us to do.
- AND this “church” with everything that it is and can be in God….is located at Corinth!
- The church of God has a specific localized expression. It is neither general nor generic. It is a local group of identifiable believers in a congregation in Corinth.
- THERE were also local churches throughout the province of Achaia who would benefit from this letter…local churches.
- ARE you a part of one?
- THAT is our identity as the church OF God….with all the saints throughout Seattle, Washington, the USA and the world.
- WE are God’s church!
iv. grace and peace
- THEN lastly this morning, in verse 2, Paul informs us of two of the blessings that come with being in God’s church.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:2)
- GRACE is the disposition of God towards you and me….a disposition of favor, good will and benevolence….where His only motivation is to express the bounty of His riches.
- PEACE in this context is the tranquility and personal sense of well being that comes from being reconciled to God.
- TWO amazing, life-changing qualities of life that come alone from God and are administered by Him in the context of His church alone.
- NOTICE that it is both the Father and Jesus the Son who are involved here dispensing grace and peace in the church.
- SAINTS, these first two verses of 2 Corinthians are not about Paul, even though that is where he starts the letter.
- THEY are not about Timothy, even though he pastored their church for some time and was helping Paul write the letter.
- THE key to these two verses lies in the five words in the second half of verse 1….to the church of God!
- THIS is more than Sunday attendance.
- IT is much more than financial support of the ministries of the church.
- IT is more than the sum of the ministries of this church.
- IT is about why Jesus came, died and rose again.
- IT is about the place God distributes His gifts.
- IT is about the place where God intends you and me to be in fellowship, in community.
- IT belongs to Him and gets its identity from Him.
- IT is where grace and peace are administered.
- IT is the local church!
- ARE you in, connected, and receiving grace and peace?
- IF not, as the storm gathers around us in the world, it is your ark of safety. You better get connected today!