The Church's Identity Revealed
INTRODUCTION: Building a room on Devaneys garage. Need to know what this room is for, what is its purpose? We need to identify what it will be. So, to understand what it means to be the church is of utmost importance. If we are to understand Hickman Community Church and its purpose we must identify the church according to God’s divine purpose.
There is a crisis of identity when it comes to the Church – What is it?
For many, the church is a building with stain-glassed windows and a steeple, which sits as an imposing structure of greatness, on a main street in the centre of town. For others, the church is something you go to one day a week to fulfill your religious duty. For others it is a place where you go for confession and cleansing at the hand of a priest or minister of religion. It is the place where babies are christened, men and women get married and the dead are buried. For others, the church is a mysterious thing, a mystical and religious entity that we should never try to understand.
We won’t find any of these definitions in the Bible.
Paul says the church was a mystery revealed: Colossians 1:25-27"Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." So the church consists of those whom Christ dwells in – both Jews and Greeks.
The word church is used some 114 times in the NT and is always a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. Ekklesia is a compound word of ek, “out” and kaleo, “to call or summon,” which together mean “called out.” This is a good start to defining the church.
Walk with me through some Scriptures that speak of the called:
Romans 1:6-7 "among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 1:6-7)
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)
"and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." (Romans 8:30)
"even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles." (Romans 9:24)
1 Corinthians 1:2,26 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: …
1 Corinthians 1:9"God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."
26…for consider your calling brethren….
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;" (Galatians 1:6)
"But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased" (Galatians 1:15)
"This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you." (Galatians 5:8)
"It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 2:14)
"For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9:15)
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;" (1 Peter 2:9)
"not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:9)
So then as we consider how to identify the church from these verses alone we can see that the Church is people “the called” We are the Church. Our very destiny is to be found in this community called the church.
We need to know who we are! We need to see ourselves as God sees us not as we perceive we are. It was the perceived reality and grandeur of the church that caused Paul to burst forth in praise to God – Paul understood what a glorious entity the church was and so was willing to endure prison and hardship for her sake . How vital is the church in your life? What vision of the church do you see? What value does the church have to you?
Turn to Ephesians 1:3-5 -READ
Title: Church in the city of Ephesus, capital of the Roman province of Asia (Asia Minor, modern Turkey).
Author and Date: Apostle Paul (1:1; 3:1). The letter was written from prison in Rome (Acts 28:16–31) sometime between a.d. 60–62 and is, therefore, often referred to as a prison epistle (along with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon).
Background and Setting: Ephesus Located at the mouth of the Cayster River, on the east side of the Aegean Sea.
Best known for its magnificent temple of Artemis, or Diana, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. It was also an important political, educational, and commercial center.
The fledgling church begun by Priscilla and Aquila was later firmly established by Paul on his third missionary journey (Acts 19) and was pastored by him for some 3 years. After Paul left, Timothy pastored the congregation for perhaps a year and a half, primarily to counter the false teaching of a few influential men (such as Hymenaeus and Alexander), Thirty years or so later, Christ gave to the Apostle John a letter for this church indicating its people had left their first love for Him (Rev. 2:1–7).
Join me in Ephesian 1:3-5 where we will consider the God given identity of the Church. We are going to see four (of eight) distinguishing marks of the church which define who and what we are to be.
Proposition: You are going to see “Three Distinguishing Marks” of the church which define who and what you are to be.
The first distinctive mark of the church is that we are:
I. You are the Called to Blessing v. 3
IN this verse we see six aspects of blessing as Paul considers the awesome reality of the Church
a. The blessed One: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – Blessed – eulogeo = a message of praise and commendation – declaration of goodness
b. The blesser: God – every spiritual blessing (James 1:17)
c. The ones blessed: believers
d. The extent of the blessing – Ever – total, complete, of a spiritual source
e. The location of the blessing: heavenly places
f. The agent of the blessing: Christ Jesus
So you are truly the blessed – Your calling has bought you into the immeasurable blessings of God grace.
The second distinctive mark of the church is that we are:
II. You are the Called before Time: Chosen by God before time began. The elect v. 4a
The author of our choosing is God: It is not of accidental existence, nor of the will of man, but it is sovereignly planned and predetermined. The church is not those who by their own will and effort have got it together, for there in would be a boast of the greatness of man. The church is those who by the will of God have been drawn together according to the kind intention of His will. We exist then, not as a human organization but as the people of God, We exist by God, through God, and for God. We are the building blocks that make up the church.
The time of our choosing is before the foundation of the world – literally “from before time began.”
The nature of our choosing is to be holy and blameless.
Ephesians 1:4b…that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love – NOTE: He did not choose us because we were holy….
Note: He did not call us because we were holy – He calls us to be holy…
Christians you have been called from the world to pursue holiness. Romans 12:2 says…do not be conformed to the pattern of the world. This literally means to be squeezed into the mould of the world. We are to be separate from the world. Instead of trying to be as much like the world as we can without slipping over the mark we should be pursuing holiness and righteousness.
1 Timothy 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:22 Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
The bottom line for me is found in 1 John 2:15 which says, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Those who claim to be the church while loving and seeking the world are only fooling themselves. God has called us to sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
Do you know this divine calling of God in your life? Are you able to identify with this truth of being divinely called before the world began?
If not you can have no confidence of being a part of God’s church.
The third distinctive mark of the church is that we are:
III. You are Called to belong to God’s Family – The Adopted v. 5
Predestined: Sat our destiny in accordance with His will – Predestined means to work out, appoint, or determine beforehand.
The Christian is one who is intimately identified with God in Christ. The prepositional phases, “in Him,” “before Him,” “to himself” and “in the beloved” all reveal this intimacy. We want to be one with Him. We are proud of our new name as the children of God (1 Thess 1:1; 1 John 1:3; John 17:22 (same glory of oneness); Romans 8:14-17; Rom 6:4-5 (same resurrection); Gal 2:20 (no longer I who live…)).
[Harrison and Abi Craig – twin boys safe because they were legally adopted].
I am His and He is mine. This is a sweet life embracing relationship. I am not just a sinner saved by grace, I am a child of God, one who has been placed in the circle of His beloved. My desire is to walk worthy of the new name I have inherited. I am no longer a child of the devil, but by adoption I am a child of my Heavenly Father.
Benefits of adoption
• Absolute unconditional acceptance Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6
1 John 3:1 “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, which we should be called children of God and WE ARE... We shall be like Him.”
•Inheritance Gal 4:7; Rom 8:16 “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
•Effective Fatherly discipline Heb 12:9.
•Future Glory Col 3:3; Rom 8:21 Hidden now, revealed latter.
Beloved your security and reality of your faith and standing before God rests ultimatey in His character and decision, not your character and decision. Paul speaks of this awesome security when he says in Rom 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ…. Nothing in all creation.
So then the church are first those who are called before time, second those who are called to belong to God’s family, and the third distinct aspect of the church is that she is called to glorify God…
The fourth distinctive mark of the church is that we are:
IV. You are Called to glorify God – The Graceful v. 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace…
The Christian life is all of His grace [Open Theism attacks this]
The church are those who proclaim the glorious grace of our Lord Jesus by word and deed. You are called to the adoration (praise) of the manifested excellence (glory), of the undeserved favor (grace of God.
We are worshippers [Like children – hard wired to be worshippers the question is not do you worship but what do you worship?] You are to be worshippers of the glory of His grace.
What is The Word of Grace: That is although He was rich yet for our sakes He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. (Phil) The world thinks the message of the cross is foolishness but for those who long to glorify God it is the power of God unto salvation. Paul could therefore say I am not ashamed of the gospel. He preached Christ and Him crucified. This is the message that is glorious to God. This is the message that the Holy Spirit came to embolden us with. Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
What are the deeds of Grace: We are called to glorify God with our bodies. How do we do this? Not by going to the Gym. We do this by keeping ourselves unstained by the world, denying the flesh and resisting the devil.
1 Peter 2:12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:11-14)
The church is distinct in that she is the called to be blessed, the called before time, called to belong to God’s family, called to glorify God …
If someone was to identify the marks of this church would they see the riches of God’s blessings flowing out from this church, would they recognize the stability of an eternal calling, could they see the deep and intimate relationship that comes from being adopted into God’s family, would the glory of God be evident to them as they listened to your conversation and watched your actions?
To know what you are to be will help you to repent of being something other than you should be.
Quote: J MacArthur: “I believe the church has been called into existence by God Himself. We are what we are because God so ordained us to be that. It is not due primarily to the genius of man, the charisma of leaders, the power of persuasive speech, the affluence of the membership, the effectiveness of our facilities, the wisdom of our committees and programs or the hard work of our members. It is ultimately the work of God. The true church has never been led by men; it has only been served by men. It has always been led by God through the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which is mediated by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word in the lives of obedient people. It is Christ’s church – He build it and leads it. He is the caller; we are the called. This fact helps to explain the churches overall success and blessing. On the other hand, the weakness and failure of the church are explained by the fact that God has chosen to work through human agencies: When we succeed it is because of Him not us. When we fail, it is because of us not Him…The main goal of the church is to let God work and build His kingdom as we obediently submit to His Word and Spirit.”