Summary: Part 2 of a series Evidence from the early church that Christ intends His Church to grow: deep, together and larger.
Trinity Baptist Church October 20, 2002
How Christ builds the Church
Designed to Develop
The US has earned a reputation: the land of lawsuits. Only in America would someone spill hot coffee on herself in the car and decide that someone else is responsible. Only in America would someone sue the owners of the World Trade Center because airplanes flew into them and a relative was killed.
One of the craziest suits ever had to be one by two guys against Sears. Seems they decided to together lift up a running lawn mower and use it to trim a hedge. After they cut off a finger or two, they sued Sears because the instruction manual failed to warn: "Do not use mower as a hedge trimmer!!" Probably to protect themselves, manufacturers of power equipment should just put on something in bold letters that says, "do not buy if stupid!" Some of us are so bad about reading manuals that we even have a saying about it: If all else fails, read the instructions.
When it comes to what we call "doing church" we too often fail to read the directions. We mostly just plot and plan the form and function of the church to suit our needs or desires or tradition. Church becomes whatever will meet the need we identify and it’s often determined by the pastor or the other leaders or the charter members or simply the majority.
If that’s our practice at Trinity, we’re ignoring the intended design of the church?s founder -- Jesus Himself -- Who declared in Matthew, "I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." Did Jesus mean what He said--that HE literally would build His Church? Of course He did. As we saw last time, it really is His Church; by commission and by plan.
So, if we’re biblical, we conclude that the Church isn’t a cozy club or comfortable place we can re-invent or re-define for our generation, the Church is a building work of the Son of God, to which He invites us to participate. And if we’re serious about His work of building the Church in our time and place, then we need to closely and regularly examine and re-examine the NT concept of Church, and how Christ builds it. And, we need to realign with His concept.
Let’s begin by thinking about how the Church is defined. In any study you do, how you define terms is always crucial. How does the NT define Church? There are two key ones: they give us real insight into Christ’s vision for His new community. The first one I’ve given you on your outline is the called out people: the Greek word is ekklesia
When the NT refers to Christ’s Body as the called out people, it refers to the fact that part of Christ’s mission on planet earth was assemble a great and distinct community of worshippers ho would be God’s for all of eternity. There is an eternal calling on your life if you’re part of that company.
It means Jesus staked a claim on our lives -- He transferred us from one loyalty to another. We’re called away from allegiance to the world and all the lifestyle choices that that loyalty entails, and we’re called to allegiance to Jesus and His Kingdom. Jesus calls us to buy into His Kingdom agenda as the mission and priority and purpose of life. The Church becomes the visible expression of Christ’s invisible Kingdom, in which Christians become citizens. On thing is clear, when you read about the church especially in the book of Acts: even though the church was just born, it immediately possessed a distinct identity as Christ’s people. People who were part of the movement knew it, and people who weren’t recognized that there was a clear distinct line between the Christians and the rest of the population. Even though many Jews were religious and both Christians and non-Christians still went to the temple and participated in the temple worship (Acts 3:1), there was a crystal clear difference. One key element was that those who believed in Christ were baptized, marking themselves out. Baptism became a testimony that it was keeping the law or good works, but it was faith in Jesus alone as Messiah that gave them a relationship to God.
Called out also means we were called together. When we come to know Jesus Christ, we can’t operate any longer as independent agents. That’s why the second NT definition is used so much. It’s the community of God’s people The Greek word here is koinonia. Community describes the deeply committed relationships of caring and loving each other; it also pictures the commitment Christians need to spur each other on toward spiritual maturity. We’ll see in our passage today the kind of striking and deep commitment to one another that’s was evident in the first church.