Summary: What is the church supposed to be like, why do we exist. This message looks at 5 characteristics of the Church
Twenty years ago I read a statement in the “preacher’s magazine.” And it said, “The church is like Noah’s ark, if it wasn’t for the judgement on the outside, you’d never be able to stand the smell on the inside.” I chuckled, I wrote it down, I filed it, but later I went back and read it and got angry. If that’s the church I thought, if the only reason we stay in it is to avoid the judgement on the outside, then not only are we cowards but we are hypocritical cowards. And while some may feel that we need to accept the smell on the inside, I don’t.
At the time you may recall it seemed like evangelical Christianity was a target in the media every other day, the church has been called to be many things, and to do many things, but it was never, never, never called to be a failure.
Christ told peter, “you are the very first to acknowledge me as Christ, and so you are the very first person in the church, and the church will be built upon my name and it will stand forever.” And friends listen up, when the church becomes corrupt, and when the church becomes a failure, and when the church begins to stink, you can be assured that what you’re smelling rot, isn’t what Christ established. Instead it is just another human institution that has gone bad, and that needs to be purged.
This morning we are going to look at five critical characteristics about the church.
Matthew 16:18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 1) The Church Is A Divinely Appointed Institution.
The church was not established by man, not by Peter, or Constantine, or Augustine, or Luther, or Calvin, or Wesley, or Guptill. The church has been established by Jesus Christ. The church is a divine institution. The problem is that all too often we get the church confused with the church. We get mixed up. A building may be a church building but it is never the church, I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked by well meaning people, “How do you feel now that you have a church?” and my response is “We’ve had a church since 1995 now we have some place to put it.”
You folks are the church, but not all of you and you’re not all of the church.
Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, Full Gospel Church, Emmanuel Baptist church, The Rock Church, Stoneridge Fellowship are all man made, human inspired institutions. And God uses them, and works though them. But the church, the body of Christ is instituted, ordained, and approved by Jesus Christ. Paul refers to Christ as the head of the church and later talks about the church being the body of Christ, in the Revelation John refers to the church as the bride of Christ. And the New Testament reiterates time and time again that the church belongs to Jesus Christ.
God has used men through the years in guiding the direction of his church but don’t be deceived, it is still God’s church. When the Roman Catholic Church stopped serving God’s purpose he rose up the reformers and men like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli saw his church go on. When the Anglican church of the 1700’s became cold, detached and uncaring men like Wesley and Whitefield were used to see God’s work continue. When the Methodist church in the states chose to bask in their new found respectability rather then defending the abolitionist movement of the early and mid 1800’s Oange Scott was willing to be used. And out of the willingness came the Wesleyan church. And friends if we ever get to the point where we are more concerned about us, and more concerned with how people see us and view us, and respect us then we are with doing the job God set before us then God will call men and women out of the Wesleyan church to get on with the job.
Acts 2:41-42 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 2) The Church Exists To Strengthen Believers.
The primary purpose of the early church was not evangelism, you did not bring your friends to a church meeting to get them saved, within the context of the church it is doubtful that you would ever hear an evangelistic message and very, very doubtful that an altar call would ever have been given, let alone done to forty seven verses of just as I am.