Summary: Compares the Church as a community
THE CHURCH AS A COVENANT COMMUNITY
SEPTEMBER 14, 2008
The way we look at our relationship with the Church is really important. Our understanding of the Church is so important because it determines the shape of our Christian lives. It determines the vision and passion of our ministries we offer to God. If we think the Church as just a human institution made up of individuals choosing to join an organization that is governed by its own petty rules and regulations, we will see our Christian lives as being our own private business that is totally independent of the Church. Our ministries will be personal projects to fulfill our desires and our goals. If we understand the Church to be, first and foremost, a people God has called into being, and an organization of His creation, then God’s vision for the Church becomes the determining factor of our lives and our vision.
The people of God have always known that the Church began with God. The New Testament Greek word for Church, ekklesia, means “the called out ones.” The Old Testament equivalent described Israel as the people summoned into the presence of God to hear Him and to respond obediently to Him. God commanded Moses,
“Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children”
Deuteronomy 5 describes Moses and Israel obeying this command. The formation of ancient Israel as the people of God was neither Moses’ nor Israel’s idea. It was God’s idea. God called Israel into being, and God calls the Church into being. When God called His people, He called them into a covenant community (Deuteronomy 5:2-5).
What is a covenant community? It is a group of people bound together by a promise or a vow or covenant. The covenant relationship we normally think of is the covenant relationship between a man and woman when they get married. They make a covenant to be true to each other for the rest of their lives. God calls us to make a covenant relationship like that with His Church. He wants us to make a commitment to His Church community.
I. THE COVENANT COMMUNITY IS BASED ON HISTORY.
The opening words of the covenant appear in Deuteronomy 5:6:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
The Old Testament covenant of community of Israel was based on the Exodus, which was God’s gracious act of freeing them from slavery. The people’s crying to God in their bondage, the calling of Moses, the plagues and struggle with Pharaoh, the Passover lamb, the Exodus, the passing through the Red Sea, and God’s provision through the wilderness wanderings - form the story of God redeeming Israel out of slavery.
Israelite worship would incorporate forever the retell of that marvelous story for two reasons. First, in hopes of creating for each new generation who never heard the story, a desire to commit to live in faithful covenant relationship with God. And Secondly, to remind and awaken in the older generation, a desire to commit to live in faithful covenant relationship with God, as well. We call that revival. So the covenant community is based on history.
During the Last Supper Jesus described the cup as
“the new covenant in His blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20).
The New Testament covenant community of the Church is based on the gracious act of the atoning death of Jesus and His resurrection. As Christians we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we preach the cross of Christ, and we worship on Sunday in celebration of the Resurrection as reminders of what God has done in history to make us His covenant community.
The Church of the Nazarene was called into being by God through His gracious acts in history a century ago to proclaim Scriptural Holiness. In many places around the world at that time, God was pouring out His Spirit on people and calling them to share His holy nature and His passion for a holy people. The Church of the Nazarene was formed by people who heard that call of God to holiness. Retelling the stories of how God raised us up to proclaim scriptural holiness, creates in each new generation that has never heard the story, the vision God desired to accomplish through us as a Church. Retelling the stories of how God created the Church of the Nazarene awakens anew in the older generations a desire to renew that vision and relight the passionate fires of holiness.
That is why we celebrate our Centennial. It is not to glorify the Church of the Nazarene or to boast of our achievements. We celebrate our Centennial to remember the way God entered human history and raised up our church to proclaim holiness around the world. Our remembering will stir anew in us the passion and desire to accomplish what God desired to do through the people called Nazarenes.