Summary: This sermon tells the story of how God planned for the church at just the right time and how the church today makes the manifold wisdom of God known to the heavenly powers.
The Mystery of the Church—Act 5
Introduction: George Brumfield tells the story.
A few months back, some of us were gathered on these front pews on my right to witness the baptism of Blake Martin. George was doing the baptizing and before Blake up for the confession, he began to tell the story. George probably didn’t think he was telling the story in six acts, but in fact, he was hitting all the highlights. With great passion and confidence he spoke of creation, our fall, God’s pursuit of Abraham and Israel in covenant, and he told how it all culminated in Jesus Christ as God’s ultimate demonstration of love for us.
There Blake sat on the front row taking in every word. The amazing thing was that George wasn’t just telling a story from long ago, he was telling the story so as to invite Blake into it and to help us see where we all fit inside the story. That is exactly what baptism is: Blake became a part of God’s story when he was baptized into Christ. Knowing where we fit into the story is essential or else we will miss it altogether.
Have you ever watched a play and wondered what it would be like to just be dropped into it without any preparation? You wouldn’t know your lines or how you were supposed to be behave. You would feel totally lost and embarrassed wondering how you ever got in such a situation. It is no different with God’s story. We know our part, our lines, our behavior only if we know where we fit into the story.
The key to understanding our place in the story comes to us in understanding the mystery of the church. If you understand the church, then you understand the story and how you can fit in. This is harder that it might sound, because today the church is fallen out of favor with the world and even with many Christians. It is the embarrassment of Jesus according to so many. If it weren’t for the church, then we could really see Jesus. So, people today claim to have Jesus, but have no use for the church. And there are people that are on the church roll and come to the church assembly who wonder, “Why do I really need the church?”
It is in Act 5 of the story of the Bible where we come face-to-face with that question. And it’s a mystery, but not the kind of mystery you are used to. It is not a mystery hidden, but one revealed. It is a mystery made available to you so that you might know exactly why you need the church and how you can fit into God’s story.
Move 1: The church was planned for and greatly anticipated by the triune God.
We have to move back to previous portions of the story to get some perspective before we read our primary text today. It starts on a dreadful day recorded in Gen. 11:1-9. This is a strange story and we wonder what God had against them building a tower. This seems like the human dream! Everyone working together in one language for a common goal. Isn’t that what many humanists aspire to see in our world today? Was God jealous of their success of the tower? Don’t be silly; God created the entire universe.
God told Noah and his descendents to be fruitful and multiply and to increase upon the earth (9:7). The people of Babel were doing exactly the opposite. They were seeking to make a “name for themselves” instead of glorifying God’s name. Yes, God wants a unified humanity, but not on humanity’s short-sighted terms, but on God’s terms. The people of Babel were in rebellion to God and a humanity united against God is not a humanity God will allow to persist. So God confused, divided, and scattered humanity, but with a plan to bring them all back together one day in his name not their own name.
As we already talked about, God set this plan in motion by choosing Abraham and his descendents, the nation of Israel, to bless all nations. But Israel was a means to an end not the end itself. Listen to what Israel’s prophet Joel had to say. Read Joel 2:28-32. Joel spoke of a day when everyone would receive his Spirit and just as important when everyone, not just Israel, who called upon the LORD would be saved.
Jesus spoke about building his church after Peter’s confession that he was Christ, but he also connected the coming of the church with the outpouring of the Spirit. Read Acts 1:4-9. Often when we talk about the story of Jesus we sum it up by his LDBR, but there is also his ascension. His ascension means that he will come again. It means that he is currently reigning with his Father. It means we have a mediator who is now interceding for us before God’s throne, but it also means that he can now send the Spirit to us. And notice what scripture Peter quotes to explain the miraculous events of Pentecost, the birthday of the church. Read. Acts. 2:17-22.