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Sunday, June 8, 2014                    Basics Index

BACK TO BASICS 2014
The Church -2
Identifying the ONE True Church – 1

 Last week we began discussing the One True Church.  We identified what the church is and noted its use in scripture.  In essence we pointed out that the term is used in 2 senses – universal – describing the relationship of the saved with God and Jesus; and local – a group of saved saints who join together in a given location to do the work God has prescribed for such bodies.  WE also noted that the church is described in a number of terms that help us understand her and our relationship to Christ (and in some cases one another) – the word church meaning “to call out” and has reference to the gathering of God’s saved people; body – which describes how we are governed by our Head – Christ; Bride of Christ which describes our subjection to Him and our need for fidelity; Household which describes a family relationship with Him; Kingdom with Him as our LORD and we are subject to Him; and finally a temple with each of us being priests and Christ as our High Priest.  We are to offer living sacrifices (ourselves) and worship Him properly.

Beginning today, we will seek to identify the church according to scripture.  In our lesson today we want to discuss the universal church in a little more detail.  What we are going to discuss is when the church began and some of the qualities associated with this.

In our next lesson (2 weeks) we will identify some of the qualities of the Local church (congregation).  Following that we will deal in more detail with some aspects of the true church and note some errors being taught among brethren concerning her organization and work.   Together these lessons will help us as we strive to find a church that truly does belong to Christ.

 I.                    The church in prophecy

a.        Ephesians 3:10-11 – it was according to the manifold wisdom of God.  This passage tells us that the church was in God’s plans from the beginning (according to His eternal purpose.)
God knew what the church was going to be (which is why we should think carefully before we seek to make changes to His pattern).

b.       Foretold in the Old Testament – He knew WHEN it was going to be brought into existence.

                                                   i.      Isaiah 2:2-3, (Micah 4:1-3) – About 725-700 BC, Isaiah prophesied.  in this text it is noted that “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established”
It will occur “in the latter days”
The law will go forth from Zion, Jerusalem.
All nations will flow to it – that which was established on Pentecost involved people from all over the nations (and would eventually go to the Gentiles as well.

                                                  ii.      Daniel 2:44 – spoken by Daniel around 600 BC to Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel interpreted his dream (even told him what the dream was) and spoke of 4 kingdoms.  He noted in the days of the 4th kingdom (Rome) “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
 (NOTE: For the purpose of this study, it is assumed that we understand that the church & kingdom are one and the same.) 

c.        Foretold by John the Baptist – Matthew 3:1-2 – John prepared the way for Jesus.  He preached, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”

d.       Foretold by Jesus – Matthew 4:17, Jesus taught the same thing as John, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 16:18, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Also, He set a time frame was set – Mark 9:1, “And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”

 

 II.                    Began on the day of Pentecost

a.        Acts 2 records the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the Passover when Jesus was crucified and 7 weeks after the day He arose from the dead.   Jews were gathered from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). 
The Holy Spirit fell on the apostles at that time and they began to speak in tongues which led to their teaching the crowds.  They declared Jesus as their Lord. 
Furthermore, Peter quoted from - Joel 2:28-32 and noted that what happened that day was prophesied by Joel (Acts 2:16-21).    NOTE that He starts this prophecy by saying, “It shall come to past in the last days”

b.       NOTE: Acts 11:15 where Peter is defending his going to Cornelius (a Gentile) and speaks of the Holy Spirit falling upon Cornelius and he says it happened, “As upon us at the beginning.”  Peter identifies the day of Pentecost as “the beginning.”

c.        As we have seen in this study, prior to Pentecost, including during the life of Jesus – reference to both the kingdom and church we future, though near future.
FOLLOWING Pentecost, both the church and kingdom are spoken of as in existence. (Acts 2:47 – KJV, NKJV; Ephesians 1:22-23, 1 Cor. 1:2, Kingdom - Col. 1:13;  4:11, Revelation 1:9,  etc.)

 

 III.                Qualities of the universal church

a.        It is composed of all who are saved – it is a relationship!  This is something we have emphasized throughout these lessons on the church.  In Acts 2:47 we read, “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (NKJV)  
The word “church” is not found in some ancient MSS which prompts the NASU to read, ““praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (NASB95)  
1) Clearly the text IS dealing with being added to the church!
2) For the sake of our point, notice who was added – the SAVED!  If you are saved, you are in the church universal.

Heb. 12:22-23 also says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,

b.       Christ is its head – Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18.  There is no other. 
Many earthly denominational bodies have church heads over all the church – the pope, president (Momons), Watchtower Society (JWs – a committee), Presiding Bishop (Episcopalian), Moderator (Presbyterian – presiding over a general assembly), etc.
You will not read of any of these terms in scripture.  IN fact, even in a local congregation there is NEVER one person who presides over the work.  More on this in our next lesson.

c.        He is the Savior of this body – Ephesians 5:23 - “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Again, let us emphasize this is a spiritual relationship.

d.       We are added to her by the Lord – Acts 2:41, 47.    We have briefly discussed Acts 2:47 already.   The KJV & NKJV mention the Lord added to the church.  In footnotes of the NA27 (used for the NASV95, it is acknowledged that the rendering of the KJV is “an equivalent phrase” [1])
Membership is determined by Him!  Hebrews 12:23 says that we are “registered in heaven”

e.       There is only ONE church – Ephesians 4:4 speaks of there being ONE body.  Ephesians 1:22-23 again emphasizes this as well.
When we are referred to as parts of the body, it is always individual Christians (not congregations).   This is the emphasis of 1 Corinthians 12:12-23, Ephesians 4:16, Romans 12:4-5, etc.  NOTE: This is also true of local congregations as we will see in our next lesson.

f.         There is no EARTHLY organization – last week, I said the universal church has no organization.
Let me clarify what I meant by that.   In reality, there is organization – we have seen Christ is its head.  WE answer to Him.
We read in Ephesians 2:19–22, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

In this text we find the apostles and prophets are the foundation (built upon Christ) and so we can see organization.   1 Peter 2:15 describes each of us as Christians as “living stones” worshipping and serving God.
BUT, on earth it has no organization.  There is nothing in scripture larger than a local congregation.  No regional headquarters or universal HQ.  Any attempt to create organization within the church that is larger than a local congregation is an attempt to activate some aspect of the universal church on earth.  We have NO authority for that in scripture.  We will deal more with this as we discuss the organization of the local church. 

g.        It cannot be divided – there is complete unity with it.  Either you are in it or you are not.  And whether or not you are part of the church is dependent upon His standards. 
We see so much religious division today – denominational division is based upon teaching different doctrines and different organizational structures. 
Ecumenicalism teaches unity in diversity which means we simply ignore our differences and work together any ways.  The problem with this is that it cheapens God’s word in so many ways.   IT is NOT true unity!
Division among brethren in a local congregation – while it can exist, it is wrong (1 Cor. 1:10, John 17:20-21, etc.).  We are clearly called upon to strive for unity, but NEVER at the cost of truth!  Whenever there is division in a congregation – someone is not following God’s pattern.  Sadly, we see divisions in congregation and among professed believers in Christ.  BUT, there is NO division in the church universal! 

h.       Death does not change one’s membership.  Revelation 14:13 says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.   “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” 
IF we are added to the Lord’s church by being saved and we remain faithful (Rev. 2:10, Heb. 10:38-39, etc.) when we die we will be secured in the Lord’s universal church.    In other words, we will still be counted among the saved.
You might say that the church universal consists of all who are saved since its beginning – both dead and alive.  Again, we are reminded that we are registered in heaven (Heb. 12:22-23).

 

Friends, do you want to be a part of the church we have discussed in this lesson?  If so, we invite you today, just as Peter did the day the church began to “be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40).    Why not obey the gospel today?  And if you have wandered away and left Him, we exhort you to come back, while there is still time.  One you die, your status CANNOT be changed.  But until then, are you ready for that day?



[1]     Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger (edited by) NESTLE-ALAND, NOVUM TESTAMENTUM GRAECE, 27TH REVISED EDITION  © 1993