Church, Part 1
So we’re going to look at the basics. Eventually we’re going to move into elders and deacons and who’s qualified and how the church should be arranged and how we should behave ourselves. What is it that we mean when we say the Church? One of the things you’re going to find in scripture is that the word church doesn’t even really appear until the New Testament. It’s a whole new concept. I looked in the commentaries as I sometimes do and it’s like I only get through the first two or three paragraphs and it becomes so dry. But it went on for like three or four pages and it would tell us that the church is something that developed because somebody heralded a group of people and they came together and so you have this kind of gathering. They gave the Greek history and the Hebrew history and all those things. But 1 Corinthians 16:19 says:
1 Corinthians 16:19 – The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.
You’ll never find in Scripture the statement that says, “They met in the church building down the street.” I’m not preaching against church buildings, I would preach anywhere. I would preach in the Vatican if I were invited. It has nothing to do with a building one way or another but it is pointing us to something that we’re going to look at today. And that is that the church is really a family.
In Colossians 4:15 the same thing is almost said. It says:
Colossians 4:15 – Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
You seem to always have this correlation between a home and the meeting place of the church because the church is to be a family, first of all. When somebody says that they’re going to church, what they’re literally saying is that I’m going to go in to spend time with my family.
Let’s go to Matthew 16:13. We’re backing up and we’re getting right down to the basics again and building from there because we want our foundation to be pure, we want it to be solid. And even if we’re repeating some things it’s because we want that foundation to be exact and to be proper. In Matthew 16:13 it says:
Matthew 16:13-14 – When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
If you go out and you ask “What is a church and what does it mean to go to church?” you’d get all kinds of different answers. One person would say one thing and another person would say another thing. And usually it would come down to people would think of it in terms of a social club. We’re going to see here that the church again is a family and it was bought by the blood of Jesus. In verse 15 Jesus comes to us as He came to them and He says:
Matthew 16:15 – “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
When we invite people to church, when we explain what church is about, when we think in our own thoughts about what church is, what do we think of church? Who do you say that I am? Jesus wants to know what they are thinking and what has been revealed to them from heaven. Verse 16 says:
Matthew 16:16-17 – Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
And then Jesus goes on right into verse 18 and begins to talk about the church, one of the first introductions to even using the word church. Verse 18 says:
Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
“And I tell you that you are Peter,” that is, “Your name means rock and it means little rock.” Jesus Christ is saying, “I know that you go around and your name is Peter, that it means little rock, and you’re looked at someone who is solid, someone who is in the know, someone who is leadership, but upon this rock, upon Jesus Christ, I will build this church.”
In 1 Peter 2:4 this is exactly how Peter took this. Many times and especially the Catholic church will tell you that Jesus’ meaning that upon Peter the church will be built so the Popes are nothing more than a succession of Peters taking on their position of authority they thought Jesus Christ was giving to Peter and that’s not so. In 1 Peter 2:4 Peter points us back to Jesus Christ, he points us back to the rock that the church is built upon. It says:
1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Each of us are to be small stones that build up this church, something solid, something hard, something immovable, something that holds up the whole other structure. But Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and He is the rock, He is the mold that everyone is molded from. Verse 6:
1 Peter 2:6 – For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
We are each to be cut into His image and He is the rock from which everything is built from. He’s the cornerstone that you begin with to build out from there. So each of us are to become very solid in Jesus Christ, being molded into His image, becoming just like Him and so to create the church. The church is a family even though it might be meeting in a home or a building.
Let’s go to Acts 20:25. So often, especially in America, the church is taken for granted. It is more of a social club, it is an entertainment center. It is a place to come together in order to just kind of congregate together and for people to reaffirm what they believe about certain things or for their opinions to be affirmed of one another. But Paul says in verse 25 of Acts 20:
Acts 20:25-26 – Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
Think of all the interaction Paul had with all the different churches and all the different situations and persons that he was involved with. And he’s able to walk away from any and every situation that he can think of and he can say that he is innocent of the blood of all men. When somebody comes to church, when they say that they become a Christian, when they say that they want to belong to the family of God they should have the goal to die to be innocent of all men’s blood. To have done no harm to any man. To take advantage of no one. To have sinned against no one. To have caused no one to sin. We want to be able to die with this kind of confidence. And what we need to see is that we’ve come to a family, we join a family and we strive to keep peace and purity within that home.
Acts 20:26-7 – Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.
He was able to say that he was innocent because he left nothing out of the gospel. And so if we back up and if we examine things from their basic foundation it is so that when we go and talk about the church and when we declare the church we want to make sure that we have the whole will of God that we are declaring to people, that we’re not leaving anything out. I make myself accountable to a man so that if I preach to him a portion of the gospel I am guilty for his blood for the part that I did not present the whole will of God to that person’s life. If we strive not to present one another perfect in Jesus Christ and do that with all the grace and all the wisdom that God will provide, then God holds us accountable for the portions that we have left out. And Paul was able to die and he was able to say, “I have presented the whole will of God to everyone and every church every where I have met. I have lived that word and I have strived for that word and I’ve sought to urge men to live according to the whole will of God.” Now verse 28:
Acts 20:28 – Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
So what does he say? “Keep watch over yourselves.” It is a family in which we walk from house to house, room to room, and we are to be watching our behavior and our actions, our talk and our conversation, our heart, our motives, everything that we do we first keep watch of ourselves to see whether we are in sin or not. It is a family that we participate in. It is never a lone ranger kind of Christianity. It is never between me and the Lord and nobody else. It is first of all when I come to Jesus Christ a family situation where what I do affects somebody else or what I don’t do also affects somebody else. And so I am careful not to cause any man to sin.
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” We’re going to look at what qualifies a man to be an overseer, an elder, or a deacon. We’re going to see how God has set down to arrange the body in order that it might be protected. And we are going to be a people that are going to begin to pray and ask God to send us men worthy for those positions of authority. Now he says, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” So that when a man thinks he’s just on a committee in the church or he thinks he just holds a position of leadership or somehow he’s in eldership and he takes that position lightly or he takes it on for his own glory, he must remember and he must become very sober that he is shepherding, he is charge, he is overseeing a church that Jesus Christ bought with His blood. He laid down His life for the privilege to have a few people to be able to come into the house of God. And so what we literally defend when we defend the church is the blood of Jesus Christ. And when Satan attacks the church he’s attacking the blood of Jesus Christ. When men and their slander and men in their twisting and all the things that they do in order to cause the church to crumble in order to attack the weakest parts of the body, they’re literally attacking the blood of Jesus Christ. And we that are in positions of leadership, and I’m especially talking to men here, what we are defending here is not our beliefs. What we are defending here is not our church. What we are defending here is not our reputation or who we are, we are literally to be a people defending the blood of Jesus Christ, the whole will of God and to use our life, to lay down our life in order to defend the blood of Jesus Christ. Verse 28 again, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” He paid the greatest price He could pay. We are granted the privilege to have that kind of love for Jesus Christ that if necessary we pay with our own blood. Verse 29 says:
Acts 20:29 – I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.
I’ve said this before but I want to say it again that they knew as long as Paul was there, as long as he fellowshipped, as long as he was in a position of leadership that no man dared to rise up to attack. And I want to find other men with that same type of fortitude, the same type of courage and boldness, that as long as they are there that no one will dare rise up to cause trouble within the church. Verse 29, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you.” The wolves were kept at bay, you could hear them howling, you could hear them panting back and forth, you could see them looking for their opportunity, but as long as Paul was in the middle of that church and that congregation they were not able to get in to do their damage. And he knows that it is a fact that once he begins to leave and once he exits the situation then those wolves will move in for the kill to devour the sheep. And so you notice the rise, especially those of you who are men, to begin to be dead enough to self to defend the body of Jesus Christ. To have the wisdom and the courage and the grace to stand up and take the place when a Paul leaves.
“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” They will not come in though they might talk of mercy they will not have mercy in mind. And though they talk of grace it will not be grace that they bring. And though they talk about serving it will not be servanthood that they bring. They will come in to devour, to destroy, to eat, to consume, for their own advantage. And the only way that those wolves are kept at bay, the only way selfish men are kept out, the only way they’re kept in check is if they’re men full enough of the Holy Spirit to lay down their life for the flock. Men full enough and dead enough to self in order to have the courage and the grace of God and the wisdom of God to defend that church and to keep it holy and to keep it protected.
I know those out in the world will call it strong leadership, they will call it cultic kind of leadership. Let them call it what they may, they still cannot come in and do their damage if we have men full of grace and strength. And so in verse 30 it says:
Acts 20:30 – Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
Again, there is this cap that Paul can keep upon men that they can’t rise up to change the gospel just a little bit because they don’t like the cross or they don’t like some aspect of the cross in their life. Now they may not be sitting there thinking, “Okay, once Paul leaves I’m going to rise up to draw other people away.” But they’re waiting for their opportunity. The flesh and the sin are there waiting and instead of it being crucified, instead of them being humble and broken they’re waiting for their opportunity to rise up to draw other people away to believe what they want to believe, what they want to do. These are what the men must defend themselves against. They must preach the whole will of God. They must preach the complete truth and they must make sure they never deviate from that at all. Verse 31:
Acts 20:31 – So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
“So be on your guard!” There’s never a moment when you can just relax and take it easy. There’s never a moment when you can say everything is fine and everything will be fine tomorrow. There must be men that are always on guard. “Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” You want to talk about the same sermon message over and over again, you want to talk about the same warning over and over again, with tears night and day he’s warning these men that they must prepare themselves, that they must make themselves strong, they must understand what scripture is, they must understand what the church of God is, they must understand all the things that are in Jesus Christ and they must prepare themselves to be strong in order to defend the flock. “So be on your guard! Remembering that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” He would go to each man and he would go to each person and he would look at their life and he would talk at them and he would begin to warn them and to say to them, you must build yourself up, you must make yourself strong. Not for your own sake and not for your own blessing and not for your own comfort because if you do not other people will be destroyed and other people will be hindered and you must rise and become strong. And you must know how to handle yourself in all situations.
And Paul will write to Timothy and he will say keep your head in all situations and endure hardship as a good soldier in Jesus Christ. And so the warning begins now as we begin to pray for elders and deacons and for others in positions of leadership we must be very, very careful and full of prayer that God will raise up men that are holy and prepared for this work. Verse 32, he says:
Acts 20:32 – Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
There are men out there with all kinds of grace but it’s not His grace. There are preachers out there talking about mercy but it’s not His mercy. There are people walking around quoting scripture left and right but it’s not His words, it’s not His grace, it doesn’t come from His Holy Spirit. There are men talking about denying self but it’s not His denying of self. There are men who talk about hating their own lives but it’s not His hating His own life. “The word of his grace which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” We’re talking about a family that is purifying itself. We’re talking about a family that is learning good manners. Of what it means to sit down at the table with Jesus Christ. We’re talking about people looking at their dress and seeing if there’s a stain or a wrinkle or anything that needs to be purified. This is what the family of God is, it’s what the church of God is, it’s preparing itself to sit down with Jesus Christ to enter a home.
Think of when you go to places, it used to be of course in the past when you’d go to visit somebody we might dress appropriately. Or what should I wear? Or be on your best manners. It used to be long, long time ago that when the pastor would come to visit people’s homes they would clean everything up and they would be on their best behavior. Now there are hardly any families that can really be called families any more or respect that can be called respect any more.
Let’s go to Ephesians 3:12 because one of the problems we have with all of this is that the family is totally disintegrating. This is well told by everybody. But what has happened is it’s gone so far now that we’ve lost the idea as to what is a good family any more. And what men call good is not really good any more it’s just better than what is bad. In Ephesians 3:12 it says:
Ephesians 3:12 – In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
And so it is a family in which we are to run in freedom, we are to run in confidence, we are to be able to fellowship with Him. The church is to be a family in which you enjoy being there. And the way to get there of course is to hate your own life and to be crucified to self and to learn all the rules and to learn all the guidelines and to walk and love. And that’s how we walk within the family in God in order to enjoy the freedom and the confidence that is in Jesus Christ. Verse 13 says:
Ephesians 3:13 – I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Men, you must understand that if we are going to have a pure church, if we’re going to have a family that is holy then you will have to suffer in your body in order for that to happen. If Jesus Christ had to buy the church with His blood in order for us to have a pure church, if that’s what we say that we want, you will have to suffer, you will have to work hard, you will have to labor, you will have to be on guard, you will have to protect, you will have to pray, you will have to plead, you will have to look, you will have to examine, you have to keep your life in check. It will be the sufferings of Jesus Christ that causes the world to stay away. It will be the sufferings of Jesus Christ that keeps the church holy. It is an indulgence and love for other people but it involves suffering. “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” This is how the church is maintained, how it’s made strong. It’s not done by reading a book on how to put a church together. In order to put a church together all you need is to find men willing to suffer in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Verse 14:
Ephesians 3:14 – For this reason I kneel before the Father,
When we began to talk about the church, let’s talk about kneeling. Let’s talk about going home today and getting on our knees and saying, “God, I bow before You that You may raise up a family that is pure and holy. That You may send us men in positions of leadership that are qualified for those positions.”
Ephesians 3:15 – from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
He talks of the church as a family. Not as an organization, not as a committee, not of works, not of projects, but as a family that interacts, the family that fights, the family that gets along, the family that loves, a family that goes back and forth in terms of emotions. A family that struggles and wrestles and prays and laughs and has fun, all the things that it means to be a proper family. That’s how Paul views the church. And we see that in our own fellowship with one another. In fact, in this church you can find a group of people laughing and fellowshipping and having fun and somebody else is weeping and wailing in another room. It is a family that is active and there is emotions and life and things going on all the time. Verse 15, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. To become a Christian, to join the church means what? That I join a family. And so when somebody says to you, “Do I have to go to church be a Christian?” What a ludicrous statement that can be. You have to join a family which means to be in church all the time. What does it mean to go to heaven? And to die to be there? It means you’re in church all the time. So this is the place we should enjoy being together. This is the time in which our joy should be the greatest. Not when we can be at home finding time for ourselves. Verse 16:
Ephesians 3:16-17 – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
This doesn’t sound like a dry, cold church building, does it? This talks about being rooted in the very love of Jesus Christ. A family that comes together. And so people who don’t want to be a part of this family feel left out. They feel kind of rejected but they can participate in this family if they chose to do so. So there is this great contest that goes on within the world. You have the family of the world and you have its families there and then you have the family of God. That’s why many times when somebody comes and they start to come to the Lord and they come to the church that the family back home begins to reject that and they don’t like that too well because they’re not the high priority any more. The joy is being found somewhere else. The joy is being found in the Lord. Verse 18:
Ephesians 3:18 – may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
Well where is it that we experience the height and the depth and the width of the love of the Lord? It is within the family, it is within the church, it is together. It is as we fellowship and God works that love in different ways in each of our lives that we begin to experience a little bit more of that love and the depth of that love. It’s when we sit at home, and it’s when we’re by ourselves and it’s in our own little lives all the time that we become lonely, we become depressed, we no longer can experience the love and the grace of God. I’m not saying that we’re to be together all the time, but if we were together all the time that would be grand also. Verse 19:
Ephesians 3:19 – and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
When people think of the church they think of Bible knowledge and they think of doctrine and they think of ten easy steps to salvation or three easy steps to salvation. But the church is to be a place where you go and you lead and you listen to sermons and you study the Bible and you come together, but then there’s something that’s way beyond the knowledge and there’s something that’s way beyond the sermons and there’s something that goes deeper than all the intellectual conversation that goes on. Verse 19 again, “To know this love that surpasses knowledge.” It goes deep within the heart and it goes beyond intellectual belief and understanding.
Most people can fit the church in and out of their weekly schedule. They can choose to go on Sunday or not go on Sunday, can’t they? Because they don’t know the love that surpasses knowledge. I know men that even think they have all the knowledge and they don’t even need to go to church because they have all the wisdom there is to have in Jesus Christ. Well even if that were true it is beyond knowledge, that’s not what Jesus Christ is about. It’s not about gaining all these certificates and all these understandings. It’s about experiencing love that surpasses knowledge. It surpasses emotions and our feelings and where we are at the moment. It is a love deeper than all of our flesh. “That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” God is not book study. God is not ink on paper. It is the fullness of Him, of life. And when we meet to fellowship what it means is that when I’m fellowshipping with you I should be meeting a portion of God within you. And when you fellowship with me you should be meeting a portion of God and together we gain more and more of the fullness of Christ. And if we could die to self more, and if we could be dead to this flesh more and more what we would be bumping into with one another would be the living God within each of us and our love would grow deeper and deeper. It would be a knowledge and a love and a power that surpasses everything. Verse 20:
Ephesians 3:20 – Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
According to the grace that we allow, according to the mercy that we let flow. According to the death of self and the aliveness in the Holy Spirit God will glorify and He will answer more than we can ask or imagine. But look at what Paul points to and where does he bring it back to? Is it a private little blessing? Is it blessing just for your little life? You see most people will quote verse 20. Most churches like to claim that passage but look at verse 21:
Ephesians 3:21 – to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
It is in the manifestation of the church as we all come together that God will answer immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. It is as we walk in the light that God manifests Himself more than we can ask or imagine. It is as we come together as a body and as we fellowship as a family that the love of God is made manifest among us. But it is just precisely that that men do not want, they do not want the light. They do not want to lose their weekly light, they want to show up on a Sunday and disappear on Monday through Saturday. They want to call and check in and receive the bulletins in the mail and listen to the tapes, but they don’t want to fellowship and they don’t want to walk in the light. And then they wonder why they’re depressed and they wonder why their life isn’t what it should be.
We’re going to see here in the coming weeks that the first church met daily. The first church had all things in common and that was the beginning of their Christian walk. It was the fullness of the manifestation of the love of God in their life. Verse 21, to Him be glory in the church—not glory in your life, not answered prayer for your little life. Glory within the church and this is what must burn within our hearts that if I receive an answered prayer it’s for the church. If I receive a blessing it’s for the church. If God crucifies my flesh, if He brings me to a place of mourning it is to bring me to the resurrected life for the sake of the church that within the context of the family, within the context of all of us, that is where God has chosen to give the fullness of who He is. To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations. Nobody can say that was the culture back then. Nobody can look at the first church and say, “Well they had all things in common, it was cultural.” This is for all generations. Love doesn’t stop at the first century and then never appear again. Or it doesn’t change its form. Love is poured out and it was manifested and it was given in every way to all generations, is what God has in mind. In Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. It will never cease. You want to know whether somebody is going to heaven or not? Look at who they fellowship with and then look at how they fellowship. When I die there shouldn’t be much difference other than a tremendous amount of glory. If I have all things in common here, if I’m losing my life here, if I’m enthralled with the beauty and the fellowship that God can work when the people that are dead to self. Then I will enter heaven’s gates and I will find many a friend. And I will be filled with what? With His glory.
And that’s why Paul interjects and he stops as he writes and he goes, Amen. All of us should be jumping up and down and saying, “Amen. This is where the glory is. This is where the grace is and this is where the power is.”
Let’s go to Hebrews 3:1. Every family has a home, every family has children. Every family should have a bride. Every family should have a husband. Hebrews 3:1 says:
Hebrews 3:1 – Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
I pray today that we can get our eyes off of this world and get a hold of the home we are going to. It will cause everything in this world to be in its proper place of no significance at all. Verse 2:
Hebrews 3:2 – He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.
You see there’s this very large house of God and certain rooms are used for certain things. And we are to be a people maturing and growing in the Lord so that when we’re in this room we’re faithful. When we’re in the house of prayer we’re faithful. When we’re in the house of study we’re faithful there. When we’re in the house of fellowship, we’re in all the different rooms that are in this house we are faithful in each one of those houses. Verse 2, “He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.”
Hebrews 3:3-4 – Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
God is literally looking over the world and He’s putting together a house and He’s looking for children, He’s looking for a family, He’s looking for people that will be counted worthy to live in that house. That’s what it means to go to church. Verse 5:
Hebrews 3:5-6 – Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
We are His house. It is where He dwells and lives. It is what He is forming and putting together. We are each a stone, we are each to be in our proper place, we’re each to be put together as He wants to put us together. If we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. It’s going to take courage to be a true Christian. It’s going to take tremendous amount of fortitude to stand up to wolves. It’s going to take bending of the knees of humility before God and approaching the throne of grace and saying, “God, bring us leaders. Bring us men; raise us up men who will be holy and righteous. Make a church that is pure and clean. Search out sin that is within this body and make us clean and prepared for that house. Make us faithful in every aspect.”
You know how sad it is within a church there will be men who can be faithful in certain things but not faithful in other things. Moses and Jesus were faithful in every aspect. God could give them anything to do and they would be found faithful. All of us need to strive to aim for perfection that says, “God, whatever task You would give me to do and whatever area of the house that I am in, that I would be faithful in all areas of the house.” No secret closets, no dark corners, nothing hidden, nothing that shouldn’t be there but everything is clean. Let us be found faithful in all God’s house.
Look at 2 Timothy 2:19. Think of how you act in your own house in the secret corners where you go to pout. The secret places that you go to sin that you think nobody else sees. God is looking for men and for women who will be faithful in every area of His house where they live and they behave themselves and they find it a joy to be there.
2 Timothy 2:19 – Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
There is an inscription over the house of God and God knows those who belong to Him. It doesn’t matter how much a man runs around saying that he’s a Christian or that he belongs to Jesus Christ or that when he dies he knows he goes to heaven. It has nothing to do with man’s will or desire, it has to do with whether God says, “You belong to Me,” or not. Anyone who would come into this house must be willing to leave behind everything and anything that is wicked. Every lie, every justification, every excuse, every opinion that is contrary, everything that would cause someone to sin. Every thing that is wicked must be turned away from in order to enter into this house. And you might come in with shabby clothes and you might come in with sins but when you are in this house you are expected to go into the bathroom and take a bath and to get clean. You are to enter it to begin with what? Baptism to clean your life up and then you go to a house of study and you begin to pray, and to understand what are the rules of this house, and what are the guidelines, and what kind of Father do you have. And you begin to study who He is. And then you walk out of that room and you go into the dressing room and you put on the garments that are appropriate for what you are doing in that house. Verse 20 says in a large house, and we’re talking about a very large house.
2 Timothy 2:20 – In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.
In a large house there are all kinds of things used for all kinds of different things. Some you wouldn’t parade out for everybody to see because it’s used for an ignoble purpose. It’s of use but it’s of temporary use. We’ll see here in a moment I’ll remind you again that there are certain people within the household that are mere slaves. They live within the home and they’re used for ignoble purposes but they’re not sons. Verse 21:
2 Timothy 2:21 – If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
So often men when they fall into sin within the church will point to all the good things they do over here to try and minimize the bad things that they got caught in over here. They were not faithful in all of God’s house. It wasn’t like Moses said, “Look, I went up and I got the Ten Commandments and I did all these things for You and I was out in the desert but I committed adultery over here, please forgive me.” That is not what God is looking for. He’s not looking for men who are faithful in half of the house or three-quarters or they just have these little rooms or these little dungeons over here where they indulge themselves. He wants a people that are clean and made prepared for any good work. For anything that God might call you to, you know how to be holy and you know how to be righteous in Him. You know how to be appropriate. You are innocent of the blood of all men. I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of hearing about leadership that falls ten years down the road. I’m tired of constantly seeing in the newspaper men who cannot live holy and righteous lives long enough to glorify God in any form or fashion and they always justify themselves. The only time they come out in the light is when they get caught.
2 Timothy 2:21- If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Enter the household of God and begin to stand in that household and say, “God, what is clean? And what is unclean? What is noble? And ignoble?” Look around and examine. What is silver and gold? What is wood? What are the things that I need to be purified of? Make me holy, make me righteous. I admit that I’m not there yet, but make me fit for any good purpose. We don’t have time to read it all but in verse 22 Paul immediately jumps into what to do. He’s talking to Timothy. He says, “Timothy, this is what you are to do.”
2 Timothy 2:22 – Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
You want to be made noble? Paul is saying. You want to be made righteous? Then run from the evil desires of youth. And yet the church encourages those kinds of desires. Who are you going to marry? Who are you going to date? Who are you going to be with? What are you going to be when you grow up? How are you going to make your way in the world? God writes and says flee from all of those things and instead pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. When somebody walks through those doors to church they’re literally saying I want to be a part of this family. We need to tell them what this family is about. The joy, the grace, the love, the purity and the righteousness. If they don’t want those things then they need to find a different family.
Let’s go to Genesis 2:21 because every family has a mother or has a bride. In Genesis 2:21 God arranged things this way. He gave Adam his wife, who the perfect wife just for him. It was flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. We are cut of the same rock as Jesus Christ. We are cut in His image. We are becoming like Him. We are a perfect bride for Him for those who are cut to His image. And in Genesis 2:21 it says:
Genesis 2:21-23 – So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
We are each to be coming out of Jesus Christ as a fit bride, as someone prepared and made holy for Him because every family should have a mother. And that’s why in verse 24 we see Luke 14:26 right there. We see the beginnings of the message of the cross, the change of a man’s life completely, his loyalty totally shifts. Verse 24:
Genesis 2:24 – For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Luke 14:26 – If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.
When a man says that he wants to be a Christian and when he says he wants to go to church he is literally saying, “I’m leaving behind everything I know and I’m leaving the family of the world and I’m coming in to a different family and I’m becoming one with Jesus Christ.” And so every priority changes and everything about his life becomes different. Every motive, everything about his life becomes totally different. It says:
Genesis 2:25 -3:1 – The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Satan is still attacking the church trying to keep it from being separate, trying to keep us from entering that family, trying to make us unqualified to be in that household.
Let’s go to Ephesians 5:22. We’re going to start reading in Ephesians 5:22 and hold your finger there but go down to verse 32 which we’ll come back to. Paul says:
Ephesians 5:32 – This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
What I’m about to read to you is about us and who we are, about being the bride of Jesus Christ. In verse 22 it says:
Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
And you remember Paul says what? “I’m talking about the church, I’m talking about that unity between a husband and a wife, and what a family should be.”
Ephesians 5:23 – For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
He lays down His life and we enter into that kind of marriage. We enter into an engagement period. We say, “I want to be married to Jesus Christ. I want to be a ready bride for Him made pure.”
Ephesians 5:24-26 – Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
He’s making us pure and He’s making us ready because there’s going to be a marriage. And church is nothing more than a preparation to be married. Where do you go to usually, or used to go to in order to get married? You went to church. And you had special clothes and special arrangements and the flowers and everything was put in its proper place and the garments were white and there was supposed to be purity, it was supposed to be a time of commitment, a time of vows, a time of devotion. And so it is we are to prepare ourselves to be married. And the church is that preparation time of that getting ready and all that has to be done. Everything has to be in its place, the clothing has to be right, and the bridesmaids have to be where they need to be and we need to prepare ourselves in every way. Verse 27:
Ephesians 5:27 – and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
This is the calling of the church that when somebody comes in and says, “I want to join Sound Doctrine,” or “I want to join a church,” they are literally saying, “I want to be made spotless. I want to be made holy. I don’t want to have one blemish on me. I want you to look for those blemishes. I don’t even want a wrinkle of sin. I don’t want to have a stain. I want to be radiant and I want to shine in order to be prepared for Jesus Christ.” Now is that what most people mean when they say that they go to church and that they want to join a church? Usually you sit down on the pew and there’s a card in front and you usually check the box that says to have the pastor or somebody to call because I’d like to see about joining. And then they ask them, “Would you agree with these ten little opinions we got here?” And the person says, “Yeah, I kind of agree with those ten little opinions but I have a question on number eight.” And he clarifies and, “Okay, now you can join.” But there should be a box that says, “Look, I want to join your church and I want to be made radiant. I want every stain purified and taken away. I want you to look for a wrinkle in my life.” Most of us don’t even tolerate looking at all the gross things let alone a little wrinkle or any other blemish, so we can be made holy and be made blameless. Verse 28:
Ephesians 5:28 – In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Wives don’t really want godly husbands, they don’t want to be cleaned up that much.
Ephesians 5:29-31 – After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
Now where did we hear that before? This is a profound mystery. This relationship is beyond head knowledge. If you ask a couple that are engaged, and they’re falling in love with one another, to describe their relationship they might be able to say, “Well, we spend time together and we do these things and this is what each of us likes and dislikes,” but it goes way beyond the description of the relationship, doesn’t it? They’re giddy in love with one another. It’s beyond emotion, it’s beyond knowledge.
Ephesians 5:32-33 – This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
He was talking about Jesus Christ. He was talking about our relationship. And he uses that comparison to say this is what should be reflected in a normal marriage. When somebody walks through those doors, when somebody says they want to join the church, this is what they should mean, this is what they should be taught.
Let’s go to Revelation 19:7 because there will be nobody going to heaven that has not made themselves ready. I want to repeat that: there will be nobody going to heaven to remain there and to fellowship with the living God who has not made themselves ready. Verse 7:
Revelation 19:7 – Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Why would a man want to marry a woman who won’t make herself ready? Even in a worldly sense, if you asked someone to marry you, and she said, “Sure, why not?” And you say, “Okay, let’s get married six months from now,” and she says, “Okay, sure, that sounds good, it fits in my schedule, no problem.” And then she did nothing to make herself ready, or not excited for the event. I mean it was a sealed deal. You both had agreed upon it, but she did nothing to prepare herself. She was not excited about it, she was just a little bit motivated about it, “It ought to be a good life, he’ll provide for me, there’ll be some money, he’s got a home and a nice car, he dresses pretty nice, yeah, he’s a pretty good guy. Of all the guys I could choose he’s probably the best I can get.” What man in his right mind would marry a woman like that? Jesus Christ wants men and women who are willing to love Him with a first love. Verse 8:
Revelation 19:8 – Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
“Bright and clean.” Those who go to a restaurant and those who share the gospel with the waiter. Those who are doing something, the fruits that testify. How many men I know that claim to be Christians, yet I look at the fruit of their lives; they claim to even be special things in Jesus Christ and the fruit of their lives declare an absolute lie. They don’t belong to Him. Verse 9:
Revelation 19:9 – Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
There is not playing a game with this; these are indeed the true words of God. This is what it means to belong to church. This is what it means to enter through these doors. I do not want a dry discussion of elders and deacons and preachers and apostles and pastors and all the break down. I want to talk about keeping the body clean and pure and holy that comes from a first love.
Look at Luke 20:34 because a good family has? Children. Even among a couple that cannot have children they can reach out to orphans and they can reach out and love others. In Luke 20:34 Jesus Christ is talking about the future that is to come. About the bride and the marriage and the family that we will be in. And He says in verse 34:
Luke 20:34 – Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.”
And look at what He says in verse 35:
Luke 20:35-36 – But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.
Those who are considered worthy—meaning there has to be a host that are unworthy. We’ll put all this together in the coming weeks. The church as a whole is a bride and there is a home called the New Jerusalem. And we’re all children that fill this house. And the question is will we be counted worthy to be children fit to go in and live within this house? That’s why to live in His household it is a privilege, it is not a right. It is not something you are entitled to and only God can give the right. It is a privilege, it is an honor, or at least it should be.
In John 1:9, the Father is the one that gives the right whether you get to go in that home or not. It’s not a decision of the mother, it’s not a decision of the children. The children can take a vote and they could all come in and say, “Dad, we all voted, we’re going to live here until we’re forty-five and there’s nothing you can do about it.” It’s not their decision. In John 1:9 it says:
John 1:9-11 – The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive Him.
Verse 12, and this is a beautiful passage:
John 1:12 – Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
When somebody comes in through those doors and somebody says they want Jesus Christ and they want the cross they are given the right to become children of God, to live in that household, to be within that home that is coming down from glory. Yet to all who received Him, not as they want Him to be but as He is. When anybody comes through this door and they say they want to be a Christian, they want to join the church we say, “This is who Jesus Christ is, take it or leave it. He will not change to suit your needs. If you want a Jesus Christ that will fit your needs go somewhere else. Because this is who He is and He will not alter and He will not change and He will not be any different.”
In the few times that my family has gotten mad at me about certain things that I knew that I was right on and they wanted me to change and go a certain direction I would say finally when all the arguments were over with and all the debate was over I explained till I was blue in the face. I could see there was going to be no further understanding on this issue I would say, “That’s the way it is. You don’t have a choice. I am not going to change or alter or do anything in one iota in any other different direction than I am right now at this moment and you just have to accept it. With joy. For there is the door.” Verse 12:
John 1:12-13 – Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
This is what church means. A group of people coming together of God’s will and God’s power and by the power of the Spirit.
I want to remind you, that not everybody living in the house right now is a child of God, though they might think they are. There’s a whole sermon on this but I want to remind you of it today, John 8:31. There are things of wood in the house that are used for ignoble purposes that God puts there for use but they will not have a permanent place. There are within the church right now men and women who are just mere slaves, who are doing errands of God and who hear the voice of the Lord and are doing the will of God and when they look at their life they can say, “I’m doing the will of God,” and we would have to agree that they are. The only thing they don’t realize is, is that they’re not children, they’re slaves.
John 8:31 – To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”
We’re talking to believers here. You might as well say to the Baptists who believed Him, to the charismatics who believed Him, to the Methodist Church that believed Him. He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”
John 8:32 – Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
And of course they protested that they’re religious, they’re righteous, that they know the living God, that the living God standing right there in front of them doesn’t know what He’s talking about.
John 8:33-34 – They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
You see to enter into this household means sin must disappear. You must turn from wickedness. You must die to self. It is a requirement of all requirements. And if you’re in this household and you’re enjoying the food and the fellowship and the different rooms, if you’re helping make some beds, if you’re doing some work but you are not being delivered from sin and you’re not overcoming sins and you’re not becoming purified and you’re playing at it, you might be in the household for this moment and at this time but soon you will be kicked out because you will not have a permanent place. Jesus says in verse 35:
John 8:35 – Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.
Well, how do you know if you’re a slave or a son? The next verse tells us.
John 8:36 – So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Is He setting you free from sins? Are you feeling and participating in that freedom? I don’t mean freedom from the sense of I’m forgiven and I can continue in this sin. That’s not what He says. Are there sins in your life that you are literally overcoming? If you have pride in your life is He setting you free from that pride? If you have lies and shadows and twistings of truth is He setting you free by giving you the truth? If you struggle with lust or debauchery or whatever it might be, is He setting you free indeed from those things? That’s how you know whether you’re a son or a slave because if you continue on in the sins, if the wrinkle is still there and the stain is still there and the blemishes are still there you’re not being set free. You will not be married, you will not live in that household, even though you might enjoy some of the pleasures at the moment.
Let’s go to John 11:49. The church might as well put a sign or a banner out front that says, “All who are the children of God can come in here.” It is a calling and remember that’s what the word means. A herald goes out and the herald declares if you want purity, if you want righteousness, if you want truth, if you want to be free, indeed, from your sins, this is where you enter in to find that.
John 11:49 – Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!”
Caiaphas spoke up in his wisdom, his wisdom was, you know, nothing at all. That’s how he begins.
John 11:50-51 – “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,
Now look at verse 52:
John 11:52 – and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.
There are children of God everywhere and that’s what missionary work is about and that’s what preaching the gospel is about, is trying to find someone who is a child of God. It is fishing for men that belong to the living God. And not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and to make them one. It is to find the children of God. It is to bring them together into a household called the church. It is to do what? It is to make them one, to make them perfect in thought and heart and in mind. That’s what evangelism is about. And of course verse 53 says how the Pharisees and the leaders responded. It says:
John 11:53 – So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
How sad it is that when Jesus Christ wants to bring people together, when He wants to bring life there, men plot to destroy and to scheme and to kill because why? They want their own safe, secure position.
And finally, let’s end with 1 Peter 1:14. The church will be a place certainly of learning, that’s part of it. What is a family? When a father and mother raise children and teaches them, “This is proper and this is not proper and these are things to avoid or these are the proper places. This is when you can do this and when you cannot do this.” It’s full of all kinds of wisdom and activity and love and life, or at least it’s supposed to be. In 1 Peter 1:14 it really tells us what the church is about. In one sentence it declares to us what every church should be about.
1 Peter 1:14 – As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
Everyone before they enter the church, and I mean everyone before they enter the church, is ignorant. They think they’re in sin and they have some concept of the sins in their life but they don’t have a clue about the sins in their life. And when they come into the household of God and when God begins to put together this family, the ignorance begins to die out and so He demands from His children obedience—not rules and regulations, He’s not a taskmaster. This is entering a very joyful family. You know how it is once you’ve trained a child to do certain things then they enjoy being free from rules and regulations.
I think of potty training, of how often when you try to get a child to give up being in diapers they’ll fight and they’ll kick and they’ll scream and then once they’re free from that they don’t want to go back to it. In the same way, once we’ve learned what He wants, once we’re dead enough to self, once the flesh is put to death, we’re free, then let us be obedient children. This is what church is supposed to be.
Let’s go ahead and pray.
Father, continue to give us Your heart and Your home and make us worthy, make us holy and righteous in You, O Lord. Father, show us who the children of God are. Bring together those, Father, whom You have chosen. And we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.