Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 12:13
Dr. S. Lewis Johnson provides commentary on "the mystery" Paul refers to concerning the acceptance of the Gentiles into the promises given to Israel.
[Prayer] Father we thank again turn to Thee and ask Thy blessing upon the ministry of the word of God. We thank Thee for the promises of the word and we thank Thee for the assurance that Thou dost hear our prayers and answer them in accordance with Thy will. We thank Thee, Lord, for the great plan and purpose of the ages that Scriptures unfold for us. Enable us to understand and profit from the things that Thou hast written and may, Lord, our lives be brought into conformity with the purpose of God and particularly with the purpose that Thou has for each one of us individually. Give us, Lord, a devotion to Thee and a devotion to Thy word that issues in the kind of thoughts and the kind of divine life that will be pleasing to Thee. We ask Thy blessing upon us this evening now.
In Jesus’ name. Amen
[Message] Well this is the ninth of our series of studies in the Purpose of God in History and Prophecy. And we have moved all of the way so far from the creation down to the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and tonight we want to look at the subject of the church of Jesus Christ.
Now when we think about the church frequently people who are talking about the church use the term ecclesiology. The Greek term for church is ekklesia and ecclesiology is ekklesia plus “logos” which means discourse, words simply, but discourse in something like this. So ecclesiology is discourse or word concerning the church, the doctrine of the church, very simply. Now we have been talking about soteriology, soteria in Greek is the term for salvation and so soteriology is the doctrine of salvation. And last time we talked about Pneumatology for the word pnelma as classical Greek students pronounced it. New Testament Greek students frequently just pneuma you know it from the term “pneumatic” has to do with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. So we have talked about the doctrine of salvation. We have talked about the doctrine of the Spirit, and now tonight we are going to concentrate on the doctrine of the church.
Those other doctrines, of course, are important obviously our salvation is important, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is important because as we pointed out in one section of our study this is preeminently the age of the Holy Spirit. But ecclesiology is also extremely important. Think about these things. The primary purpose in this age so our Lord Jesus suggests from Matthew chapter 16 in verse 18, is the building of this church. Matthew, chapter 16:18 was one of the text that I suggested you look at before this study but let me read it. Our Lord says, “And I also say to you, you are Peter and on this rock” that is the rock of the confession, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ “upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So one would have to so if not the primary purpose, one of the primary purposes of this age is the building of the church of Jesus Christ.
There are many other passages we could look at Acts chapter 15 in verse 14, and James there talks about the Holy Spirit visiting us to call out a people for his name. The term church is a combination ek plus kaleo. Kaleo means to call; ek, out like exit which you know. So a called out body is the church. So to call out a people for his name suggests the work of the Holy Spirit in calling out the church. We have a number of other passages we could look at, I’m not going to take the time to do it. But if that were the only thing that Christ is building His church in this age that would say that ecclesiology is important. But not only that, the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ is specifically stated by the New Testament apostles to have been directed toward the church.
For example, the Apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 5 in verse 25, says that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” And then if you’ll remember the Apostle Paul speaking about the church in Colossians chapter 1, verse 24 talks about how important the church is because he describes what he has suffered on account of the church. In Colossians 1:24 we read these words “I know rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body which is the church.” So the apostle suffered the agony and the trials that are set forth in passages like 2 Corinthians chapter 12 or 11, and those things were devoted to the church he said which will give you some idea how important the church was to the Apostle Paul because he regarded this, as we have suggested, as one of the chief purposes if not the chief purpose of the present ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, when we look at the Bible as a whole, just to put this in perspective, the biblical revelation deals with the state by nature and the recovery by divine grace of individual men. We have over and over again as we read the Bible noted how the Bible points out that we are sinners. That is one of the chief messages of the Bible. But also one of the chief messages of the Bible is what God has done for us individually through divine grace, that is, through Christ’s saving ministry, and the Holy Spirit’s application of what he has done to believers.
Now, if you will think for a moment about the New Testament as a whole and particularly the epistles, you’ll recognize that the Bible its revelation not only deals with the state by nature and the recovery by divine grace of individual men, but also as individual men are fashioned into a spiritual society. So in other words the things of the New Testament have to do not simply with me or you individually but they have to do with us as members of the body of Christ. So I’m sure you can see from this that obviously the church is important in that respect too.
What does the Bible call the church? Perhaps I don’t know whether more frequently but at least certainly one of the greatest things that are said with reference to the church is that it’s the body of Christ. That’s a very thoughtful metaphor that the apostles and others use, the body of Christ. So the church is the body of Christ and we know from the Scriptures that the body of Christ is endowed with certain gifts, spiritual gifts we call them — graces, the kinds of bestowments by the Lord God that enable us to live in a way that will be pleasing to him. And then also certain powers are bestowed upon the church of Jesus Christ because the Lord God indwells the church as a body, and so the church is a powerful body if we are talking about a body of people composed of believing people.
So the body of Christ that is very important from the standpoint of the Bible. But think about this. The church is also called not simply the body of Christ; we referred to one passage so I am not going to turn to another for the sake of time, but also the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. And I am going to turn to a passage now 1 Corinthians chapter 3 and read this passage and perhaps one more in order to lay a little bit of stress upon that, that the church is not only the body of Christ but the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 3, verse 16, the apostle writes “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you.” Incidentally those pronouns are plural. And so the apostle probably has in mind the church as a body of believing people, he dwells within them. “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him for the temple of God is holy” which temple, you, plural are.
Now if you turn to Ephesians, chapter 2 in verse 18, we read something of the same thing in verse 18 of chapter 2, the apostle writes to the Ephesians “For through him we both” that is both Jews and Gentiles, “have access by one spirit to the Father.” And then in verse 22, “in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the spirit.” So the Holy Spirit indwelling the body of believers, the church, is effectively that indwelling of the Lord God within the body of Christ. It’s not really an incidental thing; it’s not really a small thing when we talk about a church of Jesus Christ. When a body of believers are brought into the relationship that means that they are a local church. That’s extremely significant from the standpoint of heaven. This is the dwelling place of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So when we think of Believers Chapel we don’t think about just a building where people come and listen to some lecture, we are talking about a body of people who profess that they have believed in Jesus Christ who are united to the Godhead and united to one another. And not only that, but in our meetings we have the assurance of the presence of the Father, the Son through the Sprit. Magnificent to think about, no wonder that God is extremely interested in the local church. And when the Lord Jesus said, “I will build my church,” that meant significant things for Him it should mean significant things for us.
Now I am going to turn to a few passages tonight so I would like for you to turn with me to 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9 and verse 10, and I want to say a few things now about the nature of the church. I want to read these verses, 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9 and 10. Peter writes, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light who once were not a people but are now a people of God who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” It’s interesting that the church is called the people of God or perhaps we could put it another way around, the people of God of whom Peter writes are the church.
Now the church has a name. We probably know it in different ways. Someone of you have been to Germany and you know that when you get over there the church is “die Kirche. You know when you go to Scotland the church is “kirk,” the “kirk” and some of you may be going to Sweden you man have seen a church on the corner and noticed the word kyrk and for those of you who have been to Russia you know that the term in Russia cerkov. All of these are related and you can see the relationship if you just pronounced those names and then church itself is somewhat related to it. The name “church” is derived from kuriakos that’s an adjective really and it means “belonging to the Lord.” The church, the name ekkleasia means the called out assembly. We speak of Believers Chapel as an assembly when we speak of Believers Chapel as an assembly we are speaking of Believers Chapel in terms very close to the sense of the New Testament. The church is a called out body. Ekklesia was of course a common term. It was used of the assembly of citizens who were called out for business. It was not used of the council that was the boulet; that is the body determined certain things. But when a general assembly would have been called it would have been an ekklesia. So it’s an assembly of people, ekklesia called out once.
Now if you notice turn over to 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 1 and 2, how the apostle and the others trade on this sense of a called out body. Verse 2 of 1 Corinthians chapter 1, reads “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints with all who had every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord both theirs and ours.” Isn’t that interesting? He speaks of the church of God ekklesia which is at Corinth to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints with all who had every place called on the name of Jesus Christ, of course, the name of the church is “called out body” it’s as if the apostle who had written I am writing to the “called out” of God which is who are in Corinth to those who are sanctified in Christ called to be saints together with those who call on the name of the Lord. So you can see how this thought of a “called out body” is lodged in his mind. We’re a called out group. We’re called saints and we are united with all who call on the name of the Lord as a result of their calling. So we are called out and as a result we call on the name of the Lord. This is the church.
What is the essence of the church? There has been a great deal of discussion about that down through the years in fact more than one century. It’s often said that the church is the communio sanctorum which means simply the communion of the holy ones, inclusive of the visible and the invisible body. Sometimes we have probably a wrong impression of just what a church is and we might call the church well the church is the body of the elect. Not quite, because the body of the elect includes perhaps some who have not yet been born, who have not yet been called, who have not yet been brought into the body of Christ. So an individual is not a member of the church, the elect, until he has been called. And wait a minute, more than called, because call means invited, effectually called, then a member of the body of Christ or a member of the church. There may be someone in this audience who has been called but you haven’t believed yet. You’re going to believe, don’t ask me know how do you know that because I don’t know that, this is preacher’s talk. There may be someone here like that who is the object of the divine grace of God but has not yet come to know him. You’re not in the church, yet. Of course, if you have been called by, if you are one of God’s elect, you will be but not until the call is effectual, you having responded do you become a member of the church. So the church is the communion of the saints. Those who are have been called effectually and they belong, some of them in heaven some are on earth.
What are the attributes of the church? Well we are told historically in the classical things that have been written about the church of Jesus Christ, that the church is one Catholic body. Think about that for a moment. Let me read one of the confessions, the Belgic Confession. “We profess one catholic or universal church which is the holy congregation of true believers all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ being washed by his blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.” So think about it for a moment. Unity, one church, not several churches, one church, one church united. Not only that but a holy church. Holy, well yes, holy in our position set apart for the Lord. Many of us even someone in this auditorium may not be at this present moment in anything that could be called a close communing relationship with the Lord belonging to the church. But you are in God’s sight as such. You see what Paul has said here in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2, Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church, the called out assembly of God which is at Corinth to those who have been set apart past tense perfect “in Christ Jesus called to be saints with all who and every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” So they are ones who have been sanctified, have been declared holy, sanctified and holy come from the same root, and have been declared holy.
Now, if you read through the rest of Corinthians and you didn’t know much theology you would say “you mean to say these people are holy, sanctified?” In the first place the first few chapters tell about the arguments they are having. Then they difficulties, questions of relationships, man and wife. They have difficulties with things sacrificed to idols. There are some who have apparently had enough serious doubts about the resurrection for Paul to write the great chapter on the resurrection. So these people are anything but totally sanctified as they will be when they enter the Lord’s presence. But, nevertheless, the church is holy set apart for God, belonging to him, his instrumentality. So one holy, catholic, universal that is spread all over everywhere and is composed of Jews and Gentiles, one catholic church.
Another thing that some of the creeds say with reference to the church in explaining these things is that the church is characterized by apostolic relationships, in other words, the unity is the unity that exists in the truth so that apostolicity is characteristic of the church. One, holy, catholic and apostolic church the Nicene Creed puts it. So the apostolicity of the church refers to it’s foundation in apostolic teaching. So, consequently, if we have a true church, a true local church it can be shown that what we are and believe is harmonious with the apostles and what they have written. You see how important it is for us to know what the apostles have written and to have been brought to faith in what they have written.
There are a lot of people in the church speaking broadly now who are not really members of the church in the sense of the holy, catholic, universal, apostolic church. They are anything but that. Our churches now filled; the leaders in our churches are filled with people who are not in the church but who high authorities in the professing churches not only in the United States but over the face of the globe. What must go along with membership in the church is apostolic teaching, apostolic doctrine.
I remember years ago Lloyd Jones was asked to say something about the ecumenical movement and Dr. Jones didn’t like the ecumenical movement very much and so he simply made the statement that “throwing all of the ecclesiastical corpses into one grave will not bring about a resurrection.” And I don’t think that will ever leave me because it was so true. Throw everybody together who believes everything you’re not going to have a pure, holy, one holy apostolic church emerge from such a gathering.
Some years ago Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse was having trouble with the Presbytery in the Philadelphia area which he was a member of and he had been critical of some of the members of the Presbytery who did not believe the Presbyterian doctrine as found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. And so when the Presbytery met he was brought up and was criticized by an official of the Presbytery for them and he said, Dr. Barnhouse, “You said in your ordination vows that you would seek to preserve the peace of the church.” And Dr. Barnhouse replied and said “Well yes it’s true I did in my ordination vows promise to preserve the peace of the church but if you’ll remember the way it is worded it’s the purity and the peace of the church, and purity precedes peace.” They couldn’t bring any charge against him because that would have raised the whole question of what is apostolic and they were quite sure that Dr. Barnhouse could make a good case of what was apostolic much better case than they because it would have meant that some of their fiends might have to have difficulties with the Presbytery and so the matter was dropped.
Now, I want to turn to the subject of the formation of the church, and let’s turn over to Acts chapter 2, and read verse 1 through verse 4, Acts chapter 2, verse 1 and verse 4.
“When the day of Pentecost was fully come they were all with one accord in one place and suddenly their came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire and one sat upon each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Now, usually when people speak about the church of Jesus Christ and speak about the inception of it, they turn to this passage and they say, “Pentecost, the things that happened on the day of Pentecost were things that had to do with the inception of the church, the beginning of the church.” That, of course, has raised a lot of questions because there are some people who believe that the church is composed of all who ever believed and, consequently, the church in their minds has began with Adam. And others taking a different viewpoint have taken the viewpoint that the church began on the day of Pentecost and that there is really no relationship between what happened on Pentecost and what had preceded.
I’d like to think that both of those are somewhat wrong. In the first place when we talk about the church let’s think about the term that Peter used “the people of God.” Now there is not question but that Adam belongs to the people of God. When I get to heaven and, I think, you would certainly agree with me that we expect to see Adam there. We expect to see the men of the Old Testament there and we expect to see them as individuals who belong to the people of God. But now the question of whether they belong to the body that had something of a new beginning, we’ll talk about that, on the day of Pentecost that’s something else.
So let’s go ahead and talk about a few other things first because what I’m going to suggest to you is that what happened on the day of Pentecost has relationship with what preceded and also there were new things that took place on the day of Pentecost that mark out the body of people we know as the church as being a unique body.
Now, I’d like to do that, we’ll simply say first of all that Pentecost gave a new face to the people of God and, of course, the term church soon arose, although we do not find it in Acts chapter 2. But now were there any anticipations of the church previously? Well Paul elsewhere tells us that we should expect very, very minimal reference to the church, the body of Christ, in the Scriptures that he himself possessed. But now in the Book of John we do have some what I would call anticipations of the church of Jesus Christ and I’d like for you to turn with me to John chapter 10 in verse 16, the Lord Jesus in these great illustrations that have to do with the Good Shepherd and the sheep utters a statement in verse 16 that is very interesting. He has just said, “As the Father knows me even so I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep and other sheep I have which are not of this fold.”
Now that word, the word, poimne is a word that means flock. Now you know the difference between a fold and a flock. A fold is a place into which several flocks of sheep may be driven for safety at night, fold. All of you have been to Scotland you know that’s sheep country, that’s fold country, that’s flock country and you know the difference between them. If you don’t you know it now. What our Lord actually said was “other sheep I have which are not of this flock them also I must bring.” Some of you have translations that have flock, would you raise your hand? You have a translation of John 10:16 that has flock there you are, some do have others have rest of you cannot read. [Laughter] No, I know you probably have King James Version. I’m reading from the new King James Version and that was something that was not changed. But the term, there is no doubt about it, there is no question about it, it’s flock. Now what our Lord is saying is other sheep, other sheep other than whom well the Jewish flock of believers that existed at the time, “other sheep I have which are not of this flock them also I must bring and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”
Now, you can see from that that what he is talking about is the fact that they are going to come individuals who don’t belong to the flock of Israel, the Gentiles. In chapter 12, turn over there for a moment in verse 20 through verse 28.
“Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast” (notice the expression certain Greeks,) “Then they came to Philip who was from Bethsaida of Galilee and asked him saying ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip came and told Andrew and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus but Jesus answered them saying that, ‘the hour has come that the son of man should be glorified. Most assuredly I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me let him follow me and where I am there my servant will be also. If anyone serves Me him my Father will honor.’”
Now, notice the 27th verse, “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? Father save me from this hour but for this purpose I came to this hour, Father glorify your name.” Why was Jesus troubled? Well we know in Gethsemane what he was troubled for. He was troubled because it was the clear the cross is approaching and he recognizes that the end will be violent. He’s already announced that to the apostles. Why is he disturbed at this point? Well did you read verse 20 carefully? Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. They came to Philip and asked him “Sir we would see Jesus.” Our Lord sees the ministry of the Holy Spirit and in its universal way touching the hearts of individuals outside of Israel and turning them to the gospel. And in the turning of them, the Greeks to the gospel, our Lord recognizes the change that is taking place in the program of God. The Apostle Paul will ultimately come and be the ambassador to the Gentiles and we know that one of the characteristic features of this age is the ministry of the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul explains that this will go on until, ultimately, in Romans, chapter 11, some things will take place that will, ultimately, lead to the salvation of Israel and the salvation that will spread to the utter most parts of the earth.
So you can see there are intimations of things that are going to be different. Of course, you know that anyway because Matthew 16:18 exists and Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my church.” In addition you may remember Matthew chapter 21 in verse 43 where our Lord after telling a parable makes this most significant comment which has to do with the prophetic word very strongly, “Therefore I say to you the kingdom of God will be taken from you Israel and given to the nation bearing the fruits thereof.” Again intimation from the Lord the time is soon coming when the divine program will take a turn that will be very significant.
Now, let me try to prove something, if I may. What I’d like to prove is that what happened on the day of Pentecost was a new phase for the church. To put it in Paul’s own words in Ephesians 2, verse 15, “the church is a new man.” He talks about Jew and Gentile coming together and a “new man” resulting. That’s Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:15, the “new man.” Here are the steps that I would like to go through to show you that what happened on the day of Pentecost was a new phase for the church. We’ll talk about the relationships that exist between the church and the body of believers beforehand.
First of all, the church in the Bible is called the body of Christ. We’ve already read one of those statements. We read Colossians chapter 1, “The church is the body of Christ.” No one in this auditorium would have any difference over that at all. Then the second step is that in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12 in verse 13, the apostle tell us how individuals come to be in the church because if the church is the body of Christ natural question would be how do we get in the church? Oh we get in the church by talking to the elders and asking to be baptized or something like that or we start attending the meetings. No, that is not the way you get into the church, the body of Christ. Verse 13 says, Paul has just said verse 12, “For as the body is one it has many members but all the members of that one body being many are one body so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” Well it’s clear from this; it seems to me, that it’s by the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we come to be in the church of Jesus Christ. That is, the work of the Holy Spirit by which plants us, unites us with the body of Jesus Christ.
Second step, well now could that be something that has been happening down through the years. Well I’d like to suggest that the Bible tells us that this particular operation is future from the pre-cross ministry of Christ. Did not the Lord say in Matthew 16 in verse 18, “Upon this rock I will build my church” not I am building it. If the church were a body in its specific sense in which we are talking about it, if it had been in existence all along he would say, “I am building my church.” He says, “I will build my church.” There are some other reasons too, I’m going to underline that, but I don’t have time to talk about them but just notice that the church is future from the pre-cross ministry of the Lord.
Next, we turn over to Acts chapter 1 in verse 4 and verse 5 now, the cross has taken place, the resurrection has taken place, and we read in verse 4 of Acts 1, “And being assembled together with them He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father” which he said “you have heard from me for John truly baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” In other words, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is still future except now there is a temporal note it’s not far off, not many days from now. So we can say the church in the special sense of the new man did not exist even after our Lord’s death and resurrection. Believers in Israel existed the apostles were believers, of course, and others as well. Five hundred saw our Lord in his resurrection well over five hundred.
Now, next I want to suggest that Acts chapter 2 is the time of the creation of this new man. You may remember that’s kind of the way Paul talks about it isn’t it. He says in Ephesians 2 in verse 15, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity between Jew and Gentile that is the Lord’s commandment contained in the ordinances the Mosaic Law being the great barrier so as to create in himself one new man from the two thus making peace.” So the church is a body of people created by the Lord out of Jews and Gentiles.
Now I suggest to you that that happened on the day of Pentecost and, of course, if you are a good student of the Bible you want to know why you think that. Well now we talked about Pentecost as the feast as representative typically in its order of the Jewish feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit when the new meal offering would be offered of two parts. Go back and read Leviticus 23 and you will see that, two parts make one offering, Jew and Gentile one offering. The day of Pentecost that follows the Feast of the First Fruits that represents the resurrection of our Lord. But you would have to if you are a good student you would say I need a little more proof than that so I’m going to ask you to turn to Acts, chapter 11, verse 15 through verse 17 and pay close attention to these words.
Now, Peter is vindicating the ministry that had taken place in Cornelius’ house and he is telling them what happened. You know the story that when they were all gathered and Peter began to preach suddenly while Peter was preaching he hadn’t even got any further into his speech than the introduction. That’s what he said, “As I was speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon those in the house and those Gentiles in Cornelius’ house were brought to the knowledge of the Lord.” So Peter is talking about it and he said in verse 15, “As I began to speak the Holy Spirit fell upon them as upon us at the beginning.” Now what’s the beginning? Well that’s the day of Pentecost. That’s when the spirit fell on Peter and the rest of those that Peter knew who were there. Now notice how he interprets it. “Then I remembered the word of the Lord how he said John indeed baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So Peter the Apostle is the one who identifies what happened on the day of Pentecost as the baptism of the Holy Spirit which our Lord had promised in Acts chapter 1, verse 4 and 5, though the term baptism is not found in Acts chapter 2.
So well when does the church when is the church mentioned? First, after that prophecy in Matthew, chapter 16, well actually the church is not mentioned until Acts chapter 5 in verse 11, although in some manuscripts it is found in Acts chapter 2 but when Peter preaches most people feel that the term church that is used in some of the manuscripts there is more likely not genuine. If it is genuine then the church is mentioned in Acts 2. But in chapter 5 in verse 11, we have an undisputed text, “So great fear came on all the church and upon those who heard these things.” Now sometimes people will get upset when individuals say, “Well I think the church began on the day of Pentecost” and Professor Louis Berkoff who I greatly respect, I think his theology is perhaps the best that is available in simple form. He, of course, begins the church with Adam. That’s not very much of issue with Dr. Berkoff now, he’s in heaven so is Adam, and they can talk over this matter and it doesn’t really mean anything much. And it doesn’t mean quite as much as we often make of it to ourselves but what I am trying to show you is there was something new that took place on the day of Pentecost and the body that we know as the church, the new face of the people of God, had its beginning at that time.
Now, that raises the question of continuity and discontinuity in the body of Christ. It’s a warmly debated issue on theological campuses and among individuals who are preaching the word of God to what extent is the church continuous with what preceded the church to what extent is the church discontinuous, continuity and discontinuity. Now, fifteen, fourteen minutes I give you great theological lecture so you’ll go out clear in your mind about everything. No! I’m just going to give you some things that will make you think, I hope.
First of all, I’d like to point out what is old in the church. Though the church was created on the day of Pentecost it was not absolutely new in every respect. What was old about the church, why the redemptive foundation of the church. What Christ did on the cross that’s the ground of the salvation of Israel, that’s the ground of the Gentiles who existed before Abraham came into existence, that’s the ground of Adams’ salvation? It’s the ground of every member of the true church of Jesus Christ. It’s the ground of their salvation. So the ground of our salvation what Christ did on the cross is the ground of the salvation of all believers in Christ. There is no such thing as two methods of salvation. There is only one method of salvation that is grounded in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ which is received through the instrumentality of faith as the Holy Spirit brings conviction and conversion effectual calling to an individual who hears the gospel of Jesus Christ. So that is the same thing that has existed with reference to the people of God since the beginning. Its redemptive foundation is the same thing.
A second thing is the oldness of the church is the union of Old Testament and New Testament believers that has taken place as a result of the common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot, of course, go into detail here I’ll just simply say that that’s part of the oldness of the church the union of Old Testament and New Testament believers.
But what about the newness of the church? Paul does say that “a new man has been created.” What is different about the church from Israel? Well if you’ve been listening to the things I’ve been talking about you will know some of this. First of all, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells all believers now. He did not permanently indwell all believers before the day of Pentecost, in fact, the Lord Jesus told the apostles, remember in John chapter 14 in verse 16 and verse 17, these significant words, you should not forget them, he says “If you love me keep my commandments” verse 15 of John 14, “and I will pray the Father and he will give you another helper that he may abide with you forever. The spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him or knows him but you know him for he dwells with you and shall be or will be in you.” So in other words in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit endued people with power, the Holy Spirit helped people but you go through the Old Testament you find relatively few references to the Holy Spirit in comparison with the New Testament. So the Holy Spirit was an aid, he endued individuals with power upon occasion like Samson, Gideon, others but there was no permanently indwelling of the Holy Spirit until the day of Pentecost. In fulfillment of our Lord’s promise, “He is with you and he shall be in you.” That’s different. Nobody until that time could have said, “I am permanently indwelled by the Holy Spirit.” I tell you I am very thankful I live in this age.
The second thing our freedom from the law. We’ve already talked about that Romans chapter 6, verse 14, Romans chapter 7, verse 1 through 6, 2nd Corinthians 3:6 through 18, we spent a night on this topic and so I don’t feel we should go over it any more. If you have questions about it you can get the tape for that night but believers today are free from the law as a code. Now we are not free to live as we please because in the New Testament we have the teaching of Christ and the teaching of the Holy Spirit. We are required are responsible to walk by the spirit who authored the Bible.
So to be opposed to the law of God that’s ridiculous. We are not opposed to the law of God we believe we are responsible for the law of Jesus Christ but we are not under the Law of Moses. Remember in the New Testament there is no indication that the Apostle Paul ever meant any other thing than the ceremonial law, the civil and social law, and the moral law when he used the terms “law.” He may have referred to certain parts of it but when he used the term “law” it was inclusive of the whole law. Distinctions in parts of the law are hemolytic, made by preachers or exegetical made by interpreters who see some of those differences and they are valid except that the law was a unit.
Third, the adoption of the Gentiles, in Romans chapter 11, verse 11 through verse 24, the apostle uses the illustration of the olive tree. The branches that are cut off, natural branches he calls them, and then the unnatural branches that are grafted in. And then he says “if natural braches are cut off and unnatural branches are grafted in how much more we shall expect the natural branches to be grafted in again.” Again. Romans 11:24 and then to make it final he says “and so all Israel” not every Israelite but Israel as a whole, because that term “all Israel” was used in the Old Testament in that way passages in which all Israel is mentioned then some Israelite is excluded from. All Israel, Israel as a whole shall be saved at the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourth, the equality of Jew and Gentile in the body. The apostle uses the expression “mystery” to express this because this is something that was not found in the Old Testament. If a Gentile wanted to be equal with Israel what did he have to do? He had to become a member of Israel. And so he was then as Israelite. He had become a member of what we know as Israel. Remember when Israel began they didn’t begin with Israelites. So now as a result of what has happened Jews and Gentiles are equal in the body and Paul calls them a “mystery.” Let me show you in Ephesians chapter 3, for example, there are a number of examples we could turn to I won’t have time to do that because the clock, the clock should have been entered in the Olympics because it runs faster than almost anything that I know of. For you it’s a different matter.
But anyway, verse 5 and 6 of Ephesians 3, Paul is talking about the knowledge, his knowledge and the mystery of Christ which in “other ages was not made known to the sons of men as it is now been revealed by his spirit to his apostles and prophets, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ through the gospel.” That was the mystery. Since Pentecost the Gentiles are fellow heirs and you remember, Acts chapter 15, the disturbance that took place when Jewish people said, oh Jewish believing people said, “These Gentiles that are being saved have to circumcised” and so they had the meeting in Acts chapter 15 and had a lot of talking back and forth and finally Peter got up and said “giving the decision of the council but we belie that they are saved through faith just as we are saved through faith.” And that settled the question how a Gentile coming into a body of believing people upon an equal basis. That’s the mystery of the church, that’s what is different about the church that is what makes it a “new man” one of the major things.
Now again the clock is racing I’ll just mention the universal priesthood of the believer’s l Peter chapters 9 and 10, a passage that we looked at as we began we read these words “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light who once were not a people but are now the people of God who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy, the universal priesthood of believers.” Every believer is a priest of God. That’s why when we gather in the Lord’s Supper the ministry of the word of God the prayers, the petitions are open to all the priests except Scripture does say that the women are to keep silent. But any kind of man, whether he has been gifted to preach the word or otherwise is free to take part to lead in prayer to perform the work of a priest. We are all priests and the ladies are priests too, everybody.
The universality of the gifts under the oversight of elders is the sixth thing, the simplicity of the worship and the ministry that exists in the church of Jesus Christ. Oh I wish I had longer to say about this to talk about this. But you know this is one of to my mind one of the most significant about Believers Chapel. I believe with all my heart and I know and you know the Baptist tell us they have the New Testament church, the Presbyterians they don’t come out and blatantly say that like the Baptist, they just believe it that they have the one church. Roman Catholics say we know we are the one church but in this city maybe there are some churches that meet like Believers Chapel but I put our local church up against what the New Testament teachers and say this church is as far as I can tell the church that ostensibly meets the way in which those early believers met. And that when the Apostle Paul went around all the churches in Dallas he would say “I feel most at home at Believers Chapel,” is that saying too much? [Laughter] I just feel he would say it. I feel at home here. There are lots of things wrong there I should would like to get up and berate them a little bit, exhort them and rebuke them, but I do feel at home there because the things that characterize that local church the freedom of the ministry of the word of God, the exercise of spiritual gifts, the things the characterize the church in that way are found here.
I have a quotation I’m going to read it. I hope you won’t mind but I’m going to read it because it’s such a good quotation. This is by James Denney, a Presbyterian, one of the great Presbyterians of a generation or two ago in Scotland wrote a number of books highly regarded, professor at the University of Glasgow. He says, “I have hinted at ways in which the spirit is clinched. It is sad to reflect from one point of view the history of the church is a long series of transgressions of this precept checked by an equally long series of rebellions of the spirit. Where the sprit of Lord is, the apostles tells us, else where there is liberty. But liberty in a society has its dangers. It is to a certain extent at war with order and the guardians of order are not apt to be too considerate of it.
Hence it came to pass that a very early period in the interest of good order the freedom of the spirit was summarily suppressed in the church. The gift of ruling it has been said like Aaron’s rod seem to swallow up the other gifts. The rules of the church became a class entirely apart from its ordinary members and all exercise a spiritual gifts for the building of the church was confined to them. Then the monstrous idea was originated and taught as a dogma that they alone were depositaries or it is some time said the custodians of the grace and truth of the Gospel. Only through them could men come into contact with the Holy Ghost.” In plain English the spirit was quenched when Christians met for worship. “One great extinguisher was placed over the flame that burned in the hearts of the brethren. It was not allowed to show itself and must not disturb by its eruption and praise of prayer a fiery exhortation that decency and order for the divine service. I say that was a condition to which Christian worship was reduced at a very early period and it unhappily is the condition which for most part subsists at this moment. Do you think we are gainers by it? I do not believe it. It has always come from time to time to be intolerable. The monotonous of the second century, the heretical sects of the Middle Ages, the independents and Quakers of the English Commonwealth, the lay preachers of Wesleyanism the Salvationist, the Plymouthist and the Evangelistic Associations of our own day all these are to various degrees the protest of the spirit and its right and necessary protest against the authority which would quench it and by quenching it impoverish the church. In many non-conformist churches there is a movement just now in favor of liberty.”
This was written back in the early part of the century. That’s precisely what is happening in evangelisms today. On the campus of Wheaton College for example the road back to Anglicanism and by Evangelicals, liberal Anglicanism. Listen to what he says, “A liturgy may indeed be a defense against the coldness and incompetence of the one man to whom the whole conduct of public worship is at present left, but our true refuge is not this mechanical one but the opening of the mouths of all Christian people. A liturgy, however, beautiful is a melancholy witness to the quenching of the spirit. It may be better or worse than the prayers of one man but it could nave compare for fervor with the spontaneous prayers of a living church. We should never lose that in the meetings of our assembly. The freshness, the vitality, the openness in which believers may participate expressing the things which God has laid upon their heart in vital Christian life and worship.” I’m sorry I took four minutes overtime there.
The last thing is the singleness of hope. In the church of Jesus Christ with the Old Testament saints we look forward to the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you for being so patient. Maybe that’s what Bush is saying tonight.
Let’s close with a prayer
[Prayer] Father we are grateful to Thee for the word of God and for what it does teach us concerning the church of Jesus Christ. We thank Thee for this great body of which our Lord and died and which he is working to build up still at this present time. Help us, Lord, to have a part in the work that is going on, seeking to build the church, to enlarge it through our personal testimony to edify it by ministering one to another in the things of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.