The Ekklesia

EKKLESIA

The Infrastructure of the Church Part 2

As we continue in the sermon series CHURCH 101, let’s explore the second  infrastructure of the Church of God – THE MEMBERS

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

The MEMBER’S POSITION

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus…”

The church, Christian believers, is the assembly of God’s people. The word church (Ekklesia) in secular Greek meant an “assembly duly summoned.” Paul changed the term to represent the church. We are called out of the sinful world by the Holy Spirit to be a part of the body of Christ. Ninety percent of the time, “church” refers to the local congregation, which speaks to the importance of a local community. One cannot grow into the image of Christ outside a local church.

Believers are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” “Sanctified” is a perfect participle (Patterson 21). The Greek perfect tense portrays a past act, the consequences of which continue on. This is our position in Christ. We are sanctified in Christ. This is a past act that is to be lived out daily. Those who have been sanctified look like, act like, and live like it!

“As Christians one of the strongest rebukes we can have when we sin is to be reminded of who our Father is. And reminding ourselves of whose we are should be one of our strongest deterrents to sin. Remembering our position can compel us to improve our practice.” (MacArthur 301-303)

 

The MEMBER’S PRACTICE

“called to be saints” (verse 2)

Our practice is based upon our position. Believers are to live out who we ARE in Christ, not how or whom we are trying to be. We are saints or holy ones – God’s called out distinctive people. We are to discipline our bodies to live out who we are in Christ—saints and holy ones.

“Christian discipleship involves striving to become that which in terms of status God has already given. Practical holiness entails being transformed in Christ-likeness and goodness day by day” (Thiselton 31)

We are God’s called out and set apart saints by and for Him. Therefore, we are to reflect God’s character in our daily lives. Not to be saved or to please God. We do so because we are saved and long to live and look like whose we are!

“A little boy was accustomed to attending a church which had beautiful stained-glass windows. He saw that the windows contained pictures: “St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Paul,” and others. One day he was asked, “What is a saint?” He replied, “A saint is a person the light shines through.” (Barnhouse 203)

“Does God’s light shine through you? Christ commands, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven'” (ibid 203).

The MEMBER’S PARTNERSHIP

“…with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…” (verse 2)
The Corinthians had the habit of thinking they were an island all to themselves. They could live and set their rules however they wanted. In truth, no church is isolated from other Christian communities. Community tradition, doctrine, and practice are all very important. Paul wanted them to know they were a part of the entire body of Christ.

Notice: “Call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (verse 2). This is the earliest confession of faith—Jesus is Lord. Lord was OT reference to YHWH. Here Paul declares Jesus the same as Father God. There are those who do not believe in the Trinity. However, this verse and many others prove a great problem to their beliefs. Regardless of some non-essential differences, we are in a partnership with all true believers.

We must realize our POSITION and PRACTICE have an effect on the universal church of Christ!

The MEMBER’S PRIZE

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3).

The gift of God’s grace.
Grace always precedes peace. Grace is God’s free, unmerited, sovereign gift. It is God’s “undeserved, gracious acts whereby He has chosen to provide existence, with all its benefits, and access to God, with all its blessings to those who are the objects of His purpose”—His sanctified saints! (Patterson 23)

The gift of peace
Our definition of peace is no problems, worries, sickness, or struggles. Peace is not a harmonious state or relegated to heaven (Patterson 23). “Peace is the confidence of God’s favor, even in the midst of conflict” (Ibid 23). It is based upon a harmonious state with God. Not a subjective feeling of inner tranquility (Thiselton 33). This peace can only come from Christ and is only given to believers (MacArthur 313).

The gift of God Himself
Grace and peace are the outflow of God’s presences. Paul wants the Corinthians to know God is the ultimate gift. They were too caught up in spiritual gifts. They were bragging about tongues and teaching. They thought they were special because of their gifts. Gifts, by the way, were given freely, not earned because someone is a special Christian. Believers should be focusing on the presence of God in their lives. He has given Himself to us bountifully. “Grace is [God’s] favor [upon believers], and peace is one of its fruits” (MacArthur 308).

Paul begins the letter to the Corinthians by setting out the infrastructure of the church of God. There are MINISTERS and MEMBERS. Each have their specific part to play. Ephesians 4 says that ministers are to equip the members for the work of ministry. That is exactly why Paul was writing to the Corinthians. They were focusing on how important they were as individuals. Paul reminded them of the importance of the body of Christ. It is God’s church and His called-out saints!

Points to Ponder

    • We are to follow God’s plans for His Church.
    • Ministers are to lead, but they are not the heart of the church.
    • Members are to follow and serve, but they are one body.
    • Regardless of whether gifts are seen by all or behind the scenes, all are gifts.
    • No one gets to brag because of their gifts.
    • We ARE sanctified—past act of God.
    • We are to live out who we already are in Christ.
    • God is our prize!
    • Our focus and prayers for other things must be secondary to desiring Him.

Resources:
Barnhouse, Donald Grey. Timeless Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.
MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1984.
Patterson, Paige. An Exposition of First Corinthians: The Troubled Triumphant Church 2nd ed. Fort Worth: Seminary Hill Press, 2011.
Thiselton, Anthony. First Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.
Church 101 Listen Now

The Infrastructure of the Church

Church 101

The Infrastructure of the Church

As we begin our study of Church 101, the first basic truth we will see is found in 1 Corinthians 1:1-3.

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

As we take a closer look at these three verses we are going to see the infrastructure of The Church of God.

First, The Church of God is made up of THE MESSENGER

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother”. (1 Corinthians 1:1)

The reason behind Paul’s opening in verse one is because those in Corinth were questioning his authority. The initial address of sectarianism is seen later in chapter one. Paul’s Position is stated clearly: He is an apostle. He was called by the will of God.

This speaks to the divine origin of HIS POSITION

God chose Paul. This was not a task he volunteered for. He was an apostle sent by God. The word Apostle (apostolos) means “sent from”. In the Greek, the one sent isn’t the main focus, rather the focus is upon the sender and the reason for the sending. So, God is the focus! God is responsible for Paul’s ministry as well as the message he is writing to the Corinthians (and to us). John MacArthur clarifies the role of the one sent:

When the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin, was asked to arbitrate a serious dispute or to give an interpretation regarding Jewish law or tradition, they would send their decision by an apostolos to the parties involved, who were often represented through a synagogue. As far as the message was concerned, the apostolos possessed the full authority of the Sanhedrin. He did not speak for himself, but for the Sanhedrin. Yet he was more than a messenger. He was an emissary, an envoy, an ambassador. Paul was God’s envoy, God’s ambassador (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20), God’s apostolos. (MacArthur 222-26)

Paul wanted them to know he was writing God’s message and that he is simply an emissary delivering the Lord’s message.

The next thing we learn about The Messenger is: HIS PERSON

“and Sosthenes our brother”
Though an apostle, he was still equal to all believers. All Christians are saints. The Corinthians had those who thought they were super-saints. Either prominence, prosperity, or power led them to feel superior. Paul associates himself with the church in Corinth using the term “Our brother”. The New Testament consistently presents the theme of family: We are One through the blood of Christ Jesus!

How is this applicable to the church today? Ministers are called by God. Trust me, no one chooses to be a minister. All are chosen and called by God to a specific task. Ministers are to proclaim the eternal, timeless message of God. We are ambassadors for God. We are delivering His message.

Even though ministers have different responsibilities they are still equal to the saints. All believers are a part of the body of Christ, so none are more important than the others. Ministers lead the sheep, but only by following Christ’s leadership. They are to be treated as part of the family. When a group or person tries to run the church it is never a good thing. When a pastor sees himself as a dictator it is never a good thing. It is like a single cancer cell that will eventually destroy the whole body. The church is one body united in Christ.

The first infrastructure of the church of God is GOD’S MINISTER.

In tomorrow’s post we will examine the Second Part of the Infrastructure of the Church of God.

Resource: MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1984.

The Church of God is the first in the Sermon Series Church 101: A Study of 1 Corinthians at Living Oaks Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK.

Join us at 10:45 AM each Sunday for contemporary music and worship as we continue the series Church 101.

Living Oaks Baptist Church
8855 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74133
www.lobc.net
918-250-0210

Saving a seat for you

Desperate for the Gospel

Have you ever had a time in your life when you were afraid that you were not really saved? You know of a specific time when you committed to live the rest of your life for Christ Jesus; nevertheless, there are days you wonder if you are really saved. The fear of spending eternity separated from God is paralyzing.

These insecurities are compounded as you examine your life and realize how much you do not reflect the image of Christ. You think to yourself, “I should not still be fighting this temptation. I should have better control over the words of my mouth. I should be more knowledgable of the Bible. If I were really saved I wouldn’t be having these spiritual struggles!” Then in your frustration, you roll up your sleeves and determine to try harder, study more, and volunteer to serve in several church ministries. What usually happens is an even great sense of failure, disappointment, and discouragement.

Does any of this sound familiar? The truth is we are desperate for the gospel. It is the gospel, not our works, that brings about the assurance of our salvation. It is when we daily apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to our lives that we will not only find confidence in our salvation, but we will begin to see a growing maturity in the Lord. Whether we know it or not we are Desperate for the Gospel!

If you struggle with the assurance of salvation, I would encourage you to listen to this past Sunday’s message. You can listen to or download the message at this link: Desperate for the Gospel.

I pray God will use this message to bring about His perfect peace within your life.

Child-like Faith

And Jesus said,
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child
shall not enter it.” (Mark 10.15 ESV)

A few weeks ago we were watching a story on the evening news about a
car that had hit a motorcycle.  The motorcycle was on fire, and its rider was trapped under the car.  The flames were consuming the bike and had spread to the engine of the car, and yet, people were desperately trying to get the young man out from under the car, thus putting their own lives in danger. Dozens of people rushed to the car, lifted it up so that another man could pull the injured rider to safety, set the car down, and backed away from the dangerous fire.  It was an act of selfless heroism.

 As I sat in my recliner watching this unfold I just kept saying, “That is unbelievable!  In today’s world you just don’t expect people to react like that.” I was truly pleasantly surprised that people would rally together, put their lives in jeopardy, and then do what was necessary to save someone else’s life.  No sooner had the words left my mouth when my seven-year-old son said, “Dad, isn’t it great that God sent all those people to help that man!”  Needless to say, I now was speechless.  Child-like faith has a way of putting things into perspective.

 In Mark 10:15, Jesus tells us to enter His Kingdom we need child-like faith.  Children believe what we tell them.  The Bible says God is gracious, merciful, kind, loving, generous, our defender, supplier, and meets all our needs.  In spite of this, adults tend to get caught up looking at the problem instead of the problem solver.  We end up focusing on the seen rather than unseen.  We walk by sight rather than by faith.  Children do not have that problem–they simply believe what they are taught and walk by pure faith.

 As you go about your day, keep your eyes of faith open to see the wonders which God is working all around you. You never know, it might be your hands that God uses to rescue someone from perishing.

Living In The Power Of Future Glory

In 2 Corinthians 4.7-10 we read, “7 But we have this treasure in  earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of  the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not  crushed;  perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not  forsaken;  struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that  the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (NASB).

Sometimes it is difficult to apply Scripture to our own lives. When I read the following story by Chuck Swindoll I immediately thought of 2 Corinthians 4.

Swindoll writes:

When Dan Richardson, an enthusiastic believer in Christ, lost his battle with cancer, the following piece was distributed at his memorial service.

Cancer is limited…

  • It cannot cripple love,
  • It cannot corrode faith,
  • It cannot eat away peace,
  • It cannot destroy confidence,
  • It cannot kill a friendship,
  • It cannot shut out memories,
  • It cannot silence courage,
  • It cannot invade the soul,
  • It cannot reduce eternal life,
  • It cannot quench the spirit,
  • It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.

Source: “Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes” 140.

The Red Umbrella

As the drought continued for what seemed an eternity, a small community of midwest farmers were in a quandary as to what to do. The rain was important not only in order to keep the crops healthy, but to sustain the townspeople’s very way of living. As the problem became more urgent, the local church felt it was time to get involved and planned a prayer meeting in order to ask for rain.

In what seemed a vague remembrance of an old Native American ritual, the people began to show. The pastor soon arrived and watched as his congregation continued to file in. He slowly circulated from group to group as he made his way to the front in order to officially begin the meeting. Everyone he encountered was visiting across the aisles, enjoying the chance to socialize with their close friends. As the pastor finally secured his place in front of his flock, his thoughts were on the importance of quieting the crowd and starting the meeting.

Just as he began asking for quiet, he noticed an eleven-year-old girl sitting in the front row. She was angelically beaming with excitement and laying next to her was her bright red umbrella, poised for use. The beauty and innocence of this sight made the pastor smile to himself as he realized the faith this young girl possessed that the rest of the people in the room seemed to have forgotten. For the rest had come just to pray for rain…she had come to see God’s answer.

How Does a Church Become a Family?

Being a member of a church is more than just taking up a seat in the sanctuary one day a week to sing a few songs and then listen to someone talk about Jesus.  Being a member of a church is about family.  This morning our Youth Minister, Jacob Jones, showed me an article on Churchleaders.com entitled, “How Does a Church Become a Family?” In this article Brady Boyd gives us four simple ways to make sure our church becomes a family.

Boyd writes:

My family and I came from Texas to pastor New Life Church over four years ago, not knowing anyone in the congregation except the members of the search committee. Each Sunday, I would look into the faces of thousands of strangers, wanting desperately to be known and to know them and their stories. It was the loneliest time of my pastoral journey.

But then something happened this past summer. We became a family, after four years of intentional plowing. I realize it takes a long time to become old friends. It cannot be rushed, programmed, or forced. It simply takes time. I have wondered in the past few months how does a church become a family assembly instead of a gathering of strangers? What is the ground that must be plowed in order for family roots to take hold and ultimately blossom in the local church?

1. Families know how to disagree

This does not sound warm and fuzzy, does it? But it’s true. Healthy families have learned to honorably disagree and to defend the unity that is so critical for the long-term strength of the home. I see people every week that have disagreed with me but have decided to persevere and forge a friendship despite our differences. This is why I believe church families and marriages are so similar. No one can stay married if they always need to be right. Great marriages and great church families have learned to love while they are fussing and are quick to offer forgiveness and grace.

2. Families celebrate and mourn with one another

Healthy families embrace the rhythms of each other’s lives, rejoicing when the others are rejoicing and mourning when the others are sad. This past Sunday, I learned of a dear New Lifer who had just been placed in hospice because of cancer. Later, a despondent single mom asked me to pray with her for her prodigal son. Minutes later, a sweet grandmother told me her daughter, son-in-law, and all their children had just decided to follow Jesus. She had prayed for them for 13 years. I was sad, then I rejoiced. That is family.

3. Families make room for new arrivals

When babies are born, the family celebrates the new arrival. No one is sad because more room has to be made at the dinner table. The same is true with healthy church families. They are always ready to welcome the new arrivals at the table. I refuse to apologize that New Life is a large church. I know it can be overwhelming at times to walk into a big building full of strange faces. Believe me, I know. But I have also found that if I simply give it time, people will embrace me if I make room for the embrace.

4. Families serve one another

Healthy church families are keenly aware of the needs all around them. In the early church, it was said, “there were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:34) What a beautiful picture of family surrounding each other, embracing the broken, and giving generously so that everyone has an advocate and hope.

I am most grateful to belong to a family that can disagree and still love, celebrates and mourns with each other, makes room for the new arrivals, and is quick to serve and bless. We are a growing family. Amen.