Grace Tabernacle of Praise, Hampton, SC
What an extraordinary pleasure it is to be with you tonight, to fellowship with you, to worship with you, to praise our Lord Jesus with you, and to share God’s heart as instructed by the Holy Spirit with you. I am so thankful – almost blown away – by the hearts of love and the refreshing vision that your leadership, Pastor Jerry and Co-Pastor Miss Pat, and your whole church, have, a vision for the assembling together of believers in the true church. This vision is not for a “Yellow Pages” list of separate churches separated by lists of members into clubs of nice people, but this vision is of The Church of Jesus Christ, bound together in the unity of belief, of knowledge, of service — of One God, One Lord Jesus, One Faith! Amen!
Tonight the Holy Spirit has put on my heart to respond to this vision by study of these questions: What is the Church and why does it exist?
So, What is the Church? Colossians 1: 24 tells us that the body of Christ is the Church. That is, simply, what the Church is, the body of Christ, and we know from Ephesians 5: 23 that Christ is the head of the Church, as He is head of his body. And this follows from Matthew 16:13-18, where Jesus explains to Peter that it is upon the rock of the knowledge that Jesus Christ is who He says He is, that Christ will build, and now has built, His Church. So that is the Church, and we are part of that body, the body of Christ. God is love (I John 4:8), so Jesus is love, because He and the Father are One. And as part of Jesus’ body, we, too, are love. Indeed, we are known as Christians, in part, because we love one another (John 13:34), in the true church.
But why does God see the need to call his people out? It is because there are two chuches, under the Name of Jesus, the true church and the false church, because of hypocrisy in the church, and that primarily in the leadership of the church – the prophets and the teachers. (And I am not casting stones at the leadership of this church, or at this church. Rather, I am here to encourage you, because you have so encouraged me, because of the vision you share with leadership, a vision to break down the walls of the traditions of men, that divide races, that divide ages, that divide people on any criteria other than the Name of Jesus Christ, and obedience to Him, as Lord. And I thank you for the way that you and your leadership witness the Name of Jesus to me, to our church body, BibleFaithFellowship, and to the community around you.)
So, God says for us to beware, because there is fraud in the church, in the body of Christ. Why else would Revelation 18: 4 cry out, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues.”? Why else would Revelation 17 and 19 describe the Great Harlot, and proclaim the blessings (Revelation 19: 9-10) upon those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb, those are called who have the testimony of Jesus Christ, who worship God and have the spirit of prophecy? Why else would the Apostle Peter warn us, II Peter 2: 1, that there will be false prophets and false teachers among the people, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord Jesus? Why else would Jesus, Himself, be so concerned about hypocrisy? Listen to his response to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 15: 7, referring to Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 29:13, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophecy about you, saying, ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
So, tonight when we are talking about the Church, like Jesus, we are talking about the true Church, not the false Church, we are talking about the Church in which, John 4:23, true believers must worship God in spirit and in truth. We must test the spirits, I John 4:1, to know whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. And when we find false prophets and false teachers, we must expose them, correct them, and if necessary, we must reject them, for, James 3: 1, teachers are held to a stricter, a higher, standard of accountability.
Why does the Church exist?
The core reason for the existence of the church is defined in Ephesians 3: 8 – 12: “To me (Paul), who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ, to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”
This passage tells us that for the Church to do its job of making known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, we must preach the “unsearchable riches” of Christ and make people see, and call them to share in, the fellowship of the mystery of Christ. Those unsearchable riches are found in the two great commandments, Matthew 22: 38-40, “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’”
And so, the Church, in obedience to the Great Commisision of Matthew 28, spreads the gospel, and when, through salvation, discipleship, teaching and preaching, and the illumination and conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have learned the unsearchable riches of Christ, and applied them in our lives, then we find ourselves living those two greatest commandments, and that sends a message to those powers and principalities in high places: it sends a message that we know (Ephesians 6: 12) that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. And by so loving God with all that we are and have, and by loving our neighbors as ourselves, the true Church sends that message of the manifold wisdom of God right into the face and eyes and ears of those spiritual hosts of wickedness, those principalities and powers in high places. And here is the message, John 3:16:, for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, that no one need live in fear of the devil who, Hebrews 2: 14, has the power of death. Because in Jesus, our Christ, our Messiah, we shall overcome even the power of death, the ultimate power of the devil, because, Colossians 2: 15, Jesus has disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in His resurrection! This fact, and our belief in it as we live our lives, sends a powerful message that not only do we love the Lord, our God, but we love each other, our neighbors.
And the Holy Spirit reminds us of how we love our neighbors:
First, by the lesson of Jesus in Matthew 25: 34-40, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”
Second, I Peter 4: 9, be hospitable to one another without grumbling. Hospitality is the foundation of fellowship, and Hospitality is grace in action.
Third, Galations 6: 2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ, and 6:5, Each one should bear his own load, and 6:10, As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Fourth, Romans 12: 3, don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to.
Fifth, Ephesians 4: 29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers”, and 4: 31-32, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Sixth, I Thessalonians 5: 11, 13b – 20, 22, “Comfort each other and edify one another, just as you are doing . . . . Be at peace among yourselves. . . . warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks . . . . do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. . . . Abstain from every form of evil.”
Finally, all of this – what is the Church and why does it exist — are summarized in this passage, our text, our trumpet call, for tonight, which is Hebrews 10: 19-25, which gives us such a clear picture of the Church: “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, so much the more as you see the Day approaching”.
It is a pleasure to fellowship with you tonight, as part of the true chuch, the church that joins in and responds to, the cry, “come out of her my people”. But, II Peter 3: 17-18, beware lest you fall from your own steadfastness, beware lest you be led away with the error of the wicked, false prophets and false teachers.
We look forward to continuing our fellowship of faith and love with you and your associated church groups, and to sharing with you here and at Bible Faith Fellowship in Hardeeville!
In closing, I want to pray Psalm 133 over this body and the true church universal: “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing – life evermore.”
God bless you and amen+