The New Creation, Christ’s Bride

*This sermon was preached at the GBCB youth camp last month*II. The New Community

a. Christ’s Bride

Yesterday we discussed regeneration and sanctification. All of this leads into our discussion of the Church because those who are regenerate and being sanctified make up the Church. There is a lot of confusion over what the church is, and how to define the church because the term church has been misused and redefined. In our culture people say they are “going to church on Sunday,” or they “belong to the church,” to most people the church is just a building. This is not the way that the NT defines the church. The NT defines the church as all of those individuals who have been reborn of God, and redeemed into the body of Christ. This is exactly what Ephesians 5:23 teaches us when it says “Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” So the Church proper consists of all those people who have submitted to Christ as their head and Savior. Within this Universal Church there are local communities of believers. We would call this the local church. For example, Grace Bible Church is not the church, but rather a local church body within the universal church.
The NT uses several images to describe the Church that I would like to look at (This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a sampling of how the NT views the Church). First, the NT refers to the Church as the “people of God.” 2 Corinthians 6:16 says “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Again, the NT refers to the church as people not a building. The image of the Church being God’s people emphasizes God’s initiative in choosing a people for himself. The second image that I would like to look at is the Church as the body of Christ. I will only briefly discuss this now because I want to come back to it. We read in detail this image in 2 Corinthians 12:12ff. This image of the church as the body of Christ emphasizes the close connection of the church as group of believers to one another, and to Christ. The final image that I want to discuss is the image of the Church as the “Bride of Christ.” In Ephesians 5:31-33 we see that the church’s relationship with Christ can be compared to the relationship of a husband and wife. This again emphasizes the closeness of the believers who make up the church to one another, and to Christ. But there is more to this image than just this closeness. There is also an eschatological reference here. In Revelation 21:9 we see the bride of Christ, the Church, being given to Christ at the consummation of the New Heaven and the New Earth. Christ paid for this Bride with his own blood, and at the end of time Christ will receive His bride.
b. The One Body

Being the body of Christ and the Bride of Christ carries with it great responsibility. In Ephesians 4:1-6 the apostle Paul tells us that we must live lives that are worthy of this amazing calling. We do this, in part, by preserving the unity that God has provided for us in the Church. What is amazing about this passage is that Paul does not say that we need to create a unity, but rather we must maintain the unity that God has already provided for us. In verses 4-6 we see what that this unity is. There is one church body, one Spirit, one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and finally one God and Father. This community of regenerated individuals is in itself an amazing work of God and the unity of the Church comes from this work of God. Joshua Harris, writing on this subject, said “The longer that I’m a Christian, the more aware I become that I cannot live the Christian life on my own. My individual and direct relationship with God through Jesus is the greatest privilege and He is truly all I need—and yet God in His wisdom has created all of us to need others, too.” John Piper went so far as to say that “sanctification is a community project.” This means that as we are working out our salvation we must do so together. God has made us one through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion:

God has done an amazing work to create the church, and for us to not take that seriously is a sin. When we do not pursue peace, and lift one another up we are, by our actions, demonstrating that this work of God through Christ is unimportant to us. We must remember that God has done this amazing work in the Gospel not only to save us individually, but also to set apart for himself an entire group of people. We are a part of that group and we must remember that was we seek to live out our Christian lives.


P.S.
Yesterday Anonymous left a comment questioning my view on the Church. I hope this answers some of the questions that he left. Also, in light of the passages listed here I cannot imagine taking the RCC view of the Church (the Church refers to the hierarchy of the RCC). I would love to debate my constant commenter on this issue if he would drop the anonymous, and actually deal with me rather than secretly send me RCC dogma. Otherwise I will continue to delete his comments.

The New Creation, Christ’s Bride

*This sermon was preached at the GBCB youth camp last month*Introduction:

Over the last few weeks we have talked a lot about the how a man can be made right before a perfect and holy judge. This knowledge is foundational, and is required for what we are going to talk about. Today I want to talk about the church; and without the salvation we have already spoken of there could be no church. In Ephesians 5:25 we see just how important the church is to Christ, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This designation of “the Church” sets us apart. There are no other institutions or organizations like the church, because Christ has died only for the church. We are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, purchased by the blood flowing from His own veins. Even the term church has immense meaning. The Greek word that we have translated as church has the idea of a calling. This makes the Church a group of people summoned together by God. What an amazing thing! God has worked out his plan not only to save individuals, but also to create a world-wide community of these individuals. If the church is so important to God that He sent Christ to die for her, then it should be important to us as well. This is why I want to talk about the church this. Before we can get a discussion of the church body we must first talk about the individuals within that body. The church is a community that is made of “new creatures.” But what are these new creatures? To answer that question we need to start at the very beginning.
I. The New Creation

a. Regeneration

The place that we must begin when talking about the new creation is the doctrine of regeneration. If conversion refers to the response of man to God’s calling, then regenerations is the other side of conversion. Regeneration is God’s transformation of an individual so that they can accept Christ. In this act God, or more specifically the Spirit, renews a person so that they are no longer unable to seek God because of their sin. The most extensive explanation of this concept is found in John 3:1-8. Here the Lord Jesus Himself describes this concept of regeneration to Nicodemus. In this passage Jesus answers the question that Nicodemus didn’t even ask. Jesus knew Nicodemus’ heart, and that his true need was for spiritual regeneration. What we see here is that this regeneration is not something that can be achieved through human effort. In fact, the key to understanding this concept is understanding man’s need for transformation. The human being is spiritually dead and thus needs a new spiritual birth. We will find the origin to this spiritual death in Genesis 3. In Genesis 2:17 God told Adam that “in the day” that he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would “surely die.” In Genesis 3 we find that Adam did eat of that tree, but physical death did not occur. Instead, Adam died spiritually. Just as the second birth that Jesus spoke of was spiritual birth rather than a physical birth, so to the death of Adam was spiritual rather than physical. Christ understood this need completely when He said that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In short, regeneration is the work of the Spirit to take a person who is spiritually dead and makes them alive. The act of regeneration is no small thing. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul, describing this concept, said “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” By this supernatural work humans can be transformed, and spiritually brought back to life.

b. Sanctification

We would view regeneration as an instantaneously complete event, but it is not an end in itself. Regeneration is a beginning, but there is much more to come. In Philippians 1:6 the apostle Paul made this point clear when he wrote “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Later Paul refers to the manifestation Christ’s work in your life as the “fruits of the Spirit.” These fruits of the Spirit are the direct opposite of the fruit of the old nature, the flesh (Galatians 5:19-23). This continuing work is what we would call sanctification. Sanctification is the work of God in the life of the believer, making him or her holy. The definition of holy can be complicated, but for our purposes I want to make it as simple as possible. Thus, our working definition of holy will be “bearing an actual likeness to God.” From here what we must understand is that sanctification takes place subsequent to justification. This means that when God is working out your sanctification He is causing your moral condition to catch up with your legal status before God. Let me explain. After regeneration we are able to repent and put our faith in Christ. At this time we are justified; that is to say God looks at us as being justified because of the work of Christ. However, even though God has declared us to be justified we still have sin in our lives. Our minds are stilled filled with the pollution caused by a sinful life. Here is where the doctrine of sanctification comes in. Sanctification is an actual transformation of the character and condition of a person. It is the cleaning out of the remaining pollution from sin. This does not happen all at one time; it a progressive work that is accomplished over the entirety of the believers life.
To this you may be thinking, “That’s great. I am glad that God is doing this work, and I am glad that I know the logical sequence of events that go into salvation. But how does this affect my life?” Let me tell you how it will affect your life. As we have already seen Scripture is very clear in teaching that this is a supernatural work of God in your lives. But Scripture also teaches us that we have a responsibility in our sanctification. Philippians 2:12 says “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” This verse does not refer to salvation by works (it can’t Ephesians 2:8-9), but rather the believers responsibility to pursue obedience to God in their sanctification. This is something that you should be actively working on everyday. The question that we are left with is, how? First of all, we must remember that it is the presence of the Spirit in our lives that works this sanctification out. And as we have said many times, it is the Spirit of God working through the Word of God that makes a lasting change in our lives. By this we mean that the chief tool that the Spirit of God uses in the process of your sanctification is the Bible. Thus, in order to work out your salvation and clear your mind of sinful pollution you must immerse yourself Scripture. This is exactly the picture that is painted for us in Romans 12:2. Our minds must be renewed by the Spirit through Scripture. In order for this to happen we must be in Scripture. If you want a radical change in your life to rid you of the evil stain that sin leaves in your life, then you must immerse yourself in God’s Word.
At this point you may be thinking about the times that you have fallen short of this, and even now the lack of time you spend in God’s word. Let me encourage you in two ways. First of all, you are so young. If you will develop habits in your life that are spiritually profitable, and responsible they can last you a life time. Learn to make time for God’s Word every day, just like you would make time for food. Second, know that if you are a true believer in Christ Jesus then you can be assured that He will complete the work that he began in you. We saw in Philippians 2:12 that we must work out our own salvation, and if we go on to verse 13 we read “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is the new creature that has been created by God; these are the individual that make up the Church.

Keep your eye on the JE center

Over the couple of years or so work has been going on to compile the many works of Jonathan Edwards online at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. I was lucky enough to find this resource in its infancy, and be a part of the beta testing. In the beginning there was not much to test, however that has changed over the last few months. Currently there is no better place to find such an exhaustive compilation of the works of Edwards. What makes this site so useful in study, and devotions is the relative ease with which you can preform a search. I believe that you can still sign up as a beta tester and receive a free year of access to this resource. I would highly recommend it to all of my readers.

The Gospel: God’s Glory & Man’s Humilitaion

*This Sermon was preached last month at the GBCB Youth Camp*Here is where we last left off:
The question that we are now left with is, what should our response be to God’s glory in the Gospel?

The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about this question is humility. Honestly, it should be utter humiliation and this is exactly what we see in Ezekiel 36:22-32. In this passage God blessed the people with grace so that He would receive the glory. This is the Gospel. God does not save someone because of who they are. God saves people because of who He is.
Do you love the gospel because God has made much of you, or do you love the Gospel because it has freed you to make much of God forever? If you love the Gospel because God has made much of you then you need to humble yourself and remember that your joy should be rooted in the infinite value of God.If you have great guilt in your life from sin your hope should not be in you, but rather your hope should be in the name of Christ. Do not get wrapped up in esteeming yourself highly and think that it is the Gospel. The whole point of the Gospel is not that we are so good that God saved us, but rather that we are so bad yet because God is so good He has saved us. At the thought of our salvation we should not say to ourselves “I must be something because Jesus died for me.” Ezekiel makes it very clear that the thought of God’s grace in light of our sin should leave us confounded and ashamed.

This leaves us with an interesting tension that is particularly highlighted in the NT. We are to remember our sins yet forget them. Ephesians 2:12-13 tells us that we must remember our sins, but Philippians 3:12-13 tells us that we must forget our sins. The key to understanding this is found in the beginning of Philippians 3:12. Paul understands that he has not already obtained perfection, and so he remembers his sin but forgets. I think that we can find this balance if we remember enough to be ashamed by our sin and satisfied with God’s grace; but don’t remember (or dwell on) your sin to the point that you are paralyzed by it. The Gospel should humble us, not make us proud. We should be ashamed and confounded by our sin so that we will be happy and satisfied with God’s grace.

The Gospel: God’s Glory & Man’s Humilitaion

*This Sermon was preached last month at the GBCB Youth Camp*

Romans 3:25-26 Here is where we left off yesterday:

Someone might say well John 3:16 says that God saves men because of His love; and 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love is not self-seeking; so how can God be out for His own glory in the salvation of men?


To that I would answer this way. First of all, God does save men because He loves them. Because He loves them He wants what is best for them, and the best thing in the universe is God. If God were to give you all the riches of this world to enjoy, but withhold Himself then He would be demonstrating hatred toward you. But, if God were to withhold every earthly enjoyment from you but himself that would be the ultimate demonstration of love. John, in 1 John 3:1, says that the love of the Father is the reason that we can be called the children of God. Thus, we must say that God has saved men for His own glory, and because of His love. But how do those two ideas fit together, and how does God seek his own glory but Scripture says that love is not being self-seeking? Let me try to explain. To love you God must give you what is best for you. God is what is best for you. God has given Himself to us so that we can enjoy Him, and take pleasure in Him forever. He does not want us to take pleasure in anything above himself because He is jealous for His glory, and because it is not what is best for us. God wants us to have ultimate pleasure in Him, and if we are going to do that we must express that pleasure through praise. Think about you favorite hobby, or sport, or food, or even person. You love to talk about those things which you enjoy, right? When something great happens what is the first thing that you want to do? Tell someone! It is almost as if you cannot completely enjoy the moment until you tell someone else. The same is true about you enjoyment with God. You will not be able to enjoy God, and take pleasure in Him until you praise Him giving Him the glory. This is why God’s passion for His own glory is not self-serving it is for your benefit. The question that we are now left with is, what should our response be to God’s glory in the Gospel? We will discuss this tomorrow.

The Gospel: God’s Glory & Man’s Humilitaion

*This Sermon was preached last month at the GBCB Youth Camp*

Romans 3:25-26

We find the answer to the question, why would God go to such great lengths to set apart for Himself a redeemed people, twice in vv. 25-26. Two times Paul states that God has done these great things in order to show His own righteousness. It was for His name’s sake, His own glory, that he sent Christ as a sacrifice. This may sound strange to you that God has saved you first and foremost because he loves His own glory, but this is what Scripture teaches us. I want to take the time to look at several passages to make this point clear. In 2 Samuel 12:6-25 we see this same principle at work. The people of Israel had sinfully asked for a human king. They had been living under a Theocracy, and God was their King. But they wanted to be like the other nations. They wanted to depend on a man to lead them into battle rather than God. So, they asked for a king. This was a great act of wickedness (v. 17) because it brought shame upon the name of God. The people of Israel disgraced God’s name in front the watching nations and in vv. 19-20 we see His response. “Do not be afraid.” This must be wrong; it should read “be afraid.” But, this was not God’s message and in v. 22 we see why. It was for “His name’s sake,” or His glory, that He spared Israel.
Look at Isaiah 48:9-11. Here, again, we see God deferring his anger. Six times in this passage God tells us why he deferred His anger. “For my name’s sake… for the sake of my praise… for my own sake, for my own sake… how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” We are, of course, the beneficiaries, but ultimately God saves us for His glory. John MacArthur put it this way, “The primary reason we are redeemed is not so that we may escape hell- that is a blessed benefit, but not the major purpose. The central objective for which we are redeemed is not even so that we might enjoy the manifold eternal blessings of God. In fact, the supreme motive in our redemption is not for us to receive anything. Rather, we have been redeemed so that God may receive worship- so that our lives might glorify Him.” Someone might say well John 3:16 says that God saves men because of His love; and 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love is not self-seeking; so how can God be out for His own glory in the salvation of men? I will speak to this issue in the next post.

The Gospel: God’s Glory & Man’s Humilitaion

*This Sermon was preached last month at the GBCB Youth Camp*


“In His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” These are the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 3:25. This is a reference to God’s dealings with human beings before Christ. We spoke yesterday about the justification, redemption, and propitiation that are found in Christ, but what about those who were before Christ. Paul tells us that God passed over, or overlooked sin. God postponed the full penalty of sins previous to the cross allowing certain sinners to stand before Him without an adequate satisfaction for His holy justice. This poses a serious theological problem! Most people see Hell as a problem saying something to the effect of “How could a loving God send someone to Hell?” The problem is not Hell, the problem is forgiveness. How can a perfect and righteous God who is supposed to be the perfect and righteous judge of the universe just over look sin. If we had a judge letting rapists, and murders back onto the streets there would be a public uproar. However, this is exactly what God did in 2 Samuel 12:13. David looked upon another man’s wife, took that woman for himself, and sent her husband out to die. Yet, the Lord put away his sin, and he did not die. How can this be? How could God just overlook this sin? Not only is God just overlooking sins, He is also ignoring the dishonor showed to Him by men. In doing this it seems as though He is condoning men in their esteeming of themselves to be more trustworthy in their judgment than God. It is almost as if God is allowing Himself to be more lowly than His own creation. Basically, it is as if God is saying that it doesn’t matter. “But for God thus to deny the infinite value of his glory, to act persistently as if the disgrace of his holy name were a matter of indifference to him- this is the heart of unrighteousness. This if God is to be righteous e must repair the dishonor done to his name by the sins of those whom he blesses. He must magnify the divine glory man thought to deny Him.”1
To find the answer to our theological problem we must look carefully at vv. 25-26. The first thing that we must see in these verses is that the righteousness that Paul speak of here is different from the righteousness mentioned in v. 21. This righteousness does not refer to the righteousness that God has made available to men through Christ. Rather, this righteousness refers to the righteous character of God Himself. I would define this righteousness as God’s commitment to His glory, and absolute faithfulness to act for His name’s sake (More on this to come). In vv. 21-25a we saw the righteousness of God manifest through Christ, and made available to men. Here we see God’s righteousness displayed, but how? Basically, what we see here is God’s actions in passing over sins previously committed being justified. Here again, this justification is different from what we saw in v. 24. This justification is not man’s justification from sin, but God being justified in justifying. God showed that he was not unjust in his forgiveness of the OT saints when he sent Christ to be the sacrifice for all the saints. This public display of Christ’s sacrifice demonstrates that God was righteous all along in his forbearance. In fact, what we see is that God exercised his forbearance in light of the certainty of the sacrifice of Christ. It all began in Genesis 3:15 when, instead of killing Adam and Eve right there on the spot, God gave mankind the hope of salvation. As we saw yesterday all throughout the OT we can find the foreshadowing of Christ sacrifice. Look at v. 26. God sent Christ, at the perfect time, so that he might demonstrate His perfect righteous justice, and at the same time justify the ungodly through faith. This was the twofold purpose of Christ’s work. When we understand how truly amazing God’s purpose in Christ death was we are left with the question why would God go to such great lengths to set apart for Himself a redeemed people?

1. Piper, John. The Justification of God, 1993, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI.