*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.
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.
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.