PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
1 Peter 2:9
There’s never been a group of people comparable to the assemblage called the Church. It’s human history’s most glorious institution. It was ordained by God the Father’s infinite wisdom, redeemed by God the Son, and anointed, favored, and sealed by God the Holy Spirit. Though its mortal membership renders it imperfect, nothing compares with it. But all its shortcomings are more than capitulated in Christ. Our every possession is fully attributed to Him. Consider the unsurpassed distinctions Christ has granted the Church:
The Church is unsurpassed in protection. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “ . . . on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
The Church is unsurpassed in power. Jesus said in Luke 10:19, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”
The Church is unsurpassed in blessing. Psalm 132:15‑16 says, “I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. (16) I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will ever sing for joy.”
The Church is unsurpassed in divine attention. Psalm 4:3 says “ . . . the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him.”
These distinctions can’t be ascribed to another earthly institution. Wall Street doesn’t carry this security; Government isn’t promised such prowess; Enterprise isn’t guaranteed such prosperity. The Church alone is imbued with these unsurpassed blessings. Because of the pre-eminent stature Scripture ascribes to it, I want to first define the term “Church.”
(Definition) The New Testament word Church (“ekklesia”) means, “the called out ones.” The Church is comprised of people ransomed from Satan’s kingdom and delivered into God’s kingdom. Satan captured and enslaved men when Adam sinned but Christ’s blood “calls us out” and rescues us from his clutches.
(Transition) There’s a pronounced favor God has bestowed on the Church. From here on, we’ll examine the various designations the Bible uses to describe the Church’s nature. There are four I’ll specifically mention. The first designation defining the Church’s nature is a term Paul uses in Ephesians 1:22‑23 called “The Body of Christ.”
I. The Body of Christ
Ephesians 1:22‑23 says: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, (23) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” This expression, “The Body of Christ,” offers more toward defining the Church’s purpose, position, and character than any other designation. Several things should be noted about this title, “the Body of Christ.”
1. First, it identifies the Church’s oneness with Christ. In some mysterious way the Church actually becomes an essential of Christ’s Body. Jesus is the Head and Believers are its individual members. We’re the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and arms of His Body. And the Apostle did speak of Christ “living in him and him living in Christ.” There’s a mystical union existing between Christ and Believers.
2. Second, the phrase, “The Body of Christ,” expresses the Believer’s co‑dependency to each other. Everyone is vital to the Church’s prosperity. Neither the Church nor its members can live abundantly without cooperation. By God’s wisdom, everybody has been singularly situated in the “Body of Christ” to benefit their fellow Believers.
(Example) Maybe you feel insignificant and your gifts and abilities don’t count much in the Church. Perhaps you feel like an eye-lid. Well, an eye-lid is the most important member of the human body during a sandstorm. Don’t ever depreciate the significance of your gifts. The Spirit endows every Christian with gifts meant to function within the context of the local Church.
3. Third, the phrase, “The Body of Christ” indicates the Church’s unity. There’s no way the Church can properly function without unity Christians. That’s why dissension so frequently splits and undermines Churches. It debilitates the Body.
Acts 6:1‑7 (Read)
Thank God the Church was prudent enough to prohibit such a divisive issue from dividing it. The Apostles proposed that seven wise, Spirit-filled men oversee these matters. And the Church grew and prospered because it discerningly accepted this recommendation. That’s why James 5:9 says: “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door.”
Unity is the principal issue Paul directed toward the Corinthian Church. It’s throughout 1 Corinthians but he especially appeals for unity in chapter one when he said: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (11) My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.”
Paul emphasized the need for Christian harmony seven times in his letters to the Corinthians (1:10-11; 3:3; 11:18; 12:25; 14:1-40; 2CO 12:20). When the “body of Christ” sacrifices unity we’re on the verge of defeat. The Church’s strength is unity, not numbers! God doesn’t need throngs of people for defeating the enemy He simply needs people in agreement.
It took only three hundred unified men of faith submitted to Gideon’s leadership to rout an army so large that attempting to number their camels “could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore” (JUD 7:12).
Only 120 unified Believers jump-started Christianity and turned the known world upside-down for Christ.
God can do more with two faith‑filled Christians in agreement than a Church of ten thousand disjointed and disgruntled members. His blessing resides upon the people of unanimity.
(Example) Even the world knows the power of cooperation. If American politics has proved anything it’s that a minority of people unified can legislate contrary to the majority’s pleasure. The abortionists, in the minority, have pushed through their legislative carnage. The feminists and the homosexuals, cooperating in the minority, have successfully repealed sodomy legislation.
But take note. If the early Christians, far from a majority, changed their world, Christians today can too.
(Transition) Another designation the Bible ascribes to the Church is “the household of God.” Turn to 1 Timothy 3:15.
II. “The Household of God”
1 Timothy 3:15 say: “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
Paul uses three phrases to define the Church in this verse: “The household of God . . . The Church of the living God . . . [and] The pillar and foundation of truth.” I want to discuss the phrase, “The household of God.”
1. First, this designation identifies the domestic relationship Believers share one with another; the kinship-connection Church members share. The Church is a family. The Bible teaches that God’s household contains brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. By Christ’s Blood we’re adopted into God’s household.
(Example) How many here have met strangers, perhaps across the country or out of the country, and discovered they were a Christian? Almost instantly the alienation faded and an immediate bonding occurred. That’s because Christians around the earth constitute God’s household.
And notice how Paul said the “household of God” should treat its fellow family members. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 says: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, (2) older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” We’re to love and respect one another.
2. Secondly, and strangely, this designation, “The Household of God,” identifies Church’s residence. Scripture identifies the Church residing two places: Globally and locally. When the Bible refers to the universal Church it includes Believers throughout the earth (EPH 1:22; COL 1:18). Spanning the globe east to west, Arctic to Antarctica, a Christian living in the low-lying Everglades of south Florida is spiritually kin to a Christian living among the Alpine pinnacles of Switzerland.
We’re called to be a loving and caring community. We need to pray, give, and minister to God’s family when needs arise. Paul told Believers to “do good to all men, but especially those of the household of faith.” And that’s exactly what the New Testament Church practiced.
(Bible Example) When the Jewish Church in Jerusalem suffered in the first century famine Paul collected a huge offering from the Gentile Churches in Asia Minor. The Gentile offering rescued the Jewish Believers and unified the Church. Loosening your pocketbook for others creates a bonding.
You see, the Church is an organization but it’s also an organism. In structure it’s organizational; but in relationship it’s an organism—a family organism. And a healthy family is homogenous, loving, and nurturing.
(Definition) The dictionary defines an organism as “a group of interdependent parts that function for the benefit of the whole.” That describes the Church. The Church is a group of mutually dependent people functioning for the benefit of the whole body.
(Example) Corporate philosophy suggests that everyone works for the company’s well-being. However, the company’s welfare isn’t always achieved. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. From eight to five there’s often conniving, contriving, slash-mouthing, and crooked dealing enterprising. For everyone striving for the establishment’s good behavior is often brutal. Christ created the Church to house a loving and caring atmosphere.
(Transition) Not only does the Bible call the Church “The Body of Christ” and “the household of God,” it also refers to it as “the church of the living God.”
III. “The Church of the Living God”
There are two implications in this expression:
1. First, the phrase, “the church of the living God,” infers who governs the Church. And it’s governed by almighty God. Note the possessive assertion Christ placed on His Church at Caesarea Philippi when He declared, “I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it” (MAT 16:18). Christ specifically referred to the Church with the possessive pronoun “My.” “I will build “My” Church.”
Thank God, the Church is governed and protected by the omnipotent God. Man doesn’t govern it; a Board of Regents does not govern it; Congress or parliament doesn’t govern it; Angels don’t govern it; God Himself is the chief potentate of the Church. The Church’s every command comes through Christ. The Church’s duty basically involves seven commands: The evangelization of the lost (2CO 5:18‑20); the discipleship of Believers (MAT 28:19); the fellowship of Believers (ACT 2:42); the worship of God (1PE 2:9); the perpetuation of Christ’s healing and miracle ministry; the ministry of prayer; and the Believer’s call to be the “salt and light” of the world (MAT 5:13‑16). These commands come only through Christ.
2. Then secondly, the phrase, “Church of the living God,” expresses God’s earthly dwelling-place. Since the beginning of time God’s purpose has been to raise up a people among whom He could dwell, call His own, receive their worship, and display His glory. And that’s the Church’s purpose.
In the Old Testament God dwelt in the tents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Israel burgeoned He manifested Himself among them. But for the past 2,000 years the Church has been God’s earthly dwelling‑place:
The Church is the primary location where God’s Word and will are revealed.
It’s the primary location where His supernatural power is released (1CO 12:4‑7). Christ healed the sick when He went into God’s house.
Throughout Church history signs and wonders have been associated with the Church (Clouds of smoke, fires over sanctuaries, etc).
It’s the primary place of worship (PSA 27:6).
It’s the primary place of prayer (ACT 4:23-31). (Also note Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple and God’s response to it.)
It’s the primary place for the ministry of the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher.
(Transition) The final designation Paul ascribes to the Church here in 2 Timothy 3:15 is “the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
IV. The Pillar And Foundation Of The Truth
This designation expresses the Church’s role in possessing God’s eternal truth in opposition to the enemies of deception and evil. Saints of God, the Church is entrusted with maintaining the standard of truth without compromise.
Folks, some Churches simply don’t preach or believe God’s inerrant Word! They don’t believe in Scripture’s inspiration; They explain away Bible miracles; They disavow Christ’s forgiving power; And the virgin birth is sheer fantasy. They excuse themselves by claiming the need for a more broad‑minded, contemporary doctrine. Blasphemous doctrine seems to better identify it!
Before you walk the isle and unite with a Church you best investigate whether it proclaims and upholds “the pillar and ground of truth.” In Revelation 2 Christ told the heresy-riddled Church at Pergamum that unless they repented He would “fight against them with the sword of . . . [His] mouth” (2:17).
Folks, these liberal, water‑down‑the‑truth Churches are so diluted they don’t realize the Lord’s sword has severed their silver cord of life and His hammer has shattered their foundation. Listen, the Church cannot be the Church without adhering to and heralding its chief constitution—the Bible.
Both Peter and Paul noted this chosen nature of the Church.
Peter said: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1PE 2:9).
Writing to the Corinthian Church Paul said: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called . . . (27) God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise . . .” (1CO 1:26-27).
These passages of Scripture are bursting with significance but nothing is asserted more than the fact that God’s people are divinely called into His kingdom. Actual Church membership isn’t extended through man, it’s extended through Jesus Christ. That makes the Church unlike any other institution. Its divine election through Christ’s grace makes it unequal to anything on earth. May the glory of His latter house transcend the glory of His former house.