How the Church should look like?
My family and I came to Eythorne Baptist Church in 2001. We just helped a couple to get married, using the chapel in Nonington where after the ceremony, I saw this gentleman sweeping the floor..it was Ted! A month later, I sat in the back of this church and saw Ted again , preaching from this pulpit, delivering a verse by verse sermon from the book of John, if I remember correctly about chapter 4 ( he continued with John for the next 2 years!). I went back home that day and told Lynette that I think that we at last have found a Church to go to. Over the years we attended, we met so many people here that profoundly influenced our lives. Some of them are not here anymore: I think of Lorrie, sitting next to Wynn. Such a widely read man: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more intelligent! I think of David Green, smiling and wearing a green pullover, standing at the back and how he conveyed such a deep love for Christ, asking me to join the Gideons. David Hampshire, sitting straight as a rod next to his mom, here on the left. We became members of this church on the same day as John and Merial. John became for me a mentor; conveying an infectious love for Christ and a deep concern for his fellow saints. Then of course there are you, who graciously came to listen to my attempts to preach! Over the years more people came into the Church: of course we have Rick and Sian, who encouraged me when I heard the Lord’s call into ministry, Dave and Karen who gave ,and still gives me great joy as I see them grow in the faith. Niel Wiggens and his powerful voice, Tony and Andrew with their trumpet and trombone, Racheal with her soft touch on the piano. Norman and Janet as pillars in the Church. Keith who greeted us every Sunday at the door. Elsie and her heart for the small children and her favorite song: my Jesus my Savior. Anita who has become such a close friend of Lynette. Joe, a 3rd son in our house. Alison, who have such a heart for missionary work. David and Joice who are always so friendly. I can name each member of this Church and each one of you influenced us is some form. Indeed, Lynette and I came to regard this fellowship closer than even our own families back in South Africa.
People I truly love this Church and care greatly for the spiritual wellbeing of each one of you. Above all I love Christ and whishes to see this Church grow in its commitment and ability to honor Him as Lord in everything we as a fellowship do. With this in mind, I invite you to turn with me to the book of Ephesians: Ephesians chapter 4.
Before we read the text, I wish to clarify one very important issue: most of you, like myself, would read Scripture and where you see the word “you”, you automatically would think that to apply to you specifically or individually. But I would urge you to remember that the letter was written to the CHURCH….Paul was speaking to the Church as a whole. To get the full meaning of what the Holy Spirit is saying through Paul, it is necessary to keep the whole fellowship in mind when you read the text.
Read Eph 4
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, I believe that this chapter was what he had in mind as the principle purpose in writing this letter: he wanted this Church to be what God intended the Church be; a God honoring interdependent serving knowledgeable Church.
It is clear from this text that the fellowship of the believers is at the centre of God’s purposes for the Church.
Put it differently: Life in the Church is not about you as an individual, No! Of course you as an individual are important: your salvation, your spiritual growth and maturity and such…..It is not as if you are merely a cog in a greater piece of machinery and of no consequence, but Christianity goes way beyond the individual: you are part of body of Christ and individually members of one another and mutually dependent on one another.. People, in our society it is all about “me”: my needs, my rights, my desires. “Me” is king! The sad thing is that that mindset has influenced us in the Church as well. The average believer’s relationship with the Church is also centered on himself: How does the Church benefit me ? What can I get from the fellowship? Often the average believer’s relationship to the church does not extend beyond coming to Church and listening to a sermon. When it is done, he would disappear not to be seen again until the next Sunday’s service….and he thinks he fulfilling his part of the fellowship?
Instead of asking: how can I serve, the modern mind asks: how can I be served? This self-centered mindset is also the reason why so many people move from place to place, or have no idea what goes on in the lives of his fellow believers. The modern mind often thinks that it is enough to listen to sermons on cd or read a spiritual book. If something goes wrong in his life, is it any wonder that the fellowship is the last place he would turn for support? Tell me..if you stumped your big toe..is the rest of your body not affected by it? If it is throbbing, you are acutely aware of it and the rest of your body is also affected!
Let me make it abundantly clear: GOD has not designed the Church around the individual! Rather God has designed the individual believer to function within a fellowship.
So what must the Church look like?
The Churches 1st priority is stated in verse 1:
Verse 1: Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
The Church must have the right desire for honoring God. The calling with which we have been called, indeed is a great calling! Without a clear understanding of Who we are serving and the tremendous grace we have received, being saved from His righteous wrath, why would we want to live a life worthy of His calling? Paul has just spent 3 chapters explaining that call to the Ephesians: Christ stands at the centre. He is the glory of God and under Him all will submit! In Him all things, in heaven and earth will be united. In an amazing act of mercy, God had purposed that sinners can have part of His kingdom. He called some, gave them the faith thy need and saved them! As part of God’s design, He purposed that in them He would display the glory of His grace. Not only did He save sinners, but so much more, He saved them and adopted them into His own family so that we are saved into being children of God! What more of a motivation can we have for wanting to honor Him by living in a manner worthy of this tremendous calling? Do you struggle to walk the Christian walk? Perhaps it is time for you to get a grasp on the true meaning of salvation!
So we’re to walk worthy of His calling.
The Church doing so are characterized by 3 things according to this text
1. That Church is a Unified Body
2. That Church is a serving body
3. That Church is a knowledgeable body
1. THE CHURCH MUST BE A UNIFIED BODY
Paul leaves us without any doubt about God’s desire of unity in the Church and calls us to be diligent to preserve that unity. Notice though that Paul says: ”KEEP the unity” . To be able to preserve the unity, means that we have to have unity to start off with. How can you preserve something you do not have? Paul does not say: “cultivate unity” or “strive for unity”…He says: “KEEP the unity” This unity friends, is ours already and is the product of the Holy Spirit working in the individual believers so that they, all living in step with the Holy Spirit, together produce the unity and peace in the Fellowship! Left to ourselves we will never be able to have unity…it is not an earthly unity! The Spirit needs to be working for unity to exist! So when he says v 2:-3
Verse 2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Paul is stating that we should be walking in line with what the Spirit is guiding us to do! Of course, it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit by acting contrary to what He teaches us to do, but a Church in disunity, provided of course that it is filled with believers, just need to recognize that sin in them and repent, and the true unity produced by the Spirit will be present if the believers are willing to submit to the guidance of the Spirit.
Remember, He has already given us the ability to do so. This is confirmed by Peter: 2 Peter1:3 : 3 For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness
Also Romans 8:13 for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.
So you see, the Church being humble, gentle, patient longsuffering, is the product of the Spirit working in obedient individuals forming the Church. “the fruits of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control.” It is in that Spirit produced unity of the Church where God is glorified.
4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
He made us as one: now live as one and be vigilant to protect the unity of the Church. One last thought: this is not unity for the sake of unity. Unity does not mean compromise on the Truth for the sake of unity. Unity means a body of believers all acting in obedience to the Truth, guided by the Spirit, that produces that unity. If any falsehood comes into the Church, THAT is the thread to unity and the believers must be vigilant to guard against any falsehood or sin that threatens that unity!
2. The Church must be a Serving body
God is glorified with the Church being a unified body and God is glorified by the Church being a serving body.
There is one body, one Spirit, one God and Father
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.”
Jump to v 11
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
The works of the all the members of the fellowship is at the centre of everything that God purposed for the Church! All the gifts that He gave the Church are for that one purpose: to prepare the people for service!
So you may ask: what is at the centre of Church life? Is it the preaching of the Word, the Sunday service? Friend this passage makes it abundantly clear that at the centre of Church life is ….SERVICE by all it individual members!
The centre of the Church is not preaching, or listening to a sermon Sunday by Sunday as if that is enough…..The centre of the Church is SERVICE! SERVICE by every member of that Church as they are prepared by the teaching of Scripture! Now you may ask: What are these works? What is this service Paul is talking about? Is it being a deacon, or Sunday school teacher? These offices of service are important for sure, but service in the Church is primarily the body of believers acting as a body: living their faith by acting in accordance to that faith. That service is the same thing that Paul talked about in Philippians 2:3: For it is God who is working in you, ⌊enabling you⌋ both to will and to act for His good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. 16 Hold firmly the message of life.
The Church glorifying God by service is nothing but the people being obedient to the Word. The acts they perform are in keeping with the love they have for their brethren!
Again the individuals of the Fellowship are mutually depended on each other with each member serving the other in an attitude of love! Because you love the other you want to serve the other: these acts of service will include: praying for the other, looking out for the need of the other, keeping the other in the faith, encouraging the other to glorify Christ. Discouraging any unholy behavior! Correcting, encouraging, training…and yes, also serving as deacon, or teacher, or making coffee.
The gifts Christ gave to the Church, is to explain the Word to you so that you will be able to discern what is best in any given situation and serve better. That is also what Paul prayed for in Philippians is it not? Phil 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Notice also if you will ch 2: 10. This verse is very important and crucial in understanding what true salvation is: True salvation is faith in the sacrificial work of Christ that leads to you being declared righteous by God….and are ALWAYS characterized by the works that accompany salvation These works being exactly what is described in Chapter 4 and are for the benefit of the whole fellowship. Put it differently: The sinner has been saved to fulfill his purpose in the Church!…The end goal for the salvation of the sinner does not stop with his adoption into the Kingdom. His spiritual regeneration is important, but the goal of his salvation is to prepare him for good works….THAT is the purpose…..He is saved as an individual but God saved him to do the good works for the benefit of the Fellowship as a whole! Put it differently: you were not saved merely for yourself. You were saved to fulfill your place in the Church by doing those things God prepared beforehand for you to do. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. There is an expectation that all who came to faith will do the works of faith!
Sure it is true that non-believers would benefit from the believers work, but I argue that it is 1st and foremost within the context of the fellowship of the Church where these works are performed and done to the benefit of the fellowship as a whole and not merely a matter between the individual believer and God!
And what is the purpose of the works? V12+13 so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
The individuals serving one another within the fellowship has the benefit that the whole fellowship is built up in the faith! The Church is the environment where you can fully live out your service for Christ…and the wider world will also benefit.
3. The Church is to be a knowledgeable body
We are to serve one another: but notice that this service is not a mere emotional feeling: service in the body is based on knowledge. .
The gift Christ gave the Church included Apostles, preachers, teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service. That implies that something needs to be taught. The Christian Service therefore implies the application of Biblical knowledge by the fellowship: Biblical service is not whimsical superficial care for one another, but studying Scripture with the purpose of applying Scripture in every part of your day to day lives: The works of salvation does not start in a very well directed way. As you learn what the will of God is, you are being equipped to deal with any situation in a more mature way. You cultivate Biblical thinking, Biblical reasoning, Biblical responsibility towards one another, Biblical correction of the sinner, Biblical decision making; Biblical discipline in everything we as individual do so that the Church functions as a Biblical Church! Finally knowledge leads to Biblical love for Christ and for one another. This Biblical worldview and patter of life stands directly opposed to the superficial spirituality. It is a Spirit guided lifestyle directly directed by Biblical knowledge which is directly opposed to the idea of Christianity based on feeling, emotions or cult religion like the name it and claim it gospel. It is true Christianity with depth versus mere religion.
Of this Biblical mindset Peter also had much to say: 2 Peter 1:3 : For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ
My friends: cultivate a love for the Truth of God’s word. The more you know, the better you are prepared to serve. Fully apply yourself to the gifts God has given you to prepare you for the work of service:
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
I am afraid friends that we in the affluent Western Society have lost much of what God indented the Church to be. We have become selfish, self reliant and ignorant of the needs of other within our own fellowship. In doing so we are missing out on a tremendous blessing ourselves and much more important: we are dishonoring the God that called us with such a great calling!
Let me ask you: you know that we are off to LA for studies….do you know what my family’s needs are? Do you know the spiritual need of the person in front or next to you? Has the person next to you enough food in his cupboard? I include myself in this ignorance: last week I met Mrs Burton outside the hall. I did not realize that it was her husband that has been buried only 2 days before! Have we moved so far from the interdependence in the body of Christ that it has become a theoretical body only? I pray God that we in this Church may rediscover God’s purpose for the Church. Let each of us look afresh at our service to the Body of Christ. We are family….actually we are so far beyond mere blood relatives…We are members of one another and dependant on one another. There is no part of us who does something more important that the other: one teaches, other one serves, another cares for the sick. Another prays another supports financially. Each of us is by living out the love of Christ within the fellowship, encouraging the other, spurring each other on to love Christ more, to serve better. By not doing the works of faith we ourselves are missing out on some part of the maturity of faith and also are causing others not to grow into maturity.
How are you fulfilling your part? Can we as Eythorne Baptist Church be more effective in glorifying our Savior by our behavior as a Church?