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Faithlife

The Essential Nature of the Church

Notes & Transcripts
Suppose you received a message one day that the President and First Lady or the Queen of England or Kate Middleton or your favorite public figure was planning a trip to this area in two years and would like to spend several days with you in your home.
I suspect your mind would start racing...
Our house is not adequate to host such a prominent guest
What will they think when they see where we live?
What improvements can be made to make their experience better?
Maybe we should do a major remodel and upgrade? Maybe we should buy another house? Or build a new one?
Keep this imaginary scenario in the back of your mind as we take a look at several passages from Ephesians this morning
Each one of us - individually - are sinners doomed to eternity separated from God
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It doesn’t matter what family we are born into or what environment we are raised… we are sinners
But God...
The gift of salvation is available to any person who accepts it by faith and lives a life of obedience and submission to Jesus Christ
John 3:16–17 KJV
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Ephesians 2:1–10 ESV
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
This describes what each one of us was… prior to the redemption by Jesus Christ
following… the course of this world
following… the prince of the power of the air (Satan)
we lived in the passions of our flesh
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
BUT GOD… transformed believers… making us alive together with Christ
He saved us from our sins, but so much more
He placed us (seated us) with Him in Jesus - the King of Kings / the Messiah
And its not over - he did this so that in the future (both here on earth and throughout eternity) He can continue to show the infinite riches of His grace
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
It is by the grace of God that we are saved… through faith.
All our “goodness” is inadequate to gain merit or qualify us for salvation
It doesn’t matter what family we are born into or what environment we are raised… we are sinners
It is a gift — it is not earned or deserved.
The WAGES of sin is death — that is what we have earned and deserve
Salvation is a GIFT from God — we cannot earn it
While salvation is by faith, we are created by God and for Him… created in Christ Jesus for good works
Because we are saved by faith, and there is nothing we did or can do to deserve it...
We respond by doing what God loves and desires from us
We look for ways to please our Creator and Redeemer — rather than pleasing His enemy
The gift of salvation is available for anyone - but must be realized by EVERY person individually
It is available for anyone - but must be realized by EVERY person individually
No one can transmit the gift of salvation or forgiveness to another person - even their best friend … each person must repent and receive salvation by faith personally
When we do...
Our severed relationship with God is restored
We have victory over sin
Our sins are forgiven and we have peace
We are changed - we are a new creation in Christ!
Some people may be tempted to conclude this summarizes everything we need to know about Christianity
Satan perpetuates this myth…
American culture has idolized and centered around the individual
individual rights… individual success… individual happiness… individual morality
What I determine is best for me is the commonly accepted (and even promoted) yardstick
In Christianity, the concept of praying the sinner’s prayer as the essence of being born again was introduced in the late 1800s… within the last 130 years
While different, it embraces some of the same individualistic influence and rights from the broader culture
Praying the sinners prayer is my ticket to heaven… it is a formula that assures me I am born again… it guarantees I am saved… and nothing I do can change that
The myth and lie comes when you consider the focus… it is all about me!
Yes, the gift of salvation does save me… but if the focus of salvation is removed from Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, we desecrate His greatest gift
We are saved through faith… it is a gift of God… salvation isn’t the result of what I have done to deserve it
However, this is only the critical initial step… we are God’s creation, and created in Christ Jesus to do good works, and walk in them… in the context of a local body of believers
On two very different occasions this past week, the Holy Spirit reminded me again of the essential value of the church in the life of a believer
On Wednesday, we attended the funeral service of my uncle Johnny Stoltzfus in the Lancaster, PA area… he was married to my Mom’s sister Lily
Ephesians 2:1–22 ESV
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
At the age of 17, Johnny moved to northwestern Ontario for mission work and was there for the next 27 years… during which time he was married and had four children
When they moved back to PA in the 1970’s, Johnny was involved with church leadership and church planting in the Hopewell network of churches
Several of the tributes given at his funeral mentioned that while he invested time and energy in one-on-one discipleship, he strongly advocated that believers are designed to live in the context of community and accountability by being part of the local body of Christ — we are not designed to live the Christian life by ourselves!
Friday morning I met Harry Argo [a non-local brother] for breakfast… he has been an active believer for decades… involved in mission work in foreign countries, children’s ministries locally, multiple local churches over the years
This week he admitted that he is just now learning what it means to live in the context of a local body… yes, he’s been members of various churches, but had never known what it means to be really invested with fellow believers
he stated that even though he was involved in churches and missions, he recognizes now he was doing so as a individual
He said he was a lone ranger - even though he would not have admitted it (or even recognized it)
Only by becoming more engaged with a local body is he seeing how individualistic his approach has been in the past
These two interactions confirmed what I felt the Lord was reminding me of the essential nature of the local church in life of a believer
As Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians, we see him shifting his focus from the individual believer to the collective group of believers
Ephesians 2:11–22 ESV
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
eph 2:11-
eph 2
The gift of salvation is remarkable and what makes it even more incredible is that it is not limited to the Jewish people
Throughout the OT the Jewish people were known as God’s chosen people
The Gentiles (non-Jews) were outsiders
Paul is reminding the Ephesian believers that the alienation and separation between Jews and non-Jews no longer exists
the non-Jews were without God and without hope… until Jesus died and rose again
Now the ceremonial Jewish law has been abolished
the wall - whether figurative or real - no longer exists between Jews and non-Jews
Rather, these two groups of people - can both be reconciled to God in ONE BODY - the church - destroying the hostility that previously existed
One body working together … individuals not working against each other
The church is the present reality of Jesus Christ on the earth
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
John 3:16–17 KJV
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3
Both Jews and non-Jews have equal access to God
The national distinctions evaporate when we become believers… no longer do we look at others like they don’t belong or they are out of place
instead, we become FELLOW CITIZENS… with whom?
the saints.... and members of the household of God… the focus is now on the group - the body of believers - rather than the individual believer
We are in equal standing — family — with the saints and every other member of God’s worldwide family
We are built the enduring foundation of Jesus Christ Himself and the apostles and prophets of the NT and the OT
The structure… comprised of many individual components… are joined (fastened) to other components… being developed into a holy temple
Paul concludes this chapter with a stunning verse
In Jesus Christ, we also are being built together into a dwelling place of God
did we catch that?
It seems verses 19-21 refer to the worldwide church… global Christianity… this massive and glorious temple
Verse 22 brings it back to the local level… your local church is being built together into a dwelling place of God
When something is built, the individual components lose their identity as they are joined together for a greater cause
This cause (purpose) is to build a dwelling place for God — the Creator of the universe — he wants to dwell in our humble dwelling of our local congregation
Back to our imaginary scenario of some famous public figure wanting to visit our home… it is sobering to realize that the most famous, most prominent, most exciting, most glamorous public figure pales in comparison to God — who wants to dwell (not just visit) in the building being built by us as a congregation
While in Ireland, we visited the Muckross House in Kilarney - a 67-room mansion completed in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife Mary. With a three-year advance arrangements, Queen Victoria made plan to visit the Muckross House in 1861. During these three years of preparation for the visit, the Herbert’s spent lots of money upgrading and renovating their home for this special visit… the time came and Queen Victoria stayed in their home for two nights before returning to England.
The Herbert’s ended up losing their estate because of the massive amounts of money invested for this visit of the Queen of England...
What we invest in body of Christ — for the dwelling place of God, will never be wasted or lost.
Ephesians 3:1–13 ESV
1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
eph 3:
1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
The mystery Paul is speaking about is the church - the body of Christ
Not that it is so mysterious, but because it was not revealed (and unknown) until very recently
Paul writes about the mystery, but it was unknown in the Old Testament
Verse 6 elaborates on this mystery to which Paul refers
non-Jews are fellow heirs (equals) with Jews
members of the same body — same church
equal partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Paul was sent to preach to the Gentiles … revealing the unfathomable riches of Christ and reveal the mystery of the church..
v10 — so that THROUGH THE CHURCH the many-sided (multi-faceted) wisdom of God might be made known to God’s enemies
there is no indication this can or will happen apart from the church
Have we underestimated or undervalued the role of the church?
Ephesians 1:3–14 ESV
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
eph 1:3-
Going back to chapter one, I would like for us to catch something about Paul’s writing that was not immediately apparent to me...

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

3 eBlessed be fthe God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing gin the heavenly places, 4 heven as he ichose us in him jbefore the foundation of the world, that we should be kholy and blameless before him. In love 5 lhe predestined us2 for madoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, naccording to the purpose of his will, 6 oto the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in pthe Beloved. 7 qIn him we have rredemption sthrough his blood, tthe forgiveness of our trespasses, uaccording to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 vmaking known3 to us the mystery of his will, naccording to his purpose, which he wset forth in Christ 10 as a plan for xthe fullness of time, yto unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained zan inheritance, ahaving been predestined baccording to the purpose of him who works all things according to cthe counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be dto the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard ethe word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, fwere sealed with the gpromised Holy Spirit, 14 who is hthe guarantee4 of our iinheritance until jwe acquire kpossession of it,5 lto the praise of his glory.

Individuals are saved — Christianity is lived as a body
Paul is writing the the church at Ephesus and he very intentionally addresses them as a group — not individuals. I don’t believe this is coincidental
​Listen to the frequency in which Paul uses plural pronouns in this opening chapter…
3 Blessed be the God and Father of OUR Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed US in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose US in him before the foundation of the world, that WE should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined US for adoption to himself as SONS through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed US in the Beloved. 7 In him WE have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of OUR trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon US, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to US the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him WE have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that WE who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him YOU also, when YOU heard the word of truth, the gospel of YOUR salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of OUR inheritance until WE acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 3:14–21 ESV
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20–21 ESV
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
eph 3:
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