What is the Church?
Acts 20:28-31 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore, be alert. ESV
My subject is, ‘care for the church of God,’ and I would like to begin immediately with a question, what is the church?
· The majority of people, hearing this question would answer that the church is a building like the one here at 4450 Edmundson. It comes in various sizes from a small store front church to a massive cathedral. It is one of the more obvious landmarks used when giving directions. From Highway 70, come South on Edmundson to the stop sign and the church is on your left.
· There are a few people who would say that the church is something that you do as a description for the worship service and may include a certain form of preaching, or signing or both. You may have heard someone say; “I tell you Pastor Pete got happy in our Growth Group meeting and we had church” or When the choir is really getting into the songs the commentator may say, “We are gonna have some church up in here!” Someone may be passing by the church building and hear the service that is going on and comment “sounds like they are having church in there.”
· Some have learned and would respond, pastor, you asked the question incorrectly, it is not ‘what is the church’ but the question should be, ‘who is the church’, for they have learned that the church is not a building and more than an activity but the church is people.
· So this is just a building until you get here for you bring the church. In fact we can leave here and go to any of your homes and when we get there we bring the church. Get together in the park and there you have the church.
· You can have church until the people bring the church because Jesus Himself said that where two or three are gathered in my name, Jesus is among them.
· Did you bring the church? Or did you come to find the church?
· Did you come in on fire for the Lord? Or are you waiting to be turned on or fired up?
· Were you glad when they said to you, let us go into the house of the Lord? Or did you just come to the church house and now waiting for there to be church?
· As the old preacher would sometime say, I don’t know about you but I can say; yes I brought the church, yes I came in on fire for my Lord, and yes I’m glad they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord!
· Now that I have made the point that the church is people, to truly care for the church as I am directed in this passage, I need to clarify this point, with this statement; the church is not just any people but the church is the community of all true believers for all times
· Author John M. Frame in his book, ‘Salvation belongs to the Lord, says it this way in reference to the church being people;
o It is the people in covenant with God, through Jesus Christ. In one sense, the church is the elect, those joined to Christ in eternity past and through eternity future. In another sense, it is the people who sincerely or insincerely have identified themselves with God’s people by profession and baptism. Frame points out that the visible church, what you and I see contains both elect and nonelect. The nonelect are covenant breakers, not covenant keepers.
· This passage refers to the church member as part of a flock or as we can see in verse 30, the church member is called a disciple. I also used the title ‘true believer’ and Frame called the church member the elect joined to Christ
· Some body may say that sounds wonderful, how do I become a member? Acts 2:37 says it this way; Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
· If you were asked this question, how would you answer it?
o Is the answer; “just join a bible believing church?”
o Is the answer; “just get involve in the church you are attending?”
o Is the answer: “you need to start going more often?”
· The answer to this question can be stated with one word and that word is ‘conversion’, the practical side or your response to what is termed the gospel call.
Conversion is defined as your willing response to the gospel call, in which you sincerely repent of sins and place your trust in Christ for salvation. The word conversion itself means “turning”, here it represents a spiritual turn, a turning from sin to Christ. The turning from sin is called repentance, and the turning to Christ is called faith.
Many times you want to start with faith and stay there, refusing to deal with the repenting part of conversion. This result in;
· Faith in Jesus Christ and living a life of sin
· Faith that Jesus is my Lord and Savior but still holding to your own opinions or control by feelings only
· Trusting in the Lord Jesus as one who died for your sins but still leaning to your own understanding
· This allow for lukewarm behavior, behavior that is a mixture of hot and cold but not one or the other. A behavior where one foot is in the church but the other foot is still in the world.
· And you get weak prayers, fragmented testimonies, and just going through the motions but no power
· Well my brothers and sisters, that is not gospel and the truth is that is not conversion
· In true conversion Repentance and Faith must come together
· Listen to what the Lord points out in His word
o Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ESV
o Acts 2:38 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ESV
o Acts 17:30 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, ESV
o Acts 20:21 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. ESV
Conversion equals faith and repentance, both together and both occurring together.
· There are three elements that makes up saving faith; knowledge of God’s revelation, believing that this knowledge is true, and trusting this knowledge to govern your life.
· Repentance also has three elements and it is more than sorry or remorseful. Many times one may be remorseful because they got caught or they will lose out on something but no desire or decision to forsake it.
Wayne Grudem in his book Systematic Theology an introduction to Biblical doctrine defines repentance as; Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.
· How often do you look at your sins as a human thing that just can’t be helped
o It’s an old habit
o It’s a weakness
o I just can’t help myself
· But true repentance that second and equal element of conversion is
· There is an intellectual aspect to a heartfelt sorrow for sin (heartfelt not mind-felt)
o Brothers and Sisters, it is an intellectual understanding that sin is wrong (there are no color codes, lesser or greater) SIN IS WRONG!
o Do you understand that?
o This heartfelt sorrow is like what Isaiah felt when in the sixth chapter of Isaiah ; “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” and resulted in the following
o Isaiah 6:5 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ESV
o Do you have a heartfelt sorrow for your sin?
· There is an emotional aspect of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin. It is a sorrow for sin and a hatred of it! You renounce sin having a godly sorrow for the sin itself and not just the result of sin
o 2 Corinthians 7:10 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. ESV
o Judas for example was sorry for his sin (he had a change of mind) but because it was not godly grief, it lead to his suicide.
· A volitional aspect which is a sincere commitment to forsake sin and to walk in obedience to Christ.
· Now listen at me very closely, all of what I just said takes place inwardly.
· There must be, my brothers and sisters, an inward turning from sin and a seeking forgiveness, and also there must be a change of purpose and motivation.
· The inward change must reveal itself outwardly
o We must turn to God here is where faith comes in
o We must turn to God in grateful obedience
o We must bring fruits of repentance
o Repentance must issue in a changed life
I care for you and it is important that you really understand the basic doctrines and being so equipped, you are not tossed here and there by various strange doctrines from outside and inside.
What are you to do with this?
· You can examine yourself, examine your own conversion, is there repentance in your life
o Have you repented of hatred
o Have you repented of lack of forgiveness or love
o Have you repented of sexual sin
o Have you repented of selfishness or covetousness
o Have you repented of stubbornness or moodiness
o What are your fruits of repentance that will show this
o How have you change for the better and for the Lord
· You can share this with someone who needs to know the Lord and know the truth
o There are too many situations where there are unsaved people in the visible church thinking that they are saved when they are really still lost
· You can minister to someone better when there is some evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in that person’s life
· And finally you can give thanks and praise to the Lord for providing a way out from this sin nature that we are living with.
· Let us pray.
Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 713 (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994).