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Bride Of Christ

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THE BRIDE OF CHRIST

Selected Scriptures

David Riley

Liberty Baptist Church

September 19, 1999

 

I. OUR PURPOSE

Why does the church, the bride of Christ, exist? Now there's a question! Like all why questions, which are so often probing and uncomfortable, it can yield life-changing answers. Because asking why gets to the heart of an issue and helps forge our values, purpose, and direction.

 

So why does the church exist-what is its primary purpose? Why do we buy land, rent or construct buildings, sing hymns, and preach sermons? You can probably list a host of reasons without even thinking about it:

                •   to present the gospel to the lost

                •   to bring hope to the hurting

                •   to provide a place for worship and instruction

                •   to equip the saints for the work of the ministry

                •   to support wholesome values

                •   to prepare children for life

                •   to provide for the needy

                •   to stimulate action on crucial issues

                •   to give people an opportunity to serve

                •   to teach the Scriptures

                •   to be a model of righteousness

Would you believe it's not any of these? Though each of these

goals is valuable and necessary, not one captures the central reason for the church's existence.

 

            A. The Primary Issue

In I Corinthians 10:31, the apostle Paul lets us in on the answer.

 

1 Cor 10:31

31           Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

(NAS)

That's it! Our purpose is to glorify the Lord our God. Whether we're eating or drinking, hurting or helping, serving or struggling- God's glory is the goal. Whatever we are - male or female, black or white, young or old, CEO or car repairman, Canadian or Cuban - we are to “do all to the glory of God”

 

1 Cor 6:19-20

19           Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

20           For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

(NAS)

 

Col 3:17

17           And whatever you do in word or deed, {do} all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

(NAS)

The Corinthian church wasn’t the only one assigned to radiate God’s glory. Keep wandering through the pages of Scripture to the book of Romans and you'll find similar instructions more generally directed.

 

Rom 15:5-6

5              Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;

6              that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(NAS)

 

The book of Ephesians also shines the spotlight on God's glory:

 

Eph 1:10b-12

10b         In Him

11           also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

12           to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

(NAS)

 

“Church, glorify God!” You can't miss it. It rings through the Scriptures like wedding bells. However, in this day of inflated egos and Madison Avenue religion, we’re tempted to muffle God's glory under the fanfare of our own pursuits. “Let's get bigger,” some say. “Let's make a huge splash, a good impression. How about a radio ministry? We need dynamic preaching, excellent music.” Such things can all be part of a wonderful church experience. However, if God's glory is not the primary focus, they ring hollow.

Let's get very practical about the glory of God. It must be the underlying motive for all we do. That brings us back to those why questions. “Why are we gathering to worship? Is it to glorify God? Why do I teach or sing? Why do I help in the nursery? Why do I preach? Why have I budgeted my finances in this way?” If we're driven by anything let it be a passion for His glory.

Can you imagine fueling every action, every word, and every church program with the glory of God? What would happen? Second Thessalonians reveals an interesting side effect.

 

II Th 1:11-12

11           To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power;

12           in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(NAS)

 

Amazing, isn't it? As we glorify God, we are glorified in Him. Glory leads to more glory. That's what Jesus meant when He said,

 

Matt 5:16

16           "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

(NAS)

 

1 Pet 2:11-12

11           Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.

12           Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe {them,} glorify God in the day of visitation.

(NAS)

 

All it takes is one person with a burning desire to glorify God. Then that flame touches off brushfires of glory that blaze across the spiritual landscape.

Do you feel as though you've unearthed this gem of insight for the first time? It may seem like a newfangled formula for successful ministry, but it’s as ancient as the Scriptures. You’ll even find it in the annals of church history. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, devised in 1647, was recited by young Scottish students who were asked by their teachers, “What is the chief end of man?” The memorized response? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 4th ed., rev. and enl. (New York, N.Y.: Harper and Brothers, 1919), vol. 3, p. 676.

            B. An Analysis of the Answer

 

What exactly does it mean to glorify God, and how do we do it? Perhaps the best way to start is with the root word itself.  The term glory rises from our religious vocabulary like a stray balloon.

We sometimes let it go without thinking, without appreciating all that it means. Let's see if we can get a firm grasp on glory by examining its usage in Scripture.

                        1. What Does It Mean?

The Bible portrays glory in three different ways. The first focuses on the holy light that emanates from God.

 

Exod 40:34

34           Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

(NAS)

 

When God made an appearance, the Israelites knew it. His searing light flooded the tabernacle like an exploding nova. So magnificent was His presence that to enter it inappropriately meant sudden death.

A second and equally significant usage of glory appears in I Corinthians 15:39-41, where Paul portrays it as a unique representation or distinctive appearance evident in God's creation.

 

1 Cor 15:39-41

39           All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one {flesh} of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.

40           There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the {glory} of the earthly is another.

41           There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

(NAS)

How intriguing. Glory pulses from the planets just as it flows from earth bound creatures.  When pondering the purpose of the church, however, neither the distinctiveness of God’s creation nor the brilliance of His holy light best describes God’s glory

John the Baptizer embodied a third kind of glory --- the kind the church should demonstrate. Listen to the fiery preacher's response to the self-righteous Pharisees when they questioned his motives.

 

John 1:23-27

23           He said, "I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said."

24           Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.

25           And they asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"

26           John answered them saying, "I baptize in water, {but} among you stands One whom you do not know.

27           "{It is} He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."

(NAS)

 

John never sought the glory that belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, his disciples came to him later, inquiring why Jesus' ministry was flourishing. John replied,

 

John 3:30

30           "He must increase, but I must decrease.

(NAS)

 

Glory, then, as it relates to the church, means to magnify and elevate the Lord God as we diminish and deny ourselves. It means being occupied with and committed to His ways rather than preoccupied with and determined to go my own way. As Isaiah says,

 

Isa 55:8-9

8              "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.

9              "For {as} the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

(NAS)

 

We cannot seek personal glory and God’s glory simultaneously. That applies to John the Baptizer, the corporate church, and individual Christians,

 

Rev 4:11

11           "Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created."

(NAS)

                        2. How Does It Apply?

“How does God's glory affect me?” you might ask. When it trickles down from heaven and seeps into the soil of daily living, what difference does it make? Among other things, it will change how you approach the whens, ins, and ifs of life.

 

When I'm unsure, I glorify Him by seeking His will and waiting for His guidance -- when I change careers, choose a spouse, grapple with unexpected illness, or sweep up broken dreams. God's glory ferments in the cask of seeking and waiting.

In my public and private life, God's glory reigns. In every relationship, pleasant and repellent. In all my work, rewarded and overlooked. In secret preparation and public presentation. Whether my position is prominent or obscure, His glory reigns.

 

If  I succeed or fail, God is glorified. If my spouse stays or walks away. If the cause for which I diligently campaigned fails. If my church grows or shrinks. Whether people understand or not. If I leave the ministry or stay in it, I let His glory shine.

            C. Some Suggestions for Making It Happen

You knew we would get here eventually, didn’t you?  How does the glory of God become a lifestyle?  How do we live life so that we can say at the end of it, as Jesus did,

 

John 17:4a

4a           "I glorified Thee on the earth,

(NAS)

 

Here are three practical and realistic suggestions:

First: By cultivating the habit of including the Lord God in every segment of life. How can we radiate God's glory if we shut Him out all week, then casually touch base with Him on Sunday? We must meet often and alone with God, consistently opening the shutters, the closets, and every room in our lives to His glory.

 

Second: By refusing to expect or accept any of the glory that belongs to God. Our flesh soaks up glory like a thirsty sponge. It craves strokes, cherishes self-advancement. It gulps down glory from sermons it preaches and churches it builds - all the while claiming to be in it for God. However, we don't have to give in to this. By openly admitting our struggle with pride, we take the first step toward overcoming it.

Third: By maintaining a priority relationship with Him that is more important than any other on earth.  Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:37? 

 

Matt 10:37

37           "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

(NAS)

 

Jesus wants and deserves first place on our list of intimate relationships --- above spouse, children, parents, and dearest friends. Let's keep Him there by regularly asking the question, "Will this bring glory to God or me?" The answer will reveal how much of our heart we've given to our Groom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I. OUR PURPOSE

II. OUR OBJECTIVES – Acts 2:41-47

Acts 2:41-47

41           So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

42           And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43           And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44           And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;

45           and they {began} selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46           And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47           praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

(NAS)

Ministry can be like mercury – elusive, difficult to grasp, volatile.  Pastors grope for meaning amid exhausting demands of their office.  Congregations gather without a solid sense of purpose or direction.  Needy people flow in and out of the church, some getting mishandled along the way.  Few of us, it seems, can wrap our fingers around this thing called ministry.

                A. Ten Statements about Ministry

Warren and David Wiersbe, in their book Making Sense of the Ministry, hand us a beaker to contain the mercury of ministry. Their ten principles and the thoughts behind them will help anyone, especially pastors and other church leaders, understand the complexities of serving in the church.  Let's take a look at them.

These ten principles are taken from Warren W Wiersbe and David Wiersbe, Making Sense of the Ministry (1983; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1989), pp. 31-46.

            1. The foundation of ministry is character.

“The work that we do,” the Wiersbes write, “flows out of the life that we live”; which tells us that our attention needs to go beneath surface activities to the source from which they spring. Proverbs 4:23 puts it like this:

 

Prov 4:23

23           Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it {flow} the springs of life.

(NAS)

If we want “springs of life” to flow from our ministry efforts, we must diligently watch over our character.

                        2. The nature of ministry is service. 

At the heart of the word ministry, diakonia in Greek the meaning “service.”  To minister is to serve.  As Jesus said in Mark 10:45a,

 

Mark 10:45

45           "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

(NAS)

Today’s celebrity mentality, in which we seek great things for ourselves, is more worldlike than Christlike,

 

Jer 45:5

5              'But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek {them;} for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,' declares the LORD, 'but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.'"

(NAS)

God wants us to serve Him by humbly serving His people.

                        3. The motive for ministry is love.

 

The Wiersbes write:

                “It is Jacob, not Jonah, who is our role model.  “So Jacob served seven                   years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his      love for her” (Genesis 29:20).  Love and love alone can transform           sacrifice into joy and suffering into glory.  Love motivates us to do our              best for Christ and for our people.  Love helps us build people up and     not look to exploit them for our own selfish purposes.  Love enables us          to use our gifts and talents as tools to build with, not as weapons to       fight with.  It is love that helps us to accept criticism and not fight back,      or to receive praise and not get a big head.  In short, it is love that            glorifies God: for God is love.”

                                4. The measure of ministry is sacrifice. 

“Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing,” John Henry Jowett piercingly observed. The crowning accomplishment of our salvation cost Christ everything; for He came not only to serve but also “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45b, emphasis added). Our call, like our Master's, is also one of service and sacrifice (see Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15-16).

                        5. The authority of ministry is submission.

Nothing can destroy our work of ministering more quickly and decisively than pride. So before we exercise authority, we must learn how to submit to it. We must have hearts formed in faithfulness, fashioned in humility. Only then, when we have the maturity to use our privileges to help others rather than just serve ourselves, will we have any right to assume authority.

 

                        6. The purpose of ministry is the glory of God.

 

Glorifying God is our reason for being. Not glorifying ourselves as pillars of wisdom and righteousness, but glorifying God. Isaiah records,

 

Isa 42:8

8              "I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.

(NAS)

 

                        7. The tools of ministry are the Word of God and

                            prayer.

The apostles modeled these priorities in Acts 6:4: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” As the Wiersbes write, “if we have all Word and no prayer, we will have light without heat. If we have all prayer and no Word, we will have heat without light. . . . The balanced ministry of God's Word and prayer . . . produce[s] the lasting fruit that will glorify God.”

 

                        8. The privilege of ministry is growth.

“If the parable of the pounds teaches anything,” the Wiersbes say of Luke 19:11-27, “it is that faithfulness to use our opportunities always increases our abilities to do more.”

When we serve God faithfully, He expands our hearts and skills so that we can grow in ways we never even imagined possible-our spiritual life can be deeper; our relationships, closer; and the realm of our ministry, larger than we ever dreamed (see Eph. 3:20-21).

                       

                       

 

                        9. The power of ministry is the Holy Spirit.

A. W. Tozer warned that “if the Lord removed the Holy Spirit from this world, much of what we are doing in the church would go right on, and nobody would know the difference.”  Whose ministry is it anyway? Can our spirits bring salvation? Are our spirits able to guide all generations across time into the pure truth? No, as the prophet Zechariah recorded: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

 

                        10. The model for ministry is Jesus Christ.

Rather than idealizing and imitating a flawed and limited fellow human being, we should pattern our lives after the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ. The Wiersbes state:

                If the foundation for ministry is character, where could you find a             greater character than that of Jesus Christ? . . . The nature of ministry is         service, and Jesus Christ came as a servant. . . . The motive for ministry is love, and God's love seen in Jesus Christ is beyond our           comprehension. . . . Love always gives, and the measure of ministry is     sacrifice.

                The authority of ministry is submission, and Jesus Christ humbled           Himself and became obedient, even to death. The purpose of ministry is         God's glory, and this is what directed Him in His earthly walk.

                ….Jesus used the tools of the Word of God and prayer, and depended    on the power of the Holy Spirit.  He even experienced “growth”               through His sufferings as he prepared Himself to be our sympathetic       High Priest (Hebrews 5:8)…..

                We are serving a wonderful Master, and He has called us to a   wonderful life of service for His glory.

The Wiersbes’ list boils ministry down to the basics, reminding us that serving in the church need not be confusing. We just need to be focused on the right things.

What about you? Are you trying to figure out why you signed on with the church? Has Sunday morning lost its luster, become a religious regimen? Are you a church leader in pursuit of meaning? Perhaps it eludes you like a one hundred-dollar bill dancing in the breeze down the middle of Main Street. You're running as fast as you can, but you can't catch it. Too much wind. Too much traffic. And no one to help.

As always, the Word of God is the place to go for a fresh perspective. In a passage we could entitle "Making Sense of the Church," Luke, the author, describes the very first congregation. Like Warren and David Wiersbe’s ten ministry principles, Luke's words help us get a handle on the church.

 

            B. Four Major Objectives for the Church

The book is Acts, chapter 2. The setting is Jerusalem. The event is the birth of the church of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit descends, and the gospel blows through the city with the freshness of an ocean breeze. Simon Peter preaches the sermon of his life, which God uses like a fisherman's net to pull three thousand souls into His kingdom. Verses 41-47 tell us what happens next:

 

Acts 2:41-47

41           So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

42           And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43           And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44           And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;

45           and they {began} selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46           And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47           praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

(NAS)

 

Imagine that! A thriving community of new believers with no pastor, no bylaws, no high-powered programs, and an incomplete Bible. Yet, they still managed to fulfill the primary purpose, glorifying God. How did they do it? Believe it or not, the church had a path to follow, a track to run on that took them straight to the glory of God. So, do we. This passage contains four major objectives for any local church, regardless of size, style, culture, or denomination. Together they comprise the acronym W-I-F-E, which is appropriate for Christ's bride, don't you think?

                Worship

                Instruction

                Fellowship

                Evangelism

Worship and instruction are primarily vertical activities, between God and us.  Fellowship and evangelism deal primarily with our horizontal relationships with others, both within and outside the body of Christ.

                        A. W Is for Worship

Like an irresistible perfume, worship's holy, fragrance wafted from this fledgling community.

 

Acts 2:42-43a

42           And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43a         And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe;

(NAS)

 

The Greek term for “continually devoting” suggests a constant, steadfast persistence. The same word appears in Acts 1:14 and 6:4. This was no halfhearted group of pew warmers. When these early saints gathered, their meetings beamed with intense devotion.  As they sat under the apostles’ teaching, assembled for fellowship and prayer, and took their meals together, the Lord remained the focus.

In addition, the immediate result of their devotion was a “sense of awe” (2:43a).

The Greek reads, “And came to every soul fear.”  This was more than music-induced goose bumps or “warm fuzzies” from a sermon.

As their worship carried them into the presence of God, these Christians were overcome with the magnificence of His holiness.

Does that mean they sat in rigid formality, too stunned to release emotion? Quite the contrary. Verse 46 tells us,

 

Acts 2:46

46           And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

(NAS)

 

(literally, "simplicity of heart"), which erupted in praise to God (v. 47).

 

Acts 2:47

47           praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

(NAS)

 

That's just what worship is: a human response to divine revelation. In addition, when it happens, God is pleased, for He seeks genuine worshipers,

 

John 4:23

23           "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

(NAS)

 

The early church, while avoiding chaos, effervesced with the spontaneous expression of heartfelt worship. Unfortunately, many churches today have re- placed genuine worship with dry religious meetings. Ask yourself if your church fits this description:

                In many (most) churches, there are programs and activities . . . but so      little worship. There are songs and anthems and musicals . . . but so   little worship. There are announcements and readings and prayers . . .     but so little worship. The meetings are regular, but dull and predictable.           The events are held on time, led by well-meaning people, supported by   folks who are faithful and dedicated . . . but that tip-toe expectancy and        awe-inspiring delight mixed with a mysterious sense of the fear of            almighty God are missing.

The bride of Christ, in order to glorify her Groom, must see all she does through the lens of true worship.

 

                        B. I Is for Instruction

A closer look at Acts 2 reveals that the early Christians not only worshiped God, they learned His Word.  Again, observe verse 42:

 

Acts 2:42

42           And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

(NAS)

And in verse 44,

Acts 2:44

44           And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;

(NAS)

 

Which implies a body of truth embraced by the early church.

Interesting that instruction is listed first in the order of activities.  Why?  Because babies need food.  Remember, these are brand-new believers who have tasted the milk of the gospel. Now they require the meat of the Word for growth.

The apostles considered the ministry of God's Word so important that they delegated other duties in order to ensure unobstructed teaching (see Acts 6:1-6). They refused to allow the pressing demands of the ministry, as important as they were, to keep them from their primary task of feeding the flock.

The ministry of the Word is no less important today. We rejoice that lost sheep come into the fold of the church after embracing the liberating truth of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. However, if they hear only the gospel week after week, they become infirm and scrawny. Starving sheep lack spiritual strength for daily living, and they make easy prey for cults.

In case you're not convinced that a steady diet of God's Word is crucial for the church, consider these benefits of consistent biblical teaching and preaching:

                •  It gives substance to our faith.

                •  It stabilizes us in times of testing.

                •  It enables us to handle the Word correctly.

                •  It equips us to detect and confront error.

                •  It makes us confident in our walk.

                •  It calms our fears and cancels our superstitions.

A word of caution here. Instruction, like worship, is only one of four major objectives for the church, one of four supports buttressing the bridge to God's glory. Elevating instruction too high above the other objectives invites imbalance and creates churches with a smug academic atmosphere.      Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

 

1 Cor 8:1

1              Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

(NAS)

When knowledge remains theoretical, it breeds indifference. When knowledge disregards love and grace, it leads to intolerance.  When it becomes an end in itself, it fosters idolatry. Let's remember that all we do, including biblical instruction, looks toward the same goal: the building up of the body to the glory of God.

                        C. F is for Fellowship

These early Christians would have a hard time relating to our custom of sitting inconspicuously in church, then slipping out the back door during the closing prayer. They gathered not only to worship and learn, but also to be with one another, to care for and share with one another. They came for fellowship - one of the activities to which they continually devoted themselves.

Acts 2:42

42           And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

(NAS)

 

The Greek word for fellowship, koinonia, signifies a close relationship. Its root, koinos, means “common” or “communal.”  The early church was a close, sharing group. That’s, the idea of verse 44:

 

Acts 2:44

44           And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;

(NAS)

 

Anne Ortlund, in her fine book Up with Worship, groups Christians into two categories - marbles and grapes. Marbles are “single units that don't affect each other except in collision.” Grapes, on the other hand, mingle juices; each one is a “part of the fragrance” of the church body.

Anne Ortlund, Up with Worship, rev. ed. (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1982), P. 102.;

The early Christians didn't bounce around like loose marbles, ricocheting in all directions. Picture them as a cluster of ripe grapes, squeezed together by persecution, bleeding and mingling into one another.

Fellowship, then, is genuine Christianity freely shared among God’s family members. It's sad to think of how many Christians today are missing that kind of closeness. Sermons and songs, while uplifting and necessary, provide only part of a vital church encounter. We need involvement with others too. If we roll in and out of church each week without acquiring a few grape juice stains, we really haven't tasted the sweet wine of fellowship.

The New Testament portrays true fellowship in two primary ways. First, as an act of sharing something tangible to meet a need. Note verse 45.

 

Acts 2:45

45           and they {began} selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

(NAS)

 

What a picture of sacrificial giving. Believers were selling land and personal belongings, then channeling the proceeds to . . . people. Not a bigger or more elaborate home. Not a new car. Not a CD or an IRA. But people - needy individuals who depended on their brothers and sisters in Christ for survival. Such unselfishness, as Gene Getz explains, was crucial to the life of the early church.

When the church was born in Jerusalem, it appears that the majority of those Jews who had come from distant places and who responded to                 the gospel decided to stay and wait for Christ to return and to restore the earthly kingdom to Israel. . . .

               

                . . . Many had already used up their surplus of money and food. Those   who were staying in public inns would need to pay their rent, and                everyone needed food daily. To solve this problem, the believers             decided to “have everything in common.” This included both those who    lived in Jerusalem and those who lived in other parts of the Roman          Empire. But the residents of Jerusalem had to take the initial steps in            solving the problem. This they did-

                willingly and unselfishly.

Gene A. Getz, A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1990), p. 43.

Add to these the families who were ostracized or persecuted for their newly found faith, and the needs pile up with overwhelming speed.

Does Liberty Baptist display the generous spirit demonstrated by the early church? Such selflessness seems to be the exception today, especially in the world's financial arena. Surrendering a profit to help someone in need draws more sneers than cheers. Many of us would rather let our funds ferment in the vat of plenty than quench the palates of the needy - unless, of course, we could get a tax break.

Sharing something tangible to meet a need – that’s one form of fellowship. The second form it takes is sharing in something with someone else. Weeping with those who weep. Rejoicing with those who rejoice. Grieving with those who grieve.

 

Rom 12:15

15           Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

(NAS)

 

The actions of the Church to give the Body of  Christ an opportunity to participate in the eternal life of God by the grace of God, the salvation of Christ, and the blessing of the indwelling Spirit by exercising the Spiritual Gift given to each member (I Corinthians 12:14; Romans 12:1-8; Ephesians 4:4-16; I Peter 4:7-11), by confessing our sins to one another (James 5:16), praying for one another (Colossians 3:13), bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), loving one another (I John 4:7), rebuking one another (Titus 1:13), comforting one another (I Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11), exhorting one another (Hebrews 3:13; 10:25), edifying one another (Romans 14:19), and admonishing one another (Romans 15:14).

Sometimes the best thing we can give is ourselves. Who can assign a dollar value to the tears we shed for someone else’s loss? Or the time we give to listen to a friend vent his or her frustration? Or our applause upon learning of a peer’s promotion?

Koinonia It happens when God's people come together in the spirit of sharing; when full hands and hearts share with empty ones. Then the body of Christ is strengthened. And, hopefully, the world takes notice.

 

                        D. E Is for Evangelism

 

Acts 2:47b

47b         And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

(NAS)

Is it any wonder that god blessed the Jerusalem church?  Christians were offered love and acceptance.  They modeled vulnerability, compassion, caring, and giving.  They radiated winsomeness and joy.  The aroma of these qualities drifted from the church into the nostrils of Jerusalem like a Sunday pot roast. And the world came to dinner.

The early church could no more dam up the flow of the gospel than storm clouds can hold their rain. As believers expressed the reality of Christ to a watching world, the ranks of the converted swelled.  The early church was a reaching body.  They modeled evangelism – our fourth and final objective of the church.                                                    

In the very next chapter of Acts, notice how the church’s message begins to spill into the streets of Jerusalem.

 

Acts 3:1-3

1              Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth {hour,} the hour of prayer.

2              And a certain man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.

3              And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he {began} asking to receive alms.

(NAS)

 

What a predicament for Peter and John.  They had no money to spare for the crippled beggar; the ministry wasn’t putting any extra coins in their pockets.  However, they gave the beggar something more lasting than silver or gold.

 

 

Acts 3:4-8

4              And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, "Look at us!"

5              And he {began} to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.

6              But Peter said, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-- walk!"

7              And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.

8              And with a leap, he stood upright and {began} to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

(NAS)

 

Peter and John expressed the reality of the resurrected Christ, first by reaching out to the beggar, then by proclaiming the gospel to the crowd gathering around them (vv. 11-26). Their display of authentic Christianity helped the church grow from three thousand to five thousand in a very short time (4:4).

What reward did Peter and John receive? They were thrown in the slammer, then called on the carpet by the religious folks - the same ones who crucified Jesus when He threw a wrench in their mechanical system of spirituality. “This is out of the ordinary,” they barked. “We don't have room for this. Who are you anyway?”

Peter, recognizing that God had provided an audience, then preached the gospel to his inquisitors (4:8-12). Threatened and released, he and John took the Word of God right back into the streets. In Acts 5, the apostles are arrested two more times for preaching the gospel, warned, even flogged. However, their zeal refused to be dampened. Acts 5:29 sums up their attitude:

 

Acts 5:29

29           But Peter and the apostles answered and said, "We must obey God rather than men.

(NAS)

 

So,

 

Acts 5:42

42           And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus {as} the Christ.

(NAS)

 

Did you notice that evangelism took place outside the church? We often adopt methods or philosophies for reaching the lost that the early church rarely practiced. In fact, here are four observations about evangelism in the first century that might surprise you.

1. Evangelism was never limited to the church gathering. It occurred there least of all. Believers met corporately to be built up in Christ; then they hit the streets with His message of grace.

2. Evangelism was always initiated by the Christian. Early believers didn't wait for people to ask; they initiated the discussion of spiritual things.

 

3. Evangelism was usually connected with another unrelated event or experience, such as intense opposition, a healing or other miracle, a conversation, argument, or catastrophe. Their concern for the lost came to the surface in a variety of circumstances.

4. Evangelism was never coercive or manipulative. The lost were treated with dignity and respect. Early believers delivered the gospel with boldness and conviction, but they left the results to God.

How fitting that our acronym W-I-F-E ends with expression. A bride who is awed by worship, deepened by the Word of God, and uplifted by fellowship cannot help inviting others to the wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  I. OUR PURPOSE

 II. OUR OBJECTIVES – Acts 2:41-47

III. A REALISTIC LOOK FORWARD

As you look ahead in your own life and ministry, keeping W-I-F-E in mind will help you maintain some balance. Think of the church's ministry in two dimensions - depth and breadth. The depth of a ministry is determined by its quality of worship and instruction. A church with all fellowship and evangelism may have lots of people and programs, but the lack of the Word and worship will leave it shallow.

The breadth of a church depends on its commitment to fellowship and evangelism. Worship and instruction at the expense of fellowship and expression may create an elite group of believers who would rather keep to themselves than reach out to others.

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

 

PURPOSE – To Glorify God by……………..

                      Constantly acknowledging God’s rightful place as Creator and Sustainer of

                      the universe both in our lives and in our speech.

                       Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they

                                                  may see your good works and glorify your father who is in

                                                  heaven.”

                       I Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether then you eat or drink or what ever you do,

                                                            do all to the glory of God.”

 

                       Romans 15:5-6 – “Now may the God who gives perseverance and

                                                    encouragement grant to you to be of the same mind with

                                                   one another according  to Christ Jesus; that with one

                                                   accord you may with one voice glorify the God and

                                                  Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

MEANS – The means by which the Church glorifies God can be divided into four areas:

                  WORSHIP – The actions of the Church to give the Body of Christ

                                        opportunity to gather to ascribe worth to God, to recognize

                                        God’s glory, greatness, power, victory, majesty, and dominion,

                                        to yield itself to the rule and dominion of God, to bow to His

                                        authority and to confess its dependence on God as its sovereign

                                        Head (I Chronicles 29:11-13; John 4:23-24).

                  INSTRUCTION – The actions of the Church to give the Body of Christ an

                                                 opportunity to gain an in-depth knowledge of the Word of

                                                 God, to be equipped for Christian service, and to develop

                                                 qualitative family life (Acts 2:42-46; Ephesians 4:11-16;

                                                 Colossians 2:7).

                  FELLOWSHIP – The actions of the Church to give the Body of Christ an

                                                opportunity to participate in the eternal life of God by the

                                                grace of God, the salvation of Christ, and the blessing of

                                                the indwelling Spirit by exercising the Spiritual Gift given

                                                to each member (I Corinthians 12:14; Romans 12:1-8;

                                               Ephesians 4:4-16; I Peter 4:7-11), by confessing our sins to

                                               one another (James 5:16), praying for one another

                                               (Colossians 3:13), bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians

                                               6:2), loving one another (I John 4:7), rebuking one another

                                              (Titus 1:13), comforting one another (I Thessalonians 4:18;

                                               5:11), exhorting one another (Hebrews 3:13; 10:25),

                                              edifying one another (Romans 14:19), and admonishing one

                                              another (Romans 15:14).

                  EVANGELISM – The actions of the Church to give the whole world an 

                                                 opportunity to hear the Gospel and to accept Christ (Mark

                                                 16:15; Acts 1:8)

THE STATE OF THE CHURCH

Acts 2:41-47

David Riley

Liberty Baptist Church

January 7, 2001

 

 

 

  I. OUR PURPOSE

 

 

 

 

 

 II. OUR OBJECTIVES – Acts 2:41-47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III. A REALISTIC LOOK FORWARD

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