What are the basic or founding principles of the church? The church, clearly, is the spiritual body of Christ. But you should understand what that is and what it isn't.
It’s a very special time in which we have an entire Feast Day [Pentecost] that we will mention again tomorrow, a special Feast Day which commemorates and pictures the time or the age of the church, something very special God is doing now. He is preparing a church, He is preparing a people, He has brought people into something which is so wonderful, it’s hard to even begin to imagine what it is He is really doing. A lot of people have a hard time believing it. If you really did understand what He was doing, perhaps, how we would conduct ourselves? What we would do? How we would indeed picture it -and we understand what our responsibility is toward what God is doing. It would probably be a lot different, because people have, indeed, been called into the church, but never fully appreciated what it is that they have been called to. Because it’s a one-time opportunity. It’s not something that’s going to be given again. It’s not going to happen. You’ve got it now. And so, therefore, it’s important to understand what it is you’ve been called to. We have had some difficulty - haven’t mentioned that in the church. We have a number of ministers and members who have already left.
We ought to consider the basics of it - what are the basic or founding principles of the church that will never be shaken? - and to go back to these basic truths. I think they have, to some extent, been lost. We ought to return to the fundamentals, especially if your game falters. What are the fundamentals? You should always return to the fundamentals of your game. And I appreciate that concept that he brought out.
What is the church? Haven’t mentioned this, but I want to go into it a little deeper here. What is the church? The church, clearly, is the spiritual body of Christ. I want to say that. But you should understand what that is and what it isn’t. It is those people in whom dwells the Holy Spirit - those whom God has called - chosen to become His firstfruits. And firstfruits implies that there are other fruits that are to be born later. But right now, He has the firstfruits, those whom He is calling out of this world - these are the ones He is making a member of His body, the body which is His body. It’s not ours. It doesn’t belong to us. The church is not the domain of any one person or any group of people. It is not. It is His body and He says He is the head of that body which we will read a little bit later. It is Christ who will put those that the Father has chosen into His body - that is, into Himself. And that’s the way it is referred to. Jesus used the statement, He is in us and we are in Him. This shows a very close and intimate relationship between Jesus Christ and those in His body and you would have such a high degree of agreement between Jesus Christ and those of His body that we would then have to always take a very good look at where we are at any particular time and are we making the right decisions so far as where we are and what we are doing to comply, not only to simply comply with, but to participate in, to be a part of, His body in every way we can. Now, that’s what He has called us to. It’s not something, "Well, I’ll just come here because, you know, this is where my friends are." or "I like the people who are there." Some people have left because they say they don’t like the people who are there. Okay. Neither are very good reasons to be a part of something or not be a part of something. But people make decisions based on that. "I like the minister." "I don’t like the hall. It has stairs." Or it doesn’t have stairs. Whatever. I cannot even begin to catalog the reason why people would go and attend, not attend. Some people become offended. You get offended, you want to go somewhere, you want to go somewhere else. I will tell you this that if Jesus has put you into His body, you will have to give Him an answer as to why you did what you did. Oh, yes you will. I guarantee you. Whatever decision you make on something like this, you are going to have to give an account for those kinds of decisions.
Let me put it to you this way: Matthew 12:36 Matthew 12:36But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
American King James Version×says, in the judgment you will have to give an answer for every idle word. You folks remember that scripture? I think we all do. It’s there. If you are going to give an account for every idle word, how much more will we give account for major, major decisions that we make in our lives? Choices of behavior, choices of attitude, choices of a whole mindsets sometimes? Choices of habits, all of this kind of goes with it. So any idle word - and I have tried to picture this before and it’s a little bit scary. To me it’s scary. I’m sitting there before Jesus Christ. He’s got eyes like flames of fire that can kind of drill into the heart and core of an individual and if you don’t give the right answer, do you think He will find out whether that is the right answer or not? He will find out. He has got the way of getting to the truth of a matter and there is no court room scene that you can ever begin to imagine, that you have ever seen in the movies that will ever, ever, ever compare to that. I’m just telling you what the facts are, folks. This is it. We will give an answer. That’s why you’ve got to know why you are doing what you’re doing. And if you make it for the wrong reasons, Jesus Christ will find that out. It will become apparent and when you are on the dais in front of Him, that’s not the time to have it all found out. You want to have this figured out beforehand and this is why we have been given the word of God and the Holy Spirit.
Now, this is what Evan was saying when he said you are called to - one of the basics is to keep the commandments of God - recalled into the fact that we need to obey God. You are coming to church to obey God. You don’t come into the church to see how much you can get away with. You don’t come into the church to become offended and leave. You are there to obey God and to work things out, to blossom where you are planted, if I can put it that way, and to come to grips with what He wants you to do. Now, if we can’t do that - if somehow we just don’t have the faith, we don’t have the confidence, we can’t overcome the many difficulties in life that are out here that are coming against us because, as we will hear tomorrow, we have been called out of the world. We have to be a part of His church while we are still living in the world and the church has to exist in a hostile world, okay. Then there are some things that we have to decide - are we going to agree with Him, are we going to agree with His mind that He has told us to adopt, are we going to agree with His commandments and put them into practice that that’s where it has to be, or are we going to let our own feelings take precedence and we say, "Well, I’ll just be by myself."
Let me mention something to you here, there is a reason why He built the church. He built the church for people to be together because of what He is doing. Evan mentioned this. He said that we are called to become a part of the ruling body that Jesus Christ wants to use when He returns - from then on forever. I’m going to describe this tomorrow a lot more than what we are talking about today. So, it’s important that these are people who are loyal to Him, submissive to Him and who will never ever, ever turn against Him and this is what He wants to know. So, will offenses come? Yes, offenses will come. Okay. Are you going to allow offenses to throw you? Are there ways of working it out? Jesus tells us there are ways of working out offenses. He even gives us instructions how to do this. Don’t follow them and become offended, go somewhere else - I’ll tell you something, He’s going to start reciting some of His own words and we will have to give an answer as to whether we agree with them or not. Now, that’s the judgment. So I suppose I should make it plain. So with the wonderful opportunity, then, goes responsibility - and it is an opportunity. The opportunity we have is so absolutely far beyond anything that you could imagine! So when He says this as to how we are put into the body, this is extraordinary. It’s a very special thing. He knows exactly what He is doing, it’s not just sort of a helter-skelter thing where, "Well, I’ll just see how it all works out." That’s not what it is. He’s got this thing planned out and He knows where He is going, He knows the people, He knows what He wants from those people, He knows the end result, He knows the end-game, so to speak, He knows exactly where we are going and He wants to see that happen and He’ll do His part.
Now it says in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and verse 12,
1 Corinthians 12:12 1 Corinthians 12:12For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
American King James Version× - For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. So you can’t hardly imagine that it would be any other way but as it is described here. Many members, one body. He’s made them a member of His body as it says. Vs. 13 - For or by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
Now the meaning is clear here, we’ve all come from diverse backgrounds and beliefs to become one, regardless of how many members there are. I have heard of some churches and I was reading of a particular person here just recently where he started a church and he wanted them to all be one. He wanted them to be together, but he found out that as a group it just got away from them and people started doing and believing and following different ideas. It just got away. And so it was very, very hard and difficult, then, to kind of keep it all together. This was never Christ’s intentions for the church. The meaning is clear.
We have come from a wide and diverse background - as he says, Jew and Gentile. You could not get such a different culture than the Jews and Gentiles. They were so far apart in what they believed and how they looked upon things and how they looked upon God, how they looked upon life, how they looked upon what was right and wrong and what each of them did so as far as practices were concerned and the feelings they had against each other were extraordinary. The chasm was so wide you couldn’t even begin to imagine. But he says this - Jews and Gentiles.
Now he also goes on to say bond or free. They had slaves in those days and the Bible talks of the people who were slaves. I mean, that’s it, that’s what they were for life. That’s the way it was set up in the Roman Empire. You weren’t going to get out of it. It was simply that. And so you had sitting in the same congregation a person who owned another person sitting right next to him and he was the slave. But once they came into that congregation, they were the same. There was no difference. So far as Christ was concerned the were all going to be judged on the same basis and in the same way. But that’s what you had. When they went home, that slave had to do exactly what his master told him. That’s simply the way it was, but when he walked into that congregation, they were the same. They were equal men or women or whatever. It’s the way they were and they had to be treated this way. You didn’t have the masters over here on one side and the slaves on the other side - and had the masters over here eating the good food and these people over here had whatever pickings they had, you know. It didn’t work that way. We find that situation, you have it described in the book of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 where, when they came together and they ate together some of them had plenty and some had none. And he says, don’t you understand, this is the body of Christ. This is the way it works. Now that’s what he wants so he’s describing the church here and we see then how it’s playing out in the traps here some ten, twenty, thirty, forty years after Jesus Christ said, 'I will build my church', now we see how it all plays out.
So he says here, bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. One person doesn’t get more Spirit than the other. One person didn’t get more gifts through the Spirit than others. I mean, it was all distributed according to the will of God, it didn’t matter who they were. So you might have within the world, and the way people operate and function in the world, huge differences - huge chasms - between people. When they walked into that building, there wasn’t any difference. In fact, when they were even outside the building there wasn’t any difference as far as the way God looked at them.
There is another place that talked about men and women. You ought to see how the Jews treated the women. Not a very nice thing. The Gentiles, too, for that matter. They had their own weird ways of dealing with women and the way they looked upon them and the way they treated them. A lot of that had to go by the board. It really did. And so whenever they walked into the church, He had something - it was so wonderful, it’s hard to describe. It really is. But that’s what He wanted because here were the people, then, that He was going to choose to become a part of the foundational ruling body of His kingdom of God and so you had to have something extant there. So let’s see what that was. Over in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 1. Now the book of Ephesians is the great letter that Paul writes about the church. That’s what the entire book is about. This was intended, of course, to be preserved to give us an understanding of what it is.
Ephesians 4:1 Ephesians 4:1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called,
American King James Version× - I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called… It is a special calling - and then to walk worthy of the calling, which means old ideas have to go. You can’t bring old ideas into the church. Now, a lot of times we have had that within the church - it’s how important we can be or what we can be in the church, how we can be seen or recognized and upheld and positioned and entitled. We just have all of this kind of thing going on. We have had it. And he says no, wait a minute, we have a special calling here in that there is no respecter of persons with God. Okay. Vs. 2 - with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love… Bearing or forbearing with one another in love. The church is a place where you learn to obey God and so it takes some forbearance. That means patience. Not everybody is on the same page, so it does take that. Vs. 3 - endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. So it is a calling or it is a vocation. The word calling there - the word is actually translated 'vocation', wherewith you are called. You have lowliness, you have meekness, you have longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, now endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I want to come back to that, but let me read the rest of it to you. Vs. 4 - There is one body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling; Vs. 5 - one Lord, one faith, one baptism. You can’t have a lot of baptisms all around the place, you can’t have a lot of callings all around the place. This is it. There is only one. Vs. 6 - God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Vs. 7 - But to every one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
And that’s what He does. It doesn’t matter who you were in your past life. It doesn’t matter who we think we might be. This is how it’s done according to the measure. It’s a gift of Christ. A gift has no bearing on a person’s personal goodness. If He gives it, He gives it. Okay? That’s it. And when He gives something, He doesn’t go around trying to take it back. He gives it and He gives it with the best intentions and, hopefully, whenever we receive it, it is given to us, we receive it with the best of intentions. Hopefully we will never disappoint Him in that.
Now, unity is of the Spirit, it says here. And in a few minutes I want to move into the whole thing of unity through government because it doesn’t say that. It says, unity of the Spirit . So unity of the Spirit is given to us according to His decision and based upon something very fundamental. So that’s how the Spirit is given and it’s given on the same basis as the next person gets it. There is no difference and I’ll show you exactly what that is, too. 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, verse16 bears this out.
1 Corinthians 10:16 1 Corinthians 10:16The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
American King James Version× - The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Vs. 17 - For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
Now there are several conclusions you come to with this. Let me simply explain the meaning. First of all, the cup of the blessing is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? Now there’s a reason that you and I commune with each other. And the reason why we are here in the first place is because all of our sins are forgiven in exactly the same way and that is through the blood of Jesus Christ. Somebody doesn’t come into this group thinking, "Well, I’ve already got some kind of righteousness out here that I realize you folks don’t have, so I’ll just sort of come on in" and probably act that way, too. Who knows. That’s not the way it is. The reason you are here is because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ. That’s it. Everybody’s sins are forgiven in exactly the same way.
Now this was the big contention in the early part of the church in Acts chapter 15 where some felt their sins were forgiven in a superior way through either circumcision, and their uncleanness and purification was done through circumcision and according to the purification rights of the law. And Paul and Peter, James and all of them argued extensively against this to show that your sins are forgiven in one way - and only one way and that is through Jesus Christ. And so when they brought the Gentiles into the church, they were arguing that their sins couldn’t simply be forgiven by Jesus Christ. They had to go through various other purification rites of the law. Now the law did contain, for the purpose of Israel before Jesus Christ, that sins had to be atoned for. You can’t give a body of law, which He gave, without making some provision for those sins to be cleansed from the individual. So God then had various ways of making atonement for sins, which were in the law, which was the sacrifices and the priesthood, the temple, the washings and various other ceremonies that had to do with that. Now, like I said, you had to have that.
Now the basic difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is simply how sins are forgiven and the means by which you are going to obey God after that, and that is through the Holy Spirit. It was not left up to the individual to continue sinning inadvertently, left to his own human will or human resources. A person needed to have God’s Spirit. Here, then, is the basic difference. God’s laws are still there. They are never removed and what we are dealing with is how sins are forgiven. So, nobody has a right to rise up above somebody else in terms of who he thinks he is and say, "Well, I’m better. In some way I haven’t sinned as much." It takes just as much shed blood of Jesus Christ to forgive a small sin as it does a big sin. It just doesn’t matter. That’s how sins are forgiven. So I have a communion with you on that basis. You have a communion with me and you’ve got a communion with each other and you’ve got a communion with Jesus Christ. Communion means fellowship. The Greek word is koinonia . It means fellowship or sharing. The word, communion, here means a very close relationship that you have and it’s on the foundation of one thing and that is our sins are forgiven in exactly the same way. Okay. So we share in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Now, he goes on to say, The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? and the body of Christ while it represents the whole sacrifice of Jesus Christ so that we can have access to God and be brought to God through His sacrifice and our sins are forgiven that way, the bread which we break symbolizes, then, the fact that we are going to live the way Jesus Christ lived even though it might mean suffering. Some people have charged off out the door saying, "I don’t have to put up with this," and have just turned right around and turned against the fact that they said, "I eat the bread of Jesus Christ" which means "I’m going to live the way He did" which means I’m going to be prepared to take something on the chin, I’m going to be able to suffer as He suffered. If you aren’t prepared to do that, then you don’t have the communion of the body of Christ. So, we have a communion now. We have a fellowship based on these two things. It’s very important to understand this as to what the church is.
Now, with that in mind, let me speak to the matter of our governance within the church of God and I want to say a number of things about this. Those who are of the Spirit will find a way to fellowship and will find a way to fellowship in such a way that it will be orderly and without confusion. That’s a scripture in the Bible, by the way. 1 Corinthians 14:40 1 Corinthians 14:40Let all things be done decently and in order.
American King James Version× - Let all things be done decently and in order. Now the church of God, then, would have an organization to it. The people of the Spirit will assemble. They will find who has the Spirit. They should do that. They have a responsibility to do that. If you have been drawn to it, you will have the ability to know. Now people ask me this. They say, "Mr. Bradford, tell me something. You’ve got all kinds of churches out here. How do I know which one is where I ought to be? How do I know where Christ is working? How do I know this and how do I know that?" Do you know what my answer is? You probably already know. "Well, I can’t tell you that." And I can’t. That is something that person has to know as they are being led by Jesus Christ. Now, of course then, the answer from them after that is, "You know, that’s hard to do. How do I know?" They want me to say, "Well, United Church of God is the church you ought to go to." I’m not going to tell them that. If they can’t do their homework, if they can’t seek God first and ask for guidance and ask for Him to open up their minds, go so far as to really pray and fast about it and do some good self-examination, if they really want to be where they are supposed to be, they will do that. They really will because they take it just that seriously. So I’m not going to tell them. They say, "Well, that’s hard to do." I say, "Well, I suppose it is, but that is what you’ve got to do." "How can I prove it?" "Well, you’d better talk to the One who is calling you if you say you are being called." I don’t know that the person is being called. I can’t make that kind of judgment. Now, if that person is being called, that person is going to have to start looking to God to show him where he needs to be. But I will tell you this, people of the Spirit will find and seek and be able to, through the Spirit, find other people of the Spirit. Okay? I think you can see the logic to that.
Now the unity of the Spirit. This is a part of the foundation that we have here. Unity doesn’t come through governance. Does that mean we’re not supposed to have it? Now, you’ve heard me say some of these things before, but I’m trying to put it all together in this particular sermon today that government within any particular body - you’ve got to have structure and you’ve got to be organized in some way. If you didn’t have organization, you wouldn’t be able to do a thing. So you’ve got to be organized, you’ve got to have leadership, you’ve got to have various parts of that body who are able, then, to bring it all together and to make things happen. So we couldn’t even meet here today if we didn’t have that. But unity is not through government. That’s not what it says here. Unity is of the Spirit. That’s different. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t have governance. You do. But unity is of the Spirit. It has a certain foundation here. If I can find a particular page where that scripture is written. Here it is. It says to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called with lowliness and meekness with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love (Ephesians 4:1-3 Ephesians 4:1-3 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
American King James Version×) - this is where unity is going to come from - endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There’s got to be a bond here that we are bound to peace. We agree to this. We want to keep the peace.
It says to endeavor. That means that you make the effort. You are prompt, earnest, you are diligent, you labor, it is of the Spirit. This is what is at the very basis of helping us, then, to function as a body. Now, we will find a way, then, with this as the foundation, we will find a way to work together so we can function together. We call this a system. So we do have a system we have put together - a system in which as we so direct ourselves to do the work God wants us to do, to help other people come to the same frame of mind - if I can use the word 'corporate' - in a bodily or corporate way. Nothing wrong with that. Now, what system is more right than another? Well, we’ve had different systems, haven’t we that you and I have been familiar with.
There were those in which one person was at the head, at the lead. Now, is there anything wrong with that? Well, there is if God does not appoint the person. Some people accused Herbert Armstrong of doing some things that he didn’t do. He restored the truth of God and God led him to do that. And restoration of truth has to do with, first of all, not just discovered because you can’t discover truth - truth is already there. He simply understood the truth that was there all along. But you can’t just simply catalog it into some volume somewhere and then it resides in that volume or in the mind of one person. That’s not restoring truth. Restoring truth is when it’s preached. Restoring truth is when people hear the preaching and abide by it. Restoring truth is when people begin to accept those truths and begin to change their lives and adhere to them. Now you have truth restored. That’s what he did. Okay. Let’s understand that. He did not say "I am the only one who, you know, knows truth." And he didn’t because it had to come from the apostles and it had to come from Jesus Christ. He couldn’t come up with new stuff. He just didn’t. Never did. So what was already there had not been preached, now had to be restored within a body of people, otherwise it wasn’t restored. Now, that’s how it was restored. I don’t know that there is a great deal of difference in the governance that we had then and we have now. If you simply analyze it, there’s not - there’s not a lot of difference in it.
You want to talk about governance and what governance does and what it doesn’t do, now you’ve heard me say this before in that if you want to say God had the perfect governance under Him and then you had angels who disobeyed God and even rebelled against Him and wanted to overthrow part of that government, then would you say that was perfect government? I would say God had about the best government there was. It didn’t stop anything like that from happening. Government didn’t stop it. Okay. It just didn’t happen. So you had perfect government, you had God who was the benevolent ruler of the entire universe. He had His beloved angelic sons - all of them - that He created and He was distributing to them and giving to them so much power and responsibility. And some of them said it wasn’t good enough, they wanted more and they turned against Him. That’s why you have the devil and the angels today. You see, you have to understand the existence of the devil and his angels today. Why do we have them? Where did they come from? What happened? Obviously this took place in some distant past. And so you had this kind of thing going on. And God, when He creates, He rules what He creates. So you had a government here that was so wonderful and so perfect, but it didn’t stop people from turning against God.
Does this tell you anything? Governance is not going to do the job. Governance, of itself, is not the issue. It’s people. The system of governance that we have is neutral. It doesn’t think. It doesn’t make decisions. People do. That’s the system. Okay. Now, whatever system you have, and we have endeavored to at this point - let me just put it this way: what happened then is the way it was done under Herbert Armstrong, which I’m not taking issue with, was then. But this is now. Okay? What else could I say? How can I explain this to help you understand? That was then, this is now. All right. And so we are now some fifty years down the track and you’ve got to consider, okay, well, where do we go from here?
Now we have put together a system of order and structure within the Church. Our system was devised so as to give opportunity for the many to participate. It is devised to allow a large number of people to function within that system. The design is to give advantage to the least without detracting from the leadership. It has its hallmarks - fairness, justice and equity - people will be heard, its members. Not only do they have an opportunity, but it’s members have a voice and they can participate. But yet, you’ve got to have authority and you have got to have a structure. And there is submission not just to authority, but there is submission to each other with love and respect. These, then, are some of the basics of what we have done. We will continue to do our duty to amend our system so as to facilitate a more effective functionality of the body. We will try to do that. But the system is only as good as the people who are in it. Now, I’m willing to debate that with anybody. The system - I don’t care what system you have - is only as good as the people who are in it. The system will work when people work. And the system is here to serve the needs and the purposes of the spiritual body of Christ. Remember, we defined the church - the church is the spiritual body of Christ and any way that we choose to so structure ourselves should have as its end to serve the needs of that spiritual body, not the other way around. Okay. Everybody at the General Conference agreed with that. So we have put this together in such a way so as to work best. Is it perfect? No. Our system is not hallowed. Our documents are important, but not sacrosanct, they can be changed. There are more fundamental principles that we must look at, we must abide by for any structure to work and that is - we just read it in Ephesians chapter 4 - lowliness of mind, forbearing one another in love and meekness and humility and all of those good things that should be within there. And our system has to have that as a part of our workings. If it doesn’t, then it’s simply not going to work.
Now there is something very special that He is doing - I see I’d better conclude here in the next few minutes. I think I want to do that in Ephesians chapter 5. Now we have a whole discussion here on marriage. Chapter 5, verse 21.
Ephesians 5:21 Ephesians 5:21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
American King James Version× - S ubmitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God. Well, that’s the way it’s got to be. Everybody has to be considered as to who they are and what they are. There has to be a care for each other in a right and appropriate way, submitting to one another in the fear of God. Vs. 22 - Wives, submit to your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Now we have a kind of structure here on earth of husbands and wives that is supposed to work and should work. Vs. 23 - For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church … Now Christ is the head of the church, but now he is talking to husbands and wives, but he’s really talking about the church here, that … as Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. So the husband, then, is one who sacrifices himself, who gives himself for his wife just like Christ did for the church. Vs. 24 - Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Now the church is subject to Christ because of what Christ did for the church. And the church must understand that or recognize that and see what He has done for the church. He has gone before the church ever came about. He says I will build my church, the gates of hell will not prevail against it, but He had every intention to show and demonstrate His love for the church by dying for the church. Not only does He do that, but He continues to love the church. Vs. 25 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.
Let’s make the point - He gave Himself for the church. This is important. Now, He died for the world so their sins could be forgiven, but in this very special way He gave Himself for the church. That’s what this weekend is all about. He gave Himself for the church. And my question, as I tend to ask at this point, Christ probably deserves a lot more than what He’s getting. Just something to think about. Vs. 26 - that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word… Now there’s a certain way that He is, that Christ is, that she is cleansed and she is washed by the water of the word. He has His word. He is the word. It is what He has done. She is washed and cleansed by Himself. Vs. 27 - that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. It doesn’t say the people in the church don’t sin. That’s not what it says. But it says this is how He considers His body has to be holy and without blemish simply because He is able to remove those sins and make her holy and without blemish. This is how He sees her.
Now it doesn’t serve any purpose - I intimated this perhaps with offense to a few, some in my pastor’s update yesterday - that we tend to be very, very free with our criticisms of the church, of the body, of each other, ever how we want to kind of spew them out, this is what we do. Now, if I start doing that, start going down that road of teaching the word of God in a very direct and forthright way, that is not what we are talking about here. What we’re talking about, then, is just the unbridled criticism without any acknowledgment of one’s own personal sins and weaknesses in the process and simply doing that. I think we are doing a disservice to Jesus Christ, Himself, in the fact that He died for the church. This is important to really understand. And so I don’t want to come in and be a disruptive individual to a body of people in such a way to where I am going against how Jesus Christ sees and understands things. Now, I have got to go how He sees it. Okay? This is how He sees it. It is a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such things and if we are going to walk in the room here and start finding spots and wrinkles all over the place, I suspect you will find them. But I want to tell you something, that is not the view of Jesus Christ. That’s not how He sees it. He doesn’t see her that way. He has to see her as one who is pure. He has to see her this way. Otherwise, what would you put up with her for? I mean, you’ve got to see her this way. Okay? And the church has to see Jesus Christ as a suitor who has given all, has given everything for the church. We have to see that, you see, and then we have our responsibility toward Jesus Christ.
Now this is quite an amazing thing here. It says, Vs. 28 - So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. Vs. 29 - For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. It doesn’t say the church doesn’t sin, but He is prepared then to nourish and cherish it so that the church, then, is going to grow and develop into the beautiful bride that He anticipates. Vs. 30 - For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. Vs. 31 - "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." Now that’s very important. That’s how He made us from the very beginning with Adam and Eve. Vs. 32 - This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Vs. 33 - Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and the wife see that she respects her husband. In that summary statement right here, it says here’s how husbands and wives ought to be and he says, here then is how it is between Christ and the church. That ought to help us to understand how we ought to be and behave and act in the church itself. So all of this is, let’s say, very basic. We might say so basic we don’t even remember it being said. But it is basic, it is fundamental and we want to go back to that during this time.
We have such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the firstfruits, to be a part of those God is calling at this time. It is so major, it is such a responsibility, that we simply can’t disdain it, walk away from it and, just as some husbands and wives do, they just - poof - they get mad at each other and scatter, you know. But as God, He says you’d better stick. You’d better work out your differences and you’d better find out how to do that. You’d better look to your Head because He’s the one who’s doing the nourishing and the cherishing, He’s the One, then, who gave His life for the church. He’s not going to let the gates of hell come against it. It’s not going to be destroyed. It’s not going to go anywhere bad where we have to abide in faith, then, in that relationship with Him. Of course, it has the ramifications of how we abide also with each other.