Understanding what the Church of God is constitutes one of our fundamental beliefs. The Church should be central in the lives of believers. We are incredibly blessed to be called to be part of the body of Christ, and need to live our lives in such a way that we are contributing, serving members of that body.
[Paul Moody] From time to time, as I have done in the past, it’s my plan to walk through at least a portion of our 20 fundamental beliefs. You know, and I’m not going to necessarily take them all in a row. So, when I say a portion I mean a specific fundamental belief in a sermon. And over the course of a period of time, we will cover all 20 of the fundamental beliefs of the United Church of God. Because I think it’s good for us on occasion to go back. And although we know these things, they’re foundational. It’s important for us to be able to refresh our memories as to these principles on which we base our Christian lives, and that they are foundational fundamental beliefs. And so I’d like to do that today, I’d like to continue to walk through that and to cover another fundamental belief, and the one I want to cover today pertains to the topic of the Church, the Church.
The Church is an important fundamental belief and it’s an important topic brethren because it’s central to the purpose that you and I are right here in this room today. So what is the Church, what is it not? How is the Church to function, what are the expectations that we see laid out for the Church in Scripture? What does God expect from those who would be a part of the group that we call the Church? What are the blessings? What are the benefits to being part of the Church of God today? I want to cover those questions and answers from the Scripture today.
When I think back in my life, my first memories at least of the earliest times in connection with the Church, come when I was a small child. I was around the age of five or six as I recall when my mom became interested in the Church through the literature, through, The Plain Truth magazine specifically. And at that time we were living in Key West, Florida, again, and I say again because I was actually born in Key West. But my dad was in the navy as I grew up and we moved place to place. And on occasion, we actually returned back to somewhere we had been before. So Key West, was our destination around this period of time when this connection and interest with the Church began. Now, Key West is a place that at least in that day and I would suspect it’s the same today I didn’t go to look online but there was no congregation of The Church of God in Key West. And in fact, the closest congregation was nearly four hours away.
And there were really no other church members in that area either except for one other family that I can recall. And so what would happen is every couple of months or so the pastor from the Miami congregation would come down to Key West. And he would conduct an in-home Bible study essentially and would come and visit us. I remember he would leave my mom with this shoe-box of cassette tapes, you know, only get down there so often and we didn’t have the internet to go online and download sermons. So he’d bring this box of cassette tapes and she would play through those tapes. They were sermons, they were Bible studies, various teachings of the Church. And so I remember those things going on in the background even from a young age.
And so that was our first direct contact with the Church. I remember my first Feast of Tabernacles around 1981, it was, and we attended the Feast site of St. Petersburg, Florida. And that was the first Feast that we’d ever attended, walked in and sat down with 12,000 other people keeping the Feast. Who remembers some of those sites back in the early ’80s, specifically how massive some of them were? And I think I recently heard the number of 1,200 for the Winter Family Weekend in Cincinnati, you know, the biggest gathering of the Church. Well, multiply that by 10 and you had this Feast site. And I can remember as a kid because this was my first introduction and sitting among the Church of God, just this massive sea of people. And sitting up kind of up in the… and they weren’t bleachers but as the auditorium rose, you could look out over the audience.
I remember I had one friend that I would look for, I would just scan the faces all through church scanning, and scanning and then I would find my friend. And they would say amen and you’d make a beeline. But if you got 12,000 people between you and them it was a difficult prospect to connect. But again, those were the times of our first contact with the Church. I remember walking out the door of that same Feast site through the parking lot. And many of you will probably remember similar things at other Feast sites, on the day that we would receive the live transmission from Pasadena, there was the massive satellite truck, set up out in the parking lot with this big satellite dish pointed out toward space. And we would receive that live transmission, and you know, stand up and sing when everybody else was singing.
And now I look at the little box we have plugged into the wall for the webcast, and we basically do the same thing today. So it’s interesting how times have changed but the Church of God, brethren, remains constant. Eventually, my family moved up from Key West to Jacksonville, Florida in 1982, and we lived there for three years. And that gave us access to a congregation on a regular basis and week after week. And so then I was able to participate in, you know, the Y.O.U. Bible… the Y.E.S. Bible studies in those days, preteen, various church activities and interaction. And I would have to say it was during that period of time that I first recognized God’s… what l would say God’s interest in me personally and vice versa as well.
Over the course of decades and since that time there’s been a number of experiences, a number of moves in my life, various things that took place. When I became old enough then to start to make some of my own decisions, I would have to say the Church was central to most of those things. Eventually I went to college and made a decision that I wanted to go to the Church’s college. So, I went to Ambassador College. I wanted to be around those of like mind. I didn’t want homework during the Feast of Tabernacles. That seemed like a very logical thing to me, but again being around God’s people being able to participate in those ways. Later on I met my wife and we were married, and I married someone who had grown up in the Church. And the Church had been central to her focus and way of life as well. And over time we’ve had children and we’ve raised the family, and again surrounding all these things and all these decisions and activities in our life. I would have to say that the Church of God has been central and the central focus to so many of the decisions that we have made along the way.
Whenever we came to an important decision in our life especially as a married couple, we would consider it from the perspective of the Church of God. You know, how did it impact our relationship with the Church or our access or ability to assemble with the Church. In fact, there was a time shortly after we were married Darla and I had a conversation and we both agreed that we didn’t ever want to live anywhere that was out of range of assembling with the Church of God. You know, it didn’t matter if one of us was offered a spectacular job at an incredible rate of pay it just it wasn’t worth it, not to be able to assemble and to be with the Church. The Church was our home, the Church was in many ways the foundation of our life, and it was a high priority.
Brethren, what is it about the Church of God that is so incredibly special, that it would become central to our life’s focus. You know, so much so that we would make decisions and major life decisions around the focus of the Church. What’s so special about the Church? I would say in order to answer that question today we need to first understand exactly what the Church is. In the Greek the word translated church in the Bible in the New Testament it comes from the Greek word Ecclesia . And it essentially means “called out or called out ones.” And so in that context, the Church isn’t what many people would maybe think of as a church. It’s not the building, it’s not the structure, it’s the people. It’s those who are called out, ones that God has called out of this world in the ways of this world called into the assembly; called to assemble before Him.
Again the Church, it’s a group of people called out of the ways of this world called into assembly together before God and in service to God. We’re not just here for no purpose at all, it is to learn, it’s to grow, and it’s to accomplish God’s will in our life and in this world today. Throughout the Scriptures the word church, the word congregation if you were to walk through and looked for those words in Scripture, do a word study like Mr. Iiams was talking about today. The words church and congregation always refer to the people exclusively. As far as I can find it is never a building or a structure or a location. Now, sometimes the Church is referenced in terms of being connected to a location. So you have some of the New Testament books starting out, you know, to the Church in Corinth, or the Church of Ephesus. But again it’s not the focus of the place the focus is on the people. The called out ones who are in Corinth or who are in Ephesus. So in that way the Church is a spiritual body of believers. And it is not limited to a particular location, building, or even corporate organization, the Church is the called out ones called out by God.
Let’s notice, Hebrews 12 to start with today. Hebrews 12 and we will pick it up in verse 22, and I want us to see through the Scripture again that the Church itself is not maybe what we would in terms, today’s terms, box into a corporation, it is a spiritual Body. Hebrews 12 and beginning in verse 22 it says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and the city of the living God,” Zion is referred to as a physical literal place throughout Scripture but also it’s a symbolic and it’s a type of God’s dwelling place of which is also the Church. The Church is spiritual Zion, it is where God dwells. So he says, “you’ve come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.”
And so this passage is referring very much to those who have been called out of the ways of the world, called into the assembly, into the Church. And it says, “They are the general assembly, and the Church of the firstborn, who are registered in heaven.” So again, that’s clearly not a physical building, physical structure, not a physical corporate entity in that way. The United Church of God in name and in corporate function to which you and I belong is a corporate organization. And the corporate structure itself though, brethren, is not to be confused with the Church, in terms of the spiritual Body, in terms of the called out ones. The Ecclesia , not a building not a structure, not a location not a corporation, it is a spiritual Body of believers.
Now that being said the corporate organization to which we belong is important, okay, it does have a purpose. As a Church, we need to be set up to function legally. We want to rent the halls, as just we’re meeting here today we need to have insurance, which means we need to have a legal structure for it to collect tithes, send ministry around the world, produce a television program, literature. The various things that we do as a church, as is part of our commission that we fulfill in this day and age, requires organization and structure and legal standing. And so the United Church of God corporation is made up of those who are part of the Body of Jesus Christ, the believers, the called out ones. And so, in that sense, it does make this corporate structure at least special in that regard. But again the Church is not a building structure or a corporation, it’s a spiritual Body of believers called out of the world, called into an assembly, and unified with one another.
So how does that calling take place, how does one become a part of the Church? Is that something that we can just do on our own? Well, let’s look at John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×. This is the beginning of the process, here are the words of Jesus Christ, John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×. And Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” We flip forward to verse 65 of the same chapter. “And He said, [Christ, said,] ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’” And so Jesus Christ, said it is the Father who initiates the calling into this relationship. It’s not like you or I can just one day decide, you know, I think I want to be a part of the spiritual Body of God. I will say part of that calling is a desire to do so, so that certainly is a positive thing. But it is God who calls, no one can choose, again God initiate’s the process He guides the process. He leads the person to recognize their need for repentance and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But there’s an additional element here to it as well, John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
American King James Version×.
So, no one can come to Christ except God would call and draw them. John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
American King James Version×“Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” And so it requires the involvement of both of them. Both God the Father and Jesus Christ to bring us into the called out assembly. God extends the invitation, God pricks our mind pricks our heart, he draws us into acknowledging our need for repentance and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We come under that sacrifice through baptism and then God gives us His Holy Spirit, at which a person becomes part of the Church of God. God calls, draws us to Christ, the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can then be reconciled with God. He gives His spirit and we become the sons of God. Romans 8, we won’t go there but it references the fact that those who have God’s Spirit are in fact His children, His sons in that way. Now, 1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:19What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
American King James Version×, continues with the concept. 1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:19What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
American King James Version×again the assembly is a spiritual Body. 1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:19What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
American King James Version×says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own?”
So by entering into the special relationship with God, we become God’s precious possessions. Paul, says, “You are not your own.” What once governed our life, you know, “I’m my own free man I can do whatever I want.” The point is we’ve been bought now, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God owns us and when we come under that sacrifice our life is submitted to God with a new purpose and a new direction. He says, “You’re not your own.” Verse 20 it says, “For you were bought at a price;” again the blood of His only begotten Son, “therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” So we go from being our own person sort of going down a dead end street sold under sin and death. “The wages of sin is death” there is no way out of that apart from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So we go from that to being God’s holy people through accepting that sacrifice and receiving God’s Holy Spirit. That’s what is required in becoming the called out ones in the Church of God. Because that relationship, brethren, we’re no longer living for ourselves, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes. The pride of life must not be what it is that pulls and directs our life. But rather we live to develop the nature and the character of God, to look to His Kingdom and for His Kingdom, and to put on and continually grow working towards the stature for the fullness of Jesus Christ. That’s the difference then that takes place in our life when we’re called out of this world.
To be a part of the Ecclesia , means we’ve submitted ourselves to God’s calling and received His Spirit. Our life is now directed for good, it’s God’s Spirit in us that sets us apart, it’s what makes us different. It’s what makes us the son of God. It’s the Spirit in us and it is the great unifier of the Body of the Church as well. 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×, 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×, again this is a spiritual organism so it needs to be bound together spiritually. That Spirit is the Spirit of God. 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×, it says, “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. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” You know, I don’t think we realize what a revolutionary concept and teaching this was back in this day. When you think about it the Jewish culture the people knew who they came from, what their lineage was, they were the seed of Abraham, right? They were God’s chosen people and they looked at the Gentiles around them as the foreigners, the unclean. Those who were without God, and here the point is being made that by one Spirit you’re baptized in the one Body whether Jews or Greeks.
So I think we forget just how big of a deal this was. The teaching that God’s Spirit was the great unifier between all peoples and stations was a new concept to many of them in the Church. And frankly, it was a big deal. This person who maybe you would never have mingled with in the marketplace was now your brother or your sister in the spiritual Body. Again this is a spiritual organism made up of many members called into one Body. Ephesians 2 continues to tie the concept together, Ephesians 2:17 Ephesians 2:17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were near.
American King James Version×. He says, “And He” speaking of Jesus Christ, “came and preached peace to you who are far off and to those who were near.” The Jewish people were considered to be near to God because again, that was their lineage through Abraham they were the seed of promise. They were part of that physical line, they were those who were near, the Gentiles were considered those who were far off. But the point here is the gospel message of peace that Jesus Christ brought, it was a message for all.
Jew, Gentile, slave, free is a message for all. Verse 18, chapter 2 verse 18, it says, “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building…” we’re not talking a physical structure, again spiritual. “…in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy habitation in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
So each and every one of us possessing God’s Holy Spirit has been bound together by the Spirit of God to form one structure and one temple of God. The Church today brethren is where God’s Spirit dwells. It’s not in the tabernacle made with hands, it’s not in a physical temple in any way, it is in the Church of God. This is where His Spirit dwells in us and among us, working with us, this is a spiritual structure of God. Each and every one of us who have been baptized who have had the hands of the ministry laid upon us and have received God’s Holy Spirit are essentially what Peter calls in 1 Peter 2:5 1 Peter 2:5You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×, “living stones.” So, each individually we possess God’s Spirit, but it’s just like a stone that they would build together to make a house. You take these stones and you lay them out to make the wall of the house and they are mortared together. And that is us collectively as the Church of God as living stones being built up into a holy habitation mortared together, that Spirit of God that binds us. And so we form that structure which is the dwelling place of God’s Spirit.
Church again, spiritual house of God, and it says here, “Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone.” The chief cornerstone was a specific stone and it was very carefully set because it was the stone by which the rest of the structure was built off of. So Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church, and the called out ones the chief cornerstone. The Scripture in many places refers to the Church as the Body of Jesus Christ. At which Jesus Christ is the living head. So we’ll look at that, two phrases; the Body of Christ and also in reference to Christ the living head.
Ephesians 1:15 Ephesians 1:15Why I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints,
American King James Version×, again, the apostle Paul writing. And he says, “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power towards us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” the us here being referenced is us the Church, those who’ve been called out. Verse 20, “for which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age which is to come. And He put all things under His feet,” Under the feet of Jesus Christ, under His authority, and His direction, “put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fulfills all in all.”
And so here the resurrected Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven is the living head of the Church. That Church which is described by Scripture as the Body of Jesus Christ. Again, we are the Body, He is the head. It is His spiritual body. Ephesians 4 just a couple pages over in verse 11, Ephesians 4:11 Ephesians 4:11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
American King James Version×says, “And He Himself” again Jesus Christ directly, “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers,” We’re talking about the structure then of the Church by which it would be functioned and taught and shepherded in that way, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,” And the word ministry is service, so the point is there is a structure which has been organized in the Church to help to bring all the saints as it says, “to work in a heart of service for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
So we see it acknowledged here, it says that this is a Body, it is a spiritual Body. The reference is that it’s the Body of Jesus Christ and He is the head. Continuing on verse 13, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” that’s the example and that’s the standard, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up into all things into who Him who is the head — Christ —“ says, “from whom the whole body is joined and knit together by what every joint supplies,” so the point, here again, is that the Church is like a body, and the analogy is, is like a human body and Jesus Christ is the head. What does the head do for the body, the physical body?
Head controls my body anyway, the head contains the brain, which controls and oversees the function and the ability and the capacity of the body to function as it should. Jesus Christ is the head, verse 16 says, “from whom,” from that head, “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for edifying of itself in love.” So, brethren, you and I are called to be a part of the Body and as such we’re expected to contribute something for the benefit of the whole. This isn’t just I’m here for myself and what is it I can get for me, my needs, my wants. Point is, God has placed us in the Body as He sees fit, given us through His Spirit the ability to serve Him and to serve one another, again, as He sees fit for the benefit of the Body.
So the point is I need what you have to offer and what you bring to this Body. Because you are filled with God’s Spirit. I need what you have to offer, you need what I have to offer in order to be complete in this way, in order to function in unity as the Body of Jesus Christ. You know, the hand can’t just say I think I’m going to do my thing over there and detach itself from the Body and function alone. It doesn’t work that way. You know, you could cut the hand off the Body but also then the Body is not able to function at the capacity that it was designed to do. So the point is God brings us together, calls us out of the world, calls us, brings us into an assembly as a spiritual Body in order to function as a whole and to function collectively together. That sounds like a relationship to me. Sounds like an intimate relationship, sounds like more than just sort of being off and not really getting involved “But I showed up today and that was good. I sang a couple of songs and then I left.” No brethren, this sounds to me like an intimate relationship of learning of one another, strengthening and encouraging one another, drawing strength from each other, and the synergy that comes as we all are working together. And functioning together as the Body should. Sounds like iron sharpening iron.
And in that process it’s not just, you know, you have a piece of something that is strong that can come and sharpen something else. No, it’s two rubbing up together and sharpening one another. And so it’s what you can contribute and what I can contribute; sharpening and honing one another. That’s how the Body is supposed to function it is to be a blessing, and ultimately as well it is a relationship of unity and harmony. The Body works together seamlessly and functions seamlessly. And the physical body when it’s working well does so. And the spiritual Body must do so as well. Again, Jesus Christ is the living head of the Church. As such He cares for the Church, He nurtures the Church in a very intimate way, and He directs the Church.
Ephesians 5:25 Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
American King James Version×, here we’re talking about family relationships and specifically husbands and wives. But the greater point is made concerning the relationship of Christ and the Church. Ephesians 5:25 Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
American King James Version×, it says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” how much do you think Jesus Christ loves the Church? Just a little bit, kind of. Well, here it says, “He gave himself for her.” You understand He laid His life down as a sacrifice, ultimately that sacrifices for all of mankind that will one day choose hopefully to accept that. But the point is the Church today, the called out ones, God sent His Son, Christ died, gave Himself for the Church. He loves the Church desperately.
How much does God the Father love the Church? “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son.” God and Christ love the Church immensely and are invested here with their focus and more than that with their Spirit. So, Christ gave Himself it says, “For the Church,” Verse 26, “that He may sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 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. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; as he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever has hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” And so the point here is that Jesus Christ love and care for the Church wasn’t a one-time event. Wasn’t the crucifixion, He died and now his responsibility and level of care is over. No, the point is this is ongoing.
Christ gave Himself for the Church but He nourishes, He strengthens, He is intimately involved in the function of the Church. And He loves the Church. Verse 30 it says, “For we are members of His body, and of His flesh and of His bones.” And it goes on to say, “’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother be joined to his wife, the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, let the wife see that she respects her husband.” So this is bound in and interrelated here with marriage relationship of husband and wife, but the point is as well, and we don’t necessarily have the time to delve into it deeply today. But the Church is set aside to be the Bride of Jesus Christ. Christ loves the Church and cares for her. Apostle Paul, says, you know, “I betrothed you as chaste virgin to Christ.”
So what do you think the response would be if somebody is betrothed to a young lady? If a man’s betrothed to a young lady, a virgin, and she is somehow mishandled or violated in some way. You know, the Scripture says about the temple of God which we are, says, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy them.” But the temple of God is holy, which temple you are, that’s a very pointed warning. Has a very high calling as well, be careful how we handle one another. Be careful how we treat the Church of God, be careful brethren, how we treat one another. But again the Bride of Christ is being prepared. That’s the calling that we are walking through today. And our life is a preparation for marriage to Jesus Christ following His return and nobody else can claim that position. There will be those who will be called out in an age to come who will be sons of God, okay, they will receive His Spirit, they’ll be children in the family of God. But the position of the Bride, the Bride of Christ reserved for the Church, reserved for the firstfruits, and it is specific. And preparation for that and the earnest heed that we take to that is very specific and direct as well.
Jesus Christ, also, and this is why He refers to the Church as “My Church, My Church.” Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×we won’t turn there but it says, “…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” So Jesus Christ, called the Church His Church because it is His spiritual Body of which He is the head. He gave Himself for her, He nurtures her, He cares for her, and very loving relationship in the sacrificial sense. The meaning of the scripture in Matthew here is that the Church would never cease, the Church would never die out it would exist all the way up to the return of Jesus Christ. This is the age of the Church, after return of Christ is not the age of the Church, the Church marries Christ, the rest of the world is being called then at that time, all right? It’s not a called out necessarily assembly such as the Church is today called out of this world. This is the age of the Church today. And He just says that the gates of the grave would not prevail against His Church no matter what difficulty, what obstacle Satan the devil with throw at it. The Church at some level and to some degree will continue to survive not only that but to thrive. And brethren, for you and I hopefully that’s a very encouraging, encouraging statement.
It’s also important to note that the name of the Church is the Church of God. And the reference is to God the Father. We are the Body of Jesus Christ, but we are called the Church of God the Father. You recall the night before Christ’s death, again we won’t turn there but John 17:11 John 17:11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are.
American King James Version×, you can look it up later. He prayed to His Father to keep in His name those whom He had given Him. He says, “Father,” you know, He called them out of the world brought them to Christ, He says,” Keep in Your name those whom you have given Me.” There are 12 instances in the New Testament where the Church is described with the distinction of God; Church of God, and again it’s the Church of God the Father. Let’s look at just a few examples, Acts 20:28 Acts 20:28Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.
American King James Version×, Acts 20:28 Acts 20:28Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.
American King James Version×, we’re going to move very quickly through these. Acts 20:28 Acts 20:28Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.
American King James Version×, we’re not going to look at context but the verse specifically. “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to the flock, from which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” God sent His only begotten Son to die.
Again, it is the Church of God, 1 Corinthians 10:32 1 Corinthians 10:32Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
American King James Version×, 1 Corinthians 10:32 1 Corinthians 10:32Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
American King James Version×, “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the Church of God,” 1 Corinthians 11:22 1 Corinthians 11:22What? have you not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise you the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
American King James Version×, Paul says, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?” And final example, 1 Corinthians 15:9 1 Corinthians 15:9For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
American King James Version×. This isn’t the final one in the text, as I said there are a number of them but we’re just looking briefly. 1 Corinthians 15:9 1 Corinthians 15:9For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
American King James Version×says, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
Brethren, the Church is the Body of Jesus Christ, therefore, it is His church, He is the head. But the highest authority under which the Church submits itself is to God the Father. And we are to be kept in His name, we’re the Body of Christ, the Church of God, and there’s no conflict in that and there is no competition. It is what God has designed. Now Scripture also goes on to show that the Church has been given a work to do. Commission of the Church is to preach the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to all the nations as well as to aid in reconciling to God such people as have now been called. Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×, Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×, the commission here that Jesus Christ gave to His disciples before His departure. Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority’” that means all authority, “has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.’”
And so the Church hasn’t been just called to sit around and do nothing in terms of outreach in this world. We’re not here to sit on our hands, we’re not to hide under a basket or separate ourselves from the world, we’re to share what God has given and shared with us, to be a witness. Christ gave His disciples the commission that continues in the Church today. And the Church’s commission is to preach the gospel and to prepare people for the Kingdom of God. Let’s look at a prophecy about the end of the age, Matthew 24:13 Matthew 24:13But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version×, Matthew 24:13 Matthew 24:13But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version×, again related to the commission of the Church. It says, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” The words of Jesus Christ, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
The gospel message which Christ proclaimed, which the disciples that would follow Him proclaimed, the gospel message which the Church of God today proclaims is a witness. A witness as you know, you give testimony to something you’ve seen, something that you know. You know, what can we witness, we can witness what God has done in our life, we could witness the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the remission of sins. So the gospel proclaims a witness, proclaims a warning. Remember Jesus Christ came and said the, you know, “The kingdom is at hand repent and believe in the gospel.” The message is a warning, “Come out of sin,” and it is a call to repentance and reconciliation. That’s the message that goes out. Now, we’re not necessarily in control of the response to that message, God extends the call, God draws people, but this is the message, a witness, a warning, a call to repentance and reconciliation. The ministry of Jesus Christ is given direct responsibility to proclaim the gospel to the world but, you know what, as the congregation as a whole.
As the assembly, we have the responsibility to be witnesses as well through our personal example. To the ways that we live our lives and what other people see when they come into contact with us. We have the responsibility through our personal relationships, you know, at work, at school, responsibility to give an answer. “You know, there’s something different about you. Why do you go to that Church festival every year? Why isn’t your house all lit up with lights this time of the year?” There is opportunity to give an answer, people do ask where to be a witness in that way. Additionally, as God calls people into the Church it is to be an environment for spiritual growth. That is what this body is to be. It’s not just in one sense self-serving it is to be serving others who would walk in the door as an environment for spiritual growth. When people walk in the door of the Church of God, they need to see and know that God’s way works not just hear it. You can read it from the Scripture all day long but they need to see and know that it works and they get that example from you and from me.
We can say God’s way works but if it’s not working in our relationships or how we’re treating one another or how we’re treating the truth of God. Then they’re going to say there’s a problem here, and then walk right back out the door. Brethren, we have the opportunity to be an example for the truth of God in our marriages, in our family units, and how we relate to one another. And by the example by which we live by this Word. We’re to be an example, and as part of the work that we do as a Church. Additionally, through our words an example the Church has been given the opportunity to participate in what’s called the ministry of reconciliation, ministry of reconciliation, it’s helping to reconcile others in relationship to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17 2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
American King James Version×, it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
And so the Word of God, the Scripture as well as the gospel message the things that we would preach and teach need to be a witness and a message of reconciliation. It’s a message that tells people how to go from being an enemy of God, right, “carnal mind is enmity against God.” How to go from being an enemy of God to being a son of God. Reconciled to God, led by God’s Spirit, that is true reconciliation. Verse 20, says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And so again the Gospel message is a message of reconciliation, it’s a message of healing. This is a battered and beaten world, it’s a bruised world. We get beat around living in it enough as it is. We get beat around in this world and we’re bruised even in the Church.
But the point is brethren, this is a message of healing, it’s a message of reconciliation between us and God, but also between each other. Because to the degree that you’re reconciled to God and I’m reconciled to God, we’ll be reconciled to each other. And to the degree that we’re not, there’s a problem. So let us brethren consider the part that we have to play in not just the ministry of reconciliation but being Ambassadors for Jesus Christ, representatives of the Kingdom of God. How it functions and that it is, in fact, living in type in us. Mr. Iiams, could you give me the time, please?
[Paul Moody] Okay, I’m going to wrap it up at this point with concluding with our fundamental belief, I have a page and notes left. But I’ve discovered that you’re speaking off and you can save that for another time and maybe that’s an advantage. I’m going to conclude with reading to you the fundamental belief of the United Church of God, as is stated in the constitution of the United Church of God. It says, “We believe that the Church is that body of believers who have received and are being led by the Holy Spirit. The true Church of God is a spiritual organism. And its biblical name is “the Church of God.” We believe that the mission of the Church is to preach the gospel (the good news) of the coming Kingdom of God to all nations as a witness to help reconcile God to such people as are now being called. We believe that it is also the mission of the Church of God to strengthen, edify, and nurture the children of God in the love and admonition of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I began the message today brethren by asking, what was so special about the Church of God that it would be central to our life focus? And hopefully, the answer has been spelled out to you today through the message, through the scriptures we’ve covered. The Church of God is central to what God is doing in this world today. Brethren, it must be central the focus of you and I as we walk through this life each and every day.