Several "mysteries" are mentioned in the New Testament. One of these is the mystery of the Church. How important is the Church to Christ, and how vital is it to our salvation? The knowledge that comes from unraveling this mystery may surprise you.
[Rick Shabi] I guess as I start my sermon, there's certain words in the English language you could say that I would get your attention immediately. And you're probably thinking what some of those words could be. I'm going to guess you're not thinking of the word I'm thinking of, though, as I start here today, the word mystery. Isn't the word mystery an interesting word in the English language? Conjures up...conjures up, you know, who did it, what's it about? What's hidden in that meaning? All these things. Books have been written about mysteries, movies have been written about mysteries. Mysteries are even in the word of God. As we read Paul's Epistles, we see the word mystery show up many times more in the Book of Ephesians than any other book in the Bible. He talks about the mystery, the mystery of Godliness. He talks about the mystery of faith that we've heard about a couple of times here already today. He talks about the mystery of Christ, he talks even about the mystery of iniquity that is already in the world, and some other mysteries as well.
And as we read through the Bible and God opens our minds, we begin to unravel those mysteries and they make sense to us. Christ talks about mysteries, too. He will...You'll remember back in Matthew 13, He said...when asked, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He says, “Because it's for you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven.” But to them, those who aren't called yet, whose minds aren't opened yet, to them it's not given. And Paul mentions in Colossians that the knowledge of mysteries, the revelation of mysteries is given to the saints. That's you and me. God opens our minds to understand those mysteries that are in the Bible, and there are several of them that we could talk about. There's one, in particular, I want to talk about today. And sometimes we need to go back and look at those mysteries because all of us have seen them before or probably heard them before.
I think most of us in the congregation that are sitting here before me and the ones in Florida have heard this before, but it may have been some time since we've talked about it. And, you know, over time, when we don't hear about things, things that get watered down in our minds, we lose the focus of what those mysteries are and what God has called us to. And we have to go back and we have to hone that knowledge. Because when we have that knowledge and we go back to the things that God has called us to and opened our minds to, it produces zeal, it produces the motivation, it produces the desire to follow God even more. So, I want to talk about, I say, some of those mysteries here today, but let's begin in Hebrews 2. Hebrews 2, the author gives us something that we all need to be aware of and cognizant of, especially if we've been in the Church for 10, 15, 20, 25, 50 years. We can find ourselves in this situation that's here in Hebrews 2, that we see in verses 1 to 3.
Hebrews 2:1 Says, “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard lest we drift away.” Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard lest we drift away. He goes on, and he says, “For if the word spoken through angels,” and that would be messengers, “Proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.”
And we know in Old Testament times, Israel did suffer. All those things that they heard, everything that they saw that God did, they suffered as a result of disobeying and drifting away from God.
Hebrews 2:3 It talks about, “If that happened to them, how shall we escape?” When we see the word we, that's you and me. When we read these words in the New Testament, anytime of the Bible, when you see you or we, that's you and me, don't just think it's them because what happened to them could happen to us if we're not careful. “If they received a just reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?”
If we neglect so great a salvation. Could we neglect it? Could we neglect the calling that God has given it? Could it just be common to us after a while and we forget what we have been called to? When we neglect something, it's not something that we do intentionally. No one wakes up and says, “I'm going to intentionally neglect praying this morning,” right? We might have other things cloud our schedule and we might think, I'll do it later. And then all of a sudden the day goes by and we think, well, we'll do it tomorrow and we can find ourselves neglecting and further drifting away from God. No one ties a boat to a dock and deliberately hopes it drifts away. Well, maybe someone does, but typically you don't, right? You put it on there and you're not paying attention to what's going on. Pretty soon the boat is drifting away and all of a sudden it's out of sight, not a good situation to be in.
And the author here in Hebrews is telling us, this could happen to us if we are not paying attention, if we lose sight of what it is that God has called us to. And the mysteries that He has opened our minds to that the world doesn't know yet because they are some dramatic and exciting mysteries. And every single one in this room, every single one listening on the web, and whoever will listen to this could be part of one of the biggest mysteries in the Bible, a mystery that has been just absolutely watered down, watered down in the world today so that it's become common. And I'm afraid that maybe with some of us, this mystery has taken a little bit of backseat and doesn't have the ring that it used to do. And we don't understand what it is that God has called us to.
You know, Israel, ancient Israel, they had a calling, right? God saw that family and He brought them out of Egypt and He told them in Deuteronomy 7, “If you'll just follow me, if you'll just obey my commandments, I will have you ride the high heels of the earth. You will be my own special people, a treasure on the earth.” And He wanted to work with them. He wanted Israel to obey them. He wanted to bless them. He wanted them to be the model nation on the earth that they could have been had they followed God. But they failed. Along the way, they neglected their calling. They got enamored with the things of the world and they became too close to it. And it seemed more important to them than anything God would say. And yet, God blessed them richly. They were one of the greatest nations on earth back in those days, wealthy, had everything at their disposal. God worked tremendous miracles that they had in their background, and yet, they just kind of let it all slip away.
When God calls you and me, He gives us a calling that we should never, ever take for granted or call common. It is something that we need to be aware of, and thankful for, and working with every single day. And yet, we know, every single person here in the room knows that there have been people that we've known that have just drifted away, just neglected the calling that God has given them. Sometimes we don't see them at Sabbath services for a week or two, and sometimes they don't respond to phone calls. And then they show up again and eventually, they're just gone. They're just lost. They've just drifted away. And they've lost something that is more valuable than anything this earth and this world could ever offer. It could happen to us as it happened to ancient Israel. Back in Proverbs 21, there's an interesting verse written by Solomon, Proverbs 21:16.
Proverbs 21:16 Says, “A man who wanders from the way of understanding.” Well, that could be you and me, right? We can wander away, cares of this world, other things could come about. Whatever it is, “A man who wanders away or from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead.”
Will rest in the assembly of the dead. I think the Old King James says the congregation of the dead. You know that word congregation or assembly, as it is in the New King James, comes from the equivalent of the Greek word ecclesia. I think you know what ecclesia is. In the New Testament, ecclesia is translated Church. Ecclesia, when you look in the dictionaries, fairs and vines, it specifically says that ecclesia is not a Church, a building, per se. It says that ecclesia is a gathering of people called out of their homes to an assembly for the purpose of deliberating.
The Greeks, the Greeks and their culture would have people come out of their homes. They would come to the town square or wherever it is they were going, and they would deliberate. And God used that example when He calls His people, “Come out of your homes. Come to the place that we're going to meet. Here's where we're going to meet.” And every Sabbath, and every holy day, and every Feast of Tabernacles where there's two holy days in it, including the last great day, God says, “Come to the ecclesia. I have called you out. I want you there.” And so we have this word Church that we talk about today. The Bible uses the word Church as well. Let's go to Ephesians 5. In Ephesians 5:32...you'll, of course, recall those verses in Ephesians 5. At the end of the chapter there, he's talking about husbands and wives and how the marriage relationship pictures the relationship between Jesus and Christ. It's something that the world doesn't understand. Many times we might forget that that is what it pictures as well.
Ephesians 5:32 Paul says this, he says, “This is a great mystery. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”
I speak concerning Christ and the ecclesia. Well, that is a mystery. What's so special about the Church? When I say the word Church, it's a word that everyone in the...I guess just about everyone in America at least would know what the word Church is. But it means different things to them. To some, Church is just a building. To some, Church is a place that you might go if you have time on Sunday morning, get some good musical entertainment or a short brief little message that makes you feel good about yourself or whatever it is.
Is that what God had in mind when He said Church? The world has done a really good job of taking this word ecclesia a translated Church into English language and having it just become something that is commonplace an option, kind of a nice thing to do. But what's the mystery behind it? Why would God say, there's a mystery of the Church, a mystery of Christ? What is He doing? What is He doing with the Church that He would say, “You and I would understand the mysteries but the rest of the world would not, at least at this time.” And you and I are all part of this ecclesia. Every single one sitting here today, every single one listening in on the web or that will listen to this later. We're all part, we're all part of the ecclesia or we wouldn't be listening or we wouldn't be tuning in if God wasn't opening our minds to understand something about the truth.
Israel didn't get it. Ancient Israel never counted it important enough to follow God and completely commit to Him. It was just something that they did. And as soon as the world called, they were there to follow the world. That can't be you and me. Today, God has called us out and He calls us in 1 Peter 2, “A special people, a royal priesthood, a chosen generation.” It's a tremendous, tremendous blessing to be called by God. The God of the universe actually looked down and said, “I want you to know the truth. I want you to understand these mysteries. I want you to know what is going on and what my plan is. The rest of the world will know it at some future time but I want you now to understand it.”
There's a lot of mysteries and another time we'll talk about another mystery that I've heard a few times. And just listening to broadcasts, I don't mean a “Beyond Today” broadcast, but TV news shows where people said, you know, it makes you wonder why is man even here on this earth? And I understand why that question would come about. If I was not in the Church, I would think, "What is the purpose? Why are we even here? We live our 70, 80, 90 years and die. What's the purpose?" You and I know the purpose. The world needs to know the purpose. And one day we'll answer that. We'll answer that question for them and refresh our minds as to why we are here too, and the blessing that God has given us to be part of this. But we have this ecclesia, and Israel failed.
And so let me give you a little bit of history of the ecclesia that Jesus Christ began. Jesus Christ was born. Jesus Christ lived His life, a perfect life. Jesus Christ began his ministry. And as He began His ministry, god gave Him 12 apostles that were going to follow Him. You remember the dramatic times when Jesus Christ would see Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, and the others and He would say, “Follow me.” And they would drop what they were doing and they would follow Him. I mean, they literally changed their lives. It was that important to them, “Follow me.” And as they followed Him for those three-and-a-half years, they saw Jesus Christ and they studied Him. They really became disciples. They saw how He acted among other people. They learned His manner of working with people. They saw that He was willing to sit down with harlots and tax collectors and that no one was beneath Him to talk to, that He was there and He was a friend of all, and that He was there to love all of mankind. He was bringing a different message.
The Jews, of course, thought they had the Bible. They were still keeping the Sabbath, they were still keeping the holy days. They had that knowledge. But when Jesus talked and the disciples heard, they realized what the Jews are doing. They had drifted from the true purpose of the prophets and the words that God had given them. They still were keeping those commandments in the manner or at least physically, and to the letter to kind of, I often say, check off the boxes. But over the years, they had added something to it. And those things they added to it took precedence over what the law of God was.
When Jesus Christ was talking to the Pharisees in Matthew 23, He said, “You have taken your traditions and replaced the commandments of God with them.” Didn't happen overnight. One day, someone just didn't stand up and say, “Well, hey, let's make giving to the temple more important than taking care of your parents in need,” or anything like that. It happened over time. They neglected. They drifted. They became something that God didn't intend. And Jesus Christ, when He was on earth, He began to restore the truth of God. The apostles learned it. They knew what the difference between Judaism and Christianity was. Jesus Christ taught truth, the plain truth. The plain truth, right? As we used to say, whatever is in the Bible, that's what we teach. That's what we do. We follow the word of God. We don't add to it. We don't take away from it, but we know it. We study it. We learn to keep every single word of the word of God. You know, there's a verse back in Ephesians 5:15. Are we in Ephesians? Yeah. Let's look here in verse 15. We're here in Ephesians 5. Ephesians 5:15, again talking to us, "See then that you..." That's you and me and everyone who is a true Christian.
Ephesians 5:15 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time because the days are evil.”
What does that word circumspectly mean? You know, we say it. We read that verse. It's not a word I use in my everyday conversations with people. I don't know that I've ever heard anyone ever say circumspectly to me outside of Church or reading that verse. What does that mean? If you look it up, it means walk with God exactly, accurately, perfectly, learn what the word of God says, and learn to obey it completely.
In Deuteronomy, Moses would always encourage the people of Israel. He would say, “Follow God earnestly, follow Him completely. Follow Him diligently. Follow Him carefully. Carefully obey.” Jesus Christ said, "We live by every word of the Bible." That doesn't happen in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 years that we understand and apply every word of the Bible. That takes a lifetime to walk with God circumspectly, so He can bring us to the blamelessness that He wants us to be at the spiritual maturity that He wants us to have and that we need to have if we understand and are remembering clearly and holding on to what it is, the purpose that He called us to.
You know, His 12 disciples, His 12 disciples that followed Him back then, they heard all those words. They watched the miracles as we heard in the sermonette and they saw how He did. They saw the faith that He had in God. They watched His example. And we, as disciples of Christ, we need to do more than just know the words of the Bible. We need to look into it. We need to see what the examples are. Our goal is to become like Christ. Doesn't mean just repeating the words that He has, but also becoming like Him, as the disciples did. And so they spent this time doing that. And in Matthew 16, Jesus Christ, as He was talking to them one day, said something that they may have not understood what the purpose for His saying that day would be, but they would learn later about this mystery of the ecclesia that Jesus Christ was talking about.
Matthew 16:-16-17 Right after Christ says to Peter, “It's God who's given you the knowledge of who I am. He's revealed to you that I am the Son of the living God.” In verse 17, “Jesus answered and said, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hasn't revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church.’”
We'll stop there. What did He mean by build my Church? Did He mean that there were going to be great cathedrals, tremendous things to go visit, and that we should spend our time building beautiful buildings to walk into and that's the Church? That was the temple of old, right? The temple of old was a beautiful place to be. That was where God dwelt. But Jesus Christ was saying, “I will build my ecclesia.” Now remember, ecclesia is people. It's not...it doesn't have in its meaning building, as in a structure. I will build my ecclesia. I will build my group of called-out ones. And sometimes maybe we just need to get away from what we might think and what we've been conditioned to think about Church. Replace that word with ecclesia and remember it's a gathering of His people, the ones that He has called out to come out of their homes and meet Him when He says to find them.
Matthew 16:19 “I say to you that you are Peter and on this rock…”
Well, we know that the rock that Jesus Christ was building that ecclesia on was not the biggest rock in Judea that they could find, physical rock. He's the rock. He's the one. He's the cornerstone, as we read in the New Testament. It isn't a physical thing. He's the cornerstone. He's the example. He's the one who is there at the Church. He started it. He's the head of it. He's the head of it today. And He watches everything we're doing, wants us to do His will. And we, as His people, need to be following His will, seeking His will, and doing it. He knows the way. He knows the truth. He knows the life. He said it. And the only way to the Kingdom, as we know, is through Him. And He started this Church. He started this ecclesia on this rock Himself, the chief cornerstone. He will build it.
“And Peter, Peter, you're the smaller rock. You're still very secure, you're still impenetrable. You are learning. You get the word of God. You've heard the word of God. You've walked with me for three-and-a-half years. You get the truth. You see what I have taught. You see what I have done. You need to go and do likewise and not venture or not wander from the truth, not let things take you this way or that way, but you remain true to the word that you have heard.” And as we see those apostles later on in life, we see that that's exactly what they did. I'll get to that in a minute.
Matthew 16:18 He says, “On this rock, I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
There is nothing that is going to stop this ecclesia. It is going to be from now until the time that Jesus Christ returns, His called-out ones. Satan will try to attack it, Satan will try to distract it, Satan will try to water it down and make it meaningless or common, but he will never destroy the Church of God, the true Church of God. It will continue to preach the words of Jesus Christ. It will continue to do the things that God said it will preach and it will live by every word of the Bible. That's what God was calling Peter to do. As He saw Peter and the other apostles, as He walked with them, He saw their hearts. He saw we're committed. We get it. We understand what you've called us to, we understand the great purpose. We understand the road isn't going to be easy, but we commit to you no matter what, no matter what the problems are. By faith, we will go forward always looking to you. So, He says in verse 18, this is an important thing, He kind of highlights how important it is.
Matthew 16:18 He says, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.”
How important is the Church, how important is the ecclesia, the ones God's calling out, the group that he's calling out? "I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." What more could Jesus Christ have said to show the importance of this group and what He was starting on that day? “I'll give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.” That's a powerful verse and a powerful thing that Jesus Christ said as He talked about this ecclesia, these people that He would call, this group that would become His Church, as we call it today.
And the apostles, the apostles would carry it forward. Jesus Christ was there. Jesus Christ taught them. We still have Jesus Christ's words in the Gospel for us today that God has preserved for us. So, we know what He said. If we believe that the Bible is true, and I would hope that everyone here has already proven to themselves this is the Word of truth, the only source of truth, pure truth in the world today is that Bible you have in your laps or on your iPads. We have those words for us. We can read His words and we can read the words of the apostles that have been and others who have been preserved for us that we can see. They preserved His words. They expanded it as He let them know, but He taught them, and they remain true to the word. Let's go back to Hebrews 1 for a moment. Hebrews 1:1, again, a very important verse that the author of Hebrews has written here under the inspiration of God.
Hebrews 1:1 Says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoken time past to the fathers by the prophets.”
And that hearkens us back to Old Testament times. And you remember that when Israel was there at the base of Mount Sinai and God thundered and they became fearful of God, that they said, “Moses, Moses, we don't even want God to talk to us. Let Him talk to you, and you talk to us.” And that's what happened. God spoke to Moses. Moses gave the word to Israel when God spoke through the prophets of old time. So, we have the major prophets, the minor prophets.
We have all those words that recorded as God would speak and tell Israel as they were turning away or turning away from Him, come back, come back to me. Oftentimes, they just ignored it because they didn't realize those were the words of God, those prophets. And those words are still there for us today.
Hebrews 1:1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoken time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days,” these days that we're in this last age, if you will, before the millennial time, it's called sometimes Christian Age, the Church Age, if you will. It's the time after Jesus Christ began the Church, and the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who He called. “He has, in these last days, spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.”
So, in these last days, He speaks to us by Jesus Christ. We have His words. We know that He spoke to the apostles. They listened closely, and they held fast to those words. And even later on, near the end of the New Testament, in 1 John, the apostle John, who was there with Christ for those three-and-a-half years He was on Earth and who lived longer than the other apostles. And there in the 90s AD, he was writing to people. He's seen a lot happen in those 60 years since Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, those 60 years that people have drifted away. And he was disappointed in seeing them leave and let go of the truth that they were given. And here in the very first verses of the first epistle of John, 1 John 1:1, he talks about these words, these words that Jesus Christ said that he was still repeating all this time later.
1 John 1:1-2 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard…” or they heard, we've heard. You heard in the sermonette how does faith come? Faith comes by hearing of the Word, right? We hear the Word every Sabbath, we hear the Word. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled concerning the word of life.” We were taught by Jesus Christ, we will speak His words. We will continue to do that, is what He's saying. “The life was manifested and we have seen, and we bear witness, and we declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us, that which we have seen and heard, we declare to you that you also…” remember every time He say you, He's talking to you and me, “...that you also may have fellowship with us.”
Part of the same ecclesia, different century, different millennia, millennium, same ecclesia, same Church that Jesus Christ began, same people who are learning His way, living by every word of God, remembering the mystery and what He's working in every single one of us and how important the Church is in that mystery.
1 John 1:3 “That which we have seen and heard, we declare to you that you also may have fellowship with us.”
You're part of us, John says. And he says, “We were part of Jesus Christ. We're part of that group that He's working with.” And truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:5 “This is the message which we heard from Him and we declare to you. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”
This is what we heard. This is what we're telling you. In the other epistles of John, he will talk about, “What you heard from the beginning. Don't let go of those words that you heard in the beginning. Remember them. Hold on to them. You proved them to yourself. You knew what they were. But somewhere along the line, maybe they have become less important. Maybe the light has gone out a little bit as we become involved in this and that and whatever the cares of life might be, or whatever disappointment, or whatever it might be.” But we have to recapture that joy, that excitement, that knowledge of what God has done for us, because He looked down and He said, “I want you to be part of my ecclesia.” How would we ever deny God that? How would we ever say, “Not just that important,” if we were thinking clearly? And so Jesus Christ speaks to us today the way God spoke to ancient Israel through Moses, through the prophets, through the apostles. Remember the verse in Ephesians where it says that we're built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the Bible. We know that Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone, but we also know that His true people continue to follow His way and teach His word exactly.
If we go back to now the Gospel of John, the gospel of John and look at the words of Jesus Christ as He prayed that last prayer on that Passover evening before He was arrested, He said many things, you know, in the verses and the chapters leading up to chapter 17 where His prayer is. He talked about the Holy Spirit. He talked about the Holy Spirit that would come to them after He went away, that the Holy Spirit would be a source of comfort, that it would lead them into truth, lead them into understanding, help them to call, will call to remembrance the things that they had heard. The Holy Spirit that God gives us is a unique thing. Not the whole world has it. Only the people of God who have truly repented, who God has called, who have truly repented, receive that Holy Spirit after baptism, and the humility, and complete submission to God that that ceremony represents, as we put to death our old body and say, “We're completely committed to you. Don't want what we used to be. Don't want to be who we used to be. We want to be who You want us to be from here on out.”
But in John 17:14, Jesus Christ in His prayer, He talks about the apostles, and He talks about you and me, and He talks about His Church down through the ages, the Church, the true Church of God that you and I are part of today. In verse 14, notice what He says.
John 17:14-16 He says, “I've given them Your word.” I've taught them. They know what You believe. They know what true religion is. They know the manner of what it is. They've been set on the right course. They understand. “I've given them Your word, and the world has hated them, because they're not of the world, just as I'm not of the world. I don't pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Christ said.
They are the ones called out of the world. They are the ones who have been set aside for a purpose, not because we're the greatest, not because we're the smartest, not because we're the best looking, but because God has called us down. And we remember in 1 Corinthians 1, He says, He calls the weakened base things of the earth so that the world is, like, amazed. Like, really? I mean, when the sons of God are revealed, really, them? And not the great kings of the earth and not the great minds of the earth. I don't pray that you should take them out of the world. They're not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
John 17:17 “Sanctify them. Set them apart by your truth.”
Your truth. They're going to live in the world. They're going to operate in the world. They're going to go to work every day in the world. They're going to be with neighbors who don't understand the same thing they do. They are going to have family members who don't understand the same things they do but set them apart. Set them apart by your truth. That's what will define them. They understand, to them is given the mysteries, and the understanding, and the revelation of what it means.
John 17:17-18 “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” That's the Bible sitting on our laps, “As You have sent me into the world,” Christ said, “I've sent them into the world.”
They're going to go out and they're going to do and follow what I have taught them. They're going to follow the commission that I have set as an example for them.
John 17:19 “And for their sakes, and for their sakes, I sanctify myself. I set myself apart that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
I came to earth. I lived flesh and blood. I set myself apart. I was committed and dedicated to the truth of God, the real truth of God, even in the face of the Jews who would hate me, who would persecute me, may make fun of me." And eventually, that very same day that He was talking, kill Him. “I set myself apart by truth for their sakes. Set them apart by Your truth. That's what I've given them. And that's a very special blessing.”
John 17:20 He says, “I don't pray for these alone,” these ones that are here with me right now, these 12. “I don't pray for these alone, but also for all those who will believe in Me through their word.”
They're going to go out, they're going to preach what I have taught them. It will be the words of Jesus Christ taught by them. All those who will believe in me through their word, not their own ideas, not their own twists and turns on it, not their own speculations, but who will teach the Word of God as Jesus Christ taught. And so the Church has that commission to do that. The ecclesia of God has that commission. Jesus Christ made no secret of what the commission was. Matthew 28, Israel, turn back there and read the words exactly the way He wrote them. Matthew 28:18, before He ascended into heaven, after the resurrection, after He'd spent time with the disciples, again, teaching them, this is what you need to do, helping them understand, giving them the truth that they need to carry forth to the world.
Matthew 28:18-19 He says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.” Remember, disciples means you study the Teacher, His manner, his method, as well as His words. You develop the heart that the Teacher had, as given and as given to us as we have the Holy Spirit, and God gives us that. And as we use it, and as we are led by it. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Not into just an organization, baptize them into the family of God, the body of God.
Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Don't change it, don't add to it, don't put your spin on it. The true Church of God will teach to observe all things that Christ commanded. If there is a so-called Christian Church out there that isn't observing and teaching to observe things exactly the way Jesus Christ said, they may call themselves Christian, it's not Christian. True Christians are only the ecclesia of God who is following His command. “Teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you, to observe all things that I have commanded you.” So, if there's a Church teaching something different, it's not the true Church of God. There is one true Church of God, and that Church will be preaching the truth to observe all things that Christ commanded. The way He commanded it, using the words of the Bible, not adding to or taking away, but doing the things that He said to do.
I won't take the time to turn to Mark 16. You know, there in Mark 16:15, he says, “Go and preach the gospel to all nations.” Preach the same gospel that Jesus Christ preached. Preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God, preach the gospel of repentance, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ returning to earth, preach the gospel of turning from your way to God's way and that there is only one way to salvation, not many different ones. One way, and that's the way that Jesus Christ began and taught. Now, I'm looking at the clock, but this is only the second time that's spoken here. So, I'm going to go a little bit of overtime because we took a little more time in some of the things before this. So, I'm going to ask you to give me another few minutes here.
But in Ephesians, let's go back to Ephesians and look and see. So, we have this ecclesia, right? We have this ecclesia that God has called us out to. He started this Church that you and I are part of, that He calls us to, and that He gives a great commission to. That's a personal commission as well as an outreach commission to the world to preach that gospel in the way that He said to preach it. In Ephesians 5, why did he do this? Let's read through Ephesians 5. Again, we read verse 32. Not all of Ephesians 5, but let's read why? What is the purpose of the Church? What would be accomplished to the Church? Why couldn't you have just done this with us individually, that we just sit at home, read the Bible, maybe listen to things and whatever, and that God could do this, but He made us part of a body, as we're going to see in Ephesians 5:25, He says...and again, He's comparing the physical marriage relationship to the relationship between Christ and the Church.
Ephesians 5:25-27 He says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her.” Why? “That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word.” Oh, the Church. “Through the Church, sanctified and washed by the water of the Word.” Verse 27, why? “That he might present her to himself a glorious ecclesia, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
Well, that's the calling. That's the ecclesia. Christ loves the Church, and the Church has a purpose. And as we're part of that body, one with Christ, one with each other, we would be sanctified, washed by the water of the Word so that He could present us as a glorious ecclesia without spot, without wrinkle, blameless. There's a process. There's a process that God has called us to and a process that He has put in motion. If we turn back to Revelation, we see what that is and what God has called out ones that what He has in mind for them as we go through this process of being called repenting, being baptized, receiving the Holy Spirit, living our lives as part of His body.
Revelation 1:5-6 It says, “From Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler over the kings of the earth, to Him who loved us and washed us.” Well, He loved us. He agape us. He washed us. His will is that we become like Him so that we could become and do what He's called us to do for, well, now and eternity. “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…” He loved us that much that he would do that. “And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
And then in Revelation 19, you read about this marriage supper, remembering that in Ephesians 5, the picture between Christ and the Church is the picture of husband and wife in physical life, is a picture of Christ in the Church. We read about this. The Church that He gives Himself for to wash, and cleanse, and to present as wrinkle-free, spot-free, glorious Church.
Revelation 19:7-8 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready.” How? By living the life, by overcoming, by doing the things that God has said, by being part of the body of Christ, as we'll see here in a minute, and doing the things that God said so that he can bring us to who He wants us to be. “And to her,” Verse 8, “It was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, claying and bright. For the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
The righteous acts of the saints. That's what we do. That's what we become. That's what God leads us to do, as we're led by the Holy Spirit, and we put away the old self and the new. And He tells us how He's going to do that in Ephesians 4. Ephesians 4, He gives the blueprint of how He's going to work with His people, these called-out ones, this ecclesia that He is working with, you and me that He's talking about, and everyone else that's listening and that has gone before us and will come in the future. In Ephesians 4:1, under the inspiration of Paul...and remember that Paul, he was taught by Jesus Christ personally, too. Remember in Galatians 1, how he talked about, “I was trained by Jesus Christ. And when I met with the other apostles there, they had nothing on me. Christ had taught me the exact same things that He had taught those apostles as He walked with them in life.” This is the exact same things that we will understand, and that we will learn as well. Well, let's read through a few of the verses here.
Ephesians 4:1-6 It says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, besiege you to walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love.” Notice how many times it's one another, not just lone wolves, not just individuals, but bearing together with one another part of a body that God has called us to. I was in verse 1 here. I lost my place. Verse 1, okay. “Bearing with one another in love.” Verse 3, “Endeavoring, endeavoring that's working hard to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There's just one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all.” One. One. One.
Ephesians 4:11 And here's how He works with the people, “He Himself gave some,” He says, “to be apostles,” just like the 12 apostles that He called, and that were trained, and that went out and taught the people then that we still read their words today. “He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers through their Word.”
Through their Word, as they've learned from Me, and as they are dedicated and committed to teaching the Word of God exactly, accurately, diligently, carefully, earnestly, exactly the way that God had called us to, walking circumspectly with Him. He gave himself those positions. Why? For the equipping of the saints. How do the saints get ready? How do they have the energy? How do they have the skills that they need? They get it through His body, we'll see.
Ephesians 4:12 “For the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry. Replace that with service. For the edifying or the building up of the body of Christ.”
I won't take the time to turn to Colossians 1:23-26. He specifically says, “The body is the Church.” His body is the Church. That's you and me and what we're part of here. For the edifying or building up of the body of Christ. Not building buildings. Nothing wrong with building buildings. But what Christ is building is a temple in you and me. He's building a group of people to whom He will return. That's the spiritual temple that we talk about.
Ephesians 4:13 “Until we all come,” that's the growth process. As we meet with one another, as we come out of our homes, as we appear before God on Sabbaths and holy days, and the other times that we have opportunity because we're committed to hearing the word of God, learning the word of God and building it into our lives. Why and what's the goal? “Until we all come to the unity of the faith,” understanding the same thing, living by the same principles, understanding there's one way at one truth that God will lead us to. “Until we come to the unity of the faith, of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect,” or we can say, blameless man, one who has overcome and dedicated that God can see he is committed to wiping or giving up any of the faults and weaknesses that he has, a perfect man. And there's your measurement tool “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Where do we compare ourselves to? Not to each other, not to the world, to Christ. That's the measurement. That's the metric, as they call it in the world today. That's the goal. That's what happens. And it happens only the way God said. And we need Him, obviously. He is the great shepherd, He is the head of this Church. He is the one who will lead us. But we need each other too. To the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:14 And He says that “We should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men.”
You know, we still have some of that, even in the Church of God. Different thought, nah, I'll say different doctrine, different ideas here, what about this? What about that? We have some issues here and there. God will lead us to the unity. We have to sit down. We have to be ready to be yielded to Him so that we come to the unity and be willing to let go of our own ideas and see what the Bible said and follow that and understand that God gave the ecclesia under the leadership of Jesus Christ, who's the head, the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Ephesians 4:15-16 “By the trickery of men and the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” Boy, Satan is clever in the way he can deceive us. But speaking the truth in love. Forget the word speaking there, you know, you've heard it several times here in the last few months. Truth there is a verb. Doing the truth, living the truth. That means not just speaking it but everything. It permeates us. “Living the truth in love may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ.” And here's you and me, everyone, right, “that God calls out from whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies.”
You know, I said in my years as pastor, I was always amazed and knew God was there because whenever we had a need in a congregation, there was something we didn't have and someone moved away, it's like, “How are we going to cover that?” There was always someone there to provide that service. Someone had that skill, someone had that background, someone had it. God always knew exactly what we needed to make the Church work. It's the same today. It's not just a few at the home office. The home office does wonderful work. It's a service organization that we provide many things. But it's the whole Church. The whole Church, every joint, every single one has a purpose and a being that God has called us.
Ephesians 4:16 “From whom the whole body joined in it together by what every joint supplies according to the effective working by which every part does its share.” Now, every part doesn't mean just a few. That means every single one of us have a part in the body. Just like my wrist has a part in my body, my fingers have a part in my body, my toes have a part in my body. Every part joined together to become the body that God wants. And what does it do when we're all working together as one, committed to the same purpose? “It causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
That's what God's working in the Church. Church has quite a meaning. Hebrews 10:23, 24, 25. You don't need to turn there. You know what it means. It says, “Don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Be with the body.” The body's not complete if the hand decides to stay home one day, if the foot decides I'm just not going to wander today, you're on your own. The whole body, that's what we've been called to become part of, and to all have the same mission, the same goal, the same excitement about what God has given us, the same vision of what He's called us to, the whole body. And we need each other. And especially, as time gets rougher and we're going to need the encouragement of each other and to be with one another. The mystery of the Church, the world has lost all. They have no idea what God is working. You and I do.
There's one more thing before I close here that I want to talk about just briefly, so you can see what the importance of the Church, the ecclesia is to God. And we see that here in Ephesians 3. I intended to read through the first six verses, but because time is fleeing here from me, I'm going to begin in verse 8. Because, you know, we don't have any idea what happened in the infinity of time before now. We know that God and Jesus Christ have existed forever. Our minds can't even conceive what that is and what has happened, we don't know. But it might be, just might be, that this is a unique thing that you...I'm going to use the word thing for lack of a better...unique thing that you and I are a part of. And there's more watching what's going on with us as God works this mystery through us, through you and me, as we yield to Him.
Ephesians 3:8-10 Paul says to me, “Who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I should preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of the ages…” that goes all the way back to the time that man was created and put on earth. “Which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ, to the intent that now,” that's now, that's today, that's this age, “That now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the ecclesia,” by you and me. “That the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the Church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”
Those beings are watching. What is the mystery that Christ is working? As they watch us, as they watch us develop, as they see what Jesus Christ is working, what God is working, what plan of God was. And we read in Romans 8 about the time where the earth groans and waits for the revealing of the sons of God. No wonder they give glory to God. No wonder, as they see this and how God has taken weak, lowly, sinful, miserable, useless human beings and made us into something and to someone that will work with Him and be able to serve with Him forever. Not because of anything we've done, except that we yield to God and follow His Holy Spirit. That's what you've been called to. That's what I've been called to. It is a mystery. The world has no idea what it means. Church, it's been hidden. Satan has done a masterful job of making it common. Don't let it ever become common to you.
Remember what it is that God has called you to. Remember what it is that He's working in you and me. Remembering it's that mystery. And when that mystery has been revealed, you and I will be standing there as a witness of His strength, of His wisdom, of His vision that began before the world was. You and I have that opportunity. Let's become part of His body, active, participating, valiant, and energetic members of His body to do what Jesus Christ would lead us to do.