The True Nature of a Gospel Church — 3
We have begun a series of sermons to discover the Nature of the True Gospel Church.
So far we have defined the word CHURCH in both its English and Greek terms.
We have also looked at 2 metaphors –
A. The Building.
From Ephesians 2 v 19 – 22
– A picture of a Temple Building.
1. A building needs a foundation.
2. A building needs walls. v 21.
B. The Body.
Whose head is the Lord Jesus Christ
The Body is the Church – whom Christ loves
This morning we continue with another metaphor, word picture to describe the nature of the True Gospel Church – that of
C. The Household or Family.
Ephesians 5 v 22 – 33, 6 v 1 – 4.
What is a family? Dictionary definition:-
i. The parents and the children alone;
ii. The children as distinguished from the parents. Sociologists speak of
a) The Nuclear family – parents and children.
b) The Extended Family – Parents and Children, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc – The extended family is making a comeback!
The Bible identifies family members –
1. A HEAD of the family – a father – a husband – a loving leader
Ephesians 5 v 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Ephesians 6 v 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
2. A HELPER – a mother – a wife – follower and complement
Ephesians 5 v 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
3. HEIRS AND HEIRESSES – children of the union – sons and daughters
Ephesians 6 v 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth…
The usual model of the family is a group of people who are known as a “household” and is based on certain factors: There are 9 of them for us to consider –
1. A Household begins with a man and a woman
– A Groom and a Bride.
2. A Household is based on COOPERATION
– Teamwork, common purpose.
3. A Household is based on ORDER
Headship of the HusbandSubmission of the Wifeall in an environment of love.Obedience of the Children
4. A Household works this out in being INTERESTED in each fellow members’ affairs
* Protection of the family name * Contributions to each others comfort & welfare * Spending time with each other * Parents nurturing the children>
5. The head sets the RULES of the Household and has to enforce them.
6. The children must KNOW THE RULES AND OBEY them or suffer the consequences.
7. There are QUALIFICATIONS for belonging to the family
In which parents already exist –
a. Natural Birth
8. Each family or Household is a DISTINCT SELF-CONTAINED UNIT
– Unique and different – independent – no two families are the same – different rules in different families.
9. Each family member ideally enjoys the direct CARE OF THE FATHER
– Intimate close affectionate relationship.
All of these features are dimensions of the ideal HUMAN FAMILY or HOUSEHOLD.
How do these then apply to the Family which is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ? Same 9 points –
1. Household – begins with a groom and a bride –
Ephesians 5 v 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
The Church is the Bride of Christ – Christ is the groom. Any Church even a local church, is a product of Christ the Groom wooing and espousing Christian people, the bride, to be joined together with Him.
2. Cooperation – common purpose of the church –
1 Peter 3 v 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
There is the marvellous thought that we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have an inheritance of a blessing – heirs together. And since we share this blessing granted by the Lord Jesus Christ – that we should be partakers of a vast treasure of grace – we should anticipate it together and seek to work together, cooperate in the Gospel – take our part and seek to achieve the objects of the church at all times – which is to make Christ known, to be His witnesses by how we live and what we say. Jesus said “you are my witnesses” – and witnessing needs cooperation.
3. Order –
Headship – the husband. Christ as in Ephesians 5 “who loved us and gave Himself for us”
Submission – the wife – His Church
1 Peter 3 v 1 – 4 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
Here is the Church’s submission to Christ in all things.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are at the same time in the role of wife in willing submission to Christ our head – and as those who are bound to obedience – as from children – another term for the church – we are:-
Sons and daughters,
John 1 v 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: -
Children of God,
Romans 8 v 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together;
Heirs of God,
Titus 3 v 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Romans 8 v 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Our obedience is a willing and devoted obedience. This is not a grit your teeth submission to an overbearing head who wants His own way all the time!
Rather it is willing and satisfied subjection to the Royal One who has captured our hearts and provided us with so much! We are glad to have Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, as our head! We love Him! We respect Him! We honour Him. We long for His glory and that others around may see His glory – as we see it – by faith!
4. Interested – in each other –
Colossians 1 v 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, 5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: 7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; 8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. 9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
It is a characteristic of good family life that each member is concerned for the other members and interested in what others are doing.
Some families are so busy that they need a special calendar or chart on the Kitchen wall to tell everyone else what is happening to the individual members. This way they can pray for each other – and be interested in each others lives. Likewise in the church we will behave as family members. We will have a concern for –
* Protection of the Family name. If we can get upset when one of the members of our earthly family brings shame or disgrace upon it, then how much more should we be upset and grieved when a brother or sister in Christ does the same to the church? Our behaviour, our words, our whole demeanour as church members living in the community of the world, should always have an eye to maintaining the good name of our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ – because it is His Church which bears His Name! Let us guard the Name of the Church Family which is known by the Name of its head!
* Contribution to each others welfare –
Romans 15 v 1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
This hard hitting passage in Romans 15 challenges much of what is normal in today’s society – namely selfishness and self interest. Grab what you can before someone takes it from you.
The church on the other hand behaves differently – we bear with the weakness of others seeking to help them. We do not seek to please ourselves – rather to go out of our way to please other members of the Christian family. We desire to build each other up not pull each other down. We follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ who always was looking for opportunities to help others and not to please Himself.
* Spending time – I have been amazed to discover when talking to some husbands and wives – not I am glad to say amongst believers – that they have separate holidays from each other EVERY YEAR! It is not just a one off for some extraordinary circumstance – but they choose to spend time away from each other doing as they describe it – their own thing – having their own time! This, my friends is contrary to God’s plan for marriage and for family life. We come together as a family to spend time. We read earlier in Psalm 68 –
6 God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
Of course it is normal as children get older that they will wish to begin to have holidays with other young people – Christian camps or time with their grandparents. But how can we be interested in each other if we rarely see each other? So it is in the church. We are not merely a club that meets from time to time because we happen to have a common relationship to God! We are family – we have become members of a family – before we were saved we were not part of this family. But now we are! Marvellous! In Jerusalem in the first Church they were a family!
Acts 2 v 44 All that believed were together.
I look forward to seeing my Christian brothers and sisters – what a joy and relief to choose being in the company of saints – believers – as in the natural family, family get-togethers are precious.
F.C. FRY has said “A person who says he believes in God but never goes to Church (that is meets with other believers) is like one who says he believes in education but never goes to school.”
Frances Ridley Havergal said “An avoidable absence from church is an infallible evidence of spiritual decay.”
* Parents nurturing children – “Many parents give their children everything except themselves!” Anonymous.
But God gave Himself totally in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as children should be fed and cared for, taught and nurtured so there should be nurturing in the local Church by –
* Feeding – with the Word of God;
* Clothing – with the Robe of Christ;
* Shelter – from the storms of the world – under His wings we can safely abide – for ever.
* Love – unconditional, unreserved, self-giving love – as demonstrated in the Lord Jesus Christ and felt by His church; and then practised by the church –
John 13 v 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 15 v 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
“Children need love – especially when they do not deserve it.” H.S. Hulbert.
Does the Church deserve Christ's love? NO – but we need it – and we have it – in Him.
* Discipline – Hebrews 12 –
“Whom the Lord Loveth He chasteneth…”
Every family needs discipline so that every member may learn self discipline.
How apt this metaphor as it applies to the Family of the Local Christian Church.
5. The head sets the RULES of the Household and has to enforce them –
The Lord God has laid down a perfect law of life for His family – which is the Bible – the whole of the word of God. This is why we never take away anything from the word of God – nor do we seek to add anything. Taking away from the scripture leads to ignorance – adding to it leads to arrogance and legalism – and a waste of energy trying to do things not required of us. Besides, the Bible itself has made this plain – We must take nothing away –
Joshua 1 v 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
We must add nothing to it –
Revelation 22 v 18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
6. The children must KNOW THE RULES AND OBEY them or suffer the consequences –
We will never perfectly know all there is to know about the Bible. But if we are honestly seeking to be those who want to honour God with our obedience as Church members then we will seek to know as much as we can – as much as our souls and minds can take in.
One of the rules of God’s house is to cultivate peace and harmony one with another. We are called to mutual subjection one to another. Obviously the young should listen to and respect the opinion of the aged – but all should be subject one to another. Are we looking to have our own way all the time? Or are we prepared to give up our own views and preferences in favour of others? Romans 14 v 19 says –
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
How can we preserve peace in the Family of the church? We do it by suppressing the spirit of gossip. Some people have ever open ears and mouths. They love to hear things and then they love to repeat them! But those who love to talk about others seldom select the good things about others as a topic of conversation – they nearly always talk about their failings. Someone has described gossips like this – “they are like flies who neglect the healthy part of the body to indulge themselves on the sore”
Let it be rule with every church member, a member of the family of God in this place, to avoid speaking of circumstances and especially the faults of others. If we must speak of them – then let us speak to God about them – and to no one else. Let us speak to God on our knees, when all alone. How gossip could be eradicated if we all bound ourselves under this rule. Furthermore let us all be ready to refuse to listen to any brother or sister who bears a tale or indulges in sharing unhelpful items of conversation – let us say, “Do not speak to me – I refuse to listen!” As much as this is necessary in natural families so it should be so in the Church, the Family of God.
7. There are QUALIFICATIONS for belonging to the family –
In which parents already exist –
a. Natural Birth. There was an announcement over half a century ago in the Rhyl Journal – “To Ronald and Vera Kay, on 22nd April – a son David William.”
My membership of the Kay family was automatic – it was by birth. My right to be called a Kay and to live in the household was unchallengeable.
b. Adoption. But it is possible by law that a person who is not of natural birth can become a member of a family by the legal process of adoption. All the rights and privileges of sonship can be declared to be a person’s who has been legally adopted – inheritance and even a change of name to recognise the fact.
What happens to believers – Christians – when they are converted is nearer to adoption than natural birth. When we are born again we become Children of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I was born into a family of sinners.
But I have been adopted into the family of saved sinners who are called the Saints – the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Ephesians 1 v 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Are you a member of the Family of God?
There is no one that can be born naturally into the Church family – for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
There is none righteous, no, not one
Yet adoption is offered by God the Father to those who repent of sin and realise their need of forgiveness and pardon.
8. Each family or Household is a DISTINCT SELF-CONTAINED UNIT –
Unique and different – independent – no two families are the same. My family is distinct from my brother’s family – there are different emphases, different tastes, traditions and different gaols – but we have the same father!
So it is with local church families – we are distinct – different – unique – there is no other church on the earth that is exactly like Whiddon Valley Evangelical Church.
There are similarities to other churches – but we are not exactly the same – yet we do have the same Heavenly Father.
9. Each family member ideally enjoys the direct CARE OF THE FATHER –
The Lord God loves His Church. The Lord Jesus Christ is the church’s saviour sent by the Father for the church.
He loves His people so much and takes great pains to let them know that they are loved. Yet so often this can be one sided – from God’s side!
This care should be characterised by an intimate close affectionate relationship.
Is this our experience as a church my friends?
Does God feel far away? Do we not feel the Lord close to us? The question that we should ask, as a church and as individual Christians is this – Who moved?
Has God moved? Or have we moved?
The Lord God is an expert at loving His children.
He is never away from home when we need him most!
He never loses His temper with us!
He never gets frustrated with our seeming failure to learn.
He always knows what is best for us.
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face!
God is the kind of father whose arms are always open wide to receive us into them – like the prodigal son – we can arise and go to Him – and He will be watching for us!
Often we are reluctant to go to Him. Sometimes our sin and consciences keep us from Him – sometimes it is our bitterness or resentment – and sometimes it is our refusal to admit that we have been wrong about something – all these keep us from feeling His affection.
But none of these can ever deny us access – simply because of the forgiveness which is in the Lord Jesus Christ – he draws us to Him. Do we want to feel part of the family again?
We must go to the Father – through the Son – and when that relationship is put right again, then our relationships with our brothers and sisters; our fellow members will be all the more sweet.
What a wonderful family the Church is!
Are you part of it my friend this morning? Have you been born again and adopted into the Family of God, the local church of the Lord Jesus Christ? If not seek Him today. Turn from your sins and trust the Lord with all your being – and become part of this glorious family called the Church of Jesus Christ!