AGCC Sun. a.m. 4/7/2002
#1 (SERIES ON THE "CHURCH" FROM THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS)
"THE CHURCH - A BODY"
TEXTS: Ephesians 1:1-23
INTRO: The book of Ephesians is one of the few books in the New Testament that was NOT written to solve a problem, nor to address heresy or errors. However, Paul did wish to have the early Church understand her purpose, her power, her place in God's purposes and plans.
Paul explains the nature and call of the Church through 5 images in this book:
1. The Church - A Body (Function & Unity) (chpt. 1)
2. The Church - A Temple (Structure) (chpt. 2)
3. The Church - A Mystery (Supernatural) (chpt. 3)
4. The Church - A New Man (Conversion) (chpt. 4)
5. The Church - A Bride (Relational) (chpt. 5)
6. The Church - A Soldier (Warfare) (chpt. 6)
We will examine over the next several weeks the nature of the Church as God intended it to be. We will marvel in each image what God has planned for His Church, and rejoice over the ultimate victory that is assured.
The world sees the Church as an ineffective, weak, out of date organization that contributes little or nothing to society as a whole. This is in direct contrast with the Bible which portrays the Church as the powerful enemy of Satan, and as the agent of truth in a world of moral uncertainty. Satan Himself cannot kill the Church of Jesus Christ, and the Church is what holds back the powers of evil from being fully unleashed in this world today. We must stand tall and not allow the world to trivialize the presence of the Church in this world. Remember, we are the expressed plan of God until He comes again!
The Church is Christ's body in the world
this is an amazing reality. The Church is not just about us, it is about Christ!
ILLUS:Once Arturo Toscanini was rehearsing the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in playing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. They played through the entire work without interruption. After the finale there was a long silence. Everyone was moved by the music. Then Toscanini spoke. "Who am I? Who is Toscanini? I am nobody. It is Beethoven. He is everything." In the church, Christ is everything. He is "all in all." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that the Church is the power of God in the world today. The Church must not allow anything to divide it, destroy it, nor deprecate it
it is the only organization on earth that will triumph in the end!
I. CREATION OF HIS BODY 1:1-14
A. Planned 1:1-7
1. God had planned the existence of the Church from the beginning of time!
a. As His body He has planned for us to be blameless and holy.
b. The Church is not so much a building as it is an body!
c. Unlike some religions that have sacred buildings Christianity has no particular building that represents the "Church"
because the Church is a body and not a building!
ILLUS:The holiest city in Islam is Mecca. The heart of Mecca is the Xaaba, a small cubical stone building. Moslem tradition says it was originally built by Adam according to a divine plan. After the flood it was restored by Abraham and Ishmael. We make no such claims for our church buildings, but the church is not a building and we do think the church was designed by Christ himself. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
2. The Church is not made up of perfect people, but forgiven people, this is what makes us holy and blameless!
a. This is an important difference!
b. Thus we learn to love each other and see each other as Christ sees us, not as we are in the flesh, but what we are in the Spirit!
ILLUS:Anyone can love the ideal church. The challenge is to love the real church. -- Bishop Joseph McKinney, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3.
3. One of the greatest evidences that the Church is a supernatural agency is the fact that it keeps surviving in spite of governmental systems, economic crisis, moral collapses, and world wars
especially since it is made up of flawed people!
a. What else explains it's survival through thousands of years?
b. What else explains it's survival through all kinds of political systems?
c. What else explains it's survival through all kinds of economic situations?
4. God planned for the Church's existence
to be the representation of His body on earth
therefore it will not fail, not even the gates of Hell will prevail against it. Just as Hell failed to destroy the body of Christ after the cross so it will fail to destroy the body of Christ as the Church!
5. In this we cannot boast, only in Christ can we boast, for He keeps His body alive and well!
a. If you want to be a part of something that will survive until the end of time, join the Church, Christ's body!
b. The Church will be here long after the present nations of this earth have disappeared!
c. You can't lose being joined with Christ!
B. Purchased 1:8-14
1. Paul says that Christ has "lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." 1:8
a. The Church's strength and survival is a mystery to the world!
b. Christ's cleansing power from sin is what joins us together, not our systems of government, not our fancy structures, not our programs, it is Christ's forgiveness!
c. You can't get this in the world!
ILLUS:A leading British humanist was interviewed recently on television. In a moment of surprising candor, she said, "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me." -- John Stott, "Freedom," Preaching Today, Tape No. 102.
2. It was by believing that we were "marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit." 1:13b
a. This is what joins us together as the body of Christ, our forgiveness and God's grace through faith in Christ.
b. Too many people in the Church forget this, and they get hung up on petty issues instead.
3. We must allow the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit to unite us, this is the idea of the image of a "BODY" for the Church
a body works together though there are different parts.
a. A body has many parts, but is one unit.
b. Each part has a unique function, but always to benefit the whole and not just itself.
c. Any Church where one member is working against another is not a fit body of Christ!!!
4. It is the grace and forgiveness of Christ that unites us as a whole, we share in His divine life and strength together so that we are built up as a whole!
ILLUS:The article "What Good Is a Tree?" in Reader's Digest explained that when the roots of trees touch, there is a substance present that reduces competition. In fact, this unknown fungus helps link roots of different trees--even of dissimilar species. A whole forest may be linked together. If one tree has access to water, another to nutrients, and a third to sunlight, the trees have the means to share with one another. Like trees in a forest, Christians in the church need and support one another. -- Blair F. Rorabaugh, Uniontown, Ohio. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2.
a. We are united together as one by His Spirit, not by our talents or abilities.
b. We must never lose sight of what joins us together.
5. If our unity is based on anything else but Christ's grace and cleansing power it will not hold!
II. CONSECRATION OF HIS BODY 1:15-23
A. Prayer 1:15-18
1. What helps keep this unity of Spirit? PRAYER for and with one another!
a. Paul often had to deal with a sick Church body, brothers fighting brothers, or sisters at war with sisters (as in "Euodia and Syntyche" in Philippians 4)
b. In all his dealings with Church problems however, prayer was a basic foundation, and he was quick to mention it in regards to every Church and situation.
2. Prayer helps keep the body healthy, and helps keep each part sensitive to the other parts of the body.
a. This is necessary to help it function properly.
b. This is necessary to heal the wounds.
c. This is necessary to harness the power of the parts together.
ILLUS:During Vacation Bible School last week my wife had an experience with her primary class that she says she will never forget. Her class was interrupted on Wednesday about an hour before dismissal when a new student was brought in. The little boy had one arm missing, and since the class was almost over, she had no opportunity to learn any of the details about the cause or his state of adjustment. She was very nervous and afraid that one of the other children would comment on his handicap and embarrass him. There was no opportunity to caution them, so she proceeded as carefully as possible. As the class time came to a close, she began to relax. She asked the class to join her in their usual closing ceremony. "Let's make our churches," she said. "Here's the church and here's the steeple, open the doors and there's..." The awful truth of her own actions struck her. The very thing she had feared that the children would do, she had done. As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, "Davey, let's make the church together." This story may be seen as a parable of our search for oneness in Christ: to put our inadequate, handicapped lives alongside the lives of others and to pray, "Let's make the church together." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 275.
3. Prayer brings together the parts so they can function as a whole!
a. It helps keep proper perspective and love flowing.
b. It helps keep a proper focus on God and not self.
4. Prayer was never an after thought for Paul, it was a basic element of his love and concern for the Church.
a. Hence his statements, Eph 1:16-17a "I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ
b. How often do you pray for the Church? For this Church body?
5. There would be less division in Churches where people prayed for one another!
B. Power 1:19-23
1. The Church is not powerless in this world!
a. Too often the Church acts like it is impotent against the world.
b. We are almost apologetic for our existence.
c. We must be careful not to have a siege mentality!
ILLUS:Many times we have heard it said that the church is surrounded by an evil and hostile world, like a besieged fortress. We need to remember that it is also true that the church is surrounded by God's love and care! Individually and collectively, we are blanketed by God's love as the earth is blanketed by the atmosphere. God loves the church and will never forsake her. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
2. Our power doesn't come from clever programs, nor institutional shrewdness, nor political strength
it comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
a. We can offer EVERYONE in the world a real change of heart!
b. We can show the world that Christ DOES make a difference.
c. We can teach the world the REAL truth about life.
3. We must not shrink away or be intimidated, we have the power of God unto salvation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
a. If we don't share the truth of salvation with this world, who will?
b. We must be careful to recognize the difference between being culturally relevant and Christianity compromised!
ILLUS:As the church today gets more and more hip -- more and more need-oriented, responding to the buttons that people push in their pews -- I find myself longing for more of a historical faith. I find myself not wanting to have everything explained to me in simple terms.
I'm not even sure I want all my needs met as much as I want to meet God, and sometimes I wonder if he's really interested in the noise of our contemporary clamoring. Like my dog who can't seem to get anywhere because he keeps having to stop and scratch his fleas, I wonder if we are so busy scratching where everybody itches that we aren't taking anybody anywhere significant. -- John Fischer in "Longing for Something Old" (Covenant Companion, Oct. 1992). Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 5.
4. Where does the Church's power come from?
a. Our power doesn't come from relevance, it comes from revelation!
b. Our power doesn't come from entertainment, it comes from edification!
c. Our power doesn't come from structures, it comes from scripture!
d. Our power doesn't come from programs, it comes from prayer!
e. Our power doesn't come from cash, it comes from cleansing and consecration!
5. Notice these verses: Eph 1:18-19 "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,
6. The Church must stand tall, avoid schisms that weaken it, and stand as ONE body filled with the power of the Holy Spirit in a world that desperately needs the message of the gospel!
a. We must function as a whole.
b. We must be united.
c. We will be victorious, the Church is Christ's body and will be triumphant because Christ is the head of His body, not a man!
7. As a body we act in this world to express the works of God, that of forgiveness, healing, helping, and courage.
a. When Christ's body acts as a united body Satan cannot stand against it!
b. The greatest power in this world is not a government, it is God's body!
CONCLUSION: The image of the Church as THE body of Christ was meant to emphasize the function and unity of the Church. We are "one" body - created to work together in unity. Christ's body should not be divided, believers are joined together by Christ's love and sacrifice. We are called to work together, and to love each other in spite of all our weaknesses and differences. We are Christ's body and can dramatically affect the world around us!