The ChurchBro. David Chancellor
8/8/2004 11:00 AM
This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
This speaks of the Israelites in the wilderness and calls them the church. The word here, and in other places in the Bible, is translated from the Greek word, Ecclesia, which means a calling out. This has been translated as church.
The English word, church, refers to a building, religious leaders, a body of believers, a congregation, public divine worship, etc. This meaning is different from the meaning of the word it was translated from. The difference in meaning explains how the church can believe one thing and the people in it can believe something else. The clergy of a religious body could believe a thing, and the people of the same religious body could believe something else. The church in the Bible refers to those who have been called out to follow God. (Side note Its important to get the meaning of the words of the Bible in the context that the writer wrote them.)
In this account, Stephen was trying to help the Israelites see that Jesus was the one they had been waiting for. Moses had spoken of Christ, and Stephen was showing them that the one Moses had spoken of had come and was once again calling his people out, just as the Israelites had been called out of Egypt to serve God.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob came out. Abraham left at the command of God, not understanding the significance. They understood somewhat, but hadnt received the promise. The Israelites came out of Egypt to Canaan, and became a nation. They were also later called out of Babylon. The Israelites thought that Jesus would set up a literal kingdom. Instead he set up the spiritual kingdom that we refer to as the church today.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Christ established the basis of his church. It is that Christ is THE Son of the living God, and that this Christ was Jesus. This is what separates the church from the rest of the world. This is what separates the Christian and the Muslim. The Muslim believe in the Father, but not the Son. Jesus is THE Christ; the one all humanity waited for. He calls us out to God. When we come to serve God, a separation takes place. The world lives to be accepted by men. The Christian lives to be accepted by God.
Christians arent non-conformists. The non-conformists path is as shaped by the world as the conformists is. Our goal isnt to be different, but to please God. Some have the idea that the church is non-conformist. The goal is to please God, not other people. We try to get along with other people, but our goal is to please God. The church is called out to the Christ.
When Christ said, Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, he was establishing the basis for the church. The church was already in progress, but Christ was giving the ground rules. Be careful in reading not to infer things that arent there. The kingdom of God, and the church, refer to different aspects of the same thing: the people who were called out. Christ, here, was explaining what they were called out to.
Christ is the mediator between God and man. He is how we are called out. There is NO OTHER WAY to come to God. You have to come through Christ. The ministry is not an extension of the Levitical priesthood. They cant be the mediator between you and God thats Christs job. The only way into Gods church is through Christ. He is the basis of the church. There is no other way for men to be brought out of the world.
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee, Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Christs disciples were already called out. A separation had already taken place. We are called out to be separate from the world. The disciples had left some things behind to follow Jesus. We have to leave some things behind to follow God. We live to please God. This separation brings along some unpleasant things.
Some define the church as those that follow us. God says that anyone who has turned from the world to follow him is part of the church. If youve been called out, youre part of the church. Theres no need to join an organization of men to receive their acceptance. The called out naturally associate with one another, but they arent the church BECAUSE they associate together. They are the church because theyve been called out.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Christ established one way for everyone to find him. Were called out to live, as God would have us to live. This doesnt mean we all become identical. We can serve God in our culture and in our heritage. We can all have access to the Father through Christ.
Those that served God in the Old Testament are one with the ones that serve God now. All that have followed God will be one when we stand before God.
Christ is the center of it all. Hes what makes it all work. The church hinges on Christ and the plan of salvation that God established in him. If the blood of Christ has been applied and they have turned from the world then they are part of the church of God (the called out of God). Has God called you? Have you answered the call?