Matthew 16:13-28 Part 7

We’ve already been involved, now, for two Lord’s Days, in attaining an understanding of what Jesus meant when He said, in verse eighteen, “upon this Rock I will build My Church….”

The Rock consists of Christ as the Chief Corner, and the apostolate forming the remainder.  And from this foundation is built the structure of the New Temple of God (which is built of living stones) called the Ekklesia.  The Church is in such a unity with Christ that it is said to be “His body”.  We are the “ones called out”, washed with His blood and fed with His body; and we are built up from the root upward into a fullness of Him.  And since He is the fullness of all things, we are to exhibit that fullness in our own conduct; for being IN HIM, we are to take on His character and virtue, becoming mature adults in His body.

In addition to that “intensive” growth, there is also an “extensive” progress of the Church which forms a warm “koinonia” – the purpose of which is the extension of the Kingdom into all the nations of the earth.

Now, this morning, before we come to the gifts and offices of the Church, I want to take a little time, as promised, on the internal sanctification of the Church, for this is what is meant by taking on the character and virtue of Christ.  The church must always be mindful of what is good, acceptable, and commends itself to all men (Romans twelve, seventeen); its gentleness of spirit must be known (Philippians four, verse five); it must walk in wisdom toward those on the outside, its word gracious and seasoned with salt (Colossians four, five).  Members are to mind their own affairs and work with their hands, that they may walk decently and respectably – having no need of anything from those without (First Thessalonians chapter four, verse twelve).  Church members are to be out front in good deeds that are profitable to men (Titus three, eight).  The whole life of the Church is to be such that an enemy has nothing evil to say about us (to his shame) (Titus two, eight); the Church must be a recommendation to its faith, “worthy of” the Lord and the Gospel of Christ (Philippians one, twenty-seven).  These are all things which occur to those “rooted” and “grounded” in the body of Christ and “growing up” to the fullness of Him.

Again and again it is presented by the apostles that it is a matter of the full awakening of the consciousness, knowledge and insight into the all-embracing significance of Christ.  And what is intended isn’t merely a theoretical or speculative knowledge, but an ever more profound awareness, and an increasing clarity of insight with regard to all the implications of the salvation wrought by Christ.  I keep going back to our Puritan forefathers and their understanding of life IN HIM.  Being acutely aware of being and living and growing in His Body, there is this intense consciousness of being rooted in Christ and being built up in Him – feeding on Him and becoming more like Him!  And growing up into His fullness!  A sense of being so unified with Him that prayer and contemplation is rising up into the heavenlies to be in Him while speaking to the Father.  Knowing the height and breadth and depth – so well, that speaking with and dealing with others is the same as coming straight from the body of Christ Himself!

And, along with that, there is a deep-seated and poignant hatred of personal sin and depravity – so much so that there occurs a striving with it to put it to death! – because sin is so antithetical to the Body of Christ.  It’s too holy there to be invaded by the uncleanness of men!

And accompanying this awareness of being in His body, and the hatred of personal sin, is the growth of mutual unity and love.  Growth and upbuilding in the body is mutual – not just individual!  It is the community, and not just the self!  The knowledge of Christ is directed toward the whole as each one must wish not to please himself, but his neighbor – for good, for upbuilding, for edification (Romans fifteen, verse one).  Love is the “bond” which makes the Church mature as those who have deeper knowledge and insight “bear with” those who are not quite so far along.  The “fullness of Christ” is approached as the whole body seeks mutual edification – with patience, admonition, encouragement and warning (First Corinthians chapter fourteen, verse three).  And the Church does not grow into maturity by back biting and criticism – but by mutual edification!  All are to be rooted and grounded and grown up in the abundance and fullness of Christ; and the goal is the shining glory of His Person as the Ekklesia exists in the unity of the Faith!

Now, the sum of all of it is this:  that Christ is our sure foundation, and the root from which all of it grows.  And it is to grow up to unity and maturity in His fullness.  And that fullness is to demonstrate that He is the fullness of all things as was given to Him by His Father.  This is the essence of what He meant when He said, “upon this rock I will build My Church….”

Now.  Since that is the goal, and since we are so in unity with Him, all that we receive from Him – all that is given to us for our growth in Him – by the working of His Spirit, is for that purpose.  That we are edified and built up in His fullness.

And it is for us, now, to understand that the Ekklesia is not a separate, sociological institution which is equipped, mechanically, with individual gifts!  The Ekklesia isn’t just one of many institutions in society.  It isn’t just a fellowship of like-minded people – each of whom is individually given some special endowment!  And neither are we to view the Church as a place where people gather to exhibit some supernatural, or preternatural, phenomena of an unusual or spectacular nature!  The Ekklesia isn’t a “place” of mystery, and neither is it a social institution with some “cultural” benefits!

The Church has its “ground” in the foundation which is Christ; and it grows because it has its very existence in the Person of Christ!  All that it is, it is because of its unity in Him.  Being “rooted” in Him, and growing from Him, it receives its nature and character from Him.  And all that it receives from Him is for its own edification toward His fullness!  That, you see, is the reason it receives from Him!  We are to manifest His glory so that He may be “all in all”, and whatever we receive from being rooted in Him is for the purpose of being “built up” in Him toward that end!  The Ekklesia flows out of its existence in Christ!

So the terms that we normally use to describe the Church aren’t really relevant terms.  Because if the Church is founded upon Him – drinking from the rivers of living water issuing forth from the Rock – and if we are rooted in Him – feeding from the Bread of Life – and if we are edified and grown into His fullness, and for His glory, and if it is His likeness that we take on unto our maturity and adulthood, and if the Ekklesia flows out of its unity in Christ – taking on His virtues and His character, then the false paradigms and false divisions and false patterns, and the spurious schemes and plans and missions, are all man-made and devious!

Again, let me emphasize that the Ekklesia flows from Christ (He said He would build His Church) and it is for the purpose of glorifying Him by manifesting His fullness.  So there are no schemes or plans or patterns devised by men, that can make that better!

Now, there are a number of ways that that might be illustrated, but there are none better than seeing this by way of the gifts and ministries of the Church! – because people put gifts and ministries into patterns and paradigms, and they devise schemes and plans to improve their effectiveness.  But we must see that the gifts and ministries flow to the Church, by His Spirit, from Christ!  And they are all for the purpose of the upbuilding of the Church which redounds to the Glory of Christ!

The first thing we need to know about the gifts of Christ to the Church is that they are said to be “charisma”.  And that word means mercy, or favor.  A mercy, or a divine “favoring” to the Church.  A manifestation of the Divine power or glory to the Church.  That’s the word translated “gifts”.  And the “gifts” are said to be for the edification of the Church – which, in turn, glorifies the One Who “gave” the manifestation of His glory!

So when we read, or hear, of the gifts of giving, or helps, or exhortation, or wisdom, etc., these are manifestations of the Divine Person of Christ, facilitated by the Spirit, which the Church receives from Him.  And they are all for the edification of the whole.  And no manifestation of Christ is for personal use or for the edification of one individual.  It is for the “body” to receive – so that the “whole” is built up into the fullness of Christ.  And so that the Church is favored with the Person and Character of Christ!

The second thing we want to note is that the “ministries” of the Church are illustrated by the use of the word “diaconas”, or service. But the apostles make no clear distinctions between “charisma” and “diaconas”.  Since the “charisma” are for the service of the Church in its being built up in Christ, then they are ministries.  And since the “diaconas” of the Church are gifts to the Church in its being built up in Christ, then they are “charisma”.  In the apostles, in other words, the ministries of the Church are all gifts to the Church; and the gifts to the Church are all for the service of the Church!

And the gifts and ministries which flow to the Church from Christ are not to be put in patterns and paradigms as if there was to be conformity in every respect – For the Personage of Christ is infinite in His diversity.  The lists that we have from the apostles are illustrative rather than confining.  Christ is pleased to favor us with (and I here coin a new word ) an omni-formity of gifts and ministries for our upbuilding, in order that we might be His fullness and that we might manifest His fullness and that He might be all in all!  So there is a great diversity of gifts, but one Spirit – Who facilitates our “access” to these gifts in the Person of Christ.

Now, the “conformity” which exists in the Church comes form Christ, and not from the imposition of schemes and devices by men.  And the conformity consists of two things:  like-mindedness and order.

The apostle said that if anyone comes preaching any other Gospel than his Gospel, it is anathema!  The doctrines of the Nicolaitans, and of Jezebel and of the Judaizers and of the mystics and Gnostics are to be expelled from the Church!  And all things are to be done “decently” and “in order”.  So when God the Son builds His Church on the Rock, it is to assemble in like-mindedness with regard to the Gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus (Romans one), and it is not to be disorderly.

Now, in relation to the order to be observed in the Church, and with some relationship to the ecclesiastical structure of the Church (which I come to in a minute), I want to speak to the issue of the role of women in the Church; for there are two concepts regarding this issue in modern society which are unbiblical.  One of which says that women are priests in their own right, and they stand, as men do, before God in Christ.  Therefore they have the right to teach and hold positions of authority in the Church.  And the other argument is one that claims that the place of women in Biblical times is anachronistic, or old-fashioned.

But the apostle makes it clear that women are not to have authority over a man; that women are to be silent as the Church is in assembly; that women are not to judge (First Corinthians fourteen, verse thirty-four and following); and that women are to take a “subordinate” position to men.  The apostles do not argue that fact that women, upon rebirth, take on the holy priesthood and stand, in their own right, in the body of our Royal High Priest; and that they serve as “priests” in the New Temple of God made without hands.  There is no question in their minds that this is the case with all believers – regardless of race or gender.

But the order that is observed in apostolic doctrine is based on three issues with regard to women.  As God eternally begets the Son (Who gives Him glory), the Son has begotten the Church (which gives Him glory), and the woman comes from the man and gives him glory.  You see, in every case and in every variety of begetting and begottenness, there is “headship” and subordination of duty.  And since the woman “came from” the man, apostolic doctrine observes that subordinate duty.  Secondly, Paul says that the woman sinned, and, therefore, having first been deceived, she takes the lesser position in relation to men.  And, thirdly, women are to remain “covered” in the assembly – referring to the “glory” on her head with regard to the angels.  Since women are the “weaker” gender with regard to deception, she is to wear “glory”, or long hair, on her head to indicate her subordination to her husband, or her father, or to the elders of overseers of the Church should she have neither a husband or a father.  The “covering” which the long hair symbolizes provides the protection she needs from Satanic deception.

And, further, it is to be noted that women, when responsive to the Creator Who made them, submit to the position for which they were framed, there is the picture, or analogy, of the Church in submission to its Lord; and Christ in submission to His Father.  But when there is rebellion to this biblical doctrine, the analogy is one of complete disorder and anarchy – which, by the way, is the picture being portrayed by many Churches today, as they move toward the ordination of women to positions of authority and teaching in the Church.  And, again, this “liberation” of women leads inevitably to their “imprisonment” in darkness, and their abandonment in the abyss of self-glorification.  This is not one of those small, discretionary things of little consequence, as you can see.  But it is a disruption of great magnitude in the order of things as established by our Creator.

As far as the order and discipline of the Church is concerned, as we know, there are very few specific regulations laid down for Church structure.  There may be at least two reasons for that – one of which is that the upbuilding of the Church in the body of Christ is the primary issue.  And whenever there was disruption in that process, then the disruption was addressed in the letters.  But in no way was the freedom of spontaneous growth toward the fullness of Christ to be hampered by a proliferation of prescriptive order.  Whenever a Church was acting in an infantile manner, they were chastened by the apostles.  And when they were mature, and orderly, adult congregations, they were praised by the apostles.

We see in the Scriptures that all the local congregations were to have elders in order to oversee the progress toward full maturity in Christ.  And the congregation was to respect and honor these men.  And if there was open sin and shame in the congregation, such as sexual misconduct or heretical teaching, then the Church was to exclude these people from the congregation.  (Second Thessalonians three)

Much of the order and discipline of the Church is “assumed” to be already known – not only from the on-site preaching and teaching of the apostles, but also from the Old Testament assembly of God’s people.  The structure of the Church is similar to the assembly as it was then.

We notice, too, that there is one “assembly” of all the Churches in Jerusalem (Acts fifteen) in order to discuss spiritual issues and to pass down recommendations to the local congregations.  There is structure here, too, without encumbering regulations.  The idea here is to avoid usurping the authority of the local congregation when it is conscious of its own calling in Christ, while retaining and preserving and upholding the Church as a “whole” – a community set apart by God to the fullness of Christ.

Lastly, I want to say some things about worship.  After the sacrifice made by Christ, the priest as pontifical mediator between God and men is entirely missing in the Scriptures of the New Testament.  All of life is priestly for every believer.  A fundamental change has been ushered in, for the New Testament knows no “holy persons” who substitutionally perform the service of God for the whole people of God; nor does it know of holy places and seasons or holy acts which place a chasm between the assembly and every-day life and all places!

But, nevertheless, there is a “heightened” sense of public worship in the New Testament, for it is in public worship that Christ’s sovereignty over all the Creation is proclaimed and demonstrated!  No longer is it in one, holy place, but it is, now, in “every place”!

And taking the center position in public worship is the proclamation of the Word.  The Church has not only to thank the preaching of the Gospel for its existence and origin, but its continued existence is dependent on the inviolate preservation of the preaching. (First Corinthians fifteen, verses one and two; Colossians two, seven; First Timothy six, fourteen; and others)  In the preaching, Christ speaks (Romans chapter ten); and God’s called-out people respond to Him in submission.

Also of great importance to the assembly was the administration of the sacrament, for here is the sign and seal of feeding on the body of Christ, and being washed in His blood.  In addition there were baptisms, reading of the Old Testament Scriptures, the singing of hymns and psalms, prayers, and collections of tithes and gifts.

And we must say that there is no mention whatever of a liturgy of life in the assembly.  In fact, there is no prescription except order and decency.  The point of concentration in the New Testament Scriptures is the indwelling of Christ in the Church, and the Church in Him, by His Spirit.  And the special realization of that is the assembled congregation in the unity of the Faith.  The mature congregation manifests to the whole world that Christ is all in all.

There is no question in my mind that this – and much, much more – was what Jesus Christ had in mind when He said, “upon this Rock I will build My Church.”

Now, we can focus our eyes on the sin within us, and we can be disheartened by the evil in our own families and in our own Churches, and we can become easily discouraged, and we can say to ourselves, “How can it ever be that we would attain to that?”  There is so much that’s wrong – so much that’s ugly – going on in our own circles; so much discord and infantile behavior.

But I would say to you – once you have seen the sin and the disunity and rebellion, and the hated chaos that it causes, now turn your eyes away from the discouragement and focus them on The Lord Jesus Christ.  For there is where the power is.  The power for the putting away of the sin; the power of forgiveness; the power for reconciliation; the power for growth into maturity.

The problems that occur in our families and in our Churches occur in all families and Churches.  I know that to be a fact.  But the Savior died that we might have access to the source of power for the defeat of our sin.  You see, that’s how the Church grows into the fullness of Christ until He is all in all.  You go to the Father – in Christ – and plead for the forgiveness, and for the consolation, and for the character of Christ, and for the defeat of the evil.  He has promised total victory – and peace!