BEING THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT
PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH MATTHEW 16:13-20 12 MARCH 2023
If you were here last Sunday, you may remember that we looked at the Church which Jesus established and built in Matthew 16:13-20.
I mentioned that today we will continue to part two of that message.
I spoke of the fact that even in the first-century church there were already false teachers who distorted the truth about the Church Jesus established and tried to draw people apart into separate groups. This means they were attempting even that early to create churches to suit their own beliefs and practices.
To defend the true church against these teachers and their teaching, the New Testament writers, such as Paul, in their writings clearly stated what the true church stands for as it was owned by and established by Jesus Christ. They passed on the principles and patterns of God for the church to any who would read those principles and follow them.
Today, we will look at some of these Principles. There are three of them we will turn our attention to now.
PRINCIPLE #1: DIVISION IN THE BODY OF CHRIST IS CONTRARY TO GOD’S WILL
Before his crucifixion, Jesus had prayed for his followers, saying, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
1. Paul pleaded with the church in Corinth in his first letter to them: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
2. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians (4:3-6) saying, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
From those passages we can conclude that God desires that we all be one; He desires that there be no divisions among his body. He wants us to be unified. Notice the unifying elements…one…one…one…
1. The unity God desires us to practice in His Church will have an impact on our believability and the evangelistic impact our faithful practice has on the world.
2. Many skeptics excuse or refuse to accept Christianity because of the religious division they see among Christians.
3. The main hope for religious unity rests on the next principle.
II. PRINCIPLE #2: THE BIBLE IS THE ONLY AUTHORITATIVE GUIDE IN RELIGION
Because we are believers in the Word, and we believe it IS the inspired Word of God, we call all others to receive the Bible as the divinely inspired word of God, and therefore the final and only authority in religious and spiritual matters.
1. Paul referred to himself and the other apostles and prophets in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 when he declared:
“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
The message that those Spirit-directed men delivered is now the New Testament we read today.
2. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul wrote: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So, God inspired His word, and it is sufficient to equip us to accomplish His will.
We will never have Christian unity if the variety of “churches” continues to accept any writings or teachings other than the Bible as the Authority.
1. To do so is to have conflicting sources of authority.
2. Our purpose and plea as a restoration congregation are for all people to respect the Bible as the only authoritative guide in religion.
3. One of the restoration mottos we have tried to practice is: “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent.”
4. We attempt to do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names.
5. We strive to be able to point to a New Testament passage to justify everything we teach and do.
6. Therefore, without addition, subtraction, or modification, we intend to follow the Bible and the Bible alone. We charge all others to do the same.
III. PRINCIPLE #3: PEOPLE BECOME CHRISTIANS, WHEN THEY DO WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS TO DO, AND WHEN THEY DO WHAT PEOPLE IN THE BIBLE DID TO BECOME CHRISTIANS.
How a person becomes a Christian is one of the most important and serious doctrines of the Bible.
1. If a person follows a plan to become a Christian that is different from the plan that God has given, are they a Christian?
Do they have access to God’s grace through Jesus Christ?
2. They may be a Christian in their own eyes, but are they in God’s eyes?
3. None of us have the right to alter God’s biblical instructions and then decide for ourselves that it will be OK with God.
4. But why would anyone want to reject the biblical plan for becoming a Christian for a non-biblical plan? Well, there are reasons – more so – excuses why people will accept a non-Biblical plan of becoming a Christ follower – a Christian,
a. These reasons, or excuses, are ignorance and/or pride.
The use of the word, “Ignorance” is not used in a derogatory manner. It is simply saying that they simply don’t know the difference. They are uninformed. Someone told them a non-biblical plan, and that’s the only plan they know.
Or, they may have sincerely studied, but they are sincerely wrong.
b. Pride, on the other hand, can come into the picture from many directions.
1. First, the person might have a pride that says, “I have always done it this way and believed this way, and I don’t want to change now, it would be too embarrassing.”
2. Second, pride might say, “I’ve walked with God closely all these years, I know I am right with him. I cannot accept that I am wrong.”
3. Third, pride might assume, “God surely will understand and accept my attempts to be a Christian even if I did not become a Christian in the right way. I don’t think it will be that important to God.” That’s a prideful presumption!
So, what plan did the people of the New Testament follow to become Christians?
1. First of all, I must emphasize that the New Testament plan of salvation is based on the grace and love of God as demonstrated and accomplished in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-8) READ.
2. So many people – and preachers in particular – stop there. We are saved by grace = period. We must remember that we have to take the full message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ to realize the full action which makes us a Christians.
That full plan for personal access to the grace of God for salvation consists of having, and confessing faith in Jesus, repenting of sin, and immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins. Look again at Ephesians 2:8
The Greek word for “baptism” is baptizo and means “to immerse, dip or plunge. It cannot be construed to mean sprinkling or anything else.
Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized (immersed, dipped or plunged) will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
The apostle Peter preached, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
The apostle Paul wrote, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3,4). When you have a death, you have a burial. Baptism is a picture of that process – death to sin – buried to carry those sins away.
The book of Acts records the beginning of the church, and when we study Acts, we notice that every person was told the same plan of salvation, and all who followed it became Christians.
No one in the book of Acts was told to sprinkle water on their infants to baptize them, and then to confirm their faith at age 12. But that’s what many do today.
No one in the book of Acts was told to pray the sinner’s prayer to receive salvation or forgiveness. But that is what many are told today.
No one was told to do three Hail, Marys, or any other such exercise to receive salvation.
We believe and understand that people become Christians when they do what the Bible says to do. And that is exactly the same thing that the people did to become Christians in the first century.
So, who are we as a church? How are we different, and why are we different from other churches?
1. I think it is important to understand this clearly:
I believe that people in other churches love the Lord just as much as we do.
I believe that they are sincerely trying to follow the Lord as they understand they should.
We need to pray that God’s grace is sufficient to cover all of us who are sincerely trying to honor and obey God. However, we have a different goal than most churches – that is the denominational churches - and we are willing to limit ourselves to reach that goal. And by saying we are willing to limit ourselves, I mean that we are willing to believe differently than the mainstream churches believe. And that we will stand firm in our understanding of what the New Testament says.
We want simply to be simple, New Testament Christians only, and we are willing to limit all that we believe and all that we teach to what is revealed in Scripture.
We believe that this is the only place where Christian unity can stand, and we believe that this is the only way authentic Christianity can be experienced.
I believe that our plea for restoration of New Testament Christianity is a valid and vital plea.
1. It is a call to be Christians only.
2. It is a call to go back to Scripture and lay aside any human philosophies, creeds, or names.
3. It is a call to let Christ be our only confession, a call to let Scripture be our only authority, and a call to let the name of the Savior be the only name we wear.
4. Unfortunately, some who have made the plea for people to be “Christians only” have allowed that Bible-based plea to become an exclusive and judgmental attitude.
5. So rather than saying, “We are Christians only,” it is sometimes turned into, “We are THE only Christians.” And, to be honest, that is what some in the denominations think that we think of ourselves.
6. We must beware of developing that kind of arrogant, judgmental, and sectarian position.
7. In contrast to that, God would want us to express a humility that says, “We are trying to be Christians only, and trying to only have Scripture as our authority, but God is the ultimate judge, and we will leave matters of eternal judgment with Him.”
8. It may not be our job to judge our religious neighbors, but it is our job to try to share with them the reason that we are different and to encourage them to join us in trying to be Christians only, and have Scripture be our only authority.
Let me close with an illustration of the importance of trying to follow the NT pattern for building the church as God wants it to be.
A man named Mack Lyon tells the story of being on the mission field as a young missionary and helping with the construction of a church building. The person in charge gave him a pattern for constructing the roof trusses for the structure. So, Mack took the pattern, measured the wood, cut it, and constructed a rafter. He then set the pattern aside, took the rafter he just constructed, measured the wood with it, cut it, and constructed rafter #2. He then set aside after #1, took rafter #2, measured the wood with it, cut it, and constructed rafter #3. He did the same with each of the rafters, measuring the new one by the one he had just made.
Can you guess what happened when they tried to use those rafters to build the building? You guessed it, they didn’t fit together properly. A small change in each of them, so small it wasn’t even noticeable, maybe just the width of a pencil mark, eventually added up to a difference too big to be tolerated. It was a costly error.
It is the same with Christianity and the church. The only way to guarantee that we will continue to build properly is to continually use the unchanging pattern of the Bible.
Let us continually seek to be the church of Christ – Jesus’ church, the one He established. His church, doing and being what He specified.
May all churches find common ground for unity in that goal.
So, are you a member of Jesus’ church? If not, then won’t you do what the Scriptures say to do to become a Christian?
If you believe in Jesus and are willing to repent and turn to the Lord and are willing to confess your faith before others and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins, then you are ready to become a follower of Jesus. Time is of the essence, none of us know when the Lord will return, nor when our own life might be over. What a shame it would be to miss out on eternal life because we kept delaying our obedience to God until it was too late! And if you are a member of Jesus’ church, it is important to occasionally take inventory of our walk with Jesus Christ. We need to ask ourselves questions: Am I being faithful in my walk? Am I being faithful in worship and fellowship and service? I pray that our answers to those questions are in the affirmative.
God is ready to help us to be faithful followers of His Son, Jesus Christ, in His Church as we strive to be a faithful church of Christ.
Some material was borrowed from David Owens, Christian Church preacher