Let’s open our Bibles to the Book of Daniel, I tell you what, let’s not go to the Book of Daniel, you guys are tired of the Book of Daniel, let’s go to the Book of Acts, chapter 5 and verse 14, and then we’re going to go over to Ephesians 5 after that. Actually we’re going to be looking at a lot of passages. Good to see everybody tonight. And in the book that I wrote we’re in chapter 11, but the book that I wrote is not the most important thing; the book that God wrote is the most important thing. My book just sort of organizes things a little bit when we study the kingdom.
But the first major part of this study is what does the Bible say about the kingdom? And if you’ve been tracking along with us we’re already in lesson 23, can you believe that? That’s amazing isn’t it. Some of you are saying not really… [laughter] We went all the way through the Old Testament to develop the idea of the kingdom and there in number 8 and 9 we saw that the kingdom was offered to the nation of Israel on a silver platter and they rejected the offer. Anybody remember what chapter that took place in? Matthew 12. So the moment that happens is the moment the offer of the kingdom is withdrawn. And thus the Lord, beginning in Matthew 13 begins to describe an interim age of time. What would the world, what would the spiritual course of the world be like when the kingdom is not cancelled but postponed?
To understand this interim age of time we have to understand two things; number 1, something we’ve already covered, the Matthew 13 parables, eight of them. We went through those. And then the second thing you need to understand is really the time period that concerns us directly and that’s the age of the church. So a lot of people have been wondering what part of this study relates directly to us and the church age is really the age of time that governs us directly. Jesus made a hint of the coming church in Matthew 16:18 where he said, “I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
So what does this church thing… it must be something new because he put the building of the church in which tense? Future. So to help us understand the age of the church, which really starts in Acts 2 and goes to the rapture, which is really the program of God while the kingdom is not here, we have to understand the age of the church. So we’re going to be looking at five things related to the church; two things past we looked at last week and three things future.
So we saw, number 1, the definition of the church. The church is a unique spiritual man, a spiritual organism that God started in Acts 2 and it consists of all people, both Jew and Gentile, who have trusted in the very Messiah rejected by first century national Israel. So the moment a person places their faith in Jesus Christ for their eternity is the moment they become born spiritually and the Holy Spirit takes them and identifies them to the new man, the body of Christ called the church. The church, as we talked about, is not fulfilling Israel’s program. Israel’s program is in postponement at the present time. God is doing something new or unique.
And then number 2 we looked at the beginning of the church. When did the church start? Acts 2, and unfortunately when you read Acts 2 it never says thus saith the Lord, the church is starting now. So you have to, with any Bible doctrine you have to put together pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. Your doctrine of the Trinity is assembled that way; there’s no single verse that says God is one but He’s expressed Himself in three personages. You have to combine Scripture with Scripture to assemble that doctrine and any doctrine. And that’s how it is with the beginning of the church. And last time we were together I went through six arguments with you giving you, I think a pretty profound and powerful case that the church started in Acts 2. So the church didn’t start in the Old Testament contrary to Reformed theology. The church did not start with Paul contra hyper dispensationalism. The church did not start with Jesus. The church did not start with the apostles. The church did not start with Adam and Eve.
The church started in Acts 2, so that’s when the body of Christ began and that’s when the Spirit of God began to do this unique ministry of taking people who had trusted in Jesus Christ for their salvation and identifying them with this new man called the church. We’ve looked at the definition of the church, the beginning of the church, to move here to Roman numeral III, we’re not going to spend too much time here, but number III, the purpose of the church. Why does the church exist? Why do we exist?
And probably the book of the Bible that explains the purpose of the church better than any other book is the Book of Ephesians. Paul, in the Book of Ephesians develops the doctrine of the church here probably more than any other book. So the church has three basic tasks. Now at Sugar Land Bible Church we have different activities, we had a women’s meeting, a retreat last weekend, we have a men’s retreat, we have this, we have that, we have communion, dah da dah da dah…. Wednesday night Bible study, Tuesday night Bible study and on and on we could go with the different things that we do. But everything we do as a church needs to fit within these three purposes because these are not man’s purposes for the church, these are God’s purposes.
So the first purpose of the church is to glorify God so everything we do we should be asking ourselves is God glorified in this. If God is not glorified then we’re outside of our purpose. So over in Ephesians 3:21 Paul, as he is unfolding the doctrine of the church, says, “To him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” So this is what is called the doxological purpose of God; doxa means glory in Greek, so the purpose of God in human history is to glorify Himself. That’s what God does from beginning to end. And a lot of people think well, I thought God’s purpose was to save souls. Well, that’s a very important purpose but that’s not His primary purpose. When a soul gets saved who gets the glory? God does. So even salvation, as wonderful as that is, relates to the doxological purpose of God. So since God’s purpose in human history is to glorify Himself the purpose of the church is to glorify God.
The second purpose of the church is to edify the saints and we see that over in Ephesians 4:11-16, a tremendous paragraph there. It says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” to help people win a popularity contest… oh, it doesn’t say that.  “for the equipping of the saints” now who are the saints? Believers. “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;  but speaking the truth in love, we are to” what’s the next word, “grow up in” some aspects… oh, it doesn’t say that, “in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
You’ll notice back in Ephesians 4:11 when it mentions spiritual gifts it mentions evangelist and then it goes on and it mentions a specific gift in the Greek, it’s better read “pastor-teacher.” So “pastor-teacher” is a singular gift that God gave to the body of Christ. And you get that by understanding the Greek rule called Granville Sharpe’s rule which is this idea that when you have a definite article in front of two nouns and the two nouns are joined by a conjunction, like “and” then the two nouns are equal. So you have a definite article, noun, conjunction, noun, according to Granville Sharpe’s rule the two nouns would be equal. So it really should say a pastor-teacher.
So you have evangelists and you have another gift called pastor-teacher. And the best way I can explain these is there’s a difference between an obstetrician and a pediatrician. An obstetrician in the medical world or the world of doctors and hospitals and so forth helps with the birthing process. So that’s what an evangelist does; an evangelist is somebody that leads people to Christ. Evangelism is something that we’re all called to do but some people actually are gifted at it and they have a spiritual gift called evangelism, they have the ability to take lost people and direct them to the Savior and tell them how to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ by faith alone.
And I’ve never seen an obstetrician in the medical world who is also a pediatrician because those are two different disciplines. A pediatrician helps the newborn child grow correctly, develop correctly, with the right nutrition, being respected, is the child getting enough rest, are there medical problems and that art and science is really to help the child grow. So in the same way you have spiritual obstetricians, evangelists. Then you have the gift of pastor-teacher which is more of the pediatrician role to help the newborn child of God grow in the things of God. So hopefully the elders anyway think that I have that spiritual gift. Hopefully when you come here on Sundays and Wednesdays and other times that’s what’s happening.
I’m really not an evangelist, part of me wishes that I was, it’s just God never gave me that gift. But we still give the gospel here every week because there could be potential people listening or coming in here that are not saved. But that’s really not the primary emphasis of our church, winning the lost. We should all be doing that outside the four walls of the church but church is really not set up as an evangelistic rally because when you look at this passage very carefully… and by the way, I love evangelistic rallies, it’s just knowing what lane we’re in and trying to stay within our lane. He mentions the gift of pastor-teacher, verse 11, “for the equipping of the” what? “the saints.” So the pastor-teacher, which is the pediatrician, is primarily working with the newborn child of God. The evangelist, who is the obstetrician, is primarily working with the lost.
So since God gave to the church the gift of pastor-teacher and a host of other gifts, and by the way, every Christian has at least one spiritual gift. Ephesians 4:7 of spiritual gifts says, “But to each one grace was given according to the measure of Christ” and it goes on to describe spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are Spirit empowered abilities to serve God in a special way and as the gifts are being ministered in harmony with each other, not in competition with each other, then what happens is the body of Christ becomes built up. For example, as I’m exercising my primary gift, which is the gift of pastor-teacher, which is the ability to teach the Bible in a way people can understand it, that’s accurate but relevant and understandable, according to 2 Timothy 3:17 the Scripture equips us for how many good works? Every good work, all good works. [2 Timothy 3:17, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”]
So what’s happening at Sugar Land Bible Church is you’re attending our services, classes, what have you, is you’re being built up in the things of God for your ministry. So whatever God is doing in your life, maybe you’re witnessing to somebody, maybe you’re at home raising kids, maybe you’re out in the professional world, whatever it is what’s happening is the Word of God is equipping you for what God is doing through your life. And that would be a major function of the church. The church exists to edify the saints. That’s why the church could not have come into existence prior to Acts 1 because we learned last week that the gifts of the Holy Spirit came into existence after Christ ascended. So if you have a church prior to Acts 1 you have a group of people without the ability of being edified because the gifts of the Holy Spirit hadn’t been given. So why even go to a church like that if the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not in operation. It would be like going to the Rotary Club or some other secular organization.
But God specifically, after the ascension of Christ, beginning in Acts 2, gave to the church spiritual gifts and as those gifts are faithfully employed what is happening is people are being built up in the things of God and they’re being equipped for their ministry. According to this paragraph they are being equipped for their work of service and they are discovering that the ministry does not just belong to the preacher and the piano player. The ministry belongs to all Christians and most churches (sadly) function by the A.D. 20 rule, which means 20% of the people do 80% of the work is basically what that means. And that’s not the New Testament model. The New Testament model is we’re all ministers and the purpose of church is to equip you for your ministry primarily through the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher and other spiritual gifts that God has given to the church.
So you run into people a lot in Christianity and they say well, you know, I’m thinking of going into the ministry. And my response usually is well, are you a Christian? Well yes I am. Congratulations, you are already in the ministry, because whether you do it fulltime or not is not the issue; the issue is you’re gifted a particular way and God wants to use you to bless other people.
So when you study the spiritual gifts and if you want to study them just remember the pneumonic device, 12, 12, 4, 4. 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 (where we’re at here) and 1 Peter 4. So Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4. The function of gifts is to serve other people. Every gift has as its target somebody else. And we are basically selfish by nature, amen! That’s part of our condition in original sin. And nothing gets us out of our self-oriented mindset better than discovering your gift, or gifts, and using them consistently because as you use those what you’re going to see is God is using you to bless other people. So you’re going to be discovering that your life is not just about you. When God gave you a gift He didn’t just give it for you; certainly you can gain a lot of personal satisfaction out of using your gift but God’s real purpose in giving the gift is to be a blessing to somebody else.
And so there’s really nothing more rewarding than being used by God to be a blessing to other people. And that’s what the function of spiritual gifts are and that’s one of the primary purposes of the church, is to have the gifts in operation so other people can be built up. And you might be saying well how do I discover what my gift is? If the Bible says I have a gift how do I discover what it is? Well, in the natural world, when I was in high school all of the kids that could pole vault well (I wasn’t one of them) would naturally gravitate towards track and field. All of the kids that were good at football would naturally gravitate towards the football field. All of the kids that were good at math and science and things like that would gravitate toward those subjects. In other words, you’re naturally drawn to the things that God has called you to do.
You’re naturally drawn to the things that God has gifted you to do. So if you have a particular pull in a certain area, like, I remember when I was attending Riviera First Baptist Church and the pastor got sick, this was back in the 90’s, and he asked me to preach for him I got into the pulpit shaking like a leaf, you want me to preach and teach? But then I discovered that it was so enjoyable I started to pray, man, I wish he would get sick a little more [laughter] because I actually enjoyed doing it. Now there’s a lot of people that enjoy doing things but nobody is blessed in the process. So if someone claims they have the gift of singing and can’t carry a note with a handle on it then probably that’s not their gift, because there has to be a confluence of things coming together simultaneously. There has to be a general drawing to doing something, an inclination, a desire, but when that comes together in concert with people saying you know, when you do such and such it really helps me. And you start receiving unsolicited comments like that what’s happening is the Holy Spirit is showing you what your gift/mix is, your gift or gift/mix.
And I use the word gift/mix because most Christians, I believe, probably have more than one gift. Some have a single gift; other gifts flow in random. For example, it’s hard to be a teacher without having the gift of knowledge which I’m defining here as the ability to understand the Bible. How do you teach something you don’t understand? So knowledge and teaching kind of go together. And some pastors are very gifted in the sense that they have the gift of pastor teacher and the gift of evangelism. I know of a handful of pastors that are like that. I would put pastor Greg Laurie in that category, of the Harvest Crusades. I used to go to his church a long time ago, I feel that he has both. You have pastors, like the former pastor here, Mark Choate, who I felt, coming to this church for a while before he left, I felt he had the gift of mercy; mercy is sort of the ability to… you’re drawn to people that need mercy and so my brief time under Mark Choate I felt that was definitely one of his gifts along with others that he had.
So you know, you can go down the list and look at this pastor and that pastor or this person or that person and you can see gifts clearly in operation with people. I think my primary gifts are pastor, teacher, knowledge and I also feel that I have the gift of discernment which is helpful because you’ve got to keep a lot of junk out of the church and how do you do that if you can’t recognize what the junk is. So we need the gift of discernment in operation because a lot of people are so open-minded their brain leaks out in the process. But anyway, you get the idea. I didn’t mean to go into the whole thing on spiritual gifts, I guess God wanted you guys to have that.
But the church exists, number 1, to glorify God. Number 2, to edify the saints through the use of spiritual gifts. The third purpose of the church is to fulfill the great commission. Over in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus gave what’s called the Great Commission, which is not the great omission, it’s the great commission. “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of” people in the United States of America… oh, I’m sorry, it doesn’t say that, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Each Gospel writer, at least the Synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke, and John too for that matter, have a closing comment by Christ related to the church’s calling of worldwide evangelization, or global evangelization. We’re to go and we’re to preach the gospel to every creature and we’re not just to evangelize them but we’re to go and make disciples. So you read these commands and you start to see that the purpose of the church is not just for the church. God blessed the church to be a blessing to the world, through evangelism, missionary activity and those kinds of things. And so a lot of churches sort of think the f unction is to sit, soak and sour, which is tempting to do because out there it can bet pretty rough, can’t it. So sometimes, you know, God has seasons in our lives where we’re just supposed to sit and soak up and that’s a great season to be in but the reality of the situation is God is sowing these spiritual realities into you because He wants you to bless somebody else outside the four walls of the church.
So what happens is when the sheep become healthy… how do the sheep become healthy? Because of bullet point number 2, the church is of bullet point number 2, the church is succeeding in its function of edifying its saints. But when the sheep become healthy they’re not just to become fat sheep; they’re to actually go out and use these things in their job and their family, amongst unsaved people, and all of us are in contact constantly with unsaved people. And so God is equipping you at Sugar Land Bible Church so you can be an evangelist to somebody that doesn’t know Christ. And what you discover is most churches do two of the three well. It’s very difficult to find a church that’s doing all three.
For example, in the prior generation in the Bible church movement Christianity became what I would call a holy huddle, where we’re glorifying God and we’re edifying the saints but we’re forgetting the fact that God wants to use us outside the four walls. What’s happening today (in my humble opinion) is churches are doing number 1 really well and number 3 really well but number 2 has sort of fallen on hard times. So what’s happening is people are becoming confused as point number 2 and so they’re turning their worship service into an evangelistic rally and their goal is to make things comfortable for the unsaved. Let’s talk about what unsaved people want to hear; let’s not mention blood, or sin, because that would drive away unsaved people.
So what you have at the end of the day is a crowd of people, perhaps in an evangelistic rally if the gospel is given at all, but you miss number 2 because number 2 indicates that the church itself is not for unbelievers. The church is for believers. And as a pastor you have a far greater reach into the world if you equip your people through the teaching of God’s Word to live the Christian life because think about this: think about all the people that you know guys that I don’t know. If I equip you and you go out and you’re used by God to bless two, three, four people think if the chain reaction, think of the dominoes that begin to fall down. That is a far greater reach than getting all these unsaved people into the building. Get a bunch of unsaved people into the building, maybe you can get a few of them saved, but you would get a lot more saved if you, as a pastor, would use your spiritual gift or gifts that God has given you to make your own people healthy. Once your own people become healthy they’ll become a dynamic missions force and they’re going to be touching and reaching people that you could never touch or reach. So a pastor multiplies his impact when he begins to use the gifts that God has given him to help his own people become healthy spiritually.
So that’s really my focus here at Sugar Land Bible Church, we do give the gospel but my primary target audience is not the unsaved; my target audience is the church or the saints because of Ephesians 4. And the danger with our approach is we can get eternally focused and forget about the great commission. That’s why I love the fact that we have a missions committee. I love the fact that we have missions moments. I love the fact that we have our supported missionaries come in and give us an update on what’s going on because that’s such a valuable thing because it helps the people sitting there understand that gosh, it’s not all about us. God wants to use us to bless other people. So the goal of the church would be all of the above: Glorify God edify the saints, fulfill the great commission.
Now you’ll notice that we’re not called to bring social justice to the earth. Well, what’s wrong with social justice? Nothing, I mean I think we should work for justice, whatever that is, everybody defines it differently, but we ought to be involved in culture, being salt and light, restraining evil and those kinds of things, to the extent that we can. But the reality of the situation is you’re not going to have social justice until what is established on the earth? The kingdom.
So you go to a lot of churches that have a kingdom now theology, they don’t really understand that the kingdom has been postponed; they think they’re bringing in the kingdom and so they spend a lot of their sermon time on things like the environment, let’s fix the environment. I’m an environmentalist, I think we should be good stewards of the planet. Or they spend a lot of their time on let’s fix poverty; the reality is Jesus said the poor you’re always going to have with you. Poverty is not going to get solved by anybody until Jesus comes back and solves it. I think it’s a good thing to be involved in various causes, like trying to curb world hunger and things like that but we should always use it as a platform to preach the gospel. What good does it do to fill someone’s stomach for 24 hours if their soul goes to hell; you haven’t really accomplished much.
So we should be involved in social causes to the extent that we can use it as a platform to preach the gospel. But in kingdom now theology what gets lost is the gospel and they move into social causes. So they talk a lot about we need to fix structural racism, what they call structural racism in American and social justice and poverty and the environment. Even in the conservative movement, you know, sometimes in certain churches you hear more about the prolife issue than you do about the gospel. So understanding what the church is, understanding what its purposes are, understanding that we’re not the kingdom helps us to focus in on what God wants us to do in the present. Does that make any sense.
So what is the purpose of the church: glorify God, edify the saints, and fulfill the great commission. The social justice stuff is something that Jesus will bring to the earth when He returns. Now the devil is a pretty sneaky guy and one of his greatest tricks is to get the church focused on doing something that God never called the church to do because once the church becomes focused on something that God never called the church to do the church loses its power. And as I’ve been trying to articulate carefully in this study the church is not called to bring the kingdom of God to the earth.
Now if the devil can get us thinking that we need to bring the kingdom of God to the earth he’s won, basically, because he’s got us focused in some task that God never called us to do and if God never called us to do it we don’t have the power to pull it off. Amen. The only thing the church has the power to pull off is to do the things that God says the church is to do. If the church functions within those guidelines and stays within its lane then the church has great power because it’s doing what God called it to do. God doesn’t order something without paying for it. But if, on the other hand, he (the devil) gets us focused on some other task that God never called us to do then the church is immediately emptied of its power and its put on its shoulders a God-sized task that only Jesus can do directly. So the kingdom, as we’ve been studying it, is very clear, only Christ can set it up and that rescues us from tasks that are basically a waste of time in the present.
That’s why this subject, it might seem kind of obscure to you, but the reality is it’s very important. There isn’t anything more important in the life of the church than understanding why it exists. And you know this from the business world, right? If your business is struggling and you hire a consultant to help you with your struggling business, one of the first questions they’re going to ask is why do you exist? So that’s businesses have a visions statement and a missions statement and they typically have their employees memorize either the vision statement or the missions statement. So every employee understands why they exist in this organization and it’s no different with the church. The church has to understand why it exists. If it doesn’t understand why it exists then it just wanders around aimlessly and it wanders into tasks that God never called it.
So what is God doing today; if He’s not bringing social justice to the earth what is He doing. Well, Acts 15:14 explains what God is doing. This is the Jerusalem Council, this is the first church meeting (one of the first church meetings I should say) in the Book of Acts. And I believe it’s James, the Lord’s brother, who makes this statement. James says, “Simeon has related how God first concerned himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His own name. [Acts 15:14.] That’s what God is doing today through the church. Certainly Jews get saved but they’re not in the majority. The majority of people getting saved today are non-Jews or Gentiles and God is reaching out among that great mass of humanity, regardless of nation, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of culture, this is a global movement and He is taking from among the Gentiles a people for His own name. That’s just a tremendous statement of what is happening in the life of the church; it’s been happening for 2,000 years. And we at Sugar Land Bible Church can fit into that purpose which is what we’re called to do.
So we’ve looked at the definition of the church, we’ve looked at the beginning of the church, we’ve looked at the purposes of the church, and I’ve got a few minutes left, let’s talk briefly about why the church is not the kingdom. A lot of churches today are trying to build the kingdom and as you listen to their ministry, brochures, their ministry advertisements, they’ll say things like we’re doing kingdom work, we’re growing the kingdom, we’re building the kingdom, we’re bringing in the kingdom. And the word “kingdom” is everywhere, it’s just sort of a slogan people throw out there, I guess because it sounds good for marketing purposes. But the reality is the Bible has a very technical definition of the word kingdom, doesn’t it? The Greek word is basilea, and we’ve developed it carefully and we’ve explained that we’re living in an interim time when the kingdom is not here.
So why is the church not the kingdom. I have 13 reasons which I don’t think I’ll get through all of them today but you never know. The first reason that the church is not the kingdom is number 1, Jesus is never called the King of the church. Now that wrecks a lot of worship songs, doesn’t it? King Jesus this, King Jesus that; the reality of the situation is you go into the New Testament and the King subject imagery is imagery that’s used in God’s relationship to Israel. That type of imagery is not used relative to God’s relationship to the church. Ephesians 5:23 calls Jesus the head of the church, not the king of the church, the head of the church. [Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.”] So He is the head, we’re the body. That’s a completely different imagery than King-Kingdom, King subject. Ephesians 5:25 says we are the bride, He is the groom; that’s the imagery that’s used. [Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,”]
And I know a lot of you think I’m crazy, which I am a little bit, but I have several quotes in my book where I quote people, basically saying exactly what I just said, just so you won’t think I’m nuts. George Nathaniel H Peters, famous scholar, said, “Jesus is called, and by right, and in the covenanted manner, is, called the ‘King of the Jews,’ ‘King of the Nations,’ King of the World’ but is never called ‘the King of the Church.’” [The Theocratic Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus, the Christ, as Covenanted in the Old Testament, and Presented in the New Testament. By George Nathaniel Henry Peters.]
Clarence Larkin says, “His Church, Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, Colossians 1:18, but He is never spoken of as its King.” [Ephesians 1:22, “
Alva J. McLain quotes somebody in his book, Andrews, as follows, he says: “Arnold Fruchtenbaum, I know a lot of you have studied under Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes: “The problem amillennialism faces,” amillennialism is kingdom now theology, “The problem amillennialism faces is that while the Bible portrays the relationship between Christ and the church in various metaphors, head and body, groom and bride, vine and branches, foundation stones of the building, etc. king and kingdom is not one of them. Christ is indeed referred to as the head of the church but never its king.
A second reason why the church is not the kingdom of 13 reasons; number 2, Jesus Christ’s relationship to His church is depicted through various metaphors but it is never depicted through the King/kingdom metaphor. Now a picture paints a thousand what? Words; what the Lord has given us is various word pictures for what He is like in relationship to His people in the present age. And these are wonderful word pictures. Sometimes He is called the shepherd and we are the what? Sheep, and we don’t have time to look up all those verses but they’re all there for you to look up.
By the way, that’s not a compliment that we are called sheep. [Laughter] You all know that, right. Sheep are so cuddly and we think oh, isn’t that pretty. Sheep are some of the dumbest animals known to man. Sheep will literally, if they’re all running in a herd they’ll all run off a cliff together and they’ll probably stampede each other in the process. So the fact that we are called sheep shows us that we need a shepherd. The imagery of head/body is used many places, the use of the head or the body, just like the head sends out instructions to the rest of the body, that’s what He does. He is the Head in His proper place and we’re all receiving orders from the nerve center, the head, the body functions in symmetry with itself. So my left hand and my right hand are different functions but they’re functioning in harmony with each other because they’re connected to the nerve center which is the head. So you’ll find that imagery a lot.
You’ll also find the imagery that He is the groom and we are the what? Bride, so we are engaged, we are spoken for. And when the woman walks down that aisle there’s a reason she’s in what colored dress? White, indicating purity. So we’re spoken for, we’re engaged, our wedding day is coming up, and we want to keep ourselves undefiled by the world. James 4:4 tells us that the world system defiles us and when we do that we become adulteress in essence. And this is why Joseph was so upset, because the woman that he’s betrothed to got pregnant and what does she say? Well, the Holy Spirit did that. Yeah, right, sure, I believe you…. So an angel, Gabriel, had to go and explain to Joseph what was going on because he was totally freaked out because he felt that the woman that he was betrothed to was unfaithful to Him. And that was grounds to annul, in Jewish tradition annul the marriage. So in the same way nothing can annul our marriage because of the doctrine of eternal security but we are very much the bride and He is the groom.
The temple imagery is used where in Old Testament times the Holy Spirit indwelt in a literal Solomonic temple. In fact, the Shekinah Glory of God entered that temple in the days of Solomon and it left that temple just prior to the Babylonia deportation. Now what is the temple of the Holy Spirit? Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So that’s why Paul says to the Corinthians, who are going out at night and uniting themselves sexually with temple prostitutes, pagan prostitutes in a pagan temple in Corinth, he says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” [1 Corinthians 3:16]
And over in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 it uses the plural. 1 Corinthians 6:19, the verse I just indicated, uses it in the singular. [1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”]
But here it’s used in the plural that when we gather, this gathering place is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit indwells us each individually but He also indwells us… His presence is here when we’re gathered corporately. See that?
He is also called the high priest, and we are priests under His high priesthood. Did you know you’re a priest, by the way? You say well I don’t feel like a priest, I don’t look like a priest but the reality of the situation is a priest is somebody who represents God to man and man to God. That’s what the priests were. And you go back into the life of Israel and the priests all had to come from which tribe? Levi, and they had to be a descendant of whose lineage? Aaron’s! So Israel had priests within the nation but within the New Testament church you look at various passages, for example Revelation 1:6 and we learn that we are all priests. Revelation 1:6, says, “and He has made us to be a kingdom of” what? “priests to His God [and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”] That’s your identity in Christ.
Wait a minute, it says we are “a kingdom of priests….” You’ve got to cross reference that with Revelation 5:10 which indicates that we will function as a kingdom when we will reign upon the earth. [Revelation 5:10, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”] So we’re not yet functioning as kings but we will function as kings when the kingdom comes. Right! But in the interim what are we? We are priests. What does a priest do? A priest represents God to man and man to God. And this is why God was so upset with the priests in the Old Testament, remember the money-changers in the Gospels, how Jesus overturned the tables and so forth, because they weren’t represent God properly to the world. They were making God out to be some kind of cosmic slot machine or something, some kind of money-hungry god and that’s not who God was. So we, all of us, every single Christian, every single member of Christ’s body are priests or priestesses, so the issue is as priest and priestesses how are we doing representing God to the rest of the world?
A priest represented man to God and God to man; we are also to intercede for people, aren’t we, as we represent man to God. So that’s part of who we are. Priests don’t come from a tribe, they don’t come from a line anymore, we’re all spiritual priests.
The church is also called the pillar of truth, another metaphor. 1 Timothy 3:15. [1 Timothy 3:15, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”] Why should we be zealous for truth in the church? Because the church is the pillar of truth. What does a pillar do? It hold up everything else in the structure, just like these pillars around here; take one of these pillars out and you’ve got a collapse. So we are literally holding up the reality of truth in a lost and dying world.
So where are people going to get the truth today? Are they going to get it from the politicians? Probably not. Are they going to get it from the academics? Maybe, maybe not. Are they going to get it from the media? Maybe sometimes, but they should be able to go into a church and receive the truth because that’s the church’s identity.
We are also called, John 15:1-8, branches and He is the vine. [John 15:1-8, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  ‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”]
So how does a branch bear fruit? It stays connected by way of fellowship to the what? To the vine. As Christians we are not called to produce fruit, we are called to bear fruit. See the difference. That’s a game changer right there. I used to think my job as a Christian was to go out and get it done for Jesus, do this, do that, and I found myself very frustrated and burned out. And the reason I was frustrated and burned out is I was doing a bunch of stuff that God never called me to do. He never called me or you to produce fruit; He called you to bear fruit. If you stay connected to Him by way of fellowship what happens to the fruit? It comes spontaneously, it comes naturally, it comes automatically, it comes organically simply because you’re staying connected to Jesus Christ.
So an orange branch doesn’t get out there and say oranges, oranges, oranges, I’ve got to produce oranges. All it does, it stays connected to the nurturing sap of the vine, or in the case of an orange tree the trunk, or however it works, and the oranges naturally come. See that. So it’s not producing fruit, it’s bearing fruit.
And Jesus in John 15:1-8 says if you don’t do this, “apart from Me you can do” what? “nothing!.” You have no ability to go out and produce eternal things in yourself, and I don’t have the ability either. The capacity to produce eternal things only becomes a reality when I stay connected to Him by way of fellowship. Now you can’t lose your salvation, John 10:27-29 says you’re in His hand and nothing can take you out.
[John 15:1-8, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.?’”
The devil can’t take you out of His hand, you can’t even take yourself out of His hand. But here’s what you can do—you can get out of fellowship with Him. How do you get out of fellowship with Him? Unconfessed sin will destroy moment by moment fellowship. Lack of communication will destroy moment by moment fellowship.
So think of it in terms of a marriage; I can do something to hurt my wife’s feelings (of course if you talk to her you’ll learn that I’ve never done that, [laughter] ever in our whole almost 19 years of marriage…and my nose is growing as I’m standing up here So what happens when that occurs? We’re still married, but my moment by moment intimacy with her, my moment by moment fellowship with her, my moment by moment enjoyment of her is short-circuited even though positionally we’re still married. So what do I have to do? I need to, in humility, apologize for what I have done and that is the significance of 1 John 1:9 in your life. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “Confess” there is homologō, logo means speak or word and homo is same, homologō is same word, it basically means agree. You sin against God in your persona life you just go to the Lord and say Lord, what I did was wrong and help me not to do it again. And you’re agreeing with God about your sin; you’re not hiding your sin as David did but you’re agreeing with God that it’s wrong. And the moment you do that you don’t get saved again; you’re already saved. What happens is broken fellowship is restored and you now are a candidate, not for heaven, you already had that the moment you trusted in Christ. But for fruit bearing, see that?
Now you talk to marital partners or people that are having marriage problems and you go to a counselor for that and the very first question the counselor will ask is what is your communication like with your spouse, because communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. Right? So how do you stay in fellowship with God? You have to stay in communication with Him. How can people grow in their marriage if they never talk to each other? That’s not even a relationship is it? That’s a roommate situation.
So we allow God to speak to us, primarily through what? This book, that’s how He’s going to talk to you. And He’s going to speak to you when this book is taught, maybe he is speaking to you now about things in your life. So you have to avail yourself to this book; it’s got to be a major discipline in your life. And then how do you talk to God? You talk to God via what? You guys got really quiet out there… PRAYER. So prayer, I talk to Him, the Word of God, He talks to me. See that?
Now have you ever been in a one-way conversation with somebody; it’s one of the most frustrating things; either they’re totally quiet and you do all the talking or nine times out of ten they’re doing all the talking, they’re dominating the conversation and you’re really not allowed to say anything because you keep getting interrupted. Well, that’s not a conversation; that isn’t fellowship. A conversation is where both parties are communicating with each other. So there’s a lot of people, and this runs pretty deep in Bible church circles, that all they do is study the Bible, so God is talking to them all the time but their prayer life is dissipated, they don’t talk to God. Or the opposite is true, people pray and pray and pray but their prayers are amiss because they don’t understand the will of God because God answers prayers according to His will and His will is revealed in which book? The Bible. So it’s I talk, talk, talk, but God never talks to me, or God talks to me, talks to me, talks to me but I never talk to Him.
In order to qualify for fruit-bearing, not salvation, fruit-bearing you have to be in a situation where there’s healthy communication; you’re talking to Him on a regular basis and He’s talking to you on a regular basis. And if and when you fall short, which we do, we need to go to God and agree that our sin was wrong, confess it, ask Him to change us, to help us, and the moment we are in regular communication with Him, the moment we are keeping short accounts with Him in terms of personal sin is the moment you become that branch connected to the vine and the fruit that He wants you to bear will come automatically.
So instead of worrying about how many people should I witness to, how many books should I write, how many sermons should I preach, how can I get Sugar Land Bible Church to grow, (or shrink), how can I do this, how can I do that? Maybe just forget all that stuff and just focus on intimacy with Christ, short accounts, regular communication and the fruit is going to come spontaneously. The fruit is going to come automatically. In fact you’ll be shocked at the things that begin to materialize in your life and the doors that will begin to open that you never even planned on because we’re so focused on the fruit and instead the whole function of the fine and the branches is we’re to be focused as a branch on the vine.
I didn’t mean to get off on all that but vine and branches is another imagery that’s used, piece of imagery that’s used. Now you’ll notice that in none of these is He called the King and we’re called the subject. All these other metaphors are used but the King/subject metaphor is not used. One author, and I’m going to close with this, says, his name is Bogmann, quote: “The church by name is a called out assembly. It is also described by different figures. Several references describe it as a building our house, a body and perhaps as a bride but never as the kingdom. So why isn’t the church the kingdom? Jesus is never called the King of the church, and number 2, Jesus Christ’s relationship to His church is never depicted through the king/kingdom metaphor. A lot of other metaphors are used but not the king/kingdom metaphor. And so that takes care of 2 of 13 so we’ll give you the remaining 11 next week. At this point we’ll stop and let folks pick up their kids and make like a leaf and get out of here… I shouldn’t say that kind of stuff should I? If you need to go and those that would like to stick around for Q&A we can do that. I appreciate your patience.