What is the Church's Unique Message?
The risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ has commissioned the church to herald and to teach all that he has taught (Matthew 28:19ff). The church is to go into all the world and proclaim the good news of salvation from the righteous wrath of a holy God and the sin that caused this and the misery and death that has ensued. The church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We were hurled into a world now under God's just curse for the disobedience of our father Adam. As a result of the rebellion of Adam and Eve we all enter this life as guilty of Adam's sin, corrupt, and bereft of the holiness which characterized our First parents when they came from the hand of our Creator. The history of the human race from the time of the Fall till now has been one of a sojourn east of Eden. While God has been gracious to all in providing sun and rain and food and raiment, this kindness does not itself save us.
The forgiveness of sin requires the shedding of blood, so says the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 9:22). God, out of sheer mercy, has provided a way of salvation. This salvation was prefigured in the Old Testament in symbols, ceremonies, and historically significant templates. The way of redemption was made plain in the New Testament. Whether in the Old Testament or the New, the way of salvation, the way of gaining the promised unbroken fellowship with the Triune God of Scripture, is now only available through faith in Jesus Christ as he is clothed in the Gospel. From the time when God sacrificed an animal to clothe our first parents, sin has required sacrifice to atone for sin. This was made especially clear in the ornate sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Jesus Christ is the central concern of the whole of God's Word. This Word tells of Christ in advance, presents him in the days of his earthly ministry (his humiliation), and plumbs the depths of the significance of his person and work in the later two thirds of the New Testament.
Salvation from sin and misery and reconciliation with a holy God is made possible in the perfectly righteous life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on a cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem. The seemingly insignificant execution of an accused political criminal by Roman authorities and the religious leadership of Israel was the means whereby God planned and executed the eternal plan of salvation. While the human motivation for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was hatred and political expediency, the divine intention was the removal of the stain of sin and the provision of positive righteousness.
Jesus christ, God incarnate, was fully God and fully man. Jesus had to be God so that his life and death would be powerful enough, sufficient, to cover the sins of all those who put their trust in him, indeed rest in and on him for their redemption. He had to be man in order to offer his life as a ransom in the place of those who by grace savingly believe on him. It was a man who brought sin into the world by his disobedience and it was by a man that sin was conquered in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Those who hear the gospel message and believe on Jesus unto salvation are thereby saved from sin unto righteousness. Adam was required to render unto his Creator perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience. He failed to that. Jesus came to undo and to surpass, to outstrip even, the disobedience of Adam and the baleful effects which followed. Those who are dead in sin, and unable to do anything to make themselves acceptable to God, who have been chosen by God from before the foundations of the universe, in time hear the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, and because the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, by a secret work enables them to believe on Jesus, do in fact believe and case themselves on Christ.
How is it that what Jesus was and did over 2000 years ago is saving to anyone then, before or after? It is because God determined to save a people for himself and the Son, the second person of the Triune Godhead, voluntarily agreed to be the the Savior of his people, and took to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, and offered himself in the place of his people and in their stead as a substitute and guarantor. Jesus perfectly obeyed the Law of God not only for himself so that he could be a perfect sacrifice when the time came, but so that his righteousness could be shared with his people. He then went to the cross, despising its shame to that he could bring many sons to glory with him. His sacrifice satisfied divine justice. On the cross Jesus bore the wrath of God for his people so that they would not have to bear that punishment themselves. Then Jesus was buried in a tomb and was raised just days later so that sin and misery and death itself was conquered by Jesus in his death on the cross. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Father's seal of approval on his beloved son's life and death.
The unique message of the church is just this message spelled out here. The Christian disciple is called to live in the light of the life and death and resurrection life of Jesus Christ. The Christian is so joined to his Savior and Lord that when the Father looks upon him the Father sees him clothed in the royal robes of Jesus Christ. There is no more profound message than this one. There is no more glorious announcement that can be heralded. The church has been given this message by Jesus himself and it has no power or authority to trim its sails, edit it, or downplay it in any way. The church is only empowered by God to spread this message far and wide.
This unique message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is at the center of the church's public worship, and in the family and personal worship of all Christians. The church and individual believers have often forgotten this message, sometimes frittering away the benefits of the message, and sometimes outright denying it by its belief and behavior. Nevertheless, it is to the church that this precious and stupendous message has been given.
Will you listen carefully and respond to this message and faith and unite to a Bible believing church today? Why wait?
What is the church?
The church is the people of God. It is the living
temple of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is the bride of Christ. It is the
body of Christ. It is these things and so much more. While the church shares many
traits with other organizations and social groups, it is the sole divinely
ordained institution established by the risen and reigning King Jesus to
proclaim the good news of redemption through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
All other organizations that evangelize the lost and edify the saints do so
only as assistants to the church. It is the church and the church alone
that Christ promised would prevail against the gates of hell.
As the people of God united together by union with
Christ to one another and to their head, Jesus Christ, the church has been
assigned a special work no other institution can do. The state can’t do it.
Families can’t do it. Schools can’t do it.
The church has been called into existence, in both its Old
Testament and New Testament forms, to worship and glorify and enjoy the
Triune God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The church exists
to increase the number of God-honoring worshipers throughout the world.
While there are many facets to life in the church, the
central facet is public worship. Throughout the John’s Revelation we get a
glimpse of heavenly worship involving the triumphant church. These are the
saints who have gone before us and are worshiping in glory awaiting the reunion
of bodies and souls at the resurrection and return of our Lord. We in the
militant church here on earth gather on the Sabbath to worship God the Father,
God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three-in-one and One-in-three. We get to practice
now on a weekly basis what we will be doing in the new heavens and new earth
for an eternity.
Given this reality that the church is established by
God and exists for his glory, how we do church and specifically how we conduct
worship is absolutely dependent upon God’s wishes. He gets to tell us how we
should live as the church and he gets to tell us how we should worship him when
we gather before him as his people on Sundays. Just as we would purchase a gift
tie for our dads at Christmas time or for his birthday according to his tastes,
when we come into the Lord’s presence, we do so at his behest according to his direction.
We are often tempted to think that God has not told us
in his Word how we ought to form the church’s structure. But that would be
wrong. Christ Jesus the Lord is head of his church and he governs his church by
the Holy Spirit working with the Word of God through the ministry of Word and
Sacrament performed by a minister, and by pastoral oversight provided by ruling
elders along with the minister, and the care of the material needs of a congregation
offered by her deacons. God has amply provided for his church. If your
congregation is not fully fitted with sufficient or any leaders, pray earnestly
that God would raise them up from among you.
Neither are we left to our imaginations how we should
worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness. Churches are often tempted to
imitate the activities from other realms of life such as the political rally or
the entertainment arena. This is unfortunate since we have the privilege of
coming into the presence of the holy Father of all the universe through the
mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ and inhabited by the same Holy Spirit who
indwelt the tabernacle and temple in the old covenant era. God has told us the
means he will bless as we gather for worship: Scripture reading, preaching, prayer,
psalm and hymn singing, alms-giving, and fellowship. The Protestant Reformation
determined that there were three marks of a legitimate Christian church: the
pure preaching of the Word of God, the due administration of the sacraments of
baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the proper use of church discipline in the
These things hardly look exciting. They do not appear
to be extraordinary. But looks can be and are deceiving. Just as the cross of
Christ looked like an ordinary, run of the mill Roman execution of Palestinian
ne’er-do-well, but was the divinely determined means of putting away sin from
God’s people, so these very ordinary means of God’s gracious blessing are strong
enough with God’s imprimatur to tear down spiritual strongholds. Sinners will
come to faith in Jesus Christ as their only Savior and Lord and their only hope
in life and death. Saints will be fortified in their faith by having their
minds and hearts recalibrated every Lord’s day by the reading and the preaching
of the Word of God.
There is much more to being a living stone in the
temple of the Lord Jesus Christ, but certainly not less! There is fellowship.
There is reaching out to a hurting community in which we live. There is sharing
one another’s hurts and sorrows as well as one another’s joys and triumphs in this
life. But the church is the invention of the Triune God and it is intended by
him to bring him glory and to increase the number of worshipers here below and
up above. In fact, we who worship here below now are already seated with Christ
at the Father’s right hand in the heavenly places. Won’t you join me in this
extraordinary worship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?!