Built Upon the Rock
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Chapter 9:  The Church
Fundamental Belief #12 The church is the community of believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  In continuity with the people of God in Old Testament times, we are called out from the world; and we join together for worship, for fellowship, for instruction in the Word, for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, for service to all mankind, and for the worldwide proclamation of the gospel.  The church derives its authority form Christ, who is the incarnate Word, and from the Scriptures, which are the written Word.  The church is God’s family; adopted by Him as children, its members live on the basis of the new covenant.  The church is the body of Christ, a community of faith of which Christ Himself is the Head.  The church is the bride for whom Christ died that He might sanctify and cleanse her.  At His return in triumph, He will present her to Himself a glorious church, the faithful of all the ages, the purchase of His blood, not having spot or wrinkle, but holy and without blemish.
[Genesis 12:3; Acts 7:38; Ephesians 4:11-15; 3:8-11; Matthew 28:19-20; 16:13-20; 18:18; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1:22-23; 5:23-27; Colossians 1:17-18]

The word “church” means different things to different people.  To some it means an established denomination, to others a building where Christians worship, while to still others it means a religious group or organization.  In the Bible, however, the church (koinonia) represents a living organism made up of individuals from all races and social structures, male and female, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, knit together as one body in Christ.  To this body of believers, Christ has given delegated authority as well as certain responsibilities, goals, and objectives:

Matthew 18:18
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
John 20:23
“If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

From its very inception, Christ intended the church to be the most powerful force for good on earth.  With Christ as its head, not even the gates of hell can prevail against it:

Matthew 16:18
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

(The “rock” is not Peter but his confession, “You are the Christ.”)  The church as the body of Christ is unique to the New Testament; all other metaphors used in the New Testament to define the church are found also in the Old Testament.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly spelled out the goals and objectives of the church on earth, telling His followers, “you are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world”:

Matthew 5:13-14
“You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

This sermon, delivered on a hillside by the Sea of Galilee, was intended for His disciples (those who accepted Him as their Messiah).  Many of His hearers were fishermen, who used salt to both flavor and preserve the fish they caught, and they understood exactly what Christ was saying when He compared them to salt.

The world in which they were living, like dead fish, was rotting spiritually — as was the antediluvian world before the Flood:

Genesis 6:5
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Scripture does not teach that things are evolving, getting better and better.  It teaches instead that, because of the Fall, sin is multiplying and things are going from bad to worse and that mankind’s only hope is the gospel of Jesus Christ:

Romans 5:20
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more....

Jesus was saying that Christians, like salt, not only add flavor to the insipid life of this world, but slow down the rotting process in a society “dead in trespasses and sins”:

Ephesians 2:1
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins....

This is the negative — or restraining — function of the church.

Then Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world” — a positive function. 

Matthew 5:14
“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

In the Greek, the word you is in the plural, while the world light is singular, for though the church is made up of many individuals, it is one corporate body that is to reflect only one light.  That light is none other than Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  Jesus said of Himself:

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 1:4
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

As the body of Christ, the church is to reflect His life, through the good works of His disciples.  Through them the world will see Christ’s true character of selfless love and will glorify the Father in heaven:

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Paul says the believer’s goal should be, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”:

Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Before Jesus left this world, He gave His disciples “a new commandment,”:

John 13:34- 35
“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This is the church’s mission, as ambassadors of Christ on earth.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.

Unfortunately, the church today has lost its saltiness and is hiding its light under a bushel, “having a form of godliness but denying its power”:

2 Timothy 3:5
...Having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with such people.

No wonder its impact for good in the world is small.  The church today desperately needs revival and reformation.  But it will take more than promotional programs to turn things around.  Only a clear understanding of the gospel and the power of the cross, and surrender to its demands will bring change.

Galatians 6:14
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

In the New Testament, the word for “church” comes from two Greek words joined together, ek and klesia, from which we get the English word “ecclesiastical.”  Ekklesia was commonly used in secular Greek to refer to any gathering of people for a special meeting or occasion.  But in the Bible, it refers exclusively to the gathering of God’s people — the body of Christ, the church.  Christians have indeed been called out from the kingdom of this world under Satan, to the kingdom of heaven under Christ.

John 15:18-19
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.”

The apostle Peter describes Christians as:

1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The world of spiritual darkness is driven by three egocentric drives, or compulsions:  “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”:

1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

In contrast, the church is made up of individuals who have surrendered their self-centered bios-lives to the cross of Christ and who through the zoe-life of Christ, powered by the Holy Spirit, are denying these three sinful drives.

Galatians 5:24
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Romans 13:14
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Christ makes it clear:

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Each of these New Testament descriptions helps define what the church should be.  But, sad to say, the church today falls far short of this ideal.  The reason is twofold.

First, there has been a falling away from the true gospel, the power of God unto salvation, and the church is no longer reflecting the holy and righteous zoe-life of Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us — whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter — asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.  Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.  He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

We see little difference today between the behavior of the world and of the church, which resembles the general condition of the Corinthian church of Paul’s day.  He told those members:

1 Corinthians 3:3
You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere humans?

Second, not all who call themselves Christians are truly converted, born-again believers.  The church, Jesus said, will always contain two groups — the true and the false, the wheat and the tares [weeds]:

Matthew 13:24-30
Jesus told them another parable:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest.  At that time I will tell the harvesters:  First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Between the world, under Satan, and the church, under Christ, stands the cross of Christ, and His cross will allow nothing of the world to creep into the church.

Today the church is borrowing ideas from the world and depending on worldly resources for its success.  But when the everlasting gospel of the three angels has done its job and God’s people emerge from their Babylonish self-centeredness...

Daniel 4:30
...He said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

...the church will once again turn this world upside down with the power of the gospel message, as it did in the New Testament times:

Acts 17:6
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting:  “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here....”

May that day come soon.

The twelfth fundamental belief of the Adventist church states that the New Testament church “is in continuity with the people of God in Old Testament times.”  The Jews mistakenly identified the church (people of the covenant) with the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — the three fathers of Israel.  The apostle Paul corrected this misunderstanding in his letter to the Romans.  First, he stated in Chapter 2 that:

Romans 2:28-29
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

In Chapter 9, the apostle then further defines true Israel in God’s eyes, declaring:

Romans 9:6-8
It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel [descendants of Jacob] are Israel.  Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.  On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  In other words, it is not the children by physical descent [natural descendants] who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Paul is saying that the church consists of those who are born from above, like Isaac, and who possess the spiritual qualities of Abraham.  What are these qualities, and where does Jacob, the third father, fit in?

A careful study of the lives of these three great men of God reveals that Abraham represents faith — the first attribute of those who make up God’s family.  Note how Paul expresses this truth in defense of justification by faith alone:

Romans 4:13-18
It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.  For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath.  And where there is no law there is no transgression.  Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law [Jews] but also to those who have the faith of Abraham [Gentile believers]. He is the father of us all.  As it is written:  “I have made you a father of many nations.”  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Galatians 3:6-9
So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.  Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham:  “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

The second characteristic of those who truly belong to the family of God is the new birth, represented by Isaac.

John 3:5-8
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The historical Isaac was special primarily because of the nature of his birth.  When Abraham was 75 years old, God promised him a son:

Genesis 12:1-4
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

But not until Abraham reached 100 years of age did God fulfill that promise:

Genesis 21:5
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Why did God wait so long?  Apparently because He wanted Abraham to understand that this child’s birth was miraculous — that because Sarah was long past child-bearing age, the conception would otherwise be impossible.  Through this extraordinary intervention, God established that salvation is based on His promise in Christ, not on human effort.  Paul brings this point forward to the Galatian Christians, who were trapped in a subtle form of legalism:

Galatians 4:28
Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.

But faith and the new birth require persistence — they must endure to the end, said Jesus, if they are to bring salvation:

Matthew 10:22
You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Jacob represents a faith that endures, or perseveres.  Even before Jacob was born, God had promised his mother, Rebecca, that of her two sons, “the older shall serve the younger,” and that Jacob — not Esau — would possess the spiritual birthright and be the Messianic ancestor.

Romans 9:12
...Not by works but by him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”

The promise, in fact, contradicted the normal laws of birthright.

The name Jacob means “schemer,” and describes Jacob’s lifelong quest to obtain the birthright by deceit and cunning.  Finally, after wrestling with the Man of God and prevailing, his name was changed from Jacob to Israel:

Genesis 32:22-28
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.  So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

And Jacob at last realized that, when God makes a promise, it is He who fulfills it.

The experience of no other character in the Bible better describes the battle between the flesh and the Spirit than does Jacob’s.  All who make up the church must face this internal conflict, but, as the writer of Hebrews so succinctly puts it:

Hebrews 10:38-39
And,
“But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

We can say, then, that the church is made up of individuals who:
  1. have the faith of Abraham,
  2. have experienced the new birth from above like Isaac, and
  3. have a faith that endures to the end, like Jacob’s.

Together, these core qualities in every believer represent a living connection with the Lord, Jesus Christ — the Head of the church.

The New Testament uses many metaphors to describe the church, all of which point either to a living connection with Christ or to a total dependence on Him.  The church is called:

  1. a “flock,” with Christ as the shepherd:

    John 10:1-15, 26-30
    “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
    Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
    “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.  So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.  Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.
    ...But you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”
  2. “branches,” with Christ as the vine:
    John 15:5
    “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
  3. a “holy temple,” with Christ as the chief cornerstone:

    Ephesians 2:19-22
    Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
  4. or a “wife,” with Christ as the husband:

    Ephesians 5:29-32
    After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church.

These metaphors all represent a unique relationship between believers and their Savior, Jesus Christ.  The flock depends totally on the shepherd for survival, protection, and care.  Likewise, believers rely totally on Christ:

Matthew 6:25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Without the vine, the branches wither away and bear no fruit.  So it is with believers who lose their living-faith connection with Christ:

John 15:4
Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Buildings in Bible lands were primarily made of stone and, during construction, each stone had to line up with the chief cornerstone.  Likewise, all Christian experience must be measured by the truth as it is in Christ:

1 Corinthians 3:11-13
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

God’s ideal in marriage is that a husband and wife become one flesh — that they are to act as one person.  Their thoughts, goals in life, and behavior are to be united.  Believers must likewise be united in Christ:

Ephesians 5:30-31
...For we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Their desires, ambitions, goals in life, and behavior must bear witness to their connection with Christ:

Acts 1:8
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

All of these are key metaphors that the Old and New Testaments apply to the church, but the unique description, “body of Christ,” appears only in the New.  According to the apostle Paul, every true believer is baptized into the body of Christ through the Holy Spirit:

1 Corinthians 12:13
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

The New Testament does not regard the church as either a building or a denomination, but a spiritual body — a community, or fellowship, of believers (Greek, koinonia).  This fellowship of believers consists of men and women of all races and walks of life who have one thing in common — they have all obeyed the gospel and been baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit:

1 Corinthians 12:12
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
Romans 12:2-5
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Ephesians 1:19-23
...And his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

The Christian church today, unfortunately, is a far cry from this ideal.  It has splintered into various denominations and non-denominational groups, each of which claims to have the truth.  This denies the unity of the body which, in turn, undermines the power of the gospel.  In praying to the Father for His disciples, Jesus expressed this concern (emphasis mine):

John 17:20-21
“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.”

This unity will not be regained through human efforts, such as the ecumenical movement.  This will occur only when God’s prophetic people fulfill their divine commission of restoring the pure and full everlasting gospel, and the earth is lit up with the glory of Christ through the loud cry of the fourth angel.

Revelation 10:11
Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
Revelation 18:1-5
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.  With a mighty voice he shouted:  “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.  For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.  The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven say:  “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.

At that time, the unity of the body will become a reality.  Paul writes:

Ephesians 4:4-6
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.

But every believer must keep in mind that Christ is the head of the body, just as the head controls every part of the human body.

Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church....  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  ...For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
Colossians 1:18; 2:19
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  ...They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Every Christian must be connected with Christ, in what the Bible calls a slave-master relationship:

1 Corinthians 7:22
For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.
Ephesians 6:6
Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.
Philippians 1:1
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons....

Of all the biblical metaphors illustrating the relationship between Christ and His church, the unity between Christ (the head) and believers (His body) is the most intimate — we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones:

Ephesians 5:30
...For we are members of his body.

Those who wish to function as the body of Christ need to keep certain principles in mind.  First, just as the various parts of the physical body are vitally connected to the head by the nervous system, so there must be a living connection between the believer and Christ, which is why Paul says to:

1 Thessalonians 5:17
...Pray continually....

Without such a connection, a believer becomes spiritually paralyzed and a burden to the church, as happens physically when any nerve leading to a part of the human body is severed from the head.

Second, every believer must be submissive to Christ, as every part of the human body submits to the directions supplied by the head.  What if the organs tried to live independently of the will of the head?  Suppose, for example, the stomach is empty and crying for food.  So it tells the brain, which immediately tells the legs to take the body to the kitchen for food.  Now, suppose the legs refuse to cooperate.  The body, in worse case, could starve to death.  Just so, every believer must be fully submissive to Christ, the head of the spiritual body.  Or as Paul puts it, we should consider ourselves slaves of Christ:

1 Corinthians 7:22
For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.

Only then will the church reflect the Lord’s holy zoe-life.

Finally, every believer has a vital part to play in the church, just as no part of the physical body is truly superfluous.  The apostle Paul made this very clear to the church members at Corinth:

1 Corinthians 12:14-24
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.  But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it....

The Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts to each believer, so the church can fulfill its mission on earth:

1 Corinthians 12:7
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

These gifts are given:

Ephesians 4:12-13
...To equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Those who become part of Christ’s body stand “complete in Him”:

Colossians 2:10
...And in Christ you have been brought to fullness.  He is the head over every power and authority.

This means that when the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers, God sees them as if they had never sinned.  This provides the fullness of salvation and of a place reserved for them in heaven.  But it does ask the believer, in turn, to reflect His righteousness to the world.  Paul refers to this as “Christ in you, the hope of glory”:

Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Just as Jesus was able to manifest God to the world through the incarnation, so believers are to manifest Christ to the world through the righteousness He imputes to them.

1 Timothy 3:16
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

How is this accomplished?  Jesus told His disciples that there were to live in His power, in the same way He lived by the power of the Father:

John 6:57
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

This means that, just as God worked in Christ, so Christ must work in and through His believers:

John 14:10-12
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.  Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

In practical terms, His followers must follow Christ’s own example, by putting self aside and totally surrendering the will to Him:

John 5:19, 30
Jesus gave them this answer:  “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  ...By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

The formula of the gospel is:  Not I, but Christ, the path to true obedience.

Galatians 2:19-20
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Jesus Himself describes it this way:

John 12:24-25
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their [bios] life will lose it, while anyone who hates their [bios] life in this world will keep it for eternal [zoe] life.

Once the bios-life is submitted to the cross of Christ, the door is open for the Spirit to take over and manifest the life of Christ in the believer.  This is the church’s highest priority.  The church is an extension of the incarnate Christ; through His followers, the world is to get a glimpse of His matchless charms.  But for this to happen, every believer must walk in the Spirit.  Take the example of the apostle Peter.  Before Pentecost, he walked in his own strength.  Though he was ever so sincere when he promised Jesus he would never deny him, when tested, he failed miserably.  Yet only a few days later, Peter was proclaiming Christ powerfully before a multitude!  What made the difference?  The power of the Holy Spirit had filled him at Pentecost.

Acts 2:14
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:  “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.”

The first four New Testament books present a historical account of God being manifested in one Man, Jesus Christ.  The fifth is the Book of Acts, an account of God being manifested through the church, the body of Christ.  What was the secret behind the power of the early church?  These men and women were filled with the Holy Spirit!  Stephen, for example, was the first Christian martyr and, even before He was selected as a deacon in the early church, he was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit”:

Acts 6:5
This proposal pleased the whole group.  They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

Why, then, was this glorious witnessing period so short-lived?  An unfortunate departure from the pure and true gospel of Christ occurred.  Self took over, and the church was plunged into darkness.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.  He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Yes, it grew in numbers, but it became an established institution devoid of spiritual power, especially during the Dark Ages.

Today, to a large degree, we see the same situation in the Christian church.  If the church of the 21st Century is to turn the world upside down with the power of the gospel, there must be a restoration of that pure and complete gospel first proclaimed by Christ’s apostles.  I believe God has raised up a movement to fulfill this mission, to restore and proclaim with a loud voice the everlasting gospel, the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14.

The original power of the gospel comes from what Christ accomplished for the entire human race, some 2,000 years ago, by His birth, life, death, and resurrection.  But this power is meaningless unless demonstrated in the life of the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The apostle Paul, therefore, does not limit the word “grace” to redemption in Christ, but also applies it to the power of God demonstrated in and through believers:

1 Corinthians 15:9-10
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them [the other apostles] — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

The apostle repeats the message in his second epistle to the Corinthians.  This is what he recorded (the phrases “My grace,” “My strength,” and “the power of Christ” all refer to the same power — they are interchangeable and synonymous):

2 Corinthians 12:7-9
...Or because of these surpassingly great revelations.  Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

God wants to demonstrate “His grace,” “His strength,” and “the power of Christ” in the life of every believer individually, and in the church collectively.  To that end, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in every true follower.  The Spirit was not to save the believers (He is not a co-redeemer with Christ), but to make real and to manifest in them the salvation Christ had already obtained.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts and calls believers from worldly ways, the better to demonstrate through them the saving power of the gospel.  Peter says that the believers are:

1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you [believers] may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Believers may indeed shout “hallelujah” as they praise the Lord, but this passage is referring to their role in exalting the life of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to a world groping in spiritual darkness.  The church has the potential of becoming the most powerful force on earth for good.

But how can people from various nations, cultures, bounds, outlooks, temperaments, and walks of life, become a united body?  With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  What the United Nations has failed miserably to accomplish, God will do when the church comes together in the truth of the everlasting gospel — united in one faith, one baptism, one Sabbath, and one Lord and Master:

Ephesians 4:4-6
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.

In the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the objective facts of the gospel, all humanity was redeemed and reconciled to God:

2 Corinthians 5:18-19
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

But unless this good news is communicated and demonstrated to the whole world in a compellingly positive way, the end will not come:

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

God has commissioned His church to carry the knowledge of salvation to the entire human race and, to that end, has equipped the church with various gifts.

The church, therefore, is an extension of Christ’s mission on earth.  His mission was:

Luke 4:18
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free....”

This same mission is now to be fulfilled by the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  When this happens, the earth will indeed be “illuminated with His glory”:

Revelation 18:1
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.

But this will take place only when the church reaches maturity.  The church talks a great deal about the importance of evangelism, but all efforts to evangelize the world will be frustratingly inadequate unless the church first reaches maturity.  Some believe and teach that evangelism helps produce maturity.  But true evangelism is an outgrowth of maturity, not its instigator, as Pentecost proved and church history confirms.  Many who come through the front door and join an immature congregation will quickly leave through the back.  We would hear more about this, were it not that many world divisions hesitate to admit how seriously this impacts their active membership count.

God wants the church to no longer be immature:

Ephesians 4:14-16
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

When the church reaches this level of maturity, it will make its ultimate impact on the world.  Through the humanity of Christ, God fully revealed Himself to mankind:

John 14:8-11
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered:  “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”

At Pentecost, this manifestation of God was reproduced in the apostolic church, and the world of that time was turned upside down with the gospel message:

Acts 17:6
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting:  “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here....”

Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God plans to repeat this manifestation in a most powerful way in these last days and, when that occurs, there will be no more excuse for anyone to be lost.  God can then bring sin to an end and usher in everlasting righteousness.

With this purpose in mind, I believe, God raised the Advent Movement; when this prophetic people at last fulfills its mission of proclaiming the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, the devil will become enraged and will make war with this last generation of Christians, who have the testimony of Jesus Christ and are keeping the commandments of God by exhibiting selfless love:

Revelation 12:17
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring — those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

This will be the final showdown in the great controversy between Christ and Satan.  At that time, the church triumphant will be truly be able to sing what the writer of the song, Onward, Christian Soldiers! wishfully penned:

Like a mighty army moves the church of God.
Christians, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided; all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine; one in charity!
Onward, Christian soldiers!  Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

What a glorious day that will be!  The church, as the body of Christ, and with Christ as its head, will at last be one flesh.  And the third angel will proclaim to the universe:

Revelation 14:12
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

We continue reading:

Revelation 14:14-16
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.  Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”  So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
Revelation 22:20
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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