The Church – An Extension of Christ
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

14 – Most Powerful Force

(Matthew 5:13-16)

In the first twelve studies of this series, we concentrated on the early church as recorded in the book of Acts.  In reading the New Testament, you will discover that the first four books, commonly known as the gospels, records for us how God manifested Himself in and through one person, Jesus Christ:

1 Timothy 3:16a
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:  He appeared in a body....

The fifth book of the New Testament, the book of Acts, is an historical account of how God manifested Himself through the early church, the body of Christ.

Now we are going to continue our study of the church, not as it is often understood, but as God intends it to be, an extension of Christ.  For that is what the church is.  According to the clear teaching of the New Testament, the church is the body of Christ.  He is the head and we represent His body.  I can quote many texts, but this one will do:

Colossians 1:15-18
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  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.

Today, however, the word “church” means different things to different people.  To some, the church is a denomination; to others, it is a building; and to still others, it is a group of people or an organization.  But, according to the New Testament, the church is more than this.  It is a living organization, a “Koinonia,” made up of individuals from all cultures and walks of life knit together as if they were one body having certain responsibilities, goals, and objectives.  This means that when the world sees us, they must see Christ in us.

From its very inception, Christ intended the church to be the most powerful force to bring hope, joy, and peace on earth.  According to our Scripture reading, taken from Christ’s sermon on the mount, the church is to be the “salt” of the earth and the “light” of the world:

Matthew 5:13-16
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 by men.
You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Yet today the church has lost its saltiness and is hiding its light under a bushel.

What did Christ mean when He told His disciples that they are to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world?  Typically, Jesus was using two common elements that His disciples were very familiar with and drawing out spiritual lessons that pointed them to what He intended the church to be:

  1. SALT.  We all know that salt is the ingredient we use to flavor our food.  But the disciples Christ was speaking to were mostly fishermen by profession.  To them, salt was not just something they used to flavor their food, but it was a very important ingredient in their trade.  There was no refrigeration in those days, so fishermen rubbed salt into their catch to keep it from rotting before they got to market.

    Jesus was implying two things when He compared the church to salt:

    1. The first implication is negative.  He was implying that the church is living in the midst of a corrupt society.  Because of the sin problem, the world in which we live is rotting.  I do not have to convince you that sin is abounding all around us.  The news media reminds us of this fact every day.

    2. The second implication Christ had in mind when He compared the church to salt is positive.  Just as salt, when rubbed into the dead fish, retarded the rotting process, in the same way, Christians are to retard the rotting process of this world dead in sins and trespasses.  As we rub ourselves with men and women of the world in our daily walk, we should be a retarding force in a corrupt society, besides adding meaning, hope, and flavor to human life.

  2. LIGHT.  When Jesus compared the church to being a light, He used the word “light” in the singular even though the pronoun “you” was in the plural.  According to Scripture, there is only one light.  Christ is that true light, which lights every person that is born in this world:

    John 1:9
    The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

    But since the church, made up of many individuals, is an extension of Christ, the world must see Christ in us the only 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.

The world we live in is not only rotting but is engrossed in darkness and hopelessly lost.  With all our technological advances in science and medicine, men and women are still living in fear because science has no answer for the problem of death.  According to the writer of Hebrews, man’s only solution to the grim reaper is Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 2:14-15
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

But how can Christians bring hope, joy, and peace to others when they themselves are not sure of their own salvation?  Like the believers of Ephesus, most Adventists are living in doubt and fear when it comes to their ulitimate salvation.  Jesus said, let your light so shine before man that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

As a people we are not short of good works, but the question is, are these good works reflecting Christ as the light of the world or are they simply the fair showing of the flesh?  If we are to be the light of the world and reflect Christ, we need to first learn how to stick in the key of the gospel and turn on our spiritual engines.  Only then can we bring light, hope, peace, and joy to those around us, men and women who are groping in darkness.  Paul’s prayer for the release of God’s power is what we need to experience today:

Ephesians 3:16-21
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.  Amen.

This prayer has three progressive steps:

  1. Inner Strength (verse 16).  This inner strength comes not by promotional programs or incentives but from the Holy Spirit.  When Paul talks of “inner being” (NIV) or “inner man” (KJV), he is not referring to our sinful natures which we still possess but to the converted mind which is rejoicing in the good news of the gospel.  It is here where the Holy Spirit gives us strength to face this hostile world in which we live:

    Romans 8:16-17
    The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
  2. The Indwelling Christ (verse 17).  Since Paul is writing to believers who already have Christ dwelling in their hearts, this statement at first seems to make no sense.  But Paul is not referring to Christ simply dwelling in the believer’s heart but permanently dwelling in us.

  3. Incomprehensible Love (verses 17-19).  Here is where most Christians miss the mark.  The word Paul used for love is “agape,” a word that has no equivalent in the English language.  The word “agape” is a noun used some 87 times in the New Testament and describes God’s unconditional love, in total contrast to our human conditional love.  That is why Paul says this love “surpasses knowledge” (NIV) or “which passeth knowledge” (KJV).

The way we come to a knowledge of this incomprehensible love is not through education but by revelation.  It is the Holy Spirit that convinces us in the inner man that our salvation is not based on our human performance but the love of God:

Romans 5:5-8
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

With such an understanding of God’s love, we experience something that the world cannot give us but which it needs desperately.  What is this experience?  The answer is found in John’s first epistle:

1 John 4:16-18
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
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