The Church: Manifestation Of God's Wisdom
(My Part In The Local Church)
A. Text: Eph. 3:10 As we develop this series it is hoped that we will, throughout, be impressed with the wisdom of God as it is manifest in the design and function of the local church.
B. We previously observed that, while salvation is obtained by means of obedience to the truth (1 Pet. 1:22; Rom. 6:17-18), and enrollment with the universal body of Christians (Heb. 12:23) takes place at the same time when God adds us to His company of saved believers, membership in the local church must be chosen, as we identify ourselves among other Christians and are accepted into their fellowship for work and worship.
1. Divine wisdom has determined that his people would not worship and serve him in isolation (though we worship him privately as well, Cf. Mt. 5:6), but instead in union and unity.
2. That by mutual assistance we might grow and develop, and work together for the furtherance of ourselves and of the church.
3. Thus we see at the very inception of the kingdom, disciples uniting together as one for their edification, and in their work and worship. See Acts 2:42-47
4. (It is this sense of mutual effort and benefit that I'm afraid is losing ground among the Lord's people!)
C. It is my purpose in this study to present God's revealed wisdom as it pertains to my part in the local church.
II. Choosing To Belong:
A. When Paul wrote to the "saints in Christ Jesus who [were] at Philippi, along with the overseers and deacons (1:1), he wrote to the church in that city. If you note the context carefully, he identifies and addresses them as one (Cf. 1:27; 2:1-2), because they not only lived in relative proximity to one another, but they also acted together in concert (4:15). But, how had they become such?
1. It is evident that they became the church at Philippi because they agreed to work together as one (a collectivity).
a. Under common oversight (the bishops of 1:1).
b. They had a common treasury, 4:15
c. Furthermore, it is plainly implicit that they worshiped and worked together within the pattern of other N.T. churches. Acts 2, Col. 3:16 (one another); 1 Cor. 16:1-2, Acts 20:7, etc.
2. The same way churches today become a local entity (i.e., a local church). It's important that we grasp that, because it's relevant to our part in the local church.
3. Because, fellowship (distinct from membership as we'll note momentarily) in a local church is begun and maintained by mutual agreement.
4. I must choose to enter into fellowship with them and they must agree to accept me into their fellowship (Acts 9:26; Cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-13--there are some who would have fellowship with us, but we must not have fellowship with them)
5. For both it's benefits and obligations!
B. Being part of the a local church means we agree to participate in the fellowship (defined as: joint effort) of work, and worship and building up of one another.
1. Since God has designed that there be leadership in the church (local), namely elders, and in their absence, spiritual men, when we enter into fellowship with a group of brethren we, at the same time, agree to yield to their leadership. Compare Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
a. Note: As elders (leaders) it is critical that they lead, not as despotic Lords, but by wisdom and example!
2. This voluntary fellowship means I will that I involve myself in the spiritual activities of the church.
a. And not only those that are kept, necessarily, by explicit command from the Lord (e.g. the Lord's supper, on the Lord's day) but also those things that are planned by the leadership for the purpose of worship, evangelism, and mutual edification
b. E.g., Bible classes, gospel meetings, and others. See Heb. 10:25
3. While entering into fellowship with a specific group of Christians is voluntary, fellowship with a local church is not!
a. There are some things that God, by infinite wisdom, has determined that we cannot accomplish alone.
b. So, we must choose to labor with others with whom we can have spiritual fellowship.
4. It's not within the scope of this study to address the matter of how to determine which group of brethren to fellowship (or whether to begin a new fellowship, i.e., local church) but I would simply say that, while the universal church is perfect because it is made up of those whom God has accepted into His fellowship, there are no "perfect" local churches, because they are comprised of imperfect men.
a. We ourselves (individually), at our very best, are imperfect.
b. So, if your criteria is the "perfect church" you will not be satisfied with this group of brethren! Nor with any other!
c. The best we can hope for is to find a church that is trying to be perfect and is that is making honest effort to be a church that is like the divine pattern.
III. An Earnest Participant:
A. There is a distinction between membership and fellowship, at least as far as the terms are defined.
1. Membership is used to speak of the roll of the church or group. Those whose names are listed as members.
a. Illustrate: I am a member of the Ozaukee/Washington County Beekeepers Association.
b. All that means, at present, is that I have paid my dues. I have not attended a meeting or participated in any of it's activities in several years)
2. Fellowship (Gk: KOINONIA) involves a sharing in common, participation.
3. My part (and yours) in the local church must involve more than membership. We must be earnest participants.
B. The wisdom of God is again evident in the diversity of our individuality.
1. In the local church there is a multiplicity of different tasks to be accomplished.
2. He has so designed us that we, though individually different from one another, working together as one, might be able to accomplish His work and ascribe to Him our worship, in the church.
C. The analogy the apostle, Paul, uses of the human body to illustrate what is true in the local church demonstrates not only individual diversity among us, and the value of each one, but it also emphasizes the necessity of each one's individual work. See Rom. 12:3ff
1. Note: the variety of things mentioned as functions of the body Cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-30.
2. We are not just useful, we are needed! His point is not that we have intrinsic value, though it may presently be wasted, he means each one is an essential part.
3. Just like our physical body, the optimum functioning of the spiritual body is dependent upon the proper working of each individual part. Eph. 4:16
D. The parable of the talents. Mt. 25:14-30 "The kingdom of heaven is like..." (V. 1) He is talking about the stewardship of Christians who have been entrusted with the possessions (i.e., God's blessings, including our abilities), of the Master (God).
1. Each one in the parable was given talent(s).
a. We must realize that we have all been entrusted with the Lord's possessions; we all have ability and can make a contribution in a significant way.
b. But most importantly, we must use our talents to make a difference! And develop more...the point of the parable (those who used them gained more!).
c. Wasting our usefulness not only hinders the overall growth of the body, but will deprive us of greater usefulness (v. 29) and cost us of an eternal inheritance (v. 30)
d. "Blessed is the slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes...and from everyone who has been given much, of him shall much be required..." Lk 12:42-48
2. We must discover (by putting our hand to the plow) our part and train ourselves (by development and discipline) so that we might fulfill our duty in the fellowship of building up the body of Christ.
a. It's not about doing great things (there was only one apostle, Paul), it's about doing small things in a great way. And about doing what we can do.
b. Whether as a servant of the church, like Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2) or Anna (Lk. 2:36-38 Read), or like Urbanus and Tryphaena and Tryphosa and Persis, who are applauded as "workers in the Lord." Rom. 16:9, 12.
c. By a myriad of duties great and small.
3. And remember that we, alone, are accountable for our own part, even if there are others who do what we do, and do it with greater ability!
4. And, may I say, that our part is not discharged by filling a pew during worship, even if we attend all the services!
5. It is not enough to be a member of the local church (to "attend the meetings"), we must have fellowship in the work that God, in His great wisdom, designed for the church.
IV. The Result: Building Up The Body In Love:
A. The result of all of our this is what makes every ounce of effort worthwhile. Our efforts will not go unrewarded. See 1 Cor. 15:58. And not just in terms of personal blessing, though we will be rewarded (Heb. 6:10), but in the building up of the body of Christ.
B. It began with Christ in the choice of His apostles, and then other inspired men who were equipped to train still more. And the process continues. 2 Tim. 2:2
1. Eph. 4:11-16 Emphasize their purpose and the result.
2. "According to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." V. 16b
C. In His infinite wisdom, the heavenly architect has designed the church so that by means of our individual talent and unique personality we can play a significant part in the building of the kingdom of heaven. And it's accomplished, principally, through our efforts in the local church.
D. Are you doing your part in the work?
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