THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 12-19-04
LESSON TITLE: "FROM HEAVEN OR MEN: ORGANIZATION OF GOD'S CHURCH"
Good Morning and Happy Holidays! We welcome each of you to the Living Word Program. As always, we will be privileged this morning to give this time to God. We hope and pray that our songs of praise and our study, will be acceptable in His sight, on this magnificent Lord's Day. May we not only glorify God, but may we all learn and be encouraged through the things we do together this morning. Now, let's begin with a prayer!
How blessed we are to have a Savior who has extended the call of Salvation to all who will believe and obey. Won't you join in with the congregation at this time as we together sing about this wondrous truth. The name of our first song, "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling."
(SONG # 1)
Here it is December 19th, 2004, and only days until Santa comes to see all of us. As most, I certainly love this time of year and all the wondrous and secular stories surrounding this holiday. Santa Claus, Flying reindeer, Red nosed reindeer, a sleigh - full of toys for all the children of the world, elves who make the toys. How the faces of little ones light up as they hear the story of the night before Christmas. What a privilege it is to celebrate this time of good, clean fun - which promotes love, family and giving.
On the other hand, as we began to consider last week, let's also remember how this holiday began. From a religious standpoint many celebrate this day as the date our Lord was born around 2000 years ago. Great emphasis is placed on the birth of our Lord and it's significance to this world. Let me say, Amen, as far as the importance of Christ Jesus coming into this world, so that He later could become a sacrifice for our sins and purchase His church.
However, isn't it also important to clarify the facts and show our knowledge concerning the things of Christ and His Word? The reality is no man knows the exact hour, day, or even year that our Lord Jesus was born in that manger? No matter how important or significant the event is, we must ask the question, "does this give us the right to set up and bind a religious day or a religious feast and celebrate it?" Is it within our authority to bind days and feasts on God's people that He, Himself is silent about in the scriptures?
Let's also consider from the religious standpoint, where this holiday comes from? Around 300 A. D., the Catholic church began to promote the idea of this religious holiday. The only problem was that the Roman Catholic church and the Greek Orthodox Catholic church could not agree on a common date to hold the holiday. Finally, the first time this holiday was officially celebrated was in Rome on December 25, 325 A. D.
I think it is important to note that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ began around 33 A. D. and it was not until 300 years later that this holiday was established. So let me ask you, what does this tell you about this holiday, again from a religious standpoint? Well it tells me that it is man-made: established by man, appointed by man and set up by man! If the Bible is silent about it and the first church established by our Lord, for 300 years did not practice it; I think we must be very careful about celebrating it as something of God or approved of by God.
Let me make one final point! What event in the life of Christ bears the greatest significance to the follower of Christ? You and I know that it is His death. Why then don't we have a yearly feast for it? I will tell you why, God hasn't commanded it, authorized it or sanctioned it. However, what He has authorized is that we assemble every first day of the week. And when we do so, we are to reverence, glorify, honor, praise and magnify His holy name! We are to thank Him for all He has done, is doing and has promised to do for us. Thanks be to God, that we have a weekly opportunity to remember Him and worship Him every first day of the week.
So, let's enjoy this season and it's secular parts as we use this time for showing others how much we care about and love them. Furthermore, let's make it our duty to show God the homage and reverence due to Him when He has asked us to in His Word - every first day of the week. So, let's not be satisfied with once a century, once a year, or once a month, but only accept once a week, just as He has commanded! How important is your God to you?
Please stay with us, because after our next song I will return with our main lesson from God's Word. This morning we will again focus on the series entitled, "From Heaven Or Men" and our specific lesson will deal with the "Organization of God's Church!" But before we dive in to this important discussion of the day, let's sing our next song together. Won't you join in the hymn, "He Leadeth Me!"
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Ray Sullins
If you ask your religious friends who they are associated with or what religion they are involved in or where the headquarters of their church is, you're going to get a lot of different answers because today we find that man has organized his church in many different ways. We can look around and find that in many different major cities that churches have headquarters that are over all of the churches. We have different types of councils and committees and different groups that are set up to run the church in different ways according to what man has devised. We have different types of governing bodies at times that certainly impose their authority again on what a church or churches should do.
Well the question that we've been asking in our series together is: Is this from heaven or is this from man? What is it in the Bible that we find as far as God's method of organizing His church? Was it His plan that a man or men that is that really lead or rule or be over the church and control many churches? I think it's very important that we understand this because God has taught us through His Word, secondly by example in the New Testament church and those things inferred in the Word exactly how He intended that His church would be organized. The pattern again is found in the Bible. The first thing that we notice about the New Testament church is that congregations were autonomous congregations. We never find that there was one church that ruled over or lead or controlled another church or group of churches. As we find in the history of man's organization, there were at times those who began to plan a church and then that church would be over that congregation and because they might plant three or four churches, this city church or big church would then be over and rule those other churches and so on and so forth. And then one in a larger city would then be over maybe a diocese or an area and so on and so forth. Is this what we find in the New Testament? Certainly not. Rather it is just the opposite. What we do find is that each church was individual. Each church was set up and organized in an autonomous way and then ruled themselves. Each church governed itself in trying to accomplish those things that God had commanded. And guess what. There were no earthly headquarters. Not only were there no earthly headquarters, there were no men of the earth who were head of the church, but the New Testament only speaks of one head of the church and it's clearly given to us once again in the only man, the only deity that is worthy to bear such a title.
In Ephesians chapter 1 beginning in verse 22, we find there that the Bible says, "And He (that is God) put all things under His feet (Jesus') and gave Him to be head over all things to the church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." Why is it that Jesus is the only fit head? He's the only one who died for it, the only one who gave His blood in Acts 20:28, the only one through His blood who purchased the church. These verses here tell us that He is the one who has been put as the head in all things concerning the church. No man. Where do you find the reference to a man there who was somehow able to supersede or control or take the position that Christ is the only head and where is it that He teaches us from? What is the method? Certainly His Word. He has given us His command. He has given us His desires, His organization. He has given us His law through the Word because He is the head and the only fit head because He is the only one who died and thus the church is His body. Notice the body being Christ's body and the head being Christ's head. How many heads do you have? Only one. There's only one head then also to the church that Christ built.
In the same book, Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 23 or right in that section, actually we have a long discussion about the church and again the body in Christ and all these things being one, but if you'll notice there specifically again in 23 the Bible says, "As the husband is head of the wife, so Christ is head of the church." Why? It goes on to say because He is the savior of the body. Christ is the only head of the church. So when we start talking about organization in the church or organizing the church as God the Father intended, there's only one fit head that we should turn to as our leader, commander, king, savior and the one on high, and that is Jesus Christ. He is the only one who was willing to pay the price, who shed His blood, who bought the church, and the only one who in Matthew who says, "I will build my church." That's what Jesus said and thus again, He is the head and the only fit head in the church.
However, we do find that as our Lord is head, that there have been certain positions laid out, certain things that He hath fulfilled in order that the functions might be carried out in the church that He established. If you'll look again in Ephesians chapter 4, there in verse 11 He says, "And He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and some teachers." Why? Because in the church as Christ is the head, verse 12 says that "they might equip the saints in the work of the ministry to edify the body of Christ." What is the work? The work of those who are in these special offices of the church so to speak, in these special services of the church. It is that as those who are under the head, they might equip the head's body, the church, that is Christ's body again, the church.
So as Christ is the head, then what are these other things that are mentioned? We certainly know what the apostles meant. We know what prophets were. Prophets were certainly clearly revealed to us under the Old Testament times and even in the New Testament, those who were foretelling things that were given to them through God and by God once again. So we know what those are, but what about in the New Testament church? What were these pastors? We find that the Bible talks about pastors and actually refers to them in several different ways. We find the reference of one who not only sees, an overseer, as is mentioned there in Acts 20:28. We find the concept as well of a shepherd, of a bishop, one who presides or one who again tends, the shepherd tending the flock or caring for the flock, making sure that they are fed and that they are provided for and cared for. What is it then that a pastor, an elder does? He feeds the flock. With what? Spiritual things. He makes sure that we have the spiritual things that we need.
Now what I'd like you to do is to get a piece of paper because I want you to write down and read these verses later because we don't have time in our program this morning. There are two places where we can find qualifications for overseers, bishops or pastors as they are referred to, these elders of the church. We find first of all in 1 Timothy chapter 3 where it talks about one who desires the work of a bishop, that he must be blameless, be of one wife, that he must be temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, apt to teach or able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy of money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well. His children submit with all reverence, who certainly is not a novice lest he be puffed up with pride as even the devil fell into the same snare. Here we find a list of qualifications that are reiterated to us in the book of Titus chapter 1 beginning in verse 5. We find certain qualifications. I don't know about you, but I've had certain individuals, many individuals who have come up to me before even at the door at my house and said, "I'm an elder," who've been kids, who have been teenagers, who claimed to be elders, who aren't the husband of one wife, who aren't yet in the position of these situations that we are talking about here who do not have children let alone being able to rule a house that has children. These were wise people, people who were qualified because of their age, their eldership, their wisdom, their ability to know the truth because they had served in the body of Christ, and then it was these individuals who were chosen and appointed even as Paul there told Titus in Titus chapter 1 and verse 5 that he should go into Crete and appoint elders in every city. There should be elders in every church able to lead those autonomous groups to make sure that their spiritual needs are done, to make sure that their evangelistic needs are fulfilled and to make sure that everyone is accomplishing the good work of the Lord.
Yes, the elders were to rule, but not to rule as lords, but the Bible tells us to shepherd as a shepherd would tend and care and love the flock. We find this in 1 Peter chapter 5 verses 1-4. I hope you'll read that later where certainly it tells us there that these are not lords, but there's a chief shepherd in verse 4 being Jesus Christ. There's a chief shepherd, the chief head, the head of the church whom these serve under not like diotraphis in 3 John, who loved to have preeminence, but those who loved the Father and those who are serving because they want to serve God and serve others so that spiritually the needs that God has set out through His Word will be fulfilled.
I want you also to notice the deaconship that is mentioned not only again in the same books of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus there again in chapter 1, but that deaconship that is mentioned there in Acts, special servants who were called out (Acts 6, verses 1-7) and selected by the church for certain works like administering to the widows and their needs, the orphans, to fulfill special services in the church. These individuals were selected because again they were of high esteem. They were blameless. They met certain qualifications. But then these deacons would fulfill certain functions in the church, more laborous and laborious type functions. The elders the spiritual things, the deacons the physical things. Every church having elders. Every church having deacons. And autonomously fulfilling the commands of God. When a new church was planted, guess what. Titus, Timothy, Paul and others, they encouraged them to appoint elders as spiritual shepherds. They encouraged them to have deacons to fulfill the physical works and they even then found themselves needing ministers and evangelists and teachers and those who would come as members and worship. We all have our special function. We all have talents given to us by God that we might use these talents to His glory and praise in worship and as we live every day of the week. And as we even read there in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 beginning in verse 12, it says, "For as the body..." what's the body? Christ's body again of which He is the head. "...as the body is one and has many members but all the members of that body being many are one body so also is Christ." Many members. Many members and as we read on down through here, many functions and particular functions according to our talents and according to again what God hath blessed us with because even in verse 27 it says, "Now you are the body of Christ and members individually." You see, we are members, but we make up the single body, the single church, the single group of followers that is lead by the one head that between there, I guess somewhere in the neck, has those who have been appointed by Christ to oversee and shepherd on his behalf the flock, elders, to do special literal services for the church, the deacons, and then every member to work and to teach and to evangelize and grow and worship and praise God and preachers and evangelists who proclaim the truth as Timothy and Titus as well were told.
I love what was said there in Timothy, 1 Timothy chapter 4 that "he was to preach the Word, that he was to make known the gospel of Christ." We need special preachers. Brethren, we all have a work to do and the work that we have to do is to obey our God especially as we organize ourselves as His precious body, the church, that we make sure that what we do is according to God's plan and that although the end might be good and that which we want to accomplish in the end might be good, that we don't have to do anything to justify how we want to get to the end. Why isn't a simple, perfect, pure and wondrous plan of God enough, that when we read His Word and find the command, we see the examples of the New Testament church, that we simply organize ourselves as they did and autonomously as each individual congregation, set up for ourselves elders, set up special workers as deacons, evangelists, and that every member fulfill his or her function in that individual group to do all that is according to the Will of God and to glorify Him? Why? So that someday we might all receive the reward because we have been found faithful in the end.
(SONG # 3 - "Heavenly Sunlight")
Again, let me thank you for putting God first and choosing to give this time to Him. We invite you to join us every Sunday morning at 7:30, as we commit ourselves to worshiping God in His way!
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May we always organize ourselves and pattern the church as God commanded through His Word. Furthermore, may we never buy into an idea like, "the end justifies the means," just to accomplish what we want to for the sake of God. God's ways are always perfect and best!