11-12-17 Lesson 3
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for today and grateful for Your church and Your truth. I do ask that You’ll be with us today. I pray this will be a special day this weekend for veterans across our country and those that have served in our church. And we lift up this terrible tragedy that happened last Sunday while we were here worshipping and I just pray for Your continuing comfort to the victims. And Father, I pray for protection, not only here but for churches all across the country and the world that are under physical attack in many cases. And so I ask for that and I just ask for Your illuminating ministry of the Spirit and we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen!
Let’s take our bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Acts, chapter 20 and verse 28. And as you all know we have started a study on the Doctrine of Ecclesiology which is the study of the church, which is pretty important since we belong to a church and go to a church and so obviously the fact that you’re here this morning at church indicates that church is sort of important to you. So maybe we should figure out what God says about the church. Amen.
So we start off with the definition of Ecclesiology, ekklesia just means the called out ones, and “ology” of course is the study of; what does the Bible say about this doctrine of the church? And we talked about the fact that when the church was added to the plan of God that was the third people group added by God according to 1 Corinthians 10:32. [1 Corinthians 10:32, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;”] So prior to that point in time there were only Gentiles and Jews. And prior to Genesis 12 there were only Gentiles. So Gentiles, Genesis 1-11, the Hebrew race starts in Genesis 12, and that becomes the instrument that God has used, and by the way, in the future will use to bless the world.
But then beginning in Acts 2 he added a third people group, the church of God. So the church is just as significant as is the Hebrew nation. And we sort of defined the church as a body or a new man. One of my seminary professors, I like his definition, he calls the church God’s special project. Do you all have special projects in your house that you’re working on and you keep it in a room where no one can get to, which is a good thing as long as you’re not building an explosive or something.
But we have these little projects that we’re working on and that’s basically what the church is; it’s God’s project, it’s His building project in the present age. And so to disrespect church is really to disrespect God because the church is God’s special project. And so the church then would consist of all people, both Jews and Gentiles, who have trusted in the very Messiah that national Israel rejected in the first century. So the moment a person places their personal faith in Christ in this age for salvation is the moment that they are baptized or identified with this new man, this spiritual body called the church.
And the last time we were together this was the chart that was supposed to be up; remember I had some font issues but you have this in your notes, right? So we were dealing with the difference between the universal church and the local church. Remember we talked about that. And a lot of people are denying the reality of the universal church. They just say well what’s important is the local church. And I tried to make the case that that is not true. The Bible has its differentiations between the two. So we walked through that.
And what I want to move into here is number three, word pictures of the church. A picture paints a thousand words and God could have just gone on and on with all this linguistic detail describing every little facet of the church. But sort of to simplify things He’s given us seven word pictures of the church and each word picture communicates so much truth; I mean, you could literally drown yourself in it. But I’m going to try to start these today, I don’t think I can finish them all today but if you understand the seven word pictures that God has given for the church you start to see God’s plan for the church, God’s blueprint for the church, God’s value for the church, why God has set up the church in this age the way He has, etc. etc. etc.
So the first word picture that is used in the New Testament to describe the church, and you’ll see this over and over again, is the relationship of the shepherd to the sheep. And I’m not sure if I have time to look at every single one of these verses, you have them there on the screen, [John 10:16; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:2-4] But maybe we’ll just look at one of them. That’s why I had you open up to Acts 20:28. Paul here is instructing the elders over the church at Ephesus. And Paul says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock,” whom the elder board has made you overseers… oh, I’m sorry, it doesn’t say that does it. “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock” whom you got voted into power over…” no, it doesn’t say that either, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the” what? “Holy Spirit has made you” that’s the elders, “overseers, [to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.]”
So a person becomes an elder in a church not because they won a popularity contest or something like that. They are made an elder in the church because God gave them that role. And so when we’re selecting elders that would be one of our goals, right? We try to identify the people, the men in the case of elders, that God has already selected. And to put a person in charge over anything in the church that God has selected, let me just tell you from personal experience, is a total disaster. So we’re trying to identify the men, in the case of elders, that God has His hand on and typically you can figure that out because they’re already doing the work of a shepherd anyway, without anybody asking them to do it because it’s a calling, it’s what Paul called an inward compulsion. So if they’re already doing that role and they show evidence of it those are the people that we want to lay hands on.
Anyway, back to verse 28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock,” see the shepherd imagery, “among whom thee Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd” there’s the shepherd/flock imagery, “the church which He purchased with His own blood.” And you’ll see the same imagery in John 10:16; [John 10:16, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”]
It’s very big in Peter’s writings, 1 Peter 5:2-4. And I’ll just read to you one more, it’s really big in the Book of Hebrews, at the end of the book, Hebrews 13:20, it says: “Now the God grace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord.” So we are the sheep, He is the shepherd.
And most people look at this and it shows up sometimes on Christmas cards and holiday cards and we say oh, that’s so cute, and look at these cuddly sheep, and look at how wonderful this imagery is, but the reality is I think this is more of an insult, if you understand it than it is a compliment. Why is that? Because sheep in the natural world are probably some of the dumbest animals that have ever walked this earth. I mean, sheep will literally charge right over a cliff following each other if you don’t shepherd them. Or they’ll start to devour each other and they’ll stampede each other.
And so the fact that we are called “sheep” indicates to us that we are in a very vulnerable predicament and we don’t even know how to protect ourselves spiritually, any more than a sheep left to their own devices would know how to protect themselves. So we are in need of the Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord Jesus Christ shepherds His church through under shepherds functioning under His authority, that we would call what? We would call them elders.
And this is what Peter is talking about in 1 Peter 5:2-4 where he’s speaking out to the under shepherds functioning under the headship of Jesus Christ. Peter tells the elders to “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God…” In other words, an elder is somebody that’s already doing the work of an elder because God has put on that elder’s heart a calling, an inner compulsion. That’s why Peter is speaking of doing this voluntarily. “not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;  not yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” [4, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”]
So unfortunately we’ve had an elder or two here that kind of approaches their job sort of like a military commander, they want to bark orders and submit sheep and all of this stuff and all that does is alienate the sheep. A shepherd doesn’t function that way. Peter specifically says not lording authority, so one of the greatest principles you can learn in the Bible is you don’t lead people from the top down; you lead people from the bottom up, providing largely to the flock an example of what we would call, what Charles Swindoll calls, and I like this metaphor that he uses, “servant leadership.” And that goes right into the teachings of Christ, I believe it’s around Mark 10 if I’m not mistaken, I could be wrong on that but it’s in the Gospel of Mark anyway, where the disciples are arguing about who’s going to be the greatest. [Luke 9:46, “An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest.”]
And believe it or not folks, that kind of silliness happens all the time in churches. What about MY ministry, what about MY visibility, what about MY title, and these things preoccupy us and Jesus says that’s not how it’s supposed to be amongst disciples of Mine. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. [Matthew 20:28, “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”] So if you qualify as an elder, and for that matter a deacon, basically you’re in the role of a servant. And we haven’t even talked about deacons but that’s what the word “deacon” means; it means a servant. And Peter here is giving these instructions to these under shepherds and then he says, verse 4, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears…..” Aha, so a shepherd is not on his own authority, he’s functioning as an under shepherd under the ultimate shepherding of Jesus Christ.
“And when the sheep shepherd appears you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” So the shepherd is to do his job because he’s burdened by the Lord, he’s not really in it looking for some kind of reward from man, materially or esteem or otherwise. He’s doing it because God put a burden on his heart and he’s looking to the ultimate shepherd, Jesus Christ, to whom he’s accountable for his ultimate reward.
So in the natural world what does a shepherd do? A shepherd does three things and these all begin with the letter G. Number 1, he guards and we’ve been to the Middle East, to Israel a couple of times and we actually went to the land of Israel and saw actual shepherds in action. So we could see firsthand the metaphor that Jesus was developing here; He’s picking things from the society of the nation of Israel that the people could identify with. We’re kind of removed from it because we’re a 21st century population but Jesus is using metaphors from their time. And you go and watch a shepherd do his job, number 1, he’s guarding, guarding the sheepfold or the flock from the wolf. Now why would sheep need to be protected from the wolf? Because they’re completely docile and they’re helpless.
A lot of people want to come in here and they want to spread all kinds of strange ideas and our job as elders is to create sort of a wall against that because that’s what shepherds do; they protect the sheep. That’s their basic calling. So the first “G” is guard. The second G is guide. And of course you can see all of this in Psalm 23, where David said, “The LORD is my shepherd” and he goes on and he says, “He leads me beside still waters,” so it’s a picture of the shepherd guiding the sheep in a direction that they should go. So that’s the second function of spiritual leadership in a church, we’re to guide the sheep; guide them in a lot of ways, guide them in the right ways of thinking, guide them into correct understanding of the Bible, if people have counselling issues we try to guide them accordingly. And the way this church works is if you’re here for a number of weeks then you are automatically assigned an elder, and I’m not sure how well we communicate that but that’s the way it’s supposed to be working, and so when you have an issue you have a point of contact with somebody that you’ve met and hopefully you’re developing a personal relationship with.
So the shepherd and shepherds guard; the shepherd and shepherds guide, and the third “g” is grace, because “man does not live by bread alone but by” what, “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” I think that’s in Matthew 4:4 and if I remember right Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. [Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”]
Job 23:12 says I value His Words, the Word of God, more than my daily food. [Job 23:12, “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”]
And frankly as the pastor-teacher of Sugar Land Bible Church that is my primary calling; it’s to feed the sheep over and over again with the regular intake of God’s Word, because what’s happening is you’re starving, you’re emaciated, you’re going through struggles during the week and you have spiritual needs and my job is to open the Word of God as the Holy Spirit allows me and to teach the Word of God in such a way that you leave here nourished and you leave here fed. And if that isn’t happening, if the fellow in the pulpit is too busy talking about self-empowerment principles or psychological ideas then he basically is derelict in his duties and in his responsibilities before the Lord.
And you’ll notice what Matthew 4: 4 says, “Man does not live by bread alone but by” what’s the next word? “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Well why does Pastor Andy take so long going through Books of the Bible; can’t we just get the big point of chapter 10 of Daniel and move on? And the answer is yeah, we’re going to get the big point, the big point is the invisible war, right. But we need to go through each word of the Bible because, “Man shall live, not by bread alone but by every word [that proceeds out of the mouth of God]” “every word” means that “every word” has to be covered.
Now we don’t have to give you everything I know about every word; I don’t have to drown you in exegetical detail but the fact of the matter is that God inspired His Word in words. God didn’t say hey, here’s the big idea; He gave us words. And so if you’re not in a church that is systematically moving through the Word of God, giving you commentary (hopefully in an applicable way) on every word then basically what’s happening is you have an imbalanced diet. And imbalanced diet is basically where you eat certain things but you don’t eat all of the food groups that you need for health.
So “every word” is going to force us into a balanced diet because as you’re going through every word of the Scripture what you’re starting to see is there are all kinds of different subjects here. In chapter 9 we were in the seventy weeks prophecy, now in Daniel 10 we’re not in the seventy weeks prophecy, we’re in spiritual warfare. Why is that? Because God has assigned the topics in the order that he inspired them. So as you’re diligently moving through the Word of God, teaching the whole counsel of God’s Word what’s happening is the sheep are being given all of the nutrients, spiritually, that they need to develop right.
And the fact of the matter is if I was not a verse by verse teacher I’ll tell you exactly what I would do: I would pick and choose topics, number 1, that are personally interesting to me and probably number 2, because I have sort of a people pleasing personality (believe it or not), I would pick topics that wouldn’t hurt anybody’s feelings, because that’s my nature. But when you’re moving through the Bible systematically verse by verse guess what? I don’t get to pick the topics; God picks the topics.
And you all may have been born in the morning but it wasn’t yesterday morning and you can see very clearly if I leapfrog from one verse to another and you’d say wait a minute, what about that other part there in Matthew 19 about divorce and remarriage, you didn’t talk about that? Well guess what? I have to talk about that because if you’re going through Matthew’s Gospel you’re forced to confront every subject. And so in the process I’m fulfilling my spiritual responsibility before God where I’m giving you all of the food groups. Now some people like that approach; some people don’t like that approach but here is the reality of the situation: the Chief Shepherd is going to appear, that’s Jesus. And He’s going to hold under shepherds, like myself, responsible… watch this very carefully, not just based on what I say but what I don’t say. And if you go back to Acts 20, we were just there weren’t we, we were in Acts 20:28 but did you catch verses 26 and 27?
Look at what it says here: “Therefore, I testify to you this day” Paul says, “that I am innocent of the blood of all men.” Now that language goes right back, we don’t have time to look at it but just jot down Ezekiel 33:7-9 and Ezekiel 3:17-19.
[Ezekiel 33:7-9, “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.  “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand.  “But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.” ]
[Ezekiel 3:17-19, “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.  Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.”]
Those are the two calling sections in the Book of Ezekiel. Why are there two calling sections? Because in the first half of the book Ezekiel is preaching judgment so he’s consequently called by God. In the second part of the book he’s speaking restoration so he’s called again by God. And when you study those verses that I just commended to you from the Book of Ezekiel what you will see is Ezekiel is told to tell the people everything that God has said. And God, two times, tells Ezekiel if you tell them everything I have said and they won’t listen, then you’ve delivered yourself.
On the other hand, if people die in their sin and you never told them everything I said then God says to Ezekiel, Ezekiel, I’m coming after you because I’m the one that made you the watchman on the wall.
So when the Apostle Paul in the New Testament says I am innocent of the blood of all men” he is taking imagery from the Book of Ezekiel and he is basically saying I have delivered myself. Why has Paul delivered himself? Because he declared everything God said by doing what? Giving to the people the what? Verse 27, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the” what? “the whole purpose of God.” So Paul says I’m an under shepherd, I’m going to be held accountable by the ultimate shepherd and so because I’ve told you everything that God has told me to tell you I am now in a position of innocence before God; my accountability has been vindicated because the Book of James, chapter 3 and verse 1 says, “Let few of you presume to be” what? “teachers.”
The moment you put yourself in the role of a teacher is the moment your accountable before God to tell people what God has said, and God holds you accountable for what you say, and watch this, what you don’t say. Are you with me on that? Because there’s an awful lot of churches when you listen to them preach and what they say isn’t so bad but it’s what they leave out. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I get from people that say my pastor won’t touch the Book of Revelation, my pastor never talks about the nation of Israel. And now to make it worse we’ve got these seeker friendly churches where the goal is to give everybody the warm fuzzes of the day. And so if that’s your agenda, because you want your church to get bigger, which is not always a bad thing, God can make big churches if he wants to.
But if your goal is to get the church to get bigger, to get the people in the door, then you move away from certain subjects that might hurt someone’s feelings. Like what? Well, 70% of the Bible might hurt your feelings because it talks about blood, it talks about sin, it talks about Satan, it talks about the fact that we’re not saved by our own works, we’re saved only based on what God has done for us, which is an attack, theologically speaking, on human pride. And you see, the verse by verse methodology forces a shepherd to confront every subject and to teach it, whether people want to hear it or not, or whether the shepherd personally is interested in that or not.
And that’s a big deal to me because one of these days God is going to hold me accountable as the Chief Shepherd when He appears and He’s going to say you know, you never covered this subject here, you never covered that subject. And so I’ve already got my defense prepared: my defense is I went directly through the Word of God, I confronted every word in the Word of God and by the way, Jesus in Matthew 5:18 says not only shall man not live by bread alone but by every word, but what are the words in the Bible made up of exactly? Matthew 5:18, He says, “truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” So the words in the Bible which are necessary to feed us are made up of letters and the letters are made up of the smallest strokes of the pen. See that?
Now don’t blame me for that; that’s how God decided to encapsulate His Word to lost humanity. So the function of a shepherd is to cover every stroke of the pen which comprise the letters and every letter which comprises the words and every word which comprises entire books. See that? So God is not neutral on the subject of method. I want people to understand that because the mentality that’s out there today in evangelicalism is your theology is not up for grabs but method is neutral. You can use whatever method you want in the church and I resist and reject that statement from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Just like your theology can’t be changed if it’s based on the Bible; neither can your method be changed. God has given to the shepherd or under shepherds a method and the method is to feed the flock of God with the whole counsel of God’s Word. And if anybody can come up with another methodology besides verse by verse teaching, that covers every word, I’m all ears because I don’t think you can do this unless you’re moving through the Bible verse by verse, which is your function before God because you are an under shepherd who will give an account to the chief shepherd.
So look at that; I just got all of that, I just talked for a whole half hour there, didn’t I, and where did I get all that from? I got that just from the simple shepherd/sheep analogy. And in your personal study you could do deeper in it and pull other things out of it. But what I’m saying is the Holy Spirit could have gone on and on into all of this detail describing what I just said but to save time and space he gives us a sharp simple image or a metaphor or a word picture.
Well, let’s try another one here. Let’s go over to 1 Corinthians 12:12-13,:He is the head, we are the” what “the body.” Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, those other verses you can read on your own, they teach the same thing, Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22-23. Notice what Paul says, ““For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
Now over in the Book of Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 22-23, that’s where we learn that Jesus is the head of the body. It says, “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,  which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” So the second word picture is He’s the brain or the head, we are the body. Now think of all of the things about a church that that communicates. Just as the mind or the nerve center sends out instructions to different parts of the body, that in essence is what’s supposed to be happening and when you have a situation medically where one person’s body works independently of the rest of their body and is somehow disconnected from the nerve center then that’s a medical condition.
So what happens a lot of time in the body of Christ is one person is functioning and they’re doing it in contradistinction or they’re doing it sometime in offense to other members of the body. And you have situations in churches where Christians can’t get along and they’re fighting back and forth. And you say well at some point one of these believers got out of fellowship with Christ because if they were both connected to the same head the parts of the body would be working in harmony with each other. So you notice that in my physical body I don’t have two right hands or two left hands; I’ve got a right hand and a left hand. My mind is sending out instructions to those hands. They’re not fighting with each other; they’re working in harmony with each other, as the entire rest of my human body. And consequently my body is functioning the way that it should.
That’s how a church is supposed to work. We’re supposed to be united to Jesus Christ, the head, who is shouting out nerve-centered directions to the rest of us and we’re working in harmony with each other; we’re not enemies of each other any more than my right hand and my left hand would go to war with each other. We’re working in harmony with each other and my body works best when all of the parts work in harmony with each other. You get something that’s doing its own thing independent of the rest of the body, not only do you have a medical condition of some kind there but you don’t have an effective body.
So just as my physical body has different parts so too the body of Christ. All of us bring something a little bit different to the table because we’re all gifted different ways. And if two of us are exactly the same then one of us is unnecessary. So I don’t have two left feet, two right feet, I’ve got a right foot, I’ve got a left foot, they work in harmony with each other and as they work in harmony with each other the work of my body can go forward. And this is important because there are so many Christians that want to put other Christians into some kind of straight jacket or into some kind of box and we’re not really respecting the individuality of certain Christians; if you want to do ministry you’ve got to do it exactly this way. Well, that would be the equivalent of having two left feet, two right feet, etc.
And beyond that, if you go over to 1 Corinthians 12 for just a minute, as Paul unfolds this metaphor more specifically here than perhaps anywhere in the whole Bible, if you look at verse 21, look at what it says, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” So a lot of times someone will come to the table with an idea or they’ll maybe have a different take on a ministry and the direction it should go, and another person will have another philosophy or another take on a direction of a ministry and the way it should go. And what happens sadly is you have two people that go to war with each other, not understanding that God put them in that ministry to help each other, because person A sees things slightly differently than person P. And person B sees things slightly different than person A. And that’s the design of God because He wants a right hand and a left hand, He doesn’t want two right hands.
And so this is sometimes where we lose patience with people; instead we ought to just step back, we ought to stay connected to the head by way of fellowship, Jesus Christ, and we ought to just relax a little bit and say okay, well what is God doing in this situation, rather than demanding complete conformity in a certain area any more than my right hand would demand that my left hand behave exactly like my right hand would.
And as you continue to look at this it says in verse 22, “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;” and the problem with a lot of us is if we don’t have a ministry that’s visible we think that it’s not important. Well, let me ask you a question; can you see my heart beating right now…unless you have X-ray vision you can’t see that can you? But I guarantee you one thing, if that heart stops beating you’re going to see something, a collapsed corpse up here in just a few seconds. Can you see my lungs doing their job? You can’t see that either. But I guarantee you this much though, if one of those lungs stops working the whole body suffers.
So you may have some kind of ministry, you may have some kind of roll where nobody actually sees what you’re doing except the Lord, which is a pretty good place to be in when you think about it because then your motives don’t get corrupted as to why you’re doing what you’re doing. And nobody pats you on the back, nobody gives you any gratification, you’re just doing what you think God has called you to do. And nobody probably will notice that you’re doing that until you stop doing it because once you stop doing it it’s like a lung that’s no longer working and the whole body suffers.
And he goes on in verse 26, and look at this, he says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” So one member is promoted, the other member is not promoted. Now does the second member become jealous of the person that’s promoted. No, that shouldn’t be the case any more than the right hand gets jealous of the left hand because we’re all on the same team. Right? We’re teammates.
I had sort of this rival thing going on with another guy in my basketball team in high school and it was to the point where it was sort of counterproductive to the team. The team was losing because of this internal rivalry between two players. So finally the coach sits us both down, I don’t know if you understand this or not, you are teammates; you are on the same team and if you guys sit and war with each other or stand and war with each other or rival each other or are jealous of each other the whole team suffers. So when that little issue got resolved guess what happened? We started winning more games. And you watch these NBA players with their massive salaries and egos that go with it and you get that master coach, like Phil Jackson for example, who’s coached Michael Jordan, he’s coached Coby Bryant, and all of these guys and the talk that he gives them all at the beginning of the year is you guys look, there could be a lot of individual honors that you could get but I guarantee you this much, you start winning championships and the individual honors will start coming in, but you can’t win championships as long as two teammates are jealous of each other and are trying to outrival one another.
And so that’s what the Great Shepherd is saying to His church, is we are teammates here; we are on the same team. We don’t always see everything through the exact same prism but that’s the design of God because God is a God of diversity. And so I think a lot of times we need to give each other a little bit of slack and a little bit of space and I think many times we forget the grace that God gives us. Amen! So we forget that God has chosen to treat us with grace so when I have a fellow Christian I’m upset with I don’t give them any grace. Well, that’s inconsistent; if God has chosen to treat me with grace shouldn’t I treat other people with grace?
And so many times we’re treated with grace by God and we want to treat other people in the body of Christ with absolute justice. And Jesus told a whole parable about that in Matthew 18, you know the story, the fellow that was forgiven much and he found somebody that owed him a few dollars and demanded that he be thrown in debtor’s prison. That’s what we’re like in the eyes of God when we don’t treat people with the grace that we have been given.
And also in verse 26 it says, “if one member suffers,” what does it say, “all members suffer.” Now I’ve had situations in 2011 for example, where I got this ingrown fingernail and I was in Minnesota when it happened and it just blew up like a balloon and it was to the point where any touching that I did of this finger would just immediately give me sharp pain. And I was at Duluth Bible Church the first time for their conference, and fortunately, by God’s providence, the family that hosted me was a medical family, medical doctors and all that. So they numbed it up and they pierced the swelling and my wife normally takes care of me in those cases because she’s a nurse, but I was away from home, but they got the whole thing fixed.
But I’ll tell you something; what was happening in my finger, even though it’s a little tiny part of my body, was making my whole being miserable. I mean, even though if you measured out space wise my index finger is a very small part of my whole body. I was one unhappy camper as long as this little thing was bothering me. And that’s how it’s to be in the body of Christ; if one person that is deemed, perhaps in the eyes of man insignificant, if that person is suffering then we should all be hurting because we are all connected to the same body.
So that’s why we try to keep contact with our shut-ins, we have people in this church that came for years but can’t come any more because of health reasons; we like to keep them in circulation on the prayer list, if they’re interested in receiving the CD’s or the DVD’s we like to make that ministry available to them. We like to make sure they’re still hooked up to their computer so they can at least dial in and watch the service. And we like to make sure that we don’t forget about those people because you can’t forget about somebody that’s a fellow Christian because they’re part of the same body. Right? Any more than this little finger here, I can just forget about it, as long as it was not functioning the way it was supposed to I was miserable. So if one person in the body of Christ is suffering that should cause all of us to suffer and reach out with compassion.
And if one person in the body of Christ gets ahead and gets promoted the rest of the body shouldn’t be jealous; we ought to be happy because we’re all part of the same body and my left hand shouldn’t be jealous of my right hand. Now look at that; I just took another half hour, didn’t I, talking about head, body, spiritual lessons. And I can guarantee you this much, I only scratched the surface there. But these are all valid spiritual applications that you can gain just by paying attention to these various metaphors.
We have time, let’s try a third one, shall we? Let’s go over to 2 Corinthians 11:2-3,word picture number 3 is bride to groom. We are the bride, Jesus is the groom. Now think of the imagery that that communicates. Think about how a man, when he falls in love with a woman pursues that woman. Think of the emotional and in some cases physical passion that overtakes such a person. That is the love of Christ for you and me, His bride.
Beyond that there’s a reason why a woman, when she walks down the aisle to get married is wearing which color? White! White communicates what? Purity, so when she wears white she is basically communicating that she has kept herself pure for that man. So if we are the bride of Christ, betrothed, engaged to be married, what should be our posture in the world. Spiritual purity, shouldn’t it? Practical daily purity should be the f unction of every child of God if we understand this metaphor correctly. And you’ll notice what Paul says here.
He builds on this in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed” in other words Paul says I’m just the best man, I introduced you as the bride to your groom, your future husband, Jesus Christ. “… for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.  But I fear, lest somehow as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
What is Paul saying here? He’s like a father standing guard over his virgin daughter, trying to protect his virgin daughter from the wrong type of man. Amen. My daughter is 11 and this is starting to concern me a little bit; I’m going to be in this role really fast and I’m going to do my best as dad to keep her away from the wrong person because in my opinion she is Mrs. Right and I want her to get married to who? Mr. Right, and there’s a lot of not so Mr. Rights out there, even in Christianity there’s a lot of people that I wouldn’t let my daughter near if I had any control over it whatsoever. And that’s the function of a parent; a parent basically does that.
Paul says I’m doing the same thing for you Corinthians because I’m the one that introduced you to your future husband. But you know what? The devil deceived Eve. You know, the devil deceived Eve… and by the way, Paul believed in the literal Adam and Eve here, didn’t he. He doesn’t say we’re using the symbol of the Garden of Eden, he took these things as they actually happened, and it does bother me to some extent to watch so many Christians not wanting to take Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden and the serpent and the tree of knowledge as literal things.
You start tampering with that and it’s just a matter of time before you start tampering with Jesus because Jesus is the last Adam. You play games with the first Adam, dehistoricize him, symbolize him, Luke’s Gospel connects Jesus right back to Adam. It’s just a matter of time before you start to dehistoricize, symbolize, deliteralize Jesus Christ. By the way, that’s where our culture is at, they call it the Jesus myth. Well, why is our culture calling Jesus a myth? Because they wrote off Adam and Eve as historical people a long time ago, and you play that game and you’re going to dehistoricize the last Adam just as you dehistoricized the first Adam.
But Eve had the easiest job description on planet earth, as did Adam. You freely do whatever you want except one thing; don’t eat from the tree of knowledge. Anything else you do is fine. And how the devil came and beguiled them and took what was simple and made it complex and so Paul to the Corinthians is saying you’re got the easiest job description on planet earth. You’re saved because you trusted in Jesus Christ for personal salvation. I mean, how complicated is that? That’s not complicated at all, a child can understand that, by divine design.
Paul says I’m worried that someone is going to come in here, like Satan, and take what was simple and make it complicated and put you under works and put you under legalism and when that happens it’s like you losing your virginity before you’re appointed marriage date. In other words, you’re hampering your future marriage bed because you’re playing games outside of the will of God, sexually, in the present. And Paul says a father would try to keep his virgin daughter away from that kind of thing, not to make life miserable for her but to protect her for what God has for her future. And in the same way Paul says you’re basically losing your virginity because you’re moving into works, you’re moving into false doctrine, and that is going to damage your future marriage.
So the betrothal period, I’ll talk about that in just a minute, actually I probably won’t because I’m running out of time, is a very important time period. So this whole concept brings up the Jewish marriage analogy. If you can’t understand the Jewish marriage analogy, which has ten parts to it, you can’t really understand this word picture very well. You can’t understand what we’re supposed to be like in the present and what the future has for us.
So I’m just going to rattle off these ten things real fast and then I’ll come back next week and explain how it applies to the church. This is how a Jewish marriage worked.
Number 1, the groom initiated and he entered into a covenant, typically with the future bride’s father, and he made a payment for the bride, and consequently the bride and the groom drank from the same cup to signify the marriage contract. Number 2, the bride is now set apart exclusively for the groom. She is a woman spoken for. Number 3, the groom separates from the bride and returns to the father’s house to do what? To prepare the bridal chamber. That’s number 3.
Number 4, during the period of absence, called the betrothal period, there is a loyalty test. Is this bride during this time of absence going to be loyal to the groom or not because if she wasn’t that was grounds for terminating the contract. That’s what’s going on with Joseph and Mary. Joseph is engaged to Mary, right, and Mary shows up and says I’m pregnant. And she says probably by way of conversation, Joseph says well how did you get pregnant, oh, the Holy Spirit did that to me! And Joseph is saying right, I was born in the morning but it wasn’t yesterday morning. So Gabriel has to be dispatched from heaven to explain to Joseph that this is true, otherwise the whole contract would have been vitiated at that point. So that’s the significance of the royalty test. And then number 5, the bride is retrieved; the groom returns at an unknown time preceded by a shout with escorts to retrieve the bride.
Then what happens? The two are hidden in the father’s house for how many days? Seven days, isn’t that interesting, where three events transpire, and those are in 7, 8 and 9. The first event, number 7, the bride undergoes a ritual cleansing prior to the wedding ceremony. Number 8 the wedding ceremony itself, you have the meeting with the father’s assembled guests and a private wedding ceremony and then number 9, the bride and the groom consummate the marriage. And then number 10 you have the bride and the groom formally hidden from the world at this time, are not publicly presented after the seven days are over, unveiled. And then there’s a marriage feast, which I think happens on the earth.
Now does this ring a bell? That is the exact pattern that we’re on with the Lord. I don’t have time to give you the parallels, I will next week. My point is simply this: I just talked for another half hour based on what? A word picture. Look at all of these things these word pictures reveal. So I’ll stop talking, we have a couple of minutes left for questions if anybody has one.
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for these word pictures; help us to grow in these things as we learn more about the church and what the church is. I thank you for the pictures You’ve given us and help us to live accordingly. And I pray You’ll bless our worship service that follows. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen.