12-3-17 Lesson 6
Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Hebrews chapter 4, verses 14 and 15. We are continuing our study in the subject of ecclesiology which as you know is the study of the church. Here’s the outline that we’re following. We’ve taken a look at the definition of ecclesiology, or the definition of the church. And then from there we got into the differences between the universal church and the local church. And then from there we began to look at word pictures of the church. A picture paints a thousand words, and what the New Testament gives us are at least seven word pictures of the church.
So when we kind of flush out these word pictures it’s astonishing how much we learn about the church. We’ve seen the shepherd/sheep word picture, the body/head word picture or metaphor, the bride/groom word picture which I think we finished already, and I think the last time we were together we talked about the church is the temple… the temple! So we’re going to try to cover, God willing, at least 5 and 6 today, maybe seven if time permits.
This takes us to word picture number 5 which is the high priest priesthood image. And take a look, for example, at Hebrews 4:14-15. It says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” And then verse 16 says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
So we learn here that Jesus is our high priest, we have direct access to God the Father through God the Son because of what He has done for us. We learn that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father as we speak, and He is functioning (as we speak) as our high priest. It’s a higher priesthood than Aaron’s priesthood. The author of Hebrews tells us that it’s a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. And it’s got to be something higher than Aaron’s priesthood because you’ll notice that Jesus has passed through the heavens, verse 14, so Aaron’s priesthood was always something that happened on the earth, in the earthly tabernacle. Jesus has to have a higher priesthood because what tribe was Jesus born of? Judah, and to qualify to be an Aaronic priesthood you had to come from which tribe? Levi, so obviously what Jesus is doing as high priest is very, very significant, much higher than Aaron’s.
Now if you take a look at 1 Peter 2 just for a minute we learn that not only is Jesus our high priest but we are actually, as members of Christ’s church sub priests… can I put it that way, functioning under the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. If you take a look at 1 Peter 2:5-9, we went through these verses last time, but it says, “But you also are being built as living stones, being built up into a spiritual house you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy” what? “priesthood,” and then it tells us what priests do, “to offer up” not animal sacrifices in our age but what? “spiritual sacrifices” so you’ll notice that Jesus is our high priest and He has given us the designation priests functioning under Him as well.
And that’s where the Book of Revelation, chapter 1 and verse 6 is so powerful. It says, “And He” that’s God, “has made us” that’s the church, “to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” So there we’re very clearly told that we are actually a kingdom of priests under the priesthood of Jesus Christ. And don’t let that word “kingdom” disturb you too much because we don’t actually reign as kings in this kingdom until the millennial kingdom. And to get that you have to cross reference Revelation 1:6 with Revelation 5:10, which says: “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests” that’s our current title, so we’re not reigning now because it says there, “and they will reign,” future tense, where? Not in heaven but where? On the earth.
So you may not think of yourself as a priest but the reality is that your New Testament position under Christ, you are a priest. And of course that word “priest” is loaded with Old Testament imagery. The garb that Aaron’s priests wore was described in great detail in the Book of Exodus, chapter 28, the color, the sash, the bells on the hem of the garment, what was tied to the priest’s foot.
If the Book of Exodus doesn’t talk about it then Jewish tradition talks about it in great detail. And under the prior dispensation a person could not be a priest unless they were from the tribe of Levi, and from whose lineage? Aaron’s. So you had to be from Aaron’s lineage. First you had to be from the tribe of Levi and then even beyond that just being a member of the tribe of Levi didn’t qualify a person to be a priest, they had to be able to trace their lineage back somehow to Aaron, the first high priest.
You’ll notice that within the nation of Israel you have the nation and some of the people within the nation were priests, a select group, and compare that to Revelation 1:6 where it says, “And He” God, “has made us” His church, “to be a kingdom of priests.” So guess what? We’re all priests aren’t we? We don’t have a special select group as priests. And this is part of the modern day confusion, because I grew up in a church, the Episcopalian denomination, that had priests in it. So the priests were sort of separated from the rest of the flock; they were sort of dressed a lot like Aaron is dressed. And the priests were sort of considered a special category of people.
And you’ll notice that to get that whole thing to work you’ve got to not pay attention to what the New Testament says, you’ve got to go back into the Old Testament. And that’s what a lot of people do to build their ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church), they’re not really paying attention to what the New Testament says and how all of us are priests. They’re going back to Old Testament times and just kind of willy-nilly picking out things.
So priests in New Testament times is all Christians; if you’re in a church or a situation where you’ve got some people as priests and the rest are not, and they’re dressed in a different way and you confess your sins to them and they’re kind of looked at as some kind of a special pipeline to God that other people don’t have. You’re in a church that’s not really functioning according to the New Testament paradigm; you’re in a church that doesn’t understand the Israel/church distinction.
So the reality is the Protestant Reformers taught the priesthood of all believers; every believer is a priest. And that was a monumental change because prior to the time of the Protestant Reformation the only people that had access to the Scripture were the priests; the rest of the people were told what the Bible says through the priesthood. And once the Reformers began to look at Revelation 1:6 and understand that we are all priests, that pushed the move towards Bible translations, getting the Bible translated into the language of the common man. That was a huge preoccupation of Martin Luther; that was a huge preoccupation of the Protestant Reformers in general. And that flows from the idea that every single Christian is a priest, therefore they can read the Bible and they can understand the Bible for themselves; they didn’t have to have it packaged to them through the paradigm of a priesthood.
So here at Sugar Land Bible Church I don’t really consider myself a priest; the gift that I have spiritually is the gift of pastor-teacher which is simply explaining the Bible in a way that your average person can understand it and apply it. I may have a spiritual gift in that area but I don’t have some kind of office to God that you don’t have. I don’t have some kind of extra pipeline to God that you don’t have because we are all priests in the New Testament church. All of us can read the Bible, understand the Bible for ourselves, certainly the people with the gift of teaching can maybe clarify some things but there’s no special truth that I have that you don’t have because all of us are designated as priests in the New Testament. That’s a monumental thing that is depicted here.
So what does a priest do exactly? It’s sort of interesting that when you go out to lunch with people and they want someone to pray and I’m in the group they all look at me like I should pray. Or when I’m at family reunions they say well who’s going to pray… well, let’s get Andy to pray, as if I’m some kind of special priest that they are not. And the reality is anybody can pray at any meal; I don’t have some kind of special access to God that you don’t have. And a lot of people are like this with our prayer chain; they’ll send in requests, prayer requests, and they’ll say make sure Andy prays for such and such. I don’t mind doing that of course but my prayers don’t have any more validity than anybody else on our staff, any of our pastors, assistant pastor, youth pastor, secretaries for that matter, bookkeeper, elders. In fact, you don’t even need to go through those categories, you can just have your friends that are in Christ pray for you as well. The only way you can miss that is to jettison the New Testament and go back to how it works under the dispensation related to the nation of Israel.
So what do priests do? Priests basically represent God before man and man before God. So that’s basically what Jesus does as our high priest, He’s our intermediary between us and God the Father. He represents us to God and God to us. So that’s basically one of your responsibilities as a New Testament Christian; you represent people before God and what I mean by that is you can represent the unsaved (who have no relationship with God) to God. So you can intercede for them, you can pray for them, and that kind of thing. All Christians are priests but the unsaved don’t know God at all and we, as priests, can represent the plight of the unsaved. You might have someone that’s in your family, a friend, a coworker, that you’re burdened for and you start to pray for them, you start to intercede for them. That would be a prerogative that you’re fulfilling as a priest in the New Testament church.
And beyond that not only can you represent man before God but you can represent God before man. So the priests were looked at, at least in Old Testament times, as those who were the representatives of God. And this is why the Lord is so hard on the priests. For example, in the Book of Malachi the Lord just takes the priests to task. Why does He do that? Because they were misrepresenting God before man. So since we are basically New Testament priests, you’ve heard this saying before, you might be the only Bible somebody ever reads. So we need to take our calling very seriously as we are looked at by the unsaved as representatives of God. The moment they know you’re a Christian they’re going to look at you as if you’re a representative of God.
So the question is, when the unsaved look at your life, when they unsaved look at my life do they see faithful priests or not? Do they see people who represent the character of God, not perfect people but growing people representing the character of God or do they see somebody that’s at work taking shortcuts, or gossiping or that kind of thing. So we need to take our responsibility as priests very seriously. We need to be in intercession for the lost before God and we need to also represent God correctly to the unsaved world, to people that don’t know anything about spiritual truths or spiritual realities. And so Satan is always at work to try to get you to compromise your lifestyle so you can’t be effective in your divine calling as a New Testament Christian, to be a New Testament priest.
And going back, just for a minute, to the 1 Peter verse that we read a little earlier, 1 Peter 2, going back to verse 5, it’s very interesting what it says here. It says, “But you also, as living stones, are being built as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up” what kind of sacrifices? “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” So we, in the New Testament church, obviously are not offering up animal sacrifices any more as priests because Christ’s singular death on the cross made the practice of animal sacrifices null and void. It’s no longer necessary. So we’re not offering up animal sacrifices but we are offering up, according to 2 Peter 2:5, “spiritual sacrifices.”
So as a priest you can do certain things that come up before the Lord that the Lord will receive as a sweet aroma or a spiritual sacrifice. And by spiritual sacrifices I’m not talking about things we do to somehow add to the finished work of Christ. A lot of people have a 99% theology; Jesus did 99%, I’ll kick in the 1%, and that, of course, is an unbiblical teaching because Christ’s final word, it’s really a singular Greek word, His final word on the cross tetelestai, translated in English means “it is finished.”
So we’re not offering up spiritual sacrifices to somehow supplement what Jesus did, to add a few fine points. These are things that we do as priests out of adoration for what He’s done for us, out of gratitude for what He’s done for us, out of respect for what He’s done for us, out of worship for what He’s done for us. And Paul, in Romans 12:1, when he’s talking about spiritual sacrifices that we in the New Testament offer up he basically says this is what’s reasonable. I mean, it’s reasonable to do this when you consider everything Jesus has done for us.
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy” what? “ sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Now some Bible translations say “which is your reasonable worship.” So once a person discovers what God has done for them, Romans 1-11 explains that, what’s the logical thing to do? It’s to say I just can’t believe what I have in Christ, so what’s reasonable is to offer God my body and say take my body, be glorified in my body, do what You will with my body. Now I’m not doing that because I’m trying to pay God back; I can’t pay Him back. I’m not trying to do that to add to a completed work that Jesus has already done, you can’t add to a completed work. But out of an act of gratitude we can respond by way of thankfulness and worship, and offer spiritual sacrifices. And there are at least four times in the New Testament where spiritual sacrifice imagery is used, and one of them is right here in Romans 12:1, you offer your body to the Lord as a Christian.
Why would I offer my body to the Lord? Because of what the Lord has done for me. You get to the end of Romans 8 and you learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God. It talks about all the potential things that could separate us from the love of God, famine, nakedness, perils, sword, and Paul concludes that chapter by saying nothing can separate us from the love of God. [Romans 8:38, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”]
The angels themselves, fallen I’m assuming he’s talking about, cannot separate us from the love of God.” NOTHING! That’s what you call a merism where it’s like saying “In the beginning the Lord created the heavens and the earth.” Well, did He create the heavens and the earth, how about everything in between the heavens and the earth. Well, it would include that too. Like the outer edges of something which would encompass everything in between.
Jeremiah 23:24 tells us that the Lord dwells the heavens and the earth, and heavens and the earth is a merism or a figure of speech for saying everything. [Jeremiah 23:24, “‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the LORD.”]
So Paul in Romans 8 when he talks about all the things that cannot separate us from the love of God he’s using a merism communicating totality. Now some wise guy in the back of the room raises his hand and he says yeah, but what about Israel, God forgot Israel! Doesn’t Israel have a covenant? Yes. Is Israel in unbelief? Yes. Did Israel reject her own Messiah? Yes. Well then how can I trust God’s promises in chapter 8 if He’s cut off Israel? I mean, didn’t God say in the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 31, that as long as the sun, moon and stars exist Israel will always be a nation before Me. Yes He did say that. Well then how can I take God at His word in chapter 8 if He’s broken His word to Israel? Paul gives an answer to that in Romans 9, 10 and 11. The short answer is God has not broken His word to Israel; Israel’s promises have been delayed but not denied. They’ve been postponed but not cancelled.
So God has not forgotten Israel. In fact, God has a great plan in store where He’s going to do everything He’s promised to do for the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul explains that in Romans 9, 10 and 11. Romans 9, Israel in the past elected. Romans 10, Israel in the present rejected. Romans 11, Israel in the future accepted. And then you get to the end of that section and you say wow, everything God has ever promised He will do, not just for the Jew, for Israel, but for me as a Gentile. You’re supposed to leave those chapters just overwhelmed with gratitude; you just can’t believe what God has done for us.
Therefore Romans 12 follows Romans 11. You agree with me on that? Romans 12 comes after Romans 11, Amen! And that’s why Paul says, “Therefore I urge you, by the mercies of God” what mercies? All the ones He just finished explaining in Romans 9, 10 and 11, even going back to 8, even going back to the beginning of the book.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies aa living sacrifice,” you say Lord, just take my body, I’m not trying to pay you back, I’m not trying to add to salvation, but just take over; take over my tongue that is very gossipy. Glorify Yourself in my body the way You want to. Paul says that’s what’s reasonable. And the moment that the child of God does that is the moment a sweet aroma goes up to the Lord in heaven, where the Lord receives that as a spiritual sacrifice. So how do we offer up spiritual sacrifices? We just give to the Lord our bodies.
If you go over to the Book of Hebrews, chapter 13, we were just there a moment ago, at least we were in chapter 4, but if you go over to Hebrews 13 you’ll learn there’s a second way we offer up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. And what does He say here, Hebrews 13:15, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice” see how this sacrifice imagery keeps getting used here? That’s what I’m doing, I’m finding the places in the New Testament that reveal the reality of spiritual sacrifices. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name”
So I can open my mouth and I can talk and I can just praise the Lord for what I have in Christ and the moment I do that is the moment the Lord is receiving that as a spiritual sacrifice. I can bring up situations in my family where I just say you know, we’re just so blessed, even if everything we had at an earthly level disappears tomorrow I am complete in Christ, I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, I just want to thank the Lord for that. And as that happens what’s happening? Spiritual aroma goes up to the Lord and He receives that as a spiritual sacrifice.
Or I could come into the church worship service and say to myself, you know, I’m just going to praise the Lord in this time of worship and music; I may not agree with every little jot and tittle of the worship team or I may love the worship team but that’s really not the issue, I’m just going to come in and I’m going to take this opportunity that I have just to sing (to the best of my ability) and to praise the Lord.
And the moment we do that and we have this attitude of gratitude where we stop critiquing everything and I’m not against fixing things and making them better, but the worship wars in the evangelical church are something that disturb me. There’s generations that are at war with each other in evangelicalism related to worship. And my preference is the traditional hymns, the hymns that are theologically rich and all of those kinds of things. But generations go to war with each other over the subject of worship. When I was in the Dallas area churches were dividing over the subject of worship and I get it, there’s a shallowness of worship that takes place amongst the millennials, I understand all that.
But sometimes with these worship wars I worry a little bit about is the issue theological or is it a preference thing. One generation has one preference, one generation has another preference and so now the focus is not on God any more, it’s on my specific preferences. And I know also young people that say you know, we really like your teaching but we just don’t like the worship at this church and they won’t come. Well, what’s the root of that I’m wondering? You get all these masquerades as a veneer of, you know, we’ve got to reach out to the younger generation, but I’m wondering if there’s not a personal preference thing that motivates that. And so I think the worship wars themselves have gotten our eyes off the prize in many cases; we’re not really thinking about the Lord, we’re more thinking about our own personal preferences. And we’re missing… what I’m trying to get at is we’re missing our calling. We’re missing our calling as to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, making Him the focus rather than personal preferences the focus. So how do you offer up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord; you offer Him your body. You offer Him the praise of your lips when the opportunity arises; the Lord receives that as a spiritual sacrifice.
Now let’s go to the bottom here, number 4 so we don’t have to go to Philippians and come right back to Hebrews, if you go to verse 16 there is another way that we offer up sacrifices to the Lord, spiritual sacrifices. It says, “Do not neglect doing good and sharing for with such” what? “sacrifices God is pleased.” So there’s the word “sacrifice” again. So the moment I look at my energy and I pour myself into a project to bless somebody else within the church is the moment the Lord receives that as a spiritual sacrifice. The moment I’m looking at my billfold, I’m looking at my bank account and I say you know, here’s some money that the Lord has allowed me to earn, allowed me to gain, I just can’t believe what God has done for me, I’m going to give part of that to the church. What happens is a sweet aroma arises to heaven where the Lord receives that as a spiritual sacrifice.
So one of the most important things to understand is we don’t give to get blessed; everybody with me on that? Because a lot of people have a mentality that I’ve got to give this money to get blessed and get more money, so God becomes sort of like a cosmic slot machine. It’s in so-called Christian television, it’s called the hundred fold blessing, so I put in this percentage, I pull back the lever and then a hundredfold is supposed to pop back. And may I just say to you that that is not at all a New Testament motivation for giving. We don’t give to get something from the Lord. Now I will say this, when you give to the Lord Jesus says, “It’s better to give” than to what? “to receive.” [Acts 20:35, “… remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’]
The person that’s always blessed in any transaction is always the giver rather than the receiver. There’s an internal satisfaction that comes upon us when we become givers. But what’s happening is people are giving, not because they have been blessed, they’re giving to get blessed. And that’s not our New Testament motivation; the reality is you already have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” We come before the Lord and we say Lord, bless me. He’s like, well, what else can I give you? I’ve given you “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” Ephesians 1:3, and then we contemplate that, we reckon it, we study it. [Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”]
Lewis Sperry Chafer identified 33 things we have that we didn’t have before we came to Christ. All of these wonderful terms, propitiation, reconciliation, freedom in Christ, a future in Christ, the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit, I just can’t believe I have all of this. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to give some money to further the church’s message so more people can learn about this, so we can have good teaching on these subjects and we can become rooted and grounded. And that becomes the motivation and all of a sudden a sweet aroma arises to heaven where you as a high priest didn’t offer an animal sacrifice but you just offered a spiritual sacrifice.
So giving of the body, giving of the lips, giving of the finances with right motivation are all spiritual sacrifices. Let me take you to one more, this is the fourth spiritual sacrifice that I know of and maybe some of you can find passages that expand this list, these are just the four I know of. Philippians 2:17, Paul writing, not from the luxury suite in the Hilton, by the way, from prison, “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the” what “sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” You notice that Paul is talking about giving. Here it’s not so much financial giving the way it seems to have read back in Hebrews 13:16, but giving of Himself.
Of course in 2 Timothy He says I’m being poured out like a drink offering. [2 Timothy 4:6, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”] And that was what Paul’s whole life was, just being poured out to the people he was serving. And as that was happening the Lord was receiving that as a high priest, part of the priesthood, Paul part of the priesthood, as a spiritual sacrifice.
So you give to the Lord and you do some kind of task in the church that’s very menial, no one really appreciates it, no one even sees you doing it but it’s expending energy and effort; you start to expend yourself on behalf of somebody else. No pats on the back, no accolades, it’s just something between you and the Lord where you just can’t believe what God has done. I think what’s reasonable is I expended myself in this certain area and all of a sudden a spiritual sweet aroma arises up unto the Lord where the Lord receives a spiritual sacrifice from us as priests, He being the high priest of course. So that’s a lot of information, isn’t it, just on that one word picture. A picture paints what? A thousand words. And you could take this list and go deeper in all of these things.
Well, let me take you to number 6, see if we can sneak in number 6 this morning, the sixth metaphor or word picture is that the church is the pillar of truth. So let’s go to 1 Timothy 3 and verse 15. And this is why Paul writes three letters in the New Testament called the pastoral letters. And they’re really about how to order the church properly. The church is supposed to function a certain way according to certain parameters and certain guidelines. 1 Timothy is all about order within the church. Titus is all about order in the church. 2 Timothy, which we’ve studied in depth at this church is really about how to persevere in your ministry in the church. But those three books, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are a special collection of books in the New Testament called pastoral letters because they are written to pastors.
So we don’t look to the latest Peter Drucker management theory related to how to get the church to function right. And that’s one of the great tragedies that we see is you go into so-called Christian bookstores and you go to church management and you pull one of these books off the shelf and you look in the appendix or the index in the back and they never mention, if at all, the pastoral letters.
They talk a lot about marketing, they talk a lot about Peter Drucker, the three-legged stool, and all these sort of management type concepts; they quote all of the latest Wall Street Journal type, CEO type periodicals. I mean, there’s even a book called Jesus CEO, which to me lowers immeasurably who Jesus is, make Him a mere CEO.
Not that you can’t learn leadership concepts from the Bible, your best leadership concepts you’ll learn from the Bible but that’s really not what’s happening because people are drawing all of this sociological secular data to try to figure out how a church should function and God is saying well, for the last 2,000 years I’ve given you three books, all the answers to all of your problems related to the functioning of the church are right there: 1 Timothy, written by Paul from Macedonia to a young man named Timothy who was very young and sickly and struggling to be a pastor of a great church, perhaps one of the well-known churches of the first century world that Paul himself planted and started, called the church at Ephesus. 1 Timothy written from Paul’s final Roman imprisonment to the same man, Timothy, about five years later, who’s thinking of throwing in the towel and quitting. Ever feel like that in your ministry… read 2 Timothy! And then he also writes Titus from an area called Nicopolis, near Macedonia, to a guy named Titus on a little tiny island called Crete in the Mediterranean Sea.
And I’m thrilled on this cruise that my wife and I are going to be going on, and I hope you guys will think about going with us on it, we’re going to be going to Crete and I can’t wait to go to Crete and see what it was like to be a pastor trying to pastor a church out on this little tiny island. And there’s a lot of language in Titus about how Cretans are lazy and gluttons. So not only is he on this island… I mean think about this, think about this assignment from God. You know, you think you have it rough, think about being told to go out on this island with a bunch of lazy gluttons and trying to be a pastor. How would you even do that? How would you organize? How do you pick leaders? Well, the Book of Titus is an explanation of that. So we have literally gold in these books and yet the church growth movement hardly consults these. It’s all about the latest secular theory.
So in the process of this pastoral letter, written to Timothy, Paul explains why he is so concerned about the proper order and functioning of the church. He said in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God. [1 Timothy 3:15, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”] So there’s a right way to conduct yourself in the household of God; there’s a wrong way to conduct yourself in the household of God. Why is Paul concerned about this? Because the household of God is the church of the living God, that’s temple imagery that we covered last time; the church is the place where God has decided to dwell in the church age. Not only does He dwell us individually but He is in our midst corporately.
“…the church of the living God,” now look at this last clause here, “the pillar and support of the truth.” Think of everything that is communicated in that word picture about a “pillar” and a “support.” We’ve got some audio visuals, we’ve got pillars over here, don’t we, one, two, three, and there’s some more, four, five, six. And even in our building here you can see how important those are; what if those just disappeared, or one or two of them disappeared it would cause pressure on the whole structure, would it not, to bring it down.
So what is the church exactly in God’s eyes. The church is that pillar that God has put in a fallen world to uphold, not a version of truth, see the definite article in front of truth there? “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” That’s the necessity of the pastoral letters; you’ve got to get the church functioning according to biblical guidelines because God has called the church to be “the pillar and support of the truth.” The church is the only institution which holds up “the truth” in a fallen world.
And think about this, where are people going to get the truth today? Well, the politicians will tell them the truth, right? NO! A politician has two goals, number 1 to get elected, number 2 to get re-elected. They’ll say whatever it takes to get you to pull the lever for them. So (with some exceptions) politicians aren’t going to tell you the truth. Well, I know what’s going to give us the truth? Academia is going to give us the truth. Well, the academics are the people that told us that we came from the monkeys; they can’t even get that straight. Within academia, as you know, there is a very strong political correctness. If you publish a paper, for example, in the field of biology indicating at all that you believe in creationism your whole career is over, your grants dry up. The Ben Stein movie expelled, No Intelligence Allowed documents this very carefully. So you can’t look to academia for truth; you can’t look to political institutions for the truth.
I know… the media will tell us the truth! Well, we know about the media—we distort, you decide. Right, I mean… the media has been infiltrated by leftists for a very long time. This was all documented by McCarthy and all of these things, and Sadists, and Marxists, infiltrated the media a long time ago, and McCarthy also brings out how even Christendom was infiltrated by Sadists and Marxists. In the Methodist Church, I realize there’s some really good Methodists churches but it’s very well documented that in the Methodist church the Marxists infiltrated the seminaries and began to teach social justice issues; they began to take an emphasis off individual salvation of souls and put the emphasis onto collective salvation of nations. So they moved into a lot of works oriented type projects, humanitarian type projects. And of course, in their minds the ultimate good work that they can do is bring in mandatory redistribution of wealth. So that’s the Marxist version of Christianity, where Christianity knows nothing about that.
Christianity is not about collective salvation of societies through statism and mandatory wealth distribution. Christianity is about keeping people out of hell. Amen! Because “the wages of sin is” what? “is death.” [Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”] So you can see how there’s a compromise of truth almost everywhere you look and it ought not to be this way within the church because the church is given the function of being “the pillar and the support of the truth.” [1 Timothy 3:15, “I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”]
God help us if we reach a point, and I think we have reached that point, where the goal of many churches is not to tell people the truth; not to make them holy but to keep them happy so they come back next week. And that is a marketing strategy; you don’t find any shred of New Testament evidence supporting it. But it’s a marketing mix designed to appeal to the fallen instincts of humanity and they call that today church growth. I’m in favor of church growth if God is doing the growth. I’m not in favor of manmade manipulation type church growth because if you reach a situation where people can come into a church, never be exposed to sin, or the blood of Christ… I can name you specific people and churches, going back decades that will not bring up blood. Why won’t they bring up blood? Because blood alienates the unchurched.
Well, I’m sorry folks, the Bible is all about blood. I mean, the Bible is a very bloody book and the great thing about it is Christ shed His blood so I wouldn’t have to shed my blood, in terms of judgment. And that’s what we call the gospel or good news. But the name of the game in many places is don’t exactly tell them the whole truth; tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. Can you imagine going to your doctor or your lawyer and your doctor or lawyer tells you want you want to hear instead of what you need to hear? Wouldn’t such a person be disbarred or have their license taken away…rightfully? And yet in the world of Christianity, in Christendom, that’s sort of normal, a normal practice, called the church growth model.
And you see how that slips away from what Paul says in this word picture about the church? That the church is “the pillar and the support of the truth.” You take truth out of the church, the pillar of any truth, and society just disintegrates. So show me the trajectory of the church and I’ll show you the trajectory of almost any nation.
Now the big thing today is we’re going to do ecumenical dialogue. Have you heard of this? We’re going to bring Muslims into churches and we’re going to sit on the stage with a Muslim and the Muslim is going to give his side of things and we’re going to work out a deal whereby the evangelical church gets a shot in the mosque and they give their side of things. And so you stand up in church as a Muslim Imam and you make a bunch of statements.
By the way, Muslims (you might know this) are allowed to lie under what’s called Taqiyyah, so we’re going to let Muslims into a church, before the assembled saints of God, we’re going to give them a platform and let them give any propaganda they want to give. We’re not going to vigorously cross-examine them, we’re not going to debate them. And this whole thing broke this summer when a tape was discovered of James White, a well-known Christian apologist, doing this very thing in a church in Memphis, Tennessee. So James White, who is supposedly one of the evangelicals greatest debaters is sitting on the stage with this Muslim Imam, letting this guy spew out one piece of propaganda after another, not just politically but theologically. And James White is sitting there like a potted plant, not challenging the statements, not aggressively cross examining, but sitting there and nodding and affirming and saying I’ve learned so much from this particular Imam who’s name was Yasser Chadi. Yasser Chadi, by the way, has national security risk issues, if that weren’t bad enough.
So this whole thing is done under the guise of reaching Muslims for Christ. And it’s called ecumenical dialogue. And I found this quote from… and by the way, the bad people are the people who call this out. If you call out a guy like James White then what happens is all of the people that are theologically aligned with James White, a very strong Calvinist, they start to dogpile on you. So key ministries are now defending what James White did; James White is unrepentant about this and the bad people are the ones that brought the spotlight of truth to this recording which you can see for yourself on the internet and once you watch it you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
And so this whole thing has been brewing all summer; we’re now in December so it’s kind of settled down, but in the process I ran into this quote from Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones who lived from 1899-1989. Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones is very Reformed, like James White is, but I have a lot of respect for him; I have a lot of respect for his love for the truth. He succeeded G. Campbell Morgan in Westminster Chapel in London. So he’s a famous Bible expositor from the past. And I ran into this quote from him and the quote was so good (I ran into it on Facebook) the quote was so good I didn’t believe it was a true quote. So I went and actually bought the book and lo and behold, I read the whole quote, the whole quote is even better than the little thing I read on Facebook. It goes three pages here, but I just want to read to you this.
He’s commenting, it’s almost he’s prescient or prophetic commenting on this ecumenical dialogue mentality that he saw coming into Christendom in his day. And I want you to notice the word picture he concludes with in this quote. 1 Timothy 3:15, “
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones says, “To regard a church, or a council of churches, as a forum in which fundamental matters can be debated and discussed, or as an opportunity for witness-bearing, is sheer confusion and muddled thinking. There is to be no discussion about ‘the foundation,’ as we have seen. If men do not accept that, they are not brethren and we can have no dialogue with them. We are to preach to such and to evangelize them.” Watch this! “Discussion takes place among the brethren who share the same life and subscribe to the same essential truths. It is right and good that brethren should discuss together matters which are not essential to salvation and about which there is, and always has been, and always will be, legitimate differences of opinion. We can do no better at that point than quote the old adage, ‘In things essential, unity, in things indifferent liberty, in all things charity.’”
“Before there can be any real discussion and dialogue and exchange there must be agreement concerning primary and fundamental matters. Without the acceptance of certain axioms and propositions in geometry,” now Martin Lloyd Jones was a medical doctor; it’s a very interesting analogy he uses here. “Without the acceptance of certain axioms and propositions in geometry, for example, it is idle to attempt to solve any problem. If certain people refuse to accept the axioms, and are constantly querying and disputing them, clearly there is no point of contact between them and those who do accept them. It is precisely the same in the realm of the church. Those who question and query, let alone deny, the great cardinal truths that have been accepted throughout the centuries do not belong to the church, and to regard them as brethren is to betray the truth. As we have already reminded ourselves, the apostle Paul tells us clearly what our attitude to them should be:” A quote from Titus, which is also a pastoral letter, “‘A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject’” (Titus. 3:10).”
“They are to be regarded as unbelievers and need to be called to repentance and acceptance of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. To give the impression that they are Christians with whom other Christians disagree about certain matters is to confuse” you see the unsaved world is watching this ecumenical dialogue mindset. “To give the impression that they are Christians with whom other Christians disagree about certain matters is to confuse the genuine seeker and enquirer who is outside. But such is the position prevailing today.” He saw this in 1981 or earlier about the time he died. Watch this, this is why I’m bringing this up. “It is based upon a failure to understand the nature of the New Testament church which is” the what? “‘the pillar and ground of the truth’ (1 Tim. 3:15). In the same way it is a sheer waste of time to discuss or debate the implications of Christianity with people who are not agreed as to what Christianity is. Failure to realize this constitutes the very essence of the modern confusion.” [Knowing the Times (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989; reprint, 2001), 161-62.]
You don’t bring a Roman Catholic, a Mormon, a Muslim, into an evangelical church before the assembled saints of God and give people the impression that we’re going to have an ecumenical dialogue and find some kind of middle ground. That would be like trying to do geometry problems with people that don’t accept the principles of geometry. You don’t do geometry problems with people that don’t accept the laws of geometry; that’s a waste of time. So in the same way, to have true dialogue within the church about areas of disagreement, and there are some, you do that amongst people that already accept the fundamentals of Christianity. And you see, this is what’s being denied in this ecumenical dialogue mentality.
I have no interest at all, I have zero interest in dialoguing with a Muslim. What I want to do is I want to proclaim the gospel so that that Muslim can get saved. That’s what I’m trying to do. But the ecumenical mindset of people like James White, and it was sort of shocking to watch him do this because he’s had a long career as a very conservative guy, defending conservative theology. But to go into that ecumenical mindset is to defy what God said the church is.
Everybody today is into dialogue; it’s almost like Jesus said go into the world and dialogue. He never said that, did He? He says “go into the world and preach the gospel.” Now if you see something slightly different than I do and you agree with the fundamentals of Christianity and I agree with the fundamentals of Christianity, yeah, then that’s the appropriate place for dialogue. But not amongst people that don’t even agree on the fundamentals.
And this is why 2 John 9-11, and I’ll close with this. It says, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” Verse 9 is where I wanted to focus, 9-11, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching,” what teaching? The fundamentals of Christianity. Look at this, “do not receive him into your house.” now let me ask you a question.
Where did the early church meet? You don’t have cathedrals and stained glass windows and church buildings in the first century. Those came later; John is addressing first century audience when he says “do not bring him into your house” what he’s saying is you don’t give people who don’t accept the fundamentals of geometry access to the lectern in a church. You don’t give people who do not accept the fundamentals of Christian a pulpit by which they can expound their abhorrent ideas. You don’t give them a Sunday School class; you don’t let them set out their own literature on the table that people can take on the way out. And by the way, we’ve had Muslims come here and put their literature out and they do it very sneaky because they masquerade it to look exactly like our literature, same gift bag to a T. So you get the idea that we’ve sort of been monitored a little bit. And a lot of times we haven’t discovered it until later. So if we were just to say well, go ahead and put out your literature because we’re all broad minded… well, God would be saying you’re so broad minded your brain just leaked out. You don’t give people who don’t accept the rules of Christianity access to anything. And you don’t do it in the name of compassion for them. And you don’t do it in the name of the need to evangelize them. What you do is you give them the gospel. And that’s what’s disappearing, is confrontational evangelism.
And then John says, “and do not give him a greeting;” why not? Verse 11, “ for the one who gives him a greeting” that would be a greeting, money, a pulpit, an audience, look at what it says, “participates in his evil deeds.” When you give to a ministry you don’t give to them, you give through them. That’s what God says. You can do it for good to a ministry that’s bearing fruit in God but the moment you get into an ecumenical mindset or you start subsidizing an entity that doesn’t agree with the fundamentals of Christianity is the moment you just participated in their evil deeds. Now why would John, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones and all these people say this type of thing? Because the church is the pillar and support of the truth. That’s why. And so that’s sort of a modern day flushing out of what that metaphor means.
And I’m really sad that we’re out of time because no doubt I provoked some questions but we’ll try to get to those next time.
Father, we’re grateful for these metaphors and what they communicate about the high calling that we have today in the church. Help us to walk these things out and bless our worship service, time of communion and fellowship that follows. 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.