The Coming Kingdom
10-11-17 Matthew 16:18 Lesson 22
If you guys can open your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16 and verse 18. I want to thank Alex Garcia for filling in last week, I trust you all enjoyed his ministry. I was in Minnesota, a little colder out there than it was here. As a matter of fact, my wife called me and she said we’re going to have a cold front here in Texas, it’s going to be 80. And I told that to the people in Minnesota and they thought that was funny.
Let’s open our Bibles to Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 16 and verse 18. We’re continuing to go through the Scripture and study the whole doctrine of the kingdom. And if you’re following along with us in the book that I wrote, called The Coming Kingdom, we’re in chapter 11, and if you didn’t get one of these see me afterwards because we want to give you a free one. And to review at this point would take me half a class to review because we’re already on lesson 23 so I can’t review the way I used to but before we pause for the summer recess we were dealing with what does the Bible say about the kingdom and we basically travelled through the whole Old Testament to develop the subject of the kingdom, Eden, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, Divided Kingdom, Times of the Gentiles, Old Testament Prophets, Post-exile, so by the time you get through the Old Testament you start to see that the kingdom has a very real definition.
And this is the problem that people run into when they study the kingdom in the New Testament, they just read the New Testament word and pour into it whatever meaning they want. And the Bible is not designed that way; everything in the Bible builds on prior revelation. So when Jesus shows up in the New Testament and says “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” which is what we call the offer of the kingdom, He was offering national Israel, on a silver platter, the geopolitical reality of the kingdom. In other words, what He was offering them is what we call today the earthly millennial kingdom. So if they had responded to that offer of the kingdom the earthly kingdom would have manifested itself on planet earth. Everything the Old Testament reveals about the kingdom would have become a reality.
But sadly the gospel, particularly Matthew’s Gospel explains that what did national Israel, in the first century, do with the offer? They rejected it, and remember what chapter that happens in? Matthew 12, that’s the hinge. In fact the hinge verse is Matthew 12:24 where they attributed Christ’s miracles, the leadership of Israel, to the devil. [Matthew 12:24, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”]
So the moment that happens the offer is withdrawn and it’s off the table, and it’s not going to be offered again until a future generation of Jews in the tribulation period receives it. So God cuts off one generation and He’s going to work with a future generation. And if you know your Old Testament well you start to see that God does that a lot. You remember the folks that came out of Egypt and they were going to enter the Promised Land and they saw giants in the land and they fell into fear? When they fell into unbelief God cut that whole generation off and He began to work with the young kids and Joshua finally entered with that second generation.
So this is sort of common related to how God deals with Israel. One generation is in unbelief, they’re shut off so He’ll work with another generation. And that’s what’s going on in Matthew 12.
But until that future generation arises what we start to study is during the time period when the offer of the kingdom has been removed Jesus begins to describe an interim age of time. It’s an age of time that had never been before disclosed, up to that particular point in time. And the interim age, when the kingdom is not here and the offer of the kingdom has been taken off the table, to understand this interim age, what is God doing in the meantime, until the kingdom comes, you have to understand 2 areas of the Bible.
The first thing you have to understand is the Matthew 13 interadvent age parables. We’ve already gone through those, haven’t we? We’ve spent several weeks on those. Jesus discloses the course or progress of the present age through eight parables. And when you take those eight parables and put it together you develop a realistic mindset of what God is doing today. God is clearly working today but as we went into detail these parables never indicate that we’re in the kingdom now. We went through all eight parables and what each parable contributes and you have to understand eight of them all together to get a glimpse of what God is doing in the interadvent age.
The second thing you have to understand, and this is the direction we’re going to start to go in tonight, is you have to understand the church age. The interadvent age overlaps the church age. The interadvent age starts in Matthew 13 and goes all the way through the tribulation period to the second advent of Jesus at the end of the tribulation period. And within that is a tighter box called the church age, the body of Christ. The body of Christ did not start in Matthew 13 and goes until the end of the tribulation period; it’s a little shorter of a distance. The church age, as I’ll be showing you tonight, started in Acts 2 and goes until the rapture which takes place before the seven year tribulation period starts.
So here’s the interadvent age and the church age is a little bit tighter within that framework. So we’re moving away from Matthew 13 and we’re now looking at what the age of the church is. And this is important because there are a lot of people out there trying to argue that the church is the kingdom. So I’ll be explaining to you what the church age is and what it is not. The body of Christ concept is a time where God is doing significant things but it should not be confused with the kingdom, which will be received by the nation of Israel at the end of the tribulation period.
So this is the section of the Bible, people always want to know what part of it concerns us and this is the part of it that most directly concerns us because if you’re a believer in Christ from the day of Pentecost until the rapture you’re part of the universal church or the body of Christ. We’re not going to cover all five of these sub points tonight but tonight and in the subsequent weeks to explain the church age we’re going to try to look at five things.
Number 1, the definition of the church, what is it exactly. Number 2, the beginning of the church. There’s a ton of confusion on this, when the church started. Number 3, the purposes of the church. So if we’re not the kingdom what are our purposes? And I can’t tell you how fundamental this is, to understand this, because many churches today are confused as to what their mission is because they mix church and kingdom. They spend a lot of their time talking about social justice type issues and social gospel, and they believe that they’re bringing in the kingdom through all of these causes. And that relates to a fundamental misunderstanding of what the nature of the church it. The church is not the kingdom; the church is not called to bring the kingdom to the earth. The kingdom will not come until Israel receives the offer of the kingdom in the tribulation period. So if we are not the kingdom what in the world are we supposed to be doing? So I’ll briefly give you the purposes of the church. I’ll explain to you as clearly as I know how to do it that the church is not the kingdom.
And then a related subject is the fact that the church is not Israel. A lot of people will tell you that the church is the new Israel, and I could not disagree with that more—the church is NOT Israel, the church is of a different character and quality than Israel entirely. So we’ll be going into that.
Let’s start with the definition of the church. What exactly is the church. Here’s kind of a working definition. The church consists of all people, whether Jew or Gentile, it doesn’t matter, who have trusted in the very Messiah rejected by first century national Israel. So in the gospels first century national Israel, particularly its leadership, rejected the offer of the kingdom. And so God began the interim work which He always knew He would do. And one of the things He did in this interim is the church, or the body of Christ, and the gospel is preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost, and of the over a million Jews in the land of Israel at that time, 3 thousand in Jerusalem responded by faith to the message of the gospel and that’s when the body of Christ started.
So the church started off all Jewish; everybody in the body of Christ, or the church, is Jewish. You don’t even have a Gentile convert in the church until Cornelius in Acts 10. And then by the time Paul, in Acts 13 moves off into his first missionary journey into southern Galatia the ethnic composition of the church starts to change dramatically from a primarily Jewish group to a predominantly Gentile group. And it’s grown, over the last 2,000 years and here we are in the year 2017 still in the age of the church and its membership is primarily Gentile. Occasionally Jews get saved in this age but it’s really not the norm.
So the church is not, unlike Israel, the church is not a nation or a race or a people. It basically consists of all races and all people, all languages, who have trusted in the very Messiah that national Israel rejected. So when Israel rejected their king God took lemons and turned into what? Lemonade! Through that transaction they turned Him over to the Romans for execution, as we have studied; through that transaction the sin debt of the world is paid for. And His resurrection from the dead proves He was who He claimed to be. So everyone who has trusted in that rejected Messiah is now part of this new man, a unique entity that God raised up called the church or the body of Christ.
And just a few verses on this; over in the Book of Galatians, chapter 3 verse 28 He says, of the church, he (Paul) says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Over in the Book of Ephesians, chapter 2 and verse 14, Ephesians is the key book to understanding the church and its nature, Paul says in Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups” now what would “both groups” be? Jew and Gentile, because you go all the way through the Old Testament and it’s the nation of Israel that’s the preeminent servants of God.
So if you wanted to learn about God you had to learn about Him through the nation of Israel. And if you wanted to grow in God you had to become a proselyte; if a Gentile wanted to grow in God they had to become a proselyte or a convert to the nation of Israel. In fact, probably the most famous proselyte in the Bible is someone named Ruth. Do you know anything about Ruth? What was Ruth’s nationality? She was a Moabitess and remember what she said to her mother-in-law, Naomi? “Your people will be my people, your God will be my God.” [Ruth 1:16] So she came under Israel to grow in knowledge and her faith in Yahweh.
Now what Paul is saying here is that’s not how it works any more in the church age. There is no preeminent nation, there is no preeminent people group, Israel is not elevated over others in the age of the church because it says here, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both groups into on and broken down the barrier of the dividing wall.” Romans 10:19, a verse we’ll come back to a little bit later (most likely) says that the church is not a nation. [Romans 10:19, “But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, ‘I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION, BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER YOU.”’]
So the church is a spiritual man of spiritual quality that cannot be confused with Israel, which was an actual country or a nation with borders and a capital. So anybody that has trusted in the Messiah that Israel rejected is, as we’re going to be explaining, baptized (positionally) identified positionally into the body of Christ. And something else to understand about the church, and this is a term that Lewis Sperry Chafer uses, he uses this phrase, intercalation. Richard knows about it because he’s read Lewis Sperry Chafer’s volumes a couple of time. And intercalation is basically an interruption. That’s what an intercalation is. And I’m glad we’re doing this teaching alongside the teaching we’ve been doing on Sunday mornings concerning the seventy weeks of Daniel, because if you’ve been tracking with us on Sunday mornings what you’re learning is we’re living in a gap.
God, as we studied on Sunday mornings, gave to Daniel a 490 year stopwatch. As we’ve looked at it 483 of those years have transpired, starting with the decree of Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2 and going all the way to Palm Sunday. And the moment you hit Palm Sunday, which is the famous story of Jesus formally presenting His Messianic credentials to the nation of Israel, the moment Israel turned down that offer is the moment God’s finger moved from the start button to the pause button. And His finger has been on that pause button for two thousand years. And one of these days His finger is going to move off the pause button back onto the start button and the final seven years of the 490 years, 483 elapsed, 7 remain. The final 7 years will take place. And as we’ve studied on Sunday mornings it’s the decree, or the treaty between antichrist and unbelieving Israel yet future that starts the clock again.
But if all of that is true what is God doing in the interim? That’s where we come in; we’re living right after year 483 has ended but before year 484 of the prophecy starts; we’re living in this pause. And so Lewis Sperry Chafer uses the expression, an intercalation or an interruption in God’s past work and future work with Israel. So that’s basically what the church is. The church is living right there in that gap of time. And we really don’t know how much longer this gap of time will continue. I have a suspicion things are winding down but I can’t prove that and I don’t know that for sure or else I’d be guilty of setting dates, which I won’t do.
But until God finishes everything in this intercalation we continue to live in it. So we are the unique… and by the way, one other thing, I’ve mentioned this before, we are not plan B. People malign the view that I’m trying to describe to you; they say oh, you believe that the church is plan B and nothing could be further from the truth because the Book of Ephesians, which describes the age of the church better than any other book, in chapter 3 and verse 11 tells us that the church is part of the eternal purpose of God. [Ephesians 3:11, “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.”]
God always knew what was going to happen; He knew that Israel would reject the offer of the kingdom. He knew that He would put His finger on the pause button and He knew that He would raise up a new entity called the Church before the final seven years of Daniel’s clock continues. And so it’s not revealed, as I’ll be showing you. There is no information in the Old Testament about the church. In fact, Jesus hardly even makes reference to the church. If we didn’t have Paul’s writings we would know almost nothing about this unique period of time that we’re living in.
So even though the plan is unrevealed to humans in the Old Testament God always knew it would happen. We are part of God’s eternal purpose so when people say well, your teaching of the church is plan B, that’s a misrepresentation. We’re not teaching that the church is plan B at all. We are part of the eternal purpose of God; it just had not been revealed.
So because we are an intercalation or an interruption in God’s plan for Israel, the church can’t be the new Israel. The name Israel is used about 73 times in the New Testament and guess what it means every single time. It means Israel; never once is the church called Israel. Even in the famous Galatians 6:16 passage what Paul is doing there when you study it grammatically is he is singling out believing Jews within the church; he’s not calling the whole church Israel. [Galatians 6:16, “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”] So we are not fulfilling Israel’s purposes right now; we’re living in this pause when God is not specifically working through Israel.
Now this model that I’m trying to describe is very different than what you get in most mainline denominational churches where they basically teach that all of Israel’s blessings have been transferred to us spiritual, so they move away from a literal approach to Israel’s promises and they call us the new Israel. And they basically teach that we are (and Roman Catholicism teaches this also) we are God’s kingdom on the earth. And they leave behind for the Jewish people all the Jewish curses but they transfer to the church all of Israel’s blessings.
And that’s called replacement theology, sometimes it’s called amillennialism, sometimes it’s called Reformed theology, and that is just completely outside of the way we think in this church. It’s not reflected at all in our doctrinal statement; we are not the new Israel, we have not replaced Israel, Israel is in timeout right now. And in the meantime God is working through the church. The church is what Chafer called an intercalation or basically an interruption in God’s purposes for Israel.
God is doing a wonderful thing today through this mew man called the church but you should never look at it as if we’re somehow fulfilling Israel’s purposes. All of Israel’s purposes are going to be fulfilled once the church is gone, after the rapture, in the seventieth week of Daniel and in the earthly kingdom that follows. So what is the church? The church is today all people, both Jew and Gentile, who have trusted in the Messiah, rejected by first century Israel. We are all races, all peoples that believe this, spread all over the earth. It’s global, it’s a global movement. We are an intercalation and we are not fulfilling Israel’s purposes in any way, shape or form.
So that’s basically the definition of the church. Now the direction I want to move into is I want to talk about when the church started. There is an awful lot of confusion today, like I’ve never seen before, concerning something this basic as when the church started. There are people that will tell you the church started with Jesus Christ. There are people that will tell you the church started with Moses. There are people that will tell you the church started with Abraham. The church started with Adam once he sinned and got out of the garden and put his clothes on, the church started then. A lot of people will tell you the church is in the Old Testament. And if that weren’t confusing enough we’ve got another group of people that go by the name hyper-dispensational that will tell you the church didn’t start until Paul.
And what I want to show you from the Scripture is I think you can pin down pretty clearly when the church started. The church did not start with Paul, as I’ll be explaining. The church started in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. So our position on this is not like Reformed theology that sees the church in the Old Testament. And it’s not like hyper-dispensationalism which tries to argue that the church started with Paul. We would be what I would call normative dispensational, meaning the church started in Acts 2.
Now to develop this you have to put Scriptures together to see this. There is no Scripture that says “thus saith the Lord the church started in Acts 2.” You have to combine Scripture with Scripture and don’t be troubled by that; you have to do that with any doctrine, don’t you? I mean, can you find one verse of Scripture that says “thus saith the Lord, there is one God but He has expressed Himself in 3 personages, the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? There is no Scripture that says that. So to build the doctrine of the Trinity you have to assemble the data. It’s a lot like a jigsaw puzzle; you guys do jigsaw puzzles, you’ve got to put the pieces together to make it fit. And so I want to show you here that there is no Scripture that says “thus saith the Lord, the church started in Acts 2.” But if you put together six points you’ll see very clearly that the church started in Acts 2 and once you understand that you’ll be saved from a lot of confusion.
So there is the first of the six reasons: number 1, and I’ve got four on this screen and 2 on the other, making a grand total of six. Christ Himself referred to the Church in the future tense, And that’s why I had you open up to Matthew 16:18 where Jesus makes this statement to Peter. He says, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock” now I didn’t plan on getting into this but the name “Peter” is Petros, a masculine noun. The word “rock” is petra, neuter noun. So Jesus is not building the church, which we’ll talk about in a second, on Peter. Peter, Petros, means little stone, rock, petra, means big stone. Petros is masculine, petra is neuter. And if you are unfamiliar with the Greek language and just read this in English it kind of looks like Peter is the first Pope and Jesus is building the church on Peter the first Pope. In fact, that’s what the Roman Catholic Church wants you to believe. But when you study the original languages you see very clearly that that is not what Jesus is saying here at all.
What Jesus is doing is He’s building the church on Peter’s confession of who Christ is. Remember in this whole dialogue Jesus said, “who do men say that I am,” and Peter coughed out the right answer, “you are Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said “and upon this rock” on the veracity of your statement, not on Peter who was about to deny Christ 3 times, he wouldn’t be much of a first Pope would he? He’s not building the church on Peter, Petros, he’s building it on petra, the veracity of Peter’s statement.
“I also say to you that you are Petros, and upon this petra” look at the verb here, “I will build My church;” notice the church belongs to Jesus, it doesn’t belong to man, it doesn’t belong to a board, it belongs to Jesus Christ. He calls it “My church,” and this is the first reference to church anywhere in the ministry of Christ and everything up to this point in time has been all about Israel and their rejection of the offer of the kingdom, which happened in Matthew 12; now we’re in Matthew 16 where He begins to hint at a new work of God that’s yet future , beginning in Acts 2 where he says “I will build My church.”
Now when he says “build” what tense is the verb in there? Future, oikodomeō, is the verb “I will build” used in the future tense. So right then and there you can see that the church did not exist in the Old Testament. If it existed in the Old Testament why did He put the building of the church in the future? Beyond that, the church did not exist contemporaneously with the ministry of Christ. It was not something going on when Christ was on the earth and interacting with His disciples because Jesus, from His own time period puts the construction of the church into the future. So the church did not exist in the ministry of Christ. It did not exist in the Old Testament and we know that just because of the future tense of that verb.
Now when you talk like this immediately Reformed theologians go to Stephen’s speech; remember Stephen gave a long speech kind of summarizing Israel’s history. And in the process he makes this statement, Stephen, in Acts 7:38, “This is the one who was in the congregation” which is the Greek word ekklesia, which is the word church, the same word for church used in Matthew 16:18, “This is the one who was in the congregation” ekklesia in the wilderness and He’s talking about what was going on in the time of Moses.
And so the Reformed theologian will say well there it is, the church is in the Old Testament. Btu what you have to understand about ekklesia is it’s not a technical term. It doesn’t mean the same thing everywhere it’s used. When it’s being used here it’s referring just to a common gathering, a Jewish gathering. We might even call it a synagogue of some sort, in the wilderness. And that is not how Christ is using the word in Matthew 16:18; He’s talking about something completely different. He’s not just talking about a common gathering. In fact, He’s hinting at the Pauline definition of the word that we read in a few verses earlier of Jew and Gentile together in one new man. That is not how the word ekklesia is used in Acts 7:38, it’s just a common gathering. It’s not infused in Acts 7:38 with the technical concept of a new man, all nations being equal. It’s just talking about a gathering, a Jewish gathering in Acts 7:38.
Jesus is talking about something completely different, a new body that is on the horizon and you know that that new body is yet future from the ministry of Christ because of the future tense of the verb “I will build.” So that’s clue number 1.
Clue number 2, and I’m going to put these six points together to help you understand when the church started in Acts 2, clue number 2 is Paul referred to the church as a mystery, so notice if you will, the Book of Ephesians, chapter 3 and verse 9, notice what it says here: “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery” then he defines what a mystery is, “which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things.” So Paul is calling the church a mystery. What is a mystery? Biblically speaking a mystery or a mysterion is a new truth never before revealed. It’s a brand new concept.
And if you back up in Ephesians 3 and go back to verses 4 and 5, it says, “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery” mysterion in the Greek, “of Christ,  which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;” Well, what exactly is the mystery?  “to be specific, that the Gentiles” well what exactly is the mystery, “to be specific that the Gentiles,” this is what’s new here, “the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” That’s what’s new.
Paul is revealing a new body where Jew and Gentile are connected to it spiritually. And this is not a concept you find in the ministry of Christ, other than that brief hint in Matthew 16 and you can read the Old Testament all you want, you’re not going to find this idea in the Old Testament.
Now I want you to see something that’s very important here. At the end of verse 5 it says this mystery was made known “to His holy” what’s the next word? “apostles.” Question, is the noun “apostles” singular or plural? It’s plural. You say well who cares. That’s a big deal because hyper-dispensationalists wand you to believe that it was only Paul that had the mystery and therefore the church started with Paul. When you look at this very carefully you see that God did not just disclose a mystery to Paul; He disclosed it to the apostles plural. Certainly Paul told us the most about it but this is not a unique disclosure to Paul. And if you don’t understand that you’re going to be very confused by hyper-dispensationalists.
Paul elsewhere explains what a mystery is, something secret, kept for long ages but now has been manifested. Vine defines mystery this way: “In the N.T, it [mystērion] denotes, not the mysterious” see that’s where it’s confusing because people think that the word mystery is just like the English word. English, if you’re watching a mystery movie or reading a mystery novel you don’t know who the bad guy is until the end. So in English mystery is something that has to be searched out with great diligence before you can understand it. That’s NOT how the Greek language uses the word mystery. Mystery is something out in the open, formerly hidden but now it’s been unveiled.
In the New Testament it [mystērion] denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those who are illumined by His Spirit.” [W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Nelson, 1996), 424.] Paul was one such person.
So number 2, Paul referred to the Church as a “mystery,” therefore you will not find the concept of the church in the Old Testament. You can read it all you want but this unique man that Paul is describing is not found in the Old Testament, and in fact, it’s not even found in Christ’s ministry other than Christ’s brief hint of it when He put it in the future as something coming.
This takes us to number 3: The Church did not exist prior to Acts 1 since Christ became the head of the Church after His ascension. Now according to Ephesians 5:23 who was the head of the church? Jesus Christ. In fact, look, if you will, at Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church…” question, when did Jesus become the head of the church? We have an answer earlier in the book, don’t we? Go back to Ephesians 1:20-22, it tells you exactly when He became the head of the church, “…which He brought about In Christ,” verse 20 of Ephesians 1, “when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.”
This verse is describing the ascension of Christ, Acts 1, where He went back to the Father’s right hand and it’s saying along with that whole package came the headship of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not become head of anything until after His ascension. Therefore you cannot have a church prior to Acts 1 or else you’d have an Ichabod Crane, the headless horseman. Right? You’d have a body without a head; that doesn’t make any sense. So Ephesians 1 pushes the advent of the church until sometime after Acts 1. Acts 1 as you probably know is when Christ ascended. Christ is the head of the church; He did not receive His headship until He ascended and returned back to the Father’s right hand. Therefore you cannot have a church prior to Acts 1 or else you have a body without a head.
Number four, the church did not exist prior to Acts 1 since the spiritual gifts only came into existence after His ascension. Now what are spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts are Spirit empowered abilities to serve God in a particular way, typically within the context of a local church. Spiritual gifts are very important; without spiritual gifts people cannot be built up or edified in the truth. 1 Corinthians 12:7, of spiritual gift says, “But to each one” by the way, every Christian has a spiritual gift, it’s not just the preacher and the piano player. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit” in order to win a popularity contest. No, it doesn’t say that, “each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” See when the spiritual gifts are in operation others are being build up. Hopefully that’s what’s happening now as you’re listening to me teach; hopefully you’re being edified or built up.
If you go over to 1 Corinthians 14:26 towards the end of the verse it mentions various spiritual gifts and then it says, “Let all things be done for edification. [1 Corinthians 14:26, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”] So no spiritual gifts no edification. Question: when did the gifts of the Spirit come into existence. Notice Ephesians 4:7-11, see what I’m doing here? I’m just putting together jigsaw pieces and hopefully it’s building a picture for you. Ephesians 4:7, it says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it says, ‘WHEN HE ASCENDED” didn’t we just talk about that earlier, “ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”
Down in verse 11 he begins to describe some of these spiritual gifts; “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” to win a popularity contest? No, 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” it is the design of God that the gifts of the Holy Spirit would be distributed in a church and as we each faithfully employ our gift and or gifts the body of Christ is built up. Now when did the gifts of the Holy Spirit come into existence? The ascension. So how can you have a church prior to the ascension? You would basically have a body without the means of being edified. You’d have a body without the means of being built up.
If I come into a church and nobody has a gift of preaching or teaching, nobody has the gift of worship, nobody has the gift of leadership, nobody has the gift of encouragement or mercy, no one has the gift of hospitality, well why even go to a church like that; it’s not even a church, it’s more like the Rotary Club or something like that. The whole point of coming to a church is so you can be built up through the use of spiritual gifts and so you can discover your gift and build other people up. That’s the whole point of church. Amen!
And this is one of the problems with the internet age and we’re just as guilty as anybody because we’ve got all of our stuff on the internet, is people think they can sit in front of a screen and that’s church. Well, that comes woefully short of church, doesn’t it, because the ability to receive spiritual gifts and use your own spiritual gifts involves your own presence consistent in a body. Now we love putting our stuff out but we don’t do it as a substitute for church. We have a general belief that there’s a lack of teaching around the world, solid teaching, and so we’re hoping people will learn from our internet presentations and use the information as they become equipped in their church.
So all of this to say you can’t have a church prior to Acts 1 or else you have a body with no means of being built up because the gifts of the Spirit didn’t come into existence until after the ascension of Jesus Christ.
Fact number 5, the church existed before Paul’s conversion in Acts 9, contrary to what hyper- dispensationalists tell you. Why is that? When was Paul converted? When was Saul converted to become Paul? On the Damascus road. What chapter was that in? It’s right there on the screen. Acts 9. So if the church existed before Paul’s conversion I should see some references to it, shouldn’t I, before Acts 9. Right? Is it true? Are there references to the church before Paul came on the scene?
Look at Acts 5:11, this is the story of Ananias and Sapphira who were slain in the Holy Spirit. I hope you all know that being slain in the Holy Spirit is not a good thing; it’s a bad thing. “And great fear came over the whole church….” ecclesia, now this is a good four chapters before Paul ever showed up.
Look, if you will, at Acts 8:1, “Saul” this is Paul pre-conversion, “was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church, “ecclesia, “in Jerusalem….” Of course the church existed before Paul; Paul, who was then Saul, was persecuting this entity.
Acts 8:3, “But Saul began ravaging the church….” So is there evidence that the church existed before Paul? Of course there is. There’s plenty there, but it’s in the Book of Acts. Now the hyper-dispensationalist comes back and says well, that’s the Jewish church. What do you mean Jewish church? Well, there were 2 churches, there was the Jewish church, then there was the Gentile church Paul started. Over in the Book of John, chapter 10 and verse16 Jesus makes another hint of the coming church and He says in Acts 10:16, “I have other sheep which are not of this fold,” speaking here to Jews, “I must bring them in also,” that’s the Gentiles, “and they will hear My voice and they will become” what’s the next word there? What’s the word in front of “flock”? “one flock, with one shepherd.” There are not 2 churches; there is one church.
Now, it is true that that church was primarily Jewish prior to Paul’s first missionary journey into southern Galatia. And the ethnic composition of the church changed beginning with his first missionary journey. But the Gentiles were coming into the same church. This whole idea of 2 churches, when I first heard of people trying to espouse this it just bothered me from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, because the Bible is very clear that there’s one church. In fact over in the Book of Ephesians it talks about all the one’s, one baptism, I believe it says there if I’m not mistaken, towards the beginning of the chapter, one church. [Ephesians 4:5, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism….”]
Yes, Paul reveals the most we have about this church but it was in existence before Paul came on the scene; it was in existence before Paul was converted. Look at Romans 16:7 for a minute, I want to show you something and virtually no hyper dispensationalist has an answer to this. Romans 16:7, Paul, in Romans, says: “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles,” watch this, “who also were in Christ before me.” Let me read verse 7 one more time. He greets these people with all of these names, “who were in Christ before me.” Do a word study of “in Christ.”
“In Christ” always refers to the church. For example, when the rapture happens, “the dead in Christ” the church “will arise first.” [1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”] Paul says, and he mentions a bunch of names, there were a bunch of folks here that were “in Christ” before me. So if there were people “in Christ” before Paul did the church exist before Paul? Well of course it did. So you see what’s happening here is we’re narrowing things down. We started with Jesus put the church into the future in His ministry; Paul referred to the church as a mystery. I gave you a couple of reasons why the church had to start after Acts 1 and I also gave you some reasons as why the church started before Acts 9. Sometime in between Acts 1 and Acts 9 God did something and that takes us to fact number 6.
Fact number 6 is the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit. The baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit began in Acts 2. The problem is there’s no verse that says that specifically so we have to reason by putting together pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. First of all, what is the baptizing ministry of the Spirit? Because I run into an awful lot of people that are out trying to get baptized in the Holy Spirit today that are already saved.
If you look at 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized” now is the verb “baptized” in the present tense, future tense, or past tense? Past tense, “we were all,” not some of us, “we were all baptized into” how many bodies? “one body,” it doesn’t matter “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” Folks, if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ the baptizing ministry of the Spirit already happened to you at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.
Lewis Sperry Chafer says there’s 33 things that happened to you the moment you exercised initial faith in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And one of the things that happened to you already is you’ve already been baptized; baptizō in Greek means identified. It’s got nothing to do with water here. Water is just an outward confession of an inward reality. You get water baptized because it’s something that already happened to you. Well what already happened to you? You were baptized and identified into Christ’s body the moment you trusted in Christ as Savior. It doesn’t matter what denomination you are or what denomination you think you are, you could be a Bapti-costal-fundamatic or w Metha-catha-bapterian, or whatever, the fact of the matter is the moment you trusted in Christ you were identified to Christ’s body, the church. Your hand, your foot, your eye, we play different parts but that’s a transaction that already happened.
So if this ministry of the Holy Spirit is such a big deal all I need to do is figure out when it started because if I can figure out when it started I can figure out when the church started. Having said all that go back to Acts 1:5, this is Jesus just prior to His ascension and He makes this statement in Acts 1:5, “for John baptized with water, but you” that’s His disciples “will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” what Paul was explaining in the verse we were just in, 1 Corinthians 12:13, “but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So Christ said the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit, which is really the key event that begins the church, that’s when the Holy Spirit started taking believers at the point of faith and identifying them with Christ’s body. Jesus said to his disciples, prior to His ascension, this is going to happen a few days from now. That’s in Acts 1. Now Acts 1 is followed by Acts 2; do you all agree with me on that? Chapter 1 comes before chapter 2. All right, just making sure.
Now before we go to Acts 2 go over to Acts 11 and look at verses 15 and 16. This is Cornelius’ salvation, the first Gentile. And the whole church had been Jewish up to this point in time and the folks down at… this happened in Caesarea and the folks back in Jerusalem, the church leaders, didn’t believe a Gentile could get saved. So they have to have a big pow-wow about it. Peter, who led Cornelius to Christ, has to go from Caesarea, which is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean coast, my wife and I have been there, beautiful turquoise water, anyway, we won’t get into that.
So he’s got to go from Caesarea back to Jerusalem to explain to these people that a Gentile can get saved and in the process he repeats what Christ said in Acts 1. So notice, if you will, Acts 11:15-16, as Peter is explaining Cornelius’ conversion to the Jews in Jerusalem He said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them” that would be Cornelius and his household, “fell upon them just as He did upon” who? “us at the beginning.” So what happened to Cornelius happened to us Jews back at the beginning. Now when did this happen for the Jews. Verse 16 is a giveaway, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” Which is what Christ told His apostles back in Acts 1.
Do you see what’s going on here? Acts 1:5 puts the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit in the future, a few days from now. Acts 11 puts the baptizing of the Holy Spirit in the past. So at some point between Acts 1 and Acts 11 the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit started. Now you can go right through those chapters; the only chapter that fits in any way is Acts 2. Acts 2 is when the Holy Spirit fell, verses 1-4. It says, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
You don’t find any activity of the Spirit of this quality anywhere between Acts 1 and Acts 11 other than Acts 2. And so the Spirit of God is doing something completely new here and one of the things He’s doing is He’s starting the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. And you see how good the Holy Spirit is at this, verses 37-41, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’  Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” A lot of problem areas to work through here and I didn’t want to get into the minutia but I want to show you effective this baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is.  “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”  And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’  So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
The Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, took three thousand people that had believed the gospel and connected them to the body of Christ. He had done the very thing that Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 12:13. And then they were water baptized shortly thereafter, which is an outward expression of an inward reality.
So when you assemble all of the data I think it’s pretty clear that the church of Jesus Christ, the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit, did not begin until Acts 2. That’s after Acts 1 but it’s before Acts 11 and the only chapter that really bears any resemblance to a baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is Acts chapter 2.
Now it’s going to take a while for Paul to explain, after he gets saved, what’s going on. And that’s the value if his prison letters, particularly the Book of Ephesians. And here is the problem with hyper dispensationalist; they confuse the explanation with the beginning. They think the explanation is the beginning. The explanation is not the beginning; the beginning is Acts 2. It’s going to take a theologian like Paul under God’s usage to systematize, to codify, to explain a reality that was going on. You don’t track the beginning of the church from when it becomes understandable; you track the beginning of the church when what Paul is explaining started. Do you see the difference there?
And even beyond that God disclosed a mystery to not just the Apostle Paul but the apostles. So Peter is involved in the same church that Paul would later be involved in. It’s just when Peter was involved in it the majority population was Jewish; when Paul got involved in it he became the apostle to the Gentiles and the gospel went out beyond the borders of Israel but it’s the same body of Christ. It’s just that the composition ethnically changed. Are you guys with me on this? Am I making any sense?
So when did the church start? Six clues; number 1, Christ referred to the Church in the future tense so it can’t exist in the ministry of Christ or in the Old Testament. Number 2, Paul called the church a “mystery” which is a new disclosure so it doesn’t exist in the Old Testament. Number 3, It had to start sometime after Acts 1 because in Acts 1 Christ became the church’s head and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were given. That’s 3 and 4. Number 5, the church existed before Paul’s conversion. And then number 6, the deal sealer is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is so foundational because it identifies people, new believers, with Christ’s body. When you look at all of the data the only place it could have started is Acts 2.
Now I’m with you, I wish the Holy Spirit had just said in the Bible, “Thus saith the Lord, the church is starting.” But the Bible is not written that way and this is why we need to work of systematic theologians to put pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together and you assemble any doctrine this way, whether it’s the Trinity, the two natures of Christ… you give me a doctrine and you’re not going to be able to locate it in one part of the Bible, you’ve got to put the pieces together.
So when you put the pieces together the church started in Acts 2. So what is the church? The church consists of all who have trusted in the Messiah that Israel rejected. And number 2, the church started in Acts 2. So that takes us to number 3 which we’re not going to do tonight.
What are we supposed to be doing? Are we supposed to just sit, soak and sour? Or is there something bigger that God has for us? We’ll get into that next time.