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What Is A Church By AJM Baikie

August 3, 2011

There has  been a lot of write ups on the Church and the awful  things that these Churches  and their leaders do. The many write ups and comments are very interesting. In all, something is lacking. That is, the understanding of what a Church is.  What is a church? We need to know this, because we need to measure theses write ups and comments.

There has  been a lot of write ups on the Church and the awful  things that these Churches  and their leaders do. The many write ups and comments are very interesting. In all, something is lacking. That is, the understanding of what a Church is.  What is a church? We need to know this, because we need to measure theses write ups and comments.

Just between the two freeways ,we are going to find places called a Church that aren't. They claim to be, they have the name, they put the name up, but they don't meet the criteria. Now where are we going to learn what a church is? Let's go to Matthew 16. Matthew, chapter 16, you have the word "church" used for the first time...first time. And it's used by the Lord of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ who says in Matthew 16:18, "I will build My church....I will build My church." That's very personal, it's His, He will build it. It is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, let’s understand that.I

If you say you're a church and you're not, then that is a serious deception. The Lord of the church said, "I will build My church," and in this text He lays out the foundation for the church. He gives us the defining characteristics, marks of the church. What does the Lord of the church say about His church? Here it is in verses 13 to 28. In verse 18,He said "I will build My church," future tense. There are foundational elements to this. A true Church is known, number one, by a confession...a great confession. When we talk of  confession, I'm not talking about admitting you did something wrong, not that kind of confession. I'm talking about confessing something that you believe, confessing something that you are convinced of. Let's look at verse 13. "When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples saying, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?'" What is popular opinion about Me? "And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, and others Elijah, but still others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Verse 15, Jesus said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" That's what people say, but who do you say I am? "And Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" That's the great confession. Jesus said, "I'll build My church on that...I'll build My church on that." The first absolute in a true church is a biblical understanding of Jesus Christ. Anything other than a biblical understanding of Jesus Christ means you don't have a true church. It's another gospel, and it's anathema, it's accursed. If anybody comes and preaches anything other than the doctrine of Christ, 2 John verses 9 to 11, don't let them into your house, don't bid him God's speed, don't have anything to do with him or you'll be a partaker of his evil deed. This is an evil thing to speak less of Christ than the truth about Him, even if you're being complimentary, even if you're saying He's a great teacher, He's a noble teacher, like pastors  do who pastor what they call churches. Even if you say He's the best of the created people, He's a created semi-god, such as the cults say about Jesus. That is not adequate. The Lord does not build His church on a wrong view of Christ. The first absolute in a true church is a biblical view of Jesus Christ. The foundation of the church is Christology...Christ.

This is the confession upon which the church is built, that the living God has revealed Himself in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our great confession. We say with Peter, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God." We say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God." And again we say with Peter, "To whom shall we go? You and You alone have the words of eternal life and we know that You are the holy one of God." We gather to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. We're here as worshipers. We are the circumcision who worship in the Spirit, who worship Jesus Christ in the Spirit, as Philippians 3. The church is not a group of people who gather together to hear a motivational speech. The church is not a group of people who are seeking help for their addictions. The church is not a collection of folks who want to feel spiritual. It is not an assembly of those who want to somehow mindlessly go through religious ritual thinking, somehow this does them good. It is an assembly of people who from the heart have made a great confession and that great confession is that there is a living God who has manifested Himself in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who is Himself the holy one of God and the only one through whom we can have eternal life.

That is a great confession. We are those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and confess Him as our Lord. We follow the very purpose of John in his gospel, chapter 20 verse 31, "That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and believing you may have life in His name." We are those who have believed and have life in His name. The church is a collection of redeemed people, redeemed through faith in the true Christ.

It is not a collection of people who feel sentimental about Jesus, a Jesus unqualified and undefined by doctrine. It is a collection of people who make a common confession that Jesus is God, is Lord, Savior and Redeemer.

Now, go to 1 Timothy 3:15...Paul says that I want to tell you how to conduct yourself. Verse 15, I want to tell you how to conduct yourself in the household of God which is the church, and here it is again, the church of the living God, as opposed to all the dead idols. I want to tell you how to conduct yourself in the church of the living God which is the pillar and ground of the truth. In verse 16,he says  "Great is the mystery of godliness." That's our common confession. A common confession that is without disagreement, a universal, unequivocated commitment, homologoumenos, to say the very same thing, we all say the same thing. In the church, the true church, everybody says the same thing. It is not spectators trying to figure out who Jesus is. It is an assembly of those who agree to a common confession and that common confession is the mystery of godliness. The church of the living God is built on truth and the foundational truth is this, verse 16, a common confession...a common confession." The Ephesians said, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The Romans said, "Great is Caesar." And the Christians said, "Great is the mystery of godliness."  And what is the mystery of godliness? This is the mystery of Godliness.That He...that is God...was revealed in the flesh...that is God incarnate...was justified in the Spirit...that is righteous-righteous...he was observed by angels at His birth, at His temptation, at His resurrection...He was taken up in glory and He is proclaimed among the nations and believed on in the world." This is Jesus Christ, our common confession, we hail the one who is the mystery of Godliness, and the mystery is that God became a man. It's a mystery unfolded. It's a mystery revealed. In the flesh He came, justified in His Spirit, attended to by angels, taken up in to glory at the end of His life in the glory of His ascension and the message proclaimed to the nations and believed on in the world.

This is the Church common confession. When you look for a church, this is where you start. Is there among this people a common confession that Jesus is the Son of the living God, the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord of all.

This is the unanimous confession of the church. We affirm Jesus Christ to be God in human flesh, born of a virgin, living a holy sinless life, served by holy angels, dying on a cross as a substitute for sinners, rising from the dead. We affirm Him taken to glory and seated at His Father's right hand, after He having purged our sins, is seated at the majesty on high. It is that Christ who is preached in the world and believed on. This is not sentimentalism regarding Jesus, some Jesus of people's emotional creation.

This is not sacramentalism, this is not some symbolic Jesus, some Jesus on a crucifix somewhere. This is not some ritual Jesus. This is not the created Jesus who is less than God, that the cults and the liberals speak of. A church is a gathering of people who make a common confession, "You are the Son of the living God, You alone are Lord and Savior." Everything is Christ centered. Everything is Christ exalting. A true church cannot meet without exalting Jesus Christ. That's a true church.

To another point. The church is not only built on a great confession, but a great communication...a great communication. In Mathew 16:17,Jesus answered and said to him, ”Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. What Jesus was saying here was that Simon’s statement didn’t come from a human source,” but My Father who is in heaven”. In 1 Corth 1:21,we hear “…the world through wisdom did not know God..”.That is, there is no human source, there is no human approach or cleverness, or insight or wisdom or knowledge that can lead you to that great confession. "My Father in heaven revealed it to you." There's only one way that man can know the truth of the great confession and that is by divine revelation.

Now to Mathew 16:18.”And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church hall not prevail My Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”Peter ,petros, pebble, small rock, but upon this rock, petra, rock bed, I'll build My church. Here, Christ is saying, small pebble Peter, human Peter, I'm going to build My church on the confession you made. But  a rock has a bed and I'm going to build My church on that as well. And what's that rock bed? I believe that the Scripture would indicate that is the confession, the same confession made by the rest of the Apostles. Ephesians 2:20 says, ”having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone”. Peter, is just one of the rocks, one piece in the foundation, there are a lot more. But one thing is common with all of them, they all have made the great confession because they all have believed the great communication.

He builds His church on all those who make the great confession, all those to whom the revelation is given and they hear it and they believe it. The church is not built on Peter. It's not built on the supremacy of Peter, not on General overseers, not on Bishops, not on papa and mama, not on the clergy, not on finance. It is built on the confession of Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God, the holy one, the Lord. And if Peter makes that and the Apostles make that and you and I make that, He builds His church.

It is built on the revelation Peter proclaimed, on the revelation the Apostles wrote. God revealed it and they wrote it down. They wrote down the New Testament, the Apostles and those who were their associates wrote the New Testament. They wrote the revelation of God on which their own confession was made, and on our confession is made as well. The church then is built on the great revelation of God which is contained in Scripture.

And the church built on that, the gates of Hades cannot overpower. Gates of Hades, Hades is where you go when you die, the gate is how you get there, it's just a euphemism for death, even death can't destroy this. Death cannot overpower the church. In fact, the more you kill the church, the more it grows. The church is the gathering of people who make the great confession that Jesus is Lord because they're committed to the great communication of the revelation of God contained in Scripture through the Apostles and their associates who wrote it down.

How do you know a true church? Because they're consumed with the greatness of Christ and with the authority and the power and the truth of revelation.

And when Peter departed from the revelation of the will of God, verse 23, Jesus said, "Get behind Me, Satan." Any time you depart from the will of God revealed, you take up Satan's agenda, even if you're an Apostle.

Submitting everything to the Word of God, getting in line with the Word of God, the church is built on divine revelation and it is invincible when it is built on divine revelation because heaven is behind it in all that it does. The church exalts the message of the Apostles, the revelation of God that came through them, the New Testament. The true sign of a church, the great confession, Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, the holy One, Lord. The great communication, we are here so that God may speak through His Word which alone has the power to save and the power to sanctify and the power to comfort.

Richard Phillips writing an article said "If we want people to join in Peter's great profession and thus to be admitted into the saving company of Christ's people, then we must not rely on flesh and blood devices. We must not be tempted by the things that appeal to men and women today, especially the entertainment that so dominates our secular culture and sadly much of the church as well. We may make the most effective appeals to flesh and blood, to the things which are persuasive and enticing to the fleshly nature of mankind. But Jesus here assures us that by those means we will never bring about the saving faith first professed by Simon Peter. Instead, we must rely on the one means God has provided, His revealed Word. As we teach and proclaim God's Word about Jesus, the Father in heaven reveals the truth in the minds and hearts of men and women and brings them to true and saving faith." And John Calvin said, "If a church does not have sound doctrine and exposition of Scripture, it's not a church." And he added two more things, church discipline and baptism and the Lord's table. If any of those are missing, that's not a church.


AJM Baikie
[email protected]

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