Belonging to the Church (Sermon #1)
1 Peter 2:4-8
2. The Church is a people, not a building (5).
5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
We already talked a little about this in the second preliminary comment.
The biblical understanding of the Church is that it is a people. It is not wrong to call this building a “church.” It is not sinful.
But what we must not do is think that when the Bible is talking about the Church that it is referring to a building or a worship service. It is referring to the people of God.
Notice what the text says.
a. We are like living stones being built into a spiritual house.
Peter uses the idea of a building in talking about the Church. But the reality is that the Church is the people of God, not the building they worship in.
You and me, Brother Christian, and Sister Christian, are like living stones, being built into a temple, a spiritual house, wherein God dwells. Christ is the builder, incorporating us together into a beautiful dwelling for the Triune God.
There’s some wonderful things about this Church of which we are apart.
God dwells within it. Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 1 Cor 3:16-17 (NIV)
What does Jesus say about where 2 or 3 believers are gathered? For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matt 18:20 (NIV)
You and I, fellow believers, are built together, joined together by Jesus himself into a dwelling place where God himself is pleased to dwell. Hence is the Spirit of God in the midst of a group of believers wherever they are meeting together.
Further, Christ is the one who fits us for this building, and he is the one who joins us together.
ILL. My mom and aunt went to a church in Hartford City last week, and my mom told me how wonderful it was to worship with other believers—believers whom she does not know personally, but who nevertheless share the same commitment to Christ and therefore share—legitimately—the same family name: “Christian.”
Christ brings people together from all walks of life,
- with all kinds of different backgrounds,
- speaking all kinds of different languages,
- exhibiting all kinds of different personalities,
- possessing all kinds of different talents and abilities;
- he brings them together, and he makes them one, uniting them into one spiritual building, the Church—the body of believers.
They say blood is thicker than water. Well, Spirit is thicker than blood, and those who have been born again by the Spirit of Christ have more in common with a North Korean Christian or a Colombian Christian than they do with their unbelieving parents or siblings.
A few of us got together at a friend's house a few weeks ago to celebrate another friend's birthday. There we met 3 African believers whom we had never seen before.
Highlight the differences? Our skin color was different. Our experiences were surely different. (Arrested in the Congo when revolution swept through; didn’t see their children for 7 years; reunited with their children here in the US)
Those differences didn’t matter because our common bond in Jesus Christ ran deeper than those differences.
Don’t you know that our time was quite sweet as we listened to them testify to their faith and love for the same Savior and Father whom we love and trust?!
We are being built together into a spiritual house. What a master craftsmen Christ is to take
--bricks from India
--bricks from Kenya
--bricks from Thailand
--bricks from El Salvador
--bricks from Puerto Rico
--bricks from Indiana
and so work them that they all fit masterfully together into one building!
b. We are a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices.
The picture switches a bit. Not only are we the spiritual building in which God dwells, we are also the priesthood who bring offerings to God.
The fact that the Church is a holy priesthood implies a number of things. I want to highlight two:
First, all believers have access to God.
A priest is someone who has access to God. The priests in the OT worshiped approached God in ways that the average Jew could not.
Now who are priests today?
--The Church is a holy priesthood.
--The Church is made up of all believers.
--So, all believers are priests.
--Thus, all believers have access to God. Direct, immediate access.
Turn your mind and heart to God. Call out “Abba, Father,” and you have his ear. Come near to God, and he will come near to you.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matt. 6:6 (NIV)
Andrew Murray says about this verse: “The first thing in closet-prayer is to meet the Father” (With Christ in the School of Prayer, ch. 3).
Second, all believers are able to please God.
Verse 5 says that we offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Doing that which is acceptable to God; pleasing God. Making God happy and not making him mad. Isn’t that a wonderful capacity?
Many indicate they aren't interested in pleasing God,
or they don’t believe there is a God to please,
or they don’t believe he cares enough about us to either be pleased or displeased.
All such notions are wrong. There is a final judgment for every single individual. At the final judgment it will become clear that
Ø there is a God,
Ø he does care about how we live our lives,
Ø and everyone really should have been interested in pleasing him.
Ever have the problem of trying to get on the good side of a grumpy person?
Some wives strive to do all they can to please their husbands, but they fail.
Some husbands can do nothing right by their wives.
But we, as the Church, are able to please God. How? By offering spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ.
What are these sacrifices?
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. Heb. 13:15 (NIV) PRAISE
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Heb. 13:16 (NIV) DOING GOOD TO OTHERS, SHARING WITH OTHERS
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Phil. 2:17 (NIV) FAITH
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Rom. 12:1 (NIV) DEVOTION TO GOD; LIVING OUT HIS WILL IN YOUR LIFE
The spiritual sacrifices that we offer to God and he finds acceptable can be anything in life that is done according to his will by the power of his Spirit.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3:17 (NIV)
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31 (NIV)
The Church, the one true Church, is made up only of those who are connected to Jesus Christ. If you have not come to Jesus Christ, and you are not following him, you are not a part of the Church, the people of God. Your name may be on the membership rolls of Northside or some other congregation, but that doesn’t make you a part of the true Church. A relationship with Jesus is the key—a dynamic, vital, growing relationship.
The Church is more than an association or club. It is the group of people among whom God is pleased to dwell. They are the people whom God is with in ways that he not with others. The Church, so despised and denigrated and ignored and mocked and persecuted—that Church is the very body where God is most pleased to dwell; it is the people who make up the spiritual house of God.
The Church is the very people who please God, the only people who offer the sacrifices that are pleasing to God. The sacrifices offered by all others are not acceptable to God; they are not pleasing to him.
Conclusion: It is a good thing to belong to the Church, which is the same as saying, it is a good thing to come to Jesus Christ and know him. The Church is a glorious institution. And Peter has more to say about her glory, which we’ll look at next week when we pick up with v. 6.
The Church has her problems, yes, but these problems neither outweigh her virtues nor will they last.
If you are a Christian, give thanks to God that you belong to his Church.