Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2nd Sermon on the Church

In a series of 3 posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) I copied a sermon I preached on 1 Peter 2:4-5. Here are parts of the sermon I preached the next week on 1 Peter 2:6-8. I decided to put it in one post.

(It's long. Don't feel obligated to read it.)

Belonging to the Church
1 Peter 2:6-8

In our passage today, Peter is talking about the Church. Now the Church we’re talking about is the one true Church. It is the whole body of believers around the world. The believers here in this local congregation are a part of that body.

Last week we noted a few things about the Church from verses 4-5.

In v. 4, the Church starts with Jesus Christ. It is bound up with him.
As people come to him in faith, they are incorporated into his Church, the worldwide body of believers. In order to become a part of the true Church, you must come to Christ and have a relationship with him.

In v. 5, the Church is more than an organization or association, for God dwells in her midst.
We are a temple where God is pleased to dwell. There is a qualitative difference between the Church and any other organization—the Church is animated by the Spirit of God himself. Jesus is called the living Stone in v. 4, and we are called living stones in v. 5, meaning that the Church is alive in ways that all other groups of people are not—the indestructible life and Spirit of Christ animate us.

In v. 5, the Church, the body of believers, is also a holy priesthood.
That means that we have access to God—direct, immediate access.
That also means that we are able to please God. We are able to offer sacrifices to God that are acceptable to him through Jesus Christ.

We could restate the whole case negatively:
Those who have not come to Christ are not part of the true Church.
Those who are not part of the Church are separated from the life of God.
Those who are not part of the Church are not able to please God in any way.

In 6-8 Peter continues to highlight reasons why it is good to belong to the Church.

(Again, not talking about church membership, but about belonging to the Church universal.)

Look at v. 6.

For in Scripture it says:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame."

God says that he will lay a stone in Zion. That stone is Jesus Christ.
We here read that Jesus is a chosen and precious cornerstone. That repeats what was said about him in v. 4.

So God has laid Jesus as a valuable cornerstone in Zion. For what purpose?
We’ve already seen that: to build his Church. To constitute a people belonging to God.
And as we come to Jesus, we are incorporated into this people belonging to God—the Church.

The verse goes on to say that the one who trusts in Christ will never be put to shame. In other words, Christ is a solid, reliable, unfailing cornerstone on which to build our lives. Those who build on Christ will not be disappointed.

1. The Church, the body of believers, will be vindicated and honored (6-7a).

There are 3 things here to highlight.

a. There is an emphasis on believing.
Now it may seem to some that we at Northside put a great deal of emphasis on this notion of believing in Jesus Christ. Or it may seem that evangelical churches in general talk an awful lot about faith in Christ.

We emphasize faith because the Bible emphasizes faith. Christ died to deliver us from sin. But that does not mean that all people are automatically saved. Faith in Christ is required for a man or a woman to receive the deliverance that Christ has secured.

Peter highlights faith right here in this passage.
--He says in v. 4 that a person must come to Jesus in order to be a part of the Church. Coming to Jesus is faith.
--Then in v. 6: “the one who TRUSTS in him will never be put to shame.”
--And in v. 7, he makes a stark contrast between “you who BELIEVE” and “those who do not BELIEVE.”
--Incidentally, the word for “trusts” and the word for “believe” is the same word in the original language Peter wrote this letter.

Belief in Christ is absolutely essential in order to belong to Christ’s Church, and it’s absolutely essential to experience the vindication and honor the Church is destined for.

Let me further clarify what is meant by faith. This passage gives us a wonderful illustration. We are like living stones being built on the foundation of the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.

Faith, then, is building your life on Jesus Christ. That is, life is lived according to his commands, and it is lived out by his power.
A person who builds on Christ is being conformed to the image of Christ, according to Rom 8. In other words, those who believe in Christ over time become more and more like him.

Faith is more than intellectual assent. Biblical belief involves a change of heart, a change of practice, a change of lifestyle.

Now what does Peter say about believers?

b. Believers will be vindicated.
This is the positive way of saying what Peter says at the end of 6: “the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

What does this mean?

It means that Christ is a solid, dependable cornerstone, and if you build your life on him, you will not in the end be disappointed.

In fact quite the opposite. Spurgeon once preached:

But on the contrary, you will exclaim with the Queen of Sheba, “The half has not been told me.” Even Inspiration itself could not tell us, so that we could fully understand it, how sweet, how excellent, how sure, how full our Lord is! We know His love, but yet it “passes knowledge.” When you know more of your Lord you will say, “I wish I had never doubted Him, for I never had a cause. Oh that I had trusted Him more fully, for He has never disappointed me, but far exceeded my largest hopes.” (“Faith’s Sure Foundation,” sermon #1429 on 1 Pt 2:6)

Disappointments abound in life. We all have experienced times when we have been promised much only to be disappointed by receiving much less than what we expected.

But believers’ only disappointments will not be in Christ, but in themselves
Ø for not trusting him sooner,
Ø for not trusting him more fully,
Ø for not investing themselves, not sacrificing themselves far more for him.

The fact that we will not be put to shame also means that one day we will be vindicated before the eyes of the world for having chosen to follow Christ. The world mocks Christians.

--Some of our unbelieving family and neighbors roll their eyes at our apparent stupidity.
Or they consider us fanatics. Ever notice how sports enthusiasts are called “fans,” but Christ enthusiasts are called “fanatics.”

--Hollywood mocks Christians as either naive or hypocritical or both.

--In the arena of public discussion, believers are slighted and looked down upon.

--And in other areas in the world, believers are fiercely attacked.

But despite the world’s mockery and persecution, we will not be put to shame. One day we will be vindicated for our faith in Christ.

c. Believers will receive honor.
The first line of v. 7 in the NIV reads, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.” The text literally reads: “To you, therefore, the honor, to the ones believing.” A better translation, which leads to a different meaning, is the ESV: “So the honor is for you who believe.”

Now undoubtedly Christ is precious to those who believe, but that’s not what Peter is saying here. In vss. 6-8 he’s talking about the respective fates of believers and unbelievers. And at the beginning of v. 7 he adds that believers will be honored.

Not only will they be vindicated for being a part of Christ and his Church; they will also be honored.

Look at 1:7: “[Trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

So the Church will be vindicated and honored for her faith in Christ.

2. Everyone else will fall (7b-8).

a. Now we’re talking about unbelievers.
In the first part of v. 7 Peter’s talking about those who believe. In the last part, about those who don’t believe.

Ultimately there are only two groups of people.
Those who believe in Jesus Christ and those who don’t
Those who are trusting Christ and those who aren’t
Those who build their lives on Jesus Christ and those who don’t
The Church and the world

Well, what do we learn about unbelievers?

b. Their judgment of Christ is rejected.
Unbelievers are pictured as the builders in 7, and the stone is Christ.

They rejected the stone; that is, they rejected Christ. “He is not the Messiah,” they said. Jesus told his disciples that he would be rejected.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Mk 8:31 (NIV)

And indeed he was.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!"
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe."
Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. Mk 15:29-32 (NIV)

Unbelievers continue to reject him. I probably don’t need to spell this out. It is an obvious truth that Jesus is rejected by many throughout our community, our country, and our world.

Even those who have respect for Jesus as a teacher, but that’s all the further they go—they, too, are rejecting him. For he is not to them the cornerstone, the means of salvation.

So that’s the judgment of unbelievers regarding Jesus. But notice what the text says: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”

You will notice the NIV footnote says that the word translated “capstone” could also be “cornerstone,” which is probably preferable here, but it makes little difference to the point being made.

The point is, the judgment of the unbelievers regarding Jesus is itself judged, and it’s judged to be wrong. They discard Jesus as useless and irrelevant. But in fact he is chosen and precious to God, and he is in fact quite the opposite. He is quite relevant. No one is saved apart from him.

The rejection of the world is itself rejected.

c. Their destruction is assured.

"A stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall."
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

Not only is Christ a stone on which men can build their lives, but he is also a stone over which all other men stumble and fall.

Note here the centrality of Christ. No one ultimately avoids contact with Christ! No one.

No one gets past him without dealing with him. Believers come to him for help. Those who don’t believe stumble over him and fall. You either trust him or you trip over him.

This lends credence to the truth that the most important question you will ever deal with in life is, “How will I respond to Christ?”

If you entrust yourself to him and build your life on him, glory and honor and eternal life are yours. But if you don’t, you will trip and fall and not get up.

This stumbling and falling that we see in 8 has reference to final judgment.
See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Jude 14-15 (NIV)

… if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment … 2 Pet. 2:9 (NIV)

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his [the Son of Man’s] voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28-29 (NIV)

There is an obvious distinction between the wicked and the righteous, or between those who have faith in God and those who don’t.

The distinction will be especially obvious at the end of the age. The righteous will be established, and they will receive an inheritance that will never be revoked. The wicked will experience disaster and loss.

I want to read several passages to you that teach us this truth.

A man cannot be established through wickedness,
but the righteous cannot be uprooted.
Prov. 12:3 (NIV)

Wicked men are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous stands firm.
Prov. 12:7 (NIV)

Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man’s house,
do not raid his dwelling place;
for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again,
but the wicked are brought down by calamity.
Prov. 24:15-16 (NIV)

Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future hope,
and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.
Prov. 24:19-20 (NIV)

Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished,
but those who are righteous will go free.
Prov. 11:21 (NIV)

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:17 (NIV)

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Dan. 12:2-3 (NIV)

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever. Dan 7:18 (ESV)

Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 13:47-50 (NIV)

Well, it’s a good thing to belong to the Church. These verses on the distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous, the Church and the world, bear that out. In fact Peter has given us several reasons in these 5 verses why it is a good thing to belong to the Church.

I don’t know how you view the Church today.
It may look weak and feeble to some.
It may look ugly to others.

When it was built for an international exposition in the late 1800s, the structure was called monstrous by the citizens of the city, who demanded it be torn down as soon as the exposition was over.
But its architect defended it from the beginning, and today it is one of the architectural wonders of the modern world and is a primary landmark of Paris, France. The architect was Alexandre Eiffel. (Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations #70)
The Church may look monstrous to some, and there are many cries to tear it down, including men like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. But God defends it to the hilt, and the Church will prevail.

Whatever your take on the Church, make sure you take into consideration the truth about the Church. She’s the best thing going, and she will be established forever. Everything else will fall. Those who belong to the Church will in the end prevail.

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