Main Point: The local church is a people for you to disciple, love, and protect while they disciple, love, and protect you.
Things are heating up in Niger, Africa. Recently a missionary there sent out this message on twitter- “How did we ever develop a theology of safety? Maybe we’re too far removed from nature and have forgotten what wolves do to sheep.”
Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt 10:16).
Today as we think about what it means to be a church member I want to show you how important it is to be a member of a local church. We need protection from wolves who would try to sneak into the church so we guard the church at the front door by looking into and affirming a person’s confession of Christ. We also need protection from the wolves out in the world who will tempt us, attack us, and at times kill us. We need the power of local church membership.
Read Matthew 16:13-20
I. Jesus brings the Kingdom of God
What is God’s kingdom?
A. God’s kingdom is God’s redeemed people in God’s restored creation under God’s wonderful rule
Basically a kingdom is rule over people. It’s more than owning land.
Whenever we think about God’s kingdom we need to remember the already not yet aspect of the kingdom. We have already begun to realize the blessings and promises of God but the fullness of those blessings and promises is not yet. We are waiting for Jesus to return and bring all the promises to completion. So what is the kingdom now?
God’s kingdom is made up of those people who have been redeemed through Christ’s death and resurrection. Your salvation is evidence the kingdom of God has already come. Our struggle with sin and our unavoidable deaths are evidence the fullness of the kingdom of God is still to come; it is not yet. You are redeemed but the fullness of your redemption has not yet come.
God’s kingdom is God’s redeemed people in God’s restored creation
The miracles of Jesus calming the storm, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead are all evidence the kingdom of God has already come. But blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes, cancer, the flu, and funerals are all evidence the fullness of the kingdom of God is still to come; it is not yet. Redemption has come but restoration is still waiting a future day.
God’s kingdom is God’s redeemed people in God’s restored creation under His wonderful rule
When you turn away from sin and choose to do God’s will that is evidence the kingdom of God has already come. The kingdom of God is not a place where God lets you do whatever you want to do. And the kingdom of God is not a people doing whatever they feel is right. The kingdom of God is marked by submission to the benevolent rule of God. When you and I trust God and do what he says we are submitting to his benevolent rule; our submission is evidence the kingdom has come. But our rebellion, our refusal to trust God, is evidence the fullness of the kingdom of God has not yet come. Or better still, we have not fully entered into God’s kingdom. We still want to rule ourselves.
So when I say, “Jesus brings the Kingdom of God,” what I mean is Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to create a people who enjoy God’s good rule. Jesus came to redeem and bring together a people who submit to the wisdom and benevolence of God. The idea of authority is inseparable from the idea of kingdom. You cannot have a kingdom without rule. Jesus exposes the fraud by asking, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). The people of the kingdom obey their King.
Now, if God’s kingdom is God’s redeemed people in God’s restored creation under God’s wonderful rule, how does the kingdom grow? This is a common question and Jesus had a lot to say about the kingdom of God growing like a mustard seed or like leaven in a lump of dough. I’d like the answer the question, “How does the kingdom grow?” by connecting the Kingdom of God with the New Covenant. Here’s my point
B. God establishes his kingdom through covenants
The first covenant is the covenant made through Noah. In this covenant God makes a promise not just to a people but to all creation. He promises to never again destroy the earth with a flood. God rules over all creation. The rainbow is the sign of the Noahic covenant.
The next covenant is the covenant with Abraham. Here the covenant is not with all people but with a person. God’s covenant with Abraham is the promise to make Abraham into a great people. In the covenant with Abraham God is drawing a line between those who belong to Abraham, they are God’s people, and those who do not belong to Abraham, they are not God’s people. Circumcision is the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. Those who have the sign are in. Those who do not have the sign are out. You must obey or get out.
The next covenant is the covenant through Moses. Here God makes a covenant with the people of Abraham. He promises them land and food. He promises to be their God. He promises them lots of children. In the Mosaic covenant God gives his people his law. Those who keep the law are in and those who disobey the law are out.
The next covenant is the covenant with King David. Here God promises to build David not simply a temporary kingdom on this earth. No, God promises to build David a forever kingdom ruled by a forever king. And again God demands obedience.
The problem is Abraham, Moses, David, and the people of God all fall short. None of them are perfect covenant keepers.
Enter Jesus Christ.
Jesus brings the New Covenant. Yes, the New Covenant made with Jesus’ blood is a covenant which demands obedience. But remember from last week, the New Covenant is characterized by the Spirit of God indwelling the people of God for obedience. The new Covenant is characterized by the full and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ paying for all our sin. The New Covenant promises full redemption for all our sin and the New Covenant promises the Holy Spirit so all of us can obey.
God establishes and advances his kingdom through covenants. The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood is the final covenant. Your citizenship in the people of God depends absolutely and only on your being a member of the New Covenant. It is Christ’s work through the New Covenant that brings every other covenant to God’s intended goal- God’s redeemed people living on God’s restored creation under God’s benevolent rule.
That’s what I mean when I say, “Jesus brings God’s kingdom.” But Jesus isn’t just establishing a kingdom. Jesus is also building a church.
Here it is important for us to see the connection between the kingdom and the church. Look back at Matthew 16. In verse 16 Peter confesses Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus affirms Peter’s confession and announces a blessing. The Father is at work revealing this truth. In verse 18 Jesus renames Simon and Jesus promises to build his church on Peter. Notice verse 19. Jesus is giving something in this verse. What is it?
Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus invested Peter and later the other disciples with authority to open and shut or more specifically, Jesus gave them authority to bind and loose. This binding and loosing is related to the kingdom. This binding and loosing is related to building Jesus’ church. Let’s work that out.
II. Jesus builds his church
What is Jesus’ church? I’m glad you asked.
A. Jesus’ church is the assembly of God’s redeemed people living in submission to God’s wonderful rule
The basic idea of a church is an assembly; people who get together or people who are together. So there is a universal church but it cannot assemble in the true and full sense, at least not yet. The universal church has begun to assemble now in heaven but the universal church will never fully assemble until we are all together with Christ in glory. The universal church is mainly an eschatological or end-times assembly.
So there is a universal church which has begun to assemble now in heaven but will not fully assemble until the end of time. This is more of that already not yet aspect of the kingdom. Right now our emphasis is on the local church. Paul makes the distinction between the local and universal church in 1 Corinthians 1:2:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
There is a local church, the church of God that is in Corinth, and there is a universal church, those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before we move on it is crucial we all notice what it is that demarcates the church. The saints are defined as those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. The people of God are known by their relation to their Lord who is King Jesus. The local church is known by its confession of Jesus Christ as Lord.
Think again about Jesus’ question in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” It is not your words about Jesus which demonstrate your citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. It is your obedience which demonstrates your citizenship. Jesus’ church is the assembled people of God living in submission to God’s wonderful rule.
Now let’s turn over to Matthew 16:13-20
B. Your confession of Christ demonstrates your status in the church
Peter’s confession- The Father taught him, drew him, revealed the truth to him
C. The church is built on the Apostles, or, The church is built on the first authoritative confessors of Christ
Ephesians 2:20 makes it clear that the household of God, which is the church, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone
Matthew 16- singular
Matthew 18- plural (Peter the leader not Peter the Pope)
D. The church is an assembly of confessors
1. The basic idea of a church is an assembly
2. We are New Covenant believers (Romans 10:9-13)
3. Matthew 10:32-33, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
E. The church has been given the authority to demarcate the people of God
Mt 16- this binding and loosing begins with one’s confession
Mt 18- our actions reveal the authenticity of our confession. The church has the authority to bind and loose a person’s membership in the local church.
III. Here’s the point
A. The church is a family who needs your help to advance God’s kingdom and submit to God’s rule.
Hebrews 12:12-17, Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
B. You need this church to help you advance God’s kingdom and submit to God’s rule.
Hebrews 10:15-31, And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
You cannot be a fruitful Christian on your own
C. Local church membership is the affirmation of your status as a member of God’s New Covenant People
Binding and loosing
D. Local church membership is your submission to the care of God’s New Covenant people. Local church membership is your commitment to care for God’s New Covenant people
Context- Matthew 16 the leaven of the Pharisees and the requirement for every disciple to pick up his/her cross, deny self, and follow Jesus. If you confess Christ you are going to lose your life. You need care and protection. We need your care and protection.
Context- Matthew 18, you are going to be tempted to sin and some of us will even wander away from the kingdom. You are going to be sinned against by those close to you. You are going to be hurt terribly by your church family. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:33, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart our heavenly Father will not forgive you. You need care and protection. We need your care and protection.
Why do I need the local church? Why do I need you? I need you because you will feel and hear and see my bitterness long before anyone else. Why do you need us? We will feel and hear and see your bitterness long before anyone else.
The church exists to keep you from destroying yourself. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. And the church exists to help you bear more fruit and experience more joy.
Jesus has sent us out as sheep among wolves. Some of the wolves will tempt us, attack us, and wound us. We need protection. Some of the wolves will kill us and our family members. We need the real life love of the local church.
Church membership is not a shallow commitment if you have the time and the church meets your felt-needs. Church membership is the commitment to care for these people making sure that none of them fails to obtain grace. You are committing to see each of us safely through to heaven.
So we take binding and loosing seriously. We want to hear your confession. We want to know you before you join us. We practice church discipline.
We take unity seriously. We have a meaningful statement of faith. We seek reconciliation.