Text: Eph. 5:23-27

Title: "The Church of the 21st Century: Loving Christ & the Brethren"

Intro: The Bible says, "Unto [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Ephes. 3:21

I like the theme of this conference: "The Church of the 21st Century." If Christ does not return before the year 2000, we will celebrate the 2,000th yr. anniversary of the independent Baptist movement. Its seedbed was prepared by a man sent from GodóJohn the Baptist. Its foundation was laid by the Son of GodóJesus Christ. Its power was provided by the Spirit of God. Its mission is to preach the Gospel to every creature. And its pathway is soaked with the blood of some 6 million Baptist martyrs who resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

The Bible says, "Unto [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Ephes. 3:21

I like the theme of my message: "Loving Christ & the Brethren."

This conference message combines the church, loving Christ, and loving the brethren. This is right and proper, for the three cannot be separated. If you are obedient to Christ concerning His church, you have proved your love for Christ and the brethren. You have chosen to be identified with Christ through scriptural baptism. You have set yourself within the circle of God's will, purpose, and plan for your life. You have not forsaken the assembling (or "churching") of yourself together with God's people. You have been included in the blessings and ministry of the body, the church, the administrator of God's earthly kingdom. If this is not true in your life, you have missed the very first step of obedience to God, therefore you are missing out on God's best!!

The Bible says, "Unto [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Ephes. 3:21

I like the book of Ephesians. It is the preeminent book on the N.T. Baptist church. Though every N.T. epistle (letter) is written to a church or to Christians who are in churches, from Ephesians we learn that the church is local; is a body; is the habitation of God; is the revealer of the wisdom of God; is the place of ministry; is the place of edifying believers; and is under the complete control of Jesus Christ. Loving Christ, loving the brethren, and loving the church cannot be separated.

Eph. 5:14-32 -- "Loving Christ & The Brethren" -- prayer

Note: My purpose tonight is to focus on the Person of Christ, not the picture of marriage as found in these verses. The only hope of the church in the 21st century is a return to the preeminence of Jesus Christ in the pulpit, in the study, and in the home.

I. THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY MUST LOVE CHRIST AS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH (v23a)

A. Christ is the Head!

1. "Christ" speaks of Jesus' office, while "Jesus" speaks of Christ's humanity. Notice that Christ is the head of the church. He is not head because of His humanity, but because of His office. He is not just head while in His earthly ministry, but He is head of the church eternally.

2. We are to love "Christ" because, as the Head of the church, He alone is the chosen, anointed One of God. (I wonder who you would have chosen? Not Christ!) God chose Christ because there is no other, there is none better! He is God's only begotten Son, the Messiah, who came to fulfill every sacrifice, every type, every prophecy, and every hope of the O.T. He is God's first choice, His best choice, His perfect image, His Son!

3. We are to love "Christ" because He alone is the Head of the church. Christ is God's perfect representative of all that is holy, righteous, just, and lovely.

Note: Pastor friend: I am glad that you are not head of the church! Deacon friend: I am glad that you are not head of the church! Wealthy friend, I am glad that you are not head of the church! And busybody lady friend, I am glad that you are not head of the church! Jesus Christ is the Head of His church!

a. You add another "head" and the body gets down right ugly!! That's is why cults, eastern religions, apostate churches are so ugly--two or more heads!

b. The Head is the chief part, that which gains the attention. We can point to our Head and not be ashamed!

"And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence" Col. 1:18

Note: It is not the building that should gain the attention. It is not the people that should gain the attention. It is not the pastor that should gain the attention, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who should have the preeminence! When folks see your building, your pastor, your people, and hear your message they should say, "There is where you will find Jesus Christ!"

c. The Head directs the body. By God's sovereign grace and wisdom, the church has perfect direction. The Head that rules the body is absolute perfection. His demands are righteous, His directions are sure, and His chastisement is just and necessary. The church will never go wrong by being obedient to the Head.

3. We are to love "Christ" because He gave us His church.

Note: Men have given us many churches, but Christ gave us His church!

a. "Church" = A local assembly of saved and baptized believers, united by a covenant of faith, recognized and commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel to every creature, and called out to transact the Master's business (administer the Kingdom of Heaven). The purpose of each church is to do what Christ did during His earthly ministry, and to represent Christ to a lost and dying world. An independent Baptist church is the representation of Jesus Christ on earth.

b. Jesus Christ is the Head, here (Bible) is His mind, and the church is His body on earth. The fulness of Christ!

"Brethren that love brethren love the Head of the church"

II. THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY MUST LOVE CHRIST AS THE SAVIOUR OF THE BODY (v23b)

A. What does it mean, "the Saviour of the body?"

1. The word "Saviour" means, "the One who brings (accomplisher of) salvation, deliverance, preservation.

a. We usually think of salv. as deliverance from the just penalty of our sins, and it is! You see, you need a Saviour because you have broken God's laws and offended God's holiness! Your sins must be punished, and your sins will be punished. God is the Judge and you are the guilty party. That is not even open to debate. The question is, will you be punished by God with eternal damnation, or will you trust what Jesus Christ did on the cross in bearing your punishment for you?

"And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." 1 John 4:14

b. Here it speaks of Christ as "preserver," the One that looks after, cares for the church. He is the Author of all help, the Saviour.

B. But it says He is "the Saviour of the body."

1. What is "a body?" It is a local, visible, organized, living organism. (I have one, do you?)

2. What is "the body?" Col. 1:18 says, "the body is the church." The word body is used to further define Christ's church. Church is the "called out assembly," while body defines its organization and activity.

a. As a body, it is local.

b. As a body, it is visible to its community.

c. As a body, it is organized so that many parts function as one "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ." 1 Cor. 12:12

d. As a body, it is "alive" in its ministry of edifying the saints and going into all the world.

Note: But if the "body" is the visible representative of Christ on earth, why does it need a "Saviour/Preserver"? Because you are in it!! Think of it, when you go to church you are to take the fulness of the Holy Spirit with you, but instead you take your sin-nature! You are to go in humility of mind, but, instead, your mind is at enmity with God! You are to go preferring others, but, instead, you prefer yourself! You are to go to see and learn more of Christ, but, instead you go to see what others are doing, saying or wearing! And I could go on and on, but do you see why the church needs a Deliverer/Preserver? And then there are the problems with the world and its authorities! In every age the church has needed deliverance from her enemies, and preservation from her members! Christ is the Preserver of the body!

"Brethren that love brethren love the Saviour of the church"

III. THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY MUST LOVE CHRIST'S AUTHORITY OVER THE CHURCH (v24)

A. The church is Subject to Christ! (Like it or not!)

1. Christ gave it life (Matt. 16:18), power and purpose (Acts 2:8)

2. Each church is under His authority and rule.

"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Rev. 2:5

3. Each church will give account of its stewardship

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you". Hebrews 13:17

B. We are to Love Christ for the Privilege of Subjection

1. "Submission/Subjection" are dirty words to most of us (v21,22). If we are to be in submission one to another, certainly we can gratefully submit to the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" Hebrews 12:28

"If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will my Father honour" John 12:26

2. We can submit because we can fully trust Christ with our submission, knowing that He will not take advantage of us, that He does all things well, and that He seeks only the best from His church.

"Brethren that love brethren love the Sovereign of the church"

IV. THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY MUST LOVE WHAT CHRIST LOVES (v25)

A. Christ Loves the Church

Note: Christian leaders and many believers have relegated the church to a 2nd class citizenship today. It is neither taken seriously or considered important. Parachurch organizations have sprung up like mushrooms on a rotten log, all claiming to be "assisting" the church, but, in fact, are sucking its lifeblood! But Christ did not say He loved parachurch organizations, or great denominations, He said He loved the local, visible, N.T. Baptist church! That leaves only one place for parachurch organizations, and that is under the authority of a independent Baptist church, which is under the authority of Christ!

Note: It says Christ also loved the church. Not only is He the Head, the Saviour, and the Sovereign, which all speak of power, and authority, but He is deeply in love with His assembly! Most potentates rule by brute force, but Christ rules by the power of sacrificial love.

1. This is not "sloppy agape," but self-sacrificing love. This is not based on the attractiveness of the object, but on the recognition by God of our need. Love that impels the one loving to give himself in self-sacrifice for the well-being of the one who is loved. Each N.T. church needs the love of Christ, and each church has the love of Christ.

a. v28 tells us, He loves the church because it is His body (v28)

B. Christ Proved His Love for the Church by Giving Himself

1. "Gave" = to freely give, present; to hand over to another, to deliver over

a. He freely gave Himself over as a sacrifice that sinful men might be reconciled to God, and that we might enjoy our new life in Christ

"He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32

b. He freely gave Himself for 3 1/2 earthly yrs to train men to perpetuate the church so that the Gospel might be spread down through the ages. (Gospels)

c. He freely gives Himself to direct each church in its present earthly ministry of being His representative, and in administering the kingdom (Rev. 2-3).

d. He will freely give Himself to bring glory to God down through the eternal ages in the church.

"Unto [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Ephes. 3:21

"Brethren that love brethren love the church Christ loves"

V. THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY MUST LOVE THE WORK OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCH (v26)

A. What is the Work of Christ in the Church

1. A personal work ("He might") (Man-made rules don't change men, only the power of Christ changes men)

2. A sanctifying work of Christ

a. "Sanctify" = to make holy (separate, distinct, unique), to set in a state opposite to the common, unclean; or to deliver from. To set apart for Himself. Each church is set apart for Christ's purposes.

3. A cleansing work of Christ

a. "Cleanse" = to be free of foreign material, purified (not double-minded, hearted, etc). Each church is to be under the high tide, storm surge cleansing of Christ's Word and Holy Spirit conviction!

A literal translation would read, "Setting it apart, cleansing it by the washing of water through the Word."

B. How is this Work Carried Out?

1. By "washing of water." (there is some real "holy water"!)

This may be a reference to:

a. The picture of baptism (repentance/confession, John: baptism into the church represents a changed life)

"And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Cor. 6:11

b. Living water of the Spirit

"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit..." John 7:38-39

c. The cleansing properties of God's Word

1) A continuous work, for continuous sin

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

C. A Washing by the Word

"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." 1 Thes. 2:13

1. A necessary washing by a definite Word that produces a positive work. Removes the spots, smoothes out the wrinkles!

"Brethren that love brethren love the work of Christ in the church"

VI. THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY MUST LOVE THE PROMISE OF CHRIST TO HIS CHURCH (v27a)

A. He Will Present His Church (we should live in this expectation)

1. The churches will be "presented" (to cause to stand beside or near, exhibit) before the assembled multitude of heaven as the work of Christ.

a. Here we see the bride presented to the multitude of heaven.

B. He Will Accept His Church

1. What is gloriously presented by Christ, will be willingly accepted by Christ.

a. Here we see the bride presented to the Bridegroom

C. He Will Be Glorified in It

1. All that Christ has done for His church is for His own glory.

"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him": Col. 1:16

2. "Glorious" = recognized, honored, distinguished

a. Christ's bride will be glorious, not because of itself, but because it brought glory to (made known) Christ. The perfect picture of Christ. (Let's not wait until then!)

3. What should the church be?

a. "Holy" = separate, distinct, unique

b. "Without blemish" = no blame, shame, stain, disgrace attached to it

"Brethren that love brethren love the promise of Christ in the church"

VII. THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY MUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST (v27b)

A. Our Present State

1. "Spots" = moral blemishes, stains (should be free of sin stain, but stained with martyr's blood)

2. "Wrinkles" = signs of aging, anxiety, imperfection, bumpy!

3. "And such thing" = belonging to the class of things that deform and defile

4. "Unholy" = not separate, distinct, unique

5. "Blemished" = blamable

"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Romans 7:18-19

B. Our Possible State

1. Holy

"But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;" 1 Peter 1:15

2. Without blemish (not perfection, but not indifference)

C. Our Future State

1. Perfection

Concl: For the church of the 21st century to thrive it must reassert its Christ-given mandate as His representative on earth. He is its Head, Saviour, Sovereign. He loved the church, and gave himself for it to sanctify it, cleanse it, and presented it to Himself. The local, visible, independent, N.T. Baptist church is His only plan. There is no other for this age. Do you love His church? Do you love all He is to His church? Do you have unfeigned love for the obedient brethren in His church?
 

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