“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The primary focus in the first point of this series on, “The Church” is an explanation of The Definition of the word “Church.” There are three devotions in The Definition; wherein will be the answer to three questions: What is it? Where is it? and Who is it?
The first devotion, The Definition – Part One, answers the first question, “What is It?“ (That is, “What is the Church?”) The church is a called-out group of people by the Holy Spirit in regeneration (Acts 2:39; 2 Tim. 1;9; 2 Peter 1:3). A group of people joined together in the unity of the Spirit to be the Body of Christ, even the temple of Christ on the earth; where prayer, praise and worship of God are carried out. As such, this group is to be His witnesses of His Grace, Mercy and Love to all the earth by word and deed. This group of people is bound together by the truth of God, and they have been made free in this truth. This group of people is endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. They are the Pillar and Ground of Truth, and as the Pillar and ground of truth, they are the place of instruction of the saints. This group of people is the source of all missionary endeavors to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The church has two offices; that of Pastor and that of Deacon (1 Tim. 3:1-13). The Pastor is to shepherd the sheep, feed the sheep, and rule the sheep by the Holy Spirit in the Truth (Heb. 13:7, 17). The Deacon is to serve the church (Acts 6:1-4).
The second devotion, The Definition – Part Two, was titled, “Where is It?” In defining the Church, the second step is to find the Church; therefore, the second devotion is focused on “Where is the Church?”
When you as a Christian, move into a new location to live in that community; the first item of concern is to find the Church of Jesus Christ. You already know what it is; for you know that it is spiritual, yet visible, where the “born from above” children of God meet, praise God, worship God, preach the Word of God, water baptize and disciple the new converts to Christianity. And they are missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all that will listen; whether it is by word or by deed (example). But, how do you find a true church of Jesus Christ? The partial list of the criteria to find the true church of Jesus Christ was submitted in the second devotion.
This devotion, The Definition – Part Three, and answers the third question, “Who is It?” Only God knows who His people are (Jn.10:27a). Only His regenerated people have an internal witness that they are regenerated children of God (Rom. 8:16; Gal. 4:5-6). However, those that are in the House of God have not only an internal witness of the indwelling Christ to themselves; but, they also have an external witness of the indwelling Christ by their words and by their deeds (or fruits, their works of faith) to others. There are many “distinguishing marks” that others can use to readily identify that these ones are the Church of Jesus Christ, which meets in one location, from time to time, in the Name of Jesus.
The answer to the question, “Who is It?” has two parts: part (a); and part (b).
Part (a) pertains to the spiritual nature of the citizens of the House of God as known by God and the believer himself. The spiritual nature of the citizens has already been defined as those that have been “called out” of this world by the Holy Spirit of God in the regenerating process. That is, the dead sinner is raised from his spiritually dead condition in trespasses and sin, and given spiritual life by Christ (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 6:4). He is brought to conversion (Rom. 10:9-10); that is, confession that Jesus Christ is his Sacrifice, or Offering for his sin debt (Isa. 53:1-12; 1 Jn. 5:20; Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:5-6; 2 Tim. 1:9; Gal. 3:13; Jn. 3:3-8); his Substitute to pay for his sin debt (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24); and his Savior redeeming him from the curse of the law (Eph. 1:7).
These “called-out ones” have been baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). These ones have been placed in the Body of Christ as He purposed (1 Cor. 12:18). These ones are identified by their “new nature” (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:22-24), and by their “fruits” (Gal. 5:22-23), and by their “works of faith” (Jas. 1:22; 2:14-26). They assemble to hear the Word of God preached, and to feed on the meat of the Word to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Christ. They support the mission and purpose of the church in word and deed (financially), as God purposed in their heart (2 Cor. 9:7); and as witnesses to the world of the Gospel of the Grace of God in Christ. This defines the spiritual nature of the citizens of the House of God, as known by God and by the regenerated child of God.
Part (b) of “Who is it?” pertains to the distinguishing marks, or characteristics, of the citizens of the House of God externally, as seen by others in the fruit that is produced by these people. These external traits are manifested in the ones who also assemble together from time to time in a certain place to pray, praise, and worship God in truth and in Spirit. They walk in love, holiness, and peace in the House of God, and in their daily lives.
The “distinguishing external marks” of the citizens of the House of God are grouped into four headings. This devotion will deal with the first one:
A. A Select People
The first external fruit (a fruit of identification) is that the citizens of the Church are a people that have been Regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God; and have been revealed to others as a child of God by their public confession of their knowledge of their salvation in Christ Jesus. This public confession of their knowledge that they are a child of God is based on: their Eternal Justification by God before the foundation of the world; their Judicial Justification in Christ on the Cross in the Atonement; and their Experiential Justification in regeneration by the Holy Spirit of God.
It is important for the reader to be given a brief explanation of these three phases of Justification to explain the foundation for the external fruit of the regeneration and conversion of the citizens of the House of God. The reason for this brief explanation of these three phases of Justification is because of the “easy-believism movement” among many Evangelicals of today. This movement has no Biblical foundation for their “so-called doctrine of conversion.” This false doctrine has deceived many today, because it places the basis of their conversion to Christ upon the merits of men, and not solely upon the merits of God in the Act of Justification by Grace and Grace alone. The brief explanation of the foundation, or the reason, of Regeneration and Conversion (which is the first external trait of identification) of a citizen of the House of God begins with Eternal Justification (by God, and by Him Alone – based on His Eternal Purpose before time ever existed) of the citizens of the House of God in Christ before the foundation of the world; for citizens are:
1) A Perfect People: (Eph. 1:4-6) “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
The Apostle Paul was very plain in these verses that God made “us” “holy and without blame before Him”; “Him” being Jesus Christ. He chose us in Christ not on our merit, but “according to the good pleasure of His will”; and in so doing, “wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (or in Jesus Christ). And this was done in Eternity Past; even before the foundation of the world, God made us in His view a “Perfect People.” This speaks of Eternal Justification; which means that the “us” were “declared righteous” in the mind of God before the foundation of the world, “according to the good pleasure which he hath purposed in Himself” (Eph. 1:9).
2) A Purposed People: (Rom. 8:29-30) “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
The Apostle Paul now explains that those people (the whom; the “us”; the ones God had chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world) He did “foreknow.” That is, the people He knew before the foundation of the world, He foreknew (the Greek Word indicates an intimate relationship; that is, a spiritual relationship; to know by experience). These foreknown ones, He did “predestinate,” or ordain, them to be conformed, or changed, to the image of His Son. These predestinated ones, He “called”; that is, by His spoken Word (The Rhēma) (Jn. 6:63; Eph. 2:12 Tim. 2:1:9). This is speaking of the “quickening” process, or the making spiritually alive, those (whom He foreknew; those whom He predestinated; the “us”) dead in trespasses and sin. These that would be “called” by God, would also be “Justified” (or “declared righteous”) in the Atonement of Christ on the Cross (Rom. 3:24-25). And the “justified” would also be “glorified,” or be made one in Him (Jn. 17:21-24).
3) A Purchased People: (Eph. 1:7) “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Acts 20:28) “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
The Apostle Paul reveals that the “us” in (Eph. 1:4-6) were redeemed, or set free from the curse of the law (which is spiritual death, or complete separation from the Life of God) by the means of Christ as the Sacrifice, Substitute and Savior in the Atonement on the Cross (2 Cor. 5:21). This speaks of Judicial Justification; which was accomplished on the Cross (Rom. 3:24-25).
4) A Preeminent People: (Eph. 1:5b) “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,” The word “adoption” means, “a son-placing.” On the basis of the choice of God before the foundation of the world of the “us” in Christ; and on the basis of the Atonement of Christ for the “us” on the Cross; and on the basis of the regenerating process – the “us” were brought from “infants” to “adult sons” in the perception (or in the knowledge of) the position that was given the “us” before the foundation of the world in Christ (Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:1-6). The “us” were “predestinated” (or ordained) unto “adoption” (or to adult son-ship) by Christ Himself; and this is known by the “us” in the New Birth. This knowledge by the “us” allows them to know they are “heirs” of God and joint-heirs of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17). This speaks of Experiential Justification.
5) A Producing People: (Jn. 15:16b-c): Summary of being a Select People: The importance of being a “Selected People of God before the foundation of the world” (as far as what others can see and know of the “us,” or of the citizens of the Church) is the reason in time of the regeneration and conversion of the “us.” As noted above, the Regeneration and Conversion of the citizens of the Church is the first external fruit of identification to be recognized by others. And this conversion is the basis of the results (or of the fruits of righteousness produced in the life of the believer) which is the witness of the believer. The conversion to Christ (which was purposed in Christ; is based on the merits of Christ; and is performed in time, by Christ, in regeneration of the “us”) means that the “us” have been given a New Nature which is “created after God in true righteousness” (Eph. 4:24). This new nature causes the “us” to have a New Will (2 Cor. 5:17), and that new will is to love God and to love the brethren. Therefore, the works of faith will be produced in the believer (Jas. 2:14-26); and also the fruit of the Spirit will be produced in the life of the believer (Gal. 5:22-23; Rom. 6:21-22). This fruit of the Spirit is what others will see manifested in the believer’s daily life, and by this fruit will know who they are – for the flesh cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit; only God can produce the Fruit of the Spirit in the believer.
This devotion is an attempt to identify, “Who is It?” That is, the identification of the citizens of the House of God. First, this is by the act of God before the foundation of the earth placing the “us” in Christ; which is the Reason of the “conversion” from death to life of the “us.” And this conversion is the cause of the Result of the of the “distinguishing marks,” or fruits, that identify one as a citizen of the Church, the House of God, even the Body and Bride of Christ. The act of God, for the “us” in Christ (Eph. 1:4-11; Rom. 8:29-30), is the validation (or the foundation; or the reason) of the believer’s “distinguishing marks,” which reveal that he is a “citizen of the Household of Faith.”
The false professor of Jesus Christ can only be revealed as a false believer (or one who does not have Christ abiding in him) by an examination of his nature against the Word of God; and what the Word of God says of the false professor’s nature, which is: (Eph. 4:22) “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” So, the fruit produced in the false professor will be the fruit of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).
The true nature (a regenerated nature; one that only God can, and does, create in a sinner in regeneration) will bear inspection in the Light of the Written Word of God; for the true nature is “which after God is created in righteousness” (Eph. 4:24; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 5:22-23). Therefore, the citizens of the House of God, the Church, are a “Selected People by God before the foundation of the world”; but can be identified by the external fruits produced by God in the believer. These fruits are “distinguishing marks” of identification of the Church. Therefore, “The Selected People” are: (a) A Perfect People; (b) A Purposed People; (c) A Purchased People; (d) A Preeminent People; and (e) A Producing People: (Mat 7:20) “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”