“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.” (Matthew 16:18)
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 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?”
The third devotion, The Definition – Part Three, 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 a regenerated child 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 the 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). They 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 in the First Devotion Part A, in answering the question, “Who is it?” The first mark is The Selected People: as such; they were identified in as: (a) A Perfect People, (b) A Purposed People, (c) A Purchased People, (d) A Preeminent People, and (e) A Producing People.
The Second Devotion Part B is the second devotion in identifying the, “Who is it?” The second mark of identification or “Who is it?” – They are: A Sanctified People, and as such, they are A Progressive People. The third mark of identification or “Who is it?” – They are A Separated People; as such they are A Persecuted People.
This devotion (Part C) is the third devotion in identifying the, “Who is It?” The citizens of the House of God are:
D. A Serving People:
A Selected People; A Sanctified People; A Separated People; are also A Serving People. That is, they serve not the flesh; but they serve Christ as “bond slaves of righteousness.” This is the next “distinguishing mark” that identifies “Who is it?” (or Who makes up the Church? or Who are the citizens of the Church?) Therefore, not only are they A Selected People, A Sanctified People, A Separated People; but also the citizens of the House of God are A Serving People. Within this frame work, notice the following “distinguishing marks.” The citizens of the House of God are:
1). A Praying People: (Acts 1:12-14; 12:5-12; 13:3; Eph. 6:18; Jude 1:20) Jesus prayed and He taught the Apostles to pray. Why pray? The answer is simple, (Prov. 3:5-7), (5) “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (6) In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (7) Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”
God is “Wisdom” (Prov. 8:12). God is the Creator, the Controller and Consummator of His Creation. As such He is “omnipotent” (all powerful); “omniscient” (all knowledge); “omnipresent” (He is everywhere at all times). God is the Alpha and the Omega; the First and the Last; Who has the keys of life and death; Who ordereth the steps of man (Ps. 37:23); Who is the Origin, Planner and Performer of His Purpose in your life (Job. 14:5; 23:13-14; Prov. 16:9; 19:21; Isa. 46:9-11). So, who else has the answer for the direction of your life, but God? The answer is None.
Therefore, a Serving People are a people who seek God in prayer before they begin their service to get the Plan, and how it is to be carried out (Acts 16:10). A people with the Plan of God are easily recognized by others; for they are Praying People. In fact, they pray “without ceasing” (1 Cor. 5:17) and “with all perseverance” (Eph. 6:18). Therefore, A Praying People is another “distinguishing mark” of “Who is it?”
2). A Performing People: (Jas. 1:22) (Isa. 6:8) A praying people (who bow in the presence of God in all His Holiness and Majesty) confess their sins before God, as the prophet Isaiah did in (Isa. 6:3-5). When this happens in the believer’s life, then comes the experience of the cleansing of God to the believer (Isa. 6:6-7), as it did to Isaiah. The praying people, the people who confess their sins, are the ones who are enabled to hear the Word of God. Isaiah heard the voice of God as He said to Isaiah (Isa. 6:8a), “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” Hearing the voice of God is a must if you are going to do the Will of the Lord. But, to hear the Word of the Lord, the vessel must be fit and clean to hear God’s call and to carry out God’s will (Isa. 59:2).
But, the hearing must turn into doing the command of God. The doing is called obedience, and Isaiah said in (Isa. 6:8c) “…here am I; send me.” This is the attitude the believer must come to, to be a fit vessel in the service of God. But, when Isaiah found out that the hearers of his message would not respond; he asked God (Isa. 6:11), “Lord, how long?” This is a normal human reaction to resistance; but, the “distinguishing mark” of the true citizen of the House of God is that he will not be worried about the “success” of his mission; for he knows and rests in the fact that he is the seed sower and seed waterer, and it is God that gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6b-7). Therefore, the citizen of the Church is a “doer” of the Word of God, and not only a “hearer” (Jas. 1:22); he is a Performer of God’s commands, and leaves the Results to God. The performing of God’s commands must be paramount to the citizens of the House of God, and not let the results of their obedience to God’s commands be the deciding factor of their service to God and for God. There is no hiding this “distinguishing mark of Identification” of a true citizen of God’s House – if the citizen is a “doer” (or a performer) of God’s Word.
3). A Preaching People: (Acts 2:14a) “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said….” And from that very hour (on the Day of Pentecost; the Day the Church was baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit in the process of Regeneration) unto this hour, the Church has been, is, and shall ever be, the voice of God concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth …” This is another “distinguishing mark” that identifies the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church is “the City of God”; Mt Sion (Heb. 12:22-23); which is set on a Hill; from whom flows The Good News of Jesus Christ. Christ’s Body is a preaching body; and this preaching body cannot be hidden from the spiritual discernment by a regenerated child of God. Each citizen is also to be an Ambassador of The Reconciliation of Jesus Christ in word and in deed. When the citizen of the House of God is an outward Ambassador of the Good News of Jesus Christ as the Sacrifice, or the Sin Offering, for the sin debt; and that Christ is the Substitute for the “us” in (Eph. 1:4-11) (2 Cor. 5:21); and is the Savior of the “us;” then, this “distinguishing mark” cannot be hidden, but will be fully manifested daily in the life of the believer.
4). A Powerful People: (Acts 1:8a; Phil. 4:13; 2:13) Christ is the Power of God (1 Cor. 1:24); when He was with His Apostles, He was their power to perform. But, He told them He was leaving, but would come again (Jn. 14:16-18). Jesus instructed the Apostles after His resurrection to go to Jerusalem and wait for His return in Power (Lk. 24:49). This the Apostles did, with the rest of the 120 people, waiting (Acts 1:8, 13-14) until they were endued with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in power on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-39). The Church was manifested to the world that day as they were endued with the Promise of the Father; that is, the giving to the Church the gift of the Holy Spirit; the power of God came to indwell the House of God. Therefore, from the Day of Pentecost to this present hour, Christ (the Power of God) abides in His Temple, the House of God, the Body of Christ. Therefore, the Power of God, Jesus Christ, dwells in the spirit of every member of the House of God (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).
So, the Apostle Paul wrote in Phil. 4:13, (13) “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” For Paul knew that it was the indwelling Christ, the power of God, that was the Source of his performance (Phil. 2:13) “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
This power of God dwelling in (and being operative in) every member of the House of God is another “distinguishing mark” that is easily recognized by others. The Power of Christ working in the believer, and in the producing of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in the believer (which Fruit is manifested externally in the believer), is an undeniable “distinguishing mark” of identification of a citizen of the House of God. The power that dwells in the believer will be manifested in every facet of the believer’s life. And as the power of Christ is manifested in the believer in his daily life, those who view the citizen who walks, talks, and works in the power of Christ, know that this citizen is of the Household of Faith.
5). A Persistent People: (2 Tim. 4:6-8) (7) “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” The final stroke for A Serving People is the finish of the race set before them in patience (Heb. 12:1c) “… and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” That is, no matter what, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, the citizen of the House of God can say: “I have kept the faith.”
You have to keep on keeping on in every situation and in every circumstance that comes your way on this earthly Christian journey. This “persistence” by the true child of God, as he walks in the House of God, is another “distinguishing mark” that will identify “Who is it?”
Conclusion: The answer of the questions, “What is it? Where is it? and Who is it?”
1. The answer to these three questions are the foundation to give the “The Definition” of the “Distinguishing Marks” that identify the Church, the House of God, the Body of Christ, and the Bride of Christ, the spiritual Temple of God on the earth in the 21st Century. The Church is God’s House, the Pillar and Ground of Truth on earth (1 Tim. 3:15). His Body is made up the “called-out” ones by the Choice and effectual Call of God – manifested in their Regeneration by the Spirit of God, and by their being placed in one body; to assemble, to pray, to worship God in truth and in Spirit; and to be His witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to world: (Acts 1:8) “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
2. The House of God (or the Church) is alive and well in America today. Jesus made a promise to the perpetuity of His Body (Mt.16:18c) “… I (Jesus Christ) will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus manifested the Church to the world on the Day of Pentecost, and came to Dwell in His Temple in Power on that Day: first to the Jews (Acts 2:1-13); and later to the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-12), to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:25-39), to all Caesarea (to the Gentiles) (Acts 8:40), to Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48); to the Gentile world (Acts 13:46-48). Jesus gave the mandate to the Church after His Resurrection, just before He ascended to heaven, (Acts 1:8) “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The Apostle Paul said that the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been published in all the earth (Col. 1:23) “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.”
3. Praise God, the Church of Jesus Christ is still proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world. She is still alive, and can be identified in nature as to the What, Where, and Who. Hallelujah!
4. This author does admit that the true Church of the 21st Century in America appears to have disappeared, when compared to the New Testament Church, in its Doctrines preached and practiced. But not so – for God is Alive, and His Body is alive; for His promises have not failed, and will never fail. Therefore, I submit to you, seeking Child of God, looking for the true Church in America, please examine the criteria that is submitted in these devotions. Look and pray to God to reveal to you the “distinguishing marks” which will identify for you, the true Church.
5. My sincere desire for each born-again reader of these devotions; is that if you are not attending a true body of Christ (for whatever reason) please find a people that have assembled in the Name of Jesus, to uplift His Name, and to worship, pray and praise Him, and to be a witness for Him; and join yourself to them. This is all-important to your Christian growth in Christ; and all-important to the keeping of His commandments, and proof of your love to Him (Jn. 14:15). For here, in His Body, do you learn of Him, and are established in the most holy Faith; and here you will come to see and understand (Ps 23:1-6):
(1) “A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
(3) He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(5) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
(6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
Oh, beautiful House of God (Ps. 48:1-2) “…Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. (2) Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.”
Yes, Dear Reader, there is no place like the House of God (Mt. Zion; called Mt. Sion in Heb. 12:22). Please read Rev 21:1-27; this is what God revealed to the Apostle John of the glorified Bride of Christ; even the Body of Christ, the Church, Whom Christ gave Himself for her Salvation.