“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, 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 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 it?”
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 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). 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 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 devotion before you now is the second devotion (Part B) in identifying: “Who is It?” The second “mark of identification” or “Who is it?” These people are:
B. A Sanctified People (1 Cor. 1:30)
1. The Selected People: the Perfect People; the Purposed People; the Purchased People; the Preeminent People; and the Producing People were Eternally Justified in the Purpose of God “before” the foundation of the world. They were Judicially Justified in Christ in His Atonement for sin on the cross, in time. And on this foundation, in time, Christ gives them Experiential Justification in the process of Regenerating the dead in trespasses and sin; whereby the regenerated sinner comes to the knowledge that he is a child of God, and cries at conversion, “…Abba, Father.” And Christ brings forth the fruit of the Spirit, which in turn gives him witness that Christ does abide in him. Christ is proven to abide in him by the Fruit of the Spirit that is produced in his daily life.
2. The Sanctified People: They are not only the Justified People, but they are the “set-apart” people in Christ. The act of being “set apart in Christ” is also viewed in three phases, as was Justification: Eternal Sanctification in Christ before the foundation of the world (1 Cor. 1:30); Judicial Sanctification in Christ on the Cross (Heb. 10:10, 14, 29); and Experiential Sanctification in regeneration, wherein the sinner is given a new nature, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is another “distinguishing mark” that identifies the person as a citizen of the House of God because now he desires to please God in everything. This is seen by others in:
A Progressive People: That is the citizens of the Church, the “sanctified” (or set apart) people, are regenerated people who progress in the knowledge and in the grace of Christ, as they “receive the engrafted word with meekness” (Jas. 1:21). The Word of God received with “meekness” identifies the Old Man and his lust of the flesh and lust of the eye and the pride of life that still dwells in the regenerated man’s flesh (Rom. 7:14-24). This revelation by the Word, as it is received by the believer (who is now in the Light), reveals the darkness that remains in his flesh – even though the Old man has been crucified in the regenerated man. This revelation, by the receiving of the engrafted Word, causes him to realize: who he is in Christ (1 Jn. 5:20); the power of Christ that lives within him; that he is “free from sin” (Rom. 8:2); and that he is no longer a bond slave of unrighteousness, but now is a bond slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:4-22).
Therefore, he daily matures in the knowledge of the Victory of Christ in him as he feeds upon the facts of: (2 Pe. 1:3-4) “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (4) Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” That is, the sanctified man is a progressive man in the knowledge of who he is in Christ. And in this progression in the knowledge of Christ, he matures; and this maturity in Christ causes him daily to hate sin more and more, and gives him a desire and determination to bear the “distinguishing marks” of a citizen of the House of God.
This desire and determination cause the sanctified man to be:
C. A Separated People (2 Cor. 6:14-18)
This separation is a separation from the fellowship and philosophy of this evil world in the attitude, actions and attire. This is because he is part of: A Selected People and A Sanctified People.
The prophet Amos asked the question in (Am. 3:3), “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Unequivocally, the answer to this question is No. The sanctified person has been made a “new creation in Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:17) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Therefore, having been made by Christ a “new creation,” or a “new creature” in Christ, he will separate from this world’s fellowship and philosophy – for he is no longer of this world (Jn. 15:16); for now his mind is the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16); for now his actions are love, holiness and peace (Eph. 5:1-22; Rom. 6:22; Heb. 12:14); and now his attire is that which brings glory to God. “Who is it?” – that is, who is the citizen of the Church? The answer is: he is a Separated person; separated from this world’s fellowship and philosophy; which is easily identified by others as they view the attitude, actions and attire of the separated person. However this separation brings on:
A Persecuted People: (Jn. 15:18-25) “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (19) If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (20) Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. (21) But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”
The lack of persecution on the church of America in the 21st Century makes this particular Biblical “distinguishing mark of identification of the citizens of the Church” very difficult to identify “Who is it?” The lack of those people who are being persecuted for Christ’s sake almost disqualifies this “mark” as part of the criteria of finding out “the who” that makes up the true Church. In the last two hundred years, there has been relatively no persecution of the true church outwardly in America. However, rest assured, Christ’s words in John 15:18-25 have been proven to be true with the mental stress and the physical sufferings of the saints all through history; and shall be truth unto the end. When the church is not under persecution, her testimony is weak and diluted with compromise. But, when there is great persecution on the church, the church is purified of the world’s influence; and great growth is experienced in the hearts of the believers, as they are forced to rest in the promises of God. God becomes Preeminent in times of persecution, and the church returns to her first love.