Christ & His Church
Jesus promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). It began on Pentecost after His resurrection in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 2). When the gospel of Christ was preached the people asked, “What shall we do?” (v. 37). The apostle Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (v. 38). “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them… And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (vv. 41, 47).
Whenever and wherever that same gospel is preached, and people respond in that same way God adds them to that same church. Jesus never wanted the church to be divided into different denominations. He prayed that His disciples be one (John 17:20-23). He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). It belongs to Him.
The apostle Paul vigorously condemned division in the church (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). He reminded us that Christ is not divided, that Paul was not crucified for us, and that we were not baptized into the name of Paul. It is by Christ’s sacrifice and by His name that we are saved and added to His church (not that of some mere human).
Paul also taught that Jesus is the head of the church, which is His body (Ephesians 1:22-23), that there is one body (4:4), that Jesus is the Savior of the body (5:23), and that He loved the church and gave Himself for her (v. 25).
Salvation is found in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:10) and all the saved are in His church (Acts 2:47). When we are baptized into Christ for salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12) we are baptized into His church (1 Corinthians 12:13).
The gospel of Christ calls all people out of sin and the world, with its false religions and manmade denominations, and into Christ and His church (Acts 2:39; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Peter 2:9-10).
Do you belong to Christ and His church? Does the church mean as much to you as it does to Christ?
There Is NO Condemnation IN Christ
We have all suffered under the guilt, power, and condemnation of sin. We all know what a cruel taskmaster sin can be. We all have experienced the misery, heartache, and suffering that sin can cause us – how it destroys our relationships, our life, our souls. But there is good news!
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). The word “therefore” indicates that Romans 8 is a pivotal chapter. What Paul writes here is based on all that he wrote before in the book of Romans: The condemnation of the whole world (1-3), the blessing of salvation for all through faith in Jesus Christ (4-5), the moment we died to sin to live for God (6).
In the more immediate context, Chapter 7, Paul describes his life before becoming a Christian. Sin ruled his life. He was spiritually dead, separated from God by sin. At the end of the chapter, he cries out in desperation to be delivered and thanks God for the only One who can deliver him – Jesus Christ, our Lord (vv. 24-25).
Therefore, now there is no condemnation in Christ! What a beautiful, wonderful, inspiring, encouraging thought – no condemnation! Every sinner wants to hear those words. Imagine yourself before a judge having been convicted on many counts of violating the law, having served for years in the penitentiary on death row, but on this day the judge pronounces you, “Not guilty!” That means that you are pardoned, forgiven of all your crimes, no longer under the sentence of death, free to enter back into society to live your life.
Well now that is a physical picture of the spiritual things Paul is writing about here – we are pronounced “Not guilty!” by God, forgiven of all our sins, no longer separated from God, free from the rule of sin to live a new life of righteousness. We no longer walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. That’s what we have in Christ!
God Demonstrated His Love
God demonstrated His love for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us...In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:10; cf. Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:4; 5:2; 1 John 3:1, 16; 4:19; Rev. 1:5).
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first let me do this.” He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. “Now who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air. “My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.”
Love is the only word that could possibly explain what God has done for us. When God sent His Son into our world He knew what would happen to Him. He knew He would be rejected and ridiculed. He knew He would be tempted by Satan. He knew He would be betrayed by Judas. He knew He would be crucified between two thieves with nails in His hands and feet. He knew His Son would cry out in His pain and suffering and that He would not rescue Him. Yet, God sent His only Son. Not because anyone deserved Him but because everyone needed Him.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord...Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all...God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them...For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Isa. 53:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:19, 21).
God proved His great love for us at the cross 2,000 years ago. He doesn’t change (Mal. 3:6) but loves us today with that same love. Remember, God didn’t just say, “I love you.” He showed us.
The Glory Which Shall be REvealed
In a world of sin, suffering, and death, Paul seeks to encourage us by the glory which shall be revealed (Romans 8:18-25). Notice:
1. It is incomparable.
Romans 8:18 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Though our sufferings may be extremely difficult, our glory will be eternally better than what we now experience in this world. We will have a new body and live in a new world.
No one has yet seen the glory which shall be revealed in us, but we shall see it when we see Jesus come in His glory (1 John 3:2). Our bodies will be changed to conform with His glorious body (Phi. 3:20-21).
The apostle Paul gives more detail about this in 1 Corinthians 15, where he describes the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:35-57). We will not be raised to live in this earthly body of flesh and blood, but we will be raised with a heavenly body. This is why Paul says we do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16-5:1).
What an encouragement for us in the sufferings of this present time!
2. The creation eagerly waits for it.
Romans 8:19-22 "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now."
There is much dispute about what Paul means in these verses. I don’t care to get into all of that in this lesson, but I will try to give you my best understanding in hopes of bringing some encouragement to us all.
It most naturally appears that Paul is using a figure of speech known as personification, by giving the nonhuman part of our created world human characteristics. There are many examples of this throughout the Bible (Isa. 35:1-10; 65:17; 66:22).
Wayne Jackson writes, “In Psalm 114, the inspired writer describes the deliverance of Jehovah’s people from Egyptian bondage. In conjunction with that glorious event, various elements of the creation are depicted as cooperating with, and rejoicing at, Israel’s freedom. The sea saw it and fled, the mountains skipped as rams, the hills frolicked like little lambs, and the earth trembled. The Old Testament is replete with this type of symbolism (cf. Psalms 96:12; 98:8; Isaiah 35:1; 55:12)” (Christian Courier, “Will Heaven Be On Earth”).
So here in Romans 8, Paul speaks of the creation as though it has a soul that is constantly absorbed in waiting, longing for, and anticipating the glory which shall be revealed in us.
This imaginary soul of creation is further said to have been subjected to futility, which is described as a bondage of corruption, under which it is now groaning and laboring with pain. This no doubt refers to the curse of God suffered by creation because of man’s sin from the beginning (Gen. 3:14-24).
Yet, Paul says the creation was not left by God with no hope, but that “itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). The deliverance of the creation is not to be taken literally as though it had a soul which could be set free from this world and go share in the freedom that we will share with Christ in glory. No, according to 1 Peter 3, this world will be destroyed by fire, but we do “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:10-13; cf. Mat. 25:35).
Christ has already prepared this place for us in His Father’s house (John 14:1-3). It is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for [us]” (1 Pet. 1:4). When Jesus comes for us, we will all go home to be with Him forever (2 The. 4:13-17).
We should not think of the new world as we do the present world. The present world is a mere type or figure of the world to come. The physical points to the spiritual. For example, in the last two chapters of Revelation John is given a vision of the church in its triumphant and eternal state after the day of judgment (Revelation 21-22). It is described as a new heaven and a new earth (21:1).
John explicitly says that the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (cf. Rev. 20:11). He also adds that the sea is no more. The sea stood between God and His people in chapter four (4:6). In chapter fifteen (15:2) the faithful are seen after death standing on the sea. They had moved closer to God. But in the new world there will be no separation between God and His people. “God Himself will be with them” (21:3).
In John’s vision, the new world is pictured as a new Jerusalem (21:2). It is not the old physical city of the earth but as other visions in Revelation this one comes from heaven. John goes on to describe this city in much detail comparing it to a bride adorned for her husband and speaking of its foundations, walls, gates, a street, the kings of the earth, a river, a throne, and a tree. These things are not meant to be taken literally but symbolically (Rev. 1:1; e.g., v. 20). They are but figures in an apocalyptic book to help us understand what it will be like in eternity for the people of God. It will be beautiful and wonderful. There will be room for all. We will never be moved but will be fully protected from sin and forever provided spiritual health and life. It will be glorious because we are there with God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. God could only relate the new world to us by using familiar figures from our present world, but the two are completely different worlds.
3. We eagerly wait for it.
Romans 8:23-25 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
In our decaying body of flesh and blood we suffer anguish and pain in this world and can hardly wait to be in our incorruptible, immortal, heavenly body in the next world. We have already seen from 1 Corinthians 15 how that we will all be changed at the coming of Christ in the resurrection. Jesus said this of the resurrection of the dead: “nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). That is the complete and final adoption (sonship), the redemption of the body that Paul speaks of here in Romans 8.
Paul assures us of this reward by reminding us that we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. In the OT, the firstfruits served as a pledge of the harvest to follow. The firstfruits of the Spirit refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which serves as a pledge, earnest, or guarantee of our future inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Cor. 1:22). I like to think of it as a down payment on our heavenly reward.
Though we have not yet seen it, it is not just wishful thinking (2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:1). It is sure and certain (Heb. 6:13-20). We have been delivered by the gospel from the condemnation of sin (Rom. 8:1-4). The Spirit of God dwells in us by faith in the word of God; this is our guarantee (vv. 5-13). We are the children of God; it has been established in heaven. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (vv. 14-16). And so, we are heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ of the glory which shall be revealed (vv. 17-18).
It is because of this hope that we were saved (“the end of your salvation” 1 Pet. 1:3-9). We still hope because it is not yet realized and it continues to sustain us in every temptation and trial of this present time so that we do not give up but are ready, willing, and able to patiently endure, persevere, keep on keeping on to the end, which really is just the beginning of the eternal victory we have in Jesus.
Colossians 1:5 “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven”
Titus 1:2 “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began”
Titus 3:7 “that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”
2 Corinthians 5:7 "For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Colossians 3:1-4 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
God Holds The Future In His Hand
When Christians were being severely persecuted for their faith, Jesus gave them a message of comfort and hope.
"And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?' And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals'" (Revelation 5:1-5).
The One sitting on the throne is God. The right hand speaks of strength. The scroll written on both sides represents all that is to happen in the future. God holds the future in His strong hand.
The seals kept the scroll hidden so no one could see into the future. The Lion who prevailed to open the scroll is Jesus Christ. He can make known what the future holds. Through His death for our sins and the power of His resurrection He has overcome Satan, sin, and death so that the faithful have assurance of a victorious future.
Knowing who holds the future in His hands, and its glorious outcome, we have no need to fear. We may be at peace and rest no matter what may come our way because we have hope of eternal life.
Such faith will courageously live for God. It will show and tell others that there is a powerful, loving Savior who is the only way for us all to be delivered from this world of sin and death.
Today I will…boldly praise the Lord before all people.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Acts 26:278-28 “’King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’”
Matthew 12:30 Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.”
Because Jesus loved me…
Jesus saw what Satan was doing and what was happening in the world. We sinners were headed for hell, and He responded in a way greater than any of us could have responded. Think about what He did because He loved you!
A Call For Prayer
The apostle Paul was under guard in chains in Rome when he wrote the letter to the church in Colossae of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey about 120 miles east of Ephesus). He was concerned about the heresies that were making inroads there and sought to keep them centered on Christ. In the fourth chapter, he called for prayer: "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak" (Colossians 4:2-4). We, too, need to be concerned about the deceitful philosophies of our own day that would lead us away from Christ and take heed to answer his call for prayer.
Be Earnest – be diligent in prayer (Luke 18:1). Be devoted to prayer. Persevere and continue in prayer (Rom. 12:12). Never give up on prayer; never quit praying (1 The. 5:17). I pray all the time, but I knew one preacher who said it was just a psychological exercise. Prayer to God is our access to the greatest source of power (Jam. 5:16). It acknowledges our complete dependence upon God and demonstrates our faith in Him to provide all things good and needful (Mat. 7:7-11; 1 Cor. 4:7; Jam. 1:17). To give up on prayer is to give up on God.
Be Vigilant – be watchful, alert, on guard in prayer (1 Pet. 5:8; Mat. 6:13). Beware and awake to the dangers of temptation and sin. Some close their eyes to this reality of life. They are blind to what is really happening in their marriage, with their children, in our nation, in the church to destroy them. When we fail to bring prayer to these things, we fail to bring God to these things.
Be Thankful – be grateful in prayer (Eph. 5:20; Phi. 4:6-7; 1 The. 5:18). Thankfulness reminds us of God’s answers in the past and assures us of His answers in the present. We must not neglect thanksgiving when looking to God for our needs.
Paul asked for prayers for himself and his fellow workers. But his request was not selfish. He asked prayers for an opportunity to tell the gospel, although he was presently being persecuted for that very thing. He would rejoice to share in the sufferings of Christ if it was necessary to save souls and glorify God. He asked prayers that he might speak clearly, plainly, convincingly, persuasively, courageously, in a way that the gospel might be understood, believed, received, obeyed, upheld, and furthered.
Prayer is a blessing and privilege God has given us to help us accomplish His will and purposes for His glory (Mat. 6:9-10, 13; Jam. 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15). This is best seen in the practice of our Lord Jesus Christ while on earth in the flesh. He constantly prayed demonstrating His dependence upon His heavenly Father. In the garden before going to the cross we especially see His earnestness, vigilance, and unselfishness in prayer, while His disciples kept falling asleep (Mat. 26:36-46). It was that night in prayer that Jesus won the battle against the flesh so that He went to the cross with courage, faith, and determination to do His Father’s will. Let us never take prayer for granted but follow Christ’s example, that we, too, might accomplish God’s will for us (1 Pet. 2:21-25).
Don't Be Scared!
We all get scared. Maybe it’s a terrible weather event. Or, it could be you have lost your job and don’t know what to do. Perhaps, you just found out you have cancer. Then there is the pandemic. The many violent acts of terrorism around the world and here in America are very scary, too.
When Isaiah prophesied, it was a scary time for Israel. Many had forsaken God’s law. There was much injustice in the land. They suffered famine, pestilence, and war. Their future was dark. It is then that Isaiah gave these very encouraging words from the Lord: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Here’s why we don’t have to be scared!
God is with us. We are not alone.
God is our God. He is on our side. He will fight for us. He will protect us. He loves us. He cares for us.
God will strengthen us. We are scared because the fears we face look very powerful, but God is stronger. He is greater. He will strengthen us in our weakness so that we are able to overcome our fears.
God will help us. Unable to deal with our fears alone, He stands by us to share the burden and help carry the load that would destroy our confidence. So, with God’s help we are able to face our fears with courage.
God will uphold us. Even when we are ready to give up and lay down in defeat, He is there for us to support us. When we are falling, He is powerful to stand us back up again.
Yes, our fears are real, but so is God. So, don’t be scared.
Today, I will… thank God for being there for me and look to Him for the courage to overcome all my fears.
Praying In Troublesome Times
In 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul instructs us to pray “first of all” (v. 1). The first thing and the most powerful thing we can do is to pray. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Paul tells us how to pray, who to pray for and why we need to pray.
How? Pray with “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” (v. 1).
Who? Pray “for all men, for kings and all who are in authority” (vv. 1b-2a).
Why? Pray “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (v. 2b) and for “all men to be saved” because “Jesus… gave Himself a ransom for all” (vv. 3-7).
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135