Let’s review for a moment. We exist to display God’s glory. We do this in four key areas:
- We display God’s glory in a 24-7 lifestyle of worship.
- We display God’s glory together in corporate worship on Sunday mornings as we come prepared having spent time alone with Christ all week.
- We display God’s glory by valuing the preached Word, instead of being driven by pragmatism and man-centered results.
- We display God’s glory when we are unified as the church by giving a positive testimony to a watching world.
At this point, I think it is important for us to understand the nature of who we are as the church.
Read Matthew 16:13-19
Jesus takes His disciples away from the crowds and hustle and bustle for a time of rest and more importantly a great teaching moment. Jesus doesn’t ask these questions because He is somehow in the dark, but asks these to the disciples to teach them a glorious truth about Himself and the church.
Peter gives the correct answer and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus teaches us here a priceless truth about the glory of His church. He says, “I will build my church.”
Let’s think about this for a moment, for there are so many different voices and opinions out there about the nature of the church.
Let me begin my saying that I as pastor do not build this church. The elders do not build this church. Church growth techniques, gimmicks, and marketing do not build this church. Being seeker-sensitive to attract large crowds does not build this church. Watering down the gospel to make the message more pleasant does not build this church. Having a nice building does not build the church.
Only Christ builds His church.
Jesus is in charge of building the church. He is in charge of growing the church. He is the Sovereign King who will ensure that His church will thrive.
In the Greek language, there is a nuance that you don’t get in our English translations that emphasizes Christ’s authority. The word “MY” is a genitive pronoun that denotes possession. It is a strong way of saying that Jesus owns His church. It is HIS church, not ours. He is the Builder, we are not.
We might be asking a question at this point: “What is exactly is the church?”
How many times have we said, “I GO TO Emmanuel Baptist Church.”
What you really mean is that you attend a worship service in our building that has the name Emmanuel Baptist Church on the sign. But in reality, you do not GO to church. That language totally misses the Biblical meaning of the nature of the church.
You don’t go to church; WE ARE THE CHURCH! The church is not something you go to—it is something we ARE!!!
The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which comes from two compound words “ek” which means “out of “ and “kaleo”—which means “to call.” So literally, the word church means “the called out ones” or the “assembly or congregation of believers.”
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is “qahal” which means basically the same thing—it meant to summon or call together the assembly or congregation.
In the Old Testament, at the base of Mount Sinai in the wilderness, God called his people to gather together “as the church” for worship and to receive the law.
Deuteronomy 4:9-10 9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children – 10 how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’
This word “gather” is translated “church” in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the LXX.
In essence, when the Israelites gathered together to hear Moses preach the Word, they were considered the Old Testament “church.”
Christopher Ash argues, “Deuteronomy is the mandate for the people of God to assemble under the preached word of God, or to be more accurate, the written word preached. This is why Deuteronomy is not really a law book, but a preaching book.”
This statement describes who we are as the New Testament church as well. We are the people of God who assemble together under the preached Word of God in order to glorify and obey God.
God entered into a covenant with His Old Testament people and through Christ He has ushered in the New Covenant in His blood and has called us to be His people—His assembly—His called out ones.
Let us remember that we do NOT GO to church, but instead, we ARE the church! What a wonderful privilege to be called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light so that we can display His glory.
Spend some time in prayer thanking the Lord for your church family. Ask Him to bring to remembrance all the ways you’ve been blessed through your connection to Emmanuel. Ask Him to help you view the church as not something you “go to” but instead who you are!
Christopher Ash, The Priority of Preaching (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2009), 23.