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Lesson 6: God's Called-Out Assembly
Even before God created man, Adam, He knew that men would rebel against Him. But God had a great plan.
What did God plan? God planned to call out people from Adam's sinful family and to unite them into one spiritual body called "the Church."
The word "church," as it is used in the New Testament, means "an assembly of called-out ones." It refers to people, not a building. It is speaking of believers—those whom God has redeemed.
When did the Church come into being? The Church came into being on the Day of Pentecost. God's called-out assembly had been in His mind from eternity, but it was formed on the Day of Pentecost.
The Birth of the Church
On the Day of Pentecost, 120 disciples were in the upper room waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says,
"Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:2-4
What did Pentecost prove to the Disciples?
When people think of Pentecost they often think of the external things that took place, such as the mighty wind, the tongues of fire, or the disciples speaking in other languages. But what was far more important was what Pentecost proved to the disciples.
What did Pentecost prove? It proved that the Man, Jesus Christ, had been exalted to the right hand of God.
Jesus had prepared His disciples for His rejection and crucifixion. He told them that He would rise again and, after a short time, He would return to the Father. The disciples were very sorrowful at the thought of His leaving them, but Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit. He said,
"I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter; that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth." John 14:16-17
On an earlier occasion Jesus spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit. He said,
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37-39
The Bible plainly says here that the coming of the Holy Spirit would not take place until Jesus was glorified. Pointing to the day when He would be exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus said,
"You will know at that time that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you." John 14:20 (NET Bible)
On the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples, they knew that Jesus had been glorified. He had been exalted to the right hand of God. Peter said,
"This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it. So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear." Acts 2:32-33 (NET Bible)
In verse 33, Peter states that the Lord Jesus was exalted to "the right hand of God."
What was the result? Christ "received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father."
What followed? The miracle of Pentecost! The Holy Spirit was poured out on earth to show what had taken place in heaven.
What did Pentecost prove? It proved that the Man, Jesus Christ, had been exalted to the throne of the universe. He is "Lord of all"! Peter said,
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ." Acts 2:36 (NET Bible)
Three Great Events
As a result of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, three great events took place on the Day of Pentecost.
The Church, the Body of Christ, was formed.
The Day of Pentecost is called the birthday of the Church. On that day, the Holy Spirit united the 120 disciples into one spiritual body—the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ. The disciples were united to each other and to the glorified Lord Jesus as their Head. Before that time, they were 120 individual believers, but now they were the Church, the Body of Christ. The Bible says,
"For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body." 1 Corinthians 12:13
On that same day, the gospel was preached to a great multitude of people and 3000 were saved. The Holy Spirit placed these into the Body of Christ. After this, others were saved daily and added to the Body of Christ. The Bible says,
"More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women." Acts 5:14 (NET Bible)
The entire Body of Christ was baptised in the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. John preached repentance and baptised with water, but he told of the coming of the One who would baptise with the Holy Spirit.
To baptise means to "immerse" or "put under." John baptised or immersed people in water, but Jesus baptised 120 disciples in the Holy Spirit. The entire room was filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus, the disciples were immersed or baptised in the Holy Spirit.
In a word, on the Day of Pentecost, the entire Body of Christ was baptised in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit came to indwell every believer.
On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given to indwell each and every believer. The Holy Spirit comes to indwell a person the moment he trusts Jesus Christ as his Saviour. He indwells every believer.
There are many reverent, God-fearing people who believe in Jesus as One sent from God, but they have never trusted Him as their Saviour, believing that He died on the cross for their sins. Consequently, they are not saved. They do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Bible says,
"Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him." (Romans 8:9 NET Bible)
Jews and Gentiles were made One in Christ
At first, the Church was composed entirely of Jewish believers. Later on, the gospel was preached to the Gentiles (those who were not of the Jewish race). Many of them believed and were added to the Body of Christ. Jews and Gentiles were made one in Christ.
This was a marvellous thing. Why? Because of the hatred and prejudice that existed between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews considered the Gentiles to be "unclean." They would not even eat with them. The Gentiles likewise hated and despised the Jews. Each considered himself better than the other.
This hatred and prejudice between Jews and Gentiles was a manifestation of "the flesh"—that sinful nature which everyone, both Jews and Gentiles, received from Adam.
How did God deal with this hatred and prejudice between Jews and Gentiles? He dealt with it by the cross! All believers, both Jews and Gentiles, were crucified with Christ. The old life in Adam for all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, ended with the death of Christ.
The new life in Christ for all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, began with the resurrection of Christ. Of the Jewish and Gentile believers God made "one new man." The Lord Jesus is the Head and all believers form His spiritual body. The Bible says,
"For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one…He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross…" Ephesians 2:14-16 (NET Bible)
We are Christ's Body here on Earth
The Bible speaks of the Church as "a mystery." A "mystery" in the Bible is something that is hidden from unsaved people but revealed to God's people. The "mystery" is that Christ Himself is in heaven, but He has a spiritual body here on earth.
The Church is not simply a vast number of people who believe in Jesus Christ. The Church is "the Body of Christ." Christ is the Head and all believers form His Body. All believers have been baptised by the Holy Spirit in the one Body of Christ. The Bible says,
"…we, being many, are one body in Christ…" (Romans 12:5)
"For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones…This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:30, 32)
Before his conversion, the apostle Paul was a self-righteous, religious man named Saul. He thought that Jesus Christ was an impostor and a deceiver. Saul was persecuting Christians, entering into their houses and having men and women thrown into prison.
But the Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and said, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4)
Saul said, "Who are you Lord?" The Lord answered, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." Saul was persecuting believers here on earth; yet the Lord said, "You are persecuting Me," because the believers were His body.
As a result of this experience with the glorified Lord, Saul was converted. His name was changed to Paul. He became the apostle through whom God revealed the great truths of the Church as the Body of Christ here on earth.
Seven Mighty Bonds of Unity
The Bible tells us that there are seven mighty bonds which unite all true believers—those who have been born again of the Spirit of God:
"There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Ephesians 4:4-6
Let us consider each of these.
There is ONE BODY
Every person who has received Jesus Christ as Saviour is a member of the Body of Christ. Christ has only one Body, and all believers are members of His one Body.
Regardless of the colour of a person's skin, regardless of his race or nationality, regardless of whether he is rich or poor, if he is a child of God he is a member of the Body of Christ and one with all those who have been born again. The Bible says,
"For as we have many members in one body…So we, being many. are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Romans 12:4-5
2. There is ONE SPIRIT
Every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Because the Holy Spirit is one Spirit, He makes us one with all other believers. The Bible says,
"…he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit." 1 Corinthians 6:17
3. There is ONE HOPE
Every believer has the same hope—the hope of being with the Lord forever in glory. This hope is certain because Christ is living in us by His Spirit. The Bible says,
"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory." Colossians 3:4
4. There is ONE LORD
There is only one Lord—the Lord Jesus Christ. All who serve Him are serving the same Lord and are one in Him.
5. There is ONE FAITH
True believers may differ on some matters of Scripture interpretation, but there is one faith which they all have in common—they believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died for their sins and rose again from the grave. This is the faith through which every child of God is saved. The Bible says,
"For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26
6. There is ONE BAPTISM
Every believer has been baptised into the Body of Christ. This is not the work of man, but the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit by which all who believe on Christ are made members of His Body. The Bible says,
"For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body…" 1 Corinthians 12:13
7. There is ONE GOD AND FATHER
There is only one God—the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. All who have been born again are members of His family and have the same heavenly Father.
The Church is God's Glory
We have discovered some great truths about the Church in this lesson:
The Church is the Body of Christ here on earth.
Christ is the Head of the Body.
The Body of Christ is one body.
All believers are members of the one Body of Christ.
Have you seen God's great plan? Have you realised that we are not simply individual believers but members of the Body of Christ? Have you seen that all believers are members of the one Body of Christ? The Bible says,
"So we, being many, are one body in Christ…" Romans 12:5
Out of the sinful race of Adam, God has brought forth the Church, the Body of Christ. The Church is God's glory. Through the Church, God is making known His great wisdom. The Bible says,
"The purpose of this enlightenment is that through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 3:10 (NET Bible)
* As a result of Christ's exaltation in heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.
* The Church—Christ's spiritual Body on earth—was formed.
* All believers are members of the one Body of Christ.
"Father, help me to see that I am not only a new person in Christ, but I am also a member of the Body of Christ. Help me to see that the Body of Christ is one, and that all believers are members of that one Body."
The apostle Paul speaks of two ministries which were committed to him by the Lord:
· The ministry of the gospel. (see Colossians 1:23)
· The ministry of the Church (see Colossians 1:24-27)
Let us consider these two ministries.
The ministry of the gospel
The gospel is the "good news"—
"How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures." 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
The ministry of the Church
In addition to his ministry of the gospel to the unsaved, Paul was entrusted with another ministry—the ministry of the Church. This ministry is for the believers.
In connection with this ministry, Paul speaks of a mystery. A "mystery" is something that has been hidden in God's heart, but is now revealed to believers. This mystery concerns Christ and the Church.
Sinful men crucified Christ, but Christ was raised from the dead to be the Beginning and Head of God's new creation. He is at the right hand of God, crowned with glory and honour.
The mystery which God revealed to Paul was not only that Christ is now our glorious new Head, but that we are members of His spiritual body here on earth. Christ dwells in us by His Spirit. This mystery is now made known to the believers. Paul wrote,
"to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27
God wants us to know the truth of the Church—that we are members of the one Body of Christ, joined to Christ as our Head. God wants us to see our relationship to Christ and our relationship to each other. The Bible says,
"For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another." Romans 12:4-5 (NET Bible)
Many of God's children know only the ministry of the gospel. They are saved and enjoy coming together with other believers to worship God and fellowship with other saints. But not knowing the mystery of the Church, they fail to understand the truth of Christ as Head and the believers as members of His one body here on earth.