“The Church Jesus Christ Is Building”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD’S SUNDAY

JANUARY 13, 2019

Title: “The Church Jesus is Building”

Text: “I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 RSV).

Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:24-29

Mormons say that the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith and completed the compilation and writing of the Book of Mormon. He told Joseph Smith where to find golden plates buried near his family home. He then translated what was written on those plates (the Book of Mormon). Eleven men are said to have seen the plates and three of them were relatives of Joseph Smith.

In contrast, the local church and Christianity is not built on a faulty foundation. It was built on a solid foundation, not from superstition. Jesus Christ was seen of hundreds and lived among us. The Apostles were eyewitnesses of His life!

Jesus spent his early years as a carpenter building furniture and home.  By engaging in this type of work, he affirmed the divine approval of everything that contributes to wholesome personal and family living.

Toward the end of his earthly ministry of seeking to bring the will of God into people’s lives, Jesus verbalized his determination to build his church.  The word he used for the church is the same word used for the people of God throughout the Old Testament.

On the day of Pentecost, he came in the person of the Holy Spirit to administer the work of his church.  He continues to abide within the hearts of believers, and it is through them that he accomplishes the redemptive work of God in the world..

Across the centuries the Divine Carpenter has continue to build his church in quality and size.  Jesus did not think of his church as a building in the sense of its being a physical structure at a particular address.  He thought of his church as people. The The structures that often are identified as churches today are but the meeting places for the church.

Jesus thought of his church as a body of born-again, baptized believers.  He began the construction of this beautiful temple, this body of believers, from the beginning of his ministry.  John’s gospel records how “Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John” (John 4:1). The coming of the Holy Spirit on these disciples on the day of Pentecost was the divine way of authenticating them as the church that Jesus was building and through which he would carry on his redemptive work.

Our text under consideration today records Jesus’s desire, decision, and dedication.  The first thing we will look at is that Jesus builds his church through evangelistic activity of his disciples.  When Jesus walked the earth, he gave his disciples the Great Commission. The Great Commission has a universal application to each of Jesus’s disciples.  We as disciples must guard against interpreting it as applying only to clergy or only to foreign missionary or missions. It is as each disciple of the Lord shares a testimony concerning God’s gracious work within his or her life that the gift of faith is imparted to unbelievers.  As each of us shares the good news of God’s love, Jesus is at work in us building his church.

The book of Acts begins with a command to the disciples to evangelize the nations. Acts 1:8 tells us about this command by Jesus to his disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Even earlier, the theme of preaching the word of salvation appears when Jesus teaches his disciples concerning the Kingdom of God (1:3). In Jesus’ teaching, the message of the Kingdom is the message of salvation. With this reference to the Kingdom, Acts 1:3 forms a bracket with the last verse of the book (28:31), which also refers to preaching the Kingdom. Everything in between these two verses deals with the spread of the message of salvation, the good news of God’s Kingdom, into which all who commit themselves to Jesus Christ enter.

Jesus builds his church through the missionary activity of congregations.  Every congregation should have a heart big enough to hold the world and should be contributing to foreign missions.  But giving an offering for foreign missions does not exempt us from being responsible for our local community. Likewise, having concern for the local community does not exempt us from responsibility toward those who live on the other side of the globe.  It is both and proposition rather than an either/or.

Jesus builds his church from within.  Our Lord is concerned not only about the exterior extension of his kingdom, which can be measured by the increase of churches and believers, but also building up his church from within that it might become the true family of God, the household of faith.

In writing about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul urged the disciples in Corinth to “strive to excel in building up the church” (Corinthians 14:12 RSV).  In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians he spoke about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been bestowed on the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood/womanhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles” (Ephesians 4:12-14 RSV).  

When I talk about Jesus building his church from within, I mean Jesus wants his church to be a school in Christian discipleship.  When we read the Sermon on the Mount, it convinces us that it was a lecture on the plain from Jesus to his disciples. They sat before him and he taught them rather than preaching to them.  Most of us know the word disciple itself means learner, follower. The new birth, as essential and wonderful as it is, is but the beginning of our Lord’s plan for us, not the crowning climax.  To grow in Christ we must follow the example of the early church, who “devoted themselves to the apostle’ teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42 RSV). Jesus builds his church when we meet together to study his Word and when we put his teachings into practice.  

Jesus Christ wants his church to be a fellowship of spiritual brothers and sisters.  Through the miracles of the new birth, we become children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  We becomes brothers and sisters. Paul speaks of the church as “the household of faith.” The fellowship of the early disciples was a source of great enrichment of their spiritual well-being.  They were not isolated, solitary believers. They were real family in which love, compassion, and unselfishness were the rule of the day.

Jesus wants his church to be reverent and worshipful.  In the book of Acts, “Fear came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43).  We come together as a crowd of people, but reverence for the presence of Christ causes a crowd to become a congregation of worshipers.

Christ comes to church every time his disciples come together in his name (Matt 18:20).  We need more of the reverence that filled the heart of Simon Peter when he fell down at Jesus’ knee saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).  Peter had a feeling of unworthiness for close contact with Jesus. Recognition of our sinfulness along with a response to the holiness of God could cause us to be more reverent and worshipful when we come together in the name of our precious Jesus.

Jesus builds his church when members give themselves devotedly to prayers.  When we read Acts 1:14 and 12:5, we see a church that consistently pray. The early church was a church of prayers.  The early church devoted itself to prayers. Jesus Christ ministry was a ministry of prayers. Prayers lift up congregations.  Prayers allow us to dwell in the very presence of God.

Jesus builds his church when the disciples recognize and respond to the Holy Spirit’s leadership (Acts 4:31).  The leadership of the Holy Spirit can also be found in Acts 13:1-3. The Holy Spirit came to indwell the church on the day of Pentecost.  He will remain in the church until the Lord returns to claim his own. The Holy Spirit has come to be our divine Teacher, Leader, and Helper.  When believers neglect or refuse to recognize the Holy Spirits’ loving leadership, the work of Christ and the growth of the church are brought to a standstill.

Jesus, the Divine Carpenter, is at work in our midst.  He comes to meet with us, speak to us, commission us, and encourage us.  He is building a church through evangelism, through missionary activities, through the impact of the Holy Spirit in us.  

If you are not yet one of his disciples, open the door and let him begin his good work in you today.  Let him have command over your life. Let him become your Teacher, Guide, and Helper beginning today. God bless you all!