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Sep 08, 2013

The Church: Disciples in Action

The Church: Disciples in Action

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: The Church: Disciples In Action

Keywords: church, oneness, unity, conflict resolution, metaphors for the church


This message introduces God's heart for His church through different verbal pictures and metaphors the Bible uses for the church, focusing on the church as the Body of Christ and the importance of guarding the oneness of the Spirit.


The Church: Disciples in Action

September 8, 2013


You don’t have to look far or even listen very carefully to people today to realize that this whole thing we call “church” in America is producing a polarization of opinions.  People seem to either love church or hate it, rave about it or revile it. 


So here is what I would like you to do to help us enter into this arena of church today.  Get into groups of about 4-6 people.  Discuss and record your answers to the follow 2 questions:

  • First, since you are here today, you must value something about church.  What do you value most about “the church”?
  • Secondly, why are so many people so disillusioned and disappointed with the church today in America? 


[Give 5 minutes to discuss; 5 minutes to review/feedback.]



There seems to be a growing pessimism about most of the fundamental institutions of American culture these days.  The church is not alone when it comes to disillusioned people.  How are people feeling towards most of the foundational social institutions of our culture?  How about marriage…family… government…business…the economy…education.  Every single one of them is currently under intense scrutiny and often declining confidence. 


Someone reminded me this week “Emotions are contagious.” This sort of pale of negativity in our culture can too easily afflict God’s people.  Yes, there is plenty of repentance that needs to take place in the church. And the sooner the better.  But when the church of Jesus Christ truly lives out its calling and commission, we will consistently be the greatest force for good this world has ever known. 


So how do we become that kind of people?  How does Christ’s church become that greatest of positive forces in a culture?  I have a hunch it has something to do with being what Jesus planned and envisioned for His church to be. 

So for the next few weeks, we are going to be looking at different aspects of church life as GOD has designed church to be.  And I’ll be asking you to make certain personal commitments…not to me, not to Mosaic Fellowship, not to some institution or creed…but to God and to His church.  As we align our hearts and lives more directly with God’s heart and passion for his church, I am quite sure that even our small body of Christ-followers here at Mosaic will not only become a potent force in this city for Christ; we may even see people around us who have been disillusioned and disgusted with “the church” find themselves drawn to the church as Jesus intended it to be.


Set let’s start by asking the question, “What does God see…or long to see…when He looks at, dreams about His church?”

The way I would like us to answer that question today is to look simply at the different metaphors or visual images God uses in the Bible to talk about this thing we call “the church.”

            But first I want to remind you that the Bible uses the term “church” (ekklesia) in the N.T. in 3 distinct ways when it is talking about God’s N.T. people:

1.)    The Church Universal:  every disciples of Jesus from every nation and culture from the entire church age.  EX: Mt. 16:18.

2.)    The City Church:  all God’s people in a defined geographic city who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.  EX: names of most of the N.T. epistles (Corinth, Rome, Ephesus, Colossi, Philippi, 7 churches of Rev. 2-3, etc.)

3.)    House/Local Churches:  God’s children through faith in Jesus Christ who gather regularly and frequently to experience the life of Christ together.  EX:  Romans 16:3-5 & I Cor. 16:19—the church that met in the house of Priscilla and Aquila; Philemon 1:2—written “to the church that meets in your home.”

God sees those 3 definitive, unique and distinct aspects of His church when he looks at this world. And he loves to build all three.   

But God has also given us a number of metaphors or visual images of the church too.  I’ll mention 8 of them here but spend most of our time today looking at just one of them. 

            I believe each metaphor or image is given to emphasize and illustrate different characteristics and qualities God longs for us to experience being part of His church.  So here they are.


  1. A field: I Cor. 3:9—“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”  Image = productivity, fertile ground, fruitfulness, area of attention, work and cultivation.  APP:  God is at work pouring life, seed, rain into our lives.  He’s tilling the soil, breaking up the hard ground, doing everything needed to make us fruitful.  Our job = receive the work, the investment, be ground with depth, void of the weeds that choke out God’s work.
  2. Vine & Branches:  Jn. 15:1-7—image = fruitfulness
  3. A Building/Temple:  I Cor. 3:9 (above); Eph. 2:19-27—We’re built upon the Apostles and prophets with Jesus the cornerstone; 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Also I Pt. 2:4-8; I Tim. 3:15) —image = place of God’s presence, of connection with God, of displaying God, of worship, prayer, edification and building up.  APP:  So often it is just our job to be there, show up, be present. God’s presence is what turns this “building”, the church, into something unique, different from any other gathering of people.
  4. A Royal Priesthood: I Peter 2:9—But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession….” This is closely related to the previous one but focuses more on what goes on in the temple/church.  As priests, we have dual roles of a.) representing others before God (prayer, intercession), and b.) representing God to people (giving witness, teaching, instructing, helping worship).  Priests don’t just minister to each other; they minister TO God and TO people.  APP:  When we come together, I’m not the “minister” here; I’m just one of the many ministers.  That’s why how you sing, how you love and care for others here today, how you bring some sacrifice whether of time or praise or resources or service…they all matter.  That’s why we try to create a time together that involves different components of “priesthood” work. 
  5. A Sheepfold:  John 10:1-10—image = people/sheep under Christ’s careprotection, leadership, guidance. It stresses being known personally, by name, being fed and nurtured.  APP:  Ever feel like no one is really watching out for you?  Like you are just a number in a vast sea of people?  Like forces in life are trying to steal you away from closeness to the Shepherd, Jesus Christ?  Our God and Savior knows our name and calls to us personally, precedes us in every situation in life, leads us to good pasture/soul-satisfying life.    
  6. Family/Household:  Gal. 3:26—“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith….” Romans 8:29—brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus; Heb. 2:10-18—Jesus is not ashamed to call us “brothers and sisters.”  Image = relationship, closeness, shared blessings, part of the tightest relationship known to mankind—family.  APP:  We really are related to each other, not just temporally or biologically but eternally and spiritually.  Families must learn to live together in love.  No matter how different we are, we are called to live in close community.  We will be closer to some siblings than others.  But families put up with a whole lot of stuff no one else would.  They love unconditionally.  And sometimes that love is tough, sometimes tender.  APP:  In a culture like ours where families are often very disconnected and dysfunctional, we can truly experience family in this environment.
  7. Moving into even greater intimacy of relationship, we are called The Bride of Christ.  Eph. 5:25-32; Rev. 19:6-9; 21:1-13—Imagry: intimacybeauty, object of love, care and protection.  There is no relationship more intimate in the human realm than marriage.  Day after day, year after year, people share every conceivable part of life together.  And it is meant to be in a constant environment of love that nurtures, cares for, consoles, protects and encourages (Eph. 5). APP:  hungry for love?  Longing to have a soul-partner?  God desires to be that to us, His church.  He wants to live in and among us, day after day. 
  8. Finally we come to the one metaphor I want us to camp a little on today, that of the Body of Christ.  Numerous N.T. passages make this metaphor—Romans 12:4-6; Eph. 1:23, 4:4, 12-15, 5:23, 30; Col. 1:18-24; 2:19; 3:15.  But the passage I would like us to look at today is in I Cor. 12:12-13:13. 

The context of this passage is the diversity of spiritual gifts, ministries, and activities in the church.  From the very beginning of this book, Paul has been taking the Corinthian church to task for the petty divisions that had developed, some around people, some around different theologies.  Starting in chapter 1:10, Paul speaks strongly against the city-church of Corinth dividing around different leaders.

            10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

            That continues right through chapter 3 where Paul tells them that this kind of division in the city-church simply proves how carnal and immature they are spiritually.  He goes on to tackle disunity in the church when he addresses sexual immorality in chapter 5, law suits between believers in chapter 6, marital divisions in chapter 7, divisions over food in chapter 8, and worship divisions in chapter 11.

            Then he gets to chapters 12-14 where he addresses divisions that have resulted because of different spiritual giftsministries and activities in the church (12:4-6).


Now look at 12:27 for the clear statement that we are the “body of Christ.”  

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Back in vs. 12, Paul made it clear that he is talking about every person who is a follower, a disciple of Jesus. 

12:12ff-- 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.


So my first real application question today is, are you a member of the body of Christ?  Have you put your faith in Jesus by recognizing him as your Savior and Lord, by surrendering your life to Him in faith, by trusting in His perfect life and death in your place for your sins?  If you haven’t taken that step of faith, then you are not a part of God’s church.  You are not a part of the “body of Christ.”  And unless you have a change of heart and surrender to Christ, you are headed to a life and an eternity without God, separated from Him, by your own choice.  [Call to faith in Jesus.]


But if Christ is your own Savior and Lord by faith, then you are part of His “body-in-the-world,” the church.  You’ve been “baptized” by the Holy Spirit (vs. 13) so that our common oneness is cemented together through that Holy Spirit that lives in each of us. 

            If we are to keep with imagery of the body, the Holy Spirit that every disciple of Christ has abiding in them is sort of the common blood supply we all share.  Every organ and muscle of the body shares a common blood supply, a common blood typethe Holy Spirit of God abiding in us.

ILL:  I have a cousin, Kim, who is just about my age. When she was born, she had to have a 98% blood transfusion in order to save her life. She had an RH factor problem between her blood and that of her mother.  I’m no medical doctor so won’t try to explain exactly what the problem was, but without a virtually complete blood transfusion, she would have died. Being the second child of her RH-negative mother and RH-positive father, her mother’s blood had produced anti-bodies that were attacking her red blood cells.  Her entire body and every organ in it was in danger from the common blood supply that had mismatched RH factors. 

            But here is the point.  Every true follower of Jesus Christ, every true disciple, has the same Holy Spirit working, flowing and abiding in them.  We share the same life-source.  We are to be empowered, moved, animated and strengthened by the same member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.   

Vs. 13-- For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 


Brothers and sisters, we have far more in common than we will ever have different.  It doesn’t matter what race you are a part of, we’re ONE by the Spirit of God.  It doesn’t matter what class you are from (slave or free), we ALL share God’s Spirit.  Male, female, young, old, rich, poor, illiterate, literate, tall, short—those differences are to be immaterial in the life of the church.  Our goal is not to be to erase those differences; our goal is to embrace those differences through the work of the common Holy Spirit we have. 


Here is the first commitment I would like you to put before God today:  Will you make life-long commitment to the ONENESS of the Body of Christ?  Before you answer that, I probably need to spell out more specifically what I mean by “oneness.” 

            Jesus made it real clear when he was praying for us before he was crucified.  In John 17:20, he said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

            One of the greatest frustrations to people outside the church, the body of Christ, is how much we who claim to be followers of Jesus are divided.  We’re divided by our theologies.  We’re divided by our traditions.  We’re divided by denominational names, histories, policies, structures and peculiarities.  We’re even divided by our non-denominations and non-theologies.  That’s what the world sees. 

And then there is the personal, relational division that seems to always be cropping up in the church.  When someone in one church bugs us too much, we withdraw from fellowship with them or exist that “church” altogether.  We split away and go somewhere else, hoping we’ll never have to talk with or certainly work with them again. 

I’m not trying to diminish legitimate differences of theology, tradition or practice in the Body of Christ.  I think those differences can be healthy.  But they become unhealthy when I no longer care about or love any part of the city-church of Jesus Christ because of those differences.  EVERYONE who has put their faith in Jesus Christ and become a Christ-follower is someone I’m called to a certain level of “oneness” with. 

  • That will involve treating everyone who has believed the message of the Gospel and become a Christ-follower as a true brother or sister in Christ.  From warm greetings in Christ to sacrificial ministry to them in Christ, we must treat every Christ-follower as a brother or sister. 
  • That means loving them with the love of Christ, whether that is a tender, encouraging love at times or a tough, confrontive love at others.
  • That means not speaking ill against them, not saying something negative about them without having them present, not vomiting our frustration about them all over other people.
  • That means dealing with differences, hurts, frustrations and sins with each other in a God-commanded way

Let me be very specific about what that way is according to Jesus Christ.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us very clearly and concisely how to handle our hurts, anger and frustrations with each other so that our “oneness” in Christ actually functions.  

Mt. 5:21-26, Mt. 7:1-5 and Mt. 18:15-20 each address offenses/sins/criticism between brothers and sisters in Christ.  Without looking to in-depth at each text, let me simply show you some clear commands Jesus gives us in both those conflict-resolution passages. 

1.)    First, take your hurt/offense/anger/pain to God and plead with Him for a heart of forgiveness…and humility.  NO sin or offense is too great for God to forgive…and so it should be with us.  Jesus said, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye,” (Mt. 7:5).

2.)    Secondly, it doesn’t matter if you are the one feeling hurt or doing the hurting.  Whenever we become aware of an offense, either because we feel we have been offended or become aware that someone in the Body feels sinned against by us, we are charged to STOP doing whatever it is we are doing (even worship) and “GO” to that persona on-on-one, “just between the two” of us, to seek to restore the oneness Christ wants us to have in Spirit and truth (Mt. 18:15).  The is, I think, THE most important step in guarding oneness.  It is also the most frequently violated step in preserving that oneness in Christ.

NOTE:  What to do when a brother or sister violates that command by dumping their frustrations on you?  Love them enough to STOP THEM, in mid-sentence if necessary, to keep them from adding further sin to their hurt and anger.  Ask them, “Have you talked with so-and-so about what you are now telling me?”  If not, tell them that is what they need to do before you hear any more. If yes, ask them, “So do you want me to go with you and address this problem with them again?”  And then do it.  IF they are not willing to do that, they have no right vomiting their anger, hurt and frustration all over you!

3.)    If that doesn’t solve it, take the next steps of bringing some spiritually minded, wise people into the process.  (Mt. 18)

I’ve found that 90% of the breaches of oneness in the church are resolved when people do the first two steps quickly, humbly and faithfully.  When they don’t, conflict escalates and oneness fractures. 


And I’m not just talking about guarding the oneness of Mosaic or some other local church. I’m talking about doing this with every Christ-follower in this city. 

  • Don’t let a brother or sister trash another Christ-follower’s reputation or name.  Don’t play that game.
  • Let them know you love that pastor/believer and will do whatever it takes to help them do the same. 


Can you imagine how this one commitment to oneness of the city-church by every Christ-follower in a community would revolutionize people’s experience in and perception of Christians? 


So here is the commitment I’m going to ask you to make today:  Will you be committed to God-commanded oneness and resolution of conflicts in Jesus’ church by doing what Jesus commanded in Mt. 5, 7 & 18?  And will you seek to encourage every other believer you ever know to do the same? 


You know what the alternative is?  Just what so many of our friends and neighbors hate about the church…and just what Jesus prayed wouldn’t happen.  For too long the church has had an auto-immune disease.  Auto-immune diseases happen when the immune system in the body starts attacking its own cells OR rails to attack and isolate dangerous illnesses and diseases attacking the body form without.  They are things like Lupus, M.S. and HIV/AIDS. 

For too long, this has been the story of Christ’s body, the church.  For too long we’ve been attacking ourselves, living out some horrible spiritual AIDS epidemic before a watching world.  It’s time for us to take the simple, FREE and effective “medicine” of Christ’s commanded conflict-resolution.  Why wouldn’t we want to be cured of this horrible affliction? 


One final principle from the Body image that will revolutionize the modern church in American today.  It’s found in Ephesians 4:15, 16-- Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligamentgrows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

            Paul talks about that in I Cor. 12 when he addresses spiritual gifts.  But the principle is this:  everyone is necessary in the Body of Christ; everyone needs to do some “work.” 

            This, too, is rather counter-cultural.  One of the most troubling statistics economically today is the news out last week that the “participation rate” of American adults fell to just 63.2%, the lowest percentage of Americans in the work force since 1978!  That will mean fewer people paying taxes, more people on government programs and a whole lot more people just sitting around.  It’s a disaster when only 3 out of 5 working Americans are actually working.

            But most churches would be ecstatic if they could see 3 of 5 church attendees involved in some form of ministry.  The normal stat is about 20%-40% of people in a church actually engaging in some sort of ministry to other believers that builds them up in Christ.  The Body of Christ “grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.”  That doesn’t mean you have to be doing just some program your local church does.  There are dozens of ministry opportunities Mosaic and many other local churches don’t do but that the city-body of Christ does. 

            You are going to hear about one of them next week, an amazing Spokane ministry targeted at the restaurant service industry here in town.  This is why we encourage you to volunteer at City Gate and Cup of Cool Water, or Blessings Under the Bridge, or Streetwise (1st Cov.) or Life Services or UGM. 


So here is my question:  What “work” of the Body of Christ are you currently committed to and regularly involved in?

            This passage in Ephesians is really talking more about mutual edification and support of each other IN the Body of Christ.  We’ll talk about a disciple’s service outside the Body next week.  But this is where family dinners and small groups of fellow disciples are SO critical.  

            We call them “family dinners” here at Mosaic because these kinds of gatherings happen around food, both physical and spiritual. 

EX:  Matt & Stacy’s apartment downtown.  We’d love to start more of these but we need people committed to “building up the body” every week for some months running.

EX:  Small groups—my best fellowship, spiritual encouragement and love of Christ has come consistently through small groups that meet together every week, share their hearts, what Christ is doing, what their challenges are, pray for each other and get some spiritual food from the Word of God together.  It isn’t hard or complicated.  It’s actually very simple…and we’ll even train you to facilitate a group like this.  But it will take disciplined commitment over a period of time.    

COMMUNION:  I Cor. 10:16-17--16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.