Course 1: My Walk with God – Lesson 5
TO RESPOND: Please share your thoughts and feelings about this lesson using the “Leave a Reply” section below!
This is the written transcript for Lesson 5 in this series of study entitled “My Walk with God” — (it is likely that transcripts will vary somewhat from the actual video recordings).
Sharing the Love
Do you remember, perhaps from earlier lessons in this series that we’ve shared together, where Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, NASB). He also said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20, NASB); and THAT is pretty much all that Jesus had to say about how we should “do church.” He does talk a little more, here and there, about how He would establish His church and some of characteristics of His church. But as far as, how we should “do” church, Jesus didn’t say much… that’s about it – just, “where two or three have gathered in My name, I am there with them” and so “love each other like I have loved you!” Do you know why Jesus didn’t have much to say about how we go about “doing church”? Because the “church” that we read about in the Bible is not simply some kind of a denominational religious organization that meets once a week, on a Sunday morning or whenever. In fact, the church, as we read about it in scripture, is not the organization, or the corporation – the church is the people! We, God’s children, are the church; and we never stop being the church no matter where we go or what we do from day-to-day.
The authentic church – the one that we read about in the Bible – is not physical, it is spiritual. By that we mean, it does not exist simply because some corporate entity filed their paperwork and has now been legally recognized by some government agency as a “church” or a religious organization. Legal corporate entities are of man. Organizations incorporate so they can purchase land, build buildings, and conduct human business in today’s world as a private legal entity. But the authentic church that we read about in scripture is so much more than that—it is spiritual, it is eternal, and it exists outside of and beyond any manmade religious organization. The church does not “need” to incorporate, it does not need to own land, or to build church buildings; and it certainly does not need to denominate itself by one particular name or another, in order to be the church. The church can exist and, in fact, already does exists anywhere, and everywhere, the people of God find themselves. You and I, the people of God, are the church.
Now, the Bible does admonish us “not to forsake our own assembling, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NASB). Having intimate fellowship with other authentic children of God with whom we can share life, and love, and even the struggles we sometimes encounter as we sojourn together in this mortal realm is an essential element of our Christian faith. God does not want us to “go it alone” or to walk this Christian walk of life solo. He wants His children to be together and to be part of the family. However, that does not mean that we are obligated run out and join up with any particular man-made religious organization simply because it calls itself a church. We would do well to remember Jesus’ word of warning to His disciples when He told them, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NASB). For this reason, we need to be very careful and cautious when it comes to joining up with any particular denomination or religious organization too quickly.
But the church that we read about in the Bible does still exist. Jesus planned for it, Jesus brought it into existence, and it’s still here in our world today. Listen to these words of Jesus as He told his disciples about how He would build His church:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter [little stone], and upon this rock [bedrock, foundation stone] I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
(Matthew 16:13-18, NASB)
The name Peter means little stone, or rock; and because of this, some people are confused and think that Jesus is going to build His church on Peter—who they have come to think of as the first Pope. But you need to understand that when Jesus says, here, “Upon this rock I will build My church,” He is not talking about Peter; rather, He is talking about the fact that Peter had just stated, when he said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Upon that fact, upon the reality and authority of Jesus’ true identity, Jesus said that He would build His church. Jesus is the Rock, the foundation upon which we build our eternal life-giving relationship with God. God’s forever family was founded by and on Jesus Christ Himself. Furthermore, when Jesus said that, “the gates of Hades will not overpower it,” He is prophesying there about His coming resurrection. Even though He would have to endure a cross, and death, Hades (the realm of the dead) would not be able to hold Him or prevent Him from coming back and bringing His church into existence.
Now, there are a few things concerning the nature and character of His church that Jesus thought we needed to know; and so He said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”
(John 10:1-16, NASB)
From these beautiful Bible verses we learn about who will comprise, or be members of, the authentic church—it will be made up of those who know the Lord and who recognize His voice; that is, because of the integrity of their hearts and their love for the Lord, they will be able to distinguish the true word of God from all the other competing voices – the ideas, the opinions, the philosophies, and the religious doctrines and traditions of men that are always clamoring for our attention. The authentic children of God, the true church, will hear and listen only to His voice, His Word!
We also see in this passage that there is only one flock, or one church. Christ does not have a vast array of many different flocks all teaching different things. There are not two churches, or three churches, or hundreds of different kinds of churches—only one! People may not like that idea, but that’s what Jesus said and that it what is plainly taught in the New Testament
But, from these passages of scripture we learn that not only is their only one flock, but there is also only one Shepherd. There cannot be multiple authoritative figures legislating, controlling, leading, and guiding the church. No man, and no group of men – no council, no convention, no synod, no pope, cardinal, bishop, priest, pastor, deacon, elder, eldership, or board of any kind should ever be looked to as our ultimate authority figure. At most, the Bible teaches that these men can only be “servants” of Christ and that they are supposed to help guide us into an ever closer walk with our good Shepherd by continually leading and guiding us back to His Word!
Well, when did this one church that Jesus said He would build actually come into existence? You know what, we can, almost, put a date on it. Based on what we read from Bible history, it was the Jewish day of Pentecost, 50 days after the Passover at which Jesus had been crucified and then resurrected from the dead, in the year, we think, 33 A.D. (or there abouts). We read about the birth of the church in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2. Here the Apostle Peter preached to the people in Jerusalem the very first gospel sermon ever recorded and He told them what Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was really all about and how and why Jesus had to die for them. And the Bible says:
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:37-47, NASB)
Wow, talk about a fellowship of love – they were together and had all things in common, they were selling their property and possessions and sharing them with anyone who might have need!
But, not only does this passage of scripture bear witness to the birth of the church, but we learn from this passage that, when people are saved, that is, at the moment of their baptism into Christ and into His death for the forgiveness of their sins, they are added to Christ’s church by the Lord Himself. When people are spiritually “born again,” by water and the Spirit, they are immediately added to God’s eternal, spiritual family by Jesus. They do not have to run out and “join” anything. They do not have to go “place membership” with any manmade, legal, corporate entity calling itself the church. No human being gets to decide who is in and who is not. Nobody votes you in or validates your membership. If you have believed in Christ Jesus as the only begotten Son of the only true and living God, if you have repented of your sins by surrendering your heart and life to Him, if you have confessed Him as your Lord and Savior, and if you have been to the waters of baptism to be baptized into Christ and into His death, then you are a member of God’s forever family – the church!
And, make no mistake about it, God’s forever family is still here and we still need one another today. There is a very real and functional reason why God has called us into fellowship with one another; why He does not want us to “go it alone” and try to walk this path of life all by ourselves. The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians living in the city of Corinth to remind them, and to remind us, of the importance of our fellowship together, saying:
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
(I Corinthians 12:12-27, NASB)
We see from this passage of scripture that, as authentic Christians, children of God, disciples of Christ, we have a place where we belong, a spiritual family, where not only are we are needed but where we can also have our needs met. The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Ephesus: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household [God’s family]” (Ephesians 2:19, NASB).
And what is really beautiful is that God’s family is “forever.” Just because we die and leave this mortal realm does not mean that anything changes in regard to our relationship with Christ or our relationships with those whom we love who are in Christ.
You may remember from our earlier studies together, this passage of scripture written by the Apostle Paul to the Christians living in the city of Corinth, telling them about the coming day of the resurrection; he says:
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body… Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
(I Corinthians 15:44,50-55, NASB)
Yes, there is going to be resurrection day and we’re all going to be given new, immortal, imperishable bodies. Paul also said to the Christians living in Thessalonica:
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
(I Thessalonians 4:13-18, NASB)
And, just so that we don’t lose hope, allow our hearts to become hardened by sin and turn away from faith in Christ, the Apostle Peter warns and encourages us with these words:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
(2 Peter 3:3-13, NASB)
So, even though this earth, and everything in it will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with an intense heat, there is something far more beautiful coming our way – “the new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” And God wants all of us there with Him forever. This passage of Bible scripture says that He doesn’t wish for anyone to perish, for everyone to come to repentance.
Finally, as we bring this course of study to a close, let’s turn our attention to last few pages of the very last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation, and consider these visions that the Lord shared with the Apostle John concerning the destiny that awaits us. John writes:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
(Revelation 20:11-15, NASB)
Yes, there is a day coming, perhaps soon, that will culminate with the complete destruction of the world as we know it. Christians know it as the resurrection day, or the judgment day. And, on that day, in our newly resurrected bodies, we must all appear before the judgement throne of Christ. There, final judgement will be pronounced and our destiny will be sealed for all eternity. Ahhhh, I want my name written in that Lamb’s Book of Life, don’t you? I mean, I know that, because of my own sin and rebellion, I will never ever deserve it. I have fallen and I can never earn back my innocence. I can never do anything to make up for the things that I’ve done wrong. I can never merit or warrant righteousness, or my salvation. I don’t deserve to find my name written in that Book of Life. But, because I’ve put all my faith, hope, and trust in Jesus, because of His sacrificial death on the cross for me, to pay the price for my sins, by His grace, and only by His grace, I expect to find my name written there and my prayer is that you do, too.
When we read on just a little bit further, toward the very end of the Book of Revelation, we see John moving beyond this scene of judgement and comforting God’s children with all that He has in store for them, saying:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall be no longer any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true. And He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
(Revelation 21:1-7, NASB)
Footnote – You know, sometimes people ask, and you may be wanting to know, “Well, if you don’t encourage your Online Bible Study students to go out and join a church, or at least tell them what church you think they should join, then what DO you tell them regarding fellowship with other Christians?
Well, the first thing we try to share with our students after they’ve been baptized is that, rather than going out and looking for a church, we need to simply make up our minds to be the church. That is, we need to worship the Lord everyday by presenting our “bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship,” by not being “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB).
We also encourage people to pray for opportunities to love and serve others and to share their faith with others. We encourage them to reach out to other people they may know and trust, and to network with other Christians who may be living in their area. Our goal is not to build big “churches,” but to see individuals and families coming together in their own homes, or maybe meeting in small groups at other locations, to share fellowship and devotional time together; and to build relationships with one another in the Lord… and to just learn to “be the church” together wherever they are.
Now, if people really do feel the need to go out and join up with an established congregation, or a corporate church—you know, with their buildings and properties and paid professional staff and formal ministries, and all that, then that is well and good – the freedom of the New Covenant allows for all of that and we encourage them to do that if that is what they really feel like they need. But we just want them to proceed with extreme caution. We want them to make sure that whatever group they’re fellowshipping with is, indeed, the Lord’s church, the one we read about in the Bible, and not one of Satan’s substitutes. We admonish our students and everyone we know to give particular attention to what the Apostle Paul said to the Christians living in Ephesus when he wrote to them saying: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6, NASB). Any religious organization that is not accurately teaching what the holy scriptures say about these seven “ONE’S” is NOT the church we read about in the Bible.
But we’re also concerned that some churches can get these things right, but in an even more sinister deception, lead people into legalism—wherein certain rules, regulations, doctrines, traditions, or church practices must be rigorously held to in order for people to be saved. Or, on the other hand, they lead people into licentiousness, a form of liberalism that makes people feel as if they have a license to sin, or to change the teaching of God’s word, or to ignore God’s holy standards of morality.
So, yes, we have many concerns with what some may call “organized religion” and religious pride, egotism, manipulation, and control over others that it sometimes produces. But praise God for those beautiful Christian fellowships, large and small, that really are our Lord’s church and that are being “diligent to present themselves approved to God as a workmen who do not need to be ashamed,” and who are “handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Scripture taken from:
THE NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 Salty Sails
All Rights Reserved