The Church Age: Distinctives of the Church Age
God's Plan for the Ages – Dispensations Lesson #19
August 5, 2014
"Our Father, we are so thankful that You are the God of the universe, the sovereign God of creation, who rules over the affairs of men and who is in control of human history. We are thankful right now that there is this ceasefire in Israel. We pray that You would give wisdom to the leaders who are involved in the negotiations and we pray that Israel will be able to reach a conclusion that will keep them safe and secure. Father we pray for us as believers that we might have a faithful testimony in terms of our own vocal support for Israel, but that might be more than simply a vocalized support. Father, we pray for us as believers that we might have a very visible testimony and a vocal testimony to those around us in terms of our faith; and as we live in a world that is increasingly growing hostile to biblical truth and biblical Christianity. We pray that we might be strong and steadfast; that the promises of Your Word to strengthen us and encourage us would be evermore real to us; and that we might learn to keep our eyes upon You and not on the circumstances of the details of life. And we pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."
XV. Dispensation of the Church continued
Tonight we are continuing our study on God's Plan for the Ages looking at the distinctives of the church. Now while everybody is getting ready for this and to focus on the Word. I am going to tell you a little bit about what I have been doing the last couple of days. I have been at an AIPAC Christian Leader's Summit that was actually held here in Houston, down in Sugar Land. We started at 7:15 yesterday morning and we went until 10 o'clock last night. We had at least two briefings that ran almost two hours. The speakers spoke almost two hours straight without notes. One was giving us an in depth understanding of what has been going on in Iran; and the other an in depth analysis of what is going on in each of the countries surrounding Israel. It is not a pretty picture. I'm not going to get into any of that tonight. We have covered other things, and over the next couple of weeks I will bring out certain things and inform you or certain things, but we need to be focusing on the Word; and I haven't processed nearly everything. Today it went from eight this morning until one this afternoon. So this has been quite intense, quite an information dump, and not that a lot of it wasn't somewhat familiar, but a lot of it definitely new. It was very good.
Israel, as always, is in a precarious situation. They are good actors in the middle of a very, very bad neighborhood that is getting worse all the time. Right now the situation seems, at least there is a ceasefire, a temporary ceasefire in place; and we will see just what comes out of it. So far, as far as I've been able to tell today, Hamas has not broken the ceasefire. They have broken six previous ceasefires. So we will just have to see what happens from this. But what I think is a great vote of confidence for Israel, and I say this not only for those who are going on the trip to Israel that we have planned in November, but for others I know, there are other people who listen and some who have people they know who go to Israel when we go on these trips, is that a delegation of US Congressmen flew on an AIEF, that is an American Israel Education Fund that is sort of an associated education foundation that AIPAC has. That is what I went on a year ago, one of their sponsored trips. So about twenty or so US Congressmen left yesterday to go to Israel on an AIPAC trip.
One of the people who was at the conference daughter left about a year ago to go on another trip to Israel. So there are a number of people who are going. There was a contingent of American pastors, one from each state in the union plus Washington D.C., who went with Christians United for Israel today. So there is a great show of support and strength. The one industry that is their number one industry and has impacted their economy the most during the last month has been the tourist industry. It is really taking a major hit. They have lost millions if not billions of dollars just in the five weeks, not only in the last five weeks, but a lot of people get skittish that they start cancelling trips in September, October, November and whatever. That is just sort of a brief update and starting probably Thursday night I will give little snippets of information. I'll also post some information on the Dean Bible Ministries' Facebook page.
Slide 3: The Parameters of the Church Age
We have been looking at the whole of God's Plan for the Ages, looking at each of the dispensations. And as we look at each of the dispensations we've been looking at each of the characteristics of each dispensation. Two weeks ago, two lessons back, we came to the topic of the parameters of the church age. When does the church age begin and when does the church age end. Now you may think, well that is pretty obvious to me, but we need to understand what the Bible says and what the implications are from that. One of the significant factors that we saw has to do with when the church begins and why we say it begins that day. It is that characteristic that is so important.
1. The church began on the day of Pentecost, AD 33. This is described in Acts 2.
But what was it that happened on that day? What happened was that God the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles as the leaders of this new entity that was described as the church.
2. Baptism of the Holy Spirit is what forms the church; the body of Christ.
In Acts 1:5 Jesus predicts that this is still future. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 it is described by Paul as something that is true for every believer. In Acts 11:5-17 it is seen by Peter as something that happened, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles and the household of Cornelius; and what Peter described is exactly what happened to us "at the beginning." That is such a key phrase showing that the church began on the Day of Pentecost. It didn't begin with Adam; it didn't begin with Abraham; it didn't begin with Moses. There is a clear distinction between Israel and the Church. This is what distinguishes dispensationalism from all of the viewpoints.
Now one thing that was interesting at this Christian Leadership Conference at AIPAC; there was a man there that I had not met before. There were just about ten of us that were invited to this. This particular man had an interesting background. I didn't get all of it. He was prior Special Forces career military. Now he lives in Ft. Worth and he goes to a PCA church. For those of you who aren't alphabetically inclined in terms of American denominations that is the Presbyterian Church of American. That is different from the Presbyterian Church USA. The Presbyterian Church USA is the liberal United Presbyterian Church that was the result of the realignment of the northern and southern Presbyterians that happened back in the 1980s. And they are very liberal; and it was the Presbyterian Church USA that voted to divest themselves of any investments and anything related to Israel. They are clearly making anti-Semitic policy decisions. But PCA and OPC, which is the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that came out of the liberal Presbyterian denominations in the 30s, 40s, 50s; I do not know the exact beginning of each of these organizations. But they are very Calvinistic. They do hold to five-point Calvinism. They do believe in covenant theology and they do believe in either amillennialism or post-millennialism as their official doctrinal position.
I had one PCA pastor confide in me that probably one of the best kept secrets of the PCA is half of the people in the congregations are pro-Israel and premillennial, but that is not their official doctrinal position. But what interesting about this guy coming from a PCA background; everybody else in the group when they were asked about why you support Israel, they would go to the Abrahamic covenant, but he did not go to the Abrahamic covenant. And he doesn't know why he doesn't go to the Abrahamic covenant. The reason he supports Israel is because of the secular reasons: Israel is a democracy; it is the right thing to do and all the other things that we benefit from in the alliance between the United States and Israel, but the reality is that in the theology of his denomination and his branch of Christianity, they believe that the church replaced Israel in terms of the Abrahamic covenant and it is not an on-going thing. Now they do not take that to a position; just because you hold to that view does not mean that you end up in an anti-Israel, anti-Zionist position, but historically that position of amillennialism and covenant theology, that the church replaces Israel, has been a seedbed out of which anti-Semitism has grown. That weed doesn't necessarily grow in that flowerbed, but that is the soil that produces it.
So it was just interesting to hear that. It was an object lesson in how theology impacts decisions. Everybody else was making their decision for a different reason. He came to a similar conclusion, but without a biblical basis for doing so. That just sort of stood out in the group but that is because in their view the church began with Adam. In dispensationalism there's that distinction.
Slide 4: The Parameters of the Church Age
3. So we saw that the church was yet future and not present when our Lord spoke in Matthew 18. He talks about the church in terms of something future that He will build. When He talked to Peter He said, "I also say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church", future tense.
Slide 5: Matthew 16:18
We studied through these passages last week, Matthew 16:18-19.
Slide 6: Matthew 16:19
Slide 7: The Parameters of the Church Age
4. The fourth point we saw in the Parameters of the church age is that the church is said to be a mystery. It wasn't revealed in the Old Testament (OT). It wasn't talked about in the OT. It was hidden in the OT. That is what mystery means. It means something that was not yet revealed. We saw that and we looked at the various passages that talked about that last week.
Now that brings us up to where we looked at other points as well, but we do not have slides for (those.)
5. The fifth point was that the kingdom was no mystery. They knew about the kingdom.
So people who think that the kingdom and the church are some how related as in amillennialism or the amillennial view where the kingdom is a spiritual form of the kingdom. The church was a mystery. The kingdom was not a mystery. So that means that the church and the kingdom are not the same thing.
6. And also the fact that Gentiles would be saved was the sixth point. That Gentiles would be saved is no mystery in the OT. Gentiles were clearly saved in the OT, but it is this new mystery, part of the mystery doctrine that Jew and Gentile would be equal in a new entity called the Body of Christ.
Slide 8: Distinctives of the Church Age
Now we are moving forward. What are the distinctives of the church age? What makes this dispensation different from previous dispensations? Why are you as a Church Age believer different from a believer in the OT? And your spiritual life is different from their spiritual life and the principles that govern your spiritual life are different from the principles that governed their spiritual life.
The church age is distinctive; and one point I want to make here is that this is not brought out by a lot of dispensationalists. They will talk about some distinctives, but when it comes to the spiritual life they don't really develop that. And yet, the reality is that our spiritual life finds its precedent in the spiritual life of the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ and His walk on the earth and His relationship to God the Holy Spirit; that He lived His spiritual life in His humanity not on the basis of His divine power, not on the basis of His omnipotence, omnipresence, or omniscience, but on the basis of His dependence upon God the Holy Spirit and His use of the Scriptures. Just as we have God the Holy Spirit to depend on and just as we depend upon the Scriptures. So when He was tempted in the wilderness, He doesn't rely upon His omnipotence, His deity, to solve the problems of thirst and hunger after 40 days of fasting. He is dependent upon the Scripture. So when He is tempted by the devil He counters by the Word of God. So the spiritual life of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the precedent for the church age believer.
Let's look at some of these distinctives.
a. First of all we have our union with Christ. We are united with Christ. We have passages like:
2 Corinthians 5:17, which states "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
There is a newness here when we are identified with Christ and when we enter into that union with Christ, everything becomes new. Now there is nothing comparable to being in Christ in the OT. Now there is a second verse I have up there:
1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul addresses the church in Corinth and in his opening he says, "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus."
So by being in Christ we are set apart. There is this distinction that you and I have that we need to exploit that is related to our new identity, our new position in Christ.
Slide 9: Romans 6:3-4
Now this is what Paul goes to immediately in Romans 6. Now we have studied all through Romans on Thursday night. In Romans 6, 7, and 8 Paul is talking about our spiritual life. He completes the discussion on justification or how we become justified and the consequences of that in Romans 5; and then he starts talking about what that means for our own spiritual life. Like I pointed out many, many times, when we talk about Paul, he doesn't start on – when someone says, well Paul, how do I live my Christian life? How am I going to grow and mature as a believer? Paul doesn't say, well, you do these five things: you read your Bible every morning; you pray every day; you memorize Scripture every day… He doesn't give these five simple points, which is common; and there is nothing wrong with those things. Those are important things that should characterize every believer's life, but that isn't how Paul addresses these things. He doesn't boil it down. He starts off with, okay, we are going to get into this really important foundational doctrine and this reality that occurred in your life the moment you trusted in Christ as Savior. You didn't feel it; you didn't experience it; you probably weren't told about it; but nevertheless, it was an extremely real circumstance.
Romans 6:3, Paul says, "Do you not know that as may of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Now He is not talking about water baptism here. He is talking about something that happens in the spiritual realm. The reality is what we talked about earlier in Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist said that when the Messiah came after him that He would baptize by means of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:5 Jesus still predicted the future baptism by the Holy Spirit. That is part of what occurred on the day of Pentecost. This is what distinguishes the church from Israel. Nobody in the OT ever experienced the baptism by the Holy Spirit. Nobody during the life of Christ experienced the baptism by the Holy Spirit. Guess what? Nobody in the Tribulation is going to experience that. Now there is some debate about that and I am going to deal with that when we get to the Tribulation. And nobody after that is going to (experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit.)
This is what is distinctive about being a church age believer and we have to think very precisely about this because of its implication in other areas. So Paul is saying that all of us were baptized into Christ and the significance of baptism is identification. Some people call this identification truth. That came out of a Keswick background, but it is a good term to use. That is the essence of the meaning of the word baptism. It has a literal meaning, which means to dip or to plunge or to immerse, but it signified something. For example, in the period of classical Greek, the Hoplites, the basic grunts in the Greek army. After they finished basic training they would take their swords or their spears and they would BAPTO. They would immerse them into a bucket of blood, usually some animal's blood. This was a sign of identification. Now they were ready to go into war. It was an identification of their weapon with death. So that is the significance of baptism. So we are identified with Christ in His death.
Paul says in Romans 6:4, "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death." There is a positional death that occurs. The instant we are identified with Christ we become positionally dead. And then he goes on to say, "that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
When we illustrate this in water baptism, anybody who is water baptized is illustrating this principle. It is an object lesion that God has given us to teach an extremely abstract doctrine that is poorly understood in Christianity. This is what is referred to as positional truth. That just as in a spiritual reality we are identified with Christ in His death; we are buried with Him in baptism, which is signified by being immersed into water, and we come out of the water indicating that we are not in a position of "newness of life." That becomes the foundation for Paul's argument in Romans 6; that we have to recognize that we are now dead to sin. That doesn't mean that we don't still have a sin nature; we still have a sin nature, but that sin nature is no longer the tyrant it was before we were saved. That prior to salvation there is only one option in anybody's life and that is to be controlled by their sin nature. But when you were saved you're identified with the death of Christ so that that power of the sin nature is broken so that we can live, there is the potential now, to live in "newness of life."
Slide 10: Eternal and Temporal Realities
But Paul says in Romans 6:11 that we have to "recon ourselves or consider ourselves to be dead in Christ." So there is a thought component there. We have to consider ourselves to be dead in Christ. So when we look at this graphically, we talk about the eternal realities that are true for every single believer. That at the instant that we trust in Christ; "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved", at that instant we are going to be placed "in Christ", identified with Him through the baptism by the Holy Spirit. And this becomes our new position, our eternal reality that can never be lost. We become children of light, "sons of light" the Scripture says. That is why I described this with a white circle. We become a son of God. We are a child of light. That is not our experience, but that is our new identity "in Christ." So the first distinctive of the church age is that every new believer is in union with Christ and united with him.
Slide 11: Distinctives of the Church Age
b. The second thing that happens is now only are we "in Christ" but Christ is now in us. That never happened in the OT. There was never any indwelling by any Member of the Trinity in the believer in the OT in the same way that they are indwelt in the New Testament (NT). Now there is a temporary filling of the Spirit in the OT, but it is not the same. Don't confuse the two. We try to use different terminology to describe it. In the NT now Jesus Christ uniquely indwells each and every believer and this occurs from the instant that you trust in Christ as your Savior. So not only are we "in Christ" but Christ is in us.
In John 14:20 Jesus says, "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you."
Now this is an important statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John and it indicates a relational reality that is totally new in human history. Never before has that taken place. And notice that it is comparable, the believer's relationship with Christ, Christ in us and we are in Him, is compared to the tight fellowship between the Father and the Son; as the Son is in the Father, we are in the Son. Can you get your mind around that? That is a new reality. The intimacy that is ours positionally in Christ is completely new.
In Colossians 1:27, Paul says, "To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles."
So this is this mystery doctrine I talked about already. See how we are building from something last time to something new this time on this mystery doctrine. It was previously unrevealed. Nobody knew about this in the OT and nobody knew about this during the period of the presence of the Messiah in that dispensation. Now in the church age this is going to be revealed and Christ is in us, "the hope of glory." Now you will find that some evangelicals will say that Christ is in us; this is referring to the Spirit of Christ. This is just another way of talking about the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. But it is very clear in these passages that Jesus in John 14:20 and Paul in Colossians 1:27 are making a distinction between the Holy Spirit and Jesus. Jesus indwells each and every one of us, but so does the Holy Spirit.
Slide 12: Distinctives of the Church Age
c. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer; and we look at several different passages. This has never happened before in all of history. In the OT there were a few people that the Holy Spirit came to, came upon; that the Holy Spirit gave wisdom to. We think about one of the first examples would be Bezalel and Aholiab.
These are great names (Bezalel and Aholiab) if you understand the Hebrew background of those names. They were great men and they were craftsmen. They were the carpenters; they were the silversmiths, the goldsmiths, the metallurgists who worked and designed the Tabernacle and in the OT they received wisdom or skill. We studied that word in our study of Proverbs, the word khokhma that is usually translated "wisdom." The core meaning of that word is "skill." It may refer to a skill at doing something physically, but it also describes a skill at living. With Aholiab and Bezalel it described how God gave them a supernatural skill at working with the wood and working with the metal in building the Tabernacle and all the furniture for the Tabernacle.
You also have judges. God the Holy Spirit came upon the judges. You had people like Jephthah and Gideon and Samson and later on you had prophets like Samuel and Nathan and Gad. You had kings like Saul and David. The Holy Spirit came upon Saul and the Holy Spirit left Saul. The Holy Spirit came upon David and when David sinned in Psalm 51 he prayed to the Father that the Father would not remove the Holy Spirit from him because it was temporary. But it wasn't for their spiritual life. It was for their skill at leadership. Everyone of these individuals that had this kind of ministry of the Holy Spirit was either a general, was a prophet or a priest or a king that had a specific leadership role within the theocracy of Israel; and that is what the Holy Spirit was given to them for, not for their personal spiritual life.
So in the NT this is completely different. It never happened before.
Slide 12: Distinctives of the Church Age
Romans 8:9 says, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you."
That the Holy Spirit dwells in each and every believer; it goes on to say:
"Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."
He is not a believer; he is not regenerate. At regeneration every believer is given God the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 says, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
Now I am not going to take time to go through all the details of that passage, but it is amazing how many theologians will take that in the context; and I don't agree with this, in the context of 1 Corinthians 3, and they will talk about this as being the corporate filling of the Holy Spirit in the "body" of a group of believers. And they always say that this is based on the fact that this is a plural pronoun. Well the problem is that you have a plural pronoun in 1 Corinthians 6:19, and in 1 Corinthians 6:19 they will say that this is individual; but Romans 8:9 talking about the individual indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, which everybody agrees on.
Slide 13: Distinctives of the Church Age
1 Corinthians 6:19 says this is talking about the individual indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, but it is using a plural pronoun.
Years ago I went back and I started looking at the use of these plural pronouns in the first six chapters of 1 Corinthians. Paul is talking to a group of believers just as I talk to y'all. And I will talk to y'all and I will use the second person plural "y'all" to talk to you as a group, but when I say "y'all" need to read your Bible, I don't mean y'all need to come together as a group and read your Bible. When I use that second person plural pronoun and say "Y'all need to read your Bible." I mean each individual of "y'all" need to be reading your Bible. And that is how Paul is using the plural. He is not using the plural here in a sense of the corporate unity of the particular body. I find that to be kind of an odd application, but you will run into it in some of the material that you will read. You just need to be aware of that. "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." Here it is clearly talking about your individual physical body has been made a dwelling place, a temple, a dwelling place for God the Holy Spirit.
There is a whole study we can do on this, the temples throughout mankind. How God dwelt with man. The way that He dwelt with man in the Garden of Eden, after the Garden of Eden, and the fact that He left after the flood; that He comes back with a dwelling place in the tabernacle, then in the temple, then He left the temple before 586 BC when He went to heaven. By the way, does anybody know what today is? It is not August 5; it is not the day before my birthday; it is but that is not the answer. I am not fishing for that. It is not two days before Katie's birthday. I am not fishing for that either. It is Tisha B'Av. Av is the month in the Jewish calendar, roughly equivalent to July/August and this is the day, actually according to the new Jewish calendar began at sunset last night and goes until sunset tonight; and this is the day, coincidentally in the plan of God that the first temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the second temple was destroyed by Titus. It is interesting to look at the history of the Jewish people and realize how many catastrophic things including the fact that they were expelled from France at one time on Tisha B'Av. They were expelled from Spain on Tisha B'Av, and there have been many, many other things that have happened negatively to the Jews on Tisha B'Av. In modern Judaism it is a time of fasting from sunset last night until sunset tonight for observant Jews.
God left the Temple. It is depicted by Ezekiel. He leaves, the Shekinah goes out to the gate, crosses the Kidron Valley, goes to the top of the Mount of Olives, and ascends to heaven and Jesus Christ imitated that when He left, when He ascended from the Mount of Olives. When He returns to Jerusalem He will return to the Mount of Olives. So this whole theme of the Temple is very, very important in Scripture; and our body now, the temple today in the church age is each individual believer; and that God the Holy Spirit indwells us and I believe He indwells us to make our body a temple for the indwelling of the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 14:17, Jesus said, "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."
Again, emphasizing each individual believer. So this to me is the primary distinctive of the church age believer and it is really important. We talk about the church age being called the church age emphasizing the church; that is the body of Christ as the universal principle, not a local church, but the church, the body of Christ is composed of every believer in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost in AD 33 until the rapture. And so we talk about that. We distinguish the universal church from the individual manifestations of the body of Christ in terms of local churches. And so that is one important feature of the church age. Another is we talked about, some call it the age of grace. And I pointed out, I think last time, that there are some dispensationalists, Charles Ryrie was one, Clarence Larkin was another, who emphasized grace as the critical distinguishing feature in this church cge. I will differ with them. The critical distinguishing feature is God the Holy Spirit.
Now when we get to the beginning of the Tribulation I will point this out again, but in 2 Thessalonians 2 we are told that the Restrainer, who I believe is God the Holy Spirit, will be removed before the Tribulation. I believe that when the rapture of the church occurs and the church is removed, the Holy Spirit is removed. That is why you will not have a baptism by the Holy Spirit. That is unique to the Church. If the church is removed at the rapture, how can you have the church during the Tribulation? How can people be baptized by the Holy Spirit during the Tribulation? They are no longer going to be "in Christ." They are not like OT saints, but they are not going to be like church age saints either. They are going to have a distinct characteristic as we will see when we get into the church age. But it is this baptizing and indwelling feature of the Holy Spirit in each and every believer, "in you", that makes "you" so special and makes "you" so different, and gives "you" such an incredible asset for living the Christian life.
Now the fourth distinction of the church age:
Slide 14: Distinctives of the Church Age
d. We have a completed canon of Scripture, the Word of God in writing.
We have a completed revelation. We have the whole game plan given to us in 66 Books of the Bible. Things were different in the Apostolic period between AD 33 and AD 70 because they did not have the whole game plan. They only had part of it. And that is why you had apostles and prophets giving new revelation, because no body had yet inscripturated or canonized, organized the new writings for Christians. And so they needed to hear this in local congregations. They were given new revelation. We have the Holy Spirit. We have the completed canon of Scripture. We have everything we could possibly need and yet you hear this from Christians, "I want more. I want all of the Spirit." You've already got all the Spirit. I heard that back in the 80s. I would hear this from some Christians that I just want all the Spirit that God's going to give me. I would say you have it. You have it. You just need to learn what the Holy Spirit is going to teach you in the Word so you really understand what you already have. So we have to understand that we have the completed canon of Scripture and God is not going to give us any more information. He has given all that we need. The issue is, are you willing to trust it? That is the big issue. Are we really willing to trust it and make that the dominant control feature in our life?
Slide 15: Distinctives of the Church Age
e. A supernatural way of life. This is indicated by passages such as Galatians 5:16 and Ephesians 3:16, 20.
It is not like the OT life. The OT spiritual life was based on learning Torah and obeying Torah. But you weren't given any divine assistance. In the church age we are given divine assistance. We have the baptizing of the Holy Spirit, which broke the power of the sin nature. It never happened to an OT believer. No one until the day of Pentecost ever had the power of the sin nature broken. So we have a new reality. If you say, man, I have such trouble with my sin nature; it is because we give it power. It is volition. So for the first time in human history believers are commanded to live this supernatural way of life that is dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:16 Paul says, "Walk" literally by means of the Spirit. Walk in dependence upon the Holy "Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
Slide 16: Distinctives of the Church Age
In Ephesians 3:16, Paul concludes the first part of Ephesians 3, which is more of an instructional section. He closes out with a prayer that "He, God, would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit."
Our strength comes from that relationship with God the Holy Spirit "in the inner man."
Slide 17: Distinctives of the Church Age
And then four verses later He closes that prayer by saying:
Ephesians 3:20 "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us." That is the power of God the Holy Spirit.
Slide 18: Distinctives of the Church Age
f. Now the sixth thing that we have is that that makes each and every believer a priest to God. This is seen in passages such as 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9. Every believer is a priest.
1 Peter 2:5, you also, as living stones, building on that foundation which is Christ. We are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood. That means that we have direct access to God.
1 Peter 2:9, "you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation." We are distinct to God. We have a heavenly citizenship.
Slide 19: Distinctives of the Church Age
g. A seventh feature is that every believer in Jesus Christ is an ambassador for Christ. We represent Christ on the earth.
This is related to our heavenly citizenship, but it is not an either/or. Pay attention. We are both a heavenly citizen and a earthly citizen of whatever nation we are involved in and we have a responsibility as members of whatever nation we are in according to 1 Timothy 2:3-5; that we are to pray for our national leaders, for peace, for the success of the gospel that we might not be interfered with by the government. Now that is part of our responsibility as citizens. We have various citizenship responsibilities depending upon what nation we are living in. If you were a citizen of Rome your citizenship responsibilities were different then if you were a citizen of the United States. If you are a citizen of the United States, and we have certain responsibilities to be involved as much as we can in the civic or the political process. There is nothing wrong with that.
There is a trend that has been present in dispensationalism since Darby that it was somehow sinful to be involved in the secular community. But that denies the fact that as a citizen of Britain or France or Italy or China or Germany or Israel, wherever, that we have certain responsibilities. Just like, let me take a very basic, almost too basic one. You live in a neighborhood. Perhaps you own your house in a neighborhood and there is a homeowner's association; and as part of a landowner in that homeowner's association you have a responsibility to keep up the external appearance of your house. You have to keep the grass mowed; you have to keep it appropriately landscaped; your not going to let the paint peel or other problems like that occur; and if you do, eventually you may have somebody from the homeowner's association knock on your door and say well you are not living up to your responsibility as a homeowner here.
You may have one of several responses. You may get upset with them. That would not be appropriate. You may go back into the house and say that I am going to pray that the landscaping will get taken care of; and that is a good thing to do. We pray about a lot of things, but it doesn't stop with prayer because we recognize that there are two aspects to this. There is an aspect where we trust in God, we take our cares before Him and we pray for them, but we don't stop there unless we want to be irresponsible. Then we have to go out and we have to put gas in the lawnmower and we have to start the lawnmower and we have to find a landscaper and we pay them, but somebody has to go out and actually do something. When it comes to politics one of the great logical fallacies I often hear from believers is, I am going to pray for it but I am not going to get involved politically. That is like saying, I am going to pray for my grass to get cut, but I am not going to start the lawnmower. How would you like it if I just said every morning, I am going to get up and I am going to pray that for my message for my Bible class, but I never opened my text. I never opened the theology books. I never studied. I just prayed. Well you would say that that was irresponsible. Well that is how it works with our citizenship. We need to be involved. Now not everybody can be involved.
We have some people in this congregation are really involved in different aspects of the political process. We have others who are not. Unfortunately we live in a world today where many people in our country, myself included, have not been involved for many decades simply because we've been too busy enjoying the wonderful blessings of our freedom. But let me warn you; this country is in serious trouble. Last night I had Connie send out the notification from the Houston Area Pastor's Council related to what just happened with the Houston City Council. Just a month or so ago, we were signing the petition for a referendum on the "Hero Act" that was hoisted upon us by the Houston City Council. And there were 50,000 signatures that were collected. Before they turned them in the organizations that were involved in collecting those signatures had legal counsel that validated 31,000 of those signatures. All that was needed was 17,000. In a violation of the city council in terms of three different procedures, the city council, or the mayor announced that these were invalidated because there were not enough legitimate signatures. This means that the mayor is exercising her dictatorial powers. Of course, in my opinion this is what happens when anybody elects a democrat or a progressive to office. They trash the law; they trash the constitution because we don't live in an era of liberals of 20 or 30 years ago. We live in a different world were liberals today do not have a respect; most of them do not have a respect for the rule of law and they think they can just run over it.
What happened with the city council, according to the city charter, the city secretary is to validate or invalidate the signatures and then report to the city council. What happened was that the secretary gave the information and according to the email I sent out last night, Dave Welch stated that at one point the city secretary said that she validated the signatures, but then she gave them to the city attorney. There is nothing said about that at the city council. She gave them to the city attorney. The city attorney then invalidated enough to where there had to be 17,200 signatures, to where there weren't 17,200 signatures. So that meant that they wouldn't have to call a referendum. Then the city attorney reported that to the mayor and then the mayor reported that to the press. According to the city charter, the city secretary is to report the information within 30 days to the city council. When the mayor presented it to the press it was an hour or so past the deadline for those 30 days and it had still not been officially reported to the city council. So it is just a trashing of the law and procedure. But we are going to see a lot of this. And let me warn you, it is going to get a whole lot worse and we are not going to win this battle unless there is a remarkable shift in the volition of this nation. But if things continue the way they are, let me tell you, the battle lines are drawn. The government is targeting Christians and it is going to get worse.
If you are not ready in terms of your spiritual life, then it will be miserable and it will be horrible. I am not saying how bad it is going to get, but we have seen situations in just the last year or two where the IRS has been targeting conservative Christian organizations. There was a ruling, an agreement, that was reached between an atheist organization in Wisconsin a couple of months ago where they had filed suit against the IRS because they wanted the IRS to investigate churches and pastors and to monitor their sermons to make sure they were not crossing the line in terms of promoting any political views. So in order to avoid this whole lawsuit going all the way to its conclusion, the IRS agreed to settle this. Their agreement was that the IRS would begin monitoring the sermons of pastors and monitoring the activities of churches specifically to make sure that they were not going to far in talking about the activities related to homosexuals, lesbians, and transgenders; and in relation to birth control and Obamacare. So this is now what is happening. This is just the beginning, folks. And we need to recognize that if you are not getting serious about your spiritual life this is going to unravel. I cannot believe how far we have gone the last ten years and it is not going up ever. You go back 30 years; we have been on a negative trajectory in terms of the encroachment of the federal government on the individual rights of the citizens of this country and we need to do whatever we can to be involved in whatever way we can.
You say, well it can't end up that way; we can't be defeated. You can't win a battle by predicting at the beginning. What if George Washington had done that? It looked like they were going to lose the American War for Independence until they won it. Until the day that Cornwallis surrendered it looked like they were going to lose and it would all be over with; so we have to trust in God, keep our powder dry, metaphorically, and we need to keep focused on our spiritual life. We have a dual citizenship, a citizenship in heaven to represent the Lord Jesus Christ continuously in every area of our life, to express His grace, His love, and to communicate the Gospel when we can and when it is appropriate, and part of that includes carrying out our citizenship responsibilities.
Slide 20: 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 states, "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us." This is part of what we have as church age believers. We have delegates to us the ministry of reconciliation; that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. That ministry of reconciliation is a way of talking about evangelism. To tell people that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Now what we tell people in essence, when we give them the gospel, is that they need to be reconciled to God. How? By believing in Christ. So he concludes in verse 20 by saying, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. So this is our responsibility as believers, each and every one of us, an ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the nest thing that we are going to talk about is the unique spiritual life of the church age. And rather than going into that, because this gets involved in a number of different issues and I want to cover that in one consistent whole. We will wait and begin with the unique spiritual life of the church age believer nest time.
Anybody have any questions?
Question: My question is with the difference between the OT and the relationship and their relationship to supernatural events with the fact that we have the Holy Spirit and the Scripture also, because in the OT there was a lot of overt supernatural events and in the Tribulation there is a lot of overt supernatural events; so is there a correlation between that?
Answer: Is there a correlation between the supernatural events? In the OT there seemed to be a lot of supernatural events. There really aren't. There are a few. They tend to be located around the Exodus period. You had miracles; you have a couple of Theophanies in the period of the Judges. You have another period where there are a number of miracles that take place in the northern kingdom in the ministry of Elijah and Elisa. You have a couple of others later on, nothing between the testaments. You have this other outbreak of some supernatural things when Christ is on the earth and during the establishment of the church in Acts. We see miracles, casting out of demons, things like that. And then there is nothing. No indication of that in terms of the instruction in the NT epistles. If we believe the Bible is sufficient here is an argument, read my book on Spiritual Warfare; we develop it there very much. The Bible is sufficient, which means it tells us everything that we need to know about the spiritual life, the major premise. The NT Books, the epistles, are written specifically to tell us about the mystery doctrine of the church age and the spiritual life of the church age believer, there is no place else in the NT that talks about the spiritual life of the church age believer. So the minor premise is that the NT epistles tells us everything we need to know about the spiritual life of the church age. The conclusion is that because the epistles say nothing, nothing about demon possession. The only thing they say about miracles is that they are signs of the Apostles in 2 Corinthians 12:12. There are signs of the Apostles.
The silence is deafening. If supernatural events, miracles, signs and wonders, speaking in tongues, casting out demons, things like this were to be the formative part of the life of the church age believer, then why are they totally ignored, not even mentioned. There is a deafening silence in the Epistles; and the reason is because God has given us a completed canon. He said now you have everything, go live on the basis of it. In the OT period they did not have a completed canon. In the Gospels they did not have a completed canon. In Acts they did not have a completed Canon. So they needed ongoing revelation and these other activities were taking place during a period of an incomplete canon. Now do you have the church age? In the church age you have the complete canon and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Just rely upon that; trust in God and move forward. Trust in what the Word says, not in whatever you seem to think might be going on around you. And then you get into the Tribulation period, well one of the reasons you had the outbreak of a lot demonic activity and miracles is because you have direct satanic involvement. The anti-Christ is going to deceive people through pseudo-miracles, etc. And then halfway thought the Tribulation period the demons are casts out of heaven to the earth and their going to be miserably manifested upon the earth. And it gets to be really weird. When you go back and listen to what I taught in the second half of Revelation on that, but form about Revelation 12 and 13 on you see that there is definitely a physical visible aspect to the angelic conflict; to the angels both elect and fallen during that second half of the tribulation. Because at the end of the Tribulation all of God's Scythian creatures, the angels, the demons, human beings are all brought to final judgment at the Battle of Armageddon, all the rebellious ones.
Okay, does that help answer your question? You have got to look at all of this in terms of the overall scope of Scripture.
Question: Does the church (Bride of Christ) ever enter into PERICHORESIS or is that relationship only between the Trinity?
Answer: It is only between the Trinity because PERICHORESIS, this is a Greek word that talks about the interpenetration. And what you have is when Jesus says, "If you have seen Me you have seen the Father." Because there is such a close identity. We emphasize so often the distinctions of the persons of the Trinity that sometimes we lose the emphasis on the absolute unity of the Trinity. So that when Jesus does something, the Father does it also and the Spirit does it. There is a unity there of their being. But there is also distinction in their person. They have different roles, but in PERICHORESIS there is a unity. So no, the church doesn't enter into that because we are finite beings. That has to do with eternality and the nature of deity.
Anything else? Okay, let's close in prayer.
"Father, thank you for this opportunity to study these things and to just reflect upon the significance of the church in the church age, the unique assets that You have given us and the unique relationship that you have given us through our Lord Jesus Christ and to the Father and to the Holy Spirit and to each one and the ministries that they have and all the assets we have as those who are indwelt by the Spirit and the Son as well as the Father also by the fact that we have a completed canon of Scripture. And we pray that You would continue to help us to think through these things and to be stimulated to pursue spiritual maturity as we dome to understand the depth and the breadth and all that we have in Christ. We pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."