We believe in the Church of Jesus Christ, both a physical and a spiritual community of members who are joined to Christ and to one another by a common faith in Jesus Christ—unbounded by distinctions of nationalism, ethnicity, denominationalism, or time itself. We believe in the local church; the community of followers of Jesus Christ gathered together in fellowship and obedience to His Word at a specific place and time. We believe the church exists in loyal, loving submission the Lord Jesus Christ, and is to seek the guidance and empowerment of His Spirit in every aspect of its function. (Matt 16:13-19, 1 Cor 12:12-13, Eph 3:4-12, 1 Tim 3:14-15)
Therefore, we join together as the Church, the community of God’s people, carrying out His will as His people, by the leading and the power of His very Spirit, proclaiming the gospel to all who will hear, and extending Christian fellowship to all people, everywhere, who share faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Big Idea: When you become a follower of Jesus, you become part of a new community, the church, and are called to live your life according to a new purpose, serving God.
I. The church is a new community of people—all of whom have new identities. 9-10
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
A. Our RACIAL identity: We are a chosen race 9a
9 But you are a chosen race, = race (genos): “one of the groups into which the world’s population can be divided on the basis of physical characteristics such as skin or hair color”
Restated: Our new “racial” identity is not primarily one of blood, but of belonging to God.
Application: What this means is that Christians are to be “colorblind” when relating to one another, and the rest of the world. We are to “see” each other, and the world around us, as human beings, either in or outside, of a relationship with Jesus.
B. Our RELIGIOUS identity: We are a chosen priesthood 9b
a royal priesthood, = people who function as royal priests, being related to the King.
Restated: We bear a unique responsibility and opportunity of representing and serving God.
Application: As a royal priesthood, we are in the amazing position of going before God in the best interests of the people around us. Through our prayers we literally bring them before God’s throne for His gracious healing and love. Through our service to them, we “serve” them as representative priest-servants of the God of Heaven.
C. Our SOCIAL-POLITICAL identity: We are a holy nation 9c
a holy nation, = nation: a community of people who share a common ethnic origin, culture, historical tradition, and, frequently, language, whether or not they live together in one territory or have their own government.
Restated: Our primary identity is found in our membership in God’s Kingdom, and not the human political and social groups that may make claim to our loyalty and affection.
Application: As Christians, we are basically non-partisan in our deepest convictions, because we already belong to another “party,” the “party” of God’s people.
D. Our OCCUPATIONAL identity: We bear witnesses of the marvelous mercy God has shown to us. 9d-10
a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy
Restated: We primarily identify ourselves not according to our roles and occupations in the surrounding culture, but according to our primary purpose of proclaiming the wonders of our merciful God to all who will hear us.
II. Our new PURPOSE: We live in obedience to God so that others might become worshipers of our gracious God. 11-12
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
A. We choose to live in obedience to God… 11
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
B. … so that others would become worshipers of God 12
… so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them glorify God in the day of visitation.
Application: What does this mean for the members of Grace Bible Church today? This passage should lead us to sober examination of our membership and involvement in church…
1. Are we truly “together”? (Fellowship: real or nominal?) Are we really investing and sharing in the true, day-to-day lives of each other, or simply spending an hour or two each week sitting next to each other, singing and listening to the sermon? Are we treating all who enter our doors with the grand respect, kindness, and warmth of a beloved guest, or “holding back” until we “know them better”?
2. Are we genuinely submitted to the “leading and power of His very Spirit”? (Spirit-filled living: realized or idealized?) Do we regularly, openly appeal to and invite Him to have full sway over our affairs in this church, regardless of what He might choose to do here? Have we become comfortable engaging in worship-type action–without the presence of the Holy Spirit among us? Dare we ignore, or worse, evict the Holy Spirit from the life of our dear church?!
3. Do we consistently speak of the Lord Jesus, and invite those around us to believe in Him? (Witnessing: Engaged or indifferent?) Do we desire to obey God in order to gain the opportunity, through example and word, to lovingly, respectfully draw others to meet our marvelous King Jesus? We often think in terms of getting people out there to come in here to join our church–but we should be hungering to see the good news of Jesus Christ extend from here, to there, so that our beloved neighbors and friends might also become worshipers of Him, and welcome Him when He returns.