"The Kingship of Christ in the Church"
by Rev Jack Sin
(Pastor, Maranatha B-P Church)
What is the Church (Col 1:9-18)? "The church is a building for public worship, religious service, a particular sect or denomination of Christians, church government, or its power, as opposed to civil government, the profession of the clergy and a group of worshippers." This definition of the word "church", taken from a Dictionary shows the confusion that exists in our day regarding that institution. The Greek word translated in that way (ekklesia) is used over a 100 times in the NT, referring to "a group of worshippers, or the elect of God" which is the last definition mentioned in a dictionary! The church according to Scripture, is not a building, a denomination or an activity - it is a group of people, the elect of God. This is true of both the universal (or invisible) church, which is the group of people throughout the world who truly believe in Jesus Christ (Matt 16:18; Eph 5:25-27), and also the local (or visible) church, which is the group of people who profess to know Christ and meet together in a particular location for worship (Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 1:2). The word ekklesia (called out ones) is used in both ways in the NT, but the latter meaning is much more prevalent. So throughout this book we will be referring to "the church" in that sense - the local body of believers who meet together to worship God and serve one another.
Technically speaking, those people do not worship "at a church" or participate "in church" - they are the church! If you are a member of the body of Christ, you do not simply "go to church" or "sit in church" - you are a part of the church who comes together for worship with the rest of the body. This is important because the quality of a church is therefore notmeasured by the condition of its buildings or the appeal of its services, but by the state of the people themselves. They are the church, so the church is only as good as they are.
Metaphors of the Church
The church which comprise the redeemed of God is described in the Bible as:-
* A holy and royal priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God;
* A chosen race belonging to God;
* A separate nation whose King is the eternal God;
* A temple indwelt by the Spirit of God;
* A set of branches connected to Jesus Christ as the Vine;
* A flock led by the Good Shepherd;
* A household or family sharing the common life of the eternal Father; and
* A body of which the Lord Jesus is Head.
Using the first part of the alphabet as an acrostic, the church should be characterised by the following elements.
Apostolic. Following the example and precepts of the apostles (and hence Christ) in church government, discipline and other emphasis in the ministry in the early church (and not apostate).
Biblical. The inspired bible is the only infallible guide and authority that is to rule the whole church in all matters of faith and practice. The bible is the absolute standard of our life, not emotions nor experience nor manís teachings nor writing no matter how good it is.
Confessional/Calvinistic/Christ centred. Every church should have a statement of faith or a historic confession where it adheres to whether it is in the constitution or written elsewhere. For us it is defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith with a pre-millennial emphasis.
Doctrinal. A church should be given to the study of sound doctrine (ie of salvation, Christ, end times, etc) and a balance or practical and devotional content as well (ie this is in direct opposition to a emotionally charged up charismatic kind of church).
Evangelistic. The chief business of the church besides edifying the saints is to proclaim the glad tidings of great joy of the glorious redemption that comes only through the atoning work of our Jesus Christ on the cross on our behalf. A church that does not have a concentration on missions and gospel outreach is sadly lacking in its overall focus and direction.
Fundamental. By this we mean that it should stand firmly and unashamedly for the basic doctrines of the bible and be prepared to defend it as well. It is opposed to liberal or modernistic churches which compromise and accommodate doctrinal error and falsehood (ie with others and do not warn or admonish others of the potential spiritual danger associated with compromise). Biblical separation is the result of this vital principle, which should be the stand of every bible-believing and bible-defending church.
All the metaphors in the scripture describing the church feature, the common characteristics of unity and shared life and fellowship made possible through the finished work of Christ. Believers compose one priesthood, one nation, one race, one temple, one plant, one flock, one family and one body. We have been made one spiritually and we belong together in communion, living out that oneness in local churches. We are commanded not to forsake "our own assembling together", so that we can "stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Heb 10:24-25). The Lord Himself is the Head of the church (Eph 5:26). He is the Saviour of the Elect and He governs the church by His invisible hand. Yet He uses man to serve Him faithfully in the local church and we are to study, understand and apply the biblical teachings of Christ concerning the life and ministry of our local Christian church. There are at least 4 areas in the church that we must recognise the kingship and direction of our Lord over His church.
1. Biblical Doctrine
The Kingship of Christ in the church requires the teaching of sound biblical doctrines and commandments of the king. Obedient and faithful subjects should know the decrees of their monarch. The early church continued steadfastly in the apostlesí doctrine, prayer, fellowship and the sacraments (Acts 2:42). There were given to proper doctrinal foundations as pivotal to the growth and vitality of the local churches. The Word of God was the basis of all preaching and teaching, as in 2 Tim 3:16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
There are many false teachings and heretical practices taught by cults, modernists and New Agers that are being passed around today. A Christ-honouring and bible-based church will warn others and keep itself only from such perverted and corrupted teachings that will undermine the biblical doctrines of grace. 2 Tim 2:15-16 says, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." Be like what Jer 15:16 says, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts."
2. Reverential Worship of God
The practice of the headship of Christ in the church will result in God-honouring reverential worship on the Sabbath day, which is sadly desecrated or neglected today. The Worship of the thrice-Holy God is our glorious privilege and eternal pre-occupation in heaven one day. Let us recognise the grace and sober manner in which we are to approach the thrice-holy God.
An individualís or church attitude in worship is determined by his or their theology and concept of God. If he realises the attributes of God-His Being, His character and works, that He is an Almighty and Sovereign Creator, Holy, Just and Righteous (Rev 5:4; Deut 32:4; Rev 4:8) - he will approach God with reverence and fear in holy worship. If, however his knowledge of God is warped and unsound, then it will be reflected in the manner in which he worships his God (and subsequently in his choice of music) - self-centred, flippant, frivolous, superficial, even worldly and fleshly.
A worship service should be characterised by such attitude as reverence, sincerity, humility and dignity (John 4:24, 1 Chron 16:29, 1 Cor 14:40). Congregation singing should always be the chief expression of our worship, adoration and praise. There should be a restful meditative atmosphere where people can hear the Word of God, and sing to the praise of His name without distractions. While the New Testament does not give any definite or specific instruction as to a proper form of worship, there are, however, certain general principles that can be gleaned from different portions of the Scriptures.
Firstly, it is the Pauline exhortation to the church at Corinth, that all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40), which provides a good guide for the choice of music and hymns for Sabbath worship. Not loud jarring music but meaningful, reverential and theologically sound words put to musical arrangement in an orderly manner.
Secondly, Jesus told the Samaritan woman to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24); and hence, praise and worship must be a sincere, personal and intelligent spiritual activity, in which the mind, heart and will join together and submit to God in expressing praise, love, gratitude and obedience. Whatever assistance we may derive from music or instruments, these things cannot by themselves make a spiritual, intelligent act of worship and must never be allowed to develop to such significance that it eclipses or interferes with worship.
Thirdly, we were told to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (1 Chr 16:29). Holiness, because the person we worship is the thrice-holy God; it requires a proper propriety and right decorum in public worship. Thus, loud, lilting, jarring, syncopated music is inconsistent with the principle of holiness in worship and the requirement for decency and order in reverential worship self-style entertainment worship system is hardly acceptable to God by biblical standards.
The kingship of Christ requires us to come prepared for reverential worship every Sabbath to praise, adore and extol the name of the Lord and to receive His word with fear and trembling coupled with expectation in our hearts. The Westminster Confession in the Directory of Public Worship has this to say about personal preparation:-
Of the Assembling of the Congregation, and their Behaviour in the Public Worship of God
While the congregation is to meet for public worship, the people (having before prepared their hearts thereunto) ought all to come and join therein; not absenting themselves from the public ordinances through negligence, or upon pretence of private meetings. Let all enter the assembly, not irreverently, but in a grave and seemly manner, taking their seats or places without adoration, or bowing themselves towards one place or other. The congregation being assembled, the minister, after solemn calling on them to the worshipping of the great name of God is to begin with prayer.
The public worship being begun, the people are wholly to attend upon it, forbearing to read anything, except what the minister is then reading or citing; and abstaining much more from all private whisperings, conferences, salutations, or doing reverence to any person present, or coming in; as also from all gazing, sleeping, and other indecent behaviour, which may disturb the minister or people, or hinder themselves or others in the service of God.
If any, through necessity, be hindered from being present at the beginning, they ought not, when they come into the congregation, to betake themselves to their private devotions, but reverently to compose themselves to join with the assembly in that ordinances of God which is then in hand.
That is the high reverential regard the God-fearing Puritans had for worship in 17th century England. We need prayerfully consider to seek the Lord each day, worship in spirit and truth, in decency and order and in the beauty of holiness (1 Cor 14:33,40; 1 Chr 16:29) and not like present day modernistic churches that is given superficial self styled worship.
Today churches are often obsessed with worldly techniques and secular fanfare and self-styled entertainment in show-time worship style that is unacceptable to God (ie Benny Hinnís TV church in USA that has many artistes singing and showtime testimonies and outlandish false prophecies, with sensational and emotional appeals).
3. Faithful Stewardship
Every believer is both a son and steward in the light of God. Stewards are custodians and trustees. 1 Pet 4:10-11 "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" and as stewards we are to be faithful and fruitful to abound in the work of the Lord.
God has entrusted the use of the time, talents and treasure and we are to employ them wisely, use it in a prudent and discreet manner that will bring eternal dividends. The parable of the pounds and talents remind us of the joy and duty of standing before God and our accountability before Him one day (2 Cor 5:10). Are we serving the Lord in any way in the church? Are we employing your God-gifted talents and possessions to the advancement of His Kingdom? Let us use our time, treasures, talents and resources wisely for the strengthening of the saints and the advancement of Godís kingdom. Jesus says in Luke 6:38 "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." It is a privilege and joy to worship and serve the lord with our substance, an expression of our love to him in a tangible way. Are we faithful stewards today for Christ sake?
4. Evangelism & Missions
The church should be given to missions and the propagation of gospel to the ends of the earth. 1 Cor 9:16 says, "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" The Lordship of Christ necessarily requires us to fulfil the Gospel Commission given by our resurrected Lord and share the gospel in season and out of season, to the saving of souls according to Godís will. Give a tract, or invite someone to church and be ready to give an account of your faith as and when asked (1 Pet 3:15). The early church is a witnessing church and many were saved (Acts 4:4) as the disciples were scattered abroad. Are we committed to sharing the gospel in and out of season, to reach out and help fellow believers and to pray and intercede for one another? Paul says in Rom 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek".
Let us remember to pray and do our part for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Rom 15:30 says, "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christís sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." It is both a duty and privilege of the elect of God to be a witness for Christ. Be part of the evangelistic and discipleship ministry and reach out for Christ.
The church comprises the elect of God, who have the joy and duty of worshipping reverently, witnessing fervently, watching vigilantly, and working industriously for Christ as an assembly of redeemed and justified people. The church is to be governed and led by Christ as the Head of the church. His inspired and infallible Word is the only authoritative rule of practice and faith. Every member of the family of God is to participate actively and be part of the growth and spiritual vitality in extending Godís Kingdom and in edifying and building up all the saints in the knowledge of the Word (Eph 4:16).
Remember also the imminent coming of Christ, which may be sooner than we expect (Matt 24). One day Christ will return to set up a millennial kingdom on earth. (At the end of the 7-year tribulation period where Anti-Christ and his government will be vanquished and Satan cast into the bottomless pit) for a 1000 years; (Rev 20:6) ruling from Jerusalem as the centre of his benevolent kingdom. As saints, (Rev 5:10, Isa 2:3,4) redeemed by the blood of Christ, we will be co-reigning with Him. God has not forsaken His covenant people, Israel, as we will witness mass conversion of Jews in the last days (Rom11:26-30). It will be a glorious time to yearn and look forward to for every expectant believer (Tit 2:13) and let us be ever ready for it any time.
May the Lord continue to use and prosper us as a Christ-honouring, gospel-focused, bible-centred and bible-defending reformed church; that is given to the fervent propagation of the pure and unadulterated gospel and the vigilant defence of the truth of Godís Word in a decadent age of spiritual lethargy, religious stupor and compromise in the ecclesiastical world.