It is not within the scope of this chapter to discuss the prophetic nature of the church other than to note prophecy regarding it in Isaiah 2:1-4. Please see Paul’s use of prophetic language writing to Timothy in discussing behavior of a Christian (1 Tim. 3:15). Nor will we be discussing church government, an important element in identifying the church founded by Christ, other than seeing that a congregation properly constituted will be overseen and led by faithful, scripturally qualified men (3:1-7), assisted in that effort by other men likewise qualified through Scripture to serve as deacons (3:8-13).
It is proper for us to define our terms when discussing things spiritual in nature. The church, as a body, is indeed a thing spiritual in nature. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18). In Acts 2:47 we find, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” While writing to Timothy, Paul says: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
Furthermore, Paul tells us that God made Christ head over all things to the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23). Then he reverses that order in addressing the Colossians that Christ is head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18). Especially regarding the nature of the church, Paul reveals that there is only one that makes up this kind of organization. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4). In Ephesians 4:4-6 there is a series of ones. If there is more than one of any of these seven, then it would be reasonable to believe there could be more than one of any or all of the rest.
The religious institution we read about upon the pages of the New Testament is singular in nature. This is the case because the Lord promised to build it, added only the saved and all the saved to it, and Paul gave specific instructions to Timothy how he was to behave while in it.
Membership in the Church
Jesus is able to establish entrance requirements for church membership (Heb. 5:8-9) since He is head over all things to the church (1:22-23), approved of God (Acts 2:22), with assurances given to us in that God raised Him from the dead (17:31). Jesus said that those who are properly taught and who have learned will come to Him (John 6:44-45; Isa. 54:13; Jer. 31:33-34; Joel 3:16-17). Such ones then validate their learning in believing that Jesus is the Messiah (John 8:12, 24; Isa. 9:2; 49:6). Believing in Jesus as the Messiah will lead one to repentance (Luke 13:3), and then to confessing Him as Lord and Savior (Mat. 10:32-33; Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:9-10). Since faith is a consequence of hearing and believing truth, trust results and leads us to being baptized to obtain the remission of sins (Mark 16:16). Sins are purged by blood (Heb. 9:21-22; 10:9-10, 22), and Jesus shed His blood for this purpose (Mat. 26:28). We contact His blood in baptism (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5; 7:14; Eph. 5:25-27), receiving sanctification (1 Pet. 1:22-23; Heb. 9:21; 10:22; 13:12) and imputed righteousness (Jam. 2:20- 24). This is the new birth (1 Pet. 1:23) that puts us into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).
Those souls whom the Lord added to the church on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:14-47, did what Jesus commanded to receive by grace His blessing of salvation. It is these people we discuss in this lesson of “The Church Walking Before God” (1 John 1:6-10).
It is a Walk of Faith
Scripture tells us, “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Yet we can know that “he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). We can know this because, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psa. 19:1). God has not left Himself without witness for the earnest seeker of truth to find Him, for whom he seeks and his heart yearns (Mat. 5:44- 45; Acts 17:14; John 5:39).
Once it is understood that God exists, the Bible is His final revelation to man (1 Cor 2:7-13; 13:4-8), and that obedience to His Gospel takes place as discussed, the process of maturing in the faith begins in earnest. Our search for deeper Biblical truth begins and never ends until we close our eyes in death, exhale the last time, and our spirit departs this tabernacle of flesh (2 Pet. 1:12-14).
Walking Before God
With the prophesied change in covenants having been fulfilled (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6- 13; Col. 2:14), the church is now the Israel of God (Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6-8). As our text points out, spiritual Israel’s best interests will be realized when we do those things God has commanded and leave all else undone (2 Cor. 5:7; Mat. 15:8-9). Hear what God told Jeremiah:
For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you (Jer. 7:22-23).
This same lesson applies to God’s people today just as much as it applied unto Israel of old. Jesus says as much in Matthew 6:33.
This walk is bounded by the Word of God (Col. 3:17). It is characterized as walking in the light (1 John 1:6-7). To walk in the light, Scripturally speaking, we will be using God’s Word as our sole guide in faith, work, and worship. In walking in the light, we are fulfilling God’s will for His children (Psa. 119:105, 130). The only sure way of knowing we are pleasing to God is to do all of that and only that contained in the Scriptures (1 John 2:3; Psa. 119:172; Mat. 3:15; Eph. 2:9-10).
In walking before God, the church accepts the mind set of Christ as He addressed Paul on the road to Damascus. Hear the Lord Himself:
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26:15-18).
The world is lost in sin and bound for eternal damnation unless their current walk is diverted from the way called broad. Whereas Jesus went about doing good (10:38), and we are to do good unto all (Gal. 6:10), the work assigned to the church is not welfare and benevolence but rather evangelism (Mat. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-49).
All that the local congregation does or accomplishes is done through the hands of its individual members. Each member, by virtue of individual sanctification (1 Pet 1:20-23; Heb. 13:12), is a member of the royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9-10) tasked with praise of God (Heb. 13:15) and obligated to a life worthy of a sanctified priest (1 Pet. 2:11-19). Jesus likens His followers to salt, light, a city, and a light set on a candlestick. The illustrations have the purpose of God being glorified (Mat. 5:13-16). The stated purpose of creation and faithful disciples of Christ is to glorify and honor God and from which activities God receives pleasure (Rev. 4:11). The only lifestyle befitting those professing to be followers of Christ is one that models their Lord and Master, Jesus. Christians are to be in the forefront of those seeking to live godly lives.
Our behavior is to be impeccable. Faithful Christians heed Paul’s directions in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 and refrain from fornication. Men are treated respectfully and women in purity (1 Tim. 5:1-2). Marriage is an honorable relationship designed by God as the sole outlet for sexual needs (1 Cor. 7:1-5; Mat. 19:1-9; Gen. 2:21-24).
Our speech is to be seasoned with salt used only to edify (Col. 4:6; 3:16). Corrupt communication is never to flow over our tongue, pass our lips, much less to be considered in the first place (Eph. 4:29; Mat. 12:34-37; Jer. 17:9). Paul urges Titus to speak only sound doctrine which cannot be condemned causing those that are contrary to be ashamed.
Titus 2:1, 8
When a congregation of God’s people walk before God, they are walking in a way and manner which glorifies God, saves their own souls, those that are interested in the truth, and at the same time will bring persecution from the world. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Walking before God brings strife into families (Luke 12:49-53), disrupts society (Acts 19:23-41), yet brings peace with God (Eph. 2:11-22).
Look to the writings of the prophet Jeremiah. See how not walking in the old paths condemned the nation of Israel. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jer. 6:16). May we ever seek the face of Jehovah, the Lord God Almighty with a tender heart and a listening ear.
All Scripture quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
Reprinted from the 2018 Bellview Lectureship, Pensacola, FL, The Church, ed. Michael Hatcher.