Sermons

How Well Do We Know The History of The New Testament Church? - Lesson two

Sun, Nov 19, 2017
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Duration:34 mins 3 secs

Message text

HOW WELL DO WE KNOW THE HISTORY OF THE N.T. CHURCH
- Lesson Two -

INTRO:
Good evening. This is the second in a series of lessons on the history of the New Testament church.

When we look at what we know about the history of the New Testament church, we are not looking at some particular organization that we can trace all the way through history because of a physical locality. We need to consider what do we know about those who have been added to the church by God because of their obedience to the gospel call.

Last week we looked at the term “church”, its definition as a Greek compound word and now having defined what we’re talking about, we need to look through the Bible and examine what we find about;
1. How the church of the NT was - Foretold & Established
2. How the church of the NT - Grew & was Strengthened and
3. How it proceeded until today – with all the Warnings & Problems we find revealed in the New Testament.

THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH FORETOLD AND ESTABLISHED
I. What is said in the Old Testament about the coming of the messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom the church? In other words what was prophesied? First of all, how do we define prophecy? How will we recognize it when we see it?
A. Understanding what a prophecy is can be a problem for us. The problem is not with the prophecies. The problem is with our western mindset. Having heard stories of Nostradamus and psychic hotlines, we have the idea that prophecy means foretelling an event and that event happening just as the prophecy said. A prophecy is a person saying, “So and so will do such and such on this day.” Then we wait to see if it happens that way. Certainly some prophecies are like that.
B. For the ancient eastern mindset, prophecy was not simply an issue of directly foretelling an event and it happening. In Matthews book if we look at the first two chapters with our mindset, we will be looking for a demonstration that Jesus is simply fulfilling direct statements like Micah 5:2 – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
1. Matthew was doing more than that. What Matthew was demonstrating was that Jesus did not simply fulfill direct statements like Micah 5:2. Rather, He was the ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament in general. Matthew is pointing out that Jesus is an amazing figure whose story mirrors that of God’s people for their whole existence.
2. Was Israel called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1)? “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” That wasn’t just a story about Israel. That wasn’t just a story about the past. That was a marker for the future. When Jesus comes along and follows that same story, He stands out.
3. Did Rachel weep for her children when the children of Israel were killed in wars and taken captive (Jeremiah 31:15)? “Thus says the Lord: "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Look at what happened when Jesus was born. She wept again as her children were killed when the Messiah came on the scene.
4. Was a child born to a maiden during the days of Ahaz as a sign for deliverance to Judah (Isaiah 7:14)? “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” How much more is the birth of a child to a virgin a sign of deliverance for God’s people?
C. Matthew, talking to Jews, speaks in Jewish idiom. The issue of being called a Nazarene was not simply about where a person was from. Rather, being a Nazarene was no badge of honor. For the Jews of the first century, saying someone was a Nazarene meant they were backwoods and not to be honored. Much like calling someone a bumpkin, rube, hillbilly or redneck today.
D. Notice Nathanael’s response in John 1:46. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” While the words, “He shall be called a Nazarene” are not in the Old Testament. The teaching that the Messiah will not be someone who comes in the world obviously worthy of honor, was taught. Isaiah 53:1-3 gave that specific message. “1. Who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2. For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
E. The Messiah would not be someone deemed worthy of honor. Or, as the Jews would say, He would be a Nazarene. When the Old Testament prophesied how Jesus would seem unworthy of honor and then God has Him grow up in the very city that represented lack of honor to the Jews, that is pretty powerful.
F. We are still talking about the New Testament church and we will need to be careful of our mind set as we read the Old Testament prophecy.
II. What criteria do we need to use to examine the prophecies concerning the church? The fundamental meaning of the word is not prediction, but the “speaking forth” of the mind of God. It is the revelation of God’s mind (both past, present, and future) that could not be known by natural means.
A. There is much said about where the word “prophet” comes from, it’s etymology. Some scholars think that the noun is from an Arabic term meaning “spokesman” whereas others have contended that the root is a Hebrew form which signifies a “bubbling up,” as when water issues from a hidden fountain.
B. As with all things the best way to understand this is to turn to the bible and see how it is used. Exodus 7:1-2 – “1. So the Lord said to Moses: "See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. 2. "You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he must send the children of Israel out of his land.”
1. Let’s break this down. “The Lord said to Moses: "See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh”. Here Moses is in the position as god as far as Pharaoh is concerned. “and Aaron... shall be your prophet.”
2. For God’s purpose then, Moses acts as god and Aaron his prophet.
3. Ultimately the Lord gives Moses the commands which Moses speaks in his role as god and Aaron delivers those words to Pharaoh.
4. This gives us a clear view of the relation of God and His Prophets.
C. Let’s see what a Prophet is called in the Bible.
1. 2 Kings 4:9 – Here Elisha is called “...a holy man of God...”
2. Ezekiel 38:17 – Here the Lord calls them “...My servants the prophets...”
3. Malachi 3:1 – Here the term “...My messenger...” is used.
4. 1 Samuel 9:9 – “(Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: "Come, let us go to the seer''; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.)”
5. The fundamental meaning of the Prophet then is someone who did not speak from his own mind. He was speaking as he was moved (carried along) by God. A prophet was simply a spokesperson for God.
6. One could say then that fulfilled prophecy is absolute evidence of God’s mind and God’s voice.
D. Back to prophecy then. The fundamental meaning of the word prophecy is not prediction, but the “speaking forth” of the mind of God. It is the revelation of God’s mind (both past, present, and future) that could not be known by natural means.
E. Sometimes we hear prophecy is “foretelling” and “forth-telling.” – Prophecy can concern the revelation of events which occurred in the past; it may deal with present circumstances (i.e., contemporary with the prophet), or it can look forward to the future.
1. Wait... How is it applied to the past, to what has already happened?
2. First we read in Deuteronomy 18:15 – “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” Moses was a prophet. When he recorded the creation activity of Genesis 1, he was giving a divinely inspired account of what transpired during the first week of earth’s history. Certainly he was not present to witness those events.
3. Moses also spoke to things that were current in the wilderness wanderings. Also as example in Amos 1:1 we read “The words of Amos... which he saw concerning Israel”. Current with Amos life.
4. Finally, the prophet’s vision was sometimes directed into the future. The predictive aspect of prophecy stands as a solid testimony to the truthfulness & inspiration of scripture. This is the part we are going to look at concerning the church.
F. Scholars define the characteristics of true prophecy this way;
1. The event must be beyond the power of logical deduction.
2. The event must be remote enough in time to rule out guesswork or deduction.
3. The prediction must be applicable to the event.
4. The prediction must be unambiguous and unmistakable. It must contain sufficient details to exclude guesswork.
5. The prediction must have a clear and demonstrable fulfillment.
G. The reason for stating all this is so we will clearly see that the prophecies we will study here today fulfill the criteria of true prophecy.
II. Foretold and established
A. Perhaps one of the most interesting facets about the church that belongs to Christ is God’s use of prophecy to foretell its coming, its nature, and things about it. In this phase of our study we want to deal with prophecy as it relates to the church of Christ, and in particular Old Testament prophecy. Let’s start with Isaiah and his prophecy in chapter 2 verses 2-4.
B. Isaiah the prophet foretold the establishment of the church of Christ in his age. Isaiah 2:2-4 – “2. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. 3. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.'' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4. He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” [NKJ]
C. The prophet Micah also uttered the same prophecy in his time Micah 4:1-5 – “1. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. 2. Many nations shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.'' For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 3. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 4. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. 5. For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.”
D. As we look at the prophecies, we will often find them expressed in what we call prophetic or symbolic terms. Let’s start with the words “in the latter days” or “in the last days”. Both prophets use the same term. When this expression is used in scripture it means the time of the Messiah. This is the “when”.
E. The next expression is “the mountain of the Lord's house”. The Lord’s house is the “what” and it is described as a mountain.
1. The Lord’s house is the building of the living God. Look at 1 Timothy 3:15 – “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Here we find that the Lord’s house is the “church”.
2. The term “mountain” is obviously something high and it is used to describe something which is over other things. A government, a Kingdom.
3. Both prophets describe this mountain as being exalted above the hills, the lesser things that rule.
F. Next it says all nations will flow to it. All nations, all peoples, shall have an opportunity to be a part of the coming kingdom both Jews and Gentiles.
1. Something is going on here that will affect many people and they will say “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”
2. They would desire teaching about God in how to walk, which is how to live, in the paths, the ways set forth by God.
G. Next we see that “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Here then is the “where”. The Word of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem. How do I know that that’s not speaking about the Old Testament law? Do you remember when Moses and the children of Israel came out of Egypt? They went to a mountain where Moses went up and received the law. Here we are talking about that which is still yet to be established. Not what Moses received, but that which is going to be established and proclaimed.
H. Then a judgment is mentioned and finally peace is indicated. “For out of Zion shall go forth the law”. In verse 4 of the text in Isaiah we learn who is to be the "judge" or "ruler" in that coming kingdom. "And He will judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people. " It is the same "he" of verse 3, "and He will teach us of his ways, And we shall walk in His paths."
I. Then we learn of the peaceful nature of those who become part of what is established, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” This indicates the peaceful spirit of the men and women who make up the kingdom, its citizens.
1. Those that become part of the church, Christians, are peaceable.
2. Now that is a key consideration as we trace through history, because we’re going to see a time period where the Crusades take place. We need to ask the question, “Was that the church that belonged to the Lord?” The church is a peaceable kingdom.
III. Let’s look at some details now. Establishment / fulfillment.
A. Someone might say, wait a minute. You’re talking about a kingdom here. How are you making a transition between kingdom and church? As we saw in last week’s lesson Jesus predicted that he would build his church (Matthew 16:18). He called his church "the kingdom" (Matt. 16:19). Therefore, the church and the kingdom in this sense are the same. Christ is the head of both the church and the kingdom. The terms of admission are the same. Those in the church are also in the kingdom. From these Scriptures, we may conclude that the Lord's house, the kingdom and the church often refer to one and the same thing.
B. In Acts chapter two as Peter and the apostles started preaching Peter said “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,” On the day of Pentecost there’s a clear fulfillment of the prophecy that the last days began. Where is this taking place? In Jerusalem. What is being said? The word of the Lord shall go forth. On that day for the first time this side of the cross the gospel was preached. The very nature of the gospel is to convict men of sin and of judgment. Men who heard these words were pricked in their hearts and said; what must we do?
1. Paul writing to Timothy refers to the church as the house of the Lord...I Tim. 3:15 – “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Exactly what Micah and Isaiah were talking about.
2. Acts 2:47 – “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Keeping this in mind look back at our text...
C. “All nations would flow unto it”, The kingdom, the church has a worldwide commission.
1. Matthew 28:18-19 – “18. Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” [NKJ]
2. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and only preach to those who are here in Jerusalem. Mark 16:15-16 – “15. And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” [NKJ] Remember, “For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
3. Acts 2:39 – “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” [NKJ]
4. Acts 10:34-35 – “34. Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35. "But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” [NKJ]
5. Galatians 3:26-29 – “26. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”[NKJ] Again the concept here is not some but all.
6. Colossians 3:10-11 – “10. and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11. where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” [NKJ]
D. "out of Zion shall go forth the law...."
1. The disciples where not to depart from Jerusalem... Remember in Luke 24:46-53 that the Lord had taken these disciples out to Bethany where he is ascends back into heaven. He then says to His disciples you need to go back to Jerusalem and wait for what? Wait for the promise. Let’s look at Luke 24:46-53 – “46. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47. "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48. "And you are witnesses of these things. 49. "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.'' 50. And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53. and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.” [NKJ].
2. The disciples indeed returned to Jerusalem after Christ ascended and we should note what we find in Acts 1:12 – “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey.” They went back to Jerusalem because the Lord said you go to Jerusalem. Why Jerusalem? Because the prophecy said the Word of the Lord was going to sound forth from Jerusalem.
3. The promise came...Acts 2:1-4.
4. What happened? A multitude assembled...Acts 2:6. They were amazed at the sight.
5. They heard Peter preach the Gospel for the first time under the great commission. As the result of this preaching he convicted the Jews of having crucified their long promised Messiah... Acts 2:36.
6. What happened? They were pricked in their hearts. Peter didn’t say go thy way and feel good. He said “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”
7. Peter announced the law of pardon for the first time in Jerusalem.
IV. The Kingdom was Prophesied – The next prophecy I would like us to consider is that of Daniel and specifically the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
A. Let’s start with Daniel 2:44 – “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” [NKJ] What Daniel is describing here is the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. In about the year 604 BC Daniel prophecies about the coming of the kingdom.
B. I’m only going to hit the highlights of Daniel because it will take some time to read the chapter.
1. Daniel 2:1 – “Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him.”
2. In Daniel 2:2-5 Nebuchadnezzar called on his magicians, astrologers and sorcerers to tell him about the dream. They asked him to describe it and he refused and said “"My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces”
3. In Daniel 2:19 – it says “Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision...” Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar he can tell him about the dream and gives credit to God in verse 28 “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, (then Daniel goes on and tells the king the reason for the dream) - and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:”
4. Daniel 2:31-35 – “31. "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. 32. "This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33. "its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34. "You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35. "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”.
C. Daniel then says in verse 36 – “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king.” The image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream represented four world empires.
1. In verse 38 Daniel explains the head of Gold represented the Babylonian Empire --- 626 BC. to 536 BC. Where Nebuchadnezzar ruled.
2. Then in verse 39 – “...But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours...”. This is the breasts and arms of silver and in history represented the Medo-Persian Empire --- 536-331 BC under rulers such as Cyrus, and Darius.
3. Continuing in verse 39 – “then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.” The belly and thighs of bronze represented the Macedonian Empire --- 331-321 BC. with rulers like Alexander the Great.
4. Then in verses 40-43 are described the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay which represented the Empire of the Romans --- 63 BC - 476 AD. “fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters all things; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.” “And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.”
5. Verses 44-45 – “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45. "Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
i. It is in the days of these last kings that God shall set up a kingdom.
ii. That kingdom shall never be destroyed.
iii. It will not be left to other people, because it will have God as its ruler.
iv. It will be over all other kingdoms.
v. The stone is one not made by hands and is stronger then the iron, clay, bronze, silver and gold and those will be swept away.

V. The promise to David. – Look for a moment with me at 2 Samuel 7:4-16. This promise to David is that from his seed one would come to rule forever.
A. 2 Samuel 7:13 – “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
B. The one being foretold will build whose house? God’s house. And God will establish the throne of His kingdom forever.
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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.

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Reference Sermon
John Cripps

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