The Marks of the Church: Order, Part 1
The Marks and Works of the Church
Order: Jesus as King of the Church
This morning we will be continuing our series on “The Marks and Works of the Church.” Last week we examined the first mark of the church and that was “Orthodoxy.” Orthodoxy, I argued, was right belief, it is “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” it was the message that Jesus gave to us through the apostles that is an act of grace, that doesn’t change, and that is given to all Christians. That is the first part of the marks of the church.
This morning we will be discussing “Order,” the second mark of the church. “Orthodoxy” referred to the church’s defining idea. Our defining idea is the faith, the gospel, the story of the person and work of Christ in his first and second coming. “Order” refers to the church’s governing structure. “Order” refers to the how the church goes about believing, defending, and proclaiming orthodoxy. Some synonyms for “order” are polity, government, organization, and structure.
Order as Spiritual and Material
I will take 2 weeks to explore this idea of “Order.” The reason why it will take us two weeks to explore this idea is because in the church there is a spiritual order and a material order in the church. There is an element of order that you cannot see and an element of order that you can see. This week we will focus on the spiritual order; next week the material order. The spiritual is primary; the material secondary.
The focus of our sermon will be on Christ as King of the Church.
We cannot see Christ. Although he does have a body, although he is visible, he is hidden from our eyes. The Bible says in Acts 1 that after his resurrection he ascended to the Father. Even though we cannot see him, the Bible teaches that he still exercises authority over the Church. Christ is the Sovereign, the Ruler, the Lord of the Church. He reigns over it. He rules over it. He is its chief authority. Behind all of what you see here at CBC and every gospel-preaching church around the world, is the supernatural reality that Jesus Christ is reigning, ruling, and building his church. It is this supernatural idea that Christ is King of the church that we will focus on.
Rome and the Reformation
Historically, this issue has been one of the main doctrinal issues that has separated Roman Catholics and Protestants. Roman Catholics claim that the Pope is the ruler of the church. They have waxed and waned on how much power he should have but at times they have regarded the Pope as having godlike power.
At the beginning of the 1300s, Pope Boniface VIII issued a papal bull entitled Unam Sanctum. The context for this document was a dispute with King Philip IV of France. The dispute centered on the powers of the pope versus the king. Boniface argues in this bull that it is the papacy, not the monarchy, who has ultimate authority. Boniface writes, “The spiritual [i.e., the papacy] should surpass any temporal power [i.e., the monarchy and any other non-papal authority] whatsoever in dignity and nobility, and we should confess this the more clearly insofar as spiritual things surpass temporal things.” The climax of the bull comes when Boniface states this: “Furthermore, we declare, state, and define that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all human creatures that they submit to the Roman Pontiff.”
The Protestant Reformers rejected this notion. They argued that the church has no earthly ruler, no earthly sovereign to whom people submit to and obey. They regarded this place as exclusive to Christ. No man should be regarded as having this type of authority. This is still the theological context of today. Roman Catholics still have a Pope. While they don’t make statements like Boniface did in the early 1300s, they still believe that the Pope is the head of the church. He isn’t, though. Christ is. It is he who is King of the church, not the Pope.
In order to explore this idea of Christ as King, I will survey three different metaphors that Scripture presents to us as an explanation of Christ’s relationship to the church. These metaphors present us with a picture of the type of King that Jesus is.
When these metaphors are combined, we will get a picture of what it means that Christ is King of the Church. This will be a topically exegetical sermon. We will not spend all our time in one text but will use three different passages to illumine the idea that Christ is King.
Christ as the Cornerstone
The first metaphor we will explore that illumines what it means that Christ is King of the church is “Christ as Cornerstone.” For this idea, turn with me to Ephesians 2:18.
In Ephesians 2:11, Paul begins a new section in his argument. Prior to 2:11, Paul has argued for election, sin, and salvation by grace through faith. He continues by arguing for a corporate identity of those who have been saved. These persons who have been saved are united to other Christian into a corporate reality. And it is this corporate reality that concerns us.
Beginning in verse 18, we read this, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” This is referring to this salvation—we have access to the Father through the Son and by the Spirit. So what, Paul? What’s the consequence of this idea? Well he gives that to us in verse 19. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Wow. So we, who were once strangers and aliens, are now fellow citizens and members of God’s household? Yes. That is true. Those who have been saved have been saved not just individually but have been saved into a corporate identity. This corporate identity is referred to as “the household of God.”
With the reference to “God’s household,” Paul begins a new metaphor to describe the corporateidentity of salvation. Those who are saved are a part of God’s household. The type of house, the type of construction, in this verse, is left undefined. Well, what type of construction, what type of house is this? Look at verse 21.
This verse says this. “In whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” So Christians are joined with other Christians into a corporate identity. And this corporate identity is God’s house, and the type of house that it is is a temple, a holy temple. Let’s keep pressing the metaphor, though. What else can we learn about this temple?
Jump to verse 20. In this passage, Paul gives us a blueprint for this temple, this household of God that Christians are a part of. This building is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” There are two parts to this foundation. The first part is the apostles and the prophets. This reference refers to those Christians who received revelation from Christ and who taught the early Christians in the first century. Their work was that they laid the foundation of the church. We have what they taught through the avenue of Scripture.
Christ as Cornerstone
The second part of this foundation is the cornerstone. The cornerstone is not the whole foundation. It’s part of the foundation. There’s more to the foundation than just the cornerstone. However, the cornerstone has the preeminent place in the foundation.
This is how one NT commentator explains what a cornerstone was in the first century: A cornerstone “was the first stone laid. The builder was very careful to properly set this stone. . . . [It] was the most important stone in the whole building. All other stones were to be in line with it.” (Hoehner, Ephesians, 406).
Today the term “cornerstone” is often used to refer to a stone that is “sometimes positioned into place at the time of the dedication of [a] building, after its construction is completed” (Hoehner, Ephesians, 406). That is not how “cornerstone” was understood in biblical times. In biblical times, a cornerstone was the center piece of the foundation, the stone which all the other stones had to be measured by.
What Paul is saying is the Jesus is like a cornerstone. Jesus isn’t literally a stone. Paul is using metaphor here. He is using a building metaphor, a structural metaphor. He is comparing Jesus to a cornerstone. Just as a cornerstone is the most important stone in a structure, and the stone by which all other stones must be measured, so also Christ is the most important stone in the construction of the church, of this church here at CBC. It is his life; it is his words that are the standard. God is building this temple. Like stones, all succeeding believers are built upon Christ the cornerstone. Further, in order to be built on him, our lives must reflect him. The cornerstone sets the standards, not the stones that come after. Crist is precious. He’s the most important part of what we do here at CBC. He is our standard.
Christ as Head
The next metaphor we will explore is Christ as Head. Turn with me to Col 1:18. The passage reads, “And he is the head of the body, the church.” With this verse, Paul does not specify what the relationship between Christ’s body and the church. The passage does not say, “And he is the head of his body, the church.” It is unclear from this passage what is the relationship between Christ’s body and “the body” or “the church.”
Look at Colossians 1:24, though. It states, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” In this passage, Paul identifies Christ’s body as the church. So putting these ideas together what do we get? Jesus is head of the church, which is his body.
The metaphor that Paul is using here is an anatomical metaphor. It’s a metaphor of anatomy. It’s a metaphor which touches upon bodily structure. Paul states that the relationship between Jesus and the church is like the relationship between a person’s head and a person’s body. Within this metaphor there are two ideas I want you to see.
The first is the idea of authority. Jesus is head of the church, which means that he is the ruler, the sovereign, the chief authority of the church. The logic of it seems to go something like this. The head is what guides the body. It is what makes the decisions, and the body follows. It is the center of control and governance. Further, spatially, it is higher than the body. Those who are in authority are thought of to be high and exalted. To show deference of authority, someone might bow or kneel. When authority is expressed in spatial terms, those who are in authority are higher than those who are not in authority. That same idea is working here. The head is at the head of the body. It is the highest point. And as the highest point, it is the authority of the body. Jesus is
head of the church. He is its sovereign. He is the one who is guiding the church. He is the one who is the authority. It is not what I say, it is not what the elders say, it is not what the Pope says which is the authority. It is what Christ says. His life and his words are our authority. He is in charge.
The second idea that the metaphor of Christ as the Head of the church expresses is that of an intimate connection between Christ and the church. Going back to anatomy, the reason why the head rules the body is because the head is attached to the body. The body cannot exist without the head. There is an intimate, organic, deep, inseparable connection between head and body. The same can be said of Christ. Christ is intimately, closely, deeply connected to his body, to the church. Our victories are his victories; our pains are his pains.
For an illustration of this point, turn to Acts 9. In Acts 9, we are the given the story of Saul’s conversion to Christianity. Saul is on the Road to Damascus when the risen Son of God encounters him. Let’s begin in verse 1 and go through verse 6.
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
What I want you to notice about this passage is what it is that Jesus says to Saul. Look at verse 4 and 5. After Jesus appears to Saul, Jesus says in verse 4, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And then in verse 5, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” That’s strange. After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus received a resurrection body, a body that could never been harmed or hurt. In Acts 1, Jesus ascends to the Father. He is no longer on earth. How, then, can Jesus say to Saul that Saul is persecuting him when Jesus is not on earth but in heaven?
What Saul has been doing in the early chapters of Acts is he has been persecuting Christians. He had been killing them. He was planning on doing more of that to the Christians in Damascus. Jesus interprets Saul’s persecution of Christians as a persecution of him. And the underlying idea is that the church is Christ’s body. So, any persecution against the church is a persecution of Christ’s body.
This analysis raises the theological point that Jesus is intimately related to his people. Many Kings are aloof to the needs and desires of their subject. Many could care less what happens to their people. This is not how Jesus exercises his Kingship. On the contrary, Jesus is intimately acquainted with his church. So much so that he refers to the church as his very own body. We always know what’s going on in our bodies. The pains, the creeks, the cracks. We know them all. Jesus is the same way with his body, the church. He fills us. He dwells among us. He is here through the power of the Spirit right now. Because of that, he considers any wrong done to them as a wrong done to him. As Head of the church, Jesus is intimately connected with the church.
Christ as Chief Shepherd
For this last point, this last metaphor, turn with me to 1 Peter 5:1. This metaphor will better explain the intimacy that Christ has with the church. Not only is there a deep, intimate connection between Christ and the Church, Jesus actively and fervently shepherds his people. We’ll read through verse 4. This passage reads thus,
So I exhort the elders among you, mas a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not
domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
We will focus upon verse 4 where Peter refers to Jesus as the “chief Shepherd.” This title only occurs one time in Scripture. So, it is unique in that sense. However, the notion of shepherd is an ancient metaphor Scripture uses.
The OT Background
The OT has a lot to say about shepherds. Turn with me to Jeremiah 3:14. The book of Jeremiah is one of the later prophets. Israel has already been through many cycles of disobedience, and they have been unable to get out of this cycle. Their iniquity separates them from God. Let’s read through verse 16.
Return, O faithless children, declares the LORD; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD,” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.
You see in verse 15. God promises that he will give to Israel shepherds to care for them. Shepherds are spiritual leaders. They care for the people of God. They are appointed by God to care for God’s people. They were a blessing upon God’s people. They are involved in the lives of God’s people and preach the Word of God to God’s people. God’ people have always had spiritual leaders. These are shepherds.
1 Peter 5
Turn back with me to 1 Peter 5:4. In our passage, Peter discusses earthly shepherds and the heavenly shepherd. Earthly shepherds are addressed in verse 1. Those are the elders of the church. Elders are supposed to, verse 2, “shepherd the flock of God.” That means care for, love, nurture, and assist. Again verse 2, they are to “willingly and eagerly exercise oversight.” That means to rule the church in a willing manner. They should want to do it. It’s not a begrudging work. It’s a joyful work. Elders are to love to shepherd. Lastly, verse 3, earthly shepherds are to not be domineering or heavy handed. No. We are to be examples to you, through love, service, and patience. Earthly shepherds are to love and care for the people of God.
This really is a marvelous picture of love. Elders, earthly shepherds, are to love their people and to nourish them in the truth. You get that picture. That’s a wonderful picture.
Now with that picture of love in mind, look at verse 4. There is a “chief shepherd.” This shepherd, Jesus Christ, is infinitely better at shepherding than are earthy shepherds. He will never fail you. He is infinitely more able to care for you that any person. We all know that earthly shepherds fail. We will fail you as elders. We will never truly live up to what it is we are commanded to do. There is one who never fails. There is one who always loves, who always oversees, and who always care. That is the “chief Shepherd.”
As the King of the Church, Jesus is the chief shepherd of the church. He is the one building CBC. He is the one loving for and caring for CBC. He is the one who is the example. He is the one who is lovingly protecting the church away from danger, instructing them, and guiding us in the direction we ought to go. It is Jesus who is doing this. It is Jesus who is the chief shepherd. No man fills this role. No man can fill this role. Everything good that you see happening here at CBC is because Jesus is shepherding his sheep to the good and proper end.
Where have we been this morning? This morning I have argued that Christ is King of the Church, not the pope, not any person. Christ as King, though, is a certain type of king. And I have explained his kingship using three different metaphors in Scripture that discuss his relationship with the church.
The first metaphor was “Christ as Cornerstone.” Christ as the cornerstone means that his person and his work is the foundational element of CBC. His life and work is the standard. Every stone laid on top must match him. Everything we are trying to do here at CBC is to align with Christ. His is the criterion.
The second metaphor was “Christ as Head.” Christ as Head means that he is the authority. As the head guides and directs the body as is spatially at the top of the body, he is the authority. He is the ruler of CBC. He is the sovereign at CBC. Christ as Head also means that he is intimately acquainted with the church. Our victories are his victories. Our pains are his pains. In all that we do together as a church, Christ is present with us.
The last metaphor was “Christ as Chief Shepherd.” This metaphor means that Christ is the premier caretaker for CBC. He is overseeing that we stay in doctrinal and ethical purity. Through every kind work, through every word of encouragement, through ever sacrifice done here at CBC, that is Christ taking care of his sheep. If you find any encouragement or love here at CBC that is Christ loving you. Jesus Christ is the true reality of this church.
This morning I have two points of application.
The first is that you need to trust in Christ alone, not in man. The Roman Catholic view of the papacy is wrong because it places a mere man in a position that only Christ should hold. The Papacy allows for one man to be the head of the entire church universal. He can grant forgiveness of sins, develop church doctrine, and command the entire world to submit to him. This is not healthy. This is harmful. We as Christians are called not to trust in any man to ultimately lead and guide the church. Do not put your ultimate trust in me or any church leader. We will disappoint you. You salvation, significance is found in Christ alone, not in man. Trust in
The second point. Because church is all about Christ, we need to have humility. No person ultimately matters in Jesus’ church. All that we have is of grace. All that we do is of grace. Any work done in and through CBC is not because of your goodness or intelligence. It is all by the grace of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:5–7 says this.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
In this passage, Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for their factions. Some say, “I follow Paul” and others say, “I follow Apollos.” Paul’s conclusion is this—no man ultimately matters. Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God causes the growth. His conclusion is in verse 7. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” It is all of grace. Jesus is who matters, not us.