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What is a Church? Matthew 18 Study 6

WHAT IS A CHURCH?

Text:  Matthew 18:17ff

What is this ‘Church’ that Jesus is talking about?  Surely at this time the church hadn’t been instituted, for this event takes place well before Pentecost, when most evangelicals will tell you that the the church was born.  BUT, the church predates Pentecost!  Ancient Israel was as much part of the church as we are.  In the Septuagint, (The Greek version of the OT) the assembling of God’s people is the ‘ecclesia – the Gk word for church – Jesus certainly knew that the people who were listening to Him would know that.  In the passage Jesus quotes the OT, in verse 15, Deuteronomy 19:15.

Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

When we look at these verses we will see plenty of opportunity for proof-texting, lifting verses out of context to make them say something that fits with our own ideas, so we must be careful with this passage…. So, what are the characteristics of the ‘Church?’

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Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 5

Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 5

When a Brother Sins Against You

Text: Matthew 18:15-17

More practical teaching is to come, for we must seriously consider:-

  • The Possibility of Christian Discord. Moreover if your brother sins against you,

This is further to the previous teaching. ‘Moreover’.  Jesus has been warning his disciples about the danger, the serious consequences of leading other believers into temptation to sin.  But what if you are the believer who has been sinned against?

  • The sinning brother. ‘If your brother sins…’.   It’s not much doubt there.  Your brother will sin.  He’s a sinner, like you are yourself.  He WILL sin.  It’s just a question of when and how.  You will sin too.  BUT
  • The subject of his sin. ‘Against you…’. This is a very specific type of sin a sin deliberately directed against YOU.  It may be malice, it may be thoughtlessness, or envy, ruthlessness, ambition, – some people may even think that their sins are actually not sins at all, that they are quite justified in their actions.    Whatever the motive, whatever the sin, it is specifically directed to offend another believer, to cause them to stumble.

Some principles to remember when this happens:

  1. a) Who is the greatest sinner? Yes, my brother in this case has sinned against me, but haven’t I sinned too? Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners, an example for us all, yet Christ died for us so that all our sins would be forgiven.  When our brother sins against us our first thought us that we too are sinners!
  2. b) All sin is primarily against God.Psalm 51:3

So the overriding principle here is very simple.  When discord happens in the church, we must recognise it and do something about it, and try to put things right.

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Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 4

Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 4

Christ’s Care for Wandering Sheep

Text .    Matthew 18:12-14.

Jesus begins this parable with ‘What do you think’ – he’s not actually asking for their opinion – its a rhetorical device to get their attention. And the first question we must ask in response is the most obvious of all.  ‘What is a sheep?’

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Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 3

Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 3

Angels

Text:  Matthew 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

There is so much superstition around angels.  The ‘Angel on My Shoulder’ brooch, the new age, Roman Catholic superstition – all of these are reasons why orthodox Christians avoid the subject of angels – we seem to avoid it like the plague. Yet angels appear in the Scriptures, over and over again, and Jesus believed in angels, and was ministered to by angels, and spoke about angels, so we need to know about them, and be able to have a proper, biblical understanding of who they are and what they do.   In this verse, Jesus speaks about angels, so let’s look at the verse, and see what we can come up with.

But first…

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Matthew 18v7-9 – Temptation…

Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 2.

THE GOSPEL and TEMPTATION

Text .  Matthew 18:7-9.

We are toddlers in the Kingdom. Furthermore, if anyone causes a child of God to stumble, it would be better for them if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  Strong words.  In our last study I attempted to paint this for you before we ran out of time.  The seriousness of this is depicted in:

  • A millstone.   This millstone is μυλος ονικος a huge stone that can only be turned by an animal, a horse, donkey or ox.
  • The sea. The Jews were no seafarers, unlike the Phoenicians.  They hated the sea, and were terrified of it.  In heaven, there will be no more sea – indicating that when we are home in glory we are safe and secure from all dangers and sufferings.  The Romans used drowning as a punishment, for a Jew that would be an utter nightmare.  For Jesus to use the analogy of being cast into the sea, – into the deepest part of the ocean, with a great weight attached.

This scenario is pure horror.  Cause a child of God to stumble, and woe betide you.  It behooves us to bear that in mind, always. And the warnings don’t stop there.  Jesus warns us about causing offence.  So what does that mean, and how do offences happen and how do we about them?  Let’s move to verse 7.

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Matthew 18:1-5, Personal Ambition?

THE GOSPEL and PERSONAL AMBITION

Text .  Matthew 18:1-5.

Who among the disciples is The Greatest in the Kingdom?  Who is the most important person in our church?  Who is the most influential Christian of our day? Who is that all the other believers look up to the most?

  1. A Great Ambition? V1

The disciples had been having an argument.  Which of us is the greatest in the kingdom?  I can just imaging them!  Vying for position, struuting their abilities and their personal qualities.  ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’.  Is there, as part of our sinful nature, a remaining desire among believers to be ambitious for ourselves? A desire for greatness in the eyes of others, our peers, our family, our community – and even our church.  Matt 23:8  

The disciples were convinced that one of them had the star qualities needed to be a great leader, the greatest in the kingdom.   Such ambitions were present in the very early Church.  I wonder who were the ringleaders?  We might get a hint if we read Mark 10: 35   Now this matter is so important that all three of the Synoptic Gospel writers have recorded this for us. Mark 9:33-37, (Luke 9:46ff.)

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Noah – A Flawed Hero

Noah 7 – A Flawed Hero

Text: Genesis 9:18  18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. 19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.

When I preached on this passage around 10 years ago, I named it, ‘The Backsliding of Noah.’  Today, I’m not sure I would do that at all.  Remember that Noah was just like us!  We are all backsliders, to some extent.  So what is a backslider? A backslider is a genuine Christian, – a real believer in Jesus, who is not living as they should, – living a life that cannot properly deal with the mortification of sin.  (I have brought along a visual aid – he’s standing right here, in front of you, in this very pulpit.)  John dealt with this problem in 1st John 1.  He rights to us, that we might not sin!  But when we do sin, we must recognise that sin, and repent of it, and turn from it.  And when we DO sin, as we will, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous!  1 John 2:1  Note that Jesus is described as ‘The Righteous’ for ONLY he is righteous, never us, we are clothed in HIS righteousness.

And we are not alone in our backsliding.  Consider the Reformation heroes:  Luther was a racist and his language was sometimes unrepeatable!  And he wasn’t the only one.  Zwingli was a warrior. Calvin should have pleaded for the life of Servetus, Knox assented to the death of an archbishop. All of these men were deeply flawed. How do we make sense of this?   By reading our bible.  The bible never paints gloss over the characters of whom it speaks.  David – was an adulterer, a manipulative liar, a man involved in a plot to murder.  Samson –  let his passion for Delilah rule his head, bringing about his downfall.  Rahab was a harlot.  Noah was a drunk.   Lets see a little more about this

 

  1. Noah’s Calling. 20 And Noah began to be an husbandman,

Noah had been a shipbuilder!  I don’t know too many shipyard workers who later in life turn their hand to farming, so I wonder if before he had been called of God to preach and build the ark he had been a farmer?  If so he returns to that task. (This happens – sometimes the Lord calls a man or woman to a particular task – perhaps as a missionary etc – and when that task has been completed he returns the man to his calling.)

Noah’s is a necessary task. The world has been destroyed and the earth saturated. Now’s the time to replant and grow again. The world needs a farmer!  But look at where that led him. and he planted a vineyard:

The Christian’s choice of occupation is a very important choice indeed.

  • The Christian’s occupation should be glorifying to God. We all accept that it would be difficult for a Christian to be a bartender or a publican.  But nowadays the distinctions are so blurred!   These days, can a Christian be a registrar? A policeman? A baker!  Cf the late Sammy Kelly, a great footballer with a potential international career ahead of him, who became a Christian and his career was abandoned.  Christian Institute reported about a toyshop owner won’t open on Christmas Eve because it’s a Sunday.  When our job causes us to sin, we need to be visiting the jobmarket!
  • The Christian’s occupation should leave time for proper obedience to God. Some occupations are so demanding these days, that a worker cannot get time to spend being a parent, going to church, reading the Scriptures and in prayer.  You work all day, and well into the evening, you come home exhausted, you flop down on the sofa and fall asleep, and you crawl into bed knowing the next day will be the very same.
  • The Christian’s occupation must be a reason to give thanks to God. God has blessed many of us, through our work, and our toil.  But we can also become materialistic, as the blessings of riches go to our head, and the attractions of this world take over our lives, and our hearts grow cold and unthankful.  Money becomes our goal and our false god.
  • The Christian’s occupation must be a blessing to others. We must be thankful, and we must use our vocations, and our abilities to bless others too, as He has blessed us. Paul was a tentmaker, and he used his occupation to support his Christian labours, so that he would not be a burden to others.

Noah’s occupation was a source of his downfall.  Many’s a man or woman has had his Christian life and testimony ruined by his occupation.

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