What is the church ?

This week we start a new series examining the Gospel account written by Matthew. That Gospel is the first book of the New Testament in the Bible, and it clearly shows the transition from the Old Testament Covenant of God to the New.

Matthew’s account was written to explain the message of Jesus Christ to the Jewish mindset. It therefore repeatedly refers to the Jewish Old Testament scriptures to confirm its claim that Jesus is the Christ – the anointed Messiah Saviour long expected by the Jews. And it repeatedly refers to the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven: ie the domain of the long expected Ruler who would free the Jews from their foreign oppressors once and forever.

Matthew is the first of the Four Gospel accounts recording the teaching and events, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Each of the 4 Gospel accounts has its own style and purpose.

Matthew was written for the Jews in order to persuade them of Christ’s claims. Mark is shorter, emphasises action, and is written to persuade Romans. Luke is – as he makes clear in his very first words – an attempt at a systematic account of Jesus life taken from witnesses; it is written for the Greek mindset.

And John’s Gospel is written for believers. That is why it is so different from the other 3 [the Synoptic Gospels] and why it records material not identified in the others – material of particular value to those who believe.

Each of these Gospel accounts exists to reach a particular group of people. That tells us something:  God reaches out to us in terms we can understand.

God reaches out to us in terms we can understand so that we can come to an understanding of him and his terms !

The fact that each Gospel records actual events and actual speech of Jesus Christ tells us that Christianity is based in historic fact. And there are not just two witnesses – as required by the law in the Old Testament – but four.

Four accounts; four sets of testimony.

Christianity is based in historic events, and it is witnessed as true.

So, it is for each of us to consider the evidence and to come to our own conclusion !

Let’s consider Matthew, then.

Matthew’s Gospel starts with a genealogy – a genealogy of Jesus.

Any one who reads through the Old Testament will be struck by the emphasis on family trees in Judaism. That was because a Jew had to be explicitly shown to belong to the descendants of Abraham. They were the tribe, the race chosen by God, for God. They were chosen out of all peoples to be God’s people.

A particular people called to worship the one true Creator God.

But the Jews were not just different because of their descent from Abraham. They were also different because of the way they were obliged to live and worship. God had selected the Jews as the nation out of all the nations to worship and honour Him.

As Moses records in Leviticus, God said that the Jews were to be holy because I the Lord your God am holy.

That means that they were separated unto God,  from the world, for God’s worship and God’s purpose. In other words they were to be HOLY.

So the first thing we are confronted with in the Gospel of Matthew is that God’s people are chosen by God; that they are to worship God exclusively;  and that they are to live as God commands – and not as they feel like living.

Now Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, not the Old Testament. And in this New Testament – or Covenant – established by Jesus Christ, the criterion for being born a Jew is no longer physical descent from Abraham, but spiritual adoption to God by Jesus Christ.

The people of God under this New and final dispensation are indeed chosen. They are indeed holy. They are indeed given to God for God’s purpose, and they are indeed to have a distinct identity.

And that identity derives from a new birth, a spiritual second birth. Born again.

However, the seed they are born of is no longer the physical sperm of a physical man. No. Now it is the spiritual seed conveyed by the Spirit inspired Word of God.

That seed is planted in the heart – ie the inner mind – of any human being prepared to allow the message of Jesus Christ to take root there and grow.

Now, in natural pregnancy there is an initial  conception of seed followed by a 9 month period of gestation as the new life develops until it is finally born out of the mother’s body.

In a spiritual pregnancy, the word of God about Jesus Christ gets conceived in a person’s heart, where it grows and develops until the point where that new life is ready to come to birth in the act of full immersion water baptism.

In this spiritual pregnancy,  the Church [the assembly of Christians]  is the pregnant mother.  The person who receives and accepts the message about Jesus Christ is the baby in the womb of mother church.  That baby becomes a separately identifiable believer or member of the church when they obey the ordinance of Christ to be baptised.

In baptism, the believer identifies with the death of Jesus Christ by going down into the waters of baptism, and then identifies with the resurrection of Christ as they rise out of those waters. Done in true faith in Christ, this act of baptism actually imparts a special once for all grace from God which seals and confirms the believer in Christ.

This analogy alone makes coherent sense of all the scriptures on the subject.

With the establishment of the New Testament covenant by Jesus Christ, God’s chosen people are no longer the Jewish nation but the spiritual family of Jesus Christ. They are conceived by his word and born by full immersion water baptism into the Christian family.

Christian Preacher

PS Those who have read the Bible will see in these weekly posts several references from Scripture framing and informing all that is written.

Can you identify any of the many scriptural references in this week’s teaching ?

You may find it helpful to consult a Bible concordance [a book which lists every word in the Bible in alphabetical order and which identifies all the chapter and verse references for each word]

By Christianity

The personal icon photograph shows God's creation, the world. It reminds us that God is the Creator of all - the almighty, the all knowing and all present - the one who is most important of all. The one to whom we owe all, and the one to whom we will answer for all. The site's header image of the Bible [King James Authorised Version], a map, a light and a compass represent to us that God's word in the Bible is our spiritual map, illumination and guide through this life. Those who obey his teaching will know his presence and power - Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 23

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