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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Christ is gathering His church
Text:LD 21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Communion of Saints
 
Added:2015-06-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Old Book of Praise)

Ps. 147: 1, 6  

Ps. 100: 2, 4

Ps. 122: 1 – 3  

Ps. 133; 1, 2

Ps. 16: 1, 3

 

Scripture reading:       Acts 2: 36 – 47 and 2 John

Read also:                 BC art. 28, 29

Text:                          LD 21

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Christ gathers His Church

Ps. 147: 1, 6  

Ps. 100: 2, 4

Ps. 122: 1 – 3  

Ps. 133; 1, 2

Ps. 16: 1, 3

 

Scripture reading:       Acts 2: 36 – 47 and 2 John

Read also:                 BC art. 28, 29

Text:                          LD 21

 

Beloved congregation, saints in Christ Jesus,

 

The Lord protects us like the apple of His eye.

He says this in Zechariah 2:8 that if anyone touches the LORD’s people, he touches the apple of God’s eye.

 

He said this to comfort His church; and also to warn the enemies of His church: don’t touch My church!   She is Mine.   If you touch her, you touch the apple of My eye!

 

We find the same also in the New Testament.  

The apostle Paul calls the church the temple of God, and then adds:

 

            “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him…” – 1 Cor. 3: 17.

 

Christ will not allow anyone to defile the church, or to harm His holy bride.  

He bought her with His own blood.

 

Dear congregation, this is indeed a great comfort, because the church of Christ is often a small, weak and struggling little church in this world.   Sometimes the church seems pitiful small, miserable and hopeless.    In Isaiah the LORD says:

 

“‘Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel!  I will help you’, says the LORD and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 41: 14

 

The Hebrew text literally says:

 

            “Fear not, little worm Jacob, small people Israel!   I will help you…”

 

There the LORD calls His church: little worm, small people.    

 

Isaiah also says that the LORD will redeem only a small remnant.

And the Lord Jesus said:

 

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12: 32)

 

So then, the church may be a little worm, a small people, a little flock, but we have a mighty God and Saviour, the Holy One of Israel.

 

Fear not, for Christ is gathering, defending and preserving a church for Himself!

 

So then, small and despised as we may be in the eyes of men, our Lord and mighty Redeemer preserves us with holy zeal as the apple of His eye.

 

The Lord is gathering a church for Himself.   And that will be the theme this afternoon:

Christ is gathering His church

 

We will note:

  1. The distinction between true and false churches
  2. The communion of saints

In the first place we note…

The distinction between true and false churches

 

The way in which Satan attacks the church is mainly through deception.   He is the father of lies.   He is a murderer from the beginning, and his deadly weapon is the lie.

He attacks the church by twisting the gospel; he slays his ten thousands with false doctrine.   Twist the Word of God, and all of life becomes corrupted.

 

Therefore the apostle John writes to the church and says:

 

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4: 1).

 

There are many false prophets, and as a result many false churches that have grown from their teaching.

 

But, congregation, you will be aware of the fact that it has become very unpopular in our day to speak of true and false churches.  

It happens more and more, even in Reformed churches, that people avoid speaking of true and false churches, and prefer to speak instead of pure churches and less pure churches.  

 

Then it does not matter so much anymore whether you belong to a Baptist church, or a Pentecostal church, or an Anglican church, or maybe even to the Roman Catholics.   In the end all the different churches are then viewed as true churches – the one just a bit more or less pure than the other.  

 

To choose the right church becomes then a matter of taste.   You choose a church where you feel comfortable.   That is then the best church for you.   But your brother in Christ may have a different taste, or may come from a different background, and therefore he chooses a different church.   And that is then good for him!

 

It becomes like choosing a restaurant.   The one likes Sizzlers, the one likes Miss Maud’s, the other one prefers something cheaper at McDonalds – but in the end everyone gets his food according to taste and personal choice.  

 

There are indeed people who think the same about all the different churches.   They reckon that the one church likes to clap their hands while they sing and prefer happy hymns, while another church prefers the Psalms; the one baptise children, the other church not; the one celebrates the Roman Mass, the other sit down at a Lord’s Supper table; the one church is a bit more faithful or closer to Scripture than the other – but, in the end, “they all believe in Jesus, and they are all Christians, so don’t make any issue about their choice of church!”   

When that is the way one views all the different churches, putting them all on one line as pure and less pure, then joining a church becomes very much a matter of personal taste.

 

Sometimes those who think this way will tell you that the church is not uniform, but pluriform.   The churches may then all hold to different doctrines, and the confession of the one church may contradict the confession of the other church, but these are then all just different expressions, different manifestations of the one church of Christ.   Christ’s church on earth is then made up of many denominations each with its own doctrine and teaching, while each denomination is a branch of the same tree.

 

The same people who have this view may also speak of the invisible church and say: while we gather in different churches, we all belong to the same invisible body of Christ.

To which visible church you belong does not matter all that much then, as long as you believe in Jesus, and thus belong to His invisible church.

 

However, Scripture, and also our confession, does not put all the different churches on one horizontal line of pure and less pure, but draws, first of all, a vertical line separating the true church from false churches.

 

In Revelation 2: 9 the Lord refers to the Jewish synagogue as the synagogue of Satan.   The Lord no longer recognises them as His church. 

He does not call them a less pure church, but: a gathering of Satan!

 

The apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares that there is only one gospel, and that the twisting of the gospel – which was happening in their midst – does not produce a less pure gospel, but no gospel at all.   If anyone comes with a different version of the gospel, then it is not a different gospel, but no gospel at all.   And if anyone preaches another gospel, let him be accursed! – Gal. 1: 6 – 9

 

The church is called the pillar and ground of the truth – 1 Tim. 3: 15.

If a church is no longer a pillar and buttress of the truth – if a church does not defend and uphold the truth – it is no longer a church of Christ.

 

Scripture also clearly teaches that we have to separate ourselves from those who twist the gospel.   We read this afternoon from the second epistle of John where he exhorts the church to walk in the truth, and not to receive anyone who proclaims false doctrine:

 

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” – 2 John: 10, 11.

 

We may not exercise the communion of saints with those who proclaim false doctrine.  

And thus we need to separate ourselves from a false church where the Word of God is twisted and distorted according to the pleasure of man.   And we are duty-bound to join the true church.

 

But, the moment we say this, people will raise their objections and ask:

 

“Are you maybe the true church?    Who gives you the right to judge other churches, or to call them false?”

 

Dear congregation, first of all we have to realise that it is wrong to speak of “our church” and “their church”.   There is no “our church” and “their church”; there is only the one church of Christ.   The church belongs to Christ; not to us.

We don’t have a church; we only belong to the church.

And thus the choice of a church is not a matter of us over against them, of Free Reformed over against Baptist, or Free Reformed over against Charismatic.  

No, we must simply ask: where is Christ gathering His church?   Where does He call me to join?

 

How then will we ever know this?   How will we know the difference between true and false?

We confess in Art. 29 that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully from the Word of God what is the true church.  

 

When you ask catechism students what are the marks of the true church, they will promptly answer that the marks of the true church are the pure preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them, and that the true church exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins.

 

That is correct.  But note also the summary that follows these three marks.  In short, the true church governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejects all things contrary to the Word, and regard Jesus Christ as the only Head of the church.

 

In other words: The Word of Christ – that is: all of Scripture, and Scripture alone – is the only authority and norm.   The pure preaching is only pure if it is according to the Word.   Also the sacraments and church discipline are only correctly administered if it is according to Christ’s Word.  In other words, all three marks of the church boils down to one: the pure administration of the Word, and obedience to that Word alone – in the preaching, in the administration of the sacraments and in church discipline.   There is a true church.

 

The true church is where the Word of Christ is preached and obeyed, and where everything contrary to His Word is rejected. 

 

That does not mean that we will ever find a perfect church on this side of the grave, but it does mean that the true church lives by the Word of God as her only norm and rule, and fights against all heresies.

 

Does it mean that no one in a false church can be saved?  

No, when a church becomes false it does not mean that all its members are automatically lost.  

There may be true believers who, because of ignorance, gather with the Roman Catholics.   There are true believers who, because of ignorance, gather with the Baptists.

There are true believers who, because of ignorance and a lack of knowledge, gather with the Charismatics.  

Yes, there are many true believers in churches which cannot be called true churches.   God is able to save them in spite of their weakness and their lack of knowledge.  

 

But the fact that there are true believers found in false churches does not make a false church true.   Neither may you remain in a false church if you know it to be false, for then it will be wilful stubbornness and sin that keeps you there.  

 

The presence of true believers in a false church is no excuse to remain in a false church.   The presence of true believers in a false church does not make it a true church.  For the marks of the true church is not the presence of some true Christians, but whether it administers the pure preaching of the gospel and, as a body together, rejects everything contrary to the Word of God.

 

On the other hand, membership in a true church is no guarantee of salvation.   There are also hypocrites and false brethren found in true churches.  

And a true church does not always remain a true church.  

Therefore you may never think that you and your children must always remain members of a Free Reformed church.   For there may come a day – and may God forbid it – but there may come a day in which you will have to separate yourself from a Free Reformed church, because it became a false church.

 

Christ’s gathering work is not bound to our name or to the name of the bond of churches to which we belong; we should make sure that we are bound to Him and to His Word only.

 

We do not possess the church.   We are called to join and unite ourselves to the church there where Christ is calling us to join.   And then I indeed find and recognise Christ’s gathering here in this Free Reformed church.   And for that reason I am obliged and thankful to join and to unite myself with this gathering – a true church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Dear congregation, to remain a true church, we need to continue to cling to Christ and His Word only.

It means a constant struggle.   It means war.   For we, the church, have to uphold the truth in the midst of much deception, and need to reject all deviation while everyone is pushing for a false unity.

 

In this spiritual war we look up to our mighty Saviour at the right hand of God, that He may continue to gather us to be His church, and that He may continue to defend us according to His promise, and that He, by His Word and Spirit, may preserve us in the unity of the true faith, in order that I may remain a living member of His church. 

 

In the second place we note…

The communion of saints

 

We confess: “I believe a holy catholic church, the communion of saints…”

We confess a holy church; a gathering of saints.

 

In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 the apostle Paul writes:

 

 “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints…” – verse 2

By the blood and Spirit of Christ they are sanctified in Christ.   Therefore God, through His apostle, addresses them as saints, holy ones.

 

In his epistle to the Philippians he addresses his letter:

 

            “…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi…” – chapter 1:1

 

He calls the church members “saints in Christ Jesus”.

 

If we had the time to look also at the other epistles, we will see that the same description is also used for the church in Rome (Rom. 1: 7), in Ephesus (Eph. 1: 1), in Colosse (1: 2), and so forth – these churches are every time described as the gathering of saints; saints through faith in Christ

The Greek word ecclesia, which we translate church, means: gathering.   The church is the gathering of saints.

The church is the gathering of those who are sanctified in Christ.

The church is the gathering of holy ones in Christ.

 

The church is then not the gathering of anyone, but only of those who are called and sanctified by God.

The church is also not the gathering of holy and unholy together, but of saints only.

Therefore the church is a holy congregation.

 

There is no epistle in the Bible for the congregation of the wicked; only for the congregation of the righteous – to those sanctified by the blood and Spirit of Christ.

God’s covenant word is addressed to His covenant people, a holy congregation of the Lord.

 

And thus we confess:  I believe one holy and universal church, the communion of saints.

That has implications for all of church life.  

It has implications for the preaching.   In the church service the minister is addressing God’s covenant people with His covenant word.  

The fact that the church is the holy congregation of the Lord, the gathering of saints in Christ, also has implications for the administration of the sacraments: the sacraments are administered to the saints in Christ; to them only.    It has implications for church discipline: for it is a congregation of saints only, and must remain a congregation of saints only.  

 

Now, the communion of saints refers, first of all, to our shared union with Christ.   In Him we are saints, and in Him we are united.   Our union and communion with each other flow from our union and communion with Christ.  

 

This is very important.   The church is not a social club where we create a feeling of togetherness by organising a lot of activities and by doing a lot of things together.   No, our togetherness has a different source.   We are together because we are united by one faith in one Lord.   We are united in the truth of God’s Word; the Word of Christ.  

Take that away, and no communion of saints is possible.

 

But wherever there is unity in faith the communion of saints is present and will be present.   It is a union and communion in the truth, being united in Christ.

 

Therefore, whenever false doctrine is allowed in a church, true unity is lost.

True unity is not simply to stay together as a bond of churches and to do things in the same way; true unity only exists in the unity of the truth.

It is not doctrine that divides; it is false doctrine that causes schism.  

It is the true doctrine of God’s Word that unites us in Christ.

 

And what treasure of infinite riches to be joined to Christ!

Being joined to our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Head, we, His body, share in all the riches of His salvation.

We receive daily, now in this life already, all the blessings of the covenant as it comes to us in and through Christ – although the full glory of these blessings is reserved for the day of Christ’s coming.

But now already we have the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ.   We may walk before the face of God in His peace, being reconciled to Him.   We are daily guided by His Word and Spirit, and being build up by His Word and Spirit, and comforted and strengthened and protected and preserved by His Word and Spirit.

Yes, the Spirit of Christ acts and works all this by the proclamation and instruction of the Word – the Word of truth.

 

Christ also pours out the gifts of the Spirit upon His church – spiritual gifts which we are to use in the church for the benefit and well-being of one another.

 

So then, our unity is in Christ, and with Christ.   It is a gift of grace through faith.   Therefore our catechism formulates it this way, that Christ gathers us by His Spirit and Word in the unity of the true faith.  

 

We are gathered in the unity of the true faith.  

Each of us also has a responsibility to preserve this unity.   If anyone deviates from Christ, or from the true faith in Christ, he disturbs and breaks the unity.

 

Dear congregation, preserving the unity of the church is therefore first of all a matter of holding on to the truth of God’s Word.   We are gathered together as one flock when we, together, listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd.   If we deviate from His Word, we deviate from Him.   And where there is deviation from Christ, there the unity of the church is broken.

To remain one with each other, we have to remain in Christ and in the truth of His Word.

 

Now, the result of this true unity in Christ, is indeed a true unity also with one another, so that we love one another and serve one another with the gifts of grace that we received.

 

The apostle John says:

 

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love his brother abides in death.” – 1 John 3: 14

 

Love for your brothers in Christ proves that you are a true believer.   Love for your brother proves that you are made alive in Christ.   If someone does not love his brother, he is still dead in his sins.

The apostle repeats and emphasises this over and over again, and then he says this:

 

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.   By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” – 1 John 5: 1, 2

 

He says: if you are born of God, through faith in Christ, then you also love the others who are born of God.  

He makes this very clear, and emphasises this, that it is impossible to be a true believer without loving your brothers in Christ.   This is the most basic fruit of true faith: love for the brethren; love for all those who have been born of God.

 

Now, this love for the brethren is something that cannot remain secret.   Our Lord Jesus said to His disciples:

 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.   By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13: 34, 35

 

Christ’s disciples will be known by their love for one another.  

This is the mark by which everybody will recognise the disciples of Christ.

It is a love that binds brothers together. 

The apostle Paul writes to the believers in Colosse, saying:

 

“…as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.   But above all things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” – Col. 3: 12 – 14.

 

Put on love which is the bond of perfection.    We may also translate: Put on love which binds together perfectly.  

 

Now, it is not possible to say: “Yes, I love the brethren, but I prefer not to gather with them; I love them, but I rather separate myself from them!”  

No, wherever this love for the brethren is present, this love binds together.  

 

This love for your brothers in Christ finds visible expression in the gathering of the saints, and in the communion of saints.  

Wherever the gospel is believed, saints are gathered in close communion.

 

On the day of Pentecost 3 000 believed the preaching, and immediately those who believed formed one body of people.   Immediately they were united in Christ.   And thus they gathered together and exercised the communion of saints.   And…

 

            “…the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” – Acts. 2: 47

 

The Lord saves; and those whom He saves He adds to the church.   And those whom He added to His church, gathered together in unity and love.  

Those who were added to the church gathered together with one mind and heart.    They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.  And daily, with one accord, they went up to the temple where the apostles taught them.

A visible congregation of saints, united in one Lord, one faith and doctrine, united in love.

 

The same happened on the mission journeys of the apostle Paul.  Wherever the gospel was preached and believed, the believers were joined together as churches of Christ.   And joined together in one Lord and one faith they served one another in love.

 

Think for example what the apostle Paul said of the church in Thessalonica:

 

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds towards each other…” – 2 Thess. 1: 3

 

The more their faith grew, the more they loved each other.  

The love of every one of them abounded towards each other!

 

Yes, wherever the gospel was preached and believed, this was the result: a church of Christ where the communion of saints was exercised and the love for one another abounded.

 

Now, Scripture often describes this communion of saints by comparing it to a body.   We are the body of Christ.  By faith we are grafted into Christ, and are members of His body.

In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle says that each member in the church of Corinth has a place and function to serve the other members of the body.   And the one cannot say: I don’t need the others!   The hand, the feet, the mouth… all need each other, and are there to serve each other.

 

How then should this communion of saints function?   How does it look like in practice? 

 

This holy communion with each other is a fellowship through the Spirit and the Word.
The first and most important way in which we receive and exercise the communion of saints is by gathering together under the preaching of the Word in the church services.  

The communion of saints cannot exist without the church services and the administration of Christ’s Word.

 

“…let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” – Hebr. 10: 24, 25

 

Some of them started to become slack in attending the church services and needed to be exhorted not to forsake these meetings.  

If we do not assemble in the church services, and if we are not fed with the preaching of God’s Word, then our union with each other will also decline and fall apart.

 

But, of course, the communion of saints is also much more than just attending the church services, and quickly disappearing after the service.   The communion of the saints is something we live, something that flows daily from our union with Christ.   The communion of saints is, as our confession formulates it, to use our gifts readily and cheerfully for the benefit and well-being of the other members.   That is, first of all, for the spiritual well-being of one another; and, in the second place, also for the physical well-being of one another.

 

The Lord gives us a great variety of instructions in Scripture how we ought to exercise the communion of saints daily and continually.  

We are commanded to pray for one another always, “with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” – Eph. 6: 18.  

We are commanded to comfort and to edify one another with the Word of God.

 

“…comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5: 11

 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another…” – Col. 3: 16

 

We are also commanded to exhort one another daily.

 

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebr. 3: 12, 13

 

We are also commanded to stir one another up to love and good works.

 

“…let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…” – Hebr. 10:24.

 

And all of us are responsible for each other.   We may not do as Cain did, and ask: “…Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4: 9)

The rest of Scripture tells us: Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.   Each one of us is duty-bound to serve the other members in the body as faithful stewards of God’s grace.

 

In the communion of saints we also need to admonish one another.   To the church in Rome the apostle wrote:

 

“…I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able to admonish one another.” – Rom. 15: 14

 

Again, he does not say this to the minister or elders, but to the whole congregation.

When you are having a barbeque with friends, members of the church, then you are also in your informal contact with each other constantly exercising the communion of saints. 

If you sit there at the barbeque and someone uses a foul word or tells a dirty joke, then the minister may not be present, and the elders may not be present to have oversight, but you are present.   And then you have the responsibility to admonish your brother or sister with God’s Word:  

 

No, brother, you should not use that dirty word; you should not tell such a dirty joke, because the Lord says: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth…” – Eph. 4: 29.

 

And thus, with the word of Christ richly dwelling in you, you are also able to exhort your brother there at the barbeque.  

 

Yes, there are many examples of how we are to exercise daily the communion of saints.  

 

The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, saying

 

“Brethren, if any man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

 

When someone else falls into sin, his burden should also be our burden.  

 

And when you see someone in need, or lonely, or ill, then it is not only the responsibility of the minister, elders and deacons, but the responsibility of the whole congregation to support and to help – each one in his own way according to own abilities.   For the whole body is not only one eye, or a mouth, or one hand, but a variety of members who all function together as one, serving one another in love.  

 

So then, as the apostle Peter says:

 

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” – 1 Peter 4: 10

 

Each member of the congregation is a minister of God’s grace, serving as a steward, using his gifts for the edification and well-being of the other members.

 

“…as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.   Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who give, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” – Rom. 12: 4 – 8

 

Maybe someone may ask: what gift did I receive?   I am not a minister or elder or deacon – how can I serve the rest of the congregation?

 

Dear congregation, the communion of saints is not only on Sundays in the official gathering during the church services, it is also exercised daily in all our contact with each other.

The mother at home who raises her children for the Lord is busy with church work.  

Her little ones are saints in Christ.  

She teaches them; she instructs them with the word of Christ.  

She holds no special office of teaching in the church, but she does teach her children.  

She instructs and corrects them; yes, she also clothes them, and feeds them.   She comforts them when they cry, and she share in their joy.   Daily she gives herself to them in love.   And are these little children not members of Christ’s church?    Is she not building and edifying the congregation by the way she raises her children?

Does she not exercise the communion of saints also with them?

 

And if you are in the position that you are able to visit the lonely or the elderly – then you do not need to be a deacon in order to do this.

If you are a lady, old or young, and use your free time to help others – for example visiting the elderly, the lonely, the sick – is that not exercising the communion of saints?

If you are wealthy and you know that someone in the congregation is struggling, then you do not always need to ring up the deacons – you are free to help whenever the opportunity arises.

 

And so the whole congregation are daily to exercise the communion of saints.

 

But, sadly, brothers and sisters, it is not always exercised in the way it should be done.  The love is not always as abundant as it should be.   Sometimes brothers hurt each other.    And therefore the apostle Paul also writes:

 

“I, therefore…beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity in the bond of peace.” – Eph. 4: 1 – 3.

 

It does happen sometimes that brothers hurt each other very deeply.   Gossip is able to destroy the communion of saints.   Yes, the tongue is sometimes used for evil, and to our shame this happens also in the church.  

There may also be other things that disturb the peace in the church.   And then these words of the apostle apply, that we have to be lowly and gentle, longsuffering, and bear with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity in the bond of peace.

 

For how can the body grow together if there are contentions and divisions, or how can we edify one another when the bond of peace is broken?  

 

The unity of the church is a gift.   We are not able to create this unity, for it is a unity in faith worked by Christ alone through His Word and Spirit, by which He joins us to Himself, and so also joins us to one another.  

But while this unity is a gift of God, it is also our responsibility to endeavour to keep this unity in the bond of peace, and to cherish this God-given unity, lest it be broken.  

 

Dear congregation, what a privilege to belong to Christ!    What riches of God’s grace to be a living member of His church!  

What a privilege, also, to be the hand of Christ to your brother!  What a privilege to be, through Christ, an instrument of blessing to the gathering of saints!

 

Let us humbly ask God to help us to be church according to His Word, to be His church, here in this gathering of Christ.  

 

And let us learn to see once more the wonder of this gift and calling.

By the grace of God we were made one – one with Christ; one with each other.

Let us then, united in one body, by one Spirit, one faith, one Lord, love one another with fervent love, and show this to one another not only in words, but also in deeds.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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