RPM, Volume 16, Number 24, June 8 to June 14, 2014

Covenant Theology

The Doctrine of the Church
An Overview
The Mission of the Church

Sermon Number Twenty-four

Jude 4-18

By Jim Bordwine, Th.D.


This sermon covers the third point in our Overview of the Doctrine of the Church, which is the Mission of the Church. Under the first point, which was The Foundation of the Church, we learned that the doctrinal truth represented in Peter's confession of Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God" in Matt. 16 is the theological ground for the Church of Jesus Christ; the Church is built upon a Christological base.

Under the second point, which was The Character of the Church, I describe three chief qualities by which the Church is distinguished: sanctity or holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. Those who compose the Church are "sanctified" by virtue of their union with Jesus Christ; the Church is ethically pure and righteous. The Church of Christ is "catholic" or "universal" in the sense that all true believers are found in Her. And the Church is apostolic in the sense that, doctrinally speaking, She is the repository for the teaching of the apostles who, upon the commission of Jesus Christ, founded the Church.

Now, as just stated, we come to the topic of the mission of the Church.

03. The Mission of the Church

Previously, I said that the character and mission of the Church are related to the foundation of the Church, which is Christological. I want to emphasize this fact as we now consider the mission of the Church. There is a principle that must be followed if we are to learn about the mission of the Church in this world. The principle is this: The mission of the Church is rightly understood only within the context of the mission of Jesus Christ. We cannot separate the mission or objective of the Church from the mission or objective of Jesus Christ.

I am convinced that one of the greatest errors in contemporary evangelical thinking on the subject of the Church is this very mistake of trying to understand and define the Church apart from the work of the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. Modern evangelicals sometimes try to explain the work of the Church as though She exists as an independent, self-determining institution.

The Bible, on the other hand, clearly teaches the dependent nature of the Church by describing Her as the Body of Jesus Christ and describing Him as the Head of the Church. There are several passage in the New Testament where the Church is described as the Body of Christ. For example, speaking of the position occupied by the resurrected Savior, Paul says: "And [God] put all things in subjection under [Christ's] feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all." (Eph. 1:22, 23)

And in another place, speaking of the Savior, the apostle writes: "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything." (Col. 1:16-18)

There is much that could be said about these two passages, but what I want to emphasize is that the Scripture plainly portrays an organic connection between the Church and the Savior. The description that Paul uses, that of a body and a head, necessarily implies the dependent nature of the Church. Most obviously, She depends on Christ, Her Head, for direction.

The Church is not, according to Paul's analogy, meant to function autonomously; She is meant to function only in relation to Jesus Christ. This means that the purposes of Christ and the Church are identical; the mission of the Savior and His Body are the same; it means that the Church is bound to follow the lead of Christ and bound to fulfill His commands.

When we try to understand what the Church is supposed to be doing in the world, when we try to predict what the Church is going to face in the future, we will be misled if we do not maintain the vital link between the Head and the Body, between the Savior and His Church.

Let's return to our principle: The mission of the Church is rightly understood only within the context of the mission of Jesus Christ. What did Jesus Christ come to do? What was His objective in coming into this world? By answering such questions, we can define the mission of the Church because the Church is the Body of Christ through which He carries on His post-resurrection ministry. To determine what Jesus came to do, we must look back beyond the coming of Christ to the creation of the first man, Adam. The reason we must do this is because the ministry of Jesus Christ is, of course, linked to the events that unfolded in the Garden of Eden.

Adam was created to be the head of the human race and was supposed to lead the human race in serving the Creator and in taking dominion of the creation. In Gen. 1:28, we read these words: "And God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" Adam, the first man, was created to lead his descendants in exercising dominion over the world that God created; he was designed to rule as a representative of God. Psalm 8 gives a more detailed description of God's intention for man when it says:

Thou hast made [man] a little lower than God, And dost crown him with glory and majesty! Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. (vv. 5-8)

Clearly, God created man to have dominion over all aspects of the creation. The privileges and authority of man were to be surpassed by no other creature. However, when Adam disobeyed God, when he asserted his independence from his Creator, this dominion mandate was interrupted. Adam's sin caused a break in his relationship with his Creator; as a rebel against God, he could not lead the human race in serving the Creator and in subduing the creation.

As we know, God's response to Adam's sin was severe. However, in the midst of that disturbing scene where God is pronouncing curses upon the serpent, the woman and the man, a promise is made. God made a promise and that promise concerned the coming of a Second Adam, One who would crush the serpent, restore the human race and thus reinstate the mandate originally given to Adam. The offended Creator graciously promised to supply a Deliverer so that His creatures might be rescued from death.

The Second Adam, the Head of a new humanity, is, of course, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man. His mission would be the restoration of mankind; His objective would be the creation of a renewed humanity.

There is one New Testament passage, in particular, that is relevant here. In Heb. 2, we read:

5 For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6 But one has testified somewhere, saying, "What is man, that Thou rememberest him? or the son of man, that Thou art concerned about him? 7 Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; 8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. 9 But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

In this passage, the writer takes Psa. 8, which describes God's intended destiny for man, and applies it to Jesus Christ as the ultimate Man. Because of Adam's sin, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, came to rescue the human race and enable us to fulfill God's purposes in creating us. Those purposes are stipulated in Psa. 8, among other places in the Bible. When the writer speaks of "the world to come," he is speaking about existence interpreted in light of Christ's glorious atonement, he is speaking about how things are seen now and how things will be seen in the future through regenerated eyes. He is talking about how this world is going to be affected by the atonement.

The author affirms man's destiny by using Psalm 8. Man was made to reign over God's creation. "But," he adds, "we do not yet see all things subjected to him." (v. 8b) Man has not yet fulfilled the command of God to subdue and rule over everything. Man cannot fulfill God's command because he is dead in his trespasses and sins. Adam's disobedience, as I stated earlier, interrupted the mandate given to him by his Creator.

In the mind of the writer of Hebrews, this is where a shift occurs; here is where he turns to Jesus Christ, the Last Man. All things are not subject to man, because of sin, "But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus," exalted to a position of glory and honor following His work of atonement. (v. 9) The writer makes a transition from what God intended for man, which was ruined by sin, to Jesus Christ, the Last Man, who came to restore God's purpose for the human race.

By becoming a man and making atonement for sin, Jesus Christ was able to restore man so that the effects of the fall can be reversed. The New Testament makes it clear that we are no longer talking about man subduing the physical world only. In His atonement, Jesus Christ "disarmed the rulers and authorities" and "made a public display of them." (Col. 2:15) Through the Church, the redeemed humanity, the purposes of God are being made known "to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places." (Eph. 3:10)

The target of redeemed man's rule has been translated to a different realm: "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:12) The Church, the new humanity, is asserting Her God-given right to rule against the evil forces that have infested God's creation by taking the message of man's redemption in Christ to the whole world. Christ's purpose as the Last Man was to restore harmony between God and man and to enable man to subdue all things for God's glory.

To know what the Church is supposed to be doing in this world, we must know what Christ came into this world to accomplish. The Church is His body and He works through the Church even now as He resides in heaven with His Father. When the Bible describes the coming of the Savior into the world and what would occur as a result of that advent, it is describing the mission of the Church. Christ works in and through His Body exclusively; this is why we must understand that all those passages that tell us what would happen in the world as a result of Christ's coming are telling us what the Church would be doing between the advents of the Savior.

As Christians understand this connection between the Savior and His Body, they are able to discern and labor for that which Christ intends to accomplish. On the other hand, as long as Christians are ignorant of this connection between the Savior and His Body, they remain confused about the mission of the Church and the Church, therefore, remains ineffective. This is what has happened in modern evangelicalism. Many churches in our land are little more than laboratories for the latest psychological or marketing fad. Many churches today are trying to be everything from baby-sitters to career counselors because there is a void in their philosophies of ministry. That void is created by the absence of a Biblical understanding of their ministry.

I want to stress that since there exists this unbreakable connection between the mission of Christ and the mission of the Church, we can confidently study passages that describe the result of Christ's coming into this world and know that we are reading about the mission of the Church. The Church is going to be the means whereby the many things said about the ministry of Jesus Christ are going to be realized in history.

The Bible, of course, contains many passages that give us a picture of what impact the coming of Christ is going to have as time marches on. One such passage that is typical of others in the Old Testament is found in Isa. 2:

1 The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Now it will come about that In the last days, The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. 3 And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways, And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.

I want to begin by explaining the context of this passage. The first chapter of Isaiah's prophecy serves as an introduction to the whole book. The writer begins by bringing charges of rebellion against the people. They have broken the covenant with God and he warns them of an inevitable judgment. Isaiah's words are sharp as he accuses Judah of abandoning the Lord and despising the Holy One of Israel (cf. 1:4). The people are sick, declares the prophet, and they have been badly wounded by the Lord's chastisement, but they refuse to repent (cf. 1:5, 6). The land is desolate, the cities have been burned with fire, strangers are devouring the crops; only the mercy of the Lord had prevented the people from being obliterated, writes Isaiah (cf. 1:7).

Isaiah stands before this sinful people and cries, "Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instructions of our God, you people of Gomorrah." (1:10) The very use of these terms, Sodom and Gomorrah, should reveal to us the pitiful moral condition of the people of God at this point in history. A fierce judgment hangs above them as God's man declares the Lord's rejection of their sacrifices and the abomination of their worship (cf. 1:11 ff.).

And in the midst of this recitation of the people's sin, God calls them to repentance and expresses His tender mercy and His willingness to cleanse them and bless them once again (cf. 1:16 ff.). The last thing that the prophet mentions in the opening chapter is God's intention to purify His wayward people and to establish Zion in justice. This is the background against which the encouraging prophecy of 2:1-4 is given.

Chapter two begins with a prediction concerning the reign of the Messiah and then presents the first part of a warning against the rebellious people of Judah. It is interesting to note that the first prophecy of Isaiah deals with God's intention to exalt His people and make the Church the dispenser of truth for all the nations of the earth. This ties in with the theme of the whole book of Isaiah, which is God's intention to bring salvation to the world through His Servant, Jesus Christ. Isaiah 2:1-4, therefore, is a brief presentation of God's plan of redemption as it is taught in this book.

Before we look at these verses in some detail, I want to emphasize that this prophecy is not about the Jews as a nation, it is about the covenant people of God. It is about what God would do for His people through the Messiah who was promised at the point of man's fall in the Garden of Eden. In Isaiah's day, the covenant people of God were restricted to the nation of Israel. Isaiah uses various terms and figures that were part of that age to convey truths about the age of grace that would dawn with the coming of the Messiah.

For example, Isaiah speaks of "Judah," "Jerusalem," and "Zion," which were geographical designations for the people of God in his day, and uses them to indicate a future of blessing and glory for the Church. How do we know that Isaiah's references to Judah, Jerusalem, and Zion are to be understood in this way? We know this because of additional revelation. These terms are used in several places in the Old Testament where the focus is not upon a geographical location, but upon those covenant people of God who inhabited those locations.

In other words, these terms, "Judah," Jerusalem," and "Zion" were synonyms for the covenant household of Jehovah (cf. Psa. 2:6; 48:11; 60:7; 78:68; 97:8; 102:13; 108:8; 114:2; 147:2, 12; 149:2). Most convincing, however, is the use of these same terms by the writers of the New Testament; they use "Judah," "Jerusalem," and "Zion" to identify the people of God who now are found in every nation upon earth (cf. Rom. 9:33; Gal. 4:26; Heb. 8:8; 12:22; 1 Pet. 2:6; Rev. 3:12; 14:1; 21:2; 10).

Regrettably, some have failed to see the unity of the people of God and have proposed schemes of Biblical interpretation that lead to a misunderstanding of passages like Isa. 2:1-4. When we read these verses, we are reading a prediction of what would happen in the world as a result of the coming of the Messiah; we are reading a prediction of the role of the Church in the period of history associated with the coming of Christ and His subsequent exaltation to the right hand of God. Please don't miss this important point: The picture that Isaiah paints is far from what is commonly believed in the Church today.

The prophet begins with this declaration: "The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem." (v. 1) It is interesting to note that Isaiah describes this prophecy as "the word" which he saw. This manner of speaking may sound strange to us if we are not familiar with the modes of revelation used by God to communicate through His prophets. What is meant by Isaiah is that God allowed the prophet to see in his mind's eye what would come to pass; this vision constituted a revelation from God to His people, which Isaiah expressed in words.

The subject of this vision of the future is specified by the prophet:
"concerning Judah and Jerusalem." In other words, Isaiah's vision had to do with the future of the people of God. This prophecy is concerned with what would happen to those who, because of the covenant of grace, were related in a saving way to God in the Messiah.

An unavoidable and essential question must be asked as we consider this passage: When in history is the prophecy to be fulfilled? As we read this wonderful description of the nations of the earth coming to the people of God for instruction, we have to be curious about when in human history this is going to come to pass. It certainly was a future event from Isaiah's perspective. The nation of Israel was not serving as the world's teacher at this time; in fact, the nation that had the knowledge of God was steeped in sin and idolatry.

Notice that the prophecy itself identifies the period in history that is being described: "Now it will come about that in the last days..." (v. 2) I'm sure that I don't need to remind you of the attention that has been given to the phrase, "the last days," in our lifetime. According to those who have the ear of the Church on this issue, "the last days" is a period that is future even to us. But we must ask, Is this a Biblical understanding of the term?

Modern writers in this particular area of doctrine would have us believe that the last days is a designation for the time period in which this present generation lives; they claim that the last days commenced only recently and that we are rapidly moving toward the end of time as we know it. But, again, we have to ask: Does the Bible support this teaching? Answering this question is crucial to a right understanding of this passage and, consequently, a right understanding of the mission of the Church.

The question of when in history Isaiah's prophecy is to be fulfilled is easily answered. The term, "last days," is an Old Testament description for the time of the Messiah (cf. Jer. 49:39; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 4:1); it refers to the period that began with Christ's advent and concludes with Christ's second coming. So, "the last days" is the period that began with the incarnation of the God-Man and ends with His glorious return at which time history comes to a close.

New Testament writers clearly understood the term, "the last days," in this sense as is indicated in Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1; 2 Pet. 3:3. In each case, the writer uses the term, "the last days," as a designation for the period of history that commenced with the first advent of the Savior. Regrettably, this uncomplicated teaching of Scripture has been ignored by the most popular "end times" writers and lecturers in evangelicalism.

I want us to consider one passage in some detail. In Heb. 1, we read: "1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." Obviously, the writer of Hebrews uses the term, "in these last days," as a designation for the portion of history that began with the first coming of Jesus Christ. This means, therefore, that we have been living in the last days since the first century.

It is during this period that Christ accomplishes and applies His atonement; it is during this period that the Church, as His Body, is at work in this world preaching and teaching the gospel and its implications. The last days are not confined to a few brief years just before the second coming of Christ; they cover all of history from the birth of our Savior to His triumphant return. The last days covers the period from the Church's founding, as we have it explained in the New Testament, to the Church's triumph in time and space over all rivals through the preaching of the gospel.

Again, this truth could not be presented in a more simplistic manner. There is a great burden of proof on those who claim that "the last days" refers to those few years prior to Christ's second coming. In fact, it is impossible to defend this perspective from the Bible. And this specific false teaching has derailed the contemporary Church and left us ineffective, distracted, and nearly paralyzed in regard to spiritual advancement. If believers are convinced that the return of the Savior is "just around the corner," they naturally are not going to be too excited about conquering the world. This is exactly what we are witnessing today.

The defense against being led astray by false teaching is, of course, the study of the Word. If believers were better educated in Biblical content, they would not fall for false teaching. It's really that simple, which means that the contemporary Church is in shameful condition when it comes to knowledge of the Word; and that, in turn, results in confusion, lack of purpose, and misplaced zeal. That's where we are today and this illustrates the necessity of learning the content of our Bibles.

Having answered the question of "When?", we are now ready to ask another crucial question: What, exactly, does Isaiah predict? In general, as I've said, Isaiah speaks of the exaltation of the people of God, the Church, to a position unparalleled in history. Let's consider the next statement in v. 2: "...The mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills..." From other parts of the Old Testament, we learn that "the mountain of the house of the Lord" is that place where the Temple rested; it is Mount Zion.

That mountain represented the God of the nation of Israel. It was common to erect altars on hills and mountains; Isaiah uses this bit of familiar imagery to predict that the day will come when, figuratively speaking, God's mountain, God's dwelling place, will be raised far above all others to indicate His singular power and glory.

Here is where a simple fact that is known to all of us becomes significant. We know that God no longer associates Himself with a literal Temple, but dwells in the temple of His people by the Holy Spirit. Listen to these statements. Consider Paul's words: "Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16) And: "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." (Eph. 2:19-22)

When Isaiah talks about the dwelling place of God being "established as the chief of the mountains," he is predicting the future exaltation of His saved people. The "mountain of the Lord" is the Church of Jesus Christ. It is this "mountain" that will come to dominate the "landscape," so to speak. Isaiah's words, therefore, can only be interpreted as a prediction of the eventual elevation of the Church and Her teaching above all rivals throughout the world. According to this prophecy, Biblical religion will one day cover the earth.

The mountain of God "will be established," the prophet declares. The word translated "established" means "to be stable, firm, set up, fixed, secure, enduring." This term conveys the idea of the continuing endurance of something once it is founded. Isaiah teaches that, during the period of history between the two advents of Christ, the Church of God will become increasingly obvious in the world and She will become increasingly influential in the world as more and more people are converted to Christ and begin living according to Biblical standards.

There is a parallel to be mentioned here. Israel observed three annual feasts during which the people made their way to Jerusalem. The picture given to us by Isaiah conveys the same message, but on a grander scale. The worship of the Lord would one day involve all the peoples of the earth; they would make their way to the new dwelling place of God, which is the Church. I want to emphasize that Isaiah predicts something that later becomes one of the leading characteristics of the gospel. He predicts the world-wide conversion of the Gentiles.

The third verse confirms what already has been said. The prophet says that the Church will teach the nations the ways of God; that is, the Church will instruct the world concerning God's will and His Word will be the standard for all people. This is what is meant, I believe, by the phrases, "that we may walk in His paths" and "the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." This is, of course, nothing less than what happens when a sinner is regenerated and, thereafter, seeks to know and do the will of God.

The difference between what we have experienced and what Isaiah is predicting simply is a matter of extent. He is not predicting anything new as far as the nature of the gospel is concerned; Isaiah is describing what will happen when this gospel is, by God's grace, embraced on a world-wide scale.

The prophet adds that the Lord "will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples..." (v. 4) God's Word is to become the standard by which nations conduct themselves. An individual who is saved seeks to learn and do the will of God; a family does the same thing and so would an entire saved community. I want to say again, therefore, that Isaiah is describing the gradual conversion of the nations. According to this prophecy, the day will come when the majority of the world's population will be born again and that naturally will lead to the kind of peaceful and enjoyable existence that Isaiah depicts.

The remainder of v. 4 spells out just what will be the result, externally speaking, of this gradual world-wide conversion to Christianity: "And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears in pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war."

One of the fundamental products of the gospel is peace. The Bible teaches that the converted sinner has peace with God and, as an outward manifestation of this spiritual peace; he has peace with other men. If the gospel were to be embraced by the world's population, then Isaiah's description of the cessation of war is entirely believable. War results when men covet and give expression to their rebellious natures; war results from a refusal to be ruled by the Creator and to accept whatever the Creator gives in His wise providence. When the world comes to be rightly related to the Creator in Christ, then war will be a thing of the past.

Before moving on to the application, I want to answer three questions that are bound to arise in your mind as you consider this interpretation of Isa. 2:1-4. First, am I suggesting that the day is coming when every last person on the face of the earth will be converted? The answer is "No." What I believe Isaiah is describing is a time when the majority of the world's inhabitants are born again Christians to the extent that one could declare that the nations are following Christ. Isaiah is predicting the ultimate reversal of our present situation where most of the people of the world are not believers.

Second, am I suggesting that there will come a day, prior to the second advent of Jesus Christ, when the world will be free of sin? The answer again is "No." When a sinner is converted, sin ceases to be his master, but sin does cease to be present in his flesh. Even if the gospel were to be embraced on a world-wide scale, as the prophet predicts here, the same thing would have to be said concerning sin. The majority of the world's people might be born again, but they will not be rid of sin entirely until their glorification. Therefore, Isaiah is not describing a sin-free world, he is describing a world in which the gospel has triumphed on a grand scale in the same way it triumphs in each of us on a smaller, individual scale.

Third, is this "Christianized" world to appear suddenly? The answer is "No." As I have said several times, Isaiah tells us of a process whereby the Church becomes more and more influential in the affairs of this world because more and more men are being converted. Eventually, perhaps over many generations, the condition described by Isaiah will be achieved.

Consider this: A simple comparison of the first century with our own confirms that this is, indeed, how God is working in history. The gospel that was unknown when Jesus went to the cross now is present on every continent and it continues to be preached and the Holy Spirit continues to bless the labors of the Church. In the 2000 years since the gospel was declared by Peter in the streets of Jerusalem, the Church has been established all over the world. What might we expect in another 2000 years?


In the application, I want to take a few minutes to emphasize the importance of aligning our vision with the vision of God. In this prophecy, God reveals a glorious and thrilling future for the human race; He reveals the increasing influence of the Church to the point that Her message of salvation is known and embraced throughout the world. And this, therefore, tells us precisely what the mission of the Church is in this age. Her mission is to preach the pure gospel so that the Church grows in number and influence. The mission of the Body of Christ is not about many things, it is about one primary objective and that is the conversion of the world.

As we learn of this mission given to the Church by God, there are several principles that become apparent. These principles have to do with how we relate to God, how we view our purposes in life, and what we expect of God.

The first principle is that the purposes of God cannot be evaluated based solely upon current conditions. In the matter of the ultimate disposition of the gospel and the work of the Church, it is foolish to take one small slice of time and draw grand, far-reaching conclusions concerning the eternal and sovereign purposes of God. We are sure to misinterpret the plan of God if we limit our perspective to those few brief years during which we walk on this earth.

What perspective do you suppose the average Jew had on the plans and purposes of God based upon the condition of the nation when Isaiah gave this prophecy? Don't you imagine that there were few, if any, who would have heard the prophet's words and said, "Yes, that's what I expect; that's what I believe God is going to do"? On the contrary, most of the Jews would have looked at the deplorable condition of the nation and drawn a different conclusion.

This means that we have to be careful about rushing to judgment concerning how history will end and what the Church will or will not accomplish based upon an examination of our present circumstances. This also means that wise Christians step back and evaluate the work of Christ through His Church over a period of centuries instead of a period of a few years.

This bring us to a second principle, namely, that the Word of God must be our ultimate point of reference. Isaiah's prophecy of a great and blessed future for the people of God came, as I stated, in the midst of a moral low point for the Old Testament saints. The people who first heard this prophecy did not live to see its fulfillment. Nevertheless, this prophecy was given by God and it was meant to reinforce the dependability of God's promise to Adam that He would send a Redeemer.

We who live so many centuries after Isaiah need to be careful to maintain the ultimate authority of the Word of God in our minds as we look around and see all the books rolling off the presses telling us that the end is near. No word is to be received unless it agrees with the Scripture; no prophet is to be heard unless his words ring true to the Bible. Perhaps one of the things that is needed more than any other today is for Christians to pick up their Bibles and read them.

We live in a time when Christians are listening to many voices, a time when we have many points of reference. This explains the confused condition of the Church and the fact that we spend so much time trying to figure out what we are supposed to be doing and how we are supposed to be doing it. When the Word of God is upheld as our ultimate standard and when everything else, regardless of where it comes from or who says it, is measured against that Word, then the Church finds Her path and remains steady in Her pursuit of the Kingdom of Christ.

A third principle that comes from Isaiah's prophecy is that sin is no hindrance to the purposes of God. Sin will, indeed, hinder our participation in the great things God is doing and will do in the days ahead, but sin will not keep God from fulfilling the promise He made to Adam. God will redeem the human race and He will do it in a way that will bring glory to the blessed Trinity.

When the Church is in such sad condition, it is easy to discount the passages in the Bible that speak of a glorious future for Her. We can always say, "Well, look at the Church, look at the world; we can't seriously believe that God is going to cause all nations to turn to Him for salvation." When the Church is passing through a dark time, it is easy to look for other explanations of these passages, explanations that fit our low expectations of the Church.

But the poor performance of the Church at any given time in history is no basis for judging the validity of God's promises. We have the promise of God, spoken in Eden, renewed numerous times with the patriarchs, and finally realized in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That promise is the redemption of the human race and it is as good as done.


Hymn for Communion


Each week at this time, I read a passage from the Gospels in which the origin of this sacrament is recorded. In that passage, we hear this declaration from Jesus Christ: "I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." This should convince us that our Savior expected to be reunited with His Church at some point in the future. He certainly doesn't appear to expect the Church to fail or disappear from the earth. Each week, therefore, we are admonished to remember the sure Word of God regardless of the present condition of the world. This sacrament also encourages us as this truth is brought before us again.

This sacrament reminds us that what was necessary for the redemption of the human race has been accomplished by the Savior. He removed all obstacles to the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy by paying for our sins and establishing His Church, which even now is broadcasting the good news of salvation to the nations of the earth.

Our observance of this sacrament is, indeed, a celebration. It is a celebration of the beginning of the last days, that period during which our great Savior and King is applying His atonement for the conversion of the nations. Knowing that He lives, this sacrament also provides us with this moment of spiritual communion. Jesus is here with us to hear our prayers and supply the grace we need to serve Him effectively.

Our authority and responsibility to observe the Lord's Supper comes from the lips of Christ Himself. In Matthew's account of the Last Supper, we read:

And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
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