Thursday, May 25, 2006

Banner Conference 2006 -- Session #2 Sinclair Ferguson "Jesus Christ The Church Builder #1

In this lecture Dr. Ferguson started to looks at Jesus Christ the church builder. In this first of two lectures, he looked at Matthew 16:13-28. This passage comes at a pivotal point in the gospel of Matthew. It is a turning point in the divine revelation of who Jesus is, and through the supernatural work of God in Peter, he confesses that Jesus is the Christ. Following this confession Jesus started to reveal more fully where the final destiny of his ministry would be, pointing the disciples to his suffering and death. It is in this context of the confession of Peter and the revelation of Jesus of his suffering and death, that Jesus gives the teaching concerning his building of the church. The particular verse in question has been one that has been much discussed. For the word "church" is not frequently used in the gospel. There is teaching concerning the new community that Jesus came to form, but the word "church" is not used. Following these things Jesus also told the disciples not to tell anyone. For while he spoke with more clarity, he did not speak with total clarity because the disciples understanding of him as the Christ lacked total clarity. With this in mind, Dr. Ferguson stated that his purpose in this lecture was to draw out various strands that show Christ as the great church builder. There are four things in particular that he wanted to examine. First, the church is central to the vision and work of Christ. This is something we really need to be convinced is true. Christ came not to simply save individuals, but to form a new people for himself. Central to the Father opening Peter's eyes to who Jesus is, is to show that Christ intends to build his church (ekklesia). This word in used in the LXX to speak of the gathered people of God, called out of Egypt, called out from the world, called out to worship, called out to community to assemble for Himself. Jesus speaks of one flock with one shepherd in John, and in the Luke 9 account of the transfiguation of Jesus we find he speaks with Moses and Elijah concerning his exodus (Luke 9:31) which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Jesus came to make a redeemed community, and his words were fulfilled at Pentecost where he starts to build his church in the power of the Holy Spirit forming a new community. This means we need to love the church and give ourselves for the church, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. It is the church that is the context for the transformation of our lives. It is there that we are fit together more and more, but this is slow work. It is the church that is the context for all NT evangelism, and there are little if any verses that speak solely of personal evangelism. We need to understand this. It is not about getting better movies to use for outreach. Evangelism is a church thing. Together the people of God are the evangelistic tool God uses. This is seen again and again in Acts. It is as the church is the church that it is used by God to draw people in. Jesus is making a community so different from everything else around it, that people wonder where did that come from. When the church is the church it astonishes the world, so our task as ministers is to see that this community is formed. Second, The church is build in enemy occupied territory. Jesus taught that he would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. That is the principle that he holds forth, only to have it shown in practice with Peter's response to his teaching that he would be betrayed, suffer and be put to death. Jesus responds to Peter's disavowal of that mission of the Christ by saying, "Get behind me Satan." So what are the gates of hell? Dr. Ferguson pointed out that in the OT the gates were the place where the elders meet. It is at the gates where the leaders provided their leadership. It is this that Jesus refers to when he speaks of the gates of hell meaning that there are strategic forces arrayed against building the church because the church is build in enemy occupied territory. As the kingdom advances, attacks come against it. Attacks from within, and attacks from without. It is in this environment of attacks from the gates of hell that we do our work. When you enlist in the gospel ministry you enlist for a life of danger. You enlist as soldiers. Again we need to recognize this truth for ourselves. We also need to make the congregations under out care understand this. For, Christ builds his church in enemy occupied territory. Third, The church is built by Christ, by the work of gospel ministers We find this in verse 18 where we read, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" There has been much discussion on this, but it seems best to say he is speaking about Peter. This is not saying that Peter has primacy of authority as some claim, nor that Jesus is bestowing a succession following Peter. Rather, Peter is the dominant apostle. He is always mentioned first within the apostles. One reason Jesus speaks to Peter here is to contrast the glorious community Christ is building, and contrasting it to the weak vessel he uses to build that community. Peter in all his pathetic weakness will be used by the grace of Christ to build his church. But, that is not all, in speaking about Peter here, it speaks of his primacy in ministerial exercise. He was the first to confess Jesus is the Christ. Peter would be the first to be used, but not the last or only one. This speaks to us and reminds us that Jesus central instrument in building his church is the work of the gospel minister. That is seen in places like Ephesians 4 where the gifts listed are all 'word' based gifts. Gifts of those who proclaim the gospel that the church might be built up. This calls all who are gospel ministers to pour the word of God into the people in their care. As a gospel minister you could put your name in the place of Peter's here as one of those who are used by Christ to build his church. Fourth, the church is modeled by Christ in the pattern of his death and resurrection (v 24ff) Those who belong to this new community that is being built by Christ, have their lives molded by Christ and his example. They see in him that death is the way to life, and the cross is the way to victory. This is the shape of the Christian church in this world. Dying and rising always go together for them. Sorrows and joys, sufferings and glories go together in the life of the community Christ is building. As we find in 2 Corinthians 4, death is at work in us, but life in you. We need to see that this is the pattern in the church that Christ is building, so when we suffer we seek God to work life through that suffering in others. Because, Christ is building his church through himself, through his death and resurrection.


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