The Church: Experiental Sanctification; Rev. 1:15
There is a purpose to the spiritual life in the church age and the function of the church in the church age that goes beyond that of God's plan and purposes for the Jewish believer in the dispensation of Israel. For believer in the church age is part of the church, and it is that corporate body that is going to be His bride when He returns. Furthermore, the Scriptures teach that when he returns we are going to rule and reign with Him, and we are going to function as priests to God. Not only will there be a Jewish priesthood operational in the Millennial kingdom of Israel but there is also going to be that priesthood which functions from the church age, from resurrected believers. How do we get to the place where we can function as judges over the angels, as 1 Corinthians 6 tells us, and how do we get to the point where we can rule and reign with Christ? What is the training ground?
The training ground is here and now in the church age, and all this brings to bear the importance of having a sound, biblical ecclesiology. Ecclesiology is simply the technical theological terms for the study of what the Bible teaches about the church, its nature, its purpose, its function, its operation, its organization, its leadership.
We see an element of ecclesiology here where Jesus Christ as the Son of Man is clothed in a garment down to the feet and foot, and girded about the chest with a golden band, and all the imagery here in these verses picture Him as a judge walking in the midst of these seven congregations. This pictures the fact that in the church age Jesus Christ is actively involved in the sanctification and purification process of the church. This is not talking about positional sanctification because at the instant of faith alone in Christ alone we are all positionally sanctified. We enter into union with Christ and we are positionally holy, positionally sanctified. But in theprocess of the spiritual life we are growing and advancing towards maturity. In the process of growth in the spiritual life there are certain dynamics that come into play in terms of application in the Christian life.
First of all there is the emphasis on our own personal spiritual life and spiritual growth. That is the first and foremost area of application. We need to be involved in personal Bible study, listening to tapes, reading our Bible on a regular basis, memorizing Scripture, being in Bible class, taking notes, reviewing those notes, thinking about the implications of these things, the doctrines that are being taught in relationship to our own spiritual life and growth.
Then there is the application that goes beyond that to our more immediate spheres of life. For example, as we go through that process of experiential sanctification and purification in our own life this is going to have results and consequences in terms of our family life. This is seen in Ephesians 5:18 where we have the command to be filled by means of the Spirit. As we go from being filled by means of the Spirit there are certain things that flow from that that are identified in the subsequent verses by means of various participles. Ephesians 5:19 reads, "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." This is not a private thing, it is to one another and it emphasizes corporate worship. That shows that singing is important and is fundamental to corporate worship. Verse 20, "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." And then in verse 21 is where we break out of that personal sphere into the family, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." Then this is going to be developed in terms of how a wife relates to her husband. She submits to her husband as to the Lord. The husband is going to lead his wife and love his wife as Christ loved the church. It is going to impact the role as a parent in training children, raising them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It also has an impact on children as they are growing. They recognize they have a responsibility to honor their parents and it is something that never goes away. We always have that responsibility to honor our father and mother, to show respect for them. That doesn't mean that we are still under their authority when we are 25 or 30 years of age but it does mean that we honor them.
So as we grow and mature we have this experiential sanctification that affects us personally in terms of our own walk with the Lord in terms of how we are dealing with the sin nature operational in our life, and then it is going to affect family. And it affects our relationship in our work environment. That is outlined in Ephesians chapter six: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men." Everything is to be performed as if the Lord was asking us to do that.
Personal spiritual life is going to impact our responsibility in terms of the fact that we are a citizen of a nation. We have certain responsibilities thrust upon us in terms of service to our nation. This is usually in the realm of political involvement and also in the realm of service—service in the military, government service, politics. Whether a person is a believer or an unbeliever he has a responsibility in the nation. As a Christian we should have a heightened sense of responsibility in terms of our involvement. We are involved in a global spiritual warfare, a cosmic conflict that often manifests itself in terms of culture wars. This really comes to the forefront when we see the clash between people who have ideas and values and norms and standards based on pure human viewpoint reasoning. Human viewpoint can manifest itself as either liberal politics or conservative politics. As a believer we should be operating on divine viewpoint. Divine viewpoint teaches us that we are not of the world but are in the world. Therefore we don't isolate ourselves from what is going on in terms of politics. We are to participate in government; we are to influence legislators; we are to write letters; we are to become involved in political campaigns, working for various political candidates in order to ensure that to the best that is possible we have our liberties preserved so that we can continue to freely teach the Word, freely preach the gospel, send out missionaries, and that God is not excluded from the market place of ideas. This is crucial because there are those who want to completely marginalize the divine viewpoint worldview, and there can be no liberty apart from a worldview that proceeds from the Bible. Liberty without the Bible will show up as tyranny of something always, because liberty only comes when you are in right relationship with God. Ultimately that which enslaves man is sin and unless we are operating on a worldview which understands the nature of sin and the bondage of sin we can't deal with it properly. That doesn't mean that we cite Scripture verses when we write a codification of laws or when we are building a form of government, but as we know the American founding fathers operated out of a biblical world view and they understood the depravity of man, that men were sinners, and that unless you set certain limitations on man that eventually the branches of government and those involved would move in the direction of tyranny and taking liberty away from the people. They had a concept of liberty that was originally developed from the Scriptures.
All of this is to say that as a believer part of that process of sanctification and purification is that we have responsibilities to apply the Word of God in every area of relationship we have.
Believers have to be involved and they have to be involved from the framework of their own Christian belief. This is part of what Jesus is referring to when He uses the metaphor salt and light in Matthew chapter five. "You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his flavor, how shall it be seasoned? it is then good for nothing, but to be thrown out, and to be trampled under foot by men…. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." Both of these have to do with the fact that as a believer we impact our country. We influence our nation in terms of our own spiritual life and spiritual growth. As goes the believer so goes the nation. Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." In other words, it needs to be evident. You don't just hide it and keep it private.
The Bible addresses social issues. So from the framework of biblical norms and standards we need to get involved, because we as believers more than anybody else knows that if this country starts legalizing same-sex marriage that the instance of marriage is going to break down, and that means the family breaks down, and this leads to a fragmentation and polarization and complete implosion of a culture. As a Christian we know that we need to be involved and fight this, not as a church per se but as an individual. This also applies to any number of issues that face us socially.
This is all part of what Jesus Christ is doing as part of that priest-judge in the life of the believer. We are eventually going to rule and reign with Jesus Christ, we are going to have political responsibilities, so what we are doing today is train to rule and reign with Jesus Christ, to function as a priest, to function as a judge over angels. All of this develops discernment, and involvement (legitimate, not Christian activism).