Being and Doing Church
When Hitler was trying to enthuse the German nation to get behind his expansionist programs he told them that the German race was the Ubermensch, the Beyond-man/Hyper-man. He understood the psychology of action, we do as we believe. If we think we are better than others we will happily walk over their heads. We have also given the name slave mentality to a state or mind that acts out of the way it sees itself. This is a life of subservience and submission that thinks of itself as less. Activity follows identity. We see this everyday in life, our children with low self-esteem don’t try very hard. Battered women who think they are worthless stay in destructive relationships. People who think they are stupid give up in the face of a difficult task without trying. Racists who think they are superior to others, are full of resentment and superiority. Paul, recognising that we do as we perceive ourselves and that the gospel has made something new of us as individuals and the church grounds all of our activities and duties in the church in the realities that the gospel have created. We need to learn the lesson of thinking right in order that we can do right. The way we see ourselves affects the way we see others and how we live for God. Today as we consider the church and our role in it as members I want to tap into a Pauline teaching tool. Paul helps the believer to fulfil his responsibilities in and toward the church by reminding the believer what God has done and has made true about us.
Understanding this way of thinking is the difference between legalism and God glorifying obedience, the difference between hope and joy filled obedience or the drudgery of accomplishing the impossible. Simply put this way of thinking is called rooting/grounding the imperative in the indicative. These are two tenses in the Greek language one is the imperative and is the voice of command and duty, the indicative is the voice of description. Generally speaking Paul makes all the Christian life a case of serving because God served us first, our duty flows from God’s service to us first. We do not serve in order to be saved, we are saved therefore we happily and gladly serve.
This way of thinking is foundational and ensures that the why of our obedience is driven by love and gratitude not fear and legalism. This reality goes beyond the truth of motivation to the matter of power as well. In Romans 6 Paul is dealing with the objection that a gospel of grace leads to people sinning more in order to magnify grace more. The legalist wants Paul to make salvation dependent upon works in order to guarantee holiness. The legalist makes fear of hell not love of God our motivation. But Paul surprises us and highlights how God guarantees our holiness without making our salvation depend upon our works. He tells the Romans that they have all died to the former power that sin had over them when they were buried and raised with Christ. Something has been done to them by God that has broken their former relationship to sin. This is not the teaching of perfectionism but it is the teaching that we can now overcome the sin that once overcame us, and be holy as He commands. The first command in the book of Romans (6:11) is a call to ‘reckon’ this reality to be true, to admit the facts of what God has done, to study the indicatives of the gospel before we obey the imperatives of the gospel. It is not a command to do anything but to think, admit and accept what God has done. Paul roots our ongoing holiness in the reality that God has wrought by overcoming the power of sin in us.
This method of showing believers what God has done to them and the realities that are now true of them is not only applied to the matter of holiness, but Paul also uses it to ground our duties to one another as the church. We see this clearly in Ephesians 4:1-16, lets read it together: ‘I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.’
As we look at this text we want to look at v1-3 which outline how we are to be as a church, our duties; then in v4-6 we want to see the gospel realities which ground those activities; then in v7-16 we will see how Christ, given these gospel realities causes growth to occur in the church.