September 10, 2017
Biology is the study of life. Psychology is the study of the mind. Geology is the study of the earth. And zoology is the study of animals.
There are many “ologies” out there, but this morning I want to I introduce you to a special one. The word is ecclesiology. Definition please? The study of the church of Christ, especially about its nature and structure. Language of origin? Greek. Can you please repeat the word? Ecclesiology. Ecclesiology. ECC-LES-IOL-OGY. Ecclesiology. That is correct. By the way, a ten year old boy named Ritvik actually got this word in round three of the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee. And he spelled it right! I wonder if that boy goes to church.
Brothers and sisters, ecclesiology is important. You may not think so, but it is. Ecclesiology is important because it is ultimately the study of how our Lord and Savior rules over his church as king. It is actually the study of how our Good Shepherd cares for us. It is really the study of what Jesus is going to prepare us for the new heavens and the new earth. It is simply the study of how Jesus runs his church. Ecclesiology is important.
Intelligent sports fans will care less and less about highlights and scores and care more and more about systems and the front office and how their teams structure things and make decisions. Intelligent employees will care less and less about salary pay and office perks and care more and more about how their companies operate and how their bosses run their teams. And intelligent church members will care less and less about how much fun and fellowship they are having at church and care more and more about how leaders lead and how people serve and work behind the scenes. People care about how sports teams and work companies are run. And many people are really starting to care about how churches are run. Ecclesiology is important.
Brothers and sisters, ecclesiology is also relevant. It directly impacts you. It is not some philosophical pagentry for pocket-protector pastors or professors. It is very real and practical stuff. Good ecclesiology - ecclesiology done well - is vital to your spiritual well-being and the overall health of the church. Bad ecclesiology - ecclesiology done poorly - can easily result in church splits, scandals and abuses, and a lot of hurt people. It is worth noting that the Reformation, of which we celebrate its 500th anniversary this year, was in so many ways a reaction and a protest to bad ecclesiology. Martin Luther and John Calvin and company were not speaking merely as theologians who cared about bad theology. They spoke as pastors who cared about bad theology that was really ruining the lives of their church members. Ecclesiology is relevant.
Brothers and sisters, ecclesiology is finally about Jesus himself. And we must care about this subject matter. For I dare say this: if ecclesiology is the study of how Jesus runs his church, then to study and love ecclesiology is to study and love Jesus Christ himself. Ecclesiology, then, is really Christology. That’s CHRIST-OLOGY. It is really about Jesus.
In Isaiah 9, we are told a simple but earth-shattering fact: Jesus Christ is the king. The prophet Isaiah tells us about the promised Messiah - the representative who would come and take Adam’s test again, the champion who would crush the head of the serpent and destroy the work of the Devil, the sacrificial lamb who would pass under the flaming sword of judgment and suffer and die for a chosen people, the Lion of Judah who would earn sabbath rest and perfect communion with God. And so as “Wonderful Counselor,” Jesus, with great increase and light, brings joy and gladness to his people. As “Mighty God,” Jesus breaks and bloodies and burns his enemies. And as “Prince of Peace,” Jesus has an eternal government.
Now there’s a word you don’t see often in Scripture. Government. But the concept of it fills all of Scripture. For example, in Colossians 2, we are told that Jesus Christ is the head of the church who loves the church and gave himself up for her. And in Daniel 7, we are told that Jesus has a dominion and glory and a kingdom; that all peoples, nations, and languages would serve him; and that his dominion would be an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away and shall never be destroyed. Jesus is the king. The church is his people. And he has a government.
Praise the Lord!
But here is the million dollar question. How does he rule his church? How does he exercise his authority over his people? How does he project his power? How does he enforce his law and order? How does he sanctify and discipline his people? How does he administer his government and exercise his kingship? How does he apply his care? How does he run his church?
The answer is this. Jesus Christ ordains mere men to minister his words, his authority, his power, his laws, and his care to his people. Jesus is still the king. He is actively and intimately involved in ruling his church. But he does so through the ministry of ordinary men - through elders and deacons. So in Ephesians 4:7-14, we are told that Jesus gives the church elders who build up the body of Christ. And in Acts 6:1-6, we are told that Jesus provides the church deacons who serve tables and distribute resources to people with poverty and need. Jesus ordains elders and deacons to
The work of elders and deacons is simple. It goes like this. Elders are to lead and shepherd the church, teach God’s word to them, and administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Deacons are to tend to the physical needs of the church, especially the poor and the needy in Christ. Elders are to provide spiritual care to the church. Deacons are to provide practical care to the church. Elders focus on teaching and preaching and praying. Deacons focus on serving and giving and helping. There is so much more to say about the two offices of elder and deacon, but I will save it for another day.
So that’s it. That’s how Jesus rules his church and exercises authority. That’s how he projects power and enforces his law and order. That’s how he sanctifies and disciplines his people. He governs and loves and shepherds and cares for his church through elders and deacons. That’s the big picture. And that’s one of the basics of good ecclesiology.
I have a few modest proposals that I would like to share with you today.
First, let us give praise to Jesus Christ. For he is our king and head. Let us give him our reverence and awe. Let us grow in obedience and love for him. Let our lives be filled with allegiance and loyalty to his laws and commands. Let us praise and honor our king.
Second, let us continue to reform to our church. Let us do better ecclesiology. And let us be humble and learn what good ecclesiology should look like. I am personally glad to be here at Highland because our senior pastor and elders care about ecclesiology and they want to do things by the book - by the book of church order and - above that - by the book of Scripture. This is one of our basic strategies for maintaining a good and healthy church. While other churches may focus on other things, we here at Highland are focused on doing good government for the sake of Christ.
Third, engage your leaders more and ask them hard but good questions. Ask me and ask our session why we do what we do here at Highland. And demand good ecclesiology from us. After all, we who are pastors and elders are stewards and custodians of the highest power and authority of the universe. So keep us sharp.
Fourth, check out our Book of Church Order, or BCO for short. It’s a book that every pastor and church has in our denomination to guide us with biblical principles and guidelines on how to run Christ’s church properly. It’s not a secret document. It is easily accessible online. And most of it is actually quite easy to read. Check it out.
Fifth, let us pray for God to provide more elders and deacons. This is the key to our generation, the second genration, in continuing what our parents started. And in my humble opinion, this is the greatest task and need for us today. So far in our denomination’s presbytery, which spans the entire midwest, we have a handful of second generation deacons and only one second generation elder. Let us pray for more elders and deacons. I ask that God would call many in this very room to one day become elders and deacons for our churches.
Sixth and finally, let us really be glad that God is providing our church with four deacons tonight.
When we realize that church is about the administration and application of Jesus’ kingship to his people, then it helps us see many things in church in a new light. Brothers and sisters, I hope that you begin to see church in this way. The church is about the administration of Christ’s government. The church is about the exercising of Christ’s power. The church is concerned with the enforcement of Christ’s rule over his people. We are not a club. We are not merely a family. We are not first and foremost a machine of harvest workers. No. Above all things, we belong to a government. Above all things, we are a body with a head. Above all things, we have a king.
And the government of the church belongs to him. It’s his government.
Ecclesiology. ECC-LES-IOL-OGY. Let’s not just spell it right. Let’s do it right.