(From the sermons entitled, “Ang mga Taong Hindi Matututo ng Katuwiran sa Lupain ng Katuwiran” and “Ang Dalawa sa Maraming Katangiang Taglay ng Iglesia na Dapat Maisapuso ng Bawat Kapatid,” for dates September 19 and 22, 2013)
Ancient Israel is the land of righteousness mentioned in Isaiah 1:26. Israel is a nation who knows all His will and righteousness, a city that follows His desires and commandments (Isaiah 51:7). They take delight in following the commandments of God. “Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and one who did not forget the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in drawing near to God.” (Isaiah 58:2)
However, Israel did not remain faithful to God. They neglect their covenant with Him, turned away from His will and commands. God had sent Prophets many times to Israel so they can repent and come back to Him, but they did not heed the call of His Prophets. Instead, they killed some of them. When God saw that there is no mediator between Him and His people, He decided to bring Himself for the salvation of His people. (Isaiah 59:16) “And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor. Therefore His own arm brought salvation to Him; and His righteousness sustained Him.”
Therefore, He manifested Himself in the flesh to bring His people back to Him. Some of them accepted Him, but the majority did not recognized Him. Others condemned and put Him to the cross. Through the church, which He had built, they had the chance to come to Him again. Those who believed were baptized and were placed inside the church. The church became His house, which dwells His will and righteousness. Those who believed became His spiritual house. “you also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession, so that you might speak of the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:5,9)
Every faithful learned to value the righteousness of His words and commands, and His words guide them on their lives. “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.” (Psalms 143:10)
As expected, the faithful remained in Him, but the sinners and the wicked were separated from Him. “Righteous people—people of integrity—will live in this land of ours. But God will snatch the wicked from the land and pull sinners out of it like plants from the ground.”
Blessed are those who were called to be His servants for they not only received His mercy and forgiveness, but also, they were accepted as His children to whom He is well pleased. They had the chance to dwell in the land of righteousness, and that righteousness will mold them not only as a good person but also as a faithful servant of God.
From here, we realize the importance of the church. Christ built it because it is His instrument so that we may have a chance to come to His grace. Christ will not build it if it is not important (Matthew 16:18). Christ is the head of the body, and His body is the church, a congregation of believers (Ephesians 5:23-24). All who were called are joined together in one body and Christ is its Pastor. (John 10:16)
He purchased the church of God with His own blood (Acts 20:28), for without shedding of blood, there will be no remissions of sins. Therefore, everyone who have been baptized will be forgiven and will be cleansed. The Apostles and the Prophets are placed in the church of God (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
What are the things that we have to hold on to, considering the many traits of the church of God?
When Jesus says that the hades will not prevail on the church, He is referring to the gates of hell and not just a physical grave (Matthew 16:18). This verse implies that if we are in Christ, we belong to His church, and if we are in His church, then we are under His protection and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.
To make it happen, God made the church as the bearer of His mystery, His words, which were hidden to many, but to those who believe, it is the power of His salvation, a force that will set everyone free and bring us closer to Him, through Christ. “and of making all people see how God’s secret plan is to be put into effect. God, who is the Creator of all things, kept his secret hidden through all the past ages, in order that at the present time, by means of the church, the angelic rulers and powers in the heavenly world might learn of his wisdom in all its different forms.” (Ephesians 3:9-10)
As a proof, God assigned some to be Apostles, some are teachers and among others, who will preach the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven and to minister the faithful; until everyone reaches the fullness of faith. “It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
From here, we realize that indeed, God built the church as His house of believers, His own house, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). “But if I should delay, that you may know how you ought to behave in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
What do we need to learn more on this topic?
That, we cannot separate Christ and the church, and that; we cannot accept Christ without accepting the church.
He is the head of the body, and His body is the church, both are inseparable. Apostle Paul says, “ For any other foundation can no one lay than the one being laid, who is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) Therefore, we cannot put our trust to anyone except through Christ. Through Him, we come to God.
To all faithful, the desires of our hearts should be placed only on seeking how to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives, that we must firmly hold on to the faith that we received, and that we remain in Him.
Through Him, we can do anything, but without Him, we can do nothing. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered. And they gather and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:5-6)
If we will be cut off from God, it is impossible for us to bear fruits. He is the way, the truth and the life, and He is the only one who bears the words of eternal life. “From this time many of His disciples went back into the things behind, and walked no more with Him. Then Jesus said to the Twelve, Do you also wish to go away? Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life.” (John 6:66-68)
Moreover, it is His love and mercy on us that keep us remain in Him. As an act of gratitude, we humbly serve Him and offer praises and thanksgiving, worthy of His name.