"The Church's Confession."
October 13, 2021, 8:34 PM

Last year, as we regathered in September, we celebrated a baptism and confirmation. I did a sermon series that I titled, “Living the Baptized Life.” We focused on what baptism is and what it means, and how our Christian faith influences and defines the way we live. The very first sermon I did in the series was titled, “What is the Church?” In that sermon I gave a definition of the church and I talked about the purpose of the church – why does the church exist? The sermon went over well, but I think that I put too much into one sermon. I didn’t spend enough time on the purpose of the church. For the next several weeks we are going to be looking at the purpose of the church. Why does the church exist? But first, we are going to use this text from Mark 8 as a launching point for this series. This devotional is going to focus on two things.

First, I am going to give you a definition of the church once again. Second, I am going to look at this section in Mark 8 and argue that Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ is the foundational confession of the church. It is a defining doctrine of what it means to be a Christian and be the church.

In the New Testament there are two main words that are translated as “the church” in English. The first word is ekklesia (this is an English rendering of the word in Greek). Ekklessia means to be called out, or an assembly of persons. If there is a group of people meeting and assembled for a common person, they could be called an ekklesia. You could also think of this word as being defined as “the called-out ones.” The second word is koinonia (again the English rendering of the word in Greek). This term means fellowship, communion, a sharing in common. This describes a relationship between persons who live life purposefully together. The early church was described as a fellowship of people who shared their lives together. They were unified and called out from those around them because they confessed Jesus as the Christ (remember Messiah and Christ both mean the same thing – “anointed one”).

The church then is a collection of people who are assembled who have deep fellowship and communion with each other. Here is a clear definition of the church. The church is the people of God in all ages called out of the world through Jesus Christ. That definition comes from the theologian John M. Frame. The people of God (the church) are distinct from other people because of what they believe to be true. What we believe to be true defines how we live. Therefore, in almost every New Testament letter you will find commands on how to live as a Christian in this world. Our belief in Jesus directly impacts how we live and interact with other human beings. We are set apart.

In Mark 8:27-33 Jesus asks the disciples two very important questions: “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus has taken the disciples to a remote region away from the attention He was receiving in Jewish lands. The region they are in when He asks them these questions was Gentile (Non-Jewish) territory. I believe that Jesus took the twelve with Him to Gentile land to begin to teach them about His death and resurrection.

Jesus wants to know what the disciples have heard others say about Him. Their answer shows that people misunderstood who Jesus was. That was true then, and it is still true today. Some people believed that Jesus was John the Baptist. John had been killed recently and some thought he was back! Others thought Jesus was the prophet Elijah. They thought this because Malachi 4:5 tells us that Elijah will return before the “great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” Others believed that Jesus was another prophet like Jonah, Malachi, or Elijah, but He was merely a prophet.

Then Jesus asks the disciples who they thought He was. Peter answers for the group. “You are the Christ!” The disciples are correct. Jesus is the Christ. Yet, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone. Why did Jesus command them to secrecy? The answer is that people didn’t understand what that meant. God had promised a Redeemer, a Deliverer, the promised King from the line of David that would deliver His people. The problem was that God also promised that this king would suffer and die for His people. The popular belief about the Christ had forgotten that part. They focused specifically on the Christ as a military leader and king who would come and kick out Rome and set Israel back up as an independent nation.

It was this common misunderstanding regarding the Christ that led to Jesus explaining to His disciples that He was going to be rejected, killed, and rise again on the third day (verse 31). Jesus was teaching His disciples about who He was and what He came to do. When Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about His death, it shows that Peter also misunderstood what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ. Peter was thinking in earthly terms and Jesus rebukes Peter for trying to get in the way of God’s plan. Jesus did not think that Peter was possessed by the devil, but by calling Peter Satan, He was showing that opposition to God’s plan is satanic in origin. Think about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness where Satan tried to convince Jesus to take the crown and kingdom without going to the cross. Jesus was explaining to the disciples that His death and resurrection were in fact part of God’s plan for redemption. Jesus’ rebuke of Peter was not a rejection of Peter, it was a correction to Peter’s thinking.

Confessing Jesus as the crucified Christ sets us apart from others. You will meet many people who say they believe in Jesus. But they have no idea who He is. Some will claim that Jesus was a prophet or a good teacher, but they will not believe that He rose from the dead. The church proclaims that Jesus is the Christ. That He was rejected, arrested, crucified, and buried and after three days He rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven where He sits on the right hand of God the Father. There are many who believe this as well, and yet they separate themselves from a local congregation believing that they don’t need a local church. This is a horrible mistake for people to make. God designed His people to be in community. It is where we hear the truth of Jesus preached and where we find encouragement from one another.

The church is not a building. It is God’s people. Belonging to a local congregation that confesses Christ, preaches Christ, and serves Christ is integral to the life of a Christian. It is also integral to the life of the world. Over the next several weeks we will look at the purpose of the church. Today, let your words, your heart, and your actions show your confession that Jesus is the Christ.

 

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