************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 21b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 19, 2017
Lord's Day 21 (2)
1 Corinthians 12:12-20,27
"The Communion of Saints"
We've been looking at sound doctrine on Sunday mornings. Doctrine we can believe. Doctrine that is dependable and reliable and trustworthy. Because it is doctrine based upon the Bible. In this church we don't say what men's itching ears want to hear. In this church we teach the solid truths of God's Word.
Fill in the blanks: "By ___ through ___." "By ___ through ___." Everyone of us raised on sound doctrine can fill in the blanks without even thinking. "By grace through faith." "You have been saved by grace though faith." This comes from Ephesians 2.
But now let me offer another fill in the blanks: "Through ___ into the ___." "Through ___ into the ___." This one is a little bit harder. "Through the Spirit and Word into the church." "You have been gathered through the Spirit and Word into the church." This, too, is the teaching of Scripture. This, too, is sound doctrine.
With the church of all ages, sound doctrine professes belief in "the communion of saints." Communion means fellowship or sharing. But of what? Fellowship or sharing of what? A literal translation of the Latin is "communion of holies." What holies? Some have said fellowship or sharing of holy things like the sacraments. Others have said fellowship or sharing with holy persons, saints that are both dead and living. The Catechism tells us we have been gathered through the Spirit and Word into fellowship with Christ and with each other.
I Communion with Christ
A First of all, sound doctrine professes that in the church through the Spirit and Word believers have communion with Christ:
believers one and all,
as members of this community,
share in Christ
and in all his treasures and gifts.
This union of the church with Christ is a miracle worked by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes me share in Christ and all His blessings. We read about this in verse 13 of our Bible reading:
(1 Cor 12:13) For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.Paul is not talking about water baptism. He is talking about baptism or rebirth by the Spirit so we are joined to Christ. This is not something that we do because we are all dead in our trespasses and sins. A dead, totally depraved sinner has neither the ability nor the desire to be joined to Christ.
B The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between Christ and every believer. We are joined to Christ. In fact, we are inseparably joined to Christ. Listen to verse 12 of our Bible reading:
(1 Cor 12:12) The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.So is what with Christ? So it is that His body -- which is the church -- is made up of many parts. Namely, there is the head Who is Christ and there is the body which is the church. So Christ can never be without His church and the church can never be without Christ. That is why, for example, Christ asks Saul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:4), "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He doesn't ask, "Why do you persecute my body?" No, He asks, "Why do you persecute me?" Christ says this because the church has been joined to Christ, because we are members of Christ, because the Spirit and the Word makes us the communion of saints.
C The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between Christ and every believer. We are joined to Christ. We form the body of Christ. Which means there is a definite, fixed number of members to the body of Christ. The body of Christ doesn't have two heads or three arms or four legs. The body of Christ is a perfectly planned and formed body. Negatively, this means not everyone is part of the body. Positively, this means not a single part of the body is missing; not a single finger, toe, tooth, or hair will be missing; that is, not a single believer is missing. Every part of the body has its place.
D The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between Christ and every believer. We are joined to Christ. We share in Christ and in all His treasures and gifts, in all His blessings. When I ask students in Pastor's class what is included in the blessings of Christ they all mention forgiveness or salvation. That certainly is included in the phrase "the communion of saints." Saints. That is "holy ones." We are holy ones because of Christ: He takes away our sin and give us His righteousness. He washes us in His blood and constantly sanctifies us and purifies us by His Spirit. Because of Christ, we are part of the communion of saints.
But when we are joined to Christ there are way more blessings than just forgiveness and salvation. Let me mention some other blessings. When we are joined to Christ:
-we become sons and daughters of God and heirs of God
-we can pray to God
-we are preserved by God
-we are part of the church
-we receive the gifts and fruits of the Spirit
-we have the promise of eternal life and the resurrection of the body
-we are set free from Satan and darkness
-we are given the tools to fight sin and temptation
-Jesus is not only our head; He is also our brother
-we can worship God with confidence and not with fear and trembling
I am sure you can think of blessing I have not mentioned.
Sound doctrine declares belief in the communion of saints. Sound doctrine declares that through the Spirit and Word I am joined to Christ.
II Communion with One Another
A Second, sound doctrine professes that in the church through the Spirit and Word believers have communion with each other.
The Holy Spirit does this. The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between believers. Between people who are joined to Christ. That's where it starts.
The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between believers. They may not always be friendly to us; sometimes they are even unfriendly; sometimes they might be grumpy, annoying, demanding of our time and patience. Sometimes they say lies and gossip about us. But they are our brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ.
B The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between believers. Think of what this looked like in the New Testament church. Think of how radical it was for that time and place:
(1 Cor 12:13) For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.Jews and Greeks were polar opposites. They were so different culturally. After centuries of conflict they were enemies of one another. But in Christ they experienced the communion of saints; in Christ they were one. The same thing with slave and free. They were at opposite ends of the social spectrum of society back then. The slaves had few rights and no control; the free had freedom. But in Christ they were members of the same church, having communion and fellowship with one another.
The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between believers. Listen, again, to verse 12 of our Bible reading again:
(1 Cor 12:12) The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.The communion of saints is made up many parts: from every "tribe and language and people and nation" says John in Revelation (cf Rev 5:9). Young and old. Male and female. Rich and poor. Black and white.
C The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between believers. What exactly does this mean? What does this look like? The Catechism explains the communion of saints means we use the treasures and gifts of Christ for the service and enrichment of the other members. This is something the Corinthian Christians forgot. They used the riches of Christ for themselves. Each member wanted to use His gifts for self-promotion and self-glory and self-praise. This made those who were not in the limelight jealous. This is a terrible evil.
Equally terrible are those members of the body who refuse to get involved, who refuse to use their gifts for the service and enrichment of the other members. Who keep their gifts hidden or unused. The Catechism uses the phrase "readily and cheerfully." When we have an opportunity to serve, when we are asked to participate, when an announcement is put in the bulletin or prayer chain looking for volunteers, we are to step forward "readily and cheerfully." We shouldn't have to beg for volunteers, or push for volunteers. Volunteers should be coming out of the woodwork because we love Christ and the other members of the church. We should be looking for opportunities and occasions to help our brothers and sisters in the faith. That is what it means to be the communion of saints.
The Holy Spirit creates a bond of fellowship or communion between believers so that we serve each other. Think about this: this means the Holy Spirit makes us like Christ. Christ, as the Son of God, is infinitely rich. But He did not use His gifts for Himself. He did not keep His gifts to Himself. Christ saw us in our misery and sin and bestowed His blessings upon us. Readily and cheerfully Christ selflessly gave up everything for us.
III Communion Illustrated
A Paul gives us a simple but powerful illustration of the communion of saints in our Bible reading: the human body.
We all have only one body. The various parts -- feet, hands, eyes, nose, ears, legs, heart, lungs, liver -- only have life when they are part of the body. Apart from the body, the hand or leg can only experience death. Likewise for believers: to live they must be part of the body of Christ, they must be part of the church. As Paul puts it in verse 20, there are many parts, but one body. And, apart from that one body there can only be death.
The body of Christ, the communion of saints, is so important. Which is why it hurts the Lord so much when we injure His body or destroy His body or talk bad about His body. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
B In the body of Christ there is no room for pride. Some members of the Corinthian church were proud of their position in the body and began to despise other members as less important. Those who could prophesy began to think they did not need interpreters. Those who could speak in tongues became puffed up by their abilities and despised those who could not do what they could do.
Imagine, says Paul, that the eye becomes puffed up with pride because it can see. So puffed up it no longer thinks it needs the hand. Or, imagine the head says it no longer needs the feet. Ridiculous?! Of course! What a silly illustration. But the point is made: no part of the church can say to another part, "I don't need you."
C In the body of Christ there is no place for envy either. Some members of the Corinthian church were envious of the position of other members. They envied those who were apostles, teachers, leaders, elders. These people were not happy with God's sovereign will; they were not content with the place God gave them in the body of Christ.
Imagine, says Paul, that an ambitious foot desires to be the hand and refuses to be part of the body unless its demands are met. Or the ambitious ear demands to be an eye and refuses to recognize its place in the body. What foolishness is this!
So no Christian can ever say, "Because I am not an elder, I refuse to be part of the body." "Because I am not an usher, I refuse to participate." "Because I am not asked to sing a solo, I don't belong to the body."
D In the communion of saints every part of the body has a place. As we read in verse 27:
(1 Cor 12:27) Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.Paul illustrates this by describing three categories of bodily parts which are often overlooked:
-first, there are some parts that seem weak
-second, there are some parts that seem less honorable
-third, there are some parts that need to be treated with special modesty
Paul's point? All the parts are interconnected and interdependent. So when one part suffers the whole body suffers. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
What does sound doctrine believe concerning the communion of saints?
First, that believers one and all,
as members of this community,
share in Christ
and in all his treasures and gifts.
Second, that each member
should consider it a duty
to use these gifts
readily and cheerfully
for the service and enrichment
of the other members.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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