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Seeking the Family of God

  1. Am I In Christ?
    7 Digging Deeper
  2. What is the Kingdom of God?
    3 Digging Deeper
  3. What is the Church?
    5 Digging Deeper
  4. Why Are There So Many Different Christian Religions?
    6 Digging Deeper
  5. How Can I Know the Will of God?
    4 Digging Deeper
  6. How Do I Pray?
    5 Digging Deeper
  7. What is Worship?
    6 Digging Deeper
  8. What is the Significance of the Lord’s Supper?
    5 Digging Deeper
  9. How Do I Become Like Christ?
    6 Digging Deeper
  10. What if there is no New Testament Church Near Me?
    5 Digging Deeper
Lesson 3, Digging Deeper 3
In Progress

The church is made up of many different races, ethnicities, and social classes. Despite these differences, what unites the church?

The church is united by Jesus. Jesus said about his death on the cross, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:31-32). Jesus said of his plan, “I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:15-16). He commanded his apostles, “Make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus desires that his message of saving grace through his death and resurrection be proclaimed to everyone everywhere. He instructed his apostles to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).

The book of Acts describes the spread of the gospel exactly like that. It begins in Jerusalem and ends thirty years later in Rome. The Jewish people heard the message first (2:1-47), then the Samaritans (8:1-34), then an Ethiopian traveler (8:35-39), and then the non-Jews, the Gentiles (10-28).

When the good news of Jesus was first preached to the Jews in Acts 2, Peter forecast the inclusion of all peoples when he said of the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit, “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (2:39). Some years passed before the gospel was preached to the non-Jewish people. God worked through a vision to Peter and the news of an angel’s visit to Cornelius to convince Peter to travel from Joppa to Caesarea to preach the gospel to Cornelius. Peter then understood the meaning of the vision and said to Cornelius and his family, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (10:34-35). Peter spoke about the death and resurrection of Jesus and said, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (10:43). God then poured out the the Holy Spirit in a miraculous manner and they spoke in tongues and praised God. When Peter saw and heard this, he said, “’Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we (the apostles) have?’  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (10:47-48). At their immersion in water, when they became Christians, they received the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

When those in Jerusalem heard what Peter had done, some criticized him for preaching to uncircumcised men and for eating with them. When Peter explained to them all that happened, “They glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life’” (11:1-16).

Soon, some in the Jewish church in Antioch of Syria preached the gospel to Greek-speaking Gentiles. These people believed, turned to the Lord, and obeyed the Gospel. When the Jerusalem church heard of this rapidly-growing international church, they sent Barnabas to “check things out.” When he saw the grace of God at work, he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord (11:19-24). Barnabas needed help with the work so he went to Tarsus of Cilicia and recruited Saul (Paul) to join him. “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (11:26).

From Antioch, God called Paul to make three mission tours among the Gentiles (13-20). He preached in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia that, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, “forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (13:38-39). Paul quoted to them the words of the prophet Isaiah, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (13:47). When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and glorified God. Some among them believed and turned to the Lord (13:48).

Separatists among the Jewish believers (called “the circumcision party”) visited the churches where Paul had made converts among the Gentiles. They insisted that Gentile believers observe Jewish laws and be circumcised, keep the Sabbath, and eat only kosher food. When the Apostle Paul heard about this, he was upset and strongly condemned that teaching as a distorted gospel that brings God’s curse (Galatians 1:8-9). He wrote that sinners are put right with God by faith in Christ and not by works of the law (2:16). He wrote, “If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (2:21). He wrote that God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations through his offspring is a prophesy of all people being saved by faith in Christ (3:7-9, 22). He then summarizes,

. . . in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (3:26-29)

Some years later, Paul wrote to the Romans that the gospel is God’s power unto salvation for all people, both Jews and Gentiles (1:16-17). He wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24).

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, describes heavenly beings worshiping Jesus saying,

. . .you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,  and they shall reign on the earth. (5:9-10)

This worship is by “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9).