Doctrine of Church Censures: 40 Days and the Gospel
July 9, 2023 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith
Topic: Doctrine of Church Censures Scripture: Acts 1:1–14
Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter 30, Art. 1
Quote – Reverend George Gillespie
But as for ceremonies which are proper to God's holy worship, shall we say that the fidelity of Christ, the Son, hath been less than the fidelity of Moses, the servant? (Heb. iii. 2)
Which were to be said, if Christ had not, by as plain, plentiful, and particular directions and ordinances, provided for all the necessities of the Christian church in the matter of religion, as Moses for the Jewish;
or if the least pin, and the meanest appurtenance of the tabernacle, and all the service thereof, behooved to be ordered according to the express commandment of God by the hand of Moses,
how shall we think, that in the rearing, framing, ordering, and beautifying of the church, the house of the living God, he would have less honor and prerogative given than to his own well-beloved Son, by whom he hath spoken to us in these last days, and whom he hath commanded us to hear in all things?
Or that he will accept, at our hands, any sacred ceremony which men have presumed to bring into his holy and pure worship, without the appointment of his own word and will revealed unto us?
As we said last week, if we are going to arrive at an understanding of the proper use and implementation of church censures
- we must first understand the proper government of the church.
We understand and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is the king and head of the church and only He can set the standards of the government of His church.
We asked ourselves: How will the Church be built?
What instructions has the Lord set forth in His Word?
- for the type of doctrine and worship
- for the type of government and policy
We have in this passage before us, a statement by Dr. Luke tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ has spent 40 days and nights
- with his disciples
- with his apostles
- between his resurrection and his ascension.
Have you ever thought about why he did that?
Have you ever thought about what was going on in those 40 days?
- theologically speaking, the work of Christ done
In Romans 1, our Lord Jesus Christ is declared:
4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
Why didn't Jesus just ascend to heaven after his triumph over sin and death?
Larger Catechism #53:
Christ was exalted in his ascension, in that having after his resurrection
- often appeared unto and conversed with his apostles,
- speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God,
- and giving them commission to preach the gospel to all nations,
- forty days after his resurrection,
- he, in our nature, and as our head, triumphing over enemies, visibly went up into the highest heavens,
- there to receive gifts for men,
- to raise up our affections thither,
- and to prepare a place for us, where himself is, and shall continue till his second coming at the end of the world.
What was Christ doing during those 40 days?
I think He was teaching his apostles
- how to order His kingdom.
- how to behave themselves in the Church of God.
- how they should order the expanse of the church
As mentioned last week, we will take a look through the book of Acts to search this out.
Acts is not only a history of the spread of the gospel
- it also records what Jesus taught his disciples
- as how the church would grow
- as how churches would be founded
- as how they would be built up
- as how they would be governed.
But before we walk through the book of Acts, lets look at the Gospel accounts of Christ’s post-resurrection appearance.
A Brief Survey of the Gospels
Here are some highlights of Christ's post resurrection appearances in the gospels
Matthew 28. 9-20 – Commission to Preach & Baptize
verses 9, 10
Christ says, “All Hail” which, literally, means to rejoice
He tells them to rejoice, which would have been a comforting word to them seeing that they were still reeling over his crucifixion.
- then He tells them to go and tell the rest of the disciples to meet him in Galilee.
We see Jesus desires a meeting after his resurrection with his disciples
Then we have the record of this meeting
- and the Commission of Christ to His apostles
Here we have one of those instructive things that Christ did during that 40 Day and night period.
Notice how the Lord starts:
“All authority in heaven and earth is given unto me.”
- The commission that he is about to give them rises up out of his messianic victory.
Jesus says, as your Messiah, I am now vested with all authority, in heaven and earth.
- And here is what I want you to do…
Most folks reading this say the first command that Jesus gives them is to go
- that's not the command.
- the command he gives is to disciple the nations
There is only one imperative in verse 19
- only one command → disciple, ye the nations
You do that with three corollary participles
This must have been a big change for them.
That's why it must be handled with a commission.
They would have expected the kingdom to be in Israel
They would have expected to stay in Israel as the kingdom was being set up.
Jesus says, No, you're going to disciple the nations.
He tells them, in order to their discipleship
- you're going to be baptizing
- in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
- 1 name 3 persons, 1 God, 3 persons
- baptism brings people into visible union with the triune. God.
That's what baptism does.
- It identifies the people of God
- It identifies those who have given up their name to the name of God.
- They are now His outwardly, although invisibly.
Jesus tells them to teach or teaching the nations.
Notice that there is an explanatory phrase here
--- all things whatsoever I have commanded you
- not some things
- not just the important things
- not just the essential things
- But all things whatsoever I have commanded you
Mark 16 – Commission to Preach & Baptize
Notice, some Bibles may not have this passage.
If your Bible doesn't have Mark 16.9-20 then put that Bible on the shelf
- It may have good things in it, but it is also missing some important things, like part of the Word of God
Here are parallel statements to what we've seen in Matthew.
And a parallel witness to Luke's gospel where Jesus spoke to two disciples as they walked into the country, and that is, as we suppose the road to Emmaus.
We see some descriptions of his teaching.
He commands them to preach to all, to every creature
- not just to Jews, but to all men
- he commands baptism
He speaks to the apostolic ministry and the miracles that would accompany those who would go early to preach and build up the kingdom of Christ as His apostles.
This speaks to His ascension into heaven and sitting at the right hand of the Father.
Finally, we have the Lord attending upon His promise
- working with them
- giving those signs that he had spoken of
Which is parallel to the end of Matthew's Gospel
I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Luke 24 – Teaches and Commissions to Preach
This is an extended passage of scripture that recounts the conversation of Christ and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus
Notice the conversation of the two disciples as Christ grew nearer to them, and their sadness, grief, disappointment, its shock, beginning in verse 25
- Christ upbraids them for their unbelief and slowness of heart
- Christ teaches of himself in the scriptures
- He reveals Himself, although not His presence, from the Scriptures.
Those scriptures are called “Moses and the Prophets”
There is another appearance that night where Jesus affirms that it is He Himself
- he eats with them
- he teaches them of himself, this time from the Psalms, the Law, and the Prophets
- from basically every section of the Bible
Jesus opens their understanding from the Old Testament that they might understand the Scriptures.
He gives a commission to his apostles to preach to all nations beginning at Jerusalem
John 20-21 – Eldership & Commission to Preach
The most extended witness to the post resurrection appearances of Christ.
He meets with disciples on the first day of the week
He spoke to them about their commission to preach.
- also, about the Spirit of God to come upon them
- gives them the authority to bind and to lose
- speaking to them about the eldership
- and what the eldership will do.
He's already spoken about this before in Matthew 16 and 18, during the days before he was crucified
Exactly one week later, it says eight days, remember that the Hebrews used inclusive numbering.
- So exactly one week later, still on the Christian Sabbath, the first day of the week
- Christ again, meets with them and speaks about the preaching of the gospel
- that some will believe even without seeing
The commission to preach continues
- at least by way of implication.
Christ appears to the 11 at the Sea of Galilee
Notice Jesus tells Peter that he is going to be an under-Shepherd
- Feed my lambs Feed My Sheep over and again
In other words, he is commissioning him not only to be a preacher but a leader in the church.
- And not just him
- because we remember Peter’s own comments on that in 1 Peter 5.1-4
- I am a fellow elder with others, and he gives instruction to elders
- to lead the people of God
- to feed the people of God
- to shepherd the people of God
- I am a fellow elder with others, and he gives instruction to elders
Post-Resurrection Appearances Review
We have seen several things in Jesus's post resurrection appearances
In his post resurrection appearances, we saw several things, many of them had to do with how the church is to be organized, going forward.
- There is going to be a system of government
- There are going to be shepherds
- There are going to be teachers and preachers
- not everyone is competent to baptize.
The Great Commission has not spoken to everybody.
- It is spoken to those who are trained & ordained
- It is given to preach the gospel to every creature.
- We have made that distinction before
This distinction applies to everyone, no matter their place in the station
- remember the Gadarene demoniac
- I want to go with you, I want to become one of your apostles. like these guys.
- Jesus said, No, you go back, and you proclaim the great things that God has done for you.
- You speak by way of personal testimony,
- You do not speak by way of apostolic or ambassadorial office
- the two things are different.
Luke tells us again, that He showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs being seen of them 40 days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God
It seems to me that the 40 days was not to prove that he was resurrected from the dead.
- The infallible proofs would have been invaluable the first time, right?
- they didn't need the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth time.
I don't know precisely how many times Jesus appeared to His disciples during those 40 days.
- Our Catechism says it was often
- We saw at least a few different instances today
- the road to Emmaus
- the upper room
- the week after that.
- the appearances at the tomb
- the appearance in Galilee
Luke tells us it was 40 days.
But why the 40 days?
- We've seen the preaching of the Gospel
- We’ve seen the authority to bind and loose the government of the church
- We have seen at least some instruction, forgiveness, restoration, and commissioning
- Jesus did that with Peter, we saw what it meant to be forgiven and restored.
- We have seen the sacrament of baptism
- the admission to the sacrament
- the barring from the sacrament
- the binding and loosing
Although the Lord's Supper was held the night that Jesus was arrested:
- still, He said, This is something that you're going to do perpetually as oft as you eat this bread and drink this cup.
These things were established for the people of God.
Now consider this:
- if there is, indeed, a supper
- if there are things such as baptism, and the Lord's Supper
If there are going to be signs and seals:
- then there must be those to administer them
- then there must be all the implications of that
- with regard to church discipline
- opening the doors and shutting the doors
- being that good steward that opens and shuts the larder of the home of the house.
Why the 40 Days?
Would we think that our Lord Jesus Christ, would meet with his servants in the Old Testament and give to them detailed instructions about:
- doctrine and a worship
- government and a policy
And then when we come to the New Testament:
- it's left to the people of God to figure it out on their own.
That seems to me to be a rather silly argument.
That seems to me to be extremely unlike the Christ that we know who a son over His own house.
What was Jesus speaking to His disciples about during those 40 days?
- We're not left to guess.
- Luke tells us that he spoke to them about the things pertaining to the kingdom of God
What is the kingdom of God?
- It is the house and family of the Lord Jesus Christ
- Is that not what the Scriptures bear out?
When we meet whose church is it?
He is the son over all of the house
- in all of its manifestations
- in all of his ages and all places in the world
He is the son over that house.
- He is the builder of it.
- He is the maker of it.
- He is the sustainer of it.
- He is indeed the very chief cornerstone.
- He is the head of the church.
Just like he was the head over Moses and That church
Just like he was to head over David, and that church
He is also head over this Church on the earth.
Shall we think, then, that when we come to the New Testament
- that we have no direction from our head, as to how the churches are to be built or maintained?
No, I think we can reasonably conclude that Christ was giving His apostles instructions on building and shepherding His church during those 40 days.
Listen to Thomas Witherow.
Though every statement in the Scripture cannot be regarded as absolutely essential to salvation, yet everything there is essential to some other wise and important end, else it would not find a place in the good Word of God.
Human wisdom may be baffled in attempting to specify the design of every truth that forms a component part of Divine revelation, but eternity will show us that no portion of it is useless, All Scripture is profitable.
A fact written therein may not be essential to human salvation, and yet it may be highly conducive to some other great and gracious purpose in the economy of God—it may be necessary for our personal comfort, for our guidance in life, or for our growth in holiness, and most certainly it is essential to the completeness of the system of Divine truth.
The law of the Lord is perfect. Strike out of the Bible the truth that seems the most insignificant of all, and the law of the Lord would not be perfect any more.
Put it like that. It's a little more difficult to turn away from such things, isn't it?
It becomes a little more difficult to ignore what Christ was teaching His apostles for those 40 days.
We cannot just simply wave our hands and say “Well, I like this way better….”
We can take great comfort from this:
- Our Lord Jesus Christ has had a great care over his house.
- He has had a great care over his house in every age, we can see it.
It's only today that we think of Jesus, or in ages of the church, similar to ours:
- that we think of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absentee owner.
Rather, we should think of him:
- as that wonderful, engaged son over the house that has given to His church, everything that she needs.
What did the apostle say in 2 Timothy 3.16?
How many good works is the man of God furnished unto through his study of the Word of God?
- Every good work
- Not just part or some
The Bible does not present several options in church government
- That we can just choose one that seems most expedient to us
No, our Lord Jesus Christ has set a wise government over his house, because He loves us.
We ought not to think of the government of the church as an indifferent thing.
- Some churches are independent
- Others are congregational
- Some are ruled by bishops or are prelatic churches
Is the type of government truly indifferent?
- Not if Jesus Christ has spoken, it's not.
We ought not to think of church government as indifferent.
- Because if the Lord has given the government of the church to his people, and I believe he has:
- Then it is for the advancement of His kingdom
This should induce us to a greater care and concern for church government
- of our own church government
- of our own elders in session
- of our own presbyteries
- of our own general assembly
- and of other like-minded churches throughout the world.
If the right government of the church means the health of the church
- then brothers and sisters, we have a lot to answer for in that we have not been on our knees, weeping for our churches
- weeping in that there are some churches in this world that have allowed sin in their midst
- and will not discipline it
- and will not purge the Church of it
This ought to drive us to our knees.
- we ought to pray for those churches
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