Today will be the second post in the Discovering the Early Church category. We began our study of the early church with a look at the citizenship in God’s Kingdom that is offered to every Christian.
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. (Philippians 3:20 NLT).
Paul tells us that we “are citizens of heaven” in his letter to the Philippian church. A Christian’s citizenship is in heaven where man made distinctions based on race or nationality do not exist. We are all children of God now and our citizenship has been transferred to His Kingdom now. This is not something that happens when we die and go to heaven!
We are called to make the invisible realities of God visible through the way that we live and love our fellow citizens of God’s Kingdom in this world. If we are missing love then we will be missing our witness!
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
It is a rarity to find people who are able to come together and be one in Christ. This is possible because we have been recreated into the image of God and filled with His love when we made Jesus the Lord of our lives.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:1-7)
Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again”. This will not happen by memorizing a church creed or by joining the right church. We are “born again” by confessing that we are a sinner and asking Jesus to come into our hearts. This does not require a complicated prayer. Something as simple as “Jesus, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and invite you into my heart” is all that is needed. Religion will make this much more difficult but Jesus is more interested in our heart than anything else.
When we invite Jesus into our heart He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell with us. As we spend time reading the Bible we will become familiar with His voice and will in turn start to develop an awareness of His presence. He will fill us with the love of God and we will begin to view people from God’s perspective instead of our own and that is why we will be able to dwell together in unity.
No one will ever come to the fulfillment of their divine purpose until they have been born again. There will be a dimension missing from our lives until we invite Jesus to be our Lord. Those of us who have received the free gift of salvation understand that we were lost in sin but have been found and restored to fellowship with God.
Jesus introduced the concept of heavenly citizenship by using the word Ekklesia which represents a gathering of citizens. In context He was saying that citizens of His kingdom would be gathered together for the common goal of worshiping God.
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. (John 18:36)
Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom would not be of this world. It is a kingdom that revolves around Jesus instead of a geographical location.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Peter and John told the people that salvation comes only through the Name of Jesus. People will sometimes wrestle with the exclusivity of the body of Christ. Salvation is a gift extended to every person but the benefits of citizen are offered only to those who have made Jesus their Lord and become citizens of His kingdom.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
I have heard ministers hesitate when asked if good people who practiced a religion other than Christianity would be excluded from heaven when they died. Jesus did not hesitate. Eternal life is only offered to those who believe in Him. The only other alternative is an eternity in hell. God will give every person a choice but there will come a time when our choices are sealed. Our eternal fate will be sealed when we die and our spirits leave our bodies. At that point there will be no opportunity to change our minds. I believe God is looking for ways to get people into His kingdom but the truth is that there will be a lot of ‘good’ people who will leave this earth without accepting Him and they will spend an eternity separated from the presence of God.
There are some who teach that salvation flows only through the church in Rome but there is no biblical foundation for this. The church is not built on Peter and there is no record in church history of any bishop claiming authority over the entire Church until at least the third century. We cannot even prove that Peter ever visited Rome or even that he died there. It was not until 325 A.D. when a bishop by the name of Stephen issued a decree that he was the bishop of bishops. We may explore this history even further in future posts but for now I am including it to show how Satan has worked through history to dilute the salvation message.
Our foundation is in Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus that we must be born again. This message seems to have been distorted and misrepresented but to understand the Church we must first understand that our citizenship is in heaven and that it is granted when we are born again and make Jesus the Lord of our lives.
We are at the end of this post but will pick up in the next with an examination of Jesus’ statement to Peter that he was a rock and that it would be upon that rock that the Church would be built. There is a lot of controversial teaching surrounding Jesus’ statement and we will spend time examining it to determine exactly what was meant.
Thank you for stopping by today. If these posts have been a blessing please consider sharing our blog with friends and family. We pray for each of our readers on a daily basis. God bless!
We recommend Dr. Kenneth E. Hagin’s book “Right & Wrong Thinking” (https://amzn.to/2LiFvxc) as a supplemental resource for this blog series. You do not need to purchase this book in order to “credit” our account. Any purchases that you search or make from anywhere on Amazon, after first clicking on the included link, will credit this blog and support our ministry. We are truly grateful for each of our readers and appreciative of those who will help us. There is no cost to you for using our links and they provide an easy way for you to support us!