In 2019 the Christian Church in the Western world will
celebrate Palm Sunday on April 14 and Resurrection Sunday a week later on April
21. “Easter” as it is commonly known (I
confess to disliking the term, and prefer "Resurrection Sunday"), is
an annually moveable holy day. March 21
is the earliest date, while April 25 is the very latest for the celebration.
The rules for determining the actual day each year are
complex and hardly known to Christians anywhere. So complex in fact, that most pastors quickly
forget the formula shortly after studying it in Bible College,
Seminary or Divinity
School. The following brief explanation will make the
“The rule has since the Middle Ages been phrased as “Easter,”
and observed on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the
vernal equinox. However, this does not reflect the actual ecclesiastical rules
precisely. One reason for this is that the full moon involved (called the
Paschal full moon) is not an astronomical full moon, but an ecclesiastical full
moon. Another difference is that the astronomical vernal equinox is a natural
astronomical phenomenon, while the ecclesiastical vernal equinox is fixed at
March 21. Easter is determined from
tables which determine Easter based on the ecclesiastical rules, which
approximate the astronomical full moon.”
“In applying the ecclesiastical rules, the various Christian Churches use 21 March as their starting
point from which they find the next full moon, etc. However, because Eastern
Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches use the Julian Calendar as their
starting point, while Western Christianity uses the Gregorian Calendar, the end
point, the date for Easter, may diverge.”*
No matter the actual date, for Christians everywhere the
annual commemoration of the passion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ
is the most holy of all Christian celebrations.
The celebration of the pre-resurrection Lenten season, and the
post-resurrection ministry of Jesus the Messiah, helps us to focus our attention
on this great validating epoch of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These all point toward the present and future blessings that
His resurrection makes possible for the redeemed of all the ages. "He has risen, just as He said"
*See this above cited source for more detailed information. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter).
NOW, IT MUST BE ASKED, WHAT IS THE TRUE CHURCH?
The following is edited and adapted from THE TRUE CHURCH,by Bishop J.C. Ryle, (circa 1877)
1. The one true Church IS COMPOSED OF ALL BELIEVERS IN THE LORD JESUS — of all converted men and women — of all true Christians. In whomsoever we can discern the forgiveness of God the Father, the sprinkling of the blood of God the Son, and the sanctifying work of God the Spirit - in that person we see a member of Christ's True Church.
2. It is a Church OF WHICH ALL THE MEMBERS HAVE THE SAME MARKS. They are all born again of the Spirit; they all possess repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ. They worship differently, and after various fashions; some worship with a form of prayer, and some with none; some worship kneeling, and some standing; but they all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit; they all build upon one foundation; they all draw their religion from one single book — that is the Bible. They are all joined to one great center — that is Jesus Christ.
3. It is a Church WHICH IS DEPENDENT UPON NO MINISTERS UPON EARTH, however much it values those who preach the gospel to its members. The life of its members does not hang upon Church membership, or baptism, or the Lord's Supper — although they highly value these things when they are to be had. But, it has only one Great Head — one Shepherd, one chief Bishop — and that is Jesus Christ. He alone, by His Spirit, admits the members of this Church, though ministers may show the door. Till He opens the door no man on earth can open it — neither bishops, nor presbyters, nor convocations, nor synods. Once let a man repent and believe the gospel, and that moment he becomes a member of this Church. It is a Church whose existence does not depend on forms, ceremonies, cathedrals, buildings, chapels, pulpits, fonts, vestments, organs, endowments, money, kings, governments, magistrates or any act of favor whatsoever from the hand of man. It has often lived on and continued when all these things have been taken from it. It has often been driven into the wilderness, or into dens and caves of the earth, by those who ought to have been its friends. Its existence depends on nothing but the presence of Christ and His Spirit; and they being ever with it, the Church cannot die.
4. This is the Church TO WHICH THE SCRIPTURAL TITLES OF PRESENT HONOR AND PRIVILEGE, AND THE PROMISES OF FUTURE GLORY ESPECIALLY BELONG; this is the Body of Christ; this is the flock of Christ; this is the household of faith and the family of God; this is God's building, God's foundation, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is the Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven; this is the royal priesthood, the chosen generation, the peculiar people, the purchased possession, the habitation of God, the light of the world, the salt of the earth; this is that Church to which the Lord Jesus promises "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," and to which He says, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
5. This is the only Church WHICH POSSESSES TRUE UNITY. Its members are entirely agreed on all the weightier matters of our faith, for they are all taught by one Spirit. About God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and sin, and their own hearts, and faith, and repentance, and necessity of holiness, and the value of the Bible, and the importance of prayer, and the resurrection, and judgment to come — about all these points they are of one mind. Take three or four of them, strangers to one another, from the remotest corners of the earth; examine them separately on these points: you will find them all of one judgment.
6. This is the only Church WHICH IS TRULY CATHOLIC. It is not the Church of any one nation or people; its members are to be found in every part of the world where the gospel is received and believed. It is not confined within the limits of any one country, or pent up within the pale of any particular form of outward government. In it there is no difference between Jew and Greek, black man and white, Episcopalian and Lutheran – Baptist and Methodist – Pentecostal and Presbyterian, but faith in Christ is all. Its members will be gathered from north, and south, and east, and west, and will be of every tribe and tongue — but all one in Jesus Christ.
7. This is the only Church WHICH IS CERTAIN TO ENDURE UNTO THE END. Nothing can altogether overthrow and destroy it. Its members may be persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, beaten, beheaded, burned; but the true Church is never altogether extinguished; it rises again from its afflictions; it lives on through fire and water. When crushed in one land it springs up in another. The Pharaohs, the Herods, the Neros, the Bloody Marys, have labored in vain to put down this Church; they slay their thousands, and then pass away and go to their own place. The true Church outlives them all.
8. This is the Church WHICH DOES THE WORK OF CHRIST UPON EARTH. Its members are a little flock, and few in numbers, compared with the children of the world; one or two here, and two or three there — a few in this place and few in that. But, these are they who shake the universe; these are they who change the fortunes of kingdoms by their prayers; these are they who are the active workers for spreading the knowledge of pure religion and undefiled; these are the life-blood of a country, the shield, the defense, the stay, and the support of any nation to which they belong.
9. This is the Church WHICH SHALL BE TRULY GLORIOUS AT THE END. When all earthly glory is passed away then shall this Church be presented without spot or blemish before God the Father. Thrones, principalities, and powers upon earth shall come to nothing; dignities, and offices, and endowments shall all pass away; but the Church of the first-born shall shine as the stars at the last, and be presented with joy before the Father's throne, in the day of Christ's appearing. When the Lord's jewels are made up, and the manifestation of the sons of God takes place, Episcopacy, and Presbyterianism, Catholicism, and Congregationalism will not be mentioned; one Church only will be named, and that is the Church of the [FIRST BORN WHOSE NAMES ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE!].
IF WE DO BELONG TO HIS CHURCH, WHY DO WE BELONG?
The answer is (and is only that):
We belong because we were washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb. Only the blood-washed belong.
We belong because we were called according to His purpose.
We belong because we are a debtor to the love of God.
We belong because we know there are others who do not, and we wish to win them.
We belong because we want to walk with Jesus Christ, and because having so far walked with Him, we will follow no other! FOR HE IS THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH TO WHICH WE BELONG!
THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION
Samuel J. Stone - 1866
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord, She is His new creation By water and the Word. From heaven He came and sought her To be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her And for her life He died.She is from every nation,Yet one o’er all the earth; Her charter of salvation, One Lord, one faith, one birth; One holy Name she blesses,Partakes one holy food, And to one hope she presses, With every grace endued.The Church shall never perish! Her dear Lord to defend,To guide, sustain, and cherish, Is with her to the end: Though there be those who hate her, And false sons in her pale, Against both foe or traitor She ever shall prevail.Though with a scornful wonder Men see her sore oppressed, By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed: Yet saints their watch are keeping, Their cry goes up, “How long?” And soon the night of weeping Shall be the morn of song!’Mid toil and tribulation, And tumult of her war, She waits the consummation Of peace forevermore; Till, with the vision glorious, Her longing eyes are blest, And the great Church victorious Shall be the Church at rest.Yet she on earth hath union With God the Three in One, And mystic sweet communion With those whose rest is won, With all her sons and daughters Who, by the Master’s hand Led through the deathly waters, Repose in Eden land.O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we Like them, the meek and lowly, On high may dwell with Thee: There, past the border mountains, Where in sweet vales the Bride With Thee by living fountains Forever shall abide!
“I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18b KJV).
THAT IS THE TRUE CHURCH – HIS CHURCH!
Dennis D. Frey, Th.D., President
Master's International University of Divinity
“I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18b KJV.
Build – to build a house, to erect a building – thus a metaphor to found or establish, to promote growth.
Church - a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly – the publicly called out ones!
Gates – a gate of the larger sort such as to a city or temple or prison – thus a metaphor for access or entrance into any state
Hell - Hades, the Greek god of the lower regions – used of the lower regions of wicked dead
Prevail - to be strong to another's detriment, to prevail against, to be superior in strength.
Paraphrase: My church consists of those whom I have called out to represent Me publically. I will add to their number, and satanically energized world views will be powerless to stop it from happening.
2.1 billion persons claim Christianity as their religion - roughly 1/3 of the population of the world!
We are the public expression of the called out ones – His Church – the only True Church. Our reason for being is to bring glory to God by promoting the work of Christ. We do this by acts of holy devotion, and lives devoted to holiness! The True Church - the called out ones - is the only organization that offers the promise of real hope to an otherwise hopeless world.
Clubs do not, fraternal organizations do not, philanthropic organizations do not, unions do not, religious societies do not, educational institutions do not, and most assuredly, governments do not.
Yes, these may offer help in various ways, and in and of themselves may promote some good, but they do not, and they cannot offer real hope. Only the True Church of Jesus Christ offers real hope!
Real hope is what our world cries out for, and opportunity for the Church to deliver that hope abounds as never before! Today there are more children conceived and born out of wedlock than ever before, and their only real hope is to be brought into the family of His Church.
Today there are more single women raising children than ever before, and their only real hope is to be brought into the shelter of His Church.
Today there are more young people in crisis than ever before, and their only real hope is to be brought into the protective circle of His Church.
Today there are more men without hope of a promising future than ever before, and their only real hope is to be brought into the promise-filled brotherhood of His Church.
For all, the only true source of hope is to be brought into His Divinely instituted, Divinely commissioned, and Divinely energized, Hades-gate overcoming community which is the world’s only hope – His Church – the True Church!
Now, it must be asked, What is the True Church? That will be the subject of the next teaching.
Dennis D. Frey, Th.D., President
Master's International University of Divinity