Sunday School Notes: Church 3

CHURCH: The Assembly of Christ

“Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?”

– Song of Solomon 6:10

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”

Revelation 12:1

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth” – Genesis 1:14-15a

–        We begin where we left off. The Church as the light of the world functioning dependently on Christ (the light of the world) serves to mark off signs and seasons.

         o   Seasons being that aspect of the gathered people of God that provides the time element. The people of God       follow a certain rhythm of weekly Sabbaths and annual thrice annual feasts that serve as a light in a dark world.

         o   Signs: this calendar is intimately connected with the tabernacle where the sacrifices were made in the tent fashioned according to the pattern shown Moses on the Mount. The symbology and signification of these events are thick.

         o   The primordial light is refracted through both the timing (season) and the imagery (signs) associated with the cultic practices of God’s people assembled. Thereby the original light is diffused into all creation giving it the “light of life.” The church in as much as it participates in Christ offers him to the world and the world through the church thus obtains Christ as he is offered through her ministry. But the life and light are not natural to the Church as the Church but only as she is united to her head.

 

Old Testament Assemblies (moon and stars; the lesser light to rule the night)

  1. Seasons: Leviticus 23 – “God calls his people to assemble”
    1. Sabbath (verse 3)
    2. Feasts (verses 4-44); Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.
      1. Passover (1st month)
      2. Firstfruits/Pentecost (The beginning of the harvest)
      3. Trumpets/Atonement/Booths (7th month)
  1. Signs: principally and universally sacrifices are offered (see v. 37-38)
    1. First month, Seventh day and rest
    2. Unleavened bread, slain lamb, seven days, remembering the Exodus
    3. Watching, waiting, first-ripe-grain stalk, the day-after-the-Sabbath
    4. Seventh month, first day, Trumpet blast, rest; tenth day, humility, rest (with severe punishment if disregarded); fifteenth day, booths, celebration, in-gathering, eighth day
  2. Notice also what follows in 24:1-4… there is a command to keep “a light burning regularly…
  3. These are all holy convocations (i.e. a large formal assembly of people, מִקְרָא־קֹדֶשׁ or κλητὰς ἁγίας) of young and old, male and female, all together (Deut. 31:12; Ezra 10:1).
    1. It is founded upon God’s call:
      1. To an individual;[1] as Abraham was called to come out from his land and people to a land of which he did not know (where we read of his worship/calling in the name of the LORD, Gen. 12:4-8).
      2. To a community of individuals; as it is further developed in the deliverance of Israel from the land of Egypt, calling them out into the wilderness to serve/worship him (Ex. 7:16).
        1. Passing through the Red Sea in the midst of the waters (Ex. 14:22, 29, Neh. 9:11) recalling the language of the very place where the moon and stars are set (Gen. 1:14 see also Rev. 12:12).
        2. This is realized at the foot of Mount Sinai (see Deut. 4:10-11) where they are gathered and constituted a people (Deut. 4:20). All this calling and gathering takes place for particular a reason:
    2. For worship: see Exod. 5:1-3; Joshua 8:35, 1 Kings 8: 14, 22, 55
    3. Establishing or reestablishing covenant: Included the rehearsal of the law (or even its giving as at Sinai), see Ezra 8:8; Ps. 40:8-10. There is thus a remembrance of the mighty acts of God and a rest in his power. The Scripture parallels the moment at Sinai with these other moments and thus God’s voice from the mountain with Ezra’s from the pulpit. 
    4. In some way connected to the Tent of Meeting (meeting being the same Hebrew word translated seasons), whose blueprint and the building bookend the giving of the law. Thereafter worship and tent are intimately connected; 2 Chr. 1:3-5. 
    5. It has a ring of eschatology and final judgment (see Joel 2:16; 3:1-2, 14-17). The gathering serves to accomplish a sifting in the saving. Will those who are gathered make proper use of the thing? Will they understand it for what it is?
      1. See Numbers 16:3 – two congregations
      2. See also Psalm 26:5; Lam. 1:10; Acts 19:32, 39-40

Summary: The times and seasons, Sabbaths and feasts of Israel bring together a whole host of images, or signs that shine as a light in the dark pagan world. Seven day weeks, the tent and the sacrifices, the feasts with their remembrance of Egypt and God’s faithfulness (lambs, unleavened bread, blood – in a word, Exodus), the hope of fulfillment, atonement, and a permanent home (trumpets, judgment, forgiveness, booths, feasting and celebration, etc.). All these properly discerned offer salvation to the one who believes but render only judgment to him who partakes without faith. Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap (Ps. 69:22, Rom. 11:9-10)

WCF 7.5: “…Under the law [the covenant of grace] was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come…”

Jesus Christ, Son of God  

…For behold the day is comingthe Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings, Mal. 4:1-2

–        He is Himself the time, the season and the call.

–        He is divisive (Matt. 10:33), like the light; but also serves to unify. His salvation is also judgment (John 3:19-21; 9:39). He is the Day (See Psalm 118:21-27), the Tent of Meeting (John 1:14), our Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:2-3a) and the object of our worship (Rev. 5:12-15) on a better and more permanent mountain (Heb. 12:2-24).

–        “The Passover was fulfilled when Christ became the Passover Lamb; Pentecost was fulfilled when the Spirit came upon the disciples in the upper room for at Pentecost the firstfruits of the harvest were gathered in. But the last great feast is the harvest-home feast, the feast of Tabernacles. That feast has already begun in heaven…”[2]

New Testament Assemblies (sun; the greater light to rule the day) – The night is nearly over; the day has drawn near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12).

  1. Seasons
    1. The Lord’s Day (the first or eighth) – the simplicity of the one day is powerful and telling.
    2. Gathering together
    3. Others?
  2. Signs: Sacraments
    1. Baptism: a people passing through the midst of judgement unto life.
    2. The Lord’s Supper
      1. The assembly is always Eucharistic and thus looks backwards and forwards in time (to Him “who is, who was, and who is to come…”). At one table we remember our Passover Lamb, experience again the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and take part in a fore taste of the coming feast.
  3. Church, ἐκκλησίᾳ – where two or more are gathered
    1. The gathering of these people is associated (as Israel) with a particular day, 1 Thess. 5:4-9 (note as well the military language).
      1. Gathered by the word (individually and communally), “Follow Me” – Matthew 4:19; 16:24; 19:28 (see also Mk. 2:14; John 1:43; 8:12, with reference to light again). His very presence is this call, this voice, this word spoken by God the Father
      2. Foreshadowed in (and the fulfillment of) the gathering at Sinai, called “the day of the assembly (or in the Greek, the day of the church)” in Deut. 4:10, 9:10, 10:4, and 18:16.
    2. Associated with Judgment as in the OT (see 4.c above)
      1. There is a mixed multitude, some of whom are not true members (wheat and tares, the man without his wedding garment). The assembly has as its purpose primarily worship centered on the word and the sacrament. Secondarily there is judgment and sifting
      2. The word spoken to Peter (Matt. 16:13-20) is here significant to tie all things together into a unity.[3] The true mark of the church is proper discernment of visible things by invisible things – we walk by faith not by sight.
        1. Discerning the body – the Light of the world.
        2. In order to better discern the body – the light of the world.
        3. Rev. 7:9-17, a promise of deliverance from the “scorching sun (see Ps. 121:5-8).”

 

WCF 7.6: “Under the Gospel… this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.”

[1] “In its primary and most important aspect, indeed, the revelation of God contained in the Bible is a revelation to me individually. Its discoveries of sin and announcements of judgement, its intimations of grace and its `proclamations of a Savior, its offerings of an atoning blood to expiate, and regenerating Spirit to purge transgression – these are addressed to me individually; and if I deal with them at all, I must deal with them as if there were no other in the world except myself and God.” James Bannerman, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 2.

[2] Clowney, Living, 12.

[3] “In proceeding to investigate… the Christian society, we shall find it necessary to view the Church mainly, if not exclusively, in its character as a visible society.” Bannerman, The Church, 19. Bannerman here speaks of a necessity that is ours in as much as we live in this present age – the spiritual things are presented to us by means of things created or, if you will, sacramentally. Thus we can only the experience the invisible truth of the church by means of the visible mixture of a thing we find here and now.