"When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
So far in our series on “The Church,” we have covered:
- The Architect - Jesus is the architect and builder of the Church
- The Mission - Making disciples is the mission of the Church
- The Temple - We are living stones being built into the Temple of the Lord
Each one of these concepts causes me great excitement! We have been invited to participate in all aspects of the building and mission of the Church! You have been invited to participate in all aspects of the building and mission of the Church! We are a part of what Almighty God, the Creator of the universe is doing.
Today, I want to complete this series on the Church by looking at “The Provision.” This is possibly the most exciting part of what we are considering. We are talking about the riches of heaven poured out on us. We are rich, rich, rich!
If you feel like a pauper, perhaps you have not understood your position in Christ. Admittedly, I am not speaking of riches in terms that the world considers riches. Some of us are paupers in worldly terms. I am encouraged by the way the Apostle Paul spoke about how the servants of Christ are treated in this world. Listen to what he says:
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:8-10 ESV)
Consider Jesus who owned only His clothing as far as worldly goods were concerned, but He possessed everything. We, as His disciples, have been given the same kind of riches. According to Ephesians 1:3, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 1:3 ESV)
In considering God’s provision for us as the Church, we will consider just a few of the tremendous blessings with which He has blessed us.
First, we enjoy the provision of His presence.
In Matthew 28:18-20, when He gave us our mission, Jesus ended with this statement:
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20 ESV)
If we take Jesus at His word, (and I think we should) then this would mean that Jesus is with us at all times, on all occasions and in all places.
Do you remember the account in the gospels where Jesus was asleep in the boat and a storm came up? It is found in Mark 4:35-41.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:35-41 ESV)
If Jesus is with us, what do we have to fear?
Three promises of Scripture come with the promise of His presence.
- He is seated at the right hand of the Father. “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19 ESV)
- He makes intercession for us. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV)
- He advocates for us. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1 ESV)
The blessing and promise of Jesus’ presence is a great provision and true riches. And, it gets even better.
The second blessing with which God has blessed us is the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus worked to prepare His disciples for His departure, He told them it was better for them if He went away. Think about this. What could be better than the physical presence of Jesus Christ? Listen to what Jesus said.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7 ESV)
The presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is an amazing provision. Here in this passage, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Helper.”
In explaining how the Holy Spirit would help us, Jesus said:
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. (John 16:12 ESV)
This is so important and incredible. The disciples could not bear or handle the things that Jesus wanted to teach them. This issue is explained in 1 Corinthians when it says:
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)
Without the Holy Spirit, we would not be able to accept the things of God. However, with the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, which is exactly what 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us. Jesus says:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 ESV)
In addition to providing help, the Holy Spirit is our strength.
In the Old Testament, the Lord said:
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6 ESV)
Strength defines life and vitality. If something is strong, it survives. If something is weak, it dies. Our spiritual life begins with the Holy Spirit. When the scholar, Nicodemus, came to Jesus, the first thing Jesus told him was “You must be born again.” (John 3:3) As smart as Nicodemus was, he could not make any sense of this. Then Jesus explained:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6 ESV)
Being born again is a work of the Holy Spirit. For every person who asks Jesus to be their Savior, a miracle of being made spiritually alive takes place, and nothing can take this life away. This is the epitome of strength. According to Romans 8:38-39, nothing in heaven above or earth below can ever separate us from this new life we have in Christ Jesus.
Our helper and strength also provides the Church with gifts.
By gifts I mean abilities that are useful for the strengthening and building up of each other. 1 Corinthians 12 explains gifts as follows:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV)
With the promise of His presence and the sending of His Spirit, God has provided abundantly for us, His Church. However, He did not stop with these provisions. Consider with me the provision of the Christian's armor.
The third blessing with which God has blessed us is His armor.
This armor is listed for us in Ephesians 6:10-18.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV)
Armor is both valuable and necessary. Here we have a list of armor that a Christian cannot live without and while we get it for free, it cannot be purchased at any price.
A brief summary of the armor is as follows:
- the belt of truth. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. By abiding in Him we come to know the truth, and it is the truth that holds all the other armor in place.
- the breastplate of righteousness. Jesus is our righteousness and because we are made right with God, through Him our hearts are protected from the accusations and attacks of the evil one.
- shoes of the gospel of peace. The Gospel is the foundation upon which we stand and provides a solid place to stand for our feet.
- the shield of faith. Our complete trust in God is able to extinguish all doubts and temptations.
- the helmet of salvation. The knowledge of salvation is what protects our minds.
- the sword of the Spirit. The Word of God is our only offensive weapon. It is through God’s provision of His word that we enjoy victory.
This armor is priceless and along with all these tremendous blessings we have been provided with direct access to the Father through prayer. Along with the armor we are commanded to pray. Jesus told us to pray. He told us to ask for anything in His name.
We are provided for in the richest possible manner.
We have Jesus with us.
We have the Holy Spirit.
We have the Armor of God.
And finally, we have prayer.
We do not lack any good thing. Let us walk with confidence in the provision that God has made for us, His Church.