Earmarks of An Excellent Local Church

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The Earmarks of an excellent local church

Introduction: This morning we dealt with John 1 and spoke about our identity in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We saw that we ought to understand who we are as a child of God.
I believe that when we spend time in His presence and in His Word, we will be able to confidently answer that question, ‘Who art thou?”
And I pray that each Christian that is a part of this local church would truly understand who they are and why they are here at 1st Calvary Baptist Church.
With that understanding let us move forward speak about this subject tonight, the Earmarks of an Excellent local Church.
Would you turn your Bibles to the book of I Thessalonians 1.
If you would please stand for the reading of God’s Word once again,
1 Thessalonians 1:1–10 KJV 1900
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
What a tremendous commendation we find in the Word of God to this local church.
Let’s Pray
When we read the letter of I and II Thessalonians oftentimes we think about its revelation concerning the Rapture of the church as well as the Day of the Lord.(IThess 4-5, II Thess 1-2)
And this is certainly the glorious truth which is found in both of these Epistles.
Outside of the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Gospel records, I do not believe there is a more pertinent passage that deals with those subjects.
But there is more here in this book than just truth concerning Eschatology… “the things to come.”
In the book of I Thessalonians we are presented with a local church who is commended by Paul the Apostle.
I think this is significant because often we are presented with the problems within the local church but here we have a positive declaration of an excellent church.
And Paul shows us in this Epistle that this local church is a church that is moving forward for the Lord Jesus Christ.
I think we can agree tonight that you folks here at 1st Calvary Baptist Church want to be found faithful in that way.
I can speak for Sharon Baptist Church as well and say honestly, that we want to be found faithful in this way.
Before we get to those points however, we need to rightly understand what we mean by the word ‘church.’
The church is revealed to us in the NT by four different descriptive pictures:
The People of God
Now we are not the nation of Israel. The Bible teaches us both in the book of Revelation and also the book of Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11 that He has not cast off forever His chosen people, the nation of Israel. They are still His chosen people.
Romans 11:25-27 states this, Paul speaking to those that be at Rome concerning the mystery of the current state of Israel, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
But I want you to understand that in this present time, until the rapture of the Church we are referred to as the people of God.
II Corinthians 6:16 “16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Not only are we revealed as the people of God, we are revealed as the body of Christ.
The Body of Christ
I Corinthians 12:12-14 “12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many.”
We are also referred to not as the people of God and the body of Christ, but thirdly as:
The Household of God
Ephesians 2:19-22 “19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
I Peter 2:5 “5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
The Bride of Christ
Ephesians 5:25-30
John the Baptist said this concerning His ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.John 3:29
We further find these beautiful evangelistic words at the end of the book of Revelation 22:16-17 “16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
The Bible uses the word ‘church’ just over 100 times in the New Testament and the majority of those references have to do with what you and I would term a local church. Just like this local church, 1st Calvary Baptist Church.
A church is not a building… its not a brand… but rather a church is a called-out assembly of believers that have joined themselves together for the purpose of accomplishing God’s mission.
The church is not an idea the came about in the heart of man, but rather was instituted by God Himself.
It is of His design.
It is not only of His design, but it is His church.
Matthew 16:18 “18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
I will build my church.
This tells us that it is His Church.
This tells us that it is His to build.
A church is an assembly of believers….
In the New Testament we discover that local churches,
assembled together,
they prayed together,
they laboured together,
they worshipped together,
and they gathered to be taught and hear the preaching of the Word of God.
They took up tithes and offerings together.
And they, as we will see here in a minute, took serious this matter of the great commission.
This what we mean by the word church… we are talking about the local assembly of believers.
Now that we have laid that foundation, I want you to notice just three points tonight as we consider the earmarks of an excellent church.
Paul describes this church at Thessalonica as having a:

I. Work of Faith

“v2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; v3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;”
When Paul thought about this local church during His prayer time… He says you know what I remember about you all… I remember your work of faith...
We oftentimes may consider what we will be remembered for when the Lord calls us home to glory, if you a Christian tonight, but here is a question like unto the first, What will 1st Calvary Baptist church be remembered for?
Paul list three earmarks of an excellent church here when he remembered the church of Thessalonica the first being their work of faith.
I would like for you to consider for a moment, that you and I are here for the purpose of accomplishing God’s will.
God’s has brought together His church to according to His marvelous plan.
Here we find an expression of two words that typically are mentioned as opposing one to another. They are the words of work and faith.
We understand that the Bible declares that you and I are saved by God’s grace through faith.
There is no work I could ever do to erase or pay the sin-debt that I owed.
We understand that “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, this is not what we are referring to, but rather we are referring to our lives after we received Christ. We might say a faith that works.
What does this phrase “work of faith” mean?
This phrase “of faith” means ‘springing out of’ or ‘from faith’
We might think of it better when I use the phrase United States OF America… or more specifically we are the United States which are in North America.
I for whatever reason thought of the essential oil my wife has called “Oil OF oregano” simply meaning it is oil that has been extracted from Oregano.
This church didn’t just work, but they had a work of faith.
We might say it this way, their faith was demonstrated in their work for it was born of faith.
They had a work springing “out of” or we might say had its base in faith.
You say, what is faith then? The Bible tells us, Faith is “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith…” Hebrew 12:2
Many local churches are busy working , but the question is not are we working, but do we have a work of faith.
In other words, is the work that we are attempting as a local church require us to look to the Lord Jesus Christ?
Is what we are attempting for the Lord as a church family “of faith”?
Example: Bathrooms Remodeling
I want everything we do as a church family to be a work of faith…
I don’t want to accomplish my will, I want to work according to His will.
You know what a work of faith will cause you to do?
It will cause you to build an Ark following the instructions of God…
A work of faith will cause you to cross the Jordan on dry ground following after presence of God…
A work of faith will cause you preach the Gospel before Caesar in chains…
And we could go on and on with example after example of believers who had a work of faith in their lives…
The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Many of these examples I just mentioned were individual folks who operated by faith toward God, but you and I as a local assembly respectively here at 1st Calvary and my wife and I at Sharon Baptist have an opportunity collectively to have a work of faith for the glory and honor of our wonderful Savior the Lord Jesus Christ…
The fork in the road is this, are we working in the strength of our own flesh? Or are we working in faith (looking to the Lord Jesus Christ) by God’s enabling power?
Are we as a local church doing what we can do? Or is our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ for His work to be done?
I reminded of a documentary my wife and I just watched recently concerning the missionary J. Hudson Taylor that famed missionary to China… quite a remarkable story! J. Hudson Taylor lived from 1832-1905 It was said of Hudson Taylor by historian Ruth Tucker in his book “No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.”
This documentary featured a great great grandson of Hudson, J. Hudson Taylor IV, who is still at the work of world evangelism in Taiwan…five generations later… Quite Amazing.
J. Hudson Taylor was quoted saying this, “All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on Him being with them.”
My friend He saw the mission to bring the Gospel to all of China as a work that could only be accomplished by faith…
Over and over again during that documentary, Hudson operated on this faith principle…and consequently He saw the reality of missionaries sent all over China.
It really has to do with where are sights our set...
We have the glorious result of this work of faith recorded for us in verse 7, the Word of God says this church “...were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.”
We might think of the word example, they were examples and this would not be a wrong assumption.
This word gives the idea that they were type or pattern to follow after, much like the die of a coin that is struck and reinforces the matter as to why we should pay attention this passage.
Think of this kind of impact made by one local church to such a wide area…they were examples and influenced other local churches forward for the cause of Christ.
I want you to see secondly, that they not only had a work of faith, but they displayed a:

II. Labour of Love

As we continue and think of this second abiding characteristic of the church of Thessalonica, these earmarks of excellent, the Bible says that they demonstrated a labour of love.
I am constrained to mention the first word here in this second clause and dwell on it for it minute because of the plight of slothfulness that we see in our day.
My friends, can I help you this evening to understand that God’s work requires you and I to labour.
We are living in days where people do not know how to work and people have lost their will to work…
Temporal resources are not hindering the work of God through local churches, for God owns the cattle on a thousand years…thats a figurative way for saying His resources are inexhaustible… He owns it all. Our work is hindered because God’s people will not lahour.
I think our prosperity and technology has helped us forget how to work.
Example: Not too long ago we were privileged to spend some time with our friends Tim and Becca Lewis…while we were fellowshipping with them…Alexa turn on living room light… Lewis’ to PNG… walking 20 miles…
The work of God always requires sacrifice.
It requires our time, it requires our attention, it requires our energies and efforts.
The word that is used here in the text translated at “labour” implies weariness and toil.
Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke concerning the great need of laborers in Matthew 9:37-38 where He stated to the disciples, “… The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his
I Corinthians 3:9 tells us “…we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
My friend can I say it this way, it is high time that we take responsibility for the labour that God has called us to.
The wonderful truth is that we are not labouring alone. We are labouring in the strength of the Lord.
Now this work was motivated in the only sustainable lasting way of accomplishing God’s work… it is the highest motivation that is required to labour for the Lord Jesus Christ.
You’ll notice once again in our text, that the Bible says they demonstrated a labour OF LOVE.
Do you see, the ground and pillar of our labour, if we are going to be an excellent local church that labour’s for the Lord rightly it will spring out of godly love.
The Bibles says in II Corinthians 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”
Romans 5:5 tells us that this is possible as a child of God because the “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
AT Robertson in recognizing this godly form of love stated in the relation of these two words states, “the labour that love prompts, gladly assumes the toil…”
When you look at these three earmarks of an excellent church, it might surprise you to see that Paul by inspiration of the Holy Ghost has mentioned the three pinnacle virtues of the Christian life.
They are faith..a work of faith…love…labour of love…and hope…patience of hope.
These virtues my friend can only be exercised in the life of a Christian and rightly can only be exercised by a called out assembly of believers yielded to Him.
1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
Corrie Ten Boom said it rightly this way, “Trying to do the Lord's work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work.”
According to the Bible, now is the time for you and for me to excel in this labour of love because there is coming a day when we will cease from these particular labours… in other words our opportunity is before us now and is ever-diminishing.
In Revelation 14:13 we find these words, Notice whatthe Bible declares concerning these believers, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
That leads us to this last sustaining earmark of an excellent church they possessed:

III. Patience of Hope in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Read with me one more time this verse in I Thessalonians 1:3Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;”
Patience here has its base in hope. What is this hope of which we speak?
It is our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.
One expositor said it this way, “Hope sees beyond all…to the desired haven.”
The patience of hope that we are to exercise if we are going to be found to be an excellent local church, is that we are laying steadfast upon all the promises of our Risen Victorious Almighty Savior.
I believe there is one especially peculiar promise that is mentioned in this passage to which this third pillar speaks.
We have seen the church at Thessalonianica had a work of faith… they were ensamples for all of Macedonia and Achaia…
They demonstrated consistently a labour of love which was manifest in fact that they preached the Gospel all over Macedonia and the Bible says “every place your faith to God-ward is spread-abroad” (v8)
This local assembly was made up of believers who had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;”
But this race that we run is not a sprint… it is a marathon.
It is a race with the long-view in mind.
Of all the difficulties individual believers face and yea I would say the local church faces one of the greatest is this matter of discouragement.
We are discouraged by the sight of things around us.
Discouraged by the wickedness of this world.
Discouraged by the great rejection of our Savior by the masses.
Discouraged perhaps by our slow conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Discouraged by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
And isn’t proof enough that we can quickly and easily name all that discourages us of how prevalent this enemy is that is leveraged by the Wicked One?
These folks according to verse number 6 were a group of believers who had experienced much affliction.
We find this mentioned a second time in the second epistle to the Thessalonians in chapter 2:14 where Paul states, “for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:”
Thunk about all that the evil the Jews had exercised toward Paul the apostle as he was beaten, whipped, stoned, imprisoned and eventually martyred and here he states that this church, who was doing the right things, headed in the right direction, had God’s power and blessing upon the assembly, they were experiencing in like manner suffering for the cause of Christ.
They had plenty of reasons not to have patience concerning the hope of which we are about to read.
How were they to continue in this midst of such things?
But yet they exercised patience of Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have ample proof given to us by the Holy Spirit through the pen of Paul the Apostle of their excellent patience of hope. How did they do it?
I believe the promise mentioned in verse 10 is was what enabled them to exhibit such patience springing forth from their eyes being set on the Savior.
Notice with me what the Bible says and read with me verses 9 and 10, “9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
How much of our labour and work in the local church falls to the ground because we have failed to remember He is coming again?
Charles Spurgeon noted this, ‘‘for hope—that bright-eyed grace which looks within the veil and realizes things not seen yet—it was peculiarly their endowment. This enabled them to bear with patience their suffering for Christ whether it lay in false accusation or in the spoiling of their goods.”
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