The Church – God’s Vision of the Gospel

The Church: God’s Vision of the Gospel.

Isaiah 52:13 – 54:17.


When the word ‘gospel’ is mentioned or the phrase ‘preaching the gospel’ what is it that immediately springs to mind? If you are like me I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is Jesus’ death and resurrection to save me from my sins. I tend to think, first, of the cross and my salvation.

Now, of course, that is true and right. Jesus did die to save me.

We need to understand the reasons why Jesus had to die – to satisfy the justice of God – that he is a sacrifice – that is was necessary for there to be a penalty paid for sin – that because I am a sinner I am unable to pay for my own sin and I need a redeemer – and on and on we could go talking about the reasons for Christ’s death and the implications for people.

It is important, of course, that we understand all these things about the death and resurrection of Christ.

However the good news – ‘gospel’ – about God’s rescue plan in Jesus Christ is far bigger than MY salvation and MY relationship with God.

Last time we saw something of God’s cosmic purpose – to unite everything under Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)

We saw that God has a plan – a plan that encompasses the whole universe – and that central to that plan is God’s rescue of sinful people in order to bring them into a loving relationship with himself.

We looked mainly at what Paul had to say in his letter to the Church in Ephesus. This is, of course, a NT perspective. We did see that the Church is made up of all true believers for all time. There is one people of God – believers from the OT Times and the NT times and those who are already in heaven.

It would be easy to rush from here into the details of church life. However, I would like to linger with the big picture a little longer. It is all too easy for us to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of trying to make church work in our tiny patch that we fail to see the wood for the trees.

When we speak of the gospel we tend to rush to the NT. The gospel is also in the OT. The whole Bible is a progressive revelation of God’s plan.


God existed before creation – thus before time. God is complete and lacks nothing. There is perfect love and fellowship between the father, Son and Spirit. Yet for reasons that are beyond our comprehension, God shows his love to the creation he planned and we are included in that relationship.

Out of the whole universe – earth has a special place. In the midst of the billions of stars in the billions of galaxies earth is special. God created life on this planet and from the myriad forms made humans was special, made in the image of God with the capacity to have fellowship with God. That meant choice, a choice that could reject the creator’s love.

The coming of evil is a mystery in many ways, yet before time began God had a plan to overcome evil. A plan too terrible except for God to understand. That through the death of his Son sinners could be redeemed. This death of Christ on the cross became the focal point of earth, time, history and eternity itself. It also is the focal point of worship for those who have been rescued by it.

The victory of Jesus Christ on the cross is the final reversal of all the evil effects of sin and Satan. The picture the Bible portrays is that God is preparing a bride – the church – for the Son who is the bridegroom. At the end of time when God brings history to a close there will be the marriage supper in heaven – a wedding feast when Christ and his church are united in a new way – when all true believers from all of time will be united to Christ forever.

This is God’s eternal plan for the Church!!

The Bible reveals this plan to us through it pages. One of the most wonderful sections of all scripture is Isaiah – last bit of 52 through 55.


This section of Isaiah is one of the most powerful and magnificent passages of the Bible. It reveals the heart of a loving creator for his creation. 52:10 – 53:12 speaks of God’s suffering servant who came that we might be recreated and restored.

More than anywhere else in scripture we have the picture of a suffering Messiah who comes to bear away our sin as a substitutionary sacrifice.

Isaiah 53:6 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,  each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (NIV)

Now only does he die but he rises again overcoming sin and death – surely these are the OT passages Jesus would have explained to his disciples after the resurrection [on the road to Emmaus]

Isaiah 53:10-11

10 …. though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,

he will see his offspring and he will prolong his days,

and the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

11 After the suffering of his soul,

he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied;

Clearly this speaks of his resurrection [700 years before the event]

And it also speaks of the salvation it brings to sinners –

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities. (NIV)

Who can ever understand the depth of the Father’s part in this suffering? I can understand, at least in part, why Jesus died for my sin – I am guilty for his death. However, there is a deeper cause – it was the Father himself who put him there and what is more he had planned it from eternity – for me!

We will never understand the depth of the words of this chapter – we can only marvel and worship –

Isaiah 53:4-10

4 …. yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. ….. 6

….. the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7

….10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, ….

God deliberately sent his own Son to us, knowing that he would have to turn his back on him and cause him to suffer – it is a mystery and a miracle and an amazing act of grace – we will need all eternity to wonder at it!

Surely such news needs to be shouted from the rooftops to every person on earth!


 I began by saying that we tend to think of the gospel very individualistically. This is true even when we read passages of scripture like Isaiah 53-54.

If I asked what Isa. 53 was about most Christians could probably give the gist but would struggle to say what 54 was about.

While chapter and verse divisions are very helpful and we would struggle without them – they are also a hindrance in this respect, viz. that they cause artificial breaks that the original authors never intended.

The break between Isaiah 53 and 54 is a good example. Chapter 53 is a marvellous passage about the death and resurrection of the Messiah BUT is artificially separated from 54 which is the glorious triumph of the gospel – the expansion of the people of God’s throughout the whole earth.

When we neglect this dimension of the gospel – call it missions / evangelism / outreach / church growth – we not only distort the gospel of God but we are also the poorer for it.


These verses speak of JOY – GROWTH – CERTANITY of the people of God, the community of the redeemed, the church.

JOY – God’s people supernaturally gathered.

Isaiah 54:1

1 “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. (NIV)

To understand what Isaiah is saying here we need to look at the history of Israel. Abraham is considered the father of the faith. When God called Abraham he promised him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. However, there was a problem – his wife Sarah was barren – when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 and child-bearing was no longer an expectation Sarah had a son – Isaac.

Abraham tried his own solution by having a child by Sarah’s slave woman Hagar but that was not God’s solution.

The picture is of Sarah, a barren woman, who bears a miracle child and becomes the mother of a family more numerous than the stars.

The point that Isaiah is making is that the bringing into being of the community of God’s people cannot be explained naturally. Firstly, because it is a supernatural spiritual birth that is needed and, Secondly, these ‘children’ are so numerous that it cannot be explained naturally but only supernaturally.

This supernaturally born, innumerable family is a cause of great joy and celebration.

Someone may say “Surely it is unjustified to apply this passage from the OT to the NT church.” Is this not referring to the Jews of the OT? Wasn’t Isaiah trying to give encouragement to the Jewish people in exile in Babylon? Yes, that is true but it is only a shadow of the fullness of what was to come.

We have every justification for applying this passage to the church because that is exactly what Paul does in Galatians 4:25-27 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labour pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” (NIV)

Paul is quotes Isaiah 54:1 and applying it to the church.

Just as the full meaning of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 could only be seen after the resurrection of Christ, so, too, the joyous harvest and growth of the people of God in Isaiah 54 could only be seen after Pentecost.

GROWTH – God’s people designed to include all nations.

Isaiah 54:2-3 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will [dis]possess nations and settle in their desolate cities. (NIV)

Tent life was very familiar to Middle Eastern people of that day. Abraham had lived in a tent. The Israelites had lived in tents in the desert and while it was a time of many failures it was also a time of walking in fellowship with God, a time of living in dependence on him and under his care.

Isaiah’s call to the people of God is to increase the size of their tent in preparation for growth. God’s plan and purpose is that the suffering of His Son would not be in vain nor would it yield a small insignificant harvest. Rather his plan is for his ‘tent’ to extend to cover all nations.

your descendants will dispossess nations – is an unfortunate translation. I think it is better understood as being which is more positive. God’s desire is that all nations will be included. That those desolate cities were there are no people of God will become inhabited by people who turn to God for salvation through the work of his suffering servant.

Psalm 2 is about the Messiah-King – God speaking to his Son says…

Psalm 2:8 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (NIV)

Why did Jesus, the suffering-servant-Messiah, go to the cross so willingly and bear the sins of many? How is it that he could endure such suffering?

We read in the NT Hebrews 12:2 2 …. Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NIV)

Surely a redeemed people from all the nations on earth was part of the joy before him.

Doesn’t Isaiah 53:11 make more sense in the light of this Isaiah 53:11 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: ….. (KJV)

This is what the Church is – a community of people rescued by a suffering- Messiah.

If we fail to grasp this big picture of God’s purposes then we will have a distorted view of the gospel. It is true that Jesus died to save me form my sins BUT it is much more than that.

SECURITY – God’s people have a certain future in the care of a loving Lord.

When the Jews originally heard this from the prophet Isaiah they probably didn’t feel as if they were this innumerable powerful group of God’s people who would possess nations and inhabit cities. They probably felt weak, insignificant and marginalised. They didn’t think of the Church of God around the world.

We have seen the enormous growth of the church over 2000 years – yet we still feel small and powerless sometimes. This passage of scripture assures us that the growth and power and triumph of the Church is no pipe-dream. As true as Ch. 53 was about the death and resurrection of Christ so too is ch.54 true about the growth triumph of the church of God.

On what does Isaiah base the existence and growth and security of God’s people?

LOOK at v.5.

Isaiah 54:5 5 For your Maker is your husband –

  • the LORD Almighty is his name –
  • – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
  • he is called the God of all the earth. (NIV)

For your Maker is your husband

– God is not only our creator but he also deliberately sets out to form a relationship with us – just as a man deliberately sets out to seek a wife to whom he can be a Husband. He sets out to make those who are not his people to become his people.

Is it any wonder that the NT holds this relationship up as a model for husbands to love their wives?

Ephesians 5:25   25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (NIV)

the LORD Almighty is his name

– LORD is in capitals – whenever you see it written like that it is the most holy name for God – YHWH. It was the name God gave to Moses at the burning bush. He is the God of the Exodus, the one who rescues his people and overthrows theirs and his enemies.

Almighty tells us that he is the absolute and ultimate power.

the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;

– the one who is holy and cannot tolerate sin is also the one in whose image we are made and he therefore longs to have a relationship with. In order to achieve that end he redeemed us through his suffering servant thus satisfying the requirements of his divine justice and at the same time meeting the needs of our human nature.

he is called the God of all the earth

– What gives God the right to act in this way? Well the earth and all that is in it belongs to him. Everything in heaven and earth belongs to him – because he is both its maker and redeemer!


Is it any wonder then that Isaiah says to us “Do not be afraid … Do not feel disgraced” – we have no need to. We are God’s people and our JOY and our GROWTH and our SECURITY are in him.

Jesus died on the cross, not just to save ME, but to call to himself a people of God from every nation on earth – THE CHURCH.

OHP – Isaiah 53 – sufferings of Christ – Isaiah 54 – fruit of Christ’s sufferings.

On the basis of who God is and what he has promised we can be certain that all this will happen – indeed we are seeing it happen around the world if we look. The Church of Jesus Christ is growing at a faster rate than any other time in history – maybe not in the WEST but certainly in other parts of the world.

What is more we have the promise of scripture that the gospel will not fail.

Jesus said “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not stand in the way”

Revelation 7:9 9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (NIV)

The Church:



  1. The eternal view of God’s vision



  1. The focal point of God’s vision



  1. The broadness of God’s vision



God’s people supernaturally gathered


God’s people designed to include all



God’s people have a certain future in the care of their loving Lord


* For your Maker is your husband –

* the LORD Almighty is his name –

* the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;

* he is called the God of all the earth.


The Church – The Church in God’s Masterplan



When we say the word ‘church’ it conjures up all sorts of images in people’s minds.

  • Building
  • Denomination / Organisation – Roman catholic Church, Church of England (The whole organisation or just the local parish church), Baptist Church, etc.
  • People – a good evangelical response!

But do we mean the local congregation or the church around the world. On the other hand is the church bigger than even that. At the other end of the scale what about ‘house-churches’?

So then, What exactly is the Church? That is what I hope we will learn more about over the next few weeks / months. Today I want to try and draw some broad-brush strokes. A wide-angle lens view. Then over the next weeks we will zoom in on various aspects of the Church:

  • Worship
  • Fellowship
  • Discipleship
  • Ministry
  • Missions and evangelism
  • Leadership
  • Baptism – —— and so on.

If we simply focus on the Church in our day and our time and our culture and even our own particular ‘Binscombite’ view of the church we will end up with a very inadequate view of what the church is.

What we need to do is to step back, far back, back to eternity to see God’s overall plan for his creation. We will never see the full picture in every detail because we are finite and God is infinite. This does not therefore mean that we can’t understand anything, on the contrary God has told us many things in the Bible about his plan for his universe.

The question that we must first address then is ‘What is God’s master plan’?


Some would say that God’s purpose is to save souls. While it is true that God does save souls. To say that God is saving souls and preparing them for heaven is an inadequate definition of the Church and its purposes. What is more I believe it is not a biblical definite.

Ephesians 1-3 is a wonderful passage of scripture giving us some amazing glimpses into the purposes of God. As we read this passage there are two striking truths. (There are many marvellous truths but two stand out in the context of what we are talking about)

Firstly, God has a plan.

Throughout this passage we have numerous references to the plan, purposes, will of God.

Ephesians 1:1-10

1 … the will of God,

5 …with his pleasure and will — .

9 ..the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure,

which he purposed in Christ,

10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Paul repeatedly says that God ‘chose’ – ‘appointed’ – ‘destined’ etc. – this is a picture of a God who has a specific plan and purpose.

ILLUS.: Remember the TV series the A-Team. The characters were Murdoch, Face, BA and Hannibal Smith – lots of fighting and seldom a scratch. Hannibal Smith always had an elaborate plan, which somehow worked at which point he would say; “I loved it when a plan comes together”

God has a plan and it will come together because unlike Hannibal Smith God’s plan do not depend on a little planning and a lot of luck. God’s plans have a will come together because he has the power to make them work.

Paul uses a word (oikonomia) in v.10 which means house / household and which refers to the oversight and management of a large household. The idea is that the whole universe is like a big household of which God is the master and it is managed by his divine order.

Jesus used similar imagery when he told parables of God as a householder who will settle accounts [Matt.13; 20; 21]

Secondly, God’s plan extends to the whole universe.

V.10 tells us that it is God’s purposes “to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” 5x he speaks of “Heavenly realms”. In 4v10 he speaks of Christ “who ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe”.

Then these wonderful verses at the end of chapter 1- Ephesians 1:20-23 [the power of God]20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)

When we come to study the Church we can be tempted to rush into looking at the nitty-gritty of Church life here on earth and that is important. However, we can only rightly understand the church and its mission when we see it as part of God’s over all plan and purpose for all creation.

Thirdly, God’s plan is to reconcile all things to himself through Christ.

God’s plan is the restoration of the damage done to persons and nature by the fall. When sin entered the world through human disobedience towards God the damage was done and God set in motion a plan to rectify that.

How was he going to do that? Paul tells us in Colossians 1:20 – 20 and through him {Christ} to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (NIV)

Central to God’s plan is the rescue of people like you and me from our sins and bringing us back into a relationship with himself. However, God’s plan is broader than just my relationship with him. Jesus dying on the cross deals with all alienations that resulted from sin – within ourselves, between individuals / communities, between our physical environment and us.

The purpose of God in bringing us back into a relationship with himself is not simply that I have a relationship with him in isolation. His plan is to “call together a people for himself”

We are talking about “The Church in God’s master plan” – we have seen briefly God’s plan, now we need to ask “What is the church?


There is much we can say.

  • Is it a local congregation or the whole Church around the world?
  • Does it included believers only on earth or are those who have died also included in the Church?
  • What is the relationship between the Church and the nation of Israel in the OT?
  • What is the difference between the church and the kingdom of God?

We will touch on these things over the next few weeks.

Essentially the Church is the community of all true believers for all time.

This tells us three important things about the Church:

  • It is a community of people
  • It comprises those whom God has saved / who have a personal faith in Christ
  • It is for all time – both OT and NT.

Ephesians 5:25

25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (NIV)

Did Jesus die only for those who lived in the NT age? NO, surely OT believers were also rescued by God on the basis that the Messiah would die for them. They looked forward to the cross and we look back. The Church is all true believers for all time.

God’s plan for the church is so great that he has exalted Christ, His Son, to the highest position of authority for the sake of the church – Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)

Furthermore it is Christ who builds the Church – Matt. 16:18 “I will build my church”

Luke in Acts 2:47 is very careful to tell us that the growth of the Church is not by human effort – And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)

This way in which the Church grows is an continuation of the way God established his people in the OT. He brought the people to himself to be a worshipping assembly / community before him.

The Lord says to Moses –

Deuteronomy 4:10 10 …. “Assemble the people before me …..” (NIV)

Or “Gather the people to me”

This has the same meaning as the word used in the NT for the Church – ekklesia – from which we get our English word ecclesiastical.

It is not surprising therefore that when the NT writers refer to the OT people of God gathering together they call it a church – Acts 7:38 38 He [ Moses] was in the assembly [ekklesia – church] in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. (NIV)

In the Book of Hebrews we have reference to a great number of witnesses in heaven surrounding the Church on earth going all the way back to Abel, the son of Adam and Eve. [Hebrews 12:1] Later in Hebrews it talks about the Church of the firstborn enrolled in heaven [Heb.21:22]

This is not surprising when we consider that the NT emphasises that Jewish believers and Gentile believers are united as one – Ephesians 2:14-19

14 … has made the two one .15 …. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two,   16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, ….. .

19 Consequently, …. fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, (NIV)

There are new blessings and privileges that we have in the NT era. However, it God has always called his people to assemble to worship him so it is appropriate to think of the church as being all the people of God for all time.


This question can be answered in two ways:

  • The Church exists because ….
  • The Church exists for ….

The Church exists because …. God brought it into being and continues to keep it going by the power of the Holy Spirit. If the church is not a spiritual community then it is not a church but simply a club on a human level.

The Church exists for ….

What is the purpose of the Church? Or rather purposes?

We could talk about these under many headings. I think there are three basic dimensions to the purpose of the church:

  • Towards God
  • Towards fellow believers
  • Towards the world

Towards God – to worship him. Paul tells the Church at Colossae – Colossians 3:16 16 ….. sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (NIV)

God has rescued us in Christ “to live for the praise of his glory” [Eph.1:12]

Worship is a major purpose of the Church – It is to be focussed on the Lord and done in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In a sense all of our life should be an act of worship to God. Everything Christians do should be done to the glory of God.

However, it is also true that as far as the Church as a body of people is concerned there need to be times of meeting together to sing / pray/ read and study the scriptures / and focus of God alone.

One of the marks of being filled with the Spirit is that we then worship God from the heart – Ephesians 5:18-19 ….. be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, (NIV)

Towards fellow believers – Nurture. The Church has a responsibility to nurture those who already believe and build them up to maturity in their faith – in short, discipleship. Paul goal was not simply to bring people to Christ but to bring them to maturity – Colossians 1:28 28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ

We read in Ephesians that God gives gifted people to the church 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Ephesians 4:12-13

The goal of the Church is never simply to save souls! Rather, it is to bring every Christian to maturity in Christ.

Towards the world – Outreach [evangelism, mission, acts of mercy, caring …]

Jesus was very clear that his follower – his church – were to be turned outwards to the world. The gospel of His kingdom was to be proclaimed to ALL nations

{Matt. 24:14} Make disciples of all nations [Matt.29:20] Go into all the world [Mark] be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth [Acts1]. Telling the world the good news about what Jesus has done by dying on the cross is the primary task of the Church towards the world.

YET accompanying this task of evangelism is to be the ministry of caring for the poor and needy in the name of the Lord. Luke 6:35-36 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend … without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

These areas of involvement by Christians in the world, in the name of Jesus, for the good of society are numerous – BUT they must not be seen as a substitute for genuine proclamation of the gospel; nor must they be a substitute for ministry directed at God or ministry to other believers.

Keeping a balance – It is always a temptation to ask which of these three is more important?

All three are commanded by the Lord in scripture, thus all three are important and none can be neglected. Emphasising one to the neglect of the other two creates and imbalance that results in an unhealthy Church.

They are, of course, not entirely separate compartments. There is a large degree of overlap between them. There are also many different aspects to each of the three ministries of the Church.

A Church that over-emphasises worship will end up with inadequate Bile teaching and remain shallow and immature.

If we neglect evangelism we will cease to grow & become turned & will wither.

If we place the building-up of believer over the other two we will produce Christians who know the Bible’s teaching but are spiritually dry because they know little of the joy of worshipping God or telling others about Christ.

All three dimensions must be emphasised and held in tension.

This does not mean that each individual Christian must give exactly 1/3 of their time in the church to each of these. God has gifted each differently.

Thus if your gift is in teaching you will give more time to building up the Church than to the other two. If you have a gift for evangelism more of your time will go in that direction. If you have the gift of helps you may spend more time doing practical things, and so on. This is an appropriated response to the diversity of gifts God has given us.

Still we must all be involved in worship, fellowship/discipleship and witness although the proportions may differ according to gift.

So the Church of God is wonderfully varied. It is especially brought together by God for his glory. It is central to God’s master plan. AND we have the immense privilege of being part of what God is doing in the universe – as we co-operate with him uses us to accomplish his plans for his universe – What a thought!




God has a plan.

God’s plan extends to the whole universe.

God’s plan is to reconcile all things to

himself in Christ.



“The Church is the community of all true believers for all time”



Three dimensions:

            Ministry towards God.

            Ministry towards fellow believers.

            Ministry towards the world.