The Invisible Church

Bible Book: Matthew  16 : 13-18
Subject: Church

Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) tells, “I heard of a man who said to the preacher, ‘I want to sing in your choir.’ The preacher replied, ‘But you don't belong here. Where do you have your membership?’ He said, ‘I don't belong to any local church. I belong to the invisible church.’ The pastor said, ‘Then I suggest that you join the invisible choir.’”

Although I belong to a local church, it does not belong to me. The Bible has much to say about the church, so allow me to share three relevant points.


I. We see the church before the church in God’s mind.

Dr. Adrian P. Rogers (1931-2005) asks, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing occurs to God?”


a. Jesus prophesies about the church before the church (Matt. 16:13-18).

Matthew writes, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:13-18).


b. Jesus prays about the church before the church (Jn. 17:20-26).

Jesus said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. ‘Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:20-26).


c. Jesus preaches to the church before the church (Acts 1:8).

Jesus said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

We read about the birth of the church in Acts 2. That was 2,000 years ago and even with all of her problems she is still going strong. Although we battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil, we are part of the invincible church!


II. We see the church within the church on God’s mission.

Dr. Billy Graham shared the following in a message on “The Second Coming of Christ” at the Charlotte Crusade on Sunday, October 5, 1958, “In Christendom today, all over the world, in every church, there is the church within the church. There is usually a minority of people that do the work in every church.”

Soon after making this statement, I understand, Dr. Graham told Dr. Stephen F. Olford then serving as pastor of the Duke Street Baptist Church in Richmond Surrey, England, considering a call to pastor the Calvary Baptist Church in New York, “If you don’t find the church within the church in a year, leave it.” Apparently, he found “the church within the church”, because he stayed from 1959 to 1973.


a. Jesus affirms the church within the church (Matt. 13:24-30).

Matthew writes, “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:24-30).


b. Jesus addresses the church within the church (Matt. 28:16-20).

Matthew writes, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20).

c. Jesus appreciates the church within the church (Rev. 2-3).

Note Jesus’ evaluation of the churches is both positive and negative. He points out individuals in some cases. The church will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ for reward.

Paul writes, “Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10).

In addition, Paul writes, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:9-11).


III. We see the church after the church as God’s miracle.

Dr. Malcolm B. Yarnell, III, wrote an informative article in the SBC Life magazine (February 2011) titled, “The Church~ A Bride, A Building, A Body”. From Scripture we find each of these designations, for example, the church as a bride (Eph. 5:22-33), the church as a building (1 Cor. 3:9-15; 6:19-20; and Eph. 2:21), and the church as a body (Rom. 7:4, 24-25; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:15-18; Eph. 1:22-23).

The change that occurs in the life of every believer is a miracle of God’s love and grace. Genuine believers are trophies of God’s grace.


a. Jesus transports the collection of the church (Rev. 4:1; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

John writes, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1).

Paul writes, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).


b. Jesus transforms the condition of the church (1 Cor. 15:50-58; Eph. 5:27; Jude 24-25).

Paul writes, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

In addition, Paul writes, “That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

Jude writes, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, /And to present you faultless / Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, / To God our Savior, / Who alone is wise, / Be glory and majesty, / Dominion and power, / Both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:14-25).


c. Jesus transitions the commission of the church (Rom. 11).


The church after the church will enjoy the blessings of a perfect relationship with God and all whom He gives eternal life.

Dr. Vance Havner confesses, "Some church members tell us that they will be absent in body but present in spirit -- one has a spooky feeling of preaching to ghosts! Then there are those who are present in body but absent in spirit. I'm not sure which crowd I'd rather preach to." We invite you to attend in person to “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24b). We read in Hebrews 10:19-25, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort celebrates 100 years of ministry and mission on October 30, 2011. We are a perfect church for those who are not, but want to be throughout eternity. David’s prayer recorded in Psalm 43:3a expresses our heart’s desire, “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!” It is all about having an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). May we continue to declare the gospel as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

As we mark this noteworthy milestone as a local church, we declare with the psalmist, “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, / But to Your name give glory, / Because of Your mercy, / Because of Your truth” (Psalm 115:1). To God be the glory!


By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / / (251) 626-6210
© August 28, 2011 All Rights Reserved