(From a sermon given on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, by Joseph W. Humes at Victory Bible Church in Paxinos, Pennsylvania.)
There are details in the Bible and these detailed facts are included in holy writ to teach us something. From my study of Scripture, I have found there are seven circles that show closeness to Christ that were present in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and the early church, which I see relates specifically to the church today. Here is a breakdown of the seven circles that show closeness to Christ.
(John 6:5-14) Jesus is feeding the 5,000 with fish and bread – an AYCE meal graciously provided by Him. In this massive group enjoying fish sandwiches is a mix of the devout believers, the curiosity seekers, the devoted, the lazy, the agnostics and all types in between. While Jesus provided food for all of them, we see later that most of them sought after Him simply in the hopes of getting another free meal. They didn’t. Today there many who associate themselves with the name “Christian,” whether via a mega church, an evangelistic crusade, sharing Jesus posts on Facebook or have religious symbols on their car, etc. These people may give some lip service to God and He, in turn, favors them with life, health, jobs, etc.
(1 Corinthians 15:6) This is a picture of a group of true believers. This group of 500 brethren – the Bible specially calls them “brethren” – were those who believed who Jesus said He was and accepted Him as such – the Son of God, the only way to heaven. Several months before there where 5,000 people looking for Jesus, now only about 10% of that 5,000 believed on Him and followed Him closely enough so as to witness His ascension. These believers received a special gift. They saw the risen Lord ascending back into heaven and personally received a prophetic and comforting message from angelic beings.
(Acts 1:13-15) This group of believers represents the members of the local church. Out of the 500 that are saved, only a fraction, in this case 120, are found continuing “steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrines, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Not all believers obey the command to “forsake not the assembling of yourself together” as written in Hebrews 10:25. But those who do obey are blessed by God Himself. Also, these believers were granted a most important gift –receiving the Holy Spirit.
(Luke 10:17-20) These are the servants of the local church. Not all who attend the local church serve in some capacity. These 70 followers in Jesus’ time were faithful servants, close to the Lord, and He shares with them spiritual truths about Himself. Because of their willingness to serve with Him, in His earthly work He gave them powerful special gifts over unclean spirits to cast them out, just as He was doing. Those who make it a point to serve in the local church today have their special gifts and talents given by God and use them in service to their Lord through the ministry of the local church.
(Matthew 10:1) Out of the 70 servants, Jesus chose 12 Apostles who were with our Lord from the start of His earthly ministry to the finish (barring Judas Iscariot). These 12 were spiritual men, leaders in the local church. These are the spiritual problem solvers. When something is broken it is up to them, using the Word of God, to fix it. This is seen in Acts 6:2 – they were daily found in the Word of God, in spiritual discipline. The 12 Apostles were close to Jesus and learned from Him. These 12 specific, problem-solving men will be the ones to judge the 12 tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30). As His close companions, Jesus calls these men His “friends.” They are more than servants; they have the privilege of being His friends as He tells them and us in John 15:15.
(Matthew 17:1-3) Of the circle of 12 friends, there are three that are especially close to Jesus. Servants and friends, definitely, but these three men were very special. In Galatians 2:9 the Apostle Paul calls James, Peter (Cephas) and John “pillars.” These three men were very close to Jesus in His earthly ministry and after He ascension, they continued His work to such an extent that they held up the local church(es) as “pillars.” In today’s application, there a few people in the local church who are considered core people. These are people whom the pastor can always depend upon and usually has a close relationship with. Without those faithful few but strong pillars in the local church, the church would collapse.
(John 13:23) The single beloved. Though he is not mentioned by name, I believe the “beloved one” of Jesus in His earthly ministry was the Apostle John. In John 19:26-27, the Lord entrusted the earthly care of His mother to John. This incident is only mentioned in John’s Gospel. Later, in the Epistles of John, he shows his own closeness and love for the Lord by the way he admonishes Christians to walk in holiness and in love. To John – the beloved one – was given the fantastic revelation that is recorded in the Book of Revelation. The Old Testament counterpart of the Book of Revelation is the Book of Daniel. Daniel is also called “greatly beloved” in Daniel 9:23, 10:11 and verse 19. It is not a far stretch to understand that those whom Christ considered “beloved” would share in His deep insight and knowledge. This solitary beloved one is a type of the pastor of the local church.
As you consider the seven circles of closeness to Christ, you can see that it is your choice to move from a distant circle and into a closer circle. The closer you are to Him who is the center, the more gifts and blessings He will give you.
Finished with Circles of Closeness to Christ? Check out the Three Crowns of Christ.