A GLORIOUS CHURCH
“And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”
Ephesians 1:23 NLT
What is our view of the church? It all depends on our perspective.
Sadly, our understanding of “the church” is coloured by our personal experience. Many, like me, have enjoyed a fragment of the true family of God, where love, harmony, and peace have been taught and fostered by a shepherd who leads by example and does not usurp Jesus’ position as head of the church.
Others have become disillusioned with the church and walked away because of the business-like, sterile, programme-orientated institution of their local church rather than the living organism of Jesus’ body, patterned for us in the New Testament, that it is intended to be.
The church is a mystery. It is the vitally alive, growing and maturing body of Jesus Christ. It is made up of people from every nation who have been born again into the Kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The church is one world-wide body, united through faith in Jesus as Lord, across the globe and across the generations. It is not subject to doctrinal or denominational differences. It has a simple mandate from Jesus, to believe in Him and to love one another. These are the distinguishing characteristics of the true Church, and the witness to the world that the Father sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world.
The Apostle Paul paints three word-pictures of the church that give us a clearer understanding of what Jesus intends His church to be as it lives in the world as His witness before He returns to claim His people for eternal life with Him.
THE CHURCH IS A BODY – its function
Jesus gave His disciples the first clue to the nature of the church.
“Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Matthew 8:19-20 NIV
Many Bible scholars have misunderstood this passage because they do not understand the way of Hebrew thought. This is not about the cost of following Jesus. He was not poor. He was a rabbi who was well supported by the people, especially a group of faithful and wealthy women. Judas kept the group’s money bag from which he stole, according to John, so, there must have been money available to take care of their needs.
In Hebrew thought, Jesus referred the places where creatures multiply. Foxes and birds reproduce in dens and nests. They don’t live in them. Jesus, as the head, did not yet have a body from which He would reproduce Himself. After Pentecost, when the church was born, Jesus, as the head, would multiply Himself through His body to build His church until it is complete before His return.
The purpose of Jesus’ body is to be one with the Godhead and with one another. This unity is to reveal to the world the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit so that the world would believe in Jesus.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
John 17:20-21 NLT
A body has a multiplicity of unique individual parts that function together in perfect harmony to produce a living organism. So it is with the body of Jesus. However, without a brain, the systems that make up the body cannot function efficiently, and the body will die. Without Jesus as the living head of His church, His body is nothing but a sterile, non-reproducing organisation.
The picture of the church as a body speaks of a living, functioning, reproducing organism of head and body in perfect unity and harmony powered by the Holy Spirit. The members of the body lovingly serve one another, build one another up, and reproduce Jesus in the lives of others.
THE CHURCH IS A BUILDING – its purpose
The second picture of the church is a building made of living stones, an individual and corporate temple in which God dwells by His Spirit.
A temple is a place of worship, place of sacrifice, a place of service, and a place of submission of heart, will and life to God who reigns from the inside. It hosts God who makes His dwelling in the inner shrine of our hearts.
The sacrifices of the New Covenant are neither animal, nor blood. Jesus has shed His own blood to take away the sin of the world and reconcile us to the Father. The sacrifices we offer in the New Covenant are acts of worship that express the attitudes of our hearts.
Everything we do in our everyday lives, no matter how simple or mundane, expresses our love and gratitude to God for His grace and goodness to us.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT
As God’s temple, we offer the sacrifices of
“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name….”
“… And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”
Hebrews 13:15-16 NLT
“At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.”
Philippians 4:18 NLT
A repentant heart
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Psalms 51:16-17 NLT
THE CHURCH IS A BRIDE – its goal
A “bride” speaks of togetherness, companionship, and intimacy in a permanent, unbreakable union for an entire lifetime. Jesus came to earth to seek His bride. All who believe in Him are His beloved and betrothed bride awaiting the day when He returns to claim her as His own forever.
The betrothal period is an important part of the bride’s preparation for her wedding day. She has two tasks to do to prepare for that day.
Her first task is to separate herself from all other men. No longer must she be alert to the invitation of other “hopefuls”. Her role as Jesus’ betrothed is to focus all her attention on her “heavenly lover”.
Her second function is to prepare her wedding gown. Her bridegroom has given her His spotless robe of righteousness bought with His own blood.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV
The bride’s task is to adorn her gown with the good works that are the fruit of His righteousness.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)”
Revelation 19:7-8 NIV
What are the” good works” we are to do to adorn our wedding gown? In obedience to the Holy Spirit, we are to use our spiritual gifts to serve and built up the body of Christ until we reach unity and maturity in Christ and conformity to His image.
“So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV
So, we see that Jesus’ church is not an organisation running programmes to keep God’s people busy. It is a living organism made up of believers, who do life together, worship together, and live in intimate communion with Jesus, eagerly awaiting His coming to consummate an eternal union with Himself and to live in God’s forever family.