of the more common deceptions of our time is that one can be a Christian
without being in a formal church setting. We hear, “I can go off into the
mountains and worship God just as well as at any church.” To which I give
Teddie Roosevelt’s classic reply: “yes – but you won’t.”
Church’s One Foundation
understand why we need the church it is necessary to understand the nature of
the church. (By “church”, of course, I mean the church universal). What is
its purpose? What are its benefits? How is it related to God?
The Church as the Bride of Christ
is a concept not much used today. It is easy to understand why; it is our
view of marriage. Since the coming of women’s liberation, no Christian woman
would even think of describing herself as being in submission to her husband.
Rather, she would be proud to tell us how she rules the roost – and the
rooster. It flows over into our thinking of the church. One minister went so
far as to tell us that the word “submission” really means “respect.” How the
translators were so deceived I do not know; but it has changed our view of
Christ and the church. We used to proclaim our obedience and submission to
Christ. Now, we can ignore him as long as we respect him.
is a sad thing to do. The church is a method by which God delivers happiness
and ultimately our place in the eternal presence of God.
church is founded upon one thing: the confession of Christ. “Who do you say
that I am?” The answer must be that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living
God. Without that, it’s a tea sipping society for fools.
to this concept is the concept of membership. The word was practically
invented by Christianity. It means that each of us has a role to play in the
It does not make us interchangeable parts. Elders, for example, are expected
to meet strict qualifications – one of which is being male. Of course, when
the new, “gender accurate” translations arrive, we will certainly fix that
too. But sticking to the older version, we see that God, by the Holy Spirit,
ordains that certain of us have various functions. If this is to work, then we
must have some sense of discipline. For that, we need (dare one utter the word
these days?) an authority.
authority is found in Jesus, the Christ.
It is one his person and by his authority that the church was established. But
he did not start this and then leave it alone, no indeed. He sustains and
nurtures her to this day.
But we as Christians are responsible for her care as well. We do this by our
obedience to the church’s Lord, Master, Founder and Sustainer. Because of our
love for Jesus Christ, we are obedient;
in our obedience we build up the church. This is pleasing to God, just as it
is pleasing to us when our children are obedient to us.
for his pleasure
church belongs to her Lord; she exists at and for his pleasure. If we are to
remain in right relationship with Him, we must do what pleases him. Paul tells
that this is a matter of these things:
Would the church be the church if she turned to evil?
Would it honor the Prince of Peace to have his church at war?
Have you ever noticed that true Christians exude joy, even in the tough
these are to be had in the fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
then, does the typical Christian achieve these things?
there is the matter of bodily discipline.
By our self control (physically and spiritually) We do this as the living
sacrifice of daily living.
there are the duties which are common righteousness – things that all know
need to be done to be considered even remotely righteous. A good example
of this would be our care for our families – children and the elderly, for
there is the question of sacrifice.
If your principles don’t cost you anything, they aren’t worth much.
where does all this lead us? Into the church, often called a communion. The
word implies our close relationship, but it also implies a great deal more.
Scripture, God combines the symbolic with the practical. So it is with the
Lord’s Supper. At once it symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of the
Lord – and also the sweet communion we are to have.
are instructed to wait for one another at the Lord’s Supper.
In the most sacred of Christian rituals, we are to demonstrate our
fellowship one with another.
are told that, in the spiritual sense, the fact that we partake from “one
loaf” means that we are part of “one body.”
In some churches the bread is taken from a large sheet of flatbread, which
emphasizes our unity.
taking Communion, we also proclaim that we are members of “one faith.”
The taking of Communion proclaims our unity.
church in caravan; helping each other on the way
no mistake of it. We are strangers in a strange land, pilgrims on the way to
our heavenly home. On the way, it is Christ’s desire that we be a caravan
traveling together, not a line of stragglers.
We can see this in the early church:
44All the believers were together and had everything in
common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone
as he had need (Act 2:44-45)
did the early church achieve such harmony? We don’t really know for sure, but
I would suggest there were two things that came up pretty quickly:
learned early not to pass judgment upon one another.
carried each others’ burdens along the way.
so doing they journeyed in harmony.
Imitation of Christ
the skills needed to stay in the caravan are not so obvious; other times they
are obvious – but we find them difficult. Our youth today have an answer:
“What would Jesus do?” It is in the imitation of Christ that we can make this
journey. Consider your Lord as follows:
lived as a servant.
If that is his example, who are you to be so proud?
lived a life of love – and so should we.
suffered as required by God.
Who then are we to deny suffering in our own lives?
in the Church
would be wonderful to say that there is no conflict in the church. It would
also be false. We need to seek ways to prevent it; find ways to cure it – for
as we dispose of our dissension we build the reputation of the church.
is much easier to prevent dissension than fix it. Unfortunately, we’re not
very good at prevention, being too busy fixing things. How, then, do we
prevent dissension in the church?
maintaining unity in love.
It’s hard to succumb to dissension when you are actively loving the
out for those who are dividers.
The church never lacks for those who would like to appoint themselves
leaders of a faction.
the church the proper respect and honor she is due.
Paul cites as examples those who come to church and flaunt their wealth,
to the shame of the church.
those of weaker faith.
suppose you haven’t prevented it; suppose there is argument and dissension in
the church – even just between two Christians. What should you do about it?
reconciliation a priority.
Don’t put it off; do it now.
the work proceeds, be sure to make agreement quickly.
all circumstances which do not touch on the essentials of the faith, be
the one to suffer, even if you know you’re right.
Why should the church suffer because you won’t sacrifice?
need be, turn the other cheek.
may strike you as curious, but the reputation of the church is at stake in
this. The world is watching, and the world has expectations of the church.
Some of these are wrong, but often enough the world knows when the church is in
the wrong. What should we be doing?
should care for other congregations – especially in practical ways. The
world will not note our prayers for another congregation; they will note
the practical help given.
must maintain unity in the essentials of the faith.
Let us all know what we are talking about.
all, love one another – for this is the way in which Christ prescribed us
to make ourselves known as his disciples.
principle has not changed; the world understands results and actions. The
Christian knows that they are evidence of the heart.
Let the world know the truth about the church; love one another.