In the recent past there have been pundits who have pronounced the church to be dead as they were saying their committals over it, believing that in this modern era the old-fashioned church would be irrelevant and thus replaced with that which is more up to date. Beginning in the spring of 2020 with the arrival of Covid-19, the traditional church gathering assemblies were put to the test. Some were wondering, during lock downs and following, if indeed the church as it had been known and as it had functioned for 20 centuries would come through unscathed. The conclusive evaluations have not yet been tallied, but by most observers and students of church history past and present, it must be concluded that the church, bruised a bit and battered some, will survive and in some instances be stronger.
One thing is certain, the Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection made certain the fulfillment of His promise to His disciples when He said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it,” thus it is certain that the church, as through persecution and peril, not only has survived but will beyond the end of time survive and thrive. It has been divinely guaranteed to do so. Which to leads me to affirm, I love the church and have since as a six-year-old lad I, with my family, put my foot for the first time into the place where a local church was meeting for praise, prayer and worship. That was 73 years ago and my love for the church has only deepened with the passing of every year. It has been an unspeakable privilege to have pastored three such churches for a total of 50 years. I love the church for many reasons, including:
- It has a privileged place in God’s plan for the ages: What once had been a mystery (Romans 16:25,26) i.e. that God, in time would bring together into one body both Jew and Gentile, was beautifully fulfilled as recorded in unfolding of truths in the book of Acts, so that Paul, the Jew who at one time had a passion for shutting down the existence of those known as “Christians” would write “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me to you ward: how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery…that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.” Paul concluded by exclaiming at the end of the Ephesians 3 passage: “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Eph. 3:21)
- It has a pre-eminent person who is its Chief Cornerstone, High Priest, Bishop:
Jesus, as promised in Matt.16:18-20 when He announced to His twelve Jewish Apostles for the first time ever that there would be such an entity as a church, became not only its Founder by His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection from the dead; but also, its Head. (“And He is the Head of the body, the church…having made peace through the blood of His cross….) Col.1:18-20 He is “before all things, and by Him all things consist.” (Col.1:17) Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible and the first-born of every creature is, therefore, the pre-eminent person in the church as its Founder, its Head and its Controller by whom all things consist.
- It is made up of a pure people, i.e., people who have been born-again, who are saved by grace through faith, redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, pilgrims here journeying through this world and life toward the eternal city, not built with hands, in the heavenlies where their citizenship has been made certain. They are, to be sure, a pure people, a royal kingdom of priests, but not a perfect people. They are “His workmanship” and they (we) are, as such, each of them a work in progress until that day when we shall “see Him and be like Him.”
- They are a people working together, as a body, each member in particular with a special Holy Spirit assigned gift to exercise for the building of His Body, the Church. (I Cor. 12) Ray Steadman: “God’s first concern is not what the church does, it is what the church is. Being must always precede doing, for what we do will be according to what we are.” We, therefore, work together as one, because we are all members of His Body.
- They are a people walking together, walking “not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,” (Eph.4:17) but walking worthy “in love,” and “in light,” and “circumspectly.” (Eph.5:2,8,15) A visitor to a leper colony observed that during the lunch time when residents gathered from all over to the dining common, two young men seemed to be “horsing around” as one rode on the other’s back. But further observation revealed to the visitor that the man who carried his friend was blind while the man on his back was lame. The one who could not see used his feet to walk, and the one who could not walk became for the two of them the eyes, and it was all done with great joy, a picture of the church working and walking together to make up an extraordinary body that moves forward for His kingdom.
- They are a people worshipping together, regularly assembling, as did that first Jerusalem assembly, for hearing the “apostles’ doctrine and for fellowship and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) “The church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones.”
- They are a people witnessing together: “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad….” (I Thess.1:8) That is what our Lord commanded in His departing commission to the disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt.28:18) And, to a watching, wondering group of followers as He was about to ascend to heaven: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Thus, our job is not yet, nor will it be in our lifetime, finished. There are still multitudes who have never heard, so we must continue to be a witnessing people.
Those are some of the reasons I love the church. I commend it to every reader. It is alive and well. Some have advocated doing an “end run around the church.” But oh, the blessings one would miss in so doing. Blessings of being part of this Body which before the cross was a mystery but now, through revelation, a marvel, miracle and mighty force; blessings of being close to the pre-eminent person of the church, Jesus Christ, through daily fellowship with Him, and blessings of being united and knit together with this pure people, known as His Body, who are joyfully working together, walking together in harmony, worshipping together in the Spirit and witnessing together in obedience to His commands.
I love the church. I hope you do too. If not, meet its Founder and Head. To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to love His church.
“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” I Tim. 3:15