Volume 8, Issue 2: Doctrine 101
The Church Victorious and Beautiful
God commanded Moses as he was preparing to make the tabernacle, "And you shall
raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the
mountain" (Ex. 26:30). Although mobile in design, the tabernacle was a work of
beauty, as was the temple in Jerusalem that succeeded it. They were designed
by God and were a "copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (Heb. 8:5). Today,
they are not replaced by church buildings, but by the body of Christ, the Church
(1 Pet. 2:5).
In my early days as a new Christian, I often heard disparaging comments about
the Church from those within the parachurch organization to which I had committed
myself. The Church (speaking in general terms) was full of "pew sitters," those
who did nothing to further the kingdom of Christ. The Church was seen and esteemed
as impotent, a weak sister, that needed the help of the parachurch organizations
to accomplish the Great Commission. Regrettably, I could see the "warts and scabs" on
the Church and came to the same conclusion as my parachurch friends.
I am deeply grateful to that parachurch organization to which I was committed
for so many years of my life. It helped me foremost by presenting me with the
gospel message. After I believed, that organization helped to nourish me with
the Scriptures, taught me to memorize verses, to share my faith with others,
to pray; and it encouraged me with rich, like-hearted fellowship. Eventually,
through that parachurch organization, I met the woman who became my wife, and
together we continued to lead Bible studies and minister in support of that organization.
We made many friends through this particular parachurch organization and helped
finance their ministries for decades both in the States and abroad. Our kids
played with their children. It was a wonderful community of ministry and mutual
support. But . . . it was not according to the biblical pattern.
God is the One who has established His Church and placed Christ as Head over
it (1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 1:22, 23). It is to the Church (under the authority of
the Scriptures) to whom the keys of the kingdom were given (Matt. 16:19). It
is the Church militant (with the gospel) that Christ promised would prevail over
darkness (Matt. 16:18). It is the Church for whom Christ died (Eph. 5:25).
It is the Church whom Christ nourishes (Eph. 5:29). And, it is the Church that
Christ is preparing for Himself as His glorious bride (Eph. 5:27; Rev. 21:2).
This is not to argue that the Church is God's mediator on earth, "For there is
one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Thes. 2:5).
But neither is the Church God's failed "Plan A." All we tend to see is the Church
with all its weaknesses, error, hypocrisy, and sin. To us, it may look ugly;
it may even seem impotent. But it is still the victorious bride of our Lord
Jesus Christ. The Church, via the local churches, is the means God has established
for accomplishing the Great Commission. It not only is the biblically ordained
medium for proclaiming the gospel and discipling individuals and families, but
for discipling the nations as well (Matt. 28: 19, 20: Eph. 2:19-22). Even the
church at Corinth, with all its divisions, ignorance, incest, weak leadership,
and lack of discipline, still followed (albeit, poorly) the only biblically ordained
pattern for helping men and women to be godly.
Has the Church "arrived" yet? We must answer, "Yes and no." Yes, because God has
ordained it and equipped it to be His arm to minister ( it is the body of Christ).
No, because like the church of Corinth, it is still divided, ignorant, full
of sin, with weak leadership, and no discipline. However, unlike the wrong conclusion
I drew in my early days as a believer, we should not think of our Lord's Church
as full of "pew sitters," a weak sister, and impotent, requiring the desperate
aid of parachurch organizations to keep her alive. It is the Lord who nourishes
and sustains His Church, and it is He who is making her as beautiful on earth
as she will some day be in the heavenlies.
Therefore, let us not rashly flee her as rats flee a sinking ship. What we
don't need is one more parachurch organization to splint another broken leg or
plug another sucking chest wound in the Church. All we need is the Church, under
the headship of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the ministry
of the Word of Truth. We need to see her as Christ sees her, with all of her
sins washed clean, without spot or blemish, and then strive as Paul did with
zeal from within the Church to make the Church fully conform to the heavenly
pattern, that by God's grace, she may be as beautiful and victorious in practice
as God has decreed her to be in heaven.