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Volume 8, Issue 2: Doctrine 101

The Church Victorious and Beautiful

Patch Blakey

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.

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