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CHAPTER V

THE CHURCH

PART 1: THE PERFECT MAN

INTRODUCTION

Now it is not without reason that we have taken so much time to dwell on the matters of (1) the human spirit, (2) regeneration, (3) grace, and (4) the growth in life: because what all this leads to is our ONENESS; and our oneness produces the CHURCH; and THE CHURCH PRODUCES CHRIST'S TESTIMONY IN THE EARTH:

"That they all may be ONE ... THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME." (John 17:21)

That is God's testimony on the earth: our ONENESS which is manifested as a PRACTICAL matter in the CHURCH.

It's essential that we understand the progression here: it is a progression in LIFE, and not one of organizational skill. The church is not an organization, it is a living breathing organism - IT IS THE "BODY OF CHRIST" (Ephesians 3:23), and, once again, the development which leads to this culmination in life is initiated when we begin to "BEHOLD AND REFLECT" Christ in our spirit.

BEHOLDING AND REFLECTING

So let's examine this process in depth, because unless we fully understand these matters, we may find that what we produce as the church is NOT the church at all, but something more akin to General Motors or IBM - a successful corporation having NOTHING to do with the "BODY OF CHRIST;" a DEAD MACHINE rather than a LIVING ORGANISM.

Let's review: the Bible says that when our spirit is regenerated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled - through the growth in life - to be changed into Christ's likeness. And how is that accomplished? - it is accomplished as we "BEHOLD AND REFLECT" Christ in our spirit (2 Cor. 3:18a); and as we do so, we are - 

"...  changed into His image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18b) [The term "from glory to glory" means to be changed progressively over time from one stage of glory to the next and so on and on and on; this is the "growth in life."]

That they all may be ONE … THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME

I say again, it's "beholding and reflecting" the Lord in our spirits that changes or SANCTIFIES us. This is what true godliness is all about. This is why the apostle Paul could cry out in Ephesians chapter three:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that WE SHOULD BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLAME BEFORE HIM IN LOVE:

"Having predestinated us unto the ADOPTION of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

"To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath MADE US ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED.

"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE." (Ephesians 3:3-7)

The Bible says here that (1) we have been blessed with ALL spiritual blessings in Christ; that (2) WE ARE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLAME BEFORE HIM IN LOVE; (3) that we have been ADOPTED by God as His children; (4) that we have been MADE ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED; and (5) that ALL this was accomplished through the RICHES OF HIS GRACE.

GRACE: UNMERITED FAVOR

Now, once again, we must pause and remind ourselves what GRACE is: GRACE cannot be earned! GRACE MEANS THE UNMERITED, UNRECOMPENSED FAVOR OF GOD; add even the slightest effort on the part of man, and grace is no more grace. (Rom. 11:6)

So now, as this great truth begins - through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our spirit - to sink into our consciousness, and as we concomitantly give up trying to be holy by our own efforts and instead simply "BEHOLD AND REFLECT" Christ in our spirit, Christ -

  • "ABOUNDS" to us in "all wisdom and prudence," and

  • begins to make "known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself."

That's what the Bible says:

"Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: (Ephesians 3:8-9)

THE GOOD PLEASURE WHICH
HE PURPOSED IN HIMSELF

And what exactly is the "good pleasure which He purposed in Himself?" -

"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times HE MIGHT GATHER TOGETHER IN ONE all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." (Ephesians 3:10)

Concerning all this, the great apostle prays -

"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS,

"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

"Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

"Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

"Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 3:17-23)

That ye may know what the RICHES OF THE GLORY of his inheritance in the saints

Now pause and think what the apostle is praying here; he is praying -

  • That the Father of glory, may give unto you the SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND REVELATION IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM;

  • That the EYES OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING MAY BE OPENED;

  • That ye may know what is the HOPE OF HIS CALLING;

  • That ye may know what the RICHES OF THE GLORY of his inheritance in the saints;

  • And that ye may know what is the EXCEEDING GREATNESS OF HIS POWER to us-ward who believe which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.

Now pay attention particularly to verse 18: Where are all these riches and wisdom to be found? - "IN THE SAINTS!" (verse 18) [that is to say, in the church (verse 22)] - "which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (verse 23). That's the PURPOSE of God in Christ Jesus:

"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times HE MIGHT GATHER TOGETHER IN ONE all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." (Ephesians 3:10)

COMMUNITY WITH GOD &
COMMUNITY WITH "ALL SAINTS"

"Gather together in one;" "fellowship;" "with all saints" - what is all this speaking about? - "community!" - "community" with God, and "community" with man! Where? - in the church!  In other words, as we are changed into the likeness of the Lord, we reflect His glory, and His glory brings oneness among the brothers and sisters; then THIS ONENESS PRODUCES THE CHURCH, and THE CHURCH PRODUCES CHRIST'S TESTIMONY IN THE EARTH:

"That they all may be ONE ... THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME." (John 17:21) ?

Our oneness produces the church. Indeed, our oneness IS the church, and the church IS God's testimony in the earth. IT IS THIS ONENESS THAT GOD INTENDS TO JUXTAPOSE AGAINST THE ONENESS THAT THE FALSE OR APOSTATE CHURCH ENGENDERS, AND IN DOING SO DRAW MEN AND WOMEN TO HIMSELF.

OUR ONENESS, WHICH IS THE CHURCH,
MUST BE DEMONSTRATED PRACTICALLY

"... the whole church assembled together ..."

Now in connection with all this, we should understand that the Bible speaks of the church in two ways: (1) the church universal, and (2) the church local.  For example, in I Cor. 12:28 the Bible says:

"And God hath set some in the church (singular), first apostles, secondly, prophets, thirdly, teachers ..." (I Cor. 12:28)

However, in the Revelation the Bible says,

"I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches (plural) which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea."  (Rev. 1:11)

And again, in I Cor. 14:23 we read,

"... the whole church assembled together ..." (I Cor. 14:23)

In the first instance (I Cor. 12:28), the Bible is referencing the church universal, and in the second instance (Revelation I:11 and I Corinthians 14:23), the Bible is referencing the church local.

In speaking of the church universal, the Bible is referencing all those believers of every race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, locality, language, and civilization - and even those who have died and are now with the Lord. 

When speaking of the church local, the Bible is referencing those believers who "assemble together" because they are physically able to do so - that is to say, they live in proximity with one another as in the two instances referenced above in Rev. 1:11 and I Cor. 14:23. IT IS HERE - IN THE LOCAL CHURCH - THAT WE MUST BE BUILT UP TOGETHER IN ONENESS WITH OTHER SAINTS.

IT'S IN THE LOCAL CHURCH THAT THE
CHURCH MAKES CONTACT WITH THE WORLD

It is here - in the local church - that the "work of building" takes place. (I Pet. 2:5) THIS IS WHERE THE CHURCH MAKES CONTACT WITH THE WORLD AND THE UNSAVED.  Indeed, it probably wouldn't be too much to say, that it's at the local level of the church's operation that the main struggle between it and the world for the souls of men and women takes place. It is here AT THE LOCAL LEVEL - where we live - that our ONENESS must be demonstrated to the world.

Finally, it is here - in the local church - THAT THE ONENESS THAT CHRIST GIVES CAN BE JUXTAPOSED AGAINST THE KIND OF ONENESS THAT THE APOSTATE CHURCH ENGENDERS IN THE SERVICE OF THE KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD. IT'S HERE THAT PEOPLE CAN DISCERN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO; IT IS THEN THAT THE POOR WILL BE ABLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE CHURCH (SO-CALLED) THAT IS CONNECTED TO THE AMERICAN NEW WORLD ORDER SYSTEM AND THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST THAT IS ASSOCIATED IN LIFE WITH THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! AND IT IS HERE THAT GOD WILL BE GLORIFIED BECAUSE WE ARE UNITED TOGETHER NOT ON THE BASIS OF COMPULSION, BUT ON LOVE.

WE CANNOT GLORIFY CHRIST WITHOUT
BEING BUILT-UP WITH OTHER SAINTS

But if we do not assemble together with other saints on a regular and meaningful basis, there is NO way that we can be a testimony for Christ.  Remember here, that's how the world knows that Christ was sent by the Father: By our ONENESS - by our PRACTICAL, DAY-BY-DAY ONENESS with other saints. (John 17:21) 

Now this doesn't mean that we can in any way compromise the truth as we seek others who are willing to stand with us insofar as that truth is concerned. If we give up on truth, we give up on Christ; and without Christ, there is no church. Jesus said:

"I am the way the TRUTH and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)

That means that we cannot give up on what we've seen regarding the "end of the age." But we still must have the church. Therefore, we must diligently seek out others who see what we see and make every effort to establish a church-life with them - to get "built-up" with them as "living stones." Listen to me here, dear brothers and sisters in the Lord: there is simply no way that we can glorify Christ and be "perfected in Him" outside of being one with other saints where we live. The "PERFECT MAN" in the New Testament is that person WHO HAS BEEN "FITTED" AS A "LIVING STONE" (I Pet. 2:5) INTO THE BUILDING OF CHRIST (Eph: 2:21) which is the church; the Bible says:

"Ye also, as lively (living) stones, are BUILT UP a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 2:5)

THE PERFECT MAN

It is in the church that we become "no more children, tossed to and fro" (Eph 4:14), but grow up in Christ "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13) "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and COMPACTED by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16).

NOTE THE PERFECT MAN

Again, in speaking of the "PERFECT MAN," the New Testament is not talking about personal holiness here, for you must remember, whatever personal holiness we have is derived strictly and only from Christ's work on the cross. It is a holiness that is imparted to us apart from anything we have done. The Bible says: "... all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags ..." (Is. 64:6). When we measure one another by "our righteousnesses" we declare that we know NOTHING about God; and that the kind of Christianity that we are engaged in is a form of "Grail Christianity." [Please see our article, "The Grail Quest: The Search for Inner Perfection."]

Now look carefully here: Growing up in Christ "unto a PERFECT MAN, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13) is tied to being COMPACTED together with other saints. (Eph. 4:16) You cannot have one without the other. And where are we COMPACTED together? - in the church; in the LOCAL church. But how can that be accomplished if you have no one with whom you can "assemble together?"

PART 2: THE CHURCH AS THE
"COMMUNITY OF GOD"

THE CHURCH: GOD'S ANSWER FOR MAN'S LONGING
FOR COMMUNITY; FOR HIS DESIRE "TO BELONG"

"... It is not good that ... man should be alone ..."

The Bible says:

"... It is not good that ... man should be alone ..." (Gen. 2:18)

He needs other human beings with whom he can interact; with whom he can mutually relate; with whom he can share his joys and sorrows, his victories and defeats, his successes and failures. Yes! - even failures. Indeed, one of the most poignant passages of Scripture relates to the need for companionship when one is suffering failure:

"... woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up." (Eccl. 4:10)

And this sad lamentation is repeated throughout the Scriptures (Ex. 18:18, Num. 11:14, Eccl. 4:11, etc.).

Even God cannot abide loneliness - and it was this more than all the other horrors of the crucifixion, that tore at Christ's heart when He was abandoned by the Father as He hung on the cross:

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46)

LONLINESS IS AN ABHORRENT THING

Loneliness is surely an abhorrent thing. Indeed, one of the most invidious things about sin is that sin destroys relationships; and in doing so, it creates separation and isolation. After all, what is it about adultery that makes it so abominable? - surely it is the fact that it tears at the fabric of trust which holds a husband and a wife together in love! And is it not the same with idolatry? Does not idolatry strike at the very heart of the relationship that God desires with man? - certainly it does! And what about honoring your parents? - when one fails to do so, does it not break the relationship between parents and children? - of course it does! And then there's stealing, and covetousness and all the rest. Do not all these things - in the end - destroy relationships and break the bonds of trust that hold a community together, creating in their wake suspicion, cynicism, hatred, etc. - all the things which are the progenitors (i.e., the origin and source) of isolation and division? Surely they do!

Man needs "community" - and sin destroys it. Sin destroys man's relationship with God, and it destroys his relationship with other men. Without "community" - i.e., "community" with man and "community" with God - man ceases to be man; he loses his humanity. And it is for this reason that God gave us the church -

"That they all may be one (i.e., that they may have "community" with each other); as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (i.e., that they may have "community" with God): that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21)

"That the world may believe that thou hast sent me." This is very important! How does the world know that God sent Christ into the world? - because believers have (1) "community" with each other, and (2) "community" with God! That's our testimony: Community! -

"And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

"I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:22-23)

And how is this "community" demonstrated? - through the church!

THE CHURCH IS THIS

NOT THIS

WHAT CHRISTIAN "COMMUNITY" IS  ALL ABOUT

Now it's important in this connection to understand what the word "community" means. The word "community" is taken from the word "commune," which means to "communicate intimately with," or to "be intimate with." The word implies "closeness," "affection," "familiarity," "friendship" - and is the word from which we derive the word "communal," meaning "belonging to," as, for example, in the way it is used in Mark 9:41:

"For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward."

In the Ancient World, the church was the "community of God;" it was the "commune" of God.

We belong to Christ, and it's for this reason that those who help us help Christ; and in doing so, Christ incurs an obligation to them (i.e., He becomes indebted to them) - hence, His obligation to reward (or pay) them.

Now be clear what's happening here. It's not Christ per se who was helped; it was those who belong to Christ (i.e., Christians - us) who were helped; but because we belong to Christ, the debts we incur as a result of our testimony are ipso facto incurred by Christ. Our debts become Christ's debts. He is obligated to pay them. This is the sense that "belonging to" implied in the Ancient World. Therefore, when one "belonged to" a community, his debts too "belonged to" that community; his obligations became the community's obligations. Thus, "community" in the Ancient World meant "to hold things in common" in the sense that we today attach to the word "communal" or "commune."

In the Ancient World, the church was the "community of God;" it was the "commune" of God. Hence, unlike what most modern-day Christians have been taught, the early "communal" organization of the church in Jerusalem was no accident or fluke. It flowed naturally and in a very uncontrived manner out of the early saints' understanding of what "community" meant - which is to say, "communalism." Consequently, in speaking of the early church, the Bible says:

"And all that believed were together, and had all things common ..." (Acts 2:44)

"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." (Acts 4:32)

Pretty scary, isn't it? It certainly strikes at our modern, "free enterprise" understanding of the church-life - but to the extent that this frightens those who are reading this material, it's to that extent that they have missed the mark of what the real church-life is all about -

"The unreserved sharing of one another in a community of believers who possess the life of Christ."

I say again, the church-life is the unrestricted sharing of one another in a community of believers dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. And believe me when I tell you that there exists in the heart of men - all men - a yearning for this kind of "community" and the friendships and commitment that flow out from it. It's exerts an enchanting pull on everyone - believer and unbeliever alike. But it is only through the church-life - the REAL church-life (not the dead, institutional kind of church-life that is extant in America today - that this yearning can ever be fulfilled.

THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT THE
CHURCH IS A SOCIALIST INSTITUTION

The death of Ananias

Of course, this is not to say that members of a church are REQUIRED to "sell all they have" and "have all things in common." There is no such requirement laid upon the saints of God. What the disciples did in the church in Jerusalem, they did of a willing spirit and because of the exigencies of the time. This is made plain in the account of Ananias and Sapphira:

"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

"And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it, at the apostles' feet.

"But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

"Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (Acts 5:1-4)

What's important to note here is that the Scriptures recognized the prior claim of Ananias and Sapphira on their property and money. It was theirs. They could dispose of it as they wished. The church as such had no claim on it; this passage of Scripture does not validate socialism as a Marxist ideology. While the Bible is certainly not a capitalist document, as some preachers of the "Green Gospel" and the Religious Right (and especially the "fat cats" of the Republican Party) suppose, it plainly recognizes the "right" of private property. What Ananias and Sapphira did that was wrong was not refusing to join in what appeared to be a "general rush" of some to sell their property and give it to the church, but was, instead, pretending to join that "rush" and lying to the church about it. Lying to the church was the sin they committed.

And it occurred in this way: some of the disciples had very evidently been led of the Lord to sell their property and give it to the church; for example, "Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus ..." (Acts 4:36)

And, of course, there were many more who had likewise been led of the Lord out of a willing heart to do so (Acts 4:34) - evidently to meet the very great need of the church at the time, which had, in a matter of days, expanded from a few hundred souls to thousands and thousands, many of whom were desperately poor. (Acts chapters 2-5) That they did so willingly is made apparent by the context. Obviously, Ananias and Sapphira were not so led, but they saw what appeared to them to be the general thanksgiving of the saints in connection with the generosity of those who had given so much, and they wanted to be "lifted up" (as they saw it) in like manner; hence their intrigue. (Acts 5:1-2) They wanted the "approval" (again, as they saw it) of the congregation minus the sacrifice that was necessary to obtain that "approval" (i.e., appreciation, thankfulness). They wanted recognition! - and an undeserved recognition at that. This was the problem" This was the sin!

PART 3: THE CHURCH AS THE FAMILY OF GOD

THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY

Families derive their validity from love

For those on the left who claim to see an embryonic form of socialism (or even communism) in these passages of Scripture, or for those on the right who believe that the actions of these individuals resulted merely from an "over-enthusiasm of the moment" (or who would really rather see these passages excised altogether from the Scripture), they are missing the point altogether. The church is not a socialist institution; neither is it a capitalist institution.  IT IS A FAMILY! Institutions - whether of the right or of the left - derive their validity from power, i.e., force or the ability to coerce or compel others. Not so with a family. Coercion has no part in a family. Families derive their validity from love. What motivates the action of family members is love, not coercion. We repeat, the church is a family; it's not an institution! We are the Lord's "brothers" and "sisters," and "brothers" and "sisters" one of another. The Bible says,

"While he (i.e., Jesus) yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

"Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.

"But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?

"And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

"For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matt. 12:46-50)

Together, we all share the same life - Christ's life. Jesus said:

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:4-6)

By abiding in Christ, we share Christ's life, and because we share Christ's life, we become Christ's family. This is why Jesus said:

"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)

WE ARE THE FATHER'S CHILDREN

We are members of his family, and this is why we can ask the Father what we will - because we ask as His children:

"... what man (i.e., father) is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

"Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them (i.e., his children) that ask him?" (Matt. 7:9-11)

We are the Father's children because we are the brothers and sisters of Christ - we share Christ's life.

This brings us back to the matter of communalism. The communalism of the church is an attitude, it's not a "necessary way of doing things." Was the communalism of the early church a normal thing? Probably not. Was "living together" and "having all things in common" what everybody really wanted? Probably not. Living together and sharing things in common are not normal things - nor should they necessarily be. Nevertheless, the church should have a communal spirit (Geist). A willingness with regard to communalism. An attitude of communalism. Why? - because families are communal - not only in the Ancient World, but today.

It was in answer to their concept of communalism that those in the church in Jerusalem saw the need of their brothers and sisters in the Lord, and love motivated them to sell all that they had in order to help. What love! What compassion! This giving was not forced upon them by an unfeeling bureaucracy and the force of institutional power, but instead flowed out of love. It had nothing to do with an institution's compulsion, and everything to do with the love of one family member for another. This is what "belonging to" is all about. It's a family "belonging to," not an institutional "belonging to." This is what Christ meant when He said,

"For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." (Mark 9:41)

INSTITUTIONAL "BELONGING TO" Vs. FAMILY "BELONGING TO"

Today, in church after church in America, we have institutional "belonging to," but we don't have family "belonging to."

The status of most Christians in today's institutional church

When today's church helps its members, it helps its members as an institution, not as a family. Too often, the help that is extended is the unsympathetic, compassionless help that characterizes the welfare office rather than that of a family - and this is especially so in those churches which have adopted the elite establishment's attitude towards the poor - i.e., that people are poor because they are lazy.

Where is there any testimony to the Lord here? Why would unbelievers be drawn to the Lord as the result of this kind of a testimony? No, it's better for them to go to the institutions of the state rather than to the church. This is not the kind of love, the kind of "belonging to" that will draw unbelievers to Christ the way they were drawn to Christ in the early years of the church. Yes! - better that they go to the county welfare office than to the church - at least there is probably more money there, the files that are kept are probably more accurate, and the help comes on a more regular and non-judgmental basis than it does at the church. But if that's the case, we shouldn't wonder why unbelievers aren't drawn to Christ. Why? - because Christ's testimony lies in our oneness, a oneness that flows out of love.  That's what the Bible says:

"And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

"I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:22-23)

If we don't have oneness, than we don't have a testimony. Our testimony lies in the fact of our oneness. And it's not the oneness that an institution generates or the oneness that ecumenicism creates, but the oneness that flows out of a shared life - the life of Christ - and that results out of the kind of oneness that a family alone - i.e., the family of God - is capable of producing.

PART 4: ABIDING IN THE TRUTH

REAL CHURCH UNITY HAS NOTHING TO DO
WITH COMPROMISING THE WORD OF GOD

CHURCH:
pillar and ground of truth

Again I say, the unity which the Bible has in mind here is not something for which we - as individual Christians - must strive; nor is it – and this is important - something for which we must compromise the Word of God.  To say so is to imply that we can have either unity OR "sound doctrine," but not both.

That, however, is an absurdity - an absurdity which, nonetheless, many evangelicals seem willing to embrace. It's as preposterous as saying that God can be either loving OR righteous, but not both.   Unity - real unity, the unity which Christ gives - has nothing to do with compromising the Word of God.  To think so is to exhibit a superficiality and shallowness of faith that is shocking.  The unity which Christ gives is ours as a natural by-product of our "abiding in Christ:" As we abide in Christ, and as we -

"... behold ... the Lord as in a mirror ... [we] are changed into the same image [i.e., Christ's image] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."  (2 Cor. 3:18)

YOU CANNOT HAVE THE CHURCH
WITHOUT HAVING THE TRUTH

The Bible says that the church is -

"... the PILLAR and GROUND of the TRUTH" (1 Tim. 3:15)

If, then, a church no longer "abides in that truth" (I John 2:27) can it really be called a church? The answer is obviously, No! Just because people who call themselves Christian meet together does not in itself mean that they meet as the church. The Mormons, the Moonies, the Jehovah Witnesses and countless other similar sects call themselves Christian - but does that mean that when they meet together, they meet as (or constitute) the church? - No, of course not! Why? - because they do not meet on the "ground of truth," despite the fact that they call themselves Christian. The Bible says:

"... God is a Spirit: and they that worship him MUST worship him in spirit and in TRUTH. (John 4:24)

IF THE TRUTH WE PREACH DOES NOT
PRODUCE THE CHURCH, IT IS NOTHING

Moreover, the Bible says,

"Whosoever ... abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, HATH NOT GOD ..." (2 John 1:9)

And it goes on to say,

"He that hath my commandments [i.e., my word (which is to say, the truth)] , and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

"... if a man love me, he will keep my words (i.e., he will abide in the truth): and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:21, 23)

If we are abiding in the truth, and - consequently - we are loving and being loved by the Father and this love is being manifested to our brothers and sisters in Christ, than all this will have an outcome: the church. Love is the outcome of "sound doctrine," (that's what John 14:23 says!) and that love then produces the church. If the church is not ultimately produced, than we should have concern as to what we are doing. If - in proclaiming what we perceive to be the truth - the truth we are proclaiming does not produce the church, but just empty words, than we're doing something wrong! The Bible says:

"... My word ... shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Is. 55:11)

Again I say, if our "contending" for the faith does not produce the church, then all our contending is vain. There is no substance to it - and again, when we speak of the church, we're not speaking about an "institutional manifestation" of the church, but a "communal manifestation" of the church - the church as God's family. The Mormons, the Moonies, etc. produce a oneness from their false doctrine, but it's an institutional oneness, not a family oneness.

God's Word produces an "abiding in Christ," which then produces love, which then produces the church. That's what Isaiah 55:11 (when taken together with John 4:24; John 14:21, 23; and 2 John 1:9) plainly indicates.

PART 5: THE GLORIOUS CHURCH

GOD'S PURPOSE IN SAVING US

The entire work of the Holy Spirit during these last two thousand years has been to establish the church.

God's purpose, then, in saving us (Mat. 20:28) is to "build us up (as) a spiritual house," and by doing so to establish the church - Christ's body "... which is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:23) The church, then, is the vehicle through which God has chosen to "make known" His glory and wisdom in the universe. HOW UNIMAGINABLE SIGNIFICANT, THEREFORE, IS THE CHURCH IN GOD'S EYES!  Indeed, the Bible says:

"Christ ... loved the church, AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR IT." (Eph. 5:25)

It's for this very reason that Christ even rose from the dead, and is now seated far above all rule and authority and power and dominion: that He might become the "head over all things to the church" (Eph. 1:22). 

In fact, the entire work of the Holy Spirit during these last two thousand years has been to establish the church.  God saves sinners and gives them victory in their personal lives not necessarily to perfect them as individual stones but to "mold and shape" them so that they can at last be "fitted" into the building; and it's for this purpose of "building up" the church (i.e., of "molding and shaping" - "perfecting" - the individual saints) that He bestows apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as "gifts" to the church. 

WHAT IS THE GOAL TOWARD
WHICH YOU ARE PRESSING?

The Bible says:

"For the earnest expectation of the creature (i.e., the creation) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God (i.e., the church) ... For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." (Romans 8:19, 22)

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The Bible says that all of creation is "travailing in pain" to have the church revealed.

Is being established in this PERFECT man [i.e., the "builded-up" church (Eph. 4:13)] the goal towards which you are laboring in your day-to-day life? Or does your labor consist simply of emailing others and talking with others on the telephone? Is your church simply the "church on the internet" where your brothers and sisters are merely "electrical impulses" suspended in the air?  If that's what your church-life consists of, then your labor for Christ is in vain, and ON THAT DAY when you appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, you will appear empty-handed. This may be an uncomfortable saying for most of you; nonetheless, it's true! The Bible says:

"We are labourers together with God: ye [plural] are God's husbandry, ye [plural] are God's building [which is the church].

"According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." (1 Cor. 3:9-13)

The Bible says that our works will be made "manifest:" for "the day (i.e., that day when Christ judges our works) shall declare it." And what is the "Work of God?" - IT IS THE CHURCH! That's what the Bible is talking about here - after all, what are we as "God's building" if not the church? The Bible says "Ye (corporately) are God's building!" (I Cor. 3:9) Christ is the foundation: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ!" (I Cor. 3:11) We are called to labor on this foundation, and OUR LABOR WILL BE JUDGED: "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."  (I Cor. 3:12-13)

One direction is towards Satan, and the other towards God; one direction is towards separation and isolation, the other towards community - community with man and community with God.

THE WORLD IS HEADED IN
TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

The cosmos is headed in two different directions: one direction is towards Satan, and the other towards God; one direction is towards separation and isolation, the other towards community - community with man and community with God. Unbelievers know this! They may not know it because they've studied the Word, but they know it nonetheless. They know it intuitively. It's a "knowing" that God has put in the hearts and minds of all men everywhere. Again, the Bible says,

"That they all may be one (i.e., that they may have "community" with each other); as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (i.e., that they may have "community" with God): that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21)


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