What is God Like?
What is the Right Church?
“Grandpa,” greeted John, “up the street from us there are two churches. The sign on one says it is an Anglican Church and the sign on the other says it is a United Church. Which one is the right church?”
“Before we answer that question,” replied grandpa, “we had better find out what you mean by a church.”
“I guess I mean how they conduct themselves in their building which they call a church,” answered John.
“Unfortunately,” continued grandpa, “the word church is used to express various ideas, some of which are scriptural and others are not. There are five principal uses: (1) it is used to mean the building in which the services are held; (2) it is used to mean the total of all the members of a particular denomination as on the signs you mentioned, Anglican, United, etc.; (3) it is used to mean the total of all the denominations as when people say, ‘The church has failed us today’; (4) it is used to mean all the saved from the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two down to the day when Christ will come to take His people home to heaven; (5) and it is used to mean a group of Christians meeting in a specified location. Since the Bible does not recognize denominations, only the last two are scriptural.”
“What is the difference between the idea in number four and the idea in number five?” inquired John.
“Well,” explained grandpa, “Peter made a confession in Matthew, chapter sixteen and verse sixteen. He said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus told him that his confession was a revelation from heaven and He made this pronouncement, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.’ The rock on which the Church is built is not Peter, as some would try to tell us, but Christ Himself, for Peter in his own first epistle, chapter two and verse six, declares God’s intention, ‘Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, and precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.’ The Apostle Paul corroborates this in Ephesians, chapter two and verse twenty, when he says, ‘Jesus Christ, Himself being the chief corner stone. Now the language here is figurative, for the Bible likens the Church to a building in the next verse where it says, ‘In Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.’ Peter also speaks of Christians as ‘living stones’ of the building ‘built up a spiritual house’, verse five of chapter two. This is the idea of case four which defines the Church universal.”
“Why does the Bible use figurative language?” was John’s next question.
“Probably because it is easier to understand something we can see than an idea which we can only think about,” suggested grandpa. “Jesus used parables which are earthly stories to illustrate heavenly truths. It is more meaningful to think of the Church universal as a building with the corner stone, Christ, on which it is built and made up of living stones, which are the believers, than to think of it as all those who will be in heaven because they trusted in Christ as their Saviour. To help us understand this universal Church it is also likened to a body with Christ as Head and we as members owing allegiance to the Head and being guided and directed in our daily lives by Him. The passages that deal with this figure are First Corinthians, chapter twelve, verses twelve to twenty-seven and Ephesians chapter one, verses twenty-two and twenty-three, and chapter two verses fourteen to eighteen. The body of Christians is also likened to a ‘temple of God’ in First Corinthians chapter three and verse sixteen. All these figures help us to understand the place, the purpose and the privilege of the Christian in God’s design for the human race.”
“In what way does this differ from the meaning of church in point five?” pursued John.
“Point five,” answered grandpa, “has in view the local church or, as some call it, the visible church. I think the best definition of a local church is given by Christ in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter eighteen and verse twenty, which says, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.’”
“Then both churches up the street could be the right church,” cried John exultantly.
“No man can say otherwise,” agreed grandpa, “if they meet simply in the Lord’s Name and are guided by His will.”
“What if there are some unsaved among them?” asked John anxiously. “Only those who are truly saved constitute the local church,” emphasized grandpa. “But you will remember in our last discussion we spoke of ungodly men creeping in among the Christians and going so far as to deny the Lord. In Revelation, chapters two and three, seven churches are named and in them were found people who held false doctrines and taught them, and the Lord threatened to spew Laodicea out of His mouth, ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.’ “
“I guess none of the churches are perfect,” concluded John.
“The local church, limited to the saved, is part of the Church universal and what is true of one is true of the other,” grandpa summarized. “Another figure of the Church universal is that of a bride with Christ the Bridegroom. In Ephesians, chapter five and verse twenty-seven, we read of Christ presenting it to Himself, ‘His glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing … but (that it should be) holy and without blemish.’ This is not on earth for we have the fulfilment of that in Revelation, chapter nineteen and verses seven and eight, where the New English Bible reads, ‘Exult and shout for joy and do Him homage, for the wedding day of the Lamb has come! His bride has made herself ready and for her dress she has been given fine linen, clean and shining.’ We can never expect to find perfection here on earth, but when we are all home in heaven His Church will be perfect, and even you and I shall be presented ‘faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,’ Jude verse twenty-four.”
PASSAGES TO READ:
1 Corinthians 12:12-27