A Glorious Church
A glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
Divine Grace has expressed the eternal purpose of God in the statement that Christ will one day present unto himself a glorious Church. We note the water of life and the cleansing of the Word are needed to prepare her, marred as she now is by the Fall, to be presented to him in glory. For today we stand within the history of fallen man’s redemption, and there are defects yet to be remedied, wounds to be healed. Yet how gracious are the words used of her: “not having spot”- the scars of sin, whose very history is now forgotten, “or wrinkle”- the marks of age and time lost, for all is now made up and all is new; and “without blemish”- so that Satan or demons or men can find no ground for blame in her. God has leaped in thought over whole of history to see his Church in glory, expressing nothing of man’s fall, but only the image of his glorified Son.
Many today, including some who are confessing Christians appear to be giving up on the church. Many find it no problem to point out her flaws, weaknesses, and failures. Some of this stems from a false perception of what the church is. For some she is an organization to be ran in the same manner as a worldly corporation. Their involvement in the church consist of multitudes of meetings, committees, and programs; many which are designed to satisfy their preferences and based upon the faulty logic that the church exists to meet one or more of their desires and/or needs. In order to assure that the purpose of the church centers around their perceptions and wishes, a hierarchy of structure- human driven- is created. Before long, however, the structure takes on a life of its own and members are compelled to continue to contribute energy and resources to keep it functioning. One might say that the tail begins to wag the dog.
Others choose to disconnect from gathering with other believers for their perception of the church is that it coordinates music and sermons designed to “feed” them. So they often opt to become electronic Christians, viewing the services from the comfort of their home with the ability to choose the time and if the service doesn’t meet their expectations, they can easily disconnect.
None of this is the church the Paul presents in Ephesians 5 when he speaks of “a glorious church.” This church is nothing of human manufacture, no human created organization with levels of hierarchy, and no institution designed for the sole benefit of its members. This church is an organism- the “body of Christ”- living and breathing through the human spirit as it is being acted upon by the Holy Spirit. This is the church birthed on the Day of Pentecost by the Holy Spirit as He came upon the 120 seekers waiting in prayer. On that day there were no meetings except the one of meeting with God in prayer alongside the other believers. There were no committees, no votes, nothing social or political. While the church was birthed in the community, it took its cue from its Creator and its mission had been already defined by its Builder.
You see, Christ isn’t building some earthly, human organization. He’s building people, transforming them by His power from creatures of darkness with powerful sin desires into children of light who now desire the things of God more than those of this present world. While these may not yet be perfect, they are being daily perfected by the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. From the book of Romans these are those who are presenting their bodies as “living sacrifices,” being “transformed by the renewing of their minds,” and ceasing to “conform to this present world.” In the Gospel of Matthew Christ makes this powerful statement: “Upon this rock, I will build my church” and He’s not speaking of some human organization but something far more wonderful. Revelation defines it as the “Holy Jerusalem”- not the city but its inhabitants.
One day we will stand in the presence of God. We won’t be in some building and nothing of earth will be present there except for redeemed humanity. Those who stand on that day will be those who have “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb:”
“After these things I looked, and this is what I saw: a vast multitude which no one could count, [gathered] from every nation and from all the tribes and peoples and languages [of the earth], standing before the throne and before the Lamb (Christ), dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands; Then one of the elders responded, saying to me, “These who are dressed in the long white robes—who are they, and from where did they come?” I said to him, “My lord, you know [the answer].” And he said to me, “These are the people who come out of the great tribulation (persecution), and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [because of His atoning sacrifice]. For this reason, they are [standing] before the throne of God; and they serve Him [in worship] day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them and shelter and protect them [with His presence]. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any [scorching] heat; for the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of the waters of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes [giving them eternal comfort].”
Revelation 7:9, 13-17
On that day we will behold as well as being a part of that number who is the “glorious church without, spot, wrinkle, blemish or any such thing”
For now, we accept that the church-we- are in a constant state of transformation- not yet arrived at the place of being glorious, but straining with all our heart to become molded into the image of Christ. Daily we come to the Word of God and let it wash over us, cleansing our hearts and minds from the taint of sin and its stains. Daily we ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and should He discover imperfections, we ask Him to reveal them and to deliver us from their power. And one day, He will present us to Christ as His radiant bride.
Don’t become discouraged with the current state of the church here on earth. Turn your eyes and heart to the Risen Lord who has promised to build His church- His glorious church.
Dr. John Thompson