Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stand for the Rule of Faith, Part 10

With Christianity today fragmented between the Orthodox East and the Roman West, Protestantism in all its various forms, and many independent congregations of various types, how can you affirm the words, "and in one holy universal Church"? How can you stand for "one holy universal Church" when there is not one visible Church but a plethora of churches?

What is the Church? In the sense intended here it is all the redeemed of all the ages. In the time of the Imperial Church this came to be confused with the official Church of the Roman Empire. Both the Eastern Rite and the Roman Rite consider themselves each to be the true Church in this sense, still (as does the Coptic Church in Africa). In this line of thought the one holy Church must be a visible Church united in doctrine and ritual throughout the whole world. Yet even in the age of the Imperial Church the visible Church never lived up to that ideal. There have been splinter groups throughout the ages who have challenged the authority of the Imperial Church.

As a Baptist I believe that the most common usage of the word "church" in the New Testament refers to local congregations. Yet in a few places the word is used to speak of all of Christ's people (Matt 16: 18; 1 Cor 12: 28; Eph 1: 22; 3: 10, 21; 5: 23--32; Col 1: 18--25; Heb 12: 23). In Heb 12: 23 the writer speaks of "the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (NASB). And in Eph 5: 27 Paul speaks of Christ presenting the church to himself as a bride pure and holy. These are the two keys for unlocking this mystery of how a visibly fragmented church can exist in the world and there still be "one holy universal Church."

Stand for the church where you are as "holy." Seek, by your life and example, to pursue visible holiness. The charge to the believer is clear: "Be holy yourselves in all your behavior" (1 Pet 1: 15, NASB). You, as a believer, are called to be holy--set apart to God's purposes. You are not your own. You have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus. Recognize that personal holiness is not some arrogant, legalistic self-righteousness but living humbly before God, seeking to do his will as found in his word for the benefit of his church and the glory of his name. Christ's goal is for a holy church. "Strive for . . . holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb 12: 14, ESV).

Stand for the Church as the redeemed people of the Lord from all ages. The true Church is the one Church whose names are written in heaven. Realize that every time you worship you are joining in worship with those who have gone before you as they worship in heaven. This is the communion of the saints, that we are privileged to join in with the worship that is continually happening in heaven (Heb 12: 22--23). Seek genuine worship--a life changing encounter with God through Jesus Christ. In all things seek peace and unity on the basis of truth in your local congregation as an expression of your belief in the importance of the unity of the body of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. It seems to me that church today is mostly a business and social venture. Very few teaching pastors. its about marketing, signs, programs, fall festivals, music, light shows, multi-media, building bigger buildings.