Church: God’s Only Plan
Although the Church may be suffering from the effects of political idolatry, sex scandals, and lethargic members, we must never forget the view that Paul and Jesus had of the Church. They did not view the Church—despite her major flaws in their day—as an unsalvageable wreck. Instead, they saw the Church as something unique and beautiful that must be fought for at all costs.
Jesus’ high view of the Church
First, Jesus chose to identify with the Church—to give her his last name, in effect. In Ephesians 5:28, it says that Christ “feeds and cares for” the Church. That is personal language. It also speaks of the Church as the bride of Christ in the ultimate marriage. Jesus tells his bickering followers that no one ever loved the Church as much as he does, when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus himself got down on his knees before the Church in the upper room to wash their feet himself. The picture still brings tears to my eyes. Jesus vested everything in the Church.
How Paul saw the Church
In case you thought love for the Church was reserved only for extraordinary churches, remember how Paul starts out his letter to the struggling church at Corinth: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then he thanks God for the grace that had been shown to them through Christ.
Paul makes the startling claim in Ephesians 5:32 that marriage, an institution ordained from the beginning and practiced for thousands of years by the Jewish people, was actually just a prefigurement of the church’s relationship to Christ!
One further example is how Paul builds his argument for unity within the body. In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Paul writes that the Corinthian believers “are God’s temple,” and that because of that, they were to be careful to not destroy that temple by quarreling and divisions. That is incredibly strong, to any Jewish person reading this statement. They would have immediately thought of the utter reverence they had as they stood inside the walls of the Temple in Jerusalem and saw the priests fulfilling their duties. No one would have dared to take a sledgehammer to the walls. Paul’s listeners must have been shocked at the reverence he had for the Church.
This is God’s plan for the world
Jesus leaves his disciples with one main command: to be his witnesses throughout the world, starting in Jerusalem (Acts: 1:7). This was Jesus’ plan for the Church—they were to act as heavenly couriers explaining the news of the Kingdom throughout the world. Despite the imperfection of the Church today, we must not forget two things:
- That God chose the Church to show his glory to the world and has no other plan.
- That God will use the Church to achieve His ultimate goal for the world: redemption.