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by Adah L. Hutchcraft
❦He created her and he works in and through her. It is impossible to divorce the true church from the person of Christ because he is her head and her Lord and her husband. Without Christ there is no church, so her very existence identifies her with him. The scriptures are even so bold as to refer to the church as Christ; “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, “so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). It is in reference to the church that the text says “so also is Christ.” This text plainly affirms that the church is one with Christ, even sharing in his sufferings. “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:10-11).
The reference to the church as Christ’s “body” is a term of incarnation. When Christ became flesh he was “God incarnate.” He has since resurrected from the dead and ascended to the Father. Christ is no longer in the flesh, but the church is, and she manifests the person of Christ. Indeed, this is the purpose of her existence: “to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known (made manifest) through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:9-11). Christ purposed that the church be a living, present-day manifestation of his nature, his will, and his life. The church is the continuation of the story of salvation; She is Christ in the flesh. As Robinson says, “She [the church] is in the world to redeem it.”
O ne Holy Catholic Church
❦The church is not limited to one ethnic group, geographical location or denomination. While this may seem petty to address, the practice of many claimed believers does not reflect this reality. Many people break fellowship with other Christians for a multiplicity of reasons which have little or nothing to do with faith in Christ and are more consumed with tradition, method, and conscience.
The word “catholic” ( as quoted in the Apostle’s creed) literally means “universal.” The church exists wherever there are disciples of Christ, regardless of where or who they are. The church transcends our petty comfort zones and egos and embraces people never seen or heard of. The church even includes people who do not always agree! Yet the scriptures say that the church is “one”; “But now there are many members, but one body” (1 Cor. 12:20). How can this be? What bond is so strong that it can unite people of diverse cultures, races, nations and understandings? It is Christ and Christ alone; “So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). Compared to the common ground we share in Christ, our differences become insignificant at worst and learning tools at best. That which unites us is greater than it is often understood to be.
To be bound to Christ is to be united with those who are likewise. We have chosen Christ and thus we have chosen fellowship with his brethren. The presence of such love is the mark of new life in Christ, for as the scriptures say, “we know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren”(I John 3:14). This love surpasses all human boundaries because it is divine. Christ does not require believers to agree upon every subject, be in the same meeting place, or have the same skin color. If this were true then the church would be rooted in itself and not in Christ! What Christ requires unconditionally is that we love him. Throughout the world you can find people who have chosen Christ above all, and it is upon this cornerstone the church is built. Christ gives us his love and in turn empowers us to give it to others, particularly to other saints; “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). We are united to one another because we are united to Christ and Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13).
The church is not perfect, but her Lord is, and he is the one bringing her to Glory. ❦The church does not depend upon itself for success, motivation, or perseverance. She must continually reach upward with prayerful hands for the strength and unity she needs. Christ was perfected by his sufferings (Heb 2:10) and now the church is being perfected by Christ. This perfecting process is not an end to itself, but preparation for eternity. As the text says, Christ is “bringing many sons [and daughters] to glory,”
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, "I WILL PROCLAIM THY NAME TO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING THY PRAISE."And again, "I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM." And again, "BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME" (2:11-13).
Christ endured the cross for the joy set before him, and the church shares in his sufferings for the same reason. The scriptures promise that if we remain faithful to Christ we will share in his glory. “If we endure, we will also reign with Him” (2 Tim 2:12). One glorious day Christ will be united with his bride in a perfect union; his bride will have no flaw or blemish. Christ is not divorced from the church now and he will not be divorced from her then. She is his, and she was created to be with him forever. May the church never forget who she is, Who’s she is, and where she is going.
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