CHRIST AND THE CHURCH

What kind of relationship should there be between Jesus Christ and the church?  Too often we build churches around personalities so that some man becomes the star of all that is done.  You go to everything that is had there and learn very little about Jesus and what He has done and is doing for us.The church in the Bible is so connected to Jesus that in every way you can picture the church it comes right back to Jesus.  Jesus pictured himself as the builder of the church in Matthew 16:18.  Later Paul would talk about himself as a wise master builder who was building on top of the foundation that was already in place which is Jesus Christ our Lord in I Corinthians 3.  In Acts 20:28 Luke tells us that Christ purchased the church with his own blood.  Earlier in the Book of Ephesians Christ is said to be the head of the church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all and in all. (Ephesians 1:21-22)

In Ephesians 5:25-27 Paul makes one of the most beautiful presentations on the relationship between Christ and the church.  “Husbands love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her by the washing of the water by the word, that he might present her as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that it should be holy and blameless in his sight.”  The most challenging command ever given with regard to marriage is for a husband to love his wife like Christ loves the church.  I know that the picture of Christ and the church as husbands and wives is one painted throughout Scripture.  Even in the Book of Revelation John pictures the day when we will be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Then the church, the bride of Christ will be adorned in the godly deeds done while on the earth.  She will be lovely, as a pure virgin well prepared for her husband who has returned for his bride.  “Blessed and holy are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

The more we comprehend how Jesus loves the church the more we will feel the challenge on loving our wives.  Think of the man who is bargaining with the father of the bride on the price of the dowery for him to marry his daughter.  Both the price asked from the father and the price offered by the bridegroom to be, is a clear indication of the value they place on the bride.  When you look at Jesus offer, it is his life blood.  He was ready to suffer and die in order to purchase the church and bring it into being.  He bought her with his own blood.  There was no sacrifice too big for him to possess his new bride as his own.  Notice when Jesus gave himself for the church it was with a goal in mind.  It was to sanctify and cleanse her by the washing of water by the word.

One quick point that is worth remembering as a husband or wife is that our love for our mate ought to be such that it has a sanctifying and cleansing effect on them.  If being married to us doesn’t make it easier for our mate to live for God, we aren’t being the husband or wife we ought to be.  The idea behind the word “sanctifying” is to be set apart particularly for God’s use.  It means that we place our self as his disposal and say to the Lord lead me where you want me to go and put before me what you want me to do and I will go and be what you want.  The idea of cleansing is that we are washed from the stains of sin that are part of all our lives.  Notice this cleansing is an inside affair not some outward washing of people to get the mud or dirt off.  In I Peter 3:21 Peter said as Noah and family were saved by the waters of the flood by being lifted high above the floods and carried to a new world washed clean by the flood waters, so we are cleansed from sin by the waters of baptism.  Peter said, it isn’t the washing of the body, it is the answer to a good conscience through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Notice that Jesus had a goal in mind for the church, “That he might present her to himself as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”  When in life do we tend to have spots and wrinkles to deal with?  It isn’t in the days of youth but as we begin to get older.  Jesus doesn’t want his bride to be old and wrinkled with age spots all over her.  He anticipates a beautiful, young bride, who is pure and waiting for the marriage to give herself completely to him.  Does that mean Jesus doesn’t want older people in the church?  Certainly not!  But it does mean that the church itself isn’t to get old and wrinkled.  God’s plan is that they church would stay young, fresh and vital by the constant adding of new people that are babes in Christ.  When a church gets stuck in a particular era or custom of time it leads to closing itself out to the younger generations and it gets older and more wrinkled every day.

Jesus longs for the church to be holy and blameless before him in love.  When we are washed in baptism we arise from the grave of water as new people.  Our sins are washed away and we are pure and innocent before God.  As years go by it is easy to become stained once again so that the purity and the holiness have been left outside.  Through the ongoing cleansing by the blood of Christ as we live in a relationship with him we remain pure and holy.  The words, “Sanctified” and “Holy” both come from the same root word.  Both mean to be set apart for God’s use.  Think of the things called “holy” in the Bible.  Jerusalem is called the “Holy City.”  The Temple was the holy place.  The priesthood was to be holy to the Lord.  The Scriptures were his holy word.  Israel was a holy nation and the church is called a holy nation as well.  In all these instances the things called holy at times doesn’t indicate any real difference between them and the world.  Holiness isn’t so much staying free from the filth and anger of the world as it is laying our lives at the Lord’s disposal saying, “Use me Lord as you want to use me.”

Just as the key ingredient in marriage is love, so in the relationship with Christ and the church it is to be love.  It is obvious that Jesus loves the church and gave himself up for her.  Is it obvious that we as the church love the Lord and love each other?  The greatest command of all times was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  The command that sets the church apart from the world Jesus said was our love for one another in the body (John 13:34,35)

It is a real challenge to have the kind of marriage that fits somewhat into the pattern that Paul gave so that we can be his glorious church without spot or wrinkle.  It takes the vibrancy love and purity to keep such love alive day after day after day.  Please understand that you have the amazing love of Christ for you and that we show we belong to him by our love for each other.  It is worth our time to plan for the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride.  We want to be dressed appropriately when the time comes.
 

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About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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