The All-Sufficiency of the Church
"And such confidence have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Cor. 3:4, 5).
This is the sixth article in this series on All-Sufficiency. Previous articles have dealt with the All-Sufficiency in Worship, and the All-Sufficient Mission of the Church. Succeeding articles will discuss the All-Sufficiency of the Church in Evangelism, Edification and Benevolence. However, before we begin these more specialized studies, we would like to consider the general theme, "The All-Sufficiency of the Church." We remind vou that by "All-Sufficiency" we simply mean wholly adequate, completely capable. The church is wholly adequate, completely capable, all-sufficient for every purpose God had for it.
We believe that we can show f rom the scriptures that the church as God intended it is perfect. If so, then it is all-sufficient.Lor every divine intention for it. A perfect object, modified in any way, becomes imperfect. The perfect church, altered in any way, therefore becomes less than God would have it to be. So let us notice some of the reasons why we think the church to be perfect, and therefore completely sufficient, without the addition of institutional props some brethren would provide for the divine institution.
(1) The church was built according to a perfect tattern. For many years brethren have taught and been taught that the church is not an after-thought with God, but was part of His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:8-11 ). This being so, we conclude that the church was not haphazardly built. Instead, it was built according to a perfect pattern. The church was prefigured by the tabernacle, and later by the temple. These, in a sense, became patterns by which the church was to be built. The church was to be made analogous to these earlier buildings. But both the tabernacle and temple were built according to a plan given by God.
God told Moses "According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ve make it" (Ex. 25.9) The Hebrew writer reminds us that Moses was warned of God: "See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern that was showed thee in the mount" (Heb. 8:15). The same writer further states that these Old Testament provisions were to be copies of heavenly things. So the tabernacle was made according to a heavenly pattern. The tabernacle was a pattern for the church, or a type of the church. Hence the church was built according to a pattern given by God. The church existed first in the mind of God. That which was in God's mind was the pattern according to which the church 'was built. Paul declares that the church demonstrates the manifold wisdom of God. Therefore one expects no weaknesses or errors to be made in its planning.
(2) The church was built by a perfect builder. A perfect builder with an imperfect blueprint will build an imperfect building. An imperfect builder with a perfect blueprint will build an imperfect building. But a perfect builder with a perfect blueprint can on build a perfect building Jesus was the builder.1 He said "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18)). God is a perfect Being (Ps. 18:30). Jesus, His Son, partakes of His perfect nature (Heb. 1 :1-3 ; Phil. 2:57 ; Jno. 1 :1 -3 ). Therefore the Son also is perfect. He perfectly followed the perfect pattern when He built the church.
One of the attributes of God is omnipotence. He is the Lord God "Almighty" (Rev. 4:8). We often judge products by the capability of the maker. The church is the product of Deity; not of humanity. Since God is an infinite Being, we therefore can say that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is just as good as an infinite God could make it. The church is the creation of God (Eph. 2:15). We sing "She is His new creation by water and the word." When God made the world, the Bible says "He saw that it was good." When God made the church, it too must have been "good" in His sight, else the Almighty would have made the church differently so as to judge it "good" in His eyes. The church being the product of an infinite Being, we know it must be perfect, which is but another way of saying it is all-sufficient.
(3) Perfect preparation was made for the building of the church. No make-shift organization was hurriedly, brought upon the scene by the omniscient God. He could know the future as easily as the past. The Jews pulled no surprise upon God when they rejected His Son. He knew beforehand they would do so, and even decided what He would do about it when they did so. Hence, before the worlds were founded God planned to build the church. The thousands of years that intervened between creation and Pentecost God employed in His providence to preparing the site for Christ and His bride, the church. God's long dealings with Abraham's family, and his descendants, the nation of the Jews, were preparatory for the erection of the spiritual house of God.
But even though God had made this long preparation, did He yet choose an inopportune time to build the church? Paul says "When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born tinder the. law, that he might redeem them that were under the law" (Gal. 4:4, 5). The word "fulness" implies perfection. At the perfect moment in history, God sent forth His Son. When the time was exactly ripe, Jesus came. Under the heading "When the Fulness of the Time Came", Harry E. Payne has recently written in the Preceptor showing some of the observable indications that the time was ripe for the coming of the Messiah. Of course, man may only see the hem of the garment of the many things that God saw indicating that the exact instant in history for which God had been waiting had now finally come. It was the perfect time for the perfect church to be built. And at this time Christ built His church.
(4) Nothing was spared by God in bringing the church into existence. Miraculous powers were needed to reveal, confirm and to preserve God's revelation to man. The church was not to be left to its own guidance, though some brethren seem to feel at liberty to engage in any kind of activity in which they have the desire to, engage. They use the funds of the church virtually for any project they wish to support, whether it be recreational, educational, or philanthropic, regardless of whether God has authorized such practices. But the divine church needed divine guidance. So God endowed certain men (apostles, prophets, etc.) with inspired messages. That they might verify to inquisitors that God was speaking through them, they were empowered to work miracles (Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:1-4). The miraculous requires suprahuman power. When supernatural power was needed, so intent was God on providing everything that was needed by the church, He gave supernatural powers to those needed to perform the tremendous tasks requiring such powers. Every resource in heaven and earth that was needed was brought to use in the establishment of the church. If the church is not yet adequate, it is because there was not enough power in heaven and earth to make it sufficient.
(5) A perfect Head was provided for the perfect body. The Almighty, Omniscient Son of God was sent down from heaven that He might die to purchase the church. Heaven kept not back God's only begotten Son when He was needed to make the establishment of the church possible. Having purchased the church, this same Son then was made its Head (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:23). We therefore can know that the perfect body has perfect guidance from its perfect Head (I Pet. 2:21, 22; Heb. 4:15).
(6) A perfect law was given to guide the perfect body, this law of course coming from the Head of the body. The law guiding the church is said to be "perfect" (I Cor. 13.8; Jas. 1 :25; Jno. 14:26; 16:13; Jude 3; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17). This perfection implies that all its parts are present, and that it is perfect in all its parts. Eight men had a part in the w r' ting of God's perfect law of liberty. When each man had completed his part of the work, all of the parts were present. God's revelation was then perfect, complete. But each inspired man was guided that he might receive, declare, and preserve this revelation without error. So in truth, we do have, till this time, a perfect law to guide the perfect body.
(7) This perfect body is the "fulness" of Christ (Eph. 1:23). Those in Christ are in His body. The Christ is as extensive as His body, and His body as extensive as Christ. What does this imply? This merely says that
the church perfectly houses all those in Christ. There cannot be one person in Christ who is not in the body of Christ, since Christ is made full by the church. The church was adequately made to embrace all the saved, of whatever race, tribe, or tongue. The Lord found no necessity to segment his children. He does not have one fold here and one fold there (Jno. 10:16; Eph. 2:14-16), as sectarianism implies. In the church, Christ is made full. Christ and His body are co-extensive. They share the same boundaries.
(8). God intends that His church be comprised of perfect members. "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ve holy in all manner of conversation ; Because it is written, Be ve holy; for I am holy" (I Pet. 1 :15, 16). However, the word "human" implies frailty. The stones that comprise God's spiritual house are not completely perfect. We must ever strive in that direction. Any imperfections and weaknesses that now characterize the church stem from the stones, rather than from the Foundation or the Builder. The church has two sides: a divine side, and a human side. On the divine side, the church is as good as an infinite God could make it. Here it needs no amendments or remodeling. However, people comprise the church. Therefore, on the human side we must constantly labor that we might more perfectly radiate His glory in our lives.
(9). In our last article we discussed that the church has a perfect mission. It is authorized to engage in evangelism, edification, and benevolence. The perfect law given by the perfect Head stops with these activities. The members must not presume to speak for the Head, and to go beyond to engage in other projects.
(10). The perfect church perfectly discharged its mission in New Testament times (Col. 1 :23; Acts 6:1-6; 2 Cor. 8, 9; Eph. 4:12-16). This point we shall more carefully develop in later articles, as we shall discuss the All-Sufficiency of the church in Evangelism, Edification and Benevolence.
We have tried to suggest to you some of the reasons why we believe the church to be perfect. A perfect church is a sufficient church yea, it is an All-Sufficient church. Else it could not be described as perfect. It lacks not one thing. It therefore is capable of doing all God assigned to it to do. And if not, God miserably failed in His greatest work.
Truth Magazine IV:10, pp. 227-229