September 19, 2017

The Church – Its Importance

By Cecil Willis

Following are several articles regarding the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The intent of this introductory article is to show why t h e church is, or should be, important to you. The church is important to you because of its relation to God and to you. It is important to God, and should therefore be important to you.

What It Is

No one can fully appreciate the importance of the church until he realizes what the Bible teaches the church to be.

(1) The church is the eternal purpose of God. The apostle Paul declared that the church was a part of that scheme of salvation "which for ages hath been hid in God" (Eph. 3:9). The book of Ephesians is a beautiful essay on the church. It shows the place God "according to his eternal purpose" assigned to Christ and to the church (Eph. 3: 11). Since God purposed, before the worlds were founded, to have Christ to purchase and to build the church, we readily can see that any system that declares the church to be an afterthought on God's part, or a theological accident, cannot be a system predicated on truth. But such unimportance is precisely the place assigned to the church by nearly every premillennial theory.

(2) The church is an exemplification of God's wisdom. Paul teaches "that now unto the principalities and the powers in heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10). While it is true that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), Eph 3:10 is not talking about the evangelistic responsibility of the church. Instead, it is teaching that the church itself embodies and therefore exemplifies the wisdom of God.

In fact, it is a demonstration of God's "manifold wisdom." The word "manifold" suggests that God's wisdom is many-sided. Heavenly creatures or powers, or the intelligent creatures of earth, can look at the church from any side, and see exemplified the infinite wisdom of God.

(3) The church is the creation of God. Man should be greatly interested in anything that God either teaches or does. One tremendously important thing that God did was to create the church. He authored it; He designed it; He purposed it. In Ephesians 2, Paul speaks of the church as "one new man." He declares that Christ took Jew and Gentile and made them one in order that "he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace" (Eph. 2:15). The Bible also says that we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). The new man resurrected in Christ Jesus is stated to have been by God ''"created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:24). We therefore sing of the church that "she is his new creation, by water and the word." God purposed the church, and Christ built it (Matt. 16:18). The Hebrew writer could therefore declare that the church was a true tabernacle, "which the Lord pitched, not man" (Heb. 8:2; 9: 11). Since deity planned the church and deity built the church, we may therefore with befitting reverence say that the church is as good as an infinite God can make it. Because God planned it perfectly, and because Christ perfectly built it, it therefore can be said that the church exemplifies the many sided wisdom of God.

(4) The church is the body of Christ. Paul said, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which was lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church" (Col. 1: 24). The identification of the church as the body of Christ also may be found in Eph. 1: 22, 23 and Col. 1:18. If the body of Christ is unimportant, then Christ himself is unimportant. But since all with an ounce of respect for the Word of God recognize that Christ is important, and since the Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ, it must therefore follow that the church is important.

(5) The church is the fullness of Christ. Eph. 1:23 teaches that the church is the "fullness of him that filleth all in all." This statement is equivalent to saying that the church is the fullness of Christ. But what is meant by the expression "the fullness of Christ?" It means that the boundaries of Christ and the church are co-extensive. It means that to be in Christ is to be in the church, or that to be in the church is to be in Christ. It means that whatever is available "in Christ" is not available outside the church of Christ.

These five points indicate the importance of the church to us from the standpoint of what the church is. But we need to consider its importance from a different aspect. Let us now reflect on the importance of the church as seen by what it cost.

What It Cost

It is customary for us to appraise items by their price tag, or by the price that persons are willing to pay for them. The value of a given item to a particular person is indicated by the amount that person is willing to pay for it. The price paid for the church is indicative of the importance of the church to Christ and God.

The church in Col. 1:13 is called the "kingdom of his dear Son." It is Christ's kingdom because he purchased it. We are told that we are not our own, "for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). The purchase price, or redemption price was the blood of God's dear Son. Paul taught that the church of the Lord was "purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). Further, Paul stated that Christ "gave himself up for" the church (Eph. 5:25). The church therefore was sufficiently important to God that he would give his son for it, and to Christ that he was willing to die to purchase it.

The church therefore is inseparably connected with the blood of Christ. If the church is unimportant or unessential, then Christ's shed blood is unimportant and unessential. When in our preaching we give the church the importance it is given in the Bible, we are sometimes charged with denying salvation by the blood of Christ. However, the exact opposite is the truth of the matter. When people fail to teach the essentiality of one being in the church, he teaches that the blood that purchased that church also was unimportant and unessential. Thus the importance of the church to God and to Christ is indicated by the price they were willing to pay to purchase it. Its price was great, and thus its importance is correspondingly great.

What Is in It

The importance of the church is further seen by a consideration of what the Bible teaches is in the church. Keep in mind that since the church is the fullness of Christ that whatever is said to be in Christ cannot be had outside of the body of Christ.

(1) Reconciliation is in the church. Man's sin alienated him from God (Isa. 59:1, 2). The making of peace again with God is what the Bible means by reconciliation, and the scriptures teach that reconciliation is possible only in the body of Christ. Paul tells us that peace was made between Jew and Gentile that God might "reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Eph 2:16). We already have seen that the body is the church. We now are told that reconciliation to God is possible only in the church. Whether Jew or Greek, so long as one remains outside the body of Christ, he remains alienated by his sin from God.

(2) Salvation is in the church. Salvation is said to be "in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:10). But to be "in Christ Jesus" necessarily means to be in the body of Christ Jesus, since the church is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. It therefore follows that salvation is only in Christ and in his body. This information is given in Eph. 5:23: "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body." If one therefore is outside the church, he is yet unsaved, regardless of what he thinks he feels or what some preacher has told him about his spiritual condition. Persons are frequently told to "accept Christ as your personal Savior." But Christ does not have one plan of salvation for one person and other plans for other persons. He is the Savior of the body, and those who do not obey the commands that put one into the body are not in Christ, and therefore are not in the body of which Christ is said to be the "saviour."

(3) Redemption is in the church. The Word states that we "are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). But there is no possible way for one to obtain this redemption that is in Christ Jesus without simultaneously being added to the body of Christ. Thus, redemption also is possible only in that body that is the "fullness of him that filleth all in all." Any accountable person outside the body is unredeemed, and is yet in bondage to his sin. Only God's people, the church, can be called the redeemed ones (1 Pet. 1: 18; Lk. 1:68).

(4) Sanctification is in the church. The Greek word for church means "a called out body." God's people are a separate, a peculiar, a sanctified people. One cannot be a saint (a sanctified person) without being in that sanctified body. But the church is sanctified. "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word" (Eph. 5:25, 26). Shouting, rolling on the floor, pretending to speak in an unknown tongue, and bodily contortions do not constitute Bible sanctification. Unless one is in that sanctified body, the church, he is not sanctified.

(5) The inheritance is in the church. Those who by faith and baptism become the children of God are called "heirs" in Gal. 3:26-29. But faith and baptism also put one into the church (1 Cor. 12:13). It is therefore impossible for one in the gospel age to be an heir of God and outside the church of God. The inheritance is reserved in heaven for those "who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1: 5). But the faithful of God are in the church. It therefore follows that the heirs of God are in the church. An inheritance of God is not reserved for those who are not sons of God, and all God's children are in his family, his church.

(6) All spiritual blessings are in the church. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Outside of Christ and thus outside the body of Christ one has no spiritual blessings. One outside the temple of God, the church (Eph. 2:21), cannot even render acceptable worship unto God. Paul said, "unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever" (Eph. 3:21). One cannot glorify God outside the church. Worship is certainly a spiritual blessing, and no spiritual blessing is available outside of Christ. Jesus even taught his disciples to begin their prayers by saying "Our Father who art in heaven." One who cannot scripturally call God his father cannot even pray an acceptable prayer. But all God's children are in God's house, the church (1 Tim. 3: 15). Those who constitute the church are said to have their names enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12:23). If enrollment in heaven is important, the church is important.

Conclusion

We have studied the importance of the church in the plan of God, and its importance to Christ. We also have studied many reasons why it should be important to you. One cannot fully preach Christ without preaching about the kingdom of Christ (Acts 8:5, 12, 13). Jesus taught that the kingdom to us ought to be like the "treasure hidden in the field" or the "one pearl of great price" for which we would joyfully sell all we have to purchase (Matt. 13:44, 45). This is but another way to say, "seek ye first his Kingdom" (Matt. 6:33). The kingdom of God is so important that it must occupy first place in your life and mine.

All of this regarding the importance of the church we have said to induce you to study carefully the fine articles that follow regarding the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will be blessed and benefited by a careful study of these timely and Biblical themes.

TRUTH MAGAZINE XI: 1, pp. 1-3
October 1966

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