By Kenneth E. Thomas
The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the savior of the body . . . Husbands, love your wives, even as 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, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish . . . For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:23-32).
In an age when the church is often considered as outdated and unnecessary, it is good to go back to the language of the inspired Scriptures to find the value of the church of Christ which Jesus himself placed on it. Most people think in denominational terms and so are unable to recognize the church as it is depicted in the Bible, God’s word. One preacher I know, was I believe “right on,” as the kids often say, when he wrote, “When you think of the church, think people.” That may be an over simplification but it does describes the church, Christ’s kingdom, pretty well. It is the rule of Christ in the hearts of his people whom he has saved by the power of his gospel (Rom. 1:16-17; Acts 2:22-38, 40-41, 47).
The word “church” is from the Greek word ekklesia which literally means “called out.” Those who are “called out” of sin are in the church which Jesus built: “The Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved” (Acts 2:47). The apostle Paul shows that Christ is “head of the body, the church” which he previously had defined as those who have been “delivered out of the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom” (Col. 1:13, 18). Those who are “sanctified in the truth” (John 17:17) are thus “set apart” for the service of God. That, by definition, is the church. The church isn’t something one “gets into to be saved,” it is that body of people who have been purchased by Christ’s blood when they obeyed from the heart a form of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ when, as penitent believers, they died to sin, were buried in water baptism, and were raised to walk in newness of life. This is when Paul by inspiration said that they “became servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:3-6, 16-18).
The inspired apostle Paul, in our text above, refers to the church as “a glorious church.” The word “glorious” is defined as: “Exhibiting attributes, qualities or acts that deserve or receive glory; praiseworthy; splendid” (Webster). What is there about this church the apostle describes that makes it a “glorious church”? That we shall attempt to explain as we progress.
It Is Glorious Because of the Price Paid For It
As the apostle Paul exhorted the elders of the church in Ephesus, he said, “Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the (church of God, KJV) church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Notice again the reading from our text, Jesus Christ “gave himself up for it” (Eph. 5:25). Can you imagine a higher price than this? The church was purchased with the blood of Jesus, the blood of God’s “only begotten Son” (John 3:16; Heb. 2:9). What did the church cost? It cost the life and blood of Jesus.The value of something is determined by the price someone is willing to pay. For example, if you are willing to pay $10,000 for an automobile, that is the value you place on it. What about the church, what is its value? It is “a glorious church” because of the value Jesus placed on it: “He purchased it with His own blood.”
What is salvation worth? Jesus defines that, also: “For what doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? For what should a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). What is your soul worth? The apostle Paul declares that you are “bought with the price” (1 Cor. 6:20). And Peter shows what that price is: “Knowing that ye were redeemed . . . with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We are “justified by his blood” (Rom. 5:9), and in him we have “redemption through his blood, forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7).
Your possible salvation cost Jesus his blood, and that is the price of the church (Acts 20:28). Thus, when Jesus saves one by applying his blood, that person is “added to the church” (Acts 2:47). The same blood that saves from sin also purchased the church for that is what the church is: those who have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ! It is a glorious church because of the price paid for it. Let me illustrate a little further. This may be a crude illustration and all together too worldly, but perhaps we can get the point. If you have some money and you spend it to purchase some item, the money is gone; if you are to derive any benefit from the money you have spent, it will be by virtue of your association with or your use of that which the money purchased! Just so, if men and women are to derive any benefits from the shed (spent) blood of Jesus Christ, it will be by virtue of their relationship in or with that which his blood purchased. As we have seen his blood purchased this relationship known as his church.
It Is Glorious Because of Its Builder
The prophets of old foretold the establishment of the church. “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:2-3). That “house of God” is later identified by the apostle Paul as, “The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The psalmist laid down the principle, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1).
Whose job was it to build the church, the house of God? Many seem to think it makes no difference, but Jesus said: “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Only the Lord Jesus has the right to build it, and he did. No one has the right to “alter the blueprint” for it (Gal. 1:8), even as Moses was charged: “See that thou make all things according to the pattern that was showed thee in the mount” (Heb. 8:5). No one has the right to build the church, except Jesus. He stated forcefully, “All authority hath been given unto me, both in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).
Had I built the church, I probably would have made it different from what the Lord did, but the job was not left to you or me! God’s own Son has done the building job. He drew the plans, he gave power to the apostles (Acts 1:8) to carry out those plans. This is one building program that was done right! The plans were “perfect’ (Jas. 1:25). No alterations were needed after that church was built, nor were any alterations permitted.
It Is Glorious Because of Its Head
Often a nation is considered great because of the head of its government. A business is sometimes great because of the one who heads it. What of the church? Who is the head of it? Paul wrote of Jesus Christ, that God “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). The headship of Jesus is further defined in the text with which we began this article: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23).
Some will argue, “But we need a head here on earth, to direct the affairs of the church.” But, friend, if the church had an earthly head, that would detract from its glory. Paul declares, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), that is where our “head” belongs. To try to give headship to someone else, to have an earthly head, is to take away the pre-eminence from Christ. Notice: “He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence” (Col. 1:18). If we would give glory to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we will honor him as the head of his “glorious church.”
Please notice, too, that the church is here called “his body.” Those in his church are “members of his body” (Rom. 12:4-5). Many seem to think it makes no difference, but there are “many members, but one body” (1 Cor. 12:20). The inspired apostle also writes plainly, “There is one body” (Eph. 4:4) and declares that Christ is “head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18). A body with more than one head would be a monstrosity. But a body, designed and built by God’s own Son, and with the perfect head, makes for a glorious church.
It Is Glorious Because of Its Members
The composition of the “glorious church” is set forth clearly in Acts 2. The apostles, directed by the Holy Spirit, preached Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God (vv. 21-36). When people were convinced, and asked, “What shall we do?” the Lord answered by the mouth of Peter, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (v. 38). The result? “They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls . . . And the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved” (vv. 41, 47). Who was in the church, and on what terms? It is clear, isn’t it? Those people who believed the gospel, repented and were baptized; when they did that, the Lord saved them and added them to his church. The church of the Lord is a glorious church because it is composed of saved people. To the church at Rome, the apostle Paul wrote, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom 8:14). To this same church, Paul wrote, “We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son . . . Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 5:10; 6:3). To the churches of Galatia, the inspired apostle wrote, “Ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). The “glorious church” is composed of children of God, people who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ when they were “baptized into his death.”
Some will object that members of the church of Christ still commit sin. And this is true. The church is not made up of perfect people who never commit sin, for all of us sin: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8). The church of the Lord is made up by those who recognize their sinfulness and turn to Christ for forgiveness and guidance. And, while they still make mistakes, they constantly strive to live for God: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). It is a glorious church because it is composed of people who are saved by the blood of Jesus.
It Is Glorious Because of Its Destiny
Glory is often determined by the purpose, reward, durability or the destiny — whether of people or nations. We are blessed to live in a “glorious nation.” It is a glorious country because of the part it has played, and is playing, in history. It offers freedom, opportunity and success to common people in a way that no other nation in history ever has. Just think, then, how much more glorious is the destiny of the church that Jesus built and saves! Notice again, “That he might present the church to himself a glorious church” (Eph. 5:27). This has reference to a bride’s presentation to her husband (see also Rev. 21:2). The apostle Paul says that we have been “espoused to one husband . . . to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). To be married to Christ, to live with Christ, forever, in heaven, in God’s eternal presence: This is the destiny of the “glorious church.” When Paul speaks of the church as the kingdom, he says when the end comes that Christ “shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:2-26). When death is no more, and the graves are opened at the Lord’s return, the church will be delivered up to be forever with God. The “glorious church” has a glorious destiny!
Jesus said, “Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13). That church which is bought only with man’s tears and sweat, that which has a human head and is built by man, that whose membership is determined by man shall be “rooted up.” But that church which Jesus built, which he purchased with his own blood, of which he is the head and the Savior that is “a glorious church.” Will you study carefully the above Scriptures, and then decide to become a part of that “glorious church” which Jesus will save?
You are not a member of the church that Jesus’ blood purchased if you haven’t obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 1:22-25; Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 2:13-17). Paul wrote that those who “obey not the gospel shall be punished with everlasting destruction” at the return of Christ (2 Thess. 1:6-10). “Obeying the gospel” is language rarely heard and more rarely understood in our present generation (especially among Protestantism), but it is the language of the New Testament. Rather than being told to “kneel and pray a certain prayer” as we hear today, folks like Saul of Tarsus who had prayed and fasted for three days as he awaited an answer as to “what he must do” to be saved, was told, “why are you waiting? Arise and be immersed and wash away your sins, calling (or having called, ket) on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).