The Greatest Institution
Loren N. Raines
The church of the New Testament is a prominent factor in God's eternal purpose (Eph. 3:10-11). Without the church that great purpose could not have been consummated. It is evident that God wanted man to be in His presence. Adam and Eve were in His presence in Eden until Satan entered upon the scene, tempted Eve, and by his subtlety persuaded her to yield. After Adam succumbed to the same temptation they were driven from God's presence. Lest they return, eat of the tree of life, and live forever in a fallen state, God "placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Gen. 3:24).
God's problem now was to devise a plan whereby man might be redeemed from his sin and be made fit to dwell with Deity. This great plan included: His son, the only perfect Being that walked upon earth; the church, which was purchased with Christ's blood; the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. In order to be redeemed from sin man must obey the gospel, accept God's Son as his Savior, become a member of the church, walk in the light, and work out his own salvation. Salvation is in Christ and is available only through the church (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 1:16; Gal. 3:27-29; 1 Jn. 1:7).
There are many institutions upon earth: the home, the church, the state, besides many civic, social, benevolent, and fraternal organizations. There is but one for which Christ died, of which He is the head, and in which God has placed salvation. The church is pictured in the Bible as a body, a family, a house, a kingdom, and as a sheepfold Christ is declared to be the head of both the body and this family, the foundation of the house, the King of the kingdom, and the shepherd of the sheep.
In speaking of Christ, Paul said, "And he is the head of the body, the church . . ." (Col. 1:18). There is but "one body" (Eph. 4:4). This is contrary to what many teach and sincerely believe. Paul was speaking by inspiration, man speaks by opinion. On which do your prefer to risk you salvation?
Christ and His church are the center of God's plan. The Old Testament points forward to Christ and His death, the New Testament points backward to Him. People of both the Patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations were required offer animal sacrifices. Millions upon millions of animals were slain. The blood of those animals pointed forward the blood of Christ which was yet to be shed. Animal blood could not atone for sin (Heb. 9:11-14, 10:1-4).
In the New Testament, members of the church are required to observe the Lord's Supper each Lord's day (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-29). Each time we observe this memorial feast we are looking forward to the cross where our redemption was purchased with the blood of Christ (Col. 1:14; Acts 20:28).
In the Old Testament, the gospel was preached in promise. (Please read Gen. 49:10). For hundreds of years the "sceptre"or ruling power was vested in the tribe of Levi. But Christ, the King, was to descend from the tribe of Judah. Christ was "Shiloh." He was the son of David who was of the tribe of Judah. When Christ ascended, He sat down on David's throne (Acts 2:33-36) where He now reigns over His kingdom, the church.
Christ was also preached in prophecy (Isa. 9:6-7; Ezek. 21:23-27; Dan. 7:13-14). The gospel of Christ was preached in type throughout the Old Testament. Joseph, Moses, the high priests, the tabernacle, and the temple were all types of Christ and the church. The tabernacle was a beautiful type of the church. It was a two room structure surrounded by an enclosed court or yard. The first room of the tabernacle was just twice the size of the second. The first room or holy place, was a type to the church. It had three articles of furniture: the table of showbread on which were twelve loaves which were renewed each Sabbath by the priests. This typified the Lord's Supper. The golden candlestick with seven branches, which was kept burning continually, was a type of the Bible, our only source of light in the church. The altar of incense, on which incense was offered twice daily, was a type of prayer.
The second room, or most holy place, had only the ark of the covenant in it. On each end of the mercy seat over the ark were two angels made of pure gold. Between the outstretched wings of the Cherubim dwelled the Presence of God. This room typified heaven.
The court had in it the brazen altar where animal sacrifices were offered. These offerings were a type of Christ who is our sin offering. Near the entrance of the holy place was a layer containing water where the priests must wash before entering the holy place. The layer was a type of regeneration (Tit. 3:4-6). Please note, the only way to get from the court, a type of the world, into the most holy place, a type of heaven, was by going through the holy place, which was a type of the church. What is the route which sinners must travel to get from earth to heaven? Think!
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 2, pp. 48-49