By Bryan Vinson, Sr.
“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the savior of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh but nourisheth and cherished it, even as the Lord the church. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning CHRIST AND THE CHURCH. Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife as himself, and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph. 5:22-33).
Countless sermons have been preached and articles written on the subject above stated, and the language here cited from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church has served as the basis for such lessons. The timeliness of such teaching has always been present, and is now as urgent as anytime heretofore. There is no relationship that has ever been established between people as close, as sacred and as blessed as that between husband and wife. It is the basis of human society, and its formation and functioning constitutes the legitimate source for the propagation of the species. Any corruption, perversion or renunciation of the proper and lawful existence and safeguarding of this Divinely established institution cannot but result disastrously for those so doing, and, to what ever extent such prevails, be subversive of society in general.
The apostle, in the above language, acknowledges the exceptional intimacy of the marital state and affirms the relation of Christ and His church, as illustrated there” by, to be a “great mystery,” that is, the relation of Christ and His church is such as to be not discoverable by man apart from being revealed by God. Hence, whatever we may learn about either Christ or the church, or the relationship as obtaining between the two, is to be ascertained by the study of the scriptures. The emphasis here to be noted is the love of Christ for the church in giving himself for it, and what he purposes in respect thereto, and the authority that he rightfully exercises over it. All of these enter into and create the closeness and justifies the intimacy as is to always exist.
The sublime teaching thus incorporated in this passage forbids, for those who have received it, any severance or divorcement of Christ and his church at any time and in any respect. On the principle of thought of “the association of ideas” in activating the human memory, the mere mention of Christ brings to mind the church, and, conversely, any thought regarding the church immediately projects to the forefront the Christ in all His regal splendor and matchless majesty. For anyone to endeavor the evaluation of either apart from the other is to reach false conclusions. That many have so done is indisputable; and that what some have done others may do is obvious by reason of the universality of human fallibility. Truth resting on evidence for its support is more difficult to ascertain and thus secure than error, because the latter is so readily accessible and requires no effort to embrace it. Its arsenal is founded on ignorance and filled with the implements of pride, passion and prejudice, manufactured in the forges of selfishness and worldly interests. Truth, redeeming truth, is the content of Divine Revelation, and enjoined upon all is the obligation to search, study and meditate on its sublime utterances as therein embodied. Thus is explainable the prevalence of mistaken ideas regarding Christ and the church.
It is apologetically expressed quite commonly that the church is of no vital worth in the salvation of man; that we need to be converted to Christ, and that this does not essentially include any conviction respecting the importance of the church; that one may become a Christian without being a member of the church, and hence membership in the church is optional on the part of the Christian, and consequently incidental rather than essential in its character. Therefore, rests the assumption of the freedom of choice as to what church one may become identified with, for, if being a member of the church is optional and non-essential, it necessarily follows that it is immaterial as to which church, out of the many existing, that one belong to. The statement that Christ is the Savior of the body, and the head of the church, in this passage, together with the clearly established truth that the church is the body and the body is the church (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18) confirms forever the fact that membership in the church is vital to being identified as one of the saved of the Lord, for such he adds to the church (Acts 2:47). Hence, for anyone to identify any church as being unrelated to and non-essential in the salvation of man, is equal to acknowledging that the church of which he speaks is not the church of which Paul spoke, the church of the Lord.
A respect for these truths requires one to defend the church against its detractors both without and within its holy precincts. We cannot but expect such from those without; but it is heart-rending to witness the injuries wrought against the church from those within. That such is knowingly and intentionally done is not charged, but that it, nonetheless, is being done is evident to those who know what the scriptures reveal as touching the church and intelligently appraises the developments that are current. The tragedy is intensified when it is realized those so doing are animated by a zeal to save the lost. This is laudable, and its absence in the purposes and efforts of any reflects a state of spiritual impoverishment. But to allow one’s self to be carried away from a becoming regard for the teaching of the Word of God by an unrestrained zeal is neither wise nor safe.
We have received word from different sources regarding a brother-team of evangelists who aspire to evangelize America within the next decade. They have secured a large tent, and are conducting meetings of several weeks duration in different cities. As reported, they are following the policy of keeping the church in the background in an effort to by-pass the prejudices of the popular mind. I wonder how they can faithfully preach the gospel without preaching the “things concerning the kingdom of God?”
The apostles did not, neither could they as guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1: 3; 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; and, 28:31). To reason that such a policy is prudent is to reflect, therefore, against the Holy Spirit, and the Christ who sent him. The apostles always drove straight to the affirmation respecting the resurrection of Jesus, and this was a most distasteful and repugnant doctrine to many of those to whom they spoke. The Samaritans were baptized when they believed Phillip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Christ, whereas these brethren, apparently design to baptize folks who believe what they preach apart from any preaching on the kingdom of God. Inspiration joined the kingdom of God with the name of Christ, and identifies both as properly incorporated in preaching Christ! Shall we deviate therefrom? I devoutly pray that we shall not, and that this is either a misleading report, or, being true, that they shall alter their course.
The relation as established between Christ and the church is such that to disparage either is equal to discrediting the other; no man can esteem Christ above the degree of esteem he holds for the church of Christ as He established, ordered and directed its character and functioning in the performance of its mission here on earth. He is the head of the church, and “as the church is subject to Christ, so, let the wives be to their husbands in everything.” This teaches that the church is subject to Christ in everything. And as the church is the “fullness of him that filleth all in all,” we cannot be true to Christ in any particular wherein we fail to be true to the church. Just as the Bible “as God gave it is adapted to man as God made him,” even so is the church adapted as Christ made it to accomplish the ends for which he made it. Let it be held forth in all its pristine purity and apostolic sufficiency as the divine instrumentality to manifest to all intelligent creatures the manifold wisdom of God.
The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom, and the seed cannot be sown without the kingdom becoming known. Furthermore, the word of God being the seed of the kingdom, the preaching of the word, and it only, never can produce or result in the establishment of anything else or other than the church. This will never produce any human institution, religious, educational, eleemosynary or otherwise as its legitimate progeny. Certainly, human institutions independent of any religious connection or character may be legitimately established as worthy instruments of human wisdom for human needs and purposes, but such is not the direct offspring of the gospel of Christ, the word of truth. The relation of the gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation, to the church, or kingdom of Christ, which is the body of the saved, is direct, immediate and indissoluble. The sufficiency of the one is a guarantee of the sufficiency of the other.
Any attitude of a lack of appreciation of the church is but an identical lack of respect and reverence for the Christ, and constitutes a repudiation of equal degree of his word. Every alteration of the church is our attitude, attachment and action is but a rejection to that extent of Christ as head of the church and the Savior of the body. Herein is perceived the real gravity of the offences being perpetrated against the church today by many who are members of it. It is basically a shift from the wisdom of God that is to be beheld in the church to the wisdom of man; it is the cultivating of a spirit of glorying in the flesh rather than glorying in the Lord, unto whom is to be glory in the church throughout all ages world without end.
The church is the Divine Creation for the accomplishing of His Will on earth7 and we are creating our own organs of operation as substitutes therefore, and in so doing we are modifying the character of the church from that of the creature to that of the creator in elation to the accomplishing of the divine purpose among men. A man was struck dead for putting unauthorized hands on the Ark of the Covenant, and the lesson preserved for us is that we should not lay unauthorized hands on the divine creation to alter or modify its form or function.
The developments in process among us today will inevitably, if persisted in, so alter the divine economy as touching the church to ultimately destroy its divine identity. The processes of apostasy, which were beginning before the days of the apostles ended, resulted in such a corruption of the church as issued into something other than the church. The digression of the past century led those victimized thereby entirely beyond the point of being the people of God, and thus constituted another religious body than his. May many yet awaken to the wisdom and safety of “letting the church be the church,” and those who are Christians being such and nothing more, Christians and nothing less.
Truth Magazine, VI: 3, pp. 13-15