By David Dann
In Matthew 16:18 we have recorded the proclamation of Jesus concerning the establishment of his church: “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Many have asserted the notion that we place too much emphasis on Christ’s church, and upon the scriptural work and worship of the local congregation. Those who voice such a concern often claim that the church is emphasized to such an extent that we ignore Christ, or that the church becomes our focal point, rather than the Savior. These concerns bring about a need for us to reevaluate the emphasis that we place on the church in our teaching and preaching in light of the Scriptures. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary for us to carefully examine what the Bible has to say about the church and its relationship to Christ.
Christ is the Head of the Church
“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 every thing” (Eph. 5:23-24). “And 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 preeminence” (Col. 1:18). The church is here depicted as the body of the Lord, with Jesus himself functioning as the head. These passages show that there is an inseparable bond between Christ and his church as the body receives direction and guidance from its head.
The Church is the Fullness of Christ
Ephesians 1:22-23 says, concerning Christ, that the Father, “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” Not only does this Scripture reiterate the relationship of the head to the body, it further states that the body is the fullness of Christ.
The Church Is That Which Christ Saves Ephesians 5:23 tells us that Jesus is, “the Savior of the body.” As we have already established the fact that the word “body” here refers to the church, we can see that eternal salvation is located in the church. This is clearly seen in Acts 2:47, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Much in the same way that Noah’s ark contained all of the saved of his day, Christ’s church contains all of the saved of our present age.
The Church Is That Which Christ Loves
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). As this Scripture points out, Christ’s deep love for the church, the body of the saved, caused him to give his life for it so that we might be redeemed by his blood. Paul brought this point out very clearly in his instruction to the Ephesian elders: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Christ considered the church to be of such value that he was willing to purchase it with his blood.
The Church Is That Which Christ Cleanses
“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” (Eph. 5:25-26). The New Testament makes no mention of anyone being sanctified and cleansed by Christ outside of the church. Our entrance into the body of Christ, and our cleansing and sanctification is brought about through water baptism in his name: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
The Church Manifests the Glory of Christ
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21). “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” (Eph. 5:25-27).
We began by asking the question, “Is the church over-emphasized?”, however, after examining what the Bible says about the church that Jesus built, it is apparent that we have not asked the correct question. We ought to ask our-selves, “Is the church emphasized enough?”
Guardian of Truth XLI: 21 p. 16-17
November 6, 1997