By Garreth L. Clair
This article attempts to establish in the mind of the reader a facet of the Lord’s church not generally appreciated. That the church of Christ is a glorious institution can be determined by the definition of the word “glorious”: “glorious, full of honor; illustrious; celebrated; magnificent; exalted; colloq., splendid, inspiring admiration. – adv. gloriously” (The Winston Simplified Dictionary, Advanced Edition).
From the above definition we may progress to the Scriptures for information that will establish the church of Christ as a glorious institution; please observe the following facts:
1. The glory of the church of Christ does not reside in great numbers. From examples found throughout the Scriptures God’s glory and the glory of his established institutions do not now, nor have they in the past, consisted in numbers, small or large. Note: 1 Samuel 14:6, “And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armor, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised. it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few” (KJV). From this passage, it is apparent that numbers are not the factor that makes the church of Christ a glorious institution.
2. The glory of the church of Christ is not determined by the size of its buildings or the price of the physical structures where the saints meet. Today as in past ages men attempt to serve God with their hands and the products of their hands, yet even in the days of the apostle Paul, he instructed the religious minded people that the products of man’s hands were without significance to God (Acts 17:24). Therefore, the glory of the church is not found in material buildings of any kind.
3. The glory of the church of Christ does not reside in its great wealth, real or imaginary. There are some people today who are of the persuasion that a church is not very dignified, acceptable, pleasing to God, etc. unless it is possessed of great amounts of wealth (i.e., the Mormon Church or the Roman Catholic Church). There are many people today who are just too sophisticated to attend or even get interested in religion if the church does not present itself as a wealthy, sophisticated institution. The fact is Jesus recognized that there would be such people in his giving of the parable of the tares (cf. Matt. 13:22). The gloriousness of the church is not in wealth as we may observe from these few facts.
4. The glorious nature of the church of Christ cannot be established by observing the great wisdom of its preachers or its members, nor by the complex theological concepts formulated in councils of its great theological leaders. No, the Scriptures adequately show us that the gloriousness of the church of Christ does not reside in the wisdom or sophistication of its members or of its teaching. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. . . . For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:18-21).
No my friends the glorious nature of the church does not consist in any of those things we have just discussed. Now we want to look at that which makes the church of Christ glorious (Rom. 16:16; Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:47; Col. 1:18). The glorious nature of the church consists in the following facets:
1. The church of Christ has a perfect Head.- Christ (Eph. 1:22-23).
2. The church of Christ has a perfect law (James 1:25).
3. The church of Christ has a single message taught at each congregation world-wide (1 Cor. 4:17; Jude 3).
4. The government of the church of Christ is from above (Col. 3:1-2):
A. Christ is its only head (Eph. 1:22,23; Col. 1:18).
B. A plurality of elders, shepherds, bishops, overseers oversee each congregation (Acts 14:23; 20:17-28; James 5:14; Phil. 1:1; Tit. 1:7; 3:2; 1 Tim. 3:1; 5:1,17,19; Tit. 1:5). Would you believe that some teach that there is no such office!
C. Each congregation has its own deacons who serve the congregation under the oversight of the elders (Acts 6:1-6; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-13).
The above order is the divine order for the proper function of each local congregation. In some cases much time may pass before this organization is in a local congregation, yet the Bible teaches that eventually each full grown congregation will be so organized.
5. The gloriousness of the church of Christ may be seen in its glorious origin (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:1-47).
6. Its glory also consists in the greatest mission ever assigned to any institution (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16).
7. The gloriousness of the church of Christ resides in the fact that it is based upon a seven point unity platform. Observe Ephesians 4:1-6:
A. “There is one body. ” From this fact we understand that to even suggest more than one is apostasy.
B. “One Spirit. ” The Holy Spirit that has given to every man the same set of facts to live by and go to heaven by (Jude 3).
C. “One Hope. ” The eternal abode of the righteous after a lifetime of faithfulness (Rev. 2: 10; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). All men have the same hope based upon the same standard.
D. “One Lord. ” Jesus Christ who is “Lord of Lords, and King of Kings”; indeed Christ is Lord of all the faithful (Acts 2:47).
E. “One Faith. ” “The faith once delivered for all time” (Jude 3). There is one faith that is seen by the fact that all independent/autonomous congregations teach and practice the same thing. That there may be those who wear the biblical name, yet do not follow the Scriptures on each point in no way changes the fact; it was the desire of the Lord that all Christians speak the same thing (John 17:20, 21). If they do not all speak the same thing does that fact negate the instruction of the Lord to his people? Not at all, they are still to be united on the one faith, the truth that has been revealed.
F. “One baptism. ” That baptism revealed in God’s word, is immersion (Rom. 6:14). Nothing is acceptable to God that is unauthorized in his book.
G. “One God. ” That is the God of the Bible not some false god such as Buddha, the sun, the moon, a cow; no, nothing but the God revealed in and through the Bible can keep all men acceptable to him and unified.
The church of Christ as designed by the Lord and brought into existence on Pentecost day (Acts 2) is surely the most glorious institution ever conceived or established in the history of mankind. We therefore suggest to you that the church of Christ in your community today is that institution. Please examine it by the Word of God to see if these things are so.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 3, pp. 70-71
February 4, 1988