WHAT IS THE CHURCH
This is a matter of great importance. What is God’s first supreme thought concerning the Church? Paul gives us some guidance to the answer. ” Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (II Timothy 1:9) If you look at the context, you will see that the Apostle takes that back to what he calls “before times eternal”. So the Church is something which is “elect before time eternal”, something quite clearly defined as an elect people, an elect body, which has its roots in the eternity past. Therefore, the church is not historical
CHURCH IS ETERNALbr />
God’s Church is eternal and therefore it must be spiritual. We wish to quote again what the Apostle Paul says ” who has saved us and called us…according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”. So the very first thing according to God’s mind is that the Church is altogether different from and above anything that is historical, any thing that has its beginnings and course and development in time. The Church is something, which has its beginnings in the eternity past, and its course is also ordered according to the purpose conceived in eternity past. It is something not constituted by man, not brought into being by any human effort whatsoever. The Church is something constituted by the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Spirit. That which is constituted by the Holy Spirit is essentially spiritual, for the Scripture says, ” that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…”(John 3:6)
We know that the individual Christian is essentially constituted into a spiritual being by the work of the Holy Spirit. And what is true of the individual is true of the aggregate and the ‘corporate of the born-again’. The Church is something born of the Holy Spirit and therefore it is a spiritual thing. This truth gathers up a lot of meaning beyond the scope of this study.
This does not mean that the Church is something abstract. We have heard some people say so. We want to ask you a question, can the Holy Spirit be present, active and living and no one recognize and know it? We know that when the Spirit works it is real and evident. Surely then, what is spiritual is not abstract, indefinite, something intangible, something in the air, something like a vapor or a cloud. What is spiritual is terrific, it is mighty and so when the church is really a SPIRITUAL BODY, it is terrific and mighty. That which is spiritual is tremendous and has great power.
We know the severity of things the Church and the Apostles encountered during the early days. It caused even the imprisonment and the subsequent execution of the Apostle Paul. Paul reflects in his writings what the Church had to encounter in those unspeakable persecutions, diabolical and indescribable horrors, which prolonged on for many, many years with the Roman world. For the great empire had determined to blot out the name of Jesus of Nazareth by liquidating the last Christian on this earth. The empire stood up to do anything human or inhuman to achieve that goal. And when it had done its work, the Roman Empire was razed to ashes, while the Church arose out of them, triumphant and enlarged!
Yes, anything that is of the Holy Spirit is a tremendous thing and nothing can stand before it. Spirituality- true divine spirituality, that which is born of the Spirit and filled with the Spirit and governed by the Spirit, is not something abstract. It is a potent force in the universe. We repeat, true spirituality is a potent force to be reckoned with in the universe. May God open our eyes to see this mighty, super cosmic and eternal reality called the Church!
THE CHURCH – A SPIRITUAL PEOPLE
Church, according to the divine conception, consists essentially of and indeed is, a spiritual people. Our eyes must be opened by the Holy Spirit to get to the place where we see it as God and as Heaven sees it. It will then demand and result in tremendous adjustments in our whole being. Therein is the practical difficulty we face often.
In the apostolic times it was easy to see the church as a single entity, though it was represented by numerous local entities all over the Roman world. It was not divided up into the ‘ists’ (Baptists and Methodists) and the ‘ans’ (Lutherans and Presbyterians) and the ‘ites’ (Jacobites and Marthomites) and the ‘isms’ (Catholicism, Protestantism and Pentecostalism), and all other nomenclatures that we hear of today. Have you noticed that people often ask you, if you are an ‘ist’,or an ‘ans’, or an‘ite’ etc. But there was nothing of that in the church in the days of the Apostles. Whatever little differences were there, it was in terms of their growth towards the one and the same calling to which they were all called! However, the Church as a whole was one entity. They were held together by spiritual ties and by spiritual ministries. It was just one everywhere. Sadly, it is not the same today, it is quite different these days.
If you were in the First century and if you happened to go around and you meet someone from the early Church, you would never have asked him whether he belonged to an ‘ist’or an ‘ans’ or an ‘ite’ etc. No. You only meet a Christian, one who belongs to the Lord, the church of the Living God. But ate the close of the Apostolic age, things began to change, changing into what we have today.
An altogether wrong and false mentality has grown up around the word ‘Church’. That has to change but how many are willing! The recovery of the original demands a deliverance from such a mentality. Please do not misunderstand our expressions. We must get out of that frame of mind and mentality. We need an absolute emancipation from this earth mentality, about the church, into His standpoint. That will help us to see what the Church really is – as God sees it and as Heaven sees it. We must break free from the confusion, which has been brought about by the historical institution called “the church”.
What is the Church from Heaven’s standpoint? Heaven does not look upon the titles, the names and doctrines. Heaven ignores all that. Heaven looks for that which is born of the Spirit; that new constitution. It looks for that two or three who are born and sustained by the Spirit, which others are not!
Today, we are held in the lifeless grip of a thing called the church, that has lost its spiritual power, because it has lost its true identity and its true nature, which was wholly spiritual. We surely need deliverance; we need a total re-adjustment and a real change!
FOR WHAT DOES THE CHURCH EXIST?
We have seen what is the Church. Now we have this question, what does the church exist for? We find a clue in the writings of Paul. “……that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth… And …..great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh and justified in the Spirit…..” (I Timothy 3:15). This is the deposit in the Church- the testimony of Jesus. The Church exists for that. It is in this aspect that the Apostle refers more than once, “Oh, Timothy, keep (guard) that which is committed to thy trust…”(I Timothy 6:20) “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep (guard) by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (II Timothy 1:14). These scriptures clearly tell us that the Church is the repository of the testimony of Jesus.
WHAT IS THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS?
It is the living presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. The testimony of Jesus is presented to us symbolically right at the beginning of the book of Revelation in the declaration ” I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:18)
What is this testimony? It is the present, living person of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is where it begins, the living person of Jesus. It is not the historic Jesus of Palestine of centuries ago, no, but the right up-to-date, here and now living Jesus, manifested, demonstrated, proved to be alive in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not according to a creed or a doctrine as such, but it is concerning the manifestation of the living Christ.
Wherever the Church is, it is to manifest in the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is alive; that He is there; that the Church is His measure! That is where it begins, by His very presence, He is here alive! That is what the church is here for. The basic purpose of the church is in the first place to make this world know that Jesus is alive, not merely declaring the doctrinal facts, but by living in the power of His resurrection. People say, ” The open grave declares that Jesus is alive”. It does not. Such statements are an escapism that the church has found out for her shortsightedness and irresponsibility. Instead of living in the power of resurrection, the church is ever willing to make enough speeches to say that Jesus is live. The church is willing to hold conferences and teaching seminars on His resurrection. The church is willing to print any amount of literature declaring His mighty resurrection from the dead! But that is not the reason the church is existing today.
In some countries there is no freedom to preach and teach the Word of God. But that is not the end of its power. Even though silenced in words, it can still make Jesus known by His mighty presence in the midst and in the life of a people. The testimony of Jesus is “I am He that liveth ……”, and the Church of the Living God is the pillar and ground of that truth. The Church is the living victory of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, for it says “I was dead and behold I am alive for evermore”. In other words, never to die again. How could He say that? He says, “..I have the keys of death!” In other words, He says, He has the mastery, the authority, and the power over death. He has absolutely triumphed over death and all that (the treasures) is now available in the power of the Holy Spirit today! That is the testimony of Jesus. He is living and His victory is present where Christians are.
The church is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:20-23) Church is to embody the testimony of Jesus in terms of a life that has conquered death, of a living victory in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is to be the expression of the living nature and character of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. The church must exemplify Christ and express what Christ is. Church is not merely to give out facts about Christ, but she is to be the embodiment of Christ’s nature. Hallelujah.