Scripture speaks so often of the church that the study of Scripture's teaching concerning the church is a separate part of the study of theology. Indeed, several New Testament books have the church as their main focus. Acts tells the story of the gathering of the NT church, I Corinthians speaks especially of God's faithfulness to His church (1:9), Ephesians has as its theme the church as the body of Christ (1:22-23, 5:30-32), Colossians emphasizes the glorious truth that Christ is the Head of the church (1:18, 2:10), I Timothy teaches us proper behaviour in the church (3:15), and Titus the way of good order in the church (1:5).
The doctrine of the church ought not, then, be neglected or overlooked. Yet there are few today who know what the Bible teaches concerning the church, or realize why the church is so important.
The Greek word that is translated "church" means "called out." The name shows that the word in the highest and best sense refers to those who are saved and to them only. The name reminds us that the true members of the church are those who are "called out of darkness into his marvelous light" (I Pet. 2:9). It reminds us, too, that their place in the church is of grace. They are not members by their choice or works, but by God's calling.
That they are called out refers not only to their salvation from sin (they are called out of darkness), but to their spiritual separation as members of the church from the world and its wickedness (cf. II Cor. 6:14-18). Implied in the very name "church," therefore, is the holiness and obedience of the church's members of the church. A church whose members are not holy does not deserve the name "church."
This holiness is essential to the very existence of the church. Unto holiness the members are not only called but chosen (Eph. 1:4) and redeemed (Col. 1:21-22). Nor does it merely happen to be so. It all has to do with God's purpose in the church.
The reason, you see, for the church's existence is the glory of God (Eph. 1:6, 12). It is in the holiness of the church and its members that this purpose is reached. An unholy church, that is, a church whose members are not holy, cannot and does not glorify God. In the holiness of the church God's glory shines out.
That the members of the church do not live as those who are called out, is the shame and hurt of the church today. That the church itself is not any different (called out) from the world around in its teaching, in the conduct of its members, and in its practices, is the reason the church's witness is so ineffective. The church's glory and glory of its witness to this lost, hopeless world, is the fact that it is called out, separate and holy - different in holiness from the wicked world.
Pray, then, that we and all the members of Christ's church may be "holy and without blame before him . . . to the praise of the glory of his grace (Eph. 1:4, 6). Only in that way will the witness and work of the church prosper.
- Volume: 5
- Issue: 22
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
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