We have too low a view of the Church. The Church is far more important than many of us believe. Oh, we might give lip service to the significance of Church, but that lip service does not hide the meaning of our actions. We might have great doctrine about the Church buried somewhere in our mind, but our actions betray us. We have great trouble denying self and exalting Christ through His chosen vehicle, the Church. Almost every church member will be quick to tell you that Christ is the head of the Church and that they only desire His will to be done. That’s what you hear until some little thing does not suit their fancy; then you will see their true beliefs manifested loudly and clearly in their attitudes, actions, criticism, gossip, etc. This is a tragedy of huge proportions; it is a cancer that prevents many churches from reaching a lost and dying world. This causes many of our pews to be empty. Sooner or later, others grow weary of the actions of this group. Christ is not pleased; in fact, He is grieved. He is not pleased with us when we cause problems. He is not pleased with us when we give up and fade away from the Church. The sound you hear is Christ’s heart breaking.
Perhaps you are wondering to which Church I refer. You are right; there is more than one church. There is a universal, world-wide church and there are local expressions of that world-wide church. When a person puts their faith and trust in Christ, the Holy Spirit seals them for all eternity, adding them to the world-wide Church. The Bible also tells of groups of believers welcoming believers into their local fellowships. This welcoming on the part of existing believers and accepting of the welcome by the new believers adds them to a local church (body, fellowship, congregation). The Old Testament prepares us for this New Testament reality. The Old Testament says that all the people of the world belong to God and it also speaks of the nation of Israel being a special, unique, community of believers belonging to the Lord. Likewise, the New Testament Church, both world-wide and local, belongs to Christ.
The importance and significance of the Church cannot be overstated.
The Church is not a country club or civic club. The Church is the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ. Christ has declared that He will build His Church, and nothing shall prevail against it (Matthew 16). Christ loved the Church so much that He died for the Church, purchasing it with His own blood. (Acts 20). The Church is being prepared as a bride for Christ to be presented to Him spotless and pure at the end of time (Eph
esians 5, Revelation 18). Persecuting the Church is the same as persecuting Christ (Acts 9). Christ is the head of the Church (Ephesians 1,5). Mistreating others in the Church is despising the Church (1 Corinthians 11). Members of the Church are not to judge other members; they belong to Christ alone (Romans 14).
The defining characteristic of the Church is “love for one another”. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NASU)1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” (NASU) All our efforts at being the Church will fail if we do not love each other to such a degree that the lost world notices. If we treat other members of the Church badly, it is abiding in death. Think on that.