"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." -- Ephesians 5:27. This is a description of the Lord's church to which I proudly belong. God describes it as a "glorious church" because He is it's Divine Architect. It is ruled by the glorified Christ who is in Glory with God in heaven The church is an emotional subject to write about because it took the death of the Son of God on the cross of Calvary to bring it into existence. I can imagine emotional tears swelling up in the eyes of The Father as He watched His own Son hanging in agony and despair on the Cross to bear the sins of the world and purchase the church with His blood (Acts 20:28). Previous to this He had seen Him being denied by Peter who was perhaps His greatest and dearest friend on earth, forsaken by His disciples who had been His close companions for three years, scoffed at, ridiculed and tortured by the Jews who were His own brethren in the flesh, and cruelly and callously crucified by emotionless Romans.
In the glorious church of our Lord, people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, cultures, colours and classes have heard of the account of the cross, fallen in love with the one who hung on it, believed His great victory over the grave, rejoiced in His exaltation to the right hand of His Father, and in loving obedience have changed their lives to be reconciled through the cross to God in the one body the church (Ephesians 2:16). Let us now look at some aspects of this Glorious church.
THE BEGINNING OF THE GLORIOUS CHURCH OF CHRIST (ACTS 2). It began on The Day of Pentecost fifty days after our Lord was crucified. On that day the heart wrenching account of the cross was vividly preached by inspired apostles to the very Jews who had crucified the Saviour.
Many of those who were listening to the preaching on that day cried "men and brethren, what shall we do" (Acts 2:37). These cries for help came from the depth of agonising souls who were suddenly convicted by the preaching of the gospel. They heard that their own wicked hands had crucified the innocent Son of God (Act 2:22-23).
The answer that Peter gave to this question is one that we should allow to sink deep into our ears. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." -- Acts 2:38. Here we see the divine plan of salvation and method of entry into the church of Christ. Upon their baptism these previous enemies of the cross were forgiven of their sins and added by the Lord to His glorious church (Acts 2:41,47). Because of the fact that repentance and baptism were "for the remission of sins" and to be "added to the church", we know for sure that no sinner who has ever lived since Pentecost has been saved (added to the church) without meeting these clearly defined conditions. How could any unforgiven sinner ever be a part of such a glorious church that is described as being without spot or wrinkle? None of us in the church live perfectly sinless lives, but we thank God every day for the forgiveness we continually receive through the shed blood of Christ as we grow spiritually (1 John 1:7).
THE BUILDER OF THE GLORIOUS CHURCH OF CHRIST "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" -- Matthew 16:18.
We notice by the expression "I will build my church" that Christ had not yet built His church. The church and its establishment through the death of Christ was planned in the eternal, omnipotent mind of God before the world ever began (Ephesians 3:10-11). When Christ therefore promised to build the church he was declaring that in His death, burial, resurrection and exaltation to Glory he would fulfil God's divine plan of the ages.
In the verse above we stress that He called the church "My church" indicating that it belonged to Him. We also notice that He said "the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it". By this phrase he indicates that the only way that man could escape the terrible consequences of sin would be through Him in the church.
THE RULER OF THE GLORIOUS CHURCH OF CHRIST . "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And 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." -- Ephesians 1:20-23. From these verses we see that the glorified Lord Jesus is the supreme monarch of the church. No man on earth has any authority to make any "church laws", innovate any acts of worship, or change any doctrines. We cannot even cross a "T" or dot an "I" of His law. The Lord can never be "voted out of office" or lose His position of authority for He never changes and never dies. Apart from being Head of the church our Lord is also its Saviour (Eph 5:23), its merciful and faithful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17), its blessed and only Potentate and mighty King (1 Timothy 6:15), its foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11), and its Chief Corner Stone (Eph 2:20).
The place from which Christ rules the glorious church of Christ is at the right hand of God in heaven (Heb 1:2). There are therefore no headquarters on earth. Any church with earthly headquarters cannot be the church of the Lord.
THE WORSHIP OF THE GLORIOUS CHURCH OF CHRIST On the Lord's day (The first day of the week) the glorious church assembles together for worship, (Heb 10:25; Rev 1:10). This day of worship is the highlight of every faithful Christian's life, for in it he shows adoration to God through five specific acts of worship.
1. Preaching And Teaching The Word Of God "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." -- 2 Timothy 4:2. No error is permitted to go forth from its pulpit for it is the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:15). The preaching and teaching in public worship is to be done by the men of the church (1 Tim 2:11).
2. Giving To Provide For Its Needs (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). The Lord has chosen to ask the church to rely upon its own resources to provide the funds it needs. It must not ask from unbelievers, nor is it to raise money through "gimmicks" and other means. Every Sunday each member is proud and pleased to give to the Lord's church a liberal portion of what he has been blessed with.
3. Public Prayer As is the case with all worship, public prayer is to be led by the men of the church. The women are not permitted to lead the church in worship (1 Timothy 2:8 1 Cor 14 :34-35). The leader prays on behalf of all the rest of the congregation who listen intently and pray along with him mentally. At the close of the prayer all the church say "amen" (1 Cor 14:16).
4. Breaking Of Bread (The Lord's Supper) (1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
The emblems for the supper are only the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine. Since these elements represent the Lord's body and His blood, it would be blasphemy to partake of anything else.
The divine pattern restricts the taking of the supper to Sundays (Acts 20:7). To partake of it any other day would be to go beyond what is written (1 Timothy 4:6) 5. Singing (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16, 1 Cor 14:15). Singing is the only type of music authorised in the worship of the church of Christ. This is a means by which the Lord has chosen to transmit his message from one person to another. All the congregation are to teach and admonish one another in this way. The New Testament authorises no other type of music in worship. It is therefore going beyond God's word to play a mechanical instrument. Humming and whistling are also unauthorised.
THE LAW OF THE GLORIOUS CHURCH OF CHRIST. The New Testament is its only law. This is the instrument of authority through which Christ rules the church (Phil 3:16; 2 Tim 1:13). We cannot add to it or take away from it (Rev 22:18-19). It was given to us by divine inspiration, and is perfect (2 Tim 3:16-17). Since there will never be any more revelation from God (Jude 3), the New Testament is the complete, final and perfect blueprint for the church. The word of God is the divine standard which will judge every individual on the last day (John 12:48).
THE EARTHLY ORGANISATION OF THE GLORIOUS CHURCH OF CHRIST . We have already mentioned its spiritual headquarters in heaven, but in order for it to function, God desires qualified men to be placed in responsible positions in the church. He has chosen to have elders appointed in every local church (Acts 14:23). Their job is to feed and oversee the local flock (1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28). Deacons are also to be appointed as servants to assist the elders (Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3:8-13).
The Lord has chosen preachers to reprove, rebuke and exhort the flock (1 Tim 4:1-5), and teachers to instruct (Eph 4:11). The rest of he church are to work together as an integral part of the local congregation.
THE SAVIOUR OF THE GLORIOUS CHURCH OF CHRIST "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body". -- Ephesians 5:23. The Saviour of the church of Christ is the glorified Jesus Christ. It is therefore only those who are in this glorious church that can hope for salvation.
What a wonderful blessing and privilege it is to belong to the GLORIOUS CHURCH OF CHRIST
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