HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
THE CHURCH: “ACCORDING TO THE ETERNAL PURPOSE”
Our “News and Views” essay of June 11, 2013 discussed “The Pattern Principle.” From time to time, we intend to follow up with other essays that will look at specific areas in which the pattern principle has relevance. In this one we look at the church as the manifestation of the multi-faceted wisdom of God and the culmination of God’s grand scheme of redemption “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).
Noah’s ark, the Old Testament tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple were all built according to a divine pattern determined by God. They were physical structures that were utilized in deliverance from a destructive flood (in the case of the ark) and important in the religious life of the Hebrew/Israelite/Jewish people (in the case of the tabernacle and, later, the temple) under the Law of Moses. But these physical structures are instructive in understanding and appreciating truth about the New Testament church, God’s spiritual house.
The apostle Peter says that Christians are “living stones” who constitute “a spiritual house” (I Peter 2:5). This spiritual house is the “house of God which is the church of the living God” (I Timothy 3:15). The builder of this spiritual house was Jesus Christ Himself. He said, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Since the church is comprised of all who have been redeemed from their sins by the blood of Christ, to say that Christ built the church is to say that He shed His blood in order to bring into existence His aggregate body of saved people. In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said of the cup, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Once Christ had shed His blood for the sins of the world and the church (the blood-washed ones) had become a reality, it could be affirmed that the church had been “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). An integral feature of the church according to God’s eternal purpose is that it was built by Christ. Christ established His church; men have established their multiplicity of denominations.
The deity of Christ, the fact that He is the divine Son of God, is the foundation upon which the church was established. After Peter confessed Christ to be the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), Jesus responded by saying, “On this rock [the truth that Peter had confessed, hf] I will build My church” (v. 18). Isaiah had prophesied of a great foundation stone upon which God’s people would be established (Isaiah 28:16). Hundreds of years later, the apostle Peter quoted Isaiah and said, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him [the chief cornerstone is a person, Jesus Christ, hf] will by no means be put to shame [disappointed, NASB]” (I Peter 2:6). This is an essential feature of the church according to the eternal purpose that must be honored.
Further, Christ is the head of His church. Paul wrote, “And He (God, hf) has put all things under His (Christ’s, hf) feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Later, Paul affirmed that there is “one body” (Ephesians 4:4). The one true church has but one head and that head is Christ. This divine feature of the church must be recognized and respected. It, too, was according to the eternal purpose of God.
The church exists in different localities, depending upon where the gospel has been preached and obeyed. Those who hear, believe, and obey the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, are saved and “added to the church” (Acts 2:47). Wherever that occurs, a plain, simple congregation/church of Christ comes into existence, but this congregation is not a denomination or any part of a denomination. It is simply a church that is of (according to) God or Christ! Each congregation is autonomous (self-governing) under its own elders (also known as bishops, pastors and shepherds). Paul addressed a letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). That simple organizational structure of the church is a part of the divine pattern for the church according to the eternal purpose of God.
The above are undeniable and very specific truths about the church as set forth in the New Testament. Which of them can be ignored, abandoned, modified, or corrupted and the church still be “according to the eternal purpose”?
July 24: McEwen Church of Christ, McEwen, TN
July 31: GreenHillChurch of Christ, Mt. Juliet, TN
July 23, 2013