There is no group of people more precious than the church. Predicted by prophecy (Isaiah 2:2-4; Matthew 16:18) the church is the collection of the saved who have been gathered together by the decree of God. The church is precious and perfect. Sinners, saved by Christ, fill the church. They bring their weaknesses and imperfections with them but the church itself is without spot.
Jesus is the only head of the church (John 14:6; Ephesians 1:22, 5:23; Colossians 1:18). But his role is not of a dictator or ruler. The church is his bride. Like a newly married couple, Jesus looks upon his church with incredible, divine love. Bible writers speak of Christ like a husband who cares for his beloved (Ephesians 5:25). John the Baptist speaks of Jesus as a bridegroom (John 3:29) and the apostle John speaks of the great marriage feast of Jesus (the Lamb) and the church (Revelation 19:7, 21:1-9, 22:17). His love for the church cannot be overstated as he gave his life for the church and purchased it with his own blood (Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28). The entire book of the Song of Solomon is likely a comparison describing the love Christ has for his church through the eyes of a man in love with his betrothed. The church means all to Jesus.
A man cannot force his way into the church nor can he enter through his own plans. In John 10:1-18 Jesus uses a sheepfold as an illustration of the church. There is only one legitimate door into the fold and only one legitimate Shepherd. Anyone who enters otherwise is a fraud.
Like a marriage, there is no compulsion in Christ. The marriage is between two people who desire the union. When a man, upon faith and repentance obeys the Lord in baptism he is added to the church. That is, he is joined to his Lord through his faith and obedience (Acts 2:38, 41, 47). We leave the world of singles and become married to Christ through the power of the Father (Colossians 1:13, 14). We are joined to Christ because we love him. We love him because he loved us first (1 John 4:19).
Now if the church is so precious to Jesus, how should we view the relationship? Is it not reasonable to expect a bride to view her spouse with all the love and devotion that he shows to her? Sadly, some are lukewarm toward the bridegroom. Their love has grown cold (Matthew 24:12) and they no longer honor their first love (Revelation 2:4). Outsiders assault the union of Christ and his church. They claim to love Jesus but hate organized religion. That is, they hate his church. True, some have been hurt by people in the church but they were never hurt by the church itself. They forget that it is Christ Himself who loves us and provides for us in his church. They share equally with every other member of the church who, like themselves, are sinners (Romans 3:9, 23; 1 John 1:5-10). The depth and horror of our sin is beyond explanation yet every one of us is still perfectly loved by Jesus.
Division and strife often arise in the church. Since it is made up of sinful people we should not be surprised that turmoil happens. In the middle of the first century the original Christians struggled with cliques in the church. Paul opposed such trouble and called Christians to speak with a single voice (1 Corinthians 1:10). In Ephesians 1:3, Paul taught Christians to maintain both peace and unity in the church. The principle of 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 is vital in understanding that it is better to suffer a wrong than to air dirty laundry before the public. Husbands and wives often have disputes but they must not run to Facebook or Twitter to air their grievances. As a general principle, disputes should be contained. They should involve the very minimum number of people possible and should never be carried beyond the walls of his precious church.
Christ died for the church. We can suffer a little for it too, don’t you think?
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