Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 29, 1960
NUMBER 21, PAGE 12-13a

The Church As God Sees It

S. R. Tipton, Phoenix, Arizona

How did we arrive at our subject? Indeed it is a Bible subject. The book of Ephesians has been sometimes called "Paul's syllabus on the church" and by studying it closely we may see "The church as God sees it." There is a great need for us to see "the church as God sees it," for when we do, we love, appreciate, support and glorify God through it. On the other hand when we do not, we will desecrate it's worship, corrupt it's organization, prostitute it's work, bring shame and reproach upon it's name, and thereby impeach the wisdom of God.

As we open the book we find the church in God's eternal plan, or in His grand scheme of redemption. Paul declares: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:8-11) Paul's reference to the "fellowship of the mystery" refers to God's scheme or plan which had, before the Gospel age, been hidden from man, but now God's "mystery" was revealed, was made known by Paul and the other apostles. Indeed, by the establishment of the church, the "manifold wisdom of God is made known" even to the "principalities and powers in heavenly places."

It is true that the Old Testament records many prophecies concerning the church, and even though "holy men of God snake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" they could not understand the things of which they prophesied. Even the angels or heavenly beings "desired to look into those things" but the church was yet to them "God's mystery." With the establishment of the church on Pentecost Day, following the resurrection of our Lord (Acts 2), the "mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God" was made known, and that, "by the church," and all the "principalities and powers in heavenly places" could now see "the manifold wisdom of God."

Notice that "God's manifold wisdom" is made known through the church (singular), and that God's wisdom is impeached in the multitudinous hosts of religious bodies and organizations of men. Jesus said: "....upon this rock I will build my church (singular) and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (singular)." (Matt. 16:18)

When the Lord established His church in Jerusalem it was, as Paul declared: "....for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Eph. 2:15-16) The "one new man," and the "one body" of the above passage has reference to one and the same thing which obviously is the church. There can be no doubt that the apostle is pointing back to the time when God, in the beginning, created man and here speaks of the church as God's creation of "the new man" or the "one body" the church. Even as God created man perfect in the beginning, and as man was perfect and lacking nothing, and remained so until be sinned, even so the church came into being by a miracle and being perfect, complete and lacking nothing, and remained so until it impeached God's wisdom by changing it's organization or corrupting it's worship.

The organization of the church, being local (Phil. 1:1), it's worship being "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24), it's work being primarily the preaching of the gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 3:15), it's name being that which is in keeping with the revealed will of God (Rom. 16:16), must not be corrupted, changed, altered, mutilated nor desecrated. To attempt such is to exalt man's way over the Lord's, and cast reflection upon the wisdom and intregrity of God: Does puny man in his littleness and imperfectness actually think or believe that he can improve upon God's eternal scheme of redemption and plan made known by the church? (Eph. 3:10-11) Paul commands: "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:3) Do we not understand that the only "unity" that is pleasing to God is the "unity of the Spirit," that which is brought about by the direction and guidance of the Spirit? The "unity of the Spirit" that we are to strive for is found in the following verses: "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Otherwise stated this means: One God, the creator of man and the object of our worship; Him from whom all blessings flow through Jesus Christ. One Lord, or one source of authority for everything we teach or practice. One Spirit, or one manner of life that is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. One body, or one organization (the local church) through which to work, worship and glorify God. One faith, or one gospel to preach and teach in the effort to convert sinners and strengthen Christians. One baptism, or one action that brings us into covenant relationship with God. One hope, or the earnest desiring of the expectation of spending an eternity with the Father and the Son and the redeemed of all ages.

Without, or separate and apart from, these there can be no unity that is pleasing to God. When we point out to our sectarian friends and neighbors that there is but one God, but one gospel, but one baptism, but one hope, can we not learn ourselves that there is but one source of authority and that is the Lord's? That man must heed the injunction of Paul to: "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by him," (Col. 3:17) and that there is but one body or organization through which the work that God gave the church to do must be done, and that that is the local congregation? "Thou that teacheth another, teacheth not thyself?" (Rom. 2:21) Sometimes we are slow to understand that "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. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." The only way that the church can be pleasing to God is when she is "subject unto Christ in everything" and when she realizes that she must "reverence" the Lord. (Eph. 5;30-33)

When we begin to "see the church as God sees it" we know that man cannot be reconciled or saved without being a member of it. God cannot reconcile a sinner to Himself outside the body of Christ, for reconciliation takes place therein. As Paul declared: "And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Eph. 2:16) Will man so brazenly affirm that reconciliation to God may be had OUT of the body, when the God of heaven through the apostle Paul affirmed that it is IN? Were it possible for all men to be impressed with the fact that Christ shed his precious blood to purchase the church, and that the thing purchased is equal in value to the price paid for it, then we would have less disrespectful talk and unlearned speaking of the church as being "non-essential to man's salvation." Surely it is hard for the thinking to affirm that the Lord would shed His precious blood for something that is "non-essential." In view of such statements as Acts 20:28, and Eph. 2:16 which affirm that the church was purchased with the blood of Christ, it seems more than foolishness to hear men speak in such a manner: It is disgusting to hear the unlearned and sectarian speak in such a way, and even more so to hear and see my brethren promoting schemes and inventions of men that impeach the wisdom and integrity of God, and that disrupts the fellowship of His saints, and divides asunder the body of Christ.

Dear friends will you not use this lesson as a basis for further study and meditation on the subject of the "church as God sees it" and that the church in God's plan is "fitly framed together" and "groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord;" and that otherwise framed we cannot be a "habitation of. God through the Spirit? (Eph. 2:21-22)