Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 8, 1954
NUMBER 9, PAGE 12-13a

The Value Of The Church

Robert H. Farish, Tarrant, Alabama

The spirit of the day as regards the church is generously casual, flippant and even scornful. The church, in the thinking of many, is relegated to the list of nonessentials. Too often it is regarded purely as a sort of social club or civic organization. Sentiment is frequently expressed which disparages the value of the church. Expressions such as "one does not have to be a member of the church to be saved" and "we ought to preach Christ and not the church" reveal a lack of knowledge of the value of the church. The glory of the church is not generally recognized.

The design of this paper is to correct this misconception by calling attention to the attitude and relation of the Godhead to the church. If we know how God, Christ and the Holy Spirit regard the church we are in position to cultivate the proper attitude toward it.

God And The Church

The church is of such importance as to have a place in God's eternal purpose. "To the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:10,11). The church as the means of making known God's manifold wisdom, to principalities and powers in heavenly places, was in God's eternal purpose. Surely respect for God forbids us to lightly regard a thing which has a place in His eternal purpose. How one can claim to honor God while disparaging a thing which has a place in his eternal purpose is strange indeed.

The church is the family of God, "but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). Thus Paul reveals the divine honor given to the church. God honors it by His relationship to it. It is His family.

God's arrangement requires that man give glory to Him in the church, "unto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever" (Eph. 3:21). It makes no difference how much good a man who is not in the church might do, none of that good reflects glory to God.

These divine truths about God and the church viz. it occupied a significant place in His eternal purpose — it is His family and is designated as the relationship in which man is to give glory to God — all emphasize the value of the church.

Christ And The Church

Paul writes, "This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church" (Eph. 5:32). This section has to do with Christ and the church. What is Christ's appraisal of the church? Does he esteem it highly or does he place the slight evaluation upon it that is so commonly placed upon it by men today? A few passages will be considered which reveal Christ's attitude and relation to the church.

One's regard for and treatment of the church is taken by Christ as personal treatment and regard for Himself. "Saul laid waste the church" (Acts 8:3). He did this by securing "letters to Damascus unto the synagogues, that if he found any that were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem" (Acts 9:2). On this journey of persecution, the Lord indicted Saul with persecuting him. "Saul, Saul why persecutest thou me" (Acts 9:4). Saul's activities of laying "waste the church" constituted persecution of Christ. To disparage the church by thinking of it as non-essential to salvation is to lightly esteem the Lord.

The church was purchased with the blood of Christ. "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). Christ demonstrated, by his action, his regard for the church. He "loved the church and gave himself up for it" (Eph. 5:25). In the face of such a demonstration of love, no one can question the high regard i n which the church is held by Christ. He proved his love by paying the supreme price.

Christ is the head of the church, "and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." No connection can be had with the head except as one is joined to the body. The members of the body comprise the church. "Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof" (1 Cor. 12:27). The function of the head is to regulate the members of the body of which it is head, but such guidance is possible only for the members of that body. Members of bodies foreign to the church of Christ are not regulated and blessed by Christ. If you are not a member of the church of which Christ is the head then you have no profitable connection with Christ. He is not your head.

The church is that which Christ saves, "for the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the Saviour of the body" (Eph. 5:23). This should settle the question as to whether one must be a member of the church to be saved. The Holy Spirit defines the territory of salvation as being the church. No, the church is not the saviour, it is the saved. Christ is the saviour but he is the saviour of the church.

Not only is Christ the saviour of the church but he is high priest over the church, "and having a great priest over the house of God" (Heb. 10:21). Christ is priest over the house of God but the house of God is the church, (1 Tim. 3:15b) "in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Christ's intercessorial function is for the church, for he is priest over the church. His priestly function is in behalf of the church, not the world. The members of the church can, "draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace" in full expectation of receiving mercy and finding grace to help him in time of need (Heb. 4:16). Not so with one who is not a member of the church.

The Holy Spirit And The Church

The church revealed in the New Testament is deemed suitable as the abode of the Holy Spirit. "Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). No accountable being has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him unless he is a member of the church, for the church is the temple of God in which the Spirit dwells. But "if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9b). Hence, it is clear that one who is not a member of the church is none of his (Christ).

Paul contrasts the state of the Ephesians as "of the household of God" with their former state when they were "without God in the world." This contrast is drawn out in Ephesians 2. According to Paul's teaching to be "in Christ Jesus is to be "of the household of God" (the house of God is the church, 1 Tim. 3:15). Those "in Christ" are "builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). Hence, as "being in Christ" is equivalent to being "of the household of God" it follows that the church is the habitation of God in the Spirit. The church comprises those "builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." Are you included in that number? This consideration impresses the thoughtful with the glory and value of the church. It is inconceivable that the Spirit would dwell in anything that in any way or to any degree, partakes of the nature of an accident, afterthought or is inglorious or non-essential.

God Is No Respecter Of Persons

If one accountable being can be saved out of the church then certainly in view of God's character of impartiality, all could be saved without membership in that body, "For there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2:11). "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34). As God's character forbids respect of persons then whatever is required of one with reference to the church is required of all. You are not an exception.