Vol.VI No.VI Pg.4
August 1969

Church Cleansing

Robert F. Turner

During my early preaching years I attended many debates, and heard many quibbles. A common one re. establishment of the church was, Christ died to purchase the church; so the church had to exist before He died or there would have been nothing to purchase. (Ref. to Acts 20:28)

Of course the church of God which the overseers are to feed consists of people: and Christs death paid the debt purchased forgiveness of sins for generations yet unborn — individuals, who through faith come into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27) and, collectively, constitute the church. The church is not something apart from the saints. This answer is so obvious to all who understand Gods scheme of redemption that I was shocked recently to hear an offspring of the same old quibble applied to the cleansing of the church.

The church is corrupt now, I was told, but just before judgement day Christ will take away every spot and wrinkle. (Ref. to Eph. 5:25-27) Some day He will cleanse the church. We had better read that text again. This is not some wholesale cleaning of an institution, viewed as a vehicle. The church is not a sort of little red wagon that rolls along all loaded with ungodly back-sliders; and just before judgement it goes through a Jiffy Car Wash and comes out well waxed and polished, ready to bear the riders home to glory.

The cleansing is by the washing of water with the word — a reference to truth and obedience. The cleansing takes place as Sam, Anna, lone, Newt, Tom and Susie — individuals through-out the world — recognize their lost condition, and come to Christ for salvation from sins. Independently and severally each one believes in Christ and is baptized for remission of sins. (Compare Matt. 26:28, Mk. 16:16, and Acts 2: 38) This cleansing continues throughout the life-time of each faithful individual — on an individual basis — to the extent that each individual repents of his or her sins and prays God, through Christ, for forgiveness. (See Acts 8:13, 18f)

No one is going to be cleansed because his name is on a church roll; not even if he has a gold star for being faithful in attendance. It is faithfulness to Christ that counts. When we sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 Jn. 1:8 -2:1-6) But we must repent, and confess our sins; and this is done on an individual basis. This is the way Christ gave Himself for the church and is saviour of the body.

Church is a collective noun, as is herd, flock, etc. The word refers to called out people, assembled literally, or figuratively — grouped by virtue of their common relationship and fellowship with God. If a flock of sheep is cleansed of vermin, it is because the sheep have been put through the dipping vats. If the church is cleansed, it is because the people who make up that assembly have had their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ.

When will we learn that Christ, not the church, is the Saviour!!