The Church’s Development and Destiny
Arthur G. Clarke
The development of the true Church is from two directions: (I) External; (2) Internal. External, by the work of Evangelism. This is growth towards completion (finality) and is described in the N.T. under the figure of a Building. It is accomplished by Christian witness, the duty of all believers, for which the risen Lord has bestowed the special permanent grace-gift of evangelists. Internal, by the work of Edification. This is growth towards perfection (maturity) and is described in the N.T. under the figure of a Body. It is accomplished by Christian service, the functioning of all members, for which the Lord has bestowed the permanent grace-gift of pastors and teachers (double gift). The former shows progress by expansion ; the latter shows progress by consolidation.
Special Note. It is of the utmost importance to distinguish between the Church and Christendom. The former is composed only of truly burn-again persons (Lesson 1), the latter is the mass of religious profession bearing the name of Christ. Differentiate also between the Kingdom and the Church. These terms in Scripture are not synonymous. Failure to observe this has led to many erroneous interpretations and grievous false doctrines. The Church is included in the Kingdom but is not co-extensive with it. The Church was inaugurated at Pentecost and will be completed at the Translation (Rapture). The Kingdom overlaps in time and has three phases.
(1) The Kingdom in Ministry (past) began with the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3. 2) and the presence of the King (Matt. 4. 17), and ended with the virtual rejection of the King by the Jews (Matt. 12), which they confirmed by later declaration (Jn. 19. 15).
(2) The Kingdom in Mystery then began (Matt. 13. 11), its history being given by the Lord in parabolic form, carrying through the present age on to the return of the King in glory. It is this phase that so nearly corresponds with Christendom, the progress of which is instructively set forth at Matt. 13. 24-33.
(3) The Kingdom in Manifestation (prospective) will begin when the King returns to inaugurate His personal reign. This is commonly known as the millennium, which means " thousand year period " (Rev. 20). The Kingdom was long foretold by prophets of old, the Church was a mystery which from all ages was hid in God until the appointed time of its revealing (Eph. 3. 3-11 ; Col. 1. 24-29).
Progress by Evangelism. The universality of Christ's Saviourhood is seen in passages such as Lk. 2. 29-32 ; 3. 6; Jn. 4. 42 ; Rom. 1.5; I Tim. 2. 6, 7, in accord with which is the Lord's comprehensive commission, Matt. 28. 18-20 ; Mk. 16. 15. The divine plan involves all believers as witnesses, as the scope of Lk. 24. 46-48 and Acts 1. 8 indicates. A witness is one who tells what he has seen and heard, what he knows. The immediate band of early disciples were specially chosen to be witnesses to the facts of Christ's death and resurrection, Acts 1. 22 ; 2. 32 ; 3. 15 ; 4. 33 ; 5 32 ; 10. 39-41 ; 13. 30, 31 ; facts to which 1'aul also could witness, 22. 14, 15 ; 26, 16-18 ; 26. 22, 23. Believers are witnesses in a more general sense, luminaries in this dark world, holding forth the word of life, Phil. 2. 15, 16. Three essentials in church witness are indicated in that epistle at 1. 27, 2.S, namely,
(a) Consistency—a worthy behaviour;
(b) Co-operation—a united purpose;
(c) Courage—a fearless attitude. Life and lip must be in accord.
The Church at Thessalonica bore such a testimony, a witness to the world and an example to the saints, 1 Thess. 1. 6-10.
It is a great mistake to look upon evangelizing as the sole responsibility of the evangelist. In the Acts record " evangelizing " is predicated of believers (men and women) who were scattered abroad owing to the persecution at Jerusalem, Acts 8. 4 (" preaching," Gk. euangelizo). In Acts 11. 20 the same word occurs and is there associated with " speaking the word " in the previous verse, indicating an informal telling out of the gospel. The chief words translated " preach," etc., are
(a) euangelizo, meaning to announce glad tidings, and thus points to the nature of the message.
(b) Kerusso, meaning to proclaim as a herald, whether the announcement be good news or bad ; it points to the manner of telling as authoritative,
(c) Katangello, meaning to proclaim, has an intensive force as bringing home truth to the persons concerned. Students interested should consult a concordance such as Young's, or Strong's or Wigram's for occurrences of these words.
The purpose of God must be borne in mind. This is not the conversion of the world, as so many imagine, but is stated in Acts 15. 14 as visiting " the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name." It is the out-calling of the Church, and the challenge of Rom. 10. 14, 15 is insistent here. It is noticeable that in Scripture no provision is made for elaborate organization and the need for such is not contemplated ; cf. Acts 5. 42. As so often seen in our lessons, simplicity is (he keynote in the divine order. Through the testimony of the early disciples, there was progress by " addition " (Acts 2. 41-47 ; 5. 14 ; 11. 24) and " multiplication " (Acts 6. 1, 7 ; 9.31).
The Evangelist is not only a preacher but one specially gifted by Christ to be a winner of souls, lie concentrates on proclaiming the gospel, planting new churches or bringing converts into existing ones, I Cor. 3. 5-9. He does not plant " groups " or " circles." The evangelist must have:
(a) a zeal for the Lord ;
(b) a passion for souls ;
(c) an understanding of the gospel.
While identified with a local assembly (Acts 13. 3) he goes out into the world with the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5. 18-20), ready like Philip to preach to the crowds (Acts 8. 4-8, 40) or to an individual (26-3})), to go to a city or into a desert (ibid). Philip is the only one actually termed an evangelist (Acts 21. 8), but Paul was certainly one as well as an apostle (Rom. 1. 15) and we should probably include Timothy (2 Tim. 4. 5).
The evangelist's true objective is to bring souls into a right relationship with God, producing Conviction —Confession—Conversion. His first aim is to glorify Cod ; his only true power is the Holy Spirit ; the sole medium through which the Spirit operates is the Word of God, 1 Pet. 1. 23, 25. The apostles preached " the Word," cf. 2 Tim. 4. 2, " Jesus and the resurrection," " the kingdom of God," " Christ and Him crucified," presenting clearly the facts of our Lord's death and resurrection and the reasons there for, aptly summed up by Paul, 1 Cor. 15. 3, 4. Much of the preaching today is not of this character. Within the limits imposed by Scripture principles, ways of presenting the gospel may be adapted to changing times and conditions. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that in Christian homelands the weekly gospel-meeting, as we know it, fails to meet the need today. Gospel Malls as well as denominational churches are mostly shunned by unsaved people, yet we seem to be firmly wedded to our traditional order of things. forgetting that Scripture affords no such rigid pattern. Gospel messengers of apostolic days followed the lord's commission to " go " rather than expecting the people to " come " to them. In the book of Acts we find them visiting private homes as well as public buildings, Jewish synagogues as well as Greek marketplaces, preaching by roadside and riverside, in schools and lodgings, in prison and in palace, wherever in fact they could obtain a hearing for the glad tidings. It is significant that our Lord used the illustration of " fishing " to describe the work of the evangelist, a subject, with which many of His immediate band of disciples were not only familiar, but in which some of them were experts, Mk. I. 16-20; I-k. 5. 1-11. Line fishing and net fishing both have their application to methods of evangelistic work. The successful fisherman has to study closely the habits of various kinds of fish, their times and seasons, suitable bail to use, etc., and above all he must go to the place where the fish are !
Much might be said, and needs to be said, concerning modern methods of evangelism, especially some mass "revivals" in which popular preachers tend to introduce many undesirable features and appeal to people's love of novelty and excitement. True servants of God should ever be on their guard against copying these worldly tactics so derogatory to the dignity of the gospel proclamation. " Decisions " are not necessarily conversions, yet this appears to be the chief aim in many mass campaigns. There is urgent need for drastic revision of such methods in favour of a return to the far more simple apostolic pattern.
Missionary Work. The word " missionary" does not occur in our English Bibles but the idea, is there. He is one who has a mission from God, usually with the evangelist's gift, but not necessarily so, for his mission may be to teach or to do other work for the Lord. The word is really the Latin form of the Greek word " apostle," meaning one who is sent, and the corresponding verb is commonly used in the N.T. for sending on a mission of any sort, without reference at all to the special band known as " apostles." The term " missionary " is usually applied to one who goes to an unevangelized country with the gospel. Though the word is convenient to use it does tend to create an artificial distinction between the Lord's servants working in the homelands and those occupied in distant lands. The field is the world (Matt. 13. 38) and each labourer has his own proper gift and sphere in service for the Lord. Nevertheless it is essential that all God's people should cultivate a world view of Christian Witness and not the insular or contracted local view that, alas, is all too common amongst us, Jn. 4. 35 ; Matt. 9. 37, 3S. Questions concerning the individual missionary's call to service, his commendation, conduct, control and communication lie outside the scope of our present paper, but they are of very great importance.
Progress by Edification. Growth of the Church by the edification of itself in love is the subject of Eph. 4. 1-16 ; Col. 2. 19 (universal aspect) ; I Cor. 12. 14 (local aspect) to accomplish which there is a Spirit-set overseership (Lesson 8) and a God-ordained ministry (Lesson 9). Eph. 4. 11-13 should be read in the English R.V. and it will be noted that the exercise of the major grace-gifts is in order to the perfecting of the saints unto the work of service, that is, that all believers as members of the Body of Christ should be equipped and encouraged to fulfil the function proper to each for the building up of that Body until full maturity of the whole is reached. For the analogy of a " body " in connection with the Church, see Lesson 1.
In the divine plan the Church is to subserve God's purpose for the glory of Christ, Eph. 1. 9. 10, 22, 23. Her visible unity is not designed for the present age for she is not yet complete, though as a distinct entity she had pre-existence in the eternal counsels of God, Eph. 1.4; 3. 1-12. Her visible association with the Head awaits the day of Christ's manifested glory. Unity, however, should be exhibited among believers even now (as far as is consistent with loyalty to God's Word). Eph. 4. 3; Jn. 17. 21-23. The Church conceived in eternity and created in time is now, («) the vehicle for the display of God's wisdom to higher intelligences, Eph. 3. 10 ; cf. 1 Cor. 11. 10 ; (b) the vehicle of testimony for God to men, as a light in the world's darkness, Rev. chs. 1-3. She is ultimately to be (a) the vehicle for the display of God's grace, Eph. 1.6; 2. 7 ; (i) the vehicle for the display of God's glory, Eph, I. 12, 14 ; 3. 21 ; cf. 2 Thess. 1. 10.
As to the Church's eternal destiny comparatively little is revealed, no doubt because our poor finite minds would utterly fail to grasp the glories of it. The very cost to the Lord of her redemption assures us of the blessedness of her future portion. What the Word of God docs make known is sufficient to sustain the hearts of the Lord's people amid the trials of the present scene, anil to encourage faithful witness and zealous service. The proper hope of the Church is to be with her Lord, and this will be consummated at His coming to the air (1 Thess. 4. 17) according to His promise (Jn. 14. 3) and to His prayer (Jn. 17. 24). She is to be His companion in millennial and eternal glory, Rom. 8. 17, 18, 21, R.V. ; Rev. 19. 7; 21. 9; 22. 5.
Order of Events connected with the Coming of the Lord, His " parousia " (" presence," R.V. margin), a word which denotes a period not an act. as may be clearly seen from its use at Phil. 2. 12. During the period of Christ's " presence," commencing with His descent to the air and ending with the manifestation of His presence (2 Thess. 2. 8) by His advent in glory, many events occur
both in heaven and on earth. So far as these have to do directly with the Church they may be shown thus :-—
(1) Resurrection of the sleeping saints, 1 Thess. 4. 16.
(2) Transformation of the living saints, 1 Cor. 15. 52 ; Phil. 3. 20. 21.
(3) Translation of the whole company, I Thess. 4. 17. In this the O.T. saints share, though they form no part of the Church.
(4) Examination before the Bema of Christ, 1 Cor. 4. 4, 5 ; Rom. 14. 10 ; 2 Cor. 5. 10 ; 1 Cor. 3. 13-15. Purpose—Review and reward—deciding future dignity not future destiny.
(5) Presentation to the glorified Christ, Eph. 5. 25-27 ; Jude 24, 25. Cf. the type in Eve, Gen. 2. 18-23. Note that (4) is an essential preparation for (5).
(6) Celebration of the Lamb's marriage. Rev. 19. 6-9 ; Eph. 5. 32, which mystery (secret) is now revealed. This is the exhibition in heaven of the relationship established between Christ and His Church. Heaven Is the latter's true sphere. As the Body of Christ she is nearest to Him ; as His Bride she is dearest to Him. Here is seen to be a double preparation for her proper home,
(a) Divine grace has fitted her, Col. 1. 12 ;
(b) personal conformity has exercised her. Rev. 19. 8, R.V. Divine righteousness is hers by gift, Rom. 3. 21, 22 ; 5. 17 ; personal " righteousnesses " are hers by deeds. Rev. 19. 8. The Bride prepares part of her own trousseau !
(7) Manifestation with Christ at His appearing. Col. 3. 4 ; Rom. 8. 19-23 ; 2 Thess. 1. 10. This is the public exhibition to the world of the relationship established between Christ and His Church. Having shared His reproach and rejection she is now to share His reign as Son of Man in the millennial kingdom, 2 Tim. 2. 12; Rom. 5. 17.
Events subsequent to the Appearing. The Church's further destiny is:
(1) Millennial Glory in which she is associated with Christ in universal rule, Rev. 20. 4-6 (Vision, 4— Parenthesis, 5a—Interpretation, 5b-6); Acts 17. 31 ; 1 Cor. 6. 2 ; Rev. 2. 26, 27 ; 5. 10 (lit. " over the earth "). The Church is both a recipient and a reflector of divine glory, presenting unfading beauty and shedding inconceivable brightness over the millennial scene, Rev. 21. 23, 24 (R.V. margin) ; cf. verse 11.
(2) Eternal Glory in which the Church is still seen in eternal youth and bridal splendour unchanged after one thousand years, Rev. 21. 2 (eternal state) with verse 911 (millennial state). As to the eternal state Rev. 21. 1-8 should be closely studied, also 1 Cor. 15. 24-28 ; Eph. 3. 21 ; 2 Pet. 3. 13. The glory of heaven for every believer may be summed up in four terse phrases all connected with our Saviour : (a) See Him, 1 Jn. 3. 2 ; Rev. 22. 4 ; (ft) With Him. 1 Thess. 4. 17 ; (c) Like Him, 1 Jn. 3. 2 ; (d) Serve Him, Rev. 22. 3.
Readers will be pleased to know that these articles have been reproduced in booklet form and copies may be obtained from Mr. Clarke, c/o 19 Castleton Road, London, E. 17. 2/6 each, post free.