The Church we often Forget
A. McD. Redwood, Bangalore, India
The epistle to the ephesians is the great exposition of the doctrine of the Church considered as a spiritual organism. In this epistle the Church universal is presented under three (perhaps four) different figures, and it is well to study these figures carefully. These figures are
1. A Body, 1. 22-23; 4. 15, 16; 5. 23;
2. A Bride, 5. 30-32; (2 Cor. 11. 2-3, in its local aspect);
3. A Building, 2. 20-22.
4. A further figure seems to be hinted at, that of a Family or Brotherhood, 2. 19.
These four aspects of the Church may be examined separately, but here we shall look at them as a whole in order to notice certain things that they have in common. The first thing is that each is under a
Divine Controlling Will
What we mean is this: the Body, having a Head, is controlled by that Head, and so in that sense is possessed by the Head. Without the Head, the Body is not merely useless but lifeless. Then the Bride has a Bridegroom, otherwise there would be no bride. The Bridegroom (or Husband) takes the Bride to Himself, thereby coming into possession of her. She is thenceforth called by His name. The Building has a Designer, a Builder and a Possessor who owns it. It may be that the same one who designed the Building owns the Building, and so Architect and Possessor may be one and the same Person. Finally, no Brotherhood is likely to realize its fullest expression without some Leader, inspiring in the best sense its life and activities. In all this we are reminded of the relationship and position of the Lord Jesus towards the Church: He is at once the Head of the Body, the Bridegroom of the Bride, the Fashioner, Builder and Possessor of the Building, and the Leader of the Brotherhood (see Hebrews 2. 10-12).
The second point is that in connection with each figure there is a
a starting point when each came into being. It was 'before the foundation of the world' that we were chosen in Christ, Eph. 1. 4. We remember also that the purpose to form one Body out of Jew and Gentile 'from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God', Eph. 3.9. The choice and the purpose were therefore in the eternal past, but the choice became manifest and the purpose was fulfilled in time. There was a day when the Body came into being, when it became a fact. That day was the day of Pentecost, Acts 2. 4. There the foundation of the Building was laid,'Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone', Eph. 2. 20. There also believers were constituted the Bride for the Bridegroom, and the Bride began to be made aware of her high calling. There the hidden meaning of the words 'my brethren' in John 20. 17 began to be experienced. Manifestly the choice of eternity was ratified there.
The third point is that the church, viewed under each of these figures,
Pursues a Definite Course
a process of development and growth, in preparation for that great future day. This process continues today during what we call the Dispensation of the Church. Today, if only we would see and understand, we shall find the Body in expansion, the Bride in preparation, the Building in construction, the Brotherhood in progressive and holy conspiration, invisible and silent though the process may be. We use the word conspiration purposely to bring out the thought of agreement or concurrence for some common end or purpose.
Then each of these aspects brings out and emphasises a particular point. In regard to the Body, the emphasis is on the growth to maturity, Eph. 4. 16. In regard to the Bride, the emphasis is on adornment with the grace of the Spirit in preparation for the day of presentation as a 'glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish', Eph. 5. 27. In regard to the Building, the emphasis is not only on growth in cohesion, but growth in extension - one 'living stone' being added to another, being 'builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit', Eph. 2. 22. Newly saved souls are therefore 'fitly framed together'. In regard to the Brotherhood, the emphasis is on growth in fellowship and mutual comfort, a holy conspiracy to edification (sec Gal. 6. 10; 1 Tim. 5. 8). The final consideration is that each has a
The Body comes to perfection, the Bride realizes the joy of her presentation, the Building reaches completion and the Brotherhood attains the climax of spiritual harmony. The last stone will have been added, the last jewel of grace and love will have been fitly set, the last stages of maturity will have completed a 'body of glory', and the last disciplinings of love shall have crowned Love's own Fraternity. The Head will never have cause to be ashamed of the members, the Bride will never leave the presence of the Bridegroom, God will ever have a perfect habitation, nevermore shall love be baffled. 'The Church we oft forget' shall become the Church by His side.
The New Testament is given over to the revelation, the exposition, the illustration and the application of these truths. If we read the New Testament without seeing these facts we lose immeasurably. In the Gospels we find the historical foundation; Christ is there seen paying the price of His own blood for the Possession, whereby He becomes the rightful Possessor. Again, historically in the Acts, we find the commencement of the visible fulfilment of the eternal purpose 'hid in God' - the formation of the Church. In other words, Christ is seen entering into visible possession of that which He has purchased. In the Epistles, we have a body of doctrine brought together, through the instrumentality of which the Holy Spirit is in this day perfecting, adorning, building up the Possession. In the book of the Revelation, a glimpse is given of the future when the Possession is glorified in bliss.