Eve: The Vision of the Ideal Church

God is the God of ideals, as we also must be if we are to grow in likeness to Christ, both in our own lives and in those we seek to help. We share the Father’s joy, as with Him “we see Jesus … crowned with glory and honour” against the background of the world that crucified Him, and the divided loyalties among those who profess His name, not forgetting also the conflict of our own hearts. If we would know the heart of Paul, the beloved apostle to the Gentiles, we have only to ponder his second letter to the Corinthian assembly, part of the fruit of his ministry. They had almost broken his heart with their divisions, carnality, and gross immorality condoned among themselves. What must it have meant for him to have to write: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves”, and to consider the possibility that after all they might be “reprobates”— worthless!, 2 Cor. 13. 5. All this highlights Paul’s vision of the perfect church as he writes with a pathos that we but dimly understand: “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: … For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ”, 2 Cor. 11. 1-3. Perhaps Robert Chapman knew something of it when he said: “Church making is heart breaking, and churchmending is unending”.

So Paul looked back to the garden of Eden, with the perfect complete man and wife. Adam and the “help meet for him” were united in one flesh, with the power to multiply and replenish the earth with divine blessing. No sin was there, no decay and death, no fear of sorrow or remorse. We know that the first creation will give place to a new heaven and a new earth, and that the glory of Eden will pale before the splendours which can only be revealed by symbol. Truly “we see through a glass, darkly”, but we do see, as God saw when He looked upon the bliss of Eden with the vision of the ultimate glory of His Son with His Bride the Church. And from this issues the wonder of the Gospel story.

Christ loved the Church before the foundation of the world. He loved then, and for eternity. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” is an unchanging rock of truth wherever His love is bestowed, and the humblest believer can say with Paul, He “loved me”, the greatest of all testimonies to the character and quality of the love of God. The shadows of Eden passed, but the Church remained, chosen and perfected in the heart of the Lamb until He shall be slain, then to be created in and through the travail of the cross. Thus the Bible contains the greatest love-story of all time: the story of His redeeming love.

God had a rival for the allegiance of man, who so easily caused the woman to transgress. Paradise was lost, and the man and the woman went out to toil and to die, but with the hope that at last the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. There is a great truth underlying Paul’s reminder that Adam was not deceived by the serpent, but sinned with his eyes open to the consequence. He chose to lose paradise rather than lose the woman whom God had given him. Our Lord and Saviour chose to enter a world lying in the lap of the wicked one, going even to the shame of the cross, where He found at last those that were lost. This is a tremendous thing to state, and one can only ponder the many scriptures in which it is revealed by living parables, and by the great doctrines of our faith.

So we see the Church loved, though composed of those once defiled by many a love other than the pure love of Eden. We see the long search in the world leading to a new creation by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. He “gave himself for it” writes Paul. He could do no more, for He gave His all. The deathless story of the one sheep that was lost tells it all, whether of the Church He loved or just of you or me. He sought until He found it, and this ensures the glorious consummation for which both Bridegroom and Bride await.

Many who read these notes are engaged in telling out the Gospel to others. Others have the care of assemblies where their lot is cast. Have we Paul’s ideal before us? Do we also long to see perfection? We recall again the reality which confronted the apostle as he penned the words we have quoted, but the vision remained, since fourteen years before God had given him a glimpse of paradise, where perhaps he had seen it all, 2 Cor. 12. 1-4. The same vision is ours if we have eyes to see.


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