God's Purpose for the Church and You
How important is the church in God's plan? How important is it
with respect to our relationship with God? Many feel it is not that important at
But feelings can mislead. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God has revealed to us His own mind about the church. We can know for sure. We can know if it is true that a person can be just as close to God without being affiliated with the church or not.
A couple of points first: one is that I am not using "church" in a denominational sense, but in a Scriptural sense. Another point is that it is true that if one is not careful, he or she might well join a church that is not what God means for it to be. It is possible to be mislead. One can join a church today that requires belief in things that are contrary to Scripture, or practices things not authorized by the Lord in His New Testament. One can join a church geared for recreation or politics or entertainment. By all means, consider becoming a member of a local church with a critical eye trained by the Scriptures themselves.
The Church in God's Plan
The following statement is the thesis for this article. Warning: it is narrow and exclusive, but it is also true according to the Bible. A good and profitable spiritual relationship with God is impossible apart from being identified with the church we read about in the Bible.
One thing we learn about the church in the Scriptures is that it comes from God. It is not a device or idea of man. "...in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord... " (Ephesians 3:10,11).
This text tells us several things about the church as the Lord designed and built it (Matthew 16:16-18; not to be confused with churches that men have built). It tells us:
a. The wisdom of God is made manifest in spiritual places through the church.
b. This was in accordance with God's eternal purpose for His church.
c. This was carried out through Jesus Christ.
Think about it. The church was planned in the mind of God before the first star was created. That the church exists today is the result of God's eternal plan and carries forth His eternal purpose. No other organization, group, collection, or body can claim this! Based on this passage alone, it would be difficult to draw the conclusion that one can be just as close to God without being identified with His church! But there is more.
The Church in Prophecy
There are many prophecies made in the Old Testament about the church that Jesus would one day establish. A brief glance at just a few of them ought to set the record straight that the church is vital in one's relationship with God.
First, the church, or kingdom, will not enlarge its borders through carnal warfare (Isaiah 2:4. etc.) When the time was almost fulfilled and Jesus described the kingdom which He would shortly establish to Pilate, He said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36).
This kingdom, or church, would be established in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). Again, a little over seven hundred years later, Jesus told His apostles that they would see His kingdom come with power and that they were to wait in Jerusalem for the promise to be fulfilled. It was fulfilled just ten days after His ascension (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-4; 30,31).
The church, or kingdom, would be open to all of every nation (Isaiah 2:2). In fulfillment of this, Jesus sent His apostles out to preach the gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Peter summed it up this way: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. (Acts 10:34,35).
Finally, Daniel describes the kingdom, or church, as eternal (Daniel 2:44). The church is eternal, but this world is not. So, what will happen to the church when the world ceases to exist? In describing our resurrection and the end of the world on the final day, the Scriptures teach: "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power." (1 Corinthians 15:23-24). Think about this! It's the end of time, and Jesus delivers His kingdom up to the Father. If you want to be among those delivered up to heaven, then you had better be a part of this spiritual kingdom!
God's Church and God's Plan
"And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:22,23). One would hope that no one could, after all this, still seriously think that they can be as close to God outside the church. Here we have yet another consideration: the church is the body of Christ and the "fullness of Him who fills all in all." This means that the church is God's goal, or the end result of His efforts.
Not only is the church the end result of God's efforts, but reconciliation with God takes place in this body; "...and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." (Ephesians 2:16). Where does reconciliation (which means to be brought back into harmony with God) take place? Just anywhere? Outside the body, or church? Or in the body? The Scriptures show reconciliation to God takes place within the body! "...Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body." (Ephesians 5:23; see 5:23-29).
Much more could be said, but certainly if the above does not convince someone that being a member of the body, or church of Christ, is essential to their relationship with God, then they will likely stay unconvinced until the final day when our Lord delivers the church up to the Father, and they are not a part of it.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 8.8; August 2001