Publication: Pastoral Letter, June 2011
Dear Friend in Christ:
Previously, I have written to you about God’s covenant faithfulness. This month, I want to look at “The Glorious Church”, and next month’s Pastoral Letter will address the unshakable Kingdom.
These three letters comprise the series, “Foundations for the Future”. We live in a world that is being shaken by natural disasters and societal turmoil. We are in great need to find firm foundations upon which to build. Jesus Christ has provided those foundations.
Like all things pertaining to God, the Church is a mystery that we can only describe and never completely define. It’s important to understand that truth as we approach the Church. It is more than we see and not yet all that it will be.
The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus loved the Church and gave his life for it (see Ephesians 5:25). I confess that have not always loved it. I am a “preacher’s kid”, as are my children. When I was five years old, my parents and I lived in a church basement in New Orleans, LA. We did not have much, but I recall that my mother had made a beautiful coconut cake for a church supper. I begged her for some of it. “No, it is for the church,” she said. “If there is some left, you can have it.” The church ate the whole cake; I hated the church.
Years later, I gave my life to Jesus and discovered that He loved the Church and gave His life to make it His glorious Bride. I had to learn to love it if I was going to serve Him. A lot of people hate the Church for some trivial reason, but mostly because they not have come to grips with God’s love for it.
“Church” is not a word that Jesus invented. There was Moses’ church and the Greeks used the same word to describe their gatherings. But Jesus stated that He would build His Church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. It was built upon the confession of that He is the Christ, Son of the Living God, and built to wage war against evil. He gave His word that He would build it for His purpose. It would demonstrate His Kingdom power on Earth, and to spiritual forces – regardless of opposition.
Jesus’ Church would be separate, holy, radiant, full of goodness and mercy … glorious! It would be the lamp stand that held up the truth, the light of a world that is in darkness. It would be “the pillar and ground of truth”, the foundation that held up truth to the world (see I Timothy 3:15). Note: pillar, not “pillow”!
Jesus’ Church would be more than a “good meeting”. It would be His body laboring in the Father’s field, doing His works, healing, and delivering by His power. It would both declare and demonstrate His Kingdom to all nations prior to His return. It would be a city set in a hill for all to behold and come to its light. So, what is there not to love?
It is evident that the Church that Jesus saw is not always the one that we see. The Church that we often see is introverted, self-centered, petty, and sometimes ungovernable. That Church is not glorious. It is too often like the culture around it, shallow, unsanctified, and unfocused. Nevertheless, we are called to love and pray for it – even weep for it and be a positive influence in it.
He is not through with it; He will try it in the fire and refine it through the sifting that lies ahead. He will be as He has always been, relentless to accomplish what He began. The purest forms of the Church in the world today seem to be where trial and persecution have occurred (such as China, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, and others). The trial of fire brings true devotion.
The Church, which is His Body, is also His family. The New Covenant has made us His brothers and sisters. He is “the first born among many brethren” (see Romans 8:29). He is not ashamed to call us brethren (see Hebrews 2:11). He was made like His brethren (see Hebrews 2:17). He made it clear that those who do His will are His family (see Matthew 12:50).
Families have meetings, but they are more than a meeting. The local church meets but it is more than a meeting; it is a family joined by the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We are heirs of His life, covenant, benefits, and most of all, His will. We are joint heirs with Him, of the Father’s wealth and blessings. The same Spirit that anointed Him anoints us. We have received the Spirit of adoption and we call God, “Abba, Father”. We are family. He has called us to love one another as He loves us (and gave His life).
The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians Chapter 5 that as husband is to wife, so Christ is to us and as wife is to husband, so we are to Him – His glorious bride. Thus, the mystery of marriage reveals the mystery of the Church. To put it another way, as marriage goes, so goes the Church (that is food for thought). Biblical marriage is vital to Biblical Church. Marriage is to be a covenant relationship where we love each other as Christ loved the Church and gave His life. The cultural destruction of marriage and family is having a devastating impact upon Jesus’ family – the Church.
Marriage is defined in Genesis, in the Gospels, and in the Epistles exactly the same way: “For this cause shall a man leave His father and mother and cleave to his wife and they two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5-6; Ephesians 5:31). Marriage is not a “fifty/fifty” partnership. It is a “one hundred/one hundred” commitment. There are times, in my experience, when one or the other must give all for the other. So the Church is built upon a similar relationship. We must give all when others can give little or none. Remember, “in sickness and in health, for better, or for worse”? The goal is to become and remain one. Of course, I do not recommend submitting to abuse; I am simply saying that a Biblical marriage endures by covenant love which entails self-sacrifice. So it is with the Church.
The Lord has provided us with the means to build up one another. The gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are given by Jesus to build up the Church so that it can do the work of the ministry (see Ephesians 4:10-16). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us to build up the Church (see I Corinthians 12-14). We have access to the ministries that edify or build up the Church. And the test of a gift is that it builds up.
Jesus is the foundation and our call is to build up with enduring materials (see I Corinthians 3:10-17). If we build with enduring spiritual truth and love, the Church will become glorious. Carnal methods will be tested by fire and removed; the Lord Himself will see to it – the Church is His temple. The apostle Paul says, “Be careful how you build” (or tear down).
I am catholic, with a small “c”. That is, I believe that the Church is not only universal, it is transgenerational. We are one in Him (see John 17:20-22). We see a Church divided; He sees a Church united. How can it be? He sees and knows all who have been His in the past, are now and will be His. The Church that He sees is the one written in Heaven.
Hebrews 12 tells us that we have come to Mount Zion, the city of the Living God; the heavenly Jerusalem; to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and the Church of the first born who are registered in heaven; to God the judge of all; to the spirits of just men made prefect; to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
That statement is far more than I can describe here! But it does tell us that we have come to the Church triumphant – the general assembly of the Church in Heaven. Amazing! That Church has already overcome and is unshakable. It includes persecuted and martyred saints; if your name is there – so are you.
Sometime ago, I participated in a very high worship. I suddenly realized that I was with a great company – much greater than the others in the room. I was united in worship with our forefathers, my parents, my brother, and my dear wife who is now with the Lord. It was transcendent! That is the Church that Jesus sees – not the one that we see.
Yes, there are many challenges to seeing that Church on Earth as it is in heaven. However, as we are lifted beyond self into His presence, that is the Church that we can see. If we can see it there, we will see more of it here.
Maybe you’ve heard about the little girl who was a drawing a picture. The teacher asked, “What are you drawing?” “I am drawing a picture of God,” the little girl said.
“But no one knows what God looks like,” the teacher protested.
The little girl looked up, “They will when I finished drawing this picture.”
Truth is, we are all drawing a picture of Jesus and His Church. What will it look like? Will it be small and small-minded, or will it be universal, transgenerational, and glorious? The picture that we draw will be the one the world sees. Will they be drawn to it? I pray so.
We do face some challenges; here are a few:
If we can meet these challenges, we will see the glorious church. If we do not, He will do so nevertheless; He will relentlessly fulfill His declared Word. There will be, and is, a glorious Church.
When you pray for us here at CSM, when you send a special gift to support the work of this ministry, or when you tell a friend about CSM, you are co-laboring with us in a very great cause to declare God’s covenant faithfulness, to extend Christ’s Kingdom among the nations, and to build up His Church. Please remember us this month in your prayers and giving, and visit us at www.csmpublishing.org or on our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook Group page. We are very grateful for your friendship!
P.S. To receive my new audio Bible teaching series, “Foundations for the Future”, please see the enclosed card.
Scripture Reference: Ephesians, Matthew, 1 Timothy, Romans, Hebrews, Genesis, 1 Corinthians, John
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.