When you hear the word “Church,” what comes to mind?
Do you immediately picture a large, white steeple? Maybe you hear the familiar ring of bells signaling the start of another Sunday service. Or perhaps you imagine the more recent expression of the warehouse, artistic, tangibly creative local church? The word “Church” has many connotations, some good, some bad, but most of which fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. For many in our society, the Church has become another aspect of culture, a building that at one point was found on most street corners and a place where people occasionally gather to find hope and an escape from the daily pressures of this world. For most, the Church has become common.
As we dive into the Scriptures, and particularly into the ways that Jesus viewed the Church, we see that His definition is anything but common. He viewed the Church globally as well as its local expressions as an undefeatable (Matthew 16:18), glory-radiating, community-deepening, truth-seeking epitome of God’s love and rule on this Earth. His view of the Church included a diverse collection of men and women who were distinguishable, marked by the fact that they had been resurrected from spiritual death to a new and profound reality of being spiritually alive. Jesus saw the Church as being a source of overflowing goodness and generosity, regardless of material wealth or personal comfortability. Even in the hardest of external circumstances, the Church has always been rooted in an unshakeable and sure foundation, and therefore, it triumphs.
Jesus had a high and magnificent view of the Church that the Holy Spirit would later reveal through the apostles. In their writings, we see the Church described most intimately and beautifully: as Christ’s Bride. This description which started in the Old Testament in places like Ezekiel and Isaiah continued through the New Testament in Ephesians and ultimately culminated in Revelation, with the marriage supper of the Lamb to come.
The more of the Scriptures we read, the more we discover just how highly Jesus valued and viewed the Church. But why is this important for us today?
As one writer and scholar puts it, “How we think and feel about the church reveals how much we know the heart of Christ.” Not only that, but I would argue that how we think and feel about the Church reveals how we view ourselves in light of our role as the Bride of Christ.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
As the Church, we have a new identity. Rooted in Christ and because of His work, we can live confident and empowered, knowing that we are chosen, royal, holy, and treasured by God. We can know as Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that Christ gave himself up through death on a cross for you and for me, that he might sanctify us, cleansing us from our stain of sin so that He may once and for all present us as spotless and blameless before the throne of God the Father. As people of the Church, this is who we are.
But as Paul wrote to Timothy, we aren’t just meant to understand our identity in Christ through His Church. We are meant to live from this right identity in ways of wondrous worship and proclamation. Because we are knit together and joined to Him who is the Head of all things (Colossians 2), we are called to exaltation, to proclaim the excellencies of the only one who could ever quell our darkness and breathe new life into our lungs.
This is why understanding how Jesus views the Church is critical to our faith. Without this meditation, we are quick to minimize the gravity of what we get to be a part of. We are inclined to forget the miracle of this God-empowered assembly, and we begin to see the Church and our involvement through the eyes of everyday culture.
In an effort to re-invigorate our hearts towards the wonder of the Church, we chose one of our nine courses that make up our CORE curriculum to be solely focused on The Church. Throughout this course, we explore the history, central beliefs, and current local Church expression. We dive into the Scriptures as we seek to re-align our hearts and minds to the way that Jesus views the Church because when we see this invitation as He does, everything begins to change.
We’d love to invite and encourage you to join us as we study The Church through CORE.