TRUE CHURCH OR PAPER CHURCH?
When I was a young boy we played a game where we formed the signs of paper, rock, and scissors to determine the winner of our important disputes. In those contests paper always covered rock, and won. Many issues were settled by speed and cunning as we formed those symbols; I can still see the look on the faces of opponents when they were beaten by paper over rock. What we failed to realize was, in the real world paper eventually loses as the sun scorches it and the rain dissolves it. The childish game on which so many important decisions were based, eventually gave way to reason and truth.
The world system is like the paper in the game—it seems to cover everything, it seems to win. The churches we see on nearly every corner are seen by some as evidence of lasting rock solidly shoring up society, while others see them as paper which will one day be scorched and dissolved. Paul reminds us that the Church is both the household of God and the pillar of genuine truth:
1 Timothy 3:14-15 NLT
14 I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, 15 so that if I can’t come for a while, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and support of the truth.
But what is the Church?
- Some define it by the word it is derived from, the Greek ejkklhsiva, in the New Testament it is thought to be synonymous with the Hebrew kahal of the Old Testament—both words meaning simply an assembly.
- There is no instance of it being used for a place of meeting or of worship, in the New Testament
- Nor is this word ever used to denote the inhabitants of a country united in the same profession, as when we say the “Church of England,” the “Church of Scotland,” of the “Roman Catholic Church”, etc.
- We find the word church used in the following ways in the New Testament:
1) It is translated “assembly” in the ordinary classical sense (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
2) It means the whole body of the redeemed, all those whom the Father has given to Christ (Eph. 5:23,25,27,29 CEV):
23 A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body... 25 A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it... 27 Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws…29 None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church.
3) It is used of Christians associated together meeting in their home (Rom. 16:5 CEV):
5 Greet the church that meets in their home…
4) Refers to all the Christians in a particular city, whether they assembled together in one place or in several places for religious worship. Thus all the disciples in Antioch, forming several congregations, were one church (Acts 13:1); so we read of the “church of God at Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2), “the church at Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1), “the church of Ephesus” (Rev. 2:1).
5) And it refers to the whole body of professing Christians throughout the world:
1 Cor. 15:9 CEV
9 I am the least important of all the apostles. In fact, I caused so much trouble for God’s church that I don’t even deserve to be called an apostle.
Gal. 1:13 CEV
13 You know how I used to live as a Jew. I was cruel to God’s church and even tried to destroy it.
Matt. 16:18 CEV
18 So I will call you Peter, which means “a rock.” On this rock I will build my church, and death itself will not have any power over it.
Þ The church is a spiritual body consisting of all true believers, and is the Body of the Living God, empowered to change the world He created!
Þ The church is intended to be the means by which God proclaims the message of truth (Rom. 10:14). It is the “salt of the earth,” (Mt. 5:13) and the “light of the world,” (Mt. 5:14)
4 And since it is made up of fleshly members, every member must remain close to the Vine, who is Jesus Christ, or they can do nothing (John 15:5).
4 For the church is the household of God and every member must conduct themselves in a fitting manner.
4 It is not only wrong to be a whore one day and a saint the next, it is inconsistent with the character of a member of the family of priests (1 Pet. 2:9).
4 The church was brought out of darkness to live in the light, and it is never consistent with truth to believe the church can live mutually in light and darkness at its pleasure.
What is God seeking to accomplish?
He seeks to accomplish several important goals to make His church pure and ready for its work:
1. He promises to unify His body.
Since the church is not confined to any particular country or outward organization, but comprises believers throughout the whole world; there is a core of genuine believers that transcends race, boundaries, and culture…
The true church is not resisting His will, or fighting to attain its own goals. It is the body unified, with the overall purpose of reaching a world that is perishing…
When trials come and prosperity weakens the church, the Lord disciplines and ultimately fulfills His promise of unity and molding His true church to accomplish His will…
READ: The “paper church”—that visible whore enmeshed in its own pride and arrogance is not the church Jesus is leading. The true church hears His voice and follows Him (John 10), not earthly leaders caught up in themselves! The true church is the rock—the pillar of truth, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:6). Truth is measured by Him, since He is not only the source, but truth itself. –M.S. Munson 2001
2. Christ moves among His people to affirm His preeminence.
He must be first in every area of life!
Through Him and by Him all things are held together (Col. 1:17), He is the Head of the body (Col 1:18), the King of kings (Rev. 19:13), and worthy of worship (Rev 19:4).
When the church is in right relationship to Christ Jesus it is the bright light it is intended to be; when the church is out of fellowship with its Head, it is disciplined to bring it back into fellowship.
Discipline is a mark of love and concern—the instrument used to realign priorities and restore the true child; it is the reminder of who we are and the mission we are assigned.
The person claiming a part in the body that is not disciplined is a bastard (Heb 12:8 novqoi — not genuine, baseborn).
3. He stirs His people to perpetuate His Gospel.
Christ ensures that His Church continues through all ages to the end of the world. The true church will never be destroyed. It is an “everlasting kingdom.”
He calls His people to complete the works He gave them in advance (Eph 2:10), and to ensure the accomplishment, He gave “some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, 12 so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong.” (Eph 4:12,12 CEV).
The church is called to mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ; and will not fail to complete its purpose, because of the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18-19)!
His goal has remained consistent throughout time—to build a kingdom of priests:
1 Peter 2:9-10 CEV
9 But you are God’s chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done. The Scriptures say,
10 “Once you were nobody. Now you are God’s people. At one time no one had pity on you. Now God has treated you with kindness.
From the beginning God has been building a kingdom of priests. Peter reminds us we are a “chosen people”, “royal priests”, and a “holy nation.”
4 As kingdom priests we bear witness of Him, engaging others to acknowledge Him and to receive His forgiveness.
4 As a chosen people we were bought out of the darkness of sin and death by the blood of Christ (Heb 9:11-14), through His blood we have not only forgiveness, but also a clear conscience and can approach him freely (Heb 4:16).
4 As royal priests we walk with Him, obey Him, and serve Him as an expression of love and gratitude because He delivered us from death and sin.
4 As a holy nation our attitudes, motives, desires, hopes and dreams ought to become more and more consistent with the attitudes, motives, desires, hopes and dreams of our High Priest Jesus Christ.
The Church was not built upon paper, but upon the Rock, Jesus Christ…but for those outside these walls—you are the Church. The pillar and support of truth. You are the living message of Jesus Christ.
While I am gone, you will prove whether you are “paper” or “Rock”—I pray you will be rock!