Before we talk about the importance of the church, let us recall the three directions of the church: look UP in worship, look WITHIN for Edification, and look WITHOUT in Evangelism. If either one of these ceases, the health of the church will be jeopardized, and the life of the church hindered. The church must worship, the church must edify, and the church must evangelize. To neglect even one of these is to hinder the growth of the church.
Five Reasons for the church’s importance
- Bought with Christ’s Blood
- Entrusted With Christ’s Word
- Advances Christ’s Kingdom
- Nourishes Christ’s People
- Glorifies Christ’s Name
Bought with Christ’s Blood
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.(Act 20:28 ESV)
knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.(1Pe 1:18-19 ESV)
The church is dear to Christ. He purchased her with His blood (Acts 20:28). If Christ loves the church so should we. The pastors (even every member) must “pay careful attention” not only to himself and to his family but also to all the flock. He must oversee the church of God. The motive for this is not for their own benefit but because Jesus shed His blood for them.
Since Jesus Christ is the God-man, and He shed His blood as a man by dying on the cross. Though His divine nature did not die, for it is impossible for God to die, it is proper to say that “God purchased the church with His own blood” by virtue of the hypostatic union and communication of properties wherein, “Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature” (1689 BCF 8.7). This verse unequivocally teaches that Jesus is truly God and truly man. Any man who denies this foundational truth cannot be accepted as a member of the church.
The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world. This death is of such infinite value and dignity because the person who submitted to it was not only really man and perfectly holy, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute Him a Savior for us; and, moreover, because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin (Canons of Dort 2.3-4)
- We should love the church because the Father uniquely loves the church-remember, the Son came into this world to redeem a love gift.
- We should love the church because the Son uniquely died for the church-He died to redeem the church. The blood of Christ on the cross is sufficient to save His people because of the infinite work and value of the Redeemer as God. John MacArthur beautifully writes The church is so precious that the Son was willing to suffer the agonies of the cross and die in obedience to the Father so that His eternal love gift could become a reality.
Entrusted With Christ’s Word
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.(1Ti 3:14-15 ESV)
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.(Jud 1:3 ESV)
Here we see three descriptions of the church as the household of God, the church of the living God, a pillar and ground “buttress” of the truth. The church is entrusted with every important treasure in the Word. The church is not to hide it but she must proclaim it. This is why the church is so important because she is entrusted with a precious treasure.
The truth is preserved on earth by the ministry of the Church alone, What a weight, therefore, rests on the pastors, who have been entrusted with the charge of so immeasurable a treasure (John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Timothy).
Advances Christ’s Kingdom
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”(Mat 16:18-19 ESV)
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”(Mat 18:18-20)
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone…(Eph 2:20 ESV)
- The church is built by Christ on apostolic doctrine. Note, that it does not say “apostle” referring to Peter, but “apostles and prophets”.
- The church is militant and advances against opposition. The church is a military force waging war on the enemy.
- The church is closely related to the kingdom of heaven.
- Where the church has gathered to conduct His business – either to worship Him or conduct church discipline, Christ is uniquely present.
Nourishes Christ’s People
It is within the church that Christ encourages and strengthens His new covenant people. It is here that the public means of grace is enjoyed, the word is proclaimed, the grace and gifts of one another are exercised. The church is the only valid agency to conduct the ordinances.
The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened (1689 BCF 14.1)
PROTESTANT STATEMENTS: You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your mother. There is ordinarily no salvation outside of the church. These statements are hijacked by Rome but this is a protestant statement.
But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.(Gal 4:26 ESV)
The church is called mother because it is within the walls of the church that the people of God are nourished by the means of grace. There is no salvation outside the church because Christ alone saves, but He ordained that the means for salvation is exercised in the local church where the pure gospel is clearly preached. This does not mean that the church saves but that there is no ordinary perseverance outside of her.
The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation (WCF 25.2).
Glorifies Christ’s Name
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
God ordained that He is glorified in the church, not outside the church. You cannot say that you are glorifying God if you are outside the church of Christ. This is the fifth and obvious reason behind the church’s importance-it’s the arena wherein the glory of God is displayed.
Five Reasons for the Church’s Neglect
- Ignorance – They are Christians who simply never were taught about the church’s importance. They have little to no understanding of the church’s importance. It is for this reason, we must always be patient with the people-take them where they’re at, and bring them where they need to be.
- Indifference – This is more serious because such Christians could take or leave the church if it were up to them-they go to church largely out of tradition. They are hurt when the pastor preaches about commitment to Christ and his church.
- Competition – This refers to anything that can compete with the church for our time, treasure and affection.
- Bad Theology – This refers to any teaching that would seek to undermine the centrality of the local assembly (e.g. cell group, house group, etc.)
- Individualism – This refers to the tendency of many people to think of Christianity in terms of themselves. The Church is just for personal pleasure. They do not see the church in terms of Christ and His blood who bought them, treating the church as a commodity.
- Christianity is both personal and corporate. While it is highly personal, it is not individualistic.
- Christ knows His sheep by name. He loves them individually and yet, He saves to gather them together.
- They are individual sheep that make a flock; they are individual stones that make a building; they are individual citizens that make a city.
- But an individual sheep is not a flock; an individual stone is not a building, and an individual citizen is not a city. We have to form as a flock as a family.
This is why the church is important. May we cultivate love for the church of Christ because from heaven He came and sought her to be his holy bride.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
- This blog is based on our pastor’s lecture on Church Membership class part 2
- MacArthur, John, A Foretaste of Heaven on Earth | the Master’s Academy International. 27 Nov. 2017, http://www.tmai.org/a-foretaste-of-heaven-on-earth/. Accessed 27 Sept. 2021.