The Church is Christ Made Visible
We have seen above that we should love the church because Christ shed his precious blood to purchase it (thereby placing immeasurable value upon it). We have also seen that we should love the church because it is the centrepiece of Christ’s work on earth. In addition to these two things, we should love the church because the church is Christ-made-visible.
Unlike the world in Christ’s day, we cannot touch or see Him (1 John 1:1; 1 Pet 1:8). But this does not mean that we can’t experience Christ on earth. How so? God has designed the church so that it would be the visible display of the invisible Christ.
Colossians 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
When Christ ascended to Heaven following his resurrection he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within all believers. The Holy Spirit is called “Christ in you” and “the Spirit of Christ” because it is the Spirit that produces the character of Christ within us. It is through the spiritual growth of the members of a local church that Christ displays his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22). As believers grow in the faith, they becomes more like Jesus Christ, thus making Christ visible to the world.
There is another way that we make Christ visible on earth. When we pray the model prayer we ask “your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”. In the present age, this prayer is answered in one place – the church. It is through the Spirit of God that we exercise Christ’s authority on earth (Matt 16:19, 18:18) and carry out his will (Matt 6:10). For this reason, the obedient church, operating in the power of the spirit, producing the character qualities of Christ, exercising his authority and performing his will, will be the closest thing to Christ physically appearing and working on earth that this world will ever see.
We should love the church because it is through the church (and only through the church) that the invisible Christ is made visible to the world.
The Church is the Source of Spiritual Unity
Have you ever noticed how your interactions with acquaintances is very different from your interactions with close friends? With an acquaintance you may talk about the weather, about sports and other topics of general interest, but nothing of any real consequence. While your close friends are those with whom you have the most in common. You can talk about meaningless things in life and you can talk about the deep things of life. You can share your thoughts, opinions, and your dreams. It is your close friends with whom you often share a common worldview and “take on life”.
Now take it one step further and think about your spouse or close family members. Here there exists an even more intimate relationship. You know each other’s strengths, habits, faults and failures. With family, you let your guard down. You shed pretenses that you may hold with others. With your family you not only share life experiences but you even share a common genetic makeup!
There is a good reason that scripture refers to the church as the household of God (Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19). Above all other relationships in life, it is with fellow believers within the church that we have the most in common (2 Cor 6:14-18). Above that of acquaintances and even above that of physical family members. Within the church, you have the most important aspects of life in common (Eph 2:11-22). We share a love for Christ (John 14:15, 23). We share a calling. We share a Father (Eph 4:4-7). We share a common acceptance of the word of God as authority (2 Tim 3:16). We share a worldview. We share an intimacy that allows for confessing and forgiving faults (James 5:16). More than this, we share a common spiritual nature which is making each of us into the very same image of Christ (1 Cor 12:13; 2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:29).
One of the glorious aspects of how Jesus Christ is building his church is the fact that he is producing this special unity among men and women of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and social statuses. The unity that Christ produces in these otherwise diverse peoples is a stunning testament to the supernatural quality of the church and the power of the gospel.
Finally, we should love the church because the church is the repository of divine truth.
The Church is the Repository of Divine Truth
1 Timothy 3:14-15 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 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.
The Lord has chosen to make the church stewards of the holy scriptures. As his stewards, we teach his word faithfully and accurately and seek to live it out practically. We proclaim it to the world, protect it from false teachers, defend it against detractors, preserve it through faithful teaching, and practice it through obedient lives. So then, a love for God and God’s word should naturally lead to a love for the church – the repository of his divine truth.
Why should we love the church? We should love it because Christ placed an immeasurable value upon it by purchasing it with his sacrificial blood. We should love the church because it is the one place where Christ is actively at work in this world. We should love the church because it is through the obedient church that Christ’s character and his power are made known to this world. Finally, we should love the church because it is the steward of the truth of Christ’s word.
If you are a follower of Christ, you should be a member of a local church body – this is God’s design. Through membership you are covenanting with the church to fulfill God’s will together. With your fellow believers, you are committing to love, value and contribute to the church for the glory of God and towards the fulfillment of His purposes on earth.