Imagery of the Church
While Jesus walked this earth He knew that He was teaching and ministering to the future Church. This was a concept that needed explanation and He used several wonderful pictures to help us understand. The first one is that the universal Church is HIS Church; I will build My Church and the powers of hell will not conquer it. He bought and paid for it with His own life and He is passionate about us. This is a personal, intimate image to comprehend; so intimate in fact that He uses another word-picture for us: marriage. That is very up-close and personal, don’t you think? Being one with another person in the marriage bed can’t get any more intimate but that is the type of ‘oneness’ that He wants us to understand. We are set apart for Him, a distinct people- group, like no other, and He is as jealous for our time and attention as a husband is for his wife. In this spiritual union or oneness with Christ we are reminded of our standing with Him throughout the New Testament. We are called holy and clean, glorious, without spot (blame) or blemish (guilt), and cared for by Him. The Church is a glorious cameo of woman taken out of man and reunited to His side in love and commitment.
This is an individual picture of you and I united with Christ at salvation but sometimes we forget that it is also a corporate truth as well. All believers everywhere, from all time, are part of the Church; all of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT). The universal, corporate body of Christ may have different names, different styles, different languages, and even some different interpretations but Christ views all of us, in our unity as well as our diversity, as His very own bride whom He loves. He cleanses us with His Word, considers us faultless, and as we submit to the Church we submit to Him. This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. As I have traveled the nations God often reminds me of these truths. I am able to worship and celebrate Him in the midst of Christian Arabs, French nuns, Germans, Romans, Greeks or Russians. One year I attended a Roman Catholic Church in Germany where the service was in Latin, the sermon was in German, and I speak only English. I asked God to show me how to participate with this body of believers and He did. I quietly sang my own words during the hymns and we all sang the ‘alleluias’ in the same language. It was inspiring.
Let’s constantly keep in mind the bigger picture of Christ and His Church never forgetting that we will be attending services with those saints through the ages, from all cultures and perspectives and we will experience unity with them. What a mystery yet a glorious image.