Imagery of the Church
While Jesus walked this earth He was teaching and ministering to the future as well as the present Church. It was a concept that needed explanation and He used several wonderful pictures to help us all understand the deeper meaning.
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 (Matt. 16:18). He bought and paid for the Church with His own life and He’s passionate about her. This is an extremely personal and intimate image to comprehend. So intimate, in fact, that He used another word-picture for us: marriage. Being one with another person in marriage can’t get any more intimate but that’s the type of ‘oneness’ He wants us to understand. We are set apart for Him, a distinct people-group, like no other, and He’s as jealous for our time and attention as a husband 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 we are cared for. The Church is a glorious cameo of woman taken out of man and reunited to His side in love and commitment (Gen. 2:21-22).
This picture of you and I united with Christ is true but sometimes we forget that it’s 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’s 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’m able to worship and celebrate Him in the midst of Christian Arabs, French nuns, Germans, Italians, 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’ll be attending services with those saints throughout the ages, from all cultures and perspectives, and we’ll experience unity with them. What a mystery yet a glorious image.