Thanking God for His Church
by Bob Burridge ©2019
We thank God for many things. If a priority list was put together about things for which most people are thankful today we would expect they would list family, friends, health, their jobs, and provisions. They might even list their hobbies and personal accomplishments. But where on most people’s lists would the church be today?
The church isn’t just an old tradition, or relic of out-dated values. A true church is built on a foundation that never moves and can’t be destroyed. It’s not something to optionally add to our lives for some personal benefit. It’s the vital gift of God that’s central to his continuing work on earth.
Today we have movements that attack a church that’s lost its way. Sometimes the criticisms of corruption, irrelevance, and superficiality are sadly valid about what people see as the “church”.
People measure churches by what they get from them, by how popular they are, by the size of their budgets and by their impressive programs. But those are not the measure of a true church as God describes it in his written word. They are using the wrong ruler, and they are measuring some tragic replicas that deceive them as if they were the real thing.
The work of Christ on earth wasn’t to give us a mere set of moral teachings, or children’s stories. He came to build something more than what many so called “churches” promote.
The Apostle Paul wrote of the purpose of Christ’s giving of himself in plain words. He wrote in Ephesians 5:27, “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” This isn’t the “vision statement” of a board of directors or church planners. It’s the word of God himself through his Apostle.
This church is called “the body of Christ” here on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12). It’s not his physical body. The church is his tool, the arms and legs that declare his truth and glory, that worship him, that love him, and carry out the work he gives the church to do here on earth. The head of that body is Christ himself. As it says in in Ephesians 5:23, “… Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.”
This verse shouldn’t be taken out of it’s important context here in the 5th chapter of Ephesians. He’s talking about the Christian’s home and family, of husbands and wives, parents and children. There, we live in love together, each putting the others needs above his own personal wishes. Ephesians 5:21, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
The biblical view of the wife is not the politically correct distortion we see around us today. Ephesians 5:22-24 puts it this way, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
The wife loves the husband as we as his church love Christ. That means the members of the church lovingly do all they can so that the good work of God’s plan is done here on earth. The Bible calls the wife a “helper” of the husband (Genesis 2:18). It’s not a degrading servitude, but one done out of love and submission to God’s order. Jesus himself was subject to his parents according to Luke 2:51. Jesus as God the Son is in subjection to God the Father in carrying out the work of redemption. It doesn’t mean inferiority. It’s just a difference in the work God assigns to each.
And the biblical view of husbands should reflect the love of Christ for his church. Ephesians 5:25-30 makes this comparison very clear, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
This is an enormously hard duty. Far from being task masters over the wife, the husbands leadership in the home is for the benefit of his wife. He gives of himself sacrificing his own pleasures for her nourishment. He leads because he dearly loves her and cherishes her — as Christ does his church.
To preserve this important revelation of Christ’s love for his church, God established marriage. Ephesians 5:31 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
So there would be no mistake about his meaning Paul added in Ephesians 5:32-33, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
The love between husbands and wives is linked with Christ’s love for his church. Both help us understand the other. That’s the way God designed it. He gave us the family to show his relationship with us as his church. And he uses his love for his church to show how families should live together.
The church is no less vital in our lives than our own homes. The church is actually prior to family because the family was given to display the other greater relationship to us. Our union with our marriage partners is only until death. Matthew 22:30 explains it this way, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” In glory the love won’t go away, but the marriage itself merges into a union between all believers and their Lord which lasts forever.
The spiritual family is a vital, eternal, and important gift and responsibility. Sadly the church is often changed into a place or club rather than a vital union with Christ. People look for churches to entertain them, or to replace family ordered social lives. They come to get, rather than to be part of a true family of Christ. They abandon that family if things aren’t going well, and look for a more comfortable way.
Some see a church as a nice optional thing God provides. They don’t understand the importance of the organization given in the Bible. They re-organize the church into a business or social organization, and abandon the rule of rightly ordained Elders in submission to Scripture and commissioned to teach it accurately to their people.
We have an important but difficult work to do to preserve God’s church as he established it. It’s the living body of Christ’s people assembled by grace to carry out his work together.
As we thank God for so many things, we shouldn’t forget to thank him for his church. That thankfulness should lead each of us to be a living part of preserving that order which so clearly displays God’s love and care for his people.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)