By George Grant
The Church is Plan A. And there is no Plan B. The Church is the means by which the Lord has purposed to demonstrate His grace, His mercy, and His providential rule in the world. The orthodox Christian faith cannot be reduced to personal experiences, academic discussions, dogmatic formulations, philosophical revelations, or culture-building activities—as important as all these are in varying degrees. The essence of Biblical faith is the worship of the sovereign, living God—in the manner that He has prescribed: in and through His Bride, His Body, His Household, His Church. A true Christian restoration of life and culture is far from being simply a matter of passing Law X and electing Congressman Y. Christianity is not a political cult. It is the divinely ordained worship of the Most High God.
According to Abraham Kuyper: “Jesus set apart and sent out His Church among the nations to influence society in three ways. The first and most important influence was through the ministry of the Word. . . The Church’s second influence was through an organized ministry of charity. . . Third, the Church influenced society by instituting the equality of brotherhood–in contrast to differences in rank and station. . . Indeed, as a direct consequence of Christ’s appearing and the extension of His Church among the nations, society has been remarkably changed.”
Leo Pecci said, “No practical solutions to our problems will be found apart from the intervention of religion and of the Church.” And again, “All the striving of men will be vain if they leave out the Church.” Henry Cabot Lodge concurred saying: “Of all the institutions ordained of God upon this earth, this one has the force of integration: the Church. We cannot hope to help the helpless apart from the Church’s ministrations of grace which transform the giver, the receiver, and even the gift itself.”
Each of these heroes of the faith from bygone days believed that social reform should be, as Alexander Stuart said, “guided, defined, managed, and provoked in, through, and by the Church.”
Alas, in our day the Church has become the spurned and neglected stepchild of the modern era. It is perceived as being moss-backed and archaic. Or awkward and irrelevant. And the Church’s reputation continues to diminish with time. Today, it is regarded as little more than a water-boy to the game of life. Sad, but all too true.
Part of the reason for this horribly low estimation of the Church is due to the fact that the Church has always limped through history. Men look at the all too evident, all too apparent, sometimes even glaring, weaknesses of Christ’s Bride and just assume that its lame and crippled state is ample justification for dismissing its importance.
The fact is, though, the Church’s limp is actually a confirmation of its power, relevance, and significance. After the Fall, God told Satan that the Righteous Deliverer, Jesus Christ, would crush his head. But God also said that, in the process, the heel of the Lord would be bruised (Genesis 3:15). The limp, then, that Christ’s Body displays is actually a sign of great victory, not a sign of defeat or incompetence. It is an emblem of triumph.
This reality is portrayed all throughout the Bible. For instance, when Jacob, the father of Israel’s twelve tribes, wrestled through the night at Peniel, he limped ever afterward as a sign that he had actually prevailed (Genesis 32:31).
The Apostle Paul, father of the Gentile Church, was given a thorn in the flesh. Since thorns grow along the ground, Paul was pricked—at least symbolically—in the foot. It kept him limping in the eyes of men (2 Corinthians 12:7). Even so, it was in this weakness that Christ’s power was affirmed and perfected (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Thus, when the Church limps through history, as believers we need not be frustrated or discouraged. On the contrary, we should be encouraged that God’s Word is sure and true. For victory has, indeed, already been won.
The reality is that whatever the Church does—or doesn’t do—directly affects the course of civilization. It determines the flow of historical events (Revelation 5-6).
The Church has the keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19). It has the power to bind and loose (Matthew 18:18). It has the authority to prevail over the very gates of Hell (Matthew 16:18). It is, thus, the Church—not governments or ideologies or systems or causes—that will determine our destiny and the destiny of our world.
The reason for this is three-fold:
First, it is the Church that offers us the source of life. It offers the Waters of Life (Revelation 22:17), the Bread of Life (John 6:32, 1 Corinthians 11:24), and the Word of Life (1 John 1:1). The sacramental ministry of the Church is our only source for these grace provisions. There is nowhere else that we can turn for these “medicines of immortality.” They effect a tangible offering to God, a consecration before God, a communion with God, and a transformation in God. Thus, they actually readjust us to the ultimate reality.
Second, the Church offers us accountability and discipline. Sin cripples any work. Whenever sin is casually tolerated, all our efforts are defiled (1 Corinthians 5:6-13), evangelism is stifled (1 Corinthians 5:1-5), and victory is denied (Joshua 7:1-15). Only the Church has the authority to discipline heinous sin (Matthew 18:15-20). The purpose of this kind of accountability is, of course, protective and restorative, not defensive or punitive. It is to erect a hedge of responsibility and respectability around our efforts to confront evil in this poor fallen world.
Third, the Church offers us a place of rest. When, as God’s people, we assemble ourselves together, we are at last able to lie down in green pastures, beside still water (Psalm 23:2). As we gather around the throne of grace, we are at last able to take refuge and find sanctuary (Psalm 61:1-4). We are able to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4).
Without the context of the Church, even the most dynamic Christian character is exposed to atrophy and entropy. But, within that context, our witness becomes our most powerful weapon in the preordained spiritual warfare of our day—even as we limp along the battlefield of this culture.
Truly: the Church is Plan A. And there is no Plan B.
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