Essentially there is only one Church, the Church of Jesus
This one Church manifests itself in different ways here on earth. There are national differences, cultural and social variations brought on by separate geographical locations, and there are differences in interpretation of the Word of God and in the emphasis placed upon certain truths of that Word.
Hence we speak correctly of churches.
Besides these manifestations of the true Church on earth, one also comes into contact with those who call themselves church, but are not part of the Church of Jesus Christ. This applies to those institutions which deny Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but continue to pay lip service to Him and His Word. Think for example of the Mormons, also known as the Church of the Latter Day Saints, or any church in your community, which is thoroughly modern (as Fountain Street Church in the Grand Rapids area).
Over against these different manifestations of the true Church and
the corrupt church, we face the important question, "Which church is
for me?" On the occasion of our making public confession of
faith the question directed to us is, "Do you acknowledge the doctrine
contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian
faith and taught here in this Christian Church to
be the true and complete doctrine of salvation?" This requires an evaluation
of the teaching of the church.
Sometime during our courtship years the moonbeams illuminate the eyes
of a lover, who is a member of a different church from our own. When
the pangs of love grow stronger the question of which church?"
takes on more urgency.
As a result of our Christian witness we may become close friends of
a person who is a sincere Christian but of a different church. In our
attempt to get to know one another better in Christ, we inevitably face
the question, which church? Sometimes our church may disappoint
us; perhaps a certain member offends us deeply or we become convinced
that the spiritual climate is not what it should be, then we look around
at other churches and the question becomes almost desperate, which
In searching for an answer we must be careful that we have a proper
standard for measuring a church in order to determine how closely it
approximates the Church. It is pathetic to hear some people
justify their membership in churches that have apostatized measurably
from the truth. We hear them say, "O, it's such a friendly church;"
or, "It's such a relief to belong to a church that is active in the
community and has a reputation, at least we don't have to hear people
say they have never heard of that church," Some boast of their
beautiful edifice, others of their choir or organist, still others smugly
assert, "We get out within the hour!" I even heard one say, "The budget
is cheaper over here."
Most of us realize that the only proper standard for evaluating a church is the Word of God itself. To use the language of our Netherlands Confession, "The marks by which the true Church is known are these: if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised to punishing of sin: in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church, (Article 29)." We are told in this and the preceding article that our calling is to evaluate each manifestation of the Church of Christ by the Word of God, to join ourselves with those who are faithful to that Word and strive more and more to conform their lives to the Scriptures.
This is not only our solemn obligation, but it is also essential to our spiritual well-being. We consider three aspects:
For Proper Worship of God
According to the Scriptures, we worship on the Sabbath for the purpose of praising
God, "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name, bring an offering,
and come into his courts, O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness:
fear before him, all the earth (Psalm
We do this in four specific ways - by our singing, praying, giving, and meditating. Our worship of the Lord is an act of service, whereby we participate in the worship service.
It is important for us to remember that this worship on our part is a response to Jehovah's presence. In the measure that we are God-conscious in that degree we truly worship Him. Hence we erect special buildings for this very purpose, the architecture and the furnishings are so designed that they function as the "house of God." We enter into the sanctuary and pray, an important way to make us God-conscious. The organ plays music to this end. We open with a song of praise to prepare us for the first words from the mouth of the minister, a blessing from God Himself. As we continue in worship we read His Word, sing, pray, give, all of which prepares us for the message which God Himself speaks through Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit works in His ambassador. Sometimes we have the addition of a Sacrament as a sign and seal of God's covenant. Before we leave the courts of the Lord we receive the blessing of God's, "grace, mercy and peace be unto you." We are prepared to serve Him during the remainder of the week.
Essential to this holy activity of worshiping God in His house, is God's revelation of Himself. It is axiomatic, that in the degree that God reveals Himself in His glory, in like manner we are able, by His Holy Spirit, to worship Him. Central to this revelation is the preaching of the Word. You can have elaborate liturgy, beautiful choir and organ music, but without the lively preaching of the Word it detracts rather than adds to our worship.
Holy majestic is that place where the Word of God is preached according to the beauty of God's own Revelation. As children of God, we long to see God in His beauty. As Israel gazed upon the Shekinah (the pillar of cloud/the dwelling of God) and worshiped God, so we do likewise as we attend to the Word of God. We desire to know God as the sovereign, righteous, holy God, Who in His great mercy redeems and calls us by Jesus Christ into friendship with Him. If we are going to be faithful in our worship of God on the Sabbath day and truly worship Him as we are called, we will seek out a church in which we are convinced the glory of God shines through the preaching. Human philosophy, worldly wisdom, sentimental morality, all becloud the brilliance of Jehovah's presence. We desire to see God as He has revealed Himself in order that we may respond in praise and thanksgiving.
We then will be qualified, "to be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving
your own selves (James
For Proper Nourishment
"And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly
into the wilderness into her place, where she is nourished for a time
and times and half a time from the face of the serpent (Revelation
12:14)." This is a picture of the church of today, who is preserved
from destruction by God's nourishment.
When we are brought to a saving knowledge of Christ, we are not self-sufficient. We cannot say, I'm saved, now I can get along without Christ or His church. The very opposite is true, being saved we need each other. We must be fed with the Bread of life and must constantly drink the Water of life. We need this, not to maintain a static state of life, but to grow spiritually. We desire more and more strength in order that we may deny ourselves, resist the devil, and love not the world neither the things that are in the world. We desire an increase of strength in order that we may enjoy the covenant life with God increasingly and be more faithful in serving Him.
There are different degrees of spiritual maturity. Paul reminds us
of this in Romans
12:3, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man
that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought
to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every
man the measure of faith." Children of God who have varying degrees
of spiritual growth require a proper diet. Hence Scripture refers to
those who require the milk of the Word, "I have fed you with milk, and
not with meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet
now are ye able (I
Corinthians 3:2)." Others need meat, "But strong meat belongeth
to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use, have
their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews
5:14). Peter adds in his epistle, "As newborn babes, desire the
sincere (pure) milk of the word that ye may grow thereby (I
Two things have a direct bearing in this connection. God has called
us into His covenant friendship, and within that covenant we desire
to grow. God has provided us with His nourishment, principally the means
of grace, the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments. He has added
Christian discipline to keep them pure. We must seek out a church that
eliminates poison from the diet, for that cannot nourish, it can only
kill. Still more, we must seek a church that brings us not only milk,
but also meat. We need a diet that will feed and provide spiritual growth.
Without this we will become spiritually anemic. By spiritual growth
we will be qualified to serve God in His house, our daily lives at home,
business, occupations, work, and play. We will do all to the glory of
God. (I Corinthians
For Mutual Edification
In view of the many churches, and especially many large churches, that are apostatizing so rapidly in our day, we must realize that we have a responsibility to one another to be a means to assist one another in striving to maintain a faithful church.
Paul refers to this in I
Corinthians 12:18-26, "But now hath God set the members every one
of them in the body, as it hath pleased him... God hath tempered the
body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which
lacked, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members
should have the same care one for another."
In our critical days, when the church of Christ is attacked from without and within, each one of us has the solemn obligation before God to give account of our membership in relationship to other members. There are small minorities in many churches struggling to remain faithful to the Word of God. Some local manifestations of the Church of Christ are small and can hardly exist. Some could be more influential if there were more support, financial and numerical.
What are you doing to help to maintain the Church of Jesus
Christ? Leaving a church which stands in the forefront of the battle
in maintaining the purity of the Word and Sacraments through the exercise
of Christian discipline is defeatism. As God strengthens us through
His Word and draws us nearer unto Himself in humble worship, may we
be drawn closer to one another unto the furtherance of His cause in
While on earth the true church is not a perfect church. She is known
by her striving unto perfection. As covenant youth, God has
placed you in a church that strives unto that high calling.
According to Scripture, the answer is obvious.
May God keep us faithful.
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Waiting for God's Son
by Rev. M. Schipper
A meditation from the February 1, 1973, issue of The
"And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead,
even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." - I
And to wait for his Son...!
This expression, with what follows in the text, suggests that it is not a complete sentence. It belongs with what the apostle had been speaking of in the immediately preceding context. In that context the apostle speaks of a living hope and a sanctified walk.
These two always go together - without the one the other cannot be. Reciprocally they motivate one another. Each is the other's stimulant. Where the one fades, the other pines: Where the one flourishes, the other is strong. Inseparably they are knit together. They are intertwined. Always they accompany one another.
This is true whether you are a friend of God or not. If you are His friend, you will always keep your garments clean, fight the good fight of faith in the midst of the world, and deny yourself. Believing on Him, you will deny yourself, suffering with Him, and your attitude will be one of a living hope, by which you look for the Son of God, Who must come from heaven. The opposite is also true. Looking for the Savior from heaven with steadfast longing and patient waiting, you will feel the urge to be like Him at His coming, and will have a strong incentive to keep yourself pure, striving to keep His commandments.
If on the other hand you are a friend of the world, you will in much of your life seek the things which are below. You will refuse to suffer with Christ and carefully avoid the cross. Your attitude will be such that your hope will pine away. You will experience no Christian joy in your heart. There will be no song of expectation on your lips. Your hope will be weak and wavering. The flame of hope's yearning will be quenched. The strong assurance of hope will be lacking in your soul; gone will be the power to be patient in tribulation, so that you will not be able to endure unto the end.
Not the latter but the former was the case with the saints in the church to whom the epistle is directed. What a beautiful testimony the apostle gives to this church! The children of God there had received the gospel in much affliction and joy of the Holy Ghost. They had become followers of the Lord and the apostle. They had become an example to all believers. Their faith in God was spread abroad. By the power of grace they had been called and had turned away from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, who had delivered them from the wrath to come.
O yes, there are always these two: serving the living and true God, and waiting for His Son from heaven go together!
A sanctified walk, and a living hope!
The latter is described as a constant waiting for Jesus; waiting for God's Son! How rich in meaning is this expression!
The object of the Christian's hope, God's Son, is not called such by virtue of any honor, power or title which may be conferred upon Him, whether that be by God or by man. He is God's Son in Himself! Eternally and in coequality with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Essentially He is God, full of infinite virtues. He is the Almighty, All-Wise, Sovereign God, Who is Lord of all, and over all. Not to adore Him as He is, is to serve the idol, for there is no true God beside Him.
Here the very heart of the gospel is touched! Deny it, and there is no gospel of salvation possible! Confess it, and you have eternal life!
For the gospel is God's message concerning His Son: God's Son, Who is become Jesus! The historical Jesus of Nazareth, Whose incarnation, His coming into the flesh, we lately celebrated!
For the Son of God became man, who came in our likeness of sinful flesh (though personally without sin), and He tabernacled among us. The Creator became creature. The Eternal became temporal. The Lord became servant.
Yet the Immutable did not change! He is and ever abides - God! Should you have seen Him in the flesh, you would have said of Him was what His disciples declared of Him, "My Lord and my God!" The Immortal, Creator, Infinite, Eternal Lord of all!
But the gospel concerning God's Son also declares: Whom God raised from the dead, even Jesus! O indeed, this presupposes what actually took place: namely that God's Son died in His human nature. He laid down His life, allowing Himself to be nailed to the tree of the cross, and He tasted death for all His own, even voluntarily descending into the abyss of hell. There He bore our sin and guilt and made satisfaction, brought an atonement for our sin.
Therefore, God has highly exalted Him in His human nature, having raised Him from the dead, because He had finished on the cross and in His death the work of our justification. Therefore, God raised Him as the Head of His church and exalted Him at His own right hand, when He had obtained righteousness and eternal life for all that are in Him.
It is He for Whom we wait!
He was only with His church on earth for a while. He lived our life. He spoke face to face with His own. They saw Him, heard His voice, handled Him Who was the Son of God in the flesh, and they confessed that He was the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
But He left us! His resurrection was no return to us. From the Mount of Olives He tendered His farewell and ascended into heaven, another part of God's creation, but as close to the heart of God as the creature can be. Thither He went, the Son of God in our nature. There He was glorified with the glory, which was His before the world was. He left us with the promise that, as He had gone, so He would also return to us to reward every one as his work shall be.
So now we wait for Him!
That is, we look for Him Whose coming is known and foreseen, with the added notion of patience and trust. He who waits longs for Him and has long patience until he sees Him Whom his soul loveth.
Waiting for God's Son from heaven constitutes the hope of all God's saints!
This, of course, holds in it unmistakable implications. It implies first of all that we will be striving to be found faithful at His coming. We will not be neglecting our earthly duties, as some who claimed to be waiting, have done. Asceticism and monkery are not the proper ear-marks of waiting children of God. Neglecting our calling of faithful stewardship, failing to heed our Lord's command to represent His cause in the world - these cannot be the proper works of the church of Jesus Christ. On the contrary those, who are truly waiting for their Lord from heaven, will be fighting the good fight of faith to the day of His coming and with the firm conviction that theirs is the victory through Him Who loved them. This waiting implies that faithfully we will be discharging our duties, which He gave us to perform, and using the talents He supplied as obedient stewards of the grace of God. As faithfully as we would be doing in His presence, so faithfully we will be doing as we wait for Him.
Secondly, to wait for God's Son from heaven implies that we understand that, while He tarries, He is carrying out all the good counsel of God. We know that He cannot come at any moment, as the Chiliast (one who believes in the millennium) would have us believe. Shame on them for deluding the minds of God's people into thinking that, by a momentary appearance of Christ, they shall escape the great tribulation; or the dangerous doctrine of a rapture that shall be initiated by a secret coming of the Lord. Not so will the Christian, who really knows his Bible, be waiting; rather, he knows that the Son of God, even Jesus, cannot come and will not come until all is fulfilled that is predicted in God's prophetic Word. All of the signs of the times must have been in evidence, all of the purposes of God in history must first be realized before His return. Yea, also the very place which He is now preparing in the heavens for all His own, and their preparation for that place, must be worked out before He will come again.
In fact, all that we hope for is connected with His coming. Positively, our hope of His coming is the ushering in of a better world in which righteousness shall dwell and everlasting peace shall reign. It entails the hope of deliverance completely from the body of this death in which we dwell, in which we now suffer, and in which we are still liable to sin. It implies that we look for final deliverance from those who would kill us all the day long; when our persecutors shall be put to naught; when all of Christ's enemies and ours for His name's sake shall be disposed of in righteous judgment.
These are the unmistakable implications of waiting for the Son of God, even Jesus!
We are waiting for Jesus, Who has already delivered us from the wrath to come! What a beautiful testimony it is, which the Word of God here gives concerning the waiting church!
Not of the world!
The world does not wait for Him. Always the world mocks the truth of His coming. They are like the beasts that die, and when He shall appear in His coming, we know already what the wicked will do. They will cry out to the mountains to fall on them, that they may be hid from the face of God, from the fierceness of His wrath. They will wish for deliverance through some kind of annihilation, but it will not be so! Suddenly in His coming, His wrath shall fall on them, and they shall be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is the testimony of all Scripture. As it was in the days of Noah, they were eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage, until sudden destruction fell upon them; so shall it be in the day of the coming of the Son of God, even Jesus.
But for the saints of the Most High there shall be-glory!