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Cherishing the Church

By Rev. David Blunt

This Editorial was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 6, April-June 1997.

W ITHOUT doubt one of the grandest themes of Scripture is the redeeming love of God. To sinners sunk in the deep darkness of nature's night the Most High has revealed His saving grace in Jesus Christ. It is a particular love, pitched upon certain individuals in eternity, who in time are brought into the enjoyment of that love in all its rich provision. But it is also a love for the whole number of the elect as they comprise the organism which we call the church. To use the apostle's metaphor, the Lord loves each one of the "lively stones" but He also cherishes the "spiritual house" into which they are being built by the gospel (1 Pet. 2:5), for He has designed the building and has allotted to each stone its special place. Likewise Paul instructs us that the many spiritual members are being carefully fitted into one body (Rom. 12:4, 5): moreover he says; "Christ...loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25).


What is true of our Lord should be true of us in a sense: we are selflessly to love God's people and also God's church in the world. Not redemptively of course, but sacrificially nonetheless. The church was purchased by the bloody sacrifice of her Head and her prosperity in this world requires the consecration and self-offering of her members. If the glory of God is bound up with His cause and kingdom on earth (Psa. 145:10-12), then we must have a passion for the visible church which He instituted. The saints, those men, women and children whose likeness to Jesus excites our affections, are not unrelated units but are gathered by the gospel into the one church of Christ in its different congregations: the church in the world also has a design and an organised form.

Gospel Temple

This visible church is no mere accident of history or man-made convenience but the very ordinance of God. Like the spiritual temple and the literal building which once stood in Palestine, the gospel temple has its set pattern: unashamedly we love the outward form of Christ's church too – remember, even the very dust of Jerusalem was once dear to the saints in another day of small things! (Psa. 102:14). We may not and will not regard her government, worship and practice as mere incidentals, to be modified by men at their leisure! The honour of Christ the King of kings is at stake here, and His own shining example should be heeded by all His followers: "the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" (Psa. 69:9; John 2:17).

The Face of Christ

The visible church is the face of Christ to the world: His fair face is to be seen reflected in her character and life, as she is conformed by the word and Spirit to the likeness of her only Redeemer. Christ's office of prophet is mirrored in the doctrine which His church believes and preaches; her worship is presented in the light of His priestly office; and her practice acknowledges no other authority for its regulation than that of Christ as her king. Tragically both Scripture and history bear witness to the fact that in time the foul visage of Satan may replace the beautiful countenance of Christ in particular churches (2 Thess. 2:3, 4; Rev. 2:9). These left their first love, and Christ's Spirit left them. Praise God, none of the devil's ragings can spoil the invisible church, Christ's mystical body: she is safe, but denominations rise – and they also fall.


Presbyterians ought to feel more keenly than others the unity of the visible church. The various individual congregations in a territory are not to dwell in splendid isolation but must express their oneness as the body of which Christ is the sole King and only Head. Just as we would be anxious if part of our own body were diseased or sick, we cannot be content when we see spiritual malaise anywhere in the professing church: neither can we take our ease until the appropriate medicine has been applied. The false teachings of the shameless Hymenaeus and Philetus gnawed away at the vitals of the church at Ephesus in Paul's (2 Tim. 2:17): perhaps like a cancer the corruption was undetected at first, but no less deadly for that, for "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (1 Cor. 5:6). When discovered the only remedy was the drastic surgery of excommunication, for the health of the body and for the recovery of the offenders (1 Tim. 1:20).


In our day proud giants have risen, Goliath-like, to dominate the ecclesiastical scene and threaten the purity and vitality of the church. King Pragmatism and Prince Expediency, clad in their impressive intellectual armour and wielding intimidating weapons, have made well-nigh all to bow before them, with their dark mutterings about "narrowness" and "extremism". They not only defy the armies of the living God with their dire warnings but have cowed them into an unholy submission. Will there really be Reformation no more? These pretenders are not to be appeased but slain – first in our own hearts and then in our churches! Well-worn stones from the Scripture brook of truth must be hurled at their heads to finish them off! The "peace" which these impostors promise to all who fall at their feet is a sham, because it is an unprincipled one. Israel could not enjoy peace in Canaan until the land was fully occupied and every enemy driven out: the church must never rest short of "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). Biblical principles, rigorously and believingly applied under God, will cast down every "high thing" that opposes the truth of God!


How often the church is portrayed in the Bible as a woman, vulnerable in her femininity to the designs of wicked men! This teaches us that the church of Christ in this world is a delicate creature, beset by enemies without – and also within. By the power and promise of God she will never be consumed as an organism, but her different branches will always be the focus of attack by the powers of hell. Satan cannot now fire his darts at the Head in heaven so he assails the members of the church upon earth.

Satan's Ministers

Gospel ministers are the special object of the devil's attentions. Through their weaknesses, sins and even shipwreck, he wreaks havoc among the denominations. How satisfying to his warped mind when the angels of the churches, relaxing their grasp of "the form of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13) begin to preach "another gospel, which is not another" (Gal. 1:6, 7)! Paul through grace began to preach the faith he once destroyed (Gal. 1:23): these "fallen angels" now destroy the faith they once preached! Churches are thereby ruined by doctrinal departure.

Blind Spot

Other ministers, orthodox in their beliefs regarding sin and grace, seem yet to have a blind spot when viewing the Biblical teaching concerning the worship which Christ requires of His church. Rather than look for a divine mandate for every aspect of her service, they accept much that springs from the will of man rather than the revealed will of God. Under the new covenant, sensual and carnal worship entering the gospel temple is often an evidence of spiritual declension. It is possible to have churches which are Scriptural in doctrine and worship, but which tolerate much practice within their pale which is not to the glory of God. This may be a precursor of worse things to come and even the first step on the downward slope of denominational apostasy.

Where oh where are the lovers of Zion today?! Who will come to her aid?