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A Case of Mistaken Identity – 2

In my last posting I introduced the topic of the church or community of Christ-followers. I posed some questions about God’s perspective on this subject: Is the church important to Him? Can Christians function without the church? And what does God reveal about the church in His Word?

The purpose of this posting and those that will follow is not to draw attention to the church as an institution, but as the community of Christ-followers. In order to help us train our minds to understand this biblical distinction, I’m going to deliberately and frequently employ the term community of Christ-followers as a synonym for the church.

How did the church or community of Christ-followers come into being? And whose idea was it? The biblical account demonstrates that the church is God’s idea. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) In that context, Peter—a follower of Jesus—had recognized and declared Jesus as the Christ (or Messiah), the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). In response, Jesus affirmed that God Himself had revealed Jesus’ identity to Peter.

On the foundation of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, He would build his community of followers. The church, the community of Christ-followers is not man’s idea, but God’s.

We gain more insight into this truth when the Scripture declares that God “purchased the church with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) And Paul reveals Jesus as the Savior of the church, whom He loves and for whom He died. (Ephesians 5:23 & 25) There are several things going on in these passages.

For one, Christ’s community of followers is so loved and so precious to Him that He “gave Himself up” for it, purchasing it with His own blood. The point is that the church or community of Christ-followers is so highly valued by God that He paid a price for us (individually and collectively) beyond our comprehension. Therefore, to even suggest that the church is unimportant to God grossly demeans Him and cheapens the value He places on His church and the ultimate price that He paid to redeem it! How could we even entertain the thought that the church is unimportant to God?

Second, Christ did not shed His blood for an institution, but for His community of disciples. Many people who don’t make this distinction are abandoning the institution without thought for the community of Christ-followers. The idea that someone would deliberately disassociate themselves from Christ’s community of followers is horrific! To do so represents an appalling degree of rebellion, spitefulness and ungratefulness toward Christ Himself and His followers.

A third connection we make from the above passages is that the establishment of the community of Christ-followers was no after-thought or knee-jerk reaction, but God’s loving, all-wise plan. (Ephesians 1:11) In rejecting the community of Christ-followers do we presume to know better than God what’s best for His disciples?

Again, giving us the benefit of the doubt, our abandonment of the community of Christ-followers must be a case of mistaken identity. Perhaps we did not realize that the community of Christ-followers is God’s prized possession, purchased with His own blood, and planned by Him from ages past.

©2010 Rob Fischer