One Great Love
I am, by a very interesting course of events, the fourth generation in my family to be a member of the church. My mother’s paternal grandparents attended a gospel meeting, and both of them were baptized during that meeting. My great-grandfather helped with the construction of the building where that congregation meets to this day. My grandfather even got caught smoking a cigarette at the back of the building.
My grandfather became a Christian a couple months or so before he died; cancer was taking its toll, and Papaw realized he needed to be in Christ. I was preaching, married, and had a son before Papaw became a Christian. But, I am so very grateful that he did obey the gospel. On the morning that Papaw died, I got to my grandparents’ house only a minute or two before Papaw passed away. Dad met me at the door and said, “It just happened.” Apparently, as I was parking on the side of the road (family had the driveway full) and walking to the house, Papaw died. Dad was stepping out on the patio with a cordless phone with a phonebook to look up the numbers of hospice and the funeral home. When I walked into that bedroom with my grandfather’s body in that hospital bed, I vividly recall saying, “I am so glad he obeyed the Gospel.”
My mother has been faithful as long as I can recall, and I have sought in my life to live by what Jesus taught us.
Each of you, whatever your background, has a heritage of faith; that heritage can be marvelous or blasphemous. You may have been raised in the church. You may have come from a denominational background. You may have encountered truth because of door knocking, an invitation to a VBS, a bus ministry, you may have seen the influence of a godly spouse, or friends invited you to attend a gospel meeting.
You are here this morning because you love the church. We worship God, not the church. But, we’re family, and we have come together as a family this morning to worship the God of heaven and earth. How valuable is the church? According to Jesus, the church has great value: Matthew 13:44-46. Because the church has great value, I love the church. Why do I love the church? I love the church because “The church of Christ is precious.” Let us think about how special the church really is.
The church is precious because of Passing; Jesus died (passed away) for the church.
When men and women die in defense of this country, you will hear leaders say that he or she did not die in vain. If the church is not precious, Jesus died for her in vain. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Ephesians 5:25-27. We were redeemed with “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet 1:19).
If the church is not precious, why did Jesus shed his precious blood for her? The perfect Lamb of God poured out his very blood for the church; the church, therefore, must be precious.
The church is precious because of Prayer.
Jesus prays for the church on the very night he would be betrayed. The Lord knew his agonizing death was only hours away. Yes, Jesus prayed for himself as he prepared to go to that cross (Matt 26:36-46). But, he takes time in the midst of his anguish to pray for the church.
The church is precious because of Production.
You can look around us today and see churches established by men. Some churches celebrate their founder, wear the founder’s name, and seek to live by the theology he or she taught. I’ve always wondered why you would celebrate a church’s founding by a man or a woman whose grave is still occupied.
The Resurrected Christ founded the church of which I am a member. That was the promise of Jesus.
“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).
That foundation is the truth that Peter confessed, viz., Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. “Hell” is mistranslated here. The Greek refers to the Hadean realm where all the dead go to await the Judgment; Hades is composed of both Paradise and Torment. Therefore, Jesus declares that even his death would not prevent the building of his church.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11.
Jesus is the cornerstone of the church (Eph 2:20).
Why would anyone wish to be a part of any other church?
The church is precious because of Palace; God lives in the beautiful temple, the church.The very idea of a temple to the ancients was that the temple housed a deity. “The Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon” (1 Sam 5:2). Notice two things—One: The Philistines carried the ark “into the house of Dagon.” House implies an abode; and Two: The Philistines put the ark “beside Dagon.” It sounds as though they thought Dagon lived there.
The God we serve has dwelt in physical houses. “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex 25:8). 1 Kings 8:10-11. If you read 1 Kings 8, you will find Solomon often referring to the temple as the “house of God.”
God now dwells in the church. “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man” (Acts 17:24). The temple in which God now dwells is the church of his Son. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor 3:16-17). The “you” here is plural (think “y’all) and the context makes clear that Paul speaks of the church as the temple of God. As we work and gather as a church, God dwells within us. The church is the “household” of God (1 Tim 3:14-15).
The church is precious because of Perception; spiritual beings see God’s wisdom.
“Through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10).
Notice that God’s wisdom is not demonstrated to those on earth. His wisdom is demonstrated to heavenly beings. However, do not lose sight of the fact that God’s wisdom is manifested in the church.
The church is precious because of Planning.
Jesus did not establish the church on a whim; he did so as part of God’s plan. “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people” (Dan 2:44). “We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor 2:7). The church “was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:11). God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim 1:9). Some of those texts do not speak exclusively about the church. Yet, when we see God’s plan for the church is eternal, the eternal promises of God would most certainly include the church.
I do not believe that premillennialism is taught in Scripture. However, my chief complaint with that doctrine is the idea that Jesus, because of his rejection by the Jews, could not establish his kingdom when he lived on the earth; therefore, he established the church. The church is not an accident; God planned the church from eternity.
The church is precious because of Perfection.
I do not believe the city in Revelation 21 is heaven. That holy city is, in my estimation, the church glorified. Look at Revelation 21:1-4:
- The holy city comes down from heaven; it would be difficult to think that heaven could come out of heaven.
- The city is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; throughout the New Testament, the church is presented as the bride of Christ.
- This city is also the dwelling place of God. I’m fully aware that God will dwell in heaven and that after the resurrection we shall always be with the Lord. It’s theoretically possible in the context that the glorified church is the temple of God as the church on earth was the temple of God.
Also notice Revelation 21:9-27. Again, you find the city as the Bride of the Lamb (v 9). John sees the city from a high mountain. The church is the “mountain of the LORD” (Is 2:1-4). The foundations of the wall had the names of the twelve apostles (v 14).
The point is that the church will be glorified in eternity. Now, we see doctrines of men divide Christendom, but the church of our Lord will be glorified in the end. Through whatever storms the church will face before eternity, she shall be glorified.
The church is precious because of Placement.
In the church of Jesus Christ, there is no need to vote you in as a member; there is no need to be saved and find the church you want to join; it’s not about going to the pastor and asking him or her to accept you into the church.
God places you in the church when you are baptized. “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Some of the older translations add the word “church” to this verse. “Church” does not appear in the Greek, yet Luke obviously wishes us to understand that the saved are added to the church.
We are baptized into the church. “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). The Samaritans “believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12). There is no mention of being baptized into the church in Acts 8. However, notice the close connection between preaching about the kingdom (the church) and the baptism of the Samaritans.
Why is it important that we were baptized into the body of Christ? Man is a social creature. It was not good for man to be alone. We find community in the church; we share the struggles of life freely. We encourage one another: “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Do you participate in that fellowship? Have you been baptized into Christ, into his body of which he is head?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.