July 5, 2014

Be aware of the imitation church

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19–21)

Today’s question is why a church? What did God have in mind when He planned such a thing? One verse is often quoted (and misquoted) as a significant part of the answer. When the disciples told Jesus who people thought He was, “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’” (Matthew 16:15–18).

Some interpret this as Peter being the foundation of the church, but that does not make sense. Jesus is the founder, also called the Chief Cornerstone. He builds the church, not Peter or any other human. He said that the foundation of the church is the revealed identity of Jesus Christ. This is also one of two requisites for becoming a Christian. 
Knowing who He is, and believing that salvation is by grace through faith are revelations from God and vital. Without those two main truths, no matter what a group of people call themselves, they are not part of Christ’s church.

The church exists as God’s idea, not the apostles nor the plan of anyone else. He formed it, as it says in Acts, to finish the work that Christ began. We cannot do that work without Him, even though we often try. Whenever we try to do it in our own power (which happens much more than it should), we simply mess it up. 

In fact, the world is full of professing Christians and imitation churches. These mask the reality that Christ has a Body of believers to whom He gave great ability and power to accomplish His will and purposes. While that work is often behind the scenes, it is still His work and cannot be done without Him. 

For instance, Jesus told His followers, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) He repeated this and added another promise, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:18–20) 

John recorded this assignment given to the church also: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:23) 

If Christians rely on Jesus and take our orders from Him, the church is incredible in its power and ability. If Christians (or imitation Christians) read these words and take matters into their own hands, they seriously muck it up, making the church appear as a power-hungry greedy group that is corrupt, self-seeking, and power-hungry.  

Someone once told me that no one imitates junk. That is, we have fake Christians and churches so-called because the original is amazing and the perfection of God. Those who want what Christians have are like many who want a Rolex watch. Rather than pay the price, they settle for something that might look the same and wear the logo, but it cannot last or pass the tests because it is not the real thing.

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