Church And Kingdom Part Two

Part Two: The Church and The Kingdom

So how can we understand Christ and the Church?

When I go swimming, I occasionally gulp some of the water into my mouth.  When this happens, I am in the pool, and the pool is in me.  If I get out of the pool, and I spend time with a few others who just swam as I did, it could be said that wherever 2 or 3 swimmers get together, the pool is in their midst.  This does not mean the swimmers are the pool, in its entirety, or that the pool is the same as the swimmers.

Or imagine a bunch of us belong to a club.  A famous celebrity is head of that club, so it is quite an honor to be in that club.  Membership has privileges.  He is head of the club and uses it for His purposes, and in some sense shares membership in that club with the other members.   For instance, I belong to an organization that Bono is the head of.  Its kind of cool to occasionally get an email from Him and other celebrities he uses to mobilize his cause.  We are part of the same body.  But He has more power, devotion, authority, and influence in this organization than I do who am one of its members.

When someone leaves a job, they sometimes say, “Accounting just was not me.”  Or when someone likes a sport or activity, they might say, ”Tennis is totally me.”   We understand that some activities express certain people while others do not. Similarly, we can say the Church is Christ in the aspects that it expresses Him, and not in other aspects where it does not.  We do not have to make an absolute statement that does not universally apply.

Why is this important?

The Church is special. It is the body and along with Old Testament Saints, the bride of Christ.   Many people do not treat it that way or give it much priority.  It is worthy of devotion, but perhaps not the same as we give the Head.  Out of zeal to reclaim its importance, this one verse is sometimes cited to state that Christ is the Church.  Absolutes like this leave out the finer details that affect our lives in gigantic ways.  People take it further and infer that a particular local church is Christ and the Kingdom.  This can lead to many problems like those experienced by those at the front of this blog.

We must remember that the creation is not the Creator.  If Christ does not share His deity with the body, it would make sense that our devotion to the Head has some distinction from devotion to the body, and that the body can take numerous valid expressions.  Some denominations and fringe Christian groups lose sight of this and even teach that the bride will become a member of the godhead, and that we are all becoming gods ourselves.  Pretty scary!

When people absolutely conclude that Christ is their particular local expression of church, it can lead to elitism, even unconsciously.  It can become more important than other expressions of church, like the Church of their family.  People equate time spent in the local church as the same as putting Christ first.  Some even worship it.  When this happens, I believe we are mistaking the wineskin for the wine.

Sometimes when we try to correct one problem, we over correct.  When this happens a new problem is created that may be even worse.

The Christian life is to be lived in community with others.  We can’t go it alone.  But this is not the first building block.  It all starts with recognizing that the Lord of eternity has chosen our bodies as holy temples (1 Cor 6:19), and invites us to fellowship with Him today (Rev 3:23).  Out of that grows the possibility of fellowshipping with two or three (Matt 18:20), or even a houseful.  And we are all building blocks of a temple in eternity that God describes in Revelation 21.  But let’s not mistake that a local attempt at Church is not intended to replace our own intimate fellowship with the Lord.  Rather the latter is meant to flow out from the former.

But is not the Kingdom supposed to come first in the life of a believer, and is not the Kingdom the Church?  When Jesus said this, He was saying place the reign and rule of God ahead of our own personal needs and desires.  He was really saying the King comes first, and He takes care of all the other things.  The Kingdom is the reign and rule of God.  It includes all those saved, Old Testament Saints who were not in the Church, angels, heaven, and even the Earth wherever his reign and rule extend.  So while a local Church is part of the Kingdom, even the universal church is not the totality of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom is bigger than that.  In light of this, it is sometimes possible for the Kingdom to be first in our hearts in multiple courses of action.

The Kingdom gives rise to the Church.  We were placed into the Bride and Body and Church the moment we were saved.  Our status in God’s eternal purpose has been settled, regardless of what expression of local church we are now involved in.  We must continually put His Kingdom first, but understand that the rule and reign of God extends to all areas of life and does not merely apply to one local Church.  By contrast, if we simply say that my Church is the kingdom, and the Kingdom comes first, then we then can let our marriages, our own devotion and fellowship to the Lord, and even our own family go untended in the name of the Kingdom.   I believe this is a big mistake, and ripe soil for religious addiction and familial resentment and dysfunction.   In conclusion, let’s really put His Kingdom first, extending His rule and rein to all areas of life, including the Church wherever and whenever that local expression happens to be.

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