When you hear the word, Church, what do you think of?
For some, no doubt, Church has many negative associations of oppression, bad personal experiences, hypocrisy, bigotry, or irrelevance.
At Grace Reformed Church, however, we seek to cultivate a Biblical vision of the Church, and that means beginning with Christ.
Christ alone is the head of the Church, since Christ paid for her with His own precious blood (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:22). No man can claim this title. No Word but God’s Word can lay claim to our lives.
The Church, ruled by Christ, is His body. We are members together of Christ and of one another (1 Corinthians 12:12-21). This is highly significant for the way we treat one another. If we despise a member of Christ’s body, we despise Christ Himself (1 John 3:20). He who abides in self-sacrificial love to his or her brothers and sisters abides in God’s love (1 John 3:16).
The Church is the sphere of salvation and reconciliation (Ephesians 2:11-22). The Church is where the Word is preached, where the sacraments are administered, where gifts of the Spirit are used, where sinners are saved, where saints are built up, where the wayward are challenged, where the doubting are strengthened, where the suffering are comforted. Where else does this happen but in Christ's Church? She is the one who brings all manner of persons together in unity and love towards one another only in and because of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The United Nations has nothing on the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Church is God’s new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Everything that is true of the worldwide future New Creation is true of the present localized Church now. The Church is the place of regeneration, resurrection, reconciliation, and worship of God, the very things that will forever characterize the Church when Christ returns. The Church is that peculiar people who pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). She seeks to adhere to Christ’s will here and now on earth.
The Church protests the commitment-phobia of modern, American Christians who refuse to join a local church and prefer an idealized vision of the Church that is full of “perfect people,” those who have their “lives in order.” or homogenized people who are “just like me.”
Rather, the Church is the family and household of God (1 Timothy 3:15; 5:1-2), saved by the one death and resurrection of Christ and joined together in Him. The Church is composed of sinners (yes, sinners, not perfect people) who were far from God but now have been drawn near to Him, who come from different backgrounds (economic, social, political, etc.) but now share together in the life of Christ and seek to share their life with one another. She is the physical, gritty, tangible manifestation of God’s grace in the world. As Christ said to us, so we say to one another: I give up my life for you.
The Church can say and do these words only because she is empowered by God and indwelt by Him as His temple (1 Corinthians 6:14-7:1), living in holy joy.
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Just like every family has a structure that is to work for the well-being of the family, so the Church has been given leaders who are to serve God's people, not be lords over them. This is one big difference between what, on the one hand, everyone thinks about when they hear the words "power" and "authority" and, on the other hand, what Christ says is the true nature of authority. Authority in the world is paternalism, exploitation, and corrupting. Authority in the family of God is the opportunity to serve others in self-sacrificing humility, just as Christ served us (Matthew 20:25-28).
Grace Ref is a member of the family of churches known as the United Reformed Churches of North America.