A Community of Sinners
“To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ……[I want you to know]certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 1 and 4
This past May 20th I entered the hospital for a total knee replacement. My greatest concern was getting an infection after the surgery, which would have necessitated the basic undoing of the replacement, and, after defeating the infection, do the replacement all over again. Hospitals are marvelous places for such surgeries; in fact, in this day and age, the only place you want to have it done! Knee replacement surgery is something not too conducive to performing in your home; but hospitals are also known to be “germ centers, where you can pick up a serious staph infection. Hospitals are great, but not perfect in every situation; you can die there, as well as live.
The community of God, the church, is a community of sinners. The pews are full of sinners, and as a hospital for souls the church is established by God to minister to His called people, even in our tedious, enduring vices, even in our inconsistent repentance. The Bible describes the assembly (the ekklesia) of God’s people from Genesis to Revelation as a community that is desperately flawed. All its warts and diseases are exposed graphically on the pages of Scripture for any reader to fully see. There is nothing hidden or deceptive in describing the church in all its nakedness. This is why one who knows the Scriptures has to say “duh when hearing the critical world accuse the church community to be “a house full of hypocrites, a place to avoid at all cost. Of course, “hypocrites is one of the tamer descriptions used to denigrate those who are not ashamed to call the church “their community for healing, service, fellowship, and the corporate worship of God. After all, if these scorners, who are numerous, were not so dense as to mock without ever reading the “official and definitive guide of the church, the Bible, they would know their criticism is just so much inanity. It is ludicrous hot air exposing their own duplicitous character.
So, if this is the case, why would God love the church with infinite love, pouring out His own blood, in the person of Christ, for her purchase and redemption? Why would He persevere with such incredible patience the vacillation of His people in every age? Hypocrites? This is the least of it! Yet the skeptic is just as much the hypocrite, and more so, as he constantly violates his own conscience, principles of behavior written within his heart. He is every bit the sinner, even as he excoriates those in the church. The difference here is the redeemed sinner in the church community is doing something about his declared sin, becoming more whole as a person in turning to God’s grace and “clothing himself with the behavior of his Savior.
The important truth to never forget is the church contains among the genuinely redeemed false professors, those who are but deceptive pretenders, who Jude calls “blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. (Jude 12) No one can judge the church truly without taking this critical fact into account. Judging the church community requires the maturity to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14) and an acquaintance with the gospel at its center; all others are spitting into the wind, even while they solidify their place in eternity.
There are germs within the church community that can lead to spiritual sickness because it consists of sinners, just as there are germs in the hospital where you go for an operation or to be made well because there are ill people there. The next time you think of some caustic or critical remark about the church or even YOUR church remember this truth before framing your criticism. It is easy to forget before the words roll off your tongue. The church, containing both genuine wheat and noxious weeds, is still the community where God is and desires you to be for the healing and health of your soul. God does not intend for you to mature in the faith in isolation; He created the church, the Bride of His Son, for your sanctification. It is the necessary, life-exuding community in your pilgrimage to an eternal home. You neglect it to your peril!
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