The spiritual and moral fabric of our world is disintegrating. As a result, Christians are looking for solutions and one solution subscribed to by many Christians is to attempt to heal our world by restoring the integrity of the family and its role in society. With the divorce rate among Christians as high as it is among non-Christians, it is reasonable to assume that there is direct link between the integrity of the traditional family and the moral status of the world. That assumption leads us to believe that when the family is stable and flourishing, the world will also be stable and flourishing. Therefore, if we “fix” the family, then we “fix” the world.
Again, all of this sounds reasonable and possibly even biblical, but that is where we find the problem! When we examine the biblical text, we find that both a lack of integrity in the family and a lack of integrity in the world, are just results of the real problem: the denigration of the local church.* Because it is the church and not the family which God has chosen to use as the institution for bringing true and lasting change to this world.
The Church is the only institution that Christ ever promised to build. (Matthew 16:18)
Nowhere in the Bible does God ever promise to prosper and preserve any institution other than His church. Nothing, including Hell itself, can destroy it. However, the same cannot be said for the family. In fact, Jesus foretells that just the opposite will be true in some cases. He says in Matthew 10:34-36:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
Sometimes following Jesus means that family units are divided or even destroyed. It is a mistake to think that family and familial relationships must be preserved above all else. Jesus warns against this mistake in the very next verses:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. – John 10:37-38
In other words, Jesus is saying, that your love for Him must be so great that it is willing to suffer even the loss of family and if that is not the case, then you cannot be His disciple! How can the family be God’s foundational institution when it is possible to destroy that institution because of love for Christ? What a blessing to know this can never be true of the Church. She will remain forever as God’s institution and true family on earth (Matthew 12:46-50).
The Church is the “city on the hill” that pushes back the spiritual darkness and the “salt of the earth” that preserves this world from further moral decay. (Matthew 5:13-14)
Granted, much of that which bears the name “church” has not done in this role, but that does not mean that she is no longer God’s solution for a world out of control and there are some who say that Christ’s words in Matthew 5:13-16 are directed toward individual believers and not a larger group such as the Church.
He says (in both verses)… “You” (plural)—meaning many not one. This makes total sense from the standpoint of the analogy itself. When was the last time you spoke about a city, when that place existed of only one person? Or better yet, when was a family ever considered to be that? A city is made up of many people, all heralding the same location as home, yet existing as a diverse community of people from different backgrounds and families. It is therefore the corporate witness of Christians joined together as the local church that Jesus is speaking of in Matthew 5:13-14.
The church is the institution tasked with pushing back the darkness and resisting moral decay. Even the Greek word for “church” implies this idea. That word is ekklessia and it literally means “the congregation”. The local church is the congregation of those whom God has called out of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). The believer’s mandate then, is to become part of the local church as the foundational institution ordained by God to be the salt and light of this world.
The Church is the “pillar and support of the truth.” (1Timothy 3:15)
This is one of those verses where one word is worth a thousand.
Paul states that the “church of the living God” is “the pillar and buttress of the truth” in the English Standard Version. However, in most translations, the word “buttress” is exchanged for the word “foundation”. It is the church that is the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” Such an exchange is accurate and acceptable since the word in the original language clearly allows for it. Also, this is how the church functions in the life of a Christian.
For instance, the Bible teaches us that a person gets saved and is sanctified through the truth of God’s Word (1 Peter 1:23; John 17:17). But the place where this process takes place is primarily within the context of the local church. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:7-10 that the mystery of Gospel is made known through the church. In other words, it is the church which functions as God’s primary and foundational institution for spreading the gospel in the world. Later in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 11-16, Paul tells us that it is in the local church where we are sanctified. It is here in the church where we “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, o the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” It is in the church where we are protected from being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Therefore, if any of us want to grow spiritually and therefore be sanctified, then the church is the place to do it!
The church is the foundational institution which causes truth to be spiritually effective in my life. It is true, there are institutions who claim to be churches, but who are not fulfilling their God-given role, nevertheless, the church remains as God’s foundational institution for the truth that saves and sanctifies.
* The term translated “church” (ekklessia) in the New Testament primarily refers to the local church. Today, it is common for individuals to make distinctions between “the universal-or invisible church” and the “local-or visible church. However, the majority of passages making reference to the church do so referring to a visible local community. When Jesus speaks of building His church, He is speaking no less about local churches than He is the universal church. Likewise, to belong to the universal church, means also belonging to a local church. Therefore these distinctions are somewhat artificial and unnecessary because it is impossible to think of one without the other.