43. The Christian Disciple and the Holy Church
Jesus speaking in The Gospel of John 17v17 & 19 says “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. … And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.”
1. The Church is Holy!
From this verse of Scripture, we see that Jesus prayed to the Father that his body the church would be holy! How is the church made holy? Through Jesus’ holy sacrifice on the cross and the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work within individual believers (1 Corinthians 6v11). The church is holy, in that it is God’s separated people living in the community, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and through a perfecting faith in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 7v1). The church is not to be an exclusive and holy society secluded from the world, but rather God’s salvation bearing movement going out to the world. The church is also holy, in that every Christian is holy and declared righteous through a living relationship with Jesus (Romans 3v22). This means that the church has imputed holiness and is seen as the spotless and sinless bride. Despite being deemed holy, the New Testament church was also subject to doctrinal error (1 Timothy 6v3), immorality (Revelation 2v14) and division (1 Corinthians 11v18). Dare I say, that churches today, are the same!
Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and therefore a church’s relationship with Him, is identified through biblical morality and faithfulness to His teaching. When in the book of Revelation, Jesus did not find holiness in the churches he was condemnatory of them (Revelation 2v20), but continued to call them His bride. Augustine cites Christ’s holiness as the reason for the church being holy, and the church will be made perfect on the last day.
However, being holy does not just mean being sinless. Holiness also means to be separated out and set apart for God’s special purpose and work. This work is that the Gospel may be spread to all parts of the earth, by his chosen people, the Church - people who are and were being sanctified by the Holy Spirit and rooted in Gospel truth (2 Thessalonians 2v13-14).
For Luther, the church is holy because “God’s word cannot be without God’s holy people and conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s word.” By this, he means that wherever the Bible is preached faithfully, the church consisting of God’s holy people also resides.
The method by which this hallmark can be tested in any church can be observed in the function of worship. If the community is a worshipping community, then the church can be seen to be ‘holy’.
2. Worship derives from holiness
Worship as a church function derives from the hallmark of the church being holy. Worship is an intimate, dynamic and holy encounter with God, because Jesus is in the midst (Matthew 18v20) and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Philippians 3v3).
What is worship? Worship is giving God alone (Psalm 19v2), glory due His name in the beauty of His holiness (1 Chronicles 16v29). The prime element of worshipping God in the context of a church is reverence. This is where through the willing use of the mind and the senses, honour and respect are directed towards God. This is to be done “in spirit and in truth” (John 4v24). Spirit denotes the personal status of worship involving the entire person – mind, body and will. Truth speaks of worship’s content, in that all true worship reflects God’s character. Worship therefore is multiform in practice, with richness in the breadth of its distinctive styles, to the one God deserving of our all. The Christian Church has 2000 years of worship resources, all of which can be used in modern Church services, and not just the songs from the last 2 years
Why worship? There are various reasons as to why the church worships God, although primarily because God commands it, as 1 Chronicles 16v29 reminds us “Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendour”. The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue, also clearly commands people to worship God alone (Exodus 20v3-10). Not only is it a command, but God deserves worshipping by His church for He alone personifies goodness (Psalm 100vv4-5), mercy (Exodus 4v31), holiness (Psalm 99v5,9) and power (Revelation 4v11). Thirdly, God is to be worshipped by His church in obedience to Him as creator (Revelation 4v11) but also as its Saviour and Lord (Habakkuk 3v18). Worship also brings exuberant satisfaction (Romans 12v2; Colossians 3v24).
Expressions of worship: Scripture speaks of various means by which the church worships God, including joyful singing (Psalm 100v2; Ephesians 5v19) and public declarations of praise, as Hebrews 13v15 states “Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.”
Perhaps the greatest manifestation of public Church worship is seen in the two ordinances (or sacraments) of the Eucharist and Baptism. Celebrating Holy Communion is in direct obedience of Jesus’ command that all Christian Disciples are to celebrate the remembrance of Him (Matthew 26vv26-28; Luke 22v19). Partaking in Holy Communion not only symbolizes His death for our sin (Luke 22v19), but also symbolizes the Christian Disciple’s acceptance of Christ’s death for them and their dependence on Him for spiritual life.
Baptism, which is commanded for all Christian Disciples (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38), naturally follows after conversion (Acts 2:37). To be baptized means to be baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3), which symbolizes a total identification with Jesus as a result of being baptized into His body (1 Corinthians. 12v13) and into His death (Romans 6vv1-6). Through baptism, the Christian Disciples’ sinful natures are seen as dead with Christ (Romans 6v6), and we are raised to live a new life with a new nature (Romans 6v4)!
For more to think about please do read 1 Chronicles 16v23-36. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. Why do I as a Christian Disciple, worship God in a church?
Q2. How does worshipping God, help me in my relationship with Him?
Q3. How is the inherent link between holiness and worship, help me grow in Holiness?
As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.