Friday, September 16, 2011

The Church of Christ is the Glory of Christ

For the last several years I have had the great privilege of serving a church called Glory of Christ Fellowship in Elk River, MN. We took the name of the church from 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 which speak of the "good news of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (4:4) and the glory of God that pours through the being and shines on the face of Jesus Christ (4:6), a glory that transforms us into His very image one degree at a time (3:18).

So the vision that grabbed our hearts four or five years ago was to start a church that lived to exalt the glory of the One who is alone glorious, and has manifest His glory to us through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and saving grace.

This morning in my daily time with God I read 2 Corinthians 8, among other things, and I came across this phrase in 8:23. I swear this phrase was not in my Bible before today! I can't believe I haven't seen it before now, but it deeply moved my heart. It's simple but profound: "And as for our brothers [guys Paul had sent from church to church to help with this or that], they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ."

Wow, what did you just say, Paul? Did you just call the church, the Bride of Christ, the glory of Christ? I can hear Paul answer, "Yes I did, and I meant it. It was not a throw away phrase, it points to an eternally profound mystery, one that will make the angels and all the host of heaven praise the Name of the Lord forever and ever."

What does it mean to call the church of Christ "the glory of Christ"? It would take a book to adequately answer that question, but let me briefly summarize how we get from "the glory of God in the face of Christ" to the church as "the glory of Christ."

Paul's words in 8:9 help us here: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." A slight change of words will help us here: Jesus shared in our shame that we might share in his glory. He became sin for us so that we who believe in Him might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).

Before Christ, we were lost in our sins and owed God a debt so great that it could never be repaid. But God, in his infinite mercy (Ephesians 2:4), sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that whoever should believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)--true riches! And as it turns out, the reason we believed is not because we chose God but because He chose us. We were predestined to believe, we were chosen by God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

This brings us to Romans 8:30--"And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he justified (made perfectly right with God), and those whom he justified he also glorified." Hmm. God has glorified those who have believed in Jesus Christ.

How so? Back to 2 Cor 3-4: as we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, we are transformed into his very image and beam with His glory. Our glory is like that of the moon: it is borrowed and dependent and reflects the glory of another. The glory of sun is produced by the sun (ultimately by God); the glory of the moon is also produced by the sun and if the sun should cease to shine so would the moon. Again, it's glory is borrowed and dependent.

The church of Jesus Christ is like the moon: we produce no glory of our own, rather, we reflect the glory of Him who has been infinitely gracious to us, who saved us when he rightly could have crushed us. Our glory is borrowed and dependent. We simply reflect the unspeakable beauty of Him who humbled himself to save us from our sins and transform us into a kingdom of priests for our God, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him [shine with the glory of Him] who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:10).

This fact does not give us a cause for boasting in ourselves. Quite the opposite. Since our glory is borrowed and dependent, it gives us cause for boasting in Christ alone who, by His grace, granted us to share in His glory. As Paul said, "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world" (Gal 6:14).

Oh church, hear this and marvel at the grace of God: you are the glory of Christ! You are the light of the world that shines by grace! So worship Him for what He's done and live this day to reflect his glory--proclaim his excellencies--everywhere you go!

Praise be to your great and gracious Name, Lord Jesus!

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