Why MacArthur loves the church

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On Wednesday June 21, 2006 Pastor John MacArthur writes on his church’s blog (Pulpit Live):??

In the 15 July 1998 issue of Christianity Today included an article by Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University: “What I’d Like to Tell the Pope About the Church.” The article’s subtitle: “Responding to the main criticism Catholics have against evangelicals: that we have no doctrine of the church.” Dr. George quoted from a sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in which Bonhoeffer noted that the word churchto Protestants has the sound of something infinitely commonplace, more or less indifferent and superfluous, that does not make their heart beat faster; something with which a sense of boredom is so often associated.”

Let’s be honest: there is too much truth in those criticisms to dismiss them lightly. Evangelicals are far too prone to indifference about the church. Some evangelicals live on the periphery of the church, attending and observing without ever really becoming an integral part of the body. Many who profess faith in Christ remain totally impassive about the church.?? …

He’s right. Worse yet, I know of people in full-time Christian service, employed by evangelical parachurch organizations, who have no involvement whatsoever with any local church. This is to the shame of the whole evangelical movement.

Of course, the remedy for evangelical apathy about the church is not a return to the twisted, extrabiblical ecclesiology of the Roman Catholic Church. Evangelical Protestants must approach ecclesiology as they have soteriology???from the perspective of Scripture alone. Unfortunately even among many Protestants, too many of the popular notions about the church are laden with human traditions, superstitions, and other holdovers from the medieval Catholic Church. Scripture alone can give us a sound understanding and appreciation of the true role and nature of the church.

On Friday June 23 MacArthur began explaining why he loves the church: because…

1. It Is Being Built by the Lord Himself

The church is the New Testament counterpart of the Old Testament Temple. I’m not referring to a church building, but the body of all true believers.

It is a spiritual building (1 Pet. 2:5), the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16), the place where God’s glory is most clearly manifest on earth, and the proper nucleus and focal point of spiritual life and worship for the community of the redeemed.

God Himself is the architect and builder of this temple. (See Ephesians 2:19-22) …

Notice also that the church is a work in progress. Christ is still building His church. We are still being joined together (Eph. 2:21). The church is still under construction (v. 22). God is not finished yet. The imperfections and blemishes in the visible church are still being refined by the Master Builder.

And here’s something remarkable: The plan for the finished product is a blueprint that was drawn in eternity past.

On Monday June 26 MacArthur continues:

2. The Church Is the Outworking of an Eternal Plan

In Titus 1:2, the apostle Paul writes of the “eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (NKJV). In this context, the apostle Paul was describing his ministry, a ministry of evangelism and salvation “for the faith of those chosen of God”???the church (v. 1).

And as Paul describes his ministry, he outlines God’s redemptive purpose, from election (“those chosen of God,” v. 1), to salvation (“the knowledge of the truth,” v. 1), to sanctification (“which is according to godliness,” v.1), to final glory (“in the hope of eternal life,” v. 2). All of this is God’s work (cf. Rom. 8:29-30), something He “promised before time began.”

In other words, in eternity past, before anything was created???before time began???God determined to begin and to finish His redemptive plan. People were chosen. Their names were written down that they might be brought to faith, to godliness, and to glory. God “promised” this before time began.

As it’s written in?? 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2, Paul says God’s eternal purpose???this same promise that was made before the beginning of time???”was given to us in Christ Jesus.” The eternal pledge of our salvation, the divine covenant of redemption, involved a promise made by the Father to the Son before time began. …

…the importance of the doctrine of election emerges from all this. The redeemed are chosen and given to the Son by the Father as a gift. If you are a believer, it is not because you are more clever than your unbelieving neighbors. You did not come to faith through your own ingenuity. You were drawn to Christ by God the Father (John 6:44, 65). And every individual who comes to faith is drawn by God and given as a love gift from the Father to the Son, as part of a redeemed people???the church???promised to the Son before time began. …

Now this eternal promise involved a reciprocal promise from the Son to the Father. Redemption was by no means the Father’s work alone. In order to accomplish the divine plan, the Son would have to go into the world as a member of the human race and pay the penalty for sin. And the Son submitted completely to the Father’s will. That is what Jesus meant in John 6:38-39: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”

(See Hebrews 10:4-9)?? So the Son submitted to the Father’s will, demonstrating His love for the Father. And the building of the church is therefore not only the Father’s expression of love to the Son, but also the Son’s expression of love to the Father.

…This is a mind-boggling look at our future. This is God’s plan for the church. We are a people called out for His name, redeemed, conformed to His Son’s image, made to be an immense, incomprehensible, all-surpassing expression of love between the Persons of the Trinity. The church is the gift that is exchanged. This is God’s eternal plan for the church. We ought to be profoundly grateful, and eager, and thrilled to be a part of it.

On Wednesday June 28 MacArthur continues, that he loves the church because

3. The Church Is the Most Precious Reality on Earth

There’s a third biblical reason I love the church: It is the most precious thing on this earth???more precious than silver, or gold, or any other earthly commodity.

How precious is the church? It demanded the highest price ever paid for anything. “You have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). What price? “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet, 1:18-19). Acts 20:28 refers to “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

The church is so precious that the Son was willing to suffer the agonies of the cross and die in obedience to the Father so that this eternal love gift could become a reality…

2 Corinthians 8:9: Christ became bleed & died, giving up His own glorious riches??so that we might become rich. His dying made us heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). In other words, in giving up His heavenly riches, Christ made it possible for the church to share in those riches. That makes the church the most precious thing on earth.

And finally on Sunday July 2 MacArthur concludes that we should love the church because

4. The Church Is an Earthly Expression of Heaven

I don’t mean that the church is perfect, or that it offers some kind of utopian escape from the realities of a sinful world. But I mean that the church is the one place where all that occurs in heaven also occurs on earth.

Christ instructed us to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). In what sphere is that most likely to occur? In the United States Congress? Not likely. In the Supreme Court? Probably not. In the university? No. City Hall? Don’t count on it.

Where is God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven? Only in one place, and that is the church.

What goes on in heaven? If all the activities of heaven were to be brought to earth, what activities would predominate?

First of all, worship. In every biblical description where men of God had visions of heaven, the one thing that stands out most is worship. Praise, adoration, and devotion are constantly being offered to God in heaven (Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4:8-11; 1 Corinthians 14).

A second activity of heaven is the exaltation of Christ. Having finished His earthly work, Christ is now seated at the Father’s right in glory in pure exaltation (Acts 5:31). God Himself has exalted His Son, and given Him a name above every name (Phil. 2:9). Christ is “exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:27). And throughout all eternity we will be occupied exalting His name (cf. Rev. 5:11-14). Meanwhile, the church is the one sphere on earth where Christ’s name is truly and genuinely exalted.

A third activity that takes place in heaven is the preservation of purity and holiness. Heaven is a holy place. Revelation 21:8 says “the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars” are excluded from heaven, consigned instead to the lake of fire. Revelation 22:14-15 underscores the perfect purity of heaven’s inhabitants… No one is admitted to heaven who is not holy (Heb. 12:14).

Likewise, the church on earth is charged with preserving purity within her own midst. Matthew 18:15-20 lays out a process of discipline by which the church is to keep herself pure, if necessary through excommunication of members… take note of the promise Christ makes in verse 18: “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Another activity of heaven that occurs in the church is the fellowship of the saints. Our fellowship in the church on earth is a foretaste of the perfect communion we will enjoy in heaven.

The church, then, is like an earthly expression of heaven. It is the closest we can get to heaven on earth.

The apostle Paul wrote of “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). More than any other institution on earth, the church is where the truth of God is upheld. The church is called to lift up the truth and hold it high. Employing the truth as a weapon, we are to smash the ideological fortresses of Satan’s lies (2 Cor. 10:3-5). And it is in the pursuit of that goal that the church will ultimately realize her greatest triumph.

All of that is why I love the church.

Ahh… loving words from a pastor who speaks the truth in love.?? We love God whole-heartedly and each other as ourselves–because He first loved us and gave Himself up for us.

How much more are we to love OURSELVES as the gift of love between the Trinity!?? Amazing thoughts, mind-blowing notions.?? Church–the most precious thing on this earth 🙂

James M. Boice once said, “People tend to overestimate how much they can accomplish in five years, and underestimate how much they can achieve in twenty.” While Mark Dever exhorts, “Teach and pray, love and stay.”?? Teach the people; pray faithfully for the people; love the people; and stay with the people.?? It is true indeed, that this is the “kind of patience that believes teaching God’s word is effective, that prayer is necessary, and that a loving and long-term relationship between pastors and congregations tends to produce far more fruit, lasting fruit, when men stay in a pastorate rather than flitting between churches every few years.”?? (Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile)

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