Those who say they love God but do not love the Church could be deceiving themselves about their love for God. (see my previous post here)
The words from I John 4:20 are sobering: “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
We cannot love God in the abstract. Stated differently, we show our love for God by our active love for His people (see: Hebrews 6:10).
Consider how important it is to love the Church in the following points.
This truth about loving God by loving His people will actually factor in at the final judgment when Jesus says,
- “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. … Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40).
If Christ loved the Church and gave himself in death for the Church, how can we fail to love the Church?
Christ is building His Church
Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). His work on earth is to build His Church. Speaking of the growth of the Church, we learn in Acts 2:47 that, “The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
The apostle Paul repeatedly reminded the local Church in Corinth about God’s role in the formation of their Church.
- “God has placed the members each one of them in the body just as He desired” (I Corinthians 12:18).
- “God has composed the body that there should be no division but that the members should have the same care for one another” (I Corinthians 12:24-25)
- “You are Christ’s body and individually members of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27)
Church as the dwelling place of God
The apostle also reminded this local Church of something that is true for all true Churches. He told them that they are the dwelling place of God.
- “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (I Corinthians 3:16-17; see also: Ephesians 2:21-22; I Timothy 3:15).
We are all called to build the Church
The Lord builds His Church through His people. The apostle Paul reminded the local Church in Corinth of this truth.
- “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care” (I Corinthians 3:10).
The role of God’s servants in building the Church is described in detail in Ephesians 4:11-16.
- “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
We clearly learn in this passage that God’s place for spiritual growth and service is the Church, the body of Christ. Those who fail to commit themselves to any particular local Church are out of step with the Chief builder of the Church. They will not experience the growth and service designed by God for the Church and cannot claim to love God.
- “If the church is a nurturing mother for the souls of believers, those disconnected from her are nothing more than spiritual orphans. They are cut off from a vital source of spiritual nourishment and growth. They may think that spiritual fitness is an individual matter, but their failure to participate in the corporate life of God’s people can only stunt the kind of growth in grace that the apostle Paul envisioned in Ephesians 4.”
- “One of the major contributors to this deficiency concerning the importance of the local church is the erroneous division in the minds of believers between commitment to the Lord and commitment to the local body” (Chuck Colson, The Body).
Our love for God compels us to commit to a particular local church, not just out of faithfulness to tradition, but in love and devotion to our Lord who promised, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).