Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: invisible church

The kingdom of God

Daniel 2:44: And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

God gave Nebuchadnezzar a vivid dream: a short course in world history in pictorial form. Then God revealed  to Daniel both the dream and the significance of the pictures, culminating in the above statement. The dream was an allegory – the rock that was cut out of the mountain with no visible means and then grew to fill the whole world is a picture that can be visualized. The reality that it represents cannot be so readily visualized, yet the interpretation allows no room to say that it does not exist.

If we believe this to be a divinely inspired message, then the kingdom of God must exist today, and it must be still growing. How do we reconcile that with what meets our eyes in the more “civilized” nations today?

Many people in our day speak of the invisible church, claiming for members all Christian people everywhere. Yet if we examine the Biblical description of the church, it is immediately evident that it cannot be invisible. The instructions for choosing leaders, for admitting members, for dealing with unfaithful members, can only be practiced by a united, clearly discernible body. It is the kingdom that is invisible, not the church

The kingdom of God, or of heaven, does include all people who are children of God and citizens of heaven. It is a kingdom that is in a continual in a state of flux, making it well nigh impossible to discern its shape and composition. God works in mysterious ways, touching people in places and situations where human attempts at evangelism cannot reach, calling people around us that we thought were unreachable.

Our intellect and imagination are both a blessing and a curse in the kingdom. Yes, the imagination plays a vital part in kingdom work. It allows us to visualize how the timeless truths of God’s Word can be applied in cultures and circumstances that are completely foreign to us. There is also the very real danger that we will adapt the truth of the Bible to the culture. I believe that we in North America have gone much further down this path than we want to admit.

I will rejoice in the reality of God’s kingdom, even if so much of it is hidden from my view, because I can see the effects the kingdom in many ways. Yet I am also aware that it is a kingdom under siege by the kingdom of darkness. Citizens of the kingdom are in great danger, and many fall prey to the assaults of the enemy.

I am also thankful for the church of which I am a member. There is a much greater measure of safety here where we know one another and love and support each other. Yet I fear lest we think of the church only as a fortress to protect us from the assaults of the enemy. The enemy is vulnerable, God has given us the weapons to combat the enemy and rescue those who he has captured.

It will not do to be foolhardy and boastful, we have no strength of our own. But if we see only the danger about us and fear to use the armour and weapons our Lord has given, we are in great danger.

The community of believers

The New Testament depicts the church as a building which has Christ as its foundation, and as a body of which Christ is the head. In both of these illustrations it is evident that the church is much more than the sum of its members. The reputation of the church should be based upon the reputation of Jesus Christ, not on the reputation of its members or its pastors.

If the church is a building (a temple), then all the elements of the building must be linked to the foundation and joined together in such a way that each part helps to hold the building up. A ramshackle building with pieces falling off and holes in the walls would not give one much confidence that this is the church of the Living God.

If we view the church as a body, then to see this body with arms and legs flailing about because of a dysfunction in the nervous system that does not allow them to receive coordinated direction from the head would give a similarly dismaying picture.

Yet isn’t this pretty much the picture that is given by the so-called “invisible church”? It seems that every joint and sinew has a different doctrine of how the body should function. The result is frenetic activity, but very little forward movement. The world looks on bemusedly and wonders where God is in all this confusion, or if there even is a God.

Yet God is at work. Many good and wonderful things are happening through men and women who are earnestly serving God and their fellow men. May God be praised for His goodness and mercy.

There are others who have become sidetracked by the love of acclaim and financial rewards. Sometimes there are spectacular flame-outs that bring the whole Christian enterprise into disrepute. There are others zealously promoting man-made doctrines that cause confusion, discord and ridicule.

The New Testament pattern is of a close-knit community of true believers, where each one seeks the well-being of the others and none are motivated by a desire for praise or gain. The spiritual leaders are servants, not lords. Decisions are made by unitedly seeking direction from the Holy Spirit.

There are times when such a body may seem to have almost fallen asleep as it considers the circumstances before it and examines all angles and possibilities. When direction comes, the body can move quickly and God will bless and uphold the steps that are taken.

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

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