The Purpose and Function of the Church, As Also of Its Local Expression
So we have to see exactly what the purpose and the function o a local expression of the Body or the Church or House of God really is, and we can see it if we look at the type that leads to the anti-type. What the temple of old was in figure, the Church is in spiritual reality, and what the Church is in spiritual reality as a whole, the local company is to be. It is remarkable that local churches in the New Testament are always viewed in the light of the whole Body. Thus Paul will say to the local church at Corinth, "Ye are the body of Christ." Now, it would not do for Corinth to take hold of that and say, You see, we are the Body of Christ! That would be giving a wrong meaning to it. The point in the inspired declaration is this, that every local company is in representation what the whole Body is; what the whole Body is in God's thought is to be seen here and there and there.
The Meeting Place Between God and Man
Now we continue by way of analogy from the temple. What was the temple? In the first place, the temple of old was the meeting place between God and man. That is the first function of the temple, of the House of God. Christ was that in the fullest sense, in a far greater sense than was ever temple of old. Here is Son of Man and Son of God blended in one Person. It is tremendously significant that in Matthew 16, that very fact comes to light. Christ, interrogating His disciples, uses one term, and, in getting the Divinely-inspired response through Peter, the other term is used. "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" Peter said, "Thou art the Son of the living God." "Son of man," "Son of God": and that is by revelation of God. Here is God and Man met together in one Person, in once place. And of Himself the Lord Jesus later said, "Destroy this temple, this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up again." Carnally minded Jews thought He was speaking of that material temple, but He was speaking of Himself, His own body. This temple - transition of thought from the temple in Jerusalem to Christ personally, the meeting place of God and man - that is Christ.
Now Christ corporately expressed is the Church according to revelation in the New Testament, and therefore where Christ is corporately found in representation, and livingly functioning, there God should be met with, there God and man should come into a peculiar touch and relationship. The testimony of all who come into such a realm where Christ is really corporately expressed ought to be, I find the Lord there! and that ought to be enough. There is the answer. Do you find the Lord there? Does the Lord meet with you there? Ah, that is the first governing thing, and not other questions associated with gathering together or congregations; no, the Lord Himself, and that not now s a personal thing between myself and the Lord, seeing that I personally can have touch with the Lord anywhere, but now as a matter of the Church. Do I meet the Lord in the midst of that people? If so, I have come into the realm where God's thought is having expression; and that is a realm of tremendous possibilities.
Have you read that little book by A. J. Gordon, "How Christ Came to Church?" It might do you good to read it, though rather perhaps from an objective or outside point of view. But let me tell you as quickly as I can the content. Dr. Gordon one Saturday was sitting preparing his sermon for the following day in his study, when he fell asleep; and he dreamed that he was in his own church and in his pulpit on the Lord's day. His was a very fine church with its Gothic pillars and arches. The church was crowded, and he was in the pulpit about to commence the service, when the door opened at the back and a stranger entered and walked down the aisle looking from side to side for a seat. As he got nearer the front, someone stepped out and showed him a vacant seat.
Dr. Gordon goes on to describe how he went on with the service, and how his eyes constantly turned to that stranger. If he looked in some other way, he found his eyes coming back to him. Dr. Gordon said, "I registered the resolve that I would go down to speak to the stranger after the service." After it was over, and without showing noticeable hurry, he just as quickly as he could made his way down and tried to intercept the stranger, but before he reached the door, the stranger was gone. With great disappointment, he said to the man at the door, "Do you know who that stranger was you let in this morning?" The man at the door said, "Don't you know who that was? That was Jesus of Nazareth." Oh, said Dr. Gordon, why did you not detain him? I would love to have spoken to him." "Oh," said the man, do not worry; He was here today. He will come again." (Well, as an aside, that double reply bore fruit in two volumes from Dr. Gordon's pen; the one on "The Work of the Holy Spirit", and the other on "The Coming of the Lord."
Dr. Gordon says he went away with these musings - Jesus of Nazareth has been in my church today. What was I saying? I was talking about Him. How did I talk about Him? Did He discern in anything that I was saying the faintest tinge of unreality? Did I speak of Him, not knowing He was present, as I would have if I had known? What did He think of my manner, my matter, my conducting of the service? What did He think about our choir, our singing? It was all about Him, but was it worthy of Him? I wonder what He thought about our Gothic building?
(continued with # 18)