For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Christ loved the church
God loved the world, man, and, above all, the church.
Readings: John 3:16, 19; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25.
Here are three states of the life of a believer. "God so loved the world ... Christ, the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me ... Christ loved the church, and gave himself for her."
Loved the world
"God so loved the world," that is, all the inhabitants of the earth, whether good or bad, wise or ignorant, rich or poor. All were loved by the Lord. How wide is his love! We can think of any human being, even the most abhorrent that treads upon this earth ... the Lord loves him. If he had loved selectively, by his own merits, many would have been excluded.
"Despised and rejected among men," that is how the world has treated the Lord. However, the love of God was so great. Knowing that his Son was going to be mistreated, rejected and crucified, he still sent him.
The Lord is not attractive to this society, and he is still despised and rejected by men. There are many people who have made a fatal decision: not to receive the Lord. How terrible! Anyone who has done this must be informed that a tremendous condemnation awaits him, eternally separated from God. Having been designed to serve the Lord, by the hardness of his heart, he will be forever deprived of His light, of his life, of his glory.
The Lord is still rejected among men; But God continues to love them. And the Lord commands us to look for them and to save what has been lost.
He loved me…
Let's go to the other point. Galatians 2:20. What a wonderful word! Blessed are those who live according to it. Blessed are those who can say, "With Christ I am...". Whatever your situation, your pain, your trials, your burdens or your dilemmas, you can declare and comfort yourself with this fact alone.
"I have been crucified with Christ...". What is the cross, but the end of something? In Christ we come to the point where our worldly way of living has ended. "...and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." It was a beautiful day when the rivers of God began to flow through us. It is wonderful to have discovered the greatest and most precious thing: the love of God in Christ Jesus.
From amongst the millions of people in the world, not counting those who have already departed, the Lord has noticed you and me! The Scripture says, "God loved the world," and then we imagine the multitudes that populate the whole earth, and in the midst of all of them, an individual ... me! God loved me! From the general knowledge of God's love to the world, we arrive at individual knowledge.
"Christ loved me, and gave himself for me," as if no other person were saved in the world! I am saved! Christ loved me! I stopped being a person lost among the crowds of this fallen race, to being one whom the Lord loved. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
You are no longer alone, nor helpless. You have a mighty Lord, and a mighty life! And we make the difference between "our life" and "His life in us". Before I was alone, I was enough for myself, with my life alone, with my abilities and my failures alone. But now the Lord is in me. His life is in me, his power is in me, that powerful, indestructible, marvellous life. The Lord lives by faith in our hearts.
But we are here because the Lord is faithful, "...who loved me and gave himself for me." It would be sad if the word of Galatians 2:20 was nothing more than a good theory in our minds and that in facing challenges and problems, we would appear to be living out of ourselves and not the Lord. It would be a frustrating contradiction between what we believe and what we live out.
From the individual to the corporate
Notice the language in the first person: "...he loved me and gave himself for me." When he says: "... I am crucified together with Him, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me..." we could think of "wonderful individuals" who hardly walk the earth. We might think these men do not need anything else. That verse could be the last verse of the Bible.
However, the apostle Paul says: "...so that the greatness of the revelations did not exalt me exceedingly, a thorn in my flesh was given to me," and, "for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 7.10) What does this mean? That a man who knew the greatest mysteries of God was well aware of his limitations.
Because these truths, being so glorious, always have a limitation in the vessel that contains them. Having tremendous potential, we are still clay vessels, we need the dealings of God, we need the company of other brothers, in short, the whole body of Christ.
"Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it." How healthy it is that, stripped of our individualism, we should come to the reality of the Body, because the church is the fullness of Him who fills everything in everything (Eph. 1:23).
Never forget that however special the individual Christian experience may be, it will never be enough, because you and I are but one member of the Body. For this reason, Scripture warns every believer to "have no higher conception of himself than he should have, but think wisely, according to the measure of faith which God gave to each one" (Rom. 12:3).
If anyone has a service, however high it may be, he must fulfil it according to his measure of faith. Some manage, others teach. There is a measure for each "according to his ability" (Matt. 25:15). In this way we all make a contribution of faith and life for the enrichment of the whole body, and what appears at the end of the book? A glorious church. Hallelujah!
The limitation of the vessels
Brothers, let no one remain at the halfway point. The early Christians looked so precious, but later generations began to drift away. Many of them were very sincere, but the limitation of the vessels moved the church away from its vocation. We read the same Scriptures as those early Christians, we hold the same truths, the same Holy Spirit inhabits us, but equally, the individual vessels end up somehow twisting the truth.
But today the Lord, in his mercy, is bringing us back to His original, divine model. Brother, do not be afraid of the church. Rather, may the Lord raise us up to say: Glory to God because I have brothers and sisters, because I have a spiritual family!
Yes, our God is very practical. If someone proclaims a very great truth in the midst of the assembly, it can be very precious; however, it will always be necessary for other brothers to confirm it, if there is a connection between speaking it and living it, and this is very healthy for the life of the church.
Thank the Lord for all who teach; The church is refreshed and washed by the various flowing tributaries. The Lord loved me; But that love that I have experienced individually, I live corporately, in fellowship with you and with others. And it helps me when a brother encourages me, when he corrects me, and when he embraces me whom the Lord also loved.
At the end of the story, we find the Lord concerned about His church as a whole. In Revelation 2 and 3, when the Lord addresses the reality of the seven churches, he doesn’t really mention individuals. Later, He speaks generally of the foundations of the heavenly city, the apostles of the Lamb, but what stands out is that the Lord finally gets what he wanted, that is, a glorious church. Clearly the attention is not on individuals.
You and I are called by the Lord to share in that glory together with all of the redeemed saints. At the end of the story, you do not get there alone, nor do I get there alone. You don’t stand out; Only the bride is dressed, on the day of the glorious wedding of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-8). Isn’t this wonderful? From individual experience to collective joy; from the joy of the individual to the glory of the participation of the whole body of Christ.
God loved the world so much that He brought a powerful salvation. And we have tasted the power of that salvation. Christ loved me. From the general aspect to the individual, intimate. I came to know my Lord, I awoke to the faith, my eyes were opened, my heart was released, and the Spirit of the living God came to fill this temple, and the rivers of God began flowing within us as an inexhaustible source. Glory to the Lord!
But this experience leads me to find another river, and another, and many others. And the Lord at this time has united us, bringing us together with other brothers and many saints around the world. Throughout the earth, the Spirit of God is moving to obtain this glorious church.
Do not fear the church. The church is practical, she has order. The church has servants with responsibility for government; it has more mature brothers. The church has an administration and we can all exercise the privilege of collaborating in that administration. Thank you for everything the church does. In the church we are regulated by one thing or another; but it does us good. The body of Christ does us good.
"Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it." Thank the Lord! It is beautiful what we are seeing and experiencing. And this inner joy has a practical side, so that we also love one another, consider each other, and also relate to each other in a holy, just and godly way, to bless each other, because we are moving forward together in this race where the Lord, in the end, will be eternally glorified.
Dear brothers, how precious is the end of history! In the end, the love of the Lord will appear reflected throughout the whole church, and His glory will be shown to all heavenly beings for all eternity. Oh, come, Lord Jesus!