The paradox of the church

by Hardeman Nichols

When a congregation is established according to the divine pattern of the New Testament, it is composed of elements of perfection and imperfection.

Since it is a divine institution, it deserves respect and appreciation. Everything that such a church is and does, as authorized of God, is divine.

God’s part is perfect. He has designed a perfect plan of salvation and a perfect system of worship (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is its only guide, is “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). The church has a perfect Savior who holds before us his perfect life for our goal, saying, “Follow me” (Matthew 16:24 NET).

But here is the paradox.

Man is not perfect, nor does he perfectly follow the Lord.

The human element in the church is as imperfect as its members. The church would have been an imperfect institution if it had been designed only for perfect people. It would have no members at all, “For there is not one truly righteous person on the earth who continually does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

Its perfection is retained by the way it deals with our imperfections.

It does not overlook sin, but believes the grace of God is perfect in dealing with it. And it must distinguish between the penitent and rebellious, between the humble weak and willful reprobate.

God now “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). The church believes that Christ promises pardon for all imperfect beings who, in godly sorrow for their sins, penitently seek mercy and forgiveness. His invitation is to imperfect men. When one repents and is baptized, Jesus forgives his sins and adds him to his church (Acts 2:38,47).

The church offers strength to help us in our weaknesses, courage when we are faint-hearted, comfort when we are sad, and “an indescribable and glorious joy” (l Peter 1:8) along the way. Its call is to all men to come and be saved. Its God-ordained teachings and services restore lost humanity back to God.

Thanks be to God for his perfect church and its wondrous benefits to imperfect men!

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