Four biblical images of the church
1. The church is the bride of Christ
2. The church is the body of Christ with Christ as the head
3. The church is the people of God
4. The church is the army of God
The church is the bride of Christ
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; (Revelation 19.7 ESV)
There are two important things we need to understand. It says, “For the marriage of the Lamb has come.” Who is the Lamb and who is the Bride? In the gospel according to John, as John was baptizing and Jesus also went to be baptized and John saw him, he proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” So, the Lamb is Jesus.
For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5.23 ESV)
Ephesians 5.23 shows us that the bride is the church. In verses 31 and 32 he says,
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5.31-32 ESV)
When we talk of the bride it is the church. I want you to be happy about it that you are part of the bride, which is the church. When Christ is looking at his bride he looks at you.
Every responsible husband wants to make sure that his wife is comfortable, looks good; and then, in public, that she is unique. In the same way, Christ, who is the husband of the church, is so responsible to the church and wants the church to be unique and stand in a unique position. So, Christ does certain specific things for his church. One of the things he does for the church is that he loves the church. The church is the object of God’s love. When God looks at you he sees you as his darling girl or boy. As a husband to the church, he loves his church to the extent that he didn’t mind dying for he. The evidence of Christ’s love for the church is the fact that on one fateful Friday he gave himself up to be crucified.
We all fear death. As we sit in this room, there are husbands in this room who, in case of emergency, will run to safety before they begin to look for their wives. But for Jesus, when death came he gave himself up and saved his wife, the church. There is someone who loves you beyond human understanding and the evidence of it is that he gave himself up for the church.
Christ also washes his bride with water by the word so as to get for himself a glorious bride without spots and wrinkles. (Ephesians 5.26-27) So, day in day out, he washes us by water with the word. That is why when we come to church he gives us his word. That is why when we come to the church sometimes he gives us a prophetic word. He washes us on a daily basis because he wants us to be a bride such that when we stand up we stand out. He does it day in day out. Men who cannot talk to your wives, please learn form Christ. Christ speaks to his church and washes us and makes us the kind of people he wants us to be.
So what is the responsibility of the church, the bride, to the husband? The church must submit to Christ. How I pray that the church of God would submit itself to the leadership of Christ who is the husband of the church. There is something called the marriage supper of the Lamb and, on that day, the church will be dressed.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Revelation 19.7-8 ESV)
On that day we shall see the bridegroom and appear at the marriage supper of the Lord and rejoice. It means that at the marriage supper of the church we won’t go there with any kind of dress but white clothing, which is pure, and fine linen. That fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. It means that on that day we shall be in a special gown, which the Bible says is fine linen, which is the righteous deeds of the saints. On that day, your faithfulness, holiness, and righteous deeds will be the apparel you will wear. Unfortunately, people are involving themselves in all kinds of sins but we shall be in special clothing on that day and that will be our righteous deeds.
The church is the body of Christ with Christ as the head
Another image of the church found in the Bible is that the church is the body of Christ. So we can say that the church of God is the body of Christ with him, Christ, as the head of that body. There are scriptures in the Bible that make this clear.
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1.18 ESV)
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1.22-23 ESV)
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12.27 ESV)
The head of the church is not a human being and the headship of the church does not lie with humanity. As the head of the church, Christ takes authority over the church. May the church always remain under the control of Christ. For when we come under the control of men, we have drifted and are no longer a church. Jesus Christ is the head of both the dead and the living. May the church recognize the lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the end of it all, it is only Christ who rules in his church. So, the day the church begins not to bow to the lordship of Jesus Christ but to other personalities, the church has a problem. When we come together, it is Christ and Christ alone. He must be given the preeminence. Sometimes we write to the minister in charge but, strictly speaking, Christ is the one in charge.
Just as the body has many parts, so the church, which is the body of Christ, has many parts.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12.12 ESV)
We are many here but in Christ we are one. As the body of Christ we don’t have Fanteism nor Asanteism nor Akuapemism nor Hausaism but all of us are one body. Though we are many, we are one body in Christ. I come against division among the church—the spirit that makes one think that he is more important than the other. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek. In Christ we are one. If you are here and are an agent of division sowing discord, know that we are one people, the body of Christ.
Another implication is that, though we are one body, there are diversities of gifts and callings but that does not make us belong to different bodies.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (1 Corinthians 12.4-6 ESV)
So, in the body of Christ there are diversities of gifts but those don’t take us apart. In the human body, one may be an eye, a hand, or a leg but they all belong to one body. Irrespective of your calling and gifts, we all belong to Christ. So, every gift and calling is very important. No one gift is more important than the others. That is why the sweeper and the one who arranges this place is as important as the preacher. The one who is leading us in praise and worship is not superior to the one ushering and cleaning.
In the human body there are parts you may not even see. You may see my hand, eye, and leg. You don’t see my heart, or kidneys, or intestines, but my heart fail for a minute or two. Then you will see that it is very important.
We are Christs here on earth
The serious thing is that if we are the body of Christ it means we are Christs on earth. Christ has come and gone. How can he be seen? He can be seen through his body, the church. This brings us two responsibilities. It means we have to reflect both the power and character of Christ. When the world wants to know the power of Christ they must come to the church. So, if they come and don’t see it we are failing the world. Not only do we have to reflect the power of Christ, we also have to reflect his character. When the world sees the church they must have an idea of how Christ is. Examine yourself to see whether you have been a good reflection of the character of Christ. As you go to the market you are supposed to reflect the character and the power of Christ. Anything lower than this is a disappointment to Christ and the church and is a failure.
The church is the people of God
Another image of the church in the Bible is that it is seen as the people of God. It is made up of people called by God that he has made his own. As I reflected on this I become so excited. As we walk on the streets of Accra we belong to somebody. We have somebody behind us. He has made us his own and he is ours and that is why the devil cannot just touch us.
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6.16 ESV)
We are a family of God so when God is looking at his family he looks at the church. If I were a member of the family of the president I would be proud. If I were a member of the family of the Asantehene I would be proud. Sometimes there are people who don’t have any connection to an important person but find a way to link: “My uncle’s brother’s friend…” but we have somebody. When people are bragging we can also brag. The one on our side never sleeps nor slumbers he never goes on transfer. His term of office never comes to an end. He is unchangeable. We are a community of the family of God. Have you read 1 Peter 2.9?
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2.9 ESV)
If I belong to him then everything I have belongs to him. So you shouldn’t underrate yourself. After the fall of man, God wanted a nation through whom to roll out his plan of salvation. So he chose the nation of Israel. However, the people of Israel could not understand it so they became so self centered, even to the extent that when Solomon was dedicating the temple he prayed that if someone was in distress, it was only by coming to that specific temple that he could be saved. But God has formed a new people and it is no longer Jews versus Greeks but a people of God he is using to perpetuate his agenda.
This is a privilege and responsibility to be a people of God. You cannot do anything that would bring disgrace on his name because you bear his name. My name is Obuobi and I bear my father’s name. I know the kind of work he did so I don’t want to do anything that will bring the name into disrepute. But for some of you, because of what you are doing, you are dragging the name of God and that of the church in the mud. You have a responsibility to protect the name of God on you.
My wife had to take an exam once and she took pains to remove all extra papers and materials from her bag before going to the hall. A friend who was observing her asked why she was troubling herself to do this. She said, “I bear a pastor’s name and must protect it. I don’t want to do anything that will give anyone the slightest suspicion and the opportunity to ask, is that not the pastor’s wife?” If somebody will go to this extent with a pastor’s name, how much more the name of God.
I went to PCC with a pastor’s car and a policeman stopped us and said, “Aha! Your roadworthiness certificate has expired.” It has expired for one day and we hadn’t noticed. He sat in the car and asked us to drive to the police station. While on our way, he saw a Bible in the car and asked what work we did. We said we were pastors. Then he said, “Read Matthew 5.25,” which says, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.”
He asked us to reconcile and I said ok. It was around 3pm so I said we would renew it the next day. Because we were not ready to reconcile, he took us to the police station. This man was quoting scriptures to support what he wanted to do but a policeman who bears the name of God should not behave that way.
The church is an army of God
We are a great army full of power because this army is backed by God himself. If somebody wants to disturb the church he should be warned because he is biting more than he can chew. Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. We are a great army and nothing can stand against us.
We used to sing, “I am a soldier in the army of the Lord.” I didn’t understand it in those days but now I know that we are a great army of God and, in the name of Jesus, we crush the works of the devil. I have become so confrontational because I am listed in the army of God. David said, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” So we are an army ready to crush and destroy everything. We are not going to sit down and wait for the devil to attack but we sill take the fight to him.
Thy kingdom come, O God,
Thy rule, O Christ, begin;
Break with thine iron rod
The tyrannies of sin
We are fighting against the philosophies of this world and against sin. We may not have any physical weapons but the Bible says our weapons are not carnal but mighty through God. Today, if you are doing any battle, I came to remind you that you are the great army of God and you have his weapons.
We are a great army. You may not know what you have and, when that is the case, anything goes and anyone can underrate you but you can’t go to Burma Camp and mess up and go away scot-free. You cannot come to the church and mess up. We are a great army. May the devil and his agents be crushed in Jesus name because we are a great army. We are not waiting for him to come but we are attacking, taking the battle to him.
Matthew 16.18, Titus 2.13-14