By Rev Angela C Bosfield Palacious
"To present the church in Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind--yes so she may be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:27)
It cannot be cement blocks and wooden floors, stained-glass windows or doors to which the Apostle Paul is referring as the church. We gather in a consecrated building for worship, we point to a particular structure as our church home, and we talk about having reverence for the house of God and yet we know that this is not the whole picture.
Compare the following conversations. The first is found in 1 Kings 5: 2-5 NIV:
"Solomon sent back this message to Hiram: 'You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the Name of the Lord his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, 'Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my name."
The second is our Lord Jesus Christ on two different occasions:
I Corinthians 6:19 NIV: "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies."
John 2:19 NIV: "The Jews then responded to him, 'What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?' Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.' They replied, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?' But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken."
Who is the church? This is a different question and must be answered definitively. We who are believers and who make up the body of Christ, it is we who are the church. That being said, we may return to the Scripture quote to see what it should mean to each one of us personally, and all of us collectively.
Consider 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14 NIV: "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body--whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many."
As members of the church, we have certain privileges and responsibilities. A very important expectation is that we will represent Christ well as His disciples and as ambassadors of His Kingdom. As we grow in grace, we are to become more like our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, day by day.
How does this relate to the splendour that is spotless and wrinkle free? If we were talking about clothing, we would be able to picture such loveliness. We can easily identify with freshly washed and ironed garments to wear on special occasions.
What does it mean for the church to be holy? What does it mean for us to be holy? Does it mean to be full of light in the midst of darkness? Does it mean to have a beautiful spirit even in ugly situations? Does it mean to be loving and good rather than rebellious and self-serving?
Young children will want to consider being obedient at home, attentive at school, polite, kind and generous, not a bully, cheater or fighter. Praying daily, reading a children's bible, giving a portion of weekly allowance as collection, and being helpful at church and Sunday School are acts of devotion open to every child. Are we gently leading our children to Jesus in order to live a more holy life?
For those who are teens, there are different temptations, and individual and group mentoring is most important. Discovering and affirming one's own worth and value to God and to the family of God is very necessary at this time of identity formation. As they grow into adulthood, they will be familiar with relevant Scripture passage, will be comfortable praying and listening to God, and will have a support system in place.
In this way, at every stage we are preparing for the day when we will be presented as the bride of Christ, the church, redeemed by the blood of the lamb and made clean from every stain of sin.