The church that ceases to speak the word of Jesus ceases to be the Church. No amount of pious rationalization can cover up that fact. Of course, I am speaking here of the official spokesmen, the governing authorities, the teachers, the pastors, even the missionaries. Since the Church claims that there is no such thing as an ‘invisible’ Church, only a ‘visible’ one, and that the institutional Church is none other than that, it brings upon itself the judgment of God for ‘holding to a
form of godliness, although they have denied its power’ (2 Tim 3:5).
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
John 9:41 NIV
But the Church is not its leaders, its spokesmen, its policy makers, its dogmatists or its ministers. To think that would be to make the Body all head, though only in the human sense, for the Church has no other Head but the Messiah, Jesus. ‘Christ is the Head of the Church, His Body, of which He is the Savior’ (Ephesians 5:23). Instead the Church is in reality the people of God, ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord’ (Romans 10:13), ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God’ (1 Peter 2:9).
No, this Church is not ‘invisible’ at all, because it is ‘a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden’ (Matthew 5:14), yet to the world rulers, both outside and inside the border of the ‘visible’ Church, it remains invisible, because neither can bear the sight of it. The apostates of Christ say of this Church, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’ and the world rulers coyly and obligingly respond, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the leading priests shout back (John 19:15). This is because the Church of Christ, hidden in the side of Christ as His unwedded Bride, receives the same mockings, the same blows, inflicted on Her divine Master.
No, brethren, ‘Do not be afraid, it is I,’ says the Lord Jesus (John 6:20), of whom it is declared, ‘the One who calls you is faithful’ (1 Thessalonians 5:24), and will not fail you. You are indeed those to whom He declares, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom’
(Luke 12:32). This is not only a promise, but an accomplished fact. The Father ‘has been pleased,’ and why? Because of His Only-Begotten Son to Whom He says eternally, ‘You are my Son, today have I begotten You’ (Psalm 2:7), because of that Son in Whom we are hidden, His ‘dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside,’ to whom He sings, ‘let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely’ (Song of Songs 2:14).
The Church embraces all those, and only those, whom the Father draws to His Son. Jesus says, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:44). This knowledge comes before all human reason, especially that which tries to build on a different foundation, to replace the Wisdom of God, which says, ‘No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ’
(1 Corinthians 3:11). The people of God, built on the word of Jesus, and doing what He commands, has found an unsinkable ark, that is, faith. ‘It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8). This is the Church that speaks the word of Jesus, and does it.
There is no other.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12 NIV