Jesus was speaking. He was animated. One of His disciples had just confessed Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus used the occasion to announce His plan. He declared that He would build His CHURCH, the foundations of which would be the CONFESSION that He is both the Son of God and the Savior of men.
And what a CHURCH it would be! He would build it of believers of every race, tribe and nation. It would be an invincible CHURCH whose confessors would not only be overcomers individually but who, like a mighty army, would collectively storm the gates of hell and demolish the works of Satan.
It would be a responsible CHURCH. He would give to it the keys to His kingdom. He would make it the sole instrument through which the lost world would hear the "Good News" of His sacrificial death and His victorious resurrection and, believing, would be saved!
The CHURCH is Christ's personal possession.
It belongs to no man or group of men. While it is expedient that believers band together in organizations for the purpose of obeying Christ's GREAT COMMISSION, no single band of believers can claim to be His CHURCH. Its members can, with assurance, claim to be a part of Christ's CHURCH if, individually, they have accepted Him as Lord and Savior, but they cannot deny the same right to another group of believers.
On the other hand, no body of men can claim to be a part of His CHURCH if its members deny that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Those who relegate Jesus to the status of mere man, and equate Him with Elijah, Jeremiah, Mohammed, or Buddha, have no part in the CHURCH He is building.
Christ's CHURCH is not racial.
In it there is no room for prejudice. In it there is no such thing as "white theology" or "black theology." His is not a white man's CHURCH. Neither is it a black man's CHURCH. Christ's CHURCH is a BELIEVER'S CHURCH!
Those who refuse to fellowship with believers of another race are guilty of not discerning the Lord's BODY ... His CHURCH. It is as though the hand were saying to the foot, "I have no need of you!"
The CHURCH that Jesus is building has many members, and all members have not the same office. They do, however, have one thing in common. Each has personally confessed Christ to be his Lord and Savior, and it is this CONFESSION that makes him a member of Christ's CHURCH. This common FAITH is the cohesive element in the BODY of Christ, and it makes possible a unity of the Spirit among CONFESSIONS of every tongue and nation.
It is not a national church.
While our Lord's CHURCH is a CHURCH of all nations, it is not a national church.
It is imperative to recognize this fact. An indigenous organization can be a tool for the building of Christ's CHURCH in any nation. However, to make the nationalization of the CHURCH an end in itself is unscriptural. The CHURCH of Jesus Christ is not all "American." Neither is it all "Nigerian" or all "Indian." Nationalization and tribalism, if promoted as ends in themselves, will hinder fellowship, divide believers, and become destructive forces in the BODY of Christ.
Is it not, then, dangerous to promote an indigenous organization? The answer is "no," not if it functions as a "means" rather than an "end." The fact remains that Americans can best reach Americans. Nigerians can best reach Nigerians. The indigenous people, knowing their own language, customs and culture, can carry out the GREAT COMMISSION more effectively among their own people than those of another tribe or nation. This makes an indigenous "church" not only feasible, but essential, if the world is to be evangelized in this generation.
The glory of Christ's CHURCH is that it includes every town, tribe, race and nation,
but does not do away with the identity of any of them. Christ does not propose that all men speak one language, though there would be many advantages if this were so. He does not advocate the integration of all races into a single ethnic group, though He does not forbid it. He is not promoting a "United Nations," though He smiles on any unity that honors Him. He is not trying to form a "World Council of Churches," though working together for His glory is characteristic of Christians.
The truth is that, in Christ, believers transcend all their differences and when this happens, differences make no difference!
One supernatural aspect of His CHURCH is that men of different races and nations can love each other and work together while still remaining what they are. There is no virtue in monotony or sameness. Unity of the Spirit can be accomplished without doing away with diversity. Heaven will not mean an end to color, to tribes, to nations, or to races. CONFESSORS will not lose their identity in the hereafter. John saw men of every tribe and nation there ... saved through the blood of Jesus and united in the recognition of Christ as the Son of the Living God. True, God has made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the earth, but this is the Bible's way of saying that FAITH makes all CONFESSORS brothers in the family of God!
To build His CHURCH it became necessary that Jesus lay down His life for it.
He gave up His identity, His rights, and His glory ... all that He might present to Himself a glorious CHURCH without spot or wrinkle. It was this emptying of Himself that made Christ's CHURCH possible. Christ became nothing that the CHURCH might be something!
And what was true of Christ must be true of His CHURCH. Jesus said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." It is as believers deny themselves, their "preferences" and "rights" as individuals, tribes, nations, and races that they transcend all these into the spiritual unity of the CHURCH. By losing their lives for His sake, they find it in the joy of Christ-centered living!
Heaven is the fulfillment of Christ's PLAN for His CHURCH.
It is the extension and perfection of the kind of life He has provided for BELIEVERS. The harmony of heaven is the CENTRALITY of JESUS CHRIST. The glory of heaven is His PREEMINENCE! To those BELIEVERS who are CHRIST-CENTERED and who live for His glory, heaven has already begun!