Christ’s Vision for the Church (5)
“For I have bent Judah My bow,
Fitted the bow with Ephraim,
And raised up your sons, O Zion,
Against your sons, O Greece,
And made you like the sword of a mighty man.” Zechariah 9.13
All Christian expositors give us an allegorical explanation, ― that God sent forth his armies when he sent forth Apostles into all parts of the world, who pierced the hearts of men, ― and that he slew with his sword the wicked whom he destroyed. All this is true; but a simpler meaning must in the first place be drawn from the words of the Prophet, and that is, ― that God will render his Church victorious against the whole world. And most true is this; for though the faithful are not furnished with swords or with any military weapons, yet we see that they are kept safe in a wonderful manner under the shadow of God's hand.
- Calvin, Commentary on Zechariah 9.13ff.
The Church militant
Theologians sometimes refer to the Church on earth, in any given era, as “the Church militant.” The Scriptures go so far as to refer to the Church as the warhorse of the Lord, His conveyance in battle against the forces of wickedness and unbelief, on which He rides forth conquering and to conquer (cf. Ps. 45.3-5; Rev. 6.2; Zech. 10.3).
Some folks are offended by such martial terminology as referring to the Body of Christ. But this is not an idea invented by hot-headed theologians or pious political activists. The Lord Himself looks upon His Church as a weapon of righteousness for advancing His reign.
We know, of course, that, as the Church, we are engaged in a constant spiritual warfare, for the waging of which the Lord has given us many valuable spiritual weapons (Eph. 6.10-20). This is not what we have referenced here, however. Rather, all the members of local churches – who are being built together as communities of servants into a holy nation and a glorious temple for the Lord – are to consider that they themselvesare weapons of righteousness in the hand of the Lord.
Just what does this mean to suggest?
The goal of all we do
First, that righteousness is our objectivein all we do as the people of the Lord. Righteousness is nothing more or less than the character of Jesus Himself, manifesting in and through us into all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
Jesus commanded us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6.33). Paul tells us that the Kingdom of God is, in fact, righteousness, and that we will do well before God and with men to take this as our calling (Rom. 14.17, 18).
Thus, as servants of one another and the world, the end of all our service must be the increase of righteousness, the increase of the presence and life of our Lord Jesus Christ. The goal of every believer’s life is to become increasingly complete in Jesus (2 Cor. 3.12-18; Col. 1.28); and the goal of every local church is that it should increase in love as the Body of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4.16). We want to grow in righteousness ourselves, and we want to aid and encourage others to grow in righteousness as well. Righteousness unleashes an armamentarium of holy spiritual power against the forces of darkness and unbelief, so that the Gospel makes progress in our lives, our Personal Mission Fields, our churches, and throughout the world.
The struggle for righteousness
With respect to those who do not know the Lord, church members must exemplifythe righteousness of the Lord, living as Jesus would in every arena of life and all their relationships. But they must also call on othersto forsake their sins and seek the righteousness of Jesus Christ by grace through faith (Acts 2.37, 38; Rom. 3.19-30). The essence of the Gospel is that we cease seeking to make our way to happiness via whatever may be our idea of righteousness, and we throw ourselves upon the mercy of the Lord and claim the righteousness of Jesus as the starting-point and hope of our salvation.
Further, church members must prayerfully consider how to stimulate and encourage one another to good works of righteousness in every area of our lives (Heb. 10.24). We must pray for one another, prepare well for our times together, and plan specific ways to encourage, assist, and engage one another for the fruit of righteousness.
By such means the righteousness of the Kingdom becomes more visible in the lives of church members and the ministries of local churches, shining the ever-dawning and irrepressible light of Christ into the darkness of sin and unbelief (1 Jn. 2.8).
The psalmists envisioned the Lord Jesus as going forth each day to advance His cause of truth, meekness, and righteousness (Ps. 45.3-6). This He does with the “sharp arrows” of His people, who wield His powerful Word (Ps. 149.6) as they live in His righteousness; call others to repent of their sins, and seek the righteousness of Christ; and encourage and equip one another for lives of righteousness in all we do.
No church leader can be said to be building Christ’s church who does not consider the members of his or her congregation as weapons of righteousness in the Lord’s mighty hand, and who fails to prepare them to fulfill this high and holy calling.
The temple of the Lord is a holy nation of righteous servants, who live as witnesses to Jesus Christ, and who call others, by the Sword of the Gospel and with the armor-piercing might of the Holy Spirit, to repent and believe the Good News, and to receive and submit to Him Who goes forth conquering and to conquer every day.
We will not make progress in building Christ’s Church until His vision for our undertaking becomes ours as well.
“Not only I shall escape the weapons of the enemy, but even against him securely I shall myself hurl whatever darts I shall please. For Christ himself is the tower. He has been made for us a tower from the face of the enemy, who is also the rock upon which the church has been built.”
- Augustine (354-430 AD), Explanation of the Psalms 61.4
Shepherding God’s Flock
Jesus described the work He did in preparing His disciples for ministry as shepherding.He outlined the requirements of such disciple-making in John 10. The apostles readily embraced that idea to describe their own work. Jesus made disciples by shepherding. The apostles built His churches by shepherding. Is this the model you are following in your church? Order a copy of our workbook, Shepherding God’s Flock, and learn how you can equip your people for service like Jesus did (click here). When you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.
Please prayerfully consider sharing with The Fellowship of Ailbe through your giving. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).