I’m thinking that sometimes when reading the Scriptures you need to go with your first impressions and trust they are divine impressions. That’s the case for me this morning as a phrase jumped off the page while reading in 2Corinthians. At first read it seemed clear to me what the apostle was referring to. But after going back and hovering over it a bit, it’s evident that another understanding is possible. But, for now, I’m going with my initial impression. A fresh sense of awe as I meditate on the church being the glory of Christ.
As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.
(2Corinthians 8:23 ESV)
“The glory of Christ.” Referring to “the churches” or to “the messengers”? That’s the interpretive question here. Some translations make it clear they believe the descriptor should be attached to the messengers by adding the word “and”, as in ” they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ” (NIV). But when I read it I was stirred as I understood Paul to be saying that the church is the glory of Christ. ‘Cause it is!
She is His Bride. Christ having so loved the church that He gave Himself up for her. That He has determined to sanctify her, intending one day to present her to Himself “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25b-27).
She is the fruit of His finished work. A composite of men and women, boys and girls, who have been redeemed by the shed blood of the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. Souls rescued from judgment because He bore their judgment. Slaves of the flesh emancipated from their bondage through a new nature, the very righteousness of Christ, gifted to them by grace alone. Those who lived in the shadow of the fear of death having been set free from fear as, through the cross and by the resurrection, they have been given life . . . life eternal . . . life to the full.
She is His Body. Each member attached to the Head through the mysterious dynamic of the Spirit of God. Called and endowed with a Spirit empowered gifting to fulfill a role as part of the whole. And when each part is working properly the Body grows, building itself up in love (Eph. 4:15-16). Increasingly reflecting the nature of Christ as it makes itself available to be His physical presence in a world that so needs the touch of God.
She is His Temple–the temple of the living God (2Cor. 6:16). Living stones built into a spiritual house (1Pet. 2:5). God determining that He would dwell among, and walk in the midst of, this people owned as His own. That it would be a living and growing structure, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. A holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22).
She is the place where His glory is to be found. The radiance of who He is. The earthly expression of His heavenly being.
I believe the church, in all her flesh-bound imperfection, is the glory of Christ.
May His glory shine!