The Church’s Vital Distinction And Calling
By Rich Carmicheal
The focus of this issue is on the need for the church to be distinct from the world and to serve as the light of the Lord in the world. As the Apostle Paul writes, we as the church are to be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Phil. 2:15-16).
Jesus likewise stresses the distinction between His people and the world in this prayer to His Father: “I have given them Your Word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:14-19).
Two very grievous things happen when the church loses her spiritual distinction and becomes worldly. First of all, the church herself suffers and falls short of the Lord’s heart for her. He loves the church and desires that she be “a glorious church, not having any spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). When the church begins to look like the world and begins to adopt the world’s ways, her glory and spiritual beauty is lost. The Lord is obviously grieved when the church begins to look like the world. “...He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). He desires a pure and holy bride.
Secondly, when the church becomes worldly she loses her capacity to influence the world for the Lord. The light loses its brightness and the salt loses its saltiness. As one of the articles in this issue states, “When loyal to her heavenly Bridegroom, she [the church] keeps herself unspotted from the world, and is most skillful and most blessed in gaining souls. She loves the world most, and is its true benefactor, when most obedient to the apostolic precept, ‘Love not the world.’ She cannot influence unless her standpoint is heavenly.” In other words, we must maintain our distinctiveness or we lose our effectiveness.
Ironically, and sadly, too many of God’s people see this in the opposite way. They believe that we can attract the world by looking more like the world and by utilizing the world’s strategies. The reality is, however, that any apparent success from such an approach is a delusion. As Adolph Saphir notes (writing in the 1800’s but seeming to describe our day), one of the tendencies of the church is “to be dazzled by a superficial success, and, conforming herself with this present world, increase her numbers with those who, being dead and unrenewed, are without the Spirit, and therefore without the love of Christ. ...She must not allow her testimony to be so indistinct, her life and walk so colorless, her discipline so lax, that unrenewed men can fancy themselves to be members of the body of which Christ is the Head, or that they who are strangers to the grace and power of Christ, can presume to take part in the guidance of the church, or in the ministrations of Christ’s heritage.”
The Herald staff believes the Lord has on His heart to work through the messages in this issue to stir us to embrace the vital distinction and calling we have as His people so that we may be pleasing to Him and a light to the world. Borrowing again from the words of Adolph Saphir, our task is to continue the ministry of Christ, endeavoring to save the lost, while relying on spiritual weapons, the influence of the Word, the converting and renewing power of the Holy Spirit, and the attraction of love and holiness.