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TableTalk – The Church #1


The Church that God Alone Sees

Text. Revelation 7. 

Read the following two passages of Scripture.  In both of them the Church is mentioned, but in different ways.  What are the differences?

Acts 13:1

Colossians 1:18

Did you see the difference?  In Acts 13 the church is a local, visible group of people, meeting together in a particular location.  In Colossians 1, the church is much more than that, it is every  true believer, under Christ as the head of the church, from all over the world, – everyone who has been granted new life in Christ by grace, through faith alone.  The entire people of God.  In this lesson, we want to learn something about the invisible church, that body of people, who are truly saved, the elect of God, redeemed through the atoning work of Christ on the cross for sinners.

The Church

In this short introductory lesson we want to learn three simple facts about the true church of Christ. Reformed Christians state their belief in the Invisible Church like this:- The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ, the Head thereof, and is the Spouse, the Body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.  (Savoy Declaration of Faith)

Listen to the PODCAST HERE.

1 The True Church is UNIVERSAL.  ‘The catholic or universal church‘ Revelation 7:9.   Now what do we mean by ‘universal?’  Does that mean that everyone, everywhere is saved, that Christ’s death has saved everyone in the while wide world? I have met people who verged on that belief.   The true church, the church that God alone sees, is made up of every single true believer, from every age.  It is “The whole number of the elect.”  

But, why do the creeds and confessions refer to it as ‘catholic.’  When we repeat the Apostle’s Creed we say, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church…” The word catholic should not be synonymous with Roman Catholic!  Actually the word simply means ‘universal.’  ‘Roman Catholic’ is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.  How can something that is universal, be ‘Roman.?’  It’s either one or the other!  The word catholic in the creeds and confessions simply implies that we are all part of one church in every age and in every nation.  

2 The True Church is UNITED. consists of the whole number of the elect.  Now sometimes we sing a song,  “Onward Christian Soldiers…. One verse reads, “We are not divided, all one body we…”.  It makes people who are not Christians wonder, when they see that we clearly are divided!  Especially within Protestantism.  We have churches that are vastly different, Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals… etc etc. So how can we say that the church is UNITED, when it clearly is not?  Let’s consider what our reformed confessions teach us:-

  • The gathered saints.  We are “gathered into one”. We are ONE – UNITED because of our ELECTION.  God has ‘gathered’ his people, and they have a common bond, they have all tasted his grace, his undeserved love for sinners.  
  • The head of the church.  “under Christ, the Head thereof,”  We are ONE – UNITED because of our SALVATION.  There are millions of Christians throughout the world who look to Jesus, walk in his steps, worship him, seek to obey him.  He is their LORD.  That’s what singles them out as believers, they have One father in heaven, one Saviour.  As Paul wrote, in Ephesians 4:4-6  

Now, why is that unity of the invisible church not replicated here on earth?  In the church that we see?  We’ll look at that in another lesson, but for now. Let’s just note that we are to be careful about who we worship with.  Not every church that calls itself ‘Christian’ is actually Christian!  That’s why God gave us teachers and pastors and shepherds to protect us from wolves. Ephesians 4:11-15  

3 The True Church is DESCRIBED.  There are two main metaphors used for the church in the New Testament, and the Reformed Confessions list them for us. and is the Spouse, the Body,  We are:-

  • The Bride of Christ.  Ephesians 5:23-32 Revelation 21:9-14   At his very first miracle, Jesus changed water into wine.   But why did Jesus perform this miracle? The clue is in John 2:11  Jesus was subtly showing his disciples that He was THE BRIDEGROOM – it is the bridegroom’s responsibility to provide wine.  That analogy of Christ as the groom and the church as his bride continues throughout the NT, until we reach the end of time, when we have in Revelation, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  Revelation 19:9  
  • The Body of Christ. Colossians 1:18-24  Paul in Ephesians 1:23, describes Christ’s body as the fulness of Christ. …the fulness of him that filleth all in all.  Think of what that means.  
    • We all have different functions within the church!  1 Corinthians 12:12-18 
    • We pay no attention to background, skin colour or nationality.  1 Corinthians 12:25-26 It’s why we pray for persecuted Christians in other lands…
    • We are secure in Christ!  John 10:28-30  Someone once said that for the believer to lose his or her salvation, God would have to amputate part of Christ’s body!  

We can’t know who is in that church!  Only God knows who are truly his.  The church that we see is not necessarily the same as the church that God sees, the people He has chosen and redeemed.  But God knows every single one of his people and he is intimately acquainted with them. Nahum 1:7 . 2 Timothy 2:19   

In our next lesson, we look at the Church that WE see – the VISIBLE CHURCH.

© Bob McEvoy June 2021

One Comment
  1. Andrew Hipson permalink

    Another great talk Bob.

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