God’s Appointed Agency
The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. Its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. Through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” the final and full display of the love of God (Ephesians 3:10).
Many and wonderful are the promises in the Scriptures regarding the church.
Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. …
I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. …
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Isaiah 56:7; 49:8, 9, 15.
The church is God’s fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church is treachery to Him who has bought mankind with the blood of His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church. In every age the Lord’s watchmen have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. God has sent forth His angels to minister to His church, and the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against His people. Not one opposing force has risen to counterwork His work, that God has not foreseen. He has not left His church forsaken, but has traced in prophetic declarations what would occur. All His purposes will be fulfilled. Truth is inspired and guarded by God, and it will triumph over all opposition.
The Apple of God’s Eye
Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object on which God bestows His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.
Earthly kingdoms rule by physical power, but from Christ’s kingdom every instrument of coercion is banished. This kingdom is to uplift and ennoble humanity. God’s church is filled with varied gifts and endowed with the Holy Spirit.
From the beginning God has wrought through His people to bring blessing to the world. To the ancient Egyptian nation God made Joseph a fountain of life. Through him that whole people was preserved. Through Daniel God saved the life of all the wise men of Babylon. These deliverances illustrate the spiritual blessings offered the world through the God whom Joseph and Daniel worshiped. Everyone who will show forth Christ’s love to the world is a worker with God for blessing humanity.
God’s Purpose for Israel
God desired Israel to be as wells of salvation in the world. The nations of the world had lost the knowledge of God. They had once known Him; but because “they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, … their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:21. Yet God did not blot them out. He purposed to give them opportunity to become acquainted with Him through His chosen people. Through the sacrificial service, Christ was to be uplifted, and all who would look to Him should live. The whole system of types and symbols was a compacted prophecy of the gospel.
But the people of Israel forgot God and failed to fulfill their holy mission. All their advantages they appropriated for their own glorification. They shut themselves away from the world in order to escape temptation. They robbed God of service, and their fellowmen of a holy example.
Priests and rulers became satisfied with a legal religion. They thought their own righteousness all-sufficient. The good will of God to men they did not accept as something apart from themselves, but connected it with their own merit because of their good works. The faith that works by love could find no place in the religion of the Pharisees.
Of Israel God declared:
I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine? (Jeremiah 2:21).
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant: and He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry (Isaiah 5:7).
The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them (Ezekiel 34:4).
The Saviour turned from the Jewish leaders to entrust to others the privileges they had abused and the work they had slighted. God’s glory must be revealed; His kingdom must be established. The disciples were called to do the work that the Jewish leaders had failed to do.