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What Does The Bible Say About A Church Without Spot Or Wrinkle?

It is interesting how brides prepare themselves for one of the most awaited moments of their lives—the wedding day. Brides all around the world in different cultures practice different traditions and health and beauty regimens in preparation for their wedding. In modern and urbanized cultures, those who have good financial capacity spend much time and money preparing themselves. Some brides prepare their bodies months before the big day by following a strict weight loss diet and regularly visiting skin care clinics for beauty treatments. As for their wedding gown, they would choose the best and prettiest one they could find, fit for them. Then the day before, they would spend hours in a beauty salon for a manicure, pedicure, and hair treatment. Finally, on the wedding day, brides would spend lavishly on make-up and hairdressing to look their best as they walk down the aisle. Bridal preparations can be very costly and time-consuming. You see, the church is the bride of Christ and in the same way. Revelations also tells us that the church also prepares herself for the great wedding day with the Lamb (Revelations 19:7-8). Such preparation can be costly and demands sacrifices from God’s people for the church to be a bride without spot or wrinkle as she presents herself to Jesus Christ, our groom. But what does it mean to be a church without a spot or wrinkle?

God is holy and perfect; He demands holiness from the church. A church without a spot or wrinkle means that she needs to be pure and holy before God. Since man can’t attain perfect purity and holiness, it is Christ who sacrificed for the church and prepared her to become such.

[Ephesians 5:25-27]

As Paul charged husbands to love their wives, He uses Christ’s example for how He loved the church. This talks about marriage, but as we look at the theological part of this scripture, we learn that Christ loves the church so much that He willingly sacrificed Himself for her. And not only did Christ save the church, but He also cleansed her by His Word. This is what we call the process of sanctification. The Word of God straightens our values and direction, leading to a life that is sanctified. As the church goes through sanctification, she experiences a life transformation that leads to a pure and holy life. For the church to be presented to Christ without spot or wrinkle, she has to be holy. Holiness to God means two things: blamelessness and being set apart. This works both on how the church treats God and how the church acts before God. We see God as holy because He is faultless, perfect, and blameless, and He is set apart as being above all our priorities. That means that He is Lord over everything in our lives. The church, in turn, should be living according to the righteousness of God, set apart from the world for Christ. The church, Christ’s bride, must be without blemish.

What is the meaning of “without blemish”?

God’s standard will never be something short of perfection. Yes, God wants His church to be perfect. A bride without blemish means His church must be without the stain of sin and worldliness. Jesus even said that we must be perfect as the heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

[1 Peter 1:14-16]

The Apostle Peter teaches that we must be obedient children of God; not go back to our old ways to satisfy worldly desires. As God’s redeemed people, we are called to be holy, for God is holy and our conduct must reflect God’s holiness.

[Ephesians 1:4]

Even before God created the world, He loved and chose us in Christ. The church is meant to be holy and blameless before God.

[Philippians 2:15]

Here, Paul teaches that the church must be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish. We are called to show God’s holiness and shine as bright lights in a world filled with corruption and perversion.

[Ephesians 5:3-5]

[Colossians 3:5-8]

As the bride Christ died for, the church must not allow sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed, foolish talk, anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, or dirty language to lurk within. These are the sinful things that bring blemish upon the church and must be willfully purged from our lives.

The church is supposed to be without blemish before God, but the present reality is that 

everyone falls short of the standards of God, rendering it impossible for the church to be pure and holy. So, how can the church become the bride of Christ without a spot, wrinkle, or blemish?

Since we can never be blameless or holy before God because of our sinful nature, God provided a way through the bridegroom Himself, Jesus Christ.

[Colossians 1:21-22]

Because of sin, we were God’s enemies and were separated from Him. But because of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, we have been reconciled to God. For that, Christ now presents us as holy, blameless, and above reproach as we stand before the presence of God. God now does not look at our filthiness in sin, but the righteousness of Christ imputed in us–-all by virtue of what Christ did, not because of what we have done. As He sanctifies us daily, His goal is not for us to become better humans but, ultimately, to become like Christ.

What does Ephesians say about the church?

Ephesians is one of Paul’s letters to the churches that he wrote while in prison. They call this epistle “the queen of the epistles” due to its profound teachings about the gospel, the life of faith, the identity of the church, and its part to play in God’s eternal plan.

The book of Ephesians tells us much about what the church is about. You have to know that the concept of church was fairly new at the time it was written. So, for the early Christians, this greatly helped define the identity and role of the church in God’s ever-expanding kingdom. Many of the verses in this epistle give a clear description of the church.

[Ephesians 1:22-23]

The power of the resurrection of Christ put everything under His authority, and He has been made the head over all things for the good of the church, which is His body. His presence and blessing fill the body and are made complete in Him.

[Ephesians 2:20-22] 

The church is not a building but likened to a building. Christians are like parts of the temple structure being joined together in the process of building. The way people built a foundation in ancient architecture is quite different from how we build one now. Since they built using stones, they needed what they call the chief cornerstone. This is the primary stone that they lay on the corner before all the other stones are laid. The cornerstone will determine the alignment of the building since the rest of the stones will follow the cornerstone. Christ is the chief cornerstone, and the foundation of the church is being built around Him and on the foundation of the apostles and prophets—servants of God who have brought God’s revelation to us. In the New Covenant, God’s people no longer need to go to a temple to worship God. We are now the temple of God, and as we received Christ, we have become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

[Ephesians 3:10-11]

Because of Christ, there is now no discrimination between Jews and Gentiles in receiving His promises. The Good News has made everyone who belongs to Christ equally share in God’s rich inheritance for His children. Anyone who receives Jesus as Lord and Savior becomes part of the body, regardless of background. This was so because God wanted to use the church to demonstrate His great wisdom before all rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. So, it was not really that God wanted to use the angels to reveal His wisdom, but He uses the church to display His wisdom to both good and evil angelic beings. This eternal plan has been made a present reality through Jesus Christ.

[Ephesians 4:1-6]

Here, Paul pleaded with the church to live lives worthy of God’s calling – to always respond in humility and gentleness, staying patient as we bear with one another’s shortcomings in love – so that there will be no divisiveness in the body of Christ. The church must exhaust every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit, being bound together with peace. Interestingly, we are not the originator and creator of the peace, but the Holy Spirit Himself is. For, left alone, we are prone to squabbling and unforgiveness that can tear the body of Christ into pieces. But thanks be to God that it is through the Holy Spirit that the bond of peace is initiated and maintained. We just need to acknowledge it and work with it. The church is called to be as one body and one Spirit; called to look toward one glorious hope in Christ. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, Who is in dominion over all, living through all, and in all.

[Ephesians 4:7,11-16]

As God uses the church, He dispenses special gifts to each one, according to the generosity of Christ. So, Christ Himself gave these gifts and callings to the church—the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and the teachers. This is what we call the five-fold ministry established by Jesus for building up the church. These are gifts of leadership that help equip God’s people for the works of ministry, producing a strong and missional church. God desires that the church will continuously work for the unity of the body of Christ in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. As the leaders are given gifts to build up the church, and as God’s people are being equipped, the church grows in maturity and experiences a more intimate walk with God, reaching the point of having completeness and fullness in Christ. The growth of Christians together as a church should not just be in years with Christ but also in becoming more like Christ in maturity. We speak the truth in love so that God’s people may not stay in an immature state like a gullible child that is easily tricked and influenced. The church has to become more mature because it is constantly threatened by deceptive and fine-sounding teachings that are not truly biblical. The divisiveness of these teachings can be addressed as the church focuses on Jesus, the head of the body. Dependence upon Jesus and His teachings makes the whole church come together in perfect harmony. The more dependent the church becomes, the stronger the bond of unity. Like the human body, each part of the church is called to perform its own special function, which works properly for the good of the whole body. If there is greater synergy, there is greater growth because each healthy, contributing member of the church can also help others grow. As the church naturally grows healthy, it also grows in building itself up in the love of Christ.

What are the marks of a true church?

People who do not understand what a church truly is may mostly view it as a religious building. But based on its biblical origin, if you look at the Greek word for church, ekklesia, it actually means “called out ones” or “an assembly of people.” It is marked by love for God above all, love for fellow believers, and love for the lost. These are the marks of a true church.

1. Jesus is the Owner and True Head

The word “church” was never used in the Old Testament to refer to God’s people or even mentioned. It was only in the New Testament that it was first mentioned, found in Matthew 16:18-19. After Peter confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus said that Peter is a Petrus, or “small rock.” Jesus, pointing to Himself, said that, upon this petra, which means “big rock,” He will build His church. The most important mark of a true church is the acknowledgment that the church is founded and built upon Jesus, the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20-22). The church is on dangerous ground when it starts to be all about the pastor or the congregation. Christ is the owner and true head of the church, not the people, and His honor and glory must be above all else.

2. Salvation is only through Christ

A true church will always teach that salvation can only be found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12). A church violates that the moment it claims that salvation is attained exclusively in that church. Church membership cannot save. Faulty churches may also require following traditions, obeying dietary restrictions, participating in certain sacraments, and adhering to many other legal requirements. Our salvation is only by the grace of God through faith in the finished work of Christ, not by human works or observance of legalistic rules.

For the succeeding marks of a true church, we will look into the book of Acts 2:42-47 to see how Luke describes the early church.

[Acts 2:42-47]

The early Christians demonstrated how the church operates. As they came together regularly, they showed devotion to God’s word through the apostles’ teaching; there was fellowship, communion, prayers, and sharing of the Gospel.

3. Devoted to the Word of God

The belief, standards, and foundations of a true church are not based on traditions, opinions, or people but on the eternal Word of God. Scripture must always determine the conduct of the church and must be preached and taught to the congregation at every opportunity. Like the early church, they devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles, which were always based on the scriptures.

4. Fellowship with other believers

Church is not just about being part of a big crowd during Sunday worship service, but it is important that the church fosters a healthy and authentic community through big and small group fellowship. The point of fellowship is to strengthen the relationship and unity of the church.

[Hebrews 10:24-25]

The writer of Hebrews tells everyone that fellowship is essential in the Christian faith. We should always look for opportunities to spur one another to acts of love and good works. Regular fellowship must not be neglected, as some people habitually disregard its value, but we must put a premium on it for it to bring encouragement. The Christian walk is difficult; that is why Jesus meant it to be a walk with fellow believers. A buffalo surrounded by lions will be safe if it remains with the herd, but the moment it strays away, it becomes easy prey for the lions. The Christian life is like that; it is not meant to be a lonely walk because it is dangerous. It should be a continuous effort to maintain healthy and life-giving fellowship with other believers.

5. Prayer

A church without prayer is a church that moves without power. Prayer is an act that acknowledges that we must always depend upon God, for apart from Him, we can do nothing. A true church is marked by its dependence upon Jesus, the head of the church, through prayer—both corporately and individually. The church should never lose the priority of prayer but should grow in it.

6. The Great Commission

Lastly, Christianity misses its purpose if it does not serve its missional purpose to the lost. The kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, and the church is called to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth. When we do not share the Gospel with the lost world, then we are like salt that loses its saltiness. Jesus, before ascending to heaven, commanded His disciples to make disciples of all nations, baptizing people and teaching them to obey all of God’s commands. The great commission is the church’s mission, and as we do it, Christ promises His presence to always be with us (Matthew 28:18-20).

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