Mapping the Terrain—The Glorious Church
The term “glorious Church” may evoke the picture of that final state in which the people of God will be united forever to Christ as a bride to her bridegroom. Indeed, this grand event which will take place at the end of all history contains the image of a Virgin dressed in spotless linen at the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Scripture makes plain, however, that the pure and bright clothing she wears on her wedding day is nothing less than “the righteous deeds of the saints,” performed during her earthly lifetime (Rev. 19:7-8). The Church is not a group of people sitting on their hands and waiting around for heaven. On the contrary, her works of courageous witness during times of persecution and winsome service in every age are the very garments she will take with her into eternity.
Since the covenant with Abraham, God made known His ultimate intention to bless the nations through the conduit of His people. The Old Testament provides glimpses of insight into the common grace which the people of God brought with them to the cultures in which they lived. Whether the example be the preservation of Egypt during the famine due to God’s favor upon Joseph or the excellence of service wrought by Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to the king of Babylon, servants of the one true God brought peace and goodness with them wherever they went. All of this underscored the Lord’s purpose to make His people “a light for the nations” (Isa. 42:6).
The ultimate fulfillment of that promise came, of course, with the appearance of the Messiah who preached the kingdom of God—the in-breaking of Divine Rule into human history. Jesus therefore trained His disciples to be men of action and commanded them collectively in the Sermon on the Mount to live lives of counter-cultural righteousness, “so that [the world] may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Enabled by the Spirit, the apostles and their followers made good on their Master’s imperative. Over time, their evident wholesomeness and helpfulness turned them from being a persecuted minority into the religion that eventually outlived the Roman Empire and “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
Nearly two millennia now bear witness to Christ’s power working through the Church. In every age, godly men and women have taken it as their charge to make the world a better place. Their commitment to the glory of God has spawned numerous social reforms, expanded the corridors of freedom, given rise to modern science and medicine, and placed angels in the architecture. As a result, these good works adorned their preaching with a remarkable grace and credibility. For this reason, the Kairos Journal maintains that when the Church on earth walks with God in glad obedience, His glory is conspicuous.