The Glories of the Church

Psalm 48

Popular thing these days to diss the church. Quote example from Facebook thread:

“I have come to find that institutionalized church = religion, and that religion focuses on man and what he has to do; whereas, the gospel focuses on the finished work of Christ.”

even the church does it: “Lonesome? Come find family here, not religion” on a church sign

People of God must have same regard for church as God does. To see in capsule form great value placed on church: Eph. 5:25 “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. She is spoken of in particular way – something that has an identity, a structure, duties and responsibilities. The church is the one to whom a great task has been committed – reaching the world with the Gospel, discipling the nations, making followers of Christ from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Described as a bride for Christ, the Lamb’s wife, a fit complement for her heavenly Bridegroom. If Lord Jesus is one in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9), then there must be corresponding glory in his bride. Glory of Christ not something he possessed by virtue of his perfect humanity, was intrinsic to his Deity. Climb Mount Tabor with Jesus, Peter, James, John; there “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matt. 17:2) Was his divine glory that transformed his human bodily appearance.

Same with the church – her glory not something intrinsic to the fallen but redeemed saints who fill her ranks. Something she possesses by virtue of God’s presence within her, his gifts to her, his work on and through her. It is God who is great, God who is glorious in his church, and it is in / through his church that he displays much of his glory and power. Psalmist encourages us to consider the church’s beauty, her security, her blessings and her legacy.

A. The beauty of the church v.1-3

the greatness of our God v.1a

He is her God, He is a great God. Jehovah, the self-existent covenant keeper, is the God of the church; he is her protector and sustainer.

Elohim, the Creator-God is the one who established her.

God shows his greatness repeatedly in the church: greatness of his wisdom in providing a redeemer, of his power in bringing dead sinners to life, of his grace in converting fallen sinners into saints

the praiseworthiness of God v.1b

wholly or vehemently to be praised, He is worthy of her praise, He merits her boasting about Him. “God is so great, listen to what He did this week – he provided…, he sustained…, he comforted…”

He especially deserves praise from his church: created man to praise him; lost in the Fall; redeemed man from the Fall to praise him – both created and re-created to praise. Deserves praise on both counts.

the holiness God imparts to her v.1c

The church is holy because He (Christ) has cleansed her that she might be holy, Eph 5:25-27; God demands a holy people to praise Him and He fits them for the task.

This psalm a hymn given to his holy people – reminds them of God’s holiness, their holiness that comes from God, their need to grow in holiness

her nearness to God (elevation) v.2a

“The more she is above the world, the fairer she is” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David).

The goal of the church should be to be as far above the world as possible in purity, holiness, sanctity of life, and all that contains; she should by no means try to be like the world or close to the world but rather be close to God.

True closeness to God will attract true seekers because of its genuineness and winsomeness (winsome: Charming in a childlike or naive way).

the joy (rejoicing) of the entire earth v.2b

True joy/rejoicing can only be found in true freedom and results from deliverance from bondage to sin.

the royalty of God v.2c

She is the palace of the King, the great King, the chief King, the King of kings, the Supreme authority; if the palace is the place within the kingdom with the greatest splendor, then the church is the mother of all palaces, untouchable for beauty and majesty, magnificent in her opulence and grandeur.

her refuge in God v.3

protection not in strength of defenses – walls and towers, other symbols of strength; solely due to God’s presence in her midst

He has revealed Himself as her protection by active demonstration – she knows He is her fortress because she has had refuge in Him throughout her history.

B. The security of the church v.4-8

Kings are shocked/astounded v.5a

Filled with the emotional impact of overwhelming surprise or shock; thought they could overtake her by surprise and were surprised instead; they underestimated the strength of God’s church – iron fist in a kid glove

United forces retreat v.5b

The alliance of world forces is no match for God’s protection. As repressive as N Korea is, there is still a church there

Enemies are overcome with fear v.6

The world has much more to fear from the church and God’s watchcare over her than the church has to fear from them.

once “delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of his love”, no returning

Navies succumb to God’s power v.7

It is with the navy that a nation projects power to areas remote and distant from the homeland; a navy is a sign of a world power, a dominant nation; no match for God’s power.

God has proven faithful v.8a

“Our fathers’ stories are reproduced before our very eyes. We heard the promise, and we have seen the fulfilment.” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David)

Security is in God’s keeping v.8b

LORD of hosts(armies) – Jehovah Sabaoth – the covenant God who has the resources to keep the covenant and covenant people secure

C. The blessings of the church v.9-11

God’s love is steadfast v.9

The church has always been the object of God’s faithful covenant-love; in her sanctuary is the ideal place to contemplate such a delightful subject, to remember His past faithfulness when in present trouble.

God’s family is universal v.10a

No part of this world will be without representation in the church.

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

Revelation 5:9b …by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation

God’s righteousness has no limit v.10b

“Neither saint nor sinner shall find the Lord to be an empty-handed God” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David). He has poured out His righteousness on the church through His Son; Jesus’ righteousness has been credited to her.

God’s deeds (v. 4-7) give His people joy v.11

His justice executed on the enemies of the church should be a cause of rejoicing. “Justice which to our poor optics now seems severe, will then (in eternity, Ed.) be perceived to be perfectly consistent with God’s name of love, and to be one of the brightest jewels of his crown.” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David)

D. The legacy of the church v.12-14

worth careful consideration v.12a

Take your time, take a good look, she is deserving of frequent surveys of her ornaments and blessings.

She is beautiful, sturdy, (divinely) well-protected, regal v.12b-13a

God’s picture of the church, that of a bride fit for His Son, “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” Eph. 5:27

merits being considered a legacy v.13b

Not only is she worthy of passing on to the next generation, implied is an obligation to do so. We should communicate God’s view of His church and His faithfulness to our children and thus inspire their participation in her.

legacy and church solely dependent on God’s faithfulness v.14

It is God who we see in the church; He is her God, He is her God for everlasting eternity. Not only is He her faithful God, He will be her faithful Guide; His guidance of her is the seal of His faithfulness.

The ornaments on some parts of the church are tarnished and sadly discolored or corroded. We shouldn’t limit our vision and estimation of God’s church to a perspective that only encompasses her faults. Remember how construction project works: often staging / scaffolding a necessary part of process. Essential at various times throughout as construction progresses; but,… when building is complete all of that essential but extraneous material is removed. What has masked true structure taken away, revealing results of workman’s labors.

Much of what we see as faults, things that are wrong with the church, are ugly features of scaffolding, not the real structure. Not to minimize things truly displeasing to God that should be corrected. However, shouldn’t focus on the staging and plastic and construction debris rather than the building.

When we contemplate the church through God’s eyes, when we see her from His perspective, we will recognize her beauty and her usefulness. We will gain a vision for her as an effectual force in changing a sinful world. By God’s grace that will stir us up to do our part to make her beautiful, worthy of her Bridegroom.

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