To grow, thrive, and follow God’s call and design for their lives, Christians are to join and participate in the worship and life of a local church body, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25) The visible church, to the degree that it coheres to the biblical pattern given for it, is one of the great benefits of biblical Christianity.
The first benefit of biblical Christianity is that the Christian is a person no longer a rebel and enemy, chasing futility and facing judgement. The Christian is reconciled to God in Christ, and brought to glorify and enjoy Him. God in his grace lavishes the Christian with this and innumerable other blessings. The benefits of a biblical Christianity also extend beyond the individual–to the church, family, and beyond.
Broken, distorted relationships in families and society are a painful, and to some degree, standard reality in our world. What difference does it make to be a Christian? While retaining natural family ties, the Christian receives the benefit of adoption into God’s family. He/she becomes a child of God, entering a new relationship with Christians around the globe, as well as those already in heavenly glory. Scattered across nations, ethnicities, and denominations, they are all brothers and sisters in Christ. This new fellowship is expressed on earth through the visible church, which the Westminster Confession of Faith, summarizing Scripture, describes as “a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.”
To grow, thrive, and follow God’s call and design for their lives, Christians are to join and participate in the worship and life of a local church body, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25) The visible church, to the degree that it coheres to the biblical pattern given for it, is one of the great benefits of biblical Christianity. It is a place of spiritual nourishment, through the preaching of God’s Word, and the sacraments; it is a place of worship to God, communion with Him and fellow Christians, a place of shepherding and encouragement. It is specially cared for and governed by God. It “offers grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying that whoever believers in [Christ] shall be saved, and excluding none that will come to Him.” The Christian both receives the benefits of life in the church, and adds to them, as they share in exercising God-given gifts (Romans 12:6-8) and grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
By contrast the visible church that departs from its God-given definition and purpose, rejecting or distorting His Word, becomes increasingly shallow, impotent, then hollow and empty. Where biblical Christianity is lost, so are its benefits. Whatever apparent life exists there, while perhaps sociable, will lack the dynamics of genuine Christianity–the gospel, communion with God, all the richness of what the church is to be. Without biblical Christianity, often all that will be left at the end is an empty building.
Not only does the Christian gain the benefit of the worshiping, living community of the church, where God delights to dwell (Psalm 84), but their own spiritual transformation is a profound change within the dynamic of their earthly family. The Christian can be an instrument for change as he/she turns to God’s Word and pursues its instruction for all of life, including the constitution and life of the family. By his Word and Holy Spirit, God enables transformation, restoration and growth in family life. Instead of harsh answers and cutting critique, there are gracious words. Instead of selfishness and looking out for personal interest, there is selfless service. Instead of harsh domination, love; instead of provoking to anger, gentle shepherding; instead of backbiting and nagging, powerful submission; instead of rebellion and disorder, cheerful obedience and good order. Where there is sin and failure, there is all-sufficient grace in Christ, forgiveness, and means for positive change.
Where faithful churches teach and shepherd families in the rich truths of God’s Word, and where individuals and families hear and obey, they will grow stronger, more holy and happy. There will be peace, pleasantness, and delight–and solution in Christ when the ugliness of sin causes these to break down, allowing for restoration and renewal in positive growth. Families transformed to a gospel life in turn positively impact wider society. Where God’s paradigm for marriage and family are followed, the result is increasing wholeness and happiness–for individuals, families, and entire societies. The opposite is also true: where God’s Word is minimized or rejected, marriages and families at best lack real blessedness, often surviving in mediocrity or unraveling and decaying. This has profoundly negative consequences for husband, wife, children, and surrounding society. While there is much statistical study yet to be done, works ranging from William D. Gairdner’s The War Against the Family to Douglas Allen’s more recent study, described at the Witherspoon Institute, along with the work of the Howard Center, are just some examples evidencing the decline that inevitably follows the rejection of the biblical pattern for marriage and the family.
The benefits of biblical Christianity are vast, and they are already in part experienced and enjoyed by Christians. Yet the full experience of these benefits lies in the future. God’s wisdom includes suffering for his children here and now (Mark 8:31-38; Hebrews 11:24-38), as they follow in the way of His Son. Why? In part because He desires that we glorify, delight in, and enjoy Him, not first of all for His benefits, but for who He is, as He displays His great love to us through each and every good gift He gives (James 1:17). “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not freely give us all things? … [nothing] shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:32, 39)
William VanDoodewaard is a minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and serves as associate professor of church history at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.This article first appeared on his blog, The Christian Pundit, and is used with permission.
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