A Holy Church


As an enjoyable and profitable thing to do on Sundays, I’m continuing to read portions of the book The Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic by Richard Phillips, Philip Ryken and Mark Dever. This afternoon I read Chapter 3, “A Holy Church”, by Philip Ryken.

The Scripture verses referenced by Rev. Ryken for this chapter are from I Corinthians 6:9-11:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

One point emphasized by Rev. Ryken is that this holiness is by grace. He says, in part:

What brought about this change? Or to ask the same question in a different way, what does it take for the church to be holy?

What it takes is nothing less than a supernatural work of divine grace. After describing their old sinful lifestyles, Paul writes, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11). There are three main verbs in this verse: washed (apelousasthe), sanctified (hegiasthete), and justified (edikaiothete).

These verbs have several things in common. They all occur in the past tense. Also, they all refer to things that happened at some point in the past: the Corinthians were washed, sanctified, and justified. Another feature these verbs share is that they are all passives (technically, apelousasthe is a middle, but here it has the force of a passive). In other words, they do not tell what the Corinthians did, but what they had done to them. It is like the all-important difference between “I hit you with my car” and “I was hit by your car.” What the police officer wants to know is who hit whom! Paul is clear in this passage as to who did the washing, the sanctifying, and the justifying. These were not things the Corinthians did for themselves, but things that were done for them by God the Holy Spirit. Salvation is not something we accomplish on our own. Rather, our holiness comes by grace. – page 54

This is such an encouraging truth to me: It is God Himself who makes His church holy. The holiness of the church is by God’s grace, just as the salvation of the individual sinner is by His grace. Ephesians 5:25b-27:

Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it;

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

There are so many more thought-provoking and profitable points made in this chapter. Read it for yourself and be edified.

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