If you told your best friend that you hated his wife do you think he’d still be your friend?
Nonetheless, there are many professing Christians who effectively tell Jesus the same thing: “I love Jesus but I can’t stand the church” (Christ’s bride as depicted in Revelation 21:9). We hear that sentiment a lot these days with growing numbers of people choosing to pursue Jesus while shunning His bride—the church.
But it’s ludicrous to think that you could love Christ when you’d prefer to avoid the people He chose to die for. Jesus effectively said as much when He told His disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) just after commanding them to “love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Love for Christ is synonymous with love for His church.
In his sermon, “Why I Love the Church,”John MacArthurexpands on that concept and gives four great reasons for why he loves the church.
The church is being built by Christ. Jesus explicitly tells us that “the gates of Hades will not overpower” His ongoing construction (Matthew 16:18).
The church is Christ’s most precious reality on earth. We know this because of the ultimate price Jesus was willing to pay to purchase His church: “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold . . . but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19).
The church is the only earthly expression of heaven. It is the only place where God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. The only place where praise and adoration flow to God—emblematic of the great worship scenes we encounter in the book of Revelation.
The church is the source of truth. It is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The church is the place where we hear God’s truth proclaimed through the right handling of His Word.
Beyond that is the staggering realization that our love for Christ and His church should reflect the infinite love that exists within the Trinity, as Pastor John points out in the sermon:
You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. And the Father in a demonstration of this indescribable, supernatural, perfect love expressed to the Son a desire to manifest that love in a very unique way. This is certainly where you have the origination of what Hebrews 13:20 calls “the eternal covenant,” for the Father makes a pledge to the Son because of His love for Him. And what is that pledge? He promises to the Son that He will give to Him a redeemed humanity, justified, sanctified and glorified. That in fact He will bring that humanity to glory, to dwell in the very place where they dwell before time began, a timeless place, an uncreated place . . . the very realm of God. That's the promise. And why? Because the Father loves the Son so greatly He wants to grant this redeemed humanity to Him as an expression of His love.
If the church is so precious to Christ, how strong should our affections be for the gathering of His people?