THE CHURCH – ITS DISTINCTION FROM THE WORLD

If to be the church in the world is to be missional and incarnational, then of necessity to be the church involves confrontation with the world and division from the world. Although we are and always will be humans and sinners, there is an intrinsic difference between the church and the world and between the mindset of the church and the mindset of the world; there is also an inevitable exposure of that difference.

According to the Bible, the church has a specific identity. This identity is the primary distinction between the church and the world:

      • Those in the church are the children of God: those outside the church are called children of the devil and are under his control [1John 3:10; 5:19].
      • Those in the church are called God’s people [1Peter 2:9,10]: the world is not.
      • Those in the church are designated ‘saints’, ‘holy’, ‘sanctified’, set apart by God for God: the world is not.
      • Those in the church are the body of Christ and the bride of Christ: the world is not.
      • Those in the church are ‘born again’ and have eternal life: the world is still dead in transgression and sin [Ephesians 2:1,5].
      • Those in the church have already crossed over from death to life [John 5:24]: the world is still under the reign of death [Romans 5:17,21].
      • Those in the church are ‘called’ and ‘chosen’: the world is not.
      • Those in the church are ‘light in the Lord’: the world is still in darkness, indeed, the world is darkness.
      • So clear-cut is the distinction between the church and the world that the church will judge the world [1Corinthians 6:2].

The church exists in a special relationship with God, put in place by the Spirit of God, on the basis of the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God:

      • The church knows God: the world does not know him
      • The church has access to God: the world is still cut off from God by its sin
      • The church is reconciled to God and has peace with God: the world is still at enmity with God and alienated from God
      • The church is forgiven and acquitted by God: the world is still under the judgment and wrath of God
      • The church relates to God on the basis of grace: the world, where it is religious, relates to its gods on the basis of merit and/or performance
      • The church has returned to God: the world is still in rebellion against God and rejects God
      • Those in the church are in the kingdom of God : the world is still under the authority and rule of Satan
      • The church is indwelt by God: the world is not
      • The church is loved by God in a special way distinct from God’s love for the world [John 13:1]

This difference and its inevitable exposure of the world’s lostness, create confrontation, conflict and division. It did with Jesus Christ, and it does so with the church, if and where the church is truly missional and truly incarnational. If, on the other hand the church merges with the world there is no exposure, no confrontation and no division, but then the church has become impotent in its mission and has ceased to be incarnational. One might even speculate that it has abdicated its identity as the church.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009