In His Letter to the Colossians (continued)
The Witness of the Church
But then the Apostle moves to the Church, and speaks about the Church: "And He is the Head of ... the church ... the Firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18). How does the Church bear witness to the fact, this great fact, that Jesus is the answer to these immense questions? I think the Church gives the answer both positively and negatively.
It gives the answer positively - though not as positively as it might have done - but it does give the answer in this, that, after all (and what an "all" of these two thousand years!), the Church is still in existence. Think of that inrush of the forces of antagonism and hatred and murder upon the Church in its infancy, with the determination of the greatest empire that the world had ever known to wipe it out. After all, it is that empire that has gone; she Church continues. Think, too, of all that has set itself during the centuries since to bring the Church to an end, to destroy it, and still is set upon that. Oh, that men were not so blind that they misread history! If only those powers in the world today, great kingdoms, great empires, would rightly read history, they would see they are on an utterly vain mission, a fool's errand indeed, to try to destroy the testimony of Jesus on this earth. It is they who will be destroyed!
Yes, the very continuance and persistence of the Church is evidence that this is true - that Jesus Christ is the key to this universe, that He is the answer to all these questions. I say, the Church does not give the answer as clearly as it might. If only it had gone on as it began, what an answer it would be!
But it gives the answer negatively, as well as positively. It answers it negatively by the very fact that, whereas once it stood up to the world victoriously, weathered the storms triumphantly, it has now moved away from its center, the Lord Jesus Christ, and brought in substitutes for His absolute Headship and Lordship. It has made other things its governing interests. The result has been disintegration, division, and all the rest. Yes, the thing is answered in the negative, and it will always be like that.
Let us be quite clear: it is not that the truth has broken down. If these things ever become a question with you, it will not be because they are open to question, but because something has gone wrong with you as it has gone wrong with the Church. It is not in the truth, but in that which is supposed to represent the truth, that the question lies. These substitutes for the Headship of Jesus Christ, whether they be men or institutions or religious interests or Christian activities, whatever they may be, if they get in the place of the Lord Jesus Himself, lead to nothing but disunity and division. To put it more positively, if only man, leaders and all the rest, would say, "Look here, all our institutions, our missions, our organizations, all our interests in Christianity, must be subservient to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ", you would find a unity coming about. It is the mighty tide of His Lordship that will cure it all.
(continued with # 37)