The heavenly King and the earthly Church

Book 2 Chapter 15 Section 1-6

Having considered why it was necessary for Christ to become man in order to accomplish our salvation in the previous chapter, we now turn to the role which Christ undertook to achieve that end, namely becoming for us our Prophet, Priest and King. Or to put it another way, after having considered the person of Christ in chapters 12-14, Calvin now turns to the work of Christ in this chapter to the end of Book 2.

Calvin briefly touches on Christ’s prophetical and priestly role, but gives fuller attention to His kingly office. Calvin reminds us that this is by nature a spiritual role, “because it is from thence we learn its efficacy, the benefits it confers, its whole power and eternity.”

Its eternity – as the angel describes for us in Daniel 2.44 and Luke 1.33, the rule of Christ will never end and will never be destroyed. Jesus promises to be the eternal governor and defender of the church, both the church universal and of each individual member.

Its power – Calvin states that “as we hear that Christ is armed with eternal power, let us learn that the perpetuity of the church is thus effectually secured; that amid the turbulent agitations by which it is constantly harassed, and the grievous and fearful commotions which threaten innumerable disasters, it still remains safe.”

Its benefits – we must realise that the benefits of Christ’s kingdom are to be found in the life to come. “We must know that the happiness which is promised to us in Christ does not consist in external advantages – such as leading a joyful and tranquil life, abounding in wealth, being secure against all injury, and having and affluence of delights.”

Its efficacy – Christ reigns for our protection and edification. “Since then He arms and equips us with His power, adorns us with his splendour and magnificence, enriches us with wealth, we here find most abundant cause of glorifying, and also are inspired with boldness, so that we can contend intrepidly with the devil, sin and death.”

Response

This chapter is a sorely needed reminder to many within and on the fringes of the visible church. So many people, becoming frustrated and disillusioned with the current state of the church, reject all forms of organised Christianity to go it alone. This chapter reminds us that the church’s final glorification is assured. We should see if our bibles ever promised us a perfect church this side of glory? The church as we see it today is not as it will be once it has been transformed by the Spirit of Christ on the last day. Just like the ugly duckling that was despised and rejected because it was different, we also are only in the first phase of our development. A day is coming when the real beauty and perfection of the universal Church will shine from East to West. We will spread our wings and glide across the skies, just like the young swan when it realised it was never meant to be a duck!

Let us not judge by mere appearances. We should always remember that Christ’s rule and authority over this world is no less real or powerful because it is currently a spiritual reign. One day it will be both visible and spiritual. Similarly, the pre-glorified Church is earthly because it is subject to the limitations and corruption of this world. The wheat mixes with the tares so that none but Christ can tell them apart, while within each wheat there is the daily battle between the spiritual and sinful that also affects the present purity and glory of the true church. One day the tares will be completely removed and the impurity of the wheat fully purged. Until that day we should not give up on the church, for despite all its problems, what better work is there to do in the present life than to be fellow workers with Christ in growing and maturing His kingdom, in preparation for that final wedding day.

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1.28+29

Father, we confess we are not what we should be, that we our churches are not what they could be. We thank you that the future of the church is secure – it will one day shine as the beautiful bride that Jesus died to redeem. May this vision bind us together and enable us to see beyond our current frailties. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

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