Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
A few months ago I was sitting at the dinner table in a close friend’s home with a couple who had come to visit from out of state. The six of us were all happily enjoying the well prepared meal when all at once the visitor’s wife said, “Boy, if this was my house I could really do something with it.” I was shocked. How could a visiting guest even say such a thing? How insulting! Her statement was a clear criticism of the home and décor. Greater still was the criticism of the homeowner/decorator. Weeks later, I still wince at the memory of that meal.
Thinking back over that day provides me a practical illustration of the kind of criticism many level against the Church.
Three Sources of Criticism
There are at least three sources from which criticism comes.
- The Devil
- The unbelieving world
- Believers in the flesh
The fact that the devil criticizes the work of the Lord is obvious. The Bible says he is opposed to God and is the accuser of the brethren. Unbelievers criticize the Church because they are in darkness and don’t understand spiritual matters.
My focus this month is criticism originating from believers.
No Denial…The Church Has Problems
“Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.” (Proverbs 14:4)
Just the other day someone said to me that they were looking forward to being with Jesus in heaven, but not with the other Christians who would also be there. Their attitude toward the Church was an echo of many other voices that are raised in criticism of the house Jesus is building. No Christian will deny that the Church has its problems. In fact, God recognizes this as well. He has given us the epistles as corrective letters to aid in our development and maturity. There are rebukes and calls for repentance throughout the New Testament. They pre-assume problems and the need for change. However, premature criticism is an assault against God and His work. Someone criticizing an artist may be making a premature assessment. Every true believer is being matured by the Lord for the purpose of bringing glory to His name. In each believer there are things God has in mind for us that are yet to be completed. What He has begun – He will complete. The Church is the building of God. It is the house made without hands.
Three Groups to Distinguish
There are at least three groups of people to identify when examining the “Church.” They are, 1) professing Christians, 2) genuine Christians and 3) those people the enemy sends in as a distraction – wolves. A shortsighted or blind approach to this fact is the cause of many troubles.
Most criticisms for the Church are developed as a result of the failure to distinguish between these groups.
- Professing believers will be among us until the rapture. We are called to minister to them in love, looking for their genuine surrender to the Lord. A critical spirit toward professing believers will rarely bring them to repentance. In fact, it is the goodness graciousness and kindness of God that leads to repentance.
- Genuine believers will likewise be with us. They may be divided into groups as well. There are mature and immature believers. There are obedient and disobedient believers. There are leaders and there are students. Criticizing the immature and developing believer will only bring discouragement. Constructive criticism and rebuke belongs to the disobedient.
- The wolves must be discerned and removed.
Those who are mature in the faith, walking in obedience and called to leadership are used by the Lord to offer support and discipline to the Church. They are mature enough to understand the development process and trust the Lord in the development of His people.
The Bible says,
“We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)
It is clear that God is at work creating, conforming and maturing His Church. Criticism of the Church is criticism of God and His work. Every person tempted to condemn and criticize the Church should take a moment to consider the object of their dissatisfaction and re-think the judgment. The final assessment is the Lord’s.
Blessings upon you all,