18. The Church (Bride of Christ) in Oneness with Christ
Updated: Sep 20
Chapter 18: The Church (The Bride of Christ) In Oneness with Christ
That the position which we have been considering is revolutionary, involving radical adjustments in all phases of the Christian life, we would not deny. As never before, "old things are passed away and all things are become new." The believer becomes "a new creature," the old life having been terminated by participation in the Cross of Christ, an ever- deeper participation in which, results in an ever-fuller participation in the power of the Resurrection. (See Galatians 6:15, Mosiah 27:26, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Alma 7:14, Alma 5:14-15, 28) for a verification that we are ALL invited to become New Creatures IN Christ)
That such a position should greatly affect the believer’s relation to the Church as a corporate organization is, of course, to be expected. In one sense it unhinges him from co-dependency on other men. His attachment to the true Church, which is the Body of Christ, becomes so deep, and so real, that he feels himself somewhat detached from the visible corporate Church as it has been organized (perhaps I should say disorganized) by man. In dying to the "self-life," he naturally dies to all that is nurtured by the "self-life." This means that the Church itself, regarded as a visible organization, in so far as it is out of line with the Holy Spirit (and no one even among its most devoted servants will deny that it is in many aspects out of line), in so far as it may give place to the "carnal life" which expresses itself in strife, greed, racial or gender class distinctions, unsound doctrines, position seeking, ladder-climbing, and the like -- the Church, I repeat, in so far as it fails to express the Mind of Christ, simply fails to grip him. He dies to every form of the "carnal-life" whether in the Church, or out.
The tie which now binds him to Christ is so strong that he finds himself bound to all those who, regardless of denominational affiliations, are enjoying like precious faith and focus on Christ – rather than on “self”. If he is, for example, a Methodist, he finds himself as much at home in the presence of Episcopalians, or Baptists, or Mormons, or Presbyterians, and experiences a spiritual oneness as deep and as precious with those of other Christian organizations who have been rooted into Christ, as with those of his own Church affiliation. It is no longer a question of ecclesiastical procedure and ladder climbing, but of Life In Christ. The rising tide of Divine life, once it rises high enough (it is forever overflowing all of its banks in those who have learned to stand with Christ in His "death-resurrection mid-process") simply wipes out the great ecclesiastical barriers; the mighty walls of the sects disappear. One could no more realize a deep oneness with Christ in death, and in resurrection, and not realize a profound oneness with all those who receive the same influx of Heavenly Love, whatever their denominational affiliations, than one could be a member of some particular family and not be bound to the members of that family.
This does not mean, of course, that we may not have our preferences. It does not mean that we cease to be Baptists, or Presbyterians, or Mormons, or Lutherans, as the case may be; any more than we cease to be Frenchmen, or Englishmen, or Americans, or Germans. We are not pleading for organic unity. Organic unity could never bring about the kind of unity of which we speak; nor could denominational differences, once it exists, dissolve it.
We are seated with Christ in Heavenly places, and from this high rampart we look out upon life, conscious that we are free from its petty strife. Race prejudices can no longer affect us. Class distinctions have been swept away. Sectarian grooves can no longer contain our sympathies. The great discordant force of the universe -- mother of all sin -- so far as we are concerned has been put to naught. Christ’s Cross has created for us a new and harmonious universe. Our love (the love of Christ constraining us) flows out in sympathetic yearnings for the welfare of all men. "Come with me, my Spouse," says the Beloved of the Song of Solomon, who is Christ, "look from the top ..." (Song of Solomon 4:8).
As regards the ceremonies and rituals of the Church we cease, of course, to rest upon them. I do not say that we cease to participate in the symbolic forms of our particular Church. They have their place. The means of grace will always be essential. By saying that we cease to rest upon them, I mean to say that we no longer look upon the sign as the thing signified, nor the “Symbol” as the real experience with Christ that it symbolizes. For instance, Baptism could never be anything more than a Divinely-instituted rite, symbolizing an inner renovation. We are "buried with Him in baptism, wherein also we are risen with Him." Baptism points the way to the spiritual participation of the believer in Christ’s death; as it also is symbolic of his resurrection with Christ. But if this spiritual union has never been realized (and without a full and irreversible surrender to Christ it never can be, with our without forms) dare we rest in forms and symbols? If, as Paul says, a violation of the law made a Jew’s circumcision un-circumcision; shall we not say that a Christian’s violation of the principles of union with Christ makes his baptism equally void? "The flesh profiteth nothing, it is the Spirit that quickeneth."(John 6:63) Would a bride be content with the outer trappings, a ring, a church ceremony, legal recognition, etc., in that which has to do with her nuptials, if her husband is living in whoredoms? Does she not rightfully demand fellowship, faithfulness, love, purity, in a word, oneness of spirit? Will the Heavenly Bridegroom be satisfied with ceremonies, forms, and empty symbols, if we are not His in spirit? He takes us with Himself to the Cross to annihilate forever the "self-life," and all that which would come between Him and those of His Household, that He might unite them to Himself in holy, spiritual wedlock. Dare we offer Him the trappings and withhold the reality? "Let no man therefore judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of an holy day, or the new moon, or the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the Body is OF (possessed by) Christ" (Col. 2:16-17).