– by Darrell B. Harrison –
Lately, I’ve been ruminating on certain matters that are, or should be, in my opinion at least, of concern to professing evangelical Christians, but that seem to have gotten lost amidst the current climate of socio-political animus that exists, particularly within American evangelicalism. Among those divers concerns is what appears, to me anyway, to be an increasing disregard and apathy for purity within the church, under the guise that it is somehow obligated to offer to the world around it a kind of “big tent”, unoffensive, non-convicting gospel that is inclusive, not merely in terms of ethnicity or sex, mind you, but also of certain sinful behaviors and practices.
My disquiet is based largely in the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 11:2-3, and the weighty burden he carried for the purity of the believers in the church at Corinth, to whom he confessed, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” Notice that three times in the aforementioned passage, Paul uses the personal pronoun “I” (“I am jealous…”, “I betrothed you…”, “that to Christ I might present you…”). In other words, the pureness and cleanliness of the Corinthian church was something in which Paul took personal interest and ownership.
That said, however, I am not naive to the reality that, undoubtedly, there will be those who will argue that Paul’s concern for those beloved Corinthian believers was borne of a desire to fulfill his pastoral responsibilities to the church there (though Paul never identifies himself as a “pastor” in any of his epistles). But notwithstanding the question of whether Paul actually was or was not a pastor – the debating of which is neither the purpose nor objective of this commentary – what is of interest to me, however, is the extent to which the 21st-century evangelical church truly cares about walking in purity before the One who is the Lord of the church.
In 1 Cor. 12:27, Paul declares to the faithful in Corinth, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” Paul’s words are just as applicable to every believer today as they were when they were initially uttered more than 2,000 years ago. I say that in the context that the church, to which Paul refers metaphorically as a “body” (σῶμα), is comprised of individuals. This is because salvation, the supernatural method by which a person becomes a member of Christ’s body, occurs at the level of the individual (Rom. 10:9-10).
Conversely, sanctification, the equally supernatural means by which every believer in Christ (Jn. 1:12-13) is progressively conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29a), likewise occurs at the individual level. Consequently, as followers of Christ commit themselves individually to living lives of holiness (Rom. 12:1-2), the church collectively is made pure. As pastor and teacher John MacArthur states, “This matter of holiness not only is God’s individual activity between himself and a believer, but it becomes a collective responsibility to the church.“
It was the Welsh minister and Bible commentator Matthew Henry who asserted