I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love. — Song 5:8
At Covenant Presbyterian Church, one regularly meets visitors looking for a new church. Some are new to Houston, and some have lived here for a while but are looking for a more suitable place to worship. Most are willing to express what they are searching for — a youth group for their children, a chance to help in missions, or perhaps a more Biblically reformed corporate worship. Having visited our church website, some of their interests may have been listed, so visitors come to experience these things for themselves first-hand.
It would help their search if their goal were refined. Their goal needs both simplification and correction. Hopefully, this will become obvious to the reader. For starters, there is no church on earth that is perfect. One begins by understanding that a regenerated soul will never be fully satisfied in any church by experiencing any or all of the church’s many functions, however faithfully they may be administered. The soul exists for the purpose of enjoying a pure and holy communion with God and man, and this necessarily involves perfection. The quest of a Christian soul is thus God-ward and heavenly and not church-ward and earthly. Rather than pursuing a better church, the only attainable goal is to look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, as he manifests himself in his Church. The Lord manifests himself to believers at corporate worship through the ordinary means of grace and in believers through their loving care of one another. This manifestation of the Savior is a spiritual reality that is seen using the eyes of faith, by the grace of God provided in Jesus Christ.
If a visitor’s goal is to find a more ideal church, though the object of desire is in sight, the creature (i.e., the church) cannot dispense spiritual benefits suitable to the demands of the soul. No matter how lovely the music, or how orthodox the teaching, or how warm the people, some attendant defect will always mar the holy and perfect communion that the soul craves. Unless the soul can correct its quest by looking for the Savior of the church, the soul will eventually be disappointed. No amount of mere outward participation in the church’s worship, sacraments, activities, or friendships will satisfy the soul searching for the Savior (Song 5:8).
Yet there is hope for our quest. The soul that by faith sees its Savior in the church, however imperfectly, can and will be satisfied. How so, since at best we now see the Savior “in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12)? The reason for this is that while our faith is not perfect, our gracious God forgives our imperfect faith. God overrules our sin and ignorance and lovingly grants us a true and wholesome communion with himself and with one another (1 John 1:2-4). Our communion with God in Christ is never perfected by anything we do while in this earthly tabernacle, no matter how diligently we seek it — our perfection as God’s people is reserved for eternity (Phil 3:12). Nevertheless, God grants us sufficient grace today such that we can rejoice and be thankful; we need not be disillusioned, frustrated, or sinfully disappointed in his Church (2 Cor 3:5; 12:9).
Any approach that focuses on the church itself for blessedness is sinfully foolish. The church is not God! She cannot dispense grace to her members in order to make up for her own imperfections! Any church that would attempt to do so makes herself an idol, or worse, a Babylon. Every church needs saving and is herself not a savior. A church is powerless to cause her members to be blessed, though this is certainly God’s plan for her and her destiny. No, but God himself in the Church is completely able to save and does completely save through faith in the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace, the Lord Jesus Christ; the Lord dispenses grace sovereignly, powerfully, and directly to our souls, and we in the Church are saved. Praise God! The happy result is that we are indeed able to rejoice with a joy inexpressible in the presence of our Beloved (Rom 14:17; 2 Cor 1:24; Gal 5:22; 1 These 1:6, et al). Thus, the Savior Jesus Christ is the only one that can truly satisfy all souls in his Church.
No one who has experienced soul satisfaction in the church needs further convincing. A soul certainly knows when it has found its Beloved; here is a profound but simple truth. The great need for your soul’s success in its quest for a church home is wisdom — therefore, “Get wisdom; get insight.” (Prov 4:5; James 1:5).
In summary, people are free to try different churches, but in all their seeking they must lift holy eyes and hands to the only Savior who can satisfy their soul — the Lord Jesus, who is at the right hand of God the Father in heaven (Psa 123:1; 1 Tim 2:8). He has promised to be in the midst of his people, even a Church full of blessed but disappointingly imperfect saints (Psa 22:22; 46:5). Let everyone that has eyes to see look for him there and rejoice.
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our fortress. —Psalm 46:7
Pastor Lou Veiga