No church is perfect. So why does God give us the measurements – so to speak – of the perfect church, knowing full well that the people He is dealing with are far from ideal?
Why does the Office of Weights and Measures maintain a standard of weights and measures?
Well, to quote from their site:
“The Office of Weights and Measures promotes uniformity in U.S. weights and measures laws, regulations, and standards to achieve equity between buyers and sellers in the marketplace. This enhances consumer confidence, enables U.S. businesses to compete fairly at home and abroad, and strengthens the U.S. economy.” (Emphases mine. Source: http://www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/)
Of course, this is an ideal. There are many examples of businesses both small and large cheating, or at least not meeting, the standard. But the standard is there nonetheless to keep people honest and to give everyone as objective a standard as possible to abide by.
Our holy and righteous God certainly has standards by which we are to measure ourselves. If you look in the book of Revelation, God singles out seven churches. Each thought they were just fine – until God held them to His standard. Of the seven, only Smyrna received no condemnation. That’s a 14.3% success rate (and that’s with rounding up).
So, having a picture of what the ideal church should be is necessary. Because, left to our own devices we tend to think pretty highly of ourselves. So what is the profile of a “perfect” church?
Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 gives us four basic characteristics of the perfect, or ideal church:
- They consist of called-out (elect) people (1:1-4).
- The people live by example (1:5-7).
- They are known for their evangelistic zeal (1:8).
- They are characterized by hope (1:9-10).
I’d like to add a fifth: They have all of the above characteristics in balance. We live in a world of extremes. But God’s Word is always characterized by its balance, because He is a Being characterized by balance:
1 Corinthians 14:33
(33) For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
1 Corinthians 14:40
(40) Let all things be done decently and in order.
Sadly, not everyone who claims God’s name is balanced in their approach, but balance is the standard. What God wants from His Church – His people – is to strive for the highest standard.
(Primary source for this post: Warren Wiersbe, Be Ready, pp. 31-39)