Is the Church Ugly or Beautiful?
People find the church ugly because their focus and their vision is on the wrong thing. It’s on the wrong person, if you will. They’re focused on those who make up the church: sinners. Albeit forgiven, still we’re sinners. In her own eyes, the church is full of spots and blemishes. When we inwardly reflect, when we look at ourselves, we as the church would be the very first people to recognize the problems, the difficulties, the spots. Yet Christ draws our attention to his bride here and now, not for veneration or worship, but that we may be astonished and lost in the wonder of his love and sacrifice on her behalf. So we have to change our focus, don’t we?
The church is beautiful because the lens through which Christ regards her is his cross—the focal point of blood, righteousness, forgiveness, union, justification, regeneration, and grace. His cross makes her beautiful. It’s not about the people. It’s not about our failures. No, his perfection makes her beautiful.
It’s his sacrificial, substitutionary, sinless blood that washes her garments white as snow. It’s nothing that we do, but it’s all that he has done. The cross of Christ makes her beautiful, not only inwardly by justification, but also outwardly by sanctification. And so from giving second birth to final glory, the righteousness of Christ creates a beautiful church. And so let me say this: it’s just simply not possible to say that we love Jesus without loving the one for whom Jesus died—the church.
This is a guest article by Dustin Benge, author of The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church. This post originally appeared on crossway.org; used with permission.
Dustin Benge (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY) serves as Executive Director for Reformanda Ministries. He is currently lecturer, senior fellow, and administrative research assistant at The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. In addition, he is a visiting lecturer at Munster Bible College in Cork, Ireland and serves as the editor of Expositor Magazine. His books include: A Journey Toward Heaven, Lifting Up Our Hearts, Sweetly Set on God: The Spirituality of David Brainerd, and others. He has also served as a pastor in Kentucky and Alabama. He writes for Reformation21, Christward Collective, Tabletalk, and Expositor Magazine. Dr. Benge is married to Molli and they live in Louisville, Kentucky.