The Church We Love

The Church We Love

September 23rd, 1979 @ 7:30 PM

Ephesians 5:30-32

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 5:30-32

9-23-79      7:30 p.m.



It is a joy unspeakable for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome you who are sharing this hour on KRLD and on KCBI.  This is the pastor of the church bringing the message entitled The Church We Love.  We are going to read out loud together the last part of the fifth chapter of Ephesians.  Turn to the Book of Ephesians, and beginning at verse 25 we shall read to the end.  Ephesians chapter 5, beginning at verse 25, the text will be verses 30, 31, and 32.  Now out loud together, all of us reading Ephesians 5 beginning at verse 25:


Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;

That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

[Ephesians 5:25-32]


Woven into that, of course, is the imagery of the love of our Lord for His bride, the church, which is the paragon of beauty and reverence that is to obtain in the relationship between the husband and wife in the home.  Now we are going to take the imagery of the church, and that is our message tonight and the text.


For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

[Ephesians 5:30-32]


What the apostle has done is to quote the story of the creation of Eve, who was taken out of the side of [Adam] in Genesis 2, verses [21] and [22].  The Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and while he was asleep, God took from his side.  That’s what the Book says.  Somebody said they took a rib.  Why they want to say that I don’t understand, and I’ve never been able to find out.  The word is "side" – God took from the side, from near the heart of Adam, and created Eve and brought her to him.  And when he looked upon her, he said:


This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:  she shall be called isha, because she was taken out of ish.  She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

Therefore – God said – shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife:  and they two shall be one flesh.

[Genesis 2:23-24]


"This is a great musterion; but I speak concerning Christ and His church" [Ephesians 5:32].  That is, as the Lord God created Eve out of the side of Adam, so the Lord God has formed the church out of the side of the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We were born in His wounds, in His blood, in His sobs, in His tears, in His suffering, and in His cross.  We are members of His body, of His bones, of His flesh.  We are one with Him.  This is a great mystery.  It is something God hath wrought before our very eyes.  There’s something supernatural about the church.  There is something mystical about the church.  Just as there is musterion in the heart of God, there is musterion in the church.  And to love the church is to be like our Lord; "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it" [Ephesians 5:25]. 

Long time ago there was a wonderful pastor by the name of Fred F. Brown.  He was elected president of the convention of our churches but never able to serve because he fell into ill health.   He was the undershepherd of the First Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tennessee.  I was listening to him preach one time, a godly, saintly man, and he said that he had been a chaplain in the First World War.  And after the war was over, he stayed in Europe with the American forces and was invited to be with the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles just outside Paris, France.  I have been there, as many of you have, where that treaty was signed, in that incomparably beautiful palace. 

And the Pastor Brown said that in the ceremonies of the signing of that treaty by all of the Allied powers, that in the programming of it, that there were four doughboys, four American soldiers who sang.  A quartet of them sang; and the song they sang, he said, was "O Come to the Little Brown Church in the Wildwood."

And he said he was standing not far from the president.  And he said as those four doughboys sang that song of the little brown church in the wildwood, he said without shame the president of the United States, then the greatest figure in the world, Woodrow Wilson, sat there and cried unashamedly, the tears falling off of his face.  And of course the pastor, knowing President Wilson, described his love for a little church in Virginia. 

Loving the church is like Christ.  When we love the church, we are just that much like Him.  We are one.  We are members of His body, members of His bones, and of His flesh.  This is a great mystery, but we belong to the mysterious love and grace of our Lord [Ephesians 5:30].  So loving the church – what do we mean by "the church"? 

Almost always in the Bible, the word church refers to a local flesh and blood congregation.  Once in a while – now remember, very rarely, very rarely – just once in a while, the word "church" will refer to the great body of believers, the redeemed of God of all time.  For example, the Lord will say in Matthew 16:18, "Upon this rock I will build My church."  In that sense the church is generic, referring to the idea of church.  You use words generically in the English language.  You will say "the home," referring to the idea of a home.  You’ll say "the school," not one particular school, just the idea of school.  Or you will say "the law," or you will say "the government," or you’ll say "the courts," or you’ll say "the judiciary."  It’s a generic sense of the word, the idea of home, or law, or school, or court.  The Bible, once in a while, will use church like that.  You have an instance of it in the twelfth chapter of the Book of the Hebrews:


For we are not come unto Mount Sinai with all of its thunder and threatening… but you are come unto Mount Zion… to the church and general assembly of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.

[Hebrews 18:22,23]


Now that is the generic sense of the church; "to the church and general assembly of the firstborn," referring to all of the redeemed of all ages and all time.

But outside of those very few exceptions, always the word church refers to a local flesh and blood congregation.  In the ninth chapter of Acts [Acts 9:31] and in the first chapter of Galatians [Galatians 1:2], the Word of God refers to the churches of Galatia, the churches of Judea.  In the fifteenth of the Book of Acts it will refer to the churches of Syria [Acts 15:41]. 

In the [sixteenth] chapter of 1 Corinthians and the first verse it will refer to the churches of [Galatia].  In the eighth chapter and the first verse of 2 Corinthians it will refer to the churches of [Macedonia].  In the first chapter of the Revelation, the Lord addresses His Apocalypse to "the churches of Asia" [Revelation 1:4].  And then He will name them; to the church that is at Smyrna, to the church that is at Ephesus, to the church that is at [Pergamos], to the church that is at Thyatira, to the church that is at Sardis, to the church that is at Philadelphia, to the church that is at Laodicea [Revelation 1:11]. 

Always, practically always, in the Bible the word "church" refers to a local congregation, and that is the only church that we have anything to do with.  I could not say the church universal, the church invisible, the church generic.  Only time I’ll ever see that is when I get to heaven and am numbered in that great, vast, innumerable throng of God’s redeemed in the New Jerusalem. 

The only church that we have to do with is the church that is here, the local church.  It was in that church that I grew up as a little boy, in the Card Class, as we called it in the Sunday school, and in the little congregation that gathered in the white cracker box church house on the Lord’s Days.  It was in that local church that I was converted as a little boy.  It was in that church that I gave my life to be a preacher.  And it was in a little local church that I began my first pastoral ministry with eighteen members, and then with forty members, and then with a hundred members, and so through the years to be undershepherd now of this wonderful congregation. 

Always when the Bible speaks of a church, with a few exceptions, it is everlastingly referring to a local church like you, like us, the church of the Lord.

Now, God has a call to us in a great avowal of our faith and our commitment to that congregation.  It comes from the Lord.  In Revelation 2, verse 7, in Revelation 2, verse [11], in Revelation 2, verse 17, and so through the second and third chapters of the Apocalypse, there is a message to each one of the churches that closes like this, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."  So listening to the voice of God and obeying and following the Holy Spirit, it is in this congregation, in the service of the Lord, in the house of God, that I avow and publicly commit myself to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now why am I asked to do that?  Many times, as maybe you have, I have turned over in my mind why it is that the Lord asks us publicly and openly to avow our faith before the congregation of God’s people.  The Bible is very emphatic about that.  It is not optional for us.  You listen to Romans 10, verses 9 and 10:


If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead

– that He lives –

thou shalt be saved.

For with the heart one believeth unto a God-kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

[Romans 10:9-10]


That’s the way it is when God opens the door into the kingdom.  I am asked of God, openly and publicly, to avow that faith before His people.  The Lord Jesus said it like this in Matthew 10:32-33:


Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven.

But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in heaven.


Emphatic, I say, is the Bible about this open, public confession of our faith in the Lord.

Now why that?  Do you ever wonder that?  Why couldn’t I be a Christian and say nothing about it?  Why does the Lord ask of me that I openly and publicly, before the saints of the Lord, commit my life and my heart to the Savior?  Why? 

Well, I’m not God and I just try to think God’s thoughts after Him.  And thinking God’s thoughts after Him, why does the Lord demand that?  I think of several things.  One is this: it means something to the man himself when he publicly, openly avows his commitment to Christ.  It strengthens the man, encourages him, solidifies him in the faith.  For the man to speak the name of the Lord, "I accept Jesus as my Savior, and here where everybody can see and know, I publicly avow my commitment to Christ"; it blesses the man.

Number two: a reason why God asks us to do that; it blesses the church.  A man would have to have a heart unregenerated, made out of solid steel and iron, not to be moved when people accept Jesus as their Savior, just walking down the aisle, standing there, "Today, I accept Christ as my Lord." 

It is an encouragement to us who name the name of our Savior.  You just can’t imagine what it is to me and to all of our people when you publicly give your life to the Lord.

And a third:  when a man openly, avowedly, unashamedly, statedly confesses his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, it has a deep and everlasting repercussion on those who are lost.  When a lost man sees it, it does something to him.  It encourages him to seek the face of the Lord.  I’ve had experiences kind of like this, but I remember as a youth listening to Dr. Truett, the pastor of this church for forty-seven years and my distinguished predecessor. 

I remember listening to him as he was preaching, and he said that in the city of Dallas there came to him a physician, a doctor.  And the doctor said, "My boy, prodigal, breaking the heart of his mother and such a disappointment to me, Dr. Truett," he said, "would you pray for my boy?  Ask God to change him and turn him."

And the pastor said, "Doctor, I’ll be glad and happy to pray for your boy, but could I ask one thing of you?  Would you yourself come to church, and would you pray about giving your heart to the Lord, and then maybe God would do something about that boy?"

And the doctor said, "I will."

So Pastor Truett said that as he preached here in this church that physician began attending.  And upon a glad, and glorious, and happy hour, down the aisle he came and gave his heart to the Lord and gave his hand to Dr. Truett.

Now Dr. Truett said what had happened in the service was, unknown to the physician who was seated down toward the front of the congregation, his boy had come to the service and was seated on one of those back rows.  And he said when the physician came forward and gave his heart to the Lord and his hand to the pastor, that boy slipped out of the pew and came down the aisle and was standing back of his father.  And Dr. Truett said, "As I greeted the father, the doctor, and welcomed him into the faith and into the grace of God," Dr. Truett said, "I then said to the doctor, ‘Doctor, turn around.  Turn around.’  And when the doctor turned around, he faced his prodigal boy."

That is one of the reasons why we ought publicly, and why God asks us openly, to give our lives to the Lord.  Somebody sees it.  Somebody hears of it.  Somebody watches it.  Somebody knows it, and that somebody is moved heavenward in what you do. 

One other reason why this asking of God to join ourselves to the church, to belong to the household of God’s family:  it is the church that is the custodian of the testimonies of Christ.  It is the church that is the depository of the great, beautiful ordinances of our Lord.

And out of so much that I could say, could I comment on just one little facet of that?  Do you notice that when someone comes forward, I turn to the people, just as Simon Peter did in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, and I turn to the people and say in some other word, not exactly in this word, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized… the same as we?" [Acts 10:47]  In our church I’ll say, "All of you that are happy to receive them and thus commend them to the pastor that they might be baptized, why, would you hold up your hand?"  And I say here, "And would you say amen?"  Just some way, just as they did in the Bible; well, why that?  Why that before the church?

Now the reason is profound, deeply profound.  The ordinances are not invested in a man, not even in the pastor.  The ordinances are in the safe charge and keeping of the church.  The ordinance of baptism and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper does not belong to the Congress of the United States.  It is not invested in the legislature in Austin.  It does not belong to the judiciary.  It does not belong to the city council.  It does not belong to the chamber of commerce.  The ordinances belong to the church; they are invested in the church.  And when someone comes in an avowal and says, "I have been saved.  I want to be baptized," well, if I possess the ordinance, I would receive him.  It’d be nothing else; nothing said beside because the ordinance belongs to me, and it is invested in me, and I have the authority in me alone to administer the ordinance.  The ordinance does not belong to any man.  It does not belong to any pastor.  The ordinance belongs to the church.  It is a church ordinance. 

And that’s why when one comes forward and says, "I have been saved.  I’ve found the Lord," I turn to the church and I say, "This man has found Jesus as his Savior.  And if you’re happy in it, and if in the grace of God you commend him to the Lord as a servant of the church, I baptize him in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and [of] the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 28:19].

And then thereafter we have our repeated, our continued ordinance of the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29].  This in the baptistery is His burial and His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5].  And this in the fellowship of the communion of the body and blood of Christ, this is our Lord’s sacrifice for us.  And it is a part of the church.

And when a man is saved, my experience has been the first thing he wants to do is to find the family and the people of God.  Where are they?  If you were in a great city, "I’ve been saved.  Where are these people who know and love the Lord?"  If you’re in our city, that’s the first thing in your heart, "I want to join myself to the redeemed family of God."  Now we must hasten, we really must hasten!  I don’t know where this time comes.  This is just a little casual introduction and it’s just about gone. 

Just one other brief remark about the church:  it is a separate community in the community.  It is a people in the world, but not of the world.  We are separated from all of the world, its flesh, all of its enticements, and all of its interests.  We’re not a part of it.  The apostle Paul wrote in the second Corinthian letter and these last verses of the sixth chapter:


Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  what communion hath light with darkness? 

What concord hath Christ with Belial?  what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? you are the temple of the living God; as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; I will be their God, and they will be My people.

Wherefore come out from among them, And be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch not the unclean thing; And I will receive you,

And I will be a Father unto you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

[2 Corinthians 6:14-18]


We live in the world.  We work in it.  We’re a part of it.  We walk up and down these city streets, but we are a separate community.  We are in the world but not of it.

I had a poignant incident in my life.  There was a man in the church, and he drifted away from the Lord.  And I asked about him.  I asked about him.  And a man said, "In the underworld, you’ll find him."  I couldn’t believe my ears.  He said, "You come with me and I’ll show you."  So on a dark night, he took me to a certain place in the city.  And there in a den, in a dive, is a gambling ring.  And he opened the door, and that man was seated at one of the gambling tables.  He never knew it.  I was standing within two feet of him, and I was watching him just for a moment.  And the friend who took me there said, "Would you like to go in?"

I said, "No.  I’d embarrass him."

And we closed the door and he never knew that I was ever present.

Dear people, what it is to love Jesus is not to love the world or the things of the world.  We have given up worldliness in loving the Lord.  We are a community in the community.  We are a separated people, and this is what breaks any true pastor’s heart.  Statistically, one out of every four in the church are lost to the Lord, to the cause, to the people of God; one out of four!  That breaks your heart even to think of it.  One out of four drift back into the world.

Could you imagine a school and one out of four of the pupils were truant?  Could you imagine an army and one out of four were a-w-o-l?  Could you imagine a work force and one out of four had disappeared?  This is the tragedy that has overtaken God’s house and God’s people.  The world entices them and they’re there in a worldly compromise.  Or they’re there – their interest now in money, or in social life, or in a thousand other things that woos them away from God.

O Lord, how much we are needed in the faith!  "We are members of the body of Christ" [Ephesians 5:30], each one of us, and there’s no part of the body that is not vital to its beautiful form and fashion and function.

Every little old thing that God has added to the body has a vital contribution to make, and you may not be the pastor of the church, and you may not be the superintendent of a department, but there is a vital assignment for you.  And in God’s sight, for a man to be faithful in a small assignment in the house of the Lord is for him just as great a reward as the most distinguished, or the most famous, or the most prominent of all the members of the church.  I have never been persuaded that in God’s sight there are big and little, great and small.  I’ve always felt that in God’s sight we’re all alike in the love and favor of Jesus.  Sinners alike and God died for us; all of us in this pilgrimage to heaven, and the Lord is inviting us and encouraging us all, walking by our sides.

Ah, sweet friend, there’s not anything dearer or more precious than to give your heart to Jesus, than to join the people, the redeemed of the Lord, and to praise His name for us in this dear place.  Now, may we stand together? 

Our Lord in heaven, bless Thou the testimony and the witness of the pastor tonight.  Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, and we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  And we love our Lord, and we love His redeemed people, and to have an opportunity to avow that love ah!  what goodness God hath extended to us, and to join ourselves to the family of the Lord’s redeemed, how precious an open door.  And, our Lord, tonight, may there be those who accept Thee as Savior, who publicly avow their love for Thee, who stand with us and pilgrimage with us in this dear church with our faces heavenward, loving Thee, loving one another.

And in a moment when we sing our song, as we pray and as we wait, a somebody you, a family, a couple, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, make that decision now in your heart.  Take that first step; God will be with you.  Angels will attend you as you come.  Do it now: "Pastor, tonight I take the Lord Jesus as my Savior," or "Pastor, tonight we’re putting our lives in the circle, the circumference, the fellowship, the communion, of this precious church."  Do it now, make it now, while we pray and while we sing.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 5:30-32



I.          Introduction

A.  Imagery of the love of our Lord for His bride, the church(Ephesians 5:25-32)

B.  The apostle quotes the story of the creation of Eve(Genesis 2:21-24)

1.  As the Lord created Eve out of the side of Adam, He has created the church out of the side of Christ

C.  Fred F. Brown – present at signing of Treaty of Versailles

      1.  Soldiers sang "Church in the Wildwood"; President Wilson cried


II.         A definite church

A.  Once in a while "church" refers to generic idea(Matthew 16:18, Hebrews 12:23)

B.  Almost always "church" refers to a local flesh and blood congregation(Acts 9:31, 15:4, Galatians 1:22, 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 Corinthians 8:1, Revelation 1:4, 22:14)

C.  Our only experience is with the local congregation


III.        God calls us to a public commitment to it(Revelation 2:7, 11, 17)

A.  Why a public commitment?(Romans 10:9-10, Matthew 10:32-33)

      1.  What it does for you

      2.  What it does for the pastor, the people

      3.  What it does for the lost

a. Truett – "Doctor, turn around…"

B.  Sharing in the ordinances

      1.  They belong to the church

      2.  Why we "vote"


IV.       A community separate from the world

A.  In the world, but not of it (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

B.  The appalling tragedy – one out of four in the church are lost to the world

C.  We are all needed and have a vital part