THE PERFECT CHURCH
PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH
ROMANS 12:9-21 09 DECEMBER 2023
I came across a hymn that I don’t think I have ever heard sung before. But it was written in the early ‘70’s, and the title of the song is “Renew Thy Church, Her Ministries Restore.”
The title indicates that perhaps the church needs some restoration. And if the church needs some restoration, could it be considered perfect?
I wonder what the result would be if we commissioned a poet to study us and then write words for us to sing under that title.
What do we have in mind when we talk about restoring the ministries of the church? And in what respect do we think the church needs to be renewed?
In other words, just what is the distance between what the church actually is and what she should be?
Some people have spent years looking for the perfect church. They have done so without result because, let’s be truthful, there is no such church in the world.
And, even if we did find a perfect church, once we join ourselves to it, it would cease to be perfect.
Let me clarify that statement. I am not saying that any of us here would cause a church to be imperfect. What is meant is that no one is perfect, so absolute perfection cannot be achieved.
But this sobering fact should cause us to be realistic in our expectations. It should not discourage us from pressing toward that goal of maturity which the Lord has set before His people.
Some solid help in refining our goals may be found in Romans 12:9-21.
There, Paul, in a series of requirements to the Romans, outlines several characteristics of the perfect church.
READ: Romans 12:9-21
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
One outstanding feature of such a church is its SINCERE LOVE.
Paul says in verse 9: Let love be sincere.
This requirement is what binds us in the life of the congregation.
It challenges us to maintain a fellowship that is wholehearted.
It demands that our love be completely without hypocrisy and that it must be spontaneous.
Do you hear people talk about love when their hearts are not really into it?
Paul anticipated this possibility long ago when he wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy.
1 Timothy 1:5: But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure faith and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
There may be times in our lives and in our relationships with others; that we do not pass the examination of whether we love from a pure heart.
The Apostle Peter considers the situation as he writes in 1 Peter 1:22: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again, not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”
So, that love that binds that church – the congregation – together comes from a pure heart. As we examine ourselves in this respect, the question we can ask of ourselves is this:
‘Have I purified myself so that I can love each person of the Body of Christ deeply, from my heart?”
We must practice Peter’s further teaching in Chapter 2, verse 1, where it says, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
All that must be practiced before we can show genuine love.
Love from the heart cannot exist with a desire to see others hurt, or an attempt to outsmart them or hold resentment toward others, or a desire to make hurting statements about others.
Sincere love has to do with the truth.
That simply means that any action that is not consistent with the truth is not consistent with love.
This sincere love must be coupled with a very tender sense of right and wrong. That is what Paul teaches when he says: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Genuine love has a negative attitude toward what is bad and a strong positive attitude toward what is good.
There can be no compromising neutrality in our love for one another.
Neither can there be a half-hearted love for others.
One of the things which will cause a church to lack perfection is the fact that many people – church members – have no finely tuned, well developed firm stand on what is right and what is wrong. And they may not even have a firm grasp on what the Bible says is right and what is wrong. Many even will choose what they believe is right and what is wrong without giving a thought about what God says about the matter.
Sometimes people have their own idea of what is right and what is wrong – for them. What they see as right or wrong is usually exclusive to themselves. They may have a different idea of what is right or wrong for me or you.
So, if is impossible for us to live by love if we have no direction in our love. If we have no commitment in our love. If we have no sincerity in our love.
Another characteristic of the perfect church is its Brotherly Spirit.
Let’s go back to Romans 2:10-, Paul writes: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
This requires a love that is appropriate to those who are our own kind.
The addition of the phrase “brotherly love” provides a double emphasis that Christians are not isolated beings but are part of a family to which they should be bound tightly together.
Paul reminds us that “we have been taught to love one another” as he writes to the church in Thessalonica (1 Thess 4:9).
We occasionally need a reminder such as is in Hebrews 13:1 – “Keep on loving each other as brothers.”
So, we are charged, as Christians, as the Body of Christ, to remember we have a responsibility in this.
The brotherly spirit is further emphasized by the commandment to Honor One Another Above Yourselves.