The Future of the Church -- By: Joseph R. Shultz

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 16:0 (NA 1983)
Article: The Future of the Church
Author: Joseph R. Shultz

The Future of the Church

Joseph R. Shultz

Ecclesiology and the Future of the Church. The future of the Church is directly related to the strength of the teaching of the doctrine of Christ.

The Lord of the church, Jesus Christ, is the only basis of the true church. The “establishment” of the church is not in its organization or historic manifestation but in its Lord. The power of the church is not in its membership, but its Master. The resurrected Christ — at the right hand of God — is the only “establishment.” The Lord of the church came “to give His life a ransom for many,” and “who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and, being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross” (Phil. 2:6–8).

The Church does not try to glorify itself but seeks to subordinate itself to its witness, placing itself without any reservation in the service and under the control of that which is the Lord’s. However, it seems that the characteristic temptation and trend of the church is in representing itself rather than the justification-sanctification which has taken place in Jesus Christ. An analysis of our time might well reveal that in no era since the Reformation has the evangelical church endangered its witness with the image of “establishment,” even to the mitigation of the truth that its existence is only valid as it points beyond itself and to the living Christ. Never before has the church had so many vested interests which it guards often under the guise of tradition and sacred doctrine.

The teaching of the Christological doctrine as foundational to ecclesiology precludes establishment and predicates the provisional nature of the church. The church is always moving toward the eschaton. Certainly the basic interpretation of Eph. 4:11–15 is that the very vocations in the church — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers — are established for its provisional nature, “till we all come.” It is provisional because it has not yet attained final achievement, nor will it ever do so. The church, like the apostle Paul, must say, “I count not myself till apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13, 14).

The church is always a m...

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