The Church of Jesus Christ Never Changes
By Jessie Ward LeBaron
Clear as the Moon
|Jessie Ward LeBaron is the author of The Call at Evening.|
Isn’t that an intriguing phrase? It is part of something Christ said about the Church. He said He would bring His Church out of the wilderness, "clear as the moon and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners" (DC 5:3d).
Just now I am thinking about the moon. Have you ever sat out on the desert at night when the moon was full? If you have, you know how clear the moon can be. How fascinating to watch it come up over the distant mountain— how big and beautiful it looks! Then as it climbs the arch of the sky, it seems to grow smaller and yet more clear. At first it is something just to be seen and admired. It has little power, or so it seems. However, as the shades of night deepen, the moon takes up its battle with the darkness, and under its clear white radiance, we see the landscape emerge in soft, fault-erasing grandeur. We have learned that it is the moon and not the darkness that has the power. So it is with the Church; its teachings, clear and concise, mellow the soul of man, preparing him for the next phase of its mission. The moon is, we know, always clear, but sometimes a shadow is cast upon her face. We talk of the changes of the moon. How foolish! The moon never changes, it is only the shadows that change.
Mission of the Church
The same is true of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ never changes. Its form, its message, and its mission are and must always be the same. Some men by their wrong thinking or design may introduce changes, may add to or take from its message, may misinterpret its mission and still call it the Church. They haven’t changed the Church of Jesus Christ; they have merely formed another church. The Church of Jesus Christ goes on, as eternally unchanging as the mission of Jesus. And so it will remain until that mission is completed and turned over to the Father, without "spot or wrinkle ... and without blemish." Upon its face no more shall shadows fall.
The shadows which sometimes obscure the Church are so deep that it and its work are completely obliterated as the result of wrong thinking, which is the beginning of all sin. Every sin, however small, casts its shadow upon the fair face of the Church. If wrong thinking and sin are allowed to flourish in the mind and lives of the people, the Church, like the moon, wanes. At first a thin slice is gone, then a quarter, soon a half, and then complete darkness. At such times the Church is simply lifted from the earth into the heavens, there to await the time when the earth is again ready for its full restoration.
Man and the Church
|A full moon adds its beauty to the 1981 Restoration Reunion at Fleming Park in Jackson County, Missouri.|
When acts of unrighteousness come in, man’s mind becomes darkened. He no longer desires the full clearness of the moon. He thinks to change the Church and excuse his sin; but behind the shadow he casts, the true Church of Christ stands clear and radiant in the heavens. Man himself cannot uncover the Church thus changed and darkened. He can, however, begin to repent, and as he does so the shadow is removed from the face of his own creations and he sees something of the light—a mere sliver, perhaps, then more and more as he turns with open mind and heart to God. Even then it is not man that brings the light, but God rewarding the changed thinking and the right desires of the people. When the world of men is ready for it, the Church is revealed from the heavens again in the full beauty of its effulgence. This will be God’s part, not man’s. Man may multiply churches to himself by the thousands, and they will remain only shadows.
Jesus said, "I will build my church." Only a Church organized by Christ through divine revelation, in exact replica of the one built by Him upon the earth during His brief sojourn here, can be truly the Church of Jesus Christ. Thus it will be His own Church. It cannot, must not, belong to another. This picture is given us in the first chapter of Ezekiel: when the Church is lifted up from the earth by Jesus because of transgression, only He who lifted it up can restore it. This He will do by His own voice and by angelic messenger.
Fair as the Sun
Jesus next referred to the coming forth of the Church out of the wilderness as being "fair as the sun." In these beautiful words the picture of the final triumph of Jesus and His Church is expressed. Through the Church, Jesus Christ designs not only to save man from sin and spiritual death and give to him eternal life, but—if he will allow it to do its full work in his soul— to lift him to the realm of fullness of life, even eternal glory. Jesus expressed it, "I came that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." This has its full fruition in glory celestial, where the full power of the fairness of the sun is revealed and enjoyed in the presence of God and His Son, Jesus the Christ, and all the holy angels. Thus the Scriptures describe the Church as "clothed with the sun" in the fullness of her glory.
Terrible as an Army with Banners
What a strange thing—a Church, designed by Jesus Christ, to assist Him in carrying out His mission of saving mankind, giving him eternal life and bringing him to glory, spoken of as "terrible as an army with banners"! How can a Church be at once the symbol of love, helpfulness, salvation, and "terrible as an army"? I suppose it all depends on where one is standing when he gets that view of it. The blackest cloud is, on the other side, as white as snow, reflecting back to heaven the glory of the sun. Thus it is that redeemed man sees the Church from the side of its glory. How do you think it looks from Satan’s side of the picture? To him, his hosts, and all his followers, it must look like a black cloud shot through with bolts of fiery destruction and rocked by the thunders of impending doom.
Yes, Christ’s Church restored to the earth for the last time is "clear as the moon and fair as the sun," but also "terrible as an army with banners." It all depends on where you stand.
O man, choose well from which side you shall obtain your view of this mystery; for obtain that view you will. From the side of glory, the Church will reflect back for you the fairness and brilliance of the sun. From the other will come blackness, despair, and destruction—verily, "terrible as an army with banners."
This is the two-sided mission of the Church of Jesus Christ—a two-edged sword indeed!
(The Saints’ Herald [July 2, 1956]: 10).