In Florida, there used to be a Billboard on U.S. 119 with a picture of the Mona Lisa and the logo, “Remarkable Reproductions.” It was an ad for an art studio that specialized in creating low-cost facsimiles of famous pieces of artwork. You could have something that was close to the original, but was close. You had to settle for poorer quality, value, and workmanship, but it served as a passable substitute for the original.
As Christians, we comprise our Lord’s kingdom, and Matthew 16, beginning in verse 13, we read of Jesus asking his apostles what others and themselves think of Him and His identity. When Peter confirms Christ’s deity, Jesus reinforces his statement and speaks of the building of His church or assembly. They would be a people called out of the world to assemble before Jesus.
Seeking the Original
When we consider the numerous groups claiming to follow Christ with all of the inconsistencies and contradictions, it is easy to see how people can become disenchanted with the idea of organized religion. In this, what should we be looking for – the original or remarkable reproductions?
We cannot walk into a reproduction shop and expect to find something of the same worth, workmanship, and quality of the original. In Matthew 16, Jesus identifies the church as His to possess, and Acts 20:28 describes it as purchased by Jesus’ blood. Christ knew the cost he would pay for His church, and it is beyond any value we can place upon it.
I Corinthians 3:10 records Paul warning us to be careful how we build upon the foundation of Christ. He speaks to the workmanship of our ministry. When it comes to the church, the only foundation it can have is Jesus Christ. If any man is at the center of a congregation, it will falter. In I Corinthians 1:10, Paul appeals to Christ’s authority in asking the members of that church to avoid divisions among them based on individuals they identified with. Galatians 1:6-10 warns us that anything not from Christ is not truly the gospel.
Returning to Matthew 16, Jesus speaks to the quality of His church in verse 18. He states that no power – physical or spiritual – that will destroy His kingdom. The writers of the New Testament call it an eternal kingdom. In Matthew 7:20-23, Jesus speaks to the quality of fruits brought forth by those who claim to be spiritual, and, in this, He speaks of some who are close but still do not accurately follow the pattern He set forth.
When it comes to originals in the art world, there is only one, and the same is true of the Lord’s church. If we are doing things outside Christ’s authority, whether in practice, organization, or beliefs, then we are no more than a lesser-quality reproduction. Ephesians 1:22-23 speaks to Christ’s headship over the church, and that church is described as His body. We have one head and one body. Ephesians 4:4-6 reinforces this concept of inner unity. Christ did not establish and die for a divided and scattered body. They were united in cause and faith. They wore His name in unity – more than a label or a tag.
If something is not from Christ, it is from man, and it is not of the original. It is a forgery where our ideas and values are substituted for God’s. It may not always be the convenient or easy thing to do, but we should be settling for nothing less than the original. This is not a label of elitism or self-righteousness. Rather, striving to follow the original pattern should inspire an attitude of humility, laying aside our own pride to do things God’s way rather than our own way.
lesson by Tim Smelser