What if?

23 March 2012 by Brad Williams

Q. 61. Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church?
A. All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible.

Q. 62. What is the visible church?
A. The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.

Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God's special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

Q. 64. What is the invisible church?
A. The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

I beg your pardon, but I need a little space to be contrary. I will endeavor to be so as graciously as I can. I want to bristle a little at the invisible/visible distinction from a pastoral (or better yet: Christian) perspective.

I am fine with talking about 'invisible' Christians insofar as we know that wheat grows up with the tares, and that many times the one is indistinguishable from the other. Let them alone, I say, for the Lord said as much as well. If the angels cannot root them apart without much damage, then I wonder how the sons of man, as clumsy and wicked as they are, will go about the job without making a mess of the Lord's harvest.

If you wish to say that there are lost folks among the saved in the 'true' church, that is well and good. Indeed, where the sheep gather, we shall undoubtedly know that there will be wolves sniffing about. But if you use that as an excuse to toss your hands heavenwards to give up, to say that they are grown up together and there is no use in trying, then I say you've lost your gospel-changed mind. You've lost your hope.

Hope, you say? Yes, hope, dear brother or sister. Our Lord can change the leopard's spots. He can bring life to the dead. If you go to a fellowship of the saints, the gathering of the first-born sons and daughters of God, inheritors of all that is and ever will be, and you suspect that someone has come to the party without suitable attire, your duty is not despair, it is hope. You see to it that they have every opportunity to get out of the grave clothes and into the glory clothes. See to it that they might be adorned with the gospel and not with lies.

But what if they aren't elect? It makes no difference. You preach. You pray. And you hope. And you love. They ought to repent, and you ought to plead with them to do so. Never let your destiny or theirs get in the way of your gospel compassion. And for Christ's sake, be anything but invisible.