Visible Church vs. Invisible Church

Over the last several weeks I have been studying the book of Ephesians.  It is a very powerful book which provides a view of the Church from God’s perspective.  The following question is often raised:  “What do we mean when we make the distinction between the visible and invisible church?  And what is the reason for this distinction?  Starting around the 4th century AD – the expression “Visible Church” was referred to by theologians, not to a building, but to the members on the rolls of a local church.  In other words, all persons who are members of a local church are considered to be a part of the visible church.  This is the church as seen from a human perspective.  Everyone who claims to be a Christian would be visible.  On the other hand, the invisible church refers to those persons who have actually been regenerated, “born again” or quickened by the Holy Spirit, God’s elect or true believers.  It is the church viewed from God’s perspective.

Augustine referred to the church as a mixed body, a visible people, but this people has both tares and wheat, as described by Jesus.  In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect church, and there will always be people in the church with bad motives or are there for the wrong reason.  There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him.  Many, Jesus said, will say on that day, did we not do this and that in your name?  Jesus will then say, “I never knew you.”  This is a description of some people now sitting in church buildings!!

Some people come to church to be seen by others as pious, others perhaps come for a social club or to show off their ability to sound eloquent when discussing theology. Their hearts are completely invisible to us, but of course, they are not invisible to God and only He can know who is truly “saved.”  So, what should we do?  We should love everyone with the love of Jesus.  Understanding that not everyone who appears to be a Christian is truly a Christian.  We should encourage everyone we know to grow closer to the Lord and to be active in His church.

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