Entering the new year, we realize that challenges of various kinds inevitably await us. Whether it is in service of the lost, the ill, the nation, or the world, our privilege is to proclaim the message of Christ amidst such trials. Toward this end, the late Edmund Clowney (1917 – 2005), former President of Westminster Theological Seminary, expounds the central role of the church:
To be sure, if the church rather than Christ becomes the centre of our devotion, spiritual decay has begun. A doctrine of the church that does not centre on Christ is self-defeating and false. But Jesus said to the disciples who confessed him, ‘I will build my church.’1 To ignore his purpose is to deny his lordship . . .
The very threats to the existence of the church in the twenty-first century show again our need of the church. The courage to stand apart, to be unashamed of Christ’s claims, is nurtured in the community of those who are baptized into his name. The church may not apply for a union card in a pluralistic establishment by signing away its right to proclaim the only Saviour of the world. Together we must make clear that it is to Christ and not to ourselves that we witness. In that witness we are not only individual points of light in the world, but a city set on a hill. In the ethnic hostility that ravages Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the church must show the bond of Christ’s love that unites former enemies as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Only so can the church be a sign of his kingdom: the kingdom that will come when Christ comes, and that is already present through his Spirit.2
1 Matthew 16:18.
2 Edmund P. Clowney, The Church (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 15-16.