One of the most fruitful insights into the nature of the church in modern writing is that which recaptures the biblical idea of the servant church. This negates the triumphalism that is the constant temptation of the people of God. Christians may be personally humble and ready to take the lowly place, but they see the Church as altogether glorious, as that to which men ought to pay homage.
Now it cannot be denied that a body of biblical evidence can be cited in favor of such views. The men of the New Testament may have been insignificant and unimportant in the eyes of the men of their day, but they did not pull their punches when they spoke of the glories of the Church to which they belonged. They saw it as the body of Christ or as his Bride. They saw it as the people of God, as a royal priesthood, as a holy nation. They saw it as a holy building, as the household of God, as the new humanity and more. The New Testament is eloquent of the high regard in which the first Christians held the beloved community.
While the Church was a small persecuted minority, this was kept in perspective. Believers knew that the Church was glorious, but they knew also that its place in the world was a lowly place. They were in no danger of triumphalism.
It was different when the Church conquered the empire. It became the fashionable thing to be a Christian. Church leaders became “princes of the church,” and the trappings of royalty became accepted as a matter of course. The attitude that went with this has persisted through the centuries. Christians have come to accept complacently enough the idea that the Church ought to be seen as the object of public acclaim and honor. People must be taught to come to the Church bringing their homage and their ...1
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