What does it mean to be a Christian? And what does it mean for a group of Christians
to form the church? William Barclay answers these two questions in his commentary
on Ephesians 1:15-23. He writes:
Here, there is set out before us in a perfect summary the characteristics of a true
church. Paul has heard of their faith in Christ and their love to all God’s consecrated
people. The two things which must characterize any true church are loyalty to Christ
and love to other people.
There is a loyalty to Christ which does not result in love to others. The monks
and hermits had a loyalty to Christ which made them abandon the ordinary activities
of life in order to live alone in the desert places. The heresy-hunters of the Spanish
Inquisition and of many other periods of history had a loyalty to Christ which made
them persecute those who thought differently from them. Before Jesus came, the Pharisees
had a loyalty to God which made them contemptuous of those whom they thought less
loyal than themselves.
True Christians love Christ and they also love their neighbors. More than that,
they know that they cannot show their love to Christ in any other way than by showing
their love to their neighbors. However orthodox a church is, however pure its theology,
and however noble its worship and its liturgy, it is not a true church in the real
sense of the term unless it is characterized by love for other people. There are
churches which seldom make any public pronouncement which is not based on censorious
criticism. They may be orthodox, but they are not Christian. The true Church is
marked by a double love—love for Christ and love for others.