The negative regard with which too many in the Free Church have approached the pre-Reformation church has prevented them from seeing that Christ’s promise to build his church and cause it to prevail against the “gates of Hell” (Matt. 16:18) pertains no less to this period [between the apostles and the Reformation] of church history. This promise was meant not merely for evangelical churches! Christ is himself the head of his body which is the church (Eph. 4:16). This is the church which Christ loves and for which he gave himself up in order “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27). To understand these words in solely spiritualist or eschatalogical terms would do an injustice to the present sense of the passage, by refusing to see that Christ’s establishing the church in holiness is a part of the process of every age since his ascension.
—Daniel H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants