What is the church?
We have already determined that the church is not the building, rather it is the gathered believers in Jesus Christ who are the church. But is the church simply a gathering of believers? Or is it more?
The world sees the church as an institution, a definer of moral laws and ethics, a place of tradition, a place where you go to for Christmas or Easter maybe a location to get married or to hold a memorial service.
However, I am not sure that we really understand the significance of the church.
I believe that the church is more significant than we can ever imagine. The church is the most important institution in the world. The church is more powerful and important than any organization or even nation on the planet. John Piper once said; “the drama of international relations compares to the mission of the church like a kindergarten riddle compares to hamlet or king Lear”.
Remember what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18; “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The gates of hades, the power of death to destroy every man made institution cannot defeat the church. Because it is being built and sustained by the King of kings himself.
Paul writing to the church in Ephesus gives us another perspective into the church that is stunning and actually quite hard to even comprehend with our earth centered minds.
Paul writing to the young church in Ephesus in the first chapters of Ephesians explains how through the Gospel was not just for the Jews, it was for all. In fact, the Gentiles were invited in by the Gospel and even more– the Gentiles were now going to receive an inheritance alongside the Jews when Jesus comes again. The Jews and gentiles are brought into one family. In fact, the Gospel breaks down all cultural, national and racial barriers. Because of two simple words, IN CHRIST (See Ephesians 3:6). This is truly a mystery and a message that we need to declare to the World.
But as we look further down in Ephesians 3, we see something that is even harder for us to understand. Verse 10 says; “10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,” What does this mean? Who are these rulers and authorities? And what is God revealing to them?
These principalities and powers are what Paul refers to in Ephesians 6:12. In Ephesians 3:10 he is writing about, angels, demons, evil forces, both good and evil. In our 21st century post-modern educated minds, we are told to dismiss these beings as myths and superstition. However, if we don’t pay attention and realize as Paul states that we are in a fight against forces we cannot see, we are already giving in to the enemy. It is to these supernatural beings that God is making his wisdom known. Satan and his demons, thought that by killing the Son of God, they could once and for all destroy God’s creation, but the wisdom of God was that by Jesus’ death, Satan was defeated.
Satan creates strife and disunity, but Christ in his Church, through the Gospel, creates a supernatural unity that makes no sense in the natural.
God is using the Church to reveal his wisdom and plans to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. The church made up of broken and frail people, is the vehicle God is using to reveal his wisdom and grace to the supernatural beings of the universe. Do you realize that angels are learning about God’s grace through the church!
God is using our weakness to reveal his grace and glory to the entire universe. Each of us has a part to play, each of us has spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit to be used by God in order for God to reveal his cosmic mission to the universe. The church is so much bigger and more significant than we can ever imagine.
We are not living for ourselves, our mission is so much bigger than just trying to get a group of people to heaven. If this text is to be truly grasped – we need to live with a much bigger vision. Our mission as the church is to demonstrate to the powers and principalities that God was wise in sending his son to die for us, in order for us to be unified in one body with one aim and ambition.
However, everytime we fail, we give the enemy a foothold. Everytime we gossip and create disunity, we give the enemy hope that God made a mistake with us. Every time we tear someone down with our words, we are giving Satan some ammunition to go to our Heavenly Father and point out that we are not worthy of his grace and love.
If we understood this we would see that, gossip, slander and disunity are so much more dangerous than we can ever imagine. Piper went on to say; “The church is the cosmic showcase of God’s mercy, and if we fail to live as joyful beneficiaries of his mercy and fail to maintain the unity of the Spirit, we bring a cosmic reproach upon the wisdom of God.”
Jesus prayed that you and I and all believers would be united. Let us make sure we don’t do anything to disrupt that unity (John 17:22-23).
As a church this week we sent out a young family to plant a church. They are not simply going to start a gathering of believers or build a building. This has been a difficult decision for us as a church, there have been concerns.
But what if this is way bigger than we could ever imagine. What if we took what Paul wrote to heart and really understood the role of the church as part of God’s universal plan.
What if God is going to use our brokenness and struggles to reveal his grace and glory on a cosmic stage. The universe is watching. Can you imagine God pointing to Grace Point Baptist Church and inviting the supernatural beings of the universe to watch what He is about to do.
My prayer is that as we watch the next year and years to come unfold, we will see a glimpse into God’s eternal plan for the Church.