God’s Glorious Church
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Eph. 1:1-2)
The Church of Jesus Christ is beyond question God’s greatest idea. The entrance of sin into the world disordered everything. It warped humanity, strained relationships, fragmented community, and robbed mankind of hope. The Gospel is the remedy. The Church is God’s shop-front window display of what he offers freely to all. His ultimate vision is ‘…to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, Jesus Christ.’ (Eph. 1:10) Everything will eventually be under Christ’s benevolent rule again.
Most of mankind believes salvation is a human achievement, or at least a joint effort with God in which we play the major part. Actually, we contribute nothing to our salvation but the sin we need to be saved from. Paul credits our rescue entirely to God – the Triune God of the Bible. Jesus is central to this recovery so we make much of him. Deliverance was achieved in full by his faithful life and saving death on the cross, vindicated by his resurrection and exaltation. One who owed nothing settled debts we could not pay. The result is a new humanity, intimately related and reconciled to God and one another then empowered by his Holy Spirit.
The Trinity is the prototype community – ‘The One and the Many’ – a unity in diversity. This is true of God’s new community, the Church. We’re all different, but in Christ we become one big family with relatives all over the world. Watchman Nee observed, ‘The necessity of a revelation of the Church of Jesus Christ to the believer is as great as the necessity of a revelation of Jesus Christ to the unbeliever in the first place.’ See this, and you’ll never settle for warped or unhealthy church life again.
Healthy churches consist of Christ’s ambassadors gathered under his kingship as outposts of heaven. They have spiritual ‘clout’ to effect change in individuals, communities, cities, and nations. God’s supernatural energy within us can accomplish astonishing things through us. The same power that brought the dead body of Jesus back from the grave progressively renews everything in and around us. The all-pervasive effects of sin and rebellion can be dismantled, starting with God’s people. Churches regularly visited by God’s power are hard to explain and even harder to explain away. The Gospel heals all divisions – ageism, sexism, racism, class-ism, violent fanaticism – so we have something credible to offer the world. God shows up, speaks to, and does things among them.
Disease is inevitable whenever Jesus is excluded from his own Church. He resorts to knocking and seeking entry by asking, “Can I have my Church back please?” (Rev. 3:20). Other hands are often at the helm, not his. Leaders must decide who’s boss and yield to him, resolving to do anything the Lord asks in order to turn things around before the disease becomes terminal. This entails fearlessly making the Gospel central, along with the boldness to preach and act upon all God says to effect reform, renewal, and any radical surgery needed for complete recovery. Submission to both God’s Word and Spirit is the key, so that Christ’s voice is heard and change is here to stay. Such obedience may prove costly, but it won’t be half as expensive as disobedience.