God’s church is amazing. That vast number of people, found across the globe, often in the most unlikely of places, was God’s great idea. As F.F. Bruce puts it when commenting on Ephesians 3:10 - ‘This new, comprehensive community is to serve throughout the universe as an object-lesson of the wisdom of God’.
It is right at the heart of God’s eternal purposes. When Paul writes of the power that raised Christ from the dead, and that put him above all other powers, he says that ‘God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church’ (Ephesians 1:22). Church is absolutely central to all that God is doing and will do with his creation. Even while describing this elevated position of glory to which Christ has been raised, Paul adds that the church, ‘is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way’ (Ephesians 1:23). We can’t be any closer than that to the action.
The church is the place where God’s Spirit lives when we allow ourselves, as living stones to be ‘built into a spiritual house’ (1 Peter 2:5). We are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21-22), occupied by the Spirit of God who brings into our relationships the very presence of the Father and the Son.
When the church is functioning as it should, it has the ability, because Christ is at the centre, to meet the deepest needs of every human heart. The world craves for what the church has – but doesn’t know it. There are three reasons for this:
some people have never heard the message in all its simplicity.
some hear and don’t want it because they are not prepared to have Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.
the church can obscure and contradict the message it is trying to communicate.
We can do something about the first and third. We must keep communicating the wonderful salvation that God has made available through Christ - and we need to ask ourselves if we are living lives that are consistent with the message.
The Bible doesn’t recognise the ‘lone Christian.’ It is full of phrases that speak of relationships – e.g. ‘each other’, ‘one another. It contains images that demonstrate the connections we have with each other – the body, the living temple, God’s family. It is only in the context of our love for one another that God’s ‘love is made complete in us’ (1 John 4:12). When we are ‘born again’, we are born into a family – God’s family.
Church is an opportunity to work out together, led by the Spirit, what those relationships look like in practice. We never arrive, this side of heaven, but we are journeying together.
Over the next few months, there will be fortnightly Bible studies to look at key principles that can make our relationships work and that can demonstrate to a watching world that there is wisdom in the church for what matters most – our relationship with God and with each other (Deuteronomy 4:6).
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