Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 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…
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we discovered a surprising twist in the mystery story of God’s plan to restore and unify all things. God’s wisdom will be made know to the whole universe “through the church” (3:10). God has given the church a central place in his plan for redeeming and restoring all things. This can be quite surprising.
Why is it so unexpected? For one thing, many of us have been taught that the church is really incidental to the Christian life. For example, I was raised in a fine church in which my family and I were very active. Yet, I was taught that the one thing that really matters in the Christian life is not community with other Christians, but rather my own, individual, personal relationship with Christ. Everything else, including church, was incidental.
We might also be surprised by the centrality of the church because, quite frankly, real churches are often such a mess. Sometimes this mess is of the ordinary variety. But, these days, the dysfunctionality of churches can be so bad that it makes headlines. Church leaders have at times used their influence to treat people poorly, even to abuse them. And, far too often, churches excuse or cover up such inexcusable behavior. So, we wonder, God’s wisdom will be made known through the church? Really?
Many passages in Ephesians, including Ephesians 3:8-10, reveal that God cares deeply not only about individual Christians but also about the community of Christians, that which we call the church. God’s saving work, as we have seen in Ephesians 1-2, is not just a matter of delivering individuals from eternal death. It also includes unifying all things in Christ (1:10), thus restoring the cosmos to what God had intended for it from the beginning. God’s salvation also includes unifying divided peoples, gathering them together in the church. Thus, the church is an essential part of God’s saving work as well as God’s method for broadcasting his salvation to the world.
The more we recognize the centrality of the church in God’s plan, the more we will look differently at our lives and our participation in the church. We will understand that God has saved us not only for relationship with him but also for relationship with his people. In community with God and his people, we, the church of Jesus Christ, are to show the world—and, indeed, the entire cosmos—that God’s plan for restoring all things is working.
When we fail in this mission, we mustn’t ignore, excuse, or cover up our failings. Rather, we must see the truth and confess it, accepting accountability and turning from our sin. If God wants to show his good news to the world through us, surely we need to live this good news with integrity and humility.
Something to Think About:
How do you envision the role of the church in God’s work in the world?
Do you tend to think of the church as an essential part of your life?
How might you help your church to be a faithful demonstration of God’s salvation?
Something to Do:
Pay attention to ways in which your own church is living the good news in your community. If God leads you to get involved in some of these ways, go for it. But if this is not the time for you to get personally involved, you may want to send a note of encouragement to someone who is helping your church to live the gospel in the world.
Gracious God, help me to understand clearly and truly the centrality of the church in your cosmic plan. Help me to see how I might be more deeply connected to the community of your people. Keep me free from an individualism that reflects my culture more than the gospel.
Where churches are hurting, bring your healing, Lord. Where churches and their leaders are doing what’s wrong, lead them to honest confession and genuine repentance. Where churches are seeking to demonstrate your wisdom to the world, empower and encourage them by your Spirit.
Bless your church, dear Lord. May we become all that you have envisioned and planned for us to be. Amen.