Est. 33AD Part 2: God is Glorified in the Church
In Part 0 (I know, it’s really post-modern to have a Part 0…sorry) of this series I said that Jesus founded the church and in Part 1 I said that the church is a gift from God to us. For both of those reasons, we should love the church.
Also in Part 1 I mentioned that I have not always loved the church. It wasn’t because I had a bad experience, was hurt, or felt unloved. I always thought the church was ok; just not great, world changing, or worth giving your life to. Then I began to read and study what the Bible says about the church. How powerful God allows it to be. How simple, yet mysterious it is. The problem with the Bible is you can’t ignore it. You can choose not to believe what it says, but its message demands a response. Whether it is acceptance or denial, you have a decision to make.
The other hard part about reading the Bible is that you must allow it to speak for itself if you really want to hear it. Most people don’t want to do that. They would rather define its’ meaning and set its’ boundaries. It is easier to deal with when we put it in our terms. The natural outcome of this is to over emphasise secondary themes. (When I say “secondary” I do not mean non-existent or irrelevant. I mean that they are subservient to a greater theme.) The overarching theme of the Scriptures is God’s glory, specifically displayed in the cross of Christ. The Church is meant to model that, to reflect it, to ignite a passion for it all over the world.
The problem is that many people, including Christians, do not want to submit to the Bible in that way so they make the church about something other than the cross and God’s glory. For instance, they make the churches’ primary purpose to be an agent of social justice. Social justice is a great goal, but only as long as it points people to the cross and God’s glory in it. Another aim of churches is community. Again, community is a worthy goal, but only as far as it exalts God and models the sacrifice of the cross to the outside world. A third emphasis might be love and acceptance. The Scriptures are clear that God loves all people and that everyone should be welcomed in the church, but only because it models the all encompassing glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and acceptance which it brings.
In the third chapter of Ephesians the Apostle Paul is describing his joy in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He recounts the privilege of knowing God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. (By the way, as you read it, try to ignore the paragraph breakdowns and section headings. They are the additions of translators and while they can be helpful, I think in this case, they detract from the flow of Paul’s thinking and writing.) At the end of the chapter, after the familiar passage about knowing the heights and depths of God’s love Paul says this, “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul’s point is that the true glory of God, which is His love for us expressed in the sacrifice of the cross (see the previous three chapters of Ephesians) can be most plainly seen in two places: in Jesus Christ and in the church. God is glorified in Christ and in the church. The church does well to seek justice, for God’s glory in Christ. The church is right to live out community, for God’s glory in Christ. The church should accept all those who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus alone for forgiveness, for God’s glory in Christ. Through humans and on earth, God is uniquely glorified in His Church. Broken and beaten as it may be, it is the glory of the Only God.