THE CHURCH AS THE ETERNAL PURPOSE OF GOD
The Apostle Paul recognized his great mission to be “to preach…the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him.” (Ephesians 3:8-12).
WHAT DOES THE PASSAGE TEACH ABOUT THE CHURCH?
This passage is often employed to demonstrate the church is to be a place of teaching. The church certainly is a people of teaching (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19; Acts 5:28; Acts 8:4; Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-4; Philippians 4:14-16; 1 Tim. 3:15). However, this passage was intended by Jehovah to show that the church itself is to be the manifestation of God’s wisdom and prudent planning.
We learn that the church was, at one time, a mystery. It was a thing hidden, but it has been revealed. The prophets of the Old Testament and the angels searched for centuries to discover God’s ultimate plan–1 Peter 1:10-12. Are you looking for a demonstration of God’s wisdom, then look for the church of the Bible. Just as a building will display the wisdom of its architect and builders, the church displays the infinite wisdom of God.
We learn that the church is part of God’s eternal plan. Some claim that the church was an afterthought, a plan B, in the mind of God. They teach Christ was rejected or that he failed in his mission so He established the church to “stand in” until a future return when God could “try again.” However, we know that the church was eternally purposed by God. It was not an afterthought.
Before the word of creation was on His lips, the church was in His mind. The church is promised in Genesis 22:18; Daniel 2:44, Daniel 9:24; Isaiah 2:2-5; Matt. 4:17; 16:18-19; 26:29. From the proclamation of Acts 2, we no longer read of a promised kingdom. When that sermon was preached, people preached of a kingdom which then existed. They were not waiting for a promise. They were enjoying the promised kingdom which is the church (Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20; 1 Cor. 15:50; Col. 1:13; Heb. 1:8; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:6). From Pentecost onward the church has existed in Scriptural purpose, promise, prophecy, preparation, and in resplendent perfection.
WHAT DOES THE PASSAGE TEACH ABOUT GOD’S WISDOM?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is the purpose of the remainder of this study to study God’s wisdom in His perfect plan of the church.
The new birth exhibits God’s wisdom. Having abandoned the reality of God’s existence, many secularists have arrived at the false conclusion that people represent excellence in their character. Their morality is based upon themselves. Their activities are self-seeking. However, God, in his wisdom, said “you must be born again” (Jn. 3:3, 5). The life desired by sinful man for sinful living is not allowable if this temporal existence would reach eternal blessedness.
The plan of salvation exhibits God’s wisdom. The most certain plan God laid out for man to be saved is certainly not of human origin. By his own thinking, man may never realize he is lost. Every attempt at a scheme of redemption which men have made have been based on their works rather than on the steadfast love and mercy of God. God’s plan of salvation has to do with faith, love, and obedience. Mankind must choose to believe the Gospel God delivered (Rom. 10:17, Jn. 8:21-24); repent of past and future sins (Acts 17:30); confess or acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus as the Son of God and King of our lives (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10); submit to baptism by God’s decree (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:13; Titus 3:4-6). Human wisdom would never have devised such a plan. Proclaiming the first principles is never a waist of time, but rather the first principles are a principle way to display the manifold wisdom of God.
The worship of the church exhibits God’s wisdom. The spiritual worship desired by God (Jn. 4:23-24), is vastly different than the unfortunate practices of human imagination. Manmade worship consists of a display of his own physical desires or ecstasy rather than spiritual zeal and love for the one truly greater than himself. The worship of the God of Heaven can be achieved equally well by the richest and poorest, the most wise and the most slow. Perhaps it is the case that those deprived of human wisdom and worldly treasures can better worship God than those who appear to be more richly blessed. The true worship of God is a most holy activity and we should approach it with caution since we are in the presence of the Holy God. God requires and allows us to worship Him by singing (Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19); praying (1 Thess. 5:17; Col. 4:2; Acts 2:42); preaching (Acts 2:42; 20:7); the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7; Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:23-34); and the weekly contribution every Lord’s Day (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Mankind has devised and maintained many ways to promote themselves under the guise of God’s worship. However, the true worship of the true God is open for whosoever will come to Him in spirit and truth.
The organization of the church exhibits God’s wisdom. The organization of mankind’s religious organizations follow the organization of the government of their land almost without fail. However, the organization of the local church of Christ protects each congregation from errors from without, guides those within to truth and sways them from danger, and is efficient for God’s purposes when functioning properly. God would have a plurality of elders/pastors/shepherds/bishops/overseers and deacons in each local congregation (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-11; Acts 14:23). The eldership is made of men who are known as elders, pastors, overseers, shepherds, or presbyters. Notice than in Acts 20:17 Paul called the elders of Ephesus to himself. He commanded them to shepherd (pastor) the flock as they were serving as overseers or bishops (Acts 20:28). When Paul listed the qualification of an elder to Titus and described the office as elders Titus 1:5 but then as bishops in Titus 1:7. Your preacher is not your pastor. The elders are your pastors.
The life of the church exhibits the wisdom of God. The life of the church as they leave their respective and special meeting houses serves as a light to the world and an example of Godliness to the lost. The beatitudes give a picture perfect description of Christian living (Matt. 5:3-12). Christians, young and old, should strive to be live lives of exemplary godliness (1 Timothy 4:12). We are to “adorn the Gospel of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). We live godly in this present world so we may live with God after this world is rolled away as a fiery scroll (2 Peter 1:5-7).