Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Purpose of the Church

From Wayne @

In our house meeting, we've been talking about what it means to be the church. One of the things we saw is that the church exists to point people to God by pointing them to the cross. Or to say it another way, the church exists to magnify the glory of God through the gospel of Christ.

One of the places where we looked at this was in Ephesians 1-3. Ephesians 3:21 says, "To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." The church has been called the theatre of God's glory. In other words, God's perfections are displayed in the church. In particular, the book of Ephesians highlights the glory of God's grace and of his wisdom.

Ephesians 1:6 says that God's blessings for the church are "to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." Everything God has done for the church in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-2:10) - from choosing us before the creation of the world to seating us with him in the heavenly realms - displays and indeed trumpets the glory of his grace.

We are beneficiaries of this grace through the gospel: "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Eph. 1:13). There is nothing good in us to merit the blessings of God. We are by nature objects of wrath not blessing (Eph. 2:3). It is solely on the basis of Christ's life, death, resurrection and exaltation (the gospel) that we receive God's mercy, "in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7).

Ephesians 3:10 further declares that God's purpose is "that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms." The wisdom of God is seen in his plan to extend his grace to all peoples, so that Jews and Gentiles - indeed all races - can be reconciled to God, united in one body, and given hope in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-18). Paul elaborates on this as “the mystery of Christ,” which is “that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).

One of the implications of connecting the gospel and the glory of God is that glorifying God and making disciples are intertwined. We also see this in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39), where love for God and love for our neighbor are interconnected. And the apostle Paul placed the two together when he said of his ministry: “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15). Thus: The church glorifies God by proclaiming the gospel.

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