Human strategies are based on limited human understanding and the best assessments people can make. On the other hand, God's strategy, his call in our lives, is based on an absolutely perfect understanding of the fundamental and ultimate reality. This is indeed the glory of Christianity: things are presented as they really are. The Christian diagnosis of all diseases in the world, from the conflicts between nations to the tensions in the human soul, is true because it reflects a true understanding of the human condition.
The letters of the NT always start with the truth, we call it "doctrine". The NT writers always call us back to reality. Only when this basis of truth is laid out, do they go over to hints of practical application. How foolish it is to start with something other than the truth.
In the introductory chapter of Ephesians, Paul makes several clear statements regarding the purpose of the church. It's not just the purpose for eternity, some misty future fantasy, but the purpose for here and now.
Purpose No. 1: The church should reflect God's holiness
"Because in him, even before the foundation of the world, he had chosen us to stand in front of his face in a holy and unpunished way." (Ephesians 1, 4). Here we clearly see that the Church is not just an afterthought by God. It was planned long before the world was created.
And what is God's first interest in the Church? He is not the first interested in what the church does, but what the church is. Being must precede action, because what we are determines what we do. To understand the moral character of God's people, it is essential to understand the nature of the Church. As Christians we should be moral examples of the world, reflecting the pure character and holiness of Jesus Christ.
It is obvious that a real Christian, be it an archbishop or an ordinary layperson, should clearly and convincingly illustrate his Christianity through the way he lives, speaks, acts and reacts. We Christians were called to stand "holy and unpunishable" before God. We should reflect His Holiness, that is also the purpose of the Church.
Purpose No. 2: The Church should reveal God's glory
Paul gives us another purpose for the Church in the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians «(He) made us love through Jesus Christ to be sons who should belong to him, predetermined according to the good will of his will to praise the glory of his grace» (Verse 5) «we should serve to praise His glory, we who have placed our hope in Christ from the beginning» (Verse 12).
Remember! The sentence: «We have placed our hope in Christ from the start,» refers to us Christians who are destined to live for the praise of his glory. The first task of the church is not the well-being of people. Well-being is certainly very important to God, but that is not the first task of the Church. Rather, we were chosen by God to praise His glory that our glory would reveal His glory to the world. As it expresses "Hope for All": "Now we should make God's glory visible to everyone with our lives."
What is God's glory? It is God Himself, the revelation of what God is and does. The problem of this world is its ignorance of God. She has no understanding of him. In all her search and wanderings, in her quest to find the truth, she does not know God. But God's glory should be revealed to God to show the world as it really is. When the works of God and God's nature are shown through the church, it is glorified. Like Paul in 2. Corinthians 4, 6 has described:
Because God who commanded: "Light shines out of darkness!" it is also he who has let the light shine in our hearts to let the knowledge of the glory of God shine in the face of Christ.
People can see the glory of God in the face of Christ, in his character. And this glory, as Paul says, is also found "in our hearts". God calls on the Church to reveal to the world the glory of His character, which can be found on the face of Christ. This is also mentioned in Ephesians 1, 22-23: «Yes, he has everything (Jesus) at his feet and made him the supreme head for the church that is his body, the fullness of all who fulfill everything in all. » That is a huge statement! Here Paul says that everything that Jesus is (its fullness) can be seen in his body and that is the Church! The secret of the Church is that Christ lives in it and the Church's message to the world is to preach it and talk about Jesus. Paul describes this mystery of the truth about the Church again in Ephesians 2: 19-22
Accordingly, you are no longer strangers and strangers now, but you are full citizens with the saints and God's housemates, built on the ground of the apostles and prophets, in which Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone. In him every burrow, fixed together, grows up into a holy temple in the Lord, and in this you too are built up into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Here is the sacred mystery of the church, it is the dwelling place of God. He lives in his people. That is the great calling of the Church to make the invisible Christ visible. Paul describes his own ministry as a Christian model in Ephesians 3: 9-10: «And to give all the enlightenment about the relevance of the realization of the mystery that was bent from prehistoric times in God, the creator of all things, so that the powers and powers in heaven can now be made aware of the manifold wisdom of God through the church. »
Clearly. The task of the church is that "the multifaceted wisdom of God will be made known." They are made known not only to human beings but also to the angels who watch the Church. These are "the forces and powers in the sky." In addition to people, there are other beings who take care of the church and learn from it.
Certainly the above verses make one thing very clear: the call to the Church is to explain in words the character of Christ who lives in us and to prove it through our attitudes and actions. We are to proclaim the reality of the life-changing encounter with the living Christ and vividly illustrate this change through a selfless, love-filled life. Until we do this, nothing else we do will be effective for God. This is the vocation of the Church Paul speaks of when he writes in Ephesians 4: 1: "So I admonish you ... Walk worthily of the vocation that was given to you."
Notice how the Lord Jesus himself confirmed this calling in the opening chapter, verse 8 of Acts. Just before Jesus ascends to his father, he says to his disciples: «You will receive strength when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth . »
Purpose No. 3: The Church should be a witness to Christ.
The vocation of the church is to be a witness, and a witness is one who explains and portrays vividly. The Apostle Peter has a wonderful word about the testimony of the Church in his first letter: "On the other hand, you are the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy community, the people chosen for property, and you should have virtues Announce (acts of glory) to those who have called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. » (1 Peter 2,9)
Please note the structure "You are ..... and you should." That is our primary task as Christians. Jesus Christ dwells in us so that we can vividly portray the life and character of the one. It is the responsibility of every Christian to share this call with the Church. All are called, all are inhabited by God's Spirit, everyone is expected to fulfill the calling in the world. This is the clear tone that is heard throughout the letter to Ephesians. Church witness can sometimes be expressed as a group, but witnessing responsibility is personal. It is my and her personal responsibility.
But then another problem comes to light: the problem of possible false Christianity. It is so easy for the Church and also for individual Christians to speak about the character of Christ and to make great claims that one does it. Many non-Christians who know Christians better know from experience that the image that Christians give does not always correspond to the true biblical image of Jesus Christ. For this reason, the apostle Paul describes this genuine Christ-like character in carefully chosen words: «with all humility and gentleness, with patience as those who endure each other in love, and are eager to maintain the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace . » (Ephesians 4, 2 - 3)
Humility, patience, love, unity and peace are the true characteristics of Jesus. Christians should be witnesses, but not arrogant and gross, not with a "holy than you" attitude, not in hypocritical presumption and certainly not in the dirty church argument where Christians stand against Christians. The church shouldn't talk about itself. She should be meek, not insist on her power or seek more prestige. The Church cannot save the world, but the Lord of the Church can. Christians should not work for the Church or use their life energy for them, but for the Lord of the Church.
The Church can not hold up her Lord while she exalts herself. The true church does not seek gain of power in the eyes of the world, for it already has all the power it needs from the Lord who dwells in it.
Further, the Church should be patient and forgiving, knowing that the seed of truth needs time to sprout, time to grow, and time to bear fruit. The church should not demand that society suddenly make rapid changes in a long-established pattern. Rather, the Church should exemplify positive social change through her example by avoiding evil, practicing justice, and thus spreading the seed of truth, which then takes root in society and ultimately brings forth fruit of change.
The outstanding sign of genuine Christianity
In his book "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", historian Edward Gibbon attributes the collapse of Rome not to invading enemies, but to internal decay. There is a section in this book that Sir Winston Churchill memorized because he found it appropriate and instructive. It is significant that this section dealt with the role of the church in the declining empire.
«During the big thing (the Roman Empire) was attacked by open violence and undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion crept gently into the minds of the people, grew up in silence and lowliness, received buoyancy through resistance and finally raised the banner of the cross the ruins of the Capitol. » The most prominent sign of the life of Jesus Christ in a Christian is of course love. Love that accepts others as they are. Love that is merciful and forgiving. Love that seeks to heal misunderstanding, division and broken relationships. Jesus said in John 13:35: "This will tell everyone that you are my disciples if you love each other." This love is never expressed through rivalry, greed, boast, impatience or prejudice. It is the opposite of abuse, slander, obstinacy and division.
Here we discover the unifying power that enables the Church to fulfill its purpose in the world: the love of Christ. How do we reflect God's holiness? By our love! How do we reveal God's glory? By our love! How do we witness the reality of Jesus Christ? By our love!
The NT has little to say about Christians who participate in politics or defend "family values", or promote peace and justice, or oppose pornography or defend the rights of this or that oppressed group. I am not saying that Christians should not take care of these matters. Obviously, you cannot have a heart that is filled with love for people and not be concerned about such things. But the NT says relatively little about these things because God knows that the only way to solve these problems and heal broken relationships is by introducing a whole new dynamic into people's lives - the dynamic of the life of Jesus Christ.
It is the life of Jesus Christ that men and women really need. The removal of darkness begins with the introduction of light. The removal of hate begins with the introduction of love. The removal of disease and depravity begins with the introduction of life. We must begin to introduce Christ, for that is our vocation to which we have been called.
The gospel sprouted in a social climate similar to ours: it was a time of injustice, racial division, rampant crime, rampant immorality, economic uncertainty, and widespread fear. The early Church fought for survival under relentless and murderous persecution that we cannot imagine today. But the early church did not see its vocation to fight injustice and oppression or to enforce its "right". The early Church saw its mandate to reflect God's holiness, to reveal God's glory, and to testify to the reality of Jesus Christ. And she did it through the vivid demonstration of boundless love for her own people as well as for outsiders.
The exterior of the mug
Anyone looking for scriptures to support a strike, boycott protest, and other political actions to address social shortcomings will be disappointed. Jesus called this: "Washing the outside". A true Christian revolution changes people from the inside. It cleans the inside of the cup. It doesn't just change the key words on the poster that a person carries. It changes the person's heart.
Here, churches often slip off the path. They become obsessed with political programs, either from the right or from the left. Christ came into the world to change society, but not through political action. His plan is to change society by transforming the single person in this society by giving her a new heart, a new spirit, a new direction, a new direction, a new birth, a revived life and so on the death of the ego and egoism. When the individual is transformed, we have a new society.
When we are changed from the inside, when the inside is cleaned, our whole view of human relationships changes. When confronted with conflict or mistreatment, we tend to respond in an "eye for an eye" sense. But Jesus calls us to a new kind of reaction: "bless those who persecute you". The apostle Paul calls us to this kind of reaction when he writes: "Be united with one another ..... Nobody repays evil with evil ..... Do not let evil overcome you, but overcome evil through good". (Romans 12, 14-21)
The message that God has entrusted to the Church is the most sweeping message the world has ever heard. Should we put this message back in favor of political and social action? Should we be satisfied that the church is merely a secular, political or social organization? Do we have enough faith in God, do we agree with him that Christian love lived in his church will change this world and not political power and other social measures?
God is calling us to become responsible persons who spread this radical, disruptive, life-changing good news of Jesus Christ throughout society. The Church needs to re-enter commerce and industry, education and learning, art and family life, and our social institutions with this powerful, transforming, unparalleled message. The risen Lord Jesus Christ has come to us to implant in us his own never-ending life. He is ready and able to transform us into loving, patient, trustworthy people, so we are strengthened to cope with all the problems and challenges of life. This is our message to a tired world filled with fear and suffering. This is the message of love and hope that we bring to an unruly and desperate world.
We live to reflect God's holiness, to reveal God's glory and testify to the fact that Jesus came to cleanse men and women inside and out. We live to love each other and to show the world Christian love. That is our purpose, that is the vocation of the Church.
by Michael Morrison