The Church God Had In Mind #2
The apostle Paul insisted that God’s eternal plan, which he called the “mystery” (Ephesians 1:9; 3:3; 3:4; 3:9; 5:32; 6:19), having now been made known to men by revelation after being kept secret in His mind from ages past, also had to do with the fact that gentiles and Jews would become fellow-members of the same “body”. This body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:14-16; 5:23). The aforementioned passages from Ephesians indicate that the church is the location for three things: (1) individual salvation, (2) fellow-membership, (3) reconciliation between men and God.
Reconciliation with God takes place “in one body” (2:16). According to the law of excluded middle, which states that everything in the world either has a certain property or does not have it, those who are not in the body of Christ are out of it. This is a sad situation, because such individuals are still at enmity with God. And the consequence is tragic: condemnation (Romans 8:1). But, people in the church enjoy justification.
Justification is the act of God pronouncing penitent sinners pardoned, not imputing their trespasses to them (2 Corinthians 5:19). Instead, God makes sinners righteous before Him on the ground of Christ dying to pay the price for sin (Romans 4:25; Ephesians 1:3). Justification is forgiveness (Romans 4:7). Friend, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that sin alienates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; Colossians 1:21). But in Christ God has “reconciled us to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:18). That, I assure you, provides one with peace (Ephesians 2:17). People who enjoy real peace of mind are those that have been brought into a right relationship with God through Christ (Romans 5:1).
In the church, there is no exclusion; no exclusion based on nationality or race. Speaking of the church in prophecy some 700 years before Christ was born into the world, Isaiah said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it”(Isaiah 2:2). The phrase “last days” indicates the Christian era, which began on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ from the dead and will last until the return of the Lord. So, we are living today in the last days. “Zion” (Isaiah 2:3) means Jerusalem, where the gospel was first preached and whence it went forth into the world (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; 2:5).
As to the expression “Lord’s house,” it refers to the church. The picturesque description in Isaiah 2 (“mountain of the Lord’s house,” “top of the mountains,” “above the hills”) is an allusion to the superiority of the church in comparison with any human institution, because of its universal character. The very day that the church was established, it included members “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:25). When Peter was sent by God to preach to the Gentiles obedience to the gospel, he said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” God’s standard of estimation of people is obedience. Paul reiterated the idea that fellowship in the church is applicable to all members in Colossians 2:11.
Also, God’s grand design for the church did not allow segregation on the basis of social status. In other words, poor, rich, healthy, unhealthy, educated, uneducated are all brethren in one body. In the church there is no gender divide. A man and a woman have the same status before God, because they are both children of God (Galatians 3:26). Consequently, they equally have access to the throne of God, through prayer, and to other blessings emanating from God (Ephesians 1:3).
When God planned the church, He designed it in such a way that it was going to be of a particular nature – a kingdom (Daniel 2:44). Let’s note here that the church is given different names other than “body” in the New Testament. It’s sometimes called “temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16), “fold” (John 10:16), “elect” (1 Peter 1:2), “royal priesthood,” “holy nation,” “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9), etc. Each name tells us about a particular aspect of the church. The name that specifies the nature of the church is “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 4:17) or “kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). A kingdom is the territory or people over whom a king or a queen rules, as is the case for the United Kingdom.
The kingdom of God or heaven is therefore the spiritual domain where God reigns. It is not physical (Luke 17:20), it is spiritual. Peter describes it as “a spiritual house” where God is served (1 Peter 2:5). It is true that the church is the sphere of divine rule, because Christ, identified in Ephesians 1:22 as the authority of it, is deity (John 1:1). He has laws that govern it (Galatians 6:2), and those laws are to be obeyed by its citizens, called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). When Christians abide by Christ’s laws, which are beautifully laid out in His testament, the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15), His authority is being acknowledged and respected (Colossians 3:17).
This two-part article has addressed the subject of the church that God had in mind. We’ve seen that God planned the church before the creation of the world. It was God’s eternal purpose that the church would be the place where the saved are found, and that Christ would be the Lord (or Head) and Saviour of it. Will you continue to deny yourself the honour and privilege of being a member of this great institution that God carefully thought of and brought into existence by means of the cross or blood of His Son (Ephesians 2:16)? In it, faithful men and women enjoy a wonderful relationship with a great good God!