As a father of three daughters I always thought I would have that time when I would sit in the living room with some young man with sweaty palms and ask him what his intentions were toward my daughter. Somehow it just never worked out to have such a conversation.
One of the intriguing things about the church talked about in the Bible is that God had very clear intentions for it. In Ephesians 3:10-12 Paul writes “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Before the creation of the world God had already made a plan for the church. He had already set in motion the plan for his unique son to come into the world as a man, live without sin and to pay the price for our sins with his blood shed on a cross.
Focus on the intentions for the church. Through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known. The church is there to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost world, to teach those in Christ how to live and grow in him and to help those who are wounded and hurting in the world. But it doesn’t seem to be this job of preaching the gospel that God had in mind in this text. God’s manifold or multicolored wisdom is made known through the church to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. This is the same “heavenly realms” in which all spiritual blessings are found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) and the same”heavenly realms” in which we struggle against against rulers, authorities, the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12) It is also the same realms mentioned in Ephesians 2:6 where we are seated with him.
From all of these uses of the phrase it seems that the heavenly realms with the rulers and authorities is the spiritual realms in which angels and authorities exist for good and the demons and their ranks exist in the world of evil. It isn’t so much of what the church teaches or preaches that demonstrates God’s manifold wisdom as it is the very existence of the church. The fact that God planned a means to save the lost before ever making man and through the centuries worked out the plan to bring the plan into being. In the heavenly realms the rulers and authorities both angelic and demonic watched the whole plan develop. It was to show God’s wisdom outside our world that the church came into being to save those in this world. God’s eternal purpose was at work all the time.
It demonstrates how trustworthy the promises of God about the future of the church and of all, really are. His plan was that in Christ and through faith in Christ we can approach God with freedom and confidence.
After presenting this plan of God Paul prays one of the greatest prayers recorded in the Bible. He prayed that the disciples would be strengthened with power by the Spirit in the inner man, that Christ would dwell in us through faith, that we would be rooted and grounded in love and able to comprehend with all saints how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled with the fullness of God.
He concludes this section with “Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”
In the church God’s plans for us to glorify his name throughout all time. The church isn’t a temporary plan for God’s people, but the eternal plan that demonstrates his wisdom and that glorifies him always. If we only see the church in the earthly realm we miss much of God’s intention.
How does this concept of the church fit with modern thoughts of the church as a political power to be dealt with? With all the discussion of church and state in this country, you would think the Bible is silent on the subject and the separation of powers was our idea. The Christian operates in the spiritual realm, the political realm and the family realm. The church operates in the spiritual realm. It can’t take the place of the family or the government. It’s mission is to take the saving message of Christ to all people everywhere in all times. The mission we have in the church is far bigger than we are able to accomplish on our own. The last thing that we need to do is try to expand the mission of the church to take on other areas that God has other divine institutions to work with.
God’s wisdom is beautiful, amazing and beyond comprehension. So, let’s worship him.