The letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians is the Bible’s clearest discussion of what God wants His church to be of any place in Scripture. I suppose it is just our humanity that causes us to think of church most often in terms that relate to us. We seem to think that if church suits us, then surely God will be pleased. But such a view is really foolish since God’s ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are His ways higher than ours.
There is a phrase used three times in chapter one that gives us some powerful insight into God’s reasons for having Jesus to build the church and what he sees as it’s reason for existence. That phrase is “To the praise of His glorious grace.” Look at the uses of this phrase in Ephesians chapter one and think about what it means to us now. In his discussion of what all spiritual blessings are found in Jesus Christ, he talked about being chosen in him, being predestined to be saved in him, his choice that in Christ we would be holy and without blame in His sight, His adoption of Christians and our acceptance in Him. In verses 5-6 he said, “He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORIOUS GRACE, that He favored us within the Beloved.” In verse 9 there is a slight variation of the phrase when He said, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him.” In verses 11-12 he said, “In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.” Finally in verse 14 he said, “He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY.”
How does this affect your thinking about the church? Certainly the church was built to save lost sinners like us that needed a way out of our sins and failures. But his primary purpose is to the praise of His glory. Everything about the church is intended to bring glory, honor and praise to God. It has many latent benefits that don’t fit into the overall statement of purpose. One in our day might might speak of the unintended consequences of building the church. With God involved the consequences are never unintended, but there are blessings and benefits that are not stated in its purpose.
What does stand out is that God is a deeply interested and jealous God. While he wants to bless humanity by His plans and creation, even in building the church, the primary purpose of it all is to the praise of His glory.
While we tend to focus on what the church means to us and how it meets our needs, God is focused on our relationship with Him. He gives us His Spirit to be in us and help us. When Paul prays for the church at Ephesus in the later part of chapter one notice what he prays. “I pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened so that you will know the hope of your calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.” We want enlightenment in life, but is it so that we can know the major things that God wants us to know or understand. What is the hope of our calling? What is the glory of His inheritance in the saints? What is the great power that He has toward us as believers?
The hope of our calling refers first to the call we have to respond to the gospel when we hear it obediently. The hope of our call is ultimately fulfilled in glory with God. But there is hope related to our calling that has to do with every aspect of life. We are called to live for God every day in everything we do. It is amazing how Paul will pull all the aspects of life together in this book to say we should in that area live for God and fulfill our calling. He talks about our relationships in the later part of chapter four and tells us to build each other up and not grieve the Holy Spirit with anger and bitterness in life. He talks about our marriage and how we should live as a husband and a wife. He tells us what children ought to do who are in the Lord and what fathers need to do with regard to their children. He tells what the employee should do in serving God on the job, realizing that he works for the Lord and is blessed by him for all his labors. He tells the employer how to treat his employees and reminds him that he has a Master in heaven.
The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints is an amazing concept. It isn’t about the inheritance the saints have in God, but the inheritance God has in the saints. He anticipates our ultimate glory with Him as an inheritance or blessing for Him. It is a picture of God being anxious for us to get safely home.
The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe is the resurrection power of God that brought Jesus from the dead and seated him at God’s right hand in heaven. He declares that this is the power available to us. This amazing power is presented to us in multiple ways, but it is tied to our being strong in the Lord and the power of His might so we can stand against the enemies of darkness. In order to take advantage of the power God gives us we must put on His whole armor and then stand up for Him. That armor is a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, a helmet of salvation, shoes of being ready to share the gospel of peace, a shield of faith and use the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, sealing the whole armor with prayer. We are never strong when leaning on our own strength or ingenuity.
It is all to the praise of His glory.