In my previous two posts I focused on the idea of the kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven and that the church/ekklesia is called to demonstrate the kingdom. I noted that as the ekklesia, called out ones, we are both called out from something (the world if we read John’s letters and James) and called to someone, Jesus. We have been called to Jesus to represent, re-present Him.
I have intentionally been using the word ekklesia rather than church as no matter how we frame the idea, in practice most Christians refer to the church as a building rather than a body of people. If you look at the church in the book of Acts, they didn’t have a dedicated building. In Jerusalem they met outdoors at the temple or indoors in the homes of believers. This was the common practice in the world of the New Testament. What the word ekklesia denotes is gathering for a purpose. In Matthew 16:18, if we paraphrase, Jesus said, ‘I will build my gathering of believers called out to serve My purpose.’
I believe that whether believers gather on a Saturday, Sunday or a Friday evening, they still gather for a purpose. What needs to be addressed is whether that is the same purpose Jesus had in mind when He spoke of building His ekklesia. My friend Evelyn stepped from time into eternity a few years ago. In conversation she frequently used the phrase “the church that Jesus is building.” She saw it as something different from what took place at a typical service.
In my decades of church attendance what I have normally experienced is some degree of worship (singing), some public prayers and a sermon. These are all okay things in and of themselves, but perhaps they fall short of what Jesus saw as the purpose of the ekklesia. For example, Paul was clear in scripture that the gospel he taught was given to him by Jesus. Here is one thing Paul said we were to do.
8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, Ephesians 3:8–10 (NKJV)
Verse 10 says we as the ekklesia are to make known God’s manifold wisdom to principalities and powers in heavenly places. Paul uses the term ‘principalities and powers’ again in Ephesians 6:12 so we know that in both chapters he is referring to spiritual beings in heavenly places. Do you think that happened at your last gathering? Did principalities and powers tremble as we gathered?
What we need to determine is just how we as the ekklesia demonstrate the Father’s wisdom to principalities and powers if we are function as Jesus called us. A good part of the answer is in the rest of the chapter. Understanding that through what Jesus accomplished we have access to throne of grace – for a purpose! We are called to demonstrate His kingdom in the context of our culture.
Here in part is how Peter and Paul understood Jesus’ goal for the ekklesia.
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19–22 (NKJV)
As the ekklesia we are called to gather and build one another into a spiritual house, a holy temple, the dwelling place of the Spirit that reflects Jesus to the surrounding culture. As for my building, I have fallen short of what I intended to accomplish in this post. In my next post I will look at ‘being assembled together’ in Hebrews 10, the role of joints regarding how and what they supply, Ephesians 4, and what that looks like in practice, 1 Corinthians 14 and tie it back to principalities and powers.
More to come.