For most of my life, I viewed the Church as an incidental detail to the core doctrines of Christianity. What I mean by that is that the Church was of secondary importance to me; it was an accessory to my personal relationship with Jesus. I thought I could be a good Christian without caring too much about the Church. Later on, when I got plugged into a fellowship, the Church became the place where I could hang out with my friends.
Lately, I’ve realized that my attitude towards the Church does not reflect a Biblical understanding of what it really is. For example, take Ephesians. Ephesians has a high Christology–a high view of who Christ is and what He does. Consider the following:
- We are blessed with every spiritual blessing (1:3).
- We have redemption through his blood (1:7).
- The purpose of God for the redemption of the cosmos is set forth (1:7).
- We have obtained an inheritance (1:11).
But the high Christology of Ephesians leads to a correspondingly high Ecclesiology–a high view of the church.
The Church is:
- The body of Christ (1:22).
- Raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly places (2:6).
- The household of God and His temple (2:17-21).
- The manifestation of God’s manifold wisdom towards the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (3:10).
Each of these verses certainly deserves its own exegesis, which I am not qualified to make, but the point seems to be that the Church isn’t only a gathering of believing individuals. It is a corporate entity, the manifestation of the new humanity that is Christ. Finally (and perhaps most easily overlooked) the Church has a cosmic significance as a part of God’s plan for the redemption of Creation. As one commentary puts it, the “very existence” of the Church demonstrates God’s wisdom to heavenly powers, and the local church is a “visible, concrete expression” of the new relationship believers have with Christ.
Thus, Ephesians suggests a link between Christology and Ecclesiology. A high view of Christ leads to a high view of the Church, his Body. But perhaps I find church uninteresting, unfulfilling, irrelevant, burdensome…is it because my view of Jesus is too small? Do I see him merely as a “personal” savior who meets my own individual needs rather than the One in whom all things are being reconciled, things in heaven and things on earth? It makes sense that our views and attitudes towards the Church would be influenced by our views and attitudes towards Christ, for without Him there is no Church. Now, I don’t claim to know the exact relationship between Christology and Ecclesiology, but this much seems clear: If we love Jesus we will also love his Church.
I suppose books could be written about the relationship between Christology and Ecclesiology, but I’ll conclude this post with one practical reflection. If what Ephesians says about Christ and the Church is true, then my relationship with the local church should not be an incidental detail or an accessory to my life; rather, I ought to see my relationship with the local church as intimately connected to my relationship with Christ. You might think that this reflection leaves you hanging as to what that actually means and how it actually plays out. I agree that it is quite open-ended, but I think the way to find the answer is to begin loving the Church now.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.-Ephesians 3:20-21