Lately, I’ve begun to realize that Christianity is not so much about God and Me (or even God and Me and my friends) as it is about God and the Church, the universal body of Christ. Not that God doesn’t care about individuals, but to say that the Gospel is only about saving individual souls is, I think, to miss the big picture. I often try to motivate or comfort myself by remembering that God is good and will provide for me and my family and my friends. While God truly is good and does provide, something is wrong if I can only think of Him in relation to myself and my immediate community. Indeed, see how quickly I turned the conversation towards me when I had intended to talk about God and the Church!
Fortunately, Paul sets the record straight in Ephesians. Salvation is certainly for individuals, but to be saved is to become a member of the Church, the body of Christ. In Ephesians, we see that the Church is the focal point of God’s “eternal purpose” to demonstrate his glory, wisdom, and power (3:11). Paul writes that this purpose is “set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10). Christ is seated “in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:21). Furthermore, God “put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23). Having been united to Christ as his body, the Church stands over the rest of creation as the manifestation of God’s glory. The Church is God’s chosen instrument to magnify His “manifold wisdom” against the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:10).
This is the mystery of the Gospel, that God has chosen to manifest Himself and build a Church out of people who are as good as dead in their sins. Being sinners, we were “by nature children of wrath,” subject to the full penalties of our wickedness (Eph 2:3). There is nothing good in any man or woman that deserves God’s grace. Yet he chooses to save us; more than that, he chooses to build us up into a Church body united in Christ, setting us over the rest of creation with Christ as our head. Why would God set over creation that creature which alone chose to reject him? Why would God manifest his glory through man who, by his sin, defames God’s honor? Why would God choose as His ambassadors those very people who, by their actions, refuse to acknowledge his sovereignty?
I submit that the answers to these questions are hidden in the mystery of God’s love, “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:14).
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 22-25).
By all worldly standards, the Gospel seems foolish. It preaches faith and suffering in the Cross whereas the world seeks glory and power. Yet, somehow, God will prove and is already proving his infinite wisdom through His Church. Just as Christ is glorified in the cross, so the Church is also glorified in its present suffering. I look forward to the day when Christ returns and the Church attains to the fullness of its glory in Him. In that day, the manifold wisdom of God will be made known, and upon seeing Christ’s Bride the glorified Church, all the nations, all the angels, even Satan himself, will bow and confess, in either terror or adoration, God’s eternal glory.