We’re talking about the Church, and I haven’t really gotten into her true purpose. That’s quite a lacuna on my part, because it’s pretty important and goes against what some of us tend to think about it.
People today, especially since the 1960’s, have gotten into their head the notion that the church is there for me. It’s there to provide for my needs. It’s there to be my support structure.
Now, there’s some truth in that. Part of the purpose of the church is to provide spiritual healing and we certainly try to meet people’s needs. If a church doesn’t care about that, then it’s failing in its mission. I heard growing up that "The Church is not a mausoleum for saints; it's a hospital for sinners," and there's a lot of truth there.
But that’s not the primary purpose of the Church. Did you catch that? It’s not all about you. The Church is not first or foremost there to provide for your needs. And it’s certainly not there to meet your wants and desires.
What's the purpose here? Why was the Church created? Why did Jesus shed his blood for her?
It’s not that hard to guess, especially if you’re read the passage above. Next year we’re going to probably study this passage in greater detail, since it’s so packed with meaning. But here I want to focus particularly on vss. 10-11. Please read them slowly.
My friend, the Church--which you’re a part of if you belong to Christ--is meant to be a sort of living trophy. What’s a trophy? It’s a symbol on display that tells everyone that someone has achieved something of great importance.
What has God achieved by bringing forth and caring for the Church? It puts on display his incredible wisdom. What a plan! Could you have come up with something nearly as good? When angels look to see what the Lord is doing through the Church, they wonder in awe at the “manifold” wisdom of the Almighty. It has many folds. It’s like peeling an eternal onion. You peel off one layer of God’s wisdom as manifested in the plan of salvation. And then you get a deeper level. You peel that off and say “OK, I get it now!” No you don’t. You haven’t scratched the surface. And thousands of years after finding out more and more about our salvation, we’ll only find that this multifaceted diamond has more angles which we’ve never truly seen before. That’s why the angels “long to look into”—delve into and understand more deeply—our salvation.
And although it’s not stated here, the Church is also on display as a showcase for God’s mercy, kindness, and love. It also shows his justice and power.
That’s the purpose of the Church. So what’s the practical application? Well, here’s one for starters. We need to encourage each other, and that includes “attaboys.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But ultimately we have to remember that the Church (and its local manifestations) is not there to glorify any man. Unless you count one Man in particular.
Lord Jesus, so often I think of the Church as a way to glorify myself. I repent of that in dust and ashes. Please forgive, and please change me.
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