Almost a decade ago a truck driver leaned on his dolly at my front door. In the midst of moving boxes into our house a short conversation ensued. “No, I don’t go to church anywhere. I don’t think that’s necessary. I might not be a saint, but I am OK with God.”
The apostle Paul, however, offers an entirely different view in Ephesians. He would counsel us that spiritually independent free spirits are not in the stream of what God is doing in this world.
Paul’s introductory praise in Ephesians 1:3 immediately gives way to revealing an outline of God’s plan to work through Christ. As the apostle unfolds God’s eternal plan, suddenly the Lord’s body, the church, is thrust front and center in chapter 2. Rather than being some vestigial organ, the Lord’s body is central to the unifying principle of Christ’s work in our world.
Not only is God redeeming spiritually dead humanity through Christ in order to join them with the heavenly realms, but Christ unites the redeemed into one body, the church. In fact, it is this joining together of both Jews and Gentiles within one body whereby Christ achieves a community in which God dwells by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:17-22). Although this uniting of people had been a secret (Ephesians 3:3-6), Paul’s ministry included announcing God’s work in our world (Ephesians 3:5,9).
Some believe Ephesians 3:10 teaches us that the nature of the church displays God’s multifaceted wisdom. Others suggest this verse means the church is to proclaim the manifold wisdom of God’s plan. Either way, the church is key to God’s eternal plan in Christ (Ephesians 3:11). When people dismiss the church, this reflects how distant their understanding is removed from what God is doing in our world today.
To be sure, in some places people claiming to serve Christ have not lived up to the calling God has issued for his people. They have sullied how others have thought about the church. However, the reality that there can be some rotten apples in a barrel does not mean that either barrels or apples are rotten. Both are good.
The fact remains, if we want to walk with God and participate in what God is doing in our world, we need to participate in a congregation of the Lord’s body. Grasping how God is at work unfolding his purposes through the church leads to church appreciation.
It can also lead to praise, just like Paul’s words:
“Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21).