What Is the Church? (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted Mark Driscoll’s definition of the church.

I don’t have anything to add to that; I’m not the guy who wants to face down Driscoll on any issue. He’s big and tough.

I think though it might be good to look at the church from another perspective. Driscoll gives us a great way to see the church from our eyes. And as we read Ephesians, we see the church on a different plane.

What I mean is this: We have the habit of looking at stuff exclusively in our reality, with our eyes. But when we read Scripture, we start to see that most everything on the earth can be seen in another reality – a spiritual one.

Take marriage, for instance. We might look marriage and say it’s about companionship. Or love. Or having children. And all those things are true. But in a different reality, we see that marriage is really an illustration for something else. Ephesians 5 tells us that marriage is meant to really be a walking, talking, living, breathing illustration of what the relationship is between Christ and the church.

Or food. We might say, from our perspective, that food is about catfish, peanuts, and cucumbers. It’s about nourishment and good sensations to the taste buds. But Jesus tells us that His food is to the will of the Father who sent Him. So eating is really a metaphor for embracing and giving ourselves fully to God.

So we come to the church. In Ephesians, Paul argues that there is something else going on in the church – something that we can’t see. Here’s the passage in question:

Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:8-11).

Pretty amazing stuff, right? I mean, if Paul’s right, then it’s as if God has put the church on a shelf in front of the entire world – and even more than the world, in front of all of the heavenly powers as a display of His glory. It’s as if God is saying to the universe, “Take a look at what things are like when my will is done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Or to put it another way – the church is the Delta Force of the kingdom of God. The Delta Force is a special group of military that infiltrates a foreign power to gather intelligence and set up a base for the incoming troops. They’re the advanced team. They’re not the army, but they precede the army.

In the same way, the kingdom of God has not yet fully arrived. It will be fully here when Jesus comes back. In the meantime, the church is the Delta Force. It is God’s way of saying, “Look universe! Look where we’re headed.” The church should be the group of people the world and all of the powers of heaven can look to and see the kingdom of God. We are the advanced team.

Kind of brings an air of seriousness to things like relationships, caring for needs, worship, and obedience. At least it does to me.

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