The Ideal Church, Part 6



In the last book book of the Bible, Revelation, we read a fascinating paragraph about the New Jerusalem.


One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.  The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  (Revelation 21:9 – 14 | TNIV)


The New Jerusalem isn’t here yet.  We’re reading about something that will happen in the future, after our Lord has returned.  What I want you to notice are the number of gates and the number of foundations.  There will be, in all, 12 gates and 12 foundations.  As I say, that’s all in the future.  Today, while we don’t have the New Jerusalem with us, we do have the ideal church and the ideal church has, coincidentally, 12 essential components.  None of these is a man-made component.  John Calvin and his Calvinism are not essential components of the ideal church.  Nor is the Holy See.  Nor is any denomination or any church that refers to itself as “the true church.”  The 12 essential components of the ideal church are all found in the Bible.  So far, here’s what we know about the ideal church:


·      It is being built by Jesus Christ and He is its foundation.

·      It has been bought by the shed blood of Jesus; it is the special possession of God.

·      The Holy Spirit is its Chief Administrator, giving gifts to its members.

·      Prayer is the life-blood of the ideal church.

·      Worship is the privilege of each member of the ideal church.


The sixth component of the ideal church is that the ascended Lord is its Head.  But what does that really mean?  That’s what we’ll learn this time out.


In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we read this:


And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.  (Ephesians 1:22, 23 | TNIV)


“God…appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”  That’s a simple statement that has far-reaching implications.  In order to grasp what Paul means here, we need look up the page to the beginning of this letter.  In particular, let’s consider the phrase in the second half of verse 1.


God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 1:1b | TNIV)


That phrase is profound, as is the whole letter to the Ephesians.  That phrase is made up of two smaller phrases:  “God’s holy people in Ephesus” and “the faithful in Christ Jesus.”  First, what does “God’s holy people in Ephesus” mean?  Our English phrase “God’s holy people,” and the word “saint” found in other translations, come from the Greek word “hagios,” which means “separated.”  In the Bible, the word refers to anything or anybody that has been “set aside for the use of God” and “that which belongs to God.”  For example, all the jugs and jars in the Tabernacle were referred to as “holy vessels” because they were used in the worship of God.  They weren’t particularly valuable or special, they were just set aside for this special purpose.  God’s holy people – saints – are simply people who are born again.  The saints in Ephesus had been set apart for God’s use and they belonged to Him.  Dr McGee helps us understand this as only he could:


There are only two kinds of people today: The saints and the aint’s.  If you’re a saint, then you are not an ain’t.  If you ain’t an ain’t, then you’re a saint.  


Christians belong to God and they are saints.  Christians are used by God and they are saints.  If you don’t think you’re being used by God, that’s your problem.  You’re doing something wrong because if you’re a Christian, you’re a saint and saint is used by God. Saints can be found all over the world.  You and I are saints but we don’t live in Ephesus.  


That second phrase, “the faithful in Christ Jesus,” also refers to Christians, saints.  Christians are faithful IN Christ Jesus.  I capitalized that little two-letter word, IN, because it’s much bigger than it looks.  It’s significant that he did not write “the faithful TO Christ Jesus.”  Christians are faithful IN Christ Jesus.  Part of being IN Christ means that Christians have been spiritually joined to Him through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Paul covered this in his first letter to the Corinthians.


Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  (1 Corinthians 12:12, 13 | TNIV)


When we became born again, we were placed into the great body of believers.  We were joined to Christ and joined to each other.


But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:17 | TNIV)


That’s an astonishing truth right there.  The Greek verb for “united” is “kollao,” a word that refers to different kinds of bonding.  Literally, it means “to glue” or “to attach.”  Here, it speaks of the closest possible tie between two people. Those who have been “glued to” or otherwise “attached to” the Lord become “one spirit.”  Believers are literally one with their Lord.  Just pause for a second and think about what that means.  Go on.  I’ll wait.


You and I, through nothing we have done, through no merit of our own, but through the loving work of Jesus on our behalf, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have been joined to the glorious Second Person of the Trinity for all eternity.  That does not mean we are gods, but IN the Son of God.


That truth is found, according to one scholar, 130 times in the New Testament, and among those 130 mentions, is this one, said by Jesus:


Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  (John 15:4 | TNIV)


It’s not easy to get our minds wrapped around some spiritual truths like this one.  But two analogies might help:


·      We live in the air and there is air in us.

·      Fish live in the water and the water is in the fish.


But not only are we joined to Christ, we are also spiritually joined to each other as part of His Body.  The Christian is in Christ and Christ is in the Christian and all Christians are joined together as part of the Body of Christ.  And the Head of the Body is Christ.  


You, like me, probably find these deeply profound spiritual truths almost too much to take in and certainly hard to understand.  We know the Ephesians did, and that’s why Paul wrote to them, telling them that he was praying for them a very specific prayer.


I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  (Ephesians 1:17 | TNIV)


The things Paul was writing about – like believers being in Christ and being part of His Body – are understandable only as the Holy Spirit reveals them to His people.  It makes no sense otherwise.  That’s why, for example, people who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior don’t think going to church is particularly important, and they don’t get why you do.  Or, if you’re an immature Christian you may not understand how vitally important it is for you to be a part of a local body of believers because the Spirit is still teaching you.  The good folks you see in the church whenever possible and involved in the life of the church are the ones to whom the Spirit has revealed these deep truths and have yielded themselves to them.  They’re not only mature, they’re obedient.


Among the other deep, spiritual truths Paul prayed that the Spirit would reveal to his friends in the church at Ephesus are these:


I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  (Ephesians 1:18 – 21 | TNIV)


In Scripture, the “heart” often refers to the intersection of faith and feeling, of words and actions.  Sin has blinded the “eyes” of the heart to the truths of God.  In other words, until a person is reborn by the Spirit, he cannot see, experience, understand, or appropriate the things of God.  All people need two things:  The Gospel of Christ and the supernatural ability to understand it.  Hendrickson comments:


He removes their mists of ignorance, clouds of lust, selfish and jealous dispositions, etc., and imparts to them sorrow for sin and faith working through love. The spiritual eye is enlightened when the heart is purified. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)


Once a “heart” has been redeemed and the process of enlightenment and spiritual illumination has begun, that person will finally begin to see the hope they possess in Christ and of all that the Lord has done for them, is doing for them, and will do for them into eternity.  Believers will also grasp the incredible power resource in them to live a God-pleasing life.  The exact same power that raised Christ from the dead, brought Him back home to the seat of ultimate authority in the universe resides in every believer, in the precious Person of the Holy Spirit.  


That gets us to the verses I wanted to discuss.


And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.  (Ephesians 1:22, 23 | TNIV)


Because Christ is supreme in all of creation, all of creation is subject to Him.  Nothing exists that can be seen or that is invisible that escapes the Lordship of Christ.  He is greater than anything He created and God the Father has put Him over all of creation.  This great Ruler and King is also the appointed “head over everything for the church.”  In other words, Jesus Christ, the great Sovereign of the universe is God’s gift to the Church – to the communion of saints.  He is head over all of creation FOR the church.  That’s an awkward sentence, mainly because it’s unexpected.  In Ephesians and elsewhere, Paul wrote about Christ as the “Head of the church, which is His body.”  But here, Paul wrote that God has essentially given all of Creation – including all powers and authorities in this world and the next – to His Son and has gifted His Son and all that His Son rules over to the Church.  What that means is mind-blowing.  It means that all of creation – nature, power, governments – exist for the Church.  The Church of Jesus Christ has the authority and power to overcome any and all opposition to her because the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, is Lord of all.  


Now, you’ve probably noticed that the church on earth is pretty impotent at the moment.  You’d be hard pressed to tell that is possesses all this supernatural authority.  And yet it does, and one day, when the Lord returns and all is set right, the Church, made up of all the saints from all dispensations, will take its rightful place alongside the majestic, glorious, and exalted Son of God as He becomes the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


The ideal church knows this to be true and is patiently waiting and praying for the consummation of all things and vindication of its faith.  














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