The church has an important role in restoring the earth as God’s kingdom, but the church isn’t the goal. The church points to something bigger than itself: life under Jesus’ kingship.
The gospel of the Lord is the good news of his kingdom — his kingship restored to the earth in his anointed. Here it is in summary:
Ephesians 4 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. (NIV)
The Bible’s whole story in that verse. Our heavenly sovereign entrusted his earthly realm to people who rebelled against his kingship and ended up as captives to evil instead. Instead of using force to defeat force, God’s anointed ruler joined us in our captivity, dying at the hands of the rulers who were puppets of evil. When God raised him out of death, the captives enslaved under death were set free — free to live in the reign of God’s anointed. When the king was restored to us, his kingdom was restored to the universe.
Since God designed humans to be agents of the divine sovereign’s reign in his earthly realm (Genesis 1), the Messiah restored this mandate to humanity. The resurrected king gave gifts to humanity. His gifts were people — people entrusted with the responsibility to share in his management of the planet, by leading humanity into communal life under his kingship:
Ephesians 4 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV)
This is unique. Any other ruler would have been wary of trusting power to ex-rebels, but Jesus entrusts his regal dominion to people, servants who empower the whole of humanity to grow up into Christ, our king.
What does God intend the church to be and do? That question matters more than all the goals and KPIs we set for ourselves.
So how does this sound?
Ephesians 3 10 His 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. (NIV)
Say, what? Does the church exist so God can show off to rulers and spiritual beings?
With the wrong assumptions, this picture is a dark puzzle. But it makes brilliant sense when illuminated by the story about God’s kingship (the kingdom of God), revealed in his Messiah. Continue reading “Revealing the reign (Ephesians 3:10)”
Ekklēsia is a strange word for early Christians to choose for church. It was used for political gatherings, not religious ones. They had words for religious meetings (synagōgē) or general gatherings (e.g. sullogos). Why ekklēsia?
It’s odd enough to choose this word for a local church meeting, such as “the ekklēsia that meets in your home” (Philemon 2). But it’s beyond odd to use this word for something that is not a local assembly, such as “the ekklēsia throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31).
How did this usage arise? Let’s start with what ekklēsia meant before Christians borrowed it.
How come the epistles talk more about church than kingdom?
Kingdom was Jesus’ priority, the restoration of God’s reign. But when we turn to the epistles, there’s more about church than kingdom. Why?
The church doesn’t seem to measure up to Jesus’ kingdom ideal. It’s almost like, “Jesus preached the kingdom, but what we got was the church” (Alfred Loisy, l’Evangile et l’Eglise, 1902, 111).
We need to re-establish the connection between church and kingdom. The connection is Jesus. The head of the church is the king of the kingdom. Continue reading “Kingdom or Church?”
Most churches spend our energy and resources providing a great Sunday experience. It might be a cathedral with pipe organ, or a rented hall with a band, but most of a church’s time and money goes into what happens at the weekend service.
So, you’d expect the New Testament to guide us on how to do church. It doesn’t.
Ephesians says heaps about the church, with no instruction on what to do when we meet. Search Colossians, Philippians, Thessalonians, and Galatians. Nothing?
What about a longer letter like Romans? Nada. What should we make of this disparity? Is it our fault (we’re focused on the wrong thing), or Paul’s (he missed the main deal)?
Let me throw you a lifeline. There is one letter where Paul discusses church meetings, and it’s a significant chunk: 1 Corinthians 11 – 14.
Jesus never called us to condemn the sin of the world, but he did call us to confront sin in the church.
I’m devastated. When a church leader is exposed as a child-abuser, our nation has another reason to hate the church and despise our message.
Silence the excuses! It makes no difference whether you’re Catholic or Protestant. It won’t do to wonder if the courts got it wrong. A manager in the household of God has been found guilty of abusing the trust placed in them to care for the children in the family.
The nearest Jesus ever came to recommending capital punishment was this: Continue reading “The scandal of George Pell”