In last month’s article, I discussed that God’s plan for the church is to live as the body of Christ. As the body of Christ, the church lives with Christ as our head and we are His dwelling place, His image-bearers, and His missionaries. This month I want to discuss God’s purpose for the church.
When I worked at Sears in the hardware department, I can remember seeing on every box of Craftsman screwdrivers the warning not to use the screwdriver as a tool to pry things or injury could result. (Who hasn’t used a screwdriver to pry something?) They were not designed to pry things, but I can’t tell you how many broken screwdrivers were returned that you could tell had been used to pry something. All products are designed to do specific things. Using products for purposes for which they were not designed can be frustrating or even dangerous.
In the same manner that humans have designed products for specific purposes, God has designed the church for a specific purpose. As it is necessary to understand the purpose for which a product (such as a screwdriver) is designed, it is necessary for us to understand the purpose for which God has created the church so that we might fulfill His purpose and His mission.
II. God’s Purpose: So that People Might See God’s Glory
In Ephesians 1:3-14 the apostle Paul opens the letter with a tribute to what God has done through Jesus. It is an amazing list of blessings that He has “lavished” upon us. As he approaches verses 11-14 he addresses both Jewish and Gentile believers. He addresses the Jewish community of faith in 11-12 and the Gentile community of faith in 13-14. In his address to each group he uses an identical phrase of purpose to express why God has blessed both groups with such lavish blessings. The phrase he uses to express God’s purpose is “to the praise of His glory.”
Why has God created the church? Paul’s answer in Ephesians would be, we are to live as the body of Christ “to the praise of His glory.” This is the high calling of the church. Living as the body of Christ is living as the physical presence of Jesus on the earth. The world is to observe the glory of God through the church in the same way the world observed the glory of God through Jesus.
What does he mean “to the praise of His glory?” The word “praise” means to have a high opinion or evaluation of something. Therefore, we are to live in such a way that the world would have a high opinion of the glory of God. But, to what does “glory” refer?
While the word glory in scripture can refer to different things, in this particular passage it refers to the visible manifestation of the invisible God. Jesus of course was the supreme visible manifestation of the invisible God. In John 1:14 we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory [the visible manifestation of the invisible God], glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus was the physical visible manifestation of the invisible God. Through His physical visible presence on the earth the world saw the invisible God and learned four important truths about Him. They learned through Jesus about God’s existence, presence, character, and redemptive plan.
The amazing thing is that Jesus plans to share this glory with us. In John 17:22-23 He says that He will give us His glory, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
As the body of Christ, the church shares the glory of Christ. He has given us His glory. We are now to be the physical visible presence of the invisible God. Through His glory being revealed through us, which is manifested in our unity (John 17:22), Jesus wants the world to know that God sent Him and loves them. In other words, Jesus wants the church to reveal God’s existence, presence, character, and redemptive plan in the same way that He did while on the earth. This is the purpose of the church.
Living as the body of Christ so that people might see God’s glory is truly a high purpose. It is a purpose that Satan continually is working to divert us from fulfilling. We can begin to think that so many other things are more important than living in such a way that God’s glory is revealed through us. Living as the body of Christ we reveal the glory of God. As the world sees His glory they will know He is real, present, holy love, and our redeemer.
Being OnMISSION means that we are living as the body of Christ so that people might see God’s glory. Are you OnMISSION? Is your church OnMISSION? Can people see God’s glory revealed through you?
It has occurred to me that the response of the AME church in Charleston, South Carolina to the tragic murders of their brothers and sisters has demonstrated God’s designed purpose for the church. As they have responded as the body of Christ, they have revealed His glory. They have demonstrated that God is real and is very present to them, in even in times of tragedy. They have shown the world what type of God they serve. As His image-bearers they have displayed His holy loving character. And, they have shown His redemptive plan of forgiveness and restoration through Jesus Christ. They are standing right now as light to the world and the glory of Jesus is being revealed through them.