The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 37. The Failure to ‘Build’ Church
Eph 4:11-13 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.
Hesitation: I hesitated to write this penultimate study in this Part on ways we can fall short of God’s will and thus limit our lives, for I have expressed my burden for the church in other series previously. Yes, only yesterday, almost as a sign to do it, I was talking with a friend who was sharing about a friend of hers in another church that she described as a fairly small, mostly aging congregation, who refused any talk of change. I could not help but think, ‘and unless the Lord comes in revival power that church will no longer be here in ten years’ time’. Let’s consider what is, and then what could be.
Characteristics of the Church: Let’s not look at the institutional aspects of church that we know, that tend to rely on man’s planning and effort, or of denominational church, that focuses on division and suspicion, and instead suggest some of the characteristics of the Church that the New Testament implies should be there. Very simply I suggest life, growth, and constant change, and then ask, am I blind to these three things?
Life: May I reiterate a vision of church I have used before of ‘church’: “alive with the presence and power and revelation and activity of God by His Spirit, where God is truly honoured, where life and vitality, where fellowship and friendship, where power and authority, pour through the congregation, through this potentially wonderful ‘body of Christ’, bringing constant life transformations, with conversions, deliverances and healings being a regular feature of their life, and the surrounding world is impacted and changed”
Another well-known church leader was heard to say recently, “the truth is that we have been deeply ineffectual as churches and denominations. There is very little evidence of the power of God among us and virtually no evidence of the transformation of society because of us.” That is difficult to deny. My emphasis there was on reliance on the Holy Spirit, allowing Him free reign to do what Jesus did and still wants to do as he works to bring in the kingdom. Be honest, is this description what you know of as church and if not, why not? Is it because we focus on other things? Is it because we are chained to the past and fear the possible future? Is it because we fear being out of control if He is in control? Perhaps a need to confess, to repent and to pray.
Growth: The writer to the Hebrews scolded his readers (Heb 5:11,12) for not having matured. The words of Jesus to his seven churches in Asia Minor included the words, “I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God,” (Rev 3:2) indicating that they had not gone on to fulfil God’s purposes for them. The Eph 4 starter verses above, speak of growth and coming to maturity. The apostle Paul spoke of his expectation that we would grow in faith (2 Cor 10:15, 2 Thess 1:3), grow in life (Eph 4:16), grow in the knowledge of God (Col 1:10). The apostle Peter talked about his expectation that we would grow up in our salvation (1 Pet 2:2) and that we would grow “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 3:18).
Change: Growth implies change. Parents, understandably, get worried about their child’s development sometimes, perhaps when it is slow learning to walk or talk. They expect change. In that famous ‘love chapter’ 1 Cor 13, Paul writes, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (v.11) He may have a future dimension in mind, but the principle still remains true for all time, children grow up, children change. As children of God (Jn 1:12,13, 1 Jn 3:1) some of us have the idea that that description is how we will always be – little children. Not so for there is yet another description we ought to understand.
Sons of God: Paul teaches we have been adopted as ‘sons’ (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:5,6, Eph 1:5). Now in Old Testament times the son held a special place in the family. As he grew up, he watched his father, learned the family business from his father, started to work alongside the father and would eventually take on the business from the father. Growth brought understanding, activity, and responsibility. Our heavenly Father is in the kingdom-building business and has shared it with His Son Jesus who now shares it with us (Eph 2:6-10).
And Us: A verse we have considered many times in the past: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet,” (1 Cor 15:24,25) requires us to realize and recognize how Christ is ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:1,2, Heb 1:13, 10:13, Mt 22:44) AND that we are part of his ruling, we are with him in working to bring down these enemies (which include such things as unbelief, unrighteousness, ungodliness, anger, bitterness, hostility, wars, fighting, etc. etc. as well as the more obvious evils, such as slavery, still as prevalent today as in the past). This is what the teaching about the ‘body of Christ’ in the New Testament is about, that starts with, “you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:27) That is our calling to enter into life, to grow and to change and become ‘sons’ who share in the Father’s business as He calls, He empowers and He directs. Are we blind to the church- its present powerlessness, its potential, what it could be if we pray, confess, repent, pray, seek Him, make ourselves available to Him? Can we change?