“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints
and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him” (Ephesians 2:19-31, 3:8-12, NKJV).
The New Testament is the Word of God transmitted to us through inspired writers, moved by the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, the Spirit chose to put this revelation into gospels and letters primarily. It is a fascinating way to package truth, and we must constantly keep in mind that this is not an encyclopedia or a modern textbook.
We find that truth is spread throughout the letters. If you want to know the purpose of the church, you can’t go to a single place and look that up. There is no index. Not surprisingly, this is one reason creeds exist—to summarize the truth spread throughout the Bible in one handy place.
At any rate, in the book of Ephesians, there are multiple statements about the purpose of the
church, and two are given above. In Chapter 2, the church’s purpose was and is to be a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. Paul here calls the church the household of God and a
holy temple. That temple idea gives light to a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.
The church is God’s temple; He does not dwell in temples made with hands. This is not Solomon’s temple, nor is it Herod’s temple (as the second temple came to be called in
Paul’s day). It is also not some future temple to be (re)built by men’s hands in Jerusalem
when Jesus comes again. Such is not a worthy dwelling for our God. The church, the body
of Christ, is His temple. This is true both of each congregation (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and
of each individual Christian (1 Corinthians 6:19). Given this is one of the purposes of
the church, we immediately understand why living holy lives are important. Indeed, the two
passages from 1 Corinthians above both have strong instructions in this regard.
Another purpose of the church is to display the manifold wisdom of God in the heavenly
places. It is difficult to be sure exactly what the heavenly places are, but it appears to me to be the spiritual realm where there are powers and principalities. Some are obedient to God, and some are in rebellion to Him. The stunning thing we learn here is that our life of service
in the Lord is to put His wisdom on display. Which means our lives are on display.
How might this work? In Ephesians 2, we read that God has in Christ reconciled the Jew and the Gentile back to Himself AND back to each other. Thus, anytime disparate races, ethnicities, cultures, etc., lay down their differences and become one in Christ, the manifold wisdom of God is displayed for all to see. I contend that it is only in Christ that this can happen, has, or ever will happen.
Consider the instruction in Ephesians 5 for husbands and wives. Hated by the culture
around us, impugned and called oppressive and abusive it is. Yet, what happens when a
godly husband and wife set aside the cultural shrieking and their own selfish leanings and
submit to this instruction? Love, respect, joy, and strong homes are a living testimony that
God’s way is right and God’s wisdom is better than man’s so-called wisdom.
Today, as we gather, consider your purpose and privilege in Christ.