To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Ephesians 3:8-12
I’ve been thinking about the purpose of the church. As I’ve prayed, a word that keeps coming to me is ‘sacred.’ It is a term that Francis Chan uses to describe the church in his book Letters to the Churches, which he derives from Ephesians 3. I think it has stuck in my mind, heart, and soul because I had never really considered the church as sacred before.
I’ve really only associated that word with God Himself and the Holy Trinity. He alone is holy, hallowed, and worthy of being revered. But in the broader sense, to be sacred can also mean being set apart and dedicated to God’s purpose. That is where the church comes in.
We the church are to pursue Christ’s holiness and in doing so continually be set apart for His purpose. We are to His body…and the body is what does the work that the head thinks, sees, and hears. As Justin Turner wisely noted in discipleship a few weeks ago, ‘what makes a person happy is different for each of us, but what makes a person holy is the same for all…and it leads to unity.’ What a great way to capture the sacredness of church: a collection of individuals that desire to follow God, and whose very desire has drawn them together as one body and one cause under the direction of Christ.
Think about that for a moment. The church is not a gathering of individual believers that regularly and systematically meet to sing, hear sermons, have meals, and do service projects. While the church does these things, this definition doesn’t capture the sacredness of which I write. This definition allows individuals to serve parallel to one another, and with one another when convenient. Yet it is a definition that probably matches many churches – a gathering in which folks can get a carton of spiritual milk each week and then go about their way.
The sacredness of church comes when we pursue holiness together. This happens when we allow God to cultivate our hearts so that the roots of our faith are nourished. A strong and nourished faith in Christ allows us to grow through our desire to be more like Him and less like the world. It is the work of this desire that starts sprouting a tree that will produce spiritual fruit. And it is this fruit that we can share in ministry and outreach and thus bear witness to “the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things.”
I believe this is what the Apostle Paul was talking about in Ephesians. He was given the task of sharing the Gospel with the Gentile world and bearing witness to the unfathomable riches of Christ which are now available to all persons who believe. The harvest of his work has been two millennia of Christians that have perpetuated his work. It is fruit that keeps planting its seeds.
What is more is that by bringing together Jew and Gentile to share in the same faith and treasure, God revealed His master plan that even brought “rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” to a sense of awe. The church testifies even to the angels of God’s great ingenuity!
So yes, church, we are to be sacred. We are to grow together in Christ so that we can make known the manifold wisdom of God. It is a witness and a presence that will yield a harvest that will grow His heavenly vineyard. May holiness be our pursuit.
-- Pastor Justin
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