Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Christians" and ethnic diversity

Perhaps Luke's most fundamental purpose in the Book of Acts is to help Christians answer the question "Who are we?" Two thousand years of church history sometimes prevents us from seeing just how basic that question was for the first believers. As long as Jews only were among the faithful, it could always be thought that this new group was just another sect of Jews who had some crazy notion about who the Messiah was. But as soon as Samaritans and Gentiles began entering the picture, identity with Judaism ceased to be an option. Something new had come into being - in continuity with the old, of course, but distinct from it as well. Luke, of course, leaves us in no doubt about whether the inclusion of Gentiles and the casting loose from temple and Torah were directed by God. And so a new name has to be coined to identify this new group: "Christians," followers of Christ (11:26).

An Introduction to the New Testament, Carson, Moo, pg. 325

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Luke 13:14

14 But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” - Luke 13:14
Whenever I read this, I am struck by just how legalistic and heartless this official was. It makes me wonder how anyone can be so merciless?

But then I remember, oh wait... that's me. That's so often my own self-righteous attitude. I'm just a lot better than the synagogue official at hiding it.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ephesians 1-3 pt. 4

Below is part 4 of 4 of a sermon I preached on 7/22/07 on Ephesians 1-3

The glory of God displayed in the future of the Church

Well, we’ve seen how God has displayed the glory of His grace in the past, we’ve seen how God is displaying the glory of His grace in our present lives, now let’s briefly consider how God promises to continue display the glory of His grace for the rest of eternity. The key verse I want us to think about is Ephesians 2:7. Look with me beginning in verse 2:4:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Do you see the amazing statement that Paul is making here? God has saved us why? So that we might be in bondage to Him? So that we would have to pay Him back? No, so that for the rest of eternity, God might show the riches of His grace to us, by pouring out His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. God’s design for all the coming ages is that His people would be the recipients of His infinite grace, as a display of His glory! If you are a Christian here today, this is your glorious and guaranteed inheritance! This is what every moment of your life is bringing you one step closer to!

God’s purpose for the church is that through us, we might be the means for God to display the glory of His grace. From beginning to end, from eternity past to eternity future, this is what we were created for. God, because of His love, has appointed your life is to be an object lesson to the universe of just how glorious and gracious God really is. Every blessing you receive, every sin that forgiven, every bad situation turned for your good, and an eternity of joy to come, all these things exist as for your good and for God’s glory. I love the last verse of Amazing Grace:
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s grace, than when we’ve first begun.”
Conclusion: Application

In closing, I want us to think about two implications of all this for our prayer lives and for our evangelism.

First, for our prayer lives: We’ve just spent the past 40 minutes or so discussing weighty, glorious truths and I hope that the Holy Spirit has been working in your heart and opening your eyes to see wonderful glimpses of the glory of God. But in about 30 minutes from now, you’re going to be hungry and you’re probably going to be thinking what’s for lunch. Pretty soon you’ll be back home and you’ll see the pile of bills that need to be paid, and the stuff that needs to get done once again. And before you know it, it’ll be Monday morning and you’ll be back in the grind of the week, and all these glorious truths that are currently occupying your mind will be pushed aside.

My point in saying all this is not to discourage you, but simply to confess with you the fact that our capacity for joy is often so small, that we are often unable to hold onto these great and glorious truths. We’ve spent so much of our time with sitcoms, and YouTube, and games on our cell phones, and sports, and all the other little pleasures in life, that our capacity for joy has shrunk and we’re so easily satisfied by all these tiny, eentsy-wintsy pleasures. And so when we come to Church and encounter the waterfall of God’s glory, we are able to hold on to only so little, before that little bit gets pushed out by the other things in life.

So what do we do? We pray the way Paul prays. Look at chapter 3, beginning in verse 14:
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
What an amazing prayer! Paul is praying that God would grant us the strength that we need in order to comprehend the greatness of the love of Christ for us! It takes spiritual, God-given strength for us grasp just how great God’s love for us, and not only to grasp it, but to know this love, to internalize it, and to be filled with all the fullness of God every moment of our lives. Brothers and sisters, the fight of faith in the Christian life is the fight to comprehend the unfathomable grace that God has for sinners like us! Pray that God would grant you strength to have this kind of faith. Make this your prayer for yourself! Make this your prayer for your family! Make this your prayer for your church! If you will commit to praying this way and devote yourselves to meditating on God’s glory in the Word, God will cause your heart’s capacity for joy to grow so that the little distractions or pleasures of this world will no longer affect you like they used to, but instead you will be filled with a greater love and joy in God Himself.

And finally, the implication of all this for our evangelism: If our purpose in this world is to display the glory of God’s grace, oh how important it is that we verbally proclaim the Gospel in everything that we do! When people look at our lives, the last thing we want them to think is, “Wow, look at how joyful this person is, look at how well-behaved his children are, look at how honest and hard-working he is, what a great guy! He must really have it all figured out!” Or when visitors walk into this church, the last thing we want them to think is, “Wow, this place is full of happy, successful, hard-working, morally upright people. I could never be as good as them.” If this is what people are thinking when they look at our lives, then we have failed in our purpose to display God’s grace. The only way we will be able to begin to do justice to what God has done in our lives is by clearly communicating the Gospel. People must understand that we were at one point under the same condemnation of guilt that all people are under. In fact, our sin was so bad, that only the death of the holy Son of God was sufficient to pay God’s punishment for our sin. Yet this is exactly what God has freely provided for us, so that now everything good in our life is only possible through of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Left to ourselves, we are not morally superior people, we are not cleverer, or more virtuous, or more righteous. Left to ourselves, we are as spiritual dead and as enslaved to sin as anyone. The only thing that has made us to differ has nothing to do with us, and has everything to do with God’s grace. It is God who has saved us. Therefore, brothers and sisters, preach the Gospel. Make the Gospel crystal clear in all your relationships with non-Christians. Make the Gospel crystal clear in every church program, in every community service, in every worship service. In everything that we do, may it be known that we are a people who have been saved by grace through faith; that our salvation is not of our doing, but is a gift of God, not a result of our works, so that no one may boast and God may get all the glory.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ephesians 1-3 pt. 3

Below is part 3 of 4 of a sermon I preached on 7/22/07 on Ephesians 1-3

The glory of God displayed in our present lives

Well, God’s purpose of displaying His glory is not limited to things God has done in the past, but also includes what He has done and is doing in our lifetimes. Look at chapter two, beginning in verse 1:
Eph. 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
We’ve seen reflected on how God has satisfied the punishment of sin through the death of Jesus Christ, but here in verses 1-3 we see that our problem with sin goes far deeper that we ever imagined. Our problem with sin goes right down to the core of our heart. Paul describes us as being “dead” in our trespasses and sins. Of course, he’s not speaking of a physical death, but a spiritual deadness. It means that we had no desire for God, no love for God, and not even the ability to generate those things within us. This is why Paul describes us being enslaved to “the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”. Not only that, but the “prince of the power of the air”, Satan, was also at work to ensure that we would remain enslaved to sin. We see in verse 3 that our condition was “like the rest of mankind”. We might look at the drug dealer or terrorist or dropout and think, “My life isn’t so bad”. But the truth is that all of us, left to ourselves, were at one point under the same deathly bondage to sin as they are. And as a result, all of us were by nature children of wrath; we were destined for God’s everlasting wrath.

But in verse 4, we see two amazing words: “But God”. We have made a mess of our lives, but now God steps in the picture. Read with me beginning in verse 4:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Rather than treating us as our sins deserved, God loved us and made us alive together with Christ. He exchanged our heart of stone for a heart of flesh. He opened our blind eyes to see the glory of Christ and trust in Him. He caused us to be born again. All these phrases are different pictures that the Bible gives us to describe God’s transformation of the human heart so that it no longer hates God, but is now able to love and trust God. God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places so that our affections and our longings are no longer here on earth, but are now focused on Christ. He is the one whom we follow and serve. How is this possible? Is it because God has seen something lovable or good in us? Look at vs. 8 - “For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”. No, there is no boasting in our salvation. There was nothing in us that earned God’s approval, but God has saved us by His sheer grace. So my dear friends, put to death your human instinct to earn God’s approval and rest in a salvation that has been wrought entirely by God.

Yes, our condition was infinitely terrible…BUT GOD! Yes, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, BUT GOD made us alive together with Christ! Yes, we once followed the prince of the power of the air, BUT GOD raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places! Yes, we were once destined for eternal wrath, BUT GOD saved us so that now He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!

Well as we keep reading chapter 2, we see that God’s glory is not limited to our individual salvation, but is also shown in the way He has created a Church by bringing people together under Christ. Look at verse 11:
Eph. 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
One of the effects of our sin was not only that we were separated from God, but that we were separated from each other. We see in the Old Testament that God’s intention from the beginning was for the people of this world to reflect the glory of God in their unity, but instead, because of sin, humanity ended up using their unity to cooperate in their rebellion against God. So in judgment, God confused peoples’ languages and the world splintered into thousands of different tribes and nations.

Yet, God remained faithful to His plan, and decided to show His grace to the nation of Israel, and it was through this nation that He promised bless all the nations of the earth. It was to this nation that God made all His promises for salvation and blessing, but as we see history progress throughout the Old Testament, its not entirely clear how exactly these promises would be passed on to the rest of the world, especially since so many of Israel’s laws were designed to separate them from the rest of the world. In the Old Testament, we see that the fundamental division within humanity was between Jews and Gentiles, between those who had the promises of God, and those who didn’t.

But now in Jesus Christ, we see God’s amazing promises fulfilled. Through Christ, God has united Jews and Gentiles into one, tearing down “the dividing wall of hostility”. How exactly has he done that? Look at verse 15: “by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two (i.e. Jew and Gentile), so making peace.” Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the way we get to God is no longer through the law of commandments and ordinances, but simply through faith in Christ. Therefore, the law that once separated Israel from the rest of the world has been fulfilled in Christ. And now through the Gospel, within the Church, God is creating a new humanity, whose primary identity, primary allegiance, is not any ethnicity, or culture, or political party, but rather is their identity with Christ. In the Church, God is beginning to undo the effects of sin by uniting all of humanity under Christ.

Now, I want to be clear that the unity within the Church is very different from the kind of pluralistic, relativistic unity that the world advocates. The unity of the Church is based on a message, namely the Gospel. This is why Paul emphasizes in verse 20 that “we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”. In other words, the only true unity that we’ll find is grounded on the testimony and teaching of the apostles about who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished. Be careful of anyone who would compromise Biblical truth in the name of unity. Unity without truth is a false unity. The only true unity that we’ll ever find is a unity that is based on a true faith in Jesus Christ. In the Church today, we are seeing the fruits of the amazing wisdom of God in orchestrating redemptive history to destroy the dividing walls of this world and to create a glorious new People comprised of men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pride as heresy

While I'm posting my sermons, Carl Trueman offers a timely reminder:
I was talking with someone last week about a well-known theological personality. `I don't think he wants to be a heretic' was my friend's comment. `No,' I responded `I think the problem is he wants to be a big shot.' It reminded me of the reflections of another friend on a New Testament passage which I cited in a recent email exchange with Martin Downes:

1 Tim. 1:5-7 (here I use the ESV):

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

My friend made two observations about this passage. First, the drift into dubious theological discussion is here described as moral in origin: these characters have swerved from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith; that is why their theology is so dreadful. Second, their desire is not to teach but to be teachers. There is an important difference here: their focus is on their own status, not on the words they proclaim. At most, the latter are merely instrumental to getting them status and boosting their careers.

Thus, what concerns me most is that students may simply desire to be teachers. If that is their motivation, then they have already abandoned a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, and their theology, no matter how orthodox, is just a means to an end and no sound thing. It is why I am very sceptical of the internal call to the ministry as a decisive or motivating factor in seeking ordination. Nine times out of ten, I believe that the church should first discern who should be considering the Christian ministry, not simply act as a rubber-stamp for a putative internal call which an individual may think he has.

Further, such students whose first desire is to be teachers are more likely to try to catch whatever is the latest trendy wave. Orthodoxy is always doomed to seem uncreative and pedestrian in the wider arena; if the aim is to be a teacher, to be the big shot, then it is more likely that orthodoxy will be less appealing in the long run – though there are those for whom orthodoxy too is simply a means to being a celebrity.

In this sense, orthodoxy can be heresy as well.

Ephesians 1-3 pt. 2

Below is part 2 of 4 of a sermon I preached on 7/22/07 on Ephesians 1-3

The glory of God displayed in the past

So how has God done this? How has He displayed His glory through the Church? We’re going to walk through Ephesians 1 and 2 and we’re going to look at what God has done in the past, what he is doing in the present, and what He promises to do in the future. So first, let’s look at what God has done in the past. Look with me in chapter 1, beginning in verse 3:
Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Eph. 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will
Here we see that God’s actions towards the church didn’t simply begin at Genesis 1 in the creation of the world, but rather, God chose us “before the foundation of the world”. This is what verse 5 is referring to when it talks about how “in love, [God] predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ”. In other words, before the world even existed, God had freely decided those whom He would adopt into His family, simply because of His love for them.

Now this is a difficult teaching isn’t it? This teaching of God’s unconditional choosing runs counter to our most basic human instinct. Human instinct teaches us, “God loves you if you are a good person. God is angry at you if you’re not.” We are naturally wired to want to work for God’s approval. But fundamentally, what is at the root of this instinct is our desire to be in control of our destiny, to be our own masters, our own gods. But friends, we are not our own gods. We are creatures, created by God. Now, I’m not saying that our actions or our decisions don’t matter… they absolutely do matter, and we’re going to see very soon that they matter a lot! But along with that, I also want to affirm what this passage seems to be affirming, namely that at the end of the day, when we get to the very bottom of things, it is God who has chosen us. It is God who has acted first.

Now, I have to confess that so much of this is still a mystery to me and I don’t claim to understand everything about all that works, (and if you have any questions about this, I would love to talk to you more afterwards). But even though I don’t understand everything, I want to be careful to affirm everything that Scripture seems to affirm, and not limit my understanding of God simply to the things that I can understand with my brain.

Well, we can be pretty sure that this is what Paul is getting at when we ask the question: What attribute is God looking to magnify in all this? Verse 6: “to the praise of His glorious grace”. As we said earlier, the reason why God has decided to make our adoption ultimately dependent on His love, rather than our worth or our decision, is because His ultimate goal in all this is to display just how amazing His grace is. If there is any thought process that we can rightly imagine in the mind of God in His predestining, it’s probably the question, “Whom can I predestine that will most display just how generous and gracious I am?” Therefore, it’s no wonder that Paul writes in 1 Cor. 1:26-28:
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Another indicator that God’s predestining was based on grace and not on anything we do is the phrase “in him”: vs. 4 – “He chose us in him”. This is clearly referring to Jesus Christ in verse 3. What this means is that if there was any good that God saw when he chose us, it was not any good in us, but in Christ. When God chose undeserving sinners to be adopted into His family, He did so with an eye to what Christ accomplished on the cross. This is why our adoption in verse 5 is “through Jesus Christ”. How did Jesus Christ make our adoption possible? Look at verse 7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

What are these trespasses that we see here? They refer to the fact that all of us here are sinners. All of us have rebelled against God and refused His Lordship over our lives, and instead, have lived according to our own ideas of what is good and right. As a result, not only have our lives been corrupted, but this entire world has fallen into a corrupt and wicked state, and what used to be a beautiful and clear reflection of God’s glory, has now become a muddy, filthy cesspool of evil that brings insult to the glory of its Creator. So what will God do? Will He look the other way and allow His glory to be trampled on? Or will He vindicate Himself and bring destruction to these rebels?

Well, like we saw earlier, God is committed to His glory and He will not let sin go unpunished. But instead of simply obliterating all of His enemies at once, God did something really amazing. God Himself stepped into human history, by sending His Son Jesus Christ into the world. Jesus Christ was born into this world and grew up, and lived a life of perfect obedience and love to God and man. He was the only perfect, sinless human that has ever lived on this earth (the kind of people that we should’ve been). And yet, at the end of his life, instead of receiving the honor and reward he should have received, he was falsely condemned and crucified on a cross. And there, on the cross, God laid on him the sins of His people, and Jesus Christ received the punishment and death that our sins deserved. On the cross, we see the full display of God’s hatred for evil and sin, in the fact that the only sacrifice sufficient to satisfy God’s judgment of sin was the death of the infinitely worthy Son of God.

But Christ did not remain dead. Three days after His death, God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, proving that the punishment of sin has been fully paid by Christ’s sacrifice. Death has been defeated. God’s wrath has been spent. And now to those who will repent of their sins, and place their trust in Christ by faith, God promises to count Christ’s work as accomplished on their behalf, to forgive them of their sins and adopt them into His family.

If you are a non-Christian here this morning, if you understand nothing else in this sermon, I hope you’ll understand this message. Jesus Christ has come to save sinners from the wrath of God by suffering in their place. And the way you are connected to this gracious work is not by your efforts, or your own self-righteousness, but simply by turning away from your sin and trusting in Christ by faith. If you have any questions about what that means, please make it your business to talk to me or someone here today.

And if you are a Christian here, as we think about all the ways that our salvation is rooted in what God has done for us in the past, do you see what an awesome foundation this is? The next time you are wavering with doubts, or struggling with sins and unsure of whether or not God really loves you, rather than looking to yourself for comfort, place your hope and your trust in God and recognize that your salvation is ultimately not rooted in what you have done, but in what God has done for you. This is what it means to rest in God and to hope in God.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ephesians 1-3 pt. 1

Below is part 1 of 4 of a sermon I recently preached on Ephesians 1-3

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up, you pull yourself out of bed, and as you think about the coming day or week or months or years… all you feel is the emptiness or meaninglessness of it all? All you see before you is an endless string of more classes or projects or spreadsheets or chores. And as you think about all these things that you are so busy doing, you wonder, What is the point of all this? Does what I do really matter at all? Where is my life going? Sadly, this kind of thinking can often creep into many areas of our lives, from our work, to our families, to our ministries, to our spiritual disciplines, and even into our church life. Every once in awhile you might get a glimpse of something great in what you’re doing, but then you wake up, and everything once again seems so small and insignificant.

My brothers and sisters, we were not made to live this way. God intends for us to know that regardless of what situation we are in, our lives were meant to be part of something significant and that every step we take is one step closer to a glorious and wonderful future.

For the next two Sundays we are going to be studying the book of Ephesians and the truths contained in Ephesians are the remedy for our despair and fears. Paul’s goal in writing this letter is to help us take a step back from our daily activities and responsibilities, and see a big and glorious picture of all that God is doing. And when our hearts are captivated by this awesome picture, we’ll begin to see that the things that we once thought were so hopeless and meaningless, actually have incredible significance in God’s purposes, and we will be able to re-enter our everyday lives armed with these glorious truths.

This morning we’ll be looking at Ephesians 1-3. For my sermon today, I have four main points: First, I want us to look at God’s purpose for the Church. Second, I want us to look at what God has done for the Church in the past. Third, what God is doing through the Church in this present age. Fourth, what God promises to do for the Church in the future. And then, I want to wrap all this up by helping us think of what implications this might have for our lives.

The purpose of the Church

So first, I want us to begin w/ the big picture: What is God’s purpose for the Church? To find the answer to this, we’re going to have to go towards the end of chapter 3. Look with me at Ephesians 3, beginning in vs. 8:
Eph. 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
We’re very soon going to see in chapters 1 and 2, God has been actively involved in the creation and salvation of the His people, the Church, stretching from before the foundation of the world, going forward to all the ages to come. But what is the point of all this? What is His purpose for the church? Vs. 10: “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”. The reason why God has gone through all the trouble of creating this world and redeeming a particular people called the Church, is because He desires to display the glory of His wisdom through the Church to the watching universe. Paul gives this same concept in chapter one, verse 5:
5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace,
We’re going to talk about this word “predestined” later, but for now, notice what “the purpose of His will” is, namely “the praise of his glorious grace”. The reason God has predestined us for adoption in Christ is so that through His dealings with us His glorious grace would be shown and praised. So I ask again, what is the purpose of the Church? For anyone who is a Christian here today, what is the meaning or the purpose of your life, both individually and as a corporate body? The answer: You exist to glorify God. If you have ever wondered, “What is the meaning of life?” This is your answer: God has created you ultimately so that through His relationship with you, His glory might be displayed.

Now, how are we to think about God creating us in order to glorify Himself? I mean, if any one of us to made it our ambition to show off our own greatness, we would quickly be accused of being conceited or shallow or foolish. So why is it any different with God? Well, it’s different for two reasons. First, it is right for God’s greatest purpose to be the exaltation of His own glory. There is no higher value, no greater perfection in this world than God Himself. So if God were to pursue anything besides His own glory, then He would not be pursuing that which is of the greatest value, but rather something imperfect and inferior. If He were to do so, He would not be a perfect God. In essence, He would be committing the sin of idolatry, namely pursuing that which is not of the highest worth. Therefore, it is only right and good for the God of the Universe to make the pursuit of His own glory His highest priority.

But not only is it right, but it is also extremely loving for God to do so. Because God is a perfectly good God, it is a wonderful thing that He would seek to display His glory in the world. For example, think about God’s wisdom… it is loving that God would seek to display the glory of His wisdom in this world. We don’t want to live in a world dominated by disorder or foolishness or chaos. Rather, we want to live in a world ordered by reason and laws and authority established by God’s wisdom. Or think about God’s justice… it is loving that God would seek to display the glory of His justice in the world. We don’t want to live in a world where evil and injustice prevails, but we want to live in a world where God will get the final word and He will see to it that injustice is ultimately defeated and His justice is displayed. I could go on and talk about all the other attributes of God (His power, His patience, His kindness, His holiness), how it is to our blessing that God would seek to display those attributes in this world. So brothers and sisters, rejoice that we have a God that loves to magnify His glory in this world. Everything good, everything that we love and enjoy that exists in this world is a result of God’s passion to display His glory in this world.

And here’s the amazing thing: Right in the middle of this great purpose of God to glorify Himself is the Church. God has chosen the Church, God has chosen us, specifically, to be the exhibition, the object-lesson, to the watching universe, of just how great He is. This is the purpose of the Church.