In Ephesians chapter 3, Paul tells us what is the ultimate purpose of the Church.
If I asked you what the purpose of the Church is, you might very quickly answer, “Oh, that’s easy. To go into all the world and preach the gospel, and make disciples.”
No. There’s a difference between the present mission of the Church, and the ultimate purpose of the Church. The present mission of the Church (what we are supposed to be about every day of our lives) is Matthew chapter 28. We call it “the Great Commission”. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel”. But the ultimate purpose of the Church is NOT Matthew 28, its Ephesians chapter 3.
“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.” (Ephesians 3:10)
The Church’s ultimate purpose, and our greatest privilege in all of eternity, is to reveal the incomprehensible wisdom and power of God.
In other words, God is using his Church for a glorious “Show & Tell”. The Church doesn’t exist just to tell the truth, but to show it. Not just to talk about God, but to reveal Him. To infinitely, exhaustively, eternally demonstrate the greatness of who He is.
Paul uses this term, the “manifold” wisdom of God. It means “many sided” or “many faceted”. The Greek word is the picture of a jewel, or prism, or a crystal being held up to the light. As you turn that jewel in your hands the light beams hit it and they scatter everywhere; flashes of beautiful light, beams of color in all directions.
Do you know how powerful one story can be?
Just one story. For instance, the story of Rosa Parks. That story inspired a movement that changed a nation. Or the story of Nelson Mandela. One man who spent most of his life in prison, and yet his story inspired a complete change in a culture.
That’s how powerful ONE story can be. What God is doing, Paul says, is declaring his infinite glory with the combined power of billions of stories. That’s the church. It’s taken thousands of years for enough stories to be written to adequately begin to show the multifaceted wisdom and power and grace and love of this almighty God.
Every time I attend a church service I’m surrounded by miracles; by stories telling of the glory of God. Some came out of terrible addictions. God turned them around, and released them, and put their family back together. Their story brings glory to God in showing what He can do in a life shattered by sin. Others, perhaps sat on the same pew, were never addicted, but were caught up with this world and trying to make a name for themselves. Jesus said, “It’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”, but even then “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26) Thank God there are some people who grew up in privilege, wanting for nothing, and yet God gloriously saved them by His grace too.
I was in India last year and walked in villages where people have almost nothing. They’ll be glad to get one meal today. But there are precious Christians even there, and they have a story to tell of how God has kept them through their lifetime with their eyes fixed on Jesus. No one else can tell that story but them, and it’s going to bring glory to God. Yet somebody at ease and without difficulty shouldn’t feel guilty about having a different story. Every single story shows a different facet of the glory of God and how he saved us all.
There are people in prison cells for their faith, and their story is bringing glory to God for all of eternity. Likewise many of us are free and our lives need to bring as much glory to God. It’s a different kind of story!
Let me challenge you with a little different perspective for a moment.
Think of the poorest person you ever met, and then compare them with the richest man in the world. Place them side by side. The day we step into eternity, the disparity between the richest on earth and the poorest on earth will suddenly appear entirely negligible.
Think about life spans. I remember a Christian lady who lived to be 106 years old. She had lived for Jesus for so many years. I’ve also conducted the funerals of Christian teenagers. At those funerals everyone says “Oh, what a terrible waste”. I completely understand that sentiment, but when we step into eternity with the eons of ages stretched out in front of us, the difference between 18 years and 98 years is going to seem like nothing. None of us really got too much more time than anybody else.
Put all of our stories together — the short and the long lived, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, but all the recipients of the mercy of God. God is showing again and again how he can take each different person to reveal a different facet of his glory. No two stories are the same, like no two snowflakes. And all together the Church of Jesus Christ revolves in His great hand and light and color flashes everywhere, and the universe bows down and says, “Oh what a God Who has done all this! He’s saved them all from every tribe and nation from all walks of life!”
The combined power of billions of stories, myriads of them, each with thousands of twists and turns which reveal His faithfulness and His might.
Who exactly are we showing it to? Who’s the audience? Paul says, “To principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Peter says that angels are “stooping down” to look into these things, the story of salvation (1 Peter 1:12). Angels are looking on with wonder at what God has done in the lives of men and women. And then also, “principalities and powers” suggests that He is showing his great wisdom and glory to the frustration of devils.
Are you living to reveal the glory of God?
Are you living your life so that in the end God can make you the wonder of angels and the frustration of devils? You don’t have to be some super saint to do that. We are all just “clay pots” (earthen vessels), not many wise, or noble, or mighty; just the most ordinary people (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
You don’t have to be a super saint, but you do have to be a real Christian. A genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
Now let me press this to you …
Are you living your life to help write more stories?
There are people around us that are the next potential stories for eternity. Trophies of what God can do with a hard heart; with even the most reprobate person. God wants to use you to help write these stories, because the Bible says he gave to His Church the ministry of reconciliation. Are you living to help write more stories?