#2 Church: Its Consummation
I Cor. 15: 20 - 28
On a plaque marking Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace near Hodgenville,
Kentucky, is recorded this scrap of conversation:
“Any news down t’ the village, Ezry?”
“Well, Squire Mclains’ gone t’ Washington t’ see Madison swore in and
ol’ Spellman tells me this Bonaparte fella has captured most o’ Spain.
What’s new out here, neighbor?”
“Nuthin’, nuthin’ a’tall, ’cept fer a new baby born t’ Tom Lincoln’s.
Notin’ ever happen out here.”
Some events, whether birthdays in Hodgenville or in Bethlehem or spiritual rebirth in a person’s life, may not create much earthly splash, but those of lasting importance will eventually get the notice they deserve
(Craig Larson, ed. Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993, p. 13).
The Church started as a mustard seed. It was planted in Jerusalem and it has grown to a great significance. There would be coming yet another greater significance for the Church. Last week we learned about the origin of the Church and its purpose. It is the community of God that the Trinity is the foundation of the Church. God wanted us to experience the great love relationship that exists among the members of the Trinity. The Church is the most significant entity here on this earth, because it is “The Community” of God. This is the community where the invisible God becomes visible so that the world may see God the Father who sent Jesus Christ. I trust this idea of the community brings us a fresh perspective in our hearts. This is the great heavenly spiritual blessing which was given to us in Christ.
The Church came from the heart of God that the Church should be the praise of the glory of His grace. This morning, I would like us to see the even greater things yet to come for the Church. We may not realize this greater significance now, like people in Hodgenville who did not think anything of Lincoln’s birth, but the Church has a glorious ending. The final form of the Church; how it would be consummated, fulfilling the purpose as the Community of God that is pleasing in the sight of God, is beyond our imaginations. When we find out, we will be able to know how the Church should be, in mean time, to reach that end. It is the process. I believe that how we engage in this process, is the Mission of the Church. What you are going to hear may be a new to some of you but it is very important to see and understand the consummation of the Church. Without this understanding we have a hard time seeing the true purpose of the Church.
Let’s listen to what the Scripture says about this, shall we?
Please turn your Bible to Ephesians 1:3. I do believe this is the key verse for this section. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.” Then Paul continues in verse 4, “just as.” What is the “every spiritual blessing”? Following verses, 4 to 14, are the lists of the blessings. “Just as”: God chose us (vs. 4). He predestined us to adoption (vs. 5). He freely bestowed on us His grace (vs. 6). He redeemed us through Jesus’ blood (vs. 7). He lavished us with riches of His grace (vs. 8). He made known to us the mystery of His will (vs. 9). He gave us an inheritance (vs. 11). He sealed us with the Holy Spirit of the promise (vs. 13). He gave us the Holy Spirit as a pledge (vs. 14). What a glorious blessing! God has given all these spiritual blessings to His Church in Christ. What purpose? So that the Church becomes Holy and Blameless and to the praise of His glory. Now, we must look into this “Praise of His glory” business. What does it mean by “Praise of His Glory?” In verse 6, it says little more specifically: “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (emphasis added). See this involves God’s grace. It gives some idea that this glory was delivered to us through the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. As we all know that our salvation is by the grace of God through our faith. It is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8,9). “Grace alone” is the foundation of our salvation that at the end nothing but the grace of God takes the credit. So now let’s see how this grace of God is magnified and glorified at the end. I would like us to stretch our mind this morning through the word of God to receive this glorious blessing which was given to us who are His Church.
Last week, we concluded with the doxology in 1: 18 to 23. Look at verse 21 which says, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.” This verse tells us the supremacy of Christ over all authorities. In order to understand this magnanimous splendor which was given to Christ, we must leave the book of Ephesians and look up some other portion of the Scriptures.
Please turn your Bible to Titus 1:2 I will read verses 1 to 3.
Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ,
for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the
truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life,
which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago. But at the
proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with
which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God
our Saviour (Emphasis added).
God promised this eternal life “long ages ago” literally means, “before times eternal” (pro cronon aionion), before times began. To whom then was this promise given? Was it to us, to Paul or to the Old Testament patriarchs or prophets? Keep that in mind. Now let’s go to II Tim. 1, verses 9 and 10.
This verse gives us little more light on this question.
Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to
our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was
granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed
by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and
brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (emphasis added) .
Here again, “from all eternity” literally means “before times eternal” (pro cronon aionion). This expression is exactly the same expression in Titus 1:2.
We know that we are saved by His grace. Here Paul says, God saved us by His own purpose and grace. This salvation which God gave us was accomplised by His grace alone and with certain purpose. In that this was done before the beginning of the time.
Before the creation of the world, we were not existed obviously. Therefore, Paul says, this was granted to us “in Christ” before the beginning of the time. Doesn’t it blow your mind? What does this ‘in Christ’ mean? This salvation was accomplished long before we existed, in fact, before even time existed and only revealed through Jesus Christ at appointed time. A bible scholar Lock comments this way, “The grace of God is embodied in Christ Jesus: we only gain it through union with Him, and it was given to Him by God long before we were bron” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 11, p. 396, emphasis added).
This eternal life in the salvation was given to us “in Christ” not by our own merit but by the merit of Jesus Christ. In that it was before the biginning of the time. What does it mean? It means that this promise was given to Jesus Christ as a administrator of it. And we are the beneficiaries. How can I say that?
God Promised (epeggeilato), 3rd person, singular, Aorist, Middle voice, Indicative, indicating the action which was done to Himself. In Greek there is so called “Middle Voice.” I was not sure of the fucntion of the middle voice, so I went to the grammatical text book of Greek and it says,
The middle voice represents the subject as participating in the results
of the action, as acting in relations to itself, as having personal interest
in the action, as being intimately involved in the action. There is no
equivalent in English. (Brooks and Winbery: Syntax of New Testament Greek, p. 111)
So, God promised Himself or to Himself that He would surly brings the result of the work of His grace, the eternal life, to fulfillment. A commentator, William Kelly says, “It was a promise within the Godhead when neither the world nor man yet existed” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 11, p. 427, emphasis added). In another word, God the Father promised, within the Trinity, to redeem the souls of those who come to the Son by faith to accept the eternal plan of salvation and the Father gave those souls to His Son as a gift. Is this too far fetched for you? Please turn your Bible to John 6, verses 37 to 40.
All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who
comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down
from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me
I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of
My Father, that every one who beholds the Son, and believes in Him,
may have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day (emphasis added).
God the Father gave you and me, the redeemed souls, to His Son Jesus Christ and Jesus will raise us up at the last day that we can live with the Father in eternity. Now let’s go to John 17, verses 20 to 24.
I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe
in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou,
Father art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that
the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. And the glory which
Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one,
just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be
perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send me,
and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me. Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which thou hast given Me; for Thou did love Me before the foundation of the world (emphasis added).
Here, you see quite clearly the idea of God’s community (Trinity) that we share. See, because of the love relationship exists between the Trinity, the Father gave the Son the redeemed souls. The Son cherishes this precious gift from His Father that He does everything to not lose them. He pours out His life for His people, the Community, the Church, and interceeds for it, sends His Spirit to guide it, provides the leadership for it, so that we, the Church, can experience the love relationship which exists among the each member of the Trinity. This is the Church. So what is the consumation of the Church?
I would like to invite you to I Cor. 15, verses 22 to 28.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruit, after that those
who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He
delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has
abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign
until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy
that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection
under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,”
it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.
And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also
will be subjected to the one who subjected all things to Him, that
God may be all in all (emphasis added).
Read very carefully. Jesus, when He accomplishes the last thing of the atonement, the resurrection of the redeemed souls, He will offer the gift, the redeemed souls (the kingdom which we are part of here on this earth) , back to His Father, so that God the Father becomes all in all. Eph. 1:5 says, “He [God the Father] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself...” (emphasis added). I do not know why NIV omits this “to Himself.” From this perspective, as we are studying, this “to Himself” is very important. We will be handed over to the Father. This is the glory of God. Romans 15:7 says, “Wherefore accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the gory of God” (Emphasis added).
God the Father, The Triun God, designed the redemption plan before the time began and carries out its plan and then gathers everything to Himself. We learned that this blessing is spiritual and in the heavenlies (Eph. 1:3). Now we begin to see why it is. We long for His coming but quite often we forget that this eschatos, things of the end, is collective. It is not as much as the personal redemption in view here but the collective redemption of His Community as the group, the body of Christ, the Church. Yes, we want to be released from our own personal problems and difficulties, and that is nothing wrong in itself, but much more glorious is the redemption of the Church as a whole. It is not the indivisual but collective redemption of the souls to Himself.
The Community is in view.
God the Father adapted us as His sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, in accordance with His pleasure and we will be to the praise of His glorious grace. Jesus Christ did and still does everything to beautify His Community, so that He can offer back the precious gift the Father gave Him, namely you and I, the redeemed souls. See, the Church was in God’s heart before the beginning of the time. He chose us and gave our souls to His Son Jesus Christ and He has been administering Father’s grace for us so that we can experience the beautiful love relationship which exists among the Trinity. That is the reason, the greatest commandment is to love God and love our fellow men. The day will come that we can enjoy this perfect love relationship in heaven but till then we experience it here on this earth in the Community of God’s people. Eph. 3:10 says, “in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies” (emphasis added). Do you see the glorious status of the Church? It sounds like God is boasting to the rulers and authorities in heavens what His grace can do. You and I are part of this glorious Church of Jesus Christ. No Mormons or J.W. or no other earthly institution can claim this claim.
How vital and essential for us to be in this love relationship with Christ and with each other! Then it would be the strongest force in the entire universe. No wonder Satan attacks the Church of God so fiercely. One of the attacks is implanting the thought in our mind that we don’t need the Church. As I see it, according to what we just studied, there is no Christian who can claim the love of God without His Church. I even dare to say that we can not be Christians without this God’s community, His body, the Church.
A Kenyan theologian Mbiti once said, ‘I am because WE ARE.’
Do you feel lonely? Don’t you want this kind of love relationship? Are you struggling by yourself wishing someone to understand you? Come to His Church. Be a member. Open up and be transparent so that you can experience the heaven in the Church. Do you tend to judge people and creates the cold atomosphere. Think of this grandious plan of the Trinity for the Church. Does this change the outlook you have toward God Almighty? I am convinced that the knowledge of God we have plays a critical role in understanding His Church. A.W. Tozer once said,
The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself,
and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given
time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God
to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward
our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual
Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church.
Always most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God,
just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or
leave unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.
She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning
God (A. W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, Harper and Row, 1961, emphasis added).
Let’s enjoy the grace of God in His church. It is the community of God where love, unity and purity prevail. It is the place invisible God becomes visible.
Now we know the beginning of the Church and the end of the Church. We are right in the middle of it. The knowledge of the beginning and the end of the Church aligns us to what kind of community we should be.
7241 He Heard Dots And Dashes
Waiting to be interviewed for a job as a wireless operator,
a group of applicants paid little attention to the sound of the dots
and dashes which began coming over a loud speaker. Suddenly
one of them rushed into the employer’s office. Soon he returned smiling.
“I got it!” he exclaimed. “How did you get ahead of us?” they asked.
“You might have been considered if you hadn’t been so busy talking
that you didn’t hear the manager’s coded message,” he replied. “It said,
“The man I need must always be on the alert. The first one who interprets
this and comes directly into my private office will be hired.”” —H. G. Bosch
The lesson is clear: We must tune into what the Church would be at the end, so that we hear God’s directives for the present.
We are in the process of journeying to the end. Our responsibility is the process of reaching to the end. That is the Mission of the Church. That is the mission God has given it to us. How does this knowledge affect us as to how we should be doing the Church in (High Prairie)? Do you have this end in perspective? What kind of community we should be when we are presented before the God the Father?
Next week we will take a look at the Mission of the Church. We now know the beginning of the Church and how it will end. So what is in the middle? That is the question we ask to find out next week: the Mission of the Church.