When people tell me they love Jesus but don’t need the church it immediately tells me two things. One, they don’t trust people and, two, they don’t understand what it means to be in Christ. Actually, you can’t even be the “church” by yourself. The word for church (ekklesia) means an assembly of called out ones. Of course, there’s a myriad of ways to be part of a local church.
On the trust issue, I understand this could be justified if one has had an abusive experience with an organized church. Nonetheless, you will never grow to your full potential in Christ by yourself (or through the internet). Spiritual maturity is mostly formed in the context of personal relationships and under the authority and anointing of God ordained leadership. This is by God’s design, not our personal preferences.
This brings us to today’s installment of the first two chapters of Ephesians where we’re seeing what the good news that brings great joy means to us. We will look at the following passage:
This is the mighty power 20 that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted him to the place of highest honor and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! 21 And now he is exalted as first above every ruler, authority, government, and realm of power in existence! He is gloriously enthroned over every name that is ever praised, not only in this age, but in the age that is coming!
22 And he alone is the leader and source of everything needed in the church. God has put everything beneath the authority of Jesus Christ and has given him the highest rank above all others. 23 And now we, his church, are his body on the earth and that which fills him who is being filled by it! (Eph.1:20-23 TPT *)
There are several things that should cause great joy from this passage.
First, we see that Christ is supreme over all creation. He’s not only the source and sustainer of our continuing existence, but He’s also exalted far above all authority in heaven or on earth. In other words, nothing trumps Christ (of course, we’re excepting God the Father and Holy Spirit because they’re equally part of the divine other-centered, self-giving triune essence of God).
We find joy in knowing that Christ is our ultimate source and supply; He’s Lord over all, with all power and authority. This should cause great joy because we can rest in Christ and trust Him in every situation.
Most Christians get this about Jesus, but there’s so much more! Think through this with me for a moment. Jesus said this to His disciples:
18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matt.28:18 NKJV)
If Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth, who has no authority? Well, no one else. But Jesus has given us His authority (Luke 10:19). What does that mean to us? Let’s continue…
21 And now he is exalted as first above every ruler, authority, government, and realm of power in existence! (Eph.1:21 TPT)
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph.2:6 NIV)
If Christ is exalted far above every ruler and realm of power in existence, and God placed us in Christ in heavenly places with God, then we have been placed far above all other principalities and powers. That revelation alone should totally transform your understanding of spiritual warfare and cause great joy! When the devil comes knocking at your door, Jesus answers!
But then the question is, how does the enemy of our soul get authority and wreak such havoc? Sadly, we give it him through ignorance and unbelief.
But this doesn’t mean we’re all that individually, apart from the body of Christ. We’re individually members of one another (see 1 Cor.12:12-28). Most times in the New Testament, “you” means “you all” (or “all y’all” in Texas). It’s the corporate “you.”
And this is yet another source of joy, because wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He is present (Matt:18:20), and in His presence is fullness of joy. So we’re not only meant to experience joy in God’s presence but also in each other’s presence!
Here’s my point. The organically organized church is diverse, with many different parts and takes many forms, whether meeting in living rooms, coffee shops, or cathedrals. So don’t blame your past experience on Jesus’ Church, find the “part” where you fit and serve there faithfully. Because when we separate ourselves, we separate ourselves from the safety and nurture that helps us to grow to full maturity. The truth is, we’ll never really grow any higher vertically (with Christ) than we’re willing to grow horizontally (with each other). I’ll close with Paul’s statement on this point.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves,and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph.4:11-16 NIV *)