RELIGIOUS ANIMOSITY (5): SOLUTION

Throughout this series of articles we have described the deplorable, divided, enmity ridden condition of the whole of the so called “Christian” world. This condition is, despite the fact that it is defended by some, far from what God intended for his creation when he began to execute his plan for the ages to bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Our redemption, our forgiveness, our salvation is tied to God’s eternal purpose. That purpose is fulfilled “in Christ.” We must never allow anything to come between ourselves and our Lord. He is the one who is over all things in heaven and on earth. Where that purpose is fulfilled is where our focus should be.

Jesus in his “high priestly prayer” at the scene of the last supper said that the Father had “given him authority over all flesh” (John 17:1-2). After his resurrection he told his disciples that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt. 28:18-20). Paul spoke of “the Christ, who is God over all” (Rom. 9:5). In a doxology to Christ, Paul exclaims, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36).

In Ephesians 1:16-23 Paul, in telling these Christians of his prayer that they might know the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead and his exaltation above all rule and authority in the present age and in the one to come, says that God “…put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body.” The picture here is not of a commander giving orders to his troops or of a CEO of a corporation commanding his underlings, but of the one who is the source of life to his people who are “the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is a picture of Christ being complete because of his body, his people, the church being in him. Yes, they move at his direction, but that direction does not necessarily consist of commandments only. Headship can mean something other than commanding authority. Those who are in him derive their life and identity from him because he is their head.

Christ is the head of the church like the husband is head of the wife (Ephesians 5:22-33). That relationship is not one where the husband commands and the wife meekly obeys. It is a relationship of love in which each seeks what is best for the other. The husband takes the lead, sets the tone of the relationship, gives direction and motivation and takes responsibility for his wife and family. A marriage in which the husband functions as a domineering dictator is not marriage as God intended it.

Marriage is a relationship of love in which each fulfills the other and the relationship of Christ and the church is also. Adam was not complete without Eve as his “complement.” A complement (completement) is something that makes something else complete or perfect (brings to the ideal or intended end). A wife does this for her husband, the church does this for Christ. His mission, his purpose for coming to the earth would not be complete without those for whom he came. The church is the “completement” of Christ.

Being “in him,” we share in everything that he is about. He now sits as Lord and Christ over all of God’s creation. Christians now reign with him. According to Daniel’s prophecy, when the “ancient of days” received dominion, the saints were to possess the kingdom and reign with him.

And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him
.” (Dan 7:27).

Christ has received dominion – the power to rule. He now sits on his throne in heaven ruling over his everlasting kingdom. Therefore the “people of the saints of the Most High” have been given the kingdom and the dominion herein promised. It is our business both individually and as the church to further his rule to the extent of the ability he gives us.

What are the interests of his kingdom? The prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming King and his kingdom …

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:7; see also, Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15).

Paul tells us …

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17).

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

Justice, righteousness, peace, joy, power – these are all the business of the kingdom. Haven’t our brethren always contended that the church IS the kingdom? Why is it then we hear so little preaching about this “kingdom business” today? Why is it that there is little done by so many professing Christians about these matters? If Jesus is the king – and he is – and the business of the kingdom consists of such things, why do we not see very much interest in them?

The reason is we are not taking our cue from Christ the King. We pick and choose what suits our concept of what God wants, e.g., restoration, and “justify” our choices by convoluted arguments that require legal experts to decipher and then think we are “scriptural” because we have our “proof” (texts). We believe we have been set free because we know the “truth,” but we do not know him who is the TRUTH. We read the Bible as we would a law book, but we do not know him who is the WORD. We read the Bible as a “road map,” but do not know him who is the WAY. We read what Jesus taught, but we don’t know the TEACHER. We don’t know him because we have never really tried to know him who came to make God known to mankind. Failing to know him, we miss the whole point of human existence.

Jesus came to save us, but we are saved for a purpose beyond just “doing church.”

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).

As those who have been saved by his grace through faith, have been raised up and made to sit together in the heavenly places and were created in Christ Jesus for good works. We are joined with other Christians in Christ that we together might engage with one another in such works.

When divisions or problems occurred in the New Testament churches, the appeal for correction was always tied to Christ, his name and what he has done for man. In 1 Corinthians 1:10 “…I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The “name” of someone does not always mean commanding authority, but more broadly, who a person is and all they stand for. When Paul comes to the point in his letter to the Galatians where he begins his correction, he connects his rebuke of them for leaving the gospel to what Christ had done. “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1).

Moral teaching is the same. To the Thessalonians Paul wrote …

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.”

When Paul had finished his theological dissertation in Romans 1-11 and turns to the practical application of this thoroughgoing explanation of what God had done in Christ in behalf of mankind, he hangs his appeal on that truth. He says …

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1).

When Paul wrote in the 2nd Corinthian letter encouraging them to complete the contribution for the saints they had promised, he keyed his appeal to what Christ had done for them …

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (8:9).

… and closes that lengthy exhortation with another reference to him … “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15).

Everywhere you look – on every page of the Bible you see Christ. The whole account of the Bible is leading to him, pointing to him, praising him. To attempt to preach any subject without considering his bearing on it is to fail to see the point of that subject. To attempt to teach anything about the church without seeing him as not only the source, but the reason behind everything about it is to misunderstand the church. No, you can’t preach Christ without preaching the church, nor can you preach the church without Christ. And you can’t preach Christ unless you know him.

In Acts 8, Philip went to Samaria and “proclaimed to them the Christ.” When the people, including Simon the Sorcerer (Magician) heard him, “they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” and were baptized. Did Philip tell them what they needed to do? Surely he did. Why were they baptized? Was it not because of what they had come to know about Jesus who is the Christ? Was it not because they had put their trust in him to save them? Anything other than that would not have resulted in their salvation.

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