“I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
This is a continuation of my last post: The Church (I). I am trying to lay out what exactly the Bible has to say about the church as the universal, corporate body of Christ, and how the church is much more important and mysterious than most of us realize.
I started exploring the book of Ephesians in my last post, which is Paul’s epistle entirely devoted to a description of the church. I covered two aspects there and plan on covering about five more in this post. Hope you enjoy!
The Kingdom of God
“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints” Ephesians 2:19a
“To Him who loves us and has released us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom” Revelation 1:5b-6a
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people acquired for a possession” 1 Peter 2:9
The church is the kingdom of God, of which we are all citizens of. I spoke heavily on the kingdom of God in an earlier post: Kingdom and Dominion. To give a brief synopsis, the kingdom of God is the exercise of God’s authority on earth today.
We were not called into what Bonhoeffer describes as “cheap grace” or as Luther described it: “We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone.” ¹ God has saved and regenerated all His believers into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-6). This was not a matter of just accounting Christ’s righteousness to them on paper in the heavens, but was a matter of receiving a new life.
God’s desire is to rule as Lord and King from within us. We are called to cooperate with the King who lives inside of us and truly pray the prayer “Your will be done, as in heaven so also on earth.”
The Household of God
“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are…members of the household of God” Ephesians 2:19
A household implies a few things: family, life, and enjoyment. In the household of God, we are all members of the same family, whether Jew or Greek. God is our heavenly Father who disciplines and executes authority and judgement from within (1 Pet. 4:17), and Christ is our brother of whom we are being conformed to, enjoying, and receiving life from (Rm. 8:29; Phil. 4:4; 1 Cor. 15:45).
In this household, which is the household of faith (Gal. 6:10), we find our Sabbath rest (Heb. 3:6). We should bring others into this household. Not into our church building that is made with bricks and clay, but into the household of God that is composed of all the living stones (1 Pet. 2:5). This is the family of God.
The Dwelling Place of God
“In whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.” Ephesians 2:21-22
This is different from the aspect described above, for it describes God’s dwelling place rather than our own. The church is not only a family and household, but is the temple in which God Himself dwells. I wrote extensively on this in an earlier post: Building.
God has always desired a place to dwell (Is. 66:1-2). He first found it in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), then in the temple (1 Kings 8:11), then in Christ (Col. 1:19), currently in the church (2 Cor. 6:6), and ultimately in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:3).
The dwelling place of God is the church, but the church is in a building process (Matt. 16:18). He is building us (the members of the church) together in spirit. This is not in just the Holy Spirit, but in the spirit of man which has been united with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). We must learn to contact the Lord who lives in our spirit and be in fellowship with other believers in spirit, for this is how God’s purpose is accomplished and His dwelling place is built!
The Bride of Christ
“He who has the bride is the bridegroom” John 3:29
“Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25
“Let us rejoice and exult, and let us give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7
Another wonderful aspect of the church is that we are the Lord’s bride! I wrote about this as well earlier: Divine Romance. The love which we must have for the Lord is not solely a brotherly love or a fatherly love, but we can and should love the Lord in a romantic way.
He desires us as His wife and counterpart, dying that He might obtain such a glorious woman (Eph. 5:25-27). He even wants to bring us into a full union with Himself, which is what marriage and becoming one flesh are a type or picture of (Eph. 5:31-32). Hallelujah! This is so wonderful! We can satisfy Christ as His bride and He satisfies us as our Husband.
“Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the stratagems of the devil” Ephesians 6:11
It is interesting that whenever spiritual warfare is mentioned in the Bible, it is in the context of the whole church, not just an individual Christian (Rm. 13:12-14; 2 Cor. 6:4-7; Eph. 4:24). We can only fight the enemy when we put on the new man, Christ, who is embodied as the church (Eph. 4:24), who is the full armor of God (Rm. 13:14).
Waging warfare is not just a nuisance that is a consequence of a random fallen angel, but is part of God’s eternal purpose of exercising dominion over all things through the church as His kingdom, especially over the creeping things which creeps upon the earth (Gen. 1:26). I wrote about this in an earlier post as well: Kingdom and Dominion
When we put on Christ, as the armor of God, corporately as the church, Satan’s dominion is unable to do damage. The gates of Hades are unable to prevail. This is how to wage spiritual warfare, as the corporate church of God.
God’s Eternal Purpose
“God, who created all things, in order that now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenliness the multifarious wisdom of God might be made know through the church, according to the eternal purpose which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord” Ephesians 3:9-11
God’s eternal purpose, summed up, is Christ and the church. All the links on this post are under the category of God’s eternal purpose. The building up of the church, as the Body of Christ, the fullness of the One, the new man,the kingdom of God, the household and dwelling place of God, the wife of God, and the corporate warrior of God, is God’s eternal purpose.
We must give our lives to the fulfillment of Matthew 16:18, for Christ builds His church through His many members:
“Christ, out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:16
¹ Metaxas, Eric; Bonhoeffer; pg. xv, xvi