The Glory of God and the Church - Part 5
Gary McBride, Timmins, Ontario, Canada [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
[Unless otherwise stated, all quotations are taken from the NKJ version of the scriptures).
THE PURPOSES OF GOD
Paul ends his prayer in Ephesians chapter 3 with a wonderful doxology, vv. 20, 21. He is eloquent about the surpassing power of God – the fact that God can do far more than we can ask or think. This power is at work in us. Paul moves on from God’s power to the church, and finishes his prayer with this thought, ‘to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus’. God’s power works in us, but glory flows to Him from the church.
This verse must be examined in context, but the language takes the subject out into eternity. The context has to do with the wisdom of God being displayed in the church. This is a result of Jew and Gentile being made one, that Gentiles ‘should be fellow heirs of the same body and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel’, v. 6.
It was Paul’s privilege to preach among the Gentiles ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’, v. 8. The purpose was that the splendour of the mystery, Jew and Gentile in one body, would display God’s wisdom to the occupants of the heavenlies. This was the fulfilment of God’s eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is true that our individual salvation is to the ‘praise of the glory of His grace’, 1. 6. As a result, individual believers will show ‘in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace’, 2. 7. But the glory described here in chapter 3 has to do with believers universally as the body of Christ. This display of glory is not about practice, but has everything to do with the outworking of God’s purposes. The ‘manifold wisdom of God’, v. 10, is on display through the composition of the church. That which was hidden in the past has now been made visible, namely, that Gentiles would be fellow-heirs.
This glory is also seen ‘by’ JND or ‘in’ A. T. Robertson, Christ Jesus. All the attributes mentioned so far in this Epistle are visible in the church and in its head, Christ Jesus. Namely the love, mercy, grace, wisdom, and power of God are all seen in the church and in its risen Head.
The angelic world looks at this, and they learn of the wisdom of God. They see God’s eternal purposes being worked out in Christ. They view the church and Christ and see the glory of God on display. This display of glory will be visible for all eternity.
The church universal is a holy temple, a spiritual house, a household of God, and the church of the living God. The church is the habitation of God in the Spirit, 2. 22. In the Old Testament Tabernacle the glory of God filled the Holy of Holies. The New Testament answer is the church, a holy temple, in which God resides in the Spirit.
THE PERSON OF CHRIST
The church, by its very existence, reveals the glory of the Lord Jesus. The church is the result He anticipated in going to the cross, ‘He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied’, Isa. 53. 11. This was part of that joy that was set before Him that caused Him to endure the cross and despise the shame, Heb. 12. 2.
The church is that pearl of great price, for which the Lord Jesus, as the merchant man, sold all He had to purchase this pearl, Matt. 13. 45, 46. A pearl is formed as a result of a wound in the side, the only gemstone produced from a living organism. A fitting metaphor of the church, purchased at great cost and now on display for His glory.
The church is a building, but the foundation, and the chief cornerstone, and the capstone is Christ. It is a body with its Head in heaven, Jesus Christ. It is a bride and He the heavenly Bridegroom. The church, His body, is the fullness of Him who fills all in all, Eph. 1. 23.
Colossians chapter 1 describes the creation of the universe and the formation of the church. Both are a result of the work of the Lord Jesus. The prepositions in verses 16 and 17, ‘by’, ‘through’ and ‘for’, describe His relationship to His creation. Similar prepositions can be applied to Him in relation to the formation of the Church.
In verse 20 it is ‘by him’ that the work of reconciliation was accomplished. In verse 22 it is ‘in him’ and through His death that this reconciling work was made possible, and by which He made peace. Though the word ‘for’ is not used, it is implied due to the position He occupies. He is the Head, the beginning, the firstborn and in all things He is to have the pre-eminence. As a result it can be said that the church was formed ‘for him’ and, like the physical creation, the church displays His glory.
Revelation chapter 1 verses 5 and 6 describe the outcome of the work of the Lord Jesus. He loved us, washed us from our sins, and made us a ‘kingdom of priests’ JND. The outcome is that glory and dominion should go to Him in time and in eternity. In 1 Peter chapter 2 believers are viewed collectively as a spiritual house, a holy nation, but also as a holy and a royal priesthood. This priesthood is seen when believers gather together and it also functions when spiritual sacrifices are offered, glory is given to God, and the gospel goes out to the world.
THE PRACTICES OF THE CHURCH
Individual believers are saved in such a way that all the glory goes to God. There is no merit in us, no works that we can boast about, and no righteousness that we may present. We are bought with a price and, as a result, we are to glorify God in our bodies. Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, it should be done to the glory of God, 1 Cor. 10. 31.
Believers should let their testimony be seen through good works so that others see these and glorify God, Matt. 5. 16. We are His ambassadors and, as such, our goal is to bring glory to His name. Since this is true in the individual realm, how much more so in the times when we gather together as a local church.
There are corporate practices that are specifically designed to bring glory to God. Corporate worship, by its very nature, is all about God’s glory. Worship ascribes worth to the Lord Jesus, and lifts up His name to the glory of God. The local church that does not worship misses this opportunity to be occupied with God’s glory.
Many debate the interpretation of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 verses 1-16, as to what it means and how it is to be applied. What is clear is that the passage has to do with the headship of Christ and the glory of God. The simplest approach with regard to glory is that everything that speaks of man’s glory is covered. The contrast is that which displays God’s glory is visible. When a woman’s head is covered, her glory, and the glory of the man, are said to be covered. When the man’s head is uncovered the text tells us that God’s glory is visible. We may not understand all that is involved but it is almost universally accepted that males should not have their heads covered in church gatherings. Verse 10 says that the angels observe the church as it gathers and they learn lessons about headship. They also see this display of God’s glory in the uncovered head of the man. As seen earlier, the local church is to display His glory.
Unity in the local church is to the glory of God. In Romans chapter 15 verse 5, Paul prays for God to grant them to be like-minded. The purpose is that out of this unity they may with ‘one mind and one mouth glorify God’, v. 6. Disunity and selfishness put the focus on man, and rob God of His glory.
How God’s people are received should also be to God’s glory. Believers are to ‘receive one another as Christ has received us to the glory of God’, v. 7. Care should be exercised not to go beyond the word of God for to refuse to receive God’s people when He has received them is to hide His glory.
Even in eternity, the church will proclaim the worthiness of God. Many commentators feel that the twenty-four elders of Revelation chapter 5 represent the church in heaven. These elders sing a new song, a phrase that speaks of the song of the redeemed. Of the five sayings in chapters 4 and 5 this is the only one specifically called a song. The song starts with a proclamation of the worthiness of the Lamb, a declaration of His glory.
In Him it is ordained to raise,
a temple to Jehovah’s praise,
Composed of all His saints who own,
no Saviour but the ‘Living Stone’,
How vast the building see it rise,
the work how great,
the plan how wise!
O wondrous fabric! Pow’r unknown:
that rests it on the Living Stone.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Is a full-time worker in northern Ontario, canada, where his ministry is greatly appreciated. Commended by the Greenwood assembly in Timmins and is also involved in missions work overseas.