Glorifying God: The Church a Cosmic Witnessby Myron Heckman on July 9, 2013
A Cosmic Witness
Myron Heckman, Pastor, Cape Cod Bible Alliance Church, Brewster, MA
There are many clashes of ethnic groups and tribes in our world. Where two or more ethnic groups meet or overlap, there is likely to be tension and some bloodshed. Often one group feels economically disadvantaged and politically disenfranchised, and the other group thinks the first group should get its act together and make their way up the nation’s ladder. Hostility reigns. Is there hope for reconciliation?
In the New Testament story of the church, the two conflicting groups were Jew and Gentile. They generally repulsed each other. And when these two groups came into the church they brought their cultures with them. It was an opportunity for conflict and disillusionment. But there was another opportunity – for God to be glorified in a way we would never think of.
Today every member of the body of Christ has an opportunity to glorify God in a way we would never imagine. In making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit we strike a blow for goodness in spiritual warfare. You might be surprised by your role as described by Paul in Ephesians 3.
Paul has in the previous passage (Eph 2:11-22) described the grace of God in making Jew and Gentile one in Jesus Christ, a new temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. If two groups (or individuals) are reconciled to God in Christ, then in turn a provision is there for reconciliation between them.
God sent Paul on a remarkable mission that started this.
Vv 8b this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
As Paul traveled around Asia Minor he had a simple plan. He would go to the synagogue on his first Sabbath in a city and reason from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. The synagogue had two groups in it – there were the expected Jewish worshippers and surprisingly, Gentile adherents called “God-fearers.” Those Gentile God-fearers were turned off by the lax morality of the idol worshippers that surrounded them and they believed in one God and wanted to live a better life. But they were still outsiders.
Those Gentile God-fearers responded enthusiastically to the Gospel. They heard that in Christ they could be right there with God. They had been like kids on the outside of a party looking in – God’s favor was on the Jews, not on them. And they hoped to get a little of the benefit, at least in this life. But now they learned that through faith in Jesus Christ they were fellow heirs of God’s promises.
Paul told them (Eph 3:6) that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,
Acts13:48 describes their reaction. Now when the Gentiles heard this (God’s free grace was for them, too) , they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
As Jew and Gentile came together in Christ, with the wall of hostility between them broken down by the cross, Paul tells of an unexpected and gloriuos impact. The unified church, made up of Jews and Gentiles in Ephesus, and today of disparate groups from around the world, has a witness to the '"principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (v. 10).
to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
The location of the principalities and powers is in the “heavenly places”. “Heavenly places” in Ephesians is literally “ the heavenlies” – not the “third heaven” that is the home of God’s throne, but the invisible realm surrounding us that is filled with God’s omnipresence, but also with angelic beings, both the obedient and the rebellious. These principalities and powers we take to be non-human powers of evil – the demonic.
That is based on the use of the words in Ephesians 6:12
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
There are angels who are servants of God, and angels who are rebels against God, loyal to the fallen archangel, the Devil, and bent on corrupting and destroying the creatures of God. They give power to evil ideas and energy to evil work.
Here is what Ephesians 3:10 asserts: The spiritual, supernatural enemies of God are being put on notice – God will accomplish what he set out to do, and what only He would conceive of. He will sum up all things in Christ (Eph 1:10) and the church will be the centerpiece of showing how effective God’s plan is.God's glory is on display in the reconciled church.
How does the church do this display?
By its very existence as a reconciled unity of normally hostile groups.
When the Church is being the Church it is a cosmic witness. When the church is being the Church – united as Jew and Gentile, black and white and Asian, Hispanic and Anglo, that declares to the invisible demonic realm that God is indeed all wise, and by that His triumph is proclaimed and their doom is announced. It is proclaimed and announced and demonstrated right to the on looking demonic powers.
You then, in such harmony in Christ, are a witness to the devil himself, and to all his dark servants, that God is glorious in His wisdom and grace. By ethnic, racial, tribal, international, and any other naturally hostile groups now reconciled in Christ, you are living proof that God is supremely wise.
You hit the devil right in his solar plexus just by living out in relationships the grace that Jesus Christ has mercifully shown you. That is a marvelous way to resist the enemy of our souls .
Paul describes a benefit that extends to all races and nationalities and ethnic groups in Christ.
V 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
This declares a great benefit and privilege through faith in Him. Who are we to think we can approach God? Yet we can do it with boldness in Christ.
Does He have time for us? No appointment with God is necessary. We don’t approach Him hoping to get an appointment with Him. And then He says: “Hello? This is Cape Cod in the summer. I’m a little busy right now. I can see you August the 15th at 2 pm, and keep you on a waiting list if someone cancels in the meantime.” We have access to our God anytime. As do all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
1) Celebrate unity in the church. We are always vulnerable to interpersonal hurts and wounds, and in the church they weigh on us in a unique way. But don’t neglect the joy of love the body of Christ affords you. “How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1) Savor and foster the fellowship that comes with commonality in Christ – in a local church, and across church lines.
2) Celebrate the Church. Though often weak and wounded, it is a unique warrior in the spiritual battle. Forty years ago the cry of young and zealous Christians was: “God isn’t dead, the Church is!” Of course they were wrong. They mistook flaws and errors for rigor mortis. Today the cry of young and zealous Christians is “Jesus, yes! The church, no!” They too are mistaken. Leaving the church removes that witness to the cosmos of evil spiritual entities that the only wise God will triumph. We have a larger role than we ever imagined.
3) Celebrate missions. It is not a drudgery or a duty, it is a delight. The Gospel missionary enterprise is God’s gracious plan to unite disparate humanity in Christ. Celebrate unity with fellow believers – locally and around the world. It witnesses to the invisible and hostile powers.
You have the high calling to be a cosmic witness. Walk worthy of your calling.
Lord God, enable us to live out this high calling in our lives, in our local churches, and together as the body of Christ on Cape Cod. And may it be so in the Church around the world.