Ephesians 2:19-22. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
What is the church in relationship to Christ? This is the question we are answering in our current series. Christ is ___ therefore the church is ___. Let’s fill in the blanks.
Christ is the citizen king of God’s kingdom, therefore the church is the citizen saints of God’s kingdom.
All who are in Christ are fellow citizens of the kingdom of God. Gentiles who were outside of the national theocracy of Israel are now brought into the spiritual kingdom of Christ Jesus. This is good news!
But what is the Kingdom of God? Is it a place? A jurisdiction? A structure? The short answer is NO. It’s a spiritual kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is the reign of God.
Big picture: the whole universe, all of time and space is the kingdom of God. He rules it all.
But let’s zoom in a bit. What about here on earth?
What we know is that God has revealed his rule and reign here on earth but at the same time not everything and everyone on earth is submitted to his reign. This will come in the “fullness of time.”
Ephesians 1:10. as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
So how does God manifest his rule and reign here on earth? Well in the Old Testament it was the nation of Israel. But today (as Paul is teaching us here in Ephesians) it is the church.
What this means is that the church reveals what the whole world will look like one day when Christ is in charge of all things. The church shows how the invisible God works in the world.
OK stop laughing. I know you think that your church and the Christians you know are about a million years away from manifesting the reign of God on earth. But trust me it does. And you do. Here’s how:
Wakanda: the hidden kingdom made visible.
When Jesus talked about the kingdom it usually involved a story about seeds and plants and farmers. The farmer sows the seeds and they grow. That’s the church. God does it. Not us. He is the sower. He is the initiator. He alone brought us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of his dear son.
When I taught social studies I used to take groups of students into Washington DC to the National Archives each year to witness a naturalization ceremony. People who were once strangers and aliens were sworn into citizenship with all the same rights and privileges as those of us watching. I can honestly say that I never once felt like these new citizens didn’t belong here or that they didn’t deserve all the same freedoms that I enjoyed. Why? Because I knew that all I did to have the freedoms of America was to be born in America. In other words, I did nothing. It was grace.
So how can there be division in our churches? How can we ever look down upon another believer in Christ? How could we possibly think we are better than anyone else when it was the farmer who sowed the seed and grew the plant, not us?
The very fact that the church exists is grace. Everyone in the church is there because of grace. And grace is the very heart of the reign of God on earth.
The reason why we might not see our church as revealing the awesome reign of God is that it is so simple, basic, even boring some weeks. But think again about how Jesus described the Kingdom of God as seeds. Small, ordinary, common seeds.
This is what your local church is. A bunch of common, ordinary, basic people who come together and then God does supernatural, other-worldly things that, by the way, still look really ordinary. Singing ordinary songs. Serving in ordinary ways. Receiving ordinary bread and wine. Hearing sermons about an ordinary man who died an ordinary death.
And yet all of these things are way beyond ordinary. They are the manifestation of God’s glorious kingdom rule. These are the supernatural works of God that reveal his rule and reign. Yet they are seeds. Tiny, ordinary seeds.
Jesus said the farmer sows the seeds and then one day, when he wakes up, there’s a crop. The church doesn’t ever grow spiritually by trying to grow spiritually. It grows by simply letting the indwelling life of Christ do what it naturally does. Ours is spiritual fruit not fleshly deeds. Sure the farmer can eliminate obstacles to growth but he doesn’t make the seed grow. It grows because that is its nature. It grows, very slowly, but it inevitably grows.
God’s reign on earth looks like slow, progressive, heart altering change that takes place through the everyday suffering, sin, and successes of life.
Is any of that happening in your church? Is anyone being transformed into the image of Christ? Is anyone experiencing life changing grace? Not overnight. Over years and years. Decades even? Are they? Are you?
“To live is Christ” has placed us as fellow citizens into God’s heavenly kingdom making the church the expression of God’s reign on earth. What is happening in your church, the ordinary, organic, grace that is happening is exactly how God wants it to happen. Simple. Basic. Small. Weak. Seeds. That’s his kingdom on earth. That’s your church. A slowly growing shrub bearing the fruit of Christ’s love and offering shade to all who would see their need for grace.