When we struggle to see the relevance with the week-in and week-out gatherings with the church it helps to remember the big picture. Ephesians 3 provides such perspective. Here's a devotional I wrote for the CBMW Karis blog, where they are currently doing a series on Ephesians:
Faster and faster, the world seems to be spinning out of control. Talk of cultural revolutions in the West and political instability in the East is in the air. In light of this, questions of the church’s relevance fly at us from the left and the right.
Ephesians chapter 3 answers those questions by throwing back the curtains on a mystery (3:9-10). In eternity past the mind of the Triune God conceived of the script for a grand megadrama. He created the universe to be the cosmic stage for the glory of his Son, and he predestined the church as the leading lady. In this drama, the mystery of the church is like one big “aha moment,” and it reveals God’s wisdom to those who inhabit the spiritual realm. You could say that the church is God’s cosmic booyah.
From the various stipulations of the covenants, sacrifices, feasts, and temple worship, to the priests, judges, kings, and prophets—these “copies” give way to the “true things” (Heb. 9:23-24) and shine one collective spotlight on the eternal Son. God realized his eternal purpose in Christ Jesus—in his Incarnation, sinless life, sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection, ascension back into heaven, the gift of his Spirit, and his continued work on earth through his Body, which includes believing Jews and Gentiles (3:6).
The gospel frees us to know the love of this Christ that surpasses knowledge. This love has a context—the garden of community (3:17-19). God plants us in the body of Christ where we are “filled with all the fullness of God” (this is a phrase that Paul uses to describe spiritual maturity). The context in which we grow to maturity is the garden of the local church. Jesus dwells in the hearts of individuals by faith, and it is together “with all the saints” where we explore all of the geometry of Christ’s love. How wide, how long, how high, and how deep is the love of Jesus?We were made to help each other discover the answers of these questions. In this garden of community we seek the flourishing of others. Seeds of envy, favoritism, arrogance, racism, and gossip will find no place to cast down their roots when we are all rooted and grounded in love.
Our membership in the church will never expire. The Spirit has descended, indwelling believers and carrying out Jesus’ work. The triumph of Jesus is displayed both to the unseen realm and to the watching eyes of our neighbors as we walk in his ways of cruciform, servant leadership. May the mysterious kingdom of God grow like a garden without borders and gracefully cover the wasteland that our sin has made of this world.
The sovereign Christ who fills all in all through his body the church is at work in the world still. Will we ask him to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think?