This very day NBC News announced that the latest polls indicate that 20% of America’s citizens no longer claim attachment to any religion of any kind. There’s never been a more important time to remind ourselves of the book of Ephesians than now! The apostle announces: “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).
God is not the God of confusion and chaos. He is the Great Geneticist who brings order to the DNA structure of the human body. He is the great Architect who created beauty out of chaos when He “created the heavens and earth.” The apostle Paul says that God plan is to “bring all things in heaven and on earth together” in His Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:10). He deals with the division and discrimination men have created between themselves and produces unity in its place. He removes the barriers of sin that separate mankind from Himself, making peace between man and God through blood shed on the cross. The instrument God has chosen to accomplish this unity is His divine church. Sixteen times the “church” (the “body” of Christ) is referred to in Ephesians, and the lessons are vitally important today for each of us.
FAMILIES ARE UNITED IN THE CHURCH
Through the example of Jesus who loved His church and died for it, husbands and wives can learn the meaning of true Christian marriage. In Ephesians chapter five Paul uses two words to describe the wife’s role in marriage: submit and respect, and two words to describe the husband’s role in marriage: headship and love.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her …. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies…. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’.… Each of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Family relationships are often disrupted by a lack of understanding of God’s appointed roles for husbands and wives. When husbands fail to lead as heads of their households and wives fail to be submissive to their husbands there will be disorder in the home. When husbands fail to love their wives in the same way Jesus loved His church and wives fail to respect their husbands there will be disorder in the home. Things in marriage go smoother when men and women take their God-given roles and prayerfully seek to be the husbands and wives God wants them to be. There is no more beautiful relationship in marriage than the one exemplified by Christ in the way He loved and cared for His church and the humble submission and respect the church has for the One who gave His life for it.
GODLY LIVING IS ENCOURAGED IN THE CHURCH
Ephesians has much to say about the connection between the church of Christ and living a godly Christian life. Those who are in the “body of Christ” are commanded to “live a children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Consider the instructions to carefully guard one’s speech:
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor …. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up…. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”
(Ephesians 4:25, 29; 5:4).
Let us take seriously the scripture’s encouragement to control our sexual appetites: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3).
Think about the challenge to have purity of heart: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
When we become Christians things need to change in our lives. “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
SALVATION IS IN THE CHURCH
Ephesians tells us: “Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior” (Ephesians 5:23). It is in the “one body” (the church) that we are reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:16). Those who are in the church are “members together of one body (one church), and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6). One of the great truths taught in the book of Acts is that the Lord adds those who are saved to His church (Acts 2:46). To be saved, Peter said we must “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). When 3,000 people on the Day of Pentecost obeyed these two commands, God added them to His church. The Lord’s church is composed of those who have been added to it by the Lord, those who are saved. Only the lost are excluded from membership in this divine institution.
Does this mean the church saves us? No! The church is not our savior. Jesus is our Savior. But Jesus is the Savior of His church. On the final day of judgment when our destiny is determined for all eternity, it will be important that we have been part of His “body,” the “church. ” Our eternal salvation depends upon it.
The church of the Bible is an undenominational church because there were no denominations when Christianity first started. The Lord did not add people to any denomination in the days of the New Testament. He does not do so today either. He adds the saved to His one divine church. How blessed we are to have the opportunity to be undenominational Christians today, members of the church for which Jesus gave His life!
SPIRITUAL MATURITY COMES IN THE CHURCH
The Lord wants every Christian to grow spiritually, to arrive at a full knowledge of His truth and to be united as mature men and women. His plan to accomplish this includes the church.
He gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming”
If we want to be firm in our faith, if we want to be complete in our knowledge, if we want to be prepared for every spiritual battle, we need to be faithful in attending the worship and learning opportunities offered by the church. God puts teachers in His church because He knows we need guidance in understanding His word. When Philip asked the Ethiopian treasure: “Do you understand what you are reading?” he replied: “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:30-31). This is God plan, and God has our best interest in mind. God’s plan is always the best plan.
CLEANING FROM SIN IS IN THE CHURCH
Ephesians declares: “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Our New Testaments were originally written in Greek, and the Greek word for “cleansing” in this passage is in the aorist tense. It means cleaning that occurred at a specific point in time. There is a specific time when all believers are “cleansed” from past sins. Note carefully the two words which indicate the means by which God has cleansed us from our sins: water and word.
Cleansing takes place “with water,” the water of baptism. Not that there is any power in the water itself to wash away our sins, but baptism is the time and place where the blood of Jesus washes our sins away as the water of baptism washes over our bodies. In baptism our sins are “washed away” (Acts 22:16). The Bible says “baptism saves us” (1 Peter 3:21).
Cleansing from our sins involves the word of God. Paul says “cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” The Barclay translation of Ephesians 5:26 reads: “It was His purpose to cleanse and consecrate it by the washing of baptism and the preaching of the word.” Baptism is for those old enough to hear the word of God, to understand its teachings and to respond with a willing heart to its commands. Baptism without hearing and learning the word is meaningless. We see a fine example of how hearing the word of God and water baptism come together in the conversion of the Jailer in Acts chapter sixteen. After Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to him and all who were in his household, he was baptized immediately. Rejoicing in cleansing from his past sins, he brought Paul and Silas into his house and set a meal before them. (Acts 16:31-34).
God’s church matters! Our fellow Americans need to realize how important God’s church is so they can have peace and harmony in the family, spiritual cleansing, spiritual growth and salvation and a relationship with God which lasts for all eternity.
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (1984)