When the church is church, when the people of God are living under the word of God and under the power of God, what happens is unity; what happens is love; what happens is faith and the new life. It becomes such a distinct and transformed community that the people outside are looking into it and are seeing such wisdom, such a wonderful thing, that they are giving glory to God and they are asking, “How come? We didn’t think this was possible. How come?”
I Believe in The Church
Nic Kyalangalilwa delivers his seventh in a nine week sermon series unpacking the foundations of the Christian faith – working through the Apostles’ Creed, a statement of belief penned in the 4th Century AD.
The Apostles’ Creed is really the foundation of what a Christian believes.
“It’s really the foundation of what a Christian believes. This is what makes the difference between what we would call a Christian faith, and a non-Christian faith.”
This sermon looks at the seventh section which refers to the Church. Nic takes us through a tour of the Bible passages relating to Church, unpacking what the Church is, how you become part of it, and what it’s ultimate purpose is in the kingdom of God.
Understanding The Apostles’ Creed
Find the other sermons in this series here:
- I Believe… In God, The Father Almighty
- I Believe… In God The Creator
- I Believe… In Jesus’ Incarnation
- I Believe… In Jesus’ Death & Resurrection
- I Believe… In Jesus’ Ascension & Return
- I Believe… In The Holy Spirit
- I Believe… In The Church
- I Believe… In The Life Everlasting
Text: Ephesians 3:8-12
Date preached: 18 May 2016
Location: Le Phare Church, Bukhavu, DRC-Congo
I guess technology has played a little bit of a game for us. And so, I will say, if you’re far away, you might wanna consider moving a little closer. I don’t think I can shout that much with the noise coming from the street. But if you’re comfortable where you are, it’s okay I won’t push you. And I will not force you. Right? So, if you wanna move forward, feel free to do that.
What Christians Actually Believe
Now, if you’ve been with us for a few weeks we have been looking at what is it that actually Christians believe. And we’ve looked at what is called the Apostles’ Creed. And we’ve looked at the fact that Christians believe in God. They believe not just in God but we explained what kind of God they believe in, a trinitarian God. A God who was involved in creation, a God who is powerful, who’s the maker of the universe and all things that is there. But also Christians believe in Jesus. Now, they don’t just believe in God, but they also believe in Jesus. And this is where it becomes very tricky. Well not tricky but very important for Christians. Because it makes the difference between many faiths.
We do believe that Jesus is the son of God.
Now, there are people who don’t believe in Jesus as the son of God. We do believe that Jesus is the son of God. We believe that he lived physically, he died physically, and he was raised, and now he lives at the right hand of the father. And one day he will come to judge the living and the dead. And so, you start seeing the difference between some of what Christians believe based on the Bible than what other people would believe, or what other people would claim to have a Christian belief but who wouldn’t believe in that.
Then we spoke about Christians believing in the Spirit. And that I think was the topic of last week. We talked about the Spirit and its work in the life of a Christian. And the purpose of the Spirit which is really to make us look like Jesus. He’s a helper, a comforter, an advocate.
We Believe in The Church
Now this evening we will be talking about the Church. And so the title is I believe in the Church. Now, there’s a section in the Apostles’ Creed – it’s our habit to read it together but we can’t because of the projection. But it says, “I believe in the Church. The holy universal Church”. In some versions they say, ” The holy Catholic Church.” And there’s another version of the creed which is what they call the Nicene Creed which says, “The holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. And then it goes on and says, “In the communion of saints”. Now, there’s a sense in which it already explains what is a Church. The Church is the communion of saints. And so that’s the topic of tonight.
The Church is the communion of saints.
Now let me ask you a question then. And if it’s not a question you’ve asked yourself in the past, it’s surely a question that you’ve heard somebody asking. “Why should I go to church? Why should I go to church? Why should I belong to a church if salvation is individual? If God says people – individual people – if one day individual people will get in front of God and, you know, answer for their lives, why should I belong to a church? Why should I even go to church? Why should I be part of a church?”
Now some people will say, “Well I can’t belong to the Church because it’s an institution of men. It’s a way in which people control people. It’s an institution to make sure that people are controlling each other”.
Is a church just a building? Is a church just a place we go to? Is a church just an institution? What do we mean as Christians when we say we believe in the Church?
Learning From Ephesians 3
Now, we will be doing that from Ephesians 3. I think you probably get by now that it looks like we’re doing what they call a systematic theology: a study in theology of different topics. And you understand that at university people spend a whole semester studying these things and we’re just spending a few minutes looking at this thing! So, you will forgive that if I don’t mention every single verse that is in the Bible. We will just focus on the most important, or at least it seems to me.
So here’s what we’re going to do tonight, we’re going to look at 3 points from Ephesians 3.
Now, Ephesians is a great book. Ephesians is a great book and it starts with a wonderful passage. In Ephesians 1:3 it says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Jesus Christ…” with so many blessings. And so Paul goes on to explain the many blessings that God has given to the Church.
Now, there are many theories on why Paul wrote Ephesians. Some people say there were problems in the church. Other people would argue that there were not that many problems in the church but he was just going through a time where he felt like he really wanted to say something great about this wonderful community of believers and how God has blessed Christians in this community. And so for many people, actually, in the New Testament, Ephesians is actually the book for the Church. It’s actually a book that kind of explains the dynamic, the purposes of living together as a people of God.
Now, we’re not going to study the whole book. We’re just going to focus on Ephesians 3. And then I will touch on Ephesians 4, 5 and 6 a little bit in terms of bringing a few illustrations.
Three Key Points About The Church
The three things I wanna say today about the Church is this: first of all the Church is from God. The origin of the Church is really in the purposes, in the plans, of God. So, Church is not a manmade thing. Church is a God-made thing. God purposed the Church; God planned for the Church.
The second thing is actually why does the Church exist? How did it come to be? How did the Church come to be? I think here I said how does the Church come to existence? What is the means through which the Church comes to existence? What is the thing that creates the Church? Well, Paul tells us again in Ephesians 3 that it’s through the preaching of the gospel. So, the gospel birthed the Church. The preaching of the gospel creates this community of God.
And what’s the end result? What’s the goal of the Church? Why does the Church exist? Well, we will see that the Church exists to show the glory of God. And there’s a word that Paul uses and says, “Wisdom of God”. And so the Church is there to show how great, and how powerful, and how mighty, and how intelligent, and how wise God is.
And then lastly we’ll try and apply this point and see how that can be true of us. Because, remember again, we did say that what we’re saying is belief and then we are checking if our belief matches our practices. It’s not just about this is what we believe, it’s actually because we live, this is how we live because we believe it.
Where Does The Church Come From?
Now the question is when we’re doing the series is actually every time to stop and say, “Well, if this is what we believe – at least ought to believe, are supposed to believe – does it impact how we live?”
Now I think at this point you will understand at the end why is it that at Le Phare we claim to be a family? Why is it that we really fight for this concept of family? Well it’s because I think it’s in the mind of God and that’s what a church ought to be.
So, first point: the origin of the Church. Where does it come from?
Now, come with me to Ephesians 3 and I will focus on the last verses that were read to us: Ephesians 3:11-12. Now he says, “This was according to the eternal purpose that has realised in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realised in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s Plan For The Church
Now what is Paul saying? He says, “This”, now this is what he just said earlier on. What has he just said? Well, let’s go back to the first verse that was read to us, Ephesians 3:8. He says, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” And it’s this, “This”, that is according to the purpose that he realised in Christ Jesus.
The Church is not an idea of men. It’s God’s idea.
Now what did he realise in Christ Jesus? It’s that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God can be known. So what is Paul saying here? Paul is saying here – and we’ll come back to it – that as the Church is known, there’s great wisdom that is found in God, and God has always wanted that. He says that’s what God has purposed. Actually when you study this a little bit, they explain to you that the word ‘purpose’ there would mean that from all the time forward, this is what God has always wanted to do.
Now what has God always wanted to do? To have a Church and that Church will show his glory. Now we’ll talk about that later on.
The Gathering of God’s People
So, the Church is not an idea of men. It’s God’s idea. And my dear friend when I go back and look through my Bible, I see the same thing coming back. Now if the Church, the word Church, that we use today in most of the places in the New Testament is the word ‘Ecclesia’. Now, I know many of you speak Swahili. What is eklesia? Well, some places they will say eklesia is church! especially for our Catholic friends. Now ecclesia in the Greek world, this means the gathering of God’s people. So a gathering of people; people getting together. And through time that word has been used to signify church. So it’s the people getting together, it’s God bringing people together. And Paul says, that has always been in the purposes of God. That has always been the plan of God – to bring people together.
That has always been the plan of God – to bring people together.
The People of God in Eden
Now I go back in my Bible and I look at Genesis 1-2. What do I see? Well I see God creating men and then on top of that adding a woman, and now there’s two people and he says to them what? That’s one of the commands Africans like! Be fruitful and multiply! Be numerous. Be a people. So when Adam and Eve have children they are the people of God!
So you see this concept in Genesis already. You see that God is making a people for himself. God is gathering a people for himself. Now, of course me and you know Genesis 3: the fall of man. Man has decided that he doesn’t want to be a friend of God again and so man leaves God alone and then God chases man from the garden. But God doesn’t stop. So come with me to Genesis 12 and then we will see how this same idea goes on and on. Genesis 12.
Now when you get to Genesis 12 – I am going to do a little bit of a quick bird view of Genesis – Genesis 1 and 2 God has his own people in the garden of Eden. Genesis 3, they disobey God. Genesis 4, they are cursed and then they start falling. But they are chased from the garden of Eden. Now, from Genesis 4 to Genesis 9 I think (somewhere there, about Genesis 6-9) you see the world growing and people increasing in number. But what you also see is that people are now going away from God. And so in Genesis 8 and 9 you see what we call normally the flood is God decides to kill the whole world and then start again with one man called Noah. And so God starts again with Noah, but when you get to Genesis 11, it’s what we call the Tower of Babel, it’s the same problem is back again! Sin has gone into people again, sin has destroyed everything again.
God’s People Through Abram
Now, in Genesis 3 [correction Genesis 12] it’s almost as if God says, “Well, I’m gonna try another route. And so in Genesis 3:1 [correction Genesis 12:1-3] we read, “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
What do we see here, particularly in Genesis 12:2, what do we see here? Well, we see God saying to Abram what? “I’m going to take you and out of you I’m going to make a people – I’m going to make my people”.
Remember again I started by saying it has always been God’s plan to have a people to himself. So the idea of a gathered people of God is not just a New Testament idea. You see that in Adam, you see that with Abram now, and now if we go to Exodus 6 you will see that in Exodus 6 God is talking, Exodus 6:7, God is talking to Moses and says to Moses, these are the encouraging words I want you to tell your people. Right? And in Exodus 6:7 he says, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
The Rescue of God’s People in Exodus
Now God is talking to Israel and he says, “I will make you my people”. I’m going to go to the extent of rescuing you from slavery so as you can be my people.
Now we didn’t get that from Abraham. Isn’t it? From Abraham we didn’t get this idea of God rescuing me. From Israel now we have this new notion. We have this new notion that God is going to go to the extent of bringing people from outside into his family. And that’s the same concept that is carried on into the New Testament. And so the Church becomes the gathered people of God; the Church becomes the people that God goes out to the extreme and rescues at great price and brings them together so as they can be his people.
Now it’s interesting that when the angel is telling Zechariah, who is the father of John the Baptist, it’s interesting how he says what Zechariah is gonna do. And also look at what that means for this ministry of Jesus which is, you know, what we are living under – or the gospel.
John The Baptist Gathers God’s People
Now come with me to Luke 1 and then we will be able, I hope, to get a bit of a picture of this concept.
Luke 1:8-17: “Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Now it’s interesting, it’s interesting that here we are not focusing much about the prophesy per se. But we’re really focusing on the ministry of John the Baptist as he prepared the ministry of Jesus. And what is the point of his ministry? Well, he will bring the lost children back! He will gather the children back to their father. Now, who is the father here? It’s – you know I think you can look at God, but I think primarily it’s about the Jesus who is coming to walk.
So almost what he’s saying is John the Baptist is gonna come and bring the children and gather them so as they can meet their father, who is the Lord who is coming.
It’s interesting as well to see that Jesus said, “I have come so that the lost might be brought back.” He says, “I came to save the lost”, to see the lost. So there’s this concept that actually God is gonna bring people from outside and bring them inside.
God’s People in The New Heaven & Earth
One more passage. I did ask you to forgive me because it looks a little bit like we are in a theology class, right? We are not in a theology class. But it’s good for us to get this concept.
Revelation 21. Right? And this is now the final chapter. You almost see that it started in the garden of Eden, and ends in Revelation. And in between you see Israel, which is really the gathered nation of God, and now you have a new kind of phase which is Jesus coming and gathering the people from left and right – and now we see in Revelation 21 the last pictures. And then what we see is actually the people of God gathered from all over.
Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The end result is God sitting among his people. It’s not God just talking individually with each one.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”
Now, I hope you’ve noticed something here, and what you’ve noticed is God himself says that the end result is God sitting among his people. It’s not God just talking individually with each one. It’s God sitting among his people.
All Nations Together Under God
Now I think there is a concept, the 144,000, that’s a concept again that you find in Revelation, and I think some people misread it. But 144,000 is really 12 time whatever, I think it’s 12,000 – no it’s not 12,000 it’s something – I’m not very good at maths! But it is a round number, right? It’s a round number to see all nations, all people will come together and live under God. And he says here, “Those who will be called my son.” So the idea again here is God gathering a people from left and right.
The concept of a family of God, is not a manmade concept. It is all over the Bible.
Now this is not a concept that people invented. Now I may agree with you that maybe we’ve overdone church a little bit. And sometimes we thing church is a building, and sometimes we see church as structure, and there might be reasons for it… But the concept of a gathered people of God, the concept of a community of God, the concept of a family of God, is not a manmade concept. It is all over the Bible.
Now if you like we can do another session on this, but I am going to stop from there.
The Christian Life Is About Community
Right! So it’s God’s plan. The Church is God’s plan. The Church is a purpose from God – it flows from God’s purpose, from God’s plan, for all time, and the Church as the gathered people of God..
So the Christian life is not… you know when we grew up we were looking at these movies called Rambo. Now I don’t know if you’ve watched Rambo or Delta Force, and you have this one man who comes and kills everybody else. Now the Christian life doesn’t work like that. It’s not a one man thing.
The Christian life is not a lone ranger life. You have to belong to a community!
Or you walk with the Western Lone Ranger. You know there were other movies that will show you this guy on his horse, and he was the only guy, and he would walk alone and he’s happy by himself. Well, in God’s plans things don’t always work like that. It has to be in community, it has to be in the concept of family.
So, in Hebrews, one of the problems you find in Hebrews 10 is actually that people, because of persecution, because it was so hard, they didn’t want to meet together. And the author actually gives them a warning. So in Hebrews 10:19-25, you can read that at home, he says, “No! Don’t stop meeting!” What the gospel has done to you is actually to give you more confidence because the Christian life is not a lone ranger life. You have to belong to a community!
It’s not a building, I agree with you, it’s not about the building. It’s about the people. It’s about the community. It’s about God saving each person – left and right – and bringing them together.
What’s The Criteria To Belong to This Family?
So that brings me to my second question. Now, what is the criteria to belong to this community? Well I say it again, that’s my second point. The first point is the Church is God’s purpose, it’s God’s plan. The second is, the preaching of the gospel birthed the Church.
The preaching of the gospel birthed the Church.
Ephesians 4. [Correction, Ephesians 3] Now let’s go back to our passage again. I think I’ve done a bit of a tour of the Bible! Ephesians 4:8 [Correction, Ephesians 3:8-9]: “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things”.
Now, to shorten, what is he saying? He says, grace was given to me, I am the least of all the saints, grace was given to me. So Paul sees his task as a preacher of the gospel not as something that he… not as a quality but as a gift. Not as something that he says, “Well I was born to do this, I am a born preacher”. No, no, no. He says “I received this grace”, it’s a gift from God. It’s something that is not deserved. Well, to do what? “I received the grace to preach to the Gentiles”, to proclaim to the Gentiles. And what am I supposed to proclaim to the Gentiles? “The unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things”.
God’s Plan: The Reconciliation of All Things Under Christ
Now, I am not gonna do much work because our time is also gone and I don’t want to get you guys tired! But what is the plan of God? Well Paul will say in Ephesians, again if you study a little bit further you will see, the plan of God is to reconcile all things in Christ! That’s the plan of God. God wants to reconcile all things through his son. And that you can find in Ephesians 1:9-10. It says what’s God’s plan.
Now sometimes people sit and say, “What’s God’s plan for my life? What’s God’s plan for the world?” Well Paul is very clear. What does God want? He wants everything in heaven and down on the earth to be reconciled under Jesus. He wants everything to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
And so this is what he said. He is preaching to the Gentiles, to the people who are outside the so-called community of God, so as these people can also come into the community of God and be under the lordship of Jesus. And for that what does he do? He has to proclaim the mystery, the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Paul is saying there’s so much riches in Jesus, there’s so much stuff in Jesus, that he’s so rich, that I really don’t know where to start and where to end. But as I proclaim this, I am bringing the Gentiles back into this community.
People Need to Hear About Jesus
I think from these two verses what we can see is Paul is very clear. It’s as the gospel is proclaimed that people come to know Jesus.
There’s a nice, interesting passage in Romans 10, you can read for yourself, but Paul is arguing, he wants his church to support him, he wants the Roman church to support him – he is going to be a missionary to Spain and he needs their support through prayers, financial support, so as he can get there. And in Romans 10 he says, how shall they hear if nobody preaches to them? And how can somebody preach if nobody goes?
How shall they hear if nobody preaches to them? How can somebody preach if nobody goes?
Now before he say how shall they hear he says something, a verse that almost everybody here knows, he says everybody who confesses with his mouth and believes in his heart that Jesus is Christ, that Jesus is Lord, then that person will be saved.
So what is Paul saying? Paul is saying that for somebody to believe in his heart and confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, and for that person to be saved, and remember again for us, to belong to the Christian family as we will see just now, what needs to happen? He needs to hear the gospel. And for him to hear the gospel somebody needs to preach the gospel.
How Do We Become Children of God?
The same thought is here. He says he was given this wonderful task to preach the gospel – to preach this wonderful news about Jesus. And as this wonderful news is preached, and as people come to believe this wonderful news, they go into the family of God.
John 1:9, [Correction John 1:12] what does it say? To those who…? I sing this song every day: “to those who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be called children of God”. John is so full of this concept that in another Epistle that he writes, in 1 John, he says “Behold children, now we are children of God. And what we shall be we do not know, but now we know that we are children of God.”
How do we join this family? It’s through faith, through trust in this wonderful gospel.
So the Bible is very clear that for you to become a child of God what needs to happen? Well the gospel has to be preached to you. So how do we belong to this family? how do we join this family? It’s through faith, through trust in this wonderful gospel, wonderful news.
What Is The Gospel?
Now, what is the gospel? Well, 1 Corinthians 15: the gospel is that Jesus died for my sin. The gospel is that he rose again and now he says to me, come. The gospel says that I am bad because I’ve rejected God. The gospel says that I am hopeless because I can’t get myself out of that bad situation. The gospel says that I am in danger because God will condemn me based on what I do. And since what I do is against him, then I will not escape.
My family link won’t help me. My belonging to Le Phare won’t help me. My reading the Bible won’t help me. The only thing that will help me is what God has done for me. And what has God done for me? Well, God has sent his son to become a man, to live on earth like a man. That son did everything that I did not do. He lived a very obedient life. He always listened to his father. He always obeyed his father. And one day he went on the cross.
God forsook his son because God was accepting you and me.
The only person who did not deserve to die because he never sinned went on the cross. Why? Because of me and you. He took my place. He died on that cross as my substituted, he died in my place and so as what do I get? Well I get in return to be called a child of God.
On that cross – now it’s interesting – one of the things that Jesus does on the cross, he cries out. What does he cry out? You remember? “Father, father, why have you forsaken me”. Well I will tell you why God forsook his son, because God was accepting you and me.
You see Jesus was forsaken so as I could be welcomed in to the family. Jesus was rejected so as I would join the family. And so that Jesus is alive, he did not remain dead, and he sends an invitation to every person who would want to be part of the family. And he says come and be part of the family.
Inviting People To Join God’s Family
So when we preach the gospel, when we preach this wonderful news of Jesus, what we need to be doing as Christians is really calling back people into God’s family.
Now I think we do so much error here.
What do we say to people? “You’re not good enough for the family of God”. My dear friend, who is ever good enough for the family of God? Who was ever good enough? Because if there was such a person of earth then why did God send his son? It was such a waste! But nobody was found. Romans 3 reminds us, there was nobody who does good, nobody who seeks it. There was nobody who does good, nobody who could meet God’s requirement 100%. That’s why the son of God came.
So when we preach the gospel, when we talk about this good news, well what are we doing? We are inviting people to be part of the family of God. We are saying to people, “Come!” And the moment they believe in this wonderful message, the moment they realise that they have lived far away from God, and they say, “I wanna come back. I believe that I was wrong, and now I want to surrender”. At that moment, the Spirit makes the click and at that moment they become the children of God. They join the family of God. They join it spiritually, but they also join it physically. Because hopefully, through the Church you go through the process of baptism and so forth.
So, how do you get into this family? Well, through the gospel. The gospel births the church; the gospel creates the family.
We Can’t Take the Gospel Away!
Now this is a very important point because I see many churches today taking the gospel away. Now, one of the… one person once told me that a pastor’s student says, “Listen, today we are not gonna talk about Jesus dying for people and saving people, that’s old stuff! Today we are going to talk about God blessing people.” And I was like, how do you talk about God blessing people? The basis for the Church, the only thing that unites me and you, it’s this wonderful news that Jesus died for me and I am a child of God!
So please, let us never forget that. The only thing that makes the church is the preaching of the gospel. The moment we lose the gospel the Church becomes anything else: it becomes a club, it becomes a social gathering, it becomes something.
The church is a place where the gospel brings people together. The moment it loses that, it might as well close its doors.
I remember travelling with one guy once, he came from a Catholic background and he says to me, “I said to my father at the age of 13 I am not going to go to church”. I said, “Why?” He said, “Well I didn’t see the point! We went to church, went in, went out, it was more a like a social gathering”. And I said, “You were right!” And he was shocked. He said, “But you are a pastor! I was a little bit worried, how can you tell me that I was right?”
I said, “Well, if the church is the place where you just go and have fun, well there’s no point! You can just go and have a beer with your buddies or play soccer. It’s actually much better! Because the church is actually not just that. The church is a place where the gospel brings people together. It’s a place where this wonderful news that we are reconciled with God and we become his children. It’s the place where we are reminded that because we are God’s children, one day we will be with him in heaven. And the moment the church loses that, it might as well close its doors. Because that’s really what makes it.
What’s The Purpose of The Church?
Now, let’s look at the last point. What’s the purpose of the Church?
Now the purpose of the Church is in Ephesians 3:10 and then we will just and go to Ephesians 3:21. And I think we can link those two verses. Now verse 10 it says “So that”. Now I mean if you study English and you don’t know that this is the goal, then I think you must go back to your grammar book again. Right?
So when you see “so that” it means this is the goal, this is the purpose. Now what is the purpose of bringing the Gentiles in? Of telling the Gentiles the wonderful news about Jesus? What is the purpose? Well the goal is “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
Through the church you see the glory of God and the wisdom of God.
Now if you go to Ephesians 3:21 it says, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Now, the last part is what we call a doxology that Paul is really making a prayer. But what we see here, there’s two key words. There’s wisdom, and there’s glory. So, through the church you see the glory of God in verse 21 and in verse 10 through the church you see the wisdom of God.
Showing God’s Wisdom & Glory
Now the word wisdom here is not necessarily like we take it. For us most of the time when we say, “Is somebody wise?” You are like, “Yeah, he’s got grey hair and he is a wise person. He’s old.”
Wisdom here is not necessarily and only the way in which you get knowledge. It’s actually the ability to take that knowledge and make something great out of it. And so what is he saying? He is saying that in the church that’s where people get to know how wise God is. That’s where people get to know how intelligent God is. That’s where people get to know how great God is.
We are a community so as we can show outside how great God is.
So they have to look at the church and say “Glory to God!” Give him the worth, you know glory – pump it up a little bit – and say, “Wow! He is such a great guy!” So the church is there to show how great God is. That’s the purpose of the church.
The church is not there for you to be blessed. It’s not there for you to feel good. We are a community so as we can show outside how great God is.
How Does The Church Show God’s Greatness?
And how does the church show the greatness of God? Now I don’t have much time, I really wanted to do this but I am looking there and I am already a little bit late. But in Ephesians 4 – now if you have a Bible I think there is a title on your Bible, right? There’s a title of a section in Ephesians 4, there’s a title on the section there. Right – do you see it? So we will just use the title and I am not going to go into depth. What does it say? Unity in the body of Christ.
As the church is united, God is seen as a great God and full of wisdom.
As the church is united, God is seen as a great God and full of wisdom.
We Are A Very Divided People
Now, I was speaking this morning again and I want to say this: who doesn’t know that our culture has so many idols and so many problems. Who doesn’t know that we are very divided people? We divide ourselves along tribal lines. I’m from this hill, you are from that hill. It’s interesting, when I didn’t live in the Congo, it’s interesting, I would say, “We are Congolese. Yah, we are Congolese, and you are not Congolese”. But when I come to the Congolese it’s, “I am from the East, you are from the West”. And when I come to the East: “Hey, where are you from?” You see? “What’s your tribe?” We start dividing each other.
We are very divided! Man by nature is divided! And guess what, the Church is the only place where people from different tribes, different colours, different social backgrounds, different social economics – they get together and they call each other brothers!
The world wants to be one, but they can’t! Guess what, the Church can.
The Church Brings Peoples Together
So when the Church is united, everybody outside is like, “How can you do it?”
You see there’s this big thing called MONUSCO, right? And MONUSCO come from the United Nations. And everybody knows, and there are so many discussions, whether actually the United Nations is really united or not. Because the world wants to be one, but they can’t! Guess what, the Church can.
And so people need to look from outside and say, “But how is it possible for somebody from this tribe to love somebody from that tribe to the point of him being willing to die for him?” Well, you can only get that in the Church – to show the wisdom and the glory of God.
We Actually Love Each Other
If you look at Ephesians 5:1-12 you will see the title there. It says walking in love. So it’s not just a community that is united, or the communion of saints: people from all places, all races, everywhere, getting together. No. It’s also a place where people love each other!
Now you can be together, it is possible to be together. You can go to hospital and you’ll find people from almost all tribes, isn’t it? You can go to prison and I’m almost sure you’ll find them from all tribes and many from all races. They are together. But do they love each other? Do they want to be together?
The church is the only place where you find people from all races and they want to be there.
You see the church, when they are community, when they are united in love, they show the wisdom of God. They show the things that the world cannot do and nobody can be able to do that.
One friend of mine used to say that the church is the only place where you find people from all races and they want to be there. In prison they want to get out, in hospital they want to get out. In the church they want to be there.
People Are Living A New Life
Thirdly, it’s the only place with a new life. Now, you look at Ephesians 4:17 and then you look, the title is new life, and then you look at Ephesians 5:22, you see there’s rules for husbands. and wives, there’s rules for children, there’s rules for employees and their masters in Ephesians 6. The church, or the Christians, the gathered people of God, has such a different life, such a trust in their God, that everybody outside looks and says, “How can this be real? How is it that we are struggling like this, but you guys are getting it right?”
So when the church is church, when the people of God are living under the word of God and under the power of God, what happens is unity. What happens is love. What happens is faith and the new life. And it becomes such a distinct and transformed community that the people outside are looking into it and are seeing such wisdom, such a wonderful thing, that they are giving glory to God and they are asking, “How come? We didn’t think this was possible. How come?”
That’s the purpose of the Church, isn’t it? The goal of the Church is to bring glory to God and show how wise God is. And they do. that by being united, by loving one another, by having a newness of life and newness of faith, and as they lead a distinct and different life from outside, every starts asking questions.
It’s About More Than Evangelism
Now, I want to stop and say, my dear friend, if we are to apply this then we will realise that we are not really a genuine family of God. We say that we believe in the church as a communion of saints, but the truth is we don’t.
I see in our city churches for this group of people, these are from this tribe and these are from this tribe. These are from this tribe. Now maybe, maybe they have a point. Maybe they say, “Yah, it’s easy for me to evangelise my people”. But I’m saying, the only, our only purpose is not just to evangelise. Our purpose is as we are bringing people to Jesus, we are creating this new diverse, mixed community that everyone around looks and says, “It’s different. There must be something bigger than this”.
Our purpose isn’t just to evangelise. It’s creating a new, diverse, mixed community that everyone looks at and says, “It’s different”.
So when we have people singing from the same tribe or from the same economic background, well, it does not reflect the heart of God.
The Story of Le Phare Church
I’m going to share something with you. When we started Le Phare, I wanted it to be a church of people who speak French and young people with relatively means and you know we were going to change the world, right? And who is going to change the world? It’s middle class, it’s the people who’ve got degrees. That’s how we’re going to change the world.
And then we started getting guys who couldn’t really speak much French. And then we started getting guys – and in my mind I was like, “God! How are we going to do this?” – we started getting guys who didn’t have a job, like most of you. And I am like, how are we going to make this thing work? And then God just reminded me, no, it has to reflect those things.
In the church there will be rich and there will be poor. There will be people who have lots of degrees and PHDs and there will be people who are really struggling to read. You have to have those dynamics! Because if you don’t have those dynamics then you are not really a church! You are not showing the power of God! You are just like anybody else who is starting an NGO, government people, for whatever reasons.
What makes a difference is the power of God to change people, and to bring all people – left and right – together.
What makes a difference is the power of God to change people, and to bring all people – left and right – together. So my question is here at Le Phare are we showing the wisdom of God? Are we showing the glory of God?
Are We A Community Changed By The Gospel?
Now I try, very hard, to have the gospel central here. So at least that one I can testify that here we believe that the gospel needs to be centre. So that every time we preach to the point of even being repetitive, we want to talk about what Jesus has done. We will never graduate – I can guarantee you on this – we will never graduate from the story that Jesus one day died for us and rescued us and is going to go to heaven, like the other pastor said.
But the one thing we need to ask ourselves is that story changing us to be the people of God – the gathered people of God. Are we being changed? Are we loving one another? Are we being together, united? Are we having a newness of life? When somebody walks into this church can he just look around and see the way people are talking to one another, the way people from different tribes are caring for one another. Can he already sense that there’s just something different?
Because if that’s not the case then we are not showing that God is wiser, we are not showing that God is full of glory. We are saying God can’t break troubled man, God can’t break social economical lines: we are saying God is weak. And I don’t think that’s what the message of God is.
So my dear friend, I believe in the Church, I believe in the communion of saints. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I believe in.
Let’s bow our heads.