“For this reason I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you gentiles. Surely you have heard about the responsibility of administering God’s grace that was given to me on your behalf, and how this secret was made known to me through a revelation, just as I wrote about briefly in the past. By reading this, you will be able to grasp my understanding of the secret about Christ, which in previous generations was not made known to human beings as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets: The gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow sharers of what was promised in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
I have become a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. To me, the very least of all the saints, this grace was given so that I might proclaim to the gentiles the immeasurable wealth of Christ and help everyone see how this secret, which was hidden for ages in God who created all things, has been at work.
He did this so that now, through the church, the wisdom of God in all its variety might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm in keeping with the eternal purpose that God carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through his faithfulness.” Ephesians 3:1-12
The Cloudiness of Filters
I have been sharing how “filters” are mental distractions to the centrality of Christ which have been built in us over the years through religious teaching, training, and exposure. Many times, a filter can be built upon a scriptural and even a very noble and correct premise. But the problem is that the premise, principle, command, or teaching becomes everything and this clouds (like a cataract) the vision of the viewer. Christ Himself can no longer be clearly seen because now a certain aspect of Him or His will is blown up out of proportion and now viewed as being everything.
For example, I have known believers who are particularly attracted to the love of God. Of course, we know that God is love and He loves all of us. But that is just one aspect of who He is. However, these dear believers have made it everything. When they read the scriptures, it’s all about love. When they pray or share, it’s all about love. They just can’t seem to ever stop talking about love! That’s a filter, and it is clouding them from seeing the WHOLE Christ. It is blocking their full view of Him and therefore they cannot express Him in reality. Of course, it is only the Body that can express Him in all of His fullness (Eph.1:22,23). But His desire is that we know Him in His fullness WITH the Body so that we, as individuals, can share our portion of Christ in new and diverse ways in and with the Church.
The Missional (Evangelical) Filter
Though I have written on this subject before, it was in relation to the eternal purpose and not to the Christian life and the expression of Christ through His Church. This is definitely one of the largest (most popular) filters around. That’s mainly because of the rise and popularity of evangelicalism itself over the last hundred and fifty years or so. The only difference now is that the language has changed a bit. Now, instead of calling it evangelism or reaching out to the lost, etc. we call it “missional”. But really, at its core, it’s the same elephant just wearing different clothes.
Many Christians believe that the purpose of the Church, and individual believers for that matter, is to evangelize the world and help the poor. For them, everything is viewed through this filter. When they read the scriptures it is all about evangelism. When they pray, it is always about evangelism. They just won’t stop talking about evangelism! It’s almost as if they believe that Adam fell so that we could be used by God to go out and save him! These same folks usually believe that the purpose of the Church is to save sinners. But is that really in keeping with the gospel that Paul preached? Did the New Testament letters encourage the churches to be busy about saving all of those around them? To me, this is the worst kind of spiritual myopia. God’s purpose is much deeper and higher than merely populating heaven!
Understanding the Purpose by Looking at the Story
One of the main reasons we do not understand the purpose of the Church is because we do not understand the panoramic story of the early church. One of my co-workers has written a book on such a topic. See Frank Viola’s book entitled: “The Untold Story of the New Testament Church”. This book will give you the story in it’s proper chronological context. And once you see that story, you will realize that many of our filters (such as the missional/evangelical) just won’t fit into that story at all! It’s just not there.
If you read the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians with unbiased eyes you will see the true nature and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ. Take your evangelical filters off and read it again asking God to show you the Truth, that is, His glorious Son. And you will find that the purpose of the Church is not about evangelism, missional, missions, rapid multiplication movements, reaching your neighbors, or reaching the world. It is clearly about one thing and one thing only.
The clear and unhindered expression of the fullness of the living Christ!
And that’s all I have to say about that…