Theme: When the Heavenly Realms See the Church
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means that the church is the pillar and foundation of God’s truth, and how we are to live as a result.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:14-16
Yesterday’s study concluded by referring to Ephesians 3:7-11, where Paul writes that through the church the wisdom of God is being made known to those in the heavenly realms. We might ask in what sense is that? Don’t the angels know about these things better than we do? The answer is, yes, they do. Consequently, Paul does not mean that the angels are looking down upon the church to have the Scriptures explained to them intellectually. They have better minds than we do, and they know perfectly well what it says in Scripture. It’s not in that sense that they’re looking to the church. Rather, I believe it’s in this sense of our proving the truthfulness of these things by showing that the wisdom of God in salvation really works in people that are just like you and me. If this is the idea, Paul is asserting that the church on earth is the center of the universe so far as the attention of the heavenly beings is concerned.
By way of an illustration, suppose you have a man who is in the oil business, and he travels widely to where oil is in abundance. If you were to ask him where the center of his universe is, he may not be able to answer that in terms of his job because he does not work in the same office day after day. But suppose for the sake of this illustration that he has an ill child, who needs to live in a special home where his needs are met and where he is properly taken care of. If his whole purpose in traveling around the world is to earn money to support his child, the center of that man’s universe is that home where his child is living.
Similarly, the church is the center of the universe for the angels of God, because they are looking down to see if that which God declares in the Scripture is really going to be verified in the lives of those who profess the name of Jesus. In other words, the gospel is not just a gospel of ideas, though certainly it involves ideas. The gospel is a gospel of redemption—a gospel that says that God, by his grace, reaches down and takes sinful human beings, contaminated with all the lusts of the flesh, and the misconceptions of their understanding, and the desires to rebel against God—and puts his Spirit within them and leads them to faith in Christ. And when they come to Christ, they find that one who is their all, who died for them. Out of love for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, their lives are transformed, and they’re now made into that blessed image. As a result, they would rather do anything other than deny their Lord.
The angels are looking down, observing what that work of God looks like in the lives of sinful people, those who by their fallen nature rebel against God and hate the one who is their Creator and Judge. God is able to save people like that with a gospel like that and transform them like that. And instead of having them become messengers of death to their world, God actually makes them messengers of mercy and so works through them to bring blessing to other men and women.
You and I have the inestimable privilege of proving that not only can that happen, but it does happen by God’s grace. As the angels look down upon us, let it not be said that they see so little difference that they conclude that the death of Christ wasn’t working. Instead, may they see in us that Jesus, by his death, did a mighty work, the greatest of all works in redeeming a people for himself who, by his grace, become like their Savior and a blessing to other men and women. Years ago, Ralph Keiper said of sinners in one of his addresses here for the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, “Let them look to the church, God’s picture book, in order that they might be drawn to God’s written book and there find Jesus Christ, God’s living book, and come to faith in Him.”
Explain what it means for God to make known his wisdom to the heavenly realms through the church.
Why is the gospel of Christ not just a gospel of ideas?
Reflection: Does your life reflect the wisdom of God that is being revealed to those from the heavenly realms who observe what you say and do?
Key Point: The gospel is a gospel of redemption—a gospel that says that God, by his grace, reaches down and takes sinful human beings, contaminated with all the lusts of the flesh, and the misconceptions of their understanding, and the desires to rebel against God—and puts his Spirit within them and leads them to faith in Christ.