Over the last few months, we have taken the opportunity to reflect upon our call to follow Jesus…to become like Him. We have looked at the benefits of becoming like Him and the means God provides to transform us into His image. We looked at the opposition we face in the process… from the lies and craftiness of Satan to the distractions and appeals of the world to the indwelling echoes and desires of our “old man”; our fleshly nature that continues to affect us. In the last four weeks we have looked at the results of failing to follow Jesus, as individuals, as a church, or as a society.
I hope and trust that you have found our times together profitable; that you found the study of God’s Word edifying and refreshing…yet also challenging and convicting. I hope it has provided a foundation for further thought and reflection. But as we bring this series to a close, we now have the challenge to see what God might desire us to study in the weeks to come.
As most of you know, Ocean View Baptist Church is a church in transition. We are faced with the challenge of developing leadership and discerning God’s direction and design for our church in the years to come. We are in the process of reviewing and revising our governing documents and statement of faith to ensure that they reflect the Word of God and His purposes and priorities. We find ourselves in the middle of a building program, seeking to improve our property and enhance our ability to minister to our community. But all these things have potential pitfalls and dangers if we fail to understand our identity, responsibility and calling as a church. So it is important to go back to the Word to let it bring us to remembrance of truths all too easily forgotten…to let it strengthen our understandings and commitments to those things that we hold rightly, and to let it tear away and put off those things that we might believe or hold to in error.
So, over the next couple of months, we are going to embark upon a study of the nature and practice of the Church, both universal and local. We will look at such things as the mission of the church, the ministers of the church, and the makeup of the church. We will listen as God unfolds His plan, purpose, and priorities for His Church. And in doing so, we can gain confidence that, as we move forward together, we will honor and serve Him as we ought. This evening, then, we are going to open our study series by looking at the Majesty of the Church.
It is, perhaps, uncomfortable for some of us to think of ourselves as “majestic”. After all, we live with ourselves and with each other and are painfully aware of our “un-majestic” qualities. If you were to ask my wife, Susan, what words describe me, I doubt “majestic” would make the list! But I would submit to you that that is exactly what we are. The first chapter of Ephesians makes that very clear. Let’s just look at the beginning of verse 4 to start. “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”
Beloved, we were “hand selected” by God Himself to be part of His family…His Church. The word “chose” in the original Greek is eklegomai, to “call out”; the idea of speaking one’s name for a special selection. It is the word used when Jesus selected the disciples…a very personal calling. The same word is found in Luke 14:7 where the guests at a banquet were selecting their seats in order to ensure they were seated in places of honor. This is not some generic selection, but very specific and purposeful. And it gets even better. In Ephesians, the word “chose” is in the middle voice, meaning “to choose for oneself”. Now hear this…God chose each one of us…those of us that are in His family…for Himself! It is not a “you, go over there” and “you, go to that side”. Rather it is “you, come to Me”. We are that important to Him…that loved by Him. Why? Because we are such a catch? Not according to 1 Cor 1:26ff. where we read, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”
Not many wise…not many mighty…not many noble…nothing that particularly commends us to God. The phrase that strikes me the most is found in the last sentence, God choosing “the things that are not”. All the criteria that the world would use in its selection…beauty, wealth, success, fame, position, strength, intellect, poise, eloquence… are meaningless in God’s selection. God selects…God “calls out”… His elect solely on the basis of His sovereignty and love in order to enhance and manifest His glory.
But there is more, still. While it is true that God chooses us “to the praise of His glory” in verse 12, and in doing so blesses us with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” in verse 3, He also chooses us in order to present us as a gift to His beloved Son. Listen to Jesus words in John 17:5ff., “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word… 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours”. We were selected…chosen by God… to be presented as a love gift to Jesus. It is as though father and son got together to design the perfect gift to be crafted together and then given to the son on a special occasion. It is the very best gift that could be imagined. And that gift, in part, is you…and me…
So, when was this gift given…this “choosing” made? Was it an afterthought? Was it after we had proven ourselves worthy? We go back to verse 4…”before the foundation of the world”. Isn’t it amazing that God was aware of us…knew us…chose us…before He even began His creation in Genesis 1? Think on this…before God appeared hovering above the face of the waters…before He said “Let there be light!”…before He fashioned Adam from the dust of the ground…He chose us.
And in that choosing, it presupposes that He knew other things as well…that His choosing would be necessary because of the Fall of Adam and Eve. He knew of the coming rebellion of the people at the Tower of Babel. He saw the necessity of destroying a reprobate and sin-filled world, excepting one family, in a great flood. He saw His people turn to idols again and again and again. He heard His people clamor for a king to rule over them like other nations, rejecting His rule and Lordship. He planned for that moment in history, when, in Jerusalem, those whom He loved cried out, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him, and then put to death His beloved Son… put to death the very One who gave His life willingly for those chosen for redemption; the people of His pasture…His Church…His Bride…
Beloved, in God’s choosing of us, do we not find our glory? Our majesty? Our very meaning and purpose? We were personally selected by the Almighty God to have fellowship with Him and to spend eternity in His presence. We were chosen, even before the foundations of the world were laid, to be adopted into the family of God, joint heirs with Christ, our Lord, our Savior, and our brother. We were chosen to be transformed into the very image of God; to be holy and blameless before Him. And we were chosen to a glorious destiny.
There will come a time when the church, the Bride of Christ, will be united with Jesus in a new expression of intimacy and fellowship at the marriage of the Lamb. Listen to the words of Rev 19:7ff.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Our destiny is to be “made ready” for our final uniting with Christ. In part, it is what we read in vs. 8, being clothed in “fine linen”; in the “righteous acts of the saints. In that moment, we no longer stand before God tied to the dead corpse of our old nature and in rags of self-righteousness and sin. All has been washed away and we stand cleansed and new before our Lord…a pure bride fit for the Bridegroom.
We see a similar expression of the destiny of the saints in Rev 21:2ff. where we read, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them , 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Beloved, this is what God, in his infinite grace and sovereign will, chose us to…to be presented as a gift…as the Bride of Christ, spotless, without blemish, clothed in white linen, and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We are chosen to dwell with him forever in a place free from sin, free from pain, free from regret, free from sorrow. We are chosen to bask in the presence of His love for us and to enjoy an unfettered love for Him.
This is the majesty of the Church.
Let us pray.