Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST: ITS ULTIMATE PURPOSE”

Ephesians 3.21

 

My friends, our God is a great God. All through the Bible it is declared, and we are reminded, and we are shown time and time and time again, that our God is an awesome God. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian congregation, written from Roman imprisonment, we are as forcefully confronted with the greatness of God as we are anywhere else in God’s Word. In Ephesians 3.21 the Apostle Paul recapitulates in one sentence what he has been saying throughout this Ephesian letter leading up to this verse. But before we read this verse let’s take a step back and consider a few things. What does God want? Have you ever thought about that? What does God want? For what purpose has God created the universe and everything that’s in it?

Revelation 4.11 tells us why God created everything:

 

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

 

God made what He made so that He might receive glory and honor and power. When God receives glory, and when God receives honor, and when God receives power, He is pleased. However, precisely what are glory, honor, and power is a very large topic and subject to great variation in individual interpretation. Can we be more specific regarding what God wants? Yes, we can. Ephesians 1.6 reads,

 

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

 

In other words, one of the reasons why God has made us accepted in the beloved, one of the reasons why God saves people who trust Jesus Christ, is to praise the glory of His grace. So, God created this universe to be personally glorified by His creation. And He saves people to be personally glorified by those He saves.

But we’re still a little bit loose. Things are still a bit nebulous, a bit too general. Is there some mechanism, some device, some organism, some organization, some means, whereby God will be glorified in such a manner as is pleasing to Him? I ask this because we know that God is not the author of confusion. He is a God of symmetry and system. He is a God of order and precision. Therefore, is there some means at our disposal whereby we can glorify God in a manner pleasing to Him, a manner that fulfills the reason for bringing the universe into existence and the reason for saving sinners? The answer to that question is “Yes,” and is the content of Ephesians 3.21. In this verse, the Apostle Paul provides very specific insight regarding how God is to be glorified, both now and in the future. Before we read this verse, which is my text for today, let’s stand together:

 

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

 

The “him” in this verse is very obviously God the Father. It is the same “him” that is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” To Him, to God the Father, is due glory. But what does it mean to give someone glory? To give someone glory is to acknowledge and to commend about him that which is praiseworthy. For example: In Ephesians 1.6 reference is made “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” In that verse His matchless grace to save sinners is praised and commended. But in this verse Paul pays not so much attention to what it is about God that is to be glorified as he does to how and by what means God is to be glorified.

Folks, God is to be glorified by the Lord Jesus Christ. And this should not surprise us. Who is better qualified to exalt and praise the virtues and attributes of God the Father than God the Son? But please take note of the context in which the Lord Jesus Christ glorifies God the Father:

 

“Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus.”

 

Do you now see why the Biblical doctrine of the church is so critically important? The church is important because it is through the church that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, glorifies God the Father. It is certainly true that the Father is glorified whenever and wherever folks are saved, according to John 15.8. When Christians bear fruit, the Father is glorified. But where ought Christians to be who bear fruit to best glorify the Father? In a church.

Here is where the essential distinction between Protestantism and the Baptist position, which I am convinced is the Bible position, comes into play. Protestants, you see, believe that the church is composed of all Christians. So the church is universal and invisible, which I insist means nebulous and ambiguous. But Baptists (and sadly, not all Baptists) recognize that the church of Jesus Christ is a local congregation of born-again, scripturally baptized people, who seek to combine their efforts in obedience to scripture for the purpose of glorifying and serving God. And since we recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of this church, when we recognize His headship, when we obey Him and do those things which He has commanded us to do, then God is being glorified in the church by Christ Jesus. And for what period will God be glorified by Jesus Christ in the church?

 

“Throughout all ages, world without end.”

 

From now on. Thus, we have as a church an eternal purpose of glorifying God in a manner different than the holy angels, different than the nation of Israel in the millennium and eternity, and different than any other portion of God’s creation. So you see, it does matter what you believe about believer baptism. It does matter what you believe about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because these doctrines affect what you believe about the church. And what you believe about the church will greatly affect whether or not you are ever used by the Lord Jesus Christ in the church to glorify God.

Do you stay home from church when your tummy rumbles a bit? You stay home if your concept of the church is shallow and unimpressive. Do you skip a church service to enjoy barbecue? You do if your understanding of the church does not recognize its unique role in time and eternity in glorifying God. However, if you recognize the role of Christ’s congregation in scripture, your whole attitude about everything related to the church of which you are a part is altered. “I think you can be just as good a Christian at home as you can at church.” How many of you have ever heard someone make that kind of statement? How many of you have ever seen someone live that kind of statement? We see folks live that kind of statement all the time, don’t we?

Whenever a professing Christian stays at home when the church house doors are open, whenever a professing Christian chooses to abstain from participating in the function and the activities of his or her church, that person is making a statement. And what is the statement? The statement is either, “I can be just as good a Christian at home as I can be at Church,” or “I am unconcerned about whether I am a good Christian or not.” On the surface, such statements as these may seem rather innocuous and inoffensive. But when you begin to realize that God created everything to bring Him glory, and when you begin to realize that God saves people who trust His Son Jesus as their Savior in order to give Him glory, and then you add to that the fact that God has chosen to be glorified by Jesus Christ through the church, then the impact of what folks declare by such actions as I have described begins to be seen.

It is wrong when God is not glorified. It is a sin when glory is not given to Him Who reigns above in majesty supreme. And it is a sin when a Christian does not live and serve and devote his life to serving Christ and glorifying God through this church. Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the head of this church, has provided this church to be the means by which God is glorified in this age in which we presently live.

Let me show you how this is true in three ways:

 

First, THE EXAMPLES OF THE CHURCH

 

Essential to learning things from God’s Word is the reality that God teaches us by taking us from what we already know about things not spiritual and then using those objects as lessons to teach us about things that are spiritual. And this is true with the church. A church, from the Greek word ekklesia, is simply a group with the following characteristics: Called out of a larger population, visible, and gathered. This is why a mob in Ephesus, and the children of Israel in the wilderness, are both described in the book of Acts by this word ekklesia.[1] For that matter, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives are each a church. The church of Jesus Christ, however, is distinct from all other “churches,” all other congregations of called out people in a specific locale. And how are we distinct? We are distinct in that we belong to Jesus Christ; the Lord Jesus brought us into existence, and He is our Head. But beyond the peculiar word that is used to describe us, this word “church,” are some other ways in which we are described in the New Testament, two of which I would like to bring once again to your attention. Both descriptions shed light on how the Lord Jesus Christ uses us to glorify God in the church.

First, we are the bride of Christ. I read Ephesians 5.22-33:

 

22    Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

23    For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

24    Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

25    Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

26    That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27    That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28    So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

29    For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

30    For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

31    For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

32    This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

33    Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

 

It takes no genius to figure out that a Spirit-filled woman will reverence her husband, verse 33. And a woman who reverences her husband is a woman who does everything in her power to insure his success, to extol his virtues, and to magnify him in the eyes of those who know him. Quite obviously, also, is the willingness such a woman will have, as her husband’s help meet, to do everything in her power to help him do what God wants him to do. However, in this passage Paul is speaking of Christ and the church, is he not? Yes, according to verse 32. So, if a church, such as the church in Ephesus he was writing to, or such as Calvary Road Baptist Church, loves and adores and reverences the Lord Jesus Christ the way a Spirit-filled woman will do with her husband, will we not, then, do everything in our power to see that our Savior accomplishes what He has set out to do? Of course, we will. And what, pray tell, has the Lord Jesus Christ set out to do? Hebrews 10.7 reads,

 

“Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God.”

 

And what is God’s will? To be glorified.

Second, we are the body of Christ. Virtually everyone who has ever read the Bible remembers reading First Corinthians chapter 12, where the Apostle Paul likens the Corinthian congregation to a body. But many people overlook Colossians 1.18 which reads,

 

“And he (the Lord Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church.”

 

In that verse, the Apostle declares the relationship between the Colossian congregation and the Lord Jesus Christ in a more straightforward manner than he does in First Corinthians 12. However, the whole point to comparing the church to a body, with the Lord Jesus Christ being the head, is to show the relationship between the leader and the followers. What is too obvious to require explanation is that if Jesus Christ is the head and we are the body then we will do what He dictates, and we will accomplish what He wants. But what does He want? He wants the Father to be glorified. My friends, if the Bible shows the relationship between Christ and a church to parallel the relationship between a husband and his wife, and if the Bible shows the relationship between Christ and a church to parallel the relationship between a head and a body, then how in the world can anyone legitimately maintain that they are as successful in glorifying God outside a congregation as they are when they are functioning as a part of a congregation, a church? The whole point is, they cannot be anywhere near as successful.

 

Second, THE EQUIPPING OF THE CHURCH

 

For God to receive glory in the church those who comprise the church, the congregation, have first to be trained, equipped, and prepared. How should this equipping of church members take place?

Consider the practice of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you examine His earthly ministry in the gospel record, you will find that the Lord Jesus Christ established His church by placing into His church the apostles.

 

“And God set some in the church, first apostles.”[2]

 

The question is, “How were those men trained, how were those men equipped to glorify God?” To quickly recount for you because of the time constraints, the Lord Jesus equipped His men both publicly and privately. Many were the times He took them aside from the multitudes to teach them things, to give them private lessons. And many were the times that they learned by observing Him teach and preach and interact with the multitudes. So, it can be easily shown that the Lord Jesus Christ prepared the church that He established before His crucifixion in both a public way and in a private way, letting them listen to Him teach and preach along with the multitudes, as well as intense personal training in small groups or one on one. In this fashion, they were equipped to glorify God.

Next, consider the practice of Paul. Paul also trained people those in the churches he started, both privately and publicly. Again and again we read where Paul extolled the virtues of powerfully and forcefully preaching the Word of God, declaring that preaching was an essential for Christians who wanted victory over sin in their lives. But Paul also advocated the personal and private training of individuals. Let me read to you just one passage illustrating each of these methods of equipping for ministry. Second Timothy 4.1-4 shows the role of public preparation for service:

 

1      I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2      Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3      For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4      And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

 

Now I read how Paul, in Second Timothy 2.2, advocates the private instruction and preparation of church members:

 

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

 

So we can see that Paul closely followed the example of the Savior in equipping men to glorify God by training them within the context of the church but in both a public setting and in a private setting.

Now, let’s consider the program of Calvary Road Baptist Church. It is because the Lord Jesus Christ preached to the multitudes, as well as prepared the three, and the twelve, and the seventy, that we recognize the place of both the public and the private approach to equipping Christians for service that will glorify God. And what better example is there than Paul of emulating and modeling the Lord Jesus Christ? So, to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, we have at Calvary Road Baptist Church sought to equip men and women for service to Christ in both public and private fashion. We have preaching, for nothing can replace preaching in the Christian’s life. Preaching is paramount. But we also have private instruction available in the form of discipleship. Let me ask you, how are you going to be equipped to glorify God but through the ministry of the church? When Jesus Christ set out to train men to glorify God He first set them in the church that He founded. When Paul sought to copy the Lord Jesus and train men to glorify God, he did so by planting churches and then training the people in those churches. Therefore, we, following the example of the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul, train in both public and private fashion, in these large group sessions we call the preaching services, and on a more individual and personal level. But we insist that all such training, we insist that all such equipping can only and must take place within the context Jesus and Paul trained people...in the church.

 

Third, THE EVANGELISM OF THE CHURCH

 

This entire message has to do with the fact that God purposes to be glorified in the church by Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ seeks to, and will, in fact, glorify God the Father; and He will do it through churches just like this one. But recognizing that only churches fit into God’s plan through which the Lord Jesus will glorify Him, and recognizing that only churches are seen in the Bible as the context in which believers are to be equipped to glorify God, it remains that when the right people (Christians) seek to do the right thing (glorify God) in the right place (in and through churches), the right means must still be employed for God to be glorified. And what are the right means that must be employed? It is called evangelism or fruit bearing in John 15.1-8. Of course, evangelism means engaging in ministry that sees folks saved. And although it is highly unpopular to most churchgoers these days, getting folks saved requires preaching a message to lost people that has both a negative as well as a positive aspect to it.

The negative aspect of our message has to do with the sins of men. Sir, you are a sinner. That is, not just what you do, but in fact what you are is an offense to Almighty God. It is not your fault that you’re a sinner. After all, you were born that way. However, it is your responsibility that you are a sinner. And God has declared that He will hold you personally responsible for your sinfulness, as well as for the sins you commit. God has declared that the soul that sinneth shall surely die.[3] But to die does not mean that existence comes to an end. Oh, no. You see, your soul, the real you that is inside your physical body, the real you that is beneath your consciousness, is eternal and unending. So, for a soul to die does not mean that it stops existing. It means you will go to Hell, sinner. And you are a sinner. How do I know you are a sinner? The Bible says you are.[4] And you know you are. You’ve lied. You’ve cheated. You’ve stolen. You’ve had impure thoughts. You’ve not loved the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. You’ve not loved your neighbor as yourself. All those things add up to one conclusion. You’re a sinner even if you’ve committed only one of these sinful deeds. After all, how many people must you kill to be a murderer? A single sin identifies a man or a woman as a sinner in the sight of God. “So what?” you say.

 

“The soul that sinneth it shall surely die.”

 

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

 

“Our God is a consuming fire.”

 

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness,”

 

Romans 1.19. Why? Romans 1.21:

 

“Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.”

 

The sole reason you and I exist is to glorify God. But because you are a sinner you will not glorify God. Indeed, you cannot glorify God. And God is going to hold you responsible for that. Unattended to and uncorrected, your sin will take you straight to Hell. And there is nothing in this world that you can do about it.

But our message involves a positive aspect as well as a negative. Jesus saves. My friend, Jesus Christ loves you. He loves you so much that He came from heaven’s glory to become the sacrifice for sin. Think of it. God the Son became a man that He might shed His precious blood to wash sinner’s sins away. And why is that a good thing? Because it’s your sin that will keep you out of God’s heaven. And it’s your sin that you can’t personally do anything about. But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, both can and will do something about your sin, if you will but trust Him. Will you trust Him to save you today? Will you come to Him by faith and trust Him to wash your sin away in His precious blood that was shed for you on Calvary’s cross? That’s news good for anyone to hear. But I fear that no one will be interested in the good news until he has first heard the bad news, the negative truth of his sinfulness.

 

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus.”

 

The Lord Jesus Christ seeks to glorify His Father. And He has chosen that this wonderful thing is accomplished in the church. A church like Calvary Road Baptist Church, where the gospel is preached, where folks are saved, where new converts are baptized, and where believers are taught to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. And how do we know that this is what God wants? You mean, besides the fact that this verse in the Bible tells us that is what He wants, to be glorified in the church? In three ways:

First, the examples of the church. Look at how the church is portrayed in scripture. Folks, the Lord Jesus loves the church.

 

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it,”

 

Ephesians 5.25. What other examples do we have in God’s Word, during the New Testament era, of some instrument that is used by Christ to glorify God the Father? There are none.

Second, the equipping of the church. Look anywhere in the Bible you want, but you will not find any setting other than churches where Christians are equipped to serve Christ and glorify God.

 

“Unto Him be glory in the church.”

 

Folks, what other organization or institution is referred to in that way? Certainly no para-church organizations, which have no scriptural authorization for even existing. No. Only churches are used by the Lord Jesus to glorify God because only in churches are believers equipped to glorify God.

Finally, the evangelism of church. Friends, it is the church that is commanded to go forth and preach the gospel to every creature. And when folks are saved, it is the church that is authorized to baptize and then train those converts, as I have already pointed out. God is glorified whenever sinners are saved. But this verse specifically says

 

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus.”

 

Let me conclude this message by glorifying God in a marvelous way. You sit there a sinner. Your sin condemns you. And should you die in your sins you will suffer the wrath of God forever and ever. But Jesus Christ, Who seeks to glorify the Father in the church, is ready to save you who will come to Him by faith and trust Him to wash you clean in His precious blood.

After we have dismissed in prayer, feel free to come and talk to me about your sins and about how to become a Christian.

__________

[1] Acts 19.32; 7.38

[2] 1 Corinthians 12.28

[3] Ezekiel 18.4, 20

[4] Romans 3.23; 5.12

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org