Let’s get one thing straight before we begin. The church is “the called out ones” which comes from the Greek word Ecclesia (or Ekklesia). First named such in the gospel of Matthew (16:18), Jesus tells us that He is going to build His church. His called out ones.
You see, Jesus calls us our of our muck and mire to something much greater, fellowship with Himself. We didn’t save ourselves, He saved us. Believers in Jesus have been called out of this world. Scripture makes this clear,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2)
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 18:18-19)
If you’ve placed your faith in Jesus that He is the Lord, the Messiah, then you’re placing your trust in Him that He will deliver you from your own sins, call you His child, and adopt you into His kingly priesthood. You get to be part of an eternal family, the Church. It’s a huge gift, and we need to remember that its just that, a gift. That’s one of the best parts about it, though — that Jesus called us first and that it is our job to respond. We don’t dictate the time and place in which God moves, He decides. Of course, we can pray to the Lord and He listens and responds to us out of His own kindness and generosity, but He is not bound by our agenda. Thank God for that. When left to our own devices, our desires take us down dark alleys.
This cause and effect of God calling and humans responding is a trend in the Bible. Think of all the prophets in the Old Testament. They did not prophesy by their own power, or even their own desire. They didn’t wake up one day and decide that that particular morning would be a good time to stir up unrest amongst the multitude of sinners in Israel. No one likes feeling condemned of their wrongdoings, and being called out on your mistakes leaves an unpleasant taste in your mouth at best. The prophets responded to God’s calling, in a similar way that we respond in faith to Jesus’ works. God sets the schedule for who gets saved when, where, and by what means. He decides who to use for His tasks. He chose a barren couple to be the father and mother of His nation, and he chose a Saul, who hated Christians, to go and be the greatest evangelist and a huge contributor to the New Testament. Certainly, God can make anyone part of his body of believers.
One of the best parts about this is the way God makes his flexes simultaneously loving and powerful. It’s hard to doubt God’s ability after He reshapes the course of history successfully by taking the most unlikely people to do the most undoable tasks. Someday I want to see God’s resume — I’ll have all of eternity to read it.
Jesus heals the lepers. Jesus casts out demons. Jesus calls plain men to be His closest friends who later become international evangelists and leaders. Jesus creates hope where there shouldn’t be any. He literally destroys death forever. We have to realize that God could easily delete us from existence if He weren’t kind and loving. He is so powerful, and yet uses His power for our benefit, despite our inability to ever repay Him. That’s the point, though. God has done all of these things to show us who He is, to give us hope, and to give us a weapon against the enemy who lies to us about God’s character. You see, satan wants us to believe that we can’t really know much about God. That’s a lie wrapped around the truth. It would be arrogant to assume we know everything about God, but it’s equally stupid to claim we know nothing of God,
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)
The Word of God is a tool given to the Church, the called out ones, to fight the lies of satan. It is REALLY easy to begin doubting God if we are not beginning with what He has written about Himself. It’s counterintuitive not to use our intuition, but then again, is it at all intuitive that someone would send their son to die for your grievous sins so that you can spend eternity with them despite not being anywhere near deserving it? No, it isn’t.
The Church also plays a role in the salvation of others. For whatever reason, God deemed it right to have His word spread by those living on Earth. God doesn’t need us for anything, in fact “God needs” is never a phrase we should use, because it simply is never true. God chooses us for His work, which for us is an honor. We get to see his power at work, sometimes even flowing through us in our words and deeds. We get to be the messengers of the good news, the Gospel.
Perhaps the wildest part about the Church is that Jesus gave us His Spirit to DWELL WITHIN US. And yes, I capitalized that and bolded it for a reason. The Spirit of God calls our body His temple.
“Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ (Acts 7:48-50)
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:24-26)
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
I am asking you, reader, to take this seriously. God not only changes our eternity with His Son, but He also decides to rest in our body for the rest of our lives. Each member of the called out ones has the Holy Spirit living within him/her. The same Spirit that walked with Jesus through the desert and His death on the cross now lives within us. With such a gift comes great responsibility, for with God nothing is impossible. The incredible works that Jesus did can now be accomplished by His Church, because of the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
Let us recall quickly that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and realize that Paul also raises someone from the dead,
“And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.” (Acts 20:9-12)
Can we reflect on God’s power here? Jesus wasn’t exaggerating when He says we will do great works like He did. He really means it. He is giving us such great authority and power via the Holy Spirit. Jesus also tells us that this is the way he wants to accomplish his mission,
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)
Jesus wants to further His work through us, which is an awesome decision for us. We get to partner with the Holy Spirit to do great works to teach others, and to show them the powerful and simultaneously loving nature of God.
To put it simply, the Church without the Holy Spirit doesn’t make any sense. The Spirit testifies to Jesus’ nature and His works. The Spirit teaches us and instructs us using various means, from Bible verses to visions to words of knowledge and wisdom. In fact, it would be foolish not to expect wonders from the Holy Spirit. He is dwelling within a multitude of believers at this very moment. We, as the called out ones, have a very special fellowship and unity with the Lord. We also know God wishes to make His name known. We know God is kind and merciful. We know He wants to pour out His Spirit on us. God wouldn’t send us His Holy Spirit just to look pretty. Just read Acts of the Apostles, the Spirit was MOVING.
The Church is very special to God — we need to remember that. We are His children, and we know how much God loves children, especially His own. We get to be the workers which God uses to bring about His kingdom on Earth.
What an honor.