September 1, 1987 Issue
Billy Orten

The great apostle wrote in Ephesians 5:32, "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church." This verse is the summation of five chapters devoted to the relationship of Christ and the church. In verse 23, Paul states, "The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church." He then says in verse 25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church." Next, he makes an appeal for the purity of the church by saying, "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." He then concludes, "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church."

The word "mystery" is derived from the Greek "musteerion" which means "something concealed until the time appointed for it to be revealed." The word does not necessarily mean something mysterious or difficult to understand. In the sense meant here, the mystery is a truth undiscoverable by the human mind but revealed only by God. It is used 27 times in the New Testament, 21 of these by the apostle Paul, who called himself a steward of the mysteries of God (I Corinthians 4:1). Paul defines the mystery in Romans 16:25-26 as the plan of God to save man. Kept secret from the beginning of the world, it is now revealed by the scriptures. Paul tells us why the plan was kept secret in I Corinthians 2:6-8. He explains that God's plan called for the death of Jesus, his son. Had Satan known this, he would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

When the time came to reveal the plan, God assigned the function of the revelation to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the instrument of revelation, and the Gospel is the avenue through which the Holy Spirit did the revealing. Romans 1:16 says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation." Man's part is to accept God's plan by faith and then to render obedience. Romans 16:26 says the gospel is to be made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. Man's obedience includes baptism. (Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:37-38).

Now, with the word "mystery" understood, let us return to our text. "This is a great mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." The apostle maintains that "Christ and the church are the great mystery; Christ and the church are the great plan of God to save the world." Only ignorance will allow people to say the church is not important to our salvation. The only way one can be in Christ is to be in his body. His body is the church. The apostle states this fact in several places. (See Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:23, Colossians 1:18). All spiritual blessings are in Christ or in his body, which is the church. (Ephesians 1:3). There is not one single spiritual blessing outside of Christ. There are material blessings outside of Christ, but everything connected with salvation is in Christ. The church encompasses and encircles the blessings of salvation, forgiveness of sins, hope of heaven, answered prayers, and many more. It is religious profanity to say there is no importance to the church.

The writer says in Ephesians 1:22-23, "and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Paul says the church is the fulness of Christ. What does this expression mean? Look at some other scriptures. Psalm 16:11, "In thy presence is the fulness of joy." Absolutely everything necessary to joy is found in his presence. I Corinthians 10:26, "The earth is the Lords and the fulness thereof." There is absolutely nothing in the world that does not belong to the Lord. Colossians 2:9, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Christ is God in absolutely every sense. Now Paul says the church is the fulness of Christ. (Ephesians 1:23). There are no blessings in Christ that are not in the church. It is impossible to be in Christ and outside the church. The church is the divine plan of God from the beginning.

Now look at Ephesians the second chapter; Paul gives a list of things inside and outside the church. First, notice the list of things outside the church in verses 11 through 13: (1) separation from Christ, (2) aliens, (3) strangers from the covenants of promise, (4) no hope, (5) without God, and (6) afar off. Beginning in verse 16, the apostle lists things that are in Christ or in the church: (1) reconciliation to God, (2) access to the Father, (3) citizenship in the kingdom, (4) sainthood, (5) membership in the household of God, (6) building on the proper foundation, (7) member of the Holy temple of the Lord, and (8) habitation or dwelling place of God. Paul adds to this list of things inside the church in chapter 3 and verse 6: (9) fellow heirs, and (10) partakers of the promise of Christ. We cannot be heirs of God or partakers of the promise in Christ outside the body. Finally, the precious blessing of having our names written in heaven is inside the church according to the writer of Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 23:

"To the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven." If we want our names written in heaven, we must be a member of the Lord's body, the church. The 11 blessings mentioned here cannot be obtained outside of Christ.

Christ loved the church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). The thing purchased must have value equal to the price paid for it, or one has been cheated. He purchased the church with his own blood. (Acts 20:28). Did Christ pay too much? If not, then the church is equal in importance to the blood of Christ. Let us who are members of Christ's body, the church, love her supremely and glorify her by lives that are without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing. We urge you who are outside this glorious institution to consider the blessings that can be received only by membership in the Lord's church.


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