The Church is not a building made up of stone, wood, steel or glass, but a dynamic living organism made up of people.
These are not just any people but a people purchased by God, from every people group, tribe, language and when it comes to just exactly how many people that represents the answer is staggering. The apostle John makes the comment that there were so many people in his final vision of the church that it was beyond the ability of being numbered. Obviously God would know, but looking at the indescribable sight the vastness of what God had done and the crowd size was well beyond a police ‘crowd control guesstimate’. Rev 5:9-10, Rev 7:9
it is particularly an amazing sight to behold because these people are congregated before God’s overwhelmingly majestic presence not because of a social-media experiment where a twitter or facebook comment has encouraged interested parties to gather, neither has it been a television or newspaper promotion. The reason is found in the song the innumerable multitude sing in Revelation 5:9-10
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth”
The answer is that by His blood Jesus ransomed people for God. The reason for that redemption is clearly explained by Paul in Ephesians 1:3-10 a
- We are blessed in heavenly places
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
- Chosen before the foundation of the world
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,
- With purpose; holy & blameless
that we should be holy and blameless before him.
- Already (before time) determined us as sons
In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
- The big plan
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:3-10)
St Paul’s Cathedral in London is an amazing building, but that is all it is, a building. Whilst it may create a sense of awe about the majesty of God it is a wretchedly poor representation of what the true majesty of God is like. But there is something that represents God well, and you will find it in St Paul’s and in church buildings, in homes and open gatherings in fields, woods or in secret locations – the church. The very people we have been looking at here. They are the redeemed of the Lord. Their sin has been forgiven (even their future sin!), they have no shame, or guilt and they now live for the righteousness of God. Do they live in that reality? Not always, but bible-teachers in their midst painstakingly take time to discover these truths for themselves, and make known the treasures of what God has done for them in Christ.
They are a peculiar people with vision and values determined by the Scriptures and by the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, in their heart and in their gathered kingdom-community.
As a community together they all have a sense of purpose (1 Corinthians 12:15-26)
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
So, we are a people that are the same (ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven) but we are also different. Different in our gifting (1 Cor 12:30), Roles (Ephesian 4:11), function (1 Corinthians 12:15-26) and kingdom aspirations (evangelism). As the Church we ARE already, not will be, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
As different denominations, or church ‘families’ and with different creeds, biblical theology or historical theology we celebrate many things in common together, the biggest namely being that we are in Christ, we are the redeemed of the Lord and we will be with Him forever.
The Church is not on its last legs – it’s on the Rock. And that Rock never moves.
- Ephesians 1:3-10 almost seems to be a commentary on Revelation 5:9-10 – it certainly gives much context to what you are seeing there. (back)