Reason #2: The Church Is the Current Expression of an Eternal Plan
In Titus 1:2, the apostle Paul writes of the “eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (New King James Version, emphasis added). In this context, the apostle Paul was describing his ministry, a ministry of evangelism and salvation.
And as Paul describes his ministry, he outlines God’s redemptive purpose, from election (”those chosen of God,” v. 1), to salvation (”the knowledge of the truth,” v. 1), to sanctification (”which is according to godliness,” v.1), to final glory (”in the hope of eternal life,” v. 2).
To look at Romans 8:29-30 we see that before time began God determined to begin and to finish His redemptive plan. Redemption from sin could not be purchased by animal sacrifices or any other means. (see Hebrews 10:4-9) Therefore the Son came to earth for the express purpose of dying for sin.
All of this means that the church is something so monumental, so vast, so transcendent, that our poor minds can scarcely begin to appreciate its significance in the eternal plan of God. Our salvation as individuals is almost incidental. The real aim of God’s plan is not merely to get us to heaven, but the drama of our salvation has a purpose far more grand.
Our salvation builds God's church and God's church depicts God's love. In the one-another-ness of Christian relationship we may reflect the supreme unity of the Trinity. In the ministry of gospel living, we may reflect the limitless love of God. In the corporate worship of saints gathered in the name of Christ we may reflect Heaven on Earth - a pre-quil to the New Jerusalem, and redemption's consummation.
How can we not rejoice in the prospect of that? How can Christians possibly be apathetic about the church? How can we, having been given the keys to supernatural living, ignore the opportunity to participate in the supernatural activity of God known as "the church?"
There is a fascinating conclusion to all this. Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28:
Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
Picture the scene. All Christ’s enemies are destroyed and defeated. All things are placed in subjection to the Son. The Father has given Him the great love-gift, the church, to be his bride and to be subject to Him. Christ is on the throne. All things are now subject to Him—except the Father, who put all things in subjection to His Son. “Then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all” (v. 28).
And yet, to live a New Testament lifestyle means that the supernatural final chapter can be both witnessed (by non-believers) and experienced (by Christ-followers) now.
Oh, I love the church. I love it because in all of its activity is the promise of eternity both now and yet to come.