Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Under the Microscope

“... so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

It matters what the church is and how it conducts the business of God. It matters because the multifarious wisdom of God is revealed both in what we are and in what we do. We may choose to obscure that wisdom, or we may choose to hold it up in the light to be seen and marveled at throughout the universe.

In short, what we are and what we do matter because we are being watched. God’s ways are under the microscope.

Those “Rulers and Authorities”

We cannot see it, but the heavens are paying attention to us. Paul declares that truth here in Ephesians when he speaks of “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”, but that is far from the only reference in the New Testament to spiritual spectators.

In the gospels, the Lord Jesus says those who acknowledge him will be acknowledged by him “before the angels of God.” How the Lord handles men and women who claim to be his own is a public matter in heaven. It is open to the scrutiny of angelic rulers and authorities. Moreover, the Lord Jesus speaks of “joy before the angels of God” over even one sinner that repents. You don’t need blow trumpets and make a public announcement when your Master’s delight in earthly events is plainly visible to all.

Then there is Paul’s explanation as to why a Christian wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head. It is “because of the angels.” Human submission is not an inconsequential matter. It sends a message heavenward about the marvelous character of the God who commands it and the love and loyalty his ways inspire in his people. Mind you, if we assume resisting God’s direction sends a less-inspiring message, we need to remember that the judgment such resistance inevitably brings on Christians who display a rebellious spirit sends its own message to the angels about God, his wisdom, and the consequences of rejecting it. “Manifold wisdom” naturally takes both obedience and disobedience into account.

Finally, Peter speaks of “things into which angels long to look.” The specific subject of their inquiry has primarily to do with Old Testament prophecy and the way in which the Lord Jesus fulfilled it, but it also involves how these truths have been proclaimed in our day and the effects of that proclamation.

All these matters are the subject of angelic interest and scrutiny.

Manifold Wisdom

The word translated “manifold” means “much-variegated” or “marked with a great variety of colors”. God’s wisdom operates on multiple levels and across multiple dimensions. It deals with the problem of a fallen world from a variety of angles. It offers solutions to aspects of the sin problem most of us don’t even think about.

We measure the impact of sin primarily in terms of how it limits our choices, brings suffering and pain into our lives and generally makes us miserable. But that is only the beginning. That is sin and its consequences viewed at the most trivial and solipsistic level.

If we are a little more mature, perhaps we are able to begin to recognize the extent to which our sin impacts others in our lives, damaging relationships, eroding trust and impeding the proper functioning of marriage relationships, families, churches and governments. Then, if we are able to grasp how often our actions are witnessed by others, we may come to realize that when we sin we are not just hurting some people directly, but also by our example inviting the whole world to engage in the same sorts of things. If we take a biblical view of sin, we come to see how all the evil in which we participate is first and foremost an insult to God and a blot on his creation. And when we consider our sin in relation to its cost to Christ? Well, then, perhaps we are seeing it more clearly than at any other time, and using the measure most relevant to God.

God’s wisdom takes all these factors, consequences and implications into account whether or not we are conscious of their existence. Further, in producing a cure for sin, God’s wisdom applies his truth to the needs of a fallen world in a spectacular variety of ways, unconstrained by time, geography, differences in culture, language or intellect.

What We Are

The church cannot help what it is by virtue of its constitution. God did that; we had nothing to do with it. As Paul puts it to the Ephesians, we are the body of Christ composed of Jews and Gentiles together. This new and unprecedented unity represents Christ on this earth. Paul calls this a mystery, something not previously explicitly revealed.

The powers that be in our world are currently attempting to counterfeit the marvelous spiritual unity which Christ intended his church to model. Like Joseph’s brothers, jealous of his coat of many colors, they covet a glory they cannot possibly duplicate. Committed to teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony by main force, they promote the abandonment of natural loyalties and blood ties in favor of enlightened self-interest. Unregenerate men and women from all nations and cultures are dumped into a sort of simmering geopolitical stew to demonstrate the cleverness and insight of the would-be social engineers.

The effort is flawed from the get-go, because it pairs like with unlike and expects cohesiveness to result. But where no spiritual compatibility exists, no permanent bond can be maintained. Governments across the West are trying to paper over the spreading cracks in the facade by encouraging the puppet media to suppress all evidence their project is failing. The next step is to try to maintain the appearance of unity by quashing all dissent. That will not end well.

By way of contrast, neither Gentile nor Jewish Christians bear responsibility for creating the spiritual bond between us, though we are certainly responsible for behaving consistently with the unity God has sovereignly constituted, as Paul will shortly tell us in the very next chapter of Ephesians. When we love one another and strive together for the gospel, the wisdom of God is displayed and the “mystery” works itself out in the real world. Unlike the faux-unity of the world, God’s unity is not build on lies. Instead, we are told, “Let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Mealy-mouthed PC platitudes and a constructed media narrative cannot bring people together. Only unvarnished truth can do that.

This is what true “diversity” is, not happy talk and globalist poppycock. It is “through the church” that the manifold wisdom of God is displayed, not through political engineering.

What We Do

The manifold wisdom of God is not merely evident to the heavenly rulers and authorities through what the church is by calling and constitution, it is evident through what the church does. To the extent that it is God’s authority that is at issue, the church is called to display the merits of that authority structure through obedience to various levels of human government. When we are characteristically submissive to those God has placed over us, we invert the rebellion of Satan and display the glory of God’s design. When Christian children obey their parents, when Christian wives obey their husbands, when garden-variety saints submit themselves to church leadership, and when even the arbitrary and often-incompetent rule of secular governments is respected by believers, the multi-faceted wisdom of God is displayed in all its compelling beauty.

This is not a new thing. “This is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,” says Peter. Respectful obedience, especially in the face of mistreatment, has always been mysterious and attractive.

The church and its members under the microscope. How are you looking these days?

1 comment :

  1. This calls for some repetition. I have previously pointed out that I am a strong believer in the opportunity that God provides mankind in verifying his existence through NDE (near death experiences). Research on the internet shows these to be quite prevalent having even morphed into a stand alone research specialty and field.

    Interestingly one of the more common NDE events is the typical life review as best described by the NDE of the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mary Neal who drowned during a kayak incident. Upon meeting Christ who provided her life review she was amazed to see that her actions (or inactions) in life had a significant positive or negative effect at least 35 times removed. This suggests that no man is an island and all our attitudes and actions profoundly shape the world on a much broader scale than we could possibly envision. From that alone it is clear that we can do a lot of damage without a moral compass, which fact naturally is used in our life evaluation by our creator.