Exploring the Church in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, pt 1

The Editors of the Orthodox Study Bible say,

“One of the tragic aberrations of the so-called modern religion is ‘Churchless Christianity.’ The assertion is that it is Christ who saves us, not the Church, so ‘all you need is Jesus’.”

It is very true that we need Christ as the single element of our Salvation. However, simply believing in Him does not suffice. If it did, then His appearance on this planet would have erased the need for the Cross. It is not through a mere ‘belief’ in Him that we are saved, but through His death (repentance), burial (baptism) and resurrection (indwelling) that we are saved. It is through Doctrine and Tradition, based on the Word of God, that we actually learn that repentance is necessary, that baptism is as well, and that it takes the Indwelling to create a new man to walk with God.

In Ephesians 4.4, Paul writes,

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;  (Eph 4:4 NKJV)

People seem to understand this in individual terms. The ‘one body’ that Paul is speaking about is the Church – Jew and Gentile. He continues his thought from the second chapter, when he writes that we both Jew and Gentile are united by the blood of Christ into the body of Christ.

Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (Eph 2:15-16 NKJV)

This new body, the New Man, is the Church that Jesus Christ Himself built (Matt 16:18). It is His household.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
(Eph 2:19-22 NKJV)

This new body is not an individual, but an entire organization. It has one foundation, one cornerstone, and is indeed one building.Paul is not speaking about a ‘building’ with four walls, but the idea of a corporate entity. It is from this one foundation that we have received the Scriptures and the Doctrine. Notice that Paul listed only the Apostles and the Prophets as being that Foundation. It is there words from which we receive our New Testament Scriptures. This Church that Paul is speaking about is designed to be united, not an individual enterprise, nor a personal relationship that supplants the Church.

In 3.10, we read

That through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  (Eph 3:10 RSV)

It is not through some individual, or personal, relationship that anything is made known, but only through the Church. It is through this New Man, that the wisdom of God is made known to those high places and those that dwell in them. Without the Church, the world is lost. Tirelessly, we proclaim that without the Church, the world is lost. Paul does not labor for individuality here, but pushes the point that indeed it is Church that God has established and the Church that God works with – nothing can be done without the Church.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16 NKJV)

For this new organization, God has given us Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers. These are not hindrances, and are required. They are to equip the saints, the Church individual, for the work of ministering to this world and to build up the Body of Christ. This edifying, or building up, includes keep the wolves away from the sheep. Further, these Church leaders are there to grow the Church together to a unity of the Faith and to a unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. When these leaders work, and that work is complete, these New Man will be perfect. No man is the Apostle to himself, or a pastor to himself, otherwise, these offices would not be needed.

Paul cautions against those that would be children, being tossed by different doctrines, never holding on to the Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ. These different doctrines are brought about by the trickery of Man, by those that seek to spy out the liberty of the Saints, seeking to destroy them from without. (Jude 4)

Paul cements the Church corporate in 4.25 with these words,

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. (Eph 4:25 NKJV)

If we are no longer individuals, but a member of the Church of which Christ is the head, then who can we determine our own doctrine, our own gospel?

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0 Replies to “Exploring the Church in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, pt 1”

  1. The obvious question would be where is the Church of God on earth, and how is maintained and sustained? And true Christianity brings human beings not only into one body but into a oneness of heart and affection. But this is a unity, but not a uniformity.

    Christ from whom all blessings flow,
    Perfecting the saints below
    Hear us, who Thy nature share
    Who Thy mystic body are. – Charles Wesley

    The visible Church is a “scaffolding by means of which the spiritual building can best advance.” But the visible Church is full of imperfections – tares in the wheat and bad fish in the drag-net. And yet it is the only Church we have and know, a pilgirm Church. For myself, I still look to the gentle but sustaining arms of the Ecclesia Anglicana. Catholic & Reformed.

    Fr. Robert

  2. Fr. Robert,

    Thanks for the comments, as always. I wrote this post in response to a lot of the comments from a certain group of people who seemed to view the Church and any form of ‘organized religion’, doctrine, or theology as a form of evil that suppresses the Truth of the ‘Love of Christ’, I wish I had more time to devote to this subject, as my own awareness of the beauty of the Church has suddenly became awakened.

  3. The true Church cannot exist without the continued life and form-reality of the Risen and Ascended Christ, this is still incarnational in Christ above (Heb.9:24), and in the Mystical Body of Christ! (2 Cor. 4:10-11)

    As I have said before, and now say again: The mystery of the Church, its “invisible dimensions,” are larger or deeper than the structure and organization of the Church, which are at the service of the mystery. But we still must have the historical reality of the Church of God on earth. And this is always seen in the Church and her bridal beauty, each member, but both mere clay and the Christ within, (2 Cor.4:7). See, also (Psalm 45 and Eph. 6:27).

    Thank God for the beauty of His Church “In Christ”! And thank you Joel to remind us!

    Fr. Robert

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