• Daniel Mayfield

Beholding Christ's Vision for His Church


Introduction

I walked from home to the building the other day, listening to songs of praise as I got myself ready to dive into the text for this morning’s message. A song by the Zoe group (not the original composers) stopped me in my tracks, and I knew it would be the introductory word for my first Sunday with the Kingfisher church. The lyrics read,

You’re the God of this city

You’re the king of these people

You’re the Lord of this nation

You are

You’re the light in this darkness

You’re the hope to the hopeless

You’re the peace to the restless

You are

There is no one like our God

There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come

And greater things are still to be done in this city

For greater things have yet to come

And greater things are still to be done in this city

Now, I heard that lyric after being totally immersed in the text I had chosen for my first sermon, and it filled me with praise for Christ. Let me start this morning by reading the text. Turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 4, and I’ll begin with verse 7.

“7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’

9 (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of t he Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

For the next at least two weeks, my aim is to establish a clear picture of the church as Jesus envisions it and as he wills it to function. We will begin with the broadest image and ultimately zoom into the intricate details of it all.

If I accomplish nothing else in this message and the messages for the next couple weeks, I hope this text brings you to wonder at and behold the glorious vision Jesus has for his people, the church.

Today, I simply want to establish two fundamental Christian convictions upon which the next couple of weeks will be built. Now, in the Bible, inspired authors always offer reason and argumentation for the propositions they extend. In other words, there’s very little “because I said so,” and there’s a lot of “do this because of this.”

Consequently, when you come to any given text in the Bible, there’s always a base proposition upon which other statements are built. Our text from Ephesians 4 is no different. Paul extends a vision for Christ’s church of cosmological proportions, only after laying down two very fundamental ideas. He speaks of gifts, special ministries, unity, faith, a deep knowledge of Jesus, protection against crafty schemes, maturity, love—all of which are profoundly important! But they are important because of the two truths upon which they are built.

So this morning, we will expose those two ideas in the text.

Fundamental Truth # 1 — Jesus Christ is Almighty God

A couple months ago, Miranda and I were at a festival back in Cayman. While standing in line for some lobster and rice and beans, an Islamic man approached us in full Islamic dress, extending to us a brochure. I took the brochure and was a bit surprised by its contents.

Being that Cayman is a nationally Christian nation, the Islamic tactic is to evangelize with that understanding in mind. Therefore, the brochure outlined the Islamic faith concerning Jesus Christ. It read that Islam believes (1) Jesus is the promised Messiah; (2) Jesus is a holy prophet; (3) Jesus was born of a virgin; (4) Jesus was a worker of many miracles; (5) Jesus is coming again for final judgment.

And as I read it, I thought to myself five times, “True! True! True! True! True!” And then I pondered, “How could they grasp all of those profoundly true ideas and yet remain totally unaffected by the gospel? How can they know those things yet maintain such an astronomically different belief system than Christians?”

Well, I think it’s because they don’t believe the underlying supposition upon which Paul builds up this beautiful vision for Christ’s church, namely that Jesus is not only the promised Messiah but that he is Almighty God. If we don’t first look at the works and thoughts of Jesus as those of the eternal God of the universe, this gospel will have very little effect on us.

Now, where in this text does Paul say to the saints in Asia, “Jesus is God, and that’s first!” Where does he say that? Look closely at verses 7-8:

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’”

To get Paul’s theology that Jesus is God Most High, notice that in verse 7 there is a gift from Christ. Grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Then in verse 8, Paul says, on account of Christ giving a certain gift to each man, “Therefore [the Psalm] says, ‘When he (Christ) ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he (Christ) gave gifts to men.’”

Do you see that Paul is applying the meaning of that Psalm to the work of Jesus Christ? The profound implications of Paul’s theology are only felt when you look at the passage from which Paul quoted. Turn to Psalm 68.

Verse 1 — “God shall arise;” Verse 4 — “Sing to God, sing praises to his name;” Verse 6 — “God settles the solitary in a home;” Verse 7 — “O God, when you went out before your people;” Verse 9 — “Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;” Verse 19 — “God is our salvation;” Verse 21 — “But God will strike the heads of his enemies.”

Who is the subject of this Psalm? Who is David praising? God! Therefore, when it says in verse 18, “You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts [for men]” (see LXX), Who do you suppose he’s referencing? God!

And therefore when we look in Ephesians 4 at the gift Christ brought to man, and Paul says, “This is the fulfillment of David’s Psalm about God,” what is Paul saying? He’s saying, “Jesus is God!”

This may seem basic, primarily because we’ve probably grasped that idea intellectually since we came to Christ. But understanding with the mind is totally different than understanding with the heart. An understanding with the heart sounds like this: “Jesus is the Creator of the universe, and he let his own creation murder him because of his great love for the creation. Whoa. Jesus is God, and therefore as a Christian I am daily involved in literally the most important work in the entire universe—things for which even the angels marvel. Whoa!” This is anything but mundane! We should never say, “Yeah, I know he’s God. What’s next?” This truth should bring us daily to marvel in the presence of God.

Fundamental Truth # 2 — As God, Christ Has Aim to Fill All Things

Now what does Jesus, God with us—God in the flesh—have aim to do, ultimately?

“Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, in order that he might fill all things” (vv. 8-10).

He descended (became a man and lived here for 33 years) in order that he might ascend (be glorified by the Father high above all power and authority), in order that he might fill all things. That’s what he has aim to do—fill all things.

Jesus reigns today over the whole universe so that he might fill all things with himself, beginning with your heart. This is the foundational place, the beginning of church work. This is where everything we do down here begins. His vision for the church is to fill every man and woman with his Spirit, his way, his truth, his speech, his conduct. For this reason, the first thing he did as king was to say, “All authority in heaven and on earth is mine. Therefore, Go! Make disciples of every nation, every tribe, every tongue under the heavens, and teach them to obey everything I ever said” (paraphrase of Matthew 28:18-20).

That commission sounded forth because of Jesus’ will to fill all things. Now, his will, ultimately, is to bring every human institution, every government, every leader, every law under his rule. Paul said, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2). Every entity in the cosmos should bow. Christ’s will is to fill all things in the universe.

But just imagine if that actually happened in the church. See in your mind’s eye every member so filled with Christ that their thoughts, deeds, and words are those of Christ? Just imagine every single Christian waking with the vivid understanding that everything they do is kingdom work. When they go to work, it is kingdom work. When they drive, it is kingdom work. When they speak with neighbors, it is kingdom work. The kingdom is always on the mind. Listen, the Christian life isn’t about being a good person and simply waiting until Jesus comes back. The Christian life is about mission! Everywhere we look, we see opportunity for mission. That’s what it means to be filled up with Christ. This is Christ’s vision, which means, it can be accomplished. This is his will, which means it is imperative. What a glorious image.

Conclusion

Next week we will begin to see how Christ has supplemented us richly for accomplishing this task. I’m excited.

This week, the challenge is simply this: Spend some time in meditation, conceiving of Jesus as God, the Creator.

#Ephesians4 #Christ #Jesus #Theology #Vision #TrueChurch #FutureGlory #God #Faith #BeingFilled #FindingCanaan

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