Lesson 3 – The Status of the Church (2)
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship.’’ The Greek word for workmanship, poiema, can also be translated masterpiece or poem. It conveys the thought of a piece of work that expresses its maker or author. The church is a poem! In the whole universe the church stands out as an expression of God’s wisdom; its design cannot be improved upon. It is like pleasant music or a lovely poem. What a matchless display of divine wisdom! Who can improve on this supreme handiwork of God!
God has made many things, but none of them is as dear, precious, valuable, and desirable as the church. The church is God’s masterpiece. Writers, composers, and artists often attempt to achieve a masterpiece, an outstanding work. God created the heavens and the earth, but neither the heavens nor the earth is God’s masterpiece. Likewise, God created man, but not even man is God’s masterpiece. Only one item of God’s work in this universe is His masterpiece, and this masterpiece is the church. As God’s masterpiece, the church is the Body of Christ, the fullness of the One who fills all in all. What could be a greater work than this? Furthermore, the church as God’s masterpiece is the corporate and universal new man (2:15). Because we see things from the side of the messed-up “kitchen’’ of the church life, we may not realize that the church is such a masterpiece.
THE NEW MAN
The church is also the new man (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10). There is a sense in which the whole human race is just one corporate man. All the different peoples on earth comprise this one man, who in the Scripture is called the old man or Adam. God at the beginning did not create two men, but only Adam. This one man was mankind. In Genesis 1:26-27 the whole human race was created. But on the cross, through Christ and in Him, God created another man, a new man! This man is also corporate; we are included in him. Adam was the old man; Christ with the church is the new man. This new man is not only Christ, but also the church. Christ is the Head of this universal man; the church is His Body.
Ephesians 2:15 says that Christ through the cross “abolished in His flesh the law of the commandments in ordinances, that He might create the two in Himself into one new man.’’ Then in Ephesians 4:22-24 we are told to put off the old man and to put on the new man. This new man is the Body of Christ. To put on the new man means to live a life by the Body. Before our salvation we were living in the old man, in the old society, but now we are members of Christ, living in His Body. We should put off the old man with the old social life, and we should put on the new man, the church.
God’s creation of man in Genesis 1 is a picture of the new man in God’s new creation. This means that the old creation is a figure, a type, of the new creation. In God’s old creation the central character is man. It is the same in God’s new creation. Therefore, in both the old creation and the new creation man is the center. God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26) and then gave man His dominion. Image is for expression. God wants man to be His expression. Dominion, however, is a matter not of expression but of representation. God wants man to represent Him in His authority for His dominion. In the old creation man was created to have God’s image to express Him and also to have His dominion to represent Him.
THE COUNTERPART OF CHRIST
In his exhortation in Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul presents the church as the counterpart of Christ. This reveals that the church is actually a part of Christ, for the church comes out of Christ and is unto Christ, just as Eve came out of Adam and was unto Adam (Gen. 2:21-23).
The first couple in the Bible, Adam and Eve, is a picture of Christ and the church. In His creation, God did not create a man and woman at the same time. He first created a man, and then from the man He created a counterpart to help him (Gen. 2:18). When the fowl, the beasts, and the cattle were brought before Adam, Adam named them one by one. But for Adam “there was not found a help meet for him’’ (Gen. 2:20). Adam desired to have a counterpart, to have someone to match him. However, among the fowl, the beasts, and the cattle, he could not find his counterpart. In order to produce such a counterpart, God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam (Gen. 2:21), and He took a rib out of Adam and built a woman with the rib (Gen. 2:22). The name of the woman was Eve. Eve was the same as Adam in life, nature, and form. Therefore, she could be his counterpart. When God brought Eve to Adam, Adam exclaimed, “This time it is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh’’ (Gen. 2:23, Heb.). At last, Adam had found one who could be his counterpart.
In Revelation 19:7 and 8 we see that Christ and His counterpart, His bride, will be married at His coming back. Verse 7 says, “Let us rejoice and exult, and let us give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready.’’ The marriage of the Lamb is the issue of the completion of God’s New Testament economy. God’s economy in the New Testament is to obtain for Christ a bride, the church, through His redemption and divine life. By the continual working of the Holy Spirit through all the centuries, this goal will be attained at the end of this age. Then the bride will be ready.
THE GOLDEN LAMPSTANDS
As golden lampstands, the churches shine in the darkness. The word lampstand enables us to understand much about the church and its function. The church is not the lamp; it is the lampstand, the stand which holds the lamp. Without the lamp, the lampstand is vain and means nothing. But the lampstand holds the shining lamp. Christ is the lamp (Rev. 21:23), and the church is the lampstand holding the lamp. God is in Christ, and Christ as the lamp is held by the stand to shine out God’s glory. This is the testimony of the church.
The lampstands shine in the darkness. If there were no darkness, there would be no need for the shining of the light of the lamp. The shining of the lamp is quite particular. In order for the lamp to shine, it must have oil burning within it. If the oil burns within the lamp, the light will shine out through all the darkness. This is the function of the church. The function of the church is not simply to preach or to teach doctrine. In the dark night of this age, the church must shine out the glory of God.
The churches as golden lampstands will be consummated in the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem, the holy city, is the aggregate of all the lampstands. If we consider the facts that the New Jerusalem is a golden city (Rev. 21:18b), that it has one street which reaches all twelve gates (Rev. 21:21; 22:2), that the wall of the city is one hundred forty-four cubits high (21:17), and that the city itself is twelve thousand stadia high (21:16), we shall realize that the city proper must be a mountain. On top of this mountain is a throne, from which the street spirals down to the bottom to reach the twelve gates. On top of this golden mountain is the throne as the center. On the throne is Christ as the Lamb with God in Him (22:1). This Lamb is the lamp with God in Him as the light (21:23; 22:5).