Ephesians 1:22-23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
We not only have too small a concept of God, we have too small a concept of the Church! Omnipotence and omniscience are just words to us, but we don’t really even have words to express the nature of the Church. The problem is that we think in terms of human organizations, or even physical buildings, and that hardly begins to touch on the Church as Paul expresses it here. This is indeed the glorious Bride of Christ, that Paul touches on in chapter 5 of this letter and John writes a good bit about in his Revelation of Christ. We speak glibly about “the Body of Christ,” but we hardly know what we’re talking about. Again, human organizations and our experience of them get in the way. The closest thing to “denomination” in the Bible is “sect,” and that, rightly enough, is hardly a “feel good” term to us. The Protestant Reformation was an essential event in the history of the Church, triggering many corrections within the Roman Catholic organization as well as spawning what are now countless Protestant groups, but none of those can claim exclusive rights to being The Church. Frankly, any group that tries to do so practically excludes themselves from it by their very claim. For centuries the Catholic Church tried to do so, but thankfully that has greatly subsided. I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’ famous statement, in The Great Divorce, that one thing we know for certain is that when we get to heaven, we will discover we were all wrong somewhere. None of us has the whole truth without error, and failure to grasp and acknowledge that lays us wide open to being manipulated and used by the devil, the father of lies. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have assurance in what we believe, but it is very much to say that we must walk in humility, allowing the Holy Spirit to correct our errors. Only then can we begin to fulfill the transcendent vision of the Church that Paul presents here.
I was raised in a thoroughly denominational environment, but it was in Japan, where the total number of active Christians of any label was less than 1% of the population. That made it much easier to see anyone who knew Jesus at all as a brother, rather than a rival or even an enemy, as I have seen many times in the US. When we came to Omura in 1981 I was immediately coopted by a denominational organization, but events led to an organizational split in less than three years, and since then I have been steadfastly non-denominational. We have been invited to join various groups over the years, including the one from which we split, but I have always felt a check on that. I am not superior to them, but the moment I put up a denominational label, someone else will consider me an enemy, or at least a rival. The lack of an umbrella organization has been difficult at times, but I have felt great freedom in having fellowship with people carrying all sorts of labels. When we mutually focus on Jesus Christ as Lord, everything else fades into insignificance.
Father, thank You for the magnificence of Your plan. We miss so much by superimposing our human constructs on it! Help me walk in full humility and submission to You, expressing Your love, grace, and holiness in everything I do and say, so that the Body of Christ may indeed be built up as You intend, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!