It is difficult to separate the historic church from what “church” meant in the first century – and for that matter, to Jesus Himself.
Jesus mentions the church only a few times (Matthew 16;18; 18:17), but He speaks of the Kingdom many times (Matthew 4:7,23). This is the story of the book of Ephesians. As people were forsaking their idols and embracing Christ’s Kingship (Acts 19/so awesome!), they were awakening to what it meant not merely to “go” to church but to “be” the Church.
The Story of Jesus clearly explains that He is the King of the earth. His Kingdom is coming alive in the hearts of men. As we are being “called out” of futility, we are made alive into His “body.” Dead to sin – and alive to God.
The Ephesian believers were Gentile pagans to their core. Just as we reason like Greeks, the Ephesian culture was immersed in the false religion of self. Paul spent a couple of years establishing this community of believers – long before there were church buildings on every corner.
Ephesians is telling us what has happened to us as we have believed and become a part of His Kingdom. It is a real challenge to once again embrace the “we ARE the church” paradigm of the first century. It is all too easy to lose our identity as sons and daughters of the Kingdom and see ourselves as passive attendees at a location.
The letter to the Ephesians reminds us of the riches we have because we have inherited God’s favor through Jesus. This is a “mystery” that is being resolved and animated into our hearts through personal faith in Jesus. The rich truth of the Son makes us able to become a part of a community which before was impossible to even imagine.
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” – Ephesians 4:14-16
Deep waters here, my friend!