Section 8: The Church
Week 2: The Church’s Authority and Power
Day 4: The Church Has Been Given Authority to Engage in Spiritual Warfare
God’s overarching plan is to bring everything together under Christ (Eph. 1:10). As we’ve seen, the initial harmony of the universe was fractured by sin. God intends to repair the damage by putting things back together again as it were. He will do that by bringing everything together in proper relation to Christ. Harmony will be restored with Christ as the focus of the universe. Christ will be at the center of this reunited universe in the sense that it will be one’s relationship to Christ that holds everything together.[i]
Although this is God’s plan, he hasn’t brought it about fully yet. Scholar, Peter O’Brien, suggests there are three obstacles God needs to overcome in order to repair the damage done by sin.[ii] First, there is rebellion in the spiritual realm. Satan and the other fallen angels are actively rebelling against God and refuse to acknowledge his rightful authority over them. Before the universe can be restored, that rebellion must be fully put down.
Second, there is humanity’s alienation from God. Because of our sin, we too have rebelled and are subject to God’s wrath. God intended us to be able to enjoy a close and intimate relationship with him. Instead our sin has separated us from him. In order to bring about the restoration he intends, God must do something about our separation.
Thirdly, from a redemptive historical perspective, Jews and Gentiles have been alienated from one another. God had early on graciously entered into a special relationship with Israel. But his plan to restore his relationship with humanity extends beyond the confines of Israel. Therefore, before the restoration can be completed, Jew and Gentile both need to be reconciled to God.
In the Church this process has already begun. Our alienation from God has been dealt with because of our faith in Christ. On top of that, this salvation is now being offered to both Jew and Gentile. There is no condemnation for anyone who puts his or her faith in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Jew and Gentile have been reconciled to God and brought together in one body with Christ as the center.
It that respect, the Church serves as a sign that God will one day bring all things together under Christ.[iii] That sign isn’t meant just for us. Paul says the wisdom of God’s plan is being made known to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 3:10). “Rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” is a way of referring to angels. The term can refer to both good and fallen angels. But, Paul’s focus is probably on the fallen angels, including Satan. As God works out his plan to build the Church, Satan is watching. And he doesn’t like what he sees.[iv]
When Satan sees the Church, he knows it’s the first step toward bringing everything under Christ. And he knows what’s coming next. His rebellion will soon be put down (Rev. 20:7-10). That’s not good news for him, but it is good news for us.
Spiritual warfare is a reality. Satan is doing everything he can to undermine our faith and take away the joy we have in Christ. Yet, God has given us all the weapons we need to fight this battle (Eph. 6:10-20). What’s more, we know, the battle has already been won.
The existence of the Church is proof of that. Every day, believers throughout the world gather together as the result of what Christ has done and continues to do. Right now, Christ is building his Church. And one day, the Father will bring all things, not just the Church, together under Christ. That truth is meant to encourage and strengthen us as we fight the good fight.
Read Eph. 1:1-14, 3:1-21, 6:10-20.
It appears the Ephesian church was engaged is some sort of spiritual warfare. Would it have helped them to know that Christ had already won the battle for them? As they looked around and saw the group of believers that made up the church, would that have been evidence of God’s commitment to fulfill his eternal plan? Would that have been a source of encouragement and strength for them? What relevance does it have for us? Can the existence of the Church be a source of strength and encouragement for us?
[i] Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (1999), 111-112.
[ii] Ibid., 112-113.
[iii] Ibid., 248.
[iv] Ibid., 244-248.