“Why do we do it?” I think it’s one of the most obvious questions people should ask about church. I am surprised that more visitors don’t ask it. If a newcomer came to your church and asked you that question, what would you say?
Because it makes me feel better inside?
Because it’s what we do?
Because it charges my batteries for the week ahead?or even (drumroll please)
Because Hebrews tells us not to forsake gathering together?
All of these might seem true, and some of them might even be good reasons to “do church,” but there is a biblical reason with far deeper significance, far greater consequence. And it’s nestled so inconspicuously in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus that it’s easy to miss if you’re not careful. Ephesians 3:10-11 says this:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Ephesians 3:10-11 (NIV)
In other words, the church is a living, breathing demonstration of the many-layered wisdom of God. People should be able to know something about God’s wisdom through watching the church do what it does. And not just any people: rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. In the rest of Ephesians, and in fact throughout Paul’s writings, that phrase means angels – both the holy and fallen varieties.
Something about the church teaches something about God to the angels.
Particularly in Paul’s context in Ephesians 3, it is the unity of the gathered church in Christ that shouts out God’s extraordinary plan to the unseen citizens of the heavenly realm. Where there was once division and dissention – Jew from Gentile, slave from freeman, black from white, man from woman, and rich from poor – there is now unity and community. The dividing rails have been broken down in Christ. The fact is that all of us, no matter our social status or income, no matter our ethnic background or race, no matter even how sordid our history – we all have in Christ both the right to stand (boldness) and the right to approach (confident access) in the presence of God Almighty (Eph 3:12).
That God could, in His wisdom, intend such a privilege for fallen mankind is a mystery into which even the angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12), and it is our task to give them a glimpse.