Today in Sunday School I had to teach Romans 9-11. Seriously? Talk about a jam packed section to cover in 1 hour! The commentary I use has 200 pages devoted to those three chapters, which is way more than I am able to read, not too mention comprehend, in one week of preparation. All of this is still going through my mind, even after teaching it, because it is so amazing . . . our God is so amazing!
Instead of spending all of our time focused on all of the things in these chapters that we don't know or don't fully understand or are very debatable, I chose to focus on what I feel is the heart of it . . . the church. Jews and Gentiles could both be God's people, but had to come the same way . . . through faith in Christ alone. The Jews had to set aside the law for a righteousness from Christ and the Gentiles needed to get rid of the arrogance they had developed toward the Jews because neither had room to boast, it was all about Jesus!
We spent some time reading in Ephesians 2 to help us understand the metaphor of the root, natural branches and wild shoot in Romans 11. I loved studying Ephesians last year and Paul's teaching on the church has really stuck with me.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15
by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and
regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out
of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
The Jews and Gentiles needed to embrace their oneness and newness that Christ provided them. The church wasn't to be full of Jews and Gentiles, but of a new humanity that wasn't characterized by hostility and division, but by peace and unity through Christ.
Ephesians 3: 8-11, "8 Although I am less than
the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach
to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9
and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which
for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10
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, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Why did it matter that the Jews and Gentiles embrace their newness in Christ? Because through the church, the Gospel and wisdom of God would be proclaimed! When two become one through nothing in themselves, it screams of Someone greater at work. When two, who couldn't be more different, cast aside those differences and embrace unity, it proclaims the price that was paid for that unity. When two, who might have many reasons to be bitter and judgmental toward each other, choose to love instead, it reveals the Love that is within the.
How beautiful is that?!
The other thing I love is that this is plan A. The plan was "hidden for ages", but is clearly God's "eternal purpose" instead of something God just came up with on the fly when a Gentile was interested in Jesus. God has always been about His ways and His salvation being made know in all nations (Psalm 67:2).
So what does this look like for us? How do we proclaim the "wisdom of God?" By being the Church. Not the "I dress up on Sunday and pretend like everything is perfect and put a little money in a plate and say amen and then go home and live however I want" kind of church. But a biblical Church.
We bear with one another in love and even (gasp) confront one another in love. We love each other enough to call out sin because it is not worthy of the calling we have received and profanes the name of Christ we wear as His ambassadors. This proclaims the Gospel to a world that needs to know a love that puts others first and is willing to go through conflict for good.
We come together as people with different personalities, spiritual gifts, talents, strengths, weaknesses, pasts, fears, desires and yet we hold tight to our unity in Christ and trust Him to use our differences to accomplish the mission He has put before us. This proclaims the Gospel to a world in need of a purpose, of something bigger than themselves.
We get on our knees in prayer for a man around the world, whom we have never met, that is facing extreme persecution and possible death for his faith in Christ. We intercede for him because of the one thing that unites us . . . Christ. This proclaims the Gospel to a world in need of true community, true brotherhood, a true family.
Without a doubt, we are to be verbally proclaiming the Gospel both individually and as the church. But I love that God, in His wisdom, designed the church to proclaim the Gospel just by being the church. When we live biblical lives together, we make Him known. We could never do these things apart from Christ, our sin would always get in the way. But we've been freed from sin. And the One who freed us, will free you too!
So today, as I continue to meditate on God's Word, I'm overwhelmed with the beauty of His plan. I'm thanking God for the Church, and asking Him to give me a greater love and appreciation for His Bride . . . and the Groom, who made it all possible!