The Church - Part of God's Eternal Plan
God had a plan before the foundation of the world in order to bring about the salvation of mankind. It was part of God’s eternal plan for Jesus to come and die for our sins (Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:18-21). It was part of God’s eternal plan for those in Christ to possess a certain character and be His people (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11-12). God’s eternal plan also included the church. Ephesians 3:10-11 speaks of this fact, saying, “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NKJV). The church as part of God’s eternal purpose demonstrates God’s manifold wisdom.
Sadly, there are those who want to claim Jesus came with the purpose of establishing His kingdom but the rejection of the Jews caused the establishment of the kingdom to be postponed and the church is sort of like God’s interim plan. Ephesians 3:10-11 clearly teaches this concept of the church being an afterthought of God is false. Matthew 16:18-19 speaks of Jesus building His church as well as giving the keys of the kingdom to Peter. Jesus did not build one thing (His church) and then give Peter the keys to something else (the kingdom). The church and the kingdom are two different terms used to describe the same relationship from different perspectives in a passage such as Matthew 16:18-19. The kingdom, which Jesus and John taught was at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17), came within the lifetime of some who were alive when Jesus was upon the earth as Jesus promised (Mark 9:1). The scriptures provide us with ample evidence the kingdom was established before the close of the first century. Colossians 1:13-14 speaks about people being translated out of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God. How could people be translated into a kingdom which had not yet been established? Revelation 1:9 records John speaking of himself as a brother and companion in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. How could John be a companion in something which was not even in existence? Clearly, the church and the kingdom came into existence in the first century (Acts 2:47) and were both a part of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of mankind.
Since the church is a part of God’s eternal plan, it is not up for us to decide how the church ought to function. We are not at liberty to organize the church however we deem is best rather we must follow the plan which God has laid out for the church in this regard. It is God’s plan for each local church to be overseen by a plurality of qualified men serving as elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Philippians 1:1). It is also part of God’s plan for there to be deacons within local churches (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13). Churches who opt for a different organizational structure besides that which is found in the New Testament are not the church you can read about in the Bible and thus are not the church which is part of God’s eternal plan. Rather, such would be a church formed and planned by man. We are not at liberty to determine what work the church is to be busy doing but must instead follow God’s plan for the work of the church. God has given each local church the responsibility to be, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, NKJV). Local churches are commended when they are spreading the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Therefore, a part of the work God established before the foundation of the world for the church to do involves evangelism or proclaiming the good news of the gospel. Local churches are equipped and expected to edifying themselves in love (Ephesians 4:11-16). Another part of the work God established for the church before the foundation of the world is the building up of the saints through the word of God (Acts 20:32). Local churches also care for needy saints as we see demonstrated by the example of the early church (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 6:1-2; 11:27-30). Other types of work are engaged in by many churches and yet such groups are not following the plan God devised before the foundation of the world when engaging in these sort of activities. When we are concerned about giving God, “glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations” (Ephesians 3:21, NKJV), we will be concerned about following the pattern which God laid out for the church before the foundation of the world. Let’s be content to walk in the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16) which God has ordained for the church!