To the Church of God in the Lord Jesus Christ:
You know who atheists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett think you are. You know who the hedonists of the world think you are. You know who the truly weary and oppressed of the world think you are.
Mostly I think you think you know who you are. Who you think you are you have learned mostly from your preachers, teachers and leaders.
Depending on their interests, charisma, talents and agendas you see yourself as they present you.
All in all, you’re nice people who pursue virtue and try hard to avoid outrageous sins like sexual immorality of any kind so as not to dishonor the Lord Jesus and his Church.
But you have [I presently judge] no profound sense of destiny or cosmic mission.
You see yourself as a group of individuals who were fortunate enough to hear the gospel and were willing to obey it and you pretty much gather together to thank God for the forgiveness of sins as you wait for Jesus’ return to take you to real life in heaven.
You see yourself as part of the great human failure of the human race. God wanted better for us, we wouldn’t have it and we rebelled, God graciously tries to save as many as he can before he obliterates the entire creation.
The Church, then, is the omelet God made when the eggs were broken. He purposed a human family to exercise dominion over the creation in his image [Genesis 1:26-27] and instead he got rebellion. He established a kingdom again in Israel [Exodus 19:5-6] and he got more rebellion and then he came in and as Jesus [who did his part flawlessly] but the humans rejected him.
So in place of the kingdom he purposed God did the best he could; he picked up the pieces and made the Church instead. Since the creation purpose has failed miserably [because we the human family have been faithless] God will completely destroy it all and he will take the very very few fortunate enough to have heard the gospel—he will take them to a spiritual world where they will live eternally.
No—that’s not how the NT sees the Church of the Lord Jesus. You are glorious in His eyes!
The Church was eternally purposed [Ephesians 1:3-14]. It was no substitute for anything!
There has been nothing like you before—you are a new thing in the earth! You are part of a new creation that began in the Lord Jesus.
You were not an afterthought nor are you a substitute for the kingdom God eternally purposed and will bring into fullness in a coming day.
Your faith didn’t create the Church [his faithful love eternally purposed it and created it].
Not only did God eternally purpose the existence of the Church, he purposed it to be “the body of Christ”. It is the body of Christ in and through which Jesus proclaims the faithful love of God in each generation. He purposed that this People, his Church, would experience and recapitulate in its life and teaching and worship the Story of the Lord Jesus. The People, the Church he foreknew [had in mind and purpose] he foreordained that it would be conformed to the image of his Son who suffered in and for the world on his way to glory [Romans 8:29—an entire (8:17-39) section on suffering and see Luke 24:44-49 and 1 Peter 1:11].
You have no special beauty that humans should admire you!
Like your holy Lord you will be exempt from no pain or loss!
As the body of Christ you share the hurt of the world on the world’s behalf!