So Who's Peripheral?
Today I saw something fascinating in The Message (Eugene Peterson) in Paul's Letter to the Ephesians:
20-23All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
Is this an honest paraphrase of the King James Version?
20Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
The world will not countenance this order of things. Christ's ethic in the Sermon on the Mount is contemptible to them. Or perhaps he is a benevolent teacher with proverbs and astounding gifts to deliver and heal. Or perhaps he is some kind of emissary from the Creator. But certainly not divine. Our text suggests that He is at the core of all things, and absolutely in charge.
Does the Church even get this, or do they sing the "possibility thinking" chorus of "things go better with Christ"? Side eddies of spiritual gifting, healing, outreach, deliverance and prosperity confuse the message of His sovereign place. In our Global Village of diversity it even sounds extreme to the redeemed!
Jesus said it best, "I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly." And we in the Church are extensions of His Body.
We recall the bumper sticker: "Know Jesus, Know life...No Jesus, No Life."
Much is said to provoke severe thought in Watchman Nee's classic Love Not the World:
"There was a time when the Church rejected the world's ways. Now she not only uses them; she abuses them. Of course we must use the world, because we need it; but let us not want it, let us not desire it. So Jesus continues, "Watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand (literally `be set') before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36). Would God urge us to watch and pray were there not a spiritual force to guard against? We dare not take our destiny as a matter of course, but must be constantly on the alert that we be truly disentangled in spirit from the elements of this world. There are things of the world that are essential to our very existence. To be concerned with them is legitimate, but to be weighed down by them is illegitimate and may cause us to forfeit God's best."