Latent Anti-Churchism

“the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” Eph. 3:9-10

The Lord Jesus Christ famously uttered that his redemptive work would produce one people of God, with one Shepherd over them. The exact nature of this grafting in of the Gentiles has sparked endless debates in recent years (say, the last 150 or so). Older generations of Christians were wiser, and generally understood that the latter days fulfillment of all God’s promises to his people centered upon the church, the body of Christ. Even if there remain outstanding promises of God for ethnic Israel, they will only find their fulfillment as the ethnic children of Abraham become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus find their way into the fold of the church. And so it comes to the same thing: one flock with one Shepherd.

Paul is apostolically clear: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two…that he might reconcile us both in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:14-16). I don’t suppose it can be stated any more forcefully than that: one new man in place of the two. For in the eschatological appearance of the Seed of the woman, he has brought about all things promised, fulfilling that ancient word to Abraham that in him and his Seed all the families of the earth would be blessed.

There lies within the belief we call dispensationalism a kind of built-in anti-churchism. If we maintain that the church is merely a sort of parenthetical work of God in history, while he waits to fulfill his “original” promises to natural Israel in the future, we have asserted, whether we realize it or not, a second-class citizenship within the kingdom of God. Incidentally, this is exactly how racism works, and how the black American population came to be the disenfranchised, shadow population that it has historically been (see my work, Lemuel Haynes: The Black Puritan). As it is, only equal citizenship in the kingdom of God can eliminate the very kinds of divisions that Paul is obliterating in the text. In fact, equal standing in the commonwealth of God’s eschatological people is the only answer to racism of any and every sort. What our Lord said of the poor may also be spoken of prejudice (and every other brand of sin for that matter): “The racists you will always have with you.” For while souls remain outside the covenant community of God, there will necessarily be such things.

Rather, let us rejoice in the astounding work that God has accomplished through Christ to create this new people, his people, the church. For we are those upon whom the end of the ages has come, and we stand on the brink of eternity. The present form of this world is passing away, and the only hope that anyone, Jew or Gentile, has, is the finished work of the Messiah on behalf of sinners. What our ancient sojourning brethren before us hoped for, we have seen and heard, and this is what it means to be grafted in.