Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Manifesting God's Wisdom

Manifesting God's Wisdom

"So that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:10-11)

The church that Jesus established in the First Century had been in God's plan even from eternity. This body of believers displays God's wisdom in a vast array of ways. In this lesson I want to explore how God's amazing planning is seen in the church that He designed – the predenominational kingdom of God revealed in the New Testament.


Long before Jesus gave the command to be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16), God had been laying the groundwork of rich symbolism so that we could more easily grasp the weight of its significance:

  • Noah was separated from the evil of the ancient world by water: 1 Peter 3:20-21
  • The children of Israel passed through water from a land of bondage to a land of freedom: 1 Corinthians 10:2
  • Before the priests in the Old Testament could serve in the Tabernacle (house of God), they were required to wash in the laver: Exodus 30:18-20

Added to this, baptism is pictured as a birth into the family of God (John 3:5), and its symbolism a direct parallel with the death, burial and resurrection of the One who died and was raised for us (Romans 6:3-6). 

Many in the denominational world reject God's teaching that baptism stands between one and salvation (1 Peter 3:21). Those who claim they are saved on the basis of faith alone, and just asking Jesus to come into their heart are often left wondering, "Did Jesus come into my heart?" Thus, many of them repeatedly ask Him again and again. By contrast, the Bible plan gives everyone a specific act to perform so we are not left wondering if or when we were forgiven. So faith while faith is something that is more of a gradual process, we definitely have a moment in time when we went down into the waters of baptism, and just as definitely came up in newness of life.

Wise Organization

The church that Jesus established (Matthew 16:18) has Jesus as the sole head (Ephesians 1:22-23). The only organizational structure that we find under Jesus as the head are elders/pastors/overseers or also called bishops who are told to specifically shepherd the flock they are among (1 Peter 5:2). How wise that God, through Paul did not appoint elders who watched over multiple congregations of souls they cannot see or hear, but rather each congregation had its own elders (Acts 14:23; Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:17). In addition, how judicious that we never find a congregation having only one elder/pastor/bishop, for such singleness of power and authority without the checks and balances of other leaders present, is too precarious when souls are at stake, not to mention a higher potential temptation toward pride. Thus, God never puts a congregation in the hands of just one man. Instead, God's design is that the men overseeing a congregation actually worship, work with and are part of that congregation. Thus, they are much more likely to genuinely know what is going on in the hearts and lives among them. Another advantage in following God's design for church organization is that the congregation actually knows if an elder is truly qualified.

  • If an eldership departs into error (such as in Acts 20:29-30), the damages of such a departure is more limited to that congregation, and does not take a whole string of congregations, or an entire international body into error.
  • Jesus is still respected as the head, for no man or group of men has the power to dictate rules and orders to a group of churches or the entire church.  God deliberately limited the power and influence of not only elders, pastors and bishops, but likewise the power and influence of a particular congregation. Thus, the church as God designed it is never looking to a particular man, group of men, or influential congregation for guidance, rather they are looking to Jesus. Long ago Jesus told His disciples, who were wanting places of power, that in the kingdom He was establishing, leaders are to be very accessible servants, rather than men who are served (Matthew 20:24-28). When a church resembles a powerful corporation or business more than it resembles a family, something is very wrong. When the leader or leaders of a church are only accessible to the few, and it takes six months to get an appointment to talk to them, something is quite amiss.

Wise Qualifications

The qualifications for the office of elder/pastor/bishop are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-11. Note there that the emphasis is on character rather than charisma.  When left to ourselves, we often choose leaders who talk a good talk, seem charming, give us the answers we want to hear, and "get things done", which too often this ends in disaster. God is looking for men with a track record in the important things of life (1 Timothy 3:1-5).

Wise Money Flow

In the world when money flows it seems that all along the way there are many "middle men" who take their cut. I am impressed that the church that Jesus designed is incredibly efficient with the humble funds collected only from willing, open-hearted members (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).

  • When supporting a preacher, money was directly sent to that preacher (Philippians 4:15-16). Money never passed through the expensive hands and red tape machinery of some human organization or even another congregation, thus avoiding needless waste.
  • When a church had more needy members than it could handle, money from other congregations was directly sent to that church in need (1 Corinthians 16:3). Again, a human organization was not created and the money did not pass through the hands of multiple congregations. No money was wasted on maintaining a human organization.

Wise Involvement

When it comes to helping people in need, the directive is to go and help that person (Matthew 25:42-45; James 1:27) , rather than paying other people to help them. How wise that God wants us to eye to eye with those we serve.

A Streamlined and Wise Course of  Work

In the denominational world we see so many churches becoming social clubs rather than life saving stations. It is so easy to lose focus and forget why Jesus established the church. I am impressed by the very simple and straightforward work that God gave to His people:

  • Save the lost, teach the truth to the world, stand on it and defend it: Mark 16:15; 1 Timothy 3:15
  • Edify and help the saved, stay saved: Hebrews 10:24
  • Take care of the needs of its members: Acts 2:44

As a result the local congregation is not spending the freewill offering of its members on what is not of eternal significance. We are not investing in kitchens, playgrounds, or gyms, but rather in Bibles, teaching materials and evangelism efforts. Also, by not renting out or otherwise using our facilities for the things of this world, we are not drawn into having to be politically correct regarding to whom we rent our facilities. They exist, and have always existed only for teaching the truth and worshipping our Heavenly Father.

Simple, Heart Felt and Wise Worship

God did not design worship as a spectator sport, where the soloist or cool band gets the admiration and glory. The humble worship He selected for the local congregation can be performed by every member and can be performed in any place and time in history (Ephesians 5:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 11:26). In addition, I am impressed by the wisdom of a weekly gathering to remember that Jesus died for us (Acts 20:7). God had Israel involved in another type of weekly gathering  (Exodus 20:10-11). I have found that we are quick to forget and even in a couple of days I can lose sight of the depth of my blessings, who I am and why I was created. We definitely need that reminder, and God, in His vast wisdom, knew how often we would need it.

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017