To the intent that now to the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,…
The passage naturally leads us to consider, first, the end for which Churches are formed; and, secondly, the means by which that end may be best accomplished. In looking at the end for which Churches are formed, we shall find in this passage very full information.
I. THEY WERE FORMED "TO THE INTENT" THAT "ALL MEN MIGHT SEE WHAT IS THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MYSTERY WHICH FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD HATH BEEN HID IN GOD, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God." The intention, therefore, for which Churches were formed, beyond the salvation of the members of those Churches, was, you perceive, two-fold. It had reference, in the first place to men, in the second to angels. The two objects which Christ had in view were, the instruction of the world, and the instruction of angels.
II. Let us, then, consider HOW THESE THINGS WERE TO BE ACCOMPLISHED.
1. In order to "show the manifold wisdom of God" in the fellowship of the Church, first to men and then to angels, or we may say at once both to men and to angels, it is necessary that the Church should be instructed. If the Churches of Christ are without instruction, we cannot expect that either men or angels will learn anything of the wisdom of God from them. The darker the Churches are, the more impressive will be the indications of Divine wisdom working in them, and Divine wisdom formed in them. If the angels, who see God and are like Him — if the angels who understood the glory of His character and the splendour of His works — on turning from it to look into the Churches of Christ, find in them a vagueness of vision which would seem to indicate that the light has scarcely ever shone upon them, can they learn anything from such a spectacle? Ignorant Churches are a reproach in the earth, and ignorant Churches are a reproach among the angels in heaven. Angels know the light contained in the oracles of truth; they know its wide diffusion — they see Churches formed upon a pretended acceptance of that truth; and they do not behold the light which those Churches profess to have received.
2. But not only must there be mutual instruction, there must also be mutual charity. In carrying out the end for which God formed Churches, the members ought mutually to cultivate the spirit Of Christian charity.
3. But, in the next place, among the reciprocal duties of Church members for the purpose of carrying out the end for which Churches were formed, we must place that of mutual encouragement to appear together in every good work. Another thing which we think belongs to the mutual and reciprocal duties of Church members is a constant and ready acknowledgment of one another. Now bear in mind these duties as the reciprocal duties of Church members, so far as the exhibition of their case to the world and to angels is concerned.
4. Let us now look at the duty that devolves upon Church members to support and maintain one another's characters. If all were to act as they ought to do in this matter, Churches would stand out in strength; they would appear like so many families, the spirit of Christian love would bind them together and produce the outward aspect of inward unity, and both angels and men would learn the nature of Christian feeling, and see the manifold wisdom of God in the Church. But what is there, it may be asked, to oppose the exercise of these duties. We answer, generally, the depravity of the human mind. Were we to go into details we should occupy more time than we can appropriate to the subject. All we shall say is, that there is pride in the mind of man, and that the unity of the Church is injured by the indulgence of that pride; there is jealousy in the mind of man, and the unity of the Church is injured by the indulgence of that jealousy; there is selfishness in the mind of man, and the unity of the Church is injured by the indulgence of that selfishness; there is worldliness in the mind of man, and the Church is kept back by that worldliness: a variety of features of mind and character will occur to yourselves, all of which operate against the right discharge of the reciprocal duties of Church members.
Parallel VersesKJV: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,