"But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." (Numbers 14:21)
God's eternal purpose is described in Numbers 14:21. This purpose must also be the purpose of the ecclesia. The Psalmist declares, "Let the whole earth be filled with His glory." (Psalm 72: 19) To accomplish this purpose God chose Israel that His glory would be manifested through them. "Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." (Isaiah 49:3).
God's expectation for Israel had limited success. As a nation they did not always glorify the Father. The only one to attain unto this desired glory was Jesus. "Now is the son of man glorified, and God glorified in him." (John 13:31) Like Israel, we do not always meet with success in our attempt to bring honour and glory unto the name of the God of Israel. We bear the same responsibility, as did Israel. Are we not the "Israel of God"? (Galatians 6:16)
We have been called to "do all to the glory of God". (I Corinthians 10:31) This is our individual and collective mission and yet it is unnatural for mankind. Generally speaking, we want things our own way. To glorify God requires that the will of the flesh be brought into subjection. The example of our Master was, "Not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) Self must be chastened to reflect obedience to the Master. Sometimes in the heat of exchange, we forget who we are and the loftiness of our calling. If we are the Israel of God, were we not created for an express purpose, that purpose being to reflect God's glory and to be a witness to that glory in our daily lives? "Everyone who is called by my name...I have created him for my glory... Ye are my witnesses saith the Lord". (Isaiah 43:7, 10)
Can we imagine the disappointment of our Heavenly Father when by our actions His glory is tarnished, or when the witness we bare to one another has no edifying effect? God was grieved in his heart by the actions of man at the time of the flood. Saul was removed as King for his lack of obedience. God was displeased with Israel and they were scattered. So it stands to reason that we will incur the displeasure of our Heavenly Father if we fail to respect the high calling we have in Christ Jesus. We need to understand that this is God's purpose, not ours. We need to trust that He is in control and the out working of His plan and purpose will go forward with or without us. His purpose will be achieved.
We are privileged to be a part of that plan and purpose, called to develop and reflect His glory in the daily struggles of life. The context of this development is found in the ecclesia. It is in this arena where we succeed or fail.
The ecclesia is the training ground for the Kingdom (good or bad, with all of its idiosyncrasies and varying personalities) it is where we must strive to reflect the glory of God in our interactions with one another. In order to glorify the Father we need to build strong and vibrant ecclesias. In this environment we can all contribute to the glory of God to the end that all may be glorified.
Paul speaks about this in Ephesians 2:19-22. " Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
A stranger is one who is marginalized, who is on the fringe, but in Christ we are no more strangers but fellow citizens. We have equality in Christ. We should never make a brother or sister feel like they are shut out of the family of God because of a differing of opinion. No reasonable voice should be silent or silenced. There is unity in Christ and so an environment should be provided where every brother and sister is valued. Through Christ we are a part of that building fitly framed together to grow unto an holy temple.
Jesus is the cornerstone of the foundation. If you remove the cornerstone the building will collapse. The cornerstone is what holds everything together. So it is with the ecclesia. If Jesus is absent from our ecclesias we have lost the ability to hold the ecclesia together and it will collapse.
If the walls of the building are to be true and have integrity they must be in alignment with the cornerstone.
Unlike a physical building, the ecclesia must have living stones so it can grow unto a holy temple. These living stones will provide leadership, correction, strength and stability with the passing years because living stones continue to grow. The unity of the ecclesia does not come from organization, tradition or strong opinions. Unity and peace is only found in Christ.
In Ephesians, Paul introduces his thoughts on unity of mind by saying, "He is our peace". The "peace which passeth all understanding" is provided in Jesus. If we are to grow unto an habitation of God, peace must reside in our ecclesias. "The saint then is a man of peace. He thinks peace, he lives peace, he preaches the glad message of peace and in its embrace he waits for the coming of the one who gave it to him, the Prince of Peace." (Portrait of a Saint author John Marshall)
We seem to be at our worse when we are discussing differences of opinion regarding the truth. Why is this? What is our attitude in dealing with Brothers and Sisters? Do we need to be right? Will the truth be compromised if our understanding does not prevail? Do we reason out of the scriptures in a non-combative way? Paul speaks to this problem in a very direct fashion.
"Be like-minded having the same love...Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory but in lowliness of mind..." (Philippians 2: 2-3) Paul's concern here is that we develop Christ-like qualities and attitudes.
Paul lived what he preached "Serving the Lord with all humility of mind and with many tears and temptations" (Acts 20:19). "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus". (Philippians 2:5) He tells us in Romans 15: 5-7, "to be likeminded one toward another according to Jesus Christ, so we might glorify God with "one mind and one mouth", and "receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God".
Just as Jesus gave himself for us, we must receive one another with care, understanding and mutual respect. Using the example of Jesus, the guidance of the word, and God's help, the obstacles we encounter can be overcome. Jesus has declared, "Ye are the light of the world...let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14, 16)
How can we accomplish the glorification of the Father if there is a root of bitterness among us? We are to follow peace and holiness, and holiness must be based upon the principles of the truth. The stakes are high; failing to follow peace and holiness results in "no man shall see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14) Is God serious in this matter? Let us reflect upon the events of the Flood, upon Saul and the nation of Israel. The Almighty chastened those involved in these situations the way he saw fit.
On the other hand Jesus states, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8) Jesus has given us the example we should follow. Philippians 2:7-9 shows the great lowliness of mind of the Lord Jesus. Although heir of the world, he accepted a lowly place in human society. Jesus declared, "I am among you as he that serveth." (Luke 22:27) His was a life of service and compassion to others. He took upon him the form of a servant, a role that is easy to talk about but difficult to fulfill.
We cannot comprehend the enormity of this task. He emptied himself in the service of others and in his final act of love and obedience he humbled himself further even unto death. What was the result of this life of service? "Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him"; God has glorified Himself in Jesus. The simplicity is beautiful; to be exalted one must be humble of mind. "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Matthew 23:12)
God hath given him a name which is above every name. Is not this our goal to be given a new name to glorify God? We must choose, will we exalt ourselves only to be humbled or will we humble ourselves so that we may be exalted? We have two choices! We can be like the Philippians, "For all seek their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 2:21). This is a sad commentary and does not reflect the mind of Christ. Or we can "bear the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves". (Romans 15:1) By following the example of Jesus we will indeed glorify the Father. Like Christ we too will be exalted. "When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:4)