For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
The Manifold Wisdom of God
The multifaceted expression of Christ is made wonderfully visible in the church.
"That the manifold wisdom of God may now be made known through the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 3:10).
This verse begins by speaking of a mystery that God had not made known at another time. And it says that this mystery was made known to the church through the apostles and prophets. During the time when the Lord Jesus was on earth, the Father brought to light this mystery and showed it to men. The first person to receive the revelation of this mystery was Peter in Caesarea Philippi. However, the person who reached an even deeper knowledge of him was the apostle Paul. This mystery is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The manifold wisdom
Here in Ephesians 3:10, this mystery is presented to us as the Wisdom of God, the manifold Wisdom, which is now made known through the church to principalities and powers. The Wisdom of God is Christ; therefore, what is made known is Christ himself. Each time the church meets, it expresses the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here it says that the Wisdom of God is manifold. That is, Christ expresses himself in many ways. Through the church, Christ is shown in a precious way. Christ is so great, so precious, that he cannot be expressed only by one or two people. It takes the whole church to do it.
That is why there are four gospels and not one. Because a single gospel could not express all that Christ is. The gospel of Matthew shows us Christ as the king. Mark shows Him to us as Servant. Luke as the Son of Man. And John as the Son of God. By uniting these four different visions of Christ, we can have a more complete knowledge of who He is. He is King, but he is also Servant. Or, put another way, he is a humble King. He is Man and God, as Luke and John show us. They seem to be a contradiction, but they aren’t; That is the reality of Christ.
How could a single man show these different aspects of Christ? Plurality is necessary to express Christ. Therefore, only the church, in its plurality, can fully express Christ.
If we read Ephesians chapter 4: 11, we find five ministries. There are the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Through them, the Lord equips the church; but in reality, these five ministries are five expressions of Christ. Christ is the true Apostle, the true Prophet, the great Evangelist, the good Shepherd, and the great Teacher. So each of these five ministries express five aspects of the wonderful person of Christ.
When we read the New Testament, we find in particular three authors: Peter, Paul and John. They are three of the greatest writers of the New Testament, just as they were the three greatest apostles of the New Testament. Each of them has their own character. Although the Lord dealt with each of them, he never annulled their character. Although they were transformed into the likeness of Christ, they never left behind their individuality. Each of them expresses Christ in a different way. Peter expresses Him in one way, Paul in another, and John in another.
It is very important to see that we were created in a different way from each other, that we have a different character. God needs all our characters, all types of people, because in this way he will be able to express himself through each one of us in this manifold form of God's Wisdom.
Some think that to be made like Christ, we have to lose our individual characteristics, and become something like clones of Christ. But if that had been God's will, it would have been very easy for God to create clones. But the long work that the Holy Spirit does in us today, a very patient and meticulous work, is to transform us into the image of Christ while remaining what we are. Without cancelling out our soul. One thing is the breaking of the soul and another is the nullification of the soul.
We have a soul that expresses our personality. And every broken soul is one of the accents of Christ shown to the higher powers.
The word "manifold" in Ephesians 3:10, in Greek, is a word very rich in meanings. It does not simply refer to something that has many forms, but to something that emits many multi-colored flashes of light. Christ is an iridescent reality.
Immediately this leads us to associate Him with precious stones. In nature there are precious stones, which can express color and brightness in a special way. In the Bible, precious stones occupy a very important place, because they are very illustrative of the work of the Holy Spirit in man.
On the chest piece of the high priest there were twelve precious stones, and each stone represented a tribe of Israel. And each stone had a different color and history. When we go to the New Testament, we again find the precious stones, in the New Jerusalem, associated with the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
In nature, precious stones are what can best express brightness and colour. The precious stones in the Scriptures represent the character that the Holy Spirit is forging in us.
It is true that today we are living stones, but we are not yet precious stones. We are stones in the process of transformation. We are still opaque stones, which do not give off the desired brightness. Like a stone in the road, which does not let the light pass through it. It has no transparency or brightness. That's how many of us are still. The things of Christ that we should be expressing still find resistance in us.
Gemstones are formed by means of high pressures and high temperatures. Likewise, through various different operations, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into transparent stones, so that the light of Christ can pass through us and take on the color that corresponds to each one of us.
Each of us is called to be a precious stone; thus Christ will express himself through us with different colors - the color of our character, of our personality. So that when the angels and the higher powers, look towards the church, they can see, spiritually speaking, many glittering colors, which is what the Holy Spirit will have formed in us. That which is of Christ will have been formed in us, which will not be the same in each person, but according to the peculiarity of each character, according to each individual expression.
That is why Peter is different from Paul and John. When we read Paul's epistles, we touch Christ, more precisely, Paul's Christ. And when we read Peter, we touch the Christ of Peter. When we read John we touch the Christ of John. It is not that they are three Christs, it is one and the same, but He is expressed in three different ways.
Thus, if we are today 25 brothers gathered here, and if we have been dealt with in some way by the Holy Spirit, there will be 25 different expressions of Christ. One will show the patience of Christ better, another will show the tenderness of Christ better, another will show the authority of Christ better, another the generosity of Christ, the sweetness of Christ, etc. Thus, in all of us, together, all the characteristics of Christ will be shown.
When we read Matthew chapter 5, we find 9 beatitudes, which are nine expressions of Christ. And in Galatians chapter 5 we find the 9 manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit, which is the character of Christ. That is how the manifold image of Christ is expressed.
From the individual to the collective
None of us will ever reach the full stature of the fullness of Christ. Because the stature of the fullness of Christ can only be reached by the church as a whole. It is in the church where Christ is shown in all His beauty, not in an individual man.
That is why the Lord is working in us so strongly, to get us out of our individualism. We grew up surrounded by a culture, a type of education and philosophy, all centered on individualism. I’ve been taught that I am an entire unit, as if I were the whole. However, when we see the plurality of Christ, when we see the beauty of the church, we begin to realize that we by ourselves are not the whole unit, but only a part of the whole. And that complete unit is made up of all of us together. All of us are going to express the beauty of the same Christ, but each in an individual way.
God is taking us out of our individualism and bringing us into plurality, into a body, and into a consciousness of the collective whole. I am not sufficient for myself. None of us is sufficient for themselves. I need the Christ that my brother has. There is something about Christ that he has and that I don't have; therefore, I need him.
Bonhoeffer said: "The Christ of my brother is greater than the Christ in me." What did he mean by that? Are there a lot of Christs? No, it’s not that. It’s just that I have a measure of Christ that is insufficient. That is why many times I am downhearted, many times I stumble and fall, many times I lose faith. But when I find my brother, and he ministers Christ to me, I feel that his Christ is stronger than mine, so I am strengthened. Christ wants to express himself through the many, and not through one. Christ wants us to live his life corporately, not in a solitary and self-sufficient way.
Now, this path, which goes from the individual to the collective, is a rather painful path. When we begin our Christian life, we are very sure of ourselves, and we have a lot of spiritual ambitions. We want to be very great spiritually: the best pastor, or the best preacher, the most helpful sister, etc., all the best. We want to be the greatest. So we fill ourselves with knowledge, because we want to be the best. But as we go along this path, the Lord touches our strengths, and breaks us. Thus comes brokenness after brokenness.
Before it seems we were smarter; Now we are not so smart. Before we were very strong, now we are not so strong. Before we could do many things alone, now we cannot do things on our own. We need our brothers more and more. And that leads us to a deep brokenness. This brings us down low, to somewhat surprising extremes.
Many of the things that happen to us daily, are the Holy Spirit's blows to our vanity, to our presumption, so that we stop being individualistic Christians, and move on to living only as members of the body of Christ.
A change of focus
In the epistle to the Romans, something very interesting happens. When we read the first chapters up until chapter 8, it seems to us that we are constantly increasing, that we are advancing spiritually. We are justified, sanctified and glorified. And when we reach chapter 8 it seems that we have reached the peak of revelation.
However, when we go to chapter 12, there is a tremendous change of focus, a paradigm shift. There we are told that we have to be renewed in our understanding to know God's good will, which is pleasing and perfect. Why do we have to be renewed in our mind? Because then, in the following verses, we are told that we are members of the body of Christ. We are not the whole, we are not the complete body, we are only a part. That is why he says: "No one should have a higher concept than he should have." The individualist has a high self-opinion, but he who has come to the reality of being a member of the body, has to become less. And he has to recognize that in the body there are others too, who have other expressions of Christ that he does not have.
So, God's good, pleasing and perfect will, is the church. And in the church, each of us is just one member.
What are we seeing of Christ in this last time? We are seeing Him in this multicolored and multifaceted expression. We are seeing Him in this manifold expression in the midst of the church. We are no longer amazed by great men. Great leaders no longer captivate us. Because the will of God at this time is to express Himself through the whole, through the totality of the members of the body of Christ.
I believe that never before in the history of the Church have we had so much light brought to bear on this matter. At this time a very powerful light is coming, in all the world. God is doing a precious work of revelation.
Two wonderful works
Many of the things that we experience in our daily lives, many failures, and many tears, happen to us because of this: on the one hand, to get rid of our ego, that is, to remove the self from the throne of our heart, and thus be able to «See» the brothers, recognize them and value them; and, on the other hand, to see that the Holy Spirit is working in us to make us transparent and luminous - not with our own light, which we don’t have anyway, since we can only reflect the light of Christ. These two works are wonderful; however, both are also quite painful.
May the Lord grant us his grace to know Christ in all His multiple forms, and grant us the grace also to accept the precious work of the Holy Spirit. Because if we reject this work of the Holy Spirit, He will not be able to do it. He will never violate our will. Sometimes we say: «Please, no more; I can't stand it anymore; it's too painful for me; stop; wait a bit ». Then some time may pass, when it seems that the sufferings end, but what also happens is that the precious work of the Holy Spirit is held up.
Scripture says that the Lord Jesus "through the things He suffered learned obedience," and became the author of eternal salvation, and also became a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. What enabled the Lord to become a Savior and High Priest, that is, to fulfill his earthly ministry and his heavenly ministry? The sufferings, the afflictions. So it is with us. We have to suffer here so that we can express, for all eternity, that measure of Christ that we are called to express. It is today when the work of the Holy Spirit has to take place in us.
The book of God’s Design
In Psalm 139 it says there was a book in which God wrote everything we were going to become. When He formed us in our mother's womb, he was designing our character according to what was written in His book. Each of us is as we are, because it was written in God's design for each one of us. On the other hand, in Ephesians 2:10 we are told that God prepared certain works beforehand so that we would walk in them.
If we put these two passages together, we have something tremendously great: that God designed our personality beforehand and also determined the things we have to do. That is, what we should be and what we should do were designed in advance. For what purpose? To express Christ. That is, some aspect of who Christ is; some of the works which Christ does. This is a wonderful thing, because it shows us that our life is not the result of chance, but that everything was prepared by God beforehand.
There is something we have to become, and there is something we have to do. There is something about Christ that you have to express, and that no one else is going to express. There is something you have to do and no one else is going to do. Each of us has something of Christ with his own seal, which the brother next to him does not have. This is the manifold wisdom of God. This is the iridescence of Christ.
Christ is wonderful, and Christ is being formed in us. Each of us is precious to God. Each of us has a distinct color and sparkle of Christ.
May the Lord help us, brothers and grant us encouragement. When we are feeling down: Let's have courage! Faith! Hope! The Lord will complete His work in us. The Lord has never left things half done. He always takes us further on.
The need for the parakletos
There are some verses in Scripture that say that the Holy Spirit is our Comforter or, in Greek, our parakletos.
The word parakletos has many meanings, such as Helper, Lawyer, etc. But there is an antecedent that is especially precious. In the ancient Greek Olympics, when athletes who ran the marathon fell down during the race, there was a person called the parakletos. He was authorized to lift up the fallen person, encourage him and put him back in the race.
That is what the Holy Spirit does as our parakletos. When we are tired, when we stumble, when we are discouraged, when there seems to be no hope for us, then the Holy Spirit lifts us up and tells us: keep going!
May the Lord grant us His grace to reach the end, and that the character of Christ that we are called to express might be expressed, and the works of Christ that we are called to do might be done. Amen.
Transcription of a message given in Macaé (Brazil), in February 2008.