2000-01-08 - The Purpose of the Church of God
Amidst confounded confusion that we find in the world today, in my opinion, it is important that everyone who loves the Lord have a clear-cut definite (Scriptural I might add) idea relative to the church of God and its functions in the world. Unfortunately the line of difference between the church of God and the world is almost at a vanishing point. The result is that in many instances it is extremely difficult to distinguish between those who are members of the church of God and those who are not. We are called to be in the world but not of it. Through Christ we are called to a relationship with God, a relationship of obedience, faithfulness and cooperation with Him. The picture today is further blurred because Satan is determined to bring about as many counterfeits to the church of God as he possibly can. Every now and then new organizations and movements are launched and the confusion becomes greater. In view of this situation it is important that we have a clear-cut idea of the church of Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist broke a 400 year silence and announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand. The Lord Jesus took up the same note and proclaimed the same message. Our Lord also commissioned twelve disciples to go to the house of the lost sheep of Israel and to tell them that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He also appointed 70 to go forth with the same message.
Quietly Jesus spoke to His disciples about the founding of the church.
He spoke of His disciples as being a church or a "called-out assembly". The bedrock upon which the church is built is that Jesus Himself is the "Rock of Ages " the Son of God. Everything that is to endure throughout all eternity must be built upon that one fundamental truth.
The basic teaching of Christianity are: That Jesus of Nazareth was God manifest in the flesh, that He entered the world by virgin birth, that He gave His life a ransom for many. Those who accept these beliefs and who accept Him as the atoning sacrifice for their sins, are regenerated by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit. When this miracle happens in the heart of an individual believer, he becomes a new creature in Jesus Christ (and in fact all things become new to him) and he or she is added to the church of the living God. Irrespective of what his religious affiliation may be, he is a member of the body of Christ. The spiritual organism is not coextensive with any religious organization, but is an invisible entity. At this time the true size and numerical value cannot be known. This fact will be revealed at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us first consider the purpose of the church of God according to the Great Commission.
At a post-resurrection appearance of our Lord to His disciples, He commissioned them to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. The term "make disciples" in the original Greek language was written and literally means "enroll students in my school." I like that invitation greatly because I know I am enrolled and learning. It gives me peace and joy to know I can turn to the Lord for direction and purpose. In giving this worldwide commission our Lord ignored all racial and class distinctions and made everyone eligible to membership in His spiritual body. The Apostles were to baptize all those who accepted the Lord Jesus Christ and expressed their willingness to become students in His school. Ministers of the Gospel are to baptize people into the Name of the triune God which simply means they are to be baptized in the name of God the Father - God the Son - and God the Holy Spirit. This is to be done until the consummation of this age.
In carrying out this Great Commission Jesus assured His disciples that He would be with them always. This promise involved His presence in an invisible form with all true believers who are busily engaged in a proclamation of the Gospel to all nations. According to this passage the one and only reason which God called His church into existence was for the proclamation of the truth of the Gospel to be proclaimed to every creature-to give every individual the opportunity of accepting or rejecting the good news concerning the salvation wrought for him through Jesus Christ. SO the primary work of the church is the proclamation of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. When men accept Jesus Christ and the miracle of regeneration is wrought within their souls, their lives are immediately transformed. The things which they now hated they now love with a divine passion. With this newly found Savior, this divinely imparted life, and a totally new outlook upon the world and a new love and compassion for lost men, the saved man or woman bears the fruit of the spirit which takes the form of a godly life and good deeds to lost and suffering humanity. The good works are a result of regeneration and the saved man will bear them. I like to say we are known by the love we have for one another. Our testimony bears witness to others of our faith.
Commercially so to speak there are many byproducts of Christianity. All too often we lose sight of the primary command given by our Lord to His church and become engrossed with these by-products. Many having torn themselves away from their early moorings to the basic facts of the Gospel are now consuming their entire time in trying to reform the world and make it a better place that men can live in. It is admirable to seek such idealism but we cannot but be sad at heart over their replacement of fundamental Christianity. If the church would only get back and view the world as the Lord Jesus Christ saw it when He gave the Great Commission to His disciples, it would go forward in the power of the Spirit of God and would evangelize all nations. Let us in the respect of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, put first things first and realize that our primary object in the world is to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Secondly, let us consider this standpoint from the Acts of the Apostles. Let us examine how they literally carried out the instructions of the Lord.
According to Luke the disciples were to remain in Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. The task of preaching the Gospel was so important that men unaided by the Spirit were not entrusted with it. So the Apostles were to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus instructed them that the Holy Spirit would energize them and bring to remembrance all things that He said to them. They were to be His witnesses first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and next in Samaria and finally they were to go to all the ends of the earth with the message of redemption. A careful study of the first 8 chapters of Acts shows that the Apostles and the early church took our Lord seriously and began in their own home city and with their relatives and friends. Next they moved out into Judea and according to divine instructions continued to Samaria. Finally the wave of enthusiasm and love thrust the early church out into gentile territory. This missionary movement began at Antioch in Syria. It was from that city that the Apostles Barnabas and Saul went forth bringing the Gospel to the Jew first and also to the Greek in every city they visited. Chapters 13 through 28 is devoted to the ministry of Paul. When we view the churches organized by him and we see him in action, we realize that there was one thing that was uttermost in his thinking -- to make Jesus known in places where he was not known and to enroll people in the Lord's school.
It is true that Paul did look to the temporal needs of the saints at Jerusalem during a crisis which was confronting the Judean saints, but that was only a by-product of His Christianity and that of the early church. They made it their first and primary duty to enroll those who had never heard.
When we look at the letters of the Apostle Paul, we see that they also contain a burning desire to make Christ known to the lost and to build up the saints of God in order that they might go forward with the same message and make it known to others. These facts make it ever so clear that Paul thought of the church as the missionary society going forth to give the Gospel to the lost. In one of his last letters he wrote to Timothy of the church as "the pillar and ground of the truth." Upon the truth the church rests as a house upon a foundation. No one will support the church of God and the proclamation of the Gospel except those who are truly redeemed.
To sum this up may I plead with every born-again believer to make soul-winning a priority in your life. There is no time for delay. The world situation gets worse each day The Lord only knows when there will burst forth a local or a world catastrophe which will engage the attention of men and be a "Great Hindrance" to the "Great Commission." My friends, let me persuade you to take your place in the ranks of the Lord Jesus and proclaim His Gospel with speed and power to the lost, in order that the body of Christ may be built up to maturity. And you my friends, who have not received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I beg you in His Name to accept Him and let Him come into your life and transform it. Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of Salvation. Harden not your heart.