collected from the FHU lectureship
THE CHURCH AS THE ETERNAL PURPOSE OF GOD
The Apostle Paul recognized his great mission to be “to preach…the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him.” (Ephesians 3:8-12).
WHAT DOES THE PASSAGE TEACH ABOUT THE CHURCH?
This passage is often employed to demonstrate the church is to be a place of teaching. The church certainly is a people of teaching (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19; Acts 5:28; Acts 8:4; Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-4; Philippians 4:14-16; 1 Tim. 3:15). However, this passage was intended by Jehovah to show that the church itself is to be the manifestation of God’s wisdom and prudent planning.
We learn that the church was, at one time, a mystery. It was a thing hidden, but it has been revealed. The prophets of the Old Testament and the angels searched for centuries to discover God’s ultimate plan–1 Peter 1:10-12. Are you looking for a demonstration of God’s wisdom, then look for the church of the Bible. Just as a building will display the wisdom of its architect and builders, the church displays the infinite wisdom of God.
We learn that the church is part of God’s eternal plan. Some claim that the church was an afterthought, a plan B, in the mind of God. They teach Christ was rejected or that he failed in his mission so He established the church to “stand in” until a future return when God could “try again.” However, we know that the church was eternally purposed by God. It was not an afterthought.
Before the word of creation was on His lips, the church was in His mind. The church is promised in Genesis 22:18; Daniel 2:44, Daniel 9:24; Isaiah 2:2-5; Matt. 4:17; 16:18-19; 26:29. From the proclamation of Acts 2, we no longer read of a promised kingdom. When that sermon was preached, people preached of a kingdom which then existed. They were not waiting for a promise. They were enjoying the promised kingdom which is the church (Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20; 1 Cor. 15:50; Col. 1:13; Heb. 1:8; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:6). From Pentecost onward the church has existed in Scriptural purpose, promise, prophecy, preparation, and in resplendent perfection.
WHAT DOES THE PASSAGE TEACH ABOUT GOD’S WISDOM?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is the purpose of the remainder of this study to study God’s wisdom in His perfect plan of the church.
The new birth exhibits God’s wisdom. Having abandoned the reality of God’s existence, many secularists have arrived at the false conclusion that people represent excellence in their character. Their morality is based upon themselves. Their activities are self-seeking. However, God, in his wisdom, said “you must be born again” (Jn. 3:3, 5). The life desired by sinful man for sinful living is not allowable if this temporal existence would reach eternal blessedness.
The plan of salvation exhibits God’s wisdom. The most certain plan God laid out for man to be saved is certainly not of human origin. By his own thinking, man may never realize he is lost. Every attempt at a scheme of redemption which men have made have been based on their works rather than on the steadfast love and mercy of God. God’s plan of salvation has to do with faith, love, and obedience. Mankind must choose to believe the Gospel God delivered (Rom. 10:17, Jn. 8:21-24); repent of past and future sins (Acts 17:30); confess or acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus as the Son of God and King of our lives (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10); submit to baptism by God’s decree (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:13; Titus 3:4-6). Human wisdom would never have devised such a plan. Proclaiming the first principles is never a waist of time, but rather the first principles are a principle way to display the manifold wisdom of God.
The worship of the church exhibits God’s wisdom. The spiritual worship desired by God (Jn. 4:23-24), is vastly different than the unfortunate practices of human imagination. Manmade worship consists of a display of his own physical desires or ecstasy rather than spiritual zeal and love for the one truly greater than himself. The worship of the God of Heaven can be achieved equally well by the richest and poorest, the most wise and the most slow. Perhaps it is the case that those deprived of human wisdom and worldly treasures can better worship God than those who appear to be more richly blessed. The true worship of God is a most holy activity and we should approach it with caution since we are in the presence of the Holy God. God requires and allows us to worship Him by singing (Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19); praying (1 Thess. 5:17; Col. 4:2; Acts 2:42); preaching (Acts 2:42; 20:7); the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7; Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:23-34); and the weekly contribution every Lord’s Day (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Mankind has devised and maintained many ways to promote themselves under the guise of God’s worship. However, the true worship of the true God is open for whosoever will come to Him in spirit and truth.
The organization of the church exhibits God’s wisdom. The organization of mankind’s religious organizations follow the organization of the government of their land almost without fail. However, the organization of the local church of Christ protects each congregation from errors from without, guides those within to truth and sways them from danger, and is efficient for God’s purposes when functioning properly. God would have a plurality of elders/pastors/shepherds/bishops/overseers and deacons in each local congregation (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-11; Acts 14:23). The eldership is made of men who are known as elders, pastors, overseers, shepherds, or presbyters. Notice than in Acts 20:17 Paul called the elders of Ephesus to himself. He commanded them to shepherd (pastor) the flock as they were serving as overseers or bishops (Acts 20:28). When Paul listed the qualification of an elder to Titus and described the office as elders Titus 1:5 but then as bishops in Titus 1:7. Your preacher is not your pastor. The elders are your pastors.
The life of the church exhibits the wisdom of God. The life of the church as they leave their respective and special meeting houses serves as a light to the world and an example of Godliness to the lost. The beatitudes give a picture perfect description of Christian living (Matt. 5:3-12). Christians, young and old, should strive to be live lives of exemplary godliness (1 Timothy 4:12). We are to “adorn the Gospel of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). We live godly in this present world so we may live with God after this world is rolled away as a fiery scroll (2 Peter 1:5-7).
THE CHURCH SEEN BY THE PROPHETS
To those who are willing to receive membership in the church is the “times of restoration of all things, whereof God spoke my the mouth of his holy prophets that have been of old” (Acts 3:21). The restoration of all things spoken of by Peter in Acts 3:19 is the time of the church which will culminate in the wiping away of the world and reception to Heavenly glory. Jesus’ work is one of restoration (Acts 26:18; Acts 3:21). The work of the church is one of restoration in preparation for eternity when God will make all things new. This great time in which we now live, was foreseen by the prophets already past.
The protevangelium was first announced by God to mankind in the Garden. He pointed out that the woman’s seed (Gen. 3:15) would be victorious over the serpent (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). This the first glimmer of hope is the first mention of the Gospel.
The promises to Abraham helped to develop the ancient’s longing for the church. God developed his purposes through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Some 18 centuries after Abraham, Christ was born under the Law in order to fulfill it and make his own perfect law of redemption (Galatians 3:16). In this way all the nations of the earth are blessed (Genesis 12:3).
The promise to Judah made in Genesis 49:10 is a prophecy of the church age. God revealed “the scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh (bearer of peace) come; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.”
The prophecy recorded by Samuel. Acts 3:24 specifically refers to Samuel as one of the prophets who foretold of the church age. This occurred in 2 Samuel 7:16 with Samuel’s illustration of a house and a kingdom. The church is described as both a house (1 Tim. 3:15) and a kingdom (Matt. 16:19).
The prophecy of David made in the Psalms declare the church age. We often see the Messiah pictured in the Psalms (Ps. 22 etc.). However, Psalm 110:3 says, “thy people shall offer themselves willingly in the day of thy power, in the beauty of holiness”.
The prophecies made by Isaiah are among the most vivid. Isaiah saw the church as “the mountain of the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:2). Again, the New Testament retrieves this “mountain theme” in Hebrews 12:22 and “the house” in Hebrews 3:6. Isaiah predicted the birthplace of the church in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3; cf. Luke 24:46-49). Those from every nation heard the Gospel preached there (Acts 2:5). They then received the “sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55:3). The prophecies given to Isaiah were too great to comprehend then, but they are experienced now by God’s people (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9).
The prophecies made by Jeremiah are among the most hopeful. The spiritual Israel and Judah would receive a new covenant written internally on the hears and minds (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 8:6-13 & 2 Corinthians 3:3).
The prophecies made by Daniel are among the most powerful. With the lens of prophecy, Daniel saw through 6 centuries in order to behold the church of Christ (Daniel 2:44; Hebrews 12:28-29; Colossians 1:1, 13).
The prophecies made by John are among the most urgent. Immediately before its establishment, John saw the church coming with her Lord. His work was to prepare a people for the King (Luke 1:17). By calling them to repentance and baptism, John made ready a people (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:4). However, John himself was not actually a member of the church (Matthew 11:11). Like David prepared the stones for Solomon to build the temple, John prepared a people for the Lord to build the everlasting temple, the church. The law and the prophets were until John (Matthew 11:13). and after him came the climax of all previous inspiration in Christ’s church.
In the fulness of time (Galatians 4:4), according to his eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11), the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom was revealed to humanity!
THE CHURCH IN ITS BEGINNING
The Scriptures speak of the church or kingdom in various phases: 1) the eternal purpose of God’s mind–Eph. 3:10-11; 2) the promise of the patriarchs and prophets–Gen. 3:15; 22:22; 3) the prophecy of the hopeful–Dan. 2:44; 4) the preparation of the greatest of prophets–Matt. 3:1-5; 5) the perfection of Christ’s work–Matt. 16:18-19 & Acts 2; 6) the perpetual presence of God on earth–Luke 8:11; 1 Thess. 2:12; and finally 7) the paradise of Heaven–2 Pet. 1:11; 2 Tim. 4:18.
This study focuses on the question “when did the church begin?”. This is an important question. The beginning of the church either proves or disproves the prophecies of God. The beginning of the church is the beginning of Christ’s reign of those on earth. It will be demonstrated that Acts chapter 2 is the birthday of the church on earth. Brother Hardeman used to tell his Bible class: “The church was not built until Jesus was reigning on His throne a the right hand of God. If so, it would have been a headless, Spiritless, and dead organization. The church of the New Testament was not in force until after Jesus died; so, there could be no church of the New Testament when there was no New Testament in effect. During the personal ministry of Christ the full Gospel could not have been preached.”
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHURCH–THE EXPECTATION
In order to better appreciate the grandeur of our Lord’s divine institution, the church, we must examine the circumstances of her birth in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ final Passover. Before the Pentecost of Acts 2, the Bible speaks of the church of the future. After Acts 2, the church is spoken of as being present. Therefore, Acts 2 serves as the great “hub” of the Bible. It is the hinge upon which the Old and New covenants open and close.
The O.T. prophets looked forward to the birth of the church. Isaiah knew that “in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains…and all nations shall flow unto it and many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of Jacob'” (Is. 2:2-3). Micah and Zechariah promised the time and place of birth of the Lord’s church (Micah 4:1-2; Zechariah 1:6). Daniel saw the Romans who were to reign as the church was born (Daniel 2:44). The Old Testament closed with the prediction of John who would prepare the people for the Lord (Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5; cf. Isaiah 40:3; Luke 1:17; Matthew 11:14). John prepared a people for our Lord (Matthew 3:3; Luke 3:4). John and Jesus were able to say, “the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Finally, Acts 2 records the the beginning of the Christian age (Acts 2:17; Acts 11:15; Hebrews 1:1-2).
Christ’s coming and earthly ministry was essential to the preparation of the church. After John’s work, Jesus began preaching the same message–“the kingdom is at hand” (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus commissioned the 12 and the 70 with the same message (Matthew 10:1-7; Luke 10:1-9). Jesus taught his servants to pray for the kingdom to come (Matthew 6:9-10). Jesus promised to build his church–the kingdom (Matthew 16:18). As Jesus spoke en route to the final events of his life in Jerusalem, the church was still not yet in existence (Luke 19:11-27). Christ had to ascend to Heaven in order to receive the kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14).
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHURCH–THE ARRIVAL
When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He ascended to be the king of the church. God promised David that his seed should sit upon his throne forever (Luke 1:31-33; Psalm 89:3-4; Acts 2:30-36). Christ occupies that position now and will until he delivers the kingdom back to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24). The Lord is presently ruling over his kingdom (Psalm 24:47; Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 2:9). Since Jesus is now ruling, God sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles so that they could begin to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins through His name (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38).
The promises, hope, and expectations were finally realized when Christ established his church.
Jesus assured the disciples that “some standing here will not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom come with power” (Mark 9:1). Jesus promised the disciples they would “receive power from on high” while they were waiting in Jerusalem (Acts 1:9; Luke 24:49). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came with power (Acts 1:4-12; 2:1-14). This was a sign of the birth of the church (Joel 2:28-32; cf. Acts 2).
The church could not have been established before that Pentecost of Acts 2. If the church had been established before Acts 2, then: 1) the apostles remain under the limited commission–Matt. 10:5-6; cf. 28:19-20; 2) the law of Moses is still in effect and the NT is inoperative–Romans 7:1-4; Hebrews 9:15-17; 3) Jesus is not reigning–Acts 2:30; Ephesians 1:19-23; 4) the powerful blood of Christ had not been shed–John 19:34; Hebrews 9:22, 10:4; 8:1-4; 5) the Holy Spirit has not been given–John 7:37-39; Luke 24:26; 1 Timothy 3:16; Acts 2:1-4; and 6) the full Gospel could not be preached–1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHURCH–THE KINGDOM AGE
The arrival of the church is the arrival of the Christian age. From Acts 3 to the close of the New Testament, the Bible speaks of the church as a present reality. Luke recorded that “great fear came upon the church” (Acts 5:11). Saul “made havoc of the church” (Acts 8:3). News came to “the ears of the church which was at Jerusalem” (Acts 11:22). Herod “vexed certain of the church” (Acts 12:1). The church “prayed for Peter” (Acts 12:5). The church at Antioch sent out a group of missionaries (Acts 13:1-3; 14:27). Letters were written to tell individuals how to live in the church (1 Timothy 3:15).
The arrival of the church of Christ is the arrival of the kingdom of Christ. The first saints were taught that they were already in the kingdom (Hebrews 12:28; Colossians 1:13). Members of the church were members of the kingdom (Revelation 1:9). If the church is not the kingdom, then: 1) the new birth is not a reality (John 3:3, 5; 1 Peter 1:23); and 2) the church cannot observe the Lord’s Supper because it is only available “in the kingdom” (Luke 22:29-30).
The church remains and will continue until Christ comes again to receive it. The seed of the kingdom, the Word of God, remains (Luke 8:11; 1 Peter 1:25). Wherever that Word is sown, received, and growing you will find the church which it produces (Genesis 1:11-12). As individuals become Christians and live as Christ, they are in the “everlasting kingdom” (2 Peter 1:5-11).
We now urge all men to obey the Gospel of Christ and be added by our Lord to the church established almost two thousand years ago.
I love thy kingdom, Lord,
the house of thine abode;
The church our blest Redeemer saved
with His own precious blood.
–by Timothy Dwight
THE CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL TO GOD’S PLAN AND MAN’S HOPE
The church of Christ is essential to our salvation. Mankind needed salvation (Gen. 3:15). God promised salvation (Gen. 22:18). God sent the Savior (Matt. 1:21). The Savior built the church (Matt. 16:16-18). God’s saved people are the church (Acts 2:41 & 47). God’s blessings are poured out in the church (Eph. 5:23 & 25-27).
Jesus died for the church (Acts 20:28); yet some will not live for the church. Jesus’ spiritual body is the church over whom He alone is head (Eph. 1:22-23); yet some choose bodies which are rebellious to the true headship of Christ and distort the body. The church is the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2); yet some want nothing to do with her.
By faith Noah accepted God’s command to build the ark and constructed that vessel of salvation (Gen. 6-8). By faith we must accept the church as the vessel of our salvation promised (Rev. 21:2-4). By faith we enter the church (1 Pet. 1:20-22), and serve in the church (Eph. 3:10).
Jesus came to save the lost. That saved are the church. Therefore, one must be the church to be saved by Christ.
JESUS CAME TO SAVE THE LOST
Luke 19:10 records “the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” 1 Timothy 1:15 records, “Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” That is the purpose of Christ’s earthly ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection. It should also be the purpose of our lives as well! Jesus recognized the urgency of God’s mission on earth. He said, “We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is yet day: the night cometh when no man can work” (Jn. 9:4-5).
In order to accomplish the mission of God, Jesus gave Himself. Jesus himself said, “this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28 ASV). Jesus died so that all might live. “…We behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man” (Heb. 2:9).
Jesus blood was shed so that the church would be purchased (Acts 20:28). The church was important enough to Jesus for Jesus to die for its establishment. When Jesus died on Calvary, the spear that pierced his side brought forth both blood and water (Jn. 19:34). In graphic detail the price of the church (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:11-12) and the entrance into the church (Jn. 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:22-23) were visible as the Lamb of God was slain.
Jesus accomplished His mission of building the church. In John 17:4 Jesus said, “I glorified thee on earth , having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do.” Jesus promised to build His church (Matt. 16:16-18). His church yet remains on earth since the Pentecost of Acts 2.
THE SAVED ARE THE CHURCH
Christ purchased the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28) Titus 2:14 tells us that Jesus “gave himself up for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works.” Peter instructed Christians that they are redeemed by blood” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). The redeemed are the church and the church is the redeemed.
The church is God’s possession. “He gave himself on our behalf in order to redeem from all lawlessness and to purify to himself a special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Revelation 5:9-10 shows us that Christ has by his blood “ransomed people for God…and have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” God’s people are the church. If you want to be God’s person, then you must be in His church.
The church is those who compose the body of Christ (Eph. 5:25). How do we become a member of the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 12:13 says “by one Spirit you are baptized into one body.” Because of faith we are baptized and at that time we are added to the body of Christ by God himself–1 Corinthians 12:27 & Acts 2:41).
The church is those who are redeemed. This redemption is made possible by the price paid on the cross (Eph. 2:14-16). The redeemed are the body of Christ who submit to Christ as the head of the body (Eph. 1:22-23). If we are without the church which is the body, we are without redemption.
The church is those who are sanctified. The book of 1 Corinthians is addressed to “the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1:2). Ephesians 5 teaches us that Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word.” Therefore, unless we are in the church, we are not sanctified.
The church is those who are the family of God. The church is the house of God (1 Tim. 1:15). Hebrews 3:6 tells us we are the house (family) that belongs to Christ. The same principle is seen when we are told that Christians are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16 & 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Romans 8:14-17 teaches us that the church are the heirs of God with Christ. If we are not in the church, then we will not receive a heavenly inheritance.
The church is those who are saved by the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19 teaches us that the redeemed are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. This coincides with Acts 20:28 which teaches us that Christ purchased the church with his own blood. Revelation 1:5 shows us that Christ “washed us from our sins by his own blood.” At what time are we washed? Christians are “cleansed by the washing of water through the word” (Eph. 5:26). When are our sins washed away? (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 1:21-22).
ONE MUST BE A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH TO BE SAVED
Therefore, one must be in the church in order to be saved. Individuals are added to the church as they obey God from the heart through faith. Salvation occurs when God adds the baptized believer into the church (Acts 2:38-47). In order to be saved from sin, brought safely into Heaven, and enjoy the blessings of God, we must be a member of His church.
THE CHURCH IS SUFFICIENT FOR GOD’S WORK
While almost two thousand years have passed since Jesus promised and built his church, the Gospel has not lost is power (Romans 1:16; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16). In spite of the power of the gospel and the glory of the church, the vast majority of the human race is lost. The work of the church is far from complete and neglected by many of its stewards. The seeming failure or irrelevance of the church is not due to deficiencies in God’s plan. Neither God nor His plan have changed (Heb. 13:8). The problem is not with the head of the church, the problem is with the body which does not function.
God has committed the ministry of reconciliation to His people (2 Cor. 5:19). The church remains the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. 3:15). The church remains the candlestick by which God’s truth shines in the dark world. Let us keep in mind that God’s plan of redemption is fully revealed in God’s completed word (1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Peter 1:10-12). God designed the church to preserve, defend, and transmit the word to the world (2 Timothy 2:2). The word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), but that sword must be wielded by faithful, capable, and willing soldiers of Christ. God has always used people in His work (Heb. 1:1). He will use us today if we will submit to His service (2 Cor. 4:7).
WHAT DOESN’T SAVE
If we are going to grasp the work of the church and see the success of the church, then we must understand what does not save the world and please God. Some things are good and noble enterprises, but they are not the work of the congregations of Christ. Some practices are great for Christians to support, but are not the work of the congregation. Some endeavors help Christians directly but are not the work of the congregation.
Political involvement is good, but it does not save. The civil government is an institution of God’s decree (Romans 13:1-7), yet government does not save. The government has a place in society and in life of the Christian (1 Peter 2:13:15). However, the church and the government are two separate institutions (Matthew 22:21). No government can ever replace the church or the power of the Gospel of Christ in the world.
The study of philosophy and science are good, but that study does not save. Christians are warned against falling prey to false thinking (Colossians 2:8). However, that does not mean that we should stop thinking. Paul is able to discuss the philosophic ideas of his day (Acts 17:18) with the most educated men of his day because he took the time to study and understand their ideas. When we understand many things, we better understand and appreciate God’s things. When properly handled true philosophy and true science only serve the spread of the Gospel. But no academic can ever replace the church or the power of the Gospel of Christ in the world.
The betterment of the home is great, but the home does not save. The home is an institution of God, but it is separate from the church and its membership does not save. Christian homes often mirror the church because they should. However, the two institutions are separate. While the church is greatly composed of Christian homes, both are separate. The home helps the church in its work (Acts 16:1-5). The church must sometimes aid the home in its work (James 1:27 & 1 Timothy 5:1-16). While a home may be a great force for good and for the Gospel, no home can ever replace the church or the power of the Gospel in the world.
WHAT DOES SAVE
The church is sufficient to do all that which God designed it to do. The church is the family of the saved who are entrusted with the perseverance and preaching of the truth. All duties of the church may be comprised under these basic principles. The church works under orders directly from the mind of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). The book of Acts is the record of how the 1st Christians carried out the great commission. The book shows us how and what to preach revering essentials and utilizing expedients.
The members of the church must take their roles as ambassadors of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel was delivered from God to the apostles and prophets of the first century. Since the message has been revealed in its totality (Jude 3), the message of hope and of salvation has always been transmitted from man to men. In the Bible record of the New Testament church, there is never a time when an angel, Christ, God, or the Holy Spirit revealed the plan of salvation to mankind. The lost are instructed to be taught by Christians (Acts 8 & 10).
Every Christian must do what he can to save the world. The great commission applies to every Christian (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). Therefore, every Christian must do what he can–every one. Every Christian must realize that evangelism is a must.
Every Christian must preach through their lives. We preach the Gospel by proclaiming precepts and practicing piety. We can influence others by our conduct (Matthew 5:14). The sermon on the mount provides a model of the evangelistic life just as Acts 2 provides a model for an evangelistic sermon. It is terribly hopeless to be doctrinally correct and and morally corrupt.
Every Christian must seek to build one another up. The Bible says, “Let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Romans 14:19). 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 shows us that we should seek to edify one another when we are assembled. Acts 2:42-47 shows us that we should edify one another as a lifestyle.
Every Christian must seek to help. Surveying the life of our Lord demonstrates his helping character. Scriptures such as James 1:27 and Galatians 6:1-5, 10 remind us of the importance of lending a helping hand.
Every Christian must seek to preach the Word. Begin to recognize that our main purpose is preaching. Let us be like Christ who preached the Gospel of the kingdom of Heaven. Let us follow the example of Paul who preached Christ crucified. Let us preach the power that leads to salvation (Romans 1:16).
The church is sufficient to do that which God has designed it to do. The design of the church is perfect. The execution of God’s plan is flawed. The weakness of our Lord’s work is because of our weaknesses not His. We do not need a new church for a new age, but faithful Christians who will live as they ought and preach as they should.
THE CHURCH IS RELEVANT FOR YOU TODAY
The word “relevant” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “bearing upon, or applying to, the case in hand; pertinent.” Does the church apply to you, me, and our neighbor? Is the church pertinent to men and women oversees? Is the church necessary for modern living?
Critics accuse the church of living in the past–mythology of the past, thinking of the past, and cultural standards of the past. Today we are even accused of contending for crystalized arguments of pioneer preachers rather than the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. The church remains relevant. The church remains important. The church’s defense and proclamation of the truth remains necessary.
WHAT IS TRUE RELEVANCY?
Some contend that in order to remain relevant, we must cease preaching “doctrine” and preach “social involvement” and the “social gospel”. However, liberal churches and congregations devoted solely to “social programs” are dying on a large scale. Congregations who teach doctrines from the Word grow consistently. We should not scoff at but treasure sermons on “The Difference Between the Covenants,” “The Establishment of the Church,” “The Identity of the Church,” “The Sin of Division,” “Instrumental Music in Worship,” and “Baptism”.
The Bible does express social concern. Christians must be social people. We are to do good to all people (Gal. 6:10). We are to honor the poor (James 2:6). We are to be fair in our business (James 5:4). The early church manifested a concern for the needy and destitute which was a rarity in the ancient world (Acts 4:32; 6:1-6; Rom. 15:26-27). Amos eloquently said, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24). Micah said, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
However, the most pressing need of the world and the foremost mission of the church remains preaching the Gospel. Our Lord said, “What is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self?” (Luke 9:25). While Christians should be concerned with the temporary wellbeing of the world, our primary focus must be with the world to come.
THE CHURCH IS RELEVANT AT ALL TIMES
The church is always relevant because the church is the product of God’s wisdom and God’s work. Paul wrote by inspiration, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…unto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever” (Eph. 3:10-11, 21). The church is no afterthought in the mind of God, neither should it be an afterthought in the mind of Christians. The church is the outgrowth of God’s wisdom, the fulfillment of his purpose, the subject of his prophecies, and the beneficiary of the death of Jesus Christ! To assume it is now irrelevant is to impugn the wisdom and work of God!
The church is always relevant because the church is for all people. Human nature does not really change all that much. In spite of all the advances of modern society, we aren’t that much different than Adam and Eve. We still choose to shift our blame to others (Genesis 3:12; 1 Samuel 15:20-21). We still say “Behold, I thought” (2 Kings 5:11) with Naaman, rather than “thus saith the Lord.” We still covet as Ananias and Saphira did (Acts 5). The scientist, farmer, sinner, and saint all struggle with temptation, inadequacy, and error.
Jews and Gentiles were two vastly different people. The Gentiles had grown into a life of sin (Romans 1:18-32) and the Jews had grown into a life of religious error. But God in Christ made them both to be in one body. Ephesians 2:14-16 says, ‘For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition. That he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace, and might reconcile them both in one bod unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” God brought them together in the church, and God can reconcile all men to himself and to one another through the church today.
The church is always relevant because the church is able to function in every century and every place. Changes in the world do not demand changes in the essentials of the church. The Gospel is to be preached until the end of time (Matthew 28:19-20). The church will always be the grand repository of God’s truth (1 Timothy 3:15). God has given to us all things that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The Scriptures show us all that is necessary for life, godliness, and every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The problems of the world are not separated from the doctrines of the church (1 Timothy 1:8-11).
THE CHURCH IS RELEVANT BECAUSE THE CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL
The church is essential to salvation, therefore it is perpetually relevant. When men were transferred from the domain of darkness and delivered into the kingdom of God’s Son, God added them to the church (Acts 2:37-47). Every saved person is a member of the church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23). The church is the family of God (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 15; 1 Pet. 4:16-18).
The church is essential to God’s teaching, therefore it is perpetually relevant. The church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. 3:15). The church is devoted to the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42). The church nurtures and sends evangelists (Acts 13:1-3).
The Gospel remains the power of God unto salvation. The Gospel is found in the New Testament, but it is preached by the church (Acts 8:4; 2 Tim. 4:1-2). Just as the Gospel is a persistent necessity, the church is perpetually relevant and necessary.