Church: Purpose

Segment Three, Part One

In the introduction, we proposed a question: “what is the purpose of the church?” We will now expand upon this subject and the question. The introduction stated that the “church” is that gathering where the body assembles to learn, teach, and plan ministry. There are key activities that an assembly of believers (a church) should be involved in.

We will search some scripture and see what the early believers did. A short list of these activities is 1) teach doctrine as set forth by Jesus (John 7:16) and his disciples, 2) plan and sends out those who are called and gifted to evangelize the lost, 3) perform the ordinances that were set forth by Jesus and his disciples. The foregoing list is the key activities that were laid out by Jesus’ teaching and the scriptures.

Paul, in writing to the believers at Ephesus, said this: “And he [Jesus] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-13) Paul also wrote to Timothy the following to instruct him: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16) With these scriptures, we see key elements for what the church was to be doing. In our next post, we will cover more about the Apostle’s doctrine.

Church: Purpose

Segment Three, Part Two

A valid question might be how did the early church understand and teach doctrine? The source of their doctrine was based upon the teaching of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We know this because of what Jesus said to his disciples. He said: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.  Man sees only a small slice of time. No man knows all knowledge that exists in this moment much less all that has happened, is happening, or will happen. But God knows all things!” (John 16:13-14)

Three key concepts come from these two verses: 1) the Holy Spirit taught them God’s truth, 2) what the Holy Spirit showed them came from Jesus himself, 3) the doctrines were based upon God’s knowledge, not man’s. Man’s knowledge is not always based upon eternal truth.

Give the following statement some thought and you will see the truth of what Jesus said. No human being can say that he knows all things. Every man’s knowledge is always limited especially by time and access. What person can claim to have lived and remembers all the events since the beginning of time? No one! However, God’s word says he knows all things! (verse 14 above). Any information based upon man’s limited knowledge is bound to contain errors. What is your doctrine based on? Stay with us for our next post, we will cover evangelism and ordinances.

Church: Purpose

Segment Three, Part Three

In our post one, we covered the teaching of doctrine and ministry activities of the church. That was point 1) in the short list of activities. We will now look at evangelism by the church. Simple definition of evangelism is the sending out of teachers and evangelist into a sin darkened world. This activity takes the gospel message to the lost so they can understand their need for a savior.

This activity takes prayer, planning, and the enabling of the evangelists. To be an evangelist, one must be called and have a clear message for those we are to be evangelized. In some cases, it takes learning a new language and most assuredly new customs within the group to be evangelized. What is the proper approach that will be needed to reach those who have never heard the gospel?

Acts records for us the first evangelists (missionaries) that were sent out by the early church. At Antioch, the church there was teaching doctrine and fulfilling the ordinances they had been taught. As they prayed, the following instruction was given to them: “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (Acts 13:2, 3) Thus began the first missionary journey of the church. We see this scene repeated throughout the history of the early church.

Church: Purpose

Segment Three, Part Four

In our post one, we covered the teaching of doctrine and ministry activities of the church. That was point 1) in the short list of activities. In our last post, we covered point 2) evangelism. We will now look at point 3) and the ordinances that were set forth by Jesus and which his disciples followed. The church has two ordinances. The first is baptism. The second is the Lord’s Supper or communion.

Baptism is an act of obedience by a believer. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist when Jesus began his earthly ministry. Jesus set the example for his disciples and all believers. When a believer is baptized, he follows Jesus’ example with his obedience. Baptism is not a part of the salvation process, but is a way of physical demonstration of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. (Romans 6:4) By this physical demonstration, the believer is joining himself to the body of Christ. He should then walk in “newness of life.”

Baptism is the first ordinance of the church and the second is the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Paul, in writing to the Corinthian church, set down the purpose and way in which the Lord’s Supper is to be observed. (1 Corinthians 11:24-26) The Lord’s Supper (communion) is a reminder to us as believers of what Jesus did on the Cross. In Jesus’ words, “this do in remembrance of me.” Scripture does not give us any timing pattern, but to do it often enough that we do not forget God’s sacrifice of His Son.  For most Baptist, The Lord’s Supper is a simple and uncomplicated reminder of this ordinance.