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Editor: Ed Barnes      ph 865-458-5043     

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vol 4 no 18 August 11, 1999

The True Function of The Church

The following material is taken from a tract written several years ago by John Clark. The entire tract will be reproduced in this and the next two issues of the News & Notes.

Someone has said that a fanatic is a fellow who redoubles his effort while forgetting his goal. How foolish is such a one! As I look at the situation that exists in so many churches of Christ across the land, I ponder this question : Have they forgotten their goal or mission while redoubling their effort in a near fanatical attempt to attract the attention of the world? Speed means nothing if we are going in the wrong direction! I intend to exhibit in this article evidence that churches of Christ are rushing headlong into practices that reveal either a misunderstanding of or an indifference to the divinely revealed function of the church. Careful study of the New Testament proves that there is a distinctive function given to the church. Only when we know what that function or mission is will we be able to preserve it.



The Misunderstood Christ

God had a definite purpose in sending Christ into the world. Standing before Pilate, Jesus declared, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth" (John 18:37). The writer of Hebrews quotes Jesus as announcing, "I come to do thy will, O God" (Heb 10:7). On several occasions Jesus proclaimed that his life was dedicated to the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures (Mt 26:54 Mk 14:49). The pleasure of the Lord prospered in his hand (Isa 53:10); he did not please himself (Rom 15:3); but did always the things that pleased the Father (Jn 8:29); he prayed with complete submission (Mt 26:42); obeyed unto suffering and death (Heb 5:7-9); and finished the work God gave him to do (Jn 17:4; 19:30).

Satan sought to thwart him (Mt 4:1-11; Jn 14:30,31). The masses attempted to make him a king on their own terms (Mk 6:45,46; Jn 6:15). A close and trusted disciple rebelled at the idea of his death (Mt 16:21-23). Some turned away to walk with him no more (Jn 6:66). None of these things deterred him! Though frequently misunderstood by friend and foe, he accomplished his mission! At his crucifixion there were those who cynically cried, "Come down from the cross and we will believe" (Mt 27:42). Blinded by prejudice, they failed to see that only by such a sacrifice of himself could he fulfill his mission and save the world. There are those in our day who cry to the church, "Be what we want you to be and we will believe." Jesus' rebuke to Peter seems apropos for such people: "You are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's " (Mt 16:23).

Eternal Purpose

God has a definite purpose for the church that is clearly revealed in the New Testament. Look at the Book of Ephesians for a moment. We read there that God's scheme of redemption was "according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (1:11). The word "purpose" is from PROTHESIS which means "the setting forth of a thing, placing it in view" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Paul thrills us with the explanation that the church is the result of "the eternal purpose" of God (3:10,11). God's plan for the church was set before him from eternity!

Paul assures us that we can understand what he knew about the church (3:3,4). This is encouraging! Let each reader of this article take the Bible and determine for himself what it teaches about the mission of the church. what is the function or mission of the church revealed on the pages of the New Testament? Why was it established? With these questions, we here seek to summon you -- by the apostolic subpoena "prove all things" -- to a study of that institution, conceived in the mind of God and purchased at awful cost, that exists upon this planet as a monument to the wisdom of God (Eph 3:10,11).

The purpose, mission, or function of the church is primarily spiritual in nature i.e. saving souls. The spiritual nature of the church is disclosed in a number of interesting texts. Jesus declared, "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36). Peter describes the church as a "spiritual house" (1 Pet 2:5). The same apostle called the same institution a "holy nation" (1 Pet 2:9. Paul called it a "holy temple" (Eph 2:21). HAGIOS is the word translated "holy". The basic idea in the word is that of difference from ordinary things, that of being set apart from ordinary purposes. By its nature and function the church of our Lord is different! It has a higher function than any human institution!

Further evidence of the spiritual function of the church is discovered in Paul's description in 1 Tim 3:15: "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." "Pillar" is from the Greek STULOS, a

column supporting weight. "Ground" is from HEDRAIOMA, a foundation or mainstay. The church has been given by God a distinctive role and responsibility in this world. It is neither political, social, nor economic. It is the great work or function of the church to hold high, defend, and proclaim the truth, the word of the living God in order to gain the salvation of men from sin.

There is a significant passage from the apostle Peter that helps us to see the spiritual function of the church. "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9). Here, the apostle writes of both the nature and function of the church. He uses four descriptive phrases that point to the nature. In this text, if you were to strip away the qualifying phrases, it would read like this: "Ye are -- that ye

should." Peter is telling the church "Ye are something (nature) in order that ye should do something (function)." What is the church to do? "Show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." The expression "show forth" is from the Greek EXANGELLO. W.E.Vine tells us that this word has the meaning "to tell out, proclaim abroad, to publish completely" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). What is the church to "proclaim abroad?" The "praises of him." This word has been translated "excellencies," "goodness" and "wonderful deeds" in other translations. The church is to proclaim abroad what God has done to save the world. The love of God that gave his son (Jn 3:16); the desire of God for all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9); God's acceptance of all who will obey his gospel (Rom 1:1, 16; Heb 5:8,9; Mk 16:15,16) -- these things are to be proclaimed by the church! The church exists for this purpose! "Ye are -- that ye should."

(More next week!)




The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself.

Some open minds should be closed for repairs. The self-made man is a horrible example of unskilled labor.


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