Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 21, 1963
NUMBER 41, PAGE 5,13a

The Purpose Of A Church -- (No. 2)

Harry W. Pickup, Jr.

We have learned in the previous lesson these points: God creates things for a particular purpose. He is pleased when his creation serves its God-given purpose to the full extent of its ability. A church is a creation of God. It is composed of men who have begun a life of faith by becoming obedient to the primary requirements of the gospel. Christians "strive together" in order to help each other to sustain each other; for the encouragement they may be one to the other. What a man and a woman are to each other in marriage Christians are to each other in a church of the Lord. A church is a body of Christians who are taught to have "the same care one for another." (1 Cor. 12:25)

It is a sad thing that many Christians have not thoroughly come to understand what it means to share in the "fellowship of Jesus." (1 Cor. 1:9) The real and true purpose of a church is obscure to them. They see only the indirect and secondary purposes of a church. Their joy comes from associating with people possessing convivial personalities; people who share mutual human and social interests. The ties of the spirit arouse little interest or emotion. Therefore, the church, in their eyes, is never as great as God intended it to be.

Many Christians pay a pretty good price to see a few of their "fellows" "play the game." They are merely spectators at a service, in place of being active partners in a relationship deeply satisfying and tremendously benefitting to the soul. To many Christians the chief — and often only responsibility — which they have is to support the church with their money. This is far from the truth. When Christians come to realize the real and true purpose of a church, then the churches will be able to be what God intended them to be and do what God intended them to do.

Most Christians recognize that they need the very things that God intended a church to fulfill. When they fail to receive these benefits they seek them elsewhere. It is when the church fails to fulfill its responsibilities that men begin to form institutions to approximate the fulfillment of a church's duties. The human then becomes a substitute for the divine. Loyalty is then transferred to the human development. Effort is wasted on man's creation. God's creation suffers greatly.

I would suggest the following specific things as matters to be carried out in a local church. I do not mean that these things are to be done exclusively by Christians acting together. But that these things are to be done by Christians acting as a church.

1. Worship. The soul naturally desires to worship God, the source of all life. New Testament scriptures give us a number of accounts of Christians worshipping together. When Peter and John had been threatened by the Jewish Sanhedrin for preaching in Christ's name, they returned to their "own company." (Acts 4:23) After reporting these things this congregation of the Lord sought Heaven's blessings in prayer. They prayed together "with one accord." Their prayer was for divine help in continuing to speak "thy word with all boldness." (Acts 4:29)

1 Corinthians chapter eleven mentions the church there assembling to eat the Lord's supper. Near the conclusion of this chapter Paul instructs them: "Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, wait one for another." (v. 33) To "wait one for another" literally and primarily, to take or receive from, hence denotes to await, expect; it suggests reaching out in readiness to receive something." (Vine)

While a Christian could eat this memorial feast independent of other Christians, the full blessing is to be received as Christians readily reach out to receive each other in this celebration which commemorates that great event which makes firm the faith of believers in God.

Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are verses which teach us that worshipping God in song is to be done congregationally.

2. Teaching. A church of Christ is a teaching association. The church in Antioch had both "prophets and teachers" in it. (Acts 13:2) Barnabas and Saul "for a whole year were gathered together with the church and taught much people." (Acts 11:26) 1 Cor. 14 establishes the fact that unbelievers as well as believers attended the assembly of the church. The Corinthian church sustained a responsibility to both groups. They were under obligation to build up the Christians and inform the unbelievers. Teaching is a vital and necessary purpose of a church of Christ. The believers need to be reminded of truths which they "know and are established" in. (2 Peter 1:12) The unbelievers must be brought to receive the seed of the truth by which they may become the children of God. Since this is a purpose which God has assigned to his church, it therefore follows that each church is able to do what God has assigned it to do.

3. Edification. The devil is constantly attacking the Christian at the point of faith. It is one thing for one to come to the point of faith in God; it is another thing to make faith strong and to develop it to maturity. After making Christians in the cities of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, Paul and Barnabas later returned to these cities "confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22)

Paul urged the Thessalonian church, "wherefore exhort (comfort) one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do." (1 Thess. 5:11) The difficulties of life which weighed heavily upon the hearts of Christians in that day are still with us. The great oppressor of souls still seeks those whom he may devour. The assembling of Christians is an opportunity to confirm faith, comfort souls, and encourage hearts. This purpose is fulfilled in a church of the Lord.

No New Testament book takes into consideration more the need of the Christians to be edified and built up than the book of Hebrews. Heb. 10:25 tells us that some saints were giving in to temptation and were forsaking the assembling of the saints. In this faith-building book the help which Christians may be to each other is seen in the verse just prior to the one mentioned above. "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works." When love needs to be rekindled to a brighter flame and works of the highest caliber need to be engaged in, these matters can be accomplished by the edification of a church. When burdens press and cares distress, it is the church who can sing and teach convincingly, "He careth for you." The Christian who does not personally share in this work is a shirker. The church which does not provide for this need is not fulfilling its purpose as a church of the Lord.

4. Benevolence. Christians have material obligations to one another because they are children of the same family. Impoverished saints are more than saints in need. They are fellow Christians who have every right to receive assistance from brethren able to sustain them. Having things in common, they share together as the need arises. The willing generosity of Christians is mentioned in Acts 2, 4, 7. The immediate response by the .Antioch church to the need of the Judean saints is obvious testimony of another great purpose served by a church. (Acts 11:27-30)

5. Support of those who labor in the gospel. Saved men recognize the dreadful condition of lost men. With hearts of compassion a church supports those who labor in the faithful proclamation of the gospel of salvation. The gifts which the Philippian church sent more than once to Paul helped him plant the seed which produced the fruit that "increaseth to your account." (Phil 4:17) While helping to support those who labor in the gospel does not completely fulfill the Christian's responsibility to "hold forth the word of life," it is a great part of his duty.

The plans of God are right; and they are best. Nothing which man can establish can better serve God's purposes than that which has been created by God. These purposes to be fulfilled in a church are superlative. God knows the needs of men's souls. And He has provided for their satisfaction. These purposes touch the spirits of men; they have a bearing upon the eternal destiny of men. They are not bound by time and they only incidentally touch the earth. When God's church seeks to fulfill even the loftiest human and earthly purpose, it lowers itself and goes from the greatest to the lower. God is eternally glorified in the Church.

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