Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 24, 1950
NUMBER 16, PAGE 10-11

The Character And Mission Of The Church

Bryan VI.Nson, Dallas, Texas

Institutions, as well as men, should possess character —a character such as corresponds to and comports with the purpose for which they exist. This is a self-evident and general truth whether applied to fraternal, political or religious orders. To corrupt or debase their character will render them incapable of competently fulfilling their mission and bringing to fruition their purpose. And, too, to lose sight of their primary purpose and leading design will inevitably result in a modification, if not degeneration, of their character. To the observing the moral decay of our political parties illustrates and enforces the correctness of this observation.

The general state of religion which currently prevails is but the result of a very pronounced misconception of what the church is and for what purpose it exists. It is quite manifest that this misapprehension of the true character and mission of the church has intruded itself into, and injuriously affected, the thinking of members of the church of our Lord. Such an attitude is reflected by the trends and developments among us. There is an imperative need for an intelligent analysis and a reverent appraisal of the church in the light of that inspired delineation of character and definition of purpose found in the word of God.

The character of the church is to be recognized as qualitative rather than quantitative in principle. It isn't to be evaluated by how many belong to it; (Or are members of it,) but rather the qualities of character possessed by those who constitute the church and how those qualities are reflected by their lives. The formation of character embodies both native qualities and acquired attributes. It has long been a moot question as to the relative strength of hereditary and environmental influences in the development of one's character. This is likewise to be reckoned with in the study of the subject of the church and the proper character thereof.

The native and original qualities of the church are of Divine creation and assimilation. Man neither conceived nor brought forth the church. The unprecedented phenomena and auspicious circumstances attending its beginning attests the high character with which it was invested. A proper study of the Lord's church involves necessarily a profoundly impressive regard for the facts and events recorded in Acts 2. We cannot become unmindful of the marvelous occurrences of that day, the blessings of salvation it brought and the assurances offered in the promise of salvation to even those afar off. The Word of God, the Gospel of our Salvation, is the seed if the Kingdom (Lk. 8:11) It was sown on that day and succeeding days, reaching good and honest hearts which in gladly receiving it were baptized, and, hence, saved. This word originating with God, and passing from Him to Christ, to the Spirit and thence spoken and written by inspired men was pure from all contamination and perversion. Never was it tampered with by Satan until it reposed in the care of uninspired and fallible men. Never, then, was the character of the church imperiled until men leaving, or no longer relying on the divine record, but resorting to their own devisings of reason and impulses of will began to modify it.

While divine in its constitution, yet the church is human in its constituency. Therein lies the source of every weakness and defect history ascribes to it. So long as the church was nourished, nurtured, protected and directed by God's word it possessed an impeccable character and prospered in the performance of its purpose. To safeguard and secure that high character now the members composing it must have recourse to that word, believe it completely and follow its directions implicitly, acknowledging its enduring worth and continuing sufficiency. The church is an holy institution, and as such it is the called-out body, called out of the world through it (I Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 6:17; I Pet. 1:14-16; 2:9) but not of the world (John 18:36.) The church is spiritual in its nature and is not founded on the flesh. "We know no man after the flesh though we have known Christ after the flesh henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things are passed away and all things are become new—and all things are of God" (2 Cor. 5:16.) The preservation and strengthening of the church depends, therefore, on maintaining its spiritual character. For this to be continuously accomplished we must feast on the "things of the Spirit." We must delight in the law of the Lord, and in His law, meditate both day and night being thereby enabled to bring forth its legitimate fruit in due season. To be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. The true determination of the strength of the church, locally or universally, is to be arrived at by measuring the individual growth and development of its members in their knowledge and practice of spiritual truth, which reflects their proper stature. However desirable numerical increase is it doesn't necessarily reflect the proper and essential power of the church.

In our quest for growth we may resort to means which are unwise, improper and discordant with the true character of the church. In order to hold our members and attract others to us we cannot afford to come down from the high and holy plane on which the church properly rests to secure this end. Thought the church is a society, a collective body of people, and in that sense has a social character the church is not of a social character in that it isn't designed with the satisfying of man's social instincts as an objective. Hence, it is not, and cannot, be diverted from its proper function to foster and furnish social recreation and entertainment for its members old or young. It is unthinkable that the blood-bought body of Christ should be employed for the purpose of accomplishing that which can be done without it. To foster, furnish and maintain the spiritual environment for the elevation and ennoblement of God's children should absorb its interest and resources insofar as holding its members, and attracting others.

In Romans 14:17 the apostle affirms that "The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." Righteousness conveys a duality of meaning—as to state and action. As a state it denotes justification and as a life it defines that which is right. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous." To live in and be a part of a society established in a state of justification (There is no condemnation in Christ to those who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit) ought to afford a highly delightful satisfaction far above any transitory pleasure afforded by social entertainment. To be busily and perseveringly engaged in living righteously presents a challenge that taxes our resources and exacts tribute of our affections. The righteousness of faith prescribes the only formula for a happy and useful life motivated by the noblest of ideals. To be in a relation to our brethren, and above all to our Father, that is one of peace when the world is deeply distressed and agitated by a sense of futility and frustration, should be comforting to those enjoying it, and attractive to those longing for it.

We are to "let the peace of God rule in our hearts to the which we are called in one body and be ye thankful" (Col. 3:15.) We are to seek peace and ensue it, for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and His ears are open to their prayers. Such is conducive to loving life and seeing good days.

The joy of the Holy Spirit, a joy produced by the Spirit, is one of surpassing worth. No one can possess and experience this joy and need social entertainment to render felicitous one's service to God. Through the apostles the Holy Spirit is to convict sin, of righteousness and of judgment. When that change is wrought in us by the Gospel and with a firmly implanted faith in Christ dwelling in our hearts we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Cannot we see, therefore, in this elevated conception of thought conveyed by this statement of Paul the infinitely superior advantage and sublime worth of these blessings? They possess a merit and power of influence over those exercised thereby, which renders insipid many of the tinseled trappings that captivate the carnally-minded.

The church, being the body of Christ, has access to all spiritual blessings inasmuch as all spiritual blessings are in Christ; and to be in Christ is to be in His body, the Church. Perhaps no truth bears witness to the true worth and proper character of the church more than this. It needs to be deeply ingrained in our mind and never permitted to suffer any diminution of influence in our thinking and living. Salvation is the cardinal objective cherished, the supreme advantage possessed, and the most inviting attraction offered by the church. Never should we obscure or tarnish its luster by weakening its character and prostituting its purpose. In the church we enjoy salvation. In the church we labor in the Lord, knowing that such labor is not in vain, as we abound in the work of the Lord.

What is the work of the Lord? It is to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name, which work began in Jerusalem. Lk. 24:46. This is the greatest work which Christ told His disciples they would do because He was going to His Father (John 14:12.) Even though He wrought miracles marvelous to behold and benign in their character, yet He says this is greater—greater than feeding the multitude, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead. Preaching Christ is foolishness to them that perish, but to those who are saved Christ is the power and wisdom of God. The church is to make known, to display in its character and in the execution of its mission the wisdom of God according to His eternal purpose. We are to endeavor to make all men see what is the fellowship of this mystery. This is the fundamental mission and supreme task of the church, and is to be backed-up and supported by devout, consecrated life—a holy manner of life in all godliness looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.