Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 3, 1956

The Church And Her Mission

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

To bless the world by rendering the greatest possible service has been the divinely appointed mission of God's people since the beginning.

I. A Corresponding Duty With Every Blessing

With every blessing that God has bestowed upon His people, He has assigned a corresponding duty and responsibility. His people must be channels of blessings; they must use the gifts of God in blessing others, and thereby accomplish their mission on the earth.

1. Adam Had A Mission To Accomplish.

After God had created the earth and all things therein, he "created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:27-28.)

"God blessed them" by creating them in His own image and by giving them dominion over the earth. Therefore, God assigned to them a mission to accomplish by means of the blessings wherewith they had been blessed. They must "subdue" and exercise "dominion" over the earth and all living creatures on it and in it, and in that way use their blessings in making the earth a suitable place in which to live. God put man into the garden of Eden "to dress it and to keep it." (Genesis 2:15.)

2. Abraham's Mission: "Be Thou A Blessing."

When God called Abram out of his country, from his kindred, and from his father's house, he gave him the promise of a three-fold blessing: God said to him, "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great." These promises were followed immediately with this responsibility: "And be thou a blessing." (Genesis 12:1-2.)

Therefore, Abram was under obligation to remember that he had a mission to accomplish: that as a worshiper of the true God he must use the blessings God gave to him, and render a service greatly needed by all peoples. He did so use his gifts from God, and did render that service; and all along the journey toward that "city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10), the altars that he erected and the smoke from the sacrifices thereupon were a blessing to the idol worshipers by giving them some idea of the one living God and the kind of worship He had appointed for the patriarchs.

3. Israel's Mission.

In the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, in the giving of the law at Sinai, and in the building of the tabernacle and the temple, we see clearly that God intended for Israel to bless the world by using all these gifts in preparing a people for the reception of the Savior of the world. "So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Gal. 3:24.) Israel was great in her national life insofar as she accomplished that divinely appointed mission.

4.Individual Christians And The Church Must Serve.

True greatness is measured by the service rendered. When James and John asked for exalted places in the kingdom, Jesus said unto them, "Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give Ms life a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:25-28.)

Speaking prophetically of the church and the reign of Christ on the throne of David, Ezekiel said, "He shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd .... And I will make them and the place round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing." (Ezek. 34:23-26.) Jesus said unto his disciples, "Ye are the salt of the earth . . . . Ye are the light of the world." (Matt. 5:1344.) Peter enjoined, "Not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing." (1 Peter 3:9.)

II. What Is The Church's Mission

The needs of humanity are many and varied; wide-awake and zealous leaders in the church can see many possible ways to serve humanity and be a blessing in the world. Therefore, they are confronted often with the temptation to lead the church into fields of work that are forbidden by the Lord to the church as such.

The divinely appointed mission of the church is fourfold, and every church is restricted in all its activities to these four fields of endeavor.

1. Preach The Gospel In All The World.

God purposed eternally in Christ Jesus our Lord that the manifold wisdom of God "might be made known through the church." (Eph. 3:10.) Heaven's authority has decreed that the house of God, which is the church of the living God, is "the pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Tim. 3:15.)

From the first day of its existence the church at Philippi had "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel" (Phil. 1:5), and the church of the Thessalonians "sounded forth the word of the Lord." (1 Thess. 1:8.)

Every church on earth is obligated to do this work, and there is no substitute for it. There is no field of operation in which a church can render greater service to humanity than this field of evangelism.

2. Build Up Itself In Love.

The scriptures state clearly that the edification of the church was the purpose of God in giving "some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." (Eph. 4:11.)

It is God's will for members of the church to become full-grown men in Christ, and " be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine." (Eph. 4:14.) Noble qualities of the soul must be cultivated and sterling character developed in all the members of the body of Christ. The Lord has assigned this work to every church. (Eph. 4:16.)

3. Supply The Needs Of Its Worthy Indigent.

Under the direction of the apostles of Christ, the church in Jerusalem supplied the needs of poor widows in its membership. (Acts 6:1-3.) This work is assigned also in 1 Timothy 5:16.

If a church is unable to do this work of ministration among its own worthy poor, then other churches must send contributions to the poor church to enable it to provide for its own, and thereby restore mutual freedom from want. This is taught in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 11 Corinthians 8 and 9, and many other passages; agreement on this point is universal among the churches.

4. Assemble And Worship God.

In John 4:23 Jesus represents the Father as a seeker of a particular kind of worshipers. Again, with reference to the time when all things must be done in his name, Jesus said: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20.) Members of the church are commanded, "Not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is." (Heb. 10:25.) This shows that they had an accustomed or usual date for meeting and worshiping God. Other passages (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2) teach that these customary meetings to worship God were on "the first day of the week." The church that does not engage in this work of assembling on the first day of the week to worship God lacks that much in having a New Testament identity, and in fulfilling the mission which the Lord has assigned to it.

III. Fields Of Service In Which The Churches Are Forbidden To Operate

The individual, the family and civil government are rendering valuable service and are blessing the world by operating in the fields of education in secular branches, of entertainment, of recreation, of politics, of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty, of secular business for profit and of civic improvement in physical features of the community. But the Lord has placed restrictions on the churches, which he has not placed on the individual or the family or the kingdoms of this world, and has forbidden the churches' entrance into these fields of service. The work which he has assigned to the churches is more important than these other services, and no church has a right to go beyond, or to turn aside from, these prescribed duties of the greatest importance.

"But why does not the church have the same right as the family or the state to serve in the fields of entertainment, secular education and business for profit? Where is the Bible passage that gives families or the nations of the world or other organizations the right to operate in these fields of service, but denies the churches the right to serve in these same fields? If families in a given area can promote games of dominoes, hopscotch and soft ball, and sponsor picnics and hay rides for the entertainment of the young people of that area, why can't the churches of the same area do the same things for the entertainment of the young people of that area?" These and similar questions are asked by people who do err, because they have never learned the meaning of the passages of scripture which say that Christ is the head of the church. (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18.)

Neither the family, nor the state, nor the church, nor any other group can do anything decently and orderly without rules, regulations or laws authorizing the thing to be done and governing the doing of it. One could not contend "lawfully" in the games, if there were no laws governing the games. (2 Tim. 2:5.) There can be no laws, rules or regulations where there is no vested legislative authority.

Legislative authority for the family is vested in the parents. (Eph. 6:1-4.) Christ did not choose to be the legislative head of the family. "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church." (Eph. 5:22.) Therefore the husband or father is vested with authority to enact laws governing the activities of his family, as long as his enactments are not inherently sinful. But who, except the Christ, has legislative authority in the church? (James 4:12.) The husband can make legislative provisions for the entertainment of his family, and for secular education and business for profit. But there is nothing in the legislative enactments of Jesus Christ to govern or to justify a church's activities in these fields, and since no authority on earth has legislative power in the church, it necessarily follows that no church can engage legally in these fields of service. To do so is to go beyond and to fail to abide in the teaching of Christ (2 John 9), and to usurp the legislative authority of Christ. (Matt. 28:18.)

Jesus did not choose to be the head of any kingdom of this world. Governmental authority in the nations of the world is vested in the "powers that be" (Rom. 3:1-7; John 19:11), with the right to enact, interpret and execute their own laws, as long as such actions are not inherently sinful. Therefore they may set up legislation to guide and govern their operations in the fields of secular education, entertainment, punishing the guilty, protecting the innocent, and all other fields of service they may wish to enter.

But not so in the kingdom of Christ. Jesus is the head of the church; he is the only lawgiver, judge and executive (Eph. 1:22-23; James 4:12) in his kingdom; the silence of his legislation must be respected. The Testament of Christ contains nothing which indicates that he wants his churches to serve in any field, except the fields of evangelism, edification, benevolence and worship.