July 24, 2016
In this issue: The Mission of the Church by William Thompson, Jr.
by William Thompson, Jr.
From several considerations the church of the Lord is distinct from the human organizations of men. One of the essential characteristics of the New Testament Church that differentiates it from Protestant denominationalism and Roman Catholicism is the mission. The divine institution had a divine origin and a divine destiny or mission to fulfill. Jesus taught that the basis of entrance into his kingdom was not physical, but a spiritual birth was necessary to citizenship in it. (John 3:1-5) Nicodemus was a Jew in covenant relationship with God under the Jewish economy, but that would not suffice for entrance into the kingdom of Christ. Nor is the church political in nature or purpose. "My kingdom is not of this world”, John 18:36. The business of the church is not to recreate or entertain, or educate in a secular sense. Other institutions have been established for the provision of those physical and mental needs. The church of Christ is not a benevolent society as such. Though that is a part of the work of the church it is not the purpose for which the church was established.
The primary mission of the church is to evangelize the world, to preach the gospel. For that there can be no substitute. No human organization can supplant the church of Christ for God's only missionary society is the New Testament church. There is no other institution that can give to men and women the spiritual blessings that are found only in Christ and the church. (Eph. 1:3, 23) Benevolence is done through many channels. The Community Chest with all of its various agencies and activities may clothe a man, bathe him, and supply other physical needs, but there is no substitute for the robes of righteousness and the bath of regeneration. For that purpose God's church was established, and through it the gospel is proclaimed.
God's church has an important mission to fulfill. The deep spiritual needs and longings of men evidence this. "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.” Rom. 3:9. Further: "There is none righteous, no, not one.” We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, verse 23. Gal. 3:22, "But the scripture shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Eph. 2:12, "That ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world."
From these passages it is evident that man needs salvation. No man is near the kingdom of God until he feels that need and recognizes that he is lost. Perhaps that is one reason that the Jews greatly erred in their interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies. While they felt the need of a national Savior, they did not feel the need of a spiritual Savior, Jesus Christ. They believed then as many do now that justification was by their own works. The prevalent idea today that a man can be saved upon the basis of morality is an expression of the Jewish conception concerning salvation.
God's saving power is the gospel of Christ. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Rom. 1:16. The Corinthians were saved by the gospel. I Cor. 15:1-4, "Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” Peter told Cornelius and his household words whereby they should be saved. "Who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house,” Acts 11:14. Men are begotten by the gospel, for Paul said, "Though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I begat you through the gospel.” 1 Cor. 4:15. The words in I Pet. 1:23, are similar. John 3, may be explained in the light of 1 Pet. 1:23. "The seed is the word of God,” Lk. 8:11. The Gospel of Christ is able to give us an inheritance among them that are sanctified. Acts 20:32 The church of Christ is the agency of God in the work of evangelizing the world. In Matt. 20:1-16, the church is compared to the householder who goes out to hire laborers to come into the vineyard. The wisdom of God is made known through the church, Eph. 3:10. The church is a part of God's divine plan. It was hidden in the depths of the divine mind from eternity and was not an afterthought upon the part of the Lord when the Jews rejected him. The third chapter of Ephesians alone would be sufficient to expose that Judaistic heresy that originated in the hearts and minds of men, not in the divine mind. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth, 1 Tim. 3:14, 15. It does not depend upon any human organization for its existence and is separate front all sectarian bodies and denominational institutions, and any effort to place the church on that sort of a foundation is to sectarianize it. The church of our Lord is un-sectarian, non-sectarian, and anti-sectarian. It is un-denominational, non-denominational, and anti-denominational. God is to be glorified in the church throughout all ages, Eph. 3:21. The place to give God the glory is in the church, and it shall be so until the end of the world. The world will end before the glory ceases to be given to God in the church.
Local congregations were the medium through which this work was carried on in the days of the apostles of Christ. They are the only missionary organizations that one reads about in the New Testament church in apostolic days. There are a number of passages that definitely establish this statement. 2 Cor. 11:8, 9, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you; and when I was present with you and was in want, I was not a burden on any man; for the brethren when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my want; and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself." 1 Thess. 1:8, "For from you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth.” Phil 1:3-5, "I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul and Barnabas were separated for the work of preaching the gospel, sent out by the church, Acts 13:1-3, and when they returned they gave a report to the church, Acts 14:27, 28.
Personal evangelism was a New Testament practice and not a twentieth century development. Read Acts 8:1-5, for the proof of this. Without human aids the church of the Lord marched forward in apostolic days and the need of the world today is a return to that New Testament model, and an adaptation of ourselves to it, not it to us. ~