The Mission and the Work of the Church

God, in His wisdom, saw fit from eternity to establish the church. Ephesians 3:10 and 11 reads, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This organization of men and women which God through Christ established is not merely a social association or fraternity. It is much more than simply that. The church is God’s continuing plan for man’s salvation. It is the place of the saved on earth. It is the hand through which God propagates his message upon the earth today. This means that the church has a peculiar work to do. God has charged the church with this work and only the church with this work. We, as the church, have a responsibility to ensure that all of this work gets done.

What exactly, however, has God charged the church to do? That is a question, the answer to which we find in the scriptures. The church has a single mission–to save souls. This was the mission of her Lord (Luke 19:10) and this is the mission with which the church is charged today (1 Tim.1:15, 16). How the church goes about that mission is threefold. There is within the church the need to exhort and to strengthen the brethren (Heb.3:13). This is one aspect of the work of the church. Let us call this edification. There is also the need to preach the gospel to the lost (Acts 16:10). We refer to this as evangelism. Finally, the church has a special work that covers ministering to both those within and without the church. This work is the work of taking care of those who are in need (Gal.6:10). We refer to this work as benevolence. Every other aspect of the work of the church of which we can think will easily fall under these three categories.

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church.” In Acts 2 we first see the message of the kingdom of God and Peter preaching the terms of entrance into the church. In Acts 2:47 we read, “�And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” The church was involved from the beginning in the work of evangelism. It was the Lord’s great commission to the apostles which lead to the beginning of the church on Pentecost and it was the continued efforts of the church in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ that lead to her growth and vitalization in the world.

Not only did the early church practice evangelism, but mutual edification. Great persecution came upon the early church in its infant years that threatened the life of the early church, but through edification of one another, the church survived and prospered. One such opportunity occurred after Peter and John had healed a lame man at the beautiful gate. Luke writes concerning their arrival back among the church in Acts 3:24 “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.” Verse 29 of that chapter says that they prayed, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” Such great encouragement among the church guaranteed their ongoing success.

The early church also had a passion for caring for the poor. We read early on of the great needs which were met by some very generous folk who sold their possessions and lands and laid them at the feet of the apostles in Acts 4:32-37. The church at Antioch also purposed to relieve the poor among the church in Jerusalem by taking a collection from the gentile Christians (Acts 11:29, 30; Romans 15:26). Paul exhorted the elders at Ephesus to remember the poor (Acts 20:35) and Paul acknowledged that this was something he was always mindful to do (Galatians 2:10). These things he taught everywhere in every church that he established (1 Corinthians 4:17).

Are we ensuring that we are carrying out this threefold work of the church today? The mission that the church has depends upon our faithful execution of this pattern. There is no other organization that has the same mission as that of the church–to save souls. Let us resolve to do so in the authorized ways that God has set before us in the scriptures. By evangelizing, edifying, and practicing benevolence the church can carry on this great work today.

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The Keys of the Kingdom

In Matthew 18:13ff, Jesus presents a very important question to these disciples. He says, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” The disciples said that some people are saying that you are John the Baptizer; some people say that you are Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Jesus then asks the disciples, “But whom say ye that I am.” Peter speaks up and says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus response to this question is revealing. He says that this confession that Peter made came from God and that based upon this confession Jesus will build His church. It is within this context of Peter’s confession and the promise to build His church that Jesus says, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

The metaphor that Jesus uses both to describe the church and the kingdom here is one of a building. Jesus said that he was going to build the church and give the keys of the kingdom. Buildings are both built and have keys. We would use the same language in regard to a house or an office building today. The process of building involves planning, construction, and finishing. When the building is complete, the builder gives the keys to those who are going to reside therein so that they can open and close the door to the building. Jesus is using a similar metaphor here regarding the church. The design of the church, the planning for the church, and the purpose of the church were all put together by Jesus–he is the builder. When Jesus died on the cross, he became the head and Savior of the church according to Ephesians 5:23-27. This meant that after his death, everything was ready for people to start entering into the church. But to enter into the church, they needed the keys to open the door. Jesus told Peter that He would give him the keys to open the doors to Jesus’ building–His church–the kingdom of heaven. These keys were given to Peter in Acts 2.

In Acts chapter 2, Peter preaches the first gospel sermon to those who had crucified Jesus. He proclaims in this sermon that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that those standing around were guilty of crucifying the Son of God. During the message which Peter was delivering to them, the hearers speak up and say, “Men and brethren what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter then tells them that they need to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). We see in Acts 2:41 that those who gladly received the word were baptized. The result of their baptism was that they were added to the disciples (Acts 2:41). And we see in Acts 2:47 that this meant when they were saved (through obedience) they were added to the church. The commands that Peter spoke are the keys to the kingdom. These commands are the terms of entrance into the church. Peter’s preaching of the gospel resulted in guilty individuals hearing, being baptized, and having their sins forgiven. Through their obedience they were then ushered into the church that Jesus promised he would build, thus opening the door to all who would believe and obey forever.

Those same keys are entrusted to members of the church today and using the same plan which Peter preached in Acts 2, the same results can occur in the lives and hearts of men and women. The world today is just as guilty of crucifying the Son of because it was for the sins of the world that Jesus died. Those who are in their sins this hour stand guilty before God of this ultimate crime. The only recourse of action that they have to be reconciled to God today is to use these same keys to enter into the kingdom of heaven. When a person hears the gospel of Jesus and obeys the commands that are contained therein to repent and be baptized, they will be added to the church just as those who first heard the preaching of Peter. Peter used the keys that were given to him to unlock the door of the kingdom. The door of the kingdom stands opened wide for all who would use those same keys.

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In God We Trust

Perhaps you have seen this slogan frequently in the past several weeks. During times of prosperity and peace, many forget God. They rest upon their laurels and become satisfied with self. The thought of God crosses their mind once or twice a week, but to depend upon God, wholly and completely, is outside their scope of thought. In their mind, they are their own sustainers; they are their own self-satisfiers. In times of peace and prosperity God is just one to whom many give mere lip service “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof . . .” (2 Timothy 3:5). These say, “In God We Trust” but deny the power of that statement by refusing to make the appropriate sacrifices to show their reliance upon God. However, many, in the face of our recent national adversity, have been brought to realize their own mortality and are seeking to renew themselves before God. What can the church do to bring the minds of men back to trusting in God and aid those who are seeking true spiritual renewal?

First, the church can show what trusting in God truly means by making sacrifices on our part. The world cannot see true sacrifice today unless the church exemplifies it, because there is no other body upon the earth that can truly make sacrifices to God. Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Do we trust God enough to sacrifice our time, our money, and our abilities to his service? Often we think that we must save that one extra dollar, or stay at work that one extra hour, or refrain from that one extra spiritual task. Instead, we should put our complete trust in God and sacrifice, knowing that God has already made the greater sacrifice for us. Do we, as the church, trust in God? Do we put our complete trust in Him? Let us renew ourselves unto sacrifice!

Second, the church can fight the deadly influences that cause one to become self-reliant. These influences originate from humanism. The very core philosophy of humanism is, “Since there is no God to save us, we must save ourselves.” This statement epitomizes what many truly practice in their life. This statement is totally and completely contradictory to the phrase, “In God We Trust.” Those who accept humanism often practice a post-modern world-view. In this world-view, there is no truth; there is no certainty; there is no trust; there is no hope; and if anyone says otherwise, it is the purpose of post-modernism through deconstructionism to undermine and destroy his or her teaching. Post-modernism thought is, however, sympathetic to any teaching that would undermine the idea that there is only one set of truth to which all must adhere and believe. As a result, we have seen in our country an explosion of false religion of one kind or another such as: witchcraft, paganism, mysticism, Hinduism, astrology, psychics, card readers, and the new age movement. All of these are a product of the deconstruction of Christianity under the influence of post-modernism. The church must stand up and proclaim the one truth given by Jesus Christ in the face of all of these false doctrines. Let us renew ourselves to preaching and teaching THE truth!

Third, the church must call for all of those around us to turn to and put their complete trust in God. This means that we must have a renewed sense of purpose about preaching and teaching the gospel to the lost. Now more than ever, we must reflect in the church the words of our Lord, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). Those who are hungering and thirsting for the truth will grow weary with the latest religious fad because it will leave them empty. After our recent national crisis, how many did you see in the public eye calling upon pagan deities or mysticism or witchcraft? The call went up to God-the one true and living God who is the Father of Jesus, the Christ. Sadly, many prayers will go unheard due to the condition of the suppliant’s soul-lost. Peter says “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). We can help those make their prayers effectual by putting their trust in God and rendering obedience to the gospel. Let us renew ourselves to the preaching of God’s plan for man’s salvation!

Our national tragedy is truly shocking and sad. However, like the rebirth of the phoenix, we can arise from the ashes of fire and death and bring a renewal like has never been seen in the history of the church before. It is incumbent upon us, the church, to take advantage of this great opportunity God has set before us. “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). Let us determine to make our national slogan a reality so that all may truly say, “In God We Trust!”

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