In this articled I want us to look at the purpose of the New Testament church. Some say it is a soul-winning station. Others say it is a hospital for the spiritually sick. Still others see it as a social organization where we find fellowship. While there may be some truth in each of these, the real purpose is to bring glory to God and to Christ. In so doing it will be concerned with the reaching of the lost and the healing of the spiritually sick. It will also be a place where Christians find good fellowship. However, the most important function of the church is the training of the saints for the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
In verse 11 we see that there are four ministers given for the accomplishment of this purpose. The apostle is one sent under the authority of another with a message for the one to whom he is sent. Today we call them missionaries. Their primary function is to go where there is not church and start a new one.
The second minister is the prophet. He is one who speaks for another with the authority of the one for whom he speaks. Generally speaking in the Bible he is one who warns God’s people of impending danger. He warns of punishment for disobedience and tells of reward for obedience.
The third minister is the evangelist. He is one who speaks forth the good news of the Gospel. He specially gifted to preach to the lost and bring them to Christ. Although all are to be involved in evangelism, the evangelist has a special gift in this area.
Finally we have the pastor/teacher. He is the one who is charged with the daily care of the church. He is the one who feeds the sheep on the Word of God. He is the one who is their to help and comfort in times of trial.
After bringing glory to God, the primary function of the church is the perfecting means bringing to maturity. The construction of verse 12 is interesting. The word for is used three times. The first comes from a Greek word meaning to move toward a goal. The other two are from a Greek word meaning the arrival at a point. From this we see the goal is the maturing of the saints and the expected result is the saints doing the work of the ministry and building up the church.
The edifying of the church is done through two activities: 1) Teaching the principles of Scripture through formal training and example, 2) Reaching the lost and bringing them into the church where they can be taught. All of this works together to accomplish the three parts of the Great Commission.
There are four things necessary to the perfection of the saints. First there must be unity of the faith. This is the unity that comes from believing and teaching the same things. If we have the same Holy Spirit as our teacher and the same textbook, the Bible, shouldn’t we all believe the same things?
The next thing we need is a proper knowledge of Christ. If Christ is our Lord we need to know what He expects of us. If He is our example we should know how He lived so we can emulate Him.
Thirdly each Christian should be mature in the faith. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. Each member of a church should seek spiritual maturity so not to be a weak link.
Christians being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). God is working all things according to His purpose and His purpose is that we be conformed to the image of His Son. In a church each member should be growing to be more Christ-like, which is the meaning of the name Christian.
Christians need to grow in maturity so they are not tossed about with every wind of doctrine. Confusion on doctrine lessens our ability to reach a lost world. With all of the different groups believing different things the world laughs at us.
A church is supposed to function as a unit. Every member is important and God has placed each member in a church for a purpose. When all members to their job the whole body (church) is edified. When one member selfishly doesn’t do its job there is a lack of love and the whole body suffers. Edification is the result of all working together in love one for another and for the Lord.
The purpose of the church is the maturing of the saints for the work of the ministry and for the building up of the whole body. When each member strives for maturity and does its job the church grows in strength and in number. When members selfishly shirk their duties or openly oppose the rest of the body the church suffers. We each need to do our part to edify this church.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved