Monday, February 12, 2007

The Purpose of the Church

As I continue to think of getting our church plant off to a solid start, I have wrestled with the Scriptural teachings on the church, the theological heritage, and traditions of the Reformed and Baptist history, and my own experience.

Our Authority

Scripture must be our final authority, and it regulates all that we do. We have no Pope, or magisterium, to explain the meaning of the Scriptural message. As evangelicals, as reformed Christians, we share no one structure or hierarchy. We simply share a hermeneutic, based on an understanding that Scripture is 1) perspicuous (sufficiently plain in its meaning), 2) inerrant (will not lead us into error), 3) infallible (trustworthy and without errors in the original manuscripts).

As a result, we interpret Scripture by studying its historical context and following the rules of grammar, the historical grammatical method. That is, we don't really interpret it all. We just read it, recognizing the figures of speech as common figures of speech, the symbols as symbols, narratives as narratives, instructions as instructions, etc.

The Gospel is Central

From this hermeneutical basis, I approach my study of the church, adding the insights of those who have gone before me and find that the Gospel, or good news of Jesus Christ, is central to everything we should hope to do at Ekklesia Baptist Fellowship.

The Church is the followers of Christ

Why is the Gospel central to everything we do? The answer is, that this is the central mandate for the God's people. Christians, as the name suggests are the followers of Christ. The Church is not a human organization or building, but an organism, composed of these individual Christians and known as the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:27), which exists to be a display of His glory (Ephesians 3:21). It meets in local assemblies (Philemon 2) and has regular meetings (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

The Lord Jesus Christ gave his followers a clear and simple mission, to gather the Church from every nation of the world, disciple and teach them the Truth Jesus revealed:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
The Church Gathered

We need to have a certainty about the Purpose of this gathered Church, based on Scripture. Why does the church gathered exist?

I) The church exists to worship and glorify God (John 4:23-24).

1 Cor. 10:31—“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Heb. 13:15—“Through Him, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise.”

II) The church exists to be a repository of divine truth (Jude 3).

1 Tim. 3:15—“I write so you may know how to conduct yourselves in the church, which is the pillar and support of the truth.”

2 Tim. 1:13--"Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus".

III) The church exists to provide a context of loving fellowship with one another for the purpose of mutual edification (Ephesians 4:7, 16).

Heb 10:24,25 --"Stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together."
Acts 2:42 --"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

IV) The church exists as a training center whereby people can grow through the application of
teaching and the utilization of their spiritual gifts
(Romans 12:3-8).

Eph 4:12-16—“for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, to the
building up of the body of Christ”
1 Pet 4:10—“As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another”

V) The church exists to be a light in this dark world, for the evangelization of the lost (Titus 2:11–15).

Matt 28:19-20—"Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey all things whatsoever I have commanded you"
Matt. 5:13–16—"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Building this Church

Building Christ's Church is not our job! Jesus said; "I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Matthew 16:18). As his undershepherds, the church's leaders are more like waiters, serving what he has prepared, then managers scheming and organization.

From this central understanding, the organism of the church can be structured for effectiveness, as gathered in a local assembly. But in everything the Church does, this gospel purpose and this leadership of Christ must be kept central.

Evangelism and Missions exist, because Worship doesn't. Therefore, all our gospel efforts, should be aimed at facilitating the Father's mission, He "seeks [people] to be his worshipers" (John 4:23).

The Church which exists, as a gathered body, must be trained to pursue the Fathers purpose theologically and practically (Matthew 28:20). Therefore the regular teaching of the whole council of God is necessary.

The Church must mutually encourage one another and represent Christ to one another to keep up morale and support the members: "From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love" (Ephesians 4:16). Therefore assembling together for corporate meetings is necessary.

The Church must hold fast the truth (2 Timothy 1:13), and "earnestly content for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). We should aim therefore to speak publicly against falsehood and equip people with the truth so that they can detect forgeries.

Finally the Church must be trained to understand that each member exists, to worship and glorify God, understanding that "true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:22), that is with a right attitude and correct belief, "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). We must learn that worship is a verb, that we must act for the glory of God, in the corporate service and redeeming our careers and families for His glory.


Jennifer said...

Oh my word. I had serious heart palpitations when I clicked the link for EBF!! The site looks incredible. I am SO excited for you guys!!! :)

It's sure been a long while since I've had the chance to chat with either of you - I miss you guys! Hopefully we'll all talk soon, yeh?

C.W. Graham said...

Hey Jenn,

Ya, why are you never online anymore ;)

Talk to ya soon

Andy said...

A quick question. I linked to your wife's blog from yours. She wrote that you're studying Ephesians. I've been giving Ephesians a lot of thought lately. Could you recommend a good commentary? I've been reading John Stott's The Message of Ephesians and the section on Ephesians in The Expositor's Bible Commentary.