Understanding the Purpose of the Church, Part 2

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Republished from Baptist Bulletin March/April 2017 with permission. © Regular Baptist Press, all rights reserved. Read Part 1.

Instruction

The saints need instruction, and for this purpose the Lord has not only sent the Holy Spirit and His Word, but has given as gifts to the churches evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph. 4:11–15). (It appears that the apostles and prophets ceased with the apostolic era. They are no longer needed since the Word of God has been given.)

The saints need the ministry of teaching and should attend faithfully the preaching of the Word (Heb. 10:24, 25). We should cry out to the Lord to raise up such ministers of the Word out of our churches, and every care should be taken to sustain them as well as to train them in His ministry.

This teaching should encompass the whole counsel of God, including that which is needed as well as that which is pleasing! Paul practiced this (Acts 20:27–31). Often the teaching that is most needed is that which is least desired, but wise and faithful servants of God will not shun their duty. The church long ago was faced with certain dangers that do not now threaten us. False teachers denied the humanity of Christ. It was necessary to repudiate that error and to strengthen the saints in the truth. John was doing that in his first epistle, and Paul in his epistle to the Colossians. Now the enemy is affirming the Lord’s humanity and denying His deity, and the emphasis of ministry shifts although the same Scriptures constitute the Sword in each battle. At one time the attack on the church came from wicked people outside the church. Today they have invaded and betrayed churches from within, as predicted in 2 Peter 2 and other portions. If we are to be faithful stewards of the truth entrusted to us, we must warn the saints of this danger. This is one of the current issues in

our day, and no faithful minister can ignore the teaching of the Word on the Biblical doctrine of separation. Whether popular or unpopular, the saints need the instruction of the whole counsel of God. Paul’s letters are packed with teaching vital to us as well as to the saints of his day.

We do not wish to leave the impression that all such instruction must be received from pastors and teachers. Each soul is free to learn directly from the Word of God and through his or her own daily experiences with the Lord. But no ministry of evangelists, pastors, and teachers is complete and Biblical if it omits areas of revealed truth vital to the spiritual life of the saints.

Encouragement

The saints need encouragement. The apostle Paul sets a Biblical example, because in most of his letters he opens with commendations and praise when it can be sincerely given. To the Romans, it was rejoicing in their faith (1:8); to the Corinthians, it was praise to the Lord for the grace, gifts, and knowledge bestowed on them (1 Cor. 1:4–7); to the Galatians in serious doctrinal error, he gave no commendation; but to the Ephesians he wrote encouragingly of their “faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints” (1:15).

The Lord Jesus found opportunity to commend something in each of the seven churches except Laodicea (Rev. 2, 3).

Flattery is unworthy; but many a weary, discouraged heart has taken new hope and strength from honest commendation. “A word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (Prov. 15:23). Such attitudes on the part of brethren to each other, from the pastor to his people or from the people to their pastor can transform the spirit of an entire congregation. There are times when reproof must be given, but let us be gracious and encourage one another more frequently!

Prayer

The assurance of prayer is another edifying and encouraging component. The apostle freely practiced this ministry and set before us a good example. Read his prayer for the saints at Philippi (Phil. 1:8–11) and for those at Colosse (Col. 1:9–11). Many other prayers are included in these and others of his epistles.

It is comforting to know that men and women of God are praying for us. The major impact of prayer, however, is not a mere psychological comfort, but the power of God that is brought to bear upon us as we claim His promises and continue faithfully in prayer. Brethren, let us pray for one another.

Cleansing

The saints need cleansing. Too frequently we fall into disobedience in some matter that affects our own testimony and that of the entire church. It may be a harsh, critical spirit; companionship that is unworthy; dress that is improper; or a levity and boisterousness that is of the world.

Too frequently when some saint falls into such sin, others begin to gossip instead of pray; they talk to everyone except the erring brother to whom they should go. Thus the saint who needs help is neglected, and the others suffer for their disobedience.

Galatians 6:1 commands, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” We need to exercise that grace toward each other and to give and accept such exhortations to godliness. “Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). The Scripture itself is given “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). If we use God’s Word faithfully and skillfully, the saints will be built up in the faith.

These points are summarized in 1 Corinthians 14:3: “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” It is the will of God that His children should not only be born, but should also grow up. We are to desire the milk of the Word that we may grow (1 Pet. 2:2). We are not to remain as children; we are to grow up (Eph. 4:11–16).

May the Lord increase our desire to hear the cry of spiritual babes in our churches as well as upon the mission fields. But may He spare us from satisfaction with anything less than the obedience and growth of those babes in Christ. We are as responsible to nurture them in Christ as we were responsible to witness to them about Christ.

Glorify the Savior

The glorifying of God is the highest pinnacle of human privilege and responsibility. As humans, we are not likely to consider it so. Things that affect our destiny or our comfort and happiness too often take precedence in our thinking. But the Bible is emphatic on this subject.

Conduct

Our conduct is to be governed by a desire to glorify God. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). Our actions are not to be governed by what we think is to our best advantage, but by a responsibility to act for God’s glory. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Many problems in the business and social life of Christians would be quickly settled by this principle. Many professing Christians argue about smoking, theaters, worldly companions, and other similar things. They give this feeble defense: “I can’t see anything wrong about it.” That is negative and wholly inadequate. Is there anything right about it? Will the thing under consideration glorify God? That must be the basis of decision for the spiritual person.

The same principle applies to the decisions of the church. In the calling of a pastor, the election of officers, the disciplining of members, the spending of money, the appraising of a man’s ministry, the fellowshipping with other groups, the determining of a missionary responsibility—in all these things the principle must be, “Not my will, but Thine be done!” We should gladly determine, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Rarely have any of us seen churches quarreling unless one or both parties to the quarrel has forsaken the desire to glorify God. Self-will is the stuff from which strife is made.

Confession

Our confession of Christ and His worthiness should bring glory to Him constantly. This is God’s will for all ages, including the present (Eph. 3:21).

We are to acknowledge His authority over us in our preaching, prayer, singing, and in all of our attitudes. We are to preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord (2 Cor. 4:5).

Our testimony should give glory to the Savior as we confess Him before others. All before whom we live should be made conscious of His great power. They should be made to realize that as Christians we are what we are by the grace of God. The very purpose of the church’s existence is “that we should be to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12).

Herod accepted the worship of the people who cried, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory” (Acts 12:22, 23). Contrast the Christ-honoring testimony of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:8–15.

Worship

Worship is the climax of all Christian activity. It is the most neglected part of ministry. Preaching is vital. It brings blessing and salvation to individuals. Meditation and study are essential for our own growth. Prayer, with intercession and petition, is basic for victory and provision of daily needs. But worship glorifies God. It does not center in what He does for us or what we need. Mankind is forgotten and the Lord is exalted. Worship focuses on Who God is and His holiness, glory, power, wisdom, love, and mercy.

Examine some Biblical examples of worship. Read Psalm 95:1– 7a, Jude 24 and 25, and Revelation 4:10 and 11. For a few commands and instructions, see Matthew 4:10, John 4:23 and 24, and Philippians 3:3.

Worship is not formalism, nor is it produced by thick carpets, soft music, and stained-glass windows. (However, it is not hindered by these things.) Worship springs from redeemed hearts that are overwhelmed with the greatness of our God. We should worship more frequently, alone and in public services.

The primary motive of God in the salvation of mankind is the glory of Christ, not of people! He is now the Head of a new creation (Rev. 3:14). He is the Firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). This is the place of honor. He is the One Who inherits the authority and the power.

Let us constantly acknowledge, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.”


Paul R. Jackson (1903–1969) served as pastor of Regular Baptist churches in California and Michigan, president of Baptist Bible Seminary, and National Representative of the GARBC. This article is an excerpt from his classic book The Doctrine and Administration of the Church, published by Regular Baptist Books, now in its third edition.

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