The Purpose of the Church Starts With the Purpose of Creation
What is the church? Why does it exist? What is its purpose? These questions are best answered by first examining what God’s plan and purpose is for creating the universe. Why did God create everything?
• All things were created by him and for him (Colossians1:16)
• The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm19:1)
• God’s invisible qualities, eternal power and divine nature are seen through creation (Romans1:20)
God Created Everything to Display His Glory
What is God’s glory? God’s “Glory” is when His character and attributes go on display.
His Character and Attributes Include:
All of these attributes are displayed most clearly at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Cross of Christ is one of the clearest expressions of the fullness of God’s character in one event. God’s glory is most clearly seen in the gospel
God Has Chosen the Church to Be the Revealers of His Glory (The Gospel)
How does God plan to get this message of the Cross of Christ out?
“So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 3:10)
It’s important to know that the church does not refer to a building or a place. The church is the universal group of people consisting of every believer in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Once you submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ and put your faith in Him you are engrafted into the church (Acts 2:41, 47). It’s also important to know that though there is one universal church which includes all of the believers around the world, there are also other “sub-churches” underneath that universal umbrella. Paul would write his letters to “the church of God in Corinth”, making a distinction between that church and a church in another city. We even find multiple churches within a single city when Paul writes to the “to the churches (plural) in Galatia”. And even on a smaller scale, he writes to Philemon and “the church that [met] in [his] home”.
The word translated “church” in our English bibles is the Greek word “ekklēsia” which is a feminine noun meaning “the called out ones”. Thayer’s Bible Dictionary defines the church as “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly”1. We are called out from the world, into a gathering of people saved and sanctified by the blood of Jesus. This group of called out ones is referred to in the New Testament as the church, the body, the elect, the believers, the brethren, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, golden candlesticks, God’s building… and the list goes on. We are given pictures of what the church looks like through things that God has created.
NT images of the church:
Other than the imagery of word pictures, the bible also tells us in various places things that were expected of the church. For example…
The Church is the Organization God Established to:
• Matthew 28:18-20: Make disciples
• Matthew 24:14: Preach the gospel (make His glory known) to all nations before His return
• Colossians 1:24: Be Christ’s body
• 1 Timothy 3:15: Be the pillar and foundation of truth
The bible also clearly lays out an organizational structure with leaders and laity in the church. The church is an organization containing Saints, Deacons and Elders:
Saints comprise of every believer of the gospel. Saints are to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12) by making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them (Matthew 28:18-20), and exercising spiritual gifts to serve others (Romans 12:6; 1 Cor. 14:1, 12; 1 Peter 4:10).
Every Christian is a Saint.
Deacons are expected to handle the everyday needs of the local church they represent so that the elders can give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.
Simply put: saints are called to do ministry (service) in the world, while elders and deacons are called to do ministry in the church.
Submission to Church Leadership
We believe that submission to church elders is a biblical command, according to Hebrews 13:17
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
The purpose of this command is so that:
• The congregation would be taken care of (“for they watch out for your souls”)
• The elders know who they are accountable for (“…as those who must give an account”)
• The elders’ leadership is joyful, and not burdensome (“…let them do so with joy and not with grief”)
• The congregation would profit (“…for that would be unprofitable for you [if you do not obey and submit]”)
This simply means that we are not to rebel or cause disunity in the church. This does not mean that elders can dictate every aspect of a Christian’s life. Church elders have no authority except that which the bible explicitly commands. We believe that a Christian’s submission and obedience is first and foremost to God Himself as written in His word and directed by the Holy Spirit. Submission to church leadership is only in honor of their primary submission and obedience to Christ Himself; therefore no Christian is bound to obey or submit to church leadership in things that God has directed otherwise.