The All-Sufficient Mission Of The Church
In previous articles we have learned that the Lord Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior; that the Bible is an all-sufficient Book; and that the worship prescribed in the New Testament is an all-sufficient order of worship. We now begin a study of the all-sufficient church. We intend at least four articles on this them.
All rational beings act from motive. God is a rational Being. The Church resulted from the purpose and action of God. Therefore the church was built for a purpose. The Bible declares that the scheme of human redemption originated in the mind of God before the worlds were founded. The church was built for a purpose, since the church is a part of the plan for human redemption. In Ephesians 3:8-11, Paul says:
"Unto me (who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Notice that the passage speaks of God's "intent" and of His "purpose." The church was a part of God's plan; therefore He has "intent" and "purpose" for it. God's "intent" and "purpose" for the church therefore becomes the mission of the church. It is our duty to be active in working out God's intentions for His church, and in fulfilling his purposes for the church.
There was a time when people in general, and at least the members of the church, understood what the purposes (or mission) of the church are. However, within the last decade brethren have become reluctant to preach on the mission of the church. In fact, in our own time, brethren become just a bit jittery when a sermon is announced on the mission of the church. They feel that the preacher is about to speak on something upon which he should not he speaking. He is apt to cause some trouble in the church. Brethren we already have trouble in the church whenever the time comes that gospel preachers cannot speak what God's Word says concerning the mission and organization of the church without offending the members of the church! Yet the time is upon us.
The mission of the church is either revealed or unrevealed. If it is not revealed man has no obligation toward the discharge of this mission. If God's "purpose" for His church has not been made known, then, so far as man's responsibility toward this mission is concerned, the church has no specific mission. The church therefore may engage in any activity in which it chooses to participate, if the church's mission is not revealed. On the other hand, if God's intention for His church is made known, then it behooves man to stand still and to listen to the charge God has assigned to the body.
In succeeding articles we will present considerably more evidence to show what works God has assigned to His church. Articles to follow deal specifically with the capability of the church to discharge every point in her specified mission. Consequently, in this article, we will consider only Ephesians 4:11, 12 as seating the mission God has for His church.
"And he have some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ."
Though other passages elucidate upon the three-fold mission of the church, Eph. 4:11, 12 embraces every function God has assigned to the body. The church has the responsibility to (1) Perfect the saints - the work of self-edification; (2) Engage in the work of ministering- the work of benevolence; (3) Build up the body - the work of evangelism. These three points embrace every responsibility God has assigned to the church, except its privileges of worship. Strictly speaking, we may say that God has given the church but two tasks: (1 ) Preach the gospel - to those outside the church and to those inside the church (This embraces evangelism and edification) ; (2) Perform the benevolent work assigned to the church.
Unless someone can take the Bible and show us where God intended for His church to do something more than these two or three works, those of us who respect divine authorltv must stop right here. The church can only edify itself, preach the gospel, and relieve the needy saints by divine authority. We are here affirming that this is its all-sufficient mission.
In previous studies we learned that since the Bible is an all-sufficient Book, man must not add one word to it, or subtract one word from it. To do either is to sin. The order of worship likewise is all-sufficient. Therefore to add one item or to subtract one item is to sin. What does one commit who does more or less than what God has authorized? He commits the sin of presumption (Num. 15:30, 31). He is presuming to speak for God. He is taking to himself a prerogative belonging only to God. Man acts as God when he attempts to speak authoritatively in religious matters. Man may repeat the laws of God, but man cannot make or repeal laws for God.
The church is a kingdom belonging to the "dear Son" of God (Col. 1:13). The Son is "King" in the kingdom. A kingdom has but one king. A kingdom is a monarchy. One rules; the rest are subjects. A subject who undertakes to take the place of the king is an insurrectionist, and must answer to the king for rebellion. The subject in the kingdom of God who presumes to speak in behalf of the King to assign to His kingdom works which he never assigned to it is an insurrectionist, a subject who refuses to be subject, and is one who must answer to the King of kings.
The church also is a body (Eph. 1 :22, 23; Col. 1:18). These same passages state that Christ is the Head of this body. A body can have but one head. Authority to control and to regulate abides in but one place - i.e., the Head. When a member of the body ceases to function in response to the decree of the head, anarchy prevails in that body. When a member acts without direction from the head, insanity has taken control. in the spiritual body, no member as the right to act without divine commission to do so. "All authority" belongs to Christ as Head.
Christ the King, the Head, having commissioned His Kingdom or Body to act in the above given realms, no one has the authority to reduce the sphere of the church's activity. None can relieve the church of responsibility in the realms of edification, evangelism and benevolence. Only the King can repeal one of His laws. This He has not seen reason so to do. On the other hand, none except the King can authorize activity in the kingdom. His authorization has been limited to the realms of edification, evangelism and benevolence. Therefore when the church begins to act in additional fields, she does so without the authority of the King. Someone has attempted to take His place. Additional activities are added to the program of the church by the same usurped authority as that by which additional words can be added to the Bible, or additional acts can be added to the worship.
In the discharge of the mission of the church, money is needed. The Lord knew this. So He provided for a weekly contribution to be made that this mission might be performed. Since there is no authority for the church to act in any other field other than edification, evangelism, and benevolence, any bit of money that is spent by the church should be classified under one of these headings. It would most interesting to see the elders of some churches attempt to break the budget of these churches down into only these three classifications. These elders would find themselves with quite a chore when it came to classifying some of the items for which they spend the money given to do the divinely assigned works.
For example, where would one classify money spent for a Christmas tree? Benevolence? Evangelism? Edification? Yet I know some elders who are going to have to explain this purchase to the Lord. Under which heading would the kitchen go? Benevolence? The kitchens I have known of have not been used to feed the needy saints. Instead, most kitchens operated by churches are used to feed the fat saints. Where would communitv picnic tables be classified? Baseball bats, gloves, suits? Where would they put gymnasiums, hobby shops, church parties, greased-pig chases, boy scout troops, educational institutions, homemaking classes, and half a thousand other similar things? Brethren who permit money given for the work of the church to be used for purposes such as these mentioned had better get their budget classified, for one of these days the Lord is going to ask by whose authority these things are done. If these brethren intend to reply to the Lord "By your authority!" they had better get some plausible arguments ready. I feel they are in for quite a task when they attempt to explain these things to the King.
The mission of the Lord's church, like the Lord's Word, is completely sufficient, My word "shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it," God declares. It may not accomplish every thing that man might like to see accomplished, but the Bible alone will accomplish everything God intended his Word accomplish. And when the church has discharged her divinely given mission, there likely yet will be many things of a humanitarian and philanthropic nature left undone that many men might like to see done. However, the church will have accomplished all God intended she accomplish. Our purpose, as the church is to fulfill the intentions and purposes of God; not the intentions and purposes of ourselves. We are subjects; not Kings!
The mission of the church is all-sufficient. Therefore we must not add one act to this mission, or omit one act from it.
"Whatever God touches, be it a mighty sun or in insect's wing, a vast prophecy or a little type, He perfects for the place and the purpose He has in mind.- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, pg. 3029.
Truth Magazine IV:8, pp. 1-3