Building Blocks of the Church of Christ (5)
The Mission and Function of the Church
Kenneth D. Sils
As Jesus was passing through Jericho, according to Luke, a grand gathering thronged the Son of God. One interested person in the crowd, Zacchaeus, was so deter-mined to see Jesus, he climbed up into a sycamore tree just to get a look at his Lord. When Jesus came to the tree, he told Zacchaeus to come down for he intended to eat at his house that day. Zacchaeus was ecstatic and poured his heart out to Jesus, proving his determination to turn from all sinful activities. The multitude wasn't impressed by seeing Jesus associate with such a sinful person as Zacchaeus and murmured against him in Luke 19:7 saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner." How spiritually blind this multitude was! Little did they realize the mission that Jesus had from his Father. Jesus then reminded them that Zacchaeus was also a son of promise, being from the lineage of Abraham, just as they were children of Abraham. The mission of Christ was made very clear when he said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
Many of the unseemly characters that surrounded Jesus were, at one time, involved in some base behavior. These sinners were not the kind of people that governments would select as their good will ambassadors. Jesus ate with tax collectors, harlots, and thieves. Jesus forgave a woman who supposedly was caught in the act of adultery and told her to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). He allowed a sinful woman to wash his feet with her tears while at the same time telling the teachers of the law that she loved God more than they did. Jesus came to take all penitent sinners under his wings. Isaiah 53:5 said of Jesus that, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." Jesus came to earth for only one purpose: to seek and to save those who were separated from God because of sin. He was anointed to be man's salvation, so he concentrated each day on his heavenly mission. What a wonderful Savior!
As a result of this effort from Jesus, the church of Christ was established and grew in the first century. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28 to ". . . shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." Jesus purchased this called out group, the church, with his blood. He died to save these elders from their sins. He died so his elect, the church, could have a relationship with God. As a result, the main function of his church was to take this message of salvation to a lost and dying world. The apostles of Jesus understood this mission from the great commission Jesus gave recorded for us in Matthew 28:18-20, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. "The apostles' commission was the same: to seek and save the lost.
Friends, is this what we observe today from churches across our fruited plain? When was the last time you have heard a preacher on TV persuade people to obey all the commands Jesus taught in the New Testament in order to be saved from sin? Does tele-evangelism major in the doctrine of repentance, confessing Christ before men, or even baptism? No! Jesus made it very clear in his great commission that teachers of the gospel must preach baptism in order for one to be a disciple of Jesus, yet most "churches" shy away from the necessity of baptism like a cat would water. There seems to be 1001 different ways, methods and practices for discipleship into the churches of men. Yet, Jesus never authored a "Burger King" salvation which is the philosophy of "have it your way" religion.
The New Testament does not teach that salvation from sin is based on one's emotions or experiences, but it is based on truth. The apostle Paul told Christians in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation." The apostles of Jesus had the same mission that Jesus had. They went out from Jerusalem "seeking and saving the lost" with the message of the gospel of Christ. Acts 5:42 says, "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that Jesus was the Christ." As a result of their preaching, people were saved through baptism, becoming Christians. As the church grew and persecutions from the world became more pressing, Acts 8:4 shows, "those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word."
The church of Christ in the first century and today has the same mission; to preach the word, the gospel, which can save the soul of man" (James 1:21). The functions of the church of Christ encompass its mission. In the first century, the church grew at an enormous rate because it taught and applied the soul saving message of the gospel. Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us the church functioned with various offices of leadership, "for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." The church of Christ needs only the teaching of the gospel to be built up in spiritual strength. Peter told Christians in 1 Peter 2:2 to, "desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby." Members of the church helped "newborn babes" in Christ gain spiritual maturity through the teaching of the apostles. In this way, the church continued to add, develop, and mature as Christians, not as modern denominationalists.
The Hebrew writer told Christians to "consider one an-other in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Heb. 10:24-25). Worshiping God in a public assembly on the first day of the week is another way commanded by God to build up each person in the faith. In Acts 20:7, Christians gathered on the first day of the week to break bread and hear preaching from God's Word. When is the last time you heard this godly command demanded from a preacher on TV or from some denominational pulpit? For a church to function as the church of Christ functioned, it must apply only God's teaching for godly knowledge and assemble each first day of week for "spiritual" edification.
Did you know that the church of Christ never focused on changing the physical problems of the world? It set out to call men back to God and to take care of its own needs. The funds that were collected on the first day of the week were for the purpose of supporting gospel preachers and taking care of the needs of the church (Phil. 4:15; Rom. 15:26). The church of Christ does not concern itself with fulfilling the recreational, social, or political desires of man. The true church of Christ doesn't set up a table of chicken which encourages men to fill their bellies, but sets up the bread of life, Jesus Christ, by encouraging people to spiritually feast upon his salvation. The church of Christ has no scriptural endorsement to use swimming pools, gymnasiums, social services, meals, bowling alleys, hospitals, summer camps, bus ministries, or other social enticements to the physical side of men to capture disciples. The church of our Lord functions around the life saving mission of Jesus and acts only in accord to the commands, examples, and necessary inferences drawn from the New Covenant of Christ with man.
Let us not forget whom Jesus prayed for before he went to the cross in John 17:20. He prayed, ". . . for those who will believe in me through their word." The church of Christ is unified. It is busy at the business of saving souls through God's ordained tool, the preaching of the gospel of Christ. As a result, men and women today can find rest for their souls and grow spiritually through its teaching. This is not what we find in mainstream religion today. My challenge to you is to find a group who still respects the mission and function of the church of Christ, adhering to the authority of the gospel for all their actions. Paul reminded the Christians in Ephesus that, "Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body" (Eph. 5:23). If you want food, fun, and frolic, denominational bodies will slobber all over you for a generous offering. If you want what Zacchaeus wanted, the salvation of one's soul from sin, look for the body of Christ, the church of Christ.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 23, p. 10-11