By Irven Lee
It is generally recognized that the great commission, assignment, or mission the Lord has for His faithful followers is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. People who accept the gospel are saved and counted children of God (Acts 2:41,47; 1 Jn. 3:1-3). All those who gladly receive the word are added to the church. Those who do not obey the gospel are to receive the fiery vengeance of God (2 Thess. 1:6-10).
When the whole counsel is preached, the babes in Christ are edified and led to observe all things Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). Take a moment to consider what faithful proclamation of the word does. It leads aliens to believe and obey the basic first principles, and it then leads to the training of these same people to become elders, preachers, teachers, and other useful members of the church. The church is the house or family of God (Eph. 3:15; 1 Tim. 3:15). The preaching of the whole counsel of God is directly related to the growth in spiritual strength. The brethren at Ephesus were told that the church, which is an indication of the many sided wisdom of God, is here according to His eternal purpose. The world was to understand that Gentiles, as well as Jews, were members of the same body (church), and thus they were fellow heirs and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel. Paul wrote about the church and the promise in Christ to saints who are builded together in this temple which is for a habitation of God (Eph. 2:14-3:12).
The body of Christ, the church Christ purchased with His own blood, the household of faith, the kingdom of heaven, which is mentioned so often in Matthew’s account, are all the same church of the firstborn which make up the heavenly Jerusalem which is the city of the living God. If this great body of redeemed ones is not important, then Christ died in vain and we are yet in our sins. We should preach the same great message about which the holy apostles and prophets preached and wrote so much. If we speak as the oracles of God, we will preach about this pearl of great price. The preaching which pleases God leads men to become stones in this holy temple, citizens of this kingdom, children in this family, and heirs of His exceeding great and precious promises. These people are the church.
If we believe in Christ as the Son of the living God, we will want to be under Him as our King. He is the head of the church. He paid the price to purchase it, and He is the Captain of this army of the Lord. If the church is not very important, the position of Christ as head of it is not very important. If a man should write a book about Ronald Reagan, the story of that life would not be complete without telling of his becoming President. We cannot preach Christ and Him crucified without telling of the church which He purchased with His blood. Some talk of preaching the man and not the plan. This is impossible because the man (Christ) is inseparably related to the plan (church). Men should be so well taught that they can discern between the Lord’s church and some counterfeit. There are scriptural terms we can use to identify it, so why use human names unless to signify that there have been significant changes from the original pattern? The worship, the government under elders, the high moral standards taught by Christ, and the mission of the church should not be changed. Proper and constant preaching should stamp this truth on every heart. It is His church under His authority and not ours to change at will.
The church is minimized by those who say that “the church is not going to save you.” It is true that the church is not going to save any one, but Christ is going to save the church (Eph. 5:23-27). The preaching and teaching done in any generation should make it plain to all that we are baptized into the body of Christ and that it is in Him that we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 1:3,7). There should be such bold emphasis on the significance of the church that people will understand that it is not just a social club or a civic club to play Santa Claus at Christmas and distribute alms in the community. It is an essential and very significant part of God’s plan.
If all preachers and teachers knew of God’s eternal purpose, and of Christ’s love for His body, there would be no need to insist that they teach the whole truth about the church. If weak preaching allows the denominational concepts to come in among us, digression and apostasy will come in, and there will be a new denomination meeting in the buildings where the churches once met. Consider the example of the Disciples or Christian church and our former brethren who are planning unity meetings together saying, “Peace! Peace!” Preach it straight or fall into the depths of ruin. Apostasy is always the changing of one or more things about His church. How can we prevent this except by faithful preaching of such things as the apostle taught?
We preach on the sin of alcoholism, the frightening danger from atheism, divorce, fornication, materialism, filthy communication, and other common sins lest the church of the Lord be defiled. The preaching is from a higher and more sacred motive than the motivation of “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,” even though they have high motives or good reason for their battle. The sins of the world tend to enter the lives of God’s children so servants of the Lord must teach, warn, reprove, and encourage, lest they reach the point at which they will no longer endure sound doctrine. We preach the facts, commands, worthy examples, and principles of righteousness found in the holy writings. The effort is to teach men how they ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 9, pp. 265-266
May 2, 1985