What on earth is the Church for?
WHAT ON EARTH IS THE CHURCH FOR? Ephesians 5:1-21
Why hasn’t the LORD taken us to Heaven already?
Why doesn’t the LORD – as soon as we become CHRISTians, instantly transfer us to be with HIM – away from this world? When things feel tough we may wish for it!
But GOD hasn’t because HE has a plan and a purpose for us to remain here – for the church to remain until the LORD appears and calls for us!
So what is that plan and purpose? What On Earth Is The Church For?
- One important thing to do is try to get out of our thinking that the church is a building or a place to go.
If we can try to think along the lines of the Bible about the church – then we can get to the real heart of the matter.
Church means a gathering, an assembly or congregation.
Literally it means ‘out call’ – people called out for a specific reason – a distinct body of people.
The Christian Church is people who are CHRISTians – it is the congregation, the body, the assembly of saved people.
In the Bible, never is the word ‘church’ used for a building – it always refers to the people either when they are actually gathered – or CHRISTians in general – even when they are not gathered, they are still part of the church local or the church worldwide!
The NT has teaching on the Church as a whole – that’s all true CHRISTians anywhere in the world and in Heaven – that’s the big picture.
It also has teaching on the concept of the local church – which is what we are – a local church – a church that meets in this locality – a particular fellowship or local church who learn, praise and serve in a committed relationship to each other.
The Local Church is to be a Bible Centred Community:
Writing to the local church at Colossae – the church that met in Philemon’s home, the Apostle teaches them:
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
The local church community needs to be Bible rich.
It needs to be Bible shaped and Bible thinking.
ALL THE BIBLE IS SCRIPTURE & IT’S ALL USEFUL:
As the Apostle Paul was writing to his colleague Timothy, the OT was long completed but the NT was still being written.
So when he wrote, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful in 2 Tim 3:16, he must have been referring the OT primarily. It is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
But it’s also clear that Apostles considered what we now call the NT to also be Scripture… there’s a revealing passage where Peter refers to Paul’s letters – as Scripture…
2 Peter 3:14-16 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom that God gave him.16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
So we can clearly see that the Bible – still being written – was central to the living, thinking and activity of the church back then.
And now, the 39 books of the OT and the 27 books of the NT – the Scripture – the Word of GOD – the Bible should be what shapes and moulds what we believe and practice.
Taught Congregation: naturally leading from the first point – it’s logical that we should be big on Bible teaching:
Matt 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The words of JESUS were recorded for us, by the Apostles and we have them in the Bible – and then we have the further teaching from the Apostles – again written in the Bible. So to fulfil the instruction of the LORD, we need to be big on teaching.
It’s a big responsibility to be a teacher: an overseer [church leader], it’s a noble task… the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…
Titus was instructed – 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
Back in Colossians 3: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Some people are the designated teachers – but we all need to be oozing Bible to each other in conversation and in our praising.
Learning: If a church is a Bible taught community it must be a Bible learning community!
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Learning takes effort – growing in knowledge takes mental and emotion engagement. For listening it’s all up to the teacher. For learning its part preacher and part listener – you learn when you are listening in active engagement with the teacher. You listen in a different way to just listening!
This why I’ve been encouraging you ask questions – to engage with the preaching – and to ask, “What did you mean?” or “How can I put that into action in my life?” That leads us on to practicing.
Practicing: The church should be a practicing community.
“You can’t trust Doctors or Dentists – they never seem to be qualified, they are always ‘practicing’! Mind you they have a lot of ‘patients’.”
Well in the church, GOD has the most patience and we need to do thepracticing!
Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers…9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.
We need to help each other with learning and to help each other to practice what we’re taught.
To be a Bible-centred Community means to be a CHRIST-centred Community:
Heb 12:1-2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
A church is where the LORD is learned about and also experienced – we’re not simply about practising religious activity – we have been brought into a relationship with each other through the ultimate relationship with the LORD Himself – it’s about knowing JESUS.
And the goal of our learning is to know GOD and to be more like JESUS!
Ephesians 3:17-21 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.
The LORD promised that when we meet – even just a few of us, HE is here – by HIS SPIRIT – HE’s always everywhere – but HE’s especially with his gathered people!
AND IN THIS BIBLE-RICH, CHRIST-CENTRED, PRACTICE-PUTTING atmosphere – In this WE really GROW AS CHRISTIANS:
Like a Garden, with the right rich nutrients – we have the Bible;
like a well positioned patch we have the warm sunshine and water – a church that is focussed on knowing the LORD, Christ-centred;
like a garden that is orderly where the weeds are kept at bay and flowers and fruit can flourish – a church that encourages loving godly practice and action – THIS IS THE ENVIRONMENT FOR DEEP AND LIFE-CHANGING SPIRITUAL GROWTH!
Eph 4:15-16 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The Church is the Family: Gal 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
The church needs to be a Family with that dedication to each other and deep mutual respect…
1 Tim 5:1-3 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. 3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.
However big a church gets – we must strive to express this Family feel. We’re not an institution – we are not a hierarchal organisation – we are GOD’s Family – the part of it that is committed to each other in this particular locality.
Romans 12:9-13 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
The church is a Led Community: [not lead as in heavy!!]
Just as Families need a lead and some boundaries – so the church Family is a led community.
Ultimately, JESUS is our leader – and HE leads us through the Bible with the help of the HOLY SPIRIT –
But to understand the Bible – and to have living examples and to care and guide us, GOD provides Pastors & Teachers – Elders to help us.
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
He provides Deacons and others with specific gifts to help facilitate and organise the functioning of the church.
It really should be Every Member Functioning… Romans 12:4-8 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us…
We need to get into the very heart of our thinking that we all have something to offer – to contribute to the Family life of a local church.
- How do you join the church?
THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY that you can only be truly part of through a miracle. You become part of the church supernaturally! You must be born again…
We sometimes say to people – “We are not here to get you to join a church…” In terms of simply getting numbers up – that’s not what we’re about.
Repent & Believe; come to CHRIST and you’ll also be joined to GOD’s people!
WHAT ON EARTH IS THE CHURCH FOR?
It is GOD’s Family on earth – it is comprised of forgiven sinners – people who are saved – born again and with the promise that one day they’ll worship and serve GOD in a perfect Heavenly state.
Why are we still here?
- To learn and grow – to get to know GOD. If so we’ll be a thankful and praising community!
- To become more and more like JESUS.
- To support each other – to be a family group making our pilgrim’s progress through life together.
- To pursue the goal of seeing other become CHRISTians – to make disciples of all nations!
If we are a Bible rich, CHRIST-centred and keen on practice – then we’ll be an outreaching community!
Are you part of it? Repent and believe.
You are part of it! Great – Be encouraged with this reminder of what you’re part of!
Have you found your niche of service? Let’s talk about it.