The Purpose of the Church

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: I Timothy 3:14-16


I.         Have you paused to consider why the church exists?

            A.        It appears to me that many of the problems faced by congregations stem from a lack of understanding the purpose of the church

            B.        I looked at material from various denominations.

                        1.         One, after getting a number of things right, declared that it was the duty of the church to care for orphans and widows, based on James 1:27. Thus they concluded that the church exists to care for the needy.

                        2.         Another declares that the church exists to give glory to God. Other works, such as evangelism, are just minor side issues.

                        3.         Yet another says the purpose is to edify its members.

                        4.         But another said, “If a fraction of the money that is spent on new church buildings were spent on helping the poor, the elderly, widows and orphans, drug addicts and the homeless; then there would be no need for community outreach programs to do the job the church should be doing. Reading, studying and talking about the Bible is all well and good, but without active works of charity; it is all vanity. A church needs to reach out and help the poor and needy in their community, not sit in their plush pews once a week and pat themselves on the back for having the nicest building in town. What is the purpose of having a church if it is not to provide a place of help, rest, resources and hope for those who are hurting, suffering, addicted and at their wits end?”

                        5.         And it is clear to me that many view their churches as societal clubs which cater to the wants of its members – thus providing gyms, fitness centers, day care, and other services.

            C.        This mixed view of the church affects us as well. We end up losing sight of why Christ built his church.

II.        Before we can establish the purpose of the church, we must define what it is.

            A.        Some of the misconceptions regarding the church comes from a very loose concept of exactly what the church is.

            B.        It is called by a variety of names

                        1.         Most translations use the word “church” to translated the Greek word ekklesia. That word simply means “the assembly.” Or, a group of people who come together to meet.

                                    a.         The English word “church” actually derives from a different Greek word, kuriakos, which means “belonging to the Lord.” But that word has come to apply to the assembly that belongs to the Lord.

                                    b.         That is why the church is sometimes referred to as the “called out” - I Peter 2:9

                                                (1)       This is the assembly of people called out of sin and into salvation.

                        2.         It is referred to as a kingdom - Colossians 1:13-14

                                    a.         This emphasizes that Christ is our king, our Lord - Ephesians 1:19-23

                                    b.         And we as citizens in that kingdom - Ephesians 2:19

                        3.         It is a body - Colossians 1:18

                                    a.         The emphasis here is that Christ is in control and is most important

                                    b.         We are members – each unique, fulfilling different roles, yet at the same time working in harmony - I Corinthians 12:12-14

                        4.         It is a household - I Timothy 3:14-15

                                    a.         God is the Father of the house - Ephesians 3:14-15

                                    b.         Christ is the firstborn Son - Romans 8:29

                                    c.         We are God’s children, who will receive an inheritance - Romans 8:16-17

            C.        It is spoken of as all the saints of all the times, throughout the world - Hebrews 12:23

            D.        And it can be applied to an assembly of Christians in a given location - I Corinthians 1:2

            E.        But the individual Christian is not a church. He is only a part of the church. The church itself is something different from the individual

                        1.         Seen in the difference in handling problems - Matthew 18:15-17

                        2.         Seen in the difference in handling the needy - I Timothy 5:16

                        3.         Many of the mistakes concerning the purpose of the church is seen when people apply an individual’s duties to the church’s duties.

III.       Why the church was established - Matthew 16:18

            A.        Gates are fortifications to keep the enemy out.

                        1.         The kingdom of death (hades) is portrayed as the besieged city.

                        2.         This is the world under the sway of Satan

                        3.         The gates of this world cannot keep the church out

            B.        Thus, the purpose of the church is to break through the defenses of the world and to conquer it - Revelation 12:10-11

            C.        That is why you see imagery of warfare being used - Ephesians 6:10-18

                        1.         While we defend ourselves from the attacks of the enemy, we are not the defenders but the attackers!

                        2.         The enemy is trying to take us down, to keep us from making inroads into what he considers to be his territory

                        3.         That is why we have to remain on alert - I Thessalonians 5:6-8

                        4.         We have to be always ready - Romans 13:11-14

                        5.         Prepared for a hard life - II Timothy 2:3-4

            D.        We can see this in the first century

            E.        Sadly, I see many doing all they can to avoid battle. They don’t want to engage the enemy - I Timothy 6:11-14

IV.      The church exists to uphold the truth - I Timothy 3:15

            A.        It is the foundation from which truth is put on display.

            B.        Much of the work of the church revolves around this. Its purpose is to make God’s wisdom known - Ephesians 3:10-11

                        1.         It spreads the truth - I Thessalonians 1:8

                        2.         Victory in spreading knowledge - II Corinthians 2:14-17

                        3.         They were so effective that it was spread to all the world - Colossians 1:5-6

            C.        It gives financial support to Christians dedicated to teaching the truth - Philippians 4:15-17; II Corinthians 11:8

            D.        It teaches its members so that they are grounded in the truth - Ephesians 4:11-16

                        1.         Each of the duties given by Christ is geared toward this end

                        2.         Too often people view elders as people who run the church, but they miss the purpose – Acts 20:28

                                    a.         It is the idea of feeding through shepherding – seeing that they have the right pastures available, protecting the sheep from harm, keeping sheep from wandering off into danger.

                                    b.         What most people want elders to do is specifically forbidden - I Peter 5:1-4

                        3.         The goal of teaching is to pass it on - II Timothy 2:2

                        4.         The grounding is necessary for the spreading - Colossians 1:23

                                    a.         Everything geared to building Christians up - II Corinthians 12:19

                                    b.         Authority to teach - II Corinthians 10:8; 13:10

            E.        Back in the days of spiritual gifts, prophecy – the teaching of God’s thoughts was more important that speaking in another language - I Corinthians 14:2-4

                        1.         Tongues were only useful if they promoted learning - I Corinthians 14:5-6

            F.        In its worship, the focus is teaching

                        1.         Understanding is essential - I Corinthians 14:14-19

                        2.         When we assemble it is for the purpose of edification - I Corinthians 14:26

                        3.         It is shown, for example in songs - Ephesians 5:17-19; Colossians 3:16

                        4.         That is why the assemblies are so important - Hebrews 10:23-25

V.        The church is not

            A.        It is not here for entertainment

            B.        It is not a social club

                        1.         It is NOT eating and drinking - Romans 14:17

                        2.         That is a home duty, not a role of the church - I Corinthians 11:22, 34

                        3.         Foods don’t benefit people - Hebrews 13:9

            C.        It is not here to relieve world hunger or eliminate poverty

            D.        It is not here to serve man - Romans 16:17-19

VI.      Why are we here? What is our purpose as a church?

            A.        If we don’t keep our duty in mind, we will lose the battle.

            B.        You know, if the church got back to its business

                        1.         We would be exposing false religions with a fervor that would make neighbors sit up and take notice

                        2.         The number of studies and baptisms would dramatically rise

                        3.         There would be less grumbling and finger pointing because we would be too busy

                        4.         There would be more unity and harmony as we pulled together to support each other in the work

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