The Purpose of the Church

The late John Robbins wrote:

Contemporary popular theology and practice, including the doctrine and practice of the church, is a confused and unbiblical mess. To quote Augustine and Calvin, many sheep are without and many wolves are within the churches. The confusion can only be eliminated by studying the Scripture. It is the Bible and the Bible alone that furnishes us with the information we need for a correct understanding of the church. Tradition, history, the needs of men and women, and the ideas of men are simply irrelevant to the doctrine of the church. The Bible alone is the source of our information about the purpose and the organization of the church. A reading of what the New Testament has to say about the purpose and organization of the church quickly leads one to the conclusion that most of those societies that pass for churches today are not churches at all.

What is the purpose of the church? Is it to induce a feeling of awe and dependence in worshippers? A warm glow of fellowship? Is it to re-enact the Gospel or the sacrifice of Calvary? Is it to appeal to the whole person’? Is it to do good works? Is it to be a social action, anti-abortion, antiwar, and anti-poverty organizing center? If once we understand what the purpose of the church is, all the rest of the doctrine of the church falls neatly into place. But if we do not know what the purpose of the church is, then we cannot understand how the church is to be organized and operated.

The purpose of the church is really quite simple: education in the truth. All its activities are to be educational activities, and all its education is to be education in the truth. In his first letter to Timothy (3:15), Paul stated his purpose in writing: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Granted that truth is propositional and therefore must be communicated by language, granted that truth is the propositions of the Bible and their logical implications, and granted that the purpose of the church is the propagation of the truth, several things follow: Virtually all non-educational functions, whether they be charitable,* political, social, ceremonial, ritual, aesthetic, or economic are not proper functions of the church. The church’s principal and essential job is education in the truth, and the only source of truth is the Bible.

*To keep charitable activities from interfering with the purpose of the church, Paul wrote 1 Timothy 5:4-16. In verse 11 he commands that some widows be denied charity; in verse 17 he commands that competent teachers be paid well.

I have rarely read anything more refreshing or relevant, and this article was written in 1989. I pray that God would use clear teaching like this to sweep away the systems that rise in pretended grandeur against the Word of Truth. The Church of Jesus Christ is an educational institution. It is meant to teach the TRUTH. Where is one to find truth? The Scriptures alone are sufficient for teaching truth.

In the weeks to come we will continue to examine the doctrine, purpose, and practices of the Church.

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One Response to The Purpose of the Church

  1. michael says:

    I would add a couple of things to this education of the Truth about the purpose of the Church being laid out in that article written in 1989 by the late John Robbins.

    Recently, say within the last year, I discovered I can download an app on my IPhone so I can listen to the Bible audibly.

    I have since then been listening to the ESV version and have been utterly amazed how much more I hear now that I am doing this. Literally I have listened to the entire Bible all 66 books a dozen or so times now since January!

    Today is no different. Today I listened to great amounts of the Word. In the last hour I was listening to the Gospel of John and that portion that deals with “TRUTH”, at John 8:20-32.

    Building on that “Truth” that Jesus discussed there I would like to look at the book of Ephesians in a couple of places that also reveals the purpose of the Church in our generation; one place in chapter one and another place in chapter 3. From there I would quote a part from Hebrews and then from the book of the Psalms. This is to point to “what” work it is the Church in one accord is called to do together once the “Truth” has set an individual member free from the world to join in purpose of the Church in one accord.

    In Ephesians chapter one we read this:

    Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
    Eph 1:8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
    Eph 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
    Eph 1:10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

    In chapter three we read this:

    Eph 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
    Eph 3:9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,
    Eph 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
    Eph 3:11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
    Eph 3:12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

    Once you realize the point and purpose of the Church there in chapter one of Ephesians, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, chapter three kind of makes it plain in that we do not fight flesh and blood, something people are doing a lot of these days, instead we are to manifest our collective efforts towards manifesting the manifold wisdom of God to rulers and authorities in heavenly places and that according to the eternal purpose God has assigned to the Church!

    I know it is hard for some to believe that Sweet Jesus ain’t so sweet when it comes to the devils, Satan in particular; the same fate awaits them all as we see in these verses:

    Heb 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
    Heb 2:15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

    Psa 143:11 For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
    Psa 143:12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.

    The manifold wisdom of God in our day can be summed up this way as it was in their day:

    Psa 149:6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
    Psa 149:7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,
    Psa 149:8 to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
    Psa 149:9 to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!

    Our King, Jesus Christ the Lord, was manifested to destroy Satan, too, and He will also destroy all of the adversaries of our soul.

    For us to lift up praise continually in one accord with a clear mandate that comes to us from Heaven itself is the Eternal Purpose of God that is to be executed upon the world as His judgment written and it is an honor for us as well! And as the Head of the Body so the Body as well should conform to used by Him to bring judgment upon this world:

    Joh_8:26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”

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