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.