The Purpose of the Church - Part 2
GOD’S PURPOSE FOR THE CHURCH
Without a sense of purpose, life loses its meaning. Without a sense of purpose life becomes nothing more than just an endless series of unrelated activities. No rhyme or reason, no true sense of mission, no transcendent purpose. As a result many end up living only for the next paycheck, the next day off, the next vacation and ultimately retirement. Without an understanding that life has purpose, and if you do not discover that purpose and if you do not pursue that purpose you will come to the end of your days and regardless of what you have accomplished and what you may have accumulated, you will have wasted your life.
These same truths’s hold true for the Church. If the Church does not understand that God has brought the church into existence to accomplish a very specific purpose, then the life of a church will resemble an individual’s life without purpose. The life of the church that has lost it’s purpose, or maybe doesn’t from the Scriptures truly understand what God’s purpose for the church is will find itself performing a series of activities that can become more of a duty to perform, an obligation to discharge rather than being motivated by the transcendent purpose that the church was brought into existence to fulfill.
Bear with me as I think out loud for a moment. I wonder if the fact that so few churches have a clear understanding of what God’s purpose is for the church, I wonder if that could be not only a contributing factor to the apathy of the church today, but the single largest contributing factor to the apathy of the church today. I read recently that only about 2% of all the pastors of our churches today could articulate a vision for the church they were pastoring. That means that 98% of the churches that are meeting together right now just like we are really don’t understand why they exist and if you don’t understand why you exist you cannot begin to comprehend what you are to do. Listen the church as a whole has plenty of programs. The church is not in need of more programs it is in desperate need to recover it’s sense of purpose.
It is to that very need; the need to recover for some, perhaps remind some, and for others maybe for the first time teach what the purpose of the church is. Therefore we are taking a break from our study of Galatians to go back to the Scriptures and study them in such a way that we come to the point that we acquire at least a basic understanding of what the purpose of the church is.
As we said last week the reason that this is an important study is that your methodology (the way we do things) must flow from a proper theology. All of our activity as a church must flow from our purpose. You could go to just about any church and you would discover that churches are running the same programs. Now if those programs genuinely contribute to the achievement of God’s purpose for the church that’s great. BUT! If that program is just another activity of the church without truly contributing to the accomplishment of the purpose of the church then it should be jettisoned.
So why has God brought the church into existence? Many would say that the church exists for evangelism. Many voices in the church today cry out that evangelism should be the driving factor, the dominating factor in the church today. Evangelism is a very important function of the church, quite frankly that is an area that we must improve in and be more consistent in. But the Bible does not teach that the driving factor of the church is to be evangelism. Why is that? Let me give you something to think about. Let me ask you something, in American evangelism today is the emphasis more on God’s sovereign work in salvation or is it on man’s ability, man’s choice and man’s prayer? I believe that evangelism is more man centered today and therefore the work of God in salvation has almost become a secondary thing. And in that scenario who is really getting the credit, who is being glorified? Man or God? Usually, not always, but many times people are congratulated on making the right decision, or making the right choice. Rather than being taught that all the thanks, all the credit, all the glory belongs to a gracious loving Father who sent His Son Jesus Christ, God in the flesh to become sin for us, so that we could be reconciled to the Father. The result is that God is robbed of the glory and the worship that properly belongs to Him.
If evangelism is not the purpose for which the church was created then what is the purpose of the church? Before we examine the Scripture that teaches us what the purpose of the church is I want to begin with a prayer, a prayer for understanding, a prayer that we would be able to comprehend just what it is that God desires the church to accomplish. Let’s read Ephesians 3:14-21
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."
Father, the truth that Paul is trying to teach us is so grand, so magnificent, and so utterly glorious that he knows that without divine help we will not be able to understand it and to comprehend it. Father it would display a massive sense of arrogance on my part to think that I could somehow explain this truth better than Paul. Father this prayer of Paul’s is a necessity for the teacher as well as the student. Father, I pray and ask for the same things Paul prayed for. First of all Paul prayed that you would by your grace strengthen us in our inner man, by the Holy Spirit so that we would have a greater sense of the Lord Jesus Christ dwelling within us. Paul prayed that from this exercise of faith that Christ is dwelling within us, we would begin to understand the incredible depths of Your love for us. And out of that love, that unfathomable expression of love we would in the church bring you glory. Thank you Father for hearing our prayer and we ask that in your mercy you would answer our prayer and gives us strength, and understanding which will in turn lead us to glorify you. We approach you through our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
So what is God’s purpose for the Church?
"so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. "
The church exists to make the manifold wisdom of God known to the angels. Do you see what Paul is saying to us here? We, flawed, sinful, natural human beings that make up the church have been entrusted by God to make His wisdom known to supernatural beings. Please, I beg you take the time to think about the implications of this truth. Why do I implore you to stop and contemplate the significance of God’s purpose for the church? I beg you to think it through, because as I said last week, we have a far too low opinion of the church. Far too many see church as a place to go to kill and hour, they see the church as a place they go to on Sunday morning to try and keep their conscience quiet. Some go just because it’s a cultural thing. There are a thousand similar attitudes that people hold when it comes to the church, and that is why there is such a disconnect from the church and the way you live your life from Monday to Saturday. When God saves you He places you into the church and you are to live in such a way that every area of your life is impacted by that relationship, every area of your life should be affected because of your association with the church. The way you spend your time should be affected by your relationship with the church, the way you spend you money should be affected by your relationship with the church, the way you raise your children should be affected by your relationship with the church, the way you treat your spouse should be affected by your relationship with the church. The way you think should be affected by your relationship with the church. Why do I say this? Because the church is made up of people! The church is not a place! The church is an assembly of people called out by God for the purpose of displaying all the facets of His wisdom to the angels in the heavenly places. The church doesn’t exist to please the world; the church exists to please God by fulfilling His purpose for His church. Listen if the church is not any different from the world, if we operate and adopt the practices of the world, if the church simply displays the wisdom of the world then we will not, we cannot fulfill the purpose to which God has called us as a church to fulfill. There is only one organization that exists that can fulfill this purpose, and that one organization is the church! The church is so special it and you as a part of the body have a high calling, a transcendent purpose that only we can fulfill. No one else can do it therefore the church must understand why it exists and strive to make the wisdom of God known to the angels.
There are two questions I want to try and answer this morning.
QUESTION ONE: WHY DOES GOD WANT THE ANGELS TO SEE HIS WISDOM DISPLAYED THROUGH THE CHURCH?
Admittedly this is a difficult question to grapple with. But once again I believe the answer has a very practical implication for us.
To answer this question I believe we must go back and examine the angels. There is one area in particular that I want to focus in on. It is keeping in line with the very subject we are talking about. That is purpose. Let’s begin to answer our question with another question. Why do the angels exist? To say it another way is to ask what is the purpose that the angels were created to fulfill? I think if we answer that question then the answer to my original question becomes apparent.
The Bible teaches that the angels were created by God and they serve Him in various ways. They have been used throughout the Scriptures by God as His messengers. They have been used by God to directly intervene in human affairs. They have been sent by God to be ministering spirits to God’s children. But there is one activity that we see the angels repeatedly engaged in throughout the Scriptures.
Let’s examine just a couple of them. First of all look at Nehemiah 9:6
“You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You. "
Take your pen or your pencil and underline the words “And the heavenly host bows down before You.”
"Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, For He commanded and they were created. " Psalm 148:2-5NASB95
"And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” " Isaiah 6:3NASB95
"And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” Revelation 4:8NASB95
When the angels appeared to the Shepherds what did they say? Didn’t they say “GLORY to God in the Highest? After examining this evidence, what conclusion would you draw as to what the purpose of the angels is? I submit that the main purpose that the angels were created by God Almighty was so that they would worship Him. When the church displays the wisdom of God and the angels take in this brilliant display of God’s wisdom through the church guess what the angels are going to do? They in turn are going to turn around and praise God and worship God all that much more when the see the mighty display of God’s wisdom in the church. We can rightly say as the church fulfills its purpose it provides impetus to the angels to help them fulfill their purpose! Church wake up to your high calling! Church contemplate your purpose and you can’t help but to be lifted into the heavenly places. Church meditate on why your were brought into existence by your Creator, your Redeemer and it will lift you up out of the mundane and the meaningless way of life that you have been living!
How does this help me? I believe that if you will take the time to meditate on this truth you will begin to get a sense of just how magnificent and grand and marvelous and awesome God truly is. God is not an ego-maniac seeking praise for the sake of praise. God seeks praise because He is worthy to be praised, and when he is properly praised it forces us to find out why He is to be praised and why He should be praised. He is of infinite worth, He is all we need, and He is ultimate source of pleasure and satisfaction. Therefore if we neglect our purpose, then the angels are hindered in their purpose and God is robbed of the praise and the glory that He deserves and we are negatively impacted because we will not recognize the unsurpassed value of God the Father and we will lead a life of futility seeking satisfaction and pleasure as the Scriptures say in cisterns with holes in the bottoms that cannot hold water and cannot satisfy.
QUESTION TWO: WHAT IS THE WISDOM OF GOD THAT THE CHURCH IS TO DISPLAY TO THE ANGELS?
That’s a legitimate question. After all if we are to be displaying the wisdom of God to the angels then we need to know what that wisdom is. You can’t display it if you don’t know what it is. So what is the wisdom of God?
Let’s answer that with a verse from the Scriptures and a question. Look at 1 Peter 1:12
"It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. " 1 Peter 1:12NASB95
What is it that the angels long to look into?
That is the Scripture, here is my question. Though there is nothing that we fully understand about God; what is the one thing that has throughout the ages provoked multitudes of questions by multitudes of people? What is it that the angels long to look into? Does anybody want to guess?
The wisdom of God that the church is to make known to the angels is the Gospel! Earlier in Ephesians Paul refers to a mystery. What was the mystery? The mystery was that God the Father was going to send a Redeemer who would through His death unite Jew and Gentile, black and white, all nationalities would be fashioned into one spiritual body the church! The wisdom of God is the wisdom that it took to create the plan whereby a Perfect, Holy, God could redeem His own creation who had rebelled against Him while at the same time remain just!
That is why the church must have a biblical grip on the magnificence of the Gospel. If we are to display it properly we need to know it, we need to understand it, we need to take advantage of all of its benefits and we need to make sure that we are putting it into action.
Church I pray that we will be able with God’s help to begin to not only comprehend this truth we will begin to live out this truth. If we fail to fulfill our purpose it sends the message that God’s wisdom is failing as well. Certainly none of us wants to willingly or unwittingly take part in that display.