What is the Church’s purpose? Part I – February 18, 2024

Ephesians 4:11-16

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

What is the Church’s purpose? While there may be many answers that come to our minds to that question, let us consider some key passages of Scripture. In John 18:33-38, Jesus is before Pontius Pilate before He is handed over to be crucified. Pilate questions Jesus about whether or not He is a king. To that, Jesus tells Him that He is the king of another world. In response to Pilate, Jesus says these words, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). Jesus came to “bear witness unto the truth.” He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). He has left His followers on earth as His representatives and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). That group of followers, He has called the Church. The Apostle Paul writes about the purpose of the Church in 1 Timothy 3:15 which says, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” That verse tells us that Christ has the Church in the world to be a column and foundation (two essential elements in a structure) of truth.

In Ephesians 4:11-16, the Apostle Paul elaborates on this purpose. Before that, he speaks to how Christ has conquered His enemies (sin, death, and Satan) and given gifts to His people (Ephesians 4:8). As a result he has gifted the Church with leadership that will equip them with the truth of God’s Word for serving, fulfilling their mission, and growin as believers into what God desires them to be. This awesome purpose of being a foundation of truth in the world is the Church’s highest responsibility. It is with the truth that the Church fulfills all of its other callings and responsibilities. There are three things you and I, as the Church, are to do with the truth that we find in this passage.

First, we are to teach the truth. Jesus has given four offices as gifts to the Church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. These four gifts serve the specific function of teaching and preaching the truth of God’s Word. Apostles and prophets are mentioned in Ephesians 2:20 as foundational and in Ephesians 3:5 as those who received the mysteries of God’s plan in Christ. They were responsible for communicating the truth we now have in the New Testament. Both of these offices existed in the early church and ceased when the New Testament was completed. Evangelists are those who preach Christ and take Christ to those who do not know Him. Pastors-teachers are one office connected in the Greek text here. Pastors oversee the church and are responsible for the teaching of God’s Word in the local church. All pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors. The purpose of these four offices is to instruct the Church in truth so that the Church may be equipped to do the work of the ministry and build up the body of Christ. All through Acts we see that when the Word of God was preached, the Church grew (6:7; 12:24; 19:20). The preaching and teaching of God’s Word in the local church is how God has ordained every believer to grow and be equipped to serve Him.

Next, we are to submit to the truth. The most precious thing that we have in this world is the truth. It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32). It is the truth that tells us about the true Jesus and how we can be saved from sin. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). However, just merely knowing the truth is only part of the issue. We must submit to the truth. In Ephesians 4:13-14, Paul says that God is bringing the Church to “the unity of the faith” through the teaching of His Word. Unity is not being unified at all costs. Instead, it is about people who submit to the same standard. There can be no real unity if we must compromise truth. As we grow in the knowledge of the Lord, we eventually reach a place where we are no longer tossed around by the error of the world around us. We are surrounded by false teaching (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) and there has never been a more important time for God’s people to stick to the one standard that He has given to us, His Word.

Lastly, we are to grow in the truth. As the truth is proclaimed “in love,” Christians grow in their faith. Truth without love is Pharisaism. Love without truth is not hypocrisy. We must have both. We must stand for the truth, but we must do so with the right motivation of love. Christian love is not about being “nice” all of the time and it is certainly not affirming people in sin. In fact, error is the opposite of love. We do not love someone with lies or error. Warren Wiersbe once said, “Little children do not know how to blend truth and love. They think that if you love someone, you will shield him from the truth if knowing the truth will hurt him. It is a mark of maturity when we are able to share the truth with our fellow Christians, and do it in love.” The goal of the Christian faith and the teaching of God’s Word is not so that people will be impressed with a pastor’s speaking ability. It isn’t to build bigger buildings or see our name made great. Instead, it is about seeing the people of God grow up in the truth of His Word.

God has entrusted His Word to His Church. As the Lord Jesus came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37), so are His people. We are the “pillar and ground” of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Are you hearing God’s Word faithfully taught? Are you submitting to its truth? Are you growing in that truth? Let’s be people of truth.