Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 22, 1949
NUMBER 33, PAGE 2,6b

The Mission Of The Church -- No. 1

Roy E. Cogdill

There is no more comprehensive statement of the nature, plan, and purpose of the church in the New Testament scriptures than that found in Ephesians 4:1-16. We need to study this passage carefully, and fix in our minds the place God intended the church to fill in serving his purposes and the plan by which it is to be done. Especially should we notice verses 11 and 12:

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfection of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

Here is outlined a divine order for a divine purpose and both are the plan of God. From verse 12 we learn that the purpose and mission of this divine arrangement are three-fold: (1) for the perfecting of the saints; (2) for the work of the ministry; and (3) for the building up of the body of Christ. This sets forth the mission of the church in its entirety. Any other purpose or act would be ultra vires— without warrant or authority.

A Legal Principle

When a corporation is set up under the laws of the state of Texas, its purpose, that is, the kind of business in which it means to engage, must be specified in the charter. That purpose must come within the statute and the provisions specifically made within it. After that corporation is set up, all its operations must be within the bounds of the purpose specified within the charter; otherwise, suit can be brought by proper parties to limit the activities of the corporation and compel it to move and operate only within the boundaries of its charter. This is deemed to be a safeguard against perverting investments to serve a purpose which they were not intended to serve. This principle should be recognized to apply to divine purposes and designs. The church has no right to engage in ultra vires acts.

The Perfecting Of The Saints

One of the objectives of the church in any community is to encourage, strengthen, and develop the members so that they will grow into strong Christians. A good part of the program of work in every congregation should be designed toward helping Christians to go "on unto perfection." The church fails in its purpose when it does not help fit and prepare Christians for heaven.

This is done, first of all, by adapting a part of the teaching program to meet such a need. Christianity must be taught to Christians. They must be strengthened in their convictions and instructed in rendering Christian service, engaging in Christian worship, and in living the Christian life. This is the work of Christian education, or educating Christians in Christianity. It is the work of the church. Do you ask for scriptural authority for this work of the church? Then look at the Great Commission. Jesus said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matt. 28:18-20.) Here is the direct authority of Christ for teaching those who have been baptized (the church) to do the will of Christ in all things. The different kinds of teaching are found in this commission, one primary, and the other secondary. Both of them are to be accomplished by the same agency—the church.

"Christian Education" And The Church

A lot of people, even in the church, talk as if the work of Christian education belonged to some secular institution such as a college. But such is not the case. God has designed a divine institution to teach Christians, and that institution is the church. Consider, for example, the following passages as they set forth this work:

Eph. 3:17 — Paul prays that the Ephesian Christians might "comprehend" and "know" that they might be "filled." He meant spiritually, of course.

1 Thess. 5:11-14 — "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men."

2 Tim. 4:4 — "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

Heb. 3:12-13 — "Take heed, brethren, lest there be I in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

Discipline To This End

All of the above passages and many, many more which could be cited have to do with the obligation of teaching the members of the church and strengthening them. God has ordained discipline in the church to this very end also. Consider these passages in view of that:

Heb. 13:7-17 — "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. . . Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

2 Thess. 3:13-15 — But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."

Acts 20:26-32 — "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."

To this end—mutual edification—many of the worship services of the church are dedicated. Teaching, exhortation, admonition, and instruction in righteousness are all required. The word of God is designed to fill each one of these needs, and must only be taught to do so. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17.) The church is designed to do the teaching; hence, all that is needed is for the church simply to carry out God's plan, and do that which God designed it to do.