Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 22, 1954
NUMBER 49, PAGE 13-14a

The Purpose Of Christianity

Robert F. Turner, Tyler. Texas

If Christianity was but a human philosophy, developed as the result of a human need, it would have a purpose. That purpose would be, of course, the satisfaction of the need which mothered the philosophy.

Heaven, in this human scheme, would be but a concept. Earth-bound man, limited to physical capacities, facing insurmountable insecurity, builds security in his imagination when it cannot be actually attained. To such, heaven would be but a "pie-in-the-sky" dream — but it would represent an end and a purpose in such a human philosophy. Practically all human philosophies of ages past have contained some such purpose.

But our more modern materialistic thinkers may ridicule such a purpose, and develop his philosophy to the tune of "pie-on-the-table." The physical welfare of society is his highest goal, hence the motivating purpose of his mode of life. His morals ("mores" — customs or conventions) are self-adjusting, conforming to "accepted patterns" of what is thought best for society. He feels our greatest need to be the betterment of conditions in this life, and to this end he directs his thoughts and actions. The purpose of his philosophy is the satisfaction of what he feels to be our greatest physical need; and the followers of such thinking will certainly aspire to no greater heights than is necessary for the attainment of their purpose.

All of which but emphasizes our need for a better understanding of the real purpose of real, genuine Christianity. Our thinking, our speech, and our conduct as Christians will be largely determined by the extent of our understanding of Christianity's purpose. If, through the weakness of the flesh and the desire for popular acclaim, we have lowered our conceptions of Christian purpose, we have in effect diverted our energies and means to serve something less than God. Walk with care — walk with care!

One cannot properly consider the purpose of Christianity without considering the purpose of Christ, the Messiah. Christ is the foundation of Christianity; while Christians (those imbibing the spirit and principles of Christ) may be said to be Christianity personified. Uncover the purpose of Christ, and you reveal the motivating purpose of those who follow Christ. By popular usage the name Christian is now frequently applied to those who make little pretense of actually obeying Christ, but this practice can be defended neither by logic nor scripture.

From the earliest prophecies of Christ he has been pictured as the Saviour and Deliverer. Isaiah announced him as the hope for a people depressed and overcome. To a weakened people, he was strength; to a scattered and lost people, he was the Way; to a war-torn nation he was peace; to a down-trodden government, he was King of a kingdom that could not be shaken. These are all but figures used by the prophet to impress upon the people's minds the greatness of Christ, but it is little wonder that they thought only in terms of physical deliverance, and thus missed the real purpose of the Messiah. They were so materialistic, so earth-bound, that they thought only in terms of peace from war, and of deliverance from the oppressors of earth.

But Christ was to offer deliverance from the bondage of sin, and the oppressor, Satan. From the time sin first came into the world, and the first veiled promise of redemption was made (Gen. 3:15) God's eternal plans were slowly unfolded. During this stage of development, the gospel was a "mystery," i.e., "hidden" "as yet, unrevealed." God's plan to overcome Satan's power by the seeming defeat and death of His Son, was a military secret. The "rulers of this world" (1 Cor. 2:8) could not fathom this mystery; prophets of old foretold, yet understood it not; "which things angels desire to look into." (1 Peter 1:11 g) When Jesus was betrayed, mocked, scourged, and crucified, even the apostles apparently felt his cause and purpose had been defeated. The Son of God was captive of death; Satanic forces rejoiced. Then, out of such darkness and despair, the forces of heaven were marshaled. The Plan of the Ages, God's own Scheme of Redemption became operative as Christ broke the bonds of death, lead captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. (Eph. 3:8) Now consider carefully — the purpose of Christ was accomplished NOT in his healing of the sick, NOT in his feeding of the multitudes, NOT in his giving of the Sermon on the Mount — a "great moral system for all time" as some modern scholars put it. His divine purpose was not accomplished until he died for the sins of the world, arose and ascended into heaven to intercede for us at the throne of God.

The truly central themes of Christianity are found Christ, Our Offering (Heb. 10:5-10); Christ, Our High Priest (Heb. 7:) and other like themes. The Revelation pictures metaphorically the struggle of the church with the forces of evil, and of Christ with the Devil himself. Our faith and hope in Christ is completely vindicated as we see the outcome of this great warfare. In Ephesians 6:12 we have read, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." In Revelation we see the outcome of our struggle if we will but be faithful to Christ; and are made to understand that Christ serves his true purpose in saving us from sin and Satan, and leading us safely into eternal life.

The purpose of Christianity is perverted when we place a greater emphasis upon this life than on the life hereafter. It is not the purpose of the church to make this a better world in which to live. The "better world" is a by-product, and a temporary one at that. Consider the miracles of Jesus. On one occasion a man sick of the palsy was brought to Jesus. He, "seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." (Matt. 9:1-8) I believe some of our "do-good" brethren today might have said, "Lord, he needs health. You must show Christianity to the world." They might fail to see that in forgiving the man's sins Christ had indeed gone to the very core of his divine purpose and demonstrated divine compassion far surpassing that shown in healing the man's physical ills. The secondary nature of the physical healing is shown when Christ said, "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house." (vs. 6)

In the beginning of this article we pointed out that human philosophies are developed in attempts to satisfy the deeply felt needs of various people. The rank materialist is most concerned about purely physical needs, hence the purpose of his system is the satisfaction of those needs. Most of our brethren realize that Christianity has a much greater purpose than this. However, we seem to have a few (and their ranks are apparently growing) who attempt to justify a tremendously exaggerated "Benevolence" program on the ground that it will lead many to Christ and the salvation of their souls. Such a spirit is not "Benevolence' in its purest form, but may well degenerate into a commercialized form of charity, and in many cases should be listed under "Advertisement" in the monthly report of disbursements.

Christians should be aware of the fact that man's GREATEST need is redemption from the bondage of sin. It is our responsibility to make the world aware of this need, and to show them that the need is supplied only in Christ. "Converts" should come, not to "keep peace in the family," "enjoy such fine fellowship," or because "it is about time I joined some church"; but because of deeply felt guilt, recognition of a lost and undone condition, and a strong desire to obtain forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.

Christ came to supply that need; that was his primary purpose; and that is the purpose and work of Christianity.