What is the purpose of the church?
Acts 2:42 could be considered a purpose statement
for the church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and
to prayer.” According to this verse, the purposes/activities of the church should be 1) teaching biblical doctrine,
2) providing a place of fellowship for believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, and 4) praying.
The church is to teach biblical doctrine so we can
be grounded in our faith. Ephesians 4:14 tells us, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the
waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”
The church is to be a place of fellowship, where
Christians can be devoted to one another and honor one another (Romans 12:10), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), be kind
and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and most importantly, love
one another (1 John 3:11).
The church is to be a place where believers can observe
the Lord’s Supper, remembering Christ’s death and shed blood on our behalf (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The concept
of “breaking bread” (Acts 2:42) also carries the idea of having meals together. This is another example of the
church promoting fellowship. The final purpose of the church according to Acts 2:42 is prayer.
The church is to be a place that promotes prayer,
teaches prayer, and practices prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Another commission given to the church is proclaiming
the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). The church is called to be faithful in sharing
the gospel through word and deed. The church is to be a “lighthouse” in the community, pointing people toward
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The church is to both promote the gospel and prepare its members to proclaim the gospel
(1 Peter 3:15).
Some final purposes of the church are given in James
1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their
distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” The church is to be about the business of ministering
to those in need. This includes not only sharing the gospel, but also providing for physical needs (food, clothing, shelter)
as necessary and appropriate. The church is also to equip believers in Christ with the tools they need to overcome sin and
remain free from the pollution of the world. This is done by biblical teaching and Christian fellowship.
So, what is the purpose of the church? Paul gave an
excellent illustration to the believers in Corinth. The church is God’s hands, mouth, and feet in this world—the
body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are to be doing the things that Jesus Christ would do if He were here physically
on the earth. The church is to be “Christian,” “Christ-like,” and Christ-following.
How is the church the Body of Christ?
The phrase “the Body of Christ” is a common
New Testament metaphor for the Church (all those who are truly saved). The Church is called “one body in Christ”
in Romans 12:5, “one body” in 1 Corinthians 1:17, “the body of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 12:27 and
Ephesians 4:12, and “the body” in Hebrews 13:3. The Church is clearly equated with “the body” of Christ
in Ephesians 6:23 and Colossians 1:24.
When Christ entered our world, He took on a physical
body “prepared” for Him (Hebrews 10:5; Philippians 2:7). Through His physical body, Jesus demonstrated the love
of God clearly, tangibly, and boldly—especially through His sacrificial death on the cross (Romans 5:8). After His bodily
ascension, Christ continues His work in the world through those He has redeemed—the Church now demonstrates the love
of God clearly, tangibly, and boldly. In this way, the Church functions as “the Body of Christ.”
The Church may be called the Body of Christ because
of these facts:
1) Members of the Body of Christ are joined to Christ
in salvation (Ephesians 4:15-16).
2) Members of the Body of Christ follow Christ as
their Head (Ephesians 1:22-23).
3) Members of the Body of Christ are the physical
representation of Christ in this world. The Church is the organism through which Christ manifests His life to the world today.
4) Members of the Body of Christ are indwelt by the
Holy Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9).
5) Members of the Body of Christ possess a diversity
of gifts suited to particular functions (1 Corinthians 12:4-31). “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts;
and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (verse 12).
6) Members of the Body of Christ share a common bond
with all other Christians, regardless of background, race, or ministry. “There should be no division in the body, but
. . . its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25).
7) Members of the Body of Christ are secure in their
salvation (John 10:28-30). For a Christian to lose his salvation, God would have to perform an “amputation” on
the Body of Christ!
8) Members of the Body of Christ partake of Christ’s
death and resurrection (Colossians 2:12).
9) Members of the Body of Christ share Christ’s
inheritance (Romans 8:17).
10) Members of the Body of Christ receive the gift
of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:17).