"The Purpose of the Church"
August 4, 2023, 12:03 PM

The Purpose of the Church

The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

There are fundamental truths that Christians everywhere generally affirm. We all believe that God created everything out of nothing. We believe that Jesus is the truth. We believe that we have a hope that can never be taken from us. This hope is we have the promise of God that we will be brought to glory. We believe that, like Jesus, our bodies will be resurrected in perfection. All believers in the Risen Lord Jesus have been given the desire to worship and praise the one true God with God’s people.

Yet, when church leaders discuss the church’s God-given purpose, many opinions are offered. We all worship the same God; we all believe that He has revealed His will for us. It must follow that God has likewise revealed His purpose for the church that belongs to Him.

The visible church, the one we see, is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and their children. Every local church that teaches Jesus is very God and very Man, the second person of the Trinity is part of the universal visible church. The Protestant Reformation described the true church, the visible church as every church that preaches the pure gospel, administers the two Sacraments as ordained by Christ, and exercises biblical church discipline.

God has chosen to reach the lost through the visible church. Romans 10:17 clearly reveals God’s method: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (ESV). Further, God has organized the visible church. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd-teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV). Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the worldwide visible church of Jesus Christ.

So, if God organized the church, revealed her marks and chose to use her to reach the lost, then it is reasonable to expect that He also gave her a purpose.

It’s common to think that the purpose of the church is the ministry that she does. We can look to biblical preaching, teaching sound doctrine, liturgy, programs, etc. But the God-given purpose underlies all of the things that the church does. However, purpose is concerned with being rather than doing.

A working definition of purpose is a reason for existence or being. Applying this definition, what is the reason for the church’s existence? God’s purpose for her was revealed in the Old Testament, Leviticus 11:44. This very same purpose was repeated in the New Testament, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).

Simply stated, the purpose of the church is holiness. In other words, the church exists to be holy. The basic meaning of holy is unique. The range of meaning includes purity and perfection. God gave the church’s purpose; He declared that the church was set apart to Him. The church is by His definition, different than the world.

In Chuck Colson’s “Against the Night”, he observed that the church had become or was at least striving to become just like the world. D.L. Moody once compared the visible church to a ship in the sea. He said, “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets in it. Just as the place for the church is in the world, but God help the church if the world gets in it.” The Bible uses the metaphor of a bride to describe the church. She is the bride of Christ. She is the holy Jerusalem that the Apostle John was allowed to see coming down from heaven. Jesus Christ died for the church to make her holy (Ephesians 5:25).

It is essential for Christians to know their purpose. For the church to be holy, all its members are likewise to be holy. The individual members of the church were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy (Ephesians 1:4). God doesn’t leave this to the will of men. God sanctifies each and every believer. That is, He makes every member of His church more and more like Christ. He does so by the power of His Spirit who takes His written word and applies it to our hearts so that we might live holy lives for His glory.