"Why does the church exist?"
January 5, 2024, 5:59 PM

Why does the church exist?

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

The visible church 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 fully God and fully 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 is the clear affirmation of God’s plan. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” But God has also 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). Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the worldwide visible church of Jesus Christ. Every one that professes Christ seeks to invest in a local church.

God has chosen to reach the lost through local churches. Likewise, God gave His church one reason to exist. The clearest word describing existence is purpose. Purpose is a reason for being. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ, God has given the church a singular purpose. The purpose or reason for being for the church is to be holy. God commanded His people to be holy because He is holy (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

It is a common error to think that the purpose of the church is her ministries. Activities such as preaching, teaching, liturgy, and programs are often used to define the purpose of the church. But unless God’s revealed reason for the church’s existence is the foundation of all the work done, the church fails to be faithful to God’s call. Put in another way, unless we understand who and what we are, what we do is of little value in the Kingdom.

The purpose of the church is holiness. The reason for the existence of the church is to be what God has commanded. Be holy! The basic meaning of holy is unique and set apart. The range of meaning includes purity and perfection. God is described as holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). God set the church apart. The word used in the Bible and translated “church” is a compound word “ekklesia” which means “called out”. God called a people who were not a people. God called His people out of the world to be different. Even though believers live in the world we are not of the world.

The clarity of God’s revelation on this issue is undeniable. Yet, there is a persistent problem. The problem is man’s sin, specifically, pride. Some church leaders have taken it upon themselves to define the church’s purpose in pragmatic terms. They suggest that the reason for the church’s existence is found in what is done, especially what “works” by their definition. Usually, “what works” is defined in terms of numerical or financial growth.

D.L. Moody once compared the church to a ship in the sea. He said, Christians should live in the world, but not be filled with it. A ship lives in the water; but if the water gets into the ship, she goes to the bottom. So Christians may live in the world; but if the world gets into them, they sink.” 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 saw coming down from heaven. Jesus Christ died for the church (Ephesians 5:25) to make her holy.

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 word written and applies it to our hearts so that we might live holy lives for His glory.

If you are a professing believer, I urge you to invest in a local church that understands her purpose, holiness!