In this posting I want to examine in the Scriptures some of the particularly important functions of the church and in turn our personal lives. This means that when we examine our churches, and in turn our lives, we should see a reflection of these Scriptures in both. And, in turn, if we do not see them, we should become an instrument of reformation.
The first function of the church is to make and train disciples of Jesus Christ. These were the final instructions of Jesus to his disciples, and they are of primary importance in the function of our lives and the church. We, not merely pastors, are to make disciples. The church as a whole functions together to make disciples. This is the life-blood, the reason for existence of the church. God intends to declare his glory in all the world. He designs to be worshipped in every tribe, nation, and tongue. Then he sends us to bring that about and empowers us with the Spirit to do so.
The first function of the church is to make and train disciples of Jesus Christ.
And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you and, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18–20 (LEB)
All authority is given to Jesus, and his command is for us to go and make disciples of all nations. His final command is to be the purpose of our existence, to spread the glory of God, through the Gospel, to all nations. So all other purposes of the church should tie closely into this primary purpose.
Remember the Poor
After the apostle Paul met with the apostles James, Peter, and John to inform them of his doctrine and the testimonies of the work among the Gentiles, they gave him their approval and fellowship. The only thing that they added was that he should remember the poor.
They asked only that we should remember the poor, the very thing I was also eager to do. Galatians 2:10 (LEB)
So Paul was following the commands of the Lord Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. The only thing that James, Peter, and John reminded him of was to remember the poor. So along with our primary purpose we should be instruments of feeding the poor or, in other words, helping those who are helpless. Remembering the poor is not merely thinking about them, but taking action to assist them. This is indeed what Paul did. He had churches make a collection from the saints and he delivered financial assistance to the poor. So along with this we could say that a foodshelf to provide food for those who are in poverty and financial assistance, to those who truly need it, is an integral part of what our lives and our churches should be involved in. Remembering the poor not only provides for the needs of those in the church, but it gives an opportunity to reach those who are down and out with the gospel.
Remembering the poor not only provides for the needs of those in the church, but it gives an opportunity to reach those who are down and out with the gospel.
Though we may not esteem this work very spiritual it, in fact, is an important role of the church. When we consider that the apostles underscored it to Paul, should we not ask ourselves, “What are we doing to remember the poor?”
Pillar and Ground of Truth
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15 (KJV 1900)
The church of the living God is to be the pillar and mainstay (ground) of truth. We are to be the means that truth is proclaimed to the world, and the true church is one that upholds truth. How can we uphold truth? By staying with and teaching from the Bible. When we depart from the Bible and begin to embrace false teachings, we are now a great hindrance to the world. Nevertheless the church and in turn our lives are to be what upholds truth on the earth.
Look After Widows and Orphans
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 (LEB)
The word religion carries different meanings to different minds. The use of the word here speaks of religious ceremony or practice. The word religion is a compound word using re, which means again, and ligio, which means to read. So it means to read again. It finds its source in those who were not satisfied with the status quo of common worship and desired to search again the old sources and come to the correct understanding of worship. So the word religion carries with it a purpose to observe worship according to the original truth. The Greek word that is translated as religion literally means “ceremonial observance.” So here James is focusing on our behavior and how we worship God.
So, as a church, our worship cannot be in merely singing hymns and lifting our hands in worship songs. Pure and unsoiled worship in God’s sight is;
- Looking after orphans
- Looking after widows
- Keeping yourself unstained by the world
We focus most of our attention on No. 3, keeping ourselves unstained from the world. Unfortunately, this is mostly how we are identified, that is, by what we do not do. However, this should not be so, my beloved brothers and sisters.
We know that he inhabits the praises of his people and we so enjoy singing worship to him, but he desires our lives more than he desires our songs and our voices.
This is striking. Please, do not fail to grasp this. If we want to worship God in purity then we should look after widows and orphans. So, let us start here. We are to be the upholders of truth, but in our upholding of truth we should not become an organism that is only concerned with theological discourse or, rather, with teaching and proclaiming the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. We should also live a life set apart for God and walking in modesty and holiness. We should avoid being stained by the world. This is a great purpose of the church. But here we find out that our worship should consist of specific actions, looking after orphans and widows. So visit them and care for them. Provide for them financially and provide a home for them if they need it. This is the kind of worship service that God is looking for. We know that he inhabits the praises of his people and we so enjoy singing worship to him, but he desires our lives more than he desires our songs and our voices. He desires our songs and voices too, but without our lives, our songs and voices to Him are hollow.
The church should not merely be known for what it avoids, or what it teaches, but how it lives out what it teaches. Are we making and training disciples? Are we remembering the poor? Are we taking care of widows and orphans? Let us examine the life of the church and our personal lives. If your church is not living this, don’t run from it. Instead, you be the first to change and you pray that God uses you to work a change. You don’t need to rebuke and chastise everyone. Let your life speak and invite others to share your life. This is in fact what it means to make disciples. Jesus invited men into his Life and trained them by showing them what to do, speaking to them, and living daily with them.