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And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

The New Testament Church
Is Divine In Mission

By Louis Rushmore

The church about which one can read upon the pages of the New Testament has a divine mission. This mission is, however, three-fold. Further, the Lord's church is the only institution possessing this mission. The churches and organizations of men, while attempting to participate in the divine mission, fail to fulfill the same, in as much as they are not the church for which Jesus died, which he built, and to which he assigned these responsibilities.

The divine mission of the church is not political, but is harmonious with responsible civil government, and may even influence it. Neither is it primarily social in nature, though the mission of the church may favorably affect interpersonal relationships. The church's mission is not secular in scope, but it may alter social and economic conditions. Further, this mission is not material, but it may involve the use of things physical in its fulfillment. The divine mission of the church pertains to spiritual matters and involves the continuation ". . . of all that Jesus began both to do and teach" (Acts 1:1). What was the mission of our Lord (Luke 19:10) became the mission of the apostles (Matthew 28:18-20) and has been passed down to each generation of Christians (2 Timothy 2:2). The Book of Acts, among other considerations, is the history book of first century mission work; it represents the doing of the mission of the church.

Mission Possible

Unlike the television show MISSION IMPOSSIBLE that was popular for two decades, the Lord's church has a God-given mission that is possible. Not only is its mission possible, but the church is obligated to accept the mission; the familiar line from the TV series ". . . should you decide to accept this mission . . ." does not apply to the Lord's church and the Christians of which it is comprised.

The overriding tenor of the church's divine mission is evangelizing the lost; the lost are constituted of both non-Christians and erring Christians (Mark 16:15-16; James 5:19-20). Though perhaps not usually recognized as such, evangelism is an indispensable and identifying characteristic of the church of the Bible; no congregation today can successfully claim identity with the New Testament church while down-playing or ignoring evangelism.

Jesus Christ prophesied that the known world would have the opportunity to hear the Gospel within one generation of his earthly ministry (Matthew 24:14); twice in the first chapter of Colossians, the apostle Paul affirmed the fulfillment of our Lord's prophecy (Colossians 1:6, 23). Evangelism was mission possible in the first century despite comparatively primitive mediums with which to proclaim the Gospel. Today, in spite of the earth's multi-billion population, especially in view of the sophisticated means of communication available to us, the church has the capacity to evangelize the world in each generation. Evangelism is still the church's mission possible; not only so, but evangelism is obligatory on the church and each Christian.

Edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:12) and benevolence toward sinners and saints (Galatians 6:10; James 1:27; Acts 6:1-7) are parts two and three of the three-fold mission of the church. Both of these charges also indirectly contribute to evangelism and its effectiveness. Everything the church has a right or responsibility to perform relates to one or more of the elements of the three-fold mission of the church.

Edification or spiritual maturity is essential to the well-being of the church, each member, and the success of the overall mission of the church. Unfortunately, as in the first century, today too, many Christians fail to properly mature in the Gospel (Hebrews 5:11-6:2). The means by which every soul can mature or be edified is readily available. "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up . . ." (Acts 20:32). "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). The Christian graces in particular and the Scriptures in general can edify us (2 Peter 1:5-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Once well on the road to edification, one can contribute to the spiritual growth of fellow Christians and answer the questions of non-Christians (1 Peter 3:15).

Benevolence (or Christian love set in motion) toward those within and without the church was gladly shouldered by the first century church. The immediate needs of new converts closely following the establishment of the church were met by generous Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35). The church in Antioch of Syria also responded with Christian charity toward the less fortunate in Judaea during a time of famine (Acts 11:27-30). Churches in Macedonia and Achaia likewise practiced benevolence toward needy saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26). Galatians 6:10 permits the same benevolent treatment of non-Christians (only a preference is encouraged toward Christians first). "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."

Some Things are not the Mission of the Church

Some things are not the mission of the church because they are part of the mission of another divine institution, the home. For instance, entertainment is strictly a function of the home, as are secular education, marriages and attendant bridal showers, funerals, baby showers, and such like. However, this fact does not necessarily preclude the use of the meeting house (the church, strictly speaking, is not mortar, stone and wood, but people). Properly, though, the home should sponsor and finance these affairs.

Some things are not the mission of the church because they are possible missions of individuals, governments or other organizations, but are not assigned in Scripture to the Lord's church. Since the New Testament church is directed by the Gospel to finance itself through freewill offerings (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7), business enterprises as such have no place in the church. Neither may the church champion wholly political propositions or parties (except some political issues that pertain to morality or other Bible subjects, which, of course, the church should address as widely as feasible).

Churches of Men Have No Divine Mission

Jesus decried the efforts of Jewish religious leaders of his day to remake Judaism into something more palatable to merely human whims. Speaking of these efforts of reorganization of God-given religion, Jesus said, ". . . Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13). A few verses before this, our Lord condemned the human teaching that fostered this departure from Judaism as God gave it. "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8-9).

Biblically speaking, there is only ONE CHURCH! Several passages illustrate truths about the church by comparing it to a body (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18); these verses directly or indirectly affirm that the church is called the body and is single, only one. Ephesians 4:4 plainly declares this fact: "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling."

Further, Jesus promised to build one church, his church (Matthew 16:18). This one church, variously named, originated in the mind of God. Denominations, world religions and all other sects are the product of human ingenuity, not God's eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:10-11). The church of divine origin alone has a divine mission! Churches of men exist in opposition to the New Testament and the divine church of which it speaks; these non-divine churches, therefore, are incapable of assuming the divine church mission. They cannot violate the Gospel by their existence in opposition to the divine church and at the same time faithfully proclaim the Gospel. Their mere existence is a faithless representation of the Word of God.

Conclusion

The New Testament church and the Christians of which it is comprised have a divine mission. No one else has the right to try nor indeed can succeed in fulfilling the mission of the Lord's church. If God's people today do not take upon themselves this responsibility, no one will. No one else can!

The time to perform the mission of the church is NOW! The New Testament does not charge Christians to do one thing tomorrow nor yesterday, but now. The mission of the church as portrayed in the Bible is one of extreme urgency. The church must act now, because its mission is divinely appointed and the sin-sick and dying world desperately needs to be saved. In addition to the upper call of God and the outer call of the world, each Christian should be pervaded with an inner call or desire to save lost souls.

We must, with the apostle Paul, similarly say with conviction: "So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek," (Romans 1:15-16).


H. A. "Buster" Dobbs, email: had@worldnet.att.net
P. O. Box 690192
Houston, Texas 77269-0192
(281) 469-3540

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