Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

The Church and Its Work


As we read the New Testament we learn various things about the relationship known as the “church”:

  • It was founded by Jesus Christ and belongs to Him: Matthew 16:18
  • It was purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ: Acts 20:28
  • It was designed by God and is part of His eternal plan to save man: Ephesians 3:10-11
  • Being designed by God it manifests His wisdom: Ephesians 3:10-11
  • God is glorified through this relationship: Ephesians 3:21

The Work of the Church

All of the above passages strongly infer that such an essential and important relationship will have both a definite and important mission:

  • This work or mission will reflect God’s wisdom, His values or priorities and not necessary man’s view of what the church should be or should be doing.
  • The very fact that God put so much effort and planning into this relationship and was willing to pay the ultimate price of His Son’s blood, it is clear that the church does have a definite mission.
  • If individual believers on their own could accomplish whatever the church was designed to do, it would not make any sense for God to plan, design, purchase and bring into existence this relationship.
  • The mission or work of the church, therefore, will not always be the same as the work of the individual Christian. In fact, we see this truth demonstrated in 1 Timothy 5:16 where Paul states, “If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need”. Here the responsibilities of the individual are different from the work of the local congregation. The same truth is also seen in Acts 5:4 where the money of the individual Christian is distinct from the money given to the local congregation, or in Matthew 18:15-17, where the individual Christian is involved in seeking to bring back a brother or sister, long before the local congregation is informed or involved.

Consequently, it would be naïve and biblically inaccurate to think or claim that whatever the individual Christian can do, the local congregation as a group can do. Missing this important distinction between the authorized work of the church and the realm in which the individual Christian operates has lead to many errors, including congregations getting involved in business enterprises, politics, and providing recreation and social entertainment. Paul made it very clear that the church exists for far greater a purpose than to provide social meals for its members or be simply a place to socialize (1 Corinthians 14:22; 33-34). Here all social meals are clearly placed in the realm where the individual operates, “at home”, and outside the assembling of the local congregation.

The Work of Benevolence

There are many New Testament passages that stress that the church revealed in the Bible was a group of people who cared for their own members:

  • Acts 22:44-45 “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need”
  • Acts 4:32-35 “All the believers were one in heart and mind… There were no needy persons among them
  • Acts 6:1 “The number of the disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food”
  • Acts 11:29 “The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea”
  • Romans 15:26 “For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem”
  • 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 “…Now about the collection for God’s people…”

Thus, the church is a generous group of people who take care of the needs of their own members. Observe that all these examples refer to specific disciples, believers, brothers or saints. We never find the church taking care of the physical needs of non-Christians, even though there were many needy non-Christians around them. Some have disagreed with this conclusion and have argued that passages such as James 1:26 and Galatians 6:10 authorize the local congregation to financially help and care for the physical needs of non-Christians. Allow me to make a couple of observations:

  • First, the early church under the direction of the apostles had in their possession both Galatians 6:10 and James 1:26, and yet we find no collections for non-Christians. Therefore, the apostles never interrupted such passages as authorizing the church to take up a collection for the needy in the community.
  • Secondly, such passages are in contexts dealing with responsibilities the individual Christian (James 1:27).
  • Thirdly, when Peter and John had access to many funds and had the opportunity to materially help a non-Christian, they said that they did not have any money to give this man (Acts 3:6).
  • Even after I have given on the First Day of the Week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), this is not the sum total of my giving as a Christian. I also have obligations outside the congregational collection. So, I must not make the mistake of thinking that giving on the First Day of the Week fulfills all my benevolent obligations as a Christian. Individuals can do much good in supporting financially secular organizations that serve the physical needs of victims of natural disasters, etc.

The Work of Edification

Like benevolence, there are individual responsibilities when it comes to edification as well as congregational obligations. As an individual Christian I have an obligation to attend the assemblies (Hebrews 10:24) and to build up my brethren (1 Thessalonians 5:14). God created the offices of pastors (elders), teachers, and evangelists for the purpose of edifying the members as well.

  • Ephesians 4:11-13 “It was He who gave some to be… evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”

This is one reason why congregations have Bible studies before or after worship services, mid-week services, gospel meetings, ladies classes, men’s classes, and so on. In fact, the worship service itself has a number of purposes, besides existing for the purpose of worshipping God and learning about Him, another related purpose is to be spiritually encouraged, “So that the church may be edified” (1 Corinthians 14:5); “So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (14:12).

The Work of Evangelism

Once again, the individual does have obligations in the realm of evangelism outside whatever is being coordinated or planned on the local level. Acts 8 reveals that individual Christians without the direction of the apostles or any elders simply when about “preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Therefore, the individual does have the right to purpose their own evangelistic efforts, such as making up their own materials, leaving cards, tracks, or even doing such things as putting together a website for the gospel or putting together a magazine or paper.

Yet, a tremendous amount of evangelism is done through the workings of the local congregation. Paul said, “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people” (Acts 11:26). “The Lord’s message rang out from you” (1 Thessalonians 1:7).

  • First of all, the above passage is not teaching that the church invented the truth, developed the Bible, or determined which books would be included in the Bible and which books were be excluded. God gave us the truth, and it is the obligation of any local congregation to preach that truth and not to compromise.
  • Thus, the members of the local congregation are not to discover truth, but rather to faithfully hold to the truth that has already been clearly delivered (2 Timothy 2:2).
  • Neither is the passage teaching that the church is an “inspired interpreter” or an organization that cannot err in its interpretation of the Scriptures. Local congregations can go off into error (Galatians 4:11; Revelation 2:20). In fact, a huge apostasy would take many Christians into error (2 Timothy 4:3). No inspiration is need to properly interpret Scripture (Ephesians 3:4).

From eternity God had not only designed the church, but also its essential, important and glorious work. Let us honor His plan and be busy at His work to His glory.