The Purpose and Priority of the Church
God chose a people for Himself before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4-5). In love, He predestined them to salvation, by adoption as His children (1 Jn 3:1, 10).
Salvation is entirely a work of our triune God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1); Christ being the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). As vessels of mercy, God’s elect people are being prepared, by God, for glory (Rom :8:30; 9:23).
Having been chosen in God’s predetermined plan (Acts 2:23; Rom 11:5), according to His eternal purpose in Christ (Eph 3:11), does not, in itself, execute the required payment for sins committed against God. For this, God demonstrated His love and His power, in sending His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8).
The eternal Son of God came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21), to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 19:10). He cancelled the debt of sin, owed by His people (Col 2:14), as He died on the cross, in their place of punishment for sins (1 Pet 2:24). He propitiated their sins (Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2), so that the wrath of God was no longer directed at their ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). The result: there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
God has transferred His redeemed people from the domain of darkness and positioned them as citizens in the kingdom of His beloved Son (1 Cor 1:30; Col 1:13). As citizens of heavenly Zion (Phil 3:20; Heb 12:22), having received the baptism and permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11' Acts 2:38; Rom 8:9, 11), Christians (anointed ones), serve as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). Together, all Christians, everywhere, and throughout history, serve as members of Christ’s body (Rom 12:5) because they belong to Him (1 Cor 3:23), having been bought for a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23), from the slave market of sin (Rom 6:6; Eph 6:6).
The kingdom of God is the church of Jesus Christ (Mt 16:18; Col 1:24–25), in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). The purpose and priority of the church is to glorify God and enjoy Him, forever, as noted by the Westminster divines.
God has given His elect, redeemed people the right to be called the children of God (1 Jn 3:1), having received the Spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15, 23). The child is a reflection of her parents; and the adopted child of God, formerly a sinful rebel (Eph 2:12), is the object of God’s grace, receiving the sanctification of the Spirit (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 4:3; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13;1 Pet 1:2). The Spirit employs the Word of God to craft the justified sinner into conformity to the image of God’s holy Son (Rom 8:29).
It is the indwelling Spirit, who circumcises the heart of each saint (Ezek 36:26), and having caused them to be born again (1 Pet 1:3), He also causes them to walk in God’s statutes (Ezek 36:27). For it is no longer the unjust sinner who lives — she having died with Christ (Rom 6:8) — but Christ lives in her (Gal 2:20), willing and working His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). It is God who does all His holy will in the beloved of God (Rom 1:7; Eph 1:11).
Therefore, we can say, it is the purpose of the church to be the object of God’s grace (Jer 18; Rom 9:17–21), which is His exclusive work in and through His saints. God manifests Himself, in the Spirit, and does His work of building His holy temple (Eph 2:21). Each living stone (1 Pet 2:5) is cut by the Word, to fit as it should, into proper alignment to the cornerstone, who is Christ (Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:4).
Every term, employed by inspired holy Writ, reveals the Triune Godhead’s work in fulfilling His own purpose for His church. Whether God’s people are: called out; beloved; saints; believers; redeemed; Christians; elect; etc., we can see the diverse nature of God’s purposeful work.
There is no hierarchy revealed in the identities of the church. A “sheep of God’s pasture” is as important an image, as “apostle of God.” Each “member” of Christ’s body shares in these terms, used for individual or collective identities, albeit, our gifting helps us see our function. Christians have been designed to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14), having been created in Christ Jesus for this (Eph 2:10), and gifted by the Holy Spirit (Rom 12; 1 Cor 12; Eph 4), to abound for the edification of the church (1 Cor 14:12).
The least and weakest member is prized because of his position. It is the error of man-centered theology to turn Christianity into a performance religion, in the perverted lust for numerical church growth. God’s Word assures us, that God’s little flock (Lk 12:32) is missing no member, not even one of the elect remnant (Jn 10:28–29; Rom 8:35–39).
It is God who does the work, and who gets the glory, in building His church, holy temple, holy nation, royal priesthood, the Israel of God. Thus, we conclude that the purpose and priority of the church is simply to be the church…the object of God’s love and gracious work. The church cannot fail in this objective because God has begun this good work, and He will perfect this good work, with His purpose and priority being His own glory…and the joy of His people.
Spokane Valley, Washington
December 18, 2021