Stephen Caswell © 2001
Mission Of The Church
Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, won a strategic battle with comparative ease and little loss of men. When asked for explanation of his victory over the enemy, he said, The enemy had seven cooks and one spy, but I had seven spies and one cook. Probably the Church lacks power because it majors on the minors and minors on the majors.
In today's society Christians have many different ideas about what a Church should be. Many see the Church as the place they should go to worship God each Sunday. They believe that the Church will minister to them. Many believers are unaware that collectively Christians are the Church. But, why did God found the Church in the first place? This morning we begin a series on God's purpose for the Church. We will look at various passages in the New Testament that explain why Christ founded the Church.
The word Church ejkklhsia means the called out ones, an assembly or congregation. God's purpose is to call out a special people for Himself from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue. These people belong to God; they live to serve Him. Initially God sent His Son to begin this work. He began by calling people to follow Him, to be His disciples. Jesus Christ Himself has completed our salvation, but He commissioned the Church to make known God's salvation to the world. The apostles first received the Great Commission directly from Christ. This has since been passed on to us. The task is great and the laborers are few. There are many obstacles and adversaries, but we also have the promise of God's help. How important is the Great Commission to you? Are you involved in it?
On Page 6 of our Church constitution we find this statement under Goals and Objectives. The program of this Church must be the Great Commission. Matthew 28:19-20. Evangelism, soul winning, Bible teaching, fellowship, and edification of the Church are the soul reasons for its existence. The Church's aim is to show forth Christ through the local Church which is His body. Administration will be kept to a minimum as will secular and social activities which may absorb the physical and spiritual energies of the members. The resources of the Church both monitory and physical are to be directed toward fulfilling the great commission.
As we study God's purpose for the Church we soon realize that there are at least five parts to God's purpose. In Acts chapter two we find the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost. Jesus had previously announced its coming in Matthew chapter 17. In Acts chapter two we find its beginning. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost commenced the Church Age. After the Holy Spirit had filled the disciples they were empowered for service. God enabled them to speak in tongues. A crowd gathered to find out what was happening and they heard of God's wonderful works in their own language. Fifteen different language groups heard what God had been doing. Then Peter stood and preached the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ to the crowd.
I will read from Acts 2:37-47: Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, be saved from this perverse generation. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Turn on 1st O.H.P.
Five Purposes For The Church
I believe that there were five things that the early Church concentrated on; Evangelism, discipleship, worship, fellowship and ministry. Down the ages Churches have majored on one, two or three of these points, but rarely all five. When Churches focus on all five of these things God blesses. To fulfill all five purposes requires total commitment from the Church. Today I want to start at the beginning, with evangelism. Why is this the beginning? Because the early Church started with evangelism on the Day of Pentecost. In fact without evangelism you can't even start the process of making a disciple of Jesus Christ.
All four Gospel's and the Book of Acts contain an account of the Great Commission. Each Gospel emphasizes a particular aspect of it. Matthew's Gospel commands us to make disciples of all nations. Mark's Gospel commands us to preach the Gospel to every creature. Luke commanded the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they receive the Holy Spirit. John commanded the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, which they did at Pentecost. This morning I want to look at Mark's account. He highlights evangelism. Mark 16:15-16 And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Apathy Towards Evangelism
One Sunday, a minister began his sermon this way: I'd like to make three points today. First, there are millions of people around the world going to hell. Second, most of us sitting here today don't give a damn about it. After a lengthy pause he continued: My Third point is that you are more concerned that I, your pastor, said the word damn than you are about the millions of people who are damned to hell.
Marks Gospel contains only one command, Preach the Gospel. The word preach khruvssw means to proclaim as the king's herald, to proclaim or publish something openly with authority. Yet, it has been estimated that probably 95% of all church members have never led anyone to Christ. God can use anyone that is available to Him!!! James Strachan said: Saving knowledge is diffused over the earth, not like sunlight but like torch light, which is passed from hand to hand. God calls us to witness to others what He has done in our lives.
Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Various Channels God Used
In a late publication, Dr. Basil Miller says that Dr. Reuben A. Torrey was won to Christ through the witnessing of a godly mother; Sam Jones, by his own father; George Mueller, by a friend; John R. Mott, by a teacher; George Whitefield, by a book; and Count Zinzendorf, through a certain picture. There is no prescribed type of testimony, except that it be Christ - centered and Spirit - directed. Are we in the place where God can use our testimony? Are we making the most of our opportunities of witnessing for Him?
Mark shares 3 things about preaching the Gospel; the Content, the Crowd, the Consequences.
a. The Content
The content of the message is the Gospel, the good news of salvation. Christ has not asked us to proclaim social reform or a particular creed. He commissioned us to preach the Gospel. Jack Hayford said: I don't perceive my call as one to protest the culture but to proclaim the Savior. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said: I take my text and make a bee-line to the cross. Since this is the message we are to make known, it would be good to refresh ourselves with the details of the Gospel. The Gospel actually begins with bad news. It starts by informing us that we are all sinners bound for an eternity in hell. We must believe this to be saved. Romans 3:23 says for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
No one is good enough to go to heaven. This is the truth. This is bad news for all men. But there is good news. Romans 6:23 says: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. God offers salvation as a free gift to those who will receive it. Only one person lived a perfect life, Jesus Christ. He never sinned. In fact God sent Jesus to live the holy life He expects from us. He also took the punishment for our sin. He received the wages of our sin on the cross. Those who believe in Christ receive both His righteous life and forgiveness from their sins. The Gospel declares that God has provided eternal life through Jesus. 1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
The Gospel declares Christ's perfect life, sacrificial death and His resurrection. Paul summarized this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5: Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. This is the Gospel we have been commissioned to preach. Anything else is not the Gospel.
We Preach Christ Crucified
The story is told of a small English village that had a tiny chapel whose stone walls were covered with ivy. Over an arch was originally inscribed the words: We Preach Christ Crucified. There had been a generation of godly men who did precisely that: they preached Christ crucified. But times changed. The ivy grew and pretty soon covered the last word.
The inscription now read: We Preach Christ. Other men came and they did preach Christ: Christ the example, Christ the humanitarian, Christ the ideal teacher. As the years passed, the ivy continued to grow until finally the inscription read: We Preach. The next generation did just that: they preached economics, the social gospel, book reviews, and almost anything.
O, how we need to keep our focus on the heart of the Gospel. It is so easy to challenge people about Christian things but not preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Do you warn people of the dangers of alcohol or cigarettes? Do you warn them about the dangers of immorality yet neglect the greatest danger of all, the wages of sin? Do you warn them about the dangers of rejecting Jesus Christ the Savior? Will you share Jesus Christ and Him crucified?
b. The Crowd
16:15 And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Verse 15 also tells us the crowd we are to reach. Firstly, we find that the geographical reference is all inclusive. We are commanded to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Acts 1:8 also gives us specific information on where we are to preach the Gospel. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. The apostles were to start in Jerusalem and then move out from there to Judea, Samaria and unto the ends of the earth. When you read the Book of Acts you find that this is exactly how the world was evangelized. However, the task still remains unfinished. We have work to do today!
Mark 16:15 also tells us who we are to preach the Gospel to in all the world, every creature. It is God's will that everyone hear the Good News of salvation. This means no exceptions. God wants every creature to hear the Good News. Matthew's account also highlights the all encompassing scope of the task. Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore 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 all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. God wants the Church to make disciples of all the nations. He wants representatives from all nations in heaven.
He Got A City Directory
Preparatory to beginning a meeting in a large city, famed evangelist Billy Sunday wrote a letter to the mayor in which he asked for the names of individuals he knew who had spiritual problems and needed help and prayer. How surprised the evangelist was when he received from the mayor a city phone directory.
Revelation 5:9-10 says: And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth. Since God has decreed that people from every kindred, tongue, people and nation should stand before Him dare we say that some are to hard to reach? Doesn't he love all the world? John 3:16 says that He does.
All around us sinners are bound for hell. How can you and I reach so many lost people? Individually. One at a time. Is it the pastors responsibility, or everyone's? Do you care about the lost? Do you pray for them? When was the last time you talked to someone about their need for salvation? Where would you be today if someone hadn't taken the time to share the Gospel with you? Have you shared the Gospel with unsaved members of your family? If not, then how are you obeying the Great Commission to preach the Gospel to every creature?
c. The Consequences
Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Mark tells us that preaching the Gospel will bring about one of two consequences. They will receive either salvation or condemnation. It all depends on the response of the hearer. There is no third option. To refuse to make a decision is to not believe. We cannot save anyone, only God can do that. But we can share God's plan of salvation with them. We can point them to Christ Who alone can save them. The choice belongs to each individual. Our responsibility is to preach Christ to every creature. To make the message as attractive as possible through a godly life. If they don't believe we have still been faithful to our task of evangelism.
What is the requirement to be saved? Verse 16 says that anyone who believes and is baptized is saved. What must they believe? They must believe that they are a sinner who cannot save themselves. They must believe that Christ died for their sins according to the Scriptures and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. Our faith must be placed in Jesus Christ. Faith alone won't do any good unless it's placed in Him. Sinners must repent of their sin. This means they turn away from sin and live for God. Acts 20:21: testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith Is The Gift Of God
Faith is the gift of God. So is the air, but you have to breathe it. So is bread, but you have to eat it. So is the water but you have to drink it. How do we accept this gift? Not by a feeling, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God. It is not for men to sit down and wait for faith to come upon them with a strong feeling of some kind. Rather, faith comes when we take God at His Word. Romans 10:8-9 But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart that is, the word of faith which we preach: that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Why does Mark include baptism here? Because it was expected that those who believe in Christ would be baptized. In Matthew's account of the Great Commission baptism is required to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. But baptism can't save you. Baptism is just a public testimony of the salvation one has already received. This can be seen that condemnation only requires one not to believe. Baptism will not save someone who has not believed in Jesus Christ.
How is one condemned? That's easy, by doing nothing. By ignoring or rejecting the Gospel. God will not force anyone to believe in His Son. The Lord calls to sinners, in fact He pleads with them to be reconciled to Himself. But if sinners reject His Son, God accepts their decision and reluctantly condemns them. God won't save someone who doesn't want to be saved. Will God condemn people to hell for not believing in His Son? Yes. Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
How painful to almost get a situation, but to miss it.
How vexing to almost catch a plane, but to be left behind.
How sad to almost escape drowning, but to be engulfed by water.
But, oh, how tragic above all else to be almost a Christian, and yet suffer in the lake of fire for eternity. It has been well said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
May it not be said also that it will be trodden by millions of almost Christians!
Oh, be warned, then against being an almoster, for to be almost saved is to be certainly lost!!
The Church's purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission. We are not responsible for the results or the consequences. God commands us to preach the Gospel to every creature. Are you obeying this command? Are you praying for the lost and opportunities to tell them of Christ? Have you believed in Jesus Christ? Have you received His forgiveness of sins and eternal life? If you die without Christ you will be condemned to the Lake of Fire for eternity.
Today we have seen one part of God's purpose for the Church. To evangelize the world. Mark 16:19-20 tell us that the disciples obeyed this. Firstly, we have been given the content of the message, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Secondly, we know the crowd we have to reach, every creature, in every nation, the world. Thirdly, we know the consequences of the message. It brings God's salvation to those who believe and condemnation to those who don't. How important is the Great Commission to you? Are you involved in evangelism?
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.