God’s Purpose for His Church
Dr. Alex Tang
God’s purpose for His church is for her to become a Great Commission Church
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 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. (NKJV)
1. What is God’s Purpose for the Church?
If we are to do a survey among members of the church on what is the purpose of the church, I am sure we will get many diverse ideas:
A large number will probably rank fellowship first. The church is the community of God. The church is the ‘chosen people’. Are not the church where these people interact with one another, pray for one another and care for one another? People value the church as the place where activities are organized so that relationships are nurtured, where families can grow in a safe environment – safe from the influence of the world.
(b) Sound biblical teaching
Some others will regard the purpose of the church to provide sound biblical teaching. The church should expound the Scriptures, teaching and informing the members of the revealed truth of the Word of God. This will lead to transformed lives. This will lead to members discovering and using their spiritual gifts for the common good of the church.
Others will regard the praise of God to be the supreme purpose of the church. A church should be a praising people. We should be grateful that we are the ‘chosen ones’. We should be grateful that God has chosen us and draw us near to Him until we have received His salvation. We should be grateful for his daily grace. We should be thankful and continually praise Him.
Fellowship, sound biblical teaching and praise are thoroughly biblical and should characterize the church. But neither separately nor together do they represent the central purpose and mission of the church in the world. The supreme purpose and motive of every individual believer and every church is to glorify God.
What is God doing in the universe today? What is God’s purpose for the created order we are in? God’s purpose is to redeem the world. That is His divine plan. Since Adam sinned and fell from fellowship from God, God has been redeeming the world. He has been seeking and calling people back to Him. He has been protecting our environment from going into complete chaos. God’s purpose to redeem this creation.
2 Cor 5:18-19
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Christ is the means by which God redeems or reconciles the world. To fulfill God’s purpose of redeeming the world, God has sent Jesus Christ. By becoming man, bearing our sins and dying on the cross for us, Jesus Christ has make possible for us to reconcile with God.
John 17:3-4 records Jesus’ priestly prayer.
3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
In his time on earth Jesus has glorified God by accomplishing his mission of providing eternal life to those who trust him and reconciling man to God. Jesus’ supreme purpose on earth was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
That is God’s purpose for the universe. But what is God’s purpose for the church? It is the extension of the work of Jesus. As Jesus’ purpose is to glorify God by saving the lost, so it is the church’s purpose to glorify God by saving the lost.
18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
As John MacArthur wrote:
‘ If God’s primary purpose for the saved were loving fellowship, He would take believers immediately to heaven, where spiritual fellowship is perfect, unhindered by sin, disharmony and loneliness. If His primary purpose for the saved was the learning of His Word, He would also take believers immediately to heaven, where His Word is perfectly known and understood. And is God’s primary purpose for the saved were to give him praise, He would, again, take believers immediately to heaven, where praise is perfect and unending.
There is only one reason the Lord allows His church to remain on earth: to seek and save the lost, just as Christ’s only reason for coming to earth was to seek and save the lost. “As the Father has sent Me, “He declared,” I also send you (John 20:21). Therefore, a believer who is not committed to winning the lost for Christ should reexamine his relationship to the Lord and certainly his divine reason for existence.’
In His last words to the 500 disciples, especially to the eleven, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gave what is know as the Great Commission
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
The Great Commission is the mission of the church to achieve the purpose of the church, which is to glorify God by saving the lost. Fellowship, teaching and praise are not the mission of the church but rather are preparation of the church to fulfill the Great Commission. And just as in athletics, training should never be confused with or substituted for actually competing in the games, which is the reason for training. Fellowship, teaching and praise should not be an end in itself. If it does, then the Great Commission becomes the Great Omission.
There is a story of a village that is near the sea. There are many sharp rocks just off the coast. Many times, many ships are shipwrecked just off the coast. The villagers will rush out in their boats and save as many people as they can. This happened very often and these villagers saved many people. Then the villagers decided that they will form a Life Saving Society and have weekly meetings. They will encourage each other and teach each other the techniques of saving lives. One day, a ship was wrecked on the rocks. The villagers were so busy with their meeting that no one went out to sea. All the sailors and passengers drowned.
2. What is the Great Commission?
18 Then Jesus came to them and said,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [credential]
make disciples [mission] of all nations, [scope of mission]
go [active verb]
baptizing them [active verb]
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20
teaching them[active verb]
to obey everything I have commanded you.
I am with you always, to the very end of the age. [resources]
a. credential - All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matt 18:18b)
Exousia (authority) refers to the freedom and right to speak and act as one pleases. In Jesus’ case, the exousia that is given to Him is absolute and unlimited. He emphasized by stating that the exousia extends to heaven and earth. As Lord of the church, Jesus has the authority to give the church a mandate.
Before Desert Storm (Gulf War), when President Bush approached General Schwartzkoopf to command the alliance forces, Schwartzkoopf wanted three conditions which must be fulfilled before he agrees to the command. Firstly, he must have all the manpower he wanted(half a million troops), secondly, all the war materials which he wanted (few billions USD) and thirdly, the authority to wage war from the field (“You set the goals and I’ll call you when it’s over”). The Vietnam War and the Korean War were lost because the generals had no authority and the wall was run from the White House. Hence it is in this context that Jesus declares that He had absolute authority.
b. mission - make disciples (Matt 28:19)
The mission is to make disciples. Mathèteuò (make disciples) is the main verb and central command of v. 19-20. The root meaning of the term refers to believing and learning. But in the context that Matthew is using, Mathèteuò relates to those who place their trust in Jesus Christ and follows Him in lives of continual learning and obedience. John 8:30-31
JN 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
The scope of this mission to ‘of all nations’. This echoes that the seeds of Abraham are to be a blessing to all nations. God wants to save all the nations, not only Israel.
The Great commission is a command to bring unbelievers throughout the world into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In making disciples, there are three action verbs or participles: go, baptizing and teaching.
The first action is to go. Go and makes disciples. Go, not come. The church is to go out into the world and make disciples. It is to go to where the unbelievers are – the orang asli, the poor, the elderly, the prostitutes in Jalan Trus, the sex bars in Jalan Serampang, the office, the hospital, their neighbors… The church is not to wait for unbelievers in walk in on their own through their church doors and then disciple them.
The second action is to baptize. We are to baptize new converts as soon as possible. Baptism is an act of publicly identifying ourselves with Christ. But it is not the ritual of baptism or the formula of saying the words ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. What is meant here is a heart change in our mindset – to become a new creation as we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. To develop a relationship with our Trinitarian God- God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is a unique relationship and we are to link ourselves into that relationship.
The third action is to teach. Obviously we need to know what God expect of us, if we want to obey Him. Hence there is the need for teaching. A disciple is by definition a learner and a follower. All of us are expected to be teachers of the Word. That implies we must know. To know we must learn if we are to teach the disciples to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. This teaching must leads to obedience. Jesus does not have in mind, teaching as an intellectual exercise but teaching that transforms life. Teaching that translates into a life of obedience.
Jesus did not only give us the marching orders and then left us. He also gave us resources to achieve the mission. The resource is He. He will be with the church until the end of the age. Until the time when He comes again. Jesus is the ultimate resource available to the church to achieve its mission.
3. What is a Great Commission Church?
A Great Commission church is a ‘Word and Power’ church. Strong in the knowledge of the Word of God and experienced in His Power. For power has been given to the church by Jesus Christ. Acts 1:8
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
God’s purpose is to build a Great Commission Church. What is a Great Commission Church? The church in Jerusalem is a good example of a Great Commission church.
AC 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The characteristics of a Great Commission Church are:
1. Teaching They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching v.42
2. Fellowship to the fellowship v.42
3. Breaking of Bread , to the breaking of bread v.42 ; They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts v.46
4. Prayer to prayer v.42
5. Worship. Everyone was filled with awe. Everyone was filled with awe v.43
6. Signs and wonders many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. v.43
7. Unity of purpose All the believers were together and had everything in common. v.44
8. Meeting together Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.v.46
9. Gratitude praising God v.47
10. Caring and social concern- enjoying the favor of all the people. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need v.45; and enjoying the favor of all the people v.47
And the fruit of this Great Commission church is And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved v.47
That is what God’s purpose is for the Church. The purpose is to save the lost. To do that we must focus on what is our primary mission which is the Great Commission. We must build a Great Commission church. That is not an option. If we want to build a strong church. If we want our church to be driven by Word and Power, we have to become a Great Commission church. The church in Jerusalem had shown us that it can be done and how to do it. Now it is up to us to take up the challenge.
Soli Deo Gloria
John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 24-28 (Chicago: Moody, 1989)
"making disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"
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