In Part 1, we looked at what the Church is according to the New Testament. We learned that we are the Body of Christ, the People of God, and the Bride of Christ. Each of these beautiful analogies pictures the Church as the collective group of believers and their relationship to God. Now that we understand our relationship toward God, we need to consider the purpose God has for the Church.
As we consider our biblical purpose as the Church, it would be easy to lose ourselves in a long list of purposes given to us by God. To keep from becoming overwhelmed by a long list, I have divided the purposes into three categories: our purpose in relation (1) to God, (2) to believers, and (3) to unbelievers.
- Our purpose in relation to God
If I were to ask you to describe God’s purpose for the Church, what would you say? It would be easy to talk about evangelism and discipleship because of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). But if those are the primary purposes for the Church, we would neglect our purpose as it relates to God Himself. Consider the following three purposes as they relate to God.
We are to worship and glorify God (John 4:23-24; 1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 1:12).
Worship is “reverent love and devotion”1 directed toward God. It is a mindset and lifestyle that gratefully recognizes God for who He is and what He has done. In John 4:23-24, Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God desires people to worship Him in spirit and truth. This means that each believer must show reverence and devotion toward God from his spirit. But each believer must also do this according to the truth which God has revealed. When we do this, we will also want to glorify Him.
Glorify means “to give … honor, or high praise to; exalt.”2 My personal definition of glorify is “to make God look good.” This is done by how our lives (thoughts, speech, and actions) honor God. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul was instructing the Corinthians about differences of opinion about certain things. They were to consider the opinions of other believers, but most importantly, they were to glorify God in whatever they chose to do.
In Ephesians 1:12, Paul reminded the believers that their Christian lives were a result of God’s goodness to them and should be lived “to the praise of His glory.” The idea is that the change God had made in their lives would cause others to praise God’s exalted character. McGee summarizes things nicely. “God does not exist to satisfy the whim and wish of the believer. The believer exists for the glory of God.”3
We are to be holy for God (1 Pet. 1:14-16).
While we have recently covered this portion of Scripture in another message, we ought to consider this as one of our purposes as a church. Holiness has been described as being “completely absent of even a trace of sin.”4 This is what God is and what every believer should strive for. In 1 Peter 1:14-16, Peter tells us this holiness should be seen in two ways. First, we are not to conform ourselves to our former, sinful lifestyle. Going back to what God saved us from would be foolish. So we choose to keep ourselves separated from those sinful actions. Second, we are to conform ourselves to God’s holiness. This means that our every thought, speech, or action should be holy like God is. To do this, we must read the Bible to see what God is like and how He responds to various situations. As we mimic His example, we will become like Him (as much as is possible on earth).
We are to obey Him (Eph. 5:23-24).
As we discussed in Part 1, the Church is considered the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 5:23-24, Paul likens the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church. As a wife submits to the loving leadership of her husband, so the Church ought to submit to the loving leadership of Christ. Part of this is gratefulness for Him saving us (Eph. 5:23) and part of this is understanding who we are in the relationship. He is God and we are not. He who knows what is best, so we need to follow His leading.
This part of our purpose covers everything God has told us to do. When we find a command in the New Testament, we should obey it because we love the Lord and accept His leadership in every area of our lives. This would cover things like being honest, working to provide for our own needs, giving to others in need, preaching the gospel, praying, reading the Bible, discipling others, singing to God, and much more. Every believer must submit to God’s will and obey what He commands.
Do you see how the Church should first consider their purpose as it relates to God? While evangelism and discipleship are part of our purpose, we must first consider our relationship to God. As we recognize who God is and what He has done for us, we will naturally want to worship and glorify Him. And as we do that, we will be more likely to want to be holy like Him and to obey His commands.
Starting with our purpose in relation to God will keep us on the right track and will prepare our minds for a proper purpose in our relation to believers and unbelievers. If we reverse the order, our purpose toward people will likely drive us to duty without love for God. So, keep your love for the Lord first and then consider what our purposes ought to be toward the others.
- Our purpose in relation to believers
Now that we have looked at the Church’s purpose in relation to God, we see that we should worship and glorify God, be holy like Him, and obey Him. These purposes help us to stay focused on Who is most important—God Himself. And as we are seeking to please Him, we must also notice the purpose He wants us to have in relation to other believers.
We are to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20; Eph. 4:11-16).
A disciple is someone who is learning from another person. In this case, it is an immature Christian being mentored by a mature Christian. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus told His disciples to make disciples of people from all nations. These disciples were to be baptized and then taught all that Jesus had commanded. We need to continue doing this today so that all believers might become more mature. In Ephesians 4:15-16, Paul reminds believers that God has gifted certain people for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. Their ministry was designed not only to equip believers but also to keep them from being easily deceived by false doctrine. It is clear that this is a major need for Christians of all ages. We must make disciples.
We are to uphold and proclaim all of God’s truth (Acts 20:27; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Thess. 5:14).
While you may have your favorite doctrines in the Bible, it is important to learn all that God has for us today. In Acts 20:27, Paul met with the Ephesian elders and reminded them that he didn’t shy away from telling them “the whole counsel of God.” This was another way of saying that he told them all of God’s truth not just his favorite portions. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul reminded Timothy that “the church of the living God” was “the pillar and ground of the truth.” This is not saying that any particular church determines what is true. Instead, the Church “upholds … the truth that God has revealed to men.”5 That is the purpose of the Church. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, we are reminded that upholding and proclaiming God’s truth often involves addressing issues that come up. We are to patiently exhort, warn, comfort, and uphold other believers. And this can only be done as we understand and apply God’s truth to each situation.
We are to fellowship together (John 13:35; Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:25).
Fellowship is a “close association between persons, emphasizing what is common between them.”6 This is a good definition of fellowship because all Christians will have much in common due to being a part of God’s family. Consider what the Bible says about Christian fellowship. In John 13:35, Jesus told his disciples that they would be known for their love for each another. We ought to spend time with those we love. In Acts 2:42, the early believers spent a lot of time together. They found four things in common: the disciples’ teaching, fellowship with one another, eating together (probably the Lord’s Supper), and faithful prayer to God. In Hebrews 10:25, we are reminded that forsaking local church gatherings is not good because we need the exhortation that often happens during these meetings. Fellowship is definitely something that God wants for every believer.
As Christians, these biblical purposes ought to guide our interaction with other believers. We should seek to make disciples, uphold and proclaim all of God’s truth, and fellowship with other believers. As we do this, we will be accomplishing God’s purposes in relation to other believers. But we must also consider God’s purpose in regards to unbelievers.
- Our purpose in relation to unbelievers
If you look back at the Church’s purpose in relation to God, you will see that we are to worship and glorify God, live holy lives for Him, and obey Him. As we seek to obey God, we must consider what God has commanded us to do in regards to those who still do not believe.
We are to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15; 2 Cor. 5:20-21; 2 Cor. 2:15-17).
In Mark 16:15, Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person. This command has been passed on to the Church. But what is the gospel? The word gospel means “glad tidings, good, or joyful news.”7 What exactly is this joyful message? To understand the good news, we have to understand the bad news first. The bad news is that all have sinned against God and deserve eternal punishment. But the good news is that God loved us and provided for our sins to be paid for. Jesus died in our place on the cross to pay the price for our sins, was buried, and was raised back to life on the third day. Those who repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus will be saved from the coming judgment and given eternal life.
In 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, we are reminded to be ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is usually someone who represents one country’s interests to another. In our case, we are to represent Christ to those who need to hear the gospel message. As we speak the gospel to people, God will use us to urge them to be reconciled to Him. Think of it this way. People around the world are ignorant of their need to be reconciled to God. They are living their lives without understanding that their sinful lifestyle has made them an enemy of God. Because of their ignorance, we need to announce the truth and seek to reconcile them to God through Jesus.
In 2 Corinthians 2:15-17, we are told that our message will be met with varied responses. To those who will perish, our message will be like the aroma of death—an announcement of their coming death. These people will not appreciate the message we preach because they refuse to believe it. To those who will be saved, our message will be like the aroma of life—an announcement of them being saved from the coming judgment. These people will appreciate the message we preach because they choose to believe it. In both cases, we must preach the gospel regardless of the response.
We are to be a light in a dark world (Matt. 5:14-16; Phil. 2:15; Eph. 5:8-11).
In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world. Despite the fact that they would be reviled and persecuted, they were to rejoice in the work they were called to do. The Church should have the same mindset. Our changed lives should result in good works that reflect the goodness and purity of God to a world that is controlled by sin. As our lives showcase the change God has made in us, we will bring glory to God.
In Philippians 2:15, we see that our purpose includes living godly lives in front of the sinful world. Unsaved people have not been changed by God and can be described as a “crooked and perverse” generation. But the Church is called to stand out like a light in a dark place. We are to be like-minded, loving, selfless, humble, caring, like Jesus, not complaining, not disputing, but blameless and innocent. As we live in this way, our example will be seen by others.
In Ephesians 5:8-11, we are commanded to live as children of light. During our sinful and dark past, we were involved with ungodly actions which kept us from God’s kingdom and placed us under God’s wrath. Now that we have been saved from that, we are to live lives which are fitting of children of the light. This involves living in a way that is acceptable to the Lord. But it is not enough just to live right, we also must expose the unfruitful works of darkness so that others will know.
What is God’s purpose for the Church? During our study, we have focused on three things. In relation to God, our purpose it to worship and glorify God, to be holy like Him, and to obey Him. These purposes ought to be our first concern. In relation to believers, our purpose is to make disciples, uphold and proclaim God’s truth, and fellowship together. These should be an important part of our daily ministry. In relation to unbelievers, we are to preach the gospel and be a light in this dark world. Notice that our job is to proclaim and shine without a mandate for results. We simply do as we have been told and then let God work in people’s hearts.
While further Bible study may reveal additional purposes for the Church, I believe that these purposes will keep us grounded in what God wants us to be doing. As we seek to follow God’s purposes for our church, let us be faithful to do them for God’s glory and the benefit of all people.
1 “worship” as defined at https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=worship on 11/5/2023.
2 “glorify” as defined at https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=glorify on 11/5/2023.
3 McGee 224.
4 “What does the Bible say about holiness?”
5 Kent 140.
Kent, Homer A., The Pastoral Epistles, Chicago: Moody Press, 1982.
Liftin, A. Duane, “1 Timothy,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.
“What does the Bible say about holiness?” as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.org/holiness-Bible.html on 11/5/2023.
“What is the importance of Christian fellowship?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=2375 on 11/8/2023.
“What is the purpose of the church?” as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.org/purpose-church.html on 11/5/2023.
“εὐαγγέλιον” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/euangelion on 11/12/2023.
“κοινωνία” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/koinonia on 11/8/2023.