What is the primary function of the local church?
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“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” (not three, as a lot of people are depending on, and that’s not what the Book says now as you can see. We’ve moved on into another administration or dispensation) One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us (from the greatest to the least He has given these gifts of the Spirit that He lists here.) is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, `When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Absolutely He did.) [Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended (that of course was in His three days and nights that He was in the tomb) is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.]'” Look at the gifted men he gives to the Church in verse 11.
“And he gave some, apostles; (and they even faded off the scene after the apostolic age ended. We don’t have apostles in the Church today, but they were part of it even when he was writing Ephesians.) and some, prophets; (they also faded away because we now have the printed Word. Once the Word came into print there was no longer a need for gifted men to speak forth the Word, but even so, Paul still lists them here in Ephesians. Now here’s where we are today.) and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”
Those are the three basic gifts that the Church needs today. Men who are evangelists and can preach salvation, and probably going from place to place, we all understand the role of an evangelist. And then there’s the man who is the gifted person to be a pastor. We know that not all of God’s men can be pastors, and not all can be teachers. But these are the three basic gifts that are explained here in the Book of Ephesians, and now look also at verse 12. Why did God give the Church these three categories of people?
“For the perfecting (the maturing of believers, getting away from the milk bottle, and learning to eat the meat of the Word) of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of (not for the evangelist, pastors, and teachers, but for whom?) the body of Christ:”
Now I’ve maintained for years that the primary purpose of the Church (and I don’t care what denomination that is), is to so feed its members that those members can go out and become soul winners among the world in which they live. That’s the way they did it in the early Church. They didn’t have great evangelistic campaigns, they didn’t have great coliseums full of people, but oh listen, they turned the Roman Empire upside down. And how did they do it? By just simply every believer being taught from the Word that he could be a living testimony to the world around him, and this is the criteria for us today. Oh, to be so taught in the Word that you can be a testimony wherever you go, whoever you are. I don’t care how little education that you have, you can be a gifted person in God’s program for today.
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“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; (that is His crucified physical body) that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
Now I think when we taught Romans we brought this out. What is the primary purpose of God bringing man and woman together in a marital relationship? Fruit. And what’s the fruit? Children. That not the sole purpose, but the primary purpose. Well it’s the same way here. What is the primary purpose of God uniting Himself to us as members of the Body of Christ, and claiming us as His own. We are to be fruitful and bring forth spiritual children. Now we’re all getting anxious I trust for the Lord’s soon return. We are seeing the world just plunging into the end-time phenomena, and the things that are getting bad are going to only get worse. While you’re in Romans stop with me at Romans 11:25 because here’s the whole concept that as in a physical marriage God expects the fruit of that marriage to be children so also the fruit of the believer should be other believers, and we call that soul winning. And soul winning has to be done scripturally.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (secret) lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness (a spiritual blindness) in part (one day this blindness will end) is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
Now what’s the fulness of the Gentiles? When the Body of Christ is complete. When God has finished drawing that last person into the Body of Christ then we’re out of here. After that happens God will pick up where He left off with the Nation of Israel. Now coming back to II Corinthians Chapter 11 and reading verse 3 again.
II Corinthians 11:3
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve (in that first marital union) through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
If Eve is a symbol of the Church, the Body of Christ, then it stands to reason that it’s the Church that Satan is constantly attacking. Satan knows that it’s in the realm of the Church that he has his greatest opposition. Now we hear over and over, “When good men do nothing, then bad things happen.” And Satan knows that, so if he can neutralize the Body of Christ to where it says nothing then he can have full say.
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“Which in other ages (generations) was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ (how?) by the gospel”.
Not by works, or baptism, or some other phenomena. Just by the Gospel. That’s the only way. The Gospel, how that Christ died, was buried and rose again as we find in I Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 10:9-10. Now let’s come across to Chapter 4, still in Ephesians. Now this is an interesting series of verses.
“There is one body, …” There it is again. You don’t see that in Peter’s preaching. You don’t see that in Christ’s earthly ministry. But all through Paul’s writing you find this term, “the Body”. Let’s read on.
“… and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, (absolutely, there’s only one Name given among men whereby we must be saved) one faith, one baptism,”
I always smile when people say, “Well, I’m of the Catholic faith,” “I’m of the Methodist faith,” “I’m of the Baptist faith,” “I’m of this faith.” What do they do with a verse like this? There aren’t all that many faiths. There’s one faith and only one. That’s what The Book says.
“One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Let’s look on down into verse 12 of Ephesians 4. Why do you suppose we’re seeing all these references to the Body all of a sudden, in the book of Ephesians? More than we did in Romans or Corinthians. Paul’s writings are a progressive revelation just like the Bible as a whole. Now when Paul first begins his letters he does not make that big a deal over the Body of Christ. In Romans just that one mention. In I Corinthians, one or two mentions. But now as you come into the book of Ephesians and Paul has had further revelations, this is one of the prison epistles. And he has now been sitting in prison in Caesarea for a year and a half and all of these deeper things come and now that’s why you see more about the Body in Ephesians than you did in Romans and Corinthians. It’s part of this greater revelation of our position in the Body, which is in Christ.
“For the perfecting (maturing) of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the (what?) body of Christ.”
Do you see that? Now, let me make a point. Not every church member across the world is a member of the Body of Christ. In fact, I’m going to stick my neck out and say a small percentage of them. I don’t care what church you belong to. Mine included. Yes, I’m a member of a local church. Some people call and ask. I love my pastor and I think it’s mutual. But there are members of my church that are as lost as lost can be and they are not in the Body of Christ. I don’t know who they are because I’m not judging. I’m not looking at somebody and saying, “Well, you’re not in the Body.” In fact I told somebody the other day, and I’ll tell my whole television audience, don’t ever look at anybody, I don’t care how far down the tube they are, don’t look at them and say, “Well, you’re going to Hell”, because you don’t know that.
Salvation may come to that person at some future date and you don’t know that. And so, please, don’t ever tell someone that. That’s God’s prerogative, not ours. And the same with judging whether someone is a believer. I can’t and neither can you. Only God can see the heart. But I do know from the Scripture and from everything else that bombards us, there are a lot of bonafide church members who are not members of the Body of Christ. Only The Lord himself places a person into the Body of Christ. Denominations can’t, your preacher can’t do it, a priest can’t do it. This is something that only the Spirit of God can do. So, what is the purpose of all the things that God has been doing on behalf of the Church? To edify the Body of Christ, the true believer!