The Three Great Ends of the Church #2

Glorification of God, Edification of the Saints, and Evangelization of the World!

Psalm 66:8-15; Ephesians 4:11-13

 

There was a church in a small town in Tennessee that had the most interesting name. The sign in front of it said, “Left Foot Baptist Church.” There was a young man who passed by the building several times, and he always got a good chuckle from the name. Finally, one day he stopped by and asked someone about the church with the unusual name. I don’t believe that he was counting on the answer that he got. He found out that several years before, a great conflict arose in the church. You see, it was a Foot-Washing Baptist Church–they washed one another’s feet as an act of worship. But the conflict broke out over which foot should be washed first. Half of the congregation thought they should start with the right foot. The other half thought that they should always start with the left foot. The conflict simmered and brewed until finally the left-foot proponents split off and organized their own church. Of course, they called it “Left Foot Baptist Church.”

 

While that story is unusual by itself, we know that it is not unusual for churches to allow small and insignificant matters to tear them apart. And when these small things become the focus of the church, then they keep the church from fulfilling God’s purpose. I am very thankful for the positive spirit of unity that exists in the church family here. It is something that we need to continually work at as we strive to live out God’s purpose for our lives and for this church.

 

Last Sunday we began a three-week series of messages that I titled, “The Three Great Ends of the Church.” We said that the more we read the Scriptures, the more we see three major ends of the church. Ecclesiology, the theological study of the Christian Church, tells us that the Church exists for three major purposes: glorification of God, edification of the saints, and evangelization of the world. Last week we covered the first end, the first purpose, the glorification of God. We said that the   church is the chief instrument for glorifying God in the world. We glorify God by (1) Completing the works God has given us ~ John 17:4. (2) We glorify God by our faith ~ Romans 4:20. The second purpose is to edify the saints. Because Christ’s church is not a building – Christ’s church is a family of believers who share life together – Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church is challenging each of us to jump in and celebrate our spiritual life with the family God has given to us. Two major thoughts for this morning:

 

First: God Ordained Local Churches

The New Testament church was made up of a universal body of redeemed saints. But all of those saints located in identifiable, local, geographic gatherings that were deeply connected at every level: spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally. New Testament believers were taught that God wanted them to be a part of a local church. New Testament believers were taught that God wanted them to pour out their lives into one group of people day after day, and week after week.

 

If Christ had only wanted us to only be a part of the universal church then we could all just drive around each Sunday and visit a different church. We could all be well rested, never exhausted by ministry, never in a hurry to get everything done that needs to be accomplished, and just come at the posted time, take in the service, get blessed, and leave. That form of detached, uninvolved, “free as the wind” type of church was never a part of Christ’s plan for His body!

Jesus sent out His apostles to start local, visible groups of believers that lived life together as Christ’s family. God did not design the drive-in-theater type of church that has a parking lot of unconnected individuals all watching the same show. He designed Christ’s family as a group that shares life. God looks to each one of us to do our part in His Church that He is building; and each of us is a unique tool in His Hands; and each of us can do something God designed only for us to do. Therefore, God indeed ordained local churches with purposes in His mind.

 

Second: Equipping the Saints and Edifying of the Body

When we were saved we each became a vital part of Christ’s Church, with a specific job description that is found in many places including Ephesians 4:11-16.   In Ephesians 4 Paul is sharing with us the plan Jesus gave him, to keep His saints all doing what He designed them to do. Listen to God’s plan for the members of His body in Ephesians 4:11-13, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping [preparing, perfecting] of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”  (NKJV).

 

Ephesians 4:12 contains God’s goal for all of us in Christ’s church this morning—bringing believers to spiritual health and spiritual growth through truth in Christ. How is this done within a local church? Paul introduces us to the twin concepts of the “equipping church” and the “edifying church.” Both ministries are vital. We all need to grasp our responsibility, so that we come to church and operate as a church in the way that God designed us to serve Him.

 

Equip: Paul grabs a word that gave an immediate picture in everyone’s mind that read this letter. Saints need to be made whole, they need to be mended, and they need to be repaired. So the word “equip” which means either mending nets or setting bones, describes the taking injured, damaged, or weakened things and getting them back the way they are supposed to be. An equipping church is all about helping people from where they are to where God wants them to be. We all need help, and we all are to help each other. I hope that every one of us will be able le to plug those images into the purpose of Christ’s church as we meet here every time. “Mending lives” so that those lives can be engaged as tools in Christ’s hands building up, helping, exhorting, and discipling others.

 

Friends, believers are out in life getting frayed, torn, and ripped by all the troubles and struggles we go through each day. We each sustain some degree of damage through struggles at work, conflicts at home, and temptations nagging us everywhere, and fears assaulting us when we are alone. We are often just like a net as it gets dragged along the shore in daily use—we have sustained wear and tear to our lives just with the daily pressures and stresses of living.

 

But now comes the wonderful part; the good news. This truth is what has strengthened Christ’s church through all these centuries since Pentecost—when we gather obediently as Christ’s church, He is present; and when Christ is present, He uses us to do His work of repairing one another from the injuries of life’s struggles. He uses us to edify, to build up each other’s faith. Friends, God wants us to actually do something for Christ in the lives of those around us. Through His plan we get back on the road, the broken down relationships mended, the flat tires of lost hope repaired, confidence and assurance are restored, and we go back on the road of life again. We are repaired, mended, and built up—by His Spirit, through His Word, and using other believers. The church that offers these needed repairs is the church that is truly an “equipping” and “edifying” church; and that is what we see as we follow this word through the rest of the New Testament. Jesus uses us within His church to be His instruments through which He mends other believers. May we be so. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

 

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday March 15th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

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