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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Summary of the Purposes of a Sound Church

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - 1 Corinthians 10:31
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Daily Scripture Reading - Matthew 28

Puritan Catechism
Question #11 - What are God's works of providence?
Answer - God's works of providence are his most holy (Ps. 145:17), wise, (Isa. 28:29) and powerful (Heb. 1:3), preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions (Ps. 103:19; Matt. 10:29).

Devotional Thoughts
In answer to a question about the purpose of the church, an ordination candidate from our church wrote that the "purpose(s) of the church can be understood as the immediate, intermediate, and ultimate purposes that follow":

The immediate purpose of the church is to evangelize the lost. The intermediate purpose of the church is to stimulate one another to love and obedience. The ultimate purpose of the church is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Evangelism is not inviting someone to Mainstream Fellowship Church in order to get them into an environment where the talented pastor may elicit from them an emotional response for Christ. Telling people the truth about themselves (Rom. 3:20,23; 5:12), the truth about God (Isa. 53:4; 1Tim. 1:15; Heb. 2:2-3; 12:29; 1Pet. 3:18), and the reason for the hope that is evident within you with gentleness and reverence (1Pet. 3:15, Heb. 6:17-20; Titus 2:13-14) is evangelism. Living your life in a manner that evidences the power of God in obedience to Christ is evangelism (Mat. 5:14-16; 1Cor. 2:3-5; 1Pet. 3:1-2,16). Communicating God's message of mercy to sinners by virtue of the atonement of Christ is evangelism (1Cor. 2:1-2). Secondly, the verse that often gets left out of the great commission is verse 20; after baptizing them, we are to be "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mat. 28:20).

The intermediate purpose of the church is to teach and rouse one another to love and obey God. This involves teaching, learning, sharing, and fellowship. The early church was "continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship" (Acts 2:42). Hebrews exhorts us to "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near" (Heb. 10:23-25). We are to meet not only the spiritual needs but also the physical needs of the church (1John 3:17; 2Cor. 8:3-4, 13-15; 9:12; 1Cor. 16:1-3; Acts 11:29-30; Rom. 15:25-26). We are to use our spiritual gifts to equip one another and build up the church (Eph. 4:12), and we are to admonish and teach every man with all wisdom "that we may present every man complete in Christ" (Col. 1:28). We are to nurture one another to maturity. One day, there will be no more lost people to evangelize and no more immature Christians to teach, admonish, disciple, and nurture. We will all be glorified; "we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2).

The ultimate purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This purpose of the church began at creation and will never end. We are to live "to the praise of His glory" (Eph.1:12). We are always to be rendering a proper opinion of God. Our worship is to be reverential, sincere, and pure. Jesus taught that "the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth" (John 4:23). We assemble together to worship Him, praise Him, sing to Him, and pray to Him. The church is commanded to "let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Col. 3:16). Similarly, the church is commanded to "be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:18-19). We are to meet with God in corporate prayer. The early church was continually devoting themselves "to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42).

"The immediate, intermediate, and ultimate purposes of the church are all commanded by the Lord in Scripture; no church should stress one to the neglect of another."

Finally, allow me to finish by saying that in order to carry out its purpose, a church must have the Seven Marks of a Sound Church as laid forth in these devotions. Without these Seven Marks, a group may call itself a church, but it is not recognized as a sound and healthy church by the Word of God or by God Himself. Likewise, if we find these marks missing or neglected in the church we attend, we should sound forth the call for reformation and repentance. If that call is not followed by a spirit of revival and renewal, where these Marks are once again present and active in the church, then we should obey the command to flee such an unholy place. Come out from among them and find a church where Jesus is obeyed as Lord.

No matter the size, location, demographics, budget, building, or activities, the only requirements given for a Biblical church are that:

1. God is worshipped in spirit and truth
2. Prayer is central
3. Love for Christ and the brethren is demonstrated
4. The Word of God is faithfully preached, taught, and heard
5. The ordinances of Baptism and Communion are administered
6. Discipline of the membership is Biblically administered and
7. Church government and leadership as instituted by the Apostles is established

Then, and only then, your church is a sound church and God is glorified by your obedient participation in its various ministries and outreach as a faithful member!

Puritan Voices
We are reading a small portion each day from a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon titled The First Christmas Carol from Luke 2:14.

II. Next, I have to present to you some EMOTIONAL THOUGHTS. Friends, doth not this verse, this song of angels, stir your heart with happiness? When I read that, and found the angels singing it, I thought to myself, "Then if the angels ushered in the gospel's great head with singing, ought I not to preach with singing? And ought not my hearers to live with singing? Ought not their hearts to be glad and their spirits to rejoice?" Well, thought I, there be some somber religionists who were born in a dark night in December that think a smile upon the face is wicked, and believe that for a Christian to be glad and rejoice is to be inconsistent. Ah! I wish these gentlemen had seen the angels when they sang about Christ; for angels sang about his birth, though it was no concern of theirs, certainly men ought to sing about it as long as they live, sing about it when they die, and sing about it when they live in heaven for ever. I do long to see in the midst of the church more of a singing Christianity. The last few years have been breeding in our midst a groaning and unbelieving Christianity. Now, I doubt not its sincerity, but I do doubt its healthy character. I say it may be true and real enough; God forbid I should say a word against the sincerity of those who practice it; but it is a sickly religion. Watts hit the mark when he said,

"Religion never was designed
To make our pleasures less."

It is designed to do away with some of our pleasures, but it gives us many more, to make up for what it takes away; so it does not make them less. O ye that see in Christ nothing but a subject to stimulate your doubts and make the tears run down your cheeks; O ye that always say,

"Lord, what a wretched land is this,
That yields us no supplies,"

Come ye hither and see the angels. Do they tell their story with groans, and sobs, and sighs? Ah, no; they shout aloud, "Glory to God in the highest." Now, imitate them, my dear brethren. If you are professors of religion, try always to have a cheerful carriage. Let others mourn; but

"Why should the children of a king
Go mourning all their days?"

Anoint your head and wash your face; appear not unto men to fast. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say unto you rejoice. Specially this week be not ashamed to be glad. You need not think it a wicked thing to be happy. Penance and whipping, and misery are no such very virtuous things, after all. The damned are miserable; let the saved be happy. Why should you hold fellowship with the lost by feelings of perpetual mourning? Why not rather anticipate the joys of heaven, and begin to sing on earth that song which you will never need to end? The first emotion then that we ought to cherish in our hearts is the emotion of joy and gladness.

Well, what next? Another emotion is that of confidence. I am not sure that I am right in calling that an emotion, but still in me it is so much akin to it, that I will venture to be wrong if I be so. Now, if when Christ came on this earth God had sent some black creature down from heaven, (if there be such creatures there) to tell us, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men," and if with a frowning brow and a stammering tongue he delivered his message, if I had been there and heard it, I should have scrupled to believe him, for I should have said, "You don't look like the messenger that God would send—stammering fellow as you are—with such glad news as this." But when the angels came there was no doubting the truth of what they said, because it was quite certain that the angels believed it; they told it as if they did, for they told it with singing, with joy and gladness. If some friend, having heard that a legacy was left you, and should come to you with a solemn countenance, and a tongue like a funeral bell, saying, "Do you know so-and-so has left you £10,000!" Why you would say, "Ah! I dare say," and laugh in his face. But if your brother should suddenly burst into your room, and exclaim, "I say, what do you think? You are a rich man; So-and-so has left you £10,000!" Why you would say, "I think it is very likely to be true, for he looks so happy over it." Well, when these angels came from heaven they told the news just as if they believed it; and though I have often wickedly doubted my Lord's good will, I think I never could have doubted it while I heard those angels singing. No, I should say, "The messengers themselves are proof of the truth, for it seems they have heard it from God's lips; they have no doubt about it, for see how joyously they tell the news." Now, poor soul, thou that art afraid lest God should destroy thee, and thou thinkest that God will never have mercy upon thee, look at the singing angels and doubt if thou darest. Do not go to the synagogue of long-faced hypocrites to hear the minister who preaches with a nasal twang, with misery in his face, whilst he tells you that God has good will towards men; I know you won't believe what he says, for he does not preach with joy in his countenance; he is telling you good news with a grunt, and you are not likely to receive it. But go straightway to the plain where Bethlehem shepherds sat by night, and when you hear the angels singing out the gospel, by the grace of God upon you, you cannot help believing that they manifestly feel the preciousness of telling. Blessed Christmas, that brings such creatures as angels to confirm our faith in God's good will to men!

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship


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