Lesson Sixteen

The only logical conclusion to Peter's sermon in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost following the crucifixion of Jesus is that Jesus is "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).  The word "Lord" means one having authority or power and can be translated master or ruler.  To the house of Cornelius, Peter declared that Jesus "is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36).  These declarations show the universal reign and authority of Jesus.  Since Jesus is Lord, we must serve Him.

Because baptism is the "new birth" (John 3:3-5), "we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).  When one is baptized, he or she begins a new life in service to God and Christ.  Paul wrote, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Once we become Christians, we no longer belong to ourselves but we belong to Christ who purchased and redeemed us with His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19).  In Titus 2:13-14 Paul said, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

When we are baptized into Christ, the Lord adds us to His church (Acts 2:47).  Since Christians are to be "stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58), the church is a family of workers.  The Bible teaches that the church was created for good works.  The apostle Paul exhorted, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).  To the Christians in Corinth, Paul wrote that the church has "many members, yet but one body" to accomplish the work God has given to it (1 Corinthians 12:12-20).

The mission God has given to His church in service to Him is threefold—evangelism, edification, and benevolence.  As we consider the mission of the church, we must realize that any mission that the church becomes involved in that is not commissioned by God is not in service to Him.  For example, the mission of the church is not taking over the responsibilities of the home.  God has commissioned parents to bring children up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).  Parents who bring their children up in this way glorify God by fulfilling their mission.  The church is not responsible for and actually does a disservice when it takes over the home.

 In what is called the "Great Commission," Jesus commissioned the church when He said,  "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20).

The history of the church during the first century clearly shows that the church fulfilled its mission.  When a great persecution came upon the church in Jerusalem, it was "scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1).  In Acts 8:4 Luke records, "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."

One reason that the church is commissioned to teach all nations the gospel is because of God's desire.  Concerning God Paul wrote, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).  Also, Peter wrote that God is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 the Bible says, "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."  The word "edify" means to be a house-builder.  It is used in this passage in a figurative way to mean to construct, to build up, and to confirm.  Concerning this mission of the church, Paul wrote,  "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:15-16).  Thus, we see that the way the church edifies is by "speaking the truth in love."

Earlier in this chapter (Ephesians 4:11-12), the apostle wrote concerning the organization of the church.  Paul said, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."  The purpose for the organization of the church is "for the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ (the church)."

Pertaining to the organization of the church, the Bible teaches that Christ "is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18).  Thus, the headquarters of the church is in heaven because Christ is now reigning from the "right hand of God" (Acts 2:33; 1 Peter 3:22).  To edify the church, God has ordained a group of men known as "elders," "bishops," or "pastors" to shepherd, lead, and oversee individual congregations of the church.

The ministry of Jesus included benevolence or doing good.  Matthew recorded, "Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel" (Matthew 15:31).  To the household of Cornelius Peter said, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him" (Acts 10:38).  Similarly, in the book of Acts the church cared for the needs of others (Acts 2:45; 4:34-35; 11:29).  Therefore, Paul exhorted,  "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).

The church's mission is not to care for all the social ills of the world.  Certainly, Jesus had the power to cure all men of the physical infirmities and to heal the social ills of His day but He did not.  Jesus knew that the real problem in the world is not the social ills but sin.  The church must address the real problem and many social ills will be relieved.

 Jesus taught,  "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16).

The results of doing what God has commissioned the church to do is seen in that others will glorify God because of the good work being done.  Therefore, we must be careful not to hide our light for we will be judged according to our work.  Paul wrote, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).

 Questions for Lesson 16

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