The Purpose and Function of Jesus Church

COPYRIGHT WARNING

What is the correct role and function of the Christian church in the world today? Upon careful examination of the Bible, we discover that the church has become something far different from what God intended she be. Rather than the political or moral policeman of society, God intended that the church would be His voice to the world–in declaring who His Messiah is and the great love which He has for the world.

Today, many people are greatly offended by the behavior of those who call themselves “Christians,” and for good reason. There have been thousands of atrocities committed by those who claim to be followers of Jesus–which He never sanctioned, nor did He ever intend for His church.

Jesus desire is that His church would become an extension of Himself. The words, actions, and love that He brought to the world 2,000 years ago–should be exhibited by those who claim to follow Him. The problem with the church of Jesus today is that it has become a religious institution–rather than a living organism, a living body, a manifestation of the true person of Jesus Christ.

Original purpose:

In order to correctly understand the New Testament church of Jesus Christ, we must go back to the foundation of God’s original plan for the Messiah:

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah referred to the coming Messiah as the head of His church.

Isaiah 8:8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.

The term: He shall reach up to the neck is a Hebrew idiom for the head, the leader. The One who is the leader of Judah, will be the Messiah, also referred to as Immanuel.

Isaiah 8:8 refers to the Messiah as the head over Judah, in the same way that Colossians 1:18 describes the head of the church as Jesus Christ. In these two verses we can infer that they are describing the same person.

Old Testament: The head of Judah—Immanuel
New Testament: The head of the body—Christ

Colossians 1:18 And Jesus is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

Isaiah’s Immanuel and the Messiah

It cannot be a mere coincidence that the Immanuel who is mentioned in Isaiah 7:14 is the same Immanuel of Isaiah 8:8. Both speak of God dwelling with us in the form of the Messiah.

By careful comparison of all of these verses, we realize that Jesus is the subject of all these scriptures.

This is a method of exegesis that is helpful in determining which of the Old Testament scriptures are applicable to a New Testament fulfillment by Jesus. In many cases, it would be impossible to know for certain that a particular verse of scripture from the Old Testament was describing the Messiah unless we could find a true counterpart in the New Testament.

Messiah (Māšîaḥ) is Hebrew for Savior.
Christ (Christo’s) is Greek for Savior.

Before Jesus was raised from the dead He was referred to as Jesus of Nazareth. After His resurrection, He is called Jesus, the Christ, (Anointed), which is a direct translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, the Anointed One. In these two definitions, one from the Old Testament scriptures, the other from the New Testament scriptures, we see that they are both describing the same person and give us a clear understanding that only Jesus could be their intended object.[1]

The Messiah of Old Testament—concealed, is the Christ of the New Testament—Revealed. They are one and the same, using different names which both describe the same person, a Savior for all mankind who is God dwelling with us, Immanuel.

On body, one purpose

As the members of Israel were to work together as a single cohesive unit for the sole purpose of making the God of Israel known to the world, so also has the church that Jesus founded, been called by Him to make Him known. Jesus said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father.[2] Both the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are One God, and the world should know about the salvation which has been made available for all people. This salvation was promised by God through the Messiah in the Old Testament, and is fulfilled as He is revealed to us as Jesus Christ by the testimony of the New Testament.

The church of Jesus is called His body.

Ephesians 5:30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.

Paul used the example of our physical body, having many parts or members, to illustrate how the body of Christ, as His church, should also function. Having many members we are really just one body, the Body of Christ. We should work together in harmony for the single purpose of making Jesus known to the world.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

The following touching story illustrates what kind of Body, the Body of Christ—should be:

It looked like every other hundred-meter dash. The contestants were lined up at the starting blocks. The crowd was on the edge of their seats in suspense and great anticipation.

A man raised the starting gun … “On your mark, get set …”

When the gun fired, the contestants sprang out of the starting blocks. Even the casual observer could tell something was different.

This was the special olympics. It was special because the contestants were developmentally and physically disabled.

This race was going to be even more special today…

The runners left their starting position and moved down the track, shoulder to shoulder. Suddenly, one of the young women fell and sprawled headlong out onto the track, turning onto one side in pain and embarrassment.

The rest of the contestants moved on for ten or fifteen steps, then without any communication among themselves, they all stopped. They turned around together and jogged back to their fallen friend.

Picking the injured runner up off the track, they all comforted her. Then together, they slowly walked together with their injured friend across the finish line.

They chose to finish together rather than as individuals.[3]

The Bible has defined all those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as The Body of Christ. We do not function as individual members but as a unit, closely linked and in cooperation with each other. We work together for the common good of the whole Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:18-27 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

This is a principle that is greatly lacking in the Christian church today. Instead of working together, there is fighting, backbiting, gossiping, and many individual cliques within the church. This is due to the fact that many of those who occupy the church are not yet saved (The Natural), or they are Christians who are guided mainly by their flesh (The Carnal). Instead, the true members of Jesus church are to be led by the Holy Spirit (Spiritual).

The New Testament defines these three terms:

1. Natural – Gr. “Psuchikos” meaning senses, or sensual. This is a person who is naturally born into the world and is guided primarily by their feelings. (James 3:15 and Jude 19)
2. Carnal – Gr. “Sarkikos” meaning fleshly. This person is “born again” by the Spirit of God but lives and walks to please their flesh. They are described as “Babes in Christ” who have not yet grown into spiritual maturity. (Romans 8:4 1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
3. Spiritual – Gr. “Pneumatikos” meaning spiritual. This is the person who has been “born again” by the Spirit of God and is directed by and controlled by the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

The natural man may be highly educated, possesses great ability and be endowed with considerable knowledge. He may be personable, well spoken, and possess the ability to captivate those who listen to his lectures, read his books, or see his programs by visual media. Though wise, the natural man is not able to discern spiritual principles—they are foreign to him. The meaning of scripture is hidden from those who have not yet been born again, as well as the carnal Christian, who can only understand the most basic and simple of Biblical truths.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

When the Body of Christ, known as the church, is largely made up of carnal believers as it is today, then it cannot comprehend nor achieve what the Lord has planned for those who claim to be a part of His body. Disunity in the Body of Christ and spiritual immaturity are the two leading causes of the ineffectiveness of the church in the world today.

An example of this disunity and selfishness in the Body of Christ is illustrated by some of the things that people say to each other in the church, which are indicative of those who have either not experienced a new birth by the Spirit of God, or have yet to develop into the spirit led persons that the Lord intended.

“I am not being ministered to here.”
“My needs are not being met.”
“I am not being fed by this pastor.”
“At my other church, we….”
“Why was that person chosen to _____ and not me?”
“Did you know that ____ did ______?”
“I want to share something with you…”
“I can’t tithe to the Lord because_____.”
“Why doesn’t God bless me like ______?”
“If the pastor doesn’t ________, then I am going to leave this church.”

Some of the characteristics of the Carnal Christian are:

1. A focus, preoccupation, and desire for the material instead of the spiritual.
2. The need to have these material possessions immediately by credit rather than to save and pay for only the necessities of life by cash.
3. Little giving in tithes and offering to the church in which they attend.
4. Lack of consistent attendance at a local church, or little service by the individual at the church where they do attend without recognition and personal reward.
5. Little time given for personal study of the Bible.
6. Little time set aside for prayer.
7. Little time for witnessing to others about Jesus.
8. A heart that will not properly forgive and forget when wronged. For the Christian, we must both forgive and forget the wrongs which are done to us. The next time we see the person we have forgiven, we must act as if nothing ever happened in the past. This is the way that God forgives us and the way which He demands that we forgive others. There is a worldly doctrine which has crept into the church today which teaches that a Christian can forgive without forgetting. It is not possible to forgive Biblically without forgetting the wrong committed. This is not to say that our memory will be wiped clean, only that the wrong must be forgotten in any future dealing with the person who is being forgiven.
9. Behavior which is guided by emotion, feelings, and the world’s standards instead of being directed by the Spirit of God.
10. Eyes that lust and will not be trained to look away from anything which would not please the Lord.

Even the spiritual Christian is not perfect in all areas of their life. They will, at times, be carnal and walk after the desires of the flesh rather than be directed by the Spirit of God. However, the primary focus and desire of the growing Christian is to walk after the Spirit and do those things that are pleasing to the Lord.

The spiritual Christian is not sinless, but they should sin less.

Colossians 1:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God

The Christian guided by their flesh will most often live to please their flesh instead of living to please the Lord. They are selfish, immature, and lacking in any real knowledge of the word of God and how to apply it to their life.

It is interesting that the only person who can change this kind of behavior is us. We cannot pray and ask the Lord to change us, if we are not willing to make an honest effort to change ourselves.

Correction

A Christian who will not be corrected by an older, more mature believer, shows their immaturity by their unwillingness to receive instruction or correction. If you find that you are offended by the idea that perhaps some of those who claim to believe in and follow Jesus are in great need of spiritual maturity, perhaps this is applicable to you. I can only say of myself that after 39 years of following and serving Jesus, all of these points are certainly applicable to me. I am in great need of further improvement in my own spiritual life. I personally need to continually take steps to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. I will never arrive at a place where I cannot be corrected or learn to follow Jesus better.

Teaching

Those who are not aware of their immaturity, exist because many pastors today do not teach the great need for Christians to put away sin, cease from selfishness and materialism, and to pursue greater spiritual maturity. This is the fault of the church today—who primarily serve to make people feel good about themselves when they should be causing those who are living in willful sin to feel uncomfortable and repent.

Comfort

One of the purposes of the pastor is to comfort those who are in a time of distress and difficulty; and make uncomfortable those who are spiritually lazy, unforgiving, selfish, or need to repent from sin. Those churches who systematically teach the word of God from cover to cover, have a larger percentage of mature believers who walk after the Spirit. Those members of the Body of Christ who are constantly taken verse by verse through the Bible are convicted, as they are taught, to make changes in their immature behavior, avoid sin, repent from sin, and grow into maturity, as they are controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Training

The immense number of immature Christians we see in the church today is due to the lack of teaching by pastors in giving the Body of Christ the full counsel of God’s word—from Genesis to Revelation.

Because the Body of Christ is untrained in the scriptures, the members in the church tend to function individually rather than together as a single unit. Each of us are members of Jesus’ body, however, we are not to function separately but as a cohesive unit. Prophecy 166 is a statement about the church of Jesus Christ and its intended direction under the head, the Messiah.

Isaiah 8:8 “…He will reach up to the neck…” In other words: “The Messiah will be the head of His church…”

Jesus as the Messiah, is the Head of the Church. As such, He is seeking to grow those who have come to Him in faith, for their salvation as a body, with many members who work together for the benefit of the entire body.

Functioning as the Body of Christ

The Bible describes the Body of Christ as similar to a human body, in which all the individual members work together to allow the entire body to operate. Our eye cannot say to the rest of the body that it is no longer needed. Every individual part of the body is necessary, working together with the rest of the members, for the common goal of making Jesus know to the world.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:14-17 For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?

What would happen if all the individual parts of your body suddenly determined to do what they wanted and function independently? You would be unable to control yourself, as each part moved and worked independent of each other. There must be a head, that leads us, a central point where all the members are joined together to allow the body to work together.

This past week:

• Your heart beat 625,068 times.
• Your blood traveled more than 1,026,000 miles.
• You lungs breathed in and out 139,032 times, inhaling over 2,868 cubic feet of air.
• You moved 752 muscles more than 451,200 times.
• You used over 48 million brain cells.

Now you know why you are so tired…

All these individual parts of your body are working together so that you can function as a human being. In the same way, all those who claim to believe in and follow Jesus Christ, must work together. We must find a way to work with each other, surrender our stubborn will, and find the common goal—which is: to magnify and glorify Jesus. When we do this as a cohesive unit, there is nothing that will be impossible for us as a church.

Christian Author Joni Ereckson Tada wrote a wonderful illustration of how well the human body works together to achieve goals that benefit the entire body:

“When the stomach is hungry, the eyes spot the hamburger…

The nose smells the onions…

The feet run to the snack stand…

The hands douse the burger with mustard and shove it back into the mouth, where it goes down to the stomach….

Now that’s cooperation!”[4]

Every part of the Body of Christ needs the other. We should cooperate with each other by speaking the same things, having no divisions or other interests except that Jesus is glorified, and that His name is declared to the world.

1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

At the time Paul wrote these words to the members of the church at Corinth, there were contentions, fighting and disagreements with each member working against the other members.

1 Corinthians 1:11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.

One member can ruin the church

I was aquatinted with a church several years ago in which one of the elders began to speak negatively of the pastor of that church, to the other members. By his words, he created doubts in the minds of the other members. Within one year, most all of those who had attended that church had left. Instead of working for the unity of the body in bringing it together, this one man caused the death of the entire body of Christ. That church no longer exists because of the carelessness of one man.

One member can cause the entire body great pain

In 1998, when I was the pastor of two churches, I was painting the sanctuary of one of the buildings, when the scaffolding that I was standing on, collapsed. I fell to the ground and the impact of that fall resulted in the most painful and long-term injury that I have ever experienced. The initial pain of that fall was so intense that I passed out for a moment.

Even though it was only my left foot that was hurt, my entire body felt the pain, and I could do nothing while this one member suffered.

This study in the prophecy of Isaiah 8:8, as we are the body and Jesus is the Head, should remind us of just how important it is for us to think before we speak negatively about another Christian. It will not only hurt that person’s reputation beyond repair, it will hurt the entire body of Christ. What we do as individuals always affects all of the other members who belong to the church—of which, Jesus is the head. When we hurt the body, we hurt the head. Jesus is injured by all of our hurtful, critical, and injurious words. Anyone who hurts the church will be dealt with swiftly by the Lord as He will protect His body and cut off those parts that spread the cancer of disunity.

If you have caused disunity in the body of Christ by your critical words or gossip, you must repent and ask forgiveness of the Lord for hurting Him. The Lord will forgive you if you repent. You must go to those who were injured by your callous words, and repent before them also. You must seek to work in the future for unity within the body. If you do these things, the Lord will restore you, even though He has perhaps already brought great trials into your life as a result of your destruction of the body. Return afterward to Jesus and serve His Body as an instrument of harmony—from this point forward. If you will do these things, you can be an instrument of great blessing.

The first principle in the Body of Christ is: the head is Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

The second principle is: the body must work together as one, with no contentions, strife or division; otherwise it will die.

The third principle is: the individual members have been given gifts by the head of the body, Jesus Christ, for the benefit of the whole body.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 to define the purpose of these gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:

Those who have placed their trust in Jesus as their Messiah, Lord, and Savior, are given certain gifts which He has determined are suitable for that individual person. These gifts are not given for the edification of the individual who has the gift, but for the edification of the entire Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Gifts to individuals, for the entire body:

Wisdom
Knowledge
Faith
Healing
Miracles
Prophecy
Discerning of spirits
Tongues
Interpretation of tongues

Administrative gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:28-30

Apostles
Prophets
Teachers
Help/assist
Administration/Supervise

Additional gifts of the Spirit: Romans Chapter 12:6-8

Ministry/Serve
Teach
Exhortation/Encourage
Giving
Leadership
Mercy

All of these abilities are to be used when the individual members come together in fellowship and worship. These gifts are of no practical use unless there is a meeting of believers together. If a member stays home, or is not present when all the other members are together, that missing member’s gift cannot be enjoyed by all the other members. The person who has the gift but stays home, also misses the blessing of using his gift to help someone in the church. This is why it is so important for all believers in a church to assemble together every week.

If we carefully study each of these gifts, we notice that they have no real personal use but are designed as a benefit for the other members. They are called “gifts” because they are to be given away to help or encourage those in the church.

When used with the intent of being a blessing to the recipient, these abilities from the Lord—become a blessing to the one who is helped, as well as the whole body of Christ who are blessed by the operation of these gift within the church.

If you have any one, or a combination of these gifts, they were not given to you so that people would stand in awe of your abilities. These gifts were given so that you would use them in humble service for the benefit of the other members. Of course, whenever we give to others, we receive the joy and personal satisfaction of knowing that we have helped someone. In this regard, it is always a greater blessing to give than to receive.

Acts 20:35 …And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

This is an interesting verse in that we never read anywhere in the four gospels that Jesus said these words. Only here in the Book of Acts do we learn from Luke’s testimony of Jesus, that He apparently said these words frequently.

Administration:

The purpose of the Administrative gifts are to instruct the body of Christ and keep them organized.

Ephesians 4:11-16 And Jesus Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some 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, 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; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Apostles, existed only during the time of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, for the express purpose of declaring—as witnesses, who Jesus is and what He has done. One of the primary purposes of the Apostles was their personal testimony of Jesus as crucified and risen from the dead, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. Since no person living today was present after Jesus rose from the dead, this position is no longer possible. Those who presently claim to be an Apostles—are not, and frequently use this title for their own personal gain and financial benefit.

Prophets, are not necessarily persons with the ability to predict future events. The purpose of the prophet was to declare what God has stated, not predict the future. A prophet today is someone with the ability to clearly communicate what God has already said in the Bible. A person should be very careful in claiming: “the Lord told me,” when speaking to another person. Should any of their words or predictions be found unfulfilled, this person will be labeled: “a false prophet.”

Evangelists, have the unique ability to declare the gospel message to individuals, or in an assembled group. A true evangelist can accomplish this clearly, accurately, and with the power of the Holy Spirit. They are able to convince and convict those who hear, so that they will repent of their sins, and surrender their lives to Jesus Christ.

Pastors and Teachers are one and the same. The Pastor is the teacher of the church body. His primary job is to teach the church the entire word of God, and how to apply it to their lives. A pastor shepherds and guides the church by the word of God. As a teacher, he has the unique authority to correct, rebuke, and instruct all those who are in his care as an assembled church. To disrespect or attack a pastor is to attack one whom Jesus has anointed, and place yourself under the Lord’s judgment.

Ephesians Chapter 4:11-16 gives us the reason for the calling of the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelist, Pastors and Teacher:

…for the edifying 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…”

These leaders within the church exist as servants to bring the church, the Body of Christ, into maturity, and to enable its members to understand who Jesus is, become like Him, and make Him known to the world.

Finally, the Body of Christ must hold fast to the Head because He is the source of all things which the body needs to live and survive.

Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah as the Head, in 8:8, is vividly depicted by the fulfillment of this 166th Old Testament Prophecy, as the church, becomes all that the Lord intended it to be.


NOTES:
[1] Zanzig, Thomas (2000). Jesus of history, Christ of faith. p. 33. ISBN 0-88489-530-0.
Espin, Orlando (2007). n Introductory Dictionary of Theology and Religious Studies. p. 231. ISBN 0814658563
[2] John 14:9
[3] Author unknown. This story came from my personal study notes over the past 37 years. If you know who the author is, please send me an email at 365Prophecies@gmail.com so that I might give proper attribution to the writer.
[4] Glorious Intruder: God’s Presence in Life’s Chaos
By Joni Eareckson Tad

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