This coming Sunday is a most important birthday but often forgotten in Protestant churches. It is the Day of Pentecost… the birthday of the church itself. Almost 2000 years ago God fulfilled long-awaited prophecies and the church was born.
Despite the dismissive attitude of many modern believers, the church is part of God’s eternal purpose, Ephesians 3:10-11. The church, despite the doctrine of premillennialism, was not “Plan B” or a call at the line of scrimmage… the church was in the mind of God from eternity past. God wasn’t surprised by the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish leaders, he foretold it, Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:1-12. The church has a birthday this Sunday because God’s eternal purpose was fulfilled twenty centuries ago.
Fifty days after the death of Christ, Peter, along with the rest of the disciples, stood up and preached the first gospel sermon in the name of a risen redeemer proclaiming that God had made Jesus both Lord and Christ;
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36.
We don’t know how big the crowd was but 3000 people were convicted as they heard that sermon and asked what they needed to do… Peter told them to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38. They obeyed that command and the church, God purpose and plan kept secret from the foundation of the world, was born.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:46-47.
Why point out the church and its beginning? Because today, twenty centuries later, WE ARE THE CHURCH.
We are the body of Christ, Ephesians 1:22-23. We are the household of God, 1 Timothy 3:15. We are the temple of God, Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:5. We are the kingdom of God, Colossians 1:13, Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 1:9.
Also, twenty centuries after the birth of the church, it’s important for us to understand our purpose as the church. When I first became a Christian I remember hearing that the work of the church was threefold; benevolence, edification, and evangelism. For the most part, I agree with that teaching.
We should be a benevolent people according to the teachings of Christ helping both the members of the church and all men as we have opportunity.
The church should edify its members, preparing the saints for service. That includes teaching after conversion, encouraging and building up the church, preparing its members to accomplish the work of the church.
The church must be evangelistic with a WORLD view. When the Gospels of Mark and Matthew record the Great Commission they both include a “world view;”
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” Matthew 28:19.
And he said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15.
If I had to choose the primary function of the church, I would pick evangelism. Benevolence is important but feeding people and clothing people without bringing them to Christ is a temporary fix. The edification of the church is needful in preparing the saints for service but if we serve the world without bringing them to Christ, again… it's only a temporary fix.
Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10. He did not come to feed the 5000 or the 4000. He used such benevolence as a means to bring people to himself but those benevolent events were not the purpose of His incarnation. Jesus edified His disciples and His followers… but after having taught them, He sent them out to preach the gospel.
The Cross is about the salvation of the lost and THAT is why Jesus came into this world. Don’t misunderstand me, benevolence and edification are extremely important and cannot be dismissed. If we set these aside we do so at our own peril, Matthew 25:31-46; Galatians 6:10. But evangelism, the preaching of Christ is no doubt the most imperative… it is through the preaching of the cross that God saves the lost.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
Happy Birthday Church! We have received the greatest gift that could ever be given… the gift of the cross!
Let’s give that gift to the world… START PREACHING!