THE CHURCH in the New Testament is part of the eternal purpose of God (Ephesians 3:9-11). It is not a substitute, a last-minute effort on God’s part or an emergency plan. God does not deal in accidents. Paul emphasizes throughout the book of Ephesians the eternal purpose of God. God is the Master Architect of this world. He is not the wonder-filled lad standing by.

The church (Christ’s “body” — His “gospel People”) was intended to live during the interval between the resurrection of Christ and His return. The first event began the New Creation. The other will bring it to consummation. The church’s purpose has to do with the time between.

In keeping with this, the church began to be gathered on the Day of Pentecost, with 3000 persons responding to Peter’s dramatic announcement. The sermon that day had two major points. (1) The risen Jesus, whom the audience had shortly before helped crucify, was now Christ and Lord, seated at God’s right hand in heaven. (2) The Holy Spirit had been sent by Christ to empower this message on earth and provide comfort to those who receive it.

As proclaimer of the Lordship of Christ and demander of repentance in His name, the church has a specific role in the unfolding of God’s redemption. God is as much at work now in the church as He was through other agents in the days of Abraham, Moses or John the Baptist. He is not withdrawn from the scene. Christ is now Lord. While all do not presently acknowledge that fact, one day every tongue will confess it and every knee will bow before Him (Philippians 2:9-11).

This puts the church in a peculiar situation now. For only the church now recognizes that Christ is Lord, or that His work of redemption is sufficient to bring men back to God if they will accept it by faith and the obedience which faith prompts.

This also means that it is the primary and essential duty of the church to be a faithful proclaimer of this message to a faithless world. The very fact of the church makes evangelism its major task. Any other works in which the church might become involved (as benevolence or edification) are secondary to evangelism. These other missions must find meaning in relation to this great fact: Jesus Christ is now Lord, and He has accomplished the work of salvation during His days in the flesh.

To put it another way, it is the nature of the church that its primary mission is (1) to direct men to Christ and (2) help them grow up in Him and into His image. The Word of God was given to accomplish both tasks. If the church of today has fallen short in either of them it is a testimony to its ignorance of or indifference regarding the Word of God. Results are God’s department. Effort is man’s.

The church does not exist for its own sake. It is a pointer, directing men to Christ. The church is the giver — not the receiver — of praise. It is the receiver — not the giver — of salvation. The true church is a living or

organism, joined to Christ as head. It is not an independent organization which exercises influence through secular means. Its character demands its mission. Its existence was planned in advance by God and He guarantees its eventual success.

Don’t minimize the church.