What is the “Work” of the Church ?
Sometimes we hear people speak of “the work of the church”. This is the “work of the church”, or that is “the work of the church”. In teaching people about the church, in other words, in teaching people about the Kingdom of Christ, the body of saved souls, we often tell them that the work of the church is three-fold. In other words, there are three distinct areas of activity, that the church needs to be involved in. And along with that fact, we typically stress that those three areas of activity, are the ONLY three areas of activity that the church has any business, being involved in.
Those three areas of activity are commonly referred to as.. Evangelism, edification, and benevolence. And if a congregation is conducting their activities properly, then all their activities will fall under one or the other, of those three categories of activities. And if a congregation of Christ, finds itself involved in any activities outside the realm of one of those three categories, then those members have overstepped their responsibilities, and have overstepped their authority.
Remember the words of Colossians 3:17 ? “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything (do ALL) in the “name” of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” And of course we know, that to do something “in the name” of Jesus, is to do it “by His authority”. God has given the kingdom as a whole, and each individual congregation, specific authority, to do certain things. And so, for a congregation to do things other than what the Lord has authorized us to do.. is sin.
Let me start at the beginning of the chapter, and we’ll get an idea of what the Lord has authorized us as individual Christians, and as a congregation of Christians, to do, and what He has commanded us not to do.
So, Colossians 3, verse 1, and following.. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (in other words, “having taken His position, as the power of God”) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (that’s kind of like I was talking about this morning. Focus on the spiritual things, and not on the fleshly things)
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ, in God.” Now, this is directed at each individual member of the congregation, isn’t it? We have all, individually, died to our old sinful ways of life, and died to our sin. And as a result, all those sins, and that old sinful person we used to be, are “hidden” WITH Christ, in God.
And let me point something out here. When the bible says that our old self is hidden “with” Christ, that word “with” is denoting HOW our sins become “hidden” so to speak. Everyone knows what “with” means; But the original word here goes a lot deeper in meaning than it might appear. The word denotes being very closely joined. A very close union. That close union that the Christian has with Christ, is what “hides” our old self. You take away that close union, and all you’ve got left is that same old self again. Just as sinful as before.
Being united with Christ, is stressed again and again in the bible. For example; Romans 6, verse 5 says; “For if we have become united with Him, in the likeness of His death, (that’s talking about our baptism) certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” That’s where the union begins. And then of course, it continues from there.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus..” (Philippians 2:5) United in mind.
“Is not the cup of blessing that we bless, a participation (a sharing, a close sharing) in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break, a participation (a close sharing) in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16) Verse 17 says; “Because there is one bread, (or, one loaf) we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” We all partake of Jesus. We’re in close union with Jesus. Because without being in that close union, we’re all just sinful people.
And isn’t that exactly why, we’re told in 2 John verse 9.. “Everyone who goes on ahead, and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” If we don’t have “union” with the teachings of Christ, then we don’t have union with God! Nor with Christ!
You know, going back to that word “with”.. The original word is spelled s-y-n, like in “synchronized”. We need to be “synchronized” with Jesus. We’re told in Isaiah 1:18; “..Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are as red as crimson, they will become like wool.” If we’re “in sync”.
Now back to Colossians 3, and picking up with verse 4; “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (there’s some things we have NO authority to be involved with) For it is because of these things, that the wrath of God, will come upon the sons of disobedience. In these, you too once walked, when you were living in them.”
“But now you must put them all away: Anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, who is being renewed to a true knowledge, according to the image of the One who created him. (the one who created the “new self”) Our “new self” needs to be a reflection, you might say, or a “representation”, of the “image” of God!
That’s what the bible says that Jesus was.. An exact representation of the very substance of God. Listen to Hebrews 1, verse 3; “And He is the radiance of His glory, and the exact representation of His nature.” Of the very substance of God.
There’s an old country song about the “pioneers” you might say, of country music. And he song says.. “who’s gonna fill their shoes?” Who’s gonna fill the shoes of Jesus? Well, that’s exactly what God has called us to do! Not to be “perfect” and “sinless’, but to be “..renewed to a true knowledge, according to the image of the One who created him.”
Colossians 3, verse 11; “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all and is in all.” Spiritually speaking, it sounds like we don’t even have the authority from God, to have our own individual identity. But instead, we all have the obligation, to be a representation of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all ONE, in Christ Jesus.”
Do you see why we have no authority to be anything but a Christian? We have no authority, to be a “Pentecostal” Christian, or a “Baptist” Christian, or a “Wesleyan” or a “Lutheran” or a “Catholic” or a “Presbyterian” or a “Methodist” or an “Evangelical” or a hundred other “kinds” of Christian. There is only ONE kind of Christian! And that’s simply a member of the Lord’s body. ““Because there is ONE bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the ONE bread.”
Verse 12; “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves.. (now here what we have the authority to emulate) Clothe yourselves.. with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another; And if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” That’s not an option is it? We simply must forgive, if we would be forgiven. As our brother Ed Watts used to say; There ARE no, “optional commands”.
Now Paul goes on.. Verse 14; “And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” There’s that union that we need to not only have with Jesus, but also with one another. Isn’t there an old saying, that says; “Love is the cord that binds” ?
The prophet Hosea said, in Hosea 11, verses 3 & 4; (actually Hosea was quoting God’s words) And so the Lord said; “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them in My arms, but they never realized that it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.”
So then once again; “And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in ONE body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another, in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything, in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
And I think I’ll quit right here. A little early, but that’s Ok. Lord willing, we’ll talk more next week about the “work of the church” and the “work of Christians”.