For the next several weeks, I will be sharing a series of blog posts on the great commission passages in Scripture (Matt. 28:18-20, Luke 24:44-49, Acts 1:4-8). These passages set forth Christ’s vision for his church. According to these biblical passages, Christ’s vision is:
For the glory of God the Father, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the church of Jesus Christ is to preach the gospel with the goal of making disciples beginning in our own community and extending to the ends of the earth through the work of missions. The God-ordained means for this great task is the Word of God, ordinances, and prayer.
Or, to put it more simply
The church’s mission is to make disciples through the faithful proclamation of the gospel.
This post will address, as the title suggests, the reason the church exists. Of course there are many opinions about the purpose of Christ’s church both inside and outside. Some believe that the church exists to make people good. Thus, for them helping people to become better persons is the goal. Vladimir Lenin famously said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Although he viewed it negatively, he thought religion provided comfort. Still others believe that the church exists to make society better by feeding the poor, fighting injustice, etc. Of course, most Christians believe that the church exists so that sinners can find salvation in Jesus Christ. While of each of these opinions are good things in which the church should be involved, these ideas are not the primary reason for the existence of the church.
If the above opinions were really the focus of the church, people not God would be the focus of the church. The Bible makes it clear that the church exists first and foremost for God. The greatest commandment according to Jesus is love for God (See Mark 12:30). Of course, this does not mean that we do not love our neighbors and help in the ways suggested above because Jesus said that the second commandment is to love our neighbor. These commandments can be distinguished but not be separated because if we love God, we will love our neighbor. In addition, we cannot really love our neighbor if we do not love God. So, love for God comes first then love for neighbor.
God ought to be the focus of our church. Specifically, the glorifying of God the Father is our purpose. There are many places we could turn for Scriptural support, but three passages are especially helpful: 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17, 1 Peter 4:11.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV).
In the Corinthian passage, Paul is answering questions concerning food that has been sacrificed for idols. After Paul replies that we should not do what wounds brothers and should do what builds up, he concludes with a call to do everything for the glory of God. He mentions specifically eating and drinking as actions which believers should do for God’s glory. If even the mundane things of life like eating and drinking are to be done for the glory, how much more should we do the greater tasks for God’s glory?
“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” (Colossians 3:17 ESV).
Colossians 3:17 teaches that one of the results of the word of Christ dwelling in one’s heart is that he speaks and acts in the name of the Lord Jesus and gives thanks to God.
Although Paul does not use the word glorify, the idea is the same because giving thanks and giving glory to God are related ideas in Scripture. Thus, this passage supports the idea that all of our speaking and actions are for God’s glory, which obviously would include speaking and action in church.
“Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11 ESV).
The spiritual gifts, which are listed are for the purpose of glorifying God in 1 Peter 4:11. Since spiritual gifts are for the building up of the church, it follows that the church’s purpose is to glorify God. Therefore, these passages make it clear that the purpose of all our words and actions even mundane things like eating and drinking is to glorify God.
The church or individual believers do not add to God’s glory in any way. God is perfectly glorious already. Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of the Lord is a great example of God’s perfect glory (Ezek. 1). He uses words like flashing lightning, gleaming, torches moving to and fro, brightness, and awe-inspiring to describe the glory of God. These words describe the beauty, majesty, and splendor of God to which we can only reflect, praise, or point.
This is precisely our calling, namely, to praise the glorious majesty of God. All throughout the Bible especially in Psalms, we are called to glorify God through our praise:
“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name” (Psalm 66:1-4 ESV).
In addition, we are called to cause all men to acknowledge the glory of God. Not only must we praise God’s glorious majesty ourselves, we also want all people to recognize God’s glory. On the day of judgment all people will glorify God, believers will glorify God’s grace and unbelievers will glorify his justice. Our goal must be to reach people before that day of judgment so that they will join us in praising God’s grace forever.
By praising God’s glory and pointing others to his glory, we fulfill our purpose as a church. This goal also encourages us to measure success by faithfulness to our calling rather than numerical results. It encourages us to make it our aim to please God rather than people. The glory of God is why we are here.