The church belongs to Christ. He is the builder of the church (Matthew 16: 18). He is the foundation of the church (1 Corinthians 3: 11). He purchased the church “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
In speaking of the church, He called it “my Church” (Matthew 16:18). He claims ALL authority (Matthew 28:18-20). And, since He is “the head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22-23), He alone has the right to specify what works the church is to do.
According to the teaching of the New Testament the work of the church can be divided into three categories: (1) preaching the gospel to the lost; (2) edifying the saved; and (3) benevolence.
Preaching the Gospel
First of all, the church has the responsibility of preaching the gospel to a lost and dying world. The Bible tells us in 1 John 5:19 that “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Then the Bible says in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” We read in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
God’s power to save the world is the gospel. Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Now let us look at 1 Corinthians 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
The church is the only institution in the world that is authorized to preach the gospel. We read these inspired words in Ephesians 3:10-11, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God never intended that the preaching of the gospel be the work of a missionary society, or any institution other than the church. In Matthew’s record of the great commission Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20). Hence those who have been taught and baptized have the responsibility of teaching others. These are the marching orders to the church.
Strengthening the Saved
Secondly, the work of the church is to edify, encourage, and strengthen the saved. While the Christian life is the best life that one can live, it is sometimes difficult. It would be much more difficult if it were not for the help and encouragement that Christians receive from one another.
Paul instructed the brethren in Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” And again in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” And, “Let all things be done unto edifying” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
One of the great benefits of assembling ourselves together is mutual edification and exhortation. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Helping the Needy
A third work of the church is the work of benevolence. The church is God’s benevolent institution. While the church is not to take the place of the American Red Cross and other such benevolent institutions, we must not depend upon the organizations of men to do the work that has been placed upon the church by the Lord.
We read in 1 John 3:17, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”
It is the responsibility of the church to provide the needs of the less fortunate in as much as we are capable, whether they are Christians or not. Paul said in writing to church of Galatia recorded in Galatians 6:10,”As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
While the household of faith, our brothers and sisters in Christ, should have priority over all others in our work of benevolence, Paul also said, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.”
Again we read in James 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” The expression “visit” in this passage means to “go with the intention of relieving needy circumstances.” This applies with equal force to individuals and churches.
In Matthew 25, Jesus pulls back the curtain and gives us a preview of His second coming, the resurrection, and the judgment. Beginning with verse 31 and reading through verse 46, we find Jesus plainly telling us what will become of those who neglect those less fortunate. One can be lost just as easily for neglecting the less fortunate and failing to minister to their needs, as he can for committing murder, adultery, or any other sin.
While benevolence is a work of the church, a real Christian does not try to dodge his individual responsibility. The Christian has duties to perform and burdens to bear. He gladly performs these duties, and meekly carries his burdens. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
Yet, regardless of the good works that one may do, if that person is not a child of God, it will not benefit them in any way on the Day of Judgment. Only those who have obeyed the gospel and lived the Christian life will go from the Judgment into life eternal.