by Gil Rugh
Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
With His death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus Christ laid the foundation for the church that He has been building for the last two thousand years. Among believers, however, there is much confusion concerning the nature of the church and what its role should be in the world today. As Christians, we know of the wonders of God’s salvation in Christ and His infinite grace that saved us from an eternity in hell.
However, we have not always been clear on how God is working out His plan of redemption in the world. God’s instrument for ministry in this age is the church. That is why it is important that we have a proper understanding of the church and what its purpose in the world is today.
Our sole reason for existence as a church is to be a ministry of God’s Word—teaching and living out its truth. In 1 Timothy 3:15 we are told:
I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
As a ministry of the Word, we are reaching out to the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthening believers through the teaching of the Word.
Regarding the functioning of the local church, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
Paul’s point is that there is both diversity and unity in the body of Christ. This diversity can be seen in that there are “varieties of gifts” (v.4), “varieties of ministries” (v.5), and “varieties of effects” (v.6).
Different people within the church have different gifts that are manifested in various ways. These gifts can be used in a wide variety of ways. Some have the gift of helps, some have the gift of exhortation, some have the gift of teaching, and so on. The Body of Christ is diverse, yet the church also has unity because it has the “same Spirit” (v.4), “same Lord” (v.5), and “same God” (v.6) who permeates it all and keeps it together.
Next, Paul states,
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
The emphasis in this verse is on “each one.” Put simply, every believer is given a spiritual gift by God. No one is left out. I have known Christians who say, “I don’t have a spiritual gift.” But that is not what verse seven says. It is a denial of Scripture for any believer to claim that God has not enabled him or her to contribute to His body.
Every believer fits into the body of Christ. As a pastor of a church I have a very visible role, but I realize that I am just part of the Body. Ephesians 4:16 states:
. . . the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
As the parts of the body function and work together, the whole body is built up. That is God’s plan.