Understanding the Purpose of Our Church

Faith Church December 31, 1998

Introduction to Faith
Lesson
2

Understanding the Purpose of Our Church
In 1 Timothy 3:15, the apostle Paul referred to the church as “the household of  God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”  These words express how important the church is in our Lord’s plan and program.  It is not surprising, therefore, that God gives us clear instruction in the Bible about the purpose of the church.  We will organize our study around four key Biblical purposes.


I.  WORSHIP


A.  The meaning of worship:
In their excellent book Life In the Father’s House, Wayne Mack and David Swavely write:
Our word “worship” is derived from the old English word “worthship,” and that helps us to understand its basic meaning.  Worship is acknowledging the unique worth of an object and showing honor and respect to it.  So Biblical words like honor, respect, awe, adoration, reverence, and glorifying are often near synonyms for the term “worship,” communicating a similar idea.  Obviously this practice is not one that is limited to public gatherings.  In fact, in Scripture those terms are used much more often in regard to our personal relationship with God than to our activities in the presence of other Christians.
So God requires us to be involved in personal, private worship as a way of life—but He also wants us to worship Him with other believers.  This corporate, public worship has always been a companion to individual, private worship, and it has always been equally necessary.  As John MacArthur writes, “The source of most of the problems people have in their Christian lives relates to two things:  either they are not worshiping six days a week with their life, or they are not worshipping one day a week with the assembly of saints.  We need both.”
Please list 2-3 principles from the preceding paragraphs that are especially noteworthy.
 
 
B.  The focus of our worship:
Please read Psalm 95:6-7b, 96:8-9.
1.  Who is to be the focus of our worship?

2.  What do these verses teach us about our thoughts and actions during corporate worship?
 
 
Please read Mark 7:6-7.
3.  What does this passage add to our understanding of the focus of our worship?
 
  
2    Understanding the Purpose of Our Church
John Piper has written:
If God’s reality is displayed to us in His word or His world, and we do not then feel in our heart any grief or longing or hope or fear or awe or joy or gratitude or confidence, then we may dutifully sing and pray and recite and gesture as much as we like, but it will not be real worship.  We cannot honor God if our “heart is far from Him.”
Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.  This cannot be done by mere acts of duty.  It can be done only when spontaneous affections arise in the heart.
Consider the analogy of a wedding anniversary.  Mine is on December 21.  Suppose on this day I bring home a dozen long-stemmed red roses for Noel.  When she meets me at the door I hold out the roses, and she says, “Oh, Johnny, they’re beautiful, thank you,” and gives me a big hug.  Then suppose I hold up my hand and say matter-of-factly, “Don’t mention it; it’s my duty.”
What happens?  Is not the exercise of duty a noble thing?  Do not we honor those we dutifully serve?  Not much.  Not if there’s no heart in it.  Dutiful roses are a contradiction in terms.  If I’m not moved by a spontaneous affection for her as a person, the roses don’t honor her.  In fact they belittle her.  They are a very thin covering for the fact that she does not have the worth or beauty in my eyes to kindle affection.  All I can muster is a calculated expression of marital duty . . .
The real duty of worship is not the outward duty to say or do the liturgy.  It is the inward duty, the command—“Delight yourself in the Lord!” (Psalm 37:4).  “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice!” (Psalm 32:11).
The reason this is the real duty of worship is that this honors God, while the empty performance of ritual does not.  If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, “Why do you do this?” the answer that honors her most is, “Because nothing makes me happier tonight than to be with you.”
“It’s my duty,” is a dishonor to her.  “It’s my joy,” is an honor.
John Piper, Desiring God (Portland:  Multnomah, 1986), pp. 72-73.
C.  The importance of our worship:
1.  God commanded us to worship.
Please read Deuteronomy 6:13 and Matthew 4:10.
What do these passages tell us about our subject?
 
 
2  God’s people throughout history have been characterized by worship.
Please read the following verses, and write the name of the person who worshipped in each passage.
a.  Hebrews 11:4-__________
b.  Genesis 8:20-_________
c.  Genesis 12:7-8, 13:4-_________
In his book The Ultimate Priority, John MacArthur has written:
In the Old Testament, worship covered all of life; it was the focus of the people of God.  For example, the Tabernacle was designed and laid out to emphasize the priority of worship.  The description of its details requires seven chapters—243 verses—in Exodus, yet only 31 verses in Genesis are devoted to the creation of the world . . .
The arrangement of the camp suggests that worship was central to all other activity.  The Tabernacle was in the center, and immediately next to it were the priests, who led in the worship.  A little farther out from the Tabernacle were the Levites, who were involved in service.  Beyond that were all the tribes, facing toward the center, the place of worship.

Understanding the Purpose of Our Church    3

3.  Worship is an evidence of our salvation.
Please read Philippians 3:3 and John 4:23-24.
Based on these verses, how would you respond to a person who said, “I am a believer in Jesus Christ but I have no interest in worshipping Him.”?
 
 
4.  The absence of true worship results in the judgment of God.
Please read 1 Samuel 13:8-14 and Romans 1:18-32.
What is said about worship in each of these passages and what happened because true worship was not present?



D  The preparation for our worship:
1.  Living a godly life throughout the week.
Please read Psalm 15:1-5.
What do these verses tell us about the relationship between our daily lifestyle and our ability to participate in corporate worship?


2.  Being in a right relationship with others.
Please read Matthew 5:23-24.
How important is solving problems with others?  Is a person worshipping Biblically if he has unsolved problems with other people?


3.  Consider these words from Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
There should be some preparation of the heart in coming to the worship of God.  Consider who He is in whose name we gather, and surely we cannot rush together without thought.  Consider whom we profess to worship, and we shall not hurry into His presence as men run to a fire.  Moses, the man of God, was warned to put off his shoes from his feet when God only revealed Himself in a bush.  How should we prepare ourselves when we come to Him who reveals Himself in Christ Jesus, His dear Son?  There should be no stumbling into the place of worship half asleep, no roaming here as if it were no more than going to a playhouse.  We cannot expect to profit much if we bring with us a swarm of idle thoughts and a heart crammed with vanity.  If we are full of folly, we may shut out the truth of God from our minds.
Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon at His Best, comp. Tom Carter (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), pp. 223-224.
Please list 2-3 principles from the preceding paragraph that are especially noteworthy.

 
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E.  The elements of our worship:
Following the example of the early church (Acts 2:42-47) our worship includes the following elements:
1.  Instruction – “. . . they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching . . .”
(Acts 2:42).
2.  Prayer – “. . . and to prayer . . .” (Acts 2:42).
3.  Singing – “. . . speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord . . .” (Ephesians 5:19).
4.  Observing the ordinances – “. . . those who received His word were baptized . . .”, “. . . to the breaking of bread . . .” (Acts 2:41-42).
5.  Giving – “. . . and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need . . .” (Acts 2:45).


II.  INSTRUCTION


A.  The responsibility to deliver instruction:
Please read 2 Timothy 2:15.
1.  This verse commands pastors to work hard as they study the Scriptures.  What does this verse say will result in the life of a pastor if he does not work hard.  What will result if he does work hard.


Please read 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
2.  What ideas are found in verse 1 that tell us that Paul takes his commands to Timothy seriously?


3.  What is Timothy commanded to do in verse 2?

4.  What sobering realities are presented in verses 3-4?


B.  The responsibility to receive instruction:
Please read Proverbs 8:33 and 9:9.
What do these verses tell us about the importance of listening to truth?
 
 
Consider the following words from Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
We are told men ought not to preach without preparation.  Granted, but we add, men ought not to hear without preparation.  Which, do you think, needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground?  I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in.  It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than by the preacher.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Spurgeon at His Best, comp. Tom Carter (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), p. 158. 
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Jay Adams adds:
Too many laymen speak about the preaching event as if it were a one-way street, as if the responsibility for what transpires when the Bible is proclaimed rest solely on the shoulders of the preacher.  But that’s not so!  Effective communication demands competence from all parties.
Jay Adams, A Consumer’s Guide to Preaching, (Wheaton, IL.: Victor, 1991), p. 7.
Wayne Mack and Dave Swavely make the following ten suggestions to help us become better listeners and learners during the teaching of God’s Word:
1.  “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Only those who have been saved from sin by grace through faith in Christ can truly understand the truth of God’s Word           (1 Corinthians 2:14).
2.  Confess and forsake your sin continually (1 John 1:9), because 1 Peter 2:1-2 says that we must be putting aside “all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” so that we may, “like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word.”
3.  Prepare yourself for the message the night before by praying and getting to bed on time, and also by rising early enough to have plenty of time to get ready in the morning.
4.  Through prayer and disciplined thought, adjust your attitude prior to the service so that you expect to hear exciting and life-changing truths from God (Psalm 119:18, 40, 96, 125, 162).
5.  Eliminate any potential distractions that might hinder your attentiveness during the message (Romans 13:14).
6.  Make a concerted effort during the service to understand and retain as much as you can from the teaching, perhaps by taking notes and writing down in your own words the primary lessons you learn and the questions raised in your mind (cf. Psalm 119:11; James 1:25).
7.  Practice and develop your skills of discernment by examining the teaching carefully, but remember to maintain a humble, teachable spirit (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
8.  Discuss the message with other Christians after the service, asking them questions and sharing the encouragement and challenges you received (cf. Romans 15:14; Hebrews 10:24).
9.  Study the passage or topic further by discussing it with the teacher or other knowledgeable Christians, and by referring to commentaries and other helpful books.
10.  Purpose in your heart to make any changes necessary as a result of what you have learned, pray about those changes, and practice them daily (James 1:22-25).
Mack and Swavely, Life In the Father’s House, pp. 103-104.
C.  The purpose of the instruction:
Please read Ephesians 4:11-17.
1.  What should happen as a result of the instruction we receive from God’s Word?  (v. 12)
  
  
2.  Who should we “become more like” as a result of the instruction we receive?  (vv. 13, 15)
  
  
3.  What pitfalls will be avoided if we carefully receive this instruction? (v. 14)
  
   
6    Understanding the Purpose of Our Church

4.  How does “faithful receiving of instruction” affect the overall church body?  (v. 16)
 
 

III.  FELLOWSHIP


Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines “fellowship” as...
Fellowship means companionship, a relation in which parties hold something in common, familiar intercourse.  Christians have fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3) and the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14), and with one another (1 John 1:7).  As is the case between men, no one can be in fellowship with God unless he possess like purposes and feelings (1 John 2:3-6), with love (Romans 8:38-39).  The fellowship of believers embraces confession of faults one to another with prayer (James  5:16); assembly, with exhortation and provoking to love and good works (Malachi 3:16; Hebrews 10:24-25); partaking the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:24-25); “ministering to the saints” (Acts 11:29; Romans 12:13, 15:25; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:4; Hebrews 13:16); bearing the infirmities of the weak and edification (Romans 15:1).  Love for and fellowship with one another are necessary to, and an evidence of fellowship with God (1 John 4:12).  Christ prayed that his people might have fellowship with each other (John 17:21).  Fellowship with God is essential to fruitfulness (John 15:4).
Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1957), p. 349.

1.  From our previous study of Acts 2:41-47, what phrases does this passage contain that illustrate Biblical fellowship? 

2.  What aspect of fellowship is emphasized in each of the following passages:
a.  Hebrews 10:24-25

b.  Ephesians 5:19-21

c.  1 Peter 4:8-10

d.  Ephesians 6:18

3.  What specific steps could you take in the coming days to build fellowship with other believers in our church? 

IV.  SERVICE
Because this is such an important area of church life, it will be developed fully in Lesson 4 of this series.
For additional understanding of the purpose of our church, please review the following documents:
• Church Covenant
• Confession of Faith
• Church Constitution

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