What is the Mission of the Church? Part 3: Let’s Be Clear About the Gospel
April 1, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Over these few weeks in Touchpoint articles, I am seeking to provide clarity about the mission of the church. My aim and prayer is joyful and unifying clarity. If we, as members of this body, clearly understand what God calls us to do as a church, I believe we will be blessed with joyful unity around that mission. I also pray that such clarity will serve the fruitfulness of our gospel ministry.
So far, I highlighted the distinction between the church organic and the church institutional. There are commands in Scripture that individual followers of Christ must obey (church organic). There are commands in Scripture that the church as an institution must obey. One of the clearest commands for the church institutional is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. Last week I said that in order to make disciples the church must proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?
If the mission of the church is to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel, we must be very clear on what the gospel is.
The apostle Paul summarizes the gospel succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. He has just written that he wants to remind the Corinthians of the gospel, “in which you stand, and by which you are being saved” (v. 1-2). The he says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
Let me make several observations:
- This gospel truth is of “first importance.” This is just another indication from Scripture that the gospel is of first importance for the mission and work of the church.
- Our number one problem is sin. For all have fallen short of the glory of God. The wrath of God is being revealed against all unrighteousness. For all will die and then face judgment. This is the chief problem for every single person. Without addressing sin, there is no hope.
- Our sin problem is infinite. We do not and cannot resolve our sin problem with a check, community service, a jail sentence, words of apology, or even our own lives. Christ, the one and only begotten Son of God, had to lay down his infinitely valuable life in order to satisfy the full penalty due our sin. Only Jesus can fix our sin problem.
- The Scriptures are all about the gospel. The Bible is not a rule book, telling us the dos and don’ts of life. It is a story of God’s grand rescue of his people through the work of Jesus, all because of his great love for us. One small example from Psalm 5: “You hate all evildoers…but I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house” (v. 5, 7). The gospel must shape how we read our Bibles.
- Jesus’ burial emphasizes that he truly died for our sins. There was no other way to pay the penalty for sin.
- The resurrection is the seal of our hope that Jesus conquered sin and death for us. Paul is about to argue in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would have no hope and our faith would be worthless. Why? Because, if death was able to hold Jesus, the perfect, sinless one, who are we, the utterly sinful ones, to think that we could escape death? But Jesus did rise again; he conquered sin and death; we have hope of eternal life, free from sin and all of its ugliness. Our biggest problem is solved. That is Good News.
- The appearances of Jesus do two things: assure us of the resurrection and affirm the mission of the church. The resurrection cannot be a fabricated story when so many people were eyewitnesses and so many died as martyrs. And we know what Jesus communicated to his followers in those appearances: the mission of the church.
This is the truth of the gospel: We sinned. Jesus died for our sins. Jesus rose again, victorious over sin and death. By faith in Christ, we have promise of eternal life. Let us not forget that proclaiming this Good News is of “first importance” and the means of making disciples of Jesus Christ.