Why would God save sinners like us? Why would He send His Son to die for us? Why would he establish the Church? What’s the point in all of this?
There are really no simple answers to questions like these, but there is an ultimate answer. God saved men and created the Church ultimately for His own glory. This has always been the point of God setting apart a people for Himself (Ezek 36:21). In the Old Testament it was the nation of Israel that God set apart to be His people and the primary representatives of His Name on this earth. After the redemptive work of Christ was completed God expanded the people of God to include the Church (Romans 11:11-24). This too was ultimately so that the church could represent His name on the earth. Or, to put it another way, God did this for His own glory (Romans 11:36).
Before the foundation of the world God has been working to set apart a people for Himself that would represent His name well by bringing Him glory. He has been working to establish, equip, and enable His people to fulfill the purpose for which they were created—to bring God glory. Thus, the eternal and ultimate purpose of the people of God is the glorify God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism so aptly put it,
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Ultimately the reason why the church exists is to glorify God.
Although it is a true statement, when it comes to the specifics of church life, it is not entirely helpful to simply say that the church is to glorify God. It is sort of like telling a company of Marines that their purpose is to keep the country safe. It is true. But it does not really help them when it comes to how to fulfill this purpose. That is why Marines are given specific missions. The missions determine how a company of Marines is going to fulfill its ultimate purpose at that specific time and in that specific place.
Similarly, God has given the church a specific mission so that it can fulfill its ultimate purpose in a specific time (the “last days”) and a specific place (earth). Understanding what this mission is, and how it is accomplished will determine whether or not our church fulfills our ultimate purpose of glorifying God.
The Mission of the Church
The mission of the church is found in the Bible. Specifically it is found in the passage commonly referred to as the Great Commission:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Here we find the specific mission of our church that will enable us to fulfill our ultimate purpose. The mission of the church is to spiritually prepare individuals for the Kingdom of God. This mission is why the church has not already been taken to heaven to glorify God there. We have been left to glorify God in this time and in this place so that we can represent God’s name to those around us. This is the essence of Jesus’ command.
The command to make disciples is a command for the church to have spiritual influence on individuals. That is what discipleship means. The church has the opportunity to impact the world in a number of ways (economically, socially, culturally, environmentally, etc.). But if the church does not primarily use its influence for spiritual impact then it is failing to accomplish its mission. The church represent the name of God on this earth by spiritually preparing individuals for the Kingdom.
The work in preparation for the Kingdom of God is of eternal importance. Although the Kingdom of God has already been inaugurated in a spiritual sense, it will not be completely consummated until Christ returns and judges every single individual. At that time, those who have not spiritually prepared themselves for the Kingdom of God by repenting and believing in Jesus will be eternally condemned for their rebellious sin. This is why Jesus’ words from Mark 1:14-15 remain true to this day:
Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
The Kingdom of God is at hand and it is our job to help individuals prepare for this kingdom. We can’t prepare for the Kingdom by helping to create the New Heavens or the New Earth; we can’t vindicate the saints; and we can’t judge sin. Nowhere is the Church instructed to do any of this. In our time (the “last days” not eternal glory) and in our location (plain ole earth not the new heavens and earth) our mission is not to help God bring about His kingdom. He can handle that on His own. The church’s job is to warn and spiritually prepare individuals for this coming Kingdom. That is why the mission of our Church is to spiritually prepare individuals for the Kingdom of God.