The Primary Mission of the Church

by Mike Ratliff

14 Ταῦτά σοι γράφω ἐλπίζων ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ ἐν τάχει· 15 ἐὰν δὲ βραδύνω, ἵνα εἰδῇς πῶς δεῖ ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ ἀναστρέφεσθαι, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας. (1 Timothy 3:14-15 NA28)

14 These things I write to you hoping to come to you quickly, 15 but if I delay, you may know how one ought to conduct oneself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and buttress of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15 a personal translation from the NA28 Greek text)

As we have discussed countless times on this blog, the visible church in our time has taken on a “mission” that is different than the one assigned to it by God. Parts of it have the mission of being “user-friendly” while other parts are “purpose-driven,” and others are “seeker-sensitive.” None of that is what the Church is to be about. I had a discussion not long ago with a professing Christian who used to live in Orange County in California and while there attended Rick Warren’s church. He told me that he had read my objections to how Rick Warren and his followers handle the Gospel, but his objection to how we came to that conclusion consisted of the charge that we had overlooked the very obvious fact that Rick Warren and all those who follow him and what he does “do not believe that what they are doing is mishandling the Gospel.” I was somewhat taken aback by that statement. How could that be in any way shape or form a valid apologia to simply stated Biblical Truth? The answer, “They are sincere in what they were doing so it has to be okay.” 

Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Paul was writing to Timothy who was at that time the pastor of the Ephesian church. Paul had left him there to deal with several problems that had arisen. The phrase in the passage above that the Church is “the pillar and buttress of the truth” would have been readily understood by the Ephesian believers of that day. Why?

The temple of the goddess Diana (Aremis), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was located in Ephesus. It contained 127 pillars. Each of them was the gift of a king. All were made of marble, and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold. Each pillar (στῦλος) acted as a tribute to the king who donated it. However, the obvious function of the pillars was that of holding up the immense structure of the roof. In the passage above, Paul says that the church’s mission is to hold up the truth.

However, Paul adds something else, καὶ ἑδραίωμα, which I translated as and (the) buttress. Some modern translations such as the NIV get this wrong in rendering it as “foundation.” The Church is not the foundation of the truth, but it is the “stay, prop or support” of it which is what buttress is. The Church is the mainstay, the prop, the support, the propagator of the truth. The Church is to be a testimony to God’s truth. That is its mission, its very reason for existence.

Now, doesn’t this explain why such a large part of the visible church has become indistinguishable from the world? They do not uphold the truth because they have compromised it. We cannot do that. It all begins with our stance on Sola Scripture and the Sovereignty of God my brethren.

Soli Deo Gloria!

20 thoughts on “The Primary Mission of the Church

  1. Right and well said! They cannot ‘make’ something okay just by believing in it or by being sincere, just because they believe they are ‘handling it well,’ doesn’t mean that they are! That is called ‘delusional.’ We are to uphold the truth of God’s word, not our own.

  2. Again this week on the internet many articles on why we should “be in church”. Still, what if those “churches” in our small communities are apostate, not upholding the truth? Should we still “be in church?” It may seem unbelievable but there ARE areas of the world where the truths of the gospel cannot be found on Sunday mornings, which is hard to fathom in America where there are “churches” on every corner. I cannot help but view those who write these missives as smug and uninformed. Come to my community; we will make the rounds; we will be “pseudo-psychologically jargoned” to death with a man-centered message, and our “pastors” will call it “the gospel.”

  3. Rhonda, are you calling me smug and uniformed? I know very much about what is going on for I have fought this battle from the inside out. Also, just because a church is called a church does not make it part of “THE CHURCH.” That is why the Reformers were very right in talking about the Visible Church and the True Church…

  4. Oh dear. Of course not, misunderstood. Sorry. There are articles on Ref 21 currently that are urging church attendance for every Christian, but I think this needs to be qualified. It seems that those who press for unqualified church attendance are uninformed about the current state of evangelical churches around the world. I know we would all love to have a church where the word is taught, the kind of church you mention in your article. Still, there are “churches” out there that no Christian should attend, if they value the truths of scripture. I know you have found this same difficulty. It is pretty bleak in my community; as you state, just because a gathering calls itself a “church” doesn’t mean it is a “church.” Sorry again for the misunderstanding. We are in agreement. Those who urge “across the board church attendance” need to realize there are sheep out here who have no place to hear the truth.

  5. I know all about that Rhonda. I am positive that God put my wife in a situation of not being able to find a solid church for about 7 years in the area where we lived. We had to move to another state to find the church God had for us. Yes, we are in agreement.

  6. This is why I use jesus franchise and Ecclesia to separate the 2. Take the over 100 instances in the Old as well as the New Testaments where “church” is used and substitute these 2 phrases for that word, and see the clarity. #1. Physical building. #2. Called out Elect of God.
    You will quickly see the difference between the Ecclesia and the jesus franchises. But also you will see the differences between: sheep and goat, wise and foolish virgin, faithful and wicked servants, wheat and tare, narrow road few and broad road many, desirable and trash fish caught in the dragnet. Whether a person is inside the building or outside the building is not the key to determining a mans place in Christ Jesus. Mike fights from inside and I fight from outside, yet we are both members of the Ecclesia Christ Jesus is building, and the gates of hell, have not, is not, nor ever shall prevail against. Jesus and His Apostles fought the battle inside and outside the temple, for that is where they, and we will all be driven by the religious who seek to build their jesus franchise. Simply look at the story of John and Diotrophese. Who started that fellowship, and who pushed out the elect, refusing John to fellowship with, and forbidding them from fellowshipping with John.
    The great end time revival the jesus franchises teach of is nothing more than the great falling away, as Satan wears out the saints! But be of good cheer, Jesus the only Anointed One has already overcome all of this. Serve Him and His Elect, and leave the dead to bury their own!

  7. Great article, Yes, my wife and I are fortunate to attend a church close to home that is solid in doctrine and speaks out against the “downgrade”. Many have to drive a long distance to attend.

  8. Thanks Tom, yes my wife and I have about a 30 minute drive each way to get to where we attend, but it is worth it. We pass at least a half dozen churches on the way that are named with a “.tv” on the end. People go there to just be religious and be part of a “cool church” and not to be pressured in any way, etc., etc. Of course there are dozens of other churches on the way too that are part what we are discussing. I marvel at the lack of discernment of those people in some of these churches. When the signage on the front of the church is a major part of that churches ministry you have to wonder…

  9. I ran away from a Purpose Driven church years ago, ended up in a solid church that has moved to what has been called “Reformed Traditionalism”, now drive about 45 minutes to a small church that knows to stay out of both ditches and stay focused on Christ, standing on and under the Scriptures as the foundation and authority for all that gets done.

    Reformed Traditionalism documented here: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/01/14/the-danger-of-reformed-traditionalism/

    This book by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert is a wonderful look at the biblical mission of the local church: What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission.

  10. Back to “church”
    A. Physical Building, that you join and go to, and sign a membership covenant
    OR
    B. Body of called out Elect by our Lord.

    You see, when He alone puts me in the Ecclesia of lively stones, that He alone builds, with Him as the Head/Cap/Corner Stone, being built upon the foundation stones of the Apostles, I need not go anywhere! For I am already being formed and fitted together by Him. Thus I cannot enter and leave what He has already placed me within! Can a person enter into a room they are already in? No! It all relates back to A and B above doesn’t it. They are 2 entirely different things and the source of much confusion.

    Now, that being said, why would any of the Elect of God NOT want to gather together in His Name to worship Him, and spur one another on? This is WHY they met daily from place to place (house to house only adds to the confusion, as does any other named building). Further He encourages us through scripture to gather together even more as the day (of the end of this age) approaches!

    We can gather wherever 2 or 3 or 20 or 300 gather in His Name. Obviously the more that gather, the less options we might have for the ideal place to gather. For example I know of only a couple of homes that could regularly hold 20 or more people easily. Yet that is exactly how the ecclesia gathers in China for example, and their homes are much more austere than here.

    The point is that the PLACE we gather is not the point in gathering. He is the reason we gather. Thus, we can be in fellowship via the internet just as Paul was with those he wrote letters to. Yet even Paul understood and yearned for the physical gathering together. So we see that the building isn’t the problem, and can be a good solution as to where to gather. However, it is precisely at this point that Satan, through the hirelings, blind guides and wolves has corralled the sheep to control the sheep. It was no different with Diotrophese, nor with what Constantine created with the commandeering of the pagan temples.

    In fact the prophets do a very fine job of describing all of this that we see today, for 2 things never change God and His Will, and the second is the heart of fallen man as controlled by Satan. Only the Elect are changed. Satan will wear out the saints, and does so, by this Harlot System, that isn’t broken, but rather his counterfeit to steal kill and destroy. This is WHY we are warned by Christ to come out of her my people lest you too be caught in her destruction.

    We MUST count all our religious past as dung, like Paul to see these things. Then we look for His fellowship in our area, and not settle for the fellowship of the angel of light and his ministers. Should we find the Lord’s fellowship in our area? Wonderful! But we must always be on guard for Satan’s co-opting it via the blind guides, hirelings and wolves who enter in un announced.

    Establish these things by 2 or 3 witnesses, right? Well earlier you read the accounts of these very things by 2 men I am honored to call brother’s!

    Manfred reports that the fellowship he was in downgraded and he had to leave, now travelling a fair way to be a part of a biblical fellowship. Mike also relates how he eventually had to move from Kansas City back to Oklahoma to again find the fellowship. Yet, while this is wonderful for each of these men and their families, they will stay ever on guard. Why? Because “My sheep know my voice and in no way will follow another.”

    So why do so many stay in places they know aren’t right? Simply because it is “good for us(them) to be here, Lord. Let us build for You a dwelling place.” For they refuse to see A and B above as diametrically opposed to one another.

  11. Now, after reading my long post above (God bless you) I ask you one simple question. Who is it that really forsakes the fellowship of the called out Elect of God. A or B above?

  12. Mickey,

    The mighty Wonder Dog (aka Mighty Mouse) of the interweb reminds you that “church” has two legitimate connotations, neither of which relate to a building :-)

    There is that so-called universal church you mentioned that all God’s redeemed are within – which is the New Jerusalem described in Rev 21. And there are the thousands of local churches, recognized by several biblical scribes, scattered around the globe as it pleases the Lord. Within each are wheat and chaff. They gather anywhere and everywhere, called together by His Spirit.

    And the pope is nothing to either category!

    Blessings in Jesus, Who is the Christ* – who has no earthly vicar.

    *Mary not included

  13. Thanks guys! Yes Manfred tis true, and we are in agreement brother.
    Now, with regard to the little fellowship you now attend, you weren’t referring to having left Rev. B’s were you?!?!

  14. Yes, Mickey – I was referring to the church Voddie Baucham leads. Sad but true. BTW – “reverend” is a bad title that Baptists reject.

  15. Mike, I am no longer amazed by the depth of the deception by the prince of this world. Though there was a time… Now, I am at piece with this walk He leads us on. There is no longer a kicking against the goads. I am resigned to the fact that the broad road truly leads to destruction, and there but for the grace of God alone would be where I would be walking also.
    Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress;
    helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.

    Posted tearfully:
    Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    let me hide myself in thee;
    let the water and the blood,
    from thy wounded side which flowed,
    be of sin the double cure;
    save from wrath and make me pure.

    2. Not the labors of my hands
    can fulfill thy law’s commands;
    could my zeal no respite know,
    could my tears forever flow,
    all for sin could not atone;
    thou must save, and thou alone.

    3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
    simply to the cross I cling;
    naked, come to thee for dress;
    helpless, look to thee for grace;
    foul, I to the fountain fly;
    wash me, Savior, or I die.

    4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
    when mine eyes shall close in death,
    when I soar to worlds unknown,
    see thee on thy judgment throne,
    Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    let me hide myself in thee.

    Text: Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778
    Music: Thomas Hastings, 1784-1872
    Tune: TOPLADY, Meter: 77.77.77

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