By LOU TISCIONE
Samuel J. Stone wrote “The Church’s One Foundation” in 1866 which was inspired by Ephesians 2:20. His first verse is: “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord; she is his new creation by water and the Word; from heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.” The church of which he wrote and of which the Bible speaks is both invisible and visible. The church is an organism, the body of Christ and an organization.
The visible church is the one we see. She is the body of all who profess the Lordship of Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and their children. The Protestant Reformation described the true and visible church as every local congregation that preaches the pure gospel, administers the two Sacraments as ordained by Christ and exercises biblical church discipline. Both the invisible and the visible church submit to Jesus Christ who is the Head and King.
God has given the visible church a purpose and a mission. God revealed His organizing of the visible church in Ephesians 4:11. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd-teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” (Ephesians 4:11-12.) God’s revealed order in the Church is His means by which His purpose and mission are fulfilled.
The purpose and the mission of the church are distinct but connected. The God-given purpose of the church underlies all of the things that she does, which is her mission. Before we can consider mission, we must understand purpose. By definition, purpose is concerned with being rather than doing.
What then is the church’s reason for being or existing? Or to phrase the question differently, “What is the purpose of the church? We appeal to Scripture for our answer. God’s purpose for the church was revealed in the Old Testament, (Leviticus 11:44.) This very same purpose was repeated in the New Testament, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:16.)