Implications of the Church

"1. The church is not to be conceived of primarily as a sociological phenomenon, but as a divinely established institution. Accordingly, its essence is to be determined not from an analysis of its activity, but from Scripture.

2. The church exists because of its relationship to the Triune God. It exists to carry out its Lord’s will by the power of the Holy Spirit.

3. The church is the continuation of the Lord’s presence and ministry in the world.

4. The church is to be a fellowship of regenerate believers who display the spiritual qualities of their Lord. Purity and devotion are to be emphasized.

5. While the church is a divine creation, it is made up of imperfect human beings. It will not reach perfect sanctification or glorification until its Lord’s return."

Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology. (2nd ed., p. 1059). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

A function of the Church Evangelism

"The one topic emphasized in both accounts of Jesus’ last words to his disciples is evangelism. In Matthew 28:19 he instructs them, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” In Acts 1:8 he says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This was the final point Jesus made to his disciples. It appears that he regarded evangelism as the very reason for their being.

The call to evangelize is a command. Having accepted Jesus as Lord, the disciples had brought themselves under his rule and were obligated to do whatever he asked. For he had said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15); “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (v. 21a); and “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). If the disciples truly loved their Lord, they would carry out his call to evangelize. It was not an optional matter for them.

The disciples were not sent out merely in their own strength, however. Jesus prefaced his commission with the statement, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Having all authority, he commissioned the disciples as his agents. Thus they had the right to go and evangelize all nations. Further, Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and that they would consequently receive power. So they were both authorized and enabled for the task. Moreover, they were assured that he was not sending them off on their own. Although he was to be taken from them bodily, he would nonetheless be with them spiritually to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:20).

Note also the extent of the commission: it is all-inclusive. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus speaks of “all nations,” and in Acts 1:8 he gives a specific enumeration: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Differing issues are involved at the various levels of this command.2

Jerusalem was, of course, the immediate vicinity. While not the home territory of the inner circle of disciples (they were Galileans), it was the site of Pentecost. Since the first converts would have many close contacts in Jerusalem, it was natural for the church to witness and grow there. Jerusalem was also the most difficult place to witness, however, for it was the location of the scandal in connection with the events of Christ’s last days, and especially his humiliating death by crucifixion. There would be a natural distrust of and perhaps even revulsion for any presentation of the message of the Savior. On the other hand, one advantage of witnessing in Jerusalem was that the people lived close enough to each other to unite into one congregation if they chose to do so.

Beyond Jerusalem, the disciples were to be witnesses in “all Judea.” This area was basically homogeneous in its thinking and customs, for its inhabitants were Jews, and Judean Jews at that. Yet most of them were too far removed from the center in Jerusalem to gather there. Consequently, fulfillment of this part of the commission would result in the establishment of additional congregations.

Perhaps the most distasteful part of the commission for the disciples was the third part—“in Samaria.” This took them to the people whom they found most difficult to love, and who would probably be least receptive to their message because of being brought by Jews. The Jews and the Samaritans had been engaged in conflict for a long time. The friction dated back to the time of the Jews’ return from the Babylonian captivity. Samaritans were the product of intermarriage of the Israelites left behind by the Assyrians and various foreign colonists whom the Assyrians then sent in to help repopulate the area. When the Jews returned from Babylon and began to rebuild the temple, the Samaritans offered to help, but their offer was spurned. From that time on, there was friction between the two groups. This is evident in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry. When Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, she responded, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” John comments, “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). This was an unusual encounter, for Jesus and his disciples did not ordinarily pass through Samaria, preferring rather to cross over the Jordan River and travel through Perea in their journeys between Galilee in the north and Judea in the south. Jesus lent additional force to his parable about loving one’s neighbor by making its hero a Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37). The Jews meant to insult Jesus when they asked, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (John 8:48). It is likely that the former taunt (to which Jesus did not reply) was intended to be the more humiliating of the two. Surely the Samaritans were the people whom the Jews would have least liked to see included in the church with them, yet Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in … Samaria.”

Finally, the disciples were to bear witness “to the end of the earth.” There was no geographical restriction upon the commission. They were to take the gospel message everywhere, to all nations and to every type of people. They could not, of course, accomplish this on their own. Rather, as they won converts, those converts would in turn evangelize yet others. Thus the message would spread in ever-widening circles, and the task would eventually be completed.

Therefore, if the church is to be faithful to its Lord and bring joy to his heart, it must be engaged in bringing the gospel to all people. This includes people whom we may by nature tend to dislike. It extends to those who are unlike us. And it goes beyond our immediate sphere of contact and influence. In a very real sense, local evangelism, church extension or church planting, and world missions are all the same thing. The only difference lies in the length of the radius. The church must work in all of these areas. If it does not, it will become spiritually ill, for it will be attempting to function in a way its Lord never intended."

Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology. (2nd ed., pp. 1061–1063). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Another function discipleship 

"The basic requirements for mature discipleship (being a disciple in the specific sense) are difficult to follow, and Christ did not soften them at all. Christ declared and the Gospels record the demands of discipleship in clear, challenging, and uncompromising language. So do not expect to find the conditions for discipleship in fine print or in ambiguous language.

The requirements for mature discipleship are particularly austere for people in cultures that value comfort, convenience, self-gratification, and noncommitment. Most of us can easily identify cultures that fit this description. Discipleship is costly, but not so much so as the price of our salvation through Christ’s blood (1 Pet. 1:18–19) or as life without Christ (Rom. 5:6–10). Furthermore, the rewards Christ’s faithful disciples will receive far outweigh the costs of wholeheartedly following Him (Matt. 19:27–29).

The following are eleven elements involved in effective discipleship.

Deny yourself. Christ said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself” (Luke 9:23, italics added). Jesus did not mean disciples must hate or loathe themselves or lose their personal identities. Rather, self-denial is a conscious choice to discover one’s true identity and value “in Christ” (see chapter 3, “Discovering the New You in Christ” and to abandon the self-centered life and to live for God and others. In the path of discipleship we begin to discover the person God wants us to be, and that should be the person we want to be.

Love for Christ is the right motive for our self-denial (1 John 4:19). Christ’s love for us motivated Him to deny Himself and to die for us (3:16). “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:14–15).

Take up your cross daily. “If anyone wishes to come after Me [Jesus], he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Christ had His cross on which He died to redeem others (John 19:17). Each Christian has his or her cross (Luke 14:27) which indicates death to self (see Gal. 2:20) and willingness to die for Christ, for His gospel, and for others (Mark 8:34–35). Anyone ready to die for Christ’s sake is ready for any experience less than death.

The disciple’s cross is more restrictive than general trials, burdens, suffering, problems, and painful relationships, since both believers and unbelievers can experience these adversities. Bearing one’s cross daily involves a “voluntary acceptance of the responsibilities and sufferings incidental to being a disciple of Christ.”5

Keep on following Christ. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). To follow Him means that we are willing to be what He wants us to be, to go where He wants us to go, and to do what He commands us to do at any cost.
Believers must not let anyone or anything keep them from following Christ (9:59–61). Discipleship requires that we first count the cost and be willing to pay it (14:28–33). Jesus’ disciples literally left everything behind to follow Him and to proclaim God’s kingdom (5:10–11). Following Jesus might cost you your vocation (Matt. 4:18–22; 9:9), a certain dwelling place (Luke 9:57–58), or fulfillment of customary family responsibilities (9:59–62). Peter expressed this requirement when he said to Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You” (Matt. 19:27). In Christ’s call to follow Him, He allows for no excuses and no delays (Luke 9:57–62).

Relinquish all your possessions to Christ. Christ said, “No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (14:33). Christians should place all they have at Christ’s disposal.

Since Jesus is not physically walking and ministering on earth now, how do Christians give up everything to follow Him? We must be willing to submit to the Lord everything we are and have so that He can use us and our possessions for His purpose. In biblical terminology, we sanctify or set apart ourselves and our substance to the Lord. God owns each Christian by creation and redemption (Is. 43:7; 1 Cor. 6:19–20). And all our possessions are on loan from God (John 3:27) so that we serve as His stewards. Each believer should ask, “Have I turned over to the Lord the title deed to myself and my possessions?”

Much as the Lord multiplied five small barley loaves and two small fish, so He will take our offerings, bless them, use them, and multiply them in ministry to others (6:10–13).

When we put our possessions at God’s disposal, He may return them to our care and direct us to administer them faithfully for Him. Then God will multiply our resources so that we have more with which to minister to others (Matt. 25:29; 2 Cor. 9:10–11).

Continue in Christ’s Word. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32). Those loyal to Christ’s Word demonstrate that they are true disciples, and they experience liberation from sin by learning and obeying His truth (8:32, 34, 36).

Practice prayer according to Christ’s teaching. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray (Matt. 6:6, 9–13; 7:7–8) and how not to pray (6:5, 7–8; Luke 18:9–14). He encouraged and commanded them to pray (Matt. 26:41; Luke 18:1; John 16:24).

Abide in Christ. Abiding in Christ, the theme of John 15:1–11, is based on the believer’s spiritual union with Christ, which He mentioned in 14:20, “In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” This spiritual union first occurred at Pentecost when the Spirit came on the assembled believers (Acts 2:1–4). Now believers are spiritually united with Christ “by [or ‘in’] the Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13) at the moment of their salvation. All Christians are responsible to experience this spiritual union with Christ by abiding in Him (John 15:4–5).

Abiding in Christ means the believer shares an intimate relationship with Christ as they spiritually reside together. Christ commanded His disciples to “abide [Greek, meinate from menō] in Me” (15:4), that is, to share their lives with Him in an intimate, spiritual sense. This same terminology is used of two disciples who resided or “abode [Greek, emeinan from menō] with Him [Jesus]” in a physical and social sense (1:39, KJV).

Abiding in Christ requires a life cleansed from sin and from anything else that would hinder the true branches (believers) from abiding in the true Vine, Christ (15:1–3). If we have something in our lives we do not share with Christ, then either it is sin and needs to be confessed, or it is an area of our lives such as a need, a problem, or a purpose we need to share with Him, though He already knows about it.

The comprehensive requirement for abiding in Christ is obedience to His commandments (15:10; 1 John 2:6). John taught the same requirement for the believer’s relationship to God: “The one who keeps His [God’s] commandments abides in Him, and He in him” (3:24).

By abiding in Christ, we experience a fruitful life (John 15:4–5, 8), a prayerful life (15:7), and a joyful life (15:11). Prayer and joy are fairly familiar concepts to most Christians, but what is the spiritual fruit that abiding in Christ produces (15:4–5, 8)? John 15:1–11 does not give specific examples of spiritual fruit, but other New Testament references suggest what spiritual “fruit” includes, such as (a) manifestation of Christlike character (Gal. 5:22–23), (b) presentation of praise and thanks to God through Christ (Heb. 13:15), (c) contribution to Christian works and workers (Phil. 4:17), (d) salvation of souls through evangelism (John 4:35–37; 15:16; 2 Tim. 4:5), (e) edification of other believers (Rom. 1:13), and (f) production of good works (Col. 1:10; see also 1 Tim. 5:9–10).6

Love Christ supremely. Christ taught, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). Disciples should love God’s Son so much that their love for any humans, even dearest relatives, would seem like hate compared to their love for Him. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). A comparison of this verse with other relevant passages and a consideration of Hebrew usage show that Jesus was not asking His followers literally to hate their close relatives.7 Jesus expects us to love our relatives and even our enemies. Still, disciples should always love Christ supremely (Matt. 22:37–38; John 21:15–17).

Love for Christ is the foundational and foremost requirement of discipleship because Spirit-produced love for Christ is the necessary motive and dynamic to meet the other requirements for discipleship (14:15, 21). Every church-age believer has God’s Spirit (Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 1:22) and therefore has the spiritual resource for becoming a mature disciple (Phil. 2:12–13).

Love one another. If we love Christ, we will show practical love for His followers (John 13:34–35; 1 John 3:16–18; 4:19–21). This Christlike love that disciples have for each other is the main proof to the world that they are indeed His disciples. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Serve others. Christ gave His disciples an unforgettable example of humble service when he washed their feet (13:4–11), and then He commanded them to follow His example (13:14–15). Christ also taught His disciples that greatness comes through servanthood (Luke 22:24–27), and He lived and died as a servant among them (Phil. 2:5–8).

Make disciples of others. This requirement is stated most clearly in Matthew’s account of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20). All who become Christ’s disciples have the great responsibility and privilege of leading others to trust Christ."

Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (2003). Understanding Christian theology (pp. 1025–1028). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.