What is The Purpose of The Church? 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 — BCC (2024)

Every organization, if it is to accomplish what it sets out to do, will need to understand who they are and what they intend to accomplish, their mission as an organization. Some organizations have well defined mission statements to help them stay on track. The mission statement of an organization is something all of the members can keep before them, to help keep the people and organization on track. Let me give you just a couple of examples. Nike is the number one seller of athletic shoes and apparel in the world. Nike's mission statement is to "bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world." The asterisk was added by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman who said, “If you have a body you are an athlete.”Starbucks is not the creator of coffee or coffee shops for that matter, but Starbucks has taken coffee to a whole new level. They are an iconic brand, who like Nike, are recognizable simply by their logo. Starbucks mission statement is simple, but with laser focus: “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.”This past week as I was studying our Scripture for this morning and taking a look at mission statements for various organizations, I came across Mercy Hospital. I’ve visited many of you in almost every hospital in Oklahoma City through the years, but I’ve only been a patient in one hospital and that’s Mercy Heart Hospital. Here’s Mercy’s mission statement: “As the Sisters of Mercy before us, we bring to life the healing ministry of Jesus through our compassionate care and exceptional service.” When you have health care needs and you go to Mercy Hospital, those who will take care of you are all working under the banner of the mission statement I just shared with you. That’s the goal.Let’s broaden our understanding just for a moment before we get to our Scripture for today. Let’s say you have some health issue which leads you to the hospital, any hospital in Oklahoma City. Integris, OU Medical Center, St. Anthony’s, Mercy, or any other hospital. There, in those hospitals, you will find lots of doctors, nurses, and support staff. There are Neurologists, Nephrologists, Radiologists, Rheumatologists, Oncologists, Orthopedists, Pediatricians, Podiatrists and the list goes on and on. Within each of these areas of medicine there are specialists who have a more narrowly defined area of expertise. When I was at Mercy I first saw a cardiologist, but eventually it was an electrophysiologist that God used to fix the electrical system of my heart. All of these doctors, and the nurses who work alongside them, work together for the healing of those who are ill. They are a team, working together, to accomplish the mission to which they have been called.There’s a reason why I’ve taken the time to get us to think about how medical teams at hospitals work together and that is because it is a good illustration of how we, the followers of Jesus, are to use the gifts God has given us to work together for the mission to which we have been called. But what is our mission? What is our purpose? You don’t have to go to medical school to know the mission of a hospital--it is to help sick people get well, but what is the mission of the church? That’s something we need to talk about, but first let’s read our Scripture for this morning found in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:27-13:1 NIV)

Each one of you, those of you who are a follower of Jesus, is a part of the body of Christ. We have spent the past several weeks in 1 Corinthians 12 taking a look at spiritual gifts given by God to His people and how we are to use the gifts He has given to each of us. I want us to notice something that is very important in verse 28 where Paul writes, “And God has placed in the church…” See that word, “placed?” In the Greek New Testament it is the word, “tithemi,” which means “set, placed” or “to put.” We learned earlier in chapter 12, after Paul lists several spiritual gifts given to God’s people,

11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11 NIV)

So, we see that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to God’s people and then God places gifted people in churches. Why does He do this? This information should make us think and wonder shouldn’t it? If God is so intentional as to give you gifts and then lead you and place you in a specific church, there must be some reason for that, right? This has always been God’s way. God is a God of purpose. In the Hebrew Bible we find God going after Moses. God spoke to Moses, He called Moses, He raised Moses up, but why? Turn with me to Exodus 3:9-10 and I’ll show you why.

9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." (Exodus 3:9-10 NIV)

God raised Moses up for a purpose. God had a plan. He gifted Moses, empowered Moses, enabled, and sustained Moses to carry out His plan of delivering the Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh’s iron grip.Let me give you another example. In Judges 6 the Midianites had been brutalizing the Israelites for seven long years. Things were so bad the Israelites were making shelters in caves and the clefts of the mountains. The Lord went to Gideon and Gideon had questions about why his people had fallen on such hard times. Then we read,

14 The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" 15 "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." 16 The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." (Judges 6:14-16 NIV)

And over and over again throughout Scripture, and throughout history, God has done this very thing. He gives His people gifts for the purpose of living out His plan. In our Scripture for today we see that Paul shares more of the gifts given by God. Read verse 28 with me.

28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28 NIV)

Earlier in chapter 12 Paul had stressed that each part of the body serves its purpose. He taught us that the “unpresentable parts,” those parts that most people might not give much attention, are given special attention. He was adamant that every gift given by God to His people is necessary for the building up of the body of Christ. All of this makes what we read in verse 28 interesting. Paul seems to place a greater emphasis on apostles, prophets, and teachers. He lists them: “first, second, and third.” Alan Johnson writes,

...there are those who argue that Paul is establishing a hierarchy of ministries beginning with the highly important ‘proclamation gifts’ of apostle, prophet, and teacher and ending up with tongues as the least important. The numbering does give the first three some historical priority in the founding of the local churches: apostles bring the message of the gospel, prophets and teachers establish and build up the congregation. (Johnson, Alan. 1 Corinthians. pg, 236)

The proclamation of the Word of God is the very foundation of the church. It is from the Word of God that we receive our mission and purpose as God’s people living in this world, regardless of where we live. The Early Church used the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus. Today, we have the whole counsel of God found in Genesis through Revelation to lead us and guide us as a church.We aren’t going to go through all of the gifts listed one-by-one, but I would like to point out a couple of things for us. Take a look at the first one on the list, the apostles. The apostles were a definite group of people who were raised up by God, chosen by Jesus, to lay the foundation for the Church. The Greek word, “apostolos,” literally means, “one sent” or “messenger.” The term was applied to Jesus’ disciples and Paul. The word was used in a broader sense with people like Barnabas, Timothy, Silvanus, Adronicus, and Junia who were “sent” by God. The more technical definition of apostle applies to Jesus’ disciples, Matthias, who took Judas’ place, and Paul. There were qualifications necessary to be a “foundational apostle,” as Thomas Schreiner calls them. He writes,

To serve as a foundational apostle, at least two qualifications were required (Luke 6:13; Acts 1:15-26; 1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 15:7-9; Galatians 1:11-17): 1) Seeing the resurrected Lord; and 2) being commissioned by Him. The apostles are named first because they are the foundation of the church, which is Jesus Christ the crucified and risen one (Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 3:10). (Schriener, Thomas. 1 Corinthians. pg. 269)

I’ve mentioned this to you already so I won’t belabor the point, but the people in Corinth, much like the people of our day, were drawn to the more spectacular gifts like speaking in tongues. Over and over again Paul places the teaching gifts, or gifts of proclamation, ahead of the more spectacular gifts. He’s not trying to diminish the more spectacular gifts, but he is trying to get the people to recognize the importance of those gifts that build up the entire church body through the proclamation of the Word of God. Evidently in Corinth, those who possessed the more spectacular gifts were applauded and lauded while the apostles got no respect. You may wonder how I know this? Well, do you remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13? Let’s read it to refresh our memory.

9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world-- right up to this moment. (1 Corinthians 4:9-13 NIV)

Paul said the apostles had become the scum of the earth, but God had placed the apostles at the head of the class in importance for the establishing and building up of the body of Christ.We have already talked about the second gifting on the list, that of prophecy or prophets, but I think it’s important to remember prophets were those who spoke for God. In the Old Testament there were men like Isaiah, Amos, Ezekiel, Micah, Jonah, and many others who came to God’s people over and over again with a word from God, oftentimes that word was calling God’s people to turn from their sins.There were prophets in the New Testament, and at Corinth as well, and they were gifted by God to speak words of comfort, encouragement, instruction, rebuke, and conviction to the people in the church. We will talk more about prophecy when we get to 1 Corinthians 14 because it is a major part of the chapter. For now, suffice it to say that God still enables His people to prophecy, to speak words of encouragement, rebuke, comfort, and instruction to His people in the situations in which they find themselves. Paul does caution the people and us to “test the spirits.” Take a look at 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 with me.

20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 NIV)

And how do we test prophecies? Do we simply use reason or logic or our own personal preference? Not at all, we use the Word of God. We take everything back to God’s Word to test and try it to see if it squares with the Word of God.Paul then lists miracles, gifts of healing, helping, guidance, in some Bibles it is translated “administration,” and then different kinds of tongues. I would like to just speak to one of these because we don’t have the time to go through each one. “Gifts of healing.” The Greek word, “iaomai,” means “healing, remedy, or to make whole.” The word appears 26 times in the New Testament. It is used most frequently to describe the times that Jesus healed people. Let me give you just a couple of examples.In Matthew 8, a Roman centurion came to Jesus because his servant was at home, paralyzed and suffering terribly. Jesus asked if he wanted Him to heal him? The centurion said he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his house, but if He would just say the word he knew his servant would be healed. Then we read, in Matthew 8:13,

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that moment. (Matthew 8:13 NIV)

The centurion’s servant was healed at that moment. There is another story in Mark 5 where the same word is used. Jesus was walking in Jerusalem when a big crowd began to follow Him. There was a woman who saw Jesus. She had suffered for 12 years with some kind of bleeding. Mark tells us,

27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (Mark 5:27-29 NIV)

The woman was healed instantly. There’s something really interesting that Mark tells us about how she had dealt with her problem during those 12 years of suffering in verse 26. Listen to this.

26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. (Mark 5:26 NIV)

Doctors couldn’t help her, but Jesus healed her, and He healed her instantly. There are some today who say God no longer heals, that the gifts of healing have ceased. I don’t believe that at all. I’ve known people who were healed like the centurion’s servant and like the woman with the issue of bleeding. We should always pray for God’s healing when we or someone we love is sick. At the same time, we should seek the help of doctors whom God has blessed to help us. The reason I’m bringing this up is because I have known Christians who said they believed God would heal them and they refused to go to a doctor. I know of people who have died waiting on God to heal them. That is just foolish. God can heal instantly, God can heal gradually, and God also uses doctors to help us heal. Wayne Grudem speaks to this with such clarity. Let me share his words with you.

Of course, it is wrong to rely on doctors or medicine instead of relying on the Lord, a mistake tragically made by King Asa: ‘In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign.’ (2 Chronicles. 16:12–13) But if medicine is used in connection with prayer, then we should expect God to bless and often multiply the effectiveness of the medicine. Even when Isaiah had received from the Lord a promise of healing for King Hezekiah, he told Hezekiah’s servants to bring a cake of figs and apply it (as a medical remedy) to a boil that Hezekiah suffered from: “And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover”’ (2 Kings 20:7).

That is gold! Go to the doctor while you pray and trust in God. Don’t put your hope in the doctor, your hope is in the Lord. Paul says there are those with “gifts of healing.” Those people should pray for God to do what only He can do. At the same time, God does not always heal. When God chooses not to heal we must trust Him that He has a better plan for our lives.The last thing I want you to notice is that no one of us has every gift needed to build up God’s church. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 with me.

29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:29-30 NIV)

In a hospital you do not go to one doctor to help you with all of your ailments, but there is an assortment, a team of doctors who are highly skilled and working together to help you. So it is in the church. Look around this room this morning. I see so many people with so many different gifts. I know this church well since I’ve been here for so long and I can tell you that we are so blessed! We are like the First Church of Corinth in that we lack no spiritual gift. We lack no spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 1:7), but we are like a hospital where only 20% of their staff show up each morning. Can you imagine what that would be like? Those staff who would be on the premises and fully engaged would be a blessing to those in need that they were capable of helping, but there would be so many they just couldn’t help. A person who is highly skilled in Pediatric medicine is a wonderful gift, but that doctor would have been no help to me during my time of need when the electrical system of my heart was misfiring.This takes us back to where we began. Those at the hospital know their mission, but what is our mission? I would dare say that if you asked 100 people who are attending various churches this very morning you would get at least 50 different answers. Most would talk about the reasons why they go to church instead of the mission of the church. The Church’s mission is to carry on the ministry of Jesus in the world, but most people today believe the mission of the church is to meet their own personal needs. Bob Diffenbaugh wrote,

Too many people attend church to have their “needs met.” Too many people leave churches, complaining that the church has not met their needs. The church is to build up itself in love, but the goal of the church is to live out the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, to His glory. We, the church, are the body of Christ. This means we, as the church, are to carry on His ministry in the world today. The church ministers to itself, to build itself up so that it may carry out its mission, and that mission is living out Christ in a fallen world. We have become so preoccupied with the church’s ministry to us as individuals that we have failed to concentrate on the church’s mission to the world, and our obligation to sacrifice ourselves in ministry to and through the church to the world. The question is not, “What is the church doing for me?” The question is, “What can I contribute to the church to participate in its fulfillment of its mission and calling?“ (Bob Diffenbaugh. Spirituality and Spiritual Gifts.)

It is my prayer that as we go through these studies in 1 Corinthians that the Lord will so capture our hearts that we become passionate about using the gifts He has given to each of us in such a way that our single ambition would be to minister to others in the same way that Jesus ministered to those in His day. God has called us as a church to be a lighthouse of hope to our city, but we need every single person who calls BCC “home” in order to let His light shine. I know there has to be many of you who are here this morning and know the Lord is calling you to step up and step out. It’s time to recognize that God has called you to more than simply filling a seat for a couple of Sundays a month. It’s time to commit wholeheartedly to allowing the Lord to use you. Not when you are asked, but for you to look for opportunities to serve the Lord by serving His people. If you are one of those people won’t you make that commitment this morning?Mike HaysBritton Christian Church922 NW 91stOKC, OK. 73114November 28, 2021

What is The Purpose of The Church?  1 Corinthians 12:27-31 — BCC (2024)
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