It is of immense help,
in contemplating the manifold activities and energies of
God, to be able to gather everything into one inclusive,
comprehensive, and concrete issue. The Bible, from
Genesis to the Revelation, covers a wide range and
includes a vast amount of matter, but it has one
all-governing and conclusive objective. The purpose of
God is one, and only one. It is always referred to in the
singular; "Called according to His purpose" (Rom.
8:28). "According to the purpose...." (Eph. 1:11).
"According to the eternal purpose" (Eph. 3:11).
"According to His purpose and grace" (2 Tim. 1:9).
It is not a variety or number of things; it is just one.
And what is the one,
single, comprehensive purpose? The answer is Christ!
"His Son, Jesus Christ." And when we ask further,
What about His Son? The answer is, to have Him fill all
things and to have all things in Him. That this is so is
made clear in the definite statements of Scripture; "In
Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the
earth, things visible and things invisible... all things
have been created through Him, and unto Him." "For it
was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should
all the fullness dwell" (Col. 1:16,19). "Whom He
appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made
the worlds (ages)" (Heb. 1:2).
So, then, in the
counsels of God, all things must head up in Christ. God's
occupation is with bringing Christ in, and bringing into
Christ. If we would be "God's fellow-workers",
this must be our single-eyed aim and business. This
defines precisely the purpose of the Church.
The presence of the
Church in this world is, firstly, to be a corporate
expression of Christ here. The very designation "The
Body of Christ" means Christ corporately present. The
Church is not an institution, organization, society, or
religious fraternity. It is, - in God's intention, the
embodiment of His Son in a continuation of His life and
work on this earth. In the next place, after the being
of the Church, is its work. This is just one thing,
and by the one result alone its work stands or falls.
This work is to make for an increase of Christ in this
world, and this is to be accomplished along two lines;
namely, by evangelism and building up.
Evangelism is the
bringing of Christ initially into lives. Every new
instance of Christ coming into a life is an additional
measure of Christ in the creation, making a new creation.
It is of the utmost importance that there should be no
stopping short at mere mental agreement, or emotional
expression, or just an outward act of acceptance, but
that Christ by His Spirit should really have taken up
residence within. But our object is not to deal with
evangelism, but to point out its object, which is to
bring in Christ and to bring into Christ.
The other purpose of the
Church is building up. In the most familiar versions of
the New Testament the word in this connection is
"edification". But "building up" is much better.
The Church is to "build itself up". We are to
"build one another up". Spiritual gifts and
ministries are all meant for "building up". What is
this "building up"? It is the increase of Christ.
The New Testament repeatedly refers to "babes in
Christ" and "full-grown men" in Christ; and there is a
constant urge to "go on to full growth". Thus, by
extensification and intensification, by increase
outwardly and inwardly, it is Christ gaining an
ever-increasing place. We repeat, by numerous ways and
means God is governed by this one all-dominating
objective - His Son.
But there is a point
which needs very much to be emphasized and kept in view.
These two things, evangelism and building up, are not two
separate things; they must be kept together. If they are
separated, or if either is given a greater place than the
other an unbalanced condition will arise, and this will
defeat God's full end. If evangelism is given a place
greater than building up, or to the exclusion of the
other, the result will be a great number of spiritual
babes who remain such, no matter how long they live.
There will then exist a preponderating number of
Christians who are like those referred to by the writer
of the Letter to the Hebrews - "When by reason of the
time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that
someone teach you the rudiments of the first
principles... and are become such as have need of milk,
and not of solid food" (Heb. 5:12). By this and what
immediately follows, the Apostle makes it quite clear
that God can never be satisfied with just having so many,
however many, "converts", born-anew babes, but His
end demands that these shall come to the spiritual
position where they can take all that He has to give of
spiritual strong meat, and have spiritual senses
exercised, being "experienced in the word" and of
spiritual intelligence. All this means what Paul called
"the measure of Christ", and the end in view - "unto
the measure... of the fullness of Christ."
If, on the other hand,
building up is given a place out of all proportion to
evangelism, we shall have another malformation. There
will arise an ultra-spirituality that is divorced from
what is practical. Truth will, sooner or later, take the
place of Life. The mental will rule out the truly
spiritual. The worst outcome will be that those involved
will be found to have got into a false position which
will not stand up to the tests of real life, the
expression of Christ, among the people and conditions of
this world. For the real proof of spiritual life is in
its ability to express Christ in love, forbearance,
patience, meekness, and self-forgetfulness, in an
unsympathetic, ununderstanding, and unappreciative world.
This does not mean that there should be a limiting of
either evangelism or building up, but it does mean that
there must be a close relationship between the
This is very strikingly
manifested in the fact that the Apostles of the New
Testament combined these two ministries in such fullness.
They evangelized mightily; but what an immense building
up ministry they fulfilled also! They brought Christ in
almost everywhere they went, but they brought Him in in
ever-increasing fullness wherever they had been.
The point is the combination of the two. In the matter of
ministry gifts to the Church, the Evangelist and the
Pastor and Teacher are complementary ministries.
All this is surely very
patent. But where are we now? We do not hesitate to say
that the relationship between these two things has not by
any means been preserved in equal proportions. The fact
is that there is a preponderance of Christians who are,
after many years, spiritual babes, sadly immature;
without understanding in spiritual things; without
capacity (and without appetite) for "strong meat". The
result is that the impact and effect of Christ in this
world is not at all commensurate with either the time
that Christianity has been here, or the number of
Christians on the earth. A few strong, healthy, and
"experienced" people of God will count for a very great
deal more than a vast number of Christians whose maturity
is unduly delayed. There is therefore much to be done by
way of removing this ill-balanced state and bringing the
Lord's children to the state and position which should be
theirs "by reason of the time".
This means that there is
a real need and demand for a ministry of "the fullness
of Christ" to the Christians of our time. The world's
need is preeminently Christ in greater fullness, and this
can only be in and by the Church, His chosen vehicle.
But, we repeat, all such ministry must not stop with
itself. It must result in stronger, richer, fuller
evangelism. That is to say, the Christians must come
through it to the position of having more of Christ to
show and impart. This then is what is our sense of
calling - "for the perfecting of the saints unto
(that they may do) the work of ministering";
the word "perfecting" meaning making complete
To sum up, God's end is
the bringing in of His Son to fullness. This is the
object and nature of the Church's being and work. The
method is twofold: evangelism and building up. These two
must be kept in close relationship as complementary, and
the balance must be preserved in equality. This balance
has not been preserved, and there are very many
Christians whose spiritual maturity and capacity is very
unduly delayed. There is therefore an altogether
inadequate registration, impact, and effectiveness as to
Christ, considering how long Christianity has been here
and how many Christians there are. The need then is for a
ministry by which Christians can be helped to the
position that is God's desire and intention for them.
Such a ministry must not end in people becoming
interested in and taken up with teaching as something in
itself, but rather in a richer and fuller representation
of Christ to and among the peoples of this world. It is a
misapprehension of truth if it results in less concern
for the increase of Christ by the salvation of sinners
and the mutual spiritual helpfulness of the saved. Truth
should never turn us in on ourselves, but should make us
conscious of being under a great debt to others.
Then we must realize
that there are certain things which are basic to full
spiritual development. One of these is the essential
organic oneness of all who are "in Christ". No
individual, or number of individuals, as such, can attain
unto the full stature of Christ; that is only possible
for "the whole Body". Any kind of division
amongst Christians is a violation of Christ ("Is Christ
divided?" - 1 Cor. 1:13), and that must be contrary to
the Holy Spirit, by whose work alone can we attain unto
full growth. Therefore believers must abandon schismatic
and divisive ground and occupy only the ground of Christ.
In the beginning the Church was constituted by the
acceptance of the absolute Lordship and Headship of
Christ, and not just His Saviourhood. "We preach
Christ Jesus as Lord." The Saviourhood was largely for men's
good, but the Lordship was mainly for His place.
This issue was the occasion of all the trouble.
This then is the
ministry to which we feel the Lord has called us. Through
deep and drastic ways He has formed it. We have not
assumed it, and we can only give what He has given. We
have sought much and always to be saved from mere theory,
and we feel that in this the Lord has been faithful; but
it has been costly.
And now, brethren, how
can we gather up what we feel as our burden? Perhaps in
no better way than in the Apostle's words:
"Teaching every man, and admonishing every man, that we
may present every man perfect (full grown) in
First published in "A Witness and A Testimony"
magazine, Mar-Apr 1943, Vol. 21-2