LCG Article

The Living Church of God Has a Mission

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If you are a part of the Church of God, you have been given a mission to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the entire world.

Wallace G. Smith

What a gift it is to be a member of the Church of God! We rejoice in the knowledge that the Father and the Son are personally involved in our lives. It is a humbling privilege to know that we have been invited to be a part of the Body of Christ and will be given the glorious opportunity to inherit all things (Revelation 21:7).

But God has not only called us for the sake of our own salvation; that is not why we have been called now. Rather, if you are a part of the Church of God founded by Jesus Christ almost 2,000 years ago, you have been given a mission of utmost importance.

That mission is to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the entire world.

It is a work that is so monumental in its significance, so central to the very reason that Jesus founded His Church in the first place, and so fundamental to everything the Church should be doing, that we have traditionally referred to it simply as “the Work.”

Regrettably, we live in an era of God’s Church in which many of those called by His name have forgotten the divine mission that their Savior entrusted to them. Whether out of forgetfulness, fearfulness, disinterest, or self-interest, the banner handed to them by those who went before—who had, themselves, received it directly from Jesus Christ—is one they have no passion for carrying any longer.

But a review of Scripture makes the centrality of the Work in the life of the Church absolutely plain. Let’s review the biblical account of the Church’s relationship to this mission—the very reason each of us has been called now instead of later and the primary reason this Church exists.

Each of the Four Gospels Testifies of the Church’s Mission

First, we must note that Jesus did not leave us any room to doubt that His Church was divinely commissioned to preach the truth of God and the Gospel of His Kingdom to the world. In fact, each of the books of the Bible that cover the life and ministry of Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, commonly called the "gospels"—attests in its own way to the Church’s mission.

For instance, Matthew records that the resurrected Messiah told His Apostles, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Mark provides his own record of the commission, as well: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15–16). Note Christ’s choice of words when He says the Gospel should be preached to “every creature”! This highlights the need to focus on every individual human being on earth—no one is left out.

Luke writes of the resurrected Christ’s appearing to His disciples and telling them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46–47).

Notice: Both of those elements—repentance and remission of sins—are a vital part of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Peter, himself, included them in his first presentation of God’s message to the world (Acts 2:38). After all, repentance and remission of sins—accomplished only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—is the only way to enter and be a part of the Kingdom. And as Dr. Roderick C. Meredith wrote in our booklet Do You Believe the True Gospel?, “The Kingdom of God would not be such a wonderful message if there were no way that we could be a part of it!” (p. 34).

Finally, John, too, records the Lord’s commission to His Church, though it is so subtle that many read right over it. Like the other accounts, John’s gospel describes Jesus speaking to the Apostles after His resurrection, including this statement: “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).

It’s a relatively short statement compared to the larger treatment given in each of the other gospels, but its implications are completely clear! What did the Father send Jesus to do? No need to guess, since Christ answers the question Himself, once telling a crowd plainly, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43).

Again, John records that Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you”—and what the Father sent Him to do was “preach the kingdom of God.” So, also, does He send His Church!

In the gospel writers, we have a fourfold witness to the undeniable truth of Jesus’ commission. We are to take His beautiful truth and preach it to the entire world. The mission we have been handed by our Savior could not be made any clearer.

The Very First Act of God’s Church Was to Preach the Gospel

This mission has played a central role in the life of the Church of God from the moment it came into existence. In a sense, it is woven into the Church’s DNA.

Consider the Day of Pentecost in AD 31. What was the very first miraculous gift God provided to the new recipients of His Spirit, at the very moment the Church began? It was the gift of tongues—that is, the miraculous ability to speak in a language one does not know (Acts 2:1–11).

Note that! The very first miraculous display of divine power in God’s Church was His empowering that Church to preach the Gospel to the nations of the world! And, accordingly, what was the very first act of the Church of God? Was it to hold a Bible study? To assemble for a sermon to the membership? To begin a “worship service”? No! It was to preach the Gospel to those outside the Church!

Peter’s message recorded in Acts 2 was not a message of instruction or edification intended for those inside the Church—it was an evangelizing message to those still outside the faith, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ’s coming Kingdom and the need to repent!

The Church of God began its very existence doing the Work! God’s first miracle in the Church was to make the Work to the world possible, and the first action of the Church was to do that Work. How much more clear can God’s purpose for His Church be?

Miracles Authenticate the Message God Commands Us to Preach

The connection between miraculous displays of power and the mission of the Church to preach the Gospel is often forgotten or neglected—yet that connection is vital! Most of the miracles we see in the book of Acts, for instance, are driven not simply by the needs of the membership of the Church, but by the Work of the Church to the world!

This is illustrated by numerous examples in the book of Acts. Consider, for instance, the healing at the temple of the man lame for 40 years (Acts 3:1–4:22), the Apostles’ being freed from prison by an angel so that they could continue preaching (Acts 5:17–26), Philip’s miracles in Samaria (Acts 8:5–8), the healing of paralyzed Aeneas (Acts 9:32–35), the blinding of Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:8–12), and healings and divine protection on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1–10). These were more than miracles of comfort; they were divine acts meant to validate the message of God’s servants among the people of the world.

We should ask ourselves, What is the primary purpose of miracles in the Church? It is true that they are a comfort and blessing to us, as they were to the family of young Eutychus in Acts 20. Those who have experienced divine healing—made possible through the wounds of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24) and anointing by the ministry (James 5:14–15)—should be humbled, moved, and grateful that in their need they have access to the very throne of God in Heaven!

But we dare not miss God's larger picture by neglecting the Bible's own answer to that question. Powerful signs and miracles are primarily a means of authenticating the message God commands us to preach to the world. Consider again, at length this time, the commission as recorded by Mark in his gospel account:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:15–18).

Notice that miracles in the Church are to serve as “signs.” Thayer’s Lexicon points out that the Greek word translated “signs” is meant to signify “miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him” (“sēmeion,” emphasis added). Jesus indicated this concerning His own ministry when He spoke to His disciples, saying that if one did not at first see the truth in what He preached, a person could still be moved to believe His message was from God due to the miraculous works that accompanied His preaching (John 14:11).

Such signs are never sufficient to solidify faith for long, it seems (cf. John 6:26), else the tale of ancient Israel would be very different from what we read in the book of Numbers. The point is that those who forget the primary purpose of such miraculous signs—to empower the Work and to illustrate to the world just who is behind the message of God’s Church—cannot expect Him to long honor their requests for miracles.

God’s Church Is Driven by Divine Purpose

This was understood and embraced not only by the Apostles, but by all the members of the first-century Church.

When Peter and John were accosted by the authorities of the Temple for the sake of the Work, they were threatened and commanded “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). And make no mistake—in the first century, this was not an idle threat. The Apostles’ very lives were in danger. So, when Peter and John returned to the congregation and reported about these threats, how did the members react?

They “raised their voice to God with one accord” and prayed (v. 24). The entire prayer is worth reading and meditating upon, but notice especially the members’ request: “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (vv. 29–30).

Yes, even in the face of persecution—threats of arrest, beatings, and death—their focus was not on safety and self-protection, which would certainly have been understandable. Rather, their focus was on the Work! They asked God not only to ensure that they would not falter in their preaching, remaining bold in the proclamation of the Gospel, but also to back up their message with His power.

Their example should prompt us to ask, When we request that God move with power in His Church—with more healings, more miracles, more spiritual gifts—are we stirred like they were to have our mission in mind? Do we ask not only for the comfort that such miracles provide, and even for an increase in our own faith, but also that the message of the Church to an unbelieving world might be authenticated to unbelievers by such supernatural works? Do such desires show themselves during our prayers to God?

Our spiritual ancestors in the first century were focused not on themselves, but on the Work. And God rewarded their desire to shake the world with His message by shaking the ground they stood on and filling them with His Spirit, in order for them to speak boldly, just as they had requested of Him (v. 31).

Did they care about their own personal safety? Of course, they did! But they cared more about preaching the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ to the world. That was at the center of their passions and concerns. And that Work was at the heart of what they laid before the throne of God in prayer.

We Need the “Food” of Christ—to Preach the Gospel

The first-century Church’s passion for the Work reflected Jesus’ own. In the account of the woman at the well in John 4, we read an important revelation about the heart of Jesus Christ—about what drove Him and sustained Him in life. After He spoke to the Samaritan woman and revealed to her His identity as the prophesied King of the coming Kingdom, His disciples returned, worried that He might be hungry. He was, indeed, physically weary (v. 6), but He used the opportunity to make a significant point to them—and to us.

“I have food to eat of which you do not know,” Jesus said. And as they wondered what He meant, their Messiah and ours made His meaning plain: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (vv. 32–34). And lest anyone believe He meant anything less than preaching the truth to an unknowing populace, He elaborated, telling them to look out at the world around them and learn to see that world the way He sees it—as a field that is ready to be harvested (v. 35). He pointed out that now is the time for harvesting, not later, and that they should be filled with an urgency, knowing that the Work of doing that harvesting gains “fruit for eternal life” for the harvester (v. 36).

In this last comment, Jesus reflects an observation made in the book of Daniel. There, the prophet is told of those who will be in the first resurrection, that they will “shine like the brightness of the firmament” and “like the stars forever and ever” in their new, glorified existence (Daniel 12:3). But what else is said there of those resurrected saints? The very same verse declares that they are “those who turn many to righteousness.” That is to say, those who do the Work.

God intimately connects our dedication to Christ’s commission with our attaining the better resurrection and joining the Family of God!

Is this so unusual? Think about it. If finishing the Work of God on earth was the “food” of Jesus Christ during His ministry—what supported Him, nourished Him, and gave Him sustenance—would it not be the “food” of the Body of Christ today? Is He not the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)? Of course, He is!

If we are to grow as Christians in this age, we must grow in sharing Jesus Christ’s passion for reaching the world with His message, the good news of the Kingdom of God. We cannot truly fulfill the charge of the Apostle Paul, who said “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), if we do not also fully embrace the desires that drove Christ Jesus, the very mission that He describes as His sustenance.

Failing to take in the food of Christ would starve the Body of Christ to death. Sadly, many organizations that consider themselves to be under the banner of the “Church of God” do, indeed, neglect the Work of God. The time for the Work is past, and we must now prepare the Bride, some claim, as though doing our future Husband’s Work in this world alongside Him is not a fundamental part of our preparation!

How can we consider ourselves to be following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ if we are focused on getting our own salvation instead of giving the truth to the world? Ironically, by focusing on ourselves, we risk diminishing, or even losing, exactly what we hope to gain!

You Can Help Spread the Gospel

Of course, not all of us can stand in the studio and share the Gospel on the Tomorrow’s World program, nor can all of us write an article for the magazine. However, we shouldn’t sell ourselves short on all we can do.

For instance, though some outside the Church mock the idea of “paying and praying,” such individuals will need to answer to God one day. Our Father is surely delighted when He hears from our own lips a request about the very Work He commissioned His Son and His Church to accomplish! Just as He was surely thrilled to hear His young Son say that He must be about His Father’s business, He must be every bit as thrilled to see that His business matters to each of us, too! And, as Jesus taught, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Our prayerfully given tithes and offerings, no matter how small they may be, help orient our hearts toward God’s Work, and countless people have thanked us in amazement for how they have been able to receive so much without spending a dime themselves—especially those who don’t even have a dime to give.

But we can do even more. For instance, never forget the power of personally setting an example of Christian conduct. A statement I heard long ago, before I was even in God’s Church, has remained near the forefront of my mind: Your life may be the only Bible some people ever read. Many who come into God’s Church have their very first contact not with its telecast, magazine, or website, but with a member of the Church—perhaps a coworker, a schoolmate, or a neighbor.

In Matthew 5:16, Jesus tells each of us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Now, we should note that He said “light,” not “bullhorn”! Many of us, early in our calling, have experienced what it is like to accidentally chase people away with the truth in our eagerness to share all we have learned with all we know—even if they didn’t ask. Minds are opened at God’s will and choosing (cf. John 6:44); we can’t pry them open ourselves. However, it is up to us whether our personal examples will be tools in God’s hands to further His Work, or obstacles He must overcome as He works with others!

That said, sometimes the life we lead and the example we set does prompt some to ask questions. You have a responsibility to be ready when those moments arrive! The Apostle Peter encourages all of us to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Those in the first century who were scattered by the persecution of Saul were prepared in such a way. They took the truth of God—and their passion for the spread of the Gospel—with them, and they were unafraid to speak of those beliefs to others (Acts 8:3–4)!

Finally, each of us contributes to Christ’s mission on earth by contributing to the unity of the Church. Those who needlessly divide God’s people harm the very Work to which they were called—a fact Jesus well understood. It was on His mind the night before He was crucified, moving Him to pray to His Father for us: “I do not pray for these alone [the disciples with Him that Passover], but also for those who will believe in Me through their word [including us, today!]; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20–21). When we strive together to maintain unity in the Church, we are helping to fulfill Jesus’ prayer for His Work and its authenticity before the world!

It’s Our Turn to Take Up the Great Commission

As a twelve-year-old child, Jesus once told Joseph and Mary, “I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). At the time, He was engaging those around Him and astonishing them with His understanding of the things of God (v. 47).

We, too, must be about our Father’s business if we are to consider ourselves true followers of Christ. Although our relationships among the brethren are important to us, the Church is not a social club. It is an organized body with a divine mission: Reach the world with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

That mission is now ours, and it is not optional.

Paul understood this, writing, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Peter and John understood this, facing those who threatened them with torture and death for preaching the Gospel: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). And the rest of the Church of God—the various members and families called to be a part of the Body of Christ—understood this, too. As we’ve seen, the Work to reach the world motivated their prayers and inspired their examples as they interacted with others.

The hands of those who have gone before us, bearing the standard of Christ in this mission, reach through the centuries to hand that standard to us. It is ours to grab tightly and to advance further into new battlefields and over new horizons. If we refuse it, we ignore those who have sacrificed so much before us—making our excuses, going on and on about whatever self-justification comes to mind—and allow that standard to fall to the ground for someone else to pick up.

Those who have been called by God and who understand why they were called now and not later will not let it fall. They will grab hold of it, hoist it high, and march forward with it. They will be driven by the desire to share the greatest news on earth with the billions of people of the world who so desperately need it.

Almost 2,000 years after Jesus first commissioned His Church, His mission now falls to us. Let us pour all we have, our whole lives, into fulfilling that mission in such a way that we will look into our Master’s eyes at His return and hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.