Summary: If we do not know the Lord’s purpose as a church, then we can’t plan for success; and thus, we will see no results in reaching the world for Jesus Christ. This passage shows the five purposes (five E-words) designed for every church.
This morning, I want us to think about our purpose. The word “purpose” is defined as, “the reason for which something exists or is done,” and “an intended or desired result.”(1) Based on the definition of the word “purpose,” we can see how we need to consider the reason why we do certain things, in order to plan for a more productive outcome. Proverbs 19:21, in the New International Version, says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” If we don’t know the Lord’s purpose as a church, then we can’t plan for success; and thus, we’ll see no desired results in reaching the world for Jesus Christ.
In Acts 2:40-47, we see the five purposes designed for every church, and we’re going to look at them in great detail. We’re going to read through our entire passage of Scripture as a whole, and then I’m going to go back and re-read each particular set of verses from which I intend to show you the five purposes of the church. The five purposes will be communicated through five “E’s,” meaning we’ll learn five “E-words” that summarize each purpose of the church. If you’ve ever wondered why the church exists, then let’s open our Bibles and get started!
Example of the New Testament Church (Acts 2:40-47)
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
What we see happening here is the founding of the New Testament church, as many people were saved as a result of the signs and wonders of Pentecost and the preaching of the gospel by Peter. We see here a picture of what Christ intended the church to be, functioning as it should with love and unity. As I’ve already mentioned, there are five important things that take place in this passage, and we’re going to start looking at the five purposes of the church, beginning in verses 40-41, which I’ll re-read in just a moment.
Purpose # 1: “Evangelize” through Outreach (vv. 40-41)
What is the church’s first purpose? Our first purpose is “outreach.” In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said, “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.” “The word ‘Go’ in the Great Commission is [what’s termed] a present participle in the Greek text. It should be read ‘as you are going’.”(2) The Great Commission doesn’t say, “If you choose to go.”
And notice that the Scripture emphatically says, “Go.” It doesn’t say for the lost to “come,” or rather, come to church. We must take the initiative and go after the lost. We must take the message of Jesus Christ out into the world, wherever we find ourselves on a daily basis. It’s called “outreach,” not “inreach.”
Making disciples and teaching them about Jesus Christ is done through outreach, which is accomplished through “Evangelism.” This is our very first “E” word. Acts chapter 2, verses 40-41, tells us, “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” We’re shown here that Peter was involved in evangelism.
Peter was preaching the gospel based on Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ. He was sharing the “good news” of salvation through Jesus, and the “good news” is where we obtain our word gospel, for that’s what the word gospel means in the Greek. And the Greek word for our English word gospel is “evangelion,” which is where we get the word “evangelize.” Therefore, we see here that one aspect of the church’s purpose is “Evangelism,” or telling people about Christ.
Rick Warren says, “Evangelism is more than our responsibility; it is our great privilege. We are invited to be a part of bringing people into God’s eternal family. I don’t know of a more significant cause to give one’s life to. If you knew the cure for cancer, I’m sure you’d do everything you could to get the news out. It would save millions of lives. But you already know something better: You’ve been given the gospel of eternal life to share, which is the greatest news of all!” (pp. 104-105, The Purpose Driven Church, Zondervan, 1995).