Until our Lord returns, what is the Church called to do?
In my preaching and writing, I’m not one to typically go for alliterative lists (they’re often forced and somewhat lame), but this past week I found it nearly unavoidable as I worked with 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. Here’s the passage:
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge- even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)
Among other things, this passage hints at three ‘W’s that ought to characterize and define the life of the Church. (I know, I know, not only is it an alliterative list, but I’ve also fallen prey to the ‘three-pointer’. What can I say? That’s what’s there.)
So here they are, the ‘W’s of what the Church is called to do until her Lord returns.
1. Worship. The Church, called by God to be holy and set apart in Christ, in turn calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 1-2; Romans 10:13). In so doing, she joins with believers around the world and throughout the ages (“all those in every place”) in professing a saving faith in the risen Lord. Worship is not a tangential item on the weekly lineup of congregational activities, but the central and defining act of the covenant community who gathers to offer prayers and praise to God, to hear his Word, and to celebrate the sacraments.
2. Witness. The Church, brought to life by grace, is “not lacking in any spiritual gift” collectively, and is to use those gifts in ways that confirm the testimony of Christ (vv. 4-7). (‘Testimony’ may also be translated ‘witness’. I told you it was in there!) To confirm the testimony of Christ is to deliver as of first importance the good news it has received: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (15:1-5). It is to herald the gospel and to reach out and serve others in the name of Christ. (I thought it would be pushing it to add a ‘work’ as a fourth ‘W’…)
3. Wait. As she worships and witnesses, the Church waits for her Lord to be revealed (v. 7-8). Paul says that this is the specific purpose of the spiritual gifts that have been given. This is not a passive waiting (like waiting for the snooze button to go off), a nervous waiting (like waiting at the hospital for test results), or a frustrated waiting (like waiting in traffic). It is, rather, an active waiting, like the way in which you clean your home and prepare a meal for an out-of-town loved one who will be visiting. The Church is called to wait, knowing that not only will she be given the strength to do so, but she will also be found “guiltless in the end”.
What is the Church called to do until our Lord returns? Worship. Witness. Wait.