The Mission of the Church: The Work of Ministry

Ephesians 4:12 reveals the threefold work of the church: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Here “ministry” comes from the Greek diakonia. It is the word translated “deacon.” This includes ministering to the poor saints and it also includes any service rendered in behalf of anyone needing help physically or spiritually.

The work of benevolence was never used as a means of introducing the gospel. Benevolence is the fruit of the gospel, not the means of propagating it. Food and clothing were never offered by the early church as a means of getting people to listen and accept the gospel. Much of the teaching in the New Testament on this subject is directed to individuals and not to the congregation (1 Timothy 6:17-18; 1 John 3:17-18; Matthew 25:31-46; Galatians 6:10; James 1:27).

There is a work of benevolence which churches of Christ can and should do in harmony with God’s will. Congregations can provide for those among their number who are needy saints (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-37; 11:27-29; Romans 15:31; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:1, 12-13). The church never set up a benevolent institution to care for the needy. No church handled the money of any other church or became the messenger of any other church. Secular agencies engage in benevolent work with God’s approval and in harmony with His plan while only the church is to preach the gospel.

Kyle Campbell

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