The Christian Church Has A Double Vocation
Updated: Mar 15
“It is called first to assimilate to itself more and more closely the teaching and the life of its divine Founder, to be joined to him by tender and sacred bonds, to grow in knowledge, in charity, in holiness. It is then to carry every-where the light and flame thus kindled and fed in the sanctuary of the soul, so that it may illuminate and vivify the world. To purify itself within, and to extend itself without, such is the twofold task of the Church, and the ages are given for its fulfillment.” (The Early Years of Christianity: The Apostolic Era. Pressense, E. de)
Generations of Godly men and women have seen the simplicity of the Church and our task. In one concise paragraph de Pressense has captured what so many today have missed. The paragraph describes both the content of our work and the measurement we can use to determine how well we are doing it.
In the words of Genesis 1-3, it is the very essence of the divine purposes of God in creating humanity in the first place: relationship with Him, and, representation of His image while also stewarding His world into which they were placed.
The twofold purpose of the Church as the instrument of this time and eternal purpose of God, is simple, concise and sets clear ends, while not easy to achieve because of the headwinds of sin in us. Nevertheless, it is the design of our lives, until eternity ushers in the completion of human history.
Pressense, E. de gives us both the challenge and the possibilities of our calling. The challenge is resident within our bodies because we are dominated by sin. The possibilities are connected to the Spirit whom the Father has sent. All of our human faculties are potentially reformed. “Nor was it a simple illumination of the understanding: the Holy Ghost was first and most sensibly shed abroad in the hearts of the primitive Christians. His influence went down at once to the very center of their moral and religious life, that it might assimilate to itself one by one all their faculties. But this assimilation was not realized in a moment. They did not in one brief instant acquire all knowledge. That which they already knew was quickened, while the Spirit went on day by day to enrich them with understanding, and to "lead them into all truth." John xvi, 13. Page 24
Churches have to ask themselves questions. How are we doing at this simple two fold purpose? Are people measurably growing into the likeness of Jesus? Is the Gospel measurably going out to the communities around them.
Too often we assume that what we do actually accomplish what God wants. We measure our activity, or our geographical presence or our building and presence in their midst, or….. on and on we can go.
In both the maturation of Jesus followers and extension of our Gospel message into the world, we may in fact be failing. The confessing crowd we lead may look less like Jesus than we want to admit. Our impact on the lostness around us may in fact be minimal. Not only are we not heard, we are not seen.
The warm feelings that we get from our continuous commitment to events, both large and small, may in fact be obstacles to maturing believers and adding new ones. We substitute “celebration” for the intentionality necessary to mature Christians into the fulfillment of both purposes.
For people to assimilate ….more and more closely the teaching and the life of…(their) divine Founder, our minds must be “filling” with the words of God. Sermons, talks, seminars, videos, etc. can never do what their personal time in scripture with the Spirit can do.
Our hearts, as the symbol of emotions have to be bent away from the superficial feelings that too often come with our gatherings, our events, our culturally fed preoccupation with self.
Our wills have to be given over to submission to the Holy Spirt growing the life of Jesus in us. There are no religious substitutes for the call of Jesus upon us. ““If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
There are many things that the Church can and maybe should do. But, these two are non-negotiable. “To purify itself within, and to extend itself without, such is the twofold task of the Church, and the ages are given for its fulfillment.” Ibid.