Why the Church Exists

In preparing for this week’s sermon, I have given a lot of thought to why the Church exists. You (generally) don’t go to a hospital if you are already well. You go because you are sick and in need of healing. Christ said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” So also, the Church exists for the sake of sinners. We don’t go to church because we are already clean, holy, and righteous. We don’t go to get a pat on the back for good behavior. We go precisely because we are unholy and unclean. We go because we are sinners, desperately in need of being cleansed of our sins. Baptism, Absolution, Preaching, Communion–all of these were given by Christ for that very reason, so that Christ could continue to “receive sinners.”

It is also important to note, I think, that those who were drawing near to Christ to listen to him were not proud, brazen sinners, but penitent sinners. The parables that Jesus tells suggest that this was so. “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Jesus was not overjoyed because proud sinners were coming to him, but because these tax collectors and “sinners” were repenting of their sins and looking to him for grace and forgiveness, which they found in abundance.

Our culture today is such that churches, in an effort to avoid the difficult task of calling people to repentance, treat impenitent, hardened sinners no differently than they do thsoe who are sorry for their sins and despise who they are. This confuses people, because they tend to read a passage like this in Luke 15 and think, “Wow, see how Jesus welcomed sinners? Why can’t our church be more welcoming to sinners?” What they mean by this, however, is that the church should just allow people to live in their sins without repentance.

Certainly it is true that if you will not be a sinner, then neither can you have Christ as your Savior and Redeemer. Because Christ came into the world to save sinners. The Church exists for the sake of sinners. The Sacraments are given for the sake of sinners. The Pastoral Office was established for the sake of sinners.

That is why the Pharisees and Scribes didn’t like Jesus very much–they refused to be numbered with sinners, and so Christ was of no use to them. God help us, that we might see our sins, and draw near to Christ for mercy and forgiveness.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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10 Responses to Why the Church Exists

  1. I used to regularly drive by a church in Peoria, IL that had a sign saying, “This church is not a memorial for saints, but a hospital for sinners”. Great expression.

  2. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Jon–that is a great quote! Thanks for reading.

  3. Dennis Voss says:

    Thanks, Paul. Our paper carries an article on Saturday from one of the clergy in the area. Today’s is a Methodist retired pastor serving as volunteer chaplain in a local hospital. I only bring this up because he had the question. Unfortunately, besides being somewhat disjointed and rambling, he didn’t come up with the same great answer.

  4. Chad Myers says:

    I was going to say, “The Church is not a hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners (Mark 2:17)” but Jon stole my thunder 🙂

    In America, however, as you alluded in your post, many “churches” (the physical buildings/congregations) are more like speakeasies for sinners instead of hospitals.

  5. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Chad–I agree. There is that thing called repentance that many churches (including some of our own) do not want to deal with.

  6. Krueger says:

    Good stuff, Who will I see in Bloomington IL this next week.

  7. Mary Johnson says:

    Kinda old hat for Lutherans but new for me, church has become something I have to go to. Not because I am showing the congregation I am spiritual and saved as it was in my Baptist days, but because I have this incredible knowlege of being a sinner and in need of what the service will offer me. It’s like not taking a shower after working in the heat and humidity all day – not a pleasant experience. You want to wash off the sweat and grime of the days work. These days, I would welcome daily services. I look forward to the opportunity to go now and spend the time wisely. Did I mention I’m tickled pink to have found the LCMS?

  8. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Mary–I appreciate your reply. It’s always nice to hear when someone is happy to find the LC-MS. Those who come in from the outside often have a better appreciation for our Church than those who have grown up in it their entire lives.

  9. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Krueger–as in Scott?? I’ll be there with my wife and three of our high school youth (one of which is our daughter).

  10. Lawrence says:

    “It is also important to note, I think, that those who were drawing near to Christ to listen to him were not proud, brazen sinners, but penitent sinners.”

    It is my impression the people came out of curiosity. From a position of hopelessness / down-trodden under the thumb of Roman Government and under the thumb of Jewish Law. Curiosity in what hope this man Jesus might offer them.

    What they found wasn’t a conqueror of Rome, however, but a man claiming to be their Messiah.

    If i was them, I’d be very curious to go listen to what this guy had to say.

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