By Roland W. Keith
Does your church work? Unfortunately, many people today will assume I am asking is their church working out for them. Is it giving them what they want? Notice I did not say is it giving them what they need. Too many people nowadays choose a church for what they can get out of it, here and now, rather than for its spiritual strengths and dedication to the Lord’s work. That work including evangelism, edification and benevolence. The ultimate responsibility of the church is to bring the lost to Christ, to educate its members (citizens of the kingdom) and strengthen them, and to care for one another and our neighbors, as ourselves. However, in each of these works there are set limits and boundaries. If someone refuses to hear the truth we shake the dust off our feet and move on (Mark 6:11), we limit our teachings to the wisdom of the inspired word (Luke 21:15; I Corinthians 2:6-7, 13; 1:20; 3:19), and in our benevolence we help provide (within our abilities) for the necessities of life, not for people’s wants (I Peter 4:10; Acts 10:35; Titus 3:14; Luke 10:34-36; Acts 20:28; I Timothy 5:16; Galatians 5:16).
The real question is: Does your church do the work of the Lord according to Biblical standards? Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). That admonishment applies to us as individuals and to the church as a whole. God has entrusted us with His kingdom (Matthew 25:14). Whether we are speaking of evangelists (II Timothy 4:5), Elders (I Peter 5:1-4), deacons (Acts 6:1-3), or Christians in general (Ephesians 2:10) we all have a place in God’s work. And, in doing His work we have a responsibility to Him, to one another and to the world. We have a moral, spiritual obligation to share the bounty of God’s kingdom with others, to stand by and strengthen the weak, and to be actively concerned with the eternal fate of our fellow man.
As Members of the body of Christ we must be prepared to walk away from the world and put the kingdom of God first (Luke 9:57-62). We must cleanse ourselves of sin and make ourselves ready to serve the Lord (II Timothy 2:21), and as Paul exhorted the Corinthian brethren, we must “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). We may not always see the results, but as faithful servants, we can trust that God is using our efforts to His glory. We need only concern ourselves with being ready and fully armed to engage in the battle of good vs. evil (II Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 6:10-18), worthy to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow saints as we defeat the forces of the devil at play in the world (Philippians 1:27- 28; I Peter 5:8-10; James 4:7). Moreover, we must understand that in this war against the dark forces of Satan no Christian can remain out of the fray. No one is left on the sidelines; all must be involved. Regarding this James wrote, “But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18; see 2:14-26).
Faith, without active engagement in the Lord’s work is useless to God, and to us. Eventually our faith will die if it is not exercised with works (James 2:26). Therefore, we must be fervent in our service to the Lord (Romans 12:11), always pressing forward as one ever seeking but never attaining the goal until the end (Philippians 3:12-14; II Timothy 4:7-8).
Not only must we tirelessly press on with the work, but we must continually study the word and assess if we are doing all things according to God’s will and have not allowed our own biases or outside influences to lead us astray in our efforts. Jesus once warned: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19-20).
It is not enough to claim God’s work, we must be faithful stewards of what God has delivered into our care. Jesus once said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). Our task is to do the same. To accomplish the task of Him Who has sent out into the world with His message, and to live and labor in accordance to His commands. It was Jesus Who also said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Given this warning we will be wise to heed the words of Paul: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:16).
We can accomplish the will of the Father in two ways: First, by remaining true to His commands, and, second, by dedicating ourselves to one or more of the areas of work He has given us to do. As evangelists we are to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), understanding that without our efforts the world will not hear the gospel nor submit themselves to Christ as Savior (Romans 10:14-15). Moreover, each successive generation and each eldership within the brotherhood must be engaged in raising up faithful men to continue the work (II Timothy 2:1-4). And, not just evangelists, but teachers within the church as well.
The Biblical teachings and examples are clear. In Acts 5:42 we read, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” Even those who were forced out of home and country due to their faith continued to spread the word of God (Acts 8:3-4). In addition to evangelism, which informs and edifies the world with the gospel, we can also involve ourselves with the edification of our fellow Christians (as well as ourselves). In his letter to the Ephesians Paul explained: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Though we no longer have apostles and prophets among us the rest holds true. Read the passage again. The work Paul outlines is no small responsibility or task. It requires dedication, personal growth, and a commitment
to God’s word that is second-to-none to be truly successful. Even those of us who are not elders or preachers or teachers (who need our continual support— I Thessalonians 5:12-13) have the task of stirring one another up, to push each other to greater heights in our faith (I Thessalonians 5:11, 14; Hebrews 10:24-25; Romans 14:19; I Corinthians 14:26).
Finally, we are to be involved in the welfare of our brothers and sisters in Christ and our worldly neighbors, as Paul pointed out to the Galatians: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). One of the great examples of this love for our fellow man is recorded in the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which teaches that every man is our neighbor, and to some extent our concern. None more so, however, than our own families (I Timothy 5:8-17). Although things are different today in our country in comparison to first century Palestine, with the myriad of public assistance programs now available, the church should still be there for those who cannot rely on family or other avenues for help and, we might add, in addition to that help (James 1:27; Galatians 2:10).
God has made us our brother’s keeper. In some small degree with his health and welfare; in an absolute degree with his spiritual welfare, insofar as he is willing to accept our help. It is the work that God has given us to do as members of His church, as citizens of His kingdom. Moreover, our own welfare is ultimately tied up with what we do for others. We cannot be neutral or a non-participant in life, especially the Christian life. As Paul wrote, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8-9). God will not be mocked but will judge each of us according to our deeds (Galatians 6:7; II Corinthians 5:10). As Paul noted: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (II Corinthians 9:6). May your church, and your harvest be bountiful!
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.