In our last installment we discussed the Christian's work of personal development. The house swept and garnished by gospel obedience must be decorated with personal traits that glorify God. This does not come easy. The Christian must work hard to become what God wishes. In this study we shall discuss other work the Christian must do.
Being An Example
Every Christian must exemplify what every believer is to be. Paul told Timothy, "Be thou an example of the believers" (1 Tim.4:12). If Timothy was to be an example of the believers, then all believers are to be examples. Each must let his light shine so others will see Christ living in them (Matt.5:16; 1 Pet.2:12; Gal.2:20).
Being an example to others must flow into every sphere of the Christian's activity. One is a Christian all of the time and must model proper conduct everywhere. In the home the Christian husband or wife must set the proper example before their unbelieving companion and children (1 Cor.7:10-16; 1 Pet.3:1-3). Children are to obey parents in the Lord for this is right (Eph.6:1; Col.3:20). All members of the household are to conduct themselves properly to influence others. No one can do this for us. This is personal work each must do.
The Christian must be an example to society in general. Paul said, "Provide things honest in the sight of all men," and "if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom.12:17-18). Again, "Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification'' (Rom.15:2). Peter instructs that our manner of life (conversation) must be honest among all (1 Pet.2:12). In every association in life, the Christian is to conduct himself as a representative of Jesus Christ. No one can do this for us. God expects it of every child of His (2 Cor.6:17-18).
Every Christian as a citizen must submit to every ordinance of the country where he resides (Rom.12:1; 1 Pet.2:13-17). He must pay his taxes, fees and licenses, and submit to every law, regardless of how unreasonable they seem, as long as the laws of national citizenship do not conflict with God's higher law (Acts 4:19; 5:29). To resist the civil law is to resist the ordinance of God and invites damnation (Rom.13:2). No one can satisfy the demands of civil law in our stead. It is a personal responsibility required of all.
In the business realm likewise the Christian is to work with his hands to provide his needs (Eph.4:28; 1 Tim.5:8). A man who will not work to provide for himself should not be fed (2 Thess.3:10). The Christian cannot be slothful in business (Rom.12:11). Both employers and employees are instructed of God how to behave in each role (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-4:1; 1 Pet.2:18-21). No one can do these things for us. Each must bear his own burden.
Whether in the domestic, social, civil or business realm, the Christian has certain responsibilities to carry out that cannot be ignored. He is to display the conduct expected by God in all these areas. There is no substitute for it. It must be fulfilled. In this same sense the Christian sustains a relationship to the local church as a member. He is to assemble (Heb.10:25), participate properly in the worship (1 Cor.11:27-28; 14:15-16; 16:2; 2 Cor.9:7; Acts 11:29), and supply his part effectually in whatever his ability allows (1 Cor.12:12-27; Eph.4:16). These things are a part of the Christian's personal work. He accepted this duty when he accepted the Lord and, as an example of believers, he must faithfully fulfill his responsibility. God expects it of him and no one can do it for him.
The Christian must also be willing to be hospitable (Rom.12:12). This work starts at home. The Scriptures bind upon Christians the responsibility of providing for those of their own household (1 Tim.5:8). Children and even grandchildren must accept the burden of supplying their parent's physical needs when they cannot provide for themselves (1 Tim.5:4,16). The burden of caring for the indigent is upon the family of the needy before it becomes the duty of others. Christians who refuse their duty to care for their own family members deny the faith and become worse than infidels (1 Tim.5:8). This is a part of the Christian's personal work.
The Christian's work of helping others, however, reaches beyond the home. Paul said, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal.6:10). This means a benevolent spirit must guide the Christian into acts of service outside the home. First, this spirit should be displayed toward brethren in Christ. John said, "Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 Jno.3:17). In His picture of the judgment, Jesus portrays the Son of man rewarding certain ones and punishing others because of their benevolent spirit or lack of it toward their brethren (Matt.25:31-46). It pays to help your brethren. Second, it should be manifested toward all men. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Jas.2:8). Jesus teaches that our neighbor is anyone we meet needing assistance (Lk.10:25-37). Our responsibility to help others is limited only by our ability and opportunity. When the opportunity arises one should weigh the situation carefully before refusing. If we have the ability and opportunity to assist someone and the work is right, then, we have the responsibility.
Some works of personal service to others are specifically mentioned: viz., feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, lodging the stranger, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and persecuted, and visiting the fatherless and widows in their afflictions (Matt.25:35-36; Heb.13:2-3; Jas.1:27). Need we further explanations of the services we can perform? Or need we only the determination and imagination of Dorcas (Acts 9:39) and Onesiphorus (2 Tim.1:16-18) to perform these works? The later of course, and God shall hold us accountable.
According to the Great Commission the apostles were to teach all nations, baptize them, and then teach them to do the same things they were doing (Matt.28:19-20). This round robin method of instruction was designed to promote the continued spread of the gospel into all the world. Faithful Christians were to be entrusted with the gospel who in turn would teach others (2 Tim.2:2). Apparently early Christians accepted the challenge and fulfilled the charge. Those first converted in Jerusalem, when scattered by the great persecution, went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Congregations were established in many places, not as the result of local church work but, as the result of Christians doing personal work. Acquilla and Priscilla accepted the opportunity to teach Apollos (Acts 18:26). Brethren were encouraged to grow and to study so they could teach others (2 Tim.2:15; Heb.5:12; 1 Pet.3:15; 2 Pet.3:18). This they did which explains the rapid growth of Christianity during those early years.
No less a responsibility rests on the shoulders of Christians in this twentieth century. The Great Commission remains valid. The charge to sanctify the Lord in our hearts so we can answer those who question our hope is still binding. Each Christian will give account to God for his works. Even though we do not all have the same abilities and opportunities, we do have some and cannot afford to underestimate the power within us. God shall hold us responsible. Each must carry his own load (Gal.6:4-5).
Local Church Membership
The Christian also has a responsibility as a member of the local church (Acts 9:19,26; 11:26; 13:1). This work does not supplant or cancel the activity required of him in these other realms but rather becomes another sphere of spiritual labor. Neither is this work to be confused with the limited work the congregation is scripturally authorized to do. This work will be discussed in later articles. Our study presently deals only with the work Christians personally must contribute as members of the local church.
First, the Christian must assemble and encourage other Christians to do the same (Heb.10:24-25). The scriptures indicate that deliberate failure to assemble with the saints is "wilful sin" and constitutes trodding on Jesus Christ, counting His shed blood unholy, and despising the Holy Spirit (Heb.10:26-29). The consequences of such practice will be disastrous (Heb.10:30-31). Early Christians evidently understood the significance of this command for the whole church came together (1 Cor.14:23) on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Would it not be a marvelous thing if we could convince all the brethren today that this work comes before all else and have the whole church together on the first day of the week?
Christians are also to fulfill their privileged duty as participants in the assembly worship. Each is to sing (1 Cor.14:15; Col. 3:16), pray (1 Cor.14:15-16), listen attentively (1 Cor.14:31), partake of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor.11:28), and give (1 Cor.16:2; 2 Cor.9:7). No one can do these things for us. We must do our part.
Second, the Christian must submit to the oversight of the elders of the local body as they seek to fulfill their responsibility to feed the flock (Acts 20:28; Heb.13:17; 1 Pet.5:2). Services conducted by the elders designed for feeding the flock are for the benefit of each Christian. Those who refuse to eat when the table is set deprive themselves of this spiritual nourishment and fail in their responsibility to submit to the elders. This is the duty of each Christian. No one can take our place.
Finally, the Christian as a member of the local church is to supply his part effectually in whatever his ability allows so the congregation may grow and be edified (Eph.4:16). All of us have different abilities to be used (1 Cor.12:12-27) and, to whatever degree we are capable and are asked to perform on behalf of the local work, we should be ready and willing to act. It is our duty as children of God.
In our studies thus far, we have found that the Christian is created in Christ Jesus to do the good works God ordained (Eph.2:10). There are certain works the Christian must do of his own initiative. He must involve himself in a program of personal development, be an example of believers in all areas of life, help others, teach others, and fulfill his part as a member of the local church. No one can do these works for us. Each must bear his own burden (Gal.6:4-5) because God will hold each responsible for these works at the judgment (1 Pet.1:17). "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor.7:1).
This article originally appeared in Guardian
of Truth magazine, November 17, 1983.
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This page was last updated on Tuesday, October 20, 1998.