“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) Preparation and Working Together (Tom Edwards)
Preparation and Working Together
Numerous Bible passages indicate the need for preparation. For example: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15, emphasis mine).
Peter’s exhortation toward “always being ready” does not pertain to only the preachers, the Bible class teachers, the elders, the deacons, or to just a certain other few within the body of Christ. Rather, it pertains to all of us who are Christians! For in the Hebrew writer’s rebuke of the brethren who had become “dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11) and had a “need again for someone to teach” them “the elementary principles of the oracles of God” (v. 12), he also points out that they, in view of how long they had been Christians, should have already been able to be teachers themselves (v. 12).
Teaching, of course, is very needful. For one of the important works of the church is to edify, which Webster defines as “to instruct or benefit, esp. morally or spiritually; uplift; enlighten.” To edify is to build up; and when that is pertaining to the spiritual upbuilding of Christians, then it involves instructing, exhorting, and reproving with God’s word that the child of God can grow thereby and conform more to the likeness of Christ. This is one of the reasons why we have God’s word and need to not only study it, but also apply it. So that “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:14-16).
Notice especially that the “proper working” together involves “each individual part.” Everyone, therefore, has an important role toward the upbuilding of the church. This is also seen in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 where members of the body of Christ (Christians in the church) are likened to different parts of one’s physical body, such as the foot, the hand, the ear, the eye, etc. They do not all have the same function, but they all work together for the one body. So each Christian is needed.
In Chinese humor: “Said the feet to the mouth, ‘You are the luckiest thing on earth. You are forever getting the best of me. Here I am, running around all day, wearing myself out, and all for the sake of your eating.’
“Retorted the mouth: ‘Don’t accuse me. How would you like it if I stopped eating so that you could stop running around?’”
Again we see that they each had their own role to carry out, but it would be for the one common good.
Sometimes, however, hindrances can get in the way, such as…
Self-Centeredness – An Obstacle Toward Working Together
As the subtitle shows, self-centeredness can be a hindrance toward working together – and this is so in any kind of relationship — whether in the church, in a marriage, in family relationships, and in other affiliations.
People are often too self-centered! It has been said that Dr. Clyde Miller of Columbia University likes to sometimes play a prank on his friends by using boring books that have been sent to him by their publishers. He will attach a note, making it look as if it were from the author, saying, “I hope you will be pleased by the references made to you in this volume, and hope that you will not have any objection to this use of your name.” As you might have already imagined, Mr. Miller’s friends will diligently search through the book, just trying to find a reference to themselves.
A similar illustration concerns a novelists that met an old friend. After talking for two hours, the novelist said, “Now we’ve talked about me long enough – let’s talk about you! What did you think of my last novel?”
Self-Centeredness is to be Overcome
According to the Bible, a person is to actually place himself last of all. For it is God who needs to be placed above ourselves and above all others as well. Jesus indicates this when saying, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Going along with that, Jesus also declares, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). A person would be putting others above God and loving them more when compromising or disregarding God’s word in order to please them. But that would not be true love.
And rather than oneself being next on the list, others are to be, as Paul declares: “…Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). Yes, we are to be servants of the Lord; and we have a duty toward others: “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-2).
So in this order, we see the acrostic that some have given in reference to true joy, which is…
When we learn to put God first, others second, and ourselves last, then we can really begin to work together in the best way – in the home, on the job, in the church, in the community, in the world, etc.
Notice that kind of attitude in the following relationships:
In marriage: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church” (Eph. 5:25, 28-29). “but as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (v. 24). “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command” (1 Cor. 7:3-6).
In the family: It has been said that “The family is the most basic of all social institutions… It was the first social group formed by human beings.” We’ve just considered the husband and wife relationship, but how about the children? “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise)” (Eph. 6:1-2). “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (Col. 3:20).
In the work realm: We can see a principle in the ancient master-slave relationship to apply to employer-employee relationships: “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:22-24).
In the community: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10).
In today’s lesson, we have considered the need to prepare ourselves with God’s truth that we might be able to teach others also to their edification. We also noted the danger of self-centeredness that can hinder us from being as we should in various relationships of life.
God certainly knew what He was doing when he made man. But even more important than our physical makeup is that which pertains to our inner man that has been created in the image of God and, therefore, we should strive to develop that kind of godly character.
Think, too, of the unity that exists between God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How well they all worked together in the creation (Gen. 1:1,26; Heb.1:1-2; Psa. 104:30). How united as “one” they were — and are! Jesus prayed that all His people will also be that way in relation to one another: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone [the apostles], but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jn. 17:20-21).
During the spiritual renewal of Israel, after their return from captivity, they were truly concerned with hearing the law of God and conforming to it. Nehemiah 8:1 reads: “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding… He read from it…from early morning until midday…and all the people were attentive to the book of the law” (Neh. 8:1-3, emphasis mine).
For this gathering to be “as one man” truly indicates how united they were in the common interest of hearing, reverencing, and submitting to God’s word. How well — minds like that can work together! And may that also be the kind of mind we continue to develop even more, as we mature in Christ and work together for His cause.
(All scripture from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)