Be Examples of Me
In the Apostle Paul’s ministry to the Corinthian Church he makes the following statement:
“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me”.(1 Corinthians 4: 15 & 16, NKJV)
This is a hard requirement for any man, yet in its entirety it remains a key statement for the apostolic ministry within the local church — for it is Christ’s ministry that He continues to work in the lives of men, yet it is not a burden that man bears alone. The people to which Paul made this address, are the very people who came to believe in Christ through Paul’s ministry. Yet Paul instructs them, imitate me!!
As wise stewards of the Gospel, every man, woman and child are to conduct themselves in such a way, that those who are saved through their ministry — which is really Christ’s ministry being out-worked through us — will continue to walk out their faith after the same pattern as Christ
As their example and father in the faith, Paul had walked the walk before them!
Just prior to these verses, Paul made an even more challenging statement:
“For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonoured! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labour, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the filth of all things until now”.(1 Corinthians 4: 9-13, NKJV)
Have you been condemned to death and made a spectacle to the world — both to angels and to men? Have you been a fool for the sake of Christ? Have you been weak and been dishonoured by men? For the sake of the Gospel have you known both hunger and thirst; been poorly clothed; beaten or homeless? Have you laboured and worked with your hands? Having been reviled, have you continued to bless? Having been persecuted for the sake of Christ, have you endured? Having been defamed, have you entreated men (asked earnestly or anxiously for something)? Have you been made as the filth of the world, the filth of all things? If you can answer yes for the sake of the Gospel to any of these things, you may well bear in your body the marks of the apostleship of Christ to which Christ has called His Church, for this was Paul’s example first. Similarly, when speaking of our inheritance waiting in heaven, the Apostle Peter tells us there is a purpose in suffering grief in all kinds of trials – that purpose which proves the genuineness of our faith resulting in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.(1 Peter 1: 6 & 7, NIV)
Peter goes on to tell us, that despite these trials, we are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy!
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy”.(1 Peter 1:8, NIV)
Praise the lord for these words!
A Testimony of Faith in the Church
Many years ago, when I was a much younger woman, I had acted in a very unwise way. It was not until later that the revelation came to me that my motives in what I had done had been very self-serving, and that I had not been mindful or even aware of another person’s needs involved with what I did. Yet that other person (I believe) saw both my immaturity and my need when I did not yet understand, and they continued to follow through on what they believed the Lord was asking them to do. Their response was to show me love in return and to continue to pray for that need. This they continued to do (I believe), over an extended period of time. Their response to me was one of love, acted out consistently in actions not just in words, and this continued to sow a great seed of gratitude in my heart toward them — as an act of love and compassion will do. So much so, that I began to feel a great sense of loyalty toward that person for what they had done. Many times, throughout the following years when faced with times of trial, when I felt I couldn’t proceed, I would remember their perseverance and what they had sacrificed for me. This enabled me to push through whatever the circumstances were that I was facing. I wanted their sacrifice on my behalf to count for something of eternal value and to produce living fruit as a result!!
But it was while contemplating my heart of gratitude towards this person one day, that the Lord began to reveal to me that the source of my gratitude did not come from Him. While it may have seemed noble at the time, the loyalty I felt was coming from an impure motive inside of my heart. It was then that the Lord began to ask me to take that same sense of loyalty I felt towards this person, and to give it to every man, woman and child I came across in life, regardless of their situation. You see, I was basing my sense of loyalty and kindness, not on the goodness of Christ, but because I felt they were deserving of my loyalty and kindness. But the Lord began to show me this was not the way of Christ. Christ clearly teaches a Gospel that reaches out in love and kindness towards the least of these (see Matthew 25:40). That means that no matter what our discomfort, or what we think the other person does or does not deserve, we are to see them through the eyes of Christ. So that, when we are with them and when we greet them, we are able to treat them with the same honour and respect that Christ would. Christ also clearly teaches, that we are to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated (see Matthew 7:12 & Luke 6:31).
Upholding the Gospel of Christ
When we are ambassadors of Christ, we must hold out the whole Gospel of Christ, not just a part.
Christ’s Gospel is a Gospel of whosoever will
His message of salvation is that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. When speaking of the righteousness that comes by faith the Apostle Paul said:
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:8-13, NKJV).
- No one is disqualified from coming to Christ.
- There is no special requirement to qualify for the redemption of Christ other than that we must come to Him in repentance by faith.
- Salvation in Christ is held out freely to all — for whosoever will!
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”.(Revelation 22:17, KJV)
Listen now to how Paul describes the past lives of those very people whom he admonished to take hold of the apostolic call with which Christ has entrusted His Church:
“Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God”.(1Corinthians 6:9-11, NKJV)
In Paul’s own words, some of these were fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers (abusive) and extortioners (excessively greedy or grasping) – and yet none were exempt from the apostolic call with which Christ has entrusted His Church — Because they had been washed, sanctified and justified in the powerful name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the same way, Paul exhorts us as the Church, that we are all sons (or daughters) of God by our faith in Jesus Christ – for no other external reason. Through the prophetic act of the obedience of water baptism, we then choose to die to our flesh (to doing things our own way) and we put on Christ (choosing to do things Christ’s way).
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.(Galatians 3:26-28, NKJV)
Do Not Become Judges With Evil Thoughts
By these same verses above we understand that there is no man, woman or child who is exempt from the call of Christ.
The only situational preference of Christ is the call of grace He lays upon each of our lives
And this call is fulfilled in the same way that it began – by the grace and anointing of God. For this reason, there are to be no favourites in the Church. James sternly warns against favouritism of any sort – lest we become judges with evil thoughts. He directly warns against partiality or favouritism connected to the faith we have in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not to have faith with partiality.
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?.(James 2:1-4, NKJV)
In the testimony I shared above, I too had shown favouritism toward a person for what I thought at the time were noble reasons, yet God showed me the motive of my heart was impure. The favouritism I showed was according to my own terms and not according to the truth of the Gospel. In that way, my faith according to the Gospel had been completely misaligned. And just like those whom James is addressing here, I had become a judge with evil thoughts in my heart towards others. It is right at this very point in his address however, that James goes on to exhort:
“Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonoured the poor man”.(James 2:5 & 6, NKJV)
When we show favouritism toward others, even with what we think is good intent, at the same time we are dishonouring the poor. Yet Christ has chosen those who are poor to inherit His Kingdom and He has chosen those who are meek to inherit the earth. The choice has already been made! Jesus said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.(Matthew 5:3-12, NKJV)
And just like the person in my testimony who was able to see my need – Christ wants us also to be drawn by His love and compassion toward meeting other people’s needs.
“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth”.(1 John 3:17 & 18, NKJV)
There Can Be No Favouritism in Ministry
When speaking of the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the Body of Christ, Paul says:
“And He Himself (speaking of Jesus Christ) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”.(Ephesians 4:11 & 12, NKJV)
While Christ Himself appoints men and women of God for this work of equipping the saints, not all who are anointed are appointed. Concerning those who minister into the lives of others within the Church there can be no favouritism, but each one must adhere to the purpose for which they have been called. There has never been a more important message concerning the life of the Church than the following verse. “In Him (in Jesus Christ) was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4, NKJV).
The vessel or person themselves is not the light – but the life of Christ Who dwells within them. So, rather than looking to a man (or woman) who is the vessel, we are to look to Christ (the anointed One) Who dwells within. There are other clear requirements set out in Scripture regarding those who minister into the lives of others within the Church. The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy:
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus”.(1 Timothy 3:2-13, NKJV)
Let Your Love Be Real
In the last days, Paul warns Timothy, men will become lovers of themselves. These whom Paul speaks of are likely to be found within the Church, because having a form of godliness they deny its power. From such people Paul warns Timothy — turn away.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”.(2 Timothy 3:1-5, NKJV)
The word ‘blasphemers’ used above in this verse is translated ‘blasphēmos’ (Strong’s) in the Greek, meaning: ‘scurrilious, i.e. calumnious (a false, defamatory or slanderous statement) (against men), or (specially) impious (showing a lack of respect for God) (against God): — blasphemer(-mous), railing’ (complaining consistently). Likewise, Jesus also, warned of what would happen in the last days.
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12, KJV).
The word for ‘love’ in the Greek that Jesus uses here, is translated ‘agapē’ (Strong’s) and speaks of ‘affection’ or ‘benevolence’ (kindness); specially (plural) ‘a love-feast.’ Similarly, ‘wax cold’ is translated ‘psychō’ meaning: ‘to breathe’ and speaks of a reduction in temperature; ‘to chill.’ So, Christ is warning, that because of iniquity in the last days, the affection and kindness of many will lose its warmth or grow cold. In great contrast however, when speaking of our perseverance through trials of faith, the Apostle Paul makes this joyful declaration!
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5, NKJV).
When there is love in our hearts there is always an outward expression. There is a ‘twinkle’ in our eye that expresses itself towards the other person. It is an expression of love without reserve. But the greatest example of all for this affectionate kind of love was given through Christ, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.(Romans 5:8, NKJV)
Now concerning the ministering to the saints, the Apostle Paul states there will be no lack, but ALL will result in praise and thanksgiving to God
“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God”.(2 Corinthians 9:10-12, NKJV)
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, NKJV). Amen!