Personal And Collective Works
The writers of the New Testament have much to say about the personal and collective works of those who are called to salvation and become a part of the Father's holy nation and royal family of ambassadors, kings and priests. The writers carefully explain what the personal and collective works are that the elect should be engaged in and they give many examples concerning the attitude that must accompany these good works and the effort that should be expended in doing them.
Clearly, when a person is called to salvation and makes a commitment to follow the Father's way of life that person has also committed to do good works. However, some people feel that once a person is baptized and has received the holy spirit, all they have to do from that point forward to be saved is to continue to have faith in God's promise to give eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The writer to the Hebrews said the following about the importance of faith in having a harmonious relationship with the Father:
"Without faith it is impossible to please the Father, because anyone that comes to him must believe that he is, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him" (Heb.11: Para.6).
Although having faith is a major part of your relationship with the Father, you must also diligently seek him. Diligently seeking the Father means many things, such as: getting to know him, building and maintaining a harmonious relationship with him, and trying to understand and do his will in your life. The scriptures clearly show that your attitude and dedication in doing good works will determine your reward at Christ's return. In some cases, these things will determine whether you are granted eternal life in the Father's family and kingdom.
The apostle James addresses the false assumption that faith alone will save you and he summarizes what true faith is and what you must do to prove to the Father and Jesus Christ that you truly have the kind of faith that will result in your being worthy to enter the Kingdom of God:
James 2:14-24 LBP
"Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone? If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, and you say to him, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat heartily," and then don't give him clothes or food, what good does that do? So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. You must also do well to prove that you have it. Faith that doesn't show itself by good works is no faith at all it is dead and useless" (vs.14-17).
What the apostle James said about doing good works is extremely important, because if your faith is dead, so is your claim to salvation. Concerning the elect who see no need to do good works, the apostle Paul said the following:
Romans 2:4-11 LBP
"Don't you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don't you care? Can't you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance" (v5).
Paul introduces his reprimand to those who refuse to do the Father's will in their life by telling them that God's patience is not to be viewed as acceptance of their lifestyle but as an opportunity to do the right thing.
"But no, you won't listen; and so you are saving up terrible punishment for yourselves because of your stubbornness in refusing to turn from your sin; for there is going to come a day of wrath when God will be the just judge of all the world. He will give each one whatever his deeds deserve" (vs.5-6).
Although the Father is patient and long-suffering toward those he has called to salvation, those who continue to refuse to do what they know is God's will are making a terrible mistake, because each individual will be judged according to the merits of their lifestyle and their works whether good or bad.
"He will give eternal life to those who patiently do the will of God, seeking for the unseen glory and honor and eternal life that he offers. But he will terribly punish those who fight against the truth of God and walk in evil ways God's anger will be poured out on them. There will be sorrow and suffering for Jews and Gentiles alike who keep on sinning. But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who obey him, whether Jews or Gentiles. For God treats everyone the same" (vs.7-11).
A major part of doing the Father's will is doing good works that entail collective and personal responsibilities within his holy nation and royal family on earth. However, if you do not truly understand your personal responsibilities within the Father's family or what the Father considers good works, you cannot effectively participate in his work on earth. Moreover, if you do not know what God considers good works, how can you please him and learn the lessons of doing good works?
This study provides an overview of the work that the Father has begun on earth and that Jesus Christ was sent to complete. Moreover, this study reveals what the Bible defines as good works as well as details about how to do the personal and collective work that the Father expects his elect children to be doing under the guidance of Jesus Christ as they work out their own salvation.
THE FATHER'S WORK ON EARTH
Because Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath the Jews accused him of breaking the Sabbath. To this accusation Jesus answered, "My Father continues to work, and I also work" (Jn.5:17 Para.) See also verses 11-16.
This statement by Jesus clearly reveals that the Father was actively engaged in doing work and that Jesus was also doing work. But what was the Father's work that he was doing? Is he still doing this work today?
The Father's Work
The Bible shows that before the foundation of the world, the Father determined that those whom he would create and call during this phase of his plan for humanity would become holy and blameless through the sacrifice of his first-born son Jesus Christ, so that they could be adopted into his family as his spirit-sons:
"According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will . . . in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will, for us to be the praise of his glory, the ones who first trusted in Christ" (Eph.1:4-5, 11-12 KJV Para.).See also 2.Tim.1:8-10.
Verses 11 and 12 show that the Father predetermined that certain individuals would come into existence to do certain work for him. The predestination that the apostle Paul speaks of in verses 11 and 12 has nothing to do with a person's decision of whether or not to repent. It has everything to do with the Father's predetermined plan (i.e., his will and purpose) for the salvation of specific individuals at a specific point in human history and the salvation of humanity as a whole.
The Father's Creation
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:10 KJV).
If you are one of the Father's elect children you are his work that he created in Jesus Christ and your purpose for being created is to do a work for him.
The Father Began a Work in Us
Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing that he which has begun a good work in you will do it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is fit for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my grace" (Phil.1:1-7 KJV). See also Job 14:14-15; 1.Cor.15:52-58.
The Father began this work in us when he predestined some of us to come into existence before the foundation of the world in order to be called to salvation during this age. And predestined that some of us because of circumstance would have an opportunity to be in the first resurrection along with those who were predestined for a special purpose before the foundation of the world. See our study about predestination for a detailed study of this topic.
Paul also notes that the Father's elect children are a work in progress which is to be finished at the coming of Jesus Christ when they will be transformed into spirit-beings and enter the Father's heavenly family and kingdom.
The Bible clearly shows that the Father's primary purpose for creating humanity is to increase his family and kingdom through the transformation of humans into his spirit-sons and sharing all he has with them:
"But rather you seek the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added to you. Don't be afraid, little flock; because it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lk.12:31-32 KJV).
A great part of the Father's work on earth concerns calling, guiding, teaching, nurturing, and protecting those whom he has called to salvation throughout the ages so they can successfully fulfill the purpose for their calling and enter his family and kingdom: "For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil.2:13).
"Now the God of peace [God the Father], that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Heb.13:20-22 KJV).
Called According to a Purpose "But we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and for those who are called according to a purpose. For whom he foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover those he predestined, he also called: and those he called, he also justified: and those he justified, he also glorified" (Rom.8:28-30 Para.). See also Jms.1:18.
Each person to whom the Father presents the opportunity of eternal life during this age of salvation is called to do a specific function and responsibility within his holy nation and royal family. Later in this study we will see that a major part of this purpose is to participate with Jesus Christ in the Father's work of guiding, teaching, nurturing, and protecting others whom he has also called to salvation.
When the Jews asked Jesus about healing the man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, Jesus said to them, "My Father continues to work, and I also work" (Jn.5:17 Para.).
The Jews continuously asked Jesus who he was, who gave him the authority to teach about God, and who gave him the power to work miracles, because they did not know that God the Father existed nor did they know the Father had sent Jesus to do a work for him:
"But I have a greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me. And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And you have not his word abiding in you: for whom he has sent, him you believe not . . . I am come in my Father's name, and you receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses in whom you trust" (Jn.5:36-45 KJV). See also Jn.2:14-24.
Jesus' whole ministry concerned doing the things that the Father had sent him to accomplish on his behalf. Jesus taught the gospel and did great works because the Father sent him to teach and do great works. Jesus was sent to earth to do a work for the Father.
Thinking that the work of God was just a physical work, a group of people at Capernaum asked Jesus how they could do the miracles that he did. To this Jesus said:
"Don't labor for food which perishes, but for that food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for him has God the Father sealed. Then they asked him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent" (Jn.6:27-29 Para.) See also Jn.10:32-38; Jms.2:14-24.
Jesus explained to these people that miraculous physical works were not an end in themselves but these works had a much more important purpose, which was to bring people to the point that they would believe what he was telling them about the Father and himself and the method that would result in them gaining eternal life. Later in this study, we will see that some good works that the elect are to do contain some of the same works that Jesus was sent to do.
Doing the Father's Will
"The woman left her water-pot, and went into the city, and said to the men there, Come, see a man, which told me all the things I did: is not he Christ? Then they left the city, and went to Jesus. Meanwhile his disciples encouraged him to eat something. But he said, I have food to eat that you do not know of. Therefore, the disciples said to one another, Has someone brought him something to eat? Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of the One who sent me, and to finish his work" (Jn.4:28-34 Para.). See also Jn.9:1-7.
Here, we see that doing the work that he was sent to do by the Father was more important to Jesus than missing a meal. Jesus' work was to reveal the Father, proclaim the Kingdom of God, and to prepare people to carry on this work after he had become the sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
Although Jesus completed the work the Father gave him to do during his physical life (Jn.17:1-9), he is still doing a work for the Father today. Part of this work concerns the oversight of the Father's holy nation and royal family on earth, the preparation of positions of authority and service for them in the Kingdom of God, and the preparation for a greater work at the end of this age.
Head of the Church
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing" (Eph.5:23-24 KJV).
Administrator of the Kingdom
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions [i.e., offices or positions of authority]: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (Jn.14:1-3 KJV).
"For the Lord will execute his sentence quickly on the earth and finish his work by cutting it short. And Isaiah said, Except the Lord of Armies had left us some descendants, we would have become like Sodom, and Gomorra" (Rom.9:28-29 Para.). See also Isa.1:9: 10:20-25: 54:7-8; Acts 13:38-41.
THE HARVEST OF HUMANITY
The Father and Jesus Christ are doing a work on earth that will result in humans being transformed into spirit-beings and made a part of the Father's heavenly family and kingdom, which is often called the harvest. The first harvest of humanity consists of individuals before and after the advent of the Messiah who are called to salvation and are worthy to participate in the first resurrection at the end of this age. The second and third group of humans to be harvested into the Father's family and kingdom will be those who live during and after the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
The First Human Harvested
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1.Cor.15:20-23 KJV)
The scriptures clearly teach that Jesus Christ was the Creator God, who divested himself of his immortality to become a human, live a righteous life, and give himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Jesus is the first human to successfully make the transition from the human life-form to the spirit life-son of God the Father. Jesus is the first of the harvest of humanity to be gathered into the Father's spiritual family and kingdom.
Paul notes also that at Jesus' return those who are Christ's will make this transition to the spirit life-form as fruits of the Father's harvest and the Apostles James and John record that those who participate in the first resurrection are considered first-fruits of the harvest of humanity. See Jms.1:16-17; Rev.14:1-4.
Labors in His Field
A major part of the personal and collective work of the Father's holy nation and royal family on earth consists of being laborers in his field (1.Cor.3:5-9) to gather those whom he calls into their fellowship (Acts 2:47), which is a part of the continuing work that Jesus commanded the apostles and those who would come after them to do until his return:
"Therefore you go and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen" (Matt.28:19-20 Para.).
The assignment that Jesus gave to his followers to proclaim the gospel is often called the Great Commission. The apostles and the early church preached the good news message with great spiritual and physical power through personal and public evangelism. Although the primary responsibility for preaching the gospel fell to the apostles and those specifically chosen and sent to evangelize, the responsibility was not theirs alone; it was and still is a task to be shared by all of the elect. All who believe the gospel message and have accepted its terms and conditions for salvation must participate in the preaching of the gospel. See 1.Cor.12:1-31.
What is the Message?
Jesus told his disciples to teach the things that he had commanded. This command not only referred to the things that he had taught during his earthly ministry in human form but also the things he had taught Israel as the Creator God before he became flesh. Please read Jn.1:1-11; Eph.3:9; 2.Tim.3:16.
"And he said to them, You go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; and he that does not believe shall be damned" (Mk.16:15-16 Para.).
All who hear the Father's good news message are held responsible for their response to it. Moreover, all who hear the message with understanding and truly believe its message and then act upon it in a positive manner will be spared from eternal death. However, those who hear with understanding and turn their back on the opportunity presented to them will suffer eternal death.
The Harvest is Ready
"Don't you say, Isn't it still four months until the harvest? behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes, and look at the fields; because they are ready to harvest. And he that reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit to life eternal: that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One sows, and another reaps I sent you to reap that on which you have contributed no labor: other men labored, and you are entered into their labors" (Jn.4:35-38 Para.).
Here, Jesus spoke to his disciples about the harvest of humanity and said that the harvest of his time was ready to be reaped. Many other scriptures show that this analogous instruction to harvest people into the Father's family and kingdom is also meant for the elect who would be sent to the harvest after the demise and disappearance of the early church.
CALLED TO DO GOOD WORKS
It is important to understand that the awesome opportunity of being called to salvation during this age is a unique opportunity which must be made the primary focus of your life if you are to be spiritually successful. Without understanding why you exist and why the Father has called you to salvation during this age, you cannot begin to fulfill the Father's expectations for your life.
Created to Good Works
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:10 KJV).
Ephesians 2:10 shows that those whom the Father has created in Christ are created to do certain works for him. The performance of these works actually begins when you accept his call to become his son and begin to change your life (i.e., the work of repentance Acts 2:37-39: 5:32). After repentance, baptism, and receiving the holy spirit, the Father expects a person to continue to do good works for him throughout their life. Therefore, understanding the biblical teaching on this subject is a must for anyone who is serious about their salvation and their responsibility to be a productive member within the Father's holy nation and royal family.
The following are a few of the many good works that the Father expects a person to accomplish during their lifetime:
1. Work out your salvation under the guidance of the Father and Jesus Christ (Phil.2:12-13).
2. Learn, practice, and perfect God's ways to develop godly character (2.Pet.3:18).
3. Grow toward spiritual maturity to help Jesus Christ rule the world (Rev.5:10).
4. Help preach the good news of the soon coming Kingdom of God (Matt.24:14).
5. Help preach the message of repentance (Matt.28:19-20).
6. Help serve the physical and spiritual needs of the Father's earthly family (Gal.6:6-9).
7. Be a good witness of a righteous lifestyle to those within and without the Father's family (Matt.5:16).
A WARNING TO BE WORKING
There are many warnings to the elect to seriously consider who they are and what they have been called to do now and in the future and many of these warnings concern the issue of doing personal and collective works.
Do Not be Lazy
"But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near to being cursed; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we expect better things of you, things that accompany salvation, even though we speak this way. For God is not unrighteous, he will not forget your work and labor of love, which you have shown toward his name, because you have served and continue to serve the elect. And we want all of you to show the same diligence and hope until the end: so that you will not be lazy, but following those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb.6:7-12 Para.).
If you are truly called of the Father and you truly want to inherit the promises that he has given to his children during this gospel age of salvation, you cannot afford to be apathetic or lazy toward the work that you have been called to do.
The Number One Priority
Jesus gave two illustrations to show the importance of prioritizing your life so that you can fulfill your calling and enter the Kingdom of God:
"Listen carefully, Beware of an excessive desire for things of this world, because a person is more than his possessions. Then he said: A certain rich man's field produced a great crop, and he said to himself, I have so much in my barns that I don't have room to store it, so I'll tear down my barns and build larger ones in which to put my all that I get. And I will stop working because I have more than enough to last me many years, and now I will just eat, drink and enjoy a leisure life. But God said to him, You fool, tonight you will die, now who will possess the things that you worked for? So is the person that stores treasure for himself and is not rich toward God" (Lk.12:15-21 Para.).
No one can take physical possessions into the Father's spiritual dimension of existence. The only things that a child of God can take with them into the Father's spiritual family and kingdom is the spiritual knowledge, understanding, and character acquired during this physical life. The doing of good works for the Father is a major part of fulfilling his purpose for your life and it helps you to develop godly character which is necessary for entrance into his spiritual kingdom:
"Then turning to his disciples he said, Don't have anxious thoughts about your life, or what you will eat or what clothing you will wear. Because life is more than food and clothing. . . The Father will clothe you. . . Don't make what you eat or drink your priority. Don't be anxious about these things, for these are the things that other people make their priorities in life: Your Father knows that you need these things. But rather seek the Kingdom of God and these things will be provided for you. Don't fear, little flock because it is the Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lk.12:22-32 Para.).
The Father wants to give his children his kingdom; however, he can only do this if you will make the fulfilling of his purpose for your existence the priority in your life. The scriptures clearly show that there is nothing else you can accomplish during this life that is more important than fulfilling the Father's purpose for your creation and existence.
The Seven Churches
The warnings to the seven ancient churches of Asia are unmistakably meant for the Father's elect children of today and should be viewed as an extremely serious matter, because how you view these warnings will determine your eternal destiny.
The messages recorded in chapters two and three on the Book of Revelation are about the characteristics of the Father's children who exist in the end of the age. These messages contain serious reprimands and dire warnings of severe correction by Jesus Christ. Each of the seven messages ends with the following admonition:
"He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches."
Unfortunately, during this age of God's church, most of those who have been called to the body of the elect are forgetting or have already forgotten the awesome meaning of their calling and responsibilities to God the Father and Jesus Christ. Many are in a sad state of spiritual decay and in need of a dramatic change in attitude and behavior before the arrival of Jesus Christ.
The message of Revelation two and three clearly shows the severity of correction that will be needed to awaken many of God's people to their extremely dangerous situation. It is clear from these reprimands and warnings to the seven churches that only a few of the elect understand the seriousness of the times that we live in and the things that God the Father and Jesus Christ require of the elect.
Most of the elect think everything is just fine. But, things are not just fine, which is why Jesus will pour out his wrath on all but one-seventh of the elect. Make no mistake, Jesus would much rather see those who need to repent do so without having to be corrected through trial and persecution. However, because Jesus loves us deeply, he will attempt to shake the apathetic, the lazy, and the sinful out of their sleep of death with strong persecution and trials of fire, in the hope that some will awaken to their terminal condition and repent before it is too late.
The Servants and the Doorkeeper
At the end of Jesus' explanation of the events that will take place before his return to rule the earth, he gave the following warning to the Father's elect:
"But concerning the day and the hour, no one knows, not the angels, those in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father knows. Therefore, be careful; be awake and pray. Because you don't know when the time is. It is like a man who left his house and placed his servants in charge, assigned each work to do, and commanded the doorkeeper to keep watch. Therefore, watch. Because, you don't know if the master of the house will come back in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the cock, or in the morning: Lest he suddenly comes and finds you sleeping. What I say, I say to everyone, Watch" (Mk.13:34-37 para.). See also Lk.12:37-48
Notice that each servant is given a task to do and that the one who guards the entrance to the house must always to be alert because the master may come back at anytime. Moreover, everyone should be doing what is expected of them. Notice also that this warning is given to everyone who is a part of the household. Clearly this parable is a warning directed to the Father's household of kings and priests who make up his holy nation of servants on earth today over whom Jesus Christ rules as the master of the house.
When one views this warning to watch in the context of the Father's elect, it becomes clear that if you halfheartedly do the work you are called to do or just quit working (fall asleep spiritually) you will be in deep trouble with the Father and Jesus Christ.
Increase What You Are Given
In the parable about the events that will precede his return, Jesus explains the need for each of the Father's elect to be actively working to increase what they have been given to work with. Matthew 25:14-30:
"It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. . ." (vs.14-15 NIV).
When Jesus returns, each of the elect must give an account of what they have done with what they have been given. The faithful elect are the ones who increase the value of what they are given and receive a reward for their efforts (vs.20-23). However, some will not try to increase what is entrusted to them:
"Then the man who had received the one talent came. Master, he said, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you" (vs.24-25 NIV).
Notice what happens to the person who does nothing with the opportunities that come their way and the spiritual blessings and gifts they are given to work with:
"His master [Jesus] replied, You wicked, lazy servant! You knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed [i.e.,You understood what I was doing and yet you did nothing]. You should have a least put my money in the hands of an investor, then I would have received my money back with some interest added to it . . .. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents . . .. And throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (vs.26, 28-30 NIV Para.).
There are many important lessons that can be learned from what is said to the unprofitable servant:
1. When the Father calls an individual to salvation, that person has enough personal attributes to be spiritually successful and secure salvation with the help of the holy spirit; otherwise, that person would have never been called.
2. At the proper time, each person is given certain other attributes according to their potential to accomplish a work for the Father.
3. Although each individual may have different personal attributes and different gifts of the spirit, each person is required to add to the value of what they have.
4. The parable clearly shows that, if a person feels inadequate or is unable because of some valid reason to do an individual work by themselves, a person should find a way to place their skills, talents, or gifts under the direction of someone who is more able to use them to produce a positive result for the Master.
5. The parable infers that if a person will make an effort to accomplish something of worth for the Master they will receive a reward for that effort.
6. The unprofitable servant was not punished because of feeling inadequate or being unable to work. The punishment was the result of doing nothing positive with what was given.
7. The reward that the unworthy servants should have received for faithful service will be given to those servants who seize opportunity and are willing to work and produce something of spiritual value for the Master.
The overall lessons of this parable are as follows:
The Father and Jesus Christ expect each of the elect to grow in grace and knowledge and to produce spiritual fruit in their life.
Each individual is to accomplish something of value for God to claim as his own when they give an account of their life's work.
If a person becomes too fearful and lazy to accomplish something positive for the Father, they are not worthy to enter the Family and Kingdom of God.
Each individual who is called to salvation must make an effort to use what they have been given and increase their personal worth for the benefit of the Father and Jesus Christ.
You only have to review other parables that Jesus gave concerning the necessity to do a personal and collective work for the Father to understand that, if you do not heed these warnings, you will be in jeopardy of losing your rewards and salvation, depending on the degree of apathy and laziness that you exhibit. See Matt.25:14-30; Lk.12:35-40.
Be a Doer of the Word
"But you be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone hears the word, and does not do it, he is like to a man looking at his face in a mirror. Because he looks at himself and departs, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues in it , he is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed because of his work" (Jms.1:22-25 Para.).
This analogy pictures the following two categories of the elect:
1. The person who truly understands their calling and what is required of them but does nothing about it will soon forget their awesome responsibility and opportunity as a child of God.
2. The person who truly understands their calling and what is required of them and does what they know they should be doing will be blessed for their effort.
Your mental condition determines which of these two categories you will be in. In this analogy, self-deception seems to be the result of truly understanding God's will but believing, for some erroneous reason, that it is unnecessary to practice God's will in your life. Therefore, to avoid being self-deceived once you truly understand God's will and what he expects of you requires that you practice what you know to be God's will for your life.
It is important to understand that James sets this instructional analogy within the context of the active pursuit of a righteous lifestyle and the various attitudes, behaviors, trials, temptations, problems, and situations that commonly occur as you works out your salvation.
Throughout life, we are faced with many opportunities to make right or wrong decisions concerning living a righteous lifestyle The first time a person makes a serious mistake after their conversion, they may recognize this as a sin due to a weakness in their life. If a person deals with it at the time and resolves to change, the problem will be overcome. But, if they compromise themselves again and again, each subsequent compromise becomes easier and easier until self-delusion sets in and that sin becomes acceptable.
It is the consistent compromising of the truth that a person truly understands that leads a person into self-deception and into forgetting who they are and their awesome responsibility and the opportunity as a child of God. This is why it is not enough to just know that the Father requires you to do good works, you must also do good works in order to be righteous and maintain a harmonious relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ.
JUDGMENT AND REWARDS FOR WORKS
Although all who live a righteous life will receive eternal life, the authority, office, and glory that you will receive in the Father's heavenly family and kingdom for doing good works during this life will not only depend on the kind and amount of works that you do but also on the attitude, effort, and diligence with which you have done these works.
The following scriptures reinforce the fact that each person who has been made a part of the Father's holy nation and royal family on earth is required to do works: For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what we did, whether good or bad (2.Cor.5:10 Para.).
Make no mistake. There will be a judgment of the elect of God and all of humanity. For the elect, this judgment will either be at the first resurrection because of a life filled with good works or at the resurrection to death because of a life filled with evil works or, as noted in Matthew 25:14-30, a life of no works at all.
Because Jesus is head of the church and the administrator of the Father's kingdom, he will judge the quality of each person's works for the Father:
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you despise your brother? For all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it has been written, I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue confess to God. So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God (Rom.14:10-12 KJV Para.).
Each of the Father's children must give an account of their life and the works that they have or have not done. The apostle Peter said the following about the proper attitude and behavior that the Father expects of his children as they carry out their work for him:
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy. And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear" (1.Pet.1:13-17 KJV).
For those who have been given the opportunity to participate in the first resurrection, the rewards that can be received for diligent service to the Father and Jesus Christ are awesome and far above any offered to those who come after them (See 1.Cor.2:9; Jms.2:5; Heb.11:35).
The apostle John recorded the following promise from Jesus Christ concerning attitudes, behaviors; and rewards for spiritual work during this age of salvation.
"And he said to me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev.22:10-12 KJV). See also Rom.2:7; Matt.19:16-17; Lk.10:25-27, 18:18-20.
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1.Cor.15:52-58 KJV). See also Heb.6:10.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Remember that the Father's first priority for his earthly work is to make sure that those whom he calls to salvation during this age of salvation successfully fulfill the primary purpose for their calling and enter his family and kingdom as his spirit-sons: "And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev 21:6-7 KJV). See also Phil.2:13; Heb.13:20-22; 2.Cor.614-18.
All who truly repent and receive the spirit of adoption into the Father's royal family must do personal and collective works for him, but before a person can do this they must understand the Father's word and be practicing a righteous lifestyle:
"Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure" (Phil.2:12-13 KJV).See also 1.Cor.10:13; Gal.6:3-10.
The instruction to work out your own salvation means that you must manage your life so it conforms to God's laws, precepts, and principles. To do this, you must expend much sincere and diligent effort to overcome temptations, trials, and tests and to make right decisions. Only when you sincerely seek to learn, understand, and live according to the Father's laws, precepts, and principles and to respect, love, obey, and please him can he work his will and purpose in your life.
Preparation for Doing Good Works
Before anyone can do a work for God, they must first prepare to do this work. The apostle Paul gave Timothy the following basic outline for preparing to do good works:
2.Timothy 2: 4-5; 14-15; Paraphrased
"No one serving as a solider gets entangled with the affairs of this life, so that he can please the one whom he serves and those who compete in athletic events must follow the rules or they will be disqualified and not win the prize" (vs.4-5).
Paul tells Timothy that anyone who is serious about doing a work for the Father cannot involve themselves in the cares of this world; they must be single-minded in their service to the Father. A person who serves the Father must also adhere to the rules that the Father has given about serving him or that service will not be rewarded.
"Remind the elect of these things as a witness before the Lord, that they should not argue over unimportant things such as words and concepts, because nothing good can come from this. But earnestly study to show yourself approved to God being a worker who correctly understands the word of truth. And avoid unholy conversation for it leads to more unrestrained godlessness" (vs.14-15). See also verses 23-26.
There are many things that you can do to waste your time and effort. Becoming involved in things that are not important or productive to your salvation and the Father's work, such as arguments over unimportant doctrinal issues, which can draw you away from doing a work for the Father. To be prepared to deal with the important things of life and doctrinal issues in a godly way, you must be studying the word of God.
One of the important things that you can do to prepare yourself for service to the Father is to seek spiritual purity in your life:
"There are not only dishes of Gold and silver in a wealthy house but also dishes of wood and clay, with some being used for a more noble purpose than others. Therefore, if anyone purifies themselves from unholy things one will be an honorable vessel that has been set apart for a sacred use for every good work by the master of the house. Flee youthful lust and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (vs.20-22). See also Jms.1:26-27.
Become Living Sacrifices
Paul encourages those who are sincere in their quest to serve and please the Father to verify his will in their life through presenting themselves as a living sacrifice to him:
"Therefore, brothers, I call on you through the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. And do not be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove [prove through testing] what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom.12:1-2 Para.). See also Jms.1:5-8.
Although being a living sacrifice can consist of giving your time, effort, and physical goods for a righteous purpose, the kind of sacrifice that Paul speaks of is spiritual in nature, which means that what is done as a sacrifice has eternal benefits. Sacrifices of this nature are considered most pleasing to the Father because they are a reflection of your righteous spiritual attitude and good works.
Notice also that Paul says in verse 2 that you should avoid being conformed to this world, which means that you should be conformed to the ways of God instead. Conforming to God's ways requires a transformation from a worldly way of thinking to a righteous way of thinking. This kind of mental change can only be done through yielding to the righteous law, precepts, principles, and concepts that the Father and his Son hold to be true and beneficial. The transformation and renewal of your mind takes a determined conscious effort (works) to do the Father's will in your life.
The Church at Ephesus
The message to the church at Ephesus underscores the need for a person to never forget that the Father's first priority is for them to successfully obtain eternal life as his spirit-sons and that this requires them to be actively working out their salvation between themselves and him. Notice that the message to the Ephesians is directly from Jesus Christ who walks among the seven churches and is the head of the church:
"To the angel [messenger] of the church of Ephesus write; These things says he [Jesus Christ] that holds the seven stars in his right hand,. . .. I know your works, and labor, and your patience, and how you cannot not bear them that are evil: and you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars: and have borne, and have patience, and for my name's sake have labored, and have not fainted" (Rev.2:1-3 Para.).
Those who have the attitudes and behaviors of a spiritual Ephesian persevere, work hard, and try to keep false teachers out of the church. However, the Ephesians have a major problem that needs to be corrected:
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come to you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of its place except you repent" (Rev.2:4-5 Para.).
Although the Ephesians do not tolerate wickedness, are solidly against evil, and hate idolatry and immorality, they lose their first love, which is the love of the Father, his Son, his truth, and their fellow man. They become rigid to the point of self-righteousness and impose their own standards over God's righteous standards. They forget their awesome calling and the importance of the Father's royal law of love.
The call to repent and do the first works is an appeal for them to remember the beginnings of their walk with God and to turn away from their sinful attitudes and behaviors and zealously strive to live a truly righteous life as they did when the Father first called them.
The Ephesians seem to forget that a major part of their calling and mission is to grow in grace, knowledge, and love for the things of God. They lose their intense love and zeal for God and have fallen into apathy at the final call to battle. Jesus warns them to rekindle their love and zeal for God and his ways or he will remove their candlestick. This is an extremely serious warning. Because the candlestick symbolizes the entire Ephesian group, Jesus is saying that he will remove them from among his followers. And because the candlestick also represents spiritual truth, he will also remove the truth of God from their hearts and minds; thereby, he will take away their eternal reward and position in the Family and Kingdom of God.
Although the Ephesians do many positive things (Rev.2:6), they do not maintain their first love. As far as Jesus is concerned, they are not fit for his Family and Kingdom. Ephesians who let their love die as a result of becoming rigid in their belief system and their own way of doing things must repent or they will die spiritually and eternally:
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Rev.2:7 NIV).
Those who overcome the trials and tests of this life, remain in a repentant attitude, and maintain their love and zeal for the Father and Jesus Christ will have eternal life and immortality as it is portrayed in the eating from the Tree of Life.
Clearly, the most important work that you can do for the Father, Jesus Christ, and yourself is to maintain your love for them and strive to live a righteous life, which will result in entry into the Father's spiritual family and kingdom. Once you have made this work your primary goal in life, you can expand your spiritual horizon to include other spiritual works that will enhance this basic goal and make you a more profitable servant to the Father and Jesus Christ. Keeping in mind the foundational information that has been covered so far, some of the different aspects of personal and collective works that you may have an opportunity to participate in while working out your salvation can be explored.
THE CHURCH AND ITS WORK
The collective work of the church must a team effort. Within this collective work, any individual's effort is no more important than another individual's effort. Each individual must contribute to the overall goal of the church, which is to work in partnership with the Father under the supervision of Jesus Christ to fulfill his purpose for creating humanity and the call of some to salvation during this age:
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase So then neither is he that plants any thing, neither he that waters; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that plants and he that waters are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: you are God's husbandry [i.e., fellow labors with God in his field], you are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given to me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. For another foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1.Cor.3:6-11 KJV). See also Isa.28:16; Eph.2:19-22; 1.Tim.6:17-21; 2.Tim.2:19; Heb.6:1.
Paul speaks of his function within the collective work of the church as analogous to one whom the Father has made a wise master craftsman who lays the foundation upon which others build. Furthermore, those who come to build on the spiritual foundation that he established must do so with great care, because what he has established is actually what Jesus Christ has established.
A Personal and a Collective Work While speaking to the Corinthians about the work of the ministry, the apostle Paul addresses personal and collective works for which you will be rewarded and cautions that you must be careful how you do your work:
"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble. Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward" (1.Cor.3:12-14 KJV).
The spiritual foundation of God's truth is perfect and cannot be improved on; however, what a person builds on this foundation is determined by how proficient they are with God's truth and the diligence with which they build. The spiritual work that each individual is required to do during this life will be tested for its quality which will determine the degree of reward that each builder receives.
"If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1.Cor.3:15 KJV).
The Father knows that, because of various reasons and circumstances, some of his children will fail in their attempt to build something of spiritual worth above and beyond working out their own salvation. Although an individual may lose the rewards that they could have received if their work had endured, because the Father loves them and is merciful, he will not cast them away. Instead, he will reward them with eternal life in his family and kingdom because they did put forth effort in an attempt to build something of true spiritual value.
"He will give eternal life to those who patiently do the will of God, seeking for the unseen glory and honor and eternal life that he offers" (Rom.2:7 LBP). See also Matt.19:16-17; Lk.10:25-27; 18:18-20.
It is the Father's purpose to give eternal life to everyone who accepts his offer of salvation through the sacrificial blood of his first-born son Jesus Christ, and then make a diligent effort to live according to his laws, precepts, and principles.
Along with all of the various things given through the holy spirit that are necessary for personal growth, there are also many different attributes, qualities, powers, and authorizations given to be used for the physical and spiritual functioning of the church, which includes the church's work of warning and witnessing to the world.
Attitudes and Behaviors
Among the things that concerned Paul about the Corinthians was their attitude of self-importance, vanity, and pride, and their lack of understanding of the unity of purpose that is necessary in order to have collective spiritual growth and do the collective work of the church.
"But as to spiritual things, brothers, I do not wish you to be ignorant. You know that being led away you Gentiles were led to dumb idols. Therefore, I make known to you that no one speaking by the spirit of God says Jesus is a curse. And no one is able to say Jesus is Lord, except by the holy spirit" (vs.1-3 Para.).
Here, Paul says that he does not want them to be ignorant about spiritual matters which include a broad spectrum of spiritual attitudes, behaviors, and the use of spirit-power.
"Now God gives many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same holy spirit which is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. The spirit displays God's power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church" (1.Cor.12:4-7 LBP).
Here, Paul says that different authorizations, gifts, and powers are given for the benefit of the entire Church:
"For to one is given by the spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same spirit; To another faith by the same spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of languages; To another the interpretation of languages" (vs.8-10 KJV).
There are two very important things to learn about these spiritual authorizations and powers from verses 8-10:
1. Not everyone is given the same authorizations or powers.
2. It is one spirit through which these authorizations and powers flow.
One Body Many Members
"But the one and same spirit works all these things, distributing separately to each as he wills. For as the body is one, and has many members, But all the members of the one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For also we all were baptized by one spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, even all were given to drink of one spirit" (vs.11-13 Para.).
Today, the Father's elect children are scattered throughout the world. Some associate with each other in congregations that comprise converted and unconverted individuals and some are without any formal association with others of like mind and spirit. Although this is the current situation and there is no single unified collective Body of Christ (the church) on earth at this time, all who truly have the Father's spirit of adoption must serve him and the spiritual organism which is the collective Body of Christ (the church). It is to the Father, Jesus Christ and the scattered holy nation and royal family of true believers that one who is truly converted owes their allegiance and servitude.
A Unified Body
"For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased him" (vs.14-18 KJV). See also Rom.12:1-8; Heb.2:4.
Paul stresses the point of unity and the necessity of the body (i.e., the church) to work together and use the various spiritual attributes and powers that the Father has given to the church to do a work for him. Whether you are a member of an association of the elect or alone in the world without fellowship with others of like mind and spirit, your duty to the Father is to be doing a work for him and serving your brothers and sisters in his family through whatever spiritual authorizations and gifts that you have been given.
Each Member Has a Purpose
"And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you" (vs.19-21 KJV).
Paul rebukes those who thought their particular attribute, talent, or a spiritual gift was superior to another member's:
"No, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness" (vs.22-23 KJV).
God the Father has specifically called and chosen each individual for their part in the church (Jn.6:44,65). Each is necessary and important and has a function and responsibility to fulfill.
One Spiritual Body
"For our comely parts have no need: but God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked. That there should be no schism [division] in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. [See 1.Cor.1:13-14]. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (vs.24-27 KJV).
Order of Relative Importance
"And God has set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of languages. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with languages? do all interpret?" (vs.28-30 KJV).
Paul's questions seem to be designed to emphasize the point that every member does not have the same authorizations and powers, but whatever gift that was given to each an individual was given for the benefit of the entire church and each member must use this power for the good of all.
When the Father calls a person to become his son and a part of his great work here on earth, he gives as many authorizations to use his spirit-power as he deems necessary for the perfection of the individual and the church.
Each Member is Important
The spiritual authorizations and powers that a member of the body of Christ is blessed with are not for one's own aggrandizement or entertainment. These spiritual gifts are for the performing of the work of the church and the edification and enrichment of the elect of God who are being prepared to serve all of humanity through the Family and Government of God. See Eph.4:11-13.
It is important to understand that every member does not have the same authorization to use the various powers of the spirit. The Father knows the strengths and weakness of each person he calls to salvation and he calls each for a specific purpose.
Some might think that a person does not have spiritual power unless they can work great miracles, heal the sick, or foretell the future. However, these are only the more visible and spectacular acts that can be done through the power of the spirit. They only seem more important because they are more visible and dynamic in presentation. However, they are not the most important.
Although Paul does not mention all of the various attributes, qualities, functions, and authorizations that can be manifested through the power of the spirit, his point is that all spiritual power given to the elect of God must be used for the benefit of all.
SPIRITUAL LEADERS AND SERVANTS
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love" (Eph.4:11-16 KJV).
The work of spiritual leadership is concerned with the following three primary functions and responsibilities ties within the collective church:
1. Perform the work of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as a witness and a warning to humanity before Jesus Christ returns to rule the world.
2. Perform the work of preaching the Gospel of Salvation to those whom the Father wants to call to salvation during this age.
3. Guide and direct the church in a way to provide a positive atmosphere for spiritual growth toward unity of faith and purpose.
The Work of an Apostle
Although Paul was not one of the original 12 apostles chosen to begin the work of the early church, after the church was established, Jesus Christ specifically chose him to be an apostle to the Gentiles and do a great work. See Acts 9:1-15; 13:46-47.
"Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not you my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are you in the Lord. My answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?" (1.Cor.9:1-6 KJV). See also Acts 14:21-28; 15:37-38.
Through the work of the apostles, the early church was established and events were set in motion that will affect all of humanity throughout the ages until the Father comes to earth to receive the kingdom from Jesus Christ (1.Cor.15:24-28). With the death of John and the disappearance of the early church, the need for apostles ceased; moreover, there is no indication in the scriptures that this office will again be established before or after the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth.
The Work of a Bishop
The work of a bishop (i.e., pastor) is an extremely important responsibility within the congregations of God because this man must provide spiritual leadership for those under his care and protection, just as a loving father and husband is to provide for his family:
"For this cause left I you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed you: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Titus 1:5-9 KJV).
In his letter of encouragement to Timothy, Paul cautioned him to be careful to only appoint men as leaders and servants within the congregations, who were able to serve the best interest of the Father's children:
"This is a true saying, If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sensible, of good behavior, hospitable, apt at teaching. A bishop must not be a drunkard, or contentious, but must be patient, gentle and not argumentative, nor a lover of money; He must rule his household well, having his children in subjection with all reverence; (For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how can he care for the church of God?) A bishop cannot be novice, lest he becomes puffed up with pride and falls into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must have a good reputation among those who are not of the church; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (1.Tim.3:1-7 Para).
"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" (1.Pet 5:1-2 KJV).
At the time Peter wrote this, there were attitude problems developing among some of the elders who regarded the eldership as a burden or just a regular job instead of an opportunity to serve their brothers and sisters in the faith. Peter reminds the congregational elders of the reason that they were called to serve the elect as spiritual leaders. He reminds them to respect the opinions and suggestions of those who have served for a long time and serve in humility, because they will receive their reward for service at the proper time:
"Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away. Likewise, you younger [younger spiritually], submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (vs.3-6 KJV).
The New Testament shows that the spiritual leaders of the early church had broad discretionary authority and power with which to govern, guide, and serve those under their care and protection. Some today feel that a spiritual leader must only serve as a teacher, preacher, or in some physical capacity without the power or authority to enforce or take any corrective action upon those who are disobedient to the faith. Others feel that Jesus Christ authorized spiritual leaders to have absolute power and authority over the elect in every aspect of their lives.
Neither of these two extreme views of authority and power are correct. However, elders of the early church did have the authority to protect and reprimand the elect when it was necessary (See Acts 5:1-10; 8:9-24; 1.Cor.5:1-5). After being reprimanded by the spiritual leadership, it was the responsibility of the individual(s) within the church to respond in a positive way. Today, it is the responsibility of the elect to protect and defend the faith and the faithful, because the church is one body. All the elect have a responsibility to work to benefit the spiritual body as a whole (See 1.Cor.12:1-31; 2.Cor.2:3-10). Nevertheless, no one can work out another person's salvation (.2:12), or force another person into the Kingdom of God. Therefore, those whom Jesus selected as spiritual leaders were not given the authority to control every aspect of the lives of those under their care.
The Work of Prophets, Teachers, and Evangelists
The following accounts show that certain men of the early church were specifically called and given the responsibility to do the work of prophets, teachers, and evangelists:
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul [Paul]. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work where to I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed to Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus" (Acts 13:1-4 KJV) See also 2.Tim 4:5; Acts 14:21-28.
"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (Jms.3:1 NIV).
"But watch you in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of your ministry" (2.Tim 4:5 KJV).
Notice that Paul says that he and Timothy were doing the work of the Lord which was primarily an evangelistic effort and the establishment of congregations of God among the Gentile nations:
"For a great door and effectual is opened to me [Paul], and there are many adversaries. Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear: for he works the work of the Lord, as I also do" (1.Cor.16:9-10 KJV)
The Work of a Deacon
Most Christian spiritual leaders today quote Acts 6:1-7, Philippians 1:1, and 1. Timothy 3:8-13 to support their teaching that early church had a position of authority and rulership denoted as that of a deacon within its organizational stricture. However, this teaching is not true. A careful study of the New Testament scriptures containing the Greek words 'diakoneo', 'diakonia', and 'diakonos' of which there are over a hundred, clearly shows that these words are tied to the actions of individuals and do not describe a position of authority or the title of an office within the early church.
As the early church grew, it became apparent that there was a need for someone to care for the physical needs of its widows. As a result of this need, men were chosen by the membership and sanctioned by the apostles to do this duty:
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration (diakonia). Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples to them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables (diakoneo) . Wherefore, brethren, look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry (diakonia) of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased . . ." (Acts 6:1-7 KJV)
Although these scriptures are used to justify the organizational office of a deacon, no such authority is found in them. In the strictest sense, these men were chosen by the elect to serve the needs of the widows in the church.
The Greek words 'diakoneo', 'diakonia', and 'diakonos' from which the English words 'deacon' and 'deacons' are derived connote 'one who is a attendant', 'one who waits upon another', a 'servant' or 'one who runs errands'.
The misconception concerning the alleged position of authority within the church denoted as the office of a deacon is mainly due to errors in interpretation and the mistranslation of Philippians 1:1 and 1.Timothy 3: 8-13 by the King James Bible translators.
"Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (diakonos)" (Phil.1:1 KJV).
In this text, the Greek word 'diakonos' is left untranslated to give the impression that both bishops and deacons are in positions of authority within the church. However, there is nothing in this text that would indicate that the 'diakonos' were anything other than fellow ministers or fellow servants in the church.
"Likewise must the deacons (diakonos) be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon (diakoneo), being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons (diakonos) be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon (diakoneo) well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (1.Tim 3:8-13 KJV).
In verses 8 and 12, the Greek word 'diakonos' is left untranslated by the King James translators to give the impression that the deacon is in a position of authority. If the translators had translated 'diakonos' as 'servant', it would have clearly indicated that it was the bishop who was being called the husband in verse 12.
In verses 10 and 13, the King James translators replaced the word 'diakonos' with the phrase "the office of a deacon" in an attempt to show that the Greek words 'diakoneo' and 'diakonos' connote and office of authority. However, without the insertion of the phrase "the office of a deacon", which is not in the original text, the context of verses 10 through 13 does not support the presumption that the Greek word 'diakoneo' and 'diakonos' refer to anything other that the action of service by an individual who is a bishop.
When the scriptures containing the Greek words 'diakoneo', 'diakonia', and 'diakonos' are considered in context, none of them supports the supposition that a position or office of authority entitled deacon existed within the early church. In the strictest sense, these three Greek words connote service rendered by individuals to individuals and the church as a whole. Moreover, the scriptures containing these three Greek words show that those who want to serve their brothers and sisters in the Father's royal family must have their priorities correct before the Father and Jesus Christ and be well versed and practiced in the truth and the faith to serve well.
DOING A PERSONAL WORK
The instructions within the New Testament clearly show that each of the elect has a function and a responsibility within the collective church, which is a spiritual organism composed of those called by the Father to salvation during this gospel age. The scriptures show also that each individual within this spiritual organism must do both a personal and a collective work for the Father under the direction of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church.
Today, the reality is that the elect of God are scattered throughout the world. Some are organized into collective groups and some are separated from fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ; because this is true, Given the circumstances of today, how do you satisfy your responsibility to do both a personal and a collective work?
Although, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for some to associate with others of like mind and spirit, each of the elect can do personal works and participate in the collective work of the church under the direction of Jesus Christ, because all who are truly members of the Father's holy nation and royal family are connected by the bond of the holy spirit and are therefore connected to the collective work of the church.
Doing Good Works
The Father does not expect his children to relieve every case of poverty, neglect, abuse or other need that crosses their path, simply because it is not possible. Jesus did not relieve all pain and suffering nor did he right every wrong when he walked the earth. He did what he could do within the bounds of the task that his father had sent him to accomplish with the available resources. The Father expects no more or no less from those he has called to salvation during this age. Each of the elect must use their available resources to perform good works within the framework of their calling and responsibilities an ambassador, a king, and a priest within the Father's royal family and holy nation.
In this section, we will explore some of the examples and instructions recorded in the New Testament that show how those of the early church fulfilled their responsibility to do personal and collective works and how we can also fulfill our responsibility to do good works.
Although the Father and Jesus Christ are concerned with all humanity, they are especially concerned about the elect who have been given the opportunity to become the first of humanity to obtain salvation and enter the Family of God. The Father and Jesus Christ want the elect to learn the lessons of compassion and true unselfish love for all people and especially for their brothers and sisters in the household of God:
"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. . ." (Rom 12:10-16 KJV).
"As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal.6:10 Para.).
The Sheep and the Goats
The parable of the sheep and the goats concerns the doing of good works for one's brothers and sisters within the Father's family and it shows that these good works are expected of one who is called by God. Moreover, the doing of these good works is an integral part of being accounted worthy to enter the Kingdom of God:
Matthew 25:31-46 LBP
"But when I, the Messiah, shall come in my glory, and all the angels with me, then I shall sit on my throne of glory. And all the nations shall be gathered before me. And I will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and place the sheep at my right hand, and the goats at my left" (vs.31-33).
There are three different events mentioned here:
1. Jesus returns to the earth in his glory.
2. Jesus begins to rule on earth.
3. Jesus separates people into two distinct groups.
"Then I, the King, shall say to those at my right, 'Come, blessed of my Father, into the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes; naked and you clothed me; sick and in prison, and you visited me," (vs.34-36).
This scripture shows the Father's righteous children being welcomed into his kingdom, which has been prepared for them. This great event will happen at the time of the first resurrection and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth.
"Then I will turn to those on my left and say, 'Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. Or I was hungry and you wouldn't feed me; thirsty, and you wouldn't give me anything to drink; a stranger, and you refused me hospitality; naked and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you wouldn't visit me" (vs.41-43).
Verse 41 and 43 shows that the wicked will be punished because they refused to love God and his people:
"Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you? And I will answer, 'When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing to help me.' And they shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into everlasting life" (vs.44-46).
The primary reason for the punishment of these people is that they refuse to help Christ's brothers, which is equal to refusing to help Christ. The criterion for being a sheep in the shepherd's flock is having love toward Christ's brothers, which is evidenced through good works; therefore, the goats are those who understood God's truth and refused to live their lives accordingly. See also Matt. 7:21-27; Rom.12:9-13; 1.Thes.2:11-13.
Clearly, a part of doing a work for the Father is to serve your brothers and sisters in his royal family. If you refuse to do this work of love when the opportunity presents itself, you may lose your salvation and not enter the spiritual Kingdom of God. Therefore, it is important to develop an attitude of service toward your brothers and sisters in the Father's family.
"Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin" (Jms.4:17 KJV).
The will of the Father and Jesus Christ, as it is recorded in the Bible, is for the elect to do good (live a righteous lifestyle) as a part of their spiritual growth process. Moreover, when a person knows what doing good means, they are required to put forth an effort to do good; otherwise, that person is in rebellion against the Father and Christ and rebellion is sin.
Serve One Another
"For, brethren, you have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Gal.5:13 KJV).
Serving your brothers and sisters within the Father's household is multifaceted and requires the diligent effort by each person to accomplish the common goals that the Father has set for his elect children. The following are some examples of the ways that you can do good works and fulfill your responsibility to serve your brothers and sisters within the Father's household:
Be a Righteous Example
One of the best ways to serve your brothers and sisters is to be an example of how to live a righteous life and accomplish the goals that the Father and Jesus Christ have set for the elect. The following are excerpts from letters written by the apostles are examples of the many instructions that you will find in the New Testament to help you accomplish the responsibility to set a righteous example:
"This I say then, Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would. But if you be led of the spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, sedition, heresies, Envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another" (Gal.5:16-26 KJV). See also 2.Tim.2:19-26.
"There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free: but Christ is all, and in all. Therefore put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a quarrel against their brother or sister: even as Christ forgave you, forgive them. And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to you are called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col.3:11-16 KJV). See also Rom.12:1-18.
Being a righteous example to others within the Father's household is a major responsibility that should not be taken lightly, because what you do can impact the lives of all those of the Father's house either negatively or positively. While instructing the church at Corinth about the necessity of teamwork and proper concern for one another, the apostle Paul says the following:
"There should be no division within the body, because each member in the body should be equally concerned for all members. If one member of the body suffers, every member suffers, if any one member receives honor every member rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ and every one of you are a part of it" (1.Cor.12:24-27 Para.).
In order to fulfill the responsibility of being a productive member of the Father's household, each family member must show the proper love and concern for each family member. But, in order to do this, each member must endeavor to be a righteous example. When this happens, all members of the family can rejoice.
Show Outgoing Love
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You shall seek me: and as I said to the Jews, Where I go, you cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another" (Jn.13:33-35 KJV).
The love that Jesus speaks of is the kind of sacrificial love that he had for humanity; it is the kind of love that is seen through the Father's willingness to allow Jesus Christ to come to earth and give his life for humanity. This kind of love is selfless love that is given with one's whole being for the benefit of another person. This is the kind of love that the Father's elect should have for one another.
"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. . ." (Rom.12:10-16 KJV).
"Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit to unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently" (1.Pet.1:22 KJV). See also 1.Jn. 4:7-21.
Be Compassionate and Helpful
The apostle John says that a way to know if you love God is if you are sacrificing your life (your time and effort) and sharing your material goods with those who are truly in need within the Father's household. Notice that John compares this kind of love through sacrificing of one's time, energy, and material goods with the voluntary loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
"This is how we know that we love God. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us; therefore, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. If anyone has material possessions and knows his brother is in need, and does not show compassion and help him, how can the love of God be dwelling in him? My little children, let us not just say we love our brothers, but show that we love them by our actions in deed and truth" (1.Jn.3:16-18 KJV Para.).
The Bible clearly shows that generosity is one of the major character traits of God the Father and our Savior and is an attitude and behavior that is repeatedly spoken of as a desirable and a righteous character trait:
"And do not forget to do good and share, for the Father is pleased with these kind of sacrifices" (Heb.13:16 Para.). See also 1.Tim 6:17-19
God the Father and Jesus Christ are caring, giving, and sharing individuals; therefore, when you follow their example of willingly caring, giving, and sharing with other people, the Father considers the expression of these character traits as a pleasing sacrifice to him a sacrifice of good works.
Although the Corinthians had many problems, they were generous and served as an example of a right attitude toward sharing one's physical goods with those in need:
"There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints For I know your eagerness to help. . .. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap also sparingly; and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. . .. For God loves a cheerful giver. . .." (1.Cor.9:1-6 NIV) See also Pro.11:24-25; Phil.2:3-5.
The Giving of One's Substance
The apostle Paul identifies the attitude of the elect of Thessalonica and the material goods that they sent to him with the pleasant smell of the voluntary Peace Offering offered at the temple and he says that what they had done was especially pleasing to God the Father:
"You did well in sharing in my troubles. And you know, O Philipians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in giving, except you. Because you sent me what I needed twice while I was in Thessalonica. I'm not seeking a gift, from you, I seek to multiply fruit to your account. But I have more than enough things; I have been filled with the things that you sent to me by Epaphroditus. These things from you, are like an odor of a pleasant smell, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God" ( Phil.4:14-18 Para.).
Compassion and Encouragement
"And finally, be of one mind, having compassion for each another, love as brethren, be tenderhearted, and courteous. Do not return evil for evil, or slander for slander: but on the contrary give a blessing; knowing that you were called to this that you should inherit a blessing. For he that desires to love life, and to see good days, let him restrain his tongue from speaking evil, and his lips from speaking guile: Let him shun evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it" (1.Pet.3:8-11 Para.).
Not all the elect are at the same place in their spiritual growth; therefore, you should have compassion on those who are not yet spiritually mature and deal with them as children in the faith, forgiving them for their errors and offering spiritual support to them when they need it. This is the way of God for those who are truly seeking the Kingdom of God.
"Continue to encourage each other to grow spiritually. And we appeal to you, to know them which labor among you, and rule over you in the Lord, and we caution you to respect them for what they do and be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you to warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward everyone. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone. But, continue to follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all other people" (1.Thes.5:11-15 Para.). See also 2.Tim.2:19-26.
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jms.1:27 KJV).
It is the duty of each of the elect to work toward the common good through encouraging one another, supporting those who are in leadership positions, and fostering an atmosphere of teamwork within the Father's holy nation and royal family through mutual respect and attention to the things of the spirit.
Intervention on Behalf of Another
It was the responsibility of the Levitical priesthood to represent a sinner before the Creator God and offer sin offerings and peace offerings before him on behalf of the sinner to heal the breach between the sinner and God. During the gospel age of salvation, it is the responsibility of each member in the household of God to care for the spiritual welfare of their fellow members.
When you become aware that a brother or sister in the faith has committed or is committing a sin in ignorance that is not a capital sin, which requires the death penalty, you have the duty to go to the Father on behalf of the errant brother or sister to reconcile that person with the Father:
"If anyone sees a brother commit a sin that will not bring the death penalty, that one shall ask, and the Father shall give that person life that does not commit a sin worthy of death. There is a sin worthy of death. I'm not saying to pray for that one. All unrighteousness is sin: but there are sins that are not worthy of death" (1.Jn.5:16-17 Para.).
The intervention on behalf of your brother or sister in the faith under these circumstances shows your love and concern and automatically restores a harmonious relationship between the Father, Jesus Christ, and the errant brother or sister in the faith.
Not only does the Father require his children to intervene on behalf of one another in situations concerning sins that are not worthy of death, but also on behalf of people who are not of the brotherhood concerning things that do not involve sin. God the Father and Jesus Christ are concerned for all people and expect the elect to share this same concern and express the godly characteristics of concern, compassion, and love toward other people and those of the household of God:
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior" (1.Tim.2:1-3 KJV).
Heartfelt communication with the Father is not only extremely beneficial to your relationship with God the Father and his Son but also an extremely powerful way to give help to the collective work of the church and to your brothers and sisters in the Father's family:
"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, salutes you, and is always persevering for you in prayers, that you will stand perfect and complete in the will of God" (Col.4:12 Para.).
"To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefather's with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of you in my prayers night and day" (2.Tim.1:2-3 KJV). See 1.Thes.3:10; 1.Tim.1:5-6.
Ask And It Shall Be Given
Matthew and Luke record the following promise about the granting of requests that is very difficult to understand and explain, because a casual reading of this promise seems to say that whatever a person requests from the Father will be given to them, but is that what this promise really says?:
"And I say to you, ask and It shall be given you: seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks is shall be opened to you" (Matt.7:7-8; Lk.11:9-10 Para.).
Here, Jesus reveals the keys that guarantee that the Father will fulfill this promise:
A person must request that the Father give them the things contained in this promise; they must ask for it.
A person must put forth the effort to seek out what is promised; they must seek and knock.
Immediately following the promise to give to those who ask, seek, and knock, both Matthew and Luke record Jesus' explanation of what will be given through this promise:
"Is there a father that will give his son a stone, when his son asks for bread? If a son shall ask bread of you who is a father, will you give him a stone? or if he asks for a fish, will his father give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will his father offer him a scorpion?" (Matt.7:9-10; Lk.11:11-12 Para.).
When asked for food, will a father who truly loves his child give them harmful things instead of the food that they need to sustain their life? Of course not! If it is within his power to do so, a loving father will give what is needed and more:
"If you being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit and good things to them that ask him" (Matt.7:11; Lk.11:13). See also Matt.7:7-8; Jn.14:4; 15:7; Lk.12:6-7, 23-31.
The Father is more than willing to give his children spiritual attributes, power, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, discernment, and many other gifts for their spiritual development and success. He wants to give us the spiritual nourishment and tools that we need to grow spiritually and do his will in our life. The Father knows what we need. Nevertheless, he requires us to show that we are serious about our calling and request what we need from him, and then make a sincere effort to perfect these things through study, meditation, and their application in our daily lives ask, seek, and knock:
"This is the confidence we have in making requests of the Father. If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us (hears whatever we ask), we know that he will give us what we request of him" (1.Jn.5:14-15 Para).
It is clearly the Father's will that his children proclaim his good news message, because this is one of the primary reasons that he sent the Creator God to earth to become the Messiah, and this is one of the commissions that Jesus Christ gave to his disciples before and after his death and resurrection. See Matt.28:19-20.
"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are opened to their prayers. . ." (1.Pet.3:12 KJV). See also Psa.34:15; Isa.66:2; Dan.10:12; Mk.11:24; Jn.16:24; Acts 10:1-4; Rom.12:12; Col.4:2; Rev.5:8; 8:3-4.
The Father always listens to the prayers of the righteous. The apostle James reveals the awesome power that can be unleashed through the fervent prayer of one righteous person who is serious about doing the will of God.
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit" (Jms.5:16-18 KJV).
Anyone who wants to help their brothers and sisters in the Faith and the collective work of the church can do so through requests to the Father. To do this, you need to set aside some time each day to request specific things of the Father. The following are a few of the things that you can request of the Father besides personal requests:
Physical and spiritual protection for your brothers and sisters in The Faith (Jn.17:9-15).
Physical and spiritual needs of your brothers and sisters in The Faith (1.Thes.1:1-3; Col 1:7-11).
Spiritual guidance, gifts, and inspiration for those who are performing the commission to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God as a witness and a warning (Matt.28:19-20).
Provide labors for the harvest of humanity (Matt.9:38).
There are obviously many other things that you can request of the Father that would benefit the Father's elect children and the collective work of the church; however, this list can help form a foundation upon which to build a larger list of things to request and for which to be grateful when your requests are granted.
Not only was it the responsibility of the Levitical priesthood to teach the ways of God but also to make people who were sinning aware that they were violating God's law, so they could repent and seek atonement in order have their sins covered and the barrier that they had placed between themselves and God by the violation of his law removed.
When one of the elect becomes aware that a brother or sister in the faith has committed or is committing a sin or is exhibiting behavior unbecoming a child of God that will cause them to lose their opportunity for salvation and eternal life, it is the responsibility of the one who has become aware of the sin to go to the one who is sinning and show them the error of their ways in an attempt to restore them to the faith and save them from eternal death:
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you that are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself ,lest you are tempted. Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal.6:1-2 KJV).
"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (Jms.5:19-20 KJV).
If a brother or sister in the faith is made aware of their sin and they acknowledge and repent of their error and reestablish a harmonious relationship with the Father and his Son, the one who made them aware of the sin has fulfilled their responsibility (their work) as a priest in the household of God and saved their brother or sister from eternal death.
The Works of Women
Since the demise of the early church and the advent of false oppressive teachings concerning the role of women in the church, most women within the Father's holy nation and royal family have been treated as second class citizens. This tragic situation has caused many women to feel that they have little opportunity to do personal works and contribute to the collective work of the church. However, from the number of accounts in the New Testament, it is clear that, during the evangelistic age of the early church, there were many dedicated women who did personal works of great value and made important contributions to the collective work of the church.
It is important to note that many spiritual gifts that can be given to the elect are mentioned without reference to gender and obviously can be used by either men or women in the performance of personal or collective works.
Paul mentions many women in his letters. His comments about some of these women shows that women had a significant role in serving the church membership and supporting its work and the work of the ministry. These accounts also show that both men and women worked together to accomplish the goals of the church and its ministry through their personal and collective efforts.
Notice that the daughters of Philip were mentioned as having the gift of prophecy in the same context as another prophet who brought a warning message for God to Paul.
"Paul's and his group went to Caesarea: and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and stayed with him. And Philip had four virgin daughters who foretold the future. And while were there many days, the prophet Agabus came to us from Judaea" (Acts 21:8-10 Para.).
Aquila and Priscilla
Aquila and Priscilla were a married couple who helped Paul in his ministry and allowed the church to meet in their home. It is interesting that the husband Aquila is mentioned first in Paul's letter to the Corinthians and Priscilla is mentioned first in his letter to the Romans, which may indicate special recognition for her service to the church:
"The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house" (1.Cor.16:19). See also Rom.16:3.
"I commend to you our sister Phebe who is a servant of the church at Cenchrea: Receive her in the Lord, as is worthy of saints, and assist her in whatever business she needs your help to do, because she has been my helper as well as helping many others" (Rom.16:1-2 Para).
Paul introduces Phebe as a prominent member of the church who should be received with the courtesy and respect due to a child of God. Paul had apparently sent her to Rome to accomplish some task for him and instructed the elect there to assist her in the things that she had to do. This account shows that some women in the church were trusted with responsibilities that would affect the church and its ministry.
Tabitha, Euodias, and Syntyche
The woman Tabitha who was raised from the dead by Peter was well known for her good works and the compassion that she had shown toward the poor (Acts 9:36-39).
Paul records that Euodias and Syntyche were two women who worked with him as he proclaimed the gospel. Paul does not say exactly what they did, but whatever they did, he considered them an integral part of his evangelistic team.(Phil.4:2-3).
The Work of a Widow
Paul's instruction to Timothy about how widows should be dealt with within the church reveals some important principles concerning the responsibilities of the elect toward their needy relatives as well as the personal good works that widows are expected to do:
1.Timothy 5:3-9 NIV
"Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion in to practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grand parents, for this is pleasing to God" (vs.3-4).
If a widow who has close relatives in the church is in need, her relatives must care for her needs because this is a good work that is pleasing to God.
"The widow who is really in need and left alone puts her hope in God, and continues night and day to pray and ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives" (vs.5-6). See also Lk.2:36-37.
Here, we see two types of widows described. One has her priorities correct and is seeking God's will in her life, and one is living for the pleasure of the moment and has forgotten her responsibilities before God.
"Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (vs.7-8).
Paul says that those who fail to fulfill their responsibility of doing the good work of providing for close relatives in need deny the faith and are worse than an unbeliever. Verse 16 tells us that, if a woman has relatives who are widows in the church and are truly in need, she must care for them rather than the church:
"If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need" (v16).
No widow should receive assistance from the church unless she is over a certain age and has done and is doing good works. Clearly, God expects elderly widows to make the doing of good works a priority in their life:
"No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds , such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds" (v9).
Elderly Women to Teach the Younger
"But speak you the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober minded, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Tit.2:1-5 KJV).
The responsibility of the elderly women to teach the younger women was very important in the early church, because this was a time when most women were denied a formal education and were mostly considered as property. However, within the church it was to be different. Women were to be treated as co-heirs and fellow-laborers in the faith. Therefore, there was a need for the older more experienced women to help the younger ones to develop this new freedom with discretion, modesty, and moral behavior in order to set an example of a godly woman to the society around them. Today, there is still a need for the older more experienced women to teach the younger women many things that come with life's experience and spiritual maturity. See our study about a woman's role in the church
Although the scriptures clearly show that the elect of God must have concern and compassion for all people and do good works for all people as opportunities present themselves and one's resources make it possible, the elect must not to make the performing of good works toward those outside the church an attempt to save or reform the world through their own efforts because this is the Father's prerogative (Jn.6:44;65). Jesus did miracles and good works as acts of compassion to relieve human suffering and to reveal the Father, his good news message of salvation, and his coming kingdom. Moreover, he did these miracles and good works as a witness of his great power and concern for people. These are also the same reasons that the elect should do good works among those of the world:
"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under a basket, but on a lamp-stand; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt 5:14-16 KJV). See also Phil 2:12-16.
Whether you are associated with a congregation of God's people or living without contact with others of like mind and spirit, all of the Father's children must do good works for him. Paul's instruction to the Ephesians shows that the performance of a work for the Father under the direction of Jesus Christ is to be a person's primary focus during their physical life on earth:
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:10 KJV). See also 1.Cor.3:6-11; Col.4:12; Eph.4:11-16; Rev.2:1-3.
Clearly, not everyone has exactly the same opportunities to do a work for the Father, nor does everyone have exactly the same talents, skills, and gifts of the spirit available to do a work; however, everyone is expected to be enthusiastic about doing good works. It is not a question of whether to do good works; rather, it is a question of what to do with the resources that you have available: "The Father's grace [Jesus Christ] that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, we should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live a sober, righteous, and godly life in this present world; Looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us, so that he might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify a special people for himself, who are zealous of good works" (Tit.2:11-14 KJV Para.).
When it comes to doing personal works, the work that should be your first priority is working out your salvation with the Father. To successfully work out your salvation with the Father, you must be consistent in communicating with him, in the study and meditation of his principles, precepts, and laws contained in his written word (2.Tim.3:16-17), and in the practice of a righteous lifestyle. When you make working out your salvation and their relationship with the Father your first priority, without exception, the result will be good works that benefit yourself, other people, and the collective work of the church. See Jn.4:35-38; Gal.5:16-26; 2.Tim.3:16-17.
Today, there is a general misconception that, in order to participate in the collective work of the church, one must belong to a local congregation of God's people. Although it can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience to associate with and worship with the Father's elect children, in the final analysis, your walk with the Father and Jesus Christ is an extremely personal and individual matter. The scriptures clearly show that a person who is seeking to please God the Father and Jesus Christ and obtain eternal life in the Kingdom of God can participate in the collective work of the church without having a physical association with others of like mind and spirit.
One should keep in mind that the Father's holy nation and family of ambassadors, kings, and priests on earth is a spiritual organism that is composed of those individuals who have his spirit dwelling within them regardless of their formal association with others of like mind and spirit. See our study about the Father's temples and ambassadors, kings, and priests today.
All the various works you do for the Father that are above and beyond working out your salvation are a part of the collective effort of the church to further the Father's work on earth of proclaiming his name, his good news message of salvation, and his soon coming kingdom and performing a witness of his way of life, which will bring peace, happiness, and prosperity if practiced.
Finding Good Works to Do
Unless a person is specifically given a work to do, such as those who are called to be prophets, teachers and witnesses during the end of this age by Jesus Christ, each of the Father's children must search out their own good works to do within the following three categories: personal works, the collective work of the church, and social works. The first place to begin his search is in the word of God:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works" (2.Tim.3:16-17 KJV).
Needs are everywhere and the person filled with God's spirit sees them and works on them. The person who is merely trying to act like a Christian will only see the obvious and do what will be noticed by others.
When one is prompted by faith and love, one does not have time to try to find good works to do because they are too busy taking care of all the opportunities already available, many of which go unnoticed by those around them.
Paul's comments to the Thessalonians and the Galatians concerning their efforts to do good works should be an encouragement to any of the elect today who are attempting to faithfully fulfill the Father's instructions to do good works for him.
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which has loved us, and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work" (2.Thes.2:14-17 KJV).
Paul's words of caution and encouragement to the Galatians about the works that you do as a member of the Father's holy nation and royal family on earth are as valid today as they were then:
"Don't be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, He will reap the same. He that sows to his flesh shall reap the corruption of the flesh; but he that sows to the spirit shall reap from the spirit everlasting life. And let's not get tired of doing good, because in due season we will reap, if we don't quit" (Gal.6:7-9 Para.).
Doing Good Works Plan Takes Planning Although unforeseen opportunities to do good works may come to you, these opportunities may be of short duration; therefore, in order to continue in good works will take a certain amount of planning. See 1.Cor.15:58; Tit.2:11-14.
The first thing you must do in order to form a plan is to make an analysis of your present physical and spiritual condition, your physical and spiritual skills talents, and the resources you have available with which to do works.
The second thing to do is to make list of the things that you can do with the resources you have available. Out of this list you should be able to find both short and long term works that you can do.
The second thing to do is to make list of the things that you would like to do, but do not have the physical or spiritual skills, talents, or resources available to do them. Out of this list choose the things which are feasible if you can through your own effort or with the help of others acquire the physical or spiritual skills talents, and resources to do these good works.
The third thing to do is carefully prioritize works according to your physical or spiritual skills talents, and resources and time available in which to do these works.
The fourth thing to do plan how to do the work(s) you have chosen to do and begin
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1.Cor.15:58 KJV). See also Tit.2:11.
Personal and Collective Works
The following is a list of things that are a part of performing personal work for the Father and Jesus Christ and participating in the collective work of the church:
If you are truly a member of the Father's holy nation and royal family, it is your responsibility to seek to do good works to develop righteous character and perform the task for which you were called to do during this age. The Father will not force you to perform the responsibilities to which you are called; however, if you do, the promise that the apostle Paul was inspired to record will apply to you:
"But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him" (1.Cor 2:9 KJV).
The Choice is yours.
By B.L. Cocherell