Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ A Strong Church in a Savage World

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.[1]

          “Therefore.” While this “therefore” directly follows Paul’s teaching on the certainty of the resurrection, it also concludes the teaching section of this second letter to the Corinthians. It presents us with a wonderful expression of expectation. On one side is a letter filled with teaching on living to the glory of God, complete with Paul’s amazing defense of his ministry, and affirmations of truth that will carry the Church through the last hour. On the other side is the expectation that we are going to do something with what we have been taught.

          With that in mind, this “therefore” is a call to a conclusion that is more than just mental agreement with what Paul said. The application of II Corinthians, and all of the New Testament Scriptures, is to do something to us. The Church is sent out into the world to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching these baptized disciples to obey everything Jesus has commanded.[2]

          Paul has just given the Church some wonderful teachings, some careful explanations, some strong clarifications, and some relentless exhortations, for us to keep busy doing the work of the kingdom no matter what kind of false apostles or false teachings speak against us. There is a “therefore” filled with both hope and accountability. We are the Church, so don’t let anyone, or anything, restrict us in our affections, our first love, or anything else that is God’s work in our hearts. Instead, go out and live the life we have been given, living worthy of the high calling of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.[3]

          “My beloved brothers.” The Church is a brotherhood.[4] All believers are sons of God.[5] We are knit together with the bond of love.[6] As the beloved sons of God, we seek to live worthy of our calling[7] by imitating God in his love for us, living a life of love that is an expression of the love Jesus Christ has for us.[8] All who have received the gospel of grace through repentance of sin, and faith in Jesus Christ, are the beloved sons of God the Father, the beloved brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ,[9] and a brotherhood of love to one another.

          “Be steadfast.” This draws us to a personal resolve to endure until the end.[10] It is our own personal determination to continue on the narrow way that leads to heaven.[11] Like Paul, we want our lives to be characterized by “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.[12]We have determined that we will “run with endurance the race that is set before us”.[13]

          “Be… immovable.” While “steadfast” directs us to the inner resolve of the believer, choosing to endure until the end,[14] being immovable speaks of the same quality in relation to outer opposition. Things will happen to us that are aimed at dissuading and discouraging us from continuing until the end. Our response is to be immovable, unshaken, unimpressed with the red dragon’s plethora of snares and traps.[15]

          Even when we fall into a sin, or find that the evil one has snared us with something that surprised us, or that we got stuck in a trap that caught us unawares, the steadfast heart immediately flees to the cross of Jesus Christ in an immovable, unshakable certainty that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin,[16] and so we cling to Christ our Savior as we pursue the narrow road to heaven.[17]

          “Always abounding in the work of the Lord.” I love the progression. The “therefore” directs us to all the teachings Paul has given. The “beloved brothers” reminds us of who we are as we respond to Paul’s teaching. The “steadfast” tells us how we are in relation to inner pressures, and the “immovable” tells us how we are in relation to outer pressures. Now that we are the beloved sons of God, standing firm in every way, we are to get about the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.[18]

          And, in Paul’s usual clarity, he does not merely want us doing the work of the Lord, but “abounding” in the work of the Lord. Our hearts should immediately agree with God in this, that we want our work for him to abound. We want to bear “much fruit” to our Father’s glory.[19]

          “Knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Notice the condition of “in the Lord”. Jesus said there would be many who would stand before him in the judgment and argue that they had done many amazing acts of ministry in his name and yet find themselves on the wrong side of his throne.[20] He was making the point that people could do many things, even signs and wonders, and still not be doing the will of the Father.

          Paul wants Jesus’ Church to know that, whatever we do to abound in the work of the Lord, when done “in the Lord”, will not be in vain. It will not be empty, or unproductive, even when everything in life claims it is so. There will always be false teachers, false gospels, false signs and wonders.[21] There will always be people deceiving and being deceived.[22] The red dragon will always look like he is on the verge of devouring the woman and her offspring.[23] There will be seasons of opposition to the church that look like every Christian we know has either fallen away or been thrown to the lions.

          The reason we are to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” is because we “know” that the labor we do in the Lord can never be in vain. While doing anything apart from Christ amounts to nothing,[24] doing anything in Christ will be richly rewarded on the day that Jesus comes.[25]

          While the epistles to the churches band together to teach us the truth, providing us with the hearing of the words of Christ that give us faith,[26] the book of Revelation is like the grand “therefore” of Scripture, calling us to stand firm in the Lord Jesus Christ no matter what beasts, and antichrists, and demonic minions fill the earth during this last hour. We can go out “conquering, and to conquer”[27] in Jesus’ name, because “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,”[28]and “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.[29]

          With that in mind, be strong, and serve Jesus until he comes.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I Corinthians 15:58
[2] Matthew 28:18-20
[3] Ephesians 4:1; II Thessalonians 1:11; Philippians 1:27
[4] I Peter 2:17; 5:9
[5] Galatians 3:25-29
[6] Colossians 2:2
[7] Ephesians 4:1
[8] Ephesians 5:1-2
[9] Hebrews 2:11
[10] Mark 13:13; I Corinthians 13:7; II Timothy 2:10,12
[11] Matthew 7:13-14
[12] Philippians 3:13-14
[13] Hebrews 12:1-3
[14] Matthew 24:13
[15] Ephesians 6:10-20 shows the church putting on the whole armor of God in order to stand firm against everything the evil one sends against us. Revelation 12 gives us a picture of the red dragon’s attacks on the church, and God’s providence and protection in keeping his people firm until the end.
[16] I John 1:7
[17] I John 1:9; 2:1-2
[18] Ephesians 2:10
[19] John 15:8
[20] Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:33 (31-46)
[21] Matthew 24
[22] II Timothy 3:13
[23] Revelation 12
[24] John 15:5
[25] Hebrews 11:6; II John 1:8; Revelation 11:8; Philippians 3:14
[26] Romans 10:17
[27] Revelation 6:1-2
[28] I John 4:4
[29] I John 5:4

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