SHARPER THAN A SWORD

SERMONS

Hebrews 4:12-13 "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

All articles are written using the NKJV, unless otherwise noted! All articles are written by David Hicks, unless specified otherwise.

Christian's Collective & Individual Work

1 Corinthians 15:58   

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Being a Christian means more than just subscribing to a system of doctrine (though without the truth it is impossible to be a child of God – John 14:6 ; I John 2:3-6 ; II John 9 ). It means more than simply believing (theoretical religion is not enough! – John 3:19-21 ). It requires faith ( Romans 10:17 ), working in love ( Galatians 5:6 ).

Being a Christian is a way of life; which embodies every aspect and relationship in the life of a Christian (submission, obedience, conformity, and interaction with both brethren and those on the outside, as described in the opening verse!). This tells us that a Christian is not just a Christian when they gather together; but we eat, sleep, and live in the whole armor of God ( Ephesians 6:10 -20 ).

However, the scriptures describe two specific arenas that a Christian performs his or her service to the Lord. One, as an individual! This encompasses everything God has given a Christian to do. Second, is as a collective! This encompasses what the Christian has been given to do within the cooperative of the church, note as an example:

1 Corinthians 11:20 “Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together , as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Based on this understanding, we can now see clearly that there are two realms of service with separate and specific expectations.

 

The failure to understand this separation has led to many churches actively engaging in the work God has given individuals. Therefore, these churches have entered into things that have transformed them from the spiritual body of Christ, into earthly organizations. These transformations have caused the churches to resemble charities and corporations, rather than the house of the Lord and His eternal purpose in Christ ( Ephesians 3:10 -11 ; I Timothy 3:15 ).

 

So, how do we discern the two realms and the expectations in each? This will be the focus of this lesson! We will look at three specific realms of work (collective work, work that has application in both areas –specifically applied by scripture, and individual work).

 

 I. Collective Work.

Philippians 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”

In this statement by the Apostle Paul, in which he includes himself with the Christians of Philippi, we see that in the kingdom of Christ , we are each citizens. Just as we are citizens of this country universally and individually, there are certain duties of citizenship that we must perform collectively (paying taxes, voting, jury duties, etc…). Yet, individually, we are expected to be productive private citizens (jobs, family, social interactions, etc…).

This example adequately describes the Christian's citizenship in the kingdom of Christ ( Colossians 1:13 ).

Acts 2:42 “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship , in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

The earliest converts to the Gospel of Christ illustrated that there was an expectation for Christians to perform certain duties collectively. The concept of fellowship is a joint participation towards a common objective or aspiration. Although we fellowship with all saints in a universal objective, in this context it represents what these brethren did together locally (as a church).

 

Acts 20:7 “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”

Here is another example, where Luke distinguishes an act of worship that was only performed when the disciples came together (Paul adds to his description in I Corinthians 11:20 ).

 

1 Corinthians 16:2 “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

Here Paul commands the church at Corinth to lay by and store a collection for the needy saints in Judea (explained in more detail in II Corinthians 8-9 ). Why on the first day of the week? We have already discovered that it is then that they come together as a collective.

 

The scriptures provide an illustration of the work of the collective, not just in worship, but in proper order, ministry, and edification, note:

Ephesians 4:12 “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry , for the edifying of the body of Christ ,”

Here, within the description of the order that Christ established within His church, we find the true production of that order, as the work of the church.

The perfecting or equipping of the saints is the work of putting all the parts in proper order for the educating of Christians to correct living. The work of the ministry is the service rendered to the body of Christ (needy saints), both spiritually and physically. The edifying of the body, from the root word, means to plant or establish. The effective description is to enlarge the borders of the kingdom. So, collectively the work is very specific in worship, education, benevolence, and expansion.

How is it accomplished collectively?

Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body , joined and knit together by what every joint supplies , according to the effective working by which every part does its share , causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

 

Here we see that the individual's work transcends into the work of the collective in order to accomplish God's goals within the kingdom of Christ . This will bring us to the next point, in which we see that there are some duties of a Christian that are expectations of both the collective work and the individual work; applied to each realm as God has described in the word.

 

 II. Universal Duties for Collective and Individual Work.

In some work the individual Christian is to function both in his individual capacity and as a member of the church in doing God's will, yet applied in each venue, only as God has described.

 

In Acts 11& 18 , we see examples of individuals who went out apart from the collective and taught the Gospel (Christians scattered after persecutions went to Antioch and preached the word – Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately). As we have already seen in the work of the church (collective), it was to educate itself in proper Christian living. So, universally we are to teach (individually and collectively – I Peter 3:15 ).

 

Another area of universal duty exists in the area of benevolence. Using I Timothy 5:1-16 , as an example, there is the expectation that Christians are universally benevolent. However, what we learn from this text is that this benevolence is dispensed specifically in the area of the individual and the collective, note:

I Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own , and especially for those of his household , he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

I Timothy 5:16 “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened , that it may relieve those who are really widows.”

Here, we see the first responsibility is on the individual and is not placed on the church, unless the widow is described as a widow indeed ( Vs.5 –too old and without family), to then fall within the collective benevolent work. This is where many churches today, get themselves in trouble. They cannot discern the difference in the scriptural benevolence for needy saints provided by the collective ( Acts 2:45 ; 4:32 -37 ; 6:1-7 ; 11:27 -30 ; II Corinthians 8:14 ; 9:1 , 12 , etc…), and the individual's responsibilities.

For brevities sake, consider the nation of Israel , under the Old Law, as a shadow or type of the spiritual kingdom of Christ . The system of welfare that God designed for His children placed the responsibility for social ills square on the families and individual citizens (orphans; widows; poor; homeless; etc…). They never brought them to the temple and placed the responsibilities on the house of God! Nor was Christ's church designed to cure the ills of mankind, physically!

 

These are just a couple of examples where the work of a Christian has universal instructions for both collective and individual duties (discerned by the qualifications of scripture).

 

 III. Individual Work.

Here are some specific individual Christian duties that cannot be performed by the collective.

 

Economic Relationships:

A Christian must work and make a living for his family. He cannot dismiss this obligation and put it on the church ( II Thessalonians 3:10 ; I Timothy 5:8 ). The Christian individual is to engage in some sort of gainful occupation to provide for himself, those who have a right to depend on him, and in order to be able to give. However, the church cannot engage in economic enterprises or business, and is solely funded in a scriptural fashion, for it's prescribed work, as previously discussed, by it's membership .

 

Family Relationships: Although the church is designated to teach all of it's membership, the things that pertain to life and godliness; it is not the churches responsibility to raise a Christian's family or establish a godly home! Ephesians 6:1-4 ; Colossians 3:18-21 ; Titus 2: 1-10 ; I Peter 3:1-7 .

 

Civil Relationships: The individual Christian is subject to the civil government under which he is a citizen, but the church is not a political medium and has no relationship to the civil government. Romans 13:1-8 ; I Peter 2:13-17 .

 

Social Relationships: The Christian individual has obligations to his community, to the people with whom he works, among whom he lives, and with whom he associates, which is no part of the work of the Lord's church in any sense. Romans 12:18 ; I Corinthians 10:31-33 ; Galatians 6:10 ; Colossians 4:5 ; I Thessalonians 4:11-12 ; I Timothy 2:1 ; I Peter 2:12 ; I Peter 3:15 ; etc…

 

The church is the pillar and ground of truth ( I Timothy 3:15 )! With this in mind, it is this lessons design to teach us that there are many things that a Christian must do, in his individual relationships, living a Christian life, which the church cannot engage in! Was not designed to replace! And must not be burdened with!

 

There are many heart felt arguments about the good works that the church could be doing! It is true that many are indeed good works, however, as we have studied, they are the good works that we as individuals are assigned and not the church!

 

The church is God's eternal purpose in Christ ( Ephesians 3:10 -11 ), let's maintain it's foundations, as He designed it, and for His great purpose; the revelation of His wisdom for man's spiritual redemption!