Striving for Edification

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Paul had never met the Colossian Christians; he nevertheless sought to strengthen them in their faith and assurance in Jesus. Jesus is the treasure of all knowledge and wisdom; we have no need to look elsewhere.

Striving for Edification

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church; whereof I was made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which was given me to you-ward, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid for ages and generations: but now hath it been manifested to his saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ; whereunto I labor also, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

For I would have you know how greatly I strive for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden. This I say, that no one may delude you with persuasiveness of speech. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.

As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and builded up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 1:24-2:7).

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Striving for Edification
Paul's Letter to the Colossians

 
 
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The Glorious Christ

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Paul had never met the Colossian Christians but had heard good things about them and their faith. He wrote to encourage them to stand firm in their faith, for they had believed in the Gospel of the glorious Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God, who secured redemption for the whole cosmos.

The Glorious Christ

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ that are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have toward all the saints, because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which is come unto you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God in truth; even as ye learned of Epaphras our beloved fellow-servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins:

who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.

And you, being in time past alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him: if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister (Colossians 1:1-23)

The Glorious Christ
Paul's Letter to the Colossians

 
 
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Giving

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Ye yourselves know that these hands ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:34-35).

Paul’s recorded saying of Jesus is consistent with everything He taught and practiced; Christians are to be people who give. Why is giving so fundamental to Christianity? How has it become so countercultural?

Giving

Giving
Giving and Receiving

 
 
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What Is the Church?

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“Church” hasn’t enjoyed the best public relations recently. Many think they can do better without it. But what is the church, and what is its place in God’s purposes?

What Is the Church?
The Fundamentals

 
 
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ONE Another

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“Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me. And the glory which thou hast given me I have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that thou didst send me, and lovedst them, even as thou lovedst me” (John 17:20-23).

The actual substance and purpose of Jesus’ prayer before His Father for His followers was for their unity with one another. Salvation has never been merely about an individual and his or her God; God desires us to be reconciled to each other as well as to be reconciled in Him. We do well to work together in the Body of Christ!

ONE Another

ONE Another
The ONE Story

 
 
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Love the Brotherhood

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Peter speaks of Christians as in exile in 1 Peter. What does life look like as an exile? Its primary feature is love for one another, for we are the ones who are there for each other and who will endure.

Love the Brotherhood

Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently (1 Peter 1:22).

Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Peter 2:17).

Above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Love the Brotherhood
Sojourn and Exile

 
 
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Kingdom Refugees

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We hear often of the plight of refugees fleeing war, devastation, and disaster. Christians are to reckon themselves as Kingdom refugees while they endure this life. We do well to explore how we can glorify God as Kingdom refugees.

Kingdom Refugees

Kingdom Refugees
Sojourn and Exile

 
 
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Overcoming the Beast

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John is given a vision of what Christians will endure. Earthly powers empowered by the Evil One are strong and will make war on the saints. Christians can overcome the beast in faithfulness to God. What does it all mean?

Overcoming the Beast

And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:10-12).

And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that come off victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name, standing by the sea of glass, having harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvellous are thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the ages. Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy; for all the nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy righteous acts have been made manifest” (Revelation 15:2-4).

Overcoming the Beast
Sojourn and Exile

 
 
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Jeremiah’s Letter

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Jeremiah wrote to the Judahites already in exile. They were to settle down for a time while awaiting a latter restoration. We as Christians are in an exile; we do well to consider what Jeremiah has to say.

Jeremiah’s Letter

These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.

It said: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
“Because you have said, ‘The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,’ thus says the LORD concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the LORD, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the LORD.’

Hear the word of the LORD, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the LORD.'”

To Shemaiah of Nehelam you shall say: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, ‘The LORD has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to have charge in the house of the LORD over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and neck irons. Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you? For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “Your exile will be long; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce.”‘” Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, therefore thus says the LORD: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the LORD, for he has spoken rebellion against the LORD'” (Jeremiah 29:1-32).

Jeremiah’s Letter
Sojourn and Exile

 
 
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The Voice 5.07: February 15, 2015

posted in: The Voice | 0

The Voice

Individual Christians and the Local Church

The New Testament reveals that the most basic unit in Christianity is the individual Christian: a person who has believed in Jesus as Lord, has repented of sin, been baptized, and seeks to follow Jesus (Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9-10, 1 John 2:3-6). Individual Christians in the New Testament associate with fellow Christians in a given area so as to comprise a local church of God’s people (Acts 2:42-47, 9:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:18). What is the relationship between individual Christians and the local church?

We do well to first recognize that God intends for the individual Christian to be part of a local church. We do not find any examples in the New Testament of Christians faithfully serving God while not a part of a local congregation of believers. Through the preaching of the Gospel people came to a knowledge of the truth, they believed it, were baptized, and then began associating with other Christians in their local area as the local church (Romans 10:17, Acts 2:38-47). The connections among Christians are described in terms of a body, and the church is identified as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-28, Ephesians 1:22-23): to not be part of the body is to not be part of Christ! God is one in relational unity (John 17:20-23): as Christians we must reflect God’s unity both with Him and among ourselves. The concept of being “a Christian without the church” is foreign to the New Testament!

The local church consists of individual Christians. Throughout the New Testament the church is spoken of as the collective of the people of God, either in its singularity across time and place (the “universal” church, Ephesians 5:22-33), or in its expressions in specific areas and times (“local” churches, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:2). The church is described in terms of a body with different members (Romans 12:3-8), a household with God as Father and Christians as adopted brothers and sisters (Romans 8:11-15, 1 Timothy 3:15), or as a temple with individual Christians making up its edifice (1 Peter 2:3-9). In all of these illustrations the church is made up of its constituent members; if there are no Christians, there is no church!

Since individual Christians make up the local church, they must shoulder and support its work. In Greek the church is called an ekklesia, an assembly: what is an assembly that never assembles? And what kind of assembly exists that does not feature the assembling of its constituent members? Such is why the Hebrew author encourages Christians to not forsake the assembling of one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). The local church can only do the works of benevolence, evangelism, and edification if its individual members provide the necessary support to do so; this support ought to involve not only time and effort but money as well (1 Corinthians 9:1-15, 16:1-3, Ephesians 4:11-16).

The work and responsibilities of individual Christians goes well beyond the work of the local church as a collective. Individual Christians must manifest the fruit of the Spirit while avoiding the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-23). Individual Christians are to reflect the light of God in Christ, seeking to do good to all people, especially those of the household of faith (Matthew 5:13-16, Galatians 2:10, 6:10). These efforts reflect upon the local church: just as each part of the human body has its own independent function yet also works with other parts of the body (e.g. the hand grasps but at the direction of the head and in concert with other parts of the body), so individual Christians serve the Lord in their individual lives independently, in concert with other believers, and at times to strengthen and encourage other believers (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28). When individual Christians encourage one another they are building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). Thus it can be said that individual Christians are working in the local church and on behalf of the local church through their service to fellow Christians and to those in the world; this is the only way it can be said that “the church” is faithful, or righteous, or reflecting the will of its Lord, when its individual constituent members are doing so!

The New Testament does make distinctions between the local church and its individual constituent members in terms of responsibilities, roles, and some instances of collective function. Local churches are to be shepherded by qualified men; the individual members should be in subjection to them (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:1-4). Paul lays down the principle in 1 Timothy 5:16 that individual Christians should provide for widows in their extended families so that the church can support widows indeed; in so doing Paul places the primary responsibility for supporting people on individuals and expects the church to provide continual support only as a means of last resort. We can see that individual Christians are not relieved of the obligations to provide benevolence, to promote and support evangelism, or to be active in encouraging and edifying fellow Christians because the church has also been given those works to do; if anything, Christians are to be all the more diligent in such efforts!

A local church is made up of individual Christians. Individual Christians have responsibilities toward their fellow members of the body of Christ but are also expected to serve and work for the glory of God in Christ in their individual lives. Individuals may make up the church, but it cannot be said that whatever individuals can do the church can do; they are not synonymous. Let us serve the Lord Jesus as Christians, building up the local body of Christ while doing good to all!

Ethan R. Longhenry