Many things in this world can easily hinder the believer’s walk with the Lord. Feelings of inadequacy can play very big into this. Many in the body of Christ have the common habit of comparing themselves to others (something we should never do) to see how they measure up in worth, value, potential, and usefulness. Much of this is due to a misunderstanding of their own identity in Jesus Christ. This misjudgment most likely stems from a failure to understand their place and purpose in God’s family.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
2 Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.
Many people like to stress how we are all equally important compared to one another. But although the point of the same value, importance, and usefulness is spoken of and credited to every believer, many born-again Christians only talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. That is a big problem with our current church era of Laodicea, which puts so much stock on the things of this world, and praises the well-known, famous, educated, and “seemingly” “more godly” individuals of our day. But we must remember that man’s view of things does not compare to the perfect perspective of our awesome Creator. Unlike man, God has complete knowledge of every believer. It is God’s standards that matter.
This study aims to assure the believer of their worth and value before Jesus Christ and relieve them of the world’s misguided mindset. As Christians, our purpose and value are in Christ, not on man’s criteria of evaluating things.
All believers are equal, regardless of education, intelligence, spiritual gifts, ministries, status, popularity, etc. But as mentioned previously, the behavior of so many goes against what they preach. In addition to this, my impression is that few have taken the time to examine this critical topic more closely and in a more detailed fashion. Why this is the case is no doubt partially because of the misguided thinking, standards, and behaviors of so many lukewarm believers comprising the bulk of today’s church (Revelation 3:14-22). Believers can solve the problem of dubbing others’ worth and usefulness by man’s standards by an ever-increasing zeal to grow up spiritually in Jesus Christ. That way, our perspectives, standards, treatment, and behavior of others would change drastically.
But there is an unhelpful thinking pattern circulating within the church that discourages its members’ growth and service. Some include the idea that one has to be very educated, intelligent, etc., to serve the Lord properly. A fine example of this is the all too common view of ministry in our day and age. This bad habit of limiting legitimate Christian service (or just ministry overall) to specific ministries with specific “qualifications” and “preparations” to harm other legitimate ministries requiring different preparations and spiritual gifts is all too common today. Since our identity is in Christ, how shameful it is to sweep under the carpet the work of another member of His flock who goes about preparing for and serving in ministry outside of the accepted “ways of doing things.”
There are no limits to what a believer can accomplish for the Lord. Yes, some gifts are of a higher authority; to this, there is no doubt. Elders (pastors/teachers in our time today) are deserving of double honor because of all the extra work they have to put in to carry out their ministries effectively (1 Timothy 5:17). But this does not mean they will be more rewarded in the heavenly kingdom for those reasons alone. How much a believer receives from Christ in eternity depends on how much they loved Him in their lifetime by using their free will to the very best degree to grow in and serve their Master. Even the most unintelligent person who comes to Christ could be the highest rewarded believer, with their name emblazoned on the heavenly kingdom for all eternity. The question that remains for those thinking these matters over is, “how much do they love God by wanting all that He has to give them?”
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
We believers only have one shot at this life to make the most of it for the Lord, and Jesus Christ is what this life is all about, a subject we will discuss in greater detail below. This paper aims to examine the believer’s worth and value in their Savior’s eyes. This topic is essential because lies leave individuals (who feel they do not meet the criteria that lead to “true success”) feeling inadequate and insignificant, resulting in spiritual harm to themselves.
Our value is not in our abilities, nor are we defined by them. Our true identity is in Christ Jesus, who graciously puts no limits on us for what we can accomplish for Him. Eternity is what matters, and it is to that that we look forward. Our treasures lie in the eternal kingdom. No matter how great the secular accomplishments here on earth, only what’s done for Christ will last. No person created themself, so no one can claim to have given themselves their talents, gifts, and abilities. Every capability possessed by man was granted to him by God. That means that there is no boasting. Although people can further develop their specific skills (they couldn’t further develop them without God’s help), it is always the case that some people are simply better and more apt at certain things. That is not because they made themselves that way, but because God designed them as He did. By taking credit for ourselves, we rob God of His glory and practically make gods of ourselves as if we were somehow capable of something only God can do.
This examination aims to see these aspects of secular and spiritual life as they truly are. In our lukewarm era of Laodicea, which emphasizes education and careers, we will say that those things, as important as they may be, should not be treated as just as important as our relationship with the Lord. The goal here is one of emphasis for the sake of priority. However rich or poor, skilled or unskilled, educated or uneducated - nothing in this life should come before God. Nothing comes close to comparing to who He is. God alone is the Judge and the One who defines every individual believer as equal in His eyes. And as we shall see later in this study, the Lord is also the One who determines the quality of our work done for Him. So let us strive to keep the fleeting things of this world in their proper place.
1. The Believer’s Priorities
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This life we live is all about Jesus Christ, and He should always be our number one priority at all times. He is the very reason we have been put on this earth, for us to choose for or against Him. Whether a person accepts Him or not, God gets the glory either way.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
After salvation, we are here to grow spiritually and serve the Lord as He wants us to. It is ok to enjoy certain things in this world to a degree. You take sports, for example. There is most certainly nothing wrong with watching any, just as long as they do not dominate our thinking in any way. The same thing applies to everything else in life—all things in moderation. We must keep worldly things in perspective so as not to lose focus on what truly matters. Jesus is all that matters in the end, for all angelic and human history revolve around Him. The Lord did not need to create any angel or human being, but He did so for His glory so that those whom He made would spend a marvelous eternity with Him praising Him forever in everlasting bliss. His desire is for us to cooperate with His plan of salvation for our eternal benefit and reward.
Although they were first innocent, Adam and Eve sinned, resulting in man’s fall. This sin resulted in a price having to be paid to cover the sins of the fallen human race. And so Christ demonstrated His love toward us by sending His One and only precious Son to die on the cross to pay for those same sins, all of them, past, present, and future.
11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
For those who have chosen the Lord by committing to Him through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, they should live this life as if they belong to the One we profess. Sin will only keep us out of fellowship with our Savior, and that is because God can have nothing to do with it whatsoever. So when we sin, we are temporarily unclean, unfit for our Lord to be in fellowship with us. A believer must confess their sins, and the Lord will then bring them back into fellowship. That is why in the Old Testament, there are the passages throughout that speak on keeping away from unclean things (Leviticus 11:1-47 as just one example), not that these specific things were unclean unto themselves, of course. The polluted things represented sin that the people avoided, demonstrating faith, commitment, and obedience to the Lord. If a person was to go near and touch these things, representing a sin committed in disobedience, they were considered unclean. They sometimes had to be isolated, undergoing a cleansing ritual before coming back to the community. This isolation represented being out of fellowship with God and other believers. Touching unclean things and being unclean showed how sin temporarily puts the believer out of harmony with Christ, not losing salvation.
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
We all have to work and earn money for ourselves to some extent in life, no doubting that. The act of working in a career is and can be profitable to some degree, but it can cause us to become spiritually unclean to the extent that we allow it to takes over our lives and cause us to put God in second place. There can be no compromise here, for either God is our everything, or He is not. Money is simply a tool to take care of our basic everyday needs, nothing more. All of these things can become stumbling blocks if we don’t put them in their proper place.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
We were not put on this earth to fully participate by overly involving ourselves in secondary matters. Those things do have their place in the believer’s life, but they should not come before God. Far too many believers today prioritize and overemphasize the importance of worldly things as if they somehow compare to Christ in value. But one cannot say they love God more than life itself while living as if they didn’t. A person who loves the Lord as they should will not only speak it but will live it out, and that means foregoing whatever necessary to please their Master.
To give certain things up to live our best for the Lord, these types of decisions are often the hardest for most people to make. It is often the case that when we become rich in material wealth, we have a more difficult time letting go of those things (if need be) to serve the Lord. That is why Jesus said that it is difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven because riches swamp men’s hearts. However, this fact doesn’t mean a believer should go out and give away everything they have, nor is it wrong to be rich. The principle we discuss here has to do with how we handle wealth. We cannot let money and possessions lead us into idolatry. Even for believers who have put their faith and trust in Christ, worldly riches can lead to complete spiritual ruin if they mishandle them.
For example, we take so much care of our finances, but do we take good care of our relationship with God? What about our spiritual gifts and ministries? As important as work and finances are, God should be most important in the hearts and minds of all those who claim faith in Him. There are already enough dangers with mishandling our business matters in whatever secular area of life you can think of, but how many more risks can there be if we don’t take care of our relationship with the Lord!
23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Christ died for our sins so that we might have eternal life. The Lord wants our very best, not some or half of our efforts. It is insulting to God to take hold of His salvation that He suffered so much to give us, only to fail to make the most of it. Most Christians today don’t make much of the opportunities and potential available to them because they would rather please themselves than the One who created them.
Christ suffered for all of His life, speaking of all thirty-three years He walked the earth. Long before the cross, our Savior was enduring a gauntlet of trials, tribulations, temptations, and difficulties. Think about it. As mere human beings infested with a sinful nature, we can’t even go a single day without committing at least one sin. And yet, our Savior stood the test of everyday life for His entire time on earth without making a single mistake. We can scarcely imagine the amount of suffering He went through, let alone contemplate (Isaiah 53). But it is something we should think about nonetheless to keep ourselves sober in Spirit. Most don’t appreciate their salvation because the majority in the church think very little about who their God is, what He did for them, and what He will do. They have put God’s purpose for them out of their minds because they have other pursuits in life that are more important. That is the sad state of the church today.
To further discuss and emphasize this issue, we can use other people as an example to further reinforce the truth that God should come first before everything else. The Lord tells us through Paul that without love, we are nothing. Our Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. But how does this relate to our love for God? Matthew 22:37 answers that question when it tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. That is the first and greatest commandment. The second greatest commandment is for us to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. The order of importance couldn’t be any more clear than that. Our love for people does not come before our love for God. When we came to Christ at salvation, we put our faith in Him and Him alone. We committed ourselves to Him and no one else. We did not surrender ourselves to an imperfect human being but to the Lord of all creation who saved us from a most terrible fate through His matchless grace.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
There is a distinction here, however. Just because we follow the Lord does not mean we do not submit to a good Bible teaching ministry. Though we study the Word independently with the Spirit guiding us, one of the best ways we learn and grow in the Word is through good, sound Bible teaching from a trusted source. If the Lord leads us to a particular individual, then to that person we should listen to through whom the Lord speaks.
10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
But the point of emphasis brought up here is not to put people on the same level of authority as God Himself. And it is not just people we look up to whom we have to be careful not to commit to in a wrong way, but also those we are closest to, perhaps friends, family, and relatives. That is a big one, and we must realize that casting our lot in with another person just because they are a family member or close friend is not walking in faithful obedience if doing so is not what the Lord wants us to do. It is putting man before God as if one’s allegiance was to another human being. People will fail us, and we see this in many instances throughout history. Even the people we thought would never do something terrible (whatever it is they may have done) can come to surprise us later on.
5 This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
26 Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
On the other hand, suppose we are doing what the Lord wants us to do. In that case, we need not worry about the misplaced and misguided views of other people whose limited and imperfect knowledge of us comes nowhere close in comparison to God’s all-knowing omniscience. God knows our hearts and situations better than anyone in this world, and if we are incorrectly doing something, He will reveal that to us one way or another. How the Lord brings about the answers can occur in multiple ways, whether through prayer, reading the Bible on our own, or through our Lord leading us to another mature believer prepared to answer our questions.
Our passage in Matthew above tells us that our Lord came to bring a sword. Those verses don’t mean that Jesus desired to see most people reject the good news of the gospel (2 Peter 3:9-10), but it was this very truth that would divide or cut between those who would accept it and those who wouldn’t. And this not only applies to unbelievers, but it can apply to believers who are not all that interested in growing in the truth.
Truth divides and separates people. Those who love it will slowly but surely find themselves distanced from those who don’t, whether believer or unbeliever. Fellowship does not come before the Lord, which is the all too common misconception among believers today. The idea is that keeping fellowship with other Christians regardless of their attitude toward God is something we should do. But that is “going with the flow,” not necessarily in the direction the Lord wants us to be heading. The whole purpose of fellowship and assembly in the church is to hear the Word taught seriously (and for encouragement and edification). The believer’s job is to use that truth in their toward others members of the body of Christ (or unbelievers if involved in evangelization). If a group or congregation of church-going believers is not helping but rather hindering a believer’s growth, progress, and production, it would be wise for said person to withdraw from such fellowship. Now, this doesn’t mean that we can’t retain past relationships with others believers to some degree. However, we can expect our relationship with those people to dwindle over time as long as they stay the same.
17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
Finding a good group of believers to benefit from is difficult. Believers are stronger when they are together, but only if those other Christians are genuinely helping each other by doing what they should. The believer is encouraged to find a place where they can grow spiritually. Unfortunately, such places are rare, and since most churches today are doing more harm than good, the believer has few options. But the Lord will not allow any of His children to starve to death, for God will lead said person to a solid ministry with believers who are advancing as they should. Whether this source of fellowship is online or in person, what matters is that we are in touch with other mature believers who can help us grow spiritually. Iron sharpens iron, for one piece of iron cannot sharpen itself. Though a believer may have to go through a period of isolation for an extended period of their life, it will not stay that way. That is what an individual who has chosen to put the Word of God first in their lives can expect, especially in the days we live in now. But let us remember Elijah’s circumstances (1 Kings 19:1-18). He was one of the very few among the faithful who remained in all of Israel. Yet, despite his thinking that he was alone, he was not, for God was with Him. Also, the Lord had preserved a remnant of other faithful believers like Elijah to help bring Israel back to God.
The passage below describes unbelievers who have forsaken the Lord. Lukewarm believers belong to Christ, so we are not comparing marginal believers to unbelievers. A believer is still a believer. The point is that since most Christians today don’t take the truth seriously, those among the remnant who do may feel as if they are alone since they are the minority. But such is not the case. The Lord will never fail to bring other serious believers to each other, even if they have to wait a while for that to happen.
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
There will be many times when we will feel alone, forsaken, and abandoned. But rest assured, God is with us! He will never leave His own. The Lord will lead the believer who seeks His truth to a spiritual oasis. How and where He decides to do this should not cause us to worry, for the Lord is seeking our very best. He will bring qualified men and other mature and advancing believers into our lives if we would but just wait on His timing. Patience is what is needed.
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Truth divides people. It separates believers from unbelievers, and it also distances various believers from one another, the red hot from the lukewarm. If the church is self-destructing, then attending such a place would be a very unwise decision. If a church is stagnant, as most today are, and only growing worse with each passing day, leaving the church may be the better option. For those who do put the truth first,” they shouldn’t expect hardly anyone to understand. They may even face opposition for the decision they have made, even if those who oppose them have good intentions. Such are the difficult times we live in today. But now, more than ever before is the time to care more about what God thinks and less about man’s opinion. We must serve the Lord as much as possible, and we have to do whatever is necessary to do that, despite what other people may think. Though our lukewarm brothers and sisters in Christ should be in our prayers, we do not compromise our mission to appease them as if we serve man and not God. It doesn’t matter how close we may be to our friends, family members, or spouse. Jesus comes first. And if we don’t put Him at the top, how can we ever help those who don’t take their walk seriously? They are not our enemies but our family members in Christ, and it is to them that we will direct much of our ministry.
Unbelievers are another problem growing Christians face, not just lukewarm believers within their ranks. All the unbelievers in Noah’s day no doubt thought he was crazy for spending so many years of labor building an ark to prepare for the flood that was to come. He was undoubtedly mocked and made fun of, yet he continued to walk in faith by obeying the Lord to complete his assigned task. He did not care about others’ opinions but just kept working as the Lord had commanded him. If the Lord Jesus is the only true God in our lives, this will show how we prioritize everything else.
7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
3 Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Where do other people fit into the believer’s life?” Our verse commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We should love everyone regardless of whether they are saved or not. It says that we are to consider others as more important than ourselves throughout the Bible and do unto others as we would have them do unto us, Matthew 7:12. However, it should already be known that no believer is better or more important than another. But how does one strike a balance between loving oneself and loving others, especially in light of Ephesians 5:29? We will attempt to untangle the common misconceptions that people often get about these critical passages of Scripture.
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church
Treating others as more important in this case does not mean that they are better. Equality is in mind here because the message has to do with the importance and value of another. Of course, you may be thinking, “but believers are generally to have a greater love for other believers than they do for unbelievers,” for the passage below shows the order of importance.
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
The passage above does not say that believers have greater worth and value than unbelievers. However, our love for our spiritual family members should come first before those of the unbelieving world, even though believers are no better than anyone else. The point is that if we can’t learn to love even our brothers and sisters in Christ, who we will spend eternity with, then how can we expect to love all men?
We usually have a special love reserved in our hearts for those we are closest to, such as best friends and family members. A believer’s love for a person outside of God’s family will not be as great because they are not as close to that individual due to their spiritually dead status. We have stronger affectionate feelings for those with whom we share a common faith. Our brothers and sisters in Christ should be our first priority, and once we have learned to love them as we should, we will be able to love all people as a result. We demonstrate a lack of love and faith in God by failing to love everyone, whether a spiritual family member or not.
But, indeed, all believers fall short of perfection. There is no doubt that every believer has not loved others as they should, resulting in the need to confess and get back right with the Lord, something that all truly committed believers will do. But to the person who continually hates in his heart, something is wrong. Since we have Christ’s love dwelling within ourselves, a love for others should be present and growing with time.
8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Every believer sins, of course, and we all fail from time to time. Thankfully, Christ’s blood covers all our sins past, present, and future.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
Our discussion’s main thrust is how our love for ourselves relates to our love for all people, regardless of spiritual status. Loving others does not mean we compromise our spiritual safety by putting them before the truth. It does not mean we accommodate the desires of those less serious about Scripture. We help those who need it and give when it is appropriate to do so. We do not help out of misplaced guilt or pressure, for that is not helping from a loving heart (2 Corinthians 9:6-9).
Also crucial to this discussion is the often common mistake of putting others first to harm ourselves in the process. It is not only right, but it is biblical to make sure that we are standing on good ground with our Savior. For how can we expect to help others grow spiritually if our relationship with the Lord is suffering?
So we know what loving others doesn’t mean. So then, what does it mean since no person is more important than another? It means that we are to go the extra mile in demonstrating our love toward others by putting them first in ways pleasing to God without compromising or damaging ourselves spiritually.
For example, Christ came to serve during His time on earth, not to be served. Scripture tells us the greatest are those with humble and servant-like behavior toward others. Think about that for a moment. Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and yet He lowered Himself for our sake to save us. That is how we are to be toward other believers, maintaining a sacrificial lifestyle that helps benefit other people in one way or another. Instead of being selfish, we allow others to take what we may have wanted. Instead of taking, we give.
25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
To sum up, the only way to put others first is to put God first. By doing things the Lord’s way, we allow His Spirit to work in and through us to produce all things good and acceptable in His sight, including loving others and treating them in a godly manner. Christ’s love within the individual allows them to love every person as they should.
Believers cannot live the Christian life in the power of their flesh but can only do so if they allow the Holy Spirit to control and guide them in their lives. That requires faithful obedience to Christ. We rely on Him and His power to change our behavior inside out. Though we choose to submit to God with our own free will, it is the Spirit who empowers those decisions and turns them into a reality. If we love God by allowing Him to change us from within (Philippians 2:12-13), this will produce an outward change of behavior toward others.
Before we end this section of our study, it is good to look at an example of putting another person before ourselves. The best example of this is laying one’s own life down for another believer. Scripture tells us that there is no greater love than that a man lays down his life for his friend (John 15:13). That is the ultimate sacrifice, and it should remind us of what Christ did for us by dying on the cross. That is the best way of acting out one’s love for another brother or sister because it demonstrates valuing another person’s life more than one’s own. We will see many examples of this during the tribulation when the antichrist seeks to destroy all those who refuse his mark. There will be many chances for believers to give themselves over to save the physical life of another family member in Christ, but if death shall befall them both, then that is because it was in the Lord’s will to happen. A believer who truly loves his family members in Christ will not betray them to save his own life from physical death. Instead, he would rather choose martyrdom than hand in the one with whom he shares a common faith. Just as Christ laid down His life for us (John 10:11-18), believers must do the same for other believers if the opportunity requires it.
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
As we have already taken the time to explain above, other people do not come before the Lord. Jesus should be number one in our lives at all times, with that same love for Him translating into love for others, serving them, and looking out for their best interests before our own, hence the meaning of treating others as more important than ourselves. But loving God will also translate into handling with proper care our other responsibilities as well (including our own spiritual health). Examples of this would be jobs, physical health, finances, food, clothing, housing, chores, etc. These are things that a believer is to handle in a godly way. But if we don’t care for our spiritual wellbeing as we should, can we really say we care for others (especially our brothers and sisters in Christ) as much as God wants us to?
And although our jobs and finances (as but only two examples) may not be as important as our spiritual growth and ministry, how we handle those things can be significant indicators of how well we take care of our walk with the Lord. Basic responsibilities, such as work, will open up avenues to further demonstrate our love for God because other people (perhaps customers and fellow employees) will be watching our behavior in how we conduct ourselves. The more we grow spiritually, the more responsible we will become. The Lord commands us to be good stewards with all that we have and be diligent workers in all that we do. If we take care of our relationship with the Lord, striving to walk in the Spirit at all times, then our handling of all these other things will speak for themselves in a godly manner. A good walk and relationship with the Lord (which has to be present for the individual’s love for God and others to continuously increase) will cover every other aspect of the life we have to live, which makes for an excellent testimony to others. If we change from within, we will change outwardly, translating even into everyday affairs.
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
Being poor and living in poor conditions may be something out of the believer’s control to clear any possible confusion (that doesn’t mean they are irresponsible or don’t take care of their finances). Indeed, some of our greatest believers are very poor, and many cannot afford the best healthcare, food, or living conditions. And yet, what matters is the spiritual riches they have in their hearts. It’s one thing if certain things are out of a person’s control; it’s a different matter when a person has the means and resources to take better care of themselves and what they own but refuse to do so.
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
Nevertheless, the truth remains that God will often allow many believers to go on in life with very little, but that for their testing to strengthen their faith. God will take care of us regardless of what we do or do not have. Whether we have a little or a lot, whether rich or poor, God wants us to handle everything responsibly. It is not the circumstances that matter, but how we handle them. It is all about the choices we make in life that will determine the quality of our relationship with the Lord.
11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
It is false and dangerous to teach that financial success equates to spiritual success. Some of the greatest believers now and in years past have been very poor. Of course, we know this. In this part of our study, we have stressed that we need to take care of life’s necessities in a godly way, just as long as we do not prioritize them before our relationship with the Lord. It’s all about attitude. Someone very poor could easily be more responsible than some of the wealthiest people out there. And yet, the Lord allows them to be poor regardless, most likely as a way to test and grow them. Being unwealthy can be a blessing because we have to rely more on God and less on ourselves. Additionally, it also means less worry and distraction.
9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
At the same time, however, being irresponsible in what we do and with what we have can often result in unnecessary poverty. It can also be the Lord’s way of disciplining an individual believer for doing wrong. Once again, whether we are rich or poor, the Lord wants us to be responsible in everything we think, say, and do regardless of the circumstances. He wants us to take care of ourselves to the degree that our circumstances allow and to demonstrate godliness in all aspects of life.
4 He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
2. How God Views Value and Success
2.1 Spiritual Gifts
Every believer has a role to play in Christ’s church, and not one person is any less important than another. All who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ have received a spiritual gift(s) to use for building up Christ’s church. And I believe that a person can have more than one. The Lord does not limit every person to one gift per se but endows many believers with multiple ways for them to minister. Some believers may have various gifts while others only have one, but this does not make them any more or less effective.
So even if a person has only one gift and one ministry, that does not excuse them from occasionally doing other work when needed, and such moments will occur for every believer!
For example, just because one person has the gift of teaching does not mean the Lord excuses them from evangelizing. Though their primary service to others is teaching them the Word of God, sharing the gospel is something every believer should do if the Lord is convicting them to do so at whatever moment. In the case of someone called to teach, they don’t go looking for people to share the gospel with (aka evangelizing) because that is not the ministry the Lord wants them to pursue (assuming teaching is their only gift and calling). They have to put more time and energy into preparing their teachings and then divvying it out to those willing to listen. But that same teacher is expected to witness when the opportunity presents itself. A random person may want to know more about the Lord, for example, and it is up to every believer to graciously offer them God’s gift of salvation regardless of their calling.
Some evangelists will need to do a little bit of teaching to those they witness to use another example. All believers will have to enlighten their listeners with the truth of Scripture to some degree or another. And to use teachers again, although teaching is their primary responsibility, they will have to engage in apologetics to some degree at some points. The purpose is to defend the truth they teach.
Also, there are many spiritual gifts in the body of Christ not limited to what so many within the church have reduced them to. To help elaborate on this, we will discuss the following passage below.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Although Scripture mentions only a few spiritual gifts, these are not all there are. There are gifts within gifts or different flavors or types. For example, teaching is not limited to one particular style or approach but has many different styles and topics. No two teachers are entirely alike, and there will always be various types of teaching ministries not restricted to a one size fits all. As long as they teach the truth seriously and correctly, that is all that matters.
Giving and helping are two other spiritual gifts, just to name examples. There are so many spiritual gifts and possible ways to use them that it would take too much time and space to discuss them here, and even that discussion would be far from complete. What should be understood is that there are far more spiritual gifts and ministries to use them in than what the traditional church has realized over the years. And in today’s lukewarm day and age of Laodicea characterized by spiritual sleepiness and indifference to God’s Word, it is no wonder so many carry these misconceptions. And this is no mystery either because most today never get to the point of growing to spiritual maturity to use the gifts so graciously given them.
Although the Bible only mentions a small list of spiritual gifts, we know that the writers of Scripture were aware that the ones they listed were not the limit. And for the ones mentioned, different styles, approaches, audiences, and topics would undoubtedly be present because every believer is gifted differently. For example, one teacher may be more gifted in teaching specific issues but weaker in others. The weakness of one teacher is the strength of another who fills the gap. In the end, all members help each other so that no need is neglected.
Spiritual gifts are not something we give ourselves, but they are from God as an expression of His grace. That is the meaning of the phrase in our passage above, “according to the grace given to us.” They are spiritual gifts for a reason, and that is because they are given to us by God as gifts (they are free because we cannot earn them). We can never get around to using them unless we grow up spiritually. And even though a person may have accepted the gospel, this is no guarantee they will realize their calling right away. Though everyone is different, the time it takes to know one’s gifting can be years, though this is not the case for everyone because God reveals all these things to us in His good time. The faster we grow, the quicker we come to realize our spiritual strengths and weaknesses. How long it takes to discover how one should serve can be affected by how hungry they are to please the Lord (although the time the Lord chooses to reveal His calling for everyone may still vary according to His timetable).
So there is no boasting about our spiritual gifts because they were given to us by the Lord, and never did we ever possess them before coming to Christ. The individual believer’s eternal rewards depend on how well they serve in proportion to their abilities and circumstances (how much they produce in proportion to what they have). There will always exist needs to fill inside and outside of the body. There is and never will be such a thing as any non-essential gift or ministry in the church. Since all believers make up one large body, every part must perform its function for the whole to work correctly. Just as we have different parts of the physical body that each serve a specific purpose, so it is with the gift(s) of every single believer. God wants all believers to reap a bountiful crop for Him in the eternal kingdom!
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Concerning the specific gifts mentioned in our Romans passage, the message’s thrust is to minister in the area we have been gifted, according to the ministry the Lord wants us to carry out. In proportion (ἀναλογία refers to a mathematical ratio) to his faith and “the one who teaches, in his teaching” means not trying to do something that we don’t have the gifting to do. If the Lord wants a person to teach, then pursuing evangelism as one’s main or only ministry would be going outside of one’s gifting and calling. If called to teach, then teach! Don’t do something the Lord doesn’t want you to do! And we should never attempt to take our spiritual gifts beyond the level of maturity we have achieved. In other words, a teacher who has only been undergoing preparations for a short time, and is limited in his knowledge of the truth, should not attempt to undertake the task of teaching something beyond his understanding. As faith grows, so does one’s experience, and with time and preparation, something that used to be out of our reach is now something that we can handle.
Before we leave our passage, it is necessary to mention that the gift of prophecy (the early version) is no longer in operation as it is no longer required. The same thing also goes for the gift of apostleship, tongues, and healings. Those gifts were for specific times and specific purposes. Please see The Sign Gifts.
The spiritual gifts we receive at salvation correspond to the ministry the Lord calls us to. Ministry is the act of using our gifts, not just possessing them and doing nothing with them. Unfortunately, so many spiritual gifts are being wasted in the body of Christ because there is very little desire among the majority to use them. The potential for those willing to exercise their gifts through ministry is limitless.
Spiritual growth and progress usually come before service, though any believer can minister at any time in some way or another leading up to their chief ministry. All believers are called to different things at different times and places with varying circumstances. But all ministry requires at least some preparation and experience (depending on what one is doing).
As we have touched on before, there are many legitimate ministries that are not considered “real ministry” in the church today. Service to God is not limited to being a missionary or a pastor (teacher). God has a task, or tasks, for every member of His kingdom.
Using our spiritual gift(s) is crucial because this is the most important work we will ever have the chance to do. People worldwide need the Lord. But the church needs help as well. In our age, the church is in desperate need of revival, something that will sadly not occur until the horrors of the tribulation force most of its members to finally get serious about their walk with the Lord. The church cannot continue to keep overemphasizing helping those outside God’s family to those within it. It is wonderful for believers to come to Christ, but they need spiritual food to grow. The Christian world is accustomed to seeing believers come to Christ, get into a church, and not get very far spiritually. This cycle is an all too common problem that keeps spinning in circles because the churches’ attitude has remained the same for so many years, lukewarm. It is good that churches continue to bring in new believers into the ranks of God’s kingdom, but lukewarm Christians will only continue to produce lukewarm Christians. In other words, the church is in serious trouble from within itself. The well-meaning emphasis on evangelizing to such a great extent has become a distraction. Evangelism is good, but God’s family is hurting. The church’s health is at stake because it is in such a bad condition. This issue needs to be addressed more because weak believers will only create more weak believers. But strong believers will make firm believers (Proverbs 27:17).
Evangelists can teach the truth to the lost more effectively if they are spiritually healthy. Teachers will then be more capable of helping the new converts grow to spiritual maturity. Teachers are in the body of Christ to teach the Word seriously, not to entertain their listeners and hinder their growth by failing to serve the proper spiritual food that the infant in Christ needs to grow.
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The point of mentioning all the above is that we should take our ministries seriously. If we fail to handle the truth carefully, what chance is there to be responsible for the task that lay before us? How can we help others if we can’t take care of ourselves?
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
To help us better understand the concept about ministry above, we will discuss 1 Corinthians 12:4-31 below, which will be our touchstone for the final section of our discussion on this topic.
A. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
These verses maintain that all spiritual gifts, ministries, and effects have only one source from which they come. The Spirit is the One who gives every believer the spiritual gifts they receive and empowers them to carry them out. A great emphasis one can draw here is that no person can boast about what they have, how much they serve, and how much their service produces. Therefore, all believers must be careful not to misjudge and disqualify what counts as legitimate Christian service. And if we are not sure about something, better keep our mouths shut and leave it in the Lord’s hands. God produces the results and determines the quality of our work, and it is this evaluation that all believers will get to see for themselves at the judgment seat (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Upon entrance into the family of God, it is the Spirit who gives us our spiritual gifts, while the Son assigns the ministry, and the Father produces the results. Thus, all members of the Trinity play their part in building up the church.
No matter how many gifts and ministries within the body, they all come from God, who is three in one. That should impress the truth that we must rely on God’s strength to use what we have received. And this is because trying to do anything in the power of our flesh will result in no reward. Whatever the so-called “work” we tried to accomplish outside of God’s control will only be tossed into the “fire” at the Bema. But if what we did we achieved through the Lord’s strength and with the right motives, we will receive a reward for that act of service.
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
B. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
In verse seven above, the good spoken of refers to the good works accomplished in ministry to build up Christ’s church, strengthen it, and add to it. Here we see stressed that every believer has a role to play in the body and that every person’s work is equally important because it is all going toward the same goal. All things done in the Lord’s name for another person will not fail to be recognized. For although a particular act of service may have appeared small in the eyes of men, God looks at the heart. Our intentions and motivations are just as, if not more important, than the actual act of service itself.
If a believer’s attitude is off in any way during their service to God, what that person did was not good because they didn’t accomplish it in God’s power. Someone with a bad attitude or selfish and prideful motives cannot expect to receive anything at the judgment seat because they served under the control of their flesh, which resulted in a sinful approach to their service. Only God can produce anything good in us; our job is to submit to Him and let Him work through us to accomplish that “common good.”
For verses 8-10, please see “The Sign Gifts”. For verse 11, please see above.
C. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The church is very similar to the human body in that it has many members with different functions. Though there are a diversity of believers with various gifts and ministries, they all contribute to the same goal of building up the entire body of Christ. In this sense, all believers work as one for the common good of the church. And this is an important thing for all of us to remember because we cannot build one another up and work in a unified way if we do not recall our identification in Jesus Christ. As the following verses in our passage will show, we cannot eliminate the importance of every believer’s role in the body because they are just as active as anyone else. We cannot deem specific ministries as more important or noble than others based on our preconceptions that thrive on our false ideas of what we think is more rewardable and significant in God’s eyes. We must never forget that God does not see as man sees, and man’s viewpoint of things is far from perfect, unlike our Savior’s.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In verse thirteen, the baptism spoken of refers to the “baptism of the Spirit.” That is known as the regeneration process, and if you look closely, you will see there is nothing to suggest a water baptism here, which is because water baptism plays no role in salvation. The moment a believer puts their faith and trust in the Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell them, testifying with their spirits that they belong to Him in becoming a seal of promise that guarantees their eternal life as long as they continue to believe. When a person dies having the Holy Spirit, they will live with Jesus Christ for all eternity. But if a person who passes away lacks the Spirit, that person does not have Christ, which is a sign and confirmation of their condemnation.
9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
This baptism of the Holy Spirit identifies us with Christ and His church and is the only baptism a believer needs. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Paul describes how a believer has entered into the family of God. He notes that it was by the Holy Spirit’s baptism that such entrance took place, for it is the Spirit who acts as a witness, a pledge, and a seal for the believer. Nowhere is water baptism attributed to having any of these powers in Scripture.
Paul then goes on to say, “and we were made to drink of one Spirit.” He describes how salvation occurs, or what took place and had to happen for a believer to enter into God’s family. If water baptism was needed and crucial in this process, why does Paul not mention it? Paul would have only been giving a half-truth of the salvation process in this verse if it had the power to save because he omitted another critical step. But he didn’t include it (water baptism) because it is not part of the salvation process. If being dunked in water had some extraordinary power to save, Paul would have had NO CHOICE but to include it in his description. Instead, he told the Corinthians how they have entered into the family of God, and there is no mention of water baptism in this verse. If water baptism was a crucial step in the process, i.e., it had spiritual power, Paul would not have left it out. But as it is, everything was worked out by the Holy Spirit alone.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
The verse above clearly shows us that there is only one baptism, referring to the Holy Spirit’s baptism. John’s baptism was to prepare the people for the coming Messiah. The verse below helps explain this. For after the book of Acts, baptism is hardly ever mentioned at all.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him**, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel**.”
When giving the gospel presentation in John 3:16, our dear Lord Himself does not mention water baptism. The only baptism that needs to occur for a person at salvation is the Holy Spirit’s baptism, and that happens when a person puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The final part of verse thirteen in our passage (and we were all given the one Spirit to drink) speaks of the believer receiving the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ after having drunk of Him by accepting Him as Savior, for He has said, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give Him shall never thirst” (John 4:14). And we know that Jesus described Himself as the water of life.
The statement “whether Jew or Greek” in verse thirteen of our Corinthians passage refers to the truth that Christ died for all people. God created all men, and each individual is fearfully and wonderfully made in His image and likeness. God does not show partiality or favoritism, especially when receiving people into His kingdom! Our identity is in Christ, and Christ alone!
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36 The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)
D. 1 Corinthians 12:14-21
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
Christ’s church has no special “member” or “members” because all believers are unique. There is one body made up of many individual people who all work and function as a team to accomplish the work the Lord has for every one of them. No person is left out, for the Lord expects all to participate in the spiritual service we are all called to do. Where one believer is strong, another is weak, and where one believer is weak, another is strong.
For this reason, it is so crucial that the body of Christ not be divided against itself, and that is because the church can only increase in health if each member works and functions as it should. For example, a disorganized sports team with no chemistry will fail to be a dominant force that beats the opposition. The same thing goes for disorganized troops in the military. Sadly, the church today is about as disunified as it can get.
3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
Those serious about their walk with God by seeking to know more of Him through His Word are the “players” or “soldiers” who are pulling their weight of the work by putting in the most time, effort, and commitment. In other words, they are doing what they are supposed to do. It is not fair to God or other believers for so many to be lazy and complacent about being born-again Christians. It is not good to be a slack hand or leg!
When people get saved, they need to understand that their salvation is not all about them as if they were a one-person show marching to their own drumbeat. They have joined the most elite force in the entire universe known as the army of God. Since it is Christ who is our commander (with the power to save and destroy, reward and take away), then reverent fear of the One they have enlisted for should be a good enough incentive for a new convert to take their job seriously.
Now, as far as the current health of the church is, it is abysmal. Denominations are a man-made invention that should not exist because disunity and separation of that kind should not be present among believers. Everyone needs to be on fire for God! No, this does not mean two individuals will ever completely agree on everything, but God wants ALL of His children to be red-hot for Him in that they ALL participate in living the life He intends for them to live. That is what it means to grow up in the truth, and the more two groups of people do so, the closer they will grow to one another and the less compromising they will be.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
It would be great if the church united as it should, but all people have free will, and so each person chooses to do what they want to do, regardless of what is best for them. God is calling all believers to draw closer to Him, not just some, but all. The church itself, consisting of all born-again believers, is to blame for the disunity. There can only be discipline, and that will mean the church going through the tribulation. If believers do not check this problem, then our dear Lord will (Revelation 3:16).
God wants unity in His church, but most believers have chosen their desires despite what they may claim. “Keeping fellowship” by itself is not unity if there is no desire to get serious about God’s Word. On the contrary, believers are brought closer together by growing in and building each other up in the truths of Scripture. That is why doctrine matters. That is why attitude is crucial. There is a big difference, for example, between those who are passive about truth and those who love it. The gap between those who are red-hot and those who are lukewarm is wide indeed!
Now the big issue our Corinthians passage addresses are not to exclude or downplay any individual, spiritual gift, or ministry in the body of Christ. Yes, this does hurt Christ’s body, and it affects the other members negatively. But as we have just touched on above, many choose to exclude themselves because they fail by their own choice to use their spiritual gifts as they should because of indifference toward God’s expectations for them.
So for those reading this who are eager to grow, progress, and produce for the Lord, don’t ever think the ministry the Lord is calling you to is less significant than any other! On the contrary, God will always set us up for maximum production if we allow Him to work within us. But this does require cooperation on our part. If we want to reap a bountiful crop for the Lord, we must LIVE and ACT like that is our genuine desire. The question is, how well will we do with what we have?
Every function in the church is important to God. He does not show favoritism, and He wants EVERY believer to go as far as they can in this life. The only thing limiting a person is themselves. Believers of Laodicea are not doing themselves or others a favor. Instead, they hinder the body’s growth from within and only limit the so much greater potential they could have. And it gets even worse, for as the great apostasy in the tribulation will show, one-third of all believers alive at that time will fall away from the faith, only to betray their once brothers and sisters in Christ and take the mark of the beast (Revelation 12:4; Matthew 24:10-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). That is why putting God first should be at the front of every person’s mind. As mentioned above, if believers were doing what they should be doing, none of this would be a problem like it is today.
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
E. 1 Corinthians 12:22-26
22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
In the context of our passage, the Corinthians had a big problem of selfishness where multiple people would put themselves before others, and this occurred even with spiritual gifts. Certain believers thought they were more important in God’s eyes because of their gifting. But as we have mentioned, our eternal rewards are based on how well we serve in proportion to what we have, not by our gifts. But the Corinthians were not thinking this way but were seeking their own glory and honor while failing to build up other believers within their ranks. It was a selfish, “me first” type attitude that was self-seeking instead of God seeking. It is a matter of choice stemming from the disposition of a person’s heart, not gifting, which determines the believer’s success.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In verses twenty-two and twenty-three of our passage, those who seem less honorable and weaker from the human viewpoint may not be so in God’s eyes. Those who appear less important only appear so in the eyes of men. But God sees things differently. All believers need each other because each member of the body supports itself in some way. The Corinthians’ main problem was self-reliance and overconfidence in their abilities.
Our passage says that every part needs to be present for the whole body to function as it should. We all need help from others, and that is what church family members are for, to build each other up and strengthen one another through God’s Word.
A prime example of this is that so many in the Church tend to deem only certain ministry functions as “legitimate.” It is a popularity contest of sorts because people considered the “greatest believers” of our day are on a pedestal. Only God knows these things perfectly, and opinions do not necessarily represent the truth. For this very reason, we are told not to judge before the time, in addition to the fact that first will be last, and last first (Matthew 20:16).
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
An excellent passage to show that man’s opinion doesn’t necessarily equate to truth is Matthew 20:1-16. The point is that what appears more rewardable in man’s eyes is not from God’s perspective. As for the interpretation of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard itself, we interpret it below.
This parable links directly with Matthew 19:30, in which Jesus ends with “but many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” The landowner who gives each worker a denarius represents Jesus Christ providing salvation to all who accept it, meaning the workers in our parable represent believers. Each “worker” receives equal pay because no man deserves eternal life more than any other. Salvation is for everybody, and all can accept it. Since our Lord accepts all men who come to Him, we believers are to do the same. The Lord drives no one away who comes to Him in faith (John 6:37-40); a truth believers must practice.
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
The workers who receive their money first are believers who receive their eternal rewards before everyone else, even though most would expect the men hired first (the other believers) to receive their wages ahead of the others.
Many believers deemed greatest over the years will be shown at the judgment seat not to have accomplished as much as was thought. Not only will they not have produced as much as expected, but many who were assumed and seen to be less effective in the body of Christ will end up receiving not only a greater reward at the judgment seat but receiving it first as well. In the church’s eyes, these believers were last (behind those deemed more productive) but turned out to be first, having done more with their spiritual gifts. Even though they were more under the radar regarding their service to Christ, God sees everything we do and why we do it. On the other hand, man has limited knowledge of what other believers accomplish because God evaluates the quality and quantity of our work. Additionally, He also looks at our hearts, something that other people cannot see except our Lord Himself, who knows our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations involving why and what we do.
There is an important lesson we can learn from this: believers should not judge before the time. It is often easy for many within the church to assume those with better education, intellect, charisma, popularity, speaking abilities, and apparent ministry works will be the most rewarded in the kingdom. And not only people with so much of the above but believers with multiple spiritual gifts instead of just one. But what escapes the attention of many Christians is the fact that God does not limit individuals by their circumstances and abilities. That kind of popularity contest discredits so many genuine servants of Christ who are making the most significant difference in the world today.
Additionally, the negative behavior above discourages many from pursuing their spiritual gifts in the ministries the Lord calls them to, and Christ calls all to serve Him. How much each servant of God can achieve has nothing to do with intellect, education, popularity, number of/or specific gifts, and abilities. As the example of the poor widow in the passage below demonstrates, it all has to do with how well we serve with what we have.
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
However, many whom the church views as worthy of greater reward will receive some of the highest in the kingdom. So those who seemed unproductive may not have accomplished much at all. On the other hand, those seen to have achieved a tremendous amount of spiritual work will have accomplished a lot and will be among the “first” and not the “last.” So our Lord is not teaching that man’s perception will be inaccurate in every case for sure. But human judgment is often incorrect, and that will prove true at the Bema. The parable’s point is that Christ is the ultimate judge and that we are not to play God and become judges unto ourselves. The Lord is the One who will evaluate our work, not man. Many will have misjudged the life and work of so many believers, and this will prove true when every saint before Christ’s return stands at the judgment seat only to be greatly shocked and surprised to see the results turn out differently than they expected.
How much reward we receive in heaven is based entirely on choice, that is, the decisions we make in life. So, though we can’t control what gifts we receive and what ministry to serve in, we control how well we decide to serve with what we have.
Concerning our passage in Corinthians, we read the following in verse 23-25:
23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
Believers with so-called “more honorable gifts” do not need any more attention than they already have. However, since the popular gifts that are more common already receive enough praise and respect, believers should be giving more attention to the gifts and ministries that do not receive as much attention, especially if they are in higher demand. The idea is bestowing equal importance on every ministry so that every believer will be held at the same level so that there is no division. In other words, we show equal love for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing that their gifting alone does not mean they are any less effective and impactful than others.
So when we speak of the church, more attention needs to be given to those less popular than the others because they need to be recognized. And recognizing them is the right way of keeping others humble, encouraging all believers to keep their spiritual gifts and ministries in perspective as they should, knowing that everything they have comes from the Lord. In this way, all members are more likely to set their eyes on God (instead of themselves) as the One whom they trust at all times.
26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
The above verse just goes to show how much other believers should mean to us. Our love for all of Christ’s saints should be so great that when we see or hear of another believer suffering in any way, this will affect us to some degree. When one of our teammates or fellow soldiers goes down or suffers some setback, this will affect the rest of the group. Philippians 2:19-30 is a prime example of this. We see this in the examples of the apostles and prophets when they suffered in some way. How much grief it caused their followers!
F. 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
The Purpose of giving an order among the spiritual gifts in our Corinthians passage is to show authority positions among them. When it was still a gift in operational use, apostles had the highest authority. Second were prophets and third teachers. In our day and age, teachers have the most leadership in the church because they are working in a pastoral office, and their knowledge and walk in the Word have to be very high for them to carry out their task. Teachers are supposed to be role models to those they teach, and as such, they have to be especially careful in how they live their lives. As mentioned previously, it is the teachers who will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1).
The list in our passage doesn’t show that there are more important gifts than others since, as we have already seen, that is not the case. These gifts are listed based upon how much authority they carry with them, not by how much importance each one has and how much reward it will guarantee.
All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
The Lord is the One who gives believers their spiritual gifts and empowers them for use. The results of our ministries are all pre-determined by God’s planned foreknowledge of human history. The point of verses twenty-nine and thirty is that believers cannot have every spiritual gift since God determines them. So with that said, how do we interpret verse 31 below, which states:
But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
Today’s believers cannot receive the gift of tongues, prophecy, healing, apostleship, and miracles. Such was only for a specific time; the church’s beginning in its transitional stage from infancy to adulthood. The verses below confirm this.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
1 Corinthians 13:8-11 tends to suffer mistranslation, but we have to interpret it in its context. The gifts mentioned above would cease to exist because they were only for a specific time and purpose. They were available to help establish the church from infancy to adulthood. Just as a child first learning how to swim might need floaties when just starting, the church required specific sign gifts that would aid in its nurturing. It required special care. But once the church matured and “grew up,” the time for the unique sign gifts was beginning to close. It was time to “put away childish things,” which the church no longer needed.
In addition to that, the sign gifts tended to be a distraction from what was truly important. They were back then, and they are today for those still trying to practice them. Unfortunately, we see this among many charismatic churches today, which detract from the truth for the sake of practices that are now obsolete. Such congregations are still clinging to “childish things” and are acting as if they still live in a time that is now long past.
But what about teachers? We still have them, don’t we? Yes, and we should desire more teachers because there are so few of them, and in today’s churches, we need good teachers more than ever. Since individuals with higher authority gifts are outnumbered by most believers not so gifted, it would be helpful for all believers to seek them to bring in more of what is lacking.
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
To sum up, if a person does not know their gifting, they should hope and desire one in more demand, i.e., less common. This desire shows great love and concern from the believer to fill in the gap. Even if the Lord does end up giving said person such a gift(s) which is already abundant, the Lord was still pleased by the disposition of that person’s heart toward the shortage of said gift(s). And never should we fear, for the Lord will provide all the qualified men and women to fill in all positions needed in the body of Christ, just as long as His children cooperate.
“And I show you a still more excellent way.”
The statement in italics above refers to the way of love spoken in chapter 13, the best way to use one’s spiritual gifts. “Let all that you do be done in love.”
13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.
The next chapter of Corinthians helps reinforce the goal and aim of 1 Corinthians 12:22-26. Disunity due to self-seeking pride and arrogance will only divide, not unite. But, just as how a “kingdom divided against itself cannot stand,” neither can a church function if there is no love between its members. And that is what chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians takes pains to show. Love for God and others determines everything, how we serve with what we have and how we treat others. If that love is lacking, what we have and what we do with what we have will not mean anything (1 John 3:14-19, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
2.3 Eternal Rewards
As we will see further below, the Bible speaks of crowns of reward given to believers for having advanced to particular stages in their Christian walk. These crowns are the crown of righteousness, the crown of life, and the crown of glory.
But one may wonder, “what other rewards are there?” There is still a lot that the Bible does not tell us about this, but we can be sure that for every good act of service we did in the Lord’s name, we will receive something for it in return so that every believer who holds fast to their faith in the Lord Jesus will have something to show for their time on earth. No person who enters God’s kingdom will go in empty-handed. And even for those believers who accomplished the least with the time they had, they will still be as happy as can be living in eternity with the rewards they did accrue (even if they never win the crown of righteousness from growing up to basic spiritual maturity).
41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
As can be seen from the passage above, just about anything we do in the Lord’s name can be rewardable just as long as whatever we do is done with pure motives in His power. To all believers who hold fast to their faith regardless if they ever reached spiritual maturity in this life, they have eternal life and eternal rewards for all the good things they, no matter how little. But for the believers who went farther and did more with their time, there are three crowns of reward for them depending on how far they got.
A. The Crown of Righteousness
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
All believers who endure in their faith to the very end will receive eternal life. However, that does not mean they will inherit the crown of righteousness rewarded to all believers who grow to basic spiritual maturity and live so consistently. The Lord grants this crown to all believers who get saved and then grow to spiritual maturity, passing the basic tests of everyday life along the way. We cannot come into the primary ministry the Lord has for us to do if we have not yet grown up to basic maturity.
Still, our Lord has specific work for every member of the body that requires them to be more prepared and battle-tested to carry it out. You can think of this as going from basic training in the military to more advanced preparation. For how can a person do something that they are not ready to do? A new convert will have minimal knowledge of God’s Word to help other believers as effectively. There is then the issue of sin. Christians new to the faith will have to “learn the ropes” when it comes to Christian living, not just knowing that they need to get in their Bibles, pray, and receive good solid Bible teaching. All believers have to learn how to apply the truth they receive to help others with head knowledge and experience. We cannot manage others if we don’t know how to “govern” ourselves. That means a person is living a consistent life of obedience. They have learned to apply the truth of God’s Word in their lives so that they can use that same experience to help others who may be going through what they once did. The passages below are good examples.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
We have to be consistent in the Christian walk; otherwise, we will become prone to backsliding. Maintaining a firm standing will require that we learn how to apply God’s Word in our lives in a manner that is second nature to us. If a believer ever wants to win the crown of righteousness, then the safest route is to keep running down the main road without diverting one’s attention to other paths. We have to keep advancing, not slip back, stray from our objective, and lose the ground we have already covered, for there can be no turning back for the believer who has chosen to stay faithful to Jesus Christ. We must keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and not get distracted and led off course by the ephemeral things of the world.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
B. The Crown of Life
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Our Lord rewards this crown to believers who pass excruciatingly difficult tests of their faith and continue to advance in the process. These trials go beyond the basic everyday tests and temptations that believers have to face, for they are more challenging. Once a believer has reached spiritual maturity by overcoming the daily obstacles of the Christian life, their faith is now ready for the more challenging spiritual tests that the Lord puts the maturing believer through to refine their faith.
As a side note, spiritual growth, progress, and production can be taking place simultaneously. Spiritual growth never ends this side of eternity and should always occur. We also know that severe testing has to happen sooner or later. It will happen when a believer is growing, and that is because spiritual growth will always be an ongoing thing for someone who is truly living for the Lord as they should.
3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.
Severe testing meant to stimulate further spiritual growth and service in the Lord’s name is most frequently going to come the way of believers who are advancing as they should. Believers running as they should will be Satan’s favorite targets because they pose the greatest threat against his evil plan of leading as many people(believers and unbelievers) astray. The evil one does not want faithful followers of his enemy, Jesus Christ, for the devil’s goal is to thwart God’s plan so that God will somehow “be defeated” and “proven wrong” of His character. But, of course, we know this will never happen.
There is a difference between “testing” on the one hand and “temptation” on the other. God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13-17), nor can He be tempted. Only Satan tempts believers to sin. God would never encourage evil, nor would He ever advocate sinful behavior. Despite this, temptations are still part of the day-by-day tests that all believers have to undergo. They still test our faith in God to the degree that we have to learn how to trust Him and not in our own strength to overcome the dart of the evil one. Either we will choose to fight this battle our way, in the power of the flesh, or we will choose to fight the battle God’s way, in the power of the Spirit. Either we will choose to obey, or we will choose to disobey. Either we will exercise our faith in God when under pressure, or we will crumble under that same pressure out of fear, laziness, and complacency. Everyday temptations are things that the Lord allows us to go through, and for a good reason. Temptations test to see whether we are walking in the Spirit moment by moment as we should. They test our hearts, faith, and free will but never go beyond anything our faith can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The more difficult challenges believers face are usually tests directly from the Lord Himself, not the devil. They are not temptations and should never be seen as such, for doing so can cause a believer to fall into the common mistake of crediting God with temptation. Satan tempts us to do evil, whereas God tests us to grow and refine our faith in Him. The Lord’s desire for every believer in this whole process is for them to learn to rely entirely on Him and not on themselves. It is the “make or break you” type of challenge because of the increased difficulty. Although a believer may have grown up and done well in the basics, they may find themselves so discouraged by the hardships from the next level of training they have to undergo. They may think to themselves, “I didn’t sign up for this,” and may end up turning back and abandoning the mission. During spiritually strenuous times such as these, many believers end up turning away from God because they think the heat has become too much for them. That is because they are not willing to go any further than the comfort zone they have sat in for so long. They may have been ready to go through basic training but have not counted the cost of all the further preparation they would have to undergo (Luke 14:25-34).
18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
We must resolve to stay faithful to Christ with all our hearts. We do this by fixing our eyes on Him at all times and continuing to supply our minds with the proper ammunition of truth needed by the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of righteous obedience within us. Our trust is in the Lord, not in our circumstances or in what we have or desire to have. Jesus is all we need, and He will provide for our every needs both physically and spiritually. If we build up our faith day in and day out by embracing the truth, then we have nothing to fear about the future. As believers, we expect trials and tribulations to come, for they are mandatory and not optional for our spiritual growth. So when we go through difficult times, God has our very best for us in mind.
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
There are various ways the Lord can test believers, so many that we will not even attempt to discuss it here because that would be an impossibility. We have to remember that heavier tests come our way to strengthen our faith, not damage it! Increased difficulties are the signs that a believer is maturing as they should. Instead of running away, we should embrace the challenges the Lord allows us to go through. Embracing the task ahead in faith and obedience is the only way to get through our trials. The Lord does the work of delivering us, and we participate by submitting to His will so that He can work in and through us to accomplish all things for His good pleasure.
31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
And here is a big mistake we must always avoid! We must never spend any time gawking at our circumstances by contemplating how difficult and miserable they may appear to us! For if we stare at the test for too long, as opposed to keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, then our hearts will slowly begin to sink because we have chosen to get distracted by the “wind and waves” swirling around us. We walk by faith, not according to our feelings and circumstances! No matter how difficult our situation may be, we must not allow ourselves to lose sight of the light of Jesus Christ leading us forward. But if we divert our attention onto other things that will only weaken us, things that are insufficient to deliver us, can we expect to overcome our trials? We do not look behind, nor to the right or the left, and not even into the distant future. We look straight ahead at Jesus, taking one step at a time, day by day, moment by moment. And if we look back, it is to the cross that we look. And if we look farther ahead, we do so with great hope knowing the inheritance we shall receive in eternity.
26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
Our emotions have a nasty tendency to give us a bad or even false report when we are under fire from within. We must not listen to our feelings. They will only cave in on us because they link with the flesh. We listen to the Holy Spirit living inside us because He is the One who makes truth real and usable inside of our hearts after we have taken it in. Emotions and feelings will backfire on us, telling us that we must stress the difficulties we face and follow their lead. If we choose to follow their leadership, then we have given ourselves over to the flesh to walk in its power after having left the Spirit’s controlling influence over us. That is why we must listen to the truth we have stored in our hearts, which the Spirit makes real to us because only by believing and applying that same truth can we have any hope to win the battle we have to engage. And since faith has an object, walking in faith means walking in Christ’s power, knowing that He will see us through to the very end.
An excellent parallel example regarding the above usage of emotions giving us a bad report about our present demanding situations is Numbers chapter 13. Of the twelve spies sent, only two, Caleb and Joshua, showed faith in God despite the daunting task. They knew that in God’s power, they could overcome the intimidating job that lay before them, and all because they walked in faith, not according to their fleshly perspectives. Yes, there were very tall and mighty people in Canaan, nations larger and more robust than Israel. But these other peoples were not bigger or stronger than God, and it was the Lord who would give His chosen witnesses the victory they needed over their enemies, not the people themselves.
Unfortunately, the unfaithful spies in the passage below chose to lose sight of God’s role and falsely believed they had no chance because they assumed they would have to face these other nations in their own power. They did not think God was sufficient to deliver them, and this attitude set off a chain reaction for the rest of the people, who began to weep in despair as if defeat was the reality. Allowing just some of our peace in Christ to be disturbed by the false pretensions of our flesh can cause our entire inner self to escalate toward panic, and in the end, failure. And that is what happened in this case; the cowardly spies allowed fear to take over their minds and dominate their thinking. That is why fear is so dangerous—it causes people to do all kinds of irrational things by paralyzing faith and clouding all hope and clear thinking.
25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.” 30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
Bearing up under the more complex tests the Lord sends our way requires a stronger faith, more willpower, and a zealous determination to please the Lord. And once we have gone through more intense testing, we come out of it a different person. Think of ranking officers in the military. After having endured further extreme testing and strengthening of our faith, we emerge out of the whole ordeal in a higher rank of usefulness to the service of our true commander, the Lord Jesus Christ. Before the trials began, we were different people. After we have gone through them, we come out better in every way.
C. The Crown of Glory
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
The crown of glory goes to believers who have completed all three steps of the Christian life. They have grown up to spiritual maturity, passed significant tests of their faith, and have come into and completed the ministries the Lord had for them to serve in. For not only have they gone into service, but they have completed it, i.e., the amount of work they met and the results that followed were all determined by God.
Now for those who never get to the point of ministry or even spiritual maturity, eternal life still awaits. Dying with faith intact is, to some extent, “completing the mission.” All believers who continue to believe in Jesus Christ till death will have their share in eternal life with at least something to show for their time on earth since saving faith cannot be absent of any production, James 2:26. As little as a believer may have accomplished, they will still be happy in the new eternal home they will share in fellowship with Christ and all other believers, even if they lived a mostly wasted life.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
As we have already mentioned before, ministry is something that every believer can do regardless of when they got saved. On the day of their conversion, a new convert can minister to another believer by simply praying for them or giving to them. These righteous acts will not fail to be noticed by our Lord, and they will receive a reward. But just “starting” one’s ministry and never completing it does not mean receiving this crown of glory. It may be thought then, “how do we know when we have completed our ministry?” That, dear reader, is something that only our Lord knows ahead of time. He determines the results of our work and the length of our service. He is the One who lets us know when our time is up. So when the work we have done is sufficient in God’s eyes, then He will bring us home when He sees fit. For the Lord knows how much longer we can continue to serve, and He knows the perfect time of when to take a faithful believer home to Himself.
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
We must remember that every believer’s reward depends on how much and how well they did in proportion to what they had. And just because someone “serves” does not mean they are doing a proper job at it. In whatever we do, we give it our very best. We don’t just do something ritualistically because we are supposed to do it as if we were doing a chore. Instead, we serve the Lord because we want to out of love for Him who died to give us the eternal life that is now in our possession.
3. How God Doesn’t View Value and Success
There will always be very gifted people in this world. Whether athletes, doctors, or engineers, there are so many different life skills that various people possess, and no two individuals are ever perfectly alike. God has created human beings with varying degrees of physical and mental abilities. If the Lord wanted to, He could take the least intelligent person on earth and turn them into the most brilliant human being to ever live faster than a blink of an eye. Now that should tell us something!
This final list isn’t comprehensive, of course, and the goal of bringing these topics up is to get people to see that God does not look at people with partiality. So I am in no way bashing intelligent and educated people, but simply writing this paper to help inform others that it is not our gifts and abilities which determine our standing with God. So to whoever is reading this, please do not be discouraged from pursuing a highly skilled career. As you continue to read, the emphasis should become more and more apparent.
3.1 Intelligence and Education
It is easy for people to see those with higher intellectual abilities as superheroes of some kind. After all, doctors are saving people’s lives all the time. Engineers are designing much of the world’s infrastructure. Astronauts are going to places very few, if any, have ever been. What all these people have in common is that they all had to study long hours and undergo much education, stress, and hard work to get where they are now. And they also had the mental capacities and abilities to do what not all people can do. Some of the schools in which they attended were colleges and universities which required extremely intellectually gifted individuals. Not many people get into them because they demand high skill levels. There is no doubt that they had to work their tails off to get to where they got. So it can be easy to have great respect for these kinds of people. But this respect goes much farther than most people want to come to believe. We will elaborate on this below.
Unbelievers, and sadly very many believers, have a habit of giving more praise and respect to individuals with greater intelligence and education. Those who are not mentally equal with them are often not taken as seriously (understandable to some extent) because value and importance are often viewed from a secular viewpoint.
A person’s job does not determine the importance of their ministry and the amount of reward they can earn in eternity. If that were so, then God would be limiting some while advancing others based on something that has nothing to do with spiritual matters. Free will is the key to spiritual success, for how well we use it in this life for God’s glory will determine how far we go. We know that the greater the spiritual growth, the more significant the progress and production will be. So in our example above, where and how we deploy our spiritual gifts is not what matters. It’s what we are doing for other people’s spiritual welfare that counts.
These bodies we live in now will die and decay, no stopping that at all. But even though we are in physical decay, our spiritual health betters over time. And as we progress, our eternal rewards grow as we grow, giving us more hope in the future. But all so-called “treasures” in this world are temporary and doomed for eternal destruction. But the new heaven and earth will exist for all eternity, never to fade away or be destroyed. And this same eternal existence goes for the new bodies we will one day possess as well. Therefore, not only will we live with our Savior Jesus Christ forever enjoying sweet fellowship with Him, but we will never experience death or pain, nor will we be capable of any sin. This future reality in which we hope should be our number one focus at all times. Taking our eyes off the prize and fixing them onto the world will only cause spiritual blindness in the end if we are not careful.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
There is no doubt that there are jobs that are more noble and respectable in the secular world than others, but that only goes as far as the earthly realm itself. The spiritual realm is a different playing field. In God’s eyes, every believer’s spiritual job is equal in terms of value. So how and where a person carries out their ministry is not the issue. The issue is whether they get around to doing the Lord’s will and how well they perform their task. Believers limit themselves by failing to grow and progress as they should, which limits their production. It is all about how much desire there is in an individual’s heart to please the Lord. That makes everything entirely fair, and it shows just how just our God is. He does not limit certain people based on things out of their control, such as circumstances and abilities. Though we can always train our minds and push ourselves to succeed academically, even more, there will always be others who are just better at certain things. And this is because God created every human being differently with varying gifts, callings, and abilities. We cannot change our gifting, just as not every person can get into Harvard University. It’s just that simple. It would be dull if every person had the same gifts and abilities. How would people accomplish all the other tasks requiring different skill sets if that were the case? People have to be different, and there have to be a variety of abilities and spiritual gifts. Without diversity, life could not exist as we know it, and the church could not function properly. So this means that every person fills in a gap. In the church, gifts deemed less honorable prove to be just as important as those that receive more applause from men.
And so the question must be, will we hold back our time, efforts, and resources, or will we give abundantly? For to bestow all is to confer quite an abundance indeed! So those who give generously will receive generously. And whatever we reap is whatever we will sow. And whatever act of ministry we may have done, it will receive much more reward than what the actual good deed itself was worth !
23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Now some of you may be wondering, “what about the reformers? They were all brilliant, educated, and gifted men who had a tremendous impact on the church as we know it.” That is true, and many of them will receive a fantastic reward for all they accomplished for the church. But popularity and intellect do not equate to productivity. Just because many believers aren’t in our history books does not mean there weren’t other Christians throughout the church age and during the protestant reformation who weren’t making just as much if not more of a difference for the Lord. There will be many unexpected surprises at the judgment seat one day when many begin to see individuals thought to be less productive in the church standing ahead to receive a greater reward than those deemed more effective (Matthew 20:1-16).
Though church history seems to mention only the most gifted and popular believers, these history books do not contain the many other true heroes of the faith who gave their all for the Lord Jesus. God has been keeping track, and He has done a perfect job doing so! Do people think they can judge and evaluate things only the Lord can see? Or is our judgment as good as God’s? Better not to assess before the time.
The Bible records the lives of many famous men and women of the Lord, many of whom were not very educated or wealthy. Jesus was a carpenter, and yet He was the Son of God! The point is that the Lord can use anyone, but He chooses the individuals who love Him the most!
16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
Let us use some of the twelve apostles as prime examples. These men were undoubtedly greater believers than any of the church fathers and reformers ever were, yet some of them were not highly learned and educated. Paul did come from a highly educated background. However, in his case, it was a stumbling block for him until the Lord came into his life and got a hold of him (Acts 9:1-19).
Peter, Andrew, James, and John were simple fishermen (Matthew 4:18-20). Yet, that did not stop the Lord from calling them. Why not call the highly educated scribes, Pharisees, and teachers of the Law? Because their status hardened their hearts. Like Satan, they exulted themselves too much, and it was the cause of their stumbling. For even the high position they had was not something they could keep forever, nor were they doing a good job at it. Jesus’ words to them in Matthew 23 confirm why He didn’t choose them to do the work of God. Their arrogance blinded them, for they thought they were superior because of their status as Israel’s religious leaders.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being intelligent in any way, especially since God creates all people differently. Nor is it a sin to pursue a good education. However, God doesn’t care how smart or able we are. He cares about what is on our hearts, for from our hearts, we choose to follow and serve our Savior, and with our hearts, we choose to disobey Him. How much love is within us will determine how much “product” we produce.
Intelligence and education by themselves are good things, especially if we use them for God’s glory. All good things come from God, and so there is no boasting before Him. However, whatever skills we may have, the Lord could take and give to someone else in the blink of an eye. We did not bring ourselves into this world. We wouldn’t even have the chance to exercise our gifts and abilities had the Lord not given us the time and opportunities to do so. To fail to grasp these simple facts is to take the glory that belongs to God and give it to man. What an insult that is!
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.
What pleases God is how we choose to respond to His grace, and free will (assuming a person is not some young infant or mentally handicap person) is something that everyone can exercise. And since it is free, no one can be said to be “naturally” better at free will as if it were some kind of skill. It is our DESIRE, which is the key. Some people use their free will more wisely, but not because they are more naturally talented at using it. It is because some people choose to make better decisions than others, and for those whose decisions aren’t as good, it doesn’t have to be that way! They could be better! The only thing holding them back is themselves, and this could prove the saying “the greatest enemy a man has is himself.”
Money is amongst the most problematic issues in the church today, and the Lord’s message to the lukewarm believers of Laodicea confirms this. (see Revelation 3:14-22). Few things cause more believers to stumble than wealth, and it is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome in this world. There is an overly strong emphasis on going out and getting a good education to make good money to support a family among many believers today. There is nothing wrong with this because Scripture tells us that “whoever does not work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Timothy 5:8). But the emphasis on those things is stressed far too much.
Many believers stress themselves over wealth to such a great degree because they either believe God is not sufficient for them or that much of their happiness has to come from it. A person walking closely with the Lord learns how to keep money and material wealth in perspective, knowing that those things cannot compare to their relationship with their Savior. But most in the church are unwilling to endure the suffering needed to please the One who suffered for them. The reason is that the majority want to live in this world comfortably as if it was their home, but this goes against everything Scripture teaches. Although there is nothing wrong with being wealthy, it can quickly become a snare if not handled wisely. More material possessions equal more trouble and distraction, hindering a person’s growth and productivity for the Lord. It is no small wonder then that some of the greatest believers who have ever lived have been poor (Paul). Of course, on the other hand, some of them have been rich, like Job and Abraham. But these two men of God were not exempt from the testing that having all that wealth brought with it. Despite going through severe trials of their faith, both men passed the test of prosperity, demonstrating that they loved God more than this world. Whatever we have now, we can very well lose tomorrow. The question is, will our faith be ready for that to happen if that should occur?
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
It is good and godly to take care of ourselves through work. Money is a necessary tool that people need to survive. But it is not something we should be stressing over. One, if not the highest, causes for divorce in America is due to financial difficulties. And although we see this among the unbeliever population, we see some of this even among born-again believers. So there is a lesson we can learn from this. Money should not be a cause of division, and especially concerning our relationship with God!
People love money because they think it can buy them comfort, pleasure, and happiness. But the catch is that there is no comfort, joy, or happiness involved in the real sense. Only God can bring us these things in their proper form, and we can only have any feelings of hope, security, and joy when we are resting in Him.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus is our everything, and we are supposed to live as if He is. If we are not pursuing the Lord as we should, the chances are that it’s because we have given our attention over to the world instead. We aren’t on this earth to acquire wealth and become rich, for we are only sojourners in this land. This life is only temporary and shall soon be over. It is a big test, and tests aren’t meant to be easy, no surprise since the world we live in is full of all kinds of temptations and distractions designed to carry away all humanity to eternal destruction. The world we live in now is a place under the control of the evil one. Believers know this intellectually, yet so many do not live as if they do. Although getting educated to work and support oneself is good, it is often prioritized over spiritual growth in many churches and families today. Parents push their children to get a good education, but do they encourage them to spend some quiet time (in the Word and in prayer) with the Lord every day? Parents push their children to take a good job, but do they encourage them to find a good teaching ministry? Parents exhort their children to save up as much as possible, but do they urge them to use their spiritual gifts? What about the truth? Is that being prioritized before all else?
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
There seems to be a lack of trust among many Christians who hit the panic button by acting as if God won’t take care of them unless they push the idea of jobs and education beyond the place they should be. The Lord wants us to seek His kingdom before everything else, and then all other things will be added unto us. But so many believers have turned this truth upside down on its head. Committing to Jesus guarantees a life of unpredictable trials and tribulations, difficulties that we don’t know when they will occur. The believer who has failed to count the cost will find themselves faced with a host of testing situations that they chose not to prepare for ahead of time.
By themselves, the riches of this world are bad enough. But what is even worse is that Satan not only uses these things to lead believers astray but also has multiple schemes to deliver this false lie that worldly riches equal true success. The distractions of this world already speak for themselves in that they are naturally tempting as they are. Yet, the evil one has other tricks up his sleeve to make the lie of false prosperity even more irresistible. Yes, there is advertisement, the media, and a host of other things that seek to deliver this message of false hope further. If the lie of prosperity can’t speak enough by itself outside the church, then perhaps spreading the lie within it through misguided believing pastors (or unbelieving wolves in sheep’s clothes) will be sufficient to win over the faith of those less spiritually mature and discerning. Yes, this method has worked for Satan for a long time, and one of the false teachings that he has had great success with is the prosperity gospel.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
There is nothing wrong with being rich, but God calls every believer to a different path, and this may mean losing a lot of wealth in the process. In other words, the satanic lie that the prosperity gospel claims is that God wants to bless every believer through wealth. But that is not how it works. This teaching diverts many believers from the narrow path by leading them down the broad way, which seems good to men. It’s all about what we want, not what God wants for us. Little surprise that so many people fall for this false teaching, and that is because it promotes worldly self-centered success focused on pleasing self instead of God.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.13 Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief. 14 The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above. 15 The simple believes every word, But the prudent considers well his steps.
God will bless us spiritually, but this does not mean he will bless us financially. Spiritual blessing does not necessarily equal material blessing and good health, and this is where the prosperity gospel mixes these two distinct categories up, conflating the two in the process. Though there were wealthy believers in the Bible, some of the greatest who lived were among the poorest people alive. Being poor is advantageous because it means fewer stumbling blocks for the believer to trip over. Having fewer distractions means having more time to walk with the Lord and serve Him faithfully. And speaking of Abraham and Job, God tested both men in very severe ways to see what they truly treasured most. In the end, both proved their commitment to the Lord in passing the most demanding tests of their faith. Even after losing everything he had and suffering much in the process, Job still refused to renounce the Lord.
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
In Jesus’ day, Christians were in lower social and economic status. Yet, they had possession of the greatest riches of all. Despite being poor and less esteemed in men’s eyes, the poor people were more open to the gospel. They had fewer earthly things to distract them, and this was to their advantage. Being poor, they possessed more humility, and this led to a greater openness of heart.
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
In the end, this false lie that God wants to make the believer rich is just setting so many people up for failure because they will have striven for so long to get into a comfortable life that some difficult trial or another will challenge. The problem is that the individual will be so satisfied with what they have accumulated that there is a great chance they will be reluctant to let go of it when the need arises. Of course, that is not something that would have happened had they clung to Christ through years spent growing, progressing, and producing in their relationship with the Lord. But since they have trained themselves to put more hope and trust in things which cannot save them, the amount of faith and hope they may have in the One who can deliver them will be outweighed, and thus crushed by the weight of all the misplaced faith they had stored up in worldly riches instead.
This false teaching simply encourages believers to cling to this world by trusting in and giving allegiance to its wealth, NOT TO GOD HIMSELF. It encourages money worship by using and manipulating God’s grace to honor human goals and desires instead of God’s purposes.
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
God cares about the treasures we have stored up in our hearts, not the ones we have accumulated in this world. Most unfortunate then is that so many believers don’t know how to handle wealth as they should without it having some harmful effect. For this very reason, people often deny the faith because they have chosen to serve this other “god” instead. Many want to get rich, but they don’t want to suffer when testing comes, just as in Job and Abraham’s case. And even if the prosperity gospel itself does not influence a person, that doesn’t mean the riches of this world won’t hinder them from serving Christ. Most believers today are distracted by the worries and wealth of this world, and that has done damage enough (Revelation 3:14-22; Matthew 13:18-23). One does not even have to believe in the prosperity gospel to be unfruitful, for many believers are already distracted by the world as it is. These same individuals are at risk from the future challenges that await them, most notably the tribulation. This difficult time will force all lukewarm believers to choose between Satan and the Lord Himself. Most will prove faithful, but many will fall away during that difficult time, much no doubt because wealth was their priority, which left very little room for faith to grow and survive.
The prosperity gospel promotes idolatry, which turns men’s hearts to worship other gods. Additionally, putting money before Christ leads to all kinds of sinful behavior. Just as alcohol has a terrible effect of altering a person and causing them to do all sorts of foolish and immoral things, money, when indulged in worship, has a controlling effect that leads to harmful practices. Living for the Lord produces righteousness, but living for wealth creates sinful behaviors in the form of lust, idolatry, envy, and greed.
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
However, none of the above suggests that rich believers can’t be great men and women of God, but their physical health and material wealth have nothing to do with that. God does not view success based upon how much we have but upon how much spiritual wealth we have stored inside our hearts. Will living for the Lord cause a person to be rich or poor? The answer ultimately depends on an individual’s circumstances in life, where the Lord is leading them, what He is asking them to do, and what said person needs to give up to accomplish the Lord’s will.
For example, the Lord may allow particular believers to acquire a substantial amount of money to use it to help fulfill their ministry of giving. So money can be a good asset, depending. They can also use their wealth to purchase a large house to host as a house church or refuge for believers in need. These are just a few examples. For this very reason, it may very well be the Lord’s desire for certain believers to have a lot of money, only if they can handle it for God’s glory without compromise. But, of course, they need to remember that there is no guarantee that whatever they have now they will have later. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. How much we have can fluctuate at any given time (Job 1:20-22), no matter how secure we think our finances are.
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
On the other side of this, the Lord may allow a person to be poor to test their faith. There may be multiple reasons for this, but the point is obvious. Everyone is different, but there is one thing we must keep in mind: we must learn to be content at all times, in all circumstances, regardless of what we do or do not have. So many believers may be faithful when times are good, but what about when times are bad? Learning how to rely on God and be completely satisfied with Him at ALL times requires constant spiritual growth through attention to the treasures of the truth found in His holy Word. There is no other place to look for true happiness, peace, joy, and purpose than Jesus Christ. He will provide us with everything we need, both physically and spiritually. Even if we lose much or all of our material wealth, we will always have God as our true treasure and possession forever. The wealth we store up in God’s kingdom will last for all eternity, remaining visible for all to see. But if we choose to give our allegiance to material prosperity by putting God in second place, what will happen if we lose all we once had?
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Wealth does have its place in the Christian’s life, but that place should not be first. Great believers can be rich, poor, or in-between, but all of them should always strive to please their Master better, not looking for ways to please and accommodate themselves if that means harming their relation with the Lord and other people.
Whether a believer is low, middle or upper class is not what matters. What matters is how well we run the race the Lord wants us to complete. Whether our wealth increases or decreases, we keep on fighting the good fight day in and day out until we meet our Lord and Savior face to face on that great day to come. Whatever the Lord allows us to have is whatever He permits us to have, whether that be a lot or a little. Believers need to trust in their Savior at all times and follow Him wherever He leads regardless of what He does or does not give us.
5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
3.3 Background and Nationality
Some readers of the Old Testament may argue that Israel’s “holy wars” were unfair and unjust because they involved destroying other peoples and nations, but nothing could be further from the truth. For more information regarding God’s dealings with other peoples, please see The Awesome Character of God. There is far too much on that topic to discuss here because time and space do not permit a lengthy discussion on the subject of Israel’s confrontations with other nations.
1. Christ died for all men who have, are, and will ever live. It is not His will that any human being perish. Salvation is universally available to all who are willing to accept it.
2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
2. All men have free will to choose for or against God. Wherever a person ends up is where they decide to spend eternity.
6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
The bottom line is that a person’s background and nationality do not play any role in how much they can accomplish for the Lord because God has given every believer free will to choose what they desire to do in life. God created all men equally and for Himself, and He likes variety. Not only that, but He needed to form different peoples, tribes, and nations. This difference of peoples, tongues, and ethnicities is known today as nationalism, and it is necessary for the survival of the human race because of humanity’s sinfulness. Suppose all people were allowed to exist as one nation, one religion (assuming it to be false), and speaking one language. Sooner or later, all humanity would become corrupted into one sinful group with one satanic goal and purpose, resulting in the entire destruction of humanity with no (or very few) people who would be willing to cry out to God in faith! In that case, Satan could far more easily target the human race and inflict far more significant damage than what he has already caused.
So it is not for no reason that various peoples exist around the world. The story of the tower of Babel confirms this absolute necessity for nationalism. Had God allowed the people to continue as one cohesive unit, they would have all together turned away from Him and become corrupt. That would have impacted the free will of most to such a negative degree that it would have resulted in almost no person coming to God in faith. God had to preserve human free-will! This “one-religion dream” was a satanic attack against God in an attempt to turn all human beings away from Him. To counter this problem, the Lord mixed up the languages causing the people to scatter.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Different languages exist because of man’s sinfulness. The Lord is against sin, but He is for all people in that He died for all men, desiring all to come to repentance. It was for the protection of humanity, especially that of the church (which will have spanned all of human history when it’s all said and done), that God did what He did. But the majority of human beings from all races and cultures have chosen to reject God’s gracious offer of salvation (Psalm 14:1-3), which He gave by sacrificing His One and only precious Son Jesus Christ. It is man who has chosen the way of eternal death and suffering, despite God’s desire for them to live in eternal bliss and happiness.
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.
The passages above speak for themselves. Men and women have no moral or spiritual advantages over each other. Authority in the church or marriage has nothing to do with the believer’s spiritual potential. From everything we have seen in this study, this point should also be clear and obvious.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Husbands are the spiritual leaders of their wives, but this does not mean more outstanding spiritual production on their part. We are all gifted differently and have different ministries in which we will each serve the Lord. In this examination, the question we have stated multiple times is, “ how well will we choose to serve the Lord?” It all comes down to free will stemming from the right attitude toward God. We see this truth most beautifully in the example of the poor widow, a passage we have already observed earlier in this study.
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
God has ordained the man to be the authority over his wife in a marriage. The purpose is to help us remember our relationship to God and how He is the head of the church and our ultimate authority. This fact in no way means men are more “Godlike,” but that they must take on this needed position for there to be stability in the household. Besides that, there would be disunity and disorganization if there was no authority in the marriage relationship. Someone must be in a leading position for a man and woman to grow together in the Lord. This fact does not in any way imply that women are accountable to men, for they most certainly are not. We are all responsible to the Lord. Nor are men always right or more knowledgeable all the time. But since we are all accountable to God, then to do things as God has ordained them is to serve Him as we should. So men and women are not so much serving each other as they are God. Refusing to play one’s part in the marriage relationship correctly will only result in loss of reward. So if men and women want to be the best soldiers of Christ they can be, they need to behave toward one another as God would have them act.
We have already seen that greater intelligence, education, wealth, and even authority have nothing to do with our reward in heaven. And speaking of authority, the Bible tells us to submit to all those who exercise it over us (Romans 13:1-7). Why? Because they are better? Absolutely not! The Lord told us to submit to government and kings (assuming they are not forcing us to do something morally wrong and unbiblical). But most in government and leading positions are not even believers, so their authority has nothing to do with true spirituality. Yet by obeying them, we serve and obey God. There has to be leadership and organization for things to work in this world, so God has chosen the man to lead his wife and family. However, being better at leadership does not equate to having more spiritual potential.
Free will is a choice that cannot be forced by anyone else, or any outside force for that matter. There are no circumstances, people, or restrictions whatsoever that hinder us from being the best for God that we can be, a fact that goes for both men and women. The gift of choice that God has given us in the form of free will is not a skill but is just as we have said: a choice! The question is, how spiritually successful do we WANT to be? How much do we WANT to serve God and obey Him? There are no limits. How much we accomplish during our lives all depends on how much we WANT to achieve. It takes desire. It is not a skill that some are naturally better at, like someone who has good leadership skills or can play basketball very well.
The door for spiritual success is wide open, and it has nothing to do with wealth, skills, education, intellect, gender, or anything else that man may wrongly deem as significant in the Christian life. On the contrary, any believer can be spiritually successful if they so choose. They need no special permission from God either because it has always been His will for all to love and serve Him as much as possible. God empowers everything we do, yet it is up to every individual, both man and woman, to choose how they will respond to Him. That is what will determine their standing in God’s kingdom.
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Men are not to lord their authority over their wives. No believer should be lording any leadership they may have over another brother or sister in Christ. Both men and women have a responsibility to play their parts in a godly way. Both sexes serve God by serving each other lovingly and respectfully, which earns them eternal rewards beyond comprehension. The question may then well be, who will play their part better? It comes down to free will, but we should never compete or compare. The passage below shows us clearly how one behaves in marriage and generally stems from a person’s ability to choose as they wish.
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,
For a husband and wife to behave properly toward one another is for both of them to minister to each other. By doing this, both individuals have increased their spiritual success and standing with God. We are on earth to serve, not to be served, and all believers have different ways to do so with no particular course (s) being better than the other(s). Therefore, men and women both have equally important roles to play in their respective ministries and their relationship with one another.
Now some may say that most of the great believers (many of whom were prominent leaders) mentioned in the Bible were men. Today, we have many leaders who do not even believe in Christ, yet we must submit to them as Christians. But why are godly men in leadership more prominent than women in the Bible? We need to understand that many other great followers of Christ throughout human history are not mentioned in Scripture. Whether the kingdom contains more godly men or more godly women, we will not know until eternity. But that matters little. The greatest were the best of all time because of how well they submitted to God. Again, we must remember that free will is not a skill, but a choice, something all human beings mentally capable can do.
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
Regarding this passage above, Dr. Luginbill of Ichthys.com states—
The truth is that we are all “el”, “god” with a small “G” ("Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’?" John 10:34 NIV; cf.Ps.82:6), in the sense of having been given the God-given ability to choose: something only possible by divine grace. That is the essence of the image: free will. Clearly, not only is free will not lost at the fall, but making choices – and most particularly the choice of whether or not to accept salvation – is why we are here on earth individually and as a species in the first place.
Just as how women are not to pastor local denominations because of the way God has instituted authority between the sexes, so there were and are other areas of leadership that God has reserved for men to demonstrate once again the “husband and wife” relationship we the church as the bride have with Christ as our husband. The authority of men in leading local church congregations and in other areas of leadership, such as we see throughout the Bible, is symbolic of Christ’s authority over us. Yet despite this authority, He still loves us and seeks our very best, just as a good husband should be toward his wife. In no way are men more extraordinary believers than women; it is just that God has a different role for every one of us to play in His plan.
The Bible contains many great believers of both genders who loved God with all their hearts. And as we have mentioned previously, many great believers have existed from Adam until now, not mentioned in Scripture. Unfortunately, secular books on church history do not contain some of the faith’s greatest and most genuine heroes because the pages are all taken up by only the smartest and most educated (and politically involved). This is not to say some of these men were not great or even among the greatest of their time, but what a shock the entire church from Adam to the last believer to draw breath will encounter when many who were deemed last turn out to be first. Many believers, both men, and women have been under the radar for many years. But just because few have seen and acknowledged the greatness of their work does mean that God has not noticed, for He most certainly has. They will be rewarded abundantly and in the most blessed way.
God never limits any person’s growth, progress, and production based on anything outside of our free will (stemming from the disposition of our hearts toward Him). He doesn’t care what race or culture we come from and what we look like, for He loves all men and desires the salvation of all just as equally. Even though many believers live in third-world countries where God’s Word and other biblical resources are scarce, the Lord will not fail to provide them the opportunities to maximize their production for Him. Our Savior will never allow anything to prevent anyone from obeying Him and serving in the ministries He has for them. No worldly factors will ever prevent God from empowering a willing person to serve Him with all their hearts. That doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles, for there most certainly will be. But what defines the believer’s real success is how they bear up under all of the challenges that life throws their way. No matter where a person is from, what they look like, and how hard they may have it, God wants to see each of us give our very best for Him regardless of the circumstances.
God defines us spiritually, not by the standards of the world. Whatever a person reaps is what they will sow later on. The issue for all of humanity is free will, and it is up to the individual to use it themselves. It is not a skill or a gift unique to specific individuals alone, but it is something that all people can exercise. For the unbeliever, the question is, will they choose God with this gift of free will? For the believer, the question is whether they will hold to the choice they made for Christ and produce as much as possible with the time and opportunities they have. God will provide everything we need to do the best we can for Him. The question remains, will we accept what He is trying to give us?
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.