Are You Ready to Accept Your Responsibility to Look After the Body?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in verses seventeen through twenty-seven of the sixteenth chapter. With this particular set of verses—not only does the sixteenth chapter of this epistle conclude, but the entire epistle itself concludes. The question I have to ask when reading this epistle is how you close and conclude an epistle such as the one written to the Romans. The epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Romans was one of tremendous doctrine and theology, and one that was meant to instruct and teach the Romans concerning matters such as justification, salvation and sanctification. This entire epistle was essentially a treatise that centered upon doctrine and theology, and would be an epistle that would radically Abe dramatically transform and alter the church. It would be the epistle if the Romans that would be the catalyst for the Reformation which took place during the days of and as a result of Martin Luther. With this epistle the apostle Paul sought to instruct the Romans concerning those matters which were undoubtedly revealed unto him during that time he went into the desert of Arabia. That which we read and that which is contained in this epistle is a powerful dissertation of the apostle Paul concerning the doctrine and theology that would shape Christianity and the countless churches that have been in existence throughout history. What we find here in the epistle of Paul unto the Romans must be carefully read and studied, for that which is contained within it should dramatically and radically transform—not only our own personal theology, but also our relationship with the triune Godhead.

Within this epistle we not only find an overwhelming amount of doctrine and theology, but we also find tremendous instruction on Christian living, Christian service and Christian submission among the saints and brethren. I have written that any Christian living, any Christian service, any Christian submission must be found within and from the place of living sacrifice. If any of our attempts at Christian living, or Christian service, or Christian submission does not flow from the place of living sacrifice, I contend that it might not be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God our Father who is in heaven. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that our Christian living must take place and flow from living sacrifice—a sacrifice that is holy and acceptable in the sight of the Lord—for if the sacrifice itself is not holy and acceptable, I would highly suggest that any attempt at Christian living would not be holy and acceptable in the sight of the Lord. Perhaps the question that must be asked concerning your life as well as mine is whether or not the sacrifice of our life is holy and acceptable in the sight of God. What’s more, is whether or not our Christian living and Christian service is holy and acceptable in the sight of the living God. The epistle to the saints which were at Rome wasn’t merely a treatise and dissertation on theology and doctrine but also one on Christian living, Christian service, and Christian submission. Between the theology and doctrine that is contained within this epistle and instruction on Christian living, service and submission are three chapters that deal exclusively and specifically with the nation and people of Israel and how their estrangement from the Lord concerning the cross of Jesus Christ, and concerning the Messiah led to the door and way being opened for the Gentiles to experience the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, receive and experience the baptism of John, and to experience the promise of the Father and the baptism of Jesus.

How does the apostle Paul conclude such a treatise and dissertation that was written to instruct first and foremost in matters of theology and doctrine? I must pause and declare that whole theology and doctrine are not the most crucial and vital realities within our hearts and lives, they are nonetheless the foundation for how we live our lives and conduct our lives. A.W. Tozer wrote that what a man believes concerning and what a man believes about the living God is the most important factor within his life. I happen to find these words written by Tozer to be absolutely incredible in their scope and weight, for how and what one believes concerning the living God can and will radically and dramatically shape and alter their entire life. I am utterly and absolutely convinced that we must diligently strive to ensure that our doctrine and our theology is aright before the living God, for if our doctrine and theology is off course—while it most certainly can be corrected—there is a tremendous danger in the course of our lives and how we conduct ourselves before a holy and just God can be skewed. What’s more, is I am convinced doctrine and theology play a crucial role as it pertains to our worship of the living God, for how can we dare think we can worship that which we do not know? How can we worship He whom we neither know, nor know about? I would dare say that it is impossible to worship the Father in Spirit and in truth if the truth that is present at the forefront of our lives does not line up with Scripture. While doctrine and theology aren’t the means or method whereby we are saved and enter into and experience the kingdom of heaven, they nonetheless shape how we live, how we worship, how we think, and so much more. One of the main questions we must face within our lives is whether or not our doctrine and theology lines up with Scripture and is truly making a difference upon the way we live our lives and the way we worship the living God. As much as our Christian living, our Christian service, our Christian submission must flow from a place of living sacrifice, each must also flow from a doctrine and theology that is correct before and in the sight of the living God

When you come to this final part of the sixteenth chapter of the epistle of the apostle Paul, you will find that he chooses to begin this section with a powerful word of instruction concerning the saints which were at Rome. In the seventeenth verse of this final chapter of the epistle we find the apostle Paul writing these words unto the saints which were at Rome—“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). How does the apostle Paul conclude an epistle such as that which was written unto the saints which were at Rome? He begins to bring it to a close by first beseeching, imploring and instructing his readers and audience to mark those among them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which they have learned—and not only to mark them, but also to avoid them. This is actually quite remarkable and astounding when you take the time to consider it, for there is a tremendous amount of language contained within Scripture concerning that which causes divisions and offenses among the body and within the church. In fact, I am convinced that one of the greatest needs we have within and among the body of Christ is to mark well those among us who would created divisions and offenses which are contrary to the doctrine which we have learned. What was the doctrine which the Romans had learned? I am convinced that that which the apostle Paul was writing and speaking of was that doctrine which was set forth within and throughout this particular epistle. The apostle Paul set out to instruct the saints and body which was at Rome in matters of doctrine and theology, for he recognized and understood that doctrine and theology which was true in the sight of the living God would stand as the foundation for Christian living, Christian service and Christian submission before the Lord. That which the apostle Paul set out to do was to bring the saints which were at Rome to the place where they marked those among them who would seek to cause and create divisions and offenses among them, and to avoid them. In essence, that which the apostle Paul set forth to do was to prevent anything that would cause divisions and offenses within and among the body, and one of his final statements was essentially a way of instructing them to guard carefully that which he set forth within and throughout the epistle.

IN order to truly understand that which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome concerning those which cause divisions and offenses, it’s absolutely necessary that we turn and direct our attention to various passages within Scripture that confirm and enhance this very reality. IN verses ten through seventeen of the first chapter of the epistle unto the congregation at Corinth the apostle Paul writes these words—“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know now whether I baptized any other” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16). Within this set of verses the apostle Paul not only addresses divisions among the congregation at Corinth, but the apostle Paul also addresses contentions among them—contentions which could very well cause and create strife, anger, animosity, bitterness, resentment, and the like. The question that is found when reading this passage of Scripture is what was it that caused the divisions and contentions among the body of Christ. The answer is actually found in the eleventh and twelfth verses, for within these two verses we find the saints which were at Corinth being divided because of and based on personalities within Christianity. I would dare say that there is a tremendous and inherent danger when we allow ourselves to be controlled and governed by Christian personalities—regardless of how well known such personalities are. There were clear divisions and clear demarcations within the congregation of Corinth based on the personalities of their day—personalities such as Peter, Paul, Apollos, and even Jesus Christ. OH, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us within this generation are divided amongst and between themselves concerning the personalities that are present among and before us—whether on television, on the radio, in iTunes, on the shelves of our bookstores, and the like.

If you continue reading this first epistle of Paul unto the saints and congregation which was at Corinth, you will find in the third chapter an additional dialogue concerning the divisions that were found within this particular congregation. If you begin reading with the first verse of the third chapter you will read the following words—“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planters any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planters and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know hey not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:1-17).

If you continue reading this particular epistle you will find yet another account of the divisions that were present within and among this body and congregation—divisions that were found at, around and at concerning the Lord’s table. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in the eleventh chapter of this epistle beginning with the seventeenth verse—“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among your. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the LORd’ supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? OR despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praised you in this? I Praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the LORd Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation” (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

Within the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the congregation at Corinth, there are at least three specific instances when the apostle Paul speaks to and addresses the divisions that were present within that particular body and congregation. Two of the occasions for which the apostle addresses and speaks to the concept of divisions and schisms among this particular body and congregation are centered upon the personalities of that generation. There were divisions and schisms among the body and congregation of Corinth because men and women were aligning themselves with the personalities of that generation and as a result were allowing themselves to be divided. It’s actually quite astounding to think that a church and congregation of believers could be divided based on personalities, yet that was exactly what happened within and among the congregation at Corinth. The congregation at Corinth was divided within and among itself based on the personalities that were prominent within that generation. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how much division and how many divisions are present among us within this generation concerning the personalities that are present among us within the earth. While there may not be men and women who would declare and speak of themselves as being followers of a specific personality and individual, they nonetheless align and associate themselves with specific personalities and ministers of the day. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul would go on to write how there were divisions before, around, at and concerning the Lord’s table because there would be those who would be drunk at the Lord’s table, while there would be others who would be hungry at the Lord’s table. In essence that which was found at the Lord’s table was a selfish, self-centered, and self-seeking mentality, for those who were gathered around it would be about themselves and about gratifying their own pleasures, desires, needs and wants. Who would have ever thought that the Lord’s table could be defiled and polluted because of the selfishness of men? Yet, the truth of the matter is that this was exactly what was happening at the Lord’s table at Corinth, for men and women were seeking to please themselves and to satisfy their own pleasures and desires while allowing others to go without. Excess and surplus were found before and around the Lord’s table, as men and women would make sure they themselves were satisfied while not being concerned with those around them at the very table.

The question I can’t help but ask is what actually takes place within and among us when we gather together as the saints and disciples of Jesus. When the doors of our churches are open on Sunday morning, and when they are even opened on Sunday evening, and even during the week, what actually takes place among us? As I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, I am faced with the underlying question of what actually takes place when we gather together, and what is being reported concerning the sanctuaries and churches in which we meet. What would happen if the apostle Paul were to enter into our churches and congregations based on that which was written within his epistles? If there is one thing we must recognize and understand is that it didn’t take long before the church would begin to be infiltrated by those personalities and those individuals that would create, breed and foster divisions, strife, contentions, offenses, and the like among the body. It wouldn’t take long before that which the apostle Paul spoke unto the elders at Ephesus would actually find its way among the body and within the congregation of Jesus Christ. IF there is one thing the epistles of the apostle Paul reveal it’s that churches and congregations can not only face dangers from without, but churches can also face dangers from within. Oh, the question I have to ask myself is what we are doing to safeguard and to protect the body of Christ from divisions, from strife, from contention, from offenses, from heresies, and the like. I am going to be incredibly bold right now and declare that it is not the minister’s responsibility alone to safeguard and protect the body from such dangers. There would be those who would place the emphasis solely on the minister and upon those who are over the body, yet the truth of the matter is that that simply isn’t the case. Each and every member of the body bears their own responsibility to safeguard, care for, and look out for and after the body of Christ. There is no single man within the body of Christ who is able to care for and look out for the body themselves.

There is a passage found within the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel that perfectly helps describe the reality I am speaking of, and is found in the thirty-fourth chapter of the book. Consider if you will the words and language that is found within this particular chapter—“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophet, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye at the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was divine away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;’ Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them” (Ezekiel 34:1-10).

There are specific passages found within the -pastoral epistles of Thea pestle Paul which must be carefully considered if we are to truly understand what he wrote in the final verses of the epistle unto the Romans. In the fourth chapter of the first epistle to Timothy we read the following words: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their confidence seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstand from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving. For it is acntified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But. Refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profeth little: but godliness is profitable unto all thingsx, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all accedptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach” (1 Timothy 4:1-11). IN the third chapter of the second epistle of the apostle Paul unto Timothy we find these words written by the apostle: “This k now also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthanksful, unholy, w ithout natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but bending the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are thy which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, every learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Joanne’s and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minded, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:1-12).

If we are to even further understand the words which the apostle wrote unto the saints which were at Rome, it’s necessary to turn our attention to the Lord’s own instruction unto the churches to which He himself addressed within the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Concerning the church which was at Ephesus our Lord spoke and declared these words—“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast born, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labour, and hast not fainted…But this thou hast, that thou hates the deeds of the Nicolaitains, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:1-7). Unto the church in Smyrna our Lord speaks these words—“I know thy works, and tribulation, and very, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:8-11). Unto the churchwhich was at Pergamos our Lord writes these words—“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:12-17). Unto the church which is at Thyatria our Lord speaks these words—“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But I unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden” (Revelation 2:18-28).

It is quite clear from the letters which were written unto the first four churches mentioned in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ that our Lord felt it necessary to address the false teaching and false doctrine that was prevalent within those churches. The church at Ephesus could not bear those which were evil, and tried those which said they were apostles, and yet were not, and found them to be liars, and they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. When you come to the church of Smyrna, however, you will find present among them those who say they are Jews, and yet are not, and are instead a synagogue of Satan. The church at Pergamos had present among them those who not only held to the teaching of the. Nicolaitans, but those who held to doctrine of Balac as well, thus permitting and allowing false teaching and false doctrine to infiltrate their ranks and midst. The church in Thyatira had present among them a single personality—a woman known as Jezebel—who called herself a prophetess, and thought and seceded the servant of Jesus to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. IT is absolutely necessary that we read and understand the words that are contained within this passage of Scripture, for they bring us face to face with the tremendous responsibility we have to mark those among us who would cause divisions and contentions and offenses, and to avoid them. There is a great need to safeguard and to protect the body of Christ, and the church of Jesus Christ from that which would seek to destroy and weaken it within the earth. The question is what we are doing to look after, care for, and watch out for the body of Christ within the earth. Are you willing to rise up and accept your responsibility to care for the church and to not pawn the responsibility off on the ministers and leaders of our churches in this generation?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s