Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twelve through thirty-one of the twelfth chapter. When you come to this latter part of the twelfth chapter you will find the apostle Paul in a way transitioning from a description of the gifts of the Spirit, but also build upon those nine gifts which He had just mentioned. Within the first eleven verses of the twelfth chapter we find the apostle Paul setting forth the tremendous reality of the unity and harmony of the triune Godhead through his statements concerning the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God. The apostle Paul speaks of gifts, administrations and offices, and how all were given by the Lord unto the church and body of Christ for the edification, nurturing and building up of the body of Christ. The apostle sets forth nine unique and nine specific gifts that come and flow from the Spirit and which are given unto the body of Christ for its maturity and growth. It is absolutely incredible that the apostle Paul—in this portion of the epistle—begins to speak of Christian ministry and Christian service within the church and among the body of Christ. Through and within this chapter the apostle sets forth the nine gifts of the Spirit, and as the chapter progresses goes on to speak of the purpose and function of those gifts within and among the members of the body.
What is absolutely amazing about this particular chapter is that while the apostle doesn’t specifically mention the gifts of the Spirit when he speaks of the unity of the body, he sets forth the absolutely necessity of each member of the body. The more I read and study—not only this particular epistle of the apostle Paul, but each of his epistles—the more I come face to face with the reality that each and ever member within the body of Christ has a specific role, function and purpose. If you consider Jesus’ parable concerning the three servants who were given talents, each serving had a place, a purpose, a role and function on behalf of the master. Despite the fact the Master gave one serving five talents, another servant two talents, and another servant one talent, each Serbs to was included in the purposes of the Master while he was gone. It is an absolutely and incredibly powerful thought to consider that while our Master is away preparing a place and a wedding for His bride, there is a specific place, there is a specific role, there is a specific function that each of us play here upon the earth. What’s more, is that in the absence of the Master and Teacher the work must continue and go on. In show business there is a phrase “the show must go on,” and I can’t help but be gripped by that phrase when considering the unity and ministry of the body. Despite the fact that Jesus completed and finished the work He was given to do by His Father in heaven, and even though He ascended to the right hand of the Father, the work must continue here within and upon the earth.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON! I find it to be absolutely astounding and remarkable that when we read the words of the four gospel writers of the New Testament—despite Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of His Father in heaven, the work must continue and must not cease. Just because Jesus was crucified, buried in the earth, raised from death to life, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, the work must absolutely and without hesitation and reservation continue. We must make absolutely no mistake about this, for the work which Jesus began while on the earth was manifested in the lives of the disciples in a certain measure as they walked with Him, but would continue in an even greater measure upon Jesus’ departure. If we are to truly understand the full weight and significance of this reality we must carefully examine specific references within Scripture. We must examine the works which the disciples did on behalf of Christ while walking upon the earth. We must examine Christ’s instructions to the disciples upon His ascension to the Father. We must examine Jesus’ words in the fourth gospel of John as He provides parting words to His disciples prior to His betrayal and death. We must examine Jesus’ parable concerning the master and his three servants. We must also study the words of the apostle Paul concerning Christian service and ministry within the body of Christ upon the earth. If we are to understand the ministry of the body upon Christ’s departure from this earth we are to make it a point to understand the instruction Jesus gave to His disciples when He sent them out while still engaged in ministry upon the earth, for it are those words—coupled together with the example of His own life and ministry—that help set the stage and the backdrop for that which the apostle Paul writes in his various epistles within the New Testament.
The stage for that which the apostle Paul writes in this particular chapter is first set for us and found within the tenth chapter of the the New Testament gospel of Matthew. If you journey to this particular chapter within the New Testament you will find the account of Jesus calling unto Himself His twelve disciples, and sending them out to engage in full-time ministry. If you begin reading with the first verse of this particular chapter you will find an absolutely incredible account of that which the Master was preparing His servants and friends to accomplish—not only while He was still walking among them, but also after His departure and return to His Father. Consider if you will the account as Matthew records it for us beginning with the first verse of the tenth chapter: “And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; the first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and LEbbaues, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanites, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devil: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (matthew 10:1-16).
This same account is found again in the sixth chapter of the gospel according to Mark beginning with the seventh verse. Consider if you will the account as Mark records it within his own gospel which is found within the New Testament—“And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; and commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till he depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:7-13).
This mission and mandate would continue within the tenth chapter of Luke’s gospel and is found beginning with the first verse of the chapter. Consider the words as the beloved physician Luke records it within this gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus: “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He himself would come. Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither pause, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, POeace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: and heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come night unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city” (Luke 10:1-12).
Within these three passages of Scripture we find Jesus first sending out His twelve disciples to engage themselves in public ministry after spending a considerable amount of time walking with Him. The disciples had listened as Jesus taught in the synagogues, and listened as Jesus taught in the streets, and in the Temple, and on hillsides, and they had watched as Jesus had healed the sick, cast out demons, and had preached the good news of the kingdom of God which had come down to earth among men. Now Jesus was appointing the twelve disciples to not merely walk with Him, but to actually do that which they watched and heard Him do. Please make note of this, for while there is a tremendous testimony to those who walk with and follow Christ, there must come a point within our walk when we actually do more than walk with and follow Christ. There must come a point within our lives when we take everything we have watched and observe Him do, and when we take everything we have heard Him speak and preach, and engage ourselves in ministry for and before the Master. With that being said, however, it is imperative that we recognize and understand that the disciples did not attempt to rush this process within their lives, and they only went out according to the word and instruction of Jesus. If you examine both the account of the twelve disciples, as well as the account of the seventy other, you will find that in both cases it was Jesus Himself who called both groups unto Himself and sent them out within and upon the earth. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand it, for there are a number of men and women who may very well walk with and follow Christ, and yet they attempt to take it upon themselves to do that which they have neither been authorized nor commissioned to do. Both the twelve disciples, as well as the seventy other were specifically called by Jesus Christ unto Himself in order that He might not only send them out, but also give them specific instruction concerning their sending. In all reality, I am convinced that that which we have been called unto Christ and sent out to fulfill and accomplish is just as important as the instruction and command itself. There are far too many men and women who will attempt to engage themselves in ministry for Christ without having received any instruction from the Master.
If you continue reading the four gospels found within the beginning and opening of the New Testament, as well as the first two chapters of the New Testament book of Acts, you will find additional instruction given unto the disciples prior to Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father. Beginning with the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew’s gospel you will find what has commonly become known as “the Great Commission,” for it at the end of Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus’ final words—not only within the gospel itself, but also His final words unto His disciples prior to His ascension. Beginning with the sixteenth verse of this chapter we find the following words written and recorded by Matthew who himself was called by Jesus after serving as a tax collector for an on behalf of the Romans. Consider the following words found at the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel concerning what has become commonly known as “the great Commission”—“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20). The New Testament gospel of Matthew concludes with Jesus’ instruction unto His disciples to go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. At the end of Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus instructing His disciples to teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded and instructed them. This is actually quite remarkable and powerful when you consider it, for with these words Jesus provides a second commission if you will to His disciples. It is recorded in this passage of Scripture that the disciples came unto Jesus and worshipped Him, while some still doubted within their hearts, and yet even in the midst of this Jesus still sent them out into and among all nations of the earth. What is so incredibly powerful about this particular encounter is that Jesus knew that He was returning to His Father, and the work which He began to do upon the earth—a work which His own disciples had assisted Him with—was to continue within and upon the earth.
If you transition to the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark—specifically the sixteenth and final chapter of the gospel—you will find an additional account of Jesus departure from this earth unto His Father, and His final instruction unto the eleven disciples who remained. Beginning with the fourteenth verse of Mark’s gospel we find the following words—“Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upgraded them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached e very where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:14-20). If you transition to the twenty-fourth and final chapter of Luke’s gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry, you will find additional commentary concerning Jesus’ final instructions which were given unto His disciples just prior to His ascension to the right hand of His Father in heaven. Beginning with the forty-fourth verse of this final chapter we find the following words written and recorded by the beloved physician: “And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:43-53).
In the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find a similar account as that which Luke wrote at the conclusion of his first treatise which was written unto Theophilus. If you begin reading with the first verse of the first chapter and continue reading unto the twelfth verse you will find a second account of Jesus’ parting words unto His disciples just before He ascended and returned to His Father who was in heaven. Consider if you will what is written and recorded in the first chapter of the book of the Acts of the apostle beginning with the first verse: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the HOly Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath’s day journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room” (Acts 1:1-13).
From His instruction unto the twelve, to the instruction to the seventy also, to the sending of both groups out into the earth to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils, and to preach the good news of the kingdom, to Jesus’ instruction to the elven disciples just prior to His ascension and return to His Father who is in heaven, we find a divine mission, mandate and ministry assigned unto them—one that began with their being sent out while they walked with Him, and would continue after He ascended unto the right hand of His Father in heaven, and after they were endued with power from on high. When the twelve disciples went out into the earth the first time, they did so while still walking with Jesus, for the Spirit and promise of the Father had not yet been released and manifested among them. It wasn’t until Jesus ascended unto the right hand of His Father in heaven that the promised Spirit of the Father would be sent unto them, thus endowing them with power from on high to fulfill and complete the mandate they were called to do. What I absolutely love about the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, Mark’s gospel, as well as Luke’s gospel, is that Jesus prepared His disciples for the overwhelming reality that the work which He began upon the earth was to continue—even after and upon His departure from them and subsequent ascension unto the right hand of His Father in heaven. The fundamental difference between their being sent out while Jesus walked with them upon the earth and what we read in the book of Acts is that in the book of Acts we find them operating—not with the person and presence of Christ physically with them as He had been, but with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit who taught and reminded them of that which Jesus had spoken unto them. The work was to continue after Christ’s departure and ascension unto the right hand of His Father in heaven, and it would be done according to the person and presence of the Holy Spirit working in, among and with them. I love how Mark’s gospel concludes, for he writes of an apparent partnership that would take place between Jesus and His disciples and followers after His departure—“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of this, for with these words we find a powerful declaration concerning Jesus the Christ and how even after His ascension unto the right hand of His Father in heaven, he continued working with them, and confirming the word they preached with signs following.
If you transition to the twelfth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Roman congregation you will find him writing concerning the ministry of the body upon the earth—one that not only must be manifested and evidenced among the nations, but also within the body of Christ itself. Beginning to read with the fourth verse of the twelfth chapter we find the following words written by the apostle Paul unto this Roman congregation—“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Ashore that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instand in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceives. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much asl Keith in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:4-21).
These words which were written by the apostle must also be considered with words which He wrote unto the congregation at Ephesus. Beginning with the first verse of the fourth chapter we find the following words written by the apostle concerning the ministry of the body and the purpose, role and function of such ministry. Consider if you will the following words which were written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian congregation—“I therefore, the prison of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with All loveliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? HE that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave some, apostles; and som, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we will come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint suppliers, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).
What we find and what we read in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation is not only a powerful teaching concerning the nine gifts of the Spirit, but also an even more powerful truth—not only concerning the unity of the body of Christ, but also how those nine gifts fit and work together within and among the body of Christ. If you read this chapter you will notice very specific language—not only concerning the unity of the Godhead, but also the unity of the body. Consider the following words and phrases that are found within this passage concerning the unity of the Godhead, as well as the unity of the body itself—“the same Spirit,” “the same Lord,” “The same God,” “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,” “but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will,” “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ,” “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,” “have been all made to drink into one Spirit,” “For the body is not one member, but many,” “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him,” Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” There is absolutely no denying the fact that the unity of the triune Godhead is manifested within the body, for just as Christ is one, just as the Spirit is one, just as God is one, so also must the body be one. What’s more, is that the body is not a single member, but is comprised and made up of many members—a reality which we must recognize and understand without any reservation or equivocation. We dare not, we cannot, we should not, we must not make any attempt to divide the body, and/or to elevate any single member within the body of Christ. We must recognize and understand that the body is the body because of its many members, and that Christ never called us to operate as lone rangers within and upon the earth. Each and every one of us has a very specific role and function within and among the body, and Christ has placed us in the body where He has seen fit.
It’s worth noting the words of the apostle towards the end of this particular, for he reveals one of the single greatest causes of division and schism within the body of Christ. Beginning to read with the twenty-second verse of this chapter we find the following words written by the apostle—“Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffering, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:22-27). It is this chapter that helps us understand—not only that the work of Christ must continue upon the earth, but also that each and every member of the body of Christ plays an integral and crucial role upon the earth. One of the most profound truths is that concerning the body of Christ, the body of Christ is here within and here upon the earth, while the head of the body, which is Christ Himself is in heaven. The body of Christ here upon the earth is governed by the head, and must surrender fully and completely to the guidance and leading of the head, and must surrender completely and totally to the working of the person, presence and power of the divine and Holy Spirit of the Father here upon the earth. It has been given unto each and every man and woman a specific role and function upon the earth, and the work which Christ performed within and upon the earth must in fact continue with, in and through His body that remains here upon the earth. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to join ourselves to the body, whether or not we are willing to recognize and understand and discern our role in the body, and whether or not we are willing to bring ourselves under the authority of the Head of the body which is Christ.