If We Are the Body: The Unity of the Spirit & the Ministry of Jesus

Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were in Rome. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament epistle. “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. Greet Pricilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ : who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, give also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Gree Amplia my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ and Satchys my beloved. Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Arisobulus’ household. Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Salute Asyncritus, Phelgon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. Salute Philogogus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olumpas, and all the saints which are with them. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:1-16).

 

            “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:17-20).

 

            “Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Romans 16:21-24).

 

            “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which is kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27).

 

            “Written to the Romans from Corinthus, and sent by Phebe servant of the church at Cenchrea” (Romans 16:27).

 

            When you come to the final chapter of the epistle of Paul written unto the saints of Rome you will find the chapter inundated and filled with greetings and salutations to different members of the church. Upon initial review of the language found in this chapter—and not only the language found in this chapter but also the names found in the chapter—you will encounter the tremendous reality of just how interconnected the body of Christ truly is. If there is one thing that absolutely amazes me about the early church during the days of the apostles it’s how incredibly intertwined and woven together the churches actually were. It made absolutely no difference whether the church and body of believers was in Antioch, or in Jerusalem, or in Caesarea, or in Damascus, or in Corinth, or in Ephesus, or any other city in the region of Judaea, Macedonia, Asia during the world of that time. I read the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the churches being so intricately woven together by the Holy Spirit from the time the persecution broke out against the church in the city of Jerusalem. Upon turning and directing your attention back to the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will discover that after the stoning and death of Stephen—the church’s first martyr—there was a great persecution which broke out against the Church in the city of Jerusalem. As a direct result of the persecution which broke out against the church in the city of Jerusalem all but the apostles were scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria. By the time the eighth chapter of the book of Acts concludes we find the church which up until that time was only in Jerusalem had spread and expanded throughout Judaea and Samaria.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about this tremendous reality of the persecution of the church which broke out against it in the city of Jerusalem and I am absolutely gripped and captivated with the reality that it was through persecution the church would expand its influence and presence beyond the city of Jerusalem. Up until the eighth chapter the early church was pretty much present in the city of Jerusalem alone and had not yet ventured into the regions of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria. When persecution, however, rose up against the church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem the believers were scattered throughout Judaea, Samaria and Galilee teaching and preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that it is in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find Philip the evangelist journeying unto Samaria and preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus unto those. Not only this but there in Samaria the Lord Jesus would work together with Philip through signs, wonders and miracles and so much so that many in Samaria would believe the word and name of the Lord Jesus. Eventually word concerning those in Samaria hearing and receiving the word of the Lord Jesus and the church in Jerusalem would send the apostles Peter and John to assist in the work. Pause for a moment and consider this concept of the church in Jerusalem sending the apostles Peter and John unto the work which was present in Samaria for it is something that is quite common during the days of the early church. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the work and ministry of the gospel of the Lord Jesus exploding and expanding in various regions and word reaching the apostles and brethren which were in Jerusalem. As a direct result of hearing of the great and wondrous works which were being done in the various regions round about Jerusalem and Judaea the apostles and brethren would send workers and laborers to come alongside and assist with the work.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about and considering this concept of the churches being so interconnected that the apostles and brethren would send labor and helpers to assist in the work which was taking place in other cities, towns and regions. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the absolutely remarkable and astounding truth that is found in the New Testament book of Acts and how the early church would indeed send laborers and helpers to come alongside the work of the word and ministry of the Lord Jesus. In fact I would dare say that if you want to truly understand the words, language and names found in the sixteenth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome you must first turn and direct your attention to the New Testament book and see just how connected the churches and congregations of believers actually was. Consider if you will the following passages which are found in the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the eighth chapter of this New Testament book:

 

            “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God they sent unto them Peter and John: who when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through layong on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans” (Acts 8:5-25).

 

            “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was at Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:9-26).

 

            “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul(Acts 11:27-30).

 

            “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: IT seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well” (Acts 15:22-29).

 

            “So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still, Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also” (Acts 15:30-35).

 

            It is absolutely necessary we pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for within they we are brought face to face with the work of the ministry of the Lord Jesus taking place in certain parts and regions and the apostles and brethren sending unto them some from their own members to exhort and encourage them. Within these passages of Scripture we find Barnabas, Silas, and Barsabas being sent by the apostles and brethren unto the churches to assist in the work of the ministry. Moreover it is in the eighth chapter of this book we find the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem sending the apostles Peter and John to assist in the work of the ministry in Samaria. It would be when the apostles Peter and John came unto Samaria they would pray for and lay their hands on those in the midst thereof that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Oh we must needs recognize and understand the words and language found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the reality of just how connected the churches during that time truly were. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the churches which were established by the Holy Ghost being so connected with each other—not only in the work and word of the name of the Lord Jesus but also in the matter of giving and resources. Perhaps one of the greatest truths found in the New Testament book of Acts is not only how interconnected the believers and churches were but also how deliberate and intentional they were with their resources.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome and I can’t help but think about the words and language which is found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. While it is indeed true we must needs recognize and understand how incredibly connected the churches and bodies of believers truly were I am convinced it is also necessary to consider how selfless and generous they were with their resources. You cannot read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely awesome and powerful truth surrounding one of the greatest works of the Holy Spirit. Oh there would be those who would argue that the greatest work of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was enabling men and women to speak with other tongues and yet I am absolutely convinced this isn’t even the greatest work of the Holy Spirit. Consider the fact that on the day of Pentecost three thousand souls were added unto the number of the believers which were present in the upper room. The day of Pentecost would begin with only one hundred and twenty souls present in the upper room in Jerusalem and before the day was out it would conclude with three thousand souls being added unto their number. What’s more is that when you read the final verses of the second chapter you will find how the Holy Spirit so united and knit together the hearts and souls of the believers present in the city of Jerusalem. Not only this but you will also read of the believers which were present in the early church—more than three thousand of them—counting their possessions as not belonging to them and giving of their possessions and resources that the needs of the body might be met.

 

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the Holy Spirit did indeed enable men and women to speak with other tongues, however, that wasn’t even the greatest work the Holy Spirit produced among the believers. Upon reading the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that the work of the Holy Spirit not only produced within men the ability to speak with other tongues but it also produced a tremendous unity among the saints. Stop and consider how incredibly difficult it is to get one hundred souls in unity and then think about what it would be like to get three thousand plus souls in unity and harmony with each other. Now add to that what it would take for more than three thousand souls to not view their own possessions or treasures as their own and being willing to give unto others that the needs of many might be met. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that what we find in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts is a strong contrast to that which the rich young ruler was unwilling to do in the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is in this particular chapter where we find the rich younger ruler asking the Lord Jesus what good thing he ought to do to receive eternal life to which Jesus responded by inviting him to sell all he had, give unto the poor and then come and follow Him. What Scripture reveals, however, is that this rich young ruler grew sorrowful and left the presence of Jesus full of sorrow for he had many possessions and wealth. The rich young ruler was unwilling and unable to give up his possessions as directly juxtaposed to Zacchaeus who in the presence of Jesus and His disciples declared that he was willing to give half of his possessions to the poor and restore four-fold that which he had gained through extortion. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following passages of Scripture concerning the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus and the body of believers which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem:

 

            “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I. kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto His disciples, Verily, I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:16-23).

 

            “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

 

            “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and good, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).

 

            “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).

 

            Please pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they bring us face to face with perhaps one of the greatest realities found in the early church. You cannot read the book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that there was this incredible generosity and selflessness that was fostered and created among and within the hearts of the saints of God. The more you read the words found in the book of Acts the more you will encounter the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the early church and how they counted not their own possessions as belonging unto them but distributed unto the poor that the needs of everyone might be met. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible that truly is for it calls and draws our attention to a tremendous work of the Holy Spirit which was wrought in the hearts and lives of the early church. It was indeed true the Holy Spirit caused men and women to speak with other tongues as He gave them utterance, however, it was also true that the Holy Spirit produced a unity, a humility and generosity within the hearts of the saints and people of God. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous reality that when you speak of the early church—not only do you speak of it being interconnected within itself but you also read of the brethren not counting their own possessions and treasures as belonging unto themselves. The Holy Spirit worked and produced within the hearts and minds of the early church a powerful humility and generosity one toward another that they cared not for their own needs alone but the needs of others around them.

 

            Upon reading the New Testament book of Acts you will find in the second and fourth chapters a powerful picture of the selflessness, the generosity, the humility and the unity of the believers as men and women had all things in common. During those days men and women sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men as every man had need. This is precisely what Joses who was surnamed Barnabas had done when he sold a piece of land and brought the sum of the sale unto the apostles. What makes this all the more incredible when you take the time to think about it is when you come to the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book and find this generosity extending beyond just the church in the city of Jerusalem but also extending among the churches which were present during those days. It is in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the church in Antioch being moved and compelled to send an offering and gift by the hands of Paul and Barnabas unto the church in Judaea that they might be ministered unto. It would during days of great dearth that the church in Antioch sought to minister unto the needs of those within the church of Judaea and took up an offering that the needs of others might be met. This is something which must needs be wonderfully and powerfully considered for when writing to the Corinthian saints the apostle Paul also spoke of this concept of offering which was being taken up that the needs of others might be met. Oh if there is one thing I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with it’s the awesome and powerful truth that what began with those in Jerusalem having all things in common and selling all their possessions and goods that the needs of others might be met would transition to churches being moved with compassion, humility and generosity toward their brethren in other regions. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome as well as the words which are found in the epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints:

 

            “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily, and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. Now the God of all peace be with you all” (Romans 15:25-33).

 

            “For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia wasn’t ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest out boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness) being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of his service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; and by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (Romans 9:1-15).

 

            The words which we find here in these two passages of Scripture bring us face to face with the absolutely awesome and powerful truth of how the generosity, unity and humility which was first manifested among the brethren in the city of Jerusalem would ultimately extend unto the churches throughout Asia and the surrounding regions. What we read in these chapters bring us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth of the churches present in the earth during those days seeking to minister unto the other churches which were in need before and around them. What we find in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts would be mentioned in greater measure in the fifteenth chapter of the epistle written unto the Roman saints as well as in the ninth chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to recognize the words which are found in these chapters and passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to how absolutely interconnected the churches truly were during those days. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to a tremendous work of the Holy Spirit during the days of the apostles and early church. During those days—not only did the Holy Spirit produce a unity, a generosity and a humility among the brethren which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem but this unity, humility and generosity would extend beyond Jerusalem and would be manifested in the churches round about Jerusalem and Judaea. From Antioch to Achaia to Corinth to Macedonia there was this powerful and palpable sense of unity and interconnectedness that was manifested among the churches as men and women would give of themselves as well as of their resources and possessions that the needs of others might be met.

 

            The more I think about and consider the words and language which is found in the New Testament book of Acts as well as the epistles written unto the saints of Rome and the Corinthians the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth those in the early church would not only give of themselves but they would also give of their possessions. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we have indeed and have in fact been called to not only give of ourselves but also to give of our possessions and our resources that the needs of others might be met. You cannot read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and tremendous truth of the brethren giving of themselves first and foremost and in direct response and relation to the giving of themselves would give of their possessions and resources. If there is one thing we must needs recognize it’s that the greater the degree and measure of the giving of ourselves truly is the greater the giving of our resources and possessions can and will be. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it helps us to recognize what is greatly needed in our culture and society today. Moreover it is with this in mind I invite you to not only consider the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints of Corinth but also the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Philippi:

 

            “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant, Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given unto every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

 

            “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, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body: is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where. Were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 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 hourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have 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 suffer, 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 12:12-27).

 

            “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ,  if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).

 

            One of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints of Rome is that we are given more than names by the apostle Paul. If you take the time to read this chapter carefully you will find that directly connected and associated with names is service and sacrifice offered unto and among the brethren. It is absolutely impossible to read the words written in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with names of individuals which were near and dear to the heart and soul of the apostle Paul. The names which the apostle Paul mentioned in this passage of Scripture bring us to the place where we witness to a small degree and measure those who faithfully worked with, laboured with and served together with him among the churches and brethren. In fact if you take the time to read the words and language found in this passage of Scripture you will find names listed as well as the reality of churches, houses and households. Upon reading the words presented here in this passage of Scripture you will find certain words and phrases which were used of the names mentioned and how those who had their names written in this particular book were found faithful in the sight of the apostle Paul. In all reality I can’t help but read this particular chapter and although it is not the Lamb’s book of life I find myself wondering what those names which are written in the Lamb’s book of life have attached and connected to them. There is absolutely no mistaking the reality that within Scripture it is mentioned how there is indeed a Lamb’s book of life in which names of the righteous saints are written. Those whose names are written in this eternal book are such who have been found faithful in the sight and presence of the living God during their lifetime. Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life not only confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus and not only believed in their heart the living God raised Him from the dead but also committed their lives to faithful service before the Lord their God.

 

            I read the words found in the sixteenth chapter and I not only read them in light of the names which are written in the Lamb’s book of life but also that which is written upon the tombstones, epitaphs and eulogies which were written concerning the deceased. I sit here today pondering the words found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the names mentioned here and how the apostle Paul thanked God for each and every one of those who were mentioned. The names written here in this particular passage are about so much more than simply having the apostle Paul call them out by name but also acknowledging their service and sacrifice before and in the sight of the living God. Concerning Phebe the apostle Paul wrote how she was a servant of the church which was at Cenchrea. It was concerning this woman the apostle Paul instructed the saints of Rome to receive her in the Lord as becometh saints and that they assist her in whatsoever business she has need of them. Moroever the apostle Paul also spoke of Phebe and how she was a succourer of many and of himself as well. The apostle Paul would speak of Aquila and Priscilla who were his helpers in Christ Jesus and who for his life had laid down their necks. The apostle Paul would go on to write and speak of the church which was in their house thus speaking of a body of believers which was present during those days. Concerning Epaenetus the apostle Paul wrote of him being the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. Of Mary the apostle Paul wrote of her bestowing much labour on them and concerning Andronicus and Junia the apostle Paul wrote of them being his kinsmen and fellowprisoners who were of note among the apostles who were in Christ before him. The apostle Paul goes on to speak of Amplias his beloved in the Lord and Urbane their helper in Christ.

 

            The list of names continue even more within this chapter, however, what we must needs recognize and understand is that those names which were mentioned were those who laboured and gave of themselves in the work of the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Many of the names which were mentioned in this passage of Scripture were those who were beloved of the apostle Paul who came alongside him to help and assist in the work of the ministry of the Lord Jesus. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand the names which are mentioned in this passage for if they reveal one very important thing it’s that the work of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is much bigger than one person. What adds even more weight and measure to this is when you think about the work of the ministry was so much greater and larger than even Jesus Himself. If you read the New Testament gospel narratives you will find the Lord Jesus inviting twelve disciples to walk with and follow Him—and not only to walk with and follow Him but also to participate in the work of the ministry. Discipleship before and in the presence of Jesus was about more than simply walking with and following Him but it was about being an active participant in the work and ministry of the kingdom of heaven. If you take the time to read and study the words which are found in the New Testament gospels—specifically the ninth chapter of the gospel written by Luke and by the apostle Matthew—you will find that Jesus ordained and appointed twelve disciples whom He would raise up as apostles to assist Him in the work of the ministry of the kingdom of heaven. Not only this but you will also find the Lord Jesus raising up, ordaining and appointing seventy others who would participate in the kingdom of heaven. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to just how critical partnership, unity, humility and generosity is in the work of the ministry of the kingdom of heaven.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand the words which are presented in the gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew and the physician Luke. Within each of these gospels we find Jesus ordaining and appointing a total of eighty-two whom He would send out two by two into the cities, towns and villages He would journey to. It would be unto these disciples and ambassadors the Lord Jesus would send them forth as conduits and vessels of the authority and dominion of the kingdom. What’s more is that the sending out of the twelve as well as the sending out of the seventy bring us face to face with the incredible truth that the work of the ministry of the kingdom of heaven was so much greater than the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus did indeed call and invite twelve men to walk with and follow Him as His chosen disciples and apostles, however, we must needs understand that there were seventy others whom He also ordained and appointed. Not only this but after the departure of the Lord Jesus the work of the ministry of the kingdom would extend beyond simply the twelve apostles but would be manifested in His spiritual body which would be left behind upon the earth. Jesus fulfilled and accomplished His work and ministry during those three and a half years moving upon the earth and after His departure He would establish a spiritual body who would continue and carry out the work which He Himself had begun. Oh as I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to leave you with the ordaining and appointing of these twelve apostles and seventy others whom Jesus would send out as a powerful picture of the partnership that must exist in the work of the kingdom and how the work of the kingdom of heaven is so much greater than just one particular person. What’s more is that we must needs understand that there exists a great and powerful need for men and women to give of themselves in unity, humility and generosity unto others that the needs of many might be met. It is with this in mind I leave you with the following words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by Matthew and the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by Luke:

 

            “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 Adnrew 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 Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaues; Simon the Canaanite, 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 devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:1-8).

 

            “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 purse nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace 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 int whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before youl 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 nigh 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).

 

           

           

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