Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament of the apostle Paul which was written unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage is found in chapters nine and ten of this New Testament book. “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 was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our 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 this 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” (2 Corinthians 9:1-15).
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).
“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible. Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present” (2 Corinthians 10:7-11).
“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Corinthians 10:12-18).
FOR AS TOUCHING THE MINISTERING TO THE SAINTS! When you come to the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Second Corinthians you will find the apostle Paul transitioning within the epistle to speaking concerning the ministration of the saints. I am absolutely convinced the words and language we find within this chapter—and not only within this chapter but also the previous chapter—are incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to consider them. If you take the time to read the four New Testament gospel narratives which were written by the Lord Jesus you will find the eternal Son of God continually calling His disciples to love one another as He had loved them. What’s more is that not only do you find Him calling, inviting and instructing them to love one another as themselves but also to love their neighbours as themselves. As if this weren’t enough Jesus would go on to instruct them to do unto others as they would have others do unto them. You cannot read the four New Testament gospel narratives without and apart from encountering the Lord Jesus inviting His disciples into the place of loving and giving. What’s more is that you can’t read the four New Testament gospels without witnessing and beholding the Lord Jesus inviting His disciples to live their lives completely and utterly selflessly as they esteem others as better than themselves. In fact this is precisely what the gospel and the kingdom are all about—namely, esteeming others as better than ourselves that we might bear fruit and witness within the earth. Oh I am absolutely convinced that if we are to truly understand this ministration and ministry unto the saints there are some wonderful passages found in the New Testament which must needs be considered—and not only passages found in the New Testament but also passages found in the Old Testament.
If you turn and direct your attention to the Old Testament—specifically the five books of Moses—you will find and encounter the awesome and incredible truth concerning an often times forgotten people of the living God. Upon reading the Old Testament you will discover the children of Israel were indeed the people of God and those whom He had chosen unto and for Himself. IN fact you cannot read the Old Testament books of Moses and not encounter in the Law of Moses powerful invitations given and spoken unto the children of Israel to care for and look after this other people which were present among them. As you take the time to read the Old Testament books of Moses you will find another group of people having the attention and affection of the living God—a people essentially within a people. Upon reading the five books of Moses—especially Exodus through Deuteronomy—you will find that within the people of Israel there was another people whom the living and eternal God cared very deeply for. The words which are found in the five books of Moses at the beginning of the Old Testament speak of the strangers, the orphans and the widows which were among the children of Israel. What’s more is that not only did the living God speak of orphans, widows and strangers among them but He would also speak to them concerning the poor which were among them. Oh I am absolutely and incredibly convinced we must pay close attention to the words and language which are found in the Old Testament books of Moses for what we find within them brings us face to face with the awesome truth surrounding “this people within a people”—this people which are made up of orphans, widows, strangers and the poor.
In all reality I would dare say you cannot truly understand the words and language found in the New Testament—regardless of whether they are the words presented in the four gospels as coming from the Lord Jesus Himself or the words which were written by the apostle Paul and other New Testament authors—without coming face to face with the words presented in the first five books of the Old Testament. There is without a doubt an incredible amount of language found within these passages of Scripture for they bring us face to face with the absolutely remarkable and astounding truth about the command and commission of the Lord unto the children of Israel to look after, to care for, and not neglect, ignore or despise the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow among them. In fact, upon reading the words which are found in these Old Testament books of Moses you will come face to face with the truly wonderful truth surrounding the living God commanding and instructing His people—the children of Israel—to look after and not neglect this often forgotten and overlooked people which were present among them. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy concerning the orphans, the widows, the poor and the strangers which were present in the midst of their land. Although the land did indeed belong to them there was another people present within the land which needed care, compassion, love and affection. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in these five books concerning “this people within a people” in a land given as promise and inheritance:
“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and thy cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. If thou at all take thy neighbour’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he lsep? And it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious” (Exodus 22:21-27).
“Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment: neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause. If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him. Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause. Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked. And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift bindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:1-9).
“And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive-yard. Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed. And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth” (Exodus 23:10-13).
“And when ye reap the harvest of youir land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another. And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wagges of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear anya grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:9-18).
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tent deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering therefore shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (Leviticus 23:9-14).
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:22).
“The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold. And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it; then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession. But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold lshall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubilee: and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession. And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it. And if it be not redeemed withint he space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubilee. But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubilee. Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time. And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubilee: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession” (Leviticus 25:23-34).
“And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase. I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: but as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of Jubile: and then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold las bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with ribour; but shalt fear thy God. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are found about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye but, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour” (Leviticus 25:35-46).
“And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family: after that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him. If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for. And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption. And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight. And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, both he, and his children with him. For unto me and the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Levitucus 25:47-55).
“At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’s release. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release; save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it: :only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day. For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Detueronomy 15:1-11).
I fully realize there was a lot of text that was just presented to you, however, I am absolutely convinced it is necessary for us to recognize the tremendous significance and importance of the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger which were present in the midst of the land during the days of the children of Israel. Before the children of Israel ever even entered into the land the LORD their God instructed and commanded them concerning a people who would undoubtedly be present among them—a people which would and could easily be neglected, ignored, despised and rejected. As you read the words found within these passages of Scripture you can and will be brought face to face with the undeniable truth that although the land was given unto the children of Israel as their inheritance and possession it did not belong to them to do with as they pleased. Despite the fact the living God brought the children of Israel into the land which was to be their possession and inheritance they were to move and operate within His commandments, His statutes and His ordinances. Such statutes and ordinances included their looking after and caring for the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widows. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something truly astonishing and worth recognizing when reading these words. We must needs understand this foundation of caring for the poor, the orphans, the widows and the strangers which were present among the children of Israel within the land given unto them for it serves as a powerful backdrop for what we find in the New Testament. When we think of the children of Israel in the land given unto them as an inheritance, promise and blessing. Oh with this in mind I can’t help but be reminded of the following words which were written in the first and opening chapter of the epistle written by James:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
As I sit here today writing these words I can’t help but find myself thinking about the very heart of the gospel which has never been nor will it ever be about us ourselves. The gospel of the kingdom is and has always been about our esteeming others as better than ourselves. Whether it is loving our neighbors as ourselves, or loving our neighbors, or praying for those who persecute us, or going the extra mile, or turning the other check the gospel has always been and will always be about our giving of ourselves unto others. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about it—particularly when you consider the words found in the ninth chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints—is that the Lord Jesus made no distinction nor did He draw any dividing line between loving our neighbor and loving our enemy. We were given the same command to love our neighbor as we were to love our enemy—and not only this but we were to love them with the same love which was bestowed upon us by the person of the Lord Jesus. Oh we must needs recognize and understand that at the very heart of giving is loving others as we love ourselves, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, and esteeming others as better than ourselves. You cannot read the four New Testament gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the powerful words and language of the Lord Jesus to give of ourselves unto others without reservation or hesitation. There is something truly astounding and powerful when we think about this for we have been called unto an extraordinary life of selfless giving of ourselves unto others.
The more I think about and consider this the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely awesome and powerful truth that we have been called to a ministration and ministry—not only unto our brothers but also unto our neighbors and our enemies. What’s more is that we have indeed and have in fact been called into a place where we esteem others as better than ourselves and love others as we have been loved by the LORD God and love ourselves. There is something truly spectacular when we think about and consider this particular truth for it brings us face to face with the tremendous truth that even when we consider the words which are found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the Lord Jesus speaking unto the disciples concerning the Last Days—and not only concerning the Last Days but also concerning a very distinct separation that would take place in the Last Days. If you take the time to read the words presented within this passage you will find the King separating the sheep and the goats on his right and on his left. What’s more is that not only do we find the King separating the sheep and the goats but we find Him separating them on the basis of one very specific thing—their treatment of those whom He referred to as “the least of these” which were present among them. In all reality I would dare say the words which are found in this passage of Scripture are incredibly sobering when you take the time to think about them for the only difference between the sheep and the goats was not in the fact that the least of these were present among them but how they treated them. In all reality I would dare say that both the sheep and the goats were given an equal opportunity to do good unto the least of these which were among them and while the goats chose to ignore, despise, reject and marginalize them the sheep chose to look after and care for them. It is with this in front of you I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then \shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:34-46).
The words which we find here in this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the absolutely incredible truth surrounding this selfless caring, loving and giving that was found in the hearts and souls of the sheep versus the goats. You cannot read the words presented here by the Lord Jesus and not encounter the reality of the only difference between the sheep and the goats being that of how they treated the least of these which were among them. What’s more is that as if this weren’t enough their treatment of the least of these was about more than just the least of these but was about their treatment of the Lord Jesus. Their care, compassion and concern for the least of these was about more than simply caring for them but was about their care, concern and compassion for the Lord Jesus. Perhaps one of the greatest realities we must needs ask ourselves when considering these words is whether or not we saw Jesus in each and every interaction we had in this life. What if you and I lived our lives being able to look upon, see and behold the person of the Lord Jesus in the midst of those we interact with on a consistent and daily basis. What’s more is whether or not we can indeed see the person, the presence and the face of the Lord Jesus in those whom we interact with each and every day. Are we those who can see the least of these who are present all around and before us and are we able to recognize the person and presence of the Lord Jesus among and within them? Scripture speaks of entertaining angels unaware and yet in addition to the reality of entertaining angels unaware there is also the reality of finding the Lord Jesus in the least of these. Pause for a moment and consider the absolutely astonishing truth surrounding our ability to recognize that there may be times when we are indeed entertaining angels unaware among us as well as times when we are actually caring or not caring for the Lord Jesus in the least of these.
When I read the words which are found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are present in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James. It is within this epistle where we encounter and come face to face with the sobering reality—not only of being partial within ourselves concerning those who enter in among us in our midst but also recognizing that faith without works is dead. It’s truly astonishing to think about and consider how in the same chapter where we find James emphatically declaring that faith without works is dead we also read of the inherent danger of being partial within ourselves. In fact I would dare say that being partial and sitting in that seat of judgment within ourselves is intrinsically linked and connected to our faith and the demonstration and manifestation of it. We would like to think that there is somehow something different between the two and yet the truth of the matter is that just as much as faith demands action and manifestation so also that demonstration and manifestation cannot be partial. We cannot think that we can demonstrate and manifest our faith while at the same time being partial and judgmental within our hearts and souls. There are those who would like to think they can somehow be partial in their judgment and exercise favoritism towards others and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not and ought not be the case. As we think about this ministration of and unto the saints we must needs recognize that at the very heart and center of it is the demonstration and manifestation of our faith—and not only the demonstration and manifestation of our faith but also our willingness to be equal in our care, our concern and compassion toward others. Having said this I now invite you to consider if you will the following words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy. Name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body: what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
The reality and truth behind the demonstration and manifestation of our faith is intrinsically linked and connected to our loving our neighbor as ourselves—and not only loving our neighbor as ourselves but also loving our enemies. If you take the time to read the New Testament book of Acts you will find that while it was indeed true that on the day of Pentecost all those in the upper room were filled with the Spirit and spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, and while it is true that the Lord added unto their number three thousand souls there was an even deeper and greater work which took place among them. As you read the words which are found in the second chapter of this New Testament book—and not only the words which are found in the second chapter but also the words which are found in the fourth chapter—you will find that perhaps the greatest work of the Spirit among those present in the early church was not speaking with other tongues but a true unity, community and fellowship with each other. On the day of Pentecost the Spirit did more than baptize men and women with speaking in other tongues but the Spirit created a community and fellowship of believers which the apostle Paul would later describe as the body of Christ. It would be when writing unto the saints of Corinth in the first epistle the apostle Paul would speak of there being one body and how at the very heart and center of that one body was one Spirit, one Lord, one baptism and one calling. OH there is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading these words for not only are we brought face to face with the fact that we have been ordained and appointed as one body with many members and that the members are joined one to another but also that each of the members bear up the burden of others.
I have to admit there is something truly incredible when reading the words found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts for within them we are brought face to face with the undeniable reality that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit created and conceived a body of believers which numbered more than three thousand souls. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit took three thousand individuals who were diverse and unique in and of themselves and joined them to each other as the body of Christ. Not only this but from the day of Pentecost on the church would continue to increase as the Lord would add to their number daily such as should be saved. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the ultimate manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost—namely, creating and conceiving a body which was made up of many members. What’s more is that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fostered and created this unity, this compassion, this care, this concern, this love and this authentic manifestation of the love of the living God among the brethren. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the unity, the community and the fellowship which was present in the midst of the body of Christ. ON the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit created an entirely new community and body of believers that would continue to grow and increase in size and number with each passing day. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the incredibly wonderful truth of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It would be on the day of Pentecost where not only did He grant utterance to the one-hundred and twenty to speak with other tongues, and not only did He add three thousand souls to their number but He also took those three thousand souls and grafted them together as one body with one heart, one purpose, one mind, and one spirit. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book concerning the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand. 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 goods, 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).
The words which we find in these passages of Scripture are incredibly powerful when you think about the work which the Holy Spirit accomplished and brought about on the day of Pentecost. It would be very easy for us to look at Pentecost and consider how the Holy Spirit brought the tongues of the nations and enabled those in the upper room to speak with the tongues of the nations of the earth. There have been many who have chosen to focus on tongues on the day of Pentecost and have completely and utterly missed the point surrounding the day of Pentecost and how on that day the Holy Spirit not only brought tongues but the Holy Spirit also brought the unity of the body. What’s more is the Holy Spirit also enabled the body of the Lord Jesus Christ to be completely and utterly united together while at the same time being diverse and unique in and of themselves. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how incredibly important it is for on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit produced both a unity and diversity in the body of Christ and all while enabling them to be of the same mind and being of one accord. There is something truly awesome and wonderful about the day of Pentecost for when you read the words found in these chapters you will find that those who were part of the body of Christ did not consider their possessions or those things which they had as belonging unto them. Those who were part of this new organism and spiritual entity which is present in the midst of the earth might at one point considered those things which they possessed as belonging unto them and being solely for them, however, after the day of the Pentecost arrived there was this newfound selflessness and generosity that was produced within their hearts and souls.
The more you read the New Testament book of Acts the more you encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding this generosity and hospitality that was characteristic of the early church. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter the reality that the early church was completely and entirely governed by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit worked within the hearts and souls of the early church to live their lives generously and humbly in the sight of the Lord their God. We dare not and must not miss this for even when you come to the sixth and eleventh chapters of the same New Testament book you will continue to find this concept of the ministration of the saints present among the early Church. That which we find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is important for us to recognize and realize for it brings us face to face with the Grecians present in the early church and the conflict they had with the Hebrews because of the daily ministration. What makes this particular narrative so incredibly intriguing is when you consider how it not only highlights care for the widows which was still present during the days of the early church but it also speaks to the continued reality of the daily ministration which was present among the early church. Pause for a moment and think about how truly challenging it is to consider more than three thousand souls were still giving themselves to the daily ministration of the needs of each other as each esteemed the needs of others above themselves. The early church gave themselves to the needs of others that none would be without lack, want or need. With this in mind consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts:
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily mimnistration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselye of Antioch: whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:1-7).
Please care careful and close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it brings us face to face with the truth surrounding the early church and the continued ministration of the needs of those who were present among them in their midst. We must needs acknowledge how incredibly powerful this language is for it is in direct alignment with the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of this same New Testament book. The early church considered each other’s needs as being equal in the sight of the living God and were willing to give of themselves and of that which they possessed that the entire body might be ministered to. Pause for a moment and think about how absolutely astounding this truly is for those in the early church experienced a tremendous work of the Holy Spirit within their hearts and souls which would allow and enable them to commit themselves to each other. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when considering the New Testament book of Acts and the early church it’s that the early church was completely and utterly controlled by the Holy Spirit in their hearts and souls and their love one for another. In fact I would dare say the Holy Spirit produced such a selfless and sacrificial love within the hearts of the early church that they were willing to give of themselves and their possessions that the needs of others might be met. Not only this but we might very well say that there was absolutely no desire for there to be any lack among the early church. The more I read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the truly astounding reality that those in the early church were filled with a wonderful spirit and sense of compassion, care and concern for each other that they were entirely and altogether unwilling to allow anyone to go without or walk in need.
In light of all this and before I get into the eleventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts as well as returning to the ninth chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. There is a great and present need for us to recognize and pay attention to the words written in each of these passages for they help us to understand—not only that which was present and manifested in the midst of the early church but also that which they were instructed of the apostle Paul to do in their midst. There is a great need to read and consider the words found in these two chapters for what we find in these chapters brings us face to face with the ministry of the body and how we are called, ordained and appointed to freely, voluntarily and willingly give of ourselves for and unto the body of Christ that it might be edified and refreshed. In light of this please consider the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints:
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 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, or exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity: he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:3-8).
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor 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 instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of the 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 conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth 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 12:9-20).
“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 the 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 to 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 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 not 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 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 honourable, 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).
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).
We must needs recognize the incredible significance that is found in these passages of Scripture for they bring us face to face—not only with the unity of the body but also the care of and for the body by the body. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when thinking about this particular truth is how we as the body of Christ not only have an obligation and responsibility to each other but we also have a responsibility to those all around us. There is a great and present need among us to not only look after and care for our neighbors, brothers and sisters but also for the least of these. What’s more is that the least of these will not always enter into our buildings and sanctuaries which means that we must needs go to where they are. We cannot and must not expect the needs to always come unto us and must acknowledge the fact that there will be a number of times when we need to leave the four walls and pews of our church buildings and go to where the needs are. If there is perhaps one thing this past year and a half revealed—especially when businesses and the world shut down—it’s that the needs present within this nation were very real. What’s more is that not only were the needs very real but the needs were present all around us all along. I can’t help but think about the fact that if the events of the past year and a half should have served any good among us it was to shut the church buildings and force us into a place where we were not only able to focus on our families but also where we understand the needs which are all around us.
If you consider the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find a powerful need which was present in the earth during those days. During the days in which Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch there was a prophet from Judaea called Agabus who prophesied that there would be a dearth which was present in the land in the coming days. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about it is when you consider how the saints which were at Antioch were compelled within themselves to take up an offering that they might send it unto the saints and brethren which were in Judaea. What makes this truly remarkable when you think about and consider it is how interconnected the body of Christ truly is—not only its members but also its various locations of worship. I continue to be amazed at just how interconnected the body of Christ truly was and how when one member suffered multiple members suffered and when one body of believers suffers and struggles other bodies of believers suffer and struggle as well. We must needs recognize and understand this for when we come to the ninth chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints we find the apostle Paul speaking of the ministration unto the saints and how those in Achaia were ready a year earlier to give and sow bountifully—and not only being willing to sow bountifully but also how their zeal provoked many to generosity. The entire ninth chapter deals with this ministration unto and for the saints and our being moved to give of ourselves and give unto others that the needs of others might very well be met. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are those who not only recognize the least of these among us but also those who recognize the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the strangers which are among us. Are we truly aware of the needs which are all around us and are we willing to give of ourselves, our time, our talents and our resources that the needs of others might be met? Are we willing to give generously and graciously not expecting anything in return but being those who truly love their neighbor as themselves and those who are willing to do unto others as they would have others do unto them?