Do you hold the church in high regard?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 15, 2009
Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
Here is a spiritual truth that few hold on to in our day and age or even realize is biblical: God views church membership in high regard. We first see this when God set up worship with only the Israelites and no other nation. God gets so angry over their fickle nature that we are reminded that God told Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you!’” (Exodus 33:5) Wow! God was going to consider how He was going to deal with His people! Why? God got so disgusted because the Israelites refused to listen and to realize He considered His people special. Why? He chose them!
The same is true for Christians in our day. Jesus told His disciples “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16) He related to them that He alone had chosen them and that He alone was setting up His church and gave them instructions on what that meant. Paul knew that Christians should see God’s church and His choosing them as special: “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13) As a theological Calvinistic Baptist I believe in predestination!
In Matthew 18:12-35 Jesus gave His followers the early version of what the church was to be like and how it was to be run and why He considered it so important. It was His body, the establishment of His kingdom, here on earth. He told them that “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them,” (Matthew 18:20) and qualified His instructions to them with the words, “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like.” (v.23)
If the local church was of no importance why did the Spirit instruct Paul and the early believers to begin to establish them? Why did Paul devote his entire life in starting and building up new church bodies wherever he went? Why is most of the New Testament an instruction manual basically for the local church!? And right smack dab in the middle of all this concerning the church we find Paul teaching a new church “to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord.” Paul wanted the church to respect the pastor God gave them. It goes to respect, servanthood, and maintaining spiritual integrity. How God worked and how the church was to do its duty was extremely important to Paul. He knew it was the very body of Christ in the world doing His work and will until He returned. It was therefore to reflect Jesus to the outside world! Sadly, few churches do in our day and age.
Many reflect good business practices, they show off their good works, pleasurable activities, and the really good God show they can put on, but few reflect the presence and spirit of the Lord whose body they are supposed to represent. Why? I believe it is because the body of Christ has become the body for us. We forget that when we come to the Lord, we are to join a local church, and place ourselves under its authority. And, as freedom loving independent-minded Americans who think we should be able to do what we want when we want to without anyone ever telling us we are wrong, we chaff at being under the authority of the church, Jesus’ body in the world. We therefore think that church is about us and not about doing the work and will of Jesus. We have forgotten that church is the establishment of the kingdom of God here on earth until He comes again to complete it. We are to be about the Master’s business until He returns. Do not believe me? Read the rest of Matthew 18! Believe me dear fellow believer we will be held accountable as to how we conducted ourselves within the body of Christ.
Do you “respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord?” Do you “hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” and do you strive to “live in peace with each other” as a church,” or are you more concerned about you instead? Some good questions to ask one’s self as we think about how the Lord views His church.
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