Ready for Good Works (3)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… Ephesians 4.11, 12
Building the Church
Jesus declared His agenda for the last days when He told His disciples that He would build His Church (Matt. 16.18), build it so strong that not even the cleverest counsels of hell could keep it from becoming the “chief among the mountains” of all earthly institutions (Mic. 4.1-8). Paul said that church leaders of all kinds are given to the churches “for the edifying of the body of Christ”. Individual church members are given spiritual endowments by the Holy Spirit to minister for the common good of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.7-11). Building His Church is Jesus’ focus, because His Church is the agency through which the rule and Kingdom of Christ come on earth unto righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
A local church grows as it increases in the likeness of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4.13-16). The greater the unity and maturity of a church, the more it will express love for God and neighbors in all its activities. Growing in Christlikeness is to be as much the focus of local churches as it is for individual believers. We get misdirected and off track in this matter of building-up the local church when we think primarily in terms of numbers – more attendees, more members, more baptisms, more programs, bigger budgets. All these can exist in a local church, so that outwardly it appears to be very dynamic; but these are not the true indicators of a healthy, growing church. Jesus is not looking primarily for numbers, but for lovers – churches where the love of God is richly and consistently expressed in worship, disciple-making and mission, and believers who love God and their neighbors by doing the good works God has before ordained for them (Eph. 2.10).
Churches grow as individual church members grow in zeal for good works, and do good to others at every opportunity, beginning within the household of faith. In Micah 4.1-8, the prophet envisions a scenario for the last days – the time in which we live, according to Peter (Acts 2.16, 17) – in which many people stream up to the mountain of the Lord’s house, the Old Testament precursor and type of the Church. These people are coming from “many nations”, and they have one common desire: to learn the ways of the Lord, so that they can walk in His paths (Mic. 4.2).
But how does this happen? What alerted these people from many nations to turn to the Church, that they might find there the teaching of God that leads to new life? The prophet tells us: “For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (v. 2). When God’s people, equipped with His Law and all His Word, go forth into their Personal Mission Fields to live and proclaim the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom, the world will respond, and the churches will grow, and not just numerically, but with people from every nation, eager to learn the paths of love from God.
Churches grow in direct proportion to the good works their members do throughout the local community. But such good works do not come naturally to us. If we are to be faithful in doing those good works that build up the church in the love of God’s Law and Word, we must be equipped.
Equipment for good works
What kind of equipment is needed for believers to make the most of every opportunity to do good to people, especially to their fellow believers (Eph. 5.15-17; Gal. 6.9, 10)?
First, of course, we must know which works are good works. The works we do for others are not good works just because we think they are. God defines the true nature of good works, and we must look to Him and His Word to help us understand which works are the works we must learn to do. As we have seen, the Law of God is the place to begin, since, as Paul wrote, the Law is “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7.12). But all the rest of Scripture is given to us as well, so that we might be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3.15-17). Scripture can shape our minds so that we think with the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16), and thus will always be ready to do good as opportunities arise.
We must be equipped with the right knowledge about which works are good works. But we must also be equipping in our hearts, so that the love of God and neighbors is the guiding affection in all we do. It takes love to turn the other cheek, love the unlovely, go the extra mile with someone, initiate friendships, take a genuine interest in a co-worker, and live as a holy sacrifice to God throughout the day. Prayer is the forge in which our affections are all brought together under the tutelage of love.
To love others and work for a loving church, we must have the right knowledge and the right affections. We must study God’s Law and Word, and we must labor to improve in prayer. But we must also establish doing good works as a defining priority of life. We must ask the Lord daily to help us number the times of our lives and embrace the good works He has prepared for us, that we might glorify Him in all we do (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17). Our conscience must be set for good works, as well as our mind and our heart, so that doing good to others becomes increasingly our default disposition.
Our soul being properly equipped – mind, heart, and conscience – we shall then have to acquire those practical skills of conversation, helps, friendship, availability, and more that convey the good works that can bring God glory.
So where do we get such equipping?
You must begin with your own efforts, making time to grow in the reading and study of God’s Word, increasing in prayer and meditation, and taking up new and unfamiliar skills, like Peter, getting out of the boat to walk on water, eyes fixed on Jesus, trusting solely in His Word. Map out your Personal Mission Field. Begin praying for and getting to know the people who are there. Then search the Scriptures day by day, and plead with God in prayer to learn just the right works to do each day that will touch the people to whom God sends you with His truth and love.
But we must also submit to be equipped for ministries of good works by those whom God has given for such a purpose – pastors, teachers, writers, Bible study leaders, and all the rest. Remember, the word disciple means, first of all, learner. There’s no end to what we can learn, and God has lavished His Church with all manner of qualified equippers – present and past – whose skills in preaching, teaching, mentoring, writing, and more can help us to acquire the good works we need to reach the souls of others and build the church of our Lord.
You have been begotten again in Christ Jesus to do the good works God beforehand ordained for His glory. Don’t wait around for this to just happen in you. Seek the equipping you need, so that you may become increasingly a vessel for God’s grace and glory to the people to whom He sends you each day.
1. Why must we work hard at being equipped for good works?
2. How does doing good works help to build the local church?
3. What can you do to improve the equipment you need for doing good works?
Next steps- Transformation: Assess the state of your “good works equipment.” Where do you need to improve? How might you do so? Set up a plan for continuing to be equipped for good works.
T. M. Moore
Check out our three new audio resources at the Ailbe website: Our bi-weekly podcast, our weekly Personal Mission Field Workshop, and our newest weekly podcast, The InVerse Theology Project.
Visit The Ailbe Bookstore to discover the many resources to help you grow in Lord, or to use with your group in realizing together more of the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
All the studies in this series, “Which Works?”, can be downloaded by clicking here.
We hope you find ReVision to be a helpful resource in your walk with and work for the Lord. If so, please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. We ask the Lord to move and enable many more of our readers and listeners to provide for the needs of our ministry. Please seek Him in prayer concerning your part in supporting our work. You can contribute online via PayPal, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.