First Corinthians speaks of doctrines and gifts. The Corinthians, like theologians, discussed many matters, such as marriage, going to law courts, sacrifices to idols, and resurrection. They were the experts in studying and discussing the teachings and doctrines. On the one hand, they liked to talk about doctrines, but on the other hand, they also liked to exercise all manner of gifts. These were the peculiar characteristics of the Corinthians. However, all their troubles and problems came from the doctrines and the gifts.
According to the two-thousand-year history of the church, all divisions, confusion, denominations, and problems come from these two sources: doctrines and gifts. If we are frank and honest, we will admit that the more doctrines and gifts we have, the more divisions we have. Every division and denomination is built upon either a certain doctrine or a certain kind of gift.
I am standing here to challenge this. Recently, I received some letters from the Far East in which some brothers insisted on nine points and wanted to know my attitude toward them. I replied that my attitude is toward Christ, not toward doctrine. I do not like to talk about doctrine. I told those brothers that we simply need to help people to believe in the Lord Jesus, to personally receive Him as their Savior, the Son of God who was incarnated as a man, died on the cross for our sins, and resurrected on the third day.
Then we need to help people to love this Christ, know this Christ, experience this Christ, and be built up as the church to express this Christ. As long as we do that, that is wonderful; that is good enough. Let us forget everything else. We are not here for a certain kind of doctrine. We are fighting for nothing other than Christ and His Body, the church. We cannot solve the problems in the church by teaching and gifts; it is only by Christ, and this One crucified 1 Cor.
Christ is the answer to solve all the problems. If we seek signs and miracles, we are following the Jews.
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The signs are related to the gifts, and knowledge, wisdom, is related to teaching and doctrine. Then in the following book, 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul tells us about his own experience. He experienced Christ under any kind of circumstance. Living Stream Ministry publishes the works of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, providing the authoritative and definitive collections of treasures from these two servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The writings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee focus on the enjoyment of the divine life, which all the believers possess, and on the building up of the church, the goal of God's work with man in this age.
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All rights reserved. With regard to the work itself, both groups have a duty to meet the expectations of those in authority over their work. Slaves cannot quit, they have limited legal rights and remedies for mistreatment, they do not receive pay or compensation for their work, and they do not negotiate working conditions. In short, the scope for abuse of power by masters over slaves is far greater than that for supervisors over workers. We will begin by exploring this section of Ephesians as it applies to actual slaves.
Then we will consider applications to the form of paid labor that dominates developed economies today. The fact that their work is for Christ will encourage them to work hard and well. In that case, God will reward the slave Eph. It is cruel for a master to force a slave to choose between obedience to the master and obedience to Christ.
If masters order slaves to do good work, then threats should not be necessary. If masters order slaves to do evil work, then their threats are like threats against Christ. Though the earthly distinction of master and slave remains intact, their relationship has been altered with an unprecedented call to mutuality. Neither can lord it over the other, since only Christ is Lord Eph. Neither can shirk the duty of love to the other. The inner logic of Ephesians —9, as well as the broader story of Ephesians, motivates us to work for the end of slavery.
Most of us, however, will not experience slavery in a personal way, either as slaves or as masters. Yet we do find ourselves in workplace relationships where someone has authority over another person. By analogy, Ephesians —9 teaches both employers and employees to order, perform, and reward only work that could be done by or for Christ.
When we are ordered to do good work, the issue is simple, though not always easy. We do it to the best of our ability, regardless of the compensation or appreciation we receive from our bosses, customers, regulators, or anyone else in authority over us. This has even caused some to question whether whistleblowing, work stoppages, and complaints to regulatory authorities are legitimate for Christian employees. At the very least, a difference of opinion or judgment is not by itself good enough cause to disobey a valid order at work.
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The crucial distinction often requires finding out whose interests would be served by disobeying the order. If disobeying would protect the interests of another person or the larger community then there is a strong case for disobeying the order. In some cases, protecting others could even jeopardize our careers or cost us our livelihoods. This is especially true in the case of workers near the bottom of the economic ladder, who may have few alternatives and no financial cushion.
Do we have to resign over every one of them? Other times, workers may be ordered to do serious evils. We must acknowledge that the decisions can be complex. When we are the ones in authority, then, we should order only work that Christ would order. We do not order others to do what in good conscience we will not do. We do not threaten those who refuse our orders out of conscience or justice.
For each of us, no matter our position in the workplace, our work is a way of serving—or failing to serve—God. Only a few verses of Ephesians deal precisely with the workplace and even these are directed at thieves, slaves, and masters. But when we glimpse how God is restoring all of creation through Christ, and when we discover that our work plays an essential role in that plan, then our workplace becomes a primary context for us to do the good works that God has prepared for us.
Ephesians does not tell us specifically what good works God has prepared for each of us in our work. We must look to other sources to discern that. But it does tell us that God calls us to do all of our work for the good. Relationships and attitudes in the workplace are transformed as we see ourselves and our co-workers mainly in terms of our relationship with Jesus Christ, the one true Lord.
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At work, we discover the opportunity to do many of the good works that God intends for us to do. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Work requires effort.
Whether we do business or drive trucks, raise children or write articles, sell shoes or care for the disabled and aged, our work requires personal effort. What motivates us to get out of bed each morning? What keeps us going throughout the day? What energizes us so that we can do our work with faithfulness and even excellence? There are a wide variety of answers to these questions. Some might point to economic necessity. Moreover, we find the strength for this effort by the power of God within us. Almost all scholars agree that the Apostle Paul wrote the letter we know as Philippians sometime between AD 54 and Philippians uses the word work ergon and cognates several times Phil.
Hawthorne, Philippians , rev. Martin, in vol. See Gerald F. Reid, eds. It enables us to see our challenges with fresh vision and to communicate with hopefulness to our colleagues. In the context of his opening prayer for the Philippians Phil. Paul himself had a hand in that work by preaching the gospel to them. Yet it is to be lived out among believers in their fellowship together. How many converts you win, how much funding you raise, how many people praise you as their spiritual mentor, how your numbers compare to other evangelists—these can be points of pride and ambition.
Paul admits that these motivations exist in his profession, but he insists that the only proper motivation is love Phil. The implication is that this is true in every other profession as well. Getting the work done is important, even if our motivation is not perfect. Yet in the long run Phil. His topic is life in general, and there is no reason to believe he means to exclude work from this exhortation. He gives three particular commands:.
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But in many workplaces, there is more than one Christian. We should strive to have the same mind as other Christians where we work. Sadly, this can be very difficult. In church, we segregate ourselves into communities in which we generally agree about biblical, theological, moral, spiritual, and even cultural matters.
We may share the workplace with other Christians with whom we disagree about such matters. This is a scandalous impediment to both our witness as Christians and our effectiveness as co-workers. What do our non-Christian colleagues think of our Lord—and us—if we get along worse with each other than with nonbelievers? At the very least, we ought to try to identify other Christians in our workplaces and learn about their beliefs and practices.
We may not agree, even about matters of great importance, yet it is a far better witness to show mutual respect than to treat others who call themselves Christians with contempt or bickering. If nothing else, we should set aside our differences enough to do excellent work together, if we really believe that our work truly matters to God. Christ loved us to the point of death Phil. This gives us something in common not only with other believers but also with nonbelievers in our workplaces: we love them!
Everyone at work can agree with us that we should do work that benefits them. Jim Grubs is deeply convinced faith values and principles are a rich resource available to use in making our choices or decision more effective than they might otherwise be.
He writes in this case study: "Let me illustrate with a story from the company, Reell, with which I worked. The corporate leadership about eight people was queried as to their recommendations. Many felt we needed to reduce the workforce. If we didn't do that we would lose our best people. And besides, this was an excellent opportunity to let go those who were considered "dead wood" - very efficient. The rationale which was applied here hearkened back to a part of our purpose statement "Reell is a team united in the operation of a business based on the practical application of spiritual values Thus, we considered some JudeoChristian principles to give us perspective.
The first being to reduce wages allowed a coworker to chose whether to stay or leave "freedom of choice" - a basic principle found in Genesis 1.
Secondly, the sharing of resources money in this instance was deeply ingrained in our culture. Working in teams included sharing everything from tools, to ideas, to time, to energy, to wisdom, etc. Sharing is a hallmark of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Thirdly, the Christian conviction of 'emptying' ourselves for the sake of others Phil , a premise for the highest form of love, becomes the glue for holding a corporate or any kind of community together.
It was risky, but it seemed to touch deeply the hearts and minds of literally hundreds of coworkers. Yes, the core principles and values of our faith can be effective for work communities! Regarding others as better than ourselves is the mind-set of those who have the mind of Christ Phil.
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Workplaces offer unlimited opportunities for humble service. You can listen to what someone else is saying instead of thinking ahead to your reply. Conversely, workplaces offer unlimited opportunities for selfish ambition. There are two antidotes. This generally means operating in genuine teamwork with others in your workplace.
You may find that your performance is actually excellent, but if you learn that from accurate sources, it is not conceit. The simple act of accepting feedback from others is a form of humility, since you subordinate your self-image to their image of you. Needless to say, this is helpful only if you find accurate sources of feedback.
Submitting your self-image to people who would abuse or delude you is not true humility. Even as he submitted his body to abuse on the cross, Jesus maintained an accurate assessment of himself Luke Of the three commands, this may be the hardest to reconcile with our roles in the workplace. We go to work—at least in part—in order to meet our needs.
How then can it make sense to avoid looking to our own interests? Paul does not say. This is consistent with the body analogy Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere. The eye does not meet its need for transportation but relies on the foot for that. So each organ acts for the good of the body, yet finds its own needs met. Under ideal circumstances, this might work for a close-knit group, perhaps a church of equally highly committed members.
But is it meant to apply to the nonchurch workplace? Again, we must turn to Philippians , where Paul depicts Jesus on the cross as our model, looking to the interests of sinners instead of his own. And Paul is clear that the consequences for us include suffering and loss, maybe even death. The message is clear. We are called to do as Jesus did. Are we allowed to temper the command to serve others instead of ourselves with a little common sense?
Could we, say, look first to the interests of others whom we can trust? Could we look to the interests of others in addition to our own interests? What should we do if we find ourselves unable or unwilling to live quite so daringly? Only by constant prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving to God can we get through the difficult decisions and demanding actions required to look to the interests of others instead of our own.
This is not meant as abstract theology but as practical advice for daily life and work. Paul asks the Philippians to help two women among them, Euodia and Syntyche, come to peace with each other Phil. Although our instinctive reflex is to suppress and deny conflict, Paul lovingly brings it into the open where it can be resolved. Conflict occurs even between the most faithful Christians, as we all know. After all, they are people for whom Christ died. When our urge is to ignore and hide conflict with others at work, we must instead acknowledge and talk not gossip about it.
When we would rather keep it to ourselves, we should ask people of wisdom for help—in humility, not in hopes of gaining an upper hand. When we would rather build a case against our rivals, we should instead build a case for them, at least doing them the justice of acknowledging whatever their good points are. Usually this leads to a restored working relationship and a kind of mutual respect, if not friendship. Paul thanks the Philippians for their support for him, both personal Phil.
His letters typically end with greetings to people with whom he has worked closely, and are often from Paul and a co-worker, as Philippians is from Paul and Timothy Phil. In this he is following his own advice of imitating Jesus, who did almost everything in partnership with his disciples and others. We could gather with others in our professions or institutions to share mutual support in the specific challenges and opportunities we face in our jobs. Mothers gather weekly to learn, share ideas, and support each other in the job of parenting young children.
Ideally, all Christians would have that kind of support for their work. But how often do we? Finally, Paul discusses how to handle both poverty and plenty. Instead, do your work because of the benefit it brings to others, and learn to be content with however much or little it provides for you. Tough advice indeed. Some professions—teachers, health workers, customer service people, and parents, to name a few—may be used to working overtime without extra pay to help people in need.
Others expect to be amply rewarded for the service they perform. Imagine a senior executive or investment banker working without a contract or bonus target saying,. Paul says simply this:. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, or having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied. The point is not how much or how little we are paid—within reason— but whether we are motivated by the benefit our work does for others or only for our self-interest. Yet that motivation itself should move us to resist institutions, practices, and systems that result in extremes of either too much plenty or too much poverty.
Our jobs provide a major context in which we are to live out the good work God has begun in us.