We can thank God that we do not have to stand before Jesus with a notebook of our works in order to have earned, or worst, to demand entrance through the “pearly gates.” We can throw away our notebook records of our meritorious works. We can thank Jesus for the sufficient sacrifice that He paid through His incarnation and sacrificial death on the cross. His taking of our burden of sin to the cross has relieved us of a tremendous burden. So it is in view of this sacrificial event that was coming in the lives of His immediate disciples that Jesus said,

… when you have done all those things that are commanded you, say, “We are unprofitable bondservants. We have done that which was our duty to do (Lk 17:10).

After we have performed the best we can in obedience to His commands, we must conclude that our performance was only our duty to do. We must remember that we are still unprofitable bondservants. We still lack. We are still a long way from that which we so earnestly desire. So we are not ashamed to quote over and over again, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ep 2:8). Eternal life with Jesus is a gift because it could not be earned out of duty.   No duty could ever be performed to earn such an awesome gift.

But there is still duty. Duty means responsibility. It means taking ownership of the commandments of Jesus in order that we manifest our desire to be His disciples. “If you love Me,” Jesus reminded His disciples, “you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My words” (Jn 14:23). And why do we keep His commandments? Jesus explained, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love (Jn 15:10). So duty is necessary. Doing our duty is a manifestation of our taking ownership of our discipleship.   And if we do not do His word, then we are out of duty. We will fail to grow spiritually. We can identify the spiritual giants among us by their love of, and obedience to, the word of Jesus. The Holy Spirit called the Bible students in Berea “noble minded” because they were students of the word of God (At 17:11).

I.  The duties of discipleship:

The word “Christian” is a noun. In today’s religious usage the name has lost much of its New Testament meaning. It is now a name that is used to portray anyone who would believe that Jesus is the Son of God, regardless of his beliefs and behavior. But we know that only those who know and do the will of the Father have a right to cry out, “Lord, Lord,” because they are doing the will of the Father (See Mt 7:15-23).

Now the word “disciple” is inherently filled with action. This is the word that means “a follower,” “a learner,” one who willingly submits to a teacher who leads the student in the direction of the teacher. This is why the word “disciple” was used in reference to God’s people at least ten years before the name Christian came into existence. For it was about ten years after the events in Acts 2, that “… the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (At 11:26). And they were called Christians by the unbelievers. Christians did not name themselves Christians. But since the name was appropriate to identify those who were “of Christ,” the name stuck and the Holy Spirit sanctioned it when He used it about fifteen years later in the statement, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian …” (1 Pt 4:16).

Here is something that is quite interesting.   It was the Holy Spirit’s purpose to reveal in the book of Acts the function of the early disciples going about doing their duty. Through the guidance of the Spirit, Luke reveals to Theophilus in Acts the organic function of the early disciples as they carried out their duties as disciples.   Throughout the document of Acts, therefore, Luke uses the word “disciple” to explain the function of those who went about as the body of Christ. The word “Christian” is only used twice in Acts, once in Acts 11:26, and when Paul almost convinced King Agrippa to be a Christian (At 26:28).   But the word is only used in a noun form, whereas “disciple” is used in order to reveal the function of the organic body of Christ. In other words, Luke wanted Theophilus to know that disciples were on duty at all times.   They were functioning parts of a universal body. They were going about the world doing that which was their duty to do as a part of the body of Christ. If one was doing nothing, then he was “out of duty” as a disciple.

If one would be a disciple, therefore, he must be at work carrying out the duties of a disciple. It is easy to label oneself a Christian. But if one does no ministry, and yet claims to be a disciple of Jesus, then his claim is empty. Maybe this is the reason why the name Christian is so commonly used today, and the word “disciple” used so infrequently. One can claim to be a Christian based on what he believes.   But one who claims to be a disciple must prove his discipleship by what he does. We have thought it interesting that few people who say they are Christians, also claim that they are disciples.

Remember what Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples” (Jn 8:31). We have found it amazing that people will assemble on Sunday with exciting and colorful concert exhibitions, close their assembly, and then never study the word of Jesus. It is actually quite hypocritical. And it was as if Jesus knew there would be those who would claim to be His disciples, and yet be totally ignorant of His word. He spoke of such people: “Not every one who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven (Mt 7:21). Jesus was saying that it is inconceivable that one would presumptuously claim to be “marching to Zion” without any knowledge of the “will of My Father.”

People must remember that 450 prophets of Baal religiously jumped up and down on Mount Carmel in a plea that their gods manifest themselves before Elijah. But their religious concert of praise that led to their cutting of themselves with knives was useless. We can only do as Elijah who mocked such prophets with the words, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is meditating or he is busy or he is on a journey. Perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened” (1 Kg 18:27).   But the emotionally misdirected worshipers “cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out of them” (1 Kg 18:28). Now we must confess that this was certainly an exciting worship service. When the worshipers are rolling on the ground, cutting themselves with knives, then you know they have judged their worship to be acceptable to their god. It was their customary religious practice to behave this way in their worship. Nevertheless, regardless of their emotionally intense worship service, we look at this as religious hysteria. And yet, save for the knives, the same carries on with assemblies of churches throughout the world today. The unbeliever looks on and judges such people to be mad (See 1 Co 14:23).

“Blood gushing” assemblies are a signal that people are out of duty and out of control in reference to their knowledge of Jesus.   If one by chance shows up at an assembly where they are passing out knives, it would be best to be absent from the assembly.

As disciples, we must be into the word of Jesus, lest we deceive ourselves into creating a god after our own imagination.   The only way to keep ourselves from creating our own gods is that we discover the one true God in the pages of the Bible. Remember that “these things were written for our learning” (Rm 15:4; see 1 Co 10:11). If we are not students of the word of God, then we are out of duty, and subsequently, out of control as we plead for our god to act, which god is possibly sleeping or on a long journey.

 II.  The duties of priesthood:

1 Peter 2:5 & 9 explain a very important status of the disciples of Jesus. Disciples “are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2:5). Besides being a “holy priesthood,” Peter says that we are also a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a special people, so that” we can proclaim the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness (1 Pt 2:9). Every Christian is a priest, and thus, every Christian is on duty to carry out his priestly duties to offer up spiritual sacrifices and praises to God.

Priests are to proclaim the praises of God to the unbelieving world. It is their duty to let the world know their origin and their destiny. There are no part time priests. All priests have presented their bodies a living sacrifice, separated from the world, and thus acceptable to God as His witness before the world (Rm 12:1). Any priest who might think that he can occasionally put off his priestly duties, therefore, is out of duty.   Such a person does not have a priestly mind.

Under the Sinai law of the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was set apart as a people of priests. There was within the nation a designated group of priests (Levites) who ministered to the people of priests. These were the Levites. But every Israelite was to represent God before the world as a priest of God.

The same is true of the church. Every member of the church is a priest of God.   The more we might think that we have a special class of designated priests (“clergymen”) among us, the less we assume our responsibility to be priests before the world. Jesus is now our high priest. “We have such a high priest who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hb 8:1). But we are the priests of God on earth before the world.   It is our duty as priests of God, therefore, to do the work of a priest for the world. Every disciple who is not doing his priestly duties to the world around him is simply out of duty as a priest of God.

 III.  The duties of sainthood:

The Greek word hagios (holy) means to set apart. When Paul wrote to the disciples in Rome, he referred to them as those “called to be saints [holy] (Rm 1:7). The ekklesia, therefore, is the called out assembly of those who are to be saints, and thus, set apart from the world. Saints are in the world, but not of the world (1 Co 5:10).

A saint is on duty in the world because he has been called out of the world. Paul explained, “If you then were raised with Christ, seek those things that are above …” (Cl 3:1). In other words, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Cl 3:2). The saint’s life has been “hidden with Christ in God” (Cl 3:3). He is no longer his own person because he has been “bought with a price” (1 Co 6:20). For this reason, the saint must glorify God in his body (1 Co 6:20). The life of a saint is as Paul explained of his own life:

I have been crucified with Christ.   And it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gl 2:20).

It would be superfluous for a Christian to say that he can take time off from being a saint. Sainthood is what the Christian is. It is not something that he does. Christians simply cannot cease being saints. They cannot because they have the responsibility of being the living proclamations before the world of the changed life. Spiritual giants recognize their priestly duties, and thus, they carry on daily performing their priestly duties to all those around them.

 IV.  The duties of brotherhood:

 Spiritual blood runs thicker through the veins of those who are in Christ, than the blood of those who are only physical brothers and sisters. This is true because brothers and sisters in Christ know that they will be spending eternity with one another. Their brotherhood is a reference to eternity, whereas physical brotherhood is earthly and temporary.

A.  Physical responsibilities: Brotherhood means that those who are in a brother relationship with one another have responsibilities toward one another. James wrote,

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them those things that are needful to the body, what does it profit? (Js 2:15,16).

There is no brotherhood without obligations between those who compose the brotherhood. When Peter commanded that we “love the brotherhood,” he meant that we must take ownership of our responsibilities toward one another (1 Pt 2:17). John even stated that if we do not assume our responsibilities to the brotherhood of saints, we are not children of God. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 Jn 3:17). In fact, John was a little more specific in the following statement: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 Jn 3:14). If we do not think that these are great responsibilities, then we have not understood the nature or extent of the fellowship that must be characteristic of a disciple of Jesus. True love of the brotherhood is simply natural in being a disciple of Jesus.


Brotherhood means, as someone said, “We’re not put on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.”   And if we do not spiritually grow to the point of helping see our brothers and sisters through this world, then the love of God is not in us.

Brotherhood is our test for eternity. John explains: “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not from God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 Jn 3:10). So in brotherhood, John cautioned, “… let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18). We must put our actions where our mouth is. “And by this we will know that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him” (1 Jn 3:19). If we feel bad because we do not help our brother who is in need, then our feeling of guilt will condemn us (1 Jn 3:20). But “if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 Jn 3:21). We have confidence because we are doing what love would do, that is, taking action to preserve our brotherhood because we are taking care of one another’s needs.

 B.  Freedom responsibilities: Brothers and sisters in Christ will often disagree. We can ask Paul, Barnabas, Euodia and Syntyche about this (See At 15:36; Ph 4:2).   Nevertheless, after their disagreement, neither Paul nor Barnabas turned from doing the work of evangelism, for they returned to exhort the disciples in the areas that they initially visited on the first mission journey (At 15:37-41). The names of Euodia and Syntyche were still written in the book of life, regardless of their disagreement (Ph 4:3).

When brethren disagree, it is the responsibility of both parties to maintain communication and harmony, though both parties have the right in matters of opinion to maintain their opinions or methods of work. God never intended for us to be clones of one another’s ministry or minds. If we were clones, then there would rise up among us those who would demand that all of us be unified after their particular opinions. Brotherhood is maintained, not by agreement upon common opinions or methods of work. On the contrary, brotherhood is maintained by allowing freedom in matters of opinion and methods of ministry. This was what Paul sought to guard among brethren when he gave the following mandate:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Gl 5:1).

This statement was made even in the context of those who would bind on the minds of the brotherhood that which they believed to be doctrinally right. There were some Jewish brothers who believed that circumcision was a matter of salvation (At 15:1). When one binds on the brotherhood that which he thinks is a doctrinal matter, but in actuality is only a matter of opinion or tradition, then he has perverted the gospel of Christ (Gl 1:6,7). When this happens among brothers, Paul’s admonition is the same as what he practiced when false brethren sought to bind circumcision on the Gentiles. “To whom we did not yield in subjection even for an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might continue …” (Gl 2:5).

Brotherhood can be destroyed by failing to assume our responsibilities toward one another, as well as dogmatically binding opinions and methods upon the brotherhood. Brotherhood is destroyed when we do not guard one another’s freedom in Christ

 C.  Oneness in Christ responsibilities: The disciples in Achaia had some serious problems about calling themselves after different individuals. In doing such they were endangering their brotherhood. The individuals after whom they called themselves had already left the region. The spirit of sectarianism had come in among the disciples to the point that some said, “I am of Paul,” and others, “I am of Apollos,” and then others, “I am of Cephas” (1 Co 1:12).   We feel that Paul was somewhat sarcastic when he chided their immaturity, for he admonished, “I am of Christ” (1 Co 1:13). Paul rebuked, “Is Christ divided?”

The brotherhood of the disciples throughout the province of Achaia, and in Corinth, was established on the foundation of two facts: (1) Christ was crucified for them, and (2) they were baptized in the name of Christ (1 Co 1:13). This was the foundation of their brotherhood.   No man had any right to establish his own foundation by which members become a part of the body of Christ.   And since Christ died for their sins, and they each voluntarily and individually obeyed the gospel through baptism, then calling themselves after any other person than Christ was quite sectarian. When we call ourselves after men on earth, brotherhood is destroyed. Since baptism brings us into the brotherhood of Christ, then certainly, it is not the choice of any man to add any member to any brotherhood than the brotherhood of Christ (At 2:47). When brotherhood is endangered by sectarianism, Paul’s admonition is simple:

Now I urge you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Co 1:10).

If we fail to make sure that all the physical needs of the brotherhood are supplied, then we are out of duty. If we fail to give one another freedom in Christ, we are out of duty. If we divide ourselves after different personalities, then we are out of duty as disciples. It is the goal of every member of the body to eagerly keep “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ep 4:3).

IV.  The duties of servants:

 Christianity is primarily about ministry, not assemblies.   Assemblies are the result of disciples who are partners in their priesthood ministry to one another and the world. Unfortunately, this order has been reversed with most religious groups.   Assembly has become more important than ministry. In fact, the religious world has moved to the point that if one of two things are supposedly correct, then one has a sure passage into eternal glory.

First, there are those who feel that if they carry out a prescribed ritual in assembly, which ritual is footnoted with a list of supposedly supporting scriptures, then they are somehow justified before God for believing and performing the correct rituals in their assemblies.

Second, there are those who feel that if they feel good after an assembly, their worship is acceptable to God, and thus, their passage into eternal glory is certain. They conclude that a hysterical assembly guarantees that they are in a saved relationship with God regardless of being involved in any ministry.

The fallacy of both the preceding concepts is deceptive. In reference to the first, the adherents are trusting in their legal performance of law in order to guarantee their acceptance before God. But Paul was emphatic when he said, “… for by works of law no flesh will be justified (Gl 2:16). If we base our acceptance before God on the foundation of a worship service that is presumed to be according to law, then we have violated the very principle that Paul argued throughout the books of both Romans and Galatians.

How some can preach from the pulpit salvation by grace, while at the same time making sure that everyone is performing according to the law in a ritualistic assembly, is self deceiving, if not bewildering. For example, think of all the conflicts that have come about among the disciples concerning supposed legal systems as to how the Lord’s Supper is to be carried out during the assembly. We are quite hypocritical.   We give the table talk on grace, and then make sure that we proceed according to law as to how the emblems are to be served. Some are so legally oriented about ceremonies surrounding the Supper that they will set out the grape juice until it ferments into wine so it can be legally and scripturally served as wine.

If there is a legal ritual for assembly, then the assembly becomes a legal identity by which we judge whether one is in fellowship with the body. Sunday morning becomes the legal standard by which we judge one another in reference to the salvation of individuals. Where one sits on Sunday morning, according to legalists, determines one’s eternal destiny. Maybe we need to stand back and take another look at the legalistic and sectarian spirit and behavior we have established in order to make a “five act of worship” the standard by which we judge the eternal destiny of individuals. Are we not hypocritical in trying to worship the God of grace by our strict legal definition of worship? Have we contradicted by our legal worship the statement, “by works of law no flesh will be justified” (Gl 2:16).

Do not thank that we have gone off course on this matter. We have written these things in order to emphasize the apostasy to which some have gone in order to justify themselves before God according to law, while at the same time, refuse to walk in the light of the gospel after the “closing prayer.” The more emphasis that is placed on the law of assembly (worship), the further we move from our responsibilities to minister to others after the “closing prayer.” We believe that we can save ourselves by a legal worship, and then fail to lead the life of a disciple after our “legal worship.”   When “assembly laws” become that by which we judge our eternal destiny, then ministry will always take a second seat.   It does because we trust in the legalities of our assemblies more than the behavior of our lives.

As disciples of Jesus, we are servants, and service takes place outside assembly. The Greek word that is commonly used in the New Testament to explain the servanthood of the saints is doulos. The doulos are the slaves of the field. There is no metaphorical meaning here. Slaves are slaves, whether they are Christian or unbelievers. Paul was a slave of Jesus (Rm 1:1). He had made himself a slave to all (1 Co 9:19). He preached himself to be a slave for Jesus’ sake (2 Co 4:5). He was not a slave because he performed some ritualistic assembly, but because he behaved Jesus in his life. And so, he says to us, “Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ” (1 Co 11:1). Owen Cosgrove once said,

A slave who balks most of the time, who gives halfhearted service and that only rarely, and who shows up only at dinner time is a poor excuse for a truly devoted servant.

Some people want to sit legally in a supposed “scriptural” assembly, but do no slave work outside the assembly. Some people want to concert themselves into euphoria, and thus justify their sainthood through ecstatic utterances, but are worthless to the needs of others. The problem with both legalistic and emotional religiosity is that both lean toward narcissism. They are self-centered and self-gratifying, while at the same time the adherents to such religiosity will walk by the beggar on the steps of the temple.

The legalist leaves his assembly, gratified that he has performed the correct rituals. The emotionalist leaves his assembly too exhausted to even notice the beggar. There is a throne in the life of every worshiper. Either we are sitting on it, or Christ is there. And if Christ is there, we need to remember these words:

Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. But He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant …” (Ph 2:5-7).

If a farmer stops planting and harvesting, he has lost his identity as a farmer. He ceases to be a farmer. If a carpenter ceases to work the wood and make the furniture, then he has lost the identity of a carpenter. He ceases to be a carpenter. If a disciple of Jesus ceases to serve others as a slave of Jesus, then he has lost his identity as a disciple. He ceases to be a disciple.

[Next lecture:  April 22nd]


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