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Working Out Loud. - Comments (0)

Printer Friendly Category: Articles,Doctrine
Author: John Malone
Date: 3rd March, 2007 @ 06:02:25 AM

The secular life is marked by compartmentalization.

One has his “spiritual life.” His “business life.” His “family life.” His “financial life.” His “private life.” His “personal life.” His “professional life.” Perhaps this carries on ad inifinitum.”

I’m reminded of a popular humorous television seires which once featured a character whose life was so dichotomous, he claimed: “You see, right now, I have Relationship George, but there is also Independent George. That’s the George you know, the George you grew up with — Movie George, Coffee shop George, Liar George, Bawdy George.”

“If ‘Relationship George’ walks through this door, he will kill ‘Independent George.’ A George divided against itself cannot stand.”

While the humor in those remarks is rib-tickling, it is so because that is so much of the way we live our lives, masking our private person with a publc persona that is framed to favorably impact whoever we are attempting to impress.

The spiritual life, marked in the Bible, has no such distinctions of persona, no such compartmentalization, no such vanities of impression. God’s exemplary servant, the chief or protos sinner … the pattern or hupo-tupos for the rest of us, for the rest of this dispensation.

So how did this proto hupo-tuposis, this patterned chief of sinners, conduct his life? Right out in the open – right out loud, if you will – in front of the believers. And if we (or they) were not present to see that life, he wrote it down for us (them) to behold in the Scriptures. Most certainly, the Apostle Paul lived very differently than others once his peers, thereby satisfactorily punctuating those remarkable Scriptures entrusted to his care.

We ought to not be surprised at this kind of life. We ought to find those emulating it. I am sure there are some who are. But they are hard to see in our media-dominated world where contrary parties absorb so much mindshare. We ought to see them in our local churches, but those have been so corrupted by the means, methods, and ambitions of this world that such models cannot thrive in them.

Nevertheless, despite our enemy’s and man’s best attempts to efface the example of the apostle, we still have the written word of God, and so all is recoverable. Very many practices, traditions, and principles of authentic Christianity are in this very same condition: unmodeled, yet found in Scripture.

In fact, one may well conclude that this is the test of faithfulness in an age where example is scarce, but the availability of God’s Word is great.

So let’s briefly examine the characterization of Paul’s life as we find it in the Scripture.

Most impressively, and first, we see his single-mindedness from many places of Scripture, but especially the 3rd chapter of Philippians where, among other things, the apostle declares his point of view concerning the past , the present , and the future.

Second, we see the apostle is kind, despite what his detractors contend. “Kindness” is a poorly understood virtue. Simply put, kindness is the purposeful arrangement of oneself to lose that another might benefit. It was KINDNESS that led Jesus Christ to the cross. KINDNESS marked the apostle’s life. Unhappily, KINDNESS is often not recognized by the benefitting party, makeing the kindness all the more kind.

The Apostle Paul likewise arranged his life for the benefit of others, even when they did not care to receive or perceive the benefit. There are many ways he did this, but my purpose here is to focus on just one aspect of those arrangements: the aspect overlooked by most who feature themselves as Christian leaders, preachers, and teachers.

He worked. Right in front of people.

1st and 2nd Corinthians and 1st and 2nd Thessalonians serve as “bookend” epistles concerning the church and the churches. They and the epistles they encompass comprehend this entire dispensation in terms of doctrine and practice, as it applies to church life.

In these “bookend epistles,” the Thessalonian epistles likely written by Paul while in Corinth, the apostle discloses his manner of life.

In short, the apostle life was right out loud. He worked with his hands. He made his own living, and actually even paid for others. In fact, the Apostle Paul went broke in the ministry, a far cry from those who “help themselves” today.

But here’s why he did it: IT WAS THE BASIS FOR WHICH HE WILL BE REWARDED.

You will not find much teaching on this subject, but you should. God rewards his servants on the way in which they go about their works, not for the works themselves, for, after all, those works are before prepared.

The apostle explained this simply in the first epistle to the Corinthians, wherein he actually criticizes that carnal church for the way they are disregarding his apostleship. In the ninth chapter , he lays out several of his liberties , and the guiding principle of their enjoyment in his life.

He points out his and Barnabas’ liberty to acquire a wife, and their liberty to “forbear working.” He then details the principle whereby as tender of a herd, he has the rights to the food product of that herd, as a farmer he has a right to the first fruits, as a soldier he has a right to his keep, and as a working ox, he has a right to his food.

Many preachers will go that far in their teaching.

But where they stop is at the point where they realize God’s people may not be mature enough to look after these matters in faith (as the Philippians were, with respect to the apostle), and therefore withhold their liberties (as the apostle did) in order to bring forth fruit.

And then the apostle declares the truth so troubling to so many who have been given God’s Word: that there is no reward in receiving God’s orders, or even in carrying them out, but only in carrying them out graciously.

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