|Volume 22 Number 10 October 2020||
David Q. Fisher
“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:22-24 NKJV). It is difficult to fully appreciate the Christians of the first century. I assume for most of us, we see their world with eyes informed by our world. Life for us is about freedom of choice, to come or go, to pursue or sit still, to live here or there, to be involved in this program or that at church or to be involved in none at all. Are we able to comprehend what it was like to be a slave and a Christian in the Roman world? Christians today are often judged to be faithful to God in Christ in very similar ways to being judged successful in business, sports or economically. Busyness in various church programs, not only loyal attendance but being out front in some form of service in worship or Bible class, and known conversions as the result of a Christian’s efforts are all good things. I appreciate, applaud and encourage all who can be so described. Yet, there is something about Paul’s words to the Christian slaves of Colossae that informs me about what it is to be a faithful Christian.
A slave’s life was not his own. His life belonged to his master. Imagine how limited his life choices were. The apostle encouraged Colossian Christians to seek things above (3:1), to put to death all that was worldly and sinful in their hearts and lives (3:5-11), and to clothe their lives with the qualities of heart and life that come from above, where Christ is (3:12-17). Paul urged them, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (3:17). The opportunities of Christian slaves were basically limited to doing what they were bound to do by their masters. The apostle Paul transformed those duties into service to Christ. Their faithfulness as Christians was in heartily doing the work their masters commanded them to do. Their faithfulness to Christ was giving their all to their work as slaves in loyalty to Christ and with the qualities of heart and life that come from Christ.
I certainly am not minimizing the importance of our fellowship with God’s people and our work together. What Paul’s words tell me is that being a faithful Christian is about the way we live our lives in every setting of life. Faithfulness, as we judge it in relation to church involvement, is truly faithfulness only if life is faithfully lived in service to Christ. A Christian whose life’s circumstance limits his or her opportunities for church involvement is a faithful Christian as he or she lives life within that circumstance in service to Christ, with the qualities of heart and life that come from Christ.
[Editor’s Note: This an outstanding article, which captures the apostolic message to the original recipients and subsequently makes the correct and fundamental application to saints now living. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
Webster’s Everyday Encyclopedia of the New World Dictionary of the American Language (1967) devotes a large section to a “Guide to English Grammar.” The first presentation in this section is a brief description of an “Article” in English grammar. It says:
An Article is a word placed before a noun to show whether the noun is used in a particular or general sense. (1) Give me a book could mean any book. (2) Give me the red and green striped book, on Golf, would mean only the specific book indicated. The article “a” when used, indicates something general, or any item. When the article “the” is used, only the specific, one-of-a-kind item defined by the description given is meant.
In simpler terms, the article “the” points to things that are one of a kind, singular or unique. The article “a” is a general term denoting more than one or many of a type. Did you ever employ such reasoning in your attempts to study the Bible? Doing so will amaze you as you attempt to “show thyself approved unto God…” (2Timothy 2:15). Let’s look at some simple examples of this truth.
In 760 B.C. Isaiah said, “…for out of Zion [Jerusalem] shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Employing the established rule of ‘articles’ in English grammar would render this verse thusly. “for out of Zion [Jerusalem] shall go forth the [only] law, and the [only] Word of the [only] Lord from Jerusalem.” One has only to look at Acts 2 to see this prophesy fulfilled.
Why is this an important idea? The proper appreciation of articles is important because Christ said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). Employ the “article” rule and look at what Christ said. “I am the [only] way, the [only] truth, and the [only] life” (John 14:6).
Anyone who might have trouble believing, accepting or understanding the simple truths from God can study other relative Scriptures to better understand what is taught. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Essentially, this means: It’s God’s way or it’s a wrong way! Remember, “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
A brief survey of Colossians 1:18, making proper grammatical use of the article ‘‘the,” will forever settle the questions that arise when the multitudes ask, “How many churches are there?” Colossians 1:18 reads, in part, “And He is the head of the Body, the Church…” Imposition of the “article” rule will render this verse as follows: “And He is the [only] head of the [only] Body, the [only] church…” (Colossians 1:18).
The inspired Prophet Jeremiah spoke truth when he said, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Since this is an eternal truth, what can man do? Do what God directs! “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Remember! “Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). That settles it! Nothing else can save us, so nothing else is needed!