Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Laboring for the Sake of God's Elect

It is easy to get scatter-brained in ministry. It is easy to get tired in ministry. It is easy (due to the scatter-brained fatigue) to forget why you do what you do. But then, God in His mercy, brings you to texts such as Titus 1:1:
[1:1] Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.
I have spent a great deal of time pondering evangelism lately. I've wondered at how I can be better at intentionally evangelizing. I've thought "How can my fellow elders and I mobilize our people to evangelize better?". And at the core of all of these thoughts and questions is one HUGE thing to consider: Why should we evangelize? What should be our goal?

This opening text in Paul's letter to Timothy offers the perfect answer to such a question. We labor "for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth." There is an apparent order here. First, the elect must have faith. How does that happen? And all the Calvinists answered "God grants them faith". And we would be right in saying so. However, that doesn't answer the question of how that is played our physically. Too often we give credit where credit is due to God in His work in saving souls while neglecting what we are to do in accordance with His work. The only way the elect will come to faith (not because it is the only way possible, but because this is how our sovereign God has ordained it to happen) is by the proclamation of His Gospel.

As we proclaim this Gospel, two things should be at the front of our minds at all times. 1) God's glory in His work of salvation. We must remember, in order to maintain our sanity, our humility, and for God to be most glorified that He does all the work in the actual saving of an individual. Everything else is simply a response to the work He has already done. 2) We must keep in mind who we are seeking to reach with our message. We must keep in mind what we labor for. Paul says it this way in Colossians 1:24 "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." Paul was well aware of why he labored and why he suffered. We too should be aware of this. We labor for the sake of the faith of the elect. We labor for the sake of the Church! My brother-pastor, Phil Fletcher once commented boldly on this passage in a sermon proclaiming that this is why he spends "day-in and day-out in 'ash and trash' (he was misunderstood by some): for the CHURCH!". If we do not have a desire to see the elect brought to faith, to see souls saved from the wrath of God, then why even bother with the name 'Christian'? Why waste our time professing to believe this Gospel if we are not going to share it with the lost, in hopes that God in His mercy might grant us a part in bringing His elect to faith? Oh! What a joy to be called to such a beautiful calling!

Secondly, the elect, once having been granted repentance and brought to faith must grow in their "knowledge of the truth". My favorite part of the Great Commission is after Christ has told the Apostles to make disciples of all nations, he follows up with another part to the work He was calling them to by saying "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you". (Matthew 28:20) Upon conversion, all believers are to be taught the deeper truths of God's word. Christ wasn't satisfied with mere professions, so neither should we be satisfied with mere professions; but we should earnestly desire to see men and women who are growing in their knowledge of the truth of God's word. It is by this deeper knowledge that even more converts will be made! Think about it. If Christians know more about God's word, will they not be more bold about teaching it to others? Will they not also know more their responsibility to share the truth with as many people as possible, in the hopes that God might save some? This is what will take some of the load off of the pastors in our churches. Pastors/Elders should not be bearing the weight of evangelism alone! But they should be teaching their congregation to grow deeper in their knowledge of the truth.

Paul goes on to say that these things "accord with godliness". Time does not allow me to type, nor you to read all the things we could say about godliness, so I will restrain it to this simple fact. When we labor for the sake of the faith of God's elect and they grow deeper in their knowledge of the truth, we are practicing godliness and godliness will be seen in them. Godliness could be equated to the biblical teaching of holiness, and the author of Hebrews tells that without holiness, no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14). Therefore we should strive to be holy and we should push our people to be holy. As we labor for the sake of the faith of God's elect, and for their knowledge of the truth we should strive to see godliness poured out in their lives as well. If we do not, we are wasting our time.

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