By Greg Turner firstname.lastname@example.org
One day as I was writing another article I came across the following verse:
Luke 17:5 – 10 (NKJV) 5And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
I then thought “what does this mean”? According to this verse, it seems like no matter how hard I try to follow God’s law that I will still be an unprofitable servant. The answer was surprising to me. God gave us a law to follow and then he also gave us a work to do. Let’s see how.
Citizens of a kingdom
We are citizens of a kingdom! Of course we are. I live in the United States of America. Everyone lives in a kingdom of some kind (even if they own their own island!). So then it should make sense to us that Christians are a part of a kingdom. Notice what Paul told the Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:19 – 22 (NKJV) 19Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
So Jesus is the head of this kingdom that we have become a part of –that we are “fellow citizens” of! Paul also told the Philippians:
Philippians 3:20 – 21 (NKJV) 20For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Our citizenship is in heaven – the Kingdom of God. Peter also says:
1 Peter 2:9 – 10 (NKJV) 9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
We are a part of a “holy nation” and a “royal priesthood”. How did we become a part of this new nation? Well, John the Baptist said “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and then he baptized people with water (Matt. 3). He then baptized Jesus and then Jesus received the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:13-16). Jesus then preached as John did (Matt 4:17). Jesus said that the least in the kingdom of heaven would be greater than John the Baptist. Was that because John did not do some part of God’s law? No, it was because he was born of women (Mat. 11:11, Luke 7:28) and those who are in the kingdom of heaven are born of Spirit (Luke 17:20-21). We are a part of the Kingdom of God if we have the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 15:50; I Cor. 6:9-19) in us and we receive entrance (or are born – I Peter 1:23) into this Kingdom when we repent and are baptized of water and Spirit. In other words we must become tired of living for ourselves, which is the way (living for self) of the kingdoms of this world, and we must want to live the way of the citizens of the Kingdom of God.
For example, as a citizen of the United States of America I am called an American. As a citizen of the Kingdom of God which Christ is the head I am then called a Christian. When I am in the United States I obey the laws of that country. So then, as a citizen of the kingdom of God I need to obey the laws of that kingdom.
Laws of the Kingdom of God
This is a big concept and many people argue and fight over whether to keep the old covenant (Mosaic) law or the new testament law or both. The bottom line is that as citizens of the Kingdom of God we must obey it’s laws. First I must point out that now that we are members of a new kingdom that does not give us the right to disobey the laws of the earthly kingdoms. We are now considered ambassadors (I Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20) to any earthly kingdom that we may be in and we must obey it’s laws, but also be good examples of the kingdom that we are from. Peter spoke about this:
1 Peter 2:11 – 17 (NKJV) 11Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
In other words we are free from these ‘Gentile’ kingdoms and their laws, but we should obey them anyway while we are still living here so that they will see our good examples and works. It is important that we obey the ‘Gentile’ laws – the laws of whatever government that we live under so that we may peacefully live in that country (Titus 3:1; Rom. 13:1).
So what are the laws of our new kingdom? Well, Jesus said that his citizens would be recognized if we love one another like He loved us (John 13:34-35). He sacrificed his life for us (Eph. 5:2) because He loved us and He said that there could be no greater love (John 15:13). Now when the Pharisees asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment which one of the ten did He list? His answer:
Matthew 22:36 – 39 (NKJV) 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Why did he say that? In Matthew 5 Jesus expanded the meaning of the ten commandments to show us the spiritual intent of them. Here he is doing the opposite and summarizing them to show how simple God’s law is. Jesus said that first we must love God with all our heart and mind. Why? Because, if we do not keep the first law we can not keep the second law. How do we keep the first? It is simple. We give up our old lives and heed the calling of Christ (Matt. 13:37) to join him in his kingdom. We sacrifice our human physical lives, our goals, our ambitions, to serve God, to be his servants in his Kingdom. We can not serve two masters (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13). Once we heed the calling we go thru the entrance process of repentance and baptism to become a citizen of the Kingdom. Only then can we please God and keep the second commandment of Christ (Rom 8:1-8). Paul emphasized the second commandment of Christ in Romans 13:8-10 and in Gal. 5:13-14. We don’t see a listing of all of the old covenant (Mosaic) laws because after Christ dies they are no longer in effect – only the law of Christ (I Cor. 9:19-21) is in effect. Notice in Gal. 5:1:
Galatians 5:1 – 6 (NKJV) 1Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
People were becoming circumcised to join the Jewish faith since Christ was being taught by the Jews (the Apostles and Christ were Jewish). They either did not understand what Christ taught or were being falsely taught to do this. Circumcision brings a person under the old covenant and they then must keep the laws of that covenant. Paul is saying that once under Christ that we are freed from that law. He makes it clear in Romans 7:
Romans 7:1 – 6 (NKJV) 1Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
In other words, we must keep the law forever (until we die), but Paul shows us here that Christ was married to the Israel (see Eph 5:25-33 for more on Christ’s relationship with the church) and therefore the Mosaic law was in effect until He died. Once He died she (Israel) was free from that covenant. We die when we are baptized (Rom. 6:4) freeing us from whatever law we were under and committing us to the law of the resurrected Christ. Again, Paul says that once we are dead in baptism that the “handwriting of requirements” are “wiped out” (Col. 2:11). Finally, look at 2 Corinthians 3:15 – 16 (NKJV) “15But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.” As long as we continue to keep the old covenant law the veil in the temple remains a covering between us and God. But “16Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”
To summarize, we desiring to be citizens of the kingdom of God ruled by Christ must keep his law. His law is to love God first, then love our neighbors as ourselves. But notice what Jesus said in Matthew 19:
Matthew 19:16 – 19 (NKJV) 16Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
But that is not enough for God. Jesus then went on to say:
Matthew 19:20 – 21 (NKJV) 20The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
So Jesus says keeping the commandments is not enough. We must do more! Jesus told the young man (a disciple – see verse 13) to give up his life, do the will of God and become a Christian (“follow Me”). To be a good laborer of the kingdom action is required!
Works of the Laborers
The word “works” seems to be a big problem among many Christians – why? Is not the entirety of the New Testament bible about the works of Christ, Acts of the Apostles, letters, preaching, teaching, and prophesying? Let’s look at it a different way. If I come to America and become an American citizen (go thru the process of converting from the nationality that I am to become a U.S. citizen), I then have two choices for income: 1) get a job, 2) go on welfare. To become a good citizen I keep the American laws and to become a profitable citizen I get a job and do some work and earn an income. Is it not the same when we go through the process to become a citizen of the kingdom? Notice what James says:
“James 2:8 – 26 (NKJV) 8If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Wow! James is saying the same thing that Christ did in Luke 17:10. If you are in the faith (a Christian) then you should be keeping the law or the commands of Christ, but you are an unprofitable servant in the kingdom if you do not do the works of a Christian! So what are these works? Notice why God was angry with Israel:
Ezekiel 22:6 – 12 (NKJV) 6“Look, the princes of Israel: each one has used his power to shed blood in you. 7In you they have made light of father and mother; in your midst they have oppressed the stranger; in you they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow. 8You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths. 9In you are men who slander to cause bloodshed; in you are those who eat on the mountains; in your midst they commit lewdness. 10In you men uncover their fathers’ nakedness; in you they violate women who are set apart during their impurity. 11One commits abomination with his neighbor’s wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; and another in you violates his sister, his father’s daughter. 12In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me,” says the Lord GOD.
Sounds like America today. These ‘works’ are the opposite of what someone in the kingdom of God should be doing. Now notice some of the things that Jesus did:
Jesus healed and cast out demons: see “Matthew 8:14 – 16 (NKJV) 14Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. 15So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them. 16When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick,” .
Jesus controlled the weather: “Matthew 8:26 – 27 (NKJV) 26But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?””.
Jesus raised people from death: “Matthew 9:23 – 25 (NKJV) 23When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, 24He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. 25But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. ”.
Jesus taught and preached the gospel: “Matthew 9:35 (NKJV) 35Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. ”
Jesus called for laborers “Matthew 9:37 – 38 (NKJV) 37Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.””. If we do not help to gather then we are against Christ (Matthew 12:30 (NKJV) 30He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.). What did he tell his disciples (believers) to do? See “Matthew 10:1 (NKJV) 1And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. ”. And again “Matthew 10:7 – 8 (NKJV) 7And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”. He tells his disciples to speak those things he tells them in the dark – visions, dreams, prayer and bible study, and in the ear – physically speaking to them! And that they are to be like him: “Matthew 10:24 – 27 (NKJV) 24“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! 26Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 27“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. ”. Jesus rebuked his disciples for not doing his works as we see here: “Matthew 17:14 – 21 (NKJV) 14And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” 17Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. 19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.””.
I am no different and nor is any other Christian as we are all disciples (believers)! We can not have the faith needed to do his works without prayer and fasting! I claim to be a Christian yet have I done these things? No I haven’t! Therefore, I can not be of Christ if I do not! But, Paul was the same as us at one point. He ignorantly did false works:
1 Timothy 1:5 – 16 (NKJV) 5Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. 8But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. 12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”
He (and all of us) did it “ignorantly in unbelief”, but then he changed once shown the correct way. He then became a “pattern” or example to those who also believe on Christ. Are we ready to change and believe those things which are written in the scriptures? God does not hold us accountable for ignorantly doing wrong things, but only after we know the truth. Christ expects us to do his “business” as we see here:
Luke 19:11 – 27 (NKJV) 11Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. 12Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. 13So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ 14But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ 15“And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ 17And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ 18And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ 19Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’ 20“Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. 21For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. 23Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24“And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’ 25(But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) 26‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 27But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’”
Jesus gave us talents and abilities to do his work. I Corinthians 12 (read the whole chapter) shows us how:
1 Corinthians 12:4 – 11 (NKJV) 4There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
So we receive our talents from God (see Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:7-8,11) by the Holy Spirit and not everyone has the same talent (as is shown in I Cor. 12:27-31). Some are given more and some less. If we do not understand how to use our talent or know what it is then we need to ask for help and the Holy Spirit will lead us and teach us in all things (I John 2:27; I Cor. 2:13; Gal. 5:18; Rom. 8:26; John 14:26). Now Jesus was very clear that if we do not use our gift while he is away then when he returns he will take it away and give it to someone who has produced fruit (Luke 19:26; John 15:1-7). Going to church every week is not a gift of the Spirit. Sitting in a pew every week is Christian welfare if you are not using the spiritual gifts that have been given to you! We are to assemble (Heb. 10:25) to share our gifts, in an orderly manner (I Cor. 14), so each person in the church can profit (I Cor. 12:7). Each person has a manifestation of the Spirit and it must be used or you lose it (I Thess. 5:19)! Now if your church will not let you use it then you have a problem. I urge you to follow Christ! Think about it. What company hires employees and then tells them that they can not do any work, but rather, tells them that they must sit idly by and just stare at the management team while they work? It does not make sense at any level. Jesus wants us to work.
Now to make sure that we as citizens of the kingdom do not think that we can just do our jobs and get away with breaking the law Jesus says:
Matthew 7:21 – 23 (NKJV) 21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
What is this ‘will of My Father’? Doing the ‘will of God’ is simply to do good to others (Eph. 5:6-8; I Peter 2:15; I Peter 4:1-19). Paul, like Jesus, said in I Corinthians 13 that all the works in the world are not equal to love. The law is love. We, as good citizens, must keep the laws of the kingdom and in so doing we will do good to our neighbors, and to be profitable servants we must do those works that Christ did and greater (I John 3:18-23).
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