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TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

II. Doing God’s Work

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Unit F  >  28. Serving God

Part II

Doing God’s Work

In instructing us in how to do God’s work, serving him, the Bible urges us to do our best but emphasizes God’s role and the need to rely on him. The Bible also teaches us about: the manner in which we should serve God; serving God in a church context; and God’s extraordinary spiritual gifts to his people for serving him.

Do God’s Work – the Best You Can

Do the work assigned to you . . .

Eph 2:10  [Paul, to believers:] God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.  GNT

It would appear that Paul is speaking of God preparing in advance particular work for each believer to do (cf. AMP). As such, believers need to look to God to guide them and enable them to do the work – and willingly do it.

. . . Carry out God’s will

Eph 6:6  [Paul, to Christian slaves:] Do not do this only while being watched in order to please them, but be like slaves of the Messiah who do God’s will from the heart.  ISV

Work hard at God’s work . . .

Rom 16:12  [Paul, to the Roman believers:] Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who have worked hard for the Lord. Greet dear Persis, who has worked very hard for the Lord.  GW

. . . Endure associated persecution and hardships

2Cor 6:4-5  [Paul:] But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, in distresses, 5in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, …  NET

Do quality work which bears “fruit” – “fruit” that will last

John 15:16  [Jesus, to his disciples:] You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name.  CEV

1Cor 3:10-15  [Paul:] According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master–builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.  NET

Here Paul speaks of the work of building the church, and is probably primarily addressing church teachers. Builders need to be careful to build with quality materials – symbolized by the gold, silver and precious stones (v. 12). Such “materials” would include correct doctrine, complemented by a godly lifestyle. Quality work – as with poor work – will be shown for what it is by testing on “the Day” of judgment (vv. 13-14).

Persist at serving God

Dan 6:20  As he [King Darius] approached the den, he called out to Daniel in a worried voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, was your God whom you continually serve able to rescue you from the lions?”  NET

Complete the work you have been given

Col 4:17b  “See to it that you complete the ministry you received in the Lord.”  NET

Acts 20:24  [Paul:] But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.  NET

 Questions for Section A

Do the Work through God

See also:

Apart from God and Jesus Christ we can accomplish nothing

John 15:4-5  [Jesus, to his disciples:] Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. 5“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.  NET

1Cor 3:6-7  [Paul:] I planted the seeds, Apollos watered them, but God made them sprout and grow. 7What matters isn’t those who planted or watered, but God who made the plants grow.  CEV

God’s servants cannot themselves produce any true and lasting spiritual results or growth from the work that they do – only God can.

Pray to God for help in the work – and ask others to pray

Acts 4:29-31  [The early believers, praying:] And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 30while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously.  NET

Eph 6:19-20  [Paul, to the Ephesian believers:] Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.  NET

Do God’s work through God and his power

John 3:21  But those who follow the true way come to the light, and it shows that the things they do were done through God.  NCV™

2Cor 6:7  We have spoken the truth, and God’s power has worked in us. In all our struggles we have said and done only what is right.  CEV

Do the work by faith

Heb 11:32-34  And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, received promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34put out raging fires, escaped death by the sword, found strength in weakness, became powerful in battle, and routed foreign armies.  ISV

In fighting their enemies (vv. 33a, 34b; 2Chr 14:11b ⇓) – along with administering justice (v. 33a) – these men of God were in a real sense doing God’s work, doing so by faith. As such passages like this are very much applicable to believers in doing their work for God.

Do the work in God’s “name” . . .

2Chr 14:11b  [Asa, King of Judah:] Help us now, O Lord our God, because we are relying on you, and in your name we have come out to fight against this huge army. Lord, you are our God; no one can hope to defeat you.  GNT

To the ancient Hebrews and Jews, a person’s name represented or embodied their whole person – including their nature, authority and aims or cause. As such, doing something in God’s name would appear to involve acting: as his representative; by his authority; and in accordance with his will. Doing so is allied with acting in reliance on his power, by faith in him. (The same applies to acting in Jesus Christ’s name, as per the following subsection.)

. . . Do the work in the “name” of Jesus Christ

Col 3:17  And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  NET

The exhortation in this verse was not made specifically in reference to doing God’s work, but obviously is applicable to it.

Serve God through the Holy Spirit

Rom 7:6  [Paul, to believers:] But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.  ESV

2Tim 1:14  [Paul, to Timothy:] Protect that good thing [the gospel message] entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.  NET

God’s people serve and obey him now by following the directing of the Holy Spirit, with the Spirit’s empowerment, rather than by focusing on “obeying the letter of the law” (NLT).

Note: Commit to God whatever you do

Prov 16:3  Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.  NET

 Questions for Section B

The Manner in Which to Serve God

Serve God in holiness and righteousness

Luke 1:73b-75  [Zechariah, the priest:] This oath [of God] grants 74that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, may serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him for as long as we live.  NET

Serve God with humility

Acts 20:19  [Paul:] I served the Lord with all humility, with tears, and with trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews.  ISV

Luke 17:10  [Jesus, to his disciples:] So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’  ESV

Serve God with all your heart

Deut 10:12  [Moses:] And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, …  ESV

Be strong and courageous, as God is with those doing his work

1Chr 28:10  [David, to Solomon:] Realize now that the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as his sanctuary. Be strong and do it!  NET

Deut 31:23  The Lord gave this command to Joshua, son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, because you will bring the Israelites into the land that I swore to give them, and I will be with you.”  GW

Do not be afraid as you do God’s work . . .

Ezek 2:6-7  [God, to Ezekiel:] But you, son of man, do not fear them, and do not fear their words – even though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions – do not fear their words and do not be terrified of the looks they give you, for they are a rebellious house! 7You must speak my words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.  NET

. . . Instead, fear God and serve him faithfully

1Sam 12:24  However, fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Just look at the great things he has done for you!  NET

 Questions for Section C

Working with Other Believers

See also:

This section speaks of working with other believers both in: working among them, ministering to them; and working alongside them, ministering to others (such as in outreach). Note that most of the other teachings in this chapter are also very relevant to this topic.

Serve each other

Gal 5:13  [Paul, to believers:] For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another.  NET

Mark 9:35  After he [Jesus] sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”  NET

Do God’s work together

Phil 4:3  [Paul:] Yes, I say also to you, true companion, help them [Euodia and Syntyche]. They have struggled together in the gospel ministry along with me and Clement and my other coworkers, whose names are in the book of life.  NET

3Jn 1:7-8  [John, speaking of Christian workers:] After all, they went on their trip to serve the one named Christ, and they didn’t accept any help from the people to whom they went. 8We must support believers who go on trips like this so that we can work together with them in spreading the truth.  GW

Encourage each other in doing God’s work

Heb 10:24  We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things.  GW

2Chr 35:2  He [King Josiah] appointed the priests to fulfill their duties and encouraged them to carry out their service in the Lord’s temple.  NET

Keep each other informed about the work and associated challenges

Acts 14:27  When they [Paul and Barnabas] arrived and gathered the church together, they reported all the things God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.  NET

Acts 4:23  When they were released, Peter and John went to their fellow believers and reported everything the high priests and the elders had said to them.  NET

Note: Churches send out workers, to aid the spread of the gospel

Acts 13:1-3  Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen (a close friend of Herod the tetrarch from childhood ) and Saul. 2While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.  NET

Acts 8:14  Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.  NET

 Questions for Section D

Spiritual Gifts

God equips his people to serve him, notably by giving them spiritual gifts.

God gives each of his people a spiritual gift, through the Holy Spirit

1Cor 7:7  [Paul:] I wish that everyone were like me, but each person has his own gift from God. One has one gift, another has another gift.  NCV™

1Cor 12:8  The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak with wisdom, and the same Spirit gives another the ability to speak with knowledge.  NCV™

God’s people are given different spiritual gifts

Rom 12:6  And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us.  NET

The various spiritual gifts

1Cor 12:8-10  For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.  NET

Broadly speaking, “the message of wisdom” and “the message of knowledge” (v. 8) quite possibly are respectively “the ability to give wise advice” (NLT) or insight and “the gift of special knowledge” (NLT) – with probably the application and conveying of spiritual truths being particularly in view.

The term “faith” (v. 9) does not refer to saving faith, but to exceptional faith or trust in God. The gift of “prophecy” (v. 10) is the communication of a revelation from God, such as a foretelling of a future event or a revelation of God’s will regarding a certain matter.

The gift of “discernment of spirits” (v. 10) appears to be the ability to distinguish whether something, such as a prophecy or teaching, is prompted by the Holy Spirit or a demonic spirit. The gift of “tongues” (v. 10) is the ability to speak in an unlearned language. (Note that further spiritual gifts are mentioned in the following subsection.)

Make good use of spiritual gifts, using them appropriately

1Tim 4:14  [Paul, to Timothy:] Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you.  NET

Rom 12:6b-8  [Paul:] So if your gift is prophecy, use your gift in proportion to your faith. 7If your gift is serving, devote yourself to serving others. If it is teaching, devote yourself to teaching others. 8If it is encouraging, devote yourself to encouraging others. If it is sharing, share generously. If it is leading, lead enthusiastically. If it is helping, help cheerfully.  ISV

The phrase “in proportion to your faith” (v. 6) most likely refers to the extent of one’s faith in God – “according to the amount of faith we have” (CEV).

Use your spiritual gift to build up the church

Eph 4:11-13  It was he [Christ] who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.  NET

As parts of the body of Christ, believers are to use the gifts they have been given (v. 11) in ministry (v. 12a) so that Christ’s body may be built up and become mature (vv. 12b-13).

Further instructions about spiritual gifts

1Cor 14:1, 39  Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.39So then, brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues.  NET

1Thes 5:19-20  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. 20Do not despise prophecies.  ISV

The use of spiritual gifts in corporate worship and meetings is most likely in view here. The Thessalonians were not to stifle the Holy Spirit’s work by restricting the expression of spiritual gifts.

 Questions for Section E

Pray for persecuted Christians