TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

II. Doing God’s Work

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Chapter 28  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

See also:

Do God’s work

Ex 36:1  “Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.” ▤ 

Neh 12:45  And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. ▤ 

Neh 13:14  Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service. ▤ 

John 9:4  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. ▤ 

Jesus appears to be speaking of his ministry, in which he implies the disciples were partners by the use of “We”. As such, “night” would be a reference to his death. The exhortation is applicable to all believers to do God’s work while they can.

1Cor 16:10  When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. ▤ 

Phil 2:22  But you know Timothy’sp proven worth, how as a sonq with a father he has served with me in the gospel. ▤ 

p Greek his

q Greek child

1Chr 22:16b  Arise and work! The Lord be with you! ▤ 

Ezra 5:2  Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. ▤ 

Luke 19:12-13  He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13Calling ten of his servants,r he gave them ten minas,s and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ ▤ 

r Greek bondservants; also verse 15

s A mina was about three months’ wages for a laborer

“The Parable of the Ten Minas” (cf. vv. 11-27) is often applied to the need to put to work the abilities and resources we have been given (cf. Ex 36:1 ), making good use of them for God’s kingdom.

  • God’s people are workers for the kingdom of God:

Col 4:11  … and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. ▤ 

Do the work assigned to you . . .

1Cor 3:5-6  What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. ▤ 

This indicates that Paul and Apollos did or worked at the tasks that the Lord had assigned to them (cf. AMP, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT). All believers should do likewise.

Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ▤ 

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.

Judg 6:14  And the Lordt turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” ▤ 

t Septuagint the angel of the Lord; also verse 16

The rhetorical question underlines the fact that in going and saving Israel, Gideon would be carrying out God’s will and work, God being the one who had sent him (cf. Jer 1:7 ).

Jer 1:7  But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. ▤ 

2Tim 4:5  As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ▤ 

1Chr 6:32  They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they performed their service according to their order. ▤ 

These men performed their service according to the regulations stipulated for them (cf. NCV, NIV, NLT).

1Chr 16:37  So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord to minister regularly before the ark as each day required, … ▤ 

The phrase “as each day required” refers either to the standard daily regulations (cf. 1Chr 6:32 ) or whatever needs arose each day.

. . . Carry out God’s will

See also:

Ezra 7:18  Whatever seems good to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do, according to the will of your God. ▤ 

2Cor 8:3-5  For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4begging us earnestly for the favoru of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. ▤ 

u The Greek word charis can mean favor or grace or thanks, depending on the context

The Macedonian’s giving of their finances (vv. 3-5) was in a sense a giving of themselves to the Lord – first and foremost – and secondarily to Paul, in accordance with God’s will.

Eph 6:5-6  Slaves,v obey your earthly mastersw with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servantsx of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, … ▤ 

v Or servants; Greek bondservants; similarly verse 8

w Or your masters according to the flesh

x Or slaves; Greek bondservants

1Pet 4:2  … so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. ▤ 

Matt 12:50  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. ▤ 

1Sam 2:35  And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. ▤ 

Acts 13:36  For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, … ▤ 

David “did God’s will” (NCV™; cf. NIrV).

Work hard at God’s work . . .

See also:

Rom 16:6, 12  Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. ▤ 12Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. ▤ 

1Cor 15:58  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. ▤ 

The expression “always abounding in the work of the Lord” refers either to: busily doing the Lord’s work (cf. CEV, GNT); or doing it well (cf. AMP, NRSV). Both possibilities involve working hard at it.

Col 1:28-29  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ▤ 

Col 2:1  For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, … ▤ 

Col 4:12-13  Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. ▤ 

1Tim 4:15  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,y so that all may see your progress. ▤ 

y Greek be in them

The “things” in the preceding verses (cf. vv. 6-14), concerned mainly Timothy’s ministry.

2Tim 2:15  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,z a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. ▤ 

z That is, one approved after being tested

“Do your best” here is akin to “Work hard” (NLT) or “Be diligent” (NASB, NKJV). Paul urged Timothy to be industrious, doing his best to gain God’s approval of himself and his work, having no need to be ashamed of what he had done.

Rev 2:2  I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. ▤ 

Rev 2:19  I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. ▤ 

The clause “your latter works exceed the first” speaks of doing more than they did at first (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV).

2Chr 24:13  So those who were engaged in the work labored, and the repairing went forward in their hands, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it. ▤ 

. . . Endure associated persecution and hardships

1Cor 4:11-13  To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. ▤ 

In v. 12a Paul appears to be speaking of working hard to support himself, which he did in conjunction with working hard in his work for the kingdom. In the last statement (v. 13b) Paul is saying that they had been thought of and treated as if they were the garbage of the world.

2Cor 4:8-10  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. ▤ 

For comment on v. 10, see the comment on 2Cor 4:10-12 – under . . . Be willing even to endanger your life.

2Cor 6:4-5, 8-10  … but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; ▤ 8through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. ▤ 

In saying that he was treated “as unknown, and yet well known” (v. 9a) Paul probably means that he was treated as a nobody by the world and false brothers – ignored and/or unappreciated – but was well known by God and believers. In vv. 9b-10 Paul speaks of facing death, punishment, sorrow and poverty – and being treated or viewed as such.

2Cor 7:4-5  I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. 5For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. ▤ 

2Cor 11:23-28  Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,a in cold and exposure. 28And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. ▤ 

a Or often in fasting

Note that in v. 23 Paul acknowledges the foolishness of what he earlier referred to as boasting (cf. vv. 16-17, 21). He felt compelled to boast as such to try to prove his credentials as an apostle in the face of false claims by opposing false apostles, who were a threat to the spirituality of the Corinthian church.

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

See also:

As noted earlier in this chapter, the metaphorical use of “fruit” in the NT may refer to: personal spiritual characteristics (cf. Gal 5:22-23); or wider spiritual outcomes of quality work for God’s kingdom. And in some instances, it may include both concepts – the spiritual characteristics and their effect. In including verses using “fruit” in this subsection, its usage in these verses has been interpreted as referring to – or at least inclusive of – spiritual outcomes of quality work for God’s kingdom. See also the comments below on John 15:16, Romans 7:4 and James 3:17.

Matt 13:23  As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty. ▤ 

John 12:24  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ▤ 

Jesus may be alluding to both his own death (cf. v. 23) and the death to themselves of Christians (cf. v. 25) in serving him (cf. v. 26).

John 15:8, 16  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. ▤ 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ▤ 

With Jesus saying that he “appointed” the disciples to “go” and bear fruit (v. 16), it is quite likely that here “fruit” does refer to or encompass spiritual outcomes of quality work for the kingdom.

Rom 7:4  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. ▤ 

In regard to the use of “fruit”, note that a number of other translations (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT) do clearly interpret it as referring to the produce of godly service.

Phil 1:22a  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. ▤ 

Col 1:10  … so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. ▤ 

James 3:17  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. ▤ 

The coupling of “good fruits” with being “full of mercy” suggests that “good deeds” (GNT, NLT; cf. CEV, NCV) are being spoken of here.

1Cor 3:10-15  According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ▤ 

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).

Phil 2:15-16  … that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. ▤ 

Paul was anxious that his work amongst the Philippians would prove to be quality work, work that was enduring and worthwhile in the final analysis.

  • Do the work just as God wants:

Ex 39:42-43  According to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. 43And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them. ▤ 

Persist at the work

We are to persist at doing God’s work, continually serving him for all our life.

Neh 5:16  I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. ▤ 

This refers to the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

Dan 6:20  As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” ▤ 

Luke 1:74-75  … that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. ▤ 

2Thes 3:13  As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. ▤ 

2Cor 4:1  Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,b we do not lose heart. ▤ 

b Greek as we have received mercy

The phrase “do not lose heart” in effect means “never give up” (CEV, NLT; cf. NCV). Note that Paul soon afterwards reiterates this thought: “So we do not lose heart.” (v. 16)

John 5:16-17  And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” ▤ 

This suggests that God is always at his work and Jesus likewise is (cf. CEV, NCV, NLT). As such, Jesus provides the consummate example of persistence at God’s work – an example which one can aspire to, if not actually be able to actually emulate.

Complete the work you have been given

Col 4:17  And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” ▤ 

Ex 40:16, 33  This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. ▤ 33And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. ▤ 

Josh 11:15  Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. ▤ 

Josh 22:1-3  At that time Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you. 3You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God. ▤ 

2Ki 10:30  And the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” ▤ 

2Chr 8:16  Thus was accomplished all the work of Solomon fromc the day the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid until it was finished. So the house of the Lord was completed. ▤ 

c Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew to

Acts 13:22-25  And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’ ▤ 

The expression “finishing his course” (v. 25; cf. Acts 20:24 ) speaks of John finishing his ministry (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV).

Acts 14:26  … and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. ▤ 

Acts 20:24  But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. ▤ 

Rom 15:19  … by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; … ▤ 

Rom 15:28  When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected,d I will leave for Spain by way of you. ▤ 

d Greek sealed to them this fruit

2Cor 8:11  So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. ▤ 

2Tim 4:5  As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ▤ 

  • Jesus’ example of completing his work from God:

John 17:4  I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. ▤ 

A couple of other references to Jesus completing the work God had given him are made later, in John 19:28, 30 – ‘After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” …  30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’

Pray for persecuted Christians

Do the Work through God

See also:

Apart from God and Jesus Christ we can accomplish nothing

John 15:4-5  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ▤ 

1Cor 3:6-7  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. ▤ 

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

Phil 1:9-11  And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ▤ 

The phrase “the fruit of righteousness” is quite possibly referring to good deeds (cf. CEV, NCV) – as is probably the case above in John 15:4-5 – hence the verse’s inclusion here. Alternatively, righteous qualities may be in view (cf. GNT). In either case, such “fruit” is produced only through Jesus Christ.

Ps 127:1-2  Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. ▤ 

Attempting a task independently of God is useless. This principle is of course very much applicable to attempting to accomplish things for God’s kingdom. Note the Hebrew text of the latter part of v. 2 is difficult. But it appears to suggest that God meets the needs of his people, irrespective of the amount of one’s toil.

Isa 26:12  O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. ▤ 

  • No one in themselves is adequate to do God’s work of spreading the knowledge of him:

2Cor 2:14-16  But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficiente for these things? ▤ 

e Or competent

No one is “sufficient” (v. 16) or “competent” (cf. text note) in themselves to do such work, in part because the consequences of the work mean either death or life for those amongst whom the work is done (vv. 15-16).

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

See also:

Neh 1:3-4, 11  And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” 4As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. ▤ 11O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king. ▤ 

These verses along with the passage immediately below from the subsequent chapter of Nehemiah show that he both prayed and acted (approaching the king for help) regarding the ruined state of Jerusalem.

Neh 2:4-8  Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” 6And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. ▤ 

Note that this passage and the one above show that Nehemiah prayed about both the problem and the action he planned to take to address it.

Neh 4:8-9  And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. ▤ 

Again Nehemiah both prayed and acted in regard to a problem confronting his work for God. In this case it was the threats of enemies against him and the people as they did God’s work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

Ps 90:17  Let the favorf of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! ▤ 

f Or beauty

The reference is to work in general, but the prayer is very much applicable to doing the work of God’s kingdom.

Acts 4:29-31  And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servantsg to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. ▤ 

g Greek bondservants

Eph 6:18b-20  To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. ▤ 

This and the following passages suggest that we should ask others to pray to God to help us in our work for him.

Col 4:3-4  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. ▤ 

2Thes 3:1-2  Finally, brothers,h pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored,i as happened among you, 2and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. ▤ 

h Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6, 13

i Or glorified

  • Paul tells of his desire or prayer that his listeners would become a Christian like him:

Acts 26:28-29  And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”j 29And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” ▤ 

j Or In a short time you would persuade me to act like a Christian!

“I would to God” suggests prayerfulness (cf. GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV).

Do God’s work through God and his power

See also:

John 3:21  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. ▤ 

In “the light” given by Jesus Christ, all that one does in living by the truth is shown to be done in/through God – “divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence upon Him” (AMP).

1Cor 2:1-5  And I, when I came to you, brothers,k did not come proclaiming to you the testimonyl of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. ▤ 

k Or brothers and sisters

l Some manuscripts mystery (or secret)

Particularly in view of vv. 1-3, verses 4-5 suggest that Paul intentionally carried out his ministry in reliance on God’s power (and the Holy Spirit).

2Cor 6:4, 7  … but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, ▤ 7by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; … ▤ 

In v. 7a, “by … the power of God” indicates that Paul carried out his work as a servant of God (v. 4) in dependence on God’s power (cf. GNT, NCV).

2Cor 13:4  For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. ▤ 

The phrase “by the power of God” is not only indicative of how we live with Christ, but also to how we – as we live with Christ – minister to others (cf. GNT, NLT).

Col 1:29  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ▤ 

Note that the reference is to Jesus Christ’s “energy”.

2Tim 1:8  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, … ▤ 

The reference to God’s empowerment may primarily be to enduring the suffering (v. 8b) rather than to the actual doing of God’s work (i.e. testifying about Jesus Christ, v. 8a). But obviously they went hand in hand; hence the verse’s inclusion here.

1Pet 4:11  … whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. ▤ 

The first portion of the verse is probably indicating that we should rely on God’s help in what we say in ministering to others – as is paralleled in the second portion regarding serving with God’s strength.

1Sam 14:45  Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people ransomed Jonathan, so that he did not die. ▤ 

Neh 2:20  Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claimm in Jerusalem.” ▤ 

m Or memorial

In their efforts to rebuild of walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah looked to God as the ultimate source of the success of which he was confident.

1Chr 22:16b  Arise and work! The Lord be with you! ▤ 

Here David alludes to the need for God to be helping Solomon in the work of building the temple.

1Thes 4:2  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. ▤ 

  • By his power God fulfills what his people seek to do for him:

2Thes 1:11  To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, … ▤ 

Paul prays that “by his power” God will bring to completion, putting to good effect, what the Thessalonians in faith sought to do for God. (Presumably Paul has in mind such things being in line with God’s will/work.)

Do the work by faith and in God’s “name” . . .

See also:

The latter verses in this subsection speak of acting in God’s “name”. 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 dependence on his power (spoken of in the previous subsection) and by faith in him (spoken of throughout this subsection). The same things can be said of acting in Jesus Christ’s name (spoken of in the following subsection).

1Tim 1:4  … nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardshipn from God that is by faith. ▤ 

n Or good order

The “stewardship from God that is by faith” may well be speaking of God’s work being “done by faith” (CEV, cf. NCV); as such the verse is pertinent to this subsection. Alternatively, some commentators think that it is speaking of God’s plan or truth being known through faith (cf. GNT).

Acts 11:23-24  When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. ▤ 

Undoubtedly the godly traits of Barnabas listed in v. 24 – including being “full of… faith” – were evident in the manner in which he ministered (v. 23).

Heb 11:32-34  And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. ▤ 

In fighting their enemies (vv. 33a, 34b) – 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 and the following ones are very much applicable to believers in doing their work for God.

1Sam 17:37, 45-47  And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” ▤ 45Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” ▤ 

David’s faith is shown clearly in vv. 37, 46, 47. His statement that he came against Goliath “in the name of the Lord of hosts” (v. 45; cf. 2Chr 14:11 ; Ps 4:5 ; Ps 118:10-12 ) also points to his faith in God and God’s power, as well as suggesting that he did so on God’s behalf.

2Chr 14:11  And Asa cried to the Lord his God, “O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” ▤ 

This clearly speaks of acting both by faith and in God’s “name”.

Ps 44:5  Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us. ▤ 

Ps 118:10-12  All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! 11They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! 12They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! ▤ 

The psalmist overcame his evil enemies in the name of the Lord – inclusive of “the power of the Lord” (CEV, GNT).

. . . Do God’s work in the “name” of Jesus Christ

See also:

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

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

Luke 10:17  The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” ▤ 

Luke 24:46-47  … and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. ▤ 

The message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins” was to be preached “in his name”, with Christ’s authority (cf. NLT), as the one who by his work has realized this forgiveness.

Acts 3:6-8  But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. ▤ 

Acts 9:27-28  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. ▤ 

Acts 16:18  And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. ▤ 

1Cor 1:10  I appeal to you, brothers,o by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. ▤ 

o Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 11, 26

2Thes 3:6  Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. ▤ 

1Cor 5:4-5  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.p ▤ 

p Some manuscripts add Jesus

That being “assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus” is connected with the presence of “the power of our Lord Jesus”, suggests that acting in the name of Jesus Christ is correlative to acting in dependence on or through his power. (For comment on v. 5, see 1Cor 5:4-5 – under . . . This is partly for the benefit of the offenders themselves.)

James 5:14  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. ▤ 

Note that here “Lord” could be referring to God.

Serve God through the Holy Spirit

See also:

Rom 7:6  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.q ▤ 

q Greek of the letter

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).

1Cor 2:4-5, 13  … and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. ▤ 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.r ▤ 

r Or interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual language, or comparing spiritual things with spiritual

In v. 4 Paul acknowledges the Spirit’s power being behind the effectiveness of his preaching. While Paul does not expressly say that he looked to the Holy Spirit’s help in his preaching, his acknowledgement in v. 4 and what he says in v. 13 – along with the preceding verses, as per an earlier comment – suggest that this was the case (cf. 1Pet 1:12 ).

2Cor 6:4, 6  … but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, ▤ 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; … ▤ 

Paul indicates here that he served God “in the power of the Holy Spirit” (NIrV®).

2Tim 1:14  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. ▤ 

1Pet 1:12  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. ▤ 

2Cor 3:3  And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.s ▤ 

s Greek fleshly hearts

The Corinthians’ new spiritual lives were composed by Christ with the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of Paul. This would suggest that Paul performed this ministry with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 18:25  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,t he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. ▤ 

t Or in the Spirit

The text note points to Apollos speaking with the help of the Holy Spirit. But note that the rendering in the text note has little or no support amongst other modern translations.

  • Paul appealed to believers “by the love of the Spirit”:

Rom 15:30  I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, … ▤ 

The expression “by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit” appears to refer to the mode of Paul’s exhortation. As such one could say that Paul is acting or speaking here (in part) “by the love of the Spirit”. Alternatively, some interpret Paul to be urging his readers to act according to the love of the Spirit given to them (cf. NLT). With either interpretation this verse is indicative of the need to serve God “by the love of the Spirit”.

Note: Commit to God whatever you do

Commit or entrust to God whatever you do, whether it be work for God or other more mundane things one does in “everyday life”.

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

Ps 37:5-6  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. 6He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. ▤ 

Note that v. 6 appears to be speaking of God making his people’s righteousness shine forth, obvious to all, effecting vindication and justice for them.

Ps 90:17  Let the favoru of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! ▤ 

u Or beauty

The psalmist looks to God to grant him and his people success “in all we do!” (GNT; cf. NCV, NLT).

Acts 14:23, 26  And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. ▤ 26and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. ▤ 

As well as committing what we do to God, we should also commit/commend others and what they do to God – notably Christian workers and their work. Note that in Acts 20:32 Paul speaks of committing others to God and his word – “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

2Tim 1:12  … which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.v ▤ 

v Or what I have entrusted to him; Greek my deposit

If the alternative rendering in the text note is to be preferred (cf. NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV), then Paul would appear to be speaking of entrusting or committing to God his ministry and its fruits – along with himself, even through death.

  • Acknowledge God in all that you do:

Prov 3:6  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ▤ 

To “acknowledge him” appears to involve being mindful of him – including his sovereignty and ways. As such, in all we do we should remember him (cf. GNT, NCV) and seek his will or leading (cf. CEV, NLT).

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Manner in Which to Serve God

Serve God in holiness and righteousness

See also:

Luke 1:74-75  … that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. ▤ 

1Thes 2:9-10  For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. ▤ 

Lev 21:6  They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the Lord’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy. ▤ 

Isa 52:11  Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord. ▤ 

The final clause is probably referring to the duty of the priests and Levites to look after the vessels that belonged in the temple.

Mal 2:6  True instructionw was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. ▤ 

w Or law; also verses 7, 8, 9

A priest is in view, along with his work. Possibly it is the high priest Phinehas, or perhaps even an ideal priest.

Matt 10:16  Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. ▤ 

2Cor 1:12  For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicityx and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. ▤ 

x Some manuscripts holiness

This refers in part to Paul’s previous work amongst the Corinthians (cf. 1Thes 2:10 ). The text note says some manuscripts have “holiness” (NASB, NIV) instead of simplicity.

1Tim 5:1-2  Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. ▤ 

This direction was given to Timothy as a pastoral worker, but is very much applicable to all believers.

1Tim 6:13-14  I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony beforey Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, … ▤ 

y Or in the time of

It is not clear exactly what is referred to by “this command” (v. 14), but the most likely possibilities each pertain to Timothy’s work for the kingdom.

2Tim 1:3  I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. ▤ 

2Cor 6:7  … by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; … ▤ 

The term “weapons of righteousness” is usually understood as a reference to the spiritual power and protection given by a life of righteousness and integrity – “right living” (NCV™, cf. CEV, GNT, NLT).

Serve God with humility

Acts 20:18b-19  You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; … ▤ 

Luke 17:7-10  “Will any one of you who has a servantz plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly,a and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants;b we have only done what was our duty.’” ▤ 

z Greek bondservant; also verse 9

a Greek gird yourself

b Greek bondservants

Phil 2:5-8  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,c 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,d being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. ▤ 

c Or which was also in Christ Jesus

d Greek bondservant

Paul actually has in view church harmony (cf. vv. 1-4) rather than serving God. But his exhortation to follow Jesus Christ’s example of humility as shown in Christ’s work for God is obviously applicable to believers in their own work for God.

Dan 2:30  But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. ▤ 

Although they do not refer specifically to humility, this and the remaining references reflect the speakers’ humility and sober perspective of their part in their work for God.

Acts 3:12  And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? ▤ 

Rom 15:18  For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, … ▤ 

Paul seems to mean that he would only speak about things for which Jesus Christ should be given credit, things that Christ accomplished through him as opposed to things that Paul did by himself. Note that Paul is also the speaker in each of the remaining references.

1Cor 15:9  For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. ▤ 

2Cor 12:11  I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. ▤ 

Eph 3:8  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, … ▤ 

Serve God with all your heart

Deut 10:12  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, … ▤ 

Josh 22:5  Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” ▤ 

1Sam 12:20, 24  And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. ▤ 24Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. ▤ 

1Chr 28:9  And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. ▤ 

2Chr 19:9  And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: … ▤ 

2Chr 31:21  And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. ▤ 

Rom 1:9  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you … ▤ 

Paul speaks of serving God “with all my heart” (CEV, GNT, NLT; cf. NCV, NIV).

  • Serve God with gladness:

Ps 100:2  Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! ▤ 

Although speaking of disobedience, Deuteronomy 28:47 also indicates that we should serve God with gladness – “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, …”

Serve God with zeal . . .

Rom 12:11  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,e serve the Lord. ▤ 

e Or fervent in the Spirit

2Ki 10:16  And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” So hef had him ride in his chariot. ▤ 

f Septuagint, Syriac, Targum; Hebrew they

Ps 69:9  For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. ▤ 

David’s zeal for God’s house was clearly shown in his plans and efforts towards building the temple.

Ps 119:139  My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words. ▤ 

The use of “zeal” suggests that the psalmist did or had in mind taking action on behalf of God’s word – zealously serving God.

John 2:14-17  In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” ▤ 

Rom 12:8  … the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,g with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ▤ 

g Or gives aid

2Cor 9:2  … for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. ▤ 

Titus 2:14  … who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ▤ 

1Pet 3:13  Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? ▤ 

2Cor 8:22  And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. ▤ 

Such earnestness shows an intensity or zeal for God’s work.

1Ki 19:10  He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” ▤ 

Here Elijah indicates that he has been “very zealous” (NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV; cf. NLT) in serving God, the outcome of a mindset of being “very jealous for the Lord”.

. . . but zeal must not be misguided

Acts 22:3-4  I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamalielh according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, … ▤ 

h Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated

Paul’s reference to his zeal for God is primarily in regard to his adherence to the law (cf. Gal 1:14 ), but likely also in view in his subsequent mention of persecuting the church (cf. Phil 3:6 ).

Rom 10:1-3  Brothers,i my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. ▤ 

i Or Brothers and sisters

The Jews were zealous to please God, but their zeal was not based on knowledge of what God wanted. As a result their strenuous efforts to gain righteousness were in vein, as such efforts were not in accordance with the way to righteousness as stipulated by God.

Gal 1:14  And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. ▤ 

Paul was saying this in the realization that his zeal for these traditions had been misdirected and counterproductive.

Phil 3:4b-6  If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,j blameless. ▤ 

j Greek in the law

Prov 19:2  Desirek without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. ▤ 

k Or A soul

“Desire” here is indicative of enthusiasm (cf. CEV, GNT) or zeal (cf. NIV, NLT). To have it “without knowledge” is to have energy without direction, which like being hasty leads one to “make mistakes” (NCV™).

  • Wise people’s actions are based on knowledge:

Prov 13:16  In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. ▤ 

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

See also:

Deut 31:23  And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.” ▤ 

Josh 1:5-7, 9, 18  No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good successl wherever you go. ▤ 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ▤ 18Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous. ▤ 

l Or may act wisely

Judg 6:12, 14  And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” ▤ 14And the Lordm turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” ▤ 

m Septuagint the angel of the Lord; also verse 16

The expression “in this might of yours” (v. 14) may well be a reference to the angel of the Lord’s statement in v. 12, which quite possibly implies that because the Lord was with him he was a mighty warrior. Thus Gideon was to act as such, in the might/strength he had with God’s presence and support (cf. Hag 2:4 ).

2Chr 19:11  And behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters, and the Levites will serve you as officers. Deal courageously, and may the Lord be with the upright!”n ▤ 

n Hebrew the good

Note that the last clause is a blessing, that the Lord would be with the “upright”, here in particular those who serve him accordingly.

Hag 2:4  Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, … ▤ 

Ezra 7:28b  I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me. ▤ 

Ezra is speaking here of going to Jerusalem, to minister to the Israelites there.

2Sam 10:12  Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him. ▤ 

1Chr 28:10  Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it. ▤ 

2Chr 15:7-8  But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” 8As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the Lord.o ▤ 

o Hebrew the vestibule of the Lord

2Chr 17:6  His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah. ▤ 

Ezra 10:4  Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it. ▤ 

Acts 23:11  The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” ▤ 

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

See also:

1Chr 28:20  Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished. ▤ 

Zec 8:9, 13  Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. ▤ 13And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.” ▤ 

Jer 1:7-8  But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” ▤ 

Ezek 2:6-7  And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions.p Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. ▤ 

p Or on scorpion plants

Luke 1:74  … that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, … ▤ 

With the first part of the verse speaking of being rescued from enemies, presumably “without fear” is referring to fear of opponents.

1Pet 3:13-14  Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, … ▤ 

Doing good is unlikely to bring harm, but if even if it does, one is blessed. Therefore one should not be afraid or worried (cf. CEV, NLT).

2Tim 1:7-8  … for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, … ▤ 

. . . Instead, fear God and serve him faithfully

See also:

Rather being afraid of other people or things, we should fear God as we do his work.

Josh 24:14  Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. ▤ 

1Sam 12:24  Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. ▤ 

2Chr 19:9  And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: … ▤ 

Deut 6:13  It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. ▤ 

Ps 2:11  Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. ▤ 

1Sam 2:35  And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. ▤ 

Matt 24:45  Who then is the faithful and wise servant,q whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? ▤ 

q Greek bondservant; also verses 46, 48, 50

Further points on the manner in which to serve God

See also:

Matt 10:16  Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. ▤ 

2Cor 6:4-6  … but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; … ▤ 

Personal qualities which should characterize servants of God include: “great endurance” (v. 4); “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness”; and “genuine love” (v. 6). Note that patience is also mentioned in the two verses immediately below.

2Cor 12:12  The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. ▤ 

2Tim 2:24  And the Lord’s servantr must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, … ▤ 

r Greek bondservant

James 3:18  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ▤ 

Peacemakers do their work in a peaceful way, producing righteousness. This could be speaking of righteousness in the lives of themselves or of others – or even both. It is certainly applicable to both, and so to one’s work for God.

2Chr 31:21  And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. ▤ 

This may indicate that in all Hezekiah did in service and obedience to God, he in effect sought God or aspired to seek him. Alternatively it may indicate that Hezekiah sought God and God’s will in regard to what he did. Both interpretations are relevant to the manner or way in which we serve God, for in serving him we ought to seek him in both these ways.

Ps 149:6-9  Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, 7to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, 8to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, 9to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the Lord! ▤ 

One can infer from this that in doing God’s work (vv. 7-9) God’s praises (v. 6) should never be far from our lips. Although not necessarily evidenced here, a persistent spirit of praise aids one in being mindful of and reliant on God, which are obviously vital in serving him.

  • To serve Christ, one must follow him:

John 12:26  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. ▤ 

Serving Jesus Christ involves following him, which includes following his example and teachings. The context (cf. vv. 24-25) suggests that Jesus’ challenge to follow him and be with him had in view his example of sacrificial living – to the point of death.

Pray for persecuted Christians

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  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. ▤ 

Mark 9:35  And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” ▤ 

John 13:13-17  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servants is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. ▤ 

s Greek bondservant

Here Jesus performs the task of a lowly servant, setting the disciples an example to follow. As he was their master and the one who sent them (v. 16), they were not to think of themselves as being above doing anything that he had done. Thus they were to serve each other, even in doing the most lowly and menial of tasks.

Rom 16:1  I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servantt of the church at Cenchreae, … ▤ 

t Or deaconess

Heb 6:10  For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. ▤ 

1Pet 4:10  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: … ▤ 

1Tim 6:2  Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things. ▤ 

We are to serve believing employers all the better.

Philem 1:13  I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, … ▤ 

  • Paul’s suffering in his service for the church:

Col 1:24-25  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, 25of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, … ▤ 

In v. 24 Paul says he considered that what he had suffered for the Colossians was a necessary part in the completion (cf. GNT, NLT) or continuation (cf. CEV) of Christ’s sufferings for the sake of his people.

Do God’s work together

See also:

Rom 15:30  I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, … ▤ 

1Cor 16:16  … be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. ▤ 

Such references to fellow workers exemplify God’s people doing his work together.

2Cor 8:23a  As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. ▤ 

Phil 1:3-7  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,u both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. ▤ 

u Or you all have fellowship with me in grace

The expression “partakers with me of grace” (v. 7) probably refers to the Philippians sharing with Paul in his work for the gospel. As such Paul would have in view God’s grace in both appointing people to this work and enabling them to do it.

Phil 1:27  Only let your manner of life be worthyv of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, … ▤ 

v Greek Only behave as citizens worthy

Phil 2:22  But you know Timothy’sw proven worth, how as a sonx with a father he has served with me in the gospel. ▤ 

w Greek his

x Greek child

Phil 4:3  Yes, I ask you also, true companion,y help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. ▤ 

y Or loyal Syzygus; Greek true yokefellow

3Jn 1:7-8  For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. ▤ 

Num 18:2  And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. ▤ 

Ezra 3:2, 8-10  Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. ▤ 8Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord. 9And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers. 10And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. ▤ 

Neh 4:6, 16-17a  So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. ▤ 16From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17who were building on the wall. ▤ 

Those who were armed were to provide protection from enemies who had plotted against the Jews and their efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (cf. vv. 11-12 ).

Encourage each other in doing God’s work

Heb 10:24-25  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ▤ 

The encouragement spoken of (v. 25) is applicable to – if not at least in part referring to – spurring or encouraging one another on “to love and good works” (v. 24).

Deut 3:28  But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see. ▤ 

2Chr 30:22a  And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. ▤ 

2Chr 35:2  He appointed the priests to their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the Lord. ▤ 

Neh 4:10-14  In Judah it was said,z “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.”a 13So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” ▤ 

z Hebrew Judah said

a The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

In the face of discouragement against rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem from no less than three separate sources (vv. 10-12), Nehemiah takes action (v. 13) and then encourages the people by what he says (v. 14).

2Cor 9:2  … for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. ▤ 

This and the following verse illustrate that we can – and should – encourage others in doing God’s work by our example.

Phil 1:14  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the wordb without fear. ▤ 

b Some manuscripts add of God

Paul’s faithful and courageous example encouraged others.

Keep each other informed about the work and associated challenges

It is a good practice for Christians to report to their church about their work, with its challenges and accomplishments. As is shown in some of the following verses, it is also helpful to tell other churches about the work.

Acts 14:27  And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. ▤ 

Acts 15:3-4  So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.c 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. ▤ 

c Or brothers and sisters; also verse 22

Acts 21:17-20a  When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20And when they heard it, they glorified God. ▤ 

Acts 4:23  When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. ▤ 

Here the apostles report the opposition that they had faced in their work for the gospel (cf. Acts 12:17 ; Col 4:7-9 ).

Acts 12:17  But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.”d Then he departed and went to another place. ▤ 

d Or brothers and sisters

Col 4:7-9  Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servante in the Lord. 8I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. ▤ 

e Greek fellow bondservant; also verse 12

Note: Churches send out workers, to aid the spread of the gospel and for other work . . .

Acts 13:1-3  Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,f Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2While they were worshiping 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 fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. ▤ 

f Niger is a Latin word meaning black, or dark

Acts 8:14-15  Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, … ▤ 

Acts 11:20-23  But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenistsg also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, … ▤ 

g Or Greeks (that is, Greek-speaking non-Jews)

As well as the sending of Barnabas by the Jerusalem church (v. 22), note that the men from Cyprus and Cyrene (v. 20) may also have been sent out by a church to spread the gospel.

Acts 18:27  And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, … ▤ 

The Ephesian church did not actually send out Apollos as such; he had come to Ephesus on his travels in spreading the gospel. But this is an example at least of a church supporting a worker on their journey in spreading the gospel.

2Cor 8:19, 23  And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. ▤ 23As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengersh of the churches, the glory of Christ. ▤ 

h Greek apostles

This speaks of workers sent out by churches primarily to collect and administer the offering collected for the needy believers in Jerusalem. The term “messengers of the churches” (v. 23) probably denotes workers sent out by churches (cf. CEV, NCV).

. . . The practice of workers going out in pairs

See also:

Mark 6:7  And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. ▤ 

Luke 10:1  After this the Lord appointed seventy-twoi others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. ▤ 

i Some manuscripts seventy; also verse 17

Acts 15:27  We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. ▤ 

Acts 15:39b-40  Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. ▤ 

2Cor 8:17-18  For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is goingj to you of his own accord. 18With him we are sendingk the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. ▤ 

j Or he went

k Or we sent; also verse 22

The unnamed brother (v. 18) was possibly Luke (cf. AMP).

Acts 19:22  And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. ▤ 

2Cor 12:18a  I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. ▤ 

1Sam 26:6  Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” ▤ 

This illustrates the usefulness of two people going out on a mission rather than just one.

  • The advantages of two working and traveling together:

Eccl 4:9-12  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. ▤ 

Some commentators consider that some of these illustrations have traveling with another primarily in view. The final clause (v. 12) suggests that three “are even better” (NLT) than two, forming a grouping of quite some strength.

Pray for persecuted Christians

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  I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. ▤ 

1Cor 12:4-11  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. ▤ 

In the light of the context, it appears that the “varieties of activities” (v. 6a) allude to or are associated with the different spiritual gifts (v. 4; cf. v. 5). Thus v. 6b seems to indicate that a spiritual gift is given to each believer – as does vv. 7, 11. Verses 4, 7 indicate that the spiritual gifts are given by or through the Holy Spirit, as is stated in v. 11 and illustrated in vv. 8-10.

Eph 4:7-8  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” ▤ 

The context (cf. v. 11) indicates that the “grace” (v. 7) given to each believer refers to a spiritual gift or gifts (cf. Rom 12:6 ) – which is also indicated by the final clause in v. 8. (Note that here “captives” most likely refers or applies to Christ’s evil spiritual enemies – whom he triumphed over in his death and resurrection, culminating in his ascending “on high” with them subject to him.)

1Pet 4:10  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: … ▤ 

Heb 2:4  … while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. ▤ 

God bore witness to the salvation announced by Jesus Christ (cf. v. 3) in part by bestowing spiritual gifts on believers, distributing the gifts according to his will. The term “gifts of the Holy Spirit” underlines that these spiritual gifts are given through the Holy Spirit.

  • Timothy received his spiritual gift through a prophetic message when the elders laid hands on him:

1Tim 4:14  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. ▤ 

In saying that Timothy’s spiritual gift was given “by prophecy”, Paul may have meant it was given in association with such a prophetic message regarding it, at the time the message was spoken (cf. CEV, GNT).

God’s people are given different spiritual gifts

See also:

Rom 12:4-6  For as in one body we have many members,l and the members do not all have the same function, 5so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; … ▤ 

l Greek parts; also verse 5

Just as the members of a human body have different functions, so the members of Christ’s body have different spiritual gifts, performing different functions (cf. 1Cor 12:14-24a ).

1Cor 12:4-6  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. ▤ 

The thrust of these verses appears to be that there are different spiritual gifts which are applied in different ways – but they all have a unity in their source, function and purpose.

1Cor 12:29-30  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? ▤ 

The rhetorical questions reinforce Paul’s argument earlier in the chapter (cf. vv. 14-24a ), implying that no one particular gift is common to all – believers have different gifts.

  • The different spiritual gifts are all indispensable:

1Cor 12:14-24a  For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts,m yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24which our more presentable parts do not require. ▤ 

m Or members; also verse 22

No one should think that their gift is not part of or vital to the body of Christ (vv. 15-16). Like the human body, Christ’s body is made up of many different parts, all of which are indispensable – even parts that seem to be of less value or weaker (v. 22). Verse 23 implies that just as the parts of the human body that are less honorable and less attractive (or perhaps less obvious) are given special treatment, similarly those members of Christ’s body whose gifts and functions appear unimportant should in fact be given special honor and care. Appearing to be unimportant does not make them any less vital to the ability of the body to function properly.

The various spiritual gifts . . .

See also:

1Cor 12:8-10  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. ▤ 

Broadly speaking, “the utterance of wisdom” and “the utterance 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 to distinguish between 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 “various kinds of tongues” (v. 10) or languages is the ability to speak in an unlearned language. Some maintain that these languages are limited to human languages, while others claim that there are also “heavenly” or spiritual languages.

1Cor 12:28  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. ▤ 

Regarding the term “apostles” (cf. Eph 4:11 ), it initially applied just to the twelve disciples. Occasionally others were also referred to as apostles, particularly Paul, who shared with the disciples a call from Jesus Christ to a ministry of evangelizing and teaching as Christ’s representative. (Paul was also a witness of his resurrection – seen by many as a requirement for one to be designated an “apostle”.) Used in a less strict sense, “apostle” is applied to itinerant workers, who founded and taught new churches. This usage is often applied to modern missionaries. The term “miracles” presumably refers to the gift of being able to perform miracles.

Eph 4:11  And he [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdsn and teachers,o … ▤ 

n Or pastors

o Or the shepherd-teachers

Rom 12:6-8  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,p with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ▤ 

p Or gives aid

1Cor 7:7-8  I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. ▤ 

Many people understand Paul to be indicating here that he had a gift of celibacy.

. . . Examples of the Holy Spirit enabling believers to speak in other languages and to prophesy

See also:

Acts 2:2-11, 16-18  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and restedq on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” ▤ 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18even on my male servantsr and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. ▤ 

q Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

r Greek bondservants; twice in this verse

In v. 17, “see visions” and “dream dreams” most likely refer to receiving prophetic revelation from God, particularly with the references to prophecy in the adjacent verses. In talking of prophecy, Peter’s words (vv. 16-18) suggest that the earlier speaking in other tongues (vv. 4-11) may have involved prophesying.

Acts 10:45-46a  And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. ▤ 

Acts 19:6  And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. ▤ 

Acts 11:27-28  Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). ▤ 

The prophet Agabus is also recorded as prophesying in 21:10-11 below.

Acts 21:10-11  While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” ▤ 

  • An OT example of the Holy Spirit enabling people to prophesy:

Num 11:25-26  Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. 26Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. ▤ 

Note that the elders appear to have only prophesied on this particular occasion (v. 25b) – rather than being given prophecy as a gift to remain with them. Other OT passages speaking specifically of the Holy Spirit enabling people to prophesy include: 1 Samuel 10:10; 19:19-20, 23; and 2 Chronicles 20:14-17. A NT example prior to Pentecost occurs in Luke 1:67-79, which speaks of the Holy Spirit enabling Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, to prophesy.

Make good use of spiritual gifts, using them appropriately

1Tim 4:14  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. ▤ 

2Tim 1:6  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, … ▤ 

The clause “fan into flame the gift of God” may well be speaking of developing the gift through use. Alternatively it could mean to “keep using” (NCV™) and “keep alive” (GNT) the gift.

Rom 12:6-8  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,s with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ▤ 

s Or gives aid

With the phrase “in proportion to our faith” (v. 6), Paul may be instructing prophets to speak only messages that they in faith believe are from God. Alternatively it could mean: “use that gift in agreement with the faith” (NCV™), ensuring that the content and usage of apparent prophecy is in agreement with the faith.

1Pet 4:10-11  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. ▤ 

The first part of v. 11 probably means that those whose ministry largely involves speaking, should rely on God’s help in what they say – speaking in accordance with having words of God.

1Cor 13:1-2  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. ▤ 

It is pointless exercising a spiritual gift without doing so in love. Note that Paul again links the importance of love with the use of spiritual gifts in 14:1 (in the following subsection).

Use your spiritual gift to build up the church

Eph 4:11-13, 16  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdst and teachers,u 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,v to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, ▤ 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ▤ 

t Or pastors

u Or the shepherd-teachers

v Greek to a full-grown man

As parts of the body of Christ, believers are to use the gifts they have been given (v. 11) “for the work of ministry” (v. 12a) – each part doing its work (v. 16b) – so that Christ’s body may be built up, growing and maturing (vv. 12b-13, 16a).

1Cor 12:7  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. ▤ 

Spiritual gifts are given to believers primarily to be used for the benefit of the whole church.

1Cor 14:1-6, 9, 12-19  Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. 6Now, brothers,w if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? ▤ 9So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. ▤ 12So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 13Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsiderx say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. ▤ 

w Or brothers and sisters; also verses 20, 26, 39

x Or of him that is without gifts

In v. 15 Paul appears to indicate that he – as one who has the gift of speaking in tongues – would use his mind as he both prayed and sang in tongues with his spirit. This would be either so he could interpret what he was saying or to speak intelligible words in addition to other languages. In doing so he would edify and build up the others in the church.

1Cor 14:26-32  What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. ▤ 

During church meetings everyone was free to contribute through their spiritual gifts, but this was to be done in an orderly fashion (vv. 27-30) – with the exercising of spiritual gifts being controllable (v. 32). The main aim of these instructions was building up the church (v. 26), which involved everyone learning and being encouraged (v. 31).

Further instructions about spiritual gifts

1Cor 12:1  Now concerningy spiritual gifts,z brothers,a I do not want you to be uninformed. ▤ 

y The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians’ letter; see 7:1

z Or spiritual persons

a Or brothers and sisters

Do not be uninformed about spiritual gifts – or misinformed (cf. AMP, NLT).

1Cor 12:28, 31a  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. ▤ 31But earnestly desire the higher gifts. ▤ 

In view of v. 28, the “higher gifts” (v. 31a) probably primarily refers to prophecy in particular (cf. 1Cor 14:1, 39 ) and also teaching.

1Cor 14:1, 39  Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. ▤ 39So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. ▤ 

1Thes 5:19-20  Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, … ▤ 

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

Other insights concerning spiritual gifts

1Cor 1:4-7  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, … ▤ 

Here “you” is referring to the Corinthian church as a whole, among whom there was no spiritual gift lacking (v. 7). Particularly in the light of v. 7, Paul also quite probably has spiritual gifts primarily in view in v. 5. One can infer from these verses that, as they grow, God equips each of his churches with all spiritual gifts. Note that v. 6 is probably meaning that Paul’s testimony to them about Christ was confirmed by them receiving the blessings in question.

1Cor 13:8  Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. ▤ 

In contrast to love, there will come a time when spiritual gifts will cease. Presumably the afterlife is in view.

1Cor 14:21-25  In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a signb not for unbelievers but for believers. 23If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. ▤ 

b Greek lacks a sign

The apparent conflict between v. 22 and vv. 23-25 may be due to a difference between the unbelievers referred to in v. 22 and the unbelievers who are coupled with “outsiders” (v. 23; cf. v. 24). The unbelievers of v. 22 may be ones who have rejected the truth and turned their backs on God (cf. v. 21b). Tongues are indicative of coming judgment for them just as the “strange tongues” were a sign of judgment for the Israelites (v. 21). In conjunction with this, the latter unbelievers – along with outsiders or inquirers – may be open to the gospel message and it is for them that prophesying rather then tongues is pertinent.

Pray for persecuted Christians