During December I will be posting some of my thoughts on ministry drawn for the most part from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. God has poured out on His children the surpassing riches of His grace through the gift of His Son, Christ Jesus, and in our service to one another, He enables us to minister God’s grace to one another through the spiritual gifts He has given to each Christian. Jesus came to serve, and we, in turn, are to serve.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Why Philippians? When I think about ministry, I keep coming back to this letter. Philippians contains Paul’s profound description of the ministry of Christ. He opens the letter by calling himself as a slave of Christ, and throughout it we see glimpses of Paul’s own work of service to his fellow believers. While there are other passages that speak of what is to be done in ministry within and without the church, in Philippians we see the dynamics of the attitudes and actions of service—the whys and hows of ministry. Paul holds forth Christ, and also writes, “join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” We see, as it were, God’s pattern for ministry.
Paul’s opening words to the Philippians resonate with his love for them as he thanks God in his remembrance of them, as he joyfully prays for them, as he expresses confidence in God’s complete work in them. He writes,
For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.
Partakers of grace together, Paul holds the Philippians in his heart. Ministry is not about a plan, ministry is about people.
As Christians we deeply desire to follow Christ, honor Him and help others—yet we are also deeply aware of our inabilities and struggles with temptation and sin, and we know our own need for help to trust God and walk faithfully with Him. In A Stewardship of Grace, I mentioned that ministry is mutual and interdependent. We are to be a part of each others’ daily lives, considering how we can urge one another on to love and good deeds, and encouraging one another so that in affliction and temptation we won’t be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, but instead will believe and obey God.
Paul told the church in Rome to accept one another.
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
Look at this word accept because Paul exemplified it in his thoughts, not just towards the Philippians, but to all believers.
To take to oneself…or to receive…signifying a special interest on the part of the receiver, suggesting a welcome.1
To receive, i.e., grant one access to one’s heart…2
Accept one another. Welcome one another. Receive one another. For with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all partakers of grace.
Have one another in your hearts.
1W. E. Vine, Old Testament edited by F. F. Bruce, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1981, Vol. 3, p. 255.
2Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for proslambanō (Strong’s 4355)”. Blue Letter Bible.
1996-2010. 20 Oct 2010. (Expand Thayer’s Lexicon).
Safety Net: Susan E. Hendrich