Last week we looked at the first time the word ‘church’ is found in the Bible and discussed ‘What is the Church?‘ The second time the word ‘church’ is found in the Bible is Matthew 18:15-20, and what we will see from this passage is the Ministry of the Church. When we say the ministry of the church, we are primarily considering how the church is to minister to one another within the church. In another post, we will look at our mission to those outside the church.
1. The Ministry of Spiritual Accountability (Matthew 18:15-18)
v.15 If a brother (or sister) sins against us, we should go and tell him his fault alone. We should not just allow it to go unaddressed, because then we are not being the type of friend/brother that they need for us. A true friend will be willing to “wound” if necessary (Prov 27:6). This is what we see Paul doing for Peter in Gal 2:11. This is what we should do for one another (Galatians 6:1-2). The goal of this confrontation would be that they “hear thee” and “thou gain thy brother.” (Not to condemn or to judge, but to love and to help.)
v.16 If they won’t hear, that is not the end. Sin is too serious to just leave it be, and our responsibility to one another is vital. The next step is to take one or two more (brothers/sisters – spiritual, humble, loving), so that every word can be established, to make sure that everything is done correctly and not just one-sided. Not just about your opinion, your preference, but about the truth in love (Eph 4:11-16).
v.17 Finally, if that does not solve the issue and they don’t repent, then the whole church should be told about it. Up until this point, it might be a matter between just a few and may never need to go beyond that. But if repentance is not achieved, then the whole church may need to be involved. If the person will not repent at the rebuke of the whole church, the whole church is to treat the unrepentant person as a heathen and publican. This does not mean the person is treated poorly (i.e. we should treat all people even unbelievers with kindness and love), but we should not treat the person as a part of the assembly (the church). Their unrepentant sin after repeated warnings is concerning and not something that can be allowed in the church (see 1 Cor 5 – leaven that spreads). Hopefully, this warning from the whole group will help them repent and be restored.
v.18 This establishes the authority of the church. What the church does on earth should reflect the will of God in heaven. The authority of the church as it follows the Bible is respected by heaven.
2. The Ministry of Effective praying (Matthew 18:19-20)
v.19 God gives special attention when the church agrees together on something. If two agree on earth as touching anything, they can ask and it will be done for them by God the Father in heaven. Of course, we also need to take into consideration other Bible passages that teach that we should pray according to God’s will, pray with holy hands, etc. but there is a special effectiveness when a church prays together for the same thing – prayer meetings.
v.20 Jesus promises his presence where two or three are gathered together. Even if just two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, He is in the midst. This is a special encouragement to us to gather together in the name of Jesus. We want Jesus to be in our midst.
3. The Ministry of Teaching (Acts 2:42)
ACTS 2:41-47 records the third time the word “church is mentioned” in the Bible. Acts 2 is very likely the birth of the New Testament church. It was on the day of Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit came and immersed (baptised) them into one body under one head Jesus Christ. And here we see more important aspects of the church, such as teaching.
In v.42 we are told that they continued in the apostles’ doctrine (apostles’ teaching). The apostles were the ones Christ chose to help lay the foundation of the church through carrying the gospel, giving instruction to the church, and ultimately writing the letters/books that would make up the New Testament. They were a temporary group of people in the interim between the ascension of Christ and the completion of the New Testament. Essentially we still continue in the apostles’ doctrines as we follow the teachings of the Apostle Matthew, Peter, John, Paul, James, and those they associated with.
Those who hear the Word, believe, are baptised, and are joined to the church need building up with the Word. They need to know all the things that Jesus commanded (Matt 28:20). There are many areas of their spiritual life and understand that need completed and perfected which is why God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers (Ephesians 4:11–12). The church ministers first and foremost through teaching people the Word of God and perfecting that which is lacking in their faith, their understanding, etc.
This is why, the apostles said: “we must give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1-4). This is why those who are in spiritual leadership should preach and teach the Word not just what makes people feel good (2 Tim 4:1-4). This why we need to “stedfastly” continue in the teaching – keep coming, keep learning, keep applying, keep growing.
4. One Another ministry (Acts 2:42-47)
“Fellowship” too often is interpreted as food and eating! The word “fellowship” in Acts 2:42 is the idea of a partnership or a sharing. They heard the word; they believed; they were baptised; they joined the church; they steadfastly continued in teaching and in fellowship with one another. Now they are together. Now they are part of a new group. Now they are partners with Jesus Christ and with all other believers (1 John 1:3).
Those who believe are to enter into a partnership with other believers. God has not designed the Christian life to be lived alone. We need the fellowship, the partnership, the participation with one another to make it. That is why there are so many instructions to the believers about how they are to minister to one another.
- Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
- Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
- Romans 15:5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
- Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
- Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
- Ephesians 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
- Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
- Colossians 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
- 1 Thessalonians 4:9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.
- Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
- Hebrews 10:24–25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
- 1 Peter 4:9–10 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
We see how this works out in Acts 2:
- They broke bread together (v.42).
- They prayed together (v.42).
- They grow in their fear of God together (v.43).
- They were together (v.44).
- They shared all things (v.44).
- They sold what they had and gave to every many what they needed (v.45).
- They continued every day in the temple and ate from house to house with gladness and singleness of heart (v.46).
- They praised God together (v.47).
- Their love for one another caused all the people to be impressed by them (v.47). John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
- They preached the gospel together and saw people saved together and added to the church (v.47).
No one man or woman is an island. No one believer is enough. We need each other, even it if is just one or two more. God has given us the body of believers to protects us from sin, to pray to God together, to experiences the presence of Christ together, to help us grow in our faith and understanding of God’s Word, and to encourage and ministry to one another together.
Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Questions to consider:
- Are you opening up your life to the body of believers?
- Are you committed to the body of believers?
- Are you using your gift(s) in the body of believers?
- Are you letting others use their gifts in the body of believers?
- How could you better minister to others and let others better minister to you?