Repeatedly the New Testament exhorts us to care for one another as fellow members of the body of Christ. In fact, the Lord Jesus desires all believers to be functioning effectively as a partner/members of His body, the church. Paul has an important word for us on this very important matter in Ephesians 4:15-16:
But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself (through the One Another ministry) in love. (Italics mine)
This One Another care is to be an outworking of our fellowship with other believers, but we seem to have lost sight of what the Bible means when it speaks of fellowship. Too often when Christians think of fellowship they think in terms of what goes on in that room in the church called “fellowship hall.” Since fellowship is a very important part of caring for one another this study will begin by answering the question—what is meant by fellowship in the New Testament?
And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42, emphasis mine).
A study of two word groups used for fellowship in the Greek New Testament, koinos (koinov), koinonia (koinwnia), koinonos (koinwov), etc., and metochos (metocov), metoche (metoch), express four related and essential elements that describe what fellowship involves: relationship, partnership, companionship, and stewardship.1 The meaning of these two word groups can be boiled down to two main ideas:
(1) “To share together, take part together” in the sense of participation and partnership, and
(2) “To share with” in the sense of giving to or receiving from others, sharing what we have with one another.
Since fellowship is so important and forms an essential foundation for understanding the ministry we are to have with one another, let’s look at these four main concepts of New Testament fellowship.
In the New Testament what is shared in common is shared first of all because of a common relationship that all Christians share together in Christ. Koinonia (koinwnia) was an important word to both John and Paul, but it was never used in merely a secular sense. It always had a spiritual orientation, a spiritual base, and a spiritual purpose.
The idea of an earthly fellowship founded upon just common interests, or human nature, or physical ties like in a family, or purely physical church affiliation, or merely self-centered interests that sport enthusiasts might share together was completely foreign to the Apostles.
In the New Testament, believers can have fellowship on a horizontal plane and share together because they first of all have a vertical relationship with God through His Son, the Lord Jesus, and because they can share together in Christ’s life and hold His purposes in common (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9 with vs. 10f, then see 1 John 1:3). Interestingly, the NEB translates 1 John 1:3 as, “what we have seen and heard we declare to you, so that you and we together may share in a common life, that life which we share with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
(1) New Testament fellowship is first a sharing together in a common life, the life of the Savior, with other believers through relationship with God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) Fellowship is, therefore, first and foremost a relationship, rather than an activity. Any activity that follows is to flow out of this relationship. Here is the common ground, the core and the heart beat of all Christian fellowship that is truly biblical.
(3) This means that fellowship occurs in two spheres or levels—the vertical and the horizontal—and each supports and promotes the other.
Both word groups could also mean to share together in the sense of a partnership. As sharers together of the person and life of Jesus Christ, we are automatically copartners in His enterprise here on earth. If we are truly sharing in His life through the Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we will also share in His concerns, goals, priorities, and leadership.
The idea of partnership is easily illustrated in the use of both of these word groups, koinonos and metachos in Luke 5:7, 10.
Luke 5:7 and they signaled to their partners (metchos, mevtoco”) in the other boat, for them to come and help them. And they came, and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.
Luke 5:10 and so also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners (koinos, koinwnov”) with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”
NOTE THIS COMPARISON: RELATIONSHIP VS. PARTNERSHIP
(1) The word “relationship” describes what we are: A community of people bound together by our common life and blessings that we share together through our relationship with Christ.
(2) The word “partnership” describes how we are related to each other in that relationship: We are partners in an enterprise and calling in which we are to work together in a common purpose to obtain common objectives for the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil 1:27).
Companionship is the interchange or the communication (communion) that exists among companions, those associated together through a relationship they hold in common. So, what’s the key ingredient to companionship? Communication. Key words would include ideas like interchange, communion, sharing.
Communication is the interchange or the sharing of concepts, feelings, ideas, information, needs, burdens, etc., through words or other symbols like body language and actions so that all members of the relationship can share and thus minister to each other as they have opportunity and are sensitive to the needs of one another.
In the Christian community, fellowship means learning to communicate on a spiritual level through a mutual sharing of the things of Christ by means of the Word, the Spirit-controlled life, and the ministries and gifts of the various members of the body of Christ.
But what’s the purpose of this? To promote a fuller appreciation of Christ and His sufficiency for our lives, whatever life brings, through mirroring and ministering Him to one another.
What does companionship through communication include? Well, remember, there are two spheres of planes of fellowship. So it would include:
Our horizontal fellowship includes at least three things:
(1) Obviously, it must first include assembling ourselves together: (a) Assembly of the whole body (Acts. 2:42; Heb. 10:25). (b) Assembling in smaller groups (2 Tim. 2:2). (c) Meeting together one on one (1 Thess. 5:11).
(2) Sharing and communicating together. But what are some of the ways we can do this?
(a) Sharing truth with one another, sharing with others what God has taught us with a view to building others up (Rom. 1:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Thess 5:11; Philemon 6).
(b) Sharing together in the company of others the various aspects of worship as (1) the Lord’s supper (communion) (1 Cor. 10:16); (2) the singing of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16); (3) prayer (1 Cor. 14:16-17); (4) the ministry of the Word (Acts 20:20; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).
(c) Sharing together as partners in the needs, burdens, concerns, joys, and blessings for the purpose of encouragement, comfort, challenge or exhortation, praise, prayer, and physical help according to needs and ability (cf. Phil. 1:5 with 1:15; cf. also Phil. 1:27 with 2:4; 4:3; finally note Rom. 12:15; and 1 Thess. 5:11, 14, 15; Heb. 10:33).
This means we must develop the loving art of communication for the purpose of ministry, encouragement, and edification. It means: (a) The willingness to share our own hurts, burdens, and aspirations. (b) The willingness to really hear what others are saying so we may minister to needs according to the directives of the Word. (c) Above all, it means developing a very definite motivation, the motivation of words that are acceptable in God’s sight and that edify others (Ps. 19:14 and Eph. 4:29). Every motivation of our hearts and every word out of our mouths must be consistent with the purpose of building others up. Paul is telling us that we should utter nothing that compromises or interferes with this objective.
Interestingly, Scripture does not tell us what words to say; rather, it tells us what our motivation should be. It is this motivation which, if right, will control our thoughts and then our words.
The ultimate goal here is to build up and enrich others in the things of Christ so they may experience the sufficiency of His life. As the early church was first devoted to the apostles teaching, they were also devoted to sharing with one another of the all-encompassing sufficiency of the Savior and what Christ was meaning to them (Acts. 2:42; Heb. 3:12-14).
A steward is one who manages the property of another. He is not an owner, he is only a manager. All that we have in reality belongs to God (Ps. 50:10-11; 104:24-25; Dan. 2:38), and it is required of stewards that they be found faithful to the stewardship entrusted to them (1 Cor. 4:1-2).
This stewardship includes five general areas: time, talents (spiritual gifts), temple (our bodies as the very dwelling place of the Spirit [1 Cor. 6:19]), God’s truth, and our treasures (our earthly goods).
As stewards we must recognize that all we have belongs to the Lord and has been given to us as trusts from God to invest for His purposes. We have the privilege and responsibility to invest every aspect of our lives, including of course our material possessions for the work of promoting the gospel and helping others in need. But good stewardship stems from recognizing that our relationship to Jesus Christ also means our partnership with Christ in His enterprise on earth.
In any good partnership, the partners share equally in all aspects of the partnership:
1. the privileges and responsibilities,
2. the assets and liabilities,
3. the blessings and burdens.
What kind of partnership would it be if one partner took all the income and enjoyed all the privileges of the partnership and the other partner did all the work and paid all the bills? Would you enter a partnership like that? No, probably not! Partners are to share and share alike in all the aspects of their enterprise. A good example is what we see in Luke 5:7-10. The partners may not do the same things. They usually work and share according to their abilities, expertise, and training, but they still share the load.
It is interesting that one of the most prominent uses of the koinonia group of words is its use in connection with sharing material blessings: giving money to meet financial needs. In 36 uses of these word groups, 9 times they are used specifically in connection with giving and in a couple of other passages giving would be included among other aspects of fellowship or working together as partners in the stewardship of all we are (Acts 2:42 and Phil. 1:5; Heb. 10:33).
Some specific passages where giving is in view are:
1. Koinoneo, koinonew—Rom. 12:13; 15:27; Gal. 6:6; Phil. 4:15
2. Koinonia, koinwnia—Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13; Heb. 13:16
3. Koinonikos, koinwniko”—1 Tim. 6:18
4. Metecho, metevcw—1 Cor. 9:10, note context in vss. 9-14
What does all this mean? It means that as partners in Christ’s enterprise on earth, we each need to share and invest all aspects of our stewardship with others in the realization that we are not owners, only stewards of what God has entrusted (not given, but entrusted) to each of us.
The following verses stress this with all aspects of our stewardship:
1. Time—Eph. 5:16; Ps. 90:12; 39:4-6
2. Truth—1 Cor. 4:1; 9:17; 1 Tim. 4:6f; 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14; Rom. 3:2; 1 Thess. 2:4
3. Talents or Spiritual Gifts—1 Pet. 4:10-11
4. Treasures—1 Tim. 6:18-19; Matt. 6:19-21; 2 Cor. 8:3-4, 7-8; 9:6-15
5. Temple—1 Cor. 6:19
Returning to the subject of the One Another injunctions of Scripture, the big question is, “How do we have the kind of fellowship that encourages, edifies, and serves one another?”
To focus our attention to the One Another concept, the Holy Spirit used a special Greek word, a reciprocal pronoun, allelon (allelwn) meaning “one another.” The term “reciprocal” means “mutual, shared, shown or felt alike by both sides; united in feelings, actions, responsibilities, and attitudes.” Reciprocal implies a return in due measure by each side in the matter discussed. This reciprocal pronoun is frequently used in statements and injunctions to Christians regarding the responsibilities that believers are to engage in for the mutual help and blessing of one another. The frequency of these injunctions point up the importance of this truth to the growth, health, and ministry of the body of Christ.
All together these One Another passages may be grouped together into 18 or more specific categories of responsibility where Christians are to be ministering in the lives of fellow members of the body of Christ. Just a brief look at these passages will quickly reveal two things: (a) the need we each have of the ministry and aid of others, and (b) our responsibility to minister to others.
As members of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5) we are also members of one another. Just as all the members of our bodies (arms, legs, head, etc.) are diverse and consist of many members, so believers are all part of one body with each one being essential. The One Another passages and injunctions remind us:
(1) That no man is an island—no individual believer can function effectively by himself. We need the help and love of other members of the body. We need encouragement, counsel, prayer, or physical help, depending on our particular needs at any given moment.
(2) That every believer is important and essential to the proper function of the church—the body of Christ. While this will vary in one’s life, still, each believer needs help in some way, but also each has something to contribute to the well being, growth, and ministry of the body of Christ.
A study of these One Another passages yield a number of principles that lay the foundation and set forth the reasons why God has given us these exhortations in the New Testament. The following principles speak strongly against our age of independence, loneliness, and insensitivity to others. The tendency is for people to simply do their own thing and go their own way in their search for happiness regardless of the needs of others or upon whom they may trample in the process. Ironically, when we pursue this path, we are searching for happiness in all the wrong places. Indeed, when we do this we have followed the deceptions of the world and Satan; we have placed our trust in the wrong things, worshipping what we think they can give us, rather than resting in God and His plan for our lives (see Matt. 4:8-11). So what constitutes the foundation and motivational reasons for the One Another injunctions of Scripture?
Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
As will be demonstrated in the following paragraphs, the One Another passages are a commentary on how to love and care for one another in the body of Christ. In Ephesians 5:1, especially when understood in its context that precedes (note the words “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, …” 4:32), and the context that follows (“walk in love, …” 5:2), the Apostle gives us the greatest of all reasons and the highest standard one can imagine. The “therefore” (oun, oun) introduces the close of the preceding section on Christian behavior, particularly in the realm of that which manifests love for others like forgiveness. There is no gap between 4:32 and 5:1. The “therefore” (oun, oun) may be regarded as synoptic—“in a word.” (NEB)2
The Apostle is telling us we are to become in life, in our daily experience, what we are in reality as believers in Christ. We are the children of God through the new birth and as the children of God we are to grow up like our heavenly Father, we are to imitate His character since He is the epitome of love, a love that is kind toward one another, that forgives just as God in Christ has also forgiven us (4:32), and that was demonstrated in the gift of the Lord Jesus, God’s Son who gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (5:2). Anything short of this is inconsistent with who we are in Christ and the miraculous regenerating work of God. To be unloving as God’s children is an absurdity.
Acts 7:26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’
Romans 15:14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.
1 Corinthians 16:20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
The New Testament clearly states that faith in Christ results in spiritual regeneration, the new birth, born again by the Spirit of God into the family of God. We become related to God as His spiritual children and to all other believers in Christ as brethren regardless of gender, race, culture, education, or position in society. We become a part of one huge spiritual family. We share the same spiritual Father, the same spiritual blessings, and as a family we should have a special love for one another. The One Another emphasis of the New Testament is closely tied to the fact of our spiritual relationship as brethren.
Brethren should work together, love, and serve one another. This was the point of Moses as recorded in Acts 7:26. Because we are brethren—family—we have a special relationship and should care for one another.
Romans 12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
1 Corinthians 12:25 that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
The New Testament also teaches that when we put our faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit joins us through Spirit baptism into union with Christ and His Spiritual body, the church. To show just how we are related to each other and how we should therefore act toward one another, the New Testament uses the analogy of the human body. The concept of the church as the body of Christ is a recurrent analogy and one rich in meaning.
In the three passages above, this analogy and relationship are used as the basis for various One Another responsibilities. As with the many and varied members of the human body, so we, as believers in Christ, are members of one another and we are to live, think, and act accordingly. We are to act in ways that are consistent with a caring and unified body under one head—Christ. When we think or act otherwise, we both hinder and hurt the proper function of the body. This truth is to be a protection against division.
The One Another actions of the body are the natural and necessary products of being members of one body. These actions promote unity, care of one another, and result in greater effectiveness through diversity and the use of our gifts. The One Another passages of the New Testament are designed to hinder independent individualism, apathy toward other believers, ineffectiveness of the church through idle members, and the spirit of clericalism and “spectatoritis.”
1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
Some instructions for Christians come through their brethren in Christ. But other lessons are taught by God to His children directly, things that almost intuitively seem right for a Christian to do. Loving other Christians is such a lesson. Christians quickly learn that there is a real kinship between believers, and they relate to other Christians in a way they do not relate to those outside God’s family. The Thessalonians had already learned to love each other even though they were new Christians. Paul pointed out that God Himself had taught them this.3
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
The writer now returned to the subject of love which, like faith in God’s Son (v. 13), is a product of the Spirit. As a confession of the incarnate person of Christ marks one off as being actuated by God (i.e., “from God,” verses 4, 6) so does love, since love comes from God. Hence, one who loves (in the Christian sense of that term) has been born of God (cf. 2:29; 3:9; 5:1, 4, 18) and he knows God. Love stems from a regenerate nature and also from fellowship with God which issues in knowing Him (see 2:3-5). The absence of love is evidence that a person does not know God. Significantly, John did not say such a person is not born of God. In the negative statement only the last part of the positive one (in 4:7) is repeated. Since God is love, intimate acquaintance with Him will produce love. Like light (1:5), love is intrinsic to the character and nature of God, and one who is intimately acquainted with God walks in His light (1:7).4
1 John 4:12 No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
Again, the apostle shows that loving one another is a proof of fellowship—the abiding life. In John’s terminology, the words, “God abides in us” refers not to the indwelling presence of God, but to fellowship or the abiding life.
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Caring for one another is a response to God’s love for us and His purposes through us. Since we have experienced the gift of God’s love and the new life it brings, we ought to love others as the recipients of this new life. Those who have been so touched by God’s grace, ought to love one another as a response of gratitude, but also as a living manifestation of God’s love to others, a visible manifestation of the true but invisible God (cf. 4:12).
Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Matthew 22:35-40 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus means that no commandment is greater. These two commands stand to the rest of Scripture as source, sum, substance, and goal. This means that the rest of Scripture, like these One Another commands, provide us with a commentary on these two responsibilities setting forth the means, manner, motive, method, and destination of our lives.
Without the reality of these two commands in our lives as both source and course, derivation and destination, obedience to the rest of Scripture will become merely legalistic demands. The legal demands become burdens that we seek to obey to gain points with God and with men, and all our works and ministries naturally become acts of self-love. They are things we do for praise, power, position, or to feel better about ourselves.
Matthew’s account which adds, “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the prophets” and Paul’s statement, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law,” stress that our ability to enter in and fulfill the rest of Scripture hinges like a door on the reality of these two paramount commands. Without the reality of these two, we will miserably fail to be the people God has called us to be.
(1) The Principle of Source (Internal Controls)
Love for God and our neighbor becomes our source and means of obedience in the other imperatives of Scripture by virtue of internal motives and the inner ability to carry out the commands of God by the power of God’s love operating in us by the ministry of His Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22; 1 Thess. 4:2-9).
(2) The Principle of Supervision (External Controls)
We need the imperatives, principles, promises, and guidelines of Scripture as a whole to guide us in the wise expression of God’s love so that it does not degenerate into mere sentimentality, self-indulgence, or the compromise of righteousness. The rest of Scripture, like a light in the darkness, gives us the revealed will of God in the expression of how to love. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in Philippians 1:9-10 reminds us not only of the need of more and more love, but love with spiritual and biblical discernment.
(3) The Principle of Substance and Summary (Controls Defined and Directed)
Love for God and one another is the very essence, heart, goal, and substance of the rest of Scripture. These two commands sum up the rest of God’s commands in His Holy Word.
As a kind of summary of Matthew 22:34f; Mark 12:29-31, and Romans 13:8, please note the following:
(1) This means that the rest of Scripture and the One Another injunctions give us God’s commentary on loving God and loving one another. They provide us with the means, manner, motive and method. The other commands like those against murder, stealing, adultery, etc., are never the end or goal in themselves, but find their meaning and purpose in these two things—love for God and love for others who are made in the image of God (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5).
(2) Morality without the knowledge of God and the absolutes of Scripture cannot long exist. Moral living must be founded on the reality of God, man’s love for God, and the absolutes of the Bible. If this is not the foundation, morality will crumble and with it society.
(3) These passages stress the necessity of a heart relationship with God through the Word of God. Love for others can only grow out of the soil of love for God as it is fed and watered by fellowship with God in His Word. Without this, you and I will end up with a life that is pharisaic (i.e., external, sterile, artificial, petty, critical, selfish, and lifeless). Our actions of love, if we have any, will be full of hypocrisy. Compare Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”
(4) In these passages we also find the concept of vision. Vision means having God’s Word, and from the insight it brings into one’s life, seeing as God sees and allowing that sight to direct one’s path. Having vision flows out of devotion to God’s person. But to have vision we must start with God’s Word and our relationship with Him.
1 Peter 4:10-11 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Here is a wonderful passage that calls us to serve one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God according to the particular gifts God has given us, whether a service gift or a speaking kind of gift, for both are given to enable us to minister to one another. But the basis and motivation for whatever we do is God’s glory that in all things He may be glorified through the Savior. Only through our new life in Him do we have both the needed spiritual gifts for ministry, and the capacity and strength to live an other-oriented, non-selfish life as epitomized in both the Father’s gift of His Son and the Son’s gift of His own life for us.
With these seven principles as a basis for our thinking and response to God’s grace and purposes, let’s look at some of the One Another injunctions of the New Testament.
John 15:12, 17 This is My commandment, that you love one another, … This I command you, that you love one another.
Loving and caring for one another is not an option for the Christian. It is a mandate. It is solid proof of our love for the Lord and our fellowship with Him.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
The Lord provides us with the perfect human example in every way, manner, degree, extent, and purpose. Though being God of very God, He left heaven’s glory and became a servant in the form of humanity, and He went to the cross to bear the shame of our sin and guilt. He did all this with a specific goal in mind—to bring men to God and heal their lives (1 Pet. 2:21).
And so it must be with us. God has left us here to minister.
Galatians 5:13-26 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
The One Another commands, as with all the injunctions of Scripture, can only be carried out when we are controlled by the Spirit and thus filled with the love of God. Without the control of the Spirit, we will become indifferent to the needs of other, being dominated by the deeds of the flesh, and we will seek to meet our own needs for significance, praise, applause, or the approbation of men at the expense of others (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5).
(1) For a testimony to the world of the reality of God’s love in Christ: John 13:35: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(2) For loves continues to increase:
(a) Increase: “and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you” (1 Thess. 3:12); and (b) Intensity and Spiritual Source: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).
(3) For ministry and service to others: Ultimately, ministry and service summarize all the One Another injunctions that follow as expressions of God’s love for others.
God has called us to be a ministering people. Every born again Christian is a believer-priest (a minister by calling) who is to serve in various ways both inside and outside the church. The following are some questions we each need to ask:
(1) Ask God where He wants you to serve Him in ministry to others. The fields are white, the needs are all around us. We need to ask and pray that He will thrust us out as labors into the harvest.
(2) Ask God to burden your heart for the area of ministry He has for you. Note the three-fold work of the Godhead in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. The word “varieties” used in this passage can also be translated as “distributions” which brings out the sovereign direction of God in our ministries. There is (a) the giving of gifts for ministry by the Holy Spirit (vs. 4), (b) the Lord Jesus’ direction in ministry (vs. 5), and (c) the Father’s blessing and prospering of those ministries (vs. 6).
(3) Ask God to give you a vision for ministry, to make you bold and available. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, …” Vision ultimately refers to God’s revelation to us as we have it today in the Bible. And it is this book that gives us God’s vision or revelation of His purpose for us in loving and ministering for others for Him here on this earth, but this will only occur when it takes shape in specifics as we find the areas of ministry where God wants to use us.