Saints for the Work of the Ministry

The work of the ministry and the edification of Christ's body are in the hands of all the saints.

Marcelo Díaz

The saints are the ones who carry out the work of the ministry, that is to say, the work of service. For this reason God establishes ministers of the Word who capacitate them, equipping them, and once equipped, they are the ones who effectively edify the body of Christ with their service.

Today, I would like to share about some saints mentioned in the Scriptures who left us an example in this task.

Dedicated to the service of the saints

The apostle Paul, knowing that it is the purpose of God to manifest the body of Christ, makes explicit references in his epistles of brothers and sisters who, waking up to this truth, stood out in their service to the saints. Generally in the last chapters of some epistles, the apostle makes mention of men, women, married couples and even whole families given over to the work of service.

For example, in the last chapter of the epistle to the Romans, he mentions 35 names of brothers and sisters. He gives testimony of them with affectionate references, behind which exists a spiritual lesson that we have to learn. The letter speaks to us of wonderful things about the Christian life, such as justification by faith, divine justice, the life in the Spirit, salvation, the dealings of God with His people, etc. They are beautiful teachings, but Paul finishes his letter with the most pertinent thing, the church.

Paul Says: "I also commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is deaconess of the church at Cencrea; that you receive her in the Lord, as is worthy of the saints, and that you help her in any thing in which she has need of you; because she has helped many, and also me myself" (16:1-2). Let us appreciate this sister's value to the church of Cencrea. The testimony of her service was so evident that Paul had no fear in commending her and requesting that the brothers and sisters in Rome didn't begrudge effort in helping her in all that she needed. Phoebe occupied a place of honor in the apostle's eyes. And the Holy Spirit left record of her in the Holy Scriptures.

The list is very long, I will only make reference to some. "Greet Priscila and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus who risked their lives for me; to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the heathens" (vv. 3-4). Here he makes special mention of a married couple. They not only worked alongside Paul in the work of God, but also in the moment of need, when it was necessary to give a hand to the occupation of making tents. Paul was grateful for this couple. The gentile churches also. Their work was known in Ephesus, Corinth and Rome. (Acts 18:3, 24-28). This brother and sister worked elbow to elbow with Paul. The work needs such marriages.

He continues: "Greet Epaenetus, my beloved who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. Greet Mary who has laboured much among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia my partners in prison… Urbanus our fellow worker…Tryphena and Tryphosa who are working in the Lord…Persis who has laboured much in the Lord…" (vv. 5-7, 9, 12), etc.

The apostle says something about each one in relation to service. If we could examine each one of these names and know their history, we would find people who knew the cross, were dealt with by God and as a result served the saints.

Let us look at the last chapter of 1 Corinthians. In general, we sometimes pass over the last chapters, because there there are only names and greetings. But look how important it is to stop and appreciate the church of Jesus Christ in the brothers and sisters who are mentioned.

"Brother and sisters, you already know that the family of Stephanas are the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have been devoted to the service of the saints" (16:15). Happily, there are always families that stand out for their service in our midst. Parents, mothers, children. All serving, loving the Lord and the saints. It is the church of Jesus Christ.

"I beseech you that you submit to people such as them, and to all those that help and work" (16:16). Notice that he is not saying: "Submit to those that know more about the Word, that prophesy and know the mysteries of God." He says: "Submit yourselves to those people that serve." Why? Because there it is guaranteed that there is the life of God, because the Son of Man didn't come to be served but to serve. In the Kingdom of God, the one that serves is the adult.

We read next: "I am happy with the coming of Stephanas, of Fortunatus and of Achaicus, because they have replaced your absence. Because they comforted my spirit and yours; therefore, acknowledge such people" (16:17-18). Here there are brothers and sisters that serve, encouraging and consoling. Dedicated by the grace of God to supply the needs of the saints. Pure and merciful hearts. Attentive not only to spiritual and emotional needs, but also material ones such as the concern of Epaphroditus for the apostle's needs (Phi. 4:18), whom Paul praises for the love and application of his service.

When there are disagreements

It is precisely to these Philippians that he says: "Therefore, my beloved and longed for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Eudodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the sae mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life' (4:1-3). These sisters battled together with Paul serving the Lord. But something then happened among them which distanced them, and Paul requested Timothy's service as a mediator, to go and help those who were at one time co-workers. Paul exhorts both of them and then he requests Timothy's intervention: "Help these two that became enemies. Help them, because they are a very valuable team, something happened among them and now they are distanced. Timothy, do something for them. Serve your sisters!".

Colossians 4:7-9: "Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here." Here it mentions the service of mutual aid. Brothers and sisters who take charge of taking and bringing blessing. Not curses, but good news.

Mark, the nephew of Barnabas

To conclude, I want to extract some lessons on service in the epistle to the Colossians. "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, and Mark the nephew of Barnabas, about whom you have received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him" (v. 10). In these verses John Mark is mentioned. His life had a lot to do with service, therefore I ask you to pay close attention to it.

Why did Paul give instructions to the church in Colosse regarding Mark? " …If he comes to you, receive him." Might the church not receive him? What had happened for things to be this way? Paul gives us a clue when reminding us that he is the nephew of Barnabas." Do you remember Barnabas? Barnabas used to be called Joses. We read it in Acts 4:36: " …Joses, the one to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which translated means son of consolation)." This brother was so overflowing in grace that the apostles nicknamed him the son who consoles." The charisma of his words, his attitude, his expressions, his affections, his service made him worthy of such a distinguishing characteristic. All of his personality was to the service of the church. In short, he was kind and sensitive to the need. A man that brought comfort to the church. A son of consolation.

Among several prominent facts, Barnabas was the first one to draw close to Saul and to believe in his testimony. Remember that Paul, being first called Saul, possessed a very energetic personality. Extremely jealous, radical, impetuous. Saul was so strong in his personality and convictions that he zealously persecuted the church, which caused all the brothers to be afraid.

When Saul converts to the Lord the brothers didn't want to meet with him because of this fear. Acts 9:26: "When he arrived in Jerusalem, (Saul was already converted) he tried to join with the disciples; but all were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple". Well then, let us imagine the situation. The terror that Saul caused in the church was such that the same saints were distressed and flooded with fear. But, it was Barnabas, this son of consolation who, overcoming this fear, believed in Saul and his testimony. This man established him guiding him in his first steps. In this way, he came to be known to the church and the apostles, having obtained a beautiful gift for the edification of the saints. (Acts 9:27) then, after being several years in Tarsus, Barnabas went to look for him to take him to Antioch. (Acts 11:25)

Barnabas brings Paul from Tarsus to Antioch

Being in the church of Antioch, Barnabas and Saul made this their place of service to the saints. Here there occurs a move of God that was very special for that time. Many gentiles came to know the Word and they established the church of the Lord in that locality, causing an explosion of life in the city. Remember that it is in this city where the brothers are called " Christians " for the first time. The grace granted to this church was apparent, and for the first time the Holy Spirit speaks, setting men apart for the apostolic work. This fact is so important, since here a 'new apostolate' begins, this time there are apostles, christian workers, not from among the twelve. (Acts 13:1-3).

Barnabas and Saul were the ones whom the Holy Spirit pointed out to be set apart in this office. As with all things divine, this mission was so delicate that it required spiritual men. And the brothers, having fasted, laid hands on them and saw them on their way. "They, then, sent by the Holy Spirit, went down into Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And having arrived at Salamis, they announced the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John (Mark) as a helper" (Acts 13:4-5).

They decide to take John Mark as an assistant, and travel, heading for Cyprus. After visiting some towns, not without opposition, in Perga of Pamphylia the nephew of Barnabas decides of his own accord to leave them and to return to Jerusalem, possibly to his mother's house. (Acts 12:12). This was a hard blow for the apostles that would drag the work into difficulties later on. Barnabas and Saul continued their trip with a lot of opposition, but above all with the power and the grace of God, until finishing the mission.

The assistant who deserted

Upon returning they gave their account to the church and they told of how they saw the miracles of God and how God backed up the word with wonders and signs. But there was a delicate point that both of them certainly didn't want to touch upon. The blackest point of the situation is that this assistant with whom they left the church in Antioch, deserted the mission. The words of the Lord resonate in their consciences: "No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back, is sufficient for the Kingdom of God" (Lk 9:62).

Paul and Barnabas separate

Then the Scripture says: "After some days, Paul said to Barnabas: Let us visit the brother and sisters again in all the cities where we have announced the word of the Lord, to see how they are. And Barnabas (the son of consolation) wanted them to take John with them, the one who was also called Mark; but it didn't seem good to Paul to take with them the one who had left them at Pamphylia, and hadn't gone with them to the work. And there was (read it well please, we won't hide this) such a disagreement among them that they separated from one another; Barnabas, took Mark, and sailed to Cyprus, and Paul, choosing Silas, left having been commissioned by the brothers to the grace of the Lord, and passed through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches" (Acts 15:36-41).

We can imagine the possible discussion here. Paul made use of the demands upon the disciples, the delicate nature of the work and the profile of a faithful worker. Barnabas made use of mercy, and patience. The same attributes that he had had with Saul when nobody wanted him. However, Paul didn't back down. How sad, these workers could not solve the conflict and they separated. For the churches, and all those that knew them, it was very difficult to understand the situation. The conclusion was: "The work suffered loss because of John Mark's desertion "

The deserter

This news spread quickly throughout the churches. Mark's desertion in Perga was the reason for comments in the churches round about. And all blamed Mark: "The deserter, unworthy of the Lord"

What thoughts would have passed through Mark's head? What feelings would have lodged themselves in his heart? What guilt Mark would have felt?... The deserter! That was his` name: The deserter, the unfaithful one, the one who turned back, the one who put his hand to the plough and looked behind; the one who is not worthy of the Lord. Thats what he was calling himself. The evil one entered his head in this way and spoke to him. Thats how the whole world and even the brothers would have regarded him.

This is the reason for which Paul writes this way to the church of Colosse: "Mark the nephew of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received commandments; if he comes to you, receive him" (Colossians. 4:10). Paul after a good length of time, had to intervene. First allowing himself to be persuaded by the Lord and then ordering the church to receive the disciple. The Lord worked deeply in Paul's heart. And with the same force that he was opposed to taking John Mark to the work for the second time, likewise now he now requests his presence.

This is made clear at the end of his days, when in his last letter he makes a request from his spirit requesting John Mark's presence, writing: 'Timothy… take Mark and bring him with you, because he is useful to me for ministry" (2 Tim. 4:11)

In the same way, God also worked in Mark's life, and the one who formerly was not useful for service, the deserter, was the one who God used to reveal to us the person of Jesus as the Servant of God in Mark's gospel. John's gospel reveals the Son of God and Luke, the counterpart, that is to say, the Son of Man. Matthew reveals to us the King, and Mark, "the deserter", reveals to us the Servant of God.

How blessed is God who calls the things which aren't as if they were. And who chose the scorned thing, and what isn't, to undo what is, so that nobody may boast in His presence.

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