“THE WORK OF THE LORD”
(A Series on I Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 4/18/99 a.m. I Corinthians 16:5-24
PROPOSITION: God has called the followers of Jesus to do the work of the Lord, taking advantage of open doors, as willing servants, using working principles, with open hearts.
- WHEN Jesus lived on earth, He lived a life oriented to eternal things.
- He lived a normal childhood growing up in Nazareth.
- MATTHEW 13:55 says that he was the son of a carpenter.
- IN Mark 6:3 He is called a carpenter, so He must have learned His earthly father’s skills.
- HE was familiar with the building trades and did the work of construction....but that wasn’t His primary focus.
- HIS primary focus was the work of God.
- WHEN He was just twelve years old, and had been left behind at the Temple for a couple of days, He told His parents that He needed to be about His Father’s business.
- IN John 5:17 Jesus said,
“‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’”
- IN John 4:34 Jesus said,
“My food...is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
- IN John 6:27, Jesus said,
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life...”
- IN John 9:4, Jesus said,
“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”
- IN Acts 13:2 the Holy Spirit said to the church in Antioch,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
- IN Romans 16:12 Paul writes,
“Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.”
- IN I Corinthians 3:13 Paul writes,
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
- IN Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul writes,
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, (12) to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
- IN verse 16 of the same chapter, Paul writes,
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
- IN Colossians 1:9-10, Paul writes,
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.(10)And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work...”
- HEBREWS 6:10,
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
- IT is good that you have a job at Microsoft, or Boeing, or Starbucks.
- IT is good that you are working hard to improve yourself and get that promotion.
- IT is good that you are one of the best employees that your company has. That is as it should be. You are a testimony to Christ in your work place.
- BUT you have a higher calling than Microsoft.
- YOU have a higher calling than Seafirst or Washington Mutual.
- YOU have a higher calling than being a teacher, or a banker, or a builder.
- YOU have been saved to do the work of the Lord.
- THAT is your highest calling...the work of the Lord.
ii. open doors
- THAT is what Paul lives for...the work of the Lord.
- YES, he makes tents for a living when the local church can’t support him....but while he is stitching the canvas, he is planning the next evangelistic campaign in the town.
- YES, he takes trips by road and by sea, but his objective is always the work of the Lord.
- YES, he has friends, but only those who share his passion for the work of the Lord.
- SO, it is no surprise that in the last few verses of I Corinthians 16, Paul’s priority is the work of the Lord (pg. 1141).
- FROM verses 5-9 it is all about open doors.
“After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you-- for I will be going through Macedonia.”
- HE is in Ephesus at the time of writing this epistle.
- BUT he is already planning his next trip out west across the Aegean Sea into Macedonia....visiting and encouraging the believers in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.
- HE is anticipating the open door to ministry in those parts of northern Greece....on his way down south to Athens and Corinth.
- VERSE 6,
“Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go.”
- HE is not quite sure where he will go from Corinth, but he is sure that somewhere there will be an open door for him to do the work of the Lord.
- VERSE 7.
“I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. (8) But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, (9) because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” (I Corinthians 16:5-9)
- THE verb tense for the word, “opened,” in verse 9, means “stands open.”
- WHILE Paul is planning a trip to Corinth to help with the work there...and while on the way to Corinth he plans to stop by the churches in Macedonia....there is something that is keeping him on Ephesus for the time being....and that is a door for the work of the Lord that “stands open.”
- AND that is what is making Paul’s time in Ephesus “effective.”
- GOD has opened a door in front of Paul, and he is planning on doing the work of the Lord through that door as long as it remains open.
- IN Revelation 3:8, Jesus writes to the church in Philadelphia,
“See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”
- WHAT door has the Lord opened in front of you for effective ministry?
- MACEDONIA and Corinth are great in God’s timing for you.....but what door is open right now, right where you are?
- STAY at it until the work of the Lord is thoroughly finished there!!!
- AND don’t expect that having an open door for effective ministry means that everything is going to go great and easy.
- WITH hardly a breath in between, Paul tells us about the open door and goes on to say,
“...and there are many who oppose me.”
- IN fact, at the end of this time in Ephesus Paul gets run out of town by a riot and a mob threat on his life.
- THERE is no place where it says that open doors to effective ministry will be unopposed.
- THE devil is also working, because he knows that his day is coming....and he is running out of time.
- WHICH is all the more reason for you and me to be going through all of the open doors that the Lord puts in front of us.
iii. willing servants
- SO, the first principle in the work of the Lord in this passage is “open doors.”
- THE second is “willing servants.”
- WE are now going to read about Timothy, and Apollos, and Stephanas....and other willing servants in the work of the Lord.
- IN fact, historians believe that in response to the concerns that Paul has heard about in the church at Corinth....that he has already sent Timothy in his place.
- BUT Timothy has gone through Macedonia to also visit the other churches....so this letter, sent by sea, will get to Corinth before Timothy.
- TIMOTHY is a willing servant of the work of the Lord.
- BUT we know that Timothy is young, and timid, and sensitive, and not very confrontive.
- AND we also know that the Corinthian church has some tough saints......combative, argumentative, self-important, unteachable.
- AND we know that Paul really loves Timothy as a son. So, he writes to the Corinthians in verse 10,
“If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.”
- THE reason that Paul calls for the Corinthians believers to respect Timothy is that he is “carrying on the work of the Lord.”
- AND according to Paul, that puts Timothy in the same category as the apostle Paul.
- VERSE 11,
“No one, then, should refuse to accept him. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.”
- HERE comes another willing servant of the work of the Lord in verse 11,
“Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.” (I Corinthians 16:10-12)
- HISTORIANS believe that the Corinthians had been putting pressure on Paul to send Apollos. His teaching appealed to their intellect....and they thought Paul was jealous and that was why he hadn’t sent Apollos as they had requested.
- SO, Paul had to reassure them that he had tried to send Apollos, but he was unable to go at the time.
- DROP down to verse 15, and you will read about another willing servant of the Lord’s work, Stephanas.
- AND in verse 17, you read about Fortunatus and Achaicus also.
- THESE are willing servants of the work of the Lord.
- ARE you a willing servant of the work of the Lord?
* Timothy was a pastor on his way over land to care for the flock in Corinth.
* Apollos was a teacher, temporarily too busy in the work of the Lord elsewhere to leave for Corinth.
* Stephanas and his household were from Corinth, “devoted to the service of the saints.” (vs. 15)
* Fortunatus and Achaicus “supplied Paul the companionship and encouragement he was missing from Corinth....refreshing him. ” (vs. 17&18)
- SERVANTS of the Lord!
- THAT is what God is looking for today.
- WHERE are how are you serving the Lord?
iv. working principles
- SO, first we learned about the open doors in the work of the Lord.
- THEN we learned about willing servants in the work of the Lord.
- NEXT, the apostle Paul lays out some working principles for the work of the Lord in verse 13,
“Be on your guard...”
- DON’T live unconsciously! Danger usually doesn’t walk up the center aisle. It lurks around the edges of your life waiting for an unguarded moment.
- LET’S move on,
“...stand firm in the faith...”
- DON’T let the world, its standards, or its pseudo knowledge disturb your faith in God.
“....be men of courage...”
- RESIST the temptation to give in to fear.
- VERSE 14,
“Do everything in love.”
- VERSE 16, (We have already mentioned verse 15)
“...submit to such as these(people who have devoted themselves to serving the saints) and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.”
- REBELLION is the spirit of the world, and the Bible says it is like the sin of witchcraft. And witchcraft is the one sin that openly invites Satan in to take control. That is exactly what rebellion does.
- VERSE 17,
“I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. (18) For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.” (I Corinthians 16:13-18)
- VERSE 18 says that we are to honor those who serve and refresh the people of God.
- THESE are the working principles of the ministry.
v. open hearts
- SO, open doors, willing servants, working principles of the ministry.
- AND here is the last few verses...and they have to do with warm, open hearts in the work of the Lord.
“The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. (20) All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (21) I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. (22) If anyone does not love the Lord-- a curse be on him. Come, O Lord! (23) The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. (24) My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.” (I Corinthians 16:19-24)
- THERE is to be a spirit of love and extravagant warmth between us as the people of God.
- OUR society is teaching us to be guarded with each other, suspicious, cynical, distant.
- THE people of God are to be warm towards each other in the work of the Lord.
- AND then there is verse 21.
“If anyone does not love the Lord-- a curse be on him.”
- AND many theologians have tried to explain that verse away.
- BUT you can’t.
- IT is just part of the passion of the apostle for the purity of the fellowship.
- YOU see, if there are people within the fellowship who profess Christ but don’t love Him....not only are they going to be a source of grief at some point along the way...but in reality the curse of God is on that person.
- AND Paul is confrontive enough that he is not going to be silent on the subject.
- BUT don’t let that one verse get your eyes off the central theme of the love and warmth in the family of God.
- AND that is the epistle of Paul to the Corinthian believers.
- OPEN doors....for the work of the Lord.
- WILLING servants....doing the work of the Lord.
- WORKING principles...for the work of the Lord.
- WARM hearts...in the work of the Lord.
- I COULDN’T say it better than Paul did,
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. (24) My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.”