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Fighting for the Gospel at Work

Fight the Good Fight  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:49
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What does it look like to represent Jesus at work? Find out in this message from 1 Timothy 6:1-2

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Our series through 1 Timothy has talked a great deal about church. We have seen that there are unique groups of people called to lead in different ways, and that we are supposed to join together to try to see Jesus exalted as a church, pushing back against false teaching and trying to live out God honoring lives together.
We have seen that we are supposed to be setting examples for each other of what it looks like to walk closely with Jesus, even in how we operate as families.
So, then, what
What about that thing, though, that many of you will be doing around 9:00 tomorrow? All of this is good information, but how does it impact my job? How are we supposed to fight the good fight at work?
That is the topic we are going to tackle this morning.
Go ahead and open up your Bibles to .
As you are turning, you might notice something: we are entering the final chapter of 1 Timothy! We still have a few weeks to go in our study, but there is an end in sight in this study through this powerful book.
Read these two verses with me...
Here is the question I want you to prayerfully ask this morning: What would people think of Jesus if they watched me work?
If someone knew nothing about Jesus other than the fact that you claimed to follow him, what would your daily routine at work show them that Jesus was like?
Right off the bat, we need to explain something: Although you may hate your job for a variety of reasons, you are not a slave, and your manager isn’t your master. However, there are principles we can draw from this passage that apply to your job as well.
Also, notice that verse 2 indicates that some believers owned slaves.
That is a big challenge for us, because we recognize today that slavery is completely wrong. We denounce slavery, and we are broken over the damage it has done in our country’s history, including the ways that our denomination supported the institution of slavery in the past. We support ministries who are working to fight against human trafficking, both in the US and abroad.
So, why didn’t Paul say that Christians should release their slaves? It is a big question, and I will attempt to address it as best I understand it.
Slavery was a huge issue in the Roman world, with estimates that almost half the people in the Roman empire were slaves. Some slaves were actually wealthy and educated, but they still were not legally recognized as persons.
The early church was not going to overturn such a large institution by fighting to make it illegal. However, they were called to revolutionize the way slavery worked.
Christian masters and slaves were called to realize they both had the same standing before God:
Galatians 3:28 CSB
There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.
That would then revolutionize the way that they treated each other. Although the social order didn’t change, their relationship to each other changed dramatically.
Paul had already written to the church at Ephesus and addressed this issue:
Ephesians 6:5–8 CSB
Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to people, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord.
Ephesians 6:5 CSB
Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ.
eph 6:
Ephesians 6:9 CSB
And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Here was how the church was going to fight back against slavery: by fundamentally redefining it. It wasn’t an issue of a superior owning an inferior; it was a matter of two people with equal standing, worth, and value before God, who served each other in different ways.
By living out this kind of life, we see that slaves and masters would honor God well, showing that he is able to save any and all who will call on him, regardless of their station.
In time, God would use this to revolutionize the Roman Empire, with Christians bringing an end to the gladiatorial games.
Later, it would be believers like John Newton and William Wilberforce to bring about the abolition of slavery in the 19th century.
Even today, believers are still fighting that same fight.
That brings us back to the idea behind this morning’s passage.
If a slave honored his master and served him well, and if he went even further to show honor to his believing master, he demonstrated that we weren’t a group of people out to overthrow Roman society, but instead, we honor God by showing that he is greater than even the social convention of the day.
With that in mind, then, we need to take a look around us.
Painting with broad strokes, for most of American history, most people thought of Christianity as either a good thing or, at worst, a neutral thing—it wasn’t good or bad.
However, we are in a society that is growing more and more hostile to the message of Christianity.
We are not enslaved, and we aren’t being actively persecuted, but being a Christian no longer has the social advantages it once did.
In fact, we are increasingly hearing that we need to compromise what the Bible teaches about sexuality, life, and personhood.
You may have co-workers whose exposure to Christians has been the caricatures you often find on the news or false teachers they have heard on cable news, so their view of what it really means to follow Jesus is skewed.
Going back to our question, what are they going to learn about Jesus as they watch you work?
Working well may be a key component of your part of the battle in fighting the good fight.
Let’s draw out two principles for how we are to fight for the faith and model Jesus at our jobs:

1) Show respect to ungodly bosses.

This is what we find in verse 1...
Now, if you’ll notice, the word “ungodly” doesn’t appear in this verse.
However, the opening phrase of verse 2 brings up the issue of believing masters, so it seems that there is a contrast between these two.
The command, then, is that we are to show respect to our bosses, whether they are good men and women or not.
Think about how hard this would have been for a slave who has become a Christian.
The truth of the gospel is that every human being is created in the image of God. God desires a love relationship with every human being on the planet, regardless of social standing.
Not only that, we are all equally lost because of our sin, and we are all equally saved by Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for us.
A slave who put his trust in Christ now knows that he is a person, created and beloved by God. He has put his trust and his allegiance in God as his heavenly master, and he knows he is going to experience the joy of heaven.
Can you imagine, with all that in your mind, going back to a position where you are treated just slightly better than farm animals?
Here’s a quote from a Roman about slaves:
Daily Study Bible Series: The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (Revised Edition) Masters and Slaves
“Varro, writing on agriculture, divides agricultural instruments into three classes—the articulate, the inarticulate and the mute. The articulate comprises the slaves; the inarticulate the cattle; and the mute the vehicles. The slave is no better than a beast who happens to be able to talk.” (Daily Study Bible Series)
Can you imagine the tension of knowing that you are a child of the living God, and you have to live your life daily reminded of the fact that everyone around you thinks of you like cattle?
It would be tempting to say, “I’m not doing this. I am not going to let you treat me this way; I deserve better.”
What is the command, though? To treat those masters as worthy of respect?
If it helps at all, realize that these are similar words to what he said in that elders are worthy of double honor.
He is using slightly different forms, but the same root words here in 6:1.
In case you still think there is some wiggle room here, listen to how Peter explains a slaves responsibility:
1 Peter 2:18 CSB
Household slaves, submit to your masters with all reverence not only to the good and gentle ones but also to the cruel.
Why? Why would God command people do such a thing, to allow themselves to be treated like that?
Why? Why would God command people do such a thing, to allow themselves to be treated like that?
Isn’t that a classic symptom of a weak person--letting themselves be a doormat?
Look back to the text…why are we called to give honor, even to ungodly masters?
So that God’s name and the teaching of the church will not be dishonored.
In Paul’s day, like in ours, there were plenty of people trying to find problems with the church.
A Christian who gave respe
Slaves, then, were called to honor their earthly masters because to dishonor them would dishonor the name of the God who called and saved them.
We see this explained further to the church at Colossae. In another command written to slaves, we see this:
col 3:23-24
Colossians 3:23–24 CSB
Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
Varro, writing on agriculture, divides agricultural instruments into three classes—the articulate, the inarticulate and the mute. The articulate comprises the slaves; the inarticulate the cattle; and the mute the vehicles. The slave is no better than a beast who happens to be able to talk.
They could honor their ungodly masters because ultimately, they were doing it to honor their true master, Jesus Christ.
As they did, they were fighting for the faith, showing that Christians weren’t lazy or workaholics, but instead, they were giving honor where honor was due.
So, then, let’s apply that to our world today.
You are not a slave today, but many of you have jobs where you may work for an ungodly man or woman.
They may even be terrible to work for.
We do live in a society where we have the ability to change occupations, so if God gives you the freedom to move on to a better work environment, go for it.
However, if God makes it clear that you are supposed to stay in that job, or for as long as you are in that position, you are called to honor your boss as if they were Jesus.
You are to reflect Christ in the way you work, especially when they don’t.
You are going to work in such a way that people around you get a clear picture of who Jesus is that then supports what you say when you share the gospel with them.
That means you are going to avoid two extremes:
On the one hand, you aren’t going to be lazy, rude, or disrespectful. Yes, your salvation has been purchased by Jesus and his works are what makes you right with God, but you are his ambassador in the world, and you are called to act like it. That means you work diligently so you aren’t bringing shame on the name of Jesus:
1 Thessalonians 4:11–12 CSB
to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.
1 thess 4:
If you are lazy or if you are disrespectful, you would lead others to think that Christianity is about taking, not about loving God and others with the same outward-facing love he has shown us.
On the other hand, fighting for Christ at work shouldn’t result in you being a workaholic. If you have put your trust in Christ, then you are accepted in him. Your identity is in Christ, not in how well you perform at work.
If you are known for frantically running around, working too many hours, and finding your identity in your work, then you are showing others that you don’t believe Jesus is enough.
Both extremes bring reproach on the name of Jesus, because neither present the life-transforming power of the gospel.
However, when you serve well, you have the chance to show your co-workers what a difference Jesus makes in you.
You are able to maintain your composure when others lose theirs because you know you are secure in Christ. You can treat people with respect when they don’t do the same because your identity is in Christ, not in what they say about or do to you.
Then, when you do take the time to share about what Jesus has done, or talk about your friends from church, they are willing to listen because of what they have seen in you.
Fighting the good fight at work is difficult, but honoring Christ by honoring your boss makes it easier for others to honor him. Not only that, but it is the right thing to do!
Now, we have talked a lot about what to do if you are working for someone who doesn’t follow Jesus.
What about if you are working for another Christian? How is that supposed to work?
We see that in verse 2...

2) Serve godly bosses enthusiastically.

That just makes sense, doesn’t it?
We already saw in chapter 5 that we are supposed to care for our vulnerable brothers and sisters in Christ in a unique way.
That principle carries over into our work relationships as well.
You can imagine how this would have been difficult in that day. If you were someone’s slave, and you both came to Christ, then what right did he have to tell you what to do?
We have already seen that in other passages that masters were commanded to treat their slaves with dignity and respect, recognizing that both of slave and free served the same God.
However, the social order wasn’t changed, and so a slave was still a slave.
Yes, they were brothers in Christ, but there were still responsibilities and jobs to take care of.
A slave couldn’t say, “Well, since we’re both brothers now, I don’t have to listen to you.”
Instead, they were to honor Christ by serving their brothers in Christ even more enthusiastically than they would a pagan boss.
Why?
That takes us back to verse 2.
As with some of the other passages we have seen, there are a couple ways of looking at this. The first is the way that the translators took it in this passage: believers are to serve other believers enthusiastically because any good they do for them is done for a brother in Christ.
If a household servant oversaw some aspect of the finances, and he made money for his master with his investments, he wasn’t just doing his job, he was helping his brother in Christ.
It fits with the attitude we are commanded to display in :
Philippians 2:3–4 CSB
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
However, it can also be translated a different way. If you look in the footnotes of the CSB, it could be translated, “because, as believers who are dearly loved, they are devoted to others’ welfare”.
Here, the emphasis is that we should work hard for Christian bosses because they too are working hard for others, since all of us as believers have been dearly loved by Christ.
Both masters and slaves were together serving the same Lord, even though their social status was completely different.
So, the expectation then is that those of us who work for people who know and follow Jesus should be all the more enthusiastic.
We understand that our Christian bosses are still human, but as we work for their benefit, we are ultimately working together with someone to further God’s kingdom and push back against the darkness.
We are fighting the fight together, helping the world see who Jesus is.
The only reason we can fight for Christ at our work, even if we are enslaved by a cruel master, is because Jesus has already freed us from slavery from the worst master imaginable.
ro 6:17=
Romans 6:17–18 CSB
But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over, and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.
Now, we have the privilege of serving one who is so loving and kind that he would die in our place to free us from slavery to sin.
May we all demonstrate that freedom in our work.
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