Cure for Doctrinal Disunity: Discipleship and Stewardship
At some point in the timelessness of eternity, the Sovereign God embarked upon the greatest and grandest of all his creations; he began the process of creating beings just like himself (Phil.3:21; 1.Jn.3:2). It is his intent to bring these beings into his family as his sons and to share with them all he has created and all that he will ever create throughout eternity.
Moreover, it is his intent to grant his sons the same life essence that he possesses, which is the highest form of life--immortality on the divine plane of existence (i.e., life that springs forth from itself and is not dependent on any other source to sustain it because it is self-sustaining). See 1.Cor.15:51-54; Rom.2:7; 2.Tim.1:9-10; 1.Pet.4:6; Rev.20:6.
Although it is the Sovereign Father's intent to increase his heavenly family, he will not bestow immortality upon a person or allow a person entry into his heavenly realm until he has absolute confidence in their commitment and loyalty to him and his way of life. Therefore, he has set in place a process through which each potential spirit-son must demonstrate their commitment and loyalty. During this process, each potential spirit-son must develop the character and the qualities that are a part of God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ. See Lev.19:1-2; 1.Pet.1-16.
The process of proving one's commitment and loyalty to the Father and his way of life begins in earnest the moment the Father adopts a person into his earthly family as a king-priest and continues until he is absolutely sure of a person's commitment and loyalty to him and his way of life.
Questions That Need to be Answered
In this present phase of the Sovereign Father's plan for the salvation of his human creation, many within the Father's earthly family of king-priests not only have to combat the human side of their nature and the evil of the world around them but also the evil that permeates many congregations of his people. Moreover, many are perplexed by doctrinal chaos and disunity within the Father's family. Because this condition should not exist among the Father's chosen ones, many feel that if the root cause were known, these problems could be eliminated or at least minimized. In their quest for a solution to these problems, many have asked themselves some or all of the following questions:
- Why is the Father's family not a single, unified, and structured organization?
- What in the root cause of the doctrinal chaos within the Father's family?
- Why is there a lack of powerful and dynamic spiritual leaders within his family?
- Why are the twenty-one plus spiritual gifts noted in the New Testament not being manifested in a major way within his family?
- What is the root cause of this pathetic condition that exist within the Father's family during this age?
- Is this root cause poor spiritual leadership, rebellious family members, some external force, world conditions during this age, or is it something entirely different?
If you have asked yourself some or all of these questions, read this entire study and you will find that the cause of doctrinal chaos and organizational disunity is something surprisingly basic that can be corrected with a small amount of effort from each member of the Father's family.
Believe it or not, the root cause for the pathetic condition that exist within the Father's family during this age is not from any outside source; it comes from a purely internal source. That source is each and every member of the Father's earthly family. Yes, you and I are the collective cause of this pathetic situation. Not only are we the cause but also the solution.
If the biblical concepts of discipleship and stewardship were clearly understood and diligently practiced during this age, doctrinal chaos and the lack of unity within the Father's family would be reduced to the point of being easily managed.
If you believe that the Sovereign Father's invitation to become a member of his earthly and heavenly family of king-priests is worthy of your total attention and commitment, and that all other priorities, concerns, and endeavors are insignificant and unimportant when they are compared to the opportunity to be an immortal member of the Family of God, then understanding the significance of discipleship and stewardship is vitally important to you.
The reason it is vitally important to understand discipleship and stewardship is that these are the basic elements of the process that has been set in place during this age through which each person the Father calls to salvation can demonstrate their commitment and loyalty to him and his way of life.
The following study examines the process of discipleship and stewardship as practiced by the early church.
BEING A DISCIPLE
At the beginning of Christ's ministry, he chose twelve men to be his disciples and close companions to help him proclaim the coming Kingdom of God. He also chose seventy others and commissioned them to proclaim the same message. It is important to note that each of the men Jesus chose had the ability to learn what he had to teach them and to perform the task set before them. All that these men needed was to be taught what to proclaim, to be given the tools with which to carry out their task, and to be sent forth to fulfill their task. See Matt.10:1-8; Lk.10:1-24.
Christ did not choose a few thousand or a few hundred men, put them through years of preparation, pick the twelve who were the most qualified for more intense instruction, and then send the seventy lesser qualified out to prepare people for his arrival to proclaim his Father's good news message. He chose these eighty two men, because they had the ability to perform the task that they would be given to perform. The same is true of everyone whom the Father calls to salvation during this age. All that is necessary for one to succeed is to be taught what is expected of them and how to successfully perform what is expected; to be given the tools with which to carry out the task; and to be sent forth to fulfill the task. See Isa.48:17; 2.Pet.1:10;1.Thes.5:9.
After his death and resurrection, Jesus met with his disciples and told them, "I have been given all authority in heaven and earth. Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this, that I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt.28:18-20 TLB Para.).
Most people view the commission Jesus gave his disciples only as marching orders to proclaim the good news message in order to convert people throughout the world to the Sovereign Father's truth and way of truth in order for them to be saved from eternal death and have eternal life. However, is this the totality of what Christ meant or is there much more to the making of disciples?
Understanding The Commission
The commission given to the disciples and, by extension, to all whom the Sovereign Father calls to become a part of his earthly family of king-priests has the following two basic parts:
- The first part is to proclaim the Father's good news message to the world and to perform the rituals that facilitate the transformation of a person who believes this message into one of the Father's earthly children.
- The second part is to teach these individuals the truth and way of truth in order to help them grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Father and his son, live a righteous life, come to know the deep things of God, and enter the Father's kingdom as an immortal spirit-being.
Although both parts of Christ's commission to the elect are simple and direct, in the centuries since this commission was given, the elect have had great difficulty with the second part which deals with discipleship and stewardship within the Father's family.
What Is a Disciple?
Over time, the pragmatic meaning of the Greek word for disciple has taken on a completely different meaning in the minds of most who profess to follow the teachings of the Bible.
Although some modern word dictionaries get close to defining a disciple as a student, most only define a disciple as a follower of Christ or one who follows a teacher. Therefore, the interpretation of the Greek word for disciple and the true essence of a disciple of Christ is left to the interpretation of each individual.
The English word 'disciples' in Matthew 28:18-20 is translated from the Greek word 'matheteuo', which means intransitively 'to become a pupil' and transitively 'to make pupils', or 'to enroll as a scholar' (i.e., a student).
As a group, the Father's earthly children are identified 26 times in the Book of Acts by the Greek word 'matheteuo' (i.e., a pupil/student) and individually the elect are identified as 'mathetes' and 'mathetria', which mean respectively, a 'learner' 'and a 'female pupil'.
A disciple is simply a person who is being educated in a certain discipline. For one who is a disciple of Christ, that discipline is the Father's truth and way of truth.
Discipleship is the process through which the Father's adopted children are taught his truth, his way of truth, the rules of conduct for the members of his family, and the philosophy behind these rules that make them holy, just, and good (Rom.7:12). It is through one's voluntary proactive compliance to his truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct that one becomes a viable and beneficial member within his family of king-priests.
The English word 'teach' in Matthew 28:20 is translated from the Greek word 'didasko', which is a prolonged (causative) form of a primary verb 'dao' (to learn) or 'to teach' (in the same broad application). Didasko simply means to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them.
Because Jesus gave an instruction to enroll students from every nation to be taught the truth and way of truth, it seems logical that, if these students are to be taught, there would be an organizational system and a curriculum in place to facilitate their education. This is exactly what we see within the early church. We see an educational system in place; whereby, a newly enrolled student is taught and guided through the educational process by the holy spirit and by more spiritually mature individuals within a community of students, student scholars, and stewards of truth and the way of truth.
From the many references that identify the Father's earthly family and nation of king-priests as students who are being taught the Father's truth and way of truth, it is clearly important to understand what is to be taught and what a student's responsibilities are while being taught.
What does the average person know about being a responsible student of the Father's truth and way of truth before and after baptism? Sadly, in most cases not much. After baptism, few are taught what it actually means to be a responsible student or how to fulfill this aspect of one's spiritual development. Most are left to determine this for themselves, which sometimes leads many away from the path of righteousness and down a path to leads to spiritual destruction.
THE EARLY CHURCH
In order to gain a clear understanding of the importance of being a perpetual student of truth and a steward in the Father's family, it is necessary to know something about how and why the early church was modeled after the structure of ancient Israel. The following are some of the things the Bible tells us about the organizational structure of national Israel, the Father's holy nation of earthly children, and the reasons for their existence:
- The organizational structure of national Israel in the wilderness and in the promised land was a theocracy.
- Ancient Israel was to be a nation of holy people who were to present themselves as an example of God's truth and way of truth to the nations of the world.
- The organizational structure of Israel fractured and eventually disappeared after God granted their request for a king to govern them.
The Early Church
- The organizational structure established by Christ for his Father's holy nation of king-priests on earth is a theocracy.
- The Father's children are a nation of holy people who are to present themselves as an example of his truth and way of truth and proclaim his good news message and his coming kingdom to the nations of the world.
- The organizational structure of the early church fractured and eventually disappeared when its members failed to continue in the "Faith Once Delivered" (Jude 1:3).
Within both of these organizational structures, there were teachers, students, and stewards of God's laws, precepts, and principles for the purpose of perpetuating the organizational structure and the perfecting of the knowledge, the understanding, and the practice of the truth and the way of truth among a holy people in order for them to carry out the purpose for their existence.
The Creator told the Israelites that he would teach them his statutes and judgments, so they could continue to live and to possess the land he would give them (See. Deut.4:1-5). He instructed them to diligently teach his ways to their children throughout their generations (See Deut.6:1-9). He taught them his civil law, his dietary law, and his law of worship, and he instructed them to observe his festivals in order to learn to have great respect for him (See Deut.14:21-24). He forewarned any future king of Israel that he must write a copy of the law and review it throughout his life, so he would learn to have great respect for God (See Deut.17:19).
The ancient Israelites were to be perpetual students of God's truth and the way of truth as noted in many texts that speak of this learning process. In this respect, it is no different for the Father's holy nation of king-priests today. The Father's earthly children are also to be perpetual students and stewards of truth and the way of truth.
Although there are similarities between the educational process of the physical nation of ancient Israel and the Father's elect, which are a physical and a spiritual nation, there is a great difference between the educational goals set for ancient Israel and the Father's elect children. The Father's children are to learn both the letter and the spirit of his law, his plan for the salvation of humanity, and they are to proclaim his message to the world as a witness. Moreover, they are to learn what it means to be holy as he is holy and practice his truth and way of truth in order to become spiritually mature and enter his heavenly kingdom as immortal spirit-beings.
The entire educational process for the Father's family and nation of king-priests is to take place under the tutelage of their elder brother who is also their Savior, High Priest, and head of the Father's earthly family. Moreover, this educational process was established to function as a self-governing and self-perpetuating entity.
Feed My Sheep
In his account of the third time that Christ met with his disciples after his death and resurrection, John says that Christ asked Peter three times if he truly loved him and that, if he did, he should feed his sheep (Jn.21:4-17). In this account, there are two Greek words translated into the English word 'feed'. The first Greek word translated into the English word 'feed' in this account is 'bosko', which means to pasture. By extension, it means 'to fodder', or 'to graze'. The second Greek word in this verse is 'poimaino, which' means 'to tend as a shepherd'.
The meanings of the two Greek words 'bosko' and 'poimaino' help to make the meaning of Christ's allegorical instruction to Peter understandable. Peter was to shepherd those of the Father's family whom he had placed under Christ's stewardship. This shepherding not only included care and protection as a diligent, caring, and conscientious shepherd, but also the feeding of spiritual nourishment to the Father's children in order to facilitate their spiritual growth.
Christ's allegorical instruction for Peter to feed his sheep clearly shows the necessity for an educational system within the church to teach all elements of the Father's truth and way of truth to his earthly children.
Because the Father's holy family and nation of king-priests is a self-governing entity with an educational process that is to be self-perpetuating, all of its members must participate in the process or there will be doctrinal chaos, a lack of unity, a nebulous concept of what the Father expects from each individual, and a general lack of spiritual power, which is exactly the condition that exists among the congregations and scattered members of the Father's earthly family during this age.
According to the apostle Paul, the following was the basic organizational structure of the early church:
"Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of languages. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak other languages? do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. . ." (1.Cor.12:27-31 KJV Para.).
In Ephesians, chapter four, Paul gives us more insight into the structure of the early church and clearly explains the purpose and work of the church and the reason for its educational system:
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 'That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love" (Eph.4:11-16 KJV).
Three of the primary reasons for this organizational structure are "The perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and the building of the body of Christ (i.e., the Father's earthly family)." None of these things can be accomplished in a major way without the teaching, the learning, and the practicing of the Father's truth, his way of truth, and the rules of conduct for members of his family on an ongoing basis by students who clearly understand the goals of the educational process and the result of practicing what is learned.
The apostle Paul clearly revealed to the Corinthians and Ephesians that, besides the other functions and responsibilities within the church, there were teachers of truth and the way of truth. Clearly, there would be no need for teachers if all members of the Father's family knew everything that there was to know about the Father, the Savior, and the truth and the way of truth.
The Early Church and Today
Shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we find a dynamic evangelizing church spreading The Father's truth throughout the world. However, as dynamic as this church was, it virtually disappeared from history after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.. From 70 to 120 A.D., there was very little recorded about the Father's true church. When historians began to write about the church again, they wrote of a dramatically different church from the one that embraced the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Today, we find churches that call themselves followers of Christ, yet the vast majority do not even faintly resemble the early church.
Why did the early church disappear? The simple truth is that those of the early church failed to continue to be diligent and responsible students and stewards of the Father's truth and way of truth. This failure of the students and stewards caused the failure of the educational system to be perpetuated within the early church, which has led to the continual fulfillment of the following prophecy:
The prophet Hosea was inspired to record, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you shall not serve me as priest. Because you have forgotten your God's law, I will also forget your children" (Hos.4:6 Para.).
The scriptures clearly show that all who are a part of the Father's earthly family of king-priests are being groomed for positions of leadership within his heavenly family; therefore, it should come as no surprise that an educational system was set in place in the early church to educate the Father's children for their positions of rulership and service in his heavenly kingdom. See Matt.5:3-5, 19:27-30; 1Cor.6:1-5; 2.Tim.2:12; Rev. 2:26-29, 5:1-10.
Why is there no common formal educational system set in place within all the congregations of the Father's children to facilitate their education in his truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct for the members of his family? Could the reason be a lack of being taught individual and collective ownership of true discipleship and stewardship within the Father's family?
Why is it important to be educated in the Father's truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct, and the philosophy behind this truth and these rules? It is important because this knowledge and understanding will help you understand how to fulfill your functions and responsibilities within the Father's family and in your spiritual walk. The following are things a disciple and a steward of the truth should know, understand, and do:
- Know the solutions to some of the spiritually life threatening situations that exist today.
- Improve your chances to participate in the first resurrection and enter the Kingdom of God.
- Become a more powerful and effective member of the Father's royal family and holy nation.
- Understand why doctrinal confusion and organizational disunity exists within the Father's royal family.
- Recognize your spiritual enemies and know how to deal with them through the Father's holy spirit.
- Know how to fulfill your responsibility to do a personal and a collective work for the Father and his Son.
- Have and act upon the knowledge and understanding that will absolutely guarantee that you escape God's wrath.
The apostle Paul also foretold a time when the Father's earthly children would reject his truth and way of truth:
"For the time will come when they [the elect] will not accept sound teaching . . .. And they shall not pay attention to the truth, and shall turn it away, and shall be turned instead to fables" (2.Tim.4:3-4 Para.).
Many who fellowshipped in the congregations of the early church would not accept sound teaching. They sought out teachers who would teach things that were pleasing to them and things that did not require their obedience to the Father's laws, precepts, and principles. In order to deceive the gullible and the spiritually lazy, these teachers replaced truth with error and taught mysticism and other philosophies that appeal to human nature.
The answers to the perplexing questions concerning the demise and disappearance of the early church are only answered in part by the warnings of Jesus and the apostles. Additional answers are found hidden in the prophecy of Zechariah. Matthew, Mark, and John all record Jesus quoting Zechariah's prophecy, which foretold the scattering of Jesus' disciples after his death:
"All you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered abroad" (Matt.26:31 KJV). See also Mk.14:27; Jn.16:32.
This is an extremely important prophecy because the rest of the prophecy, which Jesus did not quote, allows us to understand why the apostolic church ceased to function and exist as a powerful entity:
"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd [Jesus], and against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep [the disciples] shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand upon [against] the little ones [the Father's elect children]" (Zech.13:7 KJV).
The 'little ones' mentioned here are the Father's elect, which are noted in many scriptures as being 'little ones'' (See Matt.8:12, 18:3-10, 19:13-14; Mk.9:42). Why would the Lord of hosts turn against the 'little ones'? And why did Jesus omit this portion of the prophecy?
The reason for the rejection of the 'little ones' is that they would reject the "Faith Once Delivered" and cease to be zealous students and stewards of truth. The reason that Jesus did not quote the rest of Zechariah's prophecy, is because it was a different prophecy, which would be fulfilled at a different time. Zechariah's prophecy begins its fulfillment during the apostolic church age and will continue until shortly before Christ's return.
Along with the demise and disappearance of the early church and its central governing structure, its educational system is also fractured and splintered into the haphazard system we see today. During the centuries that followed the early churches' demise, individuals and congregations were influenced by many counterfeits of the Father's truth and way of truth. Moreover, much of what is taught as truth today is false and was not taught or practiced by the early church.
One of the aspects and beliefs of the pseudo-Christianity that is pervasive within congregations of the Father's children is that disciples and stewards are people that have been baptized, received the holy spirit, financially support the church, and assemble with others of like mind, fellowship with them, and listen to sermons.
One individual aptly sums up the basic philosophy taught within many congregations of the Father's children during this age in the following four words: pray, pay, stay, and obey.
Although many see nothing wrong with this philosophy, it is not what Christ meant when he said, "Go and enroll students in all the nations." The biblical definition of what it means to be a student of truth and a steward within the Sovereign Father's earthly family of king-priests is much more than what has been commonly taught for decades within the various congregations of the Father's elect.
The reason for a lack of the vital knowledge and understanding of the meaning of discipleship and stewardship is that the educational system of the early church has been replaced with that of false Christianity and its concept of discipleship and stewardship. The only way for the true meaning of discipleship and stewardship to be reestablished within the Father's earthly family is to institute the biblically based educational and organizational system of the early church along with all of the laws that governed this system.
Knowledge and Understanding
You are not given perfect knowledge and understanding of the Father's laws, precepts, and principles and the mysteries that are hidden within the Bible at the instant you receive the holy spirit. You must be educated in the things of the spirit, and this educational process takes time and effort. This is one of the reasons that the apostle Paul instructed the evangelist Timothy to "Earnestly study to show yourself approved to God a worker unashamed" (2.Tim.2:15 Para.). See also 1.Thes.4:10-12; 2.Pet.3:13-18.
One who is newly adopted into the Father's family is not expected to immediately know and understand everything contained within the Bible. Moreover, you are not expected to know everything about the Father and his Son during this lifetime. However, it is the Father's will that we grow in spiritual knowledge and understanding in order for us to fulfill the goals he has for us individually and collectively.
Did the early church study what is commonly called the New Testament today? The answer is no. They did not have these writings in the format in which we have them today. The early church studied the law and the prophets and the writings set forth prior to the advent of Christ, as well as the writings of the apostles as they were made available to them. See Acts 1:20, 7:42, 15:13-31, 24:14, 28:23; 2.Tim.3:13-17.
You must diligently study the entire Bible if you are to have a depth of knowledge and understanding about the Sovereign Father and our Savior, the Father's plan of salvation for humanity, what it means to be a student of truth and the way of truth, what it means to be a steward in the Father's family, and how to gain his approval as a steward in his earthly family.
King Solomon, to whom God gave great knowledge and wisdom, gave the following advice to a righteous person:
"The heart of him that has understanding seeks knowledge: but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness" (Pro.15:14 KJV).
"The heart of the righteous studies how to answer: but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things" (Pro.15:28 KJV).
"The heart of the prudent gets knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge" (Pro.18:15 KJV). See also Pro.4:5-7,16:16; Psa.119:103-105.
Solomon's observations on this subject are worthy of careful consideration because of the current doctrinal chaos and lack of unity within the Father's family. Solomon also gave the following advice about trusting one's own intellect in spiritual matters:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil" (Pro.3:5-7 Para.).
If we rely on our own intellect to provide knowledge and understanding into the Father's truth and way of truth and his hidden mysteries, we will fail miserably. The prophet Isaiah recorded this about the great difference between God's thoughts and ways and ours:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa.55:8-9 Para.).
Even though we are of the new creation, our thoughts and ways are not always in harmony with our Heavenly Father's simply because we are still subject to the human perspective and thought process. Our Father's thoughts are from his perspective; therefore, his thoughts are so far above our own that we cannot begin to comprehend the difference until we begin to think like him.
How are we to overcome the obstacle of our human perspective and thought process in order to think like the Father, live in harmony with his ways, and fulfill our functions and responsibilities within his earthly family? In order to do this, we must diligently seek to be educated in his thoughts and his ways and practice them to the best of our ability (Heb.5:14). Only then will we begin to know what and how he thinks, the greatness of his plan for us and humanity, and how to become a responsible and profitable steward in his family.
The apostle Peter gave this important instruction to those who are to learn and practice truth and the way of truth:
"Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1.Pet.2:1-3 NIV).
Just as a mother's milk gives an infant certain protection from disease and sustains its rapid development during its first few months of life, pure spiritual nourishment helps a child of God grow in God's truth and way of truth. Moreover, pure spiritual milk not only nourishes and sustains you in the early stages of your spiritual development but also helps you to grow into and maintain spiritual maturity.
Add These Things
After the apostle Peter's greeting in his second letter, he said this about things that must be added to one's spiritual make-up:
"Diligently add to your faith virtue; to virtue knowledge; to knowledge temperance; to temperance patience; to patience godliness; to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2.Pet.1:5-8).
You cannot add to what you do not already possess. You cannot come to understand the essence of these godly attributes if they are not clearly explained to you.
Of all of the causes of doctrinal chaos and lack of unity among the congregations and scattered members of the Father's earthly family during this age, the single most damaging is the lack of a clearly defined and structured educational system to guide a newly adopted son from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.
A major cause of a dysfunctional educational system within the scattered congregations of the elect is that many who lead the Father's children are not seeking to improve their spiritual knowledge, add to it, or perfect the basic truths that they currently understand. Because these spiritual leaders hesitate to venture into areas of study that are challenging or uncomfortable and do not attempt to broaden their knowledge of the things of God, most of those they teach and serve also stand still in their spiritual growth. They just hold on to what they have and do not add to or perfect their spiritual knowledge.
Going over and over the same basic knowledge that one has already learned does have its advantages. However, if this is all that is taught, it does little to expand one's knowledge of the Father's truth and way of truth and limits growth in the grace and the knowledge of the Father and his Son.
Regardless of whether or not one has the opportunity to be taught by a knowledgeable spirit-filled teacher within the Father's earthly family, each person is personally responsible to extend the boundaries of their spiritual education in order to grow in spiritual maturity and to equip themselves to fully carry out their personal responsibilities and functions within the Father's extended family.
In many of Paul's letters, he spoke of the necessity for a person to become educated in the things pertaining to one's calling. To the Colossians and Philippians he said the following:
"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That you might walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col.1:9-10 KJV).
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ" (Phil.1:8-9 KJV).
Notice that all of the godly qualities and knowledge that Peter and Paul mention must be learned, some of which take more effort to learn than others. The only way that a person can follow these instructions of Peter and Paul is to be a willing, dedicated, responsible, and teachable student of the Father's truth and way of truth. Notice also that some of the reasons for being educated in these things is to have the intellectual tools to help you live and perfect a righteous lifestyle and be able to perform good works.
THE FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE
The fundamental issue that each person who is called to salvation during this age must come to grips with is whether or not to perform the Father's will in their life to the best of their ability and put forth a diligent effort to hold in check the old nature.
When all is said and done, the tests and trials of this life are over, and you stand before the Father and his Son to be judged for what you have done with the opportunity that you were given, the fundamental issue that will determine whether or not you are granted immortal life along with rewards and positions of authority in the Kingdom of God will be how you have performed the Father's will during your physical life.
What does knowing the Father's will and performing it have to do with discipleship and stewardship? It has everything to do with being a student of truth and a steward of your functions and responsibilities in the Father's earthly family, because you cannot adequately fulfill either without knowing the Father's will for your life.
THE FATHER'S WILL
Jesus said that he came to do the will of his heavenly Father and to be an example of how to please him. If you want to know and understand the Father's will and how to please him, you must first look to the Father's teachings through Christ and the apostles:
"All who listen to my instructions and follow them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his house, it won't collapse, for it is built on a rock. But those who hear my instructions and ignore them are foolish, like a man who builds his house on the sand. For when the rains and floods come, and storm winds beat against his house, it will fall with a mighty crash" (Matt.7:24-27 LBP). See also 1.Jn.2:5-6; Phil.2:5; 1.Tim.6:17-19; 2.Pet.3:18.
"I, of myself can do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father who has sent me" (Jn.5:30 KJV Para.). See also Jn.6:38.
The scriptures clearly show that the Father's will (i.e., his purpose) for his earthly children is no secret, and it can and must be known and understood if one is to grow toward spiritual maturity.
How do you determine and understand the Father's will well enough to be able to set the correct course throughout your life, and how do you gain the knowledge and understanding to make correct spiritual decisions?
Ancient Israel relied on the priests and the prophets to reveal the Creator God's will to them, but during this age, there is no central authority on earth governing and clearly and concisely teaching the Sovereign Father's truth to his family of king-priests who are scattered throughout the nations. Because of this current situation, you must rely on the written word of God and the guidance from the holy spirit to reveal the Father's will to you. See Jn.14:26.
The apostle Paul cautioned the Ephesians, "Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Eph.5:17 Para.).
How important is it to know, understand, and do the Father's will in your life?
Knowing, understanding, and doing the Father's will is important to being a productive and beneficial member and citizen within the Father's earthly family and holy nation of king-priests.
The apostle Paul said to the Ephesians concerning doing the Father's will, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" (Eph.4:1 NIV). See also Col.1:9-10; 1.Thes.2:12; 2.Thes.1:11; Rev.3:4.
To know, understand, and do the Father's will is vitally important to your salvation; because, if you do not do what you know and understand to be the Father's will for your life, you are not truly a member of the Father's family in mind and spirit. Concerning his Father's will, Jesus said, "Whoever does the will of God, that person is my brother, and my sister, and mother" (Mk.3:35 KJV).
The following warning of Jesus clearly shows the result of not knowing, understanding, and doing the Father's will in your life to the best your ability:
"Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that does the will of the Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name cast out devils and in your name done many wonderful works? But, I will say to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work lawlessness" (Matt.7:21-23 KJV Para.). See also Rom.12:2.
These are people who sincerely thought they were living in obedience to God and were worthy of eternal life. However, the path that they chose is actually in opposition to God's way of life. Although these people have done great works, they have missed the mark and their efforts have been in vain, because they have been practicing lawlessness. They have either never been on the path of righteousness or they have veered off of it and onto a path that has led them away from God.
Because it is the Father's will that we live in harmony with his laws, it should be obvious that to avoid the violation of these laws you must first be educated in what is lawful and what is not. This is one of the reasons the educational system was instituted within the Father's earthly family and one of the reasons that you must be a perpetual student of truth.
Jesus said that only those who do the Father's will can be granted entry into his Father's heavenly realm, family, and kingdom. Therefore, it is essential to know what the Father's will is and how to perform it in regard to being a student of his truth and a steward of the functions and responsibilities that he has assigned you as a member of his earthly family.
You must be doing the Father's will to the extent of your understanding of his will; otherwise, you are a worker of lawlessness, which is rebellion against his will. Anyone in rebellion against God will have their life terminated in the Lake of Fire. This is the second death from which there is no return.
In the end of this age, there will be many of the Father's children who truly know the Father's will concerning their lives, but for some reason they will refuse to do what they know they should do. To these unfaithful servants Jesus gives the following warning:
"And that servant, who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself, and did not perform according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes" (Lk.12:47 para.).
These are individuals who talk the talk of righteousness, but do not walk the walk of a truly righteous person who is interested in learning truth and the way of truth in order to practice it.
When the warnings in Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 12:47 are viewed in the context of being a student of the Father's truth and way of truth, your stewardship, your functions and responsibilities within the Father's family, and the punishment of the six churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation, the seriousness of knowing, understanding, and performing the Father's will to the best of your ability should motivate you to action. See Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.
GOD'S WILL CAN BE KNOWN
If we do not know the Father's will, we cannot be expected to do what he wants us to do; therefore, he gives us an understanding of his will. Moreover, it does not take much study into the Bible to know and understand what he wants us to do with our life here on earth.
Just as the ancient Israelites could come to know and understand the Creator's God's will through the study of his written word, the Father's earthly children can also know and understand his will this way. Although the Sovereign Father has intentionally hidden much of his awesome purpose from most people, his will for his earthly children is made known to them if they make a diligent effort to search for it.
The apostle Paul said the following about your ability to know and understand what the Father's will is for you:
"See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, you do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Eph.5:15-17 Para.) See also Col.1:7-10.
"Therefore, don't you be conformed to this world: but you be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Rom.12:2 KJV Para.). See also Dan.12:4,10; Eph.1:9-11; 1.Pet.1:12; 1.Jn.2:17.
Yes. The Father's will can be known and understood by those whom he has called to salvation, because knowing and understanding his will is a part of one's calling. Each person whom the Father has called to salvation during this age must know and prove what his will is for their life. Concerning God's will, King David said, "Teach me to do your will; for you are my God: Your spirit is good; lead me into the land of righteousness" (Psa.143:10 KJV).
David understood that he had to be taught to do God's will, and that he had to be led by the Creator God--the teacher--in order to know how to be righteous.
In order to be mentally equipped to serve and please the Father, you must be a diligent student of his truth and way of truth so that you will know what he expects of you and how to accomplish what is expected.
Because knowing and understanding the Father's will is vitally important to those he calls to salvation, he has provided two easily understood methods through which his children can receive help to gain this knowledge and understanding. These two methods are communicating with him and studying and meditating on his truth and way of truth that is contained in the Bible.
BUT HE THAT DOES NOT BELIEVE
Mark records the following much overlooked and misunderstood warning given by Christ along with the instruction to proclaim the Gospel and enroll students in the truth and way of truth:
"You go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that has faith and is baptized shall be saved; but he that does not believe shall be damned" (Mk.16:15-16 Para).
Many view this warning as meant only for those who dismiss the good news message when they hear it. Although there is much truth to this viewpoint, there is a serious warning here for those who initially have faith in the message, accept the opportunity of salvation, receive the indwelling of the holy spirit, and then do not follow through with their commitment to the Father.
Being a member of the Father's family and a pupil of Christ is much more than just simple belief. True belief includes a lifetime commitment to fulfilling the functions and responsibilities of your calling. A major part of this commitment is becoming conversant with the Father's truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct for members of his family and then diligently performing your responsibility as a member of the Father's earthly family.
BEING A DEDICATED AND RESPONSIBLE STUDENT
Being a Follower of Christ
Being a follower of Christ and a student of truth goes far beyond a profession of faith, asking forgiveness of your sins, being immersed in water, and receiving the holy spirit. These things are just the prerequisites to becoming a follower of Christ and a student of truth as a member of the Father's earthly family. Being a follower of Christ and a student of truth does not stop at baptism.
Receiving the indwelling of the holy spirit and being adopted into the Father's earthly family is only the beginning of a journey through life that will bring you to the point of spiritual perfection and being transformed into an immortal spirit-being in the Father's Heavenly Kingdom and Family.
Beyond the point of adoption into the Father's family is the ongoing process of spiritual growth and the fulfilling of your functions and responsibilities within the Father's earthly family. See Rom.12:1-2; 2.Tim.2:15; 2.Pet.3:17-18.
There seem to be at least three phases of being a student of truth that must operate concurrently throughout one's physical life.
- The first phase is the beginning of one's tenure as a student in which the Father's foundational laws, precepts, and principles are being learned and put into practice.
- The second phase is that of an apprentice student whose task is to put into practice and perfect what is being learned through practical application over time.
- The third phase seems to be that of a student teacher who is still learning, but is able to educate others in what they have learned.
Christ Pleased His Father
Matthew records that, when Jesus was baptized, a voice from the sky said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt.3:17) and at the mount of transfiguration, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; you listen to him"(Matt.17:5).
The apostle John records the following single most important reason that the Sovereign Father was pleased with his earthly son:
While teaching in the temple treasury Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you shall know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him" (Jn.8:28-29 KJV).
Why was the Father pleased with his son? It was because his son lived in harmony with his laws, precepts, and principles and did the things that were expected of him as a son.
Clearly, it is impossible to please the Father unless you live in harmony with his truth and his way of truth and perform the functions and responsibilities that he has called you to perform. However, it is impossible for you to do what he expects if you do not know and understand his laws, precepts, and principles. This is the reason that one of the functions of the holy spirit is that of a teacher of truth (Jn.14:25-26; 16:12-15). It is also the reason why one of the more important functions and responsibilities in the Father's earthly family is that of a teacher and an instructor in the Father's truth and way of truth (1.Cor.12:28-29).
If we also want the Father to be pleased with us, we must also do the things that please him. We must not only learn his laws, precepts, and principles but also perfect them in our life and perform the functions and responsibilities of our calling.
If you are serious about pleasing the Father and moving forward in your spiritual life, you must be a willing, dedicated, responsible, and teachable student of the Father's truth and way of truth. Being a willing, dedicated, and responsible student is much more than just acquiring knowledge for the sake of knowledge alone. Having perception and being aware of the meaning of a fact, an event, or a set of circumstances is something very different from understanding. Academic knowledge of the Bible is important, but understanding the meaning of this knowledge is much more important.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul speaks of individuals who have a form of godliness but are far from being godly. Paul said that these individuals are continually acquiring knowledge but are never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2.Tim.3:1-10). The point is that knowledge for knowledge's sake alone is not profitable to one seeking to gain spiritual insight into the Father's mind-set.
In his letter to the elect at Rome, the apostle Paul urged them to present themselves as a living sacrifice acceptable to God, which was for them a logical act of worship. He also urged them not to copy the lifestyles of their time but to be transformed by the renovation of their mind in order for them to prove the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Rom.12:1-2).
The only way that Paul's instructions to the elect at Rome can be followed is through putting forth the time and effort in thoughtful study of the Father's truth and way of truth and asking the Father to grant you understanding of his truth in order to serve him and be the kind of person he wants you to be.
GROW IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE
In the apostle Peter's opening and closing statements of his second letter, he makes the following statement concerning grace and knowledge:
"Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord" (2.Pet.1:2). At the end of this letter, Peter gives the following instruction: "But grow in grace, and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. . ." (2.Pet.3:18).
There are a number of fundamental concepts in what Peter said in the beginning and ending of his letter that are extremely important to being a dedicated, responsible, and teachable student of truth and the way of truth.
In order to gain a partial understanding of why Peter spoke of grace and knowledge in verses 2 and 18 and what it means to our responsibility as a student of truth and the way of truth, we need to examine the meanings of some of the Greek words in Peter's greeting and his instruction at the end of his letter.
The English word 'grace' in verses 2 and 18 is translated from the Greek word 'charis', which can mean 'that which affords joy', 'pleasure', 'delight', 'sweetness', 'charm', 'loveliness', 'grace of speech', 'good-will', 'loving-kindness', 'favor', and 'what is due to grace'. This word can also mean the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine influence, divine influence upon the heart, the reflection of divine influence in one's life, and a token or a proof of grace.
A key to understanding the meaning of 'charis' in verse 2 and 18 is that, in verse 2, 'charis' is to be 'plethuno' (i.e., multiplied) and in verse 18 'charis' is to be 'auzano' (increased). In both verses, 'charis' is to be enlarged through knowledge and insight into the Father and Christ.
Regardless of the nuance of its usage in the scriptures, all 'charis' (all grace) that is bestowed upon us or becomes a part of our character has its origin with our Heavenly Father and his son our Savior. See 2.Jn.3; Rom.1:7-9; 1.Cor.1:3 ; 1.Tim.1:2; Tit.1:4.
The primary purpose for the educational system within the Father's family is to teach his children his truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct that we must practice in order to acquire the attitude, behavior, and character that he and his son have. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Peter would open and close his letter of encouragement and warnings with the instruction to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In a conversation with the Pharisees Jesus said, "You neither know me, nor my Father: if you had known me, you should have also known my Father" (Jn.8:13-19). And in a conversation with his disciples about his going back to his Heavenly Father and his death and resurrection, Jesus explained to them that, if they would have had an intimate knowledge of him, they would have known what the Father was like, because he was a reflection of his Father. See John 14:1-11.
It is through having an intimate knowledge and understanding of Christ's attitude, behavior, character, and teachings that we are able to know what the Farther is like, because Christ is a reflection of his Heavenly Father. Therefore, it seems that the apostle Peter used the word charisto indicate the increase of divine influence that should be reflected in our life.
The increase of a godly attitude, behavior, and character in your life are the result of allowing the Father, his son, and the holy spirit to influence your life. It is also evident that, in order to become more like our Father and our Savior, we must cultivate these godly qualities to increase them in our lives.
An important point to note is that Peter says grace must be multiplied and increased through the knowledge of the Father and Jesus our Lord (verses 2 and 18). This is important because it reinforces the necessity to be a willing, dedicated, responsible, and teachable student in order to learn and practice the attitude, behavior, and character of the Father and Christ.
Have The Mind of Christ
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul said in reference to their attitude and behavior during their journey through the experience of life, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ" (Phil.2:5).
How can you think like Christ if you do not have an intimate knowledge of his life and his teachings? The answer is that you cannot.
Foremost in the minds of the apostles was the need for their brothers and sisters in the faith to have spiritual knowledge and a clear understanding of the necessity to become a spiritually mature member of the Father's family in order for them to fulfill his purpose for calling them to salvation during that age.
Almost the totality of the writings of the apostles is centered around encouraging and urging their brothers and sisters in the faith to become educated in the things that will help them conform to and practice a holy lifestyle while developing a godly attitude, behavior, and character though acquiring godly knowledge and understanding.
SPIRITUAL GROWTH THROUGH EDUCATION
Over the centuries, the many tools that the Father has provided to facilitate spiritual growth within his family have mostly fallen into disuse by the majority of his elect. There are over twenty-one separate authorizations and responsibilities given through the holy spirit by God the Father and administered to his earthly children through Jesus Christ for the edification of the Father's family and the performance of its work. See Rom.12:3-8; 1.Cor.12:8-10, 28-30; Eph.4:11-14.
A lack of a true understanding of what it means to be a student of truth and a steward within the Father's earthly family has made it virtually impossible for the gifts of the spirit to be accessed or used in a major way within the Father's family. This lack of understanding has resulted in doctrinal chaos, the lack of unity, and the general lack of spiritual power that exists among the congregations and scattered members of the Father's family during this age.
In order to eliminate this doctrinal chaos, lack of unity, and lack of spiritual power, each member of the Father's family must truly come to understand their responsibility to be a student of truth and a steward of their function and responsibility within the Father's family.
There is no excuse for one whom the Father has called to salvation to not fulfill their obligation and opportunity to become educated in the discipline of holiness, successfully live a righteous lifestyle, and obtain immortality. The apostle Peter says the following to all who have been called to salvation:
"Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the favor that is brought to you by the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, do not pattern yourselves after the ignorance of your former desires. But as he who has called you is holy, so you be holy in all manner of behavior; Because it is written, You be holy; because I am holy" (1.Pet.1:13-16 Para.).
The instruction is clear. Those who are members of the Father's family must be holy as he is holy. The only way you can be holy as he is holy and practice a holy lifestyle is to first know and understand what it means to be holy. In order to acquire this spiritual knowledge and understanding, you must be a willing, dedicated, responsible, and teachable student of the Father's truth and way of truth.
In this age, there are many books one can use in order to gain an academic knowledge of what is written in the Bible. However, understanding the meaning of what is written in the Bible for the Father's children can only be acquired through the gifts of the spirit and the exercise of the teaching function of the holy spirit.
One of the gifts of the spirit that each person is provided at the moment they receive the Father's holy spirit is a sound mind: "God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2.Tim.1:7 KJV). A person with a sound mind is able to learn and understand the things that are being taught to them through the guidance of the holy spirit.
The Father would not have called you to salvation if he had not had confidence that you would be able to succeed when given the tools for success. Each person who receives the holy spirit also receives the tools with which to be successful. Therefore, success is assured if these tools are used for their intended purpose.
The Holy Spirit
A short review of Jesus' and the apostles' teachings show that the indwelling of the holy spirit is capable of imparting knowledge, discernment, wisdom, and understanding to the Father's elect children. However, if you rarely study and meditate on God's word or rarely communicate with the Father through prayer, these attributes that are necessary to fulfill your calling cannot be acquired and their benefits cannot be realized.
Before his death and resurrection, Jesus told his closest students and companions these things about the spirit of truth that would come to teach them:
"But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of me--and by the Comforter I mean the holy spirit--he [it] will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you" (Jn.14:26 LBP).
"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when the spirit of truth, is come, it will guide you into all truth: for it shall not speak of itself; but whatever it shall hear, that shall it speak;. . ." (Jn.16:12-13 KJV Para.). See also 1.Cor.2:11, 1.Pet.1:12.
Why would Christ's followers need to be taught something more than what he taught them while he was with them? The answer is that they needed to know and understand more in order to have the knowledge and understanding to be able to perfect a godly attitude, behavior, and character, and to have the spiritual resources to be able to fulfill their calling and purpose for existence.
The importance of being taught the Father's truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct, and the practice of these things within his family should be self-evident. Without being instructed in these things and gaining insight into the attitude, behavior, and character of our Heavenly Father and his first-born son, no progress can be made toward the goal of spiritual perfection and maturity. Moreover, these things must be learned and internalized in order for the truth, the way of truth, our Heavenly Father, and our Savior to be represented correctly in our lives and to other people.
The holy spirit is a teacher and reminder of the things taught by Christ while he was human, as well as the things he taught as the Creator God. As the teaching function of the holy spirit is accessed and exercised, it conveys knowledge and understanding of the Father's truth, his way of truth, and the attitude, behavior, and characteristics that he and his first-born son have as apart of their being.
Paul also confirms that the Father's holy spirit has the power to transfer spiritual knowledge to his earthly children:
"It has been written, 'Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,' nor has it risen up in the heart of man, 'the things which God has prepared for those that love him. But God revealed them to us by his spirit, for the spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man within him? So also no one has known the things of God except the spirit of God" (1.Cor.2:9-11 Para.).
Notice that this transfer of knowledge and understanding is possible because each of the elect has been given the Father's holy spirit and the essence of Christ's mind as a part of their mental make-up.
"Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; so that we can know the things that are freely given to us from God. Which things we also speak, that are not the words that man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. However, the natural man does not receive the things of God's spirit; because, to the natural man they are foolishness. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual can discerns all things, yet he himself cannot be understood by the natural man. Moreover, who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ" (1.Cor.2:12-16 Para.).
Clearly, the Father and Christ speak to us through the Bible and the holy spirit that resides within us; therefore, we should diligently study the Bible and ask for spiritual enlightenment so that we can know and understand the Father's will in order to do what pleases him.
It should be the goal of each individual to become conversant in the truth and way of truth in order to understand the deep meanings of the mysteries of God, to have a strong spiritual foundation, to know and understand our functions and responsibilities within the Father's family, and to be able to explain our hope of salvation to others. Why? Because this is what we are instructed to do as a member of the Father's family in order to fulfill the purpose of our calling.
Although each newly converted person becomes Christ's pupil at baptism, the process of being taught spiritual laws, concepts, and principles cannot begin in earnest until you have surrendered every aspect of you life to the Father and understand that you have been called to participate whole-heartedly as an integral part of his family. Moreover, if you refuse to advance as a student of truth, you become unfruitful and can become an impediment to the progress of other family members.
A child of God cannot remain static in their spiritual growth for very long. You either go forward toward spiritual maturity and the fulfillment of the functions and responsibilities for which you are called during this age or you regresses toward your old behavior. See Jesus' admonition to the Ephesians and Laodiceans in Revelation 2:5-6 and 3:15-19.
Prerequisites For Knowledge and Understanding
The following are some of the prerequisites for the acquisition of spiritual knowledge and understanding that the scriptures clearly show as necessary:
- You must be seeking to know and understand the Father's will for your life.
- You must ask for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
- You must study the Father's truth and way of truth.
- You must be in obedience to the Father and his way of life.
If you fail to do these things, you will not gain spiritual knowledge and understanding. Other things that can cause a lack of knowledge and understanding are quenching the power of the holy spirit, rebelling against God, or allowing something or someone to take priority in your life above your commitment to the Father.
Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to do the things that would promote spiritual growth and warned them not to restrain or suppress the power of the holy spirit in their life. See1.Thes.4:1-12; Lk.19:12-26; Lk.17:7-10:
"Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the spirit. . ." (1.Thes.5:17-19 KJV).
If you become lazy and refuse to put forth the effort to pray, show gratitude to the Father, study, meditate, and yield your life to the Father, the power of the holy spirit becomes weak and useless within you. When this happens, you are in danger of losing the power of the spirit in your life. If this is not corrected, it will result in eternal death. However, when you exercise the holy spirit in a positive manner, you can grow spiritually and become a productive member in the Father's family.
A Beginning and Progress
Unless you become the best student of the truth and the way of truth that you can be, there is little likelihood that you will make much progress in the knowledge and understanding of things of the spirit or fulfill the functions and responsibilities for which you were called to perform as a member of the Father's family.
It is a given that those who proclaim the Father's good news message as evangelists, must clearly know and understand what they are talking about.
It is also a given that those who occupy an official function or responsibility of service to their brothers and sisters within the Father's family must be well versed and practiced in the Father's truth and way of truth before being allowed to fulfill an official position of service. See 1.Tim.3:1-16.
But, where do these individuals obtain the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom necessary to fulfill their functions and responsibilities within the church? These individuals learn these things through the process of being a willing, dedicated, and teachable students of truth.
The simple truth is that no one can learn the Father's will for their life or become conversant with his laws, precepts, and principles by osmosis. You cannot do what you are not equipped to do! If you desire to please the Father with your life and become a beneficial member of his family, you must put forth the time and effort to be a dedicated and responsible student of his truth and way of truth.
To those who are truly serious about their calling, Jesus leaves no doubt as to the type of commitment that must be made in order to truly follow his teachings as a student of truth:
"Anyone who comes to me must love me more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters, and yes, even more than his own life, otherwise he cannot be my pupil [Greek: disciple]. And no one can be my pupil who does not bear his own cross and follow me. . . whoever of you that will not forsake everything he has, cannot be my pupil" (Lk.14:26-27,33 Para.).
Seek the Kingdom of God First
"Don't be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, how will we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you need all of these things. But seek you first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be supplied to you. Don't be anxious about tomorrow; because, tomorrow will take care of itself. . . " (Matt.6:31-34 KJV Para.).
Those who are serious about their calling should not be overly concerned with the things of this life; they should be concerned about the things that will last forever.
The apostle Paul told Timothy that anyone who is serious about doing a work for the Father cannot become overly involved with the cares of this physical life; therefore, you must be single-minded in your service to the Father. True discipleship and stewardship requires a total commitment to the Sovereign Father, Jesus Christ, and your calling:
"No one serving as a solider gets entangled with the affairs of this life, so that he can please the one whom he serves and those who compete in athletic events must follow the rules or they will be disqualified and not win the prize" (2.Tim.2: 4-5 Para.).
Every one of the Father's children is a disciple (i.e., a student) of his truth and way of truth. Some are in the beginning phases of their spiritual education, some are more advanced students, and some have advanced enough in their spiritual growth and maturity to become teachers of God's truth while continuing their responsibility as a student. Regardless of what level of spiritual maturity you have attained or what function or responsibility you perform as a member of the Father's family, you are to remain a student of the truth and the way of truth throughout your life.
Being a perpetual student of the Father's truth and way of truth is a lifestyle with a purpose. It is an active participation in a process of growing in favor with the Father, learning his truth and way of truth, and applying what is learned in your daily life. Discipleship is a dynamic activity; it is not static.
As true disciples with whom the Father has placed tremendous spiritual resources, we should be willing to learn and grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Moreover, a disciple should trust in their ability to successfully overcome the obstacles of this present life and become an immortal spirit-being in the Father's heavenly kingdom.
STUDENTS OF TRUTH
In chapters, four, five, and six of Paul's letter to the elect at Ephesus, he speaks of the Father's collective earthly family and how it should work together to accomplish the purpose for its existence. Paul also explains that the Father's elect should not think and behave like people without God's spirit. Moreover, he says that the elect should set aside the attitudes and behaviors of their past life that were in opposition to righteousness; instead, they should think and behave in a godly manner. See also Col.3:1-25, 4:1-6.
It is the transforming of your former thought process, attitude, and behavior into that which is godly that most of the commentary and instruction in the New Testament deals with. This process of transformation cannot be ignored if you desire to enter into the Father's heavenly kingdom as an immortal spirit-being. This process as shown throughout the Bible involves being both a student and steward of the Father's truth and way of truth within his earthly family of king-priests.
If you are truly serious about your salvation and being a viable productive member of the Father's earthly family, being educated in the Father's truth and way of truth and performing your role as a steward in his family are vital to your spiritual success.
Although this study explains the meaning of discipleship and stewardship and the importance of fulfilling these responsibilities within the Father's family, the following questions need to be answered in order to fulfill these responsibilities:
- How do you become educated in the Father's truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct for his family?
- What are the first subjects that you should study and apply in your life?
- How do you fulfill your personal obligation as a steward within the Father's family?
Setting goals to become educated in the Father's truth and to become a productive steward in his family are obviously necessary if you are to progress spiritually. However, setting goals and accomplishing them are two very different things. It should also be obvious that, in order to make any progress toward accomplishing these goals, you must have an action plan. Without an action plan, little or no progress will be made toward accomplishing your goals. The following are some suggestions as to how to produce a personal action plan for spiritual success.
1. Let the Father know through prayer (and fasting if you feel the need) that you are serious about knowing and understanding his will for your life, growing in grace and in the knowledge of him, his son, his truth, and his way of truth, and serving him to the best of your ability. Ask the Father to provide you with spiritual knowledge, understanding, discernment, and gifts of the spirit that are necessary for you to fulfill his purpose for your life.
Will the Father hear and answer this type of commitment and request? Absolutely, he will. While speaking to a multitude of people, Jesus said the following about the Father's willingness to give good things to his children:
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matt.7:7-11 KJV). See also Jn.14:14, 15:7; Heb.4:16, Jms.3:16-18. Phil.2:12-13.
In this example, Jesus reveals a major key that will help unlock the great truths to be found in the Bible. A person must not only desire to have spiritual knowledge and understanding but also go to the Father and ask to be given this knowledge and understanding, and then diligently seek it by making a sincere effort to study and meditate on his words:
"Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled" (Matt.5:6 Para.). See also Psa.119:33-40; Jer.10:23-24.
The Father is more than willing to give knowledge and understanding of the things that will benefit those he has called to salvation. It is his desire to give us the spiritual nourishment that is necessary for spiritual growth. See 1.Pet.2:2.
2. Define your goals. What is the ultimate goal that the Father has for each individual he calls during this age of salvation? The Father's goal is for each individual he calls to become a member of his heavenly family and kingdom as an immortal spirit-being. Therefore, your primary goal should be the same (See 1.Cor.15:35-54; Rev.21:5-7). All other goals are merely an extension of this primary goal and should serve to accomplish it.
3. Develop a personal action plan for success and then put this plan into action. The following are three important reasons that you must develop a personal action plan for success:
- It is evident that during this age, no central authority exists on earth governing the Sovereign Father's family of king-priests scattered throughout the nations or teaching them his truth and way of truth clearly and concisely.
- There are many who teach within the congregations of the elect who are unqualified to teach truth for one reason or another. See Matt.7:15, 24:11, 24; 2.Pet.2:1-3; 1.Jn.4:1.
- Each individual the Father calls to salvation is totally responsible for their own spiritual success or failure. See Phil.2:12-16; Eph.4:21-24; Rom.12:1-2, 14:10-12; 2.Cor.5:10.
THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL
The Bible is the instruction manual for those who have been called to salvation and it contains all of the knowledge and understanding necessary in order for you to grow spiritually and succeed in the performance of your functions and responsibilities within the Father's earthly family. Therefore, before providing some tips on how to develop a personal plan for spiritual success, there are some important issues and concepts that need to be clarified concerning the Bible and its study.
The first thing to firmly fix in your mind prior to studying the Bible is that God's written word is truth and there are no contradictions in what he has caused to be written.
Jesus said of God's word, "Your word is truth" (Jn.17:17) and "The scripture cannot be broken" (Jn.10:35). God inspired the Bible to be written and it is impossible for God to lie (Heb.6:18; Tit.1:2); therefore, God's word will always be true (Rom.3:4).
The problem with seemingly contradictory scriptures is never with what God has inspired to be written; it is always with people's perspective or understanding of what has been written or with how it has been translated or interpreted from the original writing.
Consider this for a moment: If God is a God of truth who cannot lie and he has said that he inspired and instructed his prophets, servants, and apostles to record all that is his sacred word, there cannot be any errors, lies, or contradictions in his originally inspired written word.
Seemingly unsolvable scriptural contradictions are normally the product of one or more of the following:
- An error in translation from the original language.
- An error in the interpretation of the original language.
- Insufficient research on the subject.
- Translated from an erroneous or incomplete copy of the original text.
Because the above conditions may exist, doctrine should never be established by using vague or difficult to understand scriptures. All major teachings of the Bible, such as those concerning God and his plan of salvation, should be expounded with clear concise statements that prove their validity to anyone whom God is calling to salvation.
A major error that should be avoided when studying the Bible and related documents is the belief that the more ancient a manuscript or a document is, the more accurate it is. This is a very dangerous assumption to make. Just because a document is ancient, does not make it accurate. The test of accuracy is the test of truth and the continuity of truth. If an ancient writing does not conform to proven Biblical truth and departs from the overall theme and continuity of the Bible, it should not be used to establish doctrine.
Because no original writings of the scriptures are available and centuries have passed since their writing, all modern translations and interpretations of the original text contain some error due to one or more of the following:
- Additions or omissions due to private interpretation
- Justification by translators for false teaching
- Lack of attention to detail
- Lack of the correct linguistic information
- Poor scholarship
Truth Will Endure
God has promised that his truth will never be lost. Although there may be copy errors or translation errors of the original writings, the truth and the will of God can still be found and understood by those to whom he chooses to reveal it. See Jer.33:3; Lk.11:9-13; Jn.14:26; 16:12-13; 1.Cor.2:9-16.
The Bible Interprets Itself
Trying to justify preconceived ideas and beliefs are a major obstacle to gaining a correct understanding of any biblical subject. The proper approach to understanding the Bible should be an open-minded, unbiased attempt to understand what is truly written and not what a person thinks is written. However, this is very difficult to do because of the vast amount of false teaching about God and the Bible today.
Because of the way the Bible has been written, it will literally interpret itself if you are willing to collect all of the relevant facts and references and let the holy spirit guide your mind into truth.
Precept upon Precept
Those who think that the Bible sometimes contradicts itself have failed to understand that the Bible is a complex book, which must be studied as a whole if its mysteries are to be understood.
One of the most fascinating and inspiring aspects of the Bible's construction is the way various subjects are interwoven throughout its pages. Because of this, it is sometimes necessary to collect all of the references to a subject before you can begin to understand what is being taught:
"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isa.28:10 KJV). See also Isa.28:9-13.
Continuity of Truth
There is a continuity of truth throughout the entire Bible which is very helpful in separating truth from error. Each specific teaching or doctrine of the Bible will conform to the overall theme and purpose of the entire Bible. If any teaching or doctrine is found to be in conflict with another, one or both of the teachings may be based upon false assumptions or incorrectly understood scriptures.
Acquiring Knowledge and Understanding
Many feel that a person must be highly educated or very intelligent to understand the Bible, but this is not true. All those whom the Father calls to salvation can understand what he has caused to be written for their inspiration, correction, and edification. Because the Father wants his children to succeed in their calling and to perform his will in their lives, he has provided a way for them to learn and understand his truth.
Among the many promises Jesus makes to those who believe in him, is that he will send the holy spirit as a teacher to guide them into truth. See Jn.14:26; 16:12-13.
One way that the holy spirit carries out teaching and guiding is through the written word of God. The acquisition of truth, spiritual knowledge, and understanding with the help of the holy spirit requires effort on the part of the one being called to study the Bible and related information.
Whom Shall God Teach?
"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts" (Isa.28:9).
Just as there is a physical growth process from infancy to adulthood, there is a spiritual growth process in the acquisition of spiritual knowledge and understanding. The more you learn and the more you practice what you have learned, the more spiritually mature you become and the more spiritual knowledge and understanding God can reveal to you. See Isa.66:1-2.
STUDY FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
If you only study the Bible for information, very little understanding that is profitable for spiritual growth will be gained. However, your studies will become spiritually profitable if you study the Bible in order to do the following things:
- To understand the Father's plan for humanity
- To know the Father's will in your life
- To learn what the Father's expects of you
- To grow toward spiritual maturity
- To serve the Father and his children
- To understand how to fulfill your particular calling
If you study the Bible for these reasons, the Father will honor your request for him to reveal the mysteries of the Bible that will benefit you and others with whom you come into contact.
Prerequisites and Requirements
The Bible itself reveals the prerequisites and requirements that are necessary to be successful in its study. The following are some of the major things that you must do in order to acquire more knowledge and a deeper understanding of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and their awesome plan for humanity:
- Ask the Father for spiritual knowledge and understanding.
- Have a serious desire to understand the things of God and study with an open mind.
- Make what is learned a part of your life.
- Meditate on God's law in order to improve spiritual understanding.
- Remember and practice the things which are already understood to be the truth of God.
- Remove obstacles to learning by putting away improper attitudes and behavior.
- Study to grow spiritually, to serve others, and to fulfill your calling.
Remove Obstacles to Learning
The Apostle Peter lists some of the things that hamper spiritual growth which should be replaced with a desire to understand God's truth and way of truth:
"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1.Pet.2:1-2 Para.).
In order to gain understanding into the more difficult things of God, you must be practicing the basic truths of God in your life:
"But whoever keeps his [God's] word, in him truly is the love of God perfected . . ." (1.Jn.2:5 KJV).
Meditate on God's Word
"Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law does he meditate day and night" (Psa.1:1-2 KJV). See also Psa.119:115-148; 1.Tim.4:12-16.
There are tremendous blessings for those who perform the will of God in their life. The person who is being blessed loves God and his law (i.e., God's way of life) and is constantly thinking about both.
Prove all Things
"Test all things; and hold fast that which is good" (1.Thes.5:21 Para.). See also Rom.12:2.
This statement is in the context of a person doing the Father's will in their life. Paul refers to the testing or examining of what you are doing in your life and comparing it against the righteous standards of behavior that the Father has established. Notice that Paul says to "Hold fast that which is good". You can only know what is good if you understand the word of God. Therefore, you must study the Bible in order to fulfill Paul's instruction.
The kind of true enduring belief that the Father desires for his children to have is based in the knowledge and understanding of him and his ways. The only place this kind of knowledge and understanding is available is in the Bible.
The Bible was written to be understood; it is not a book of theory, philosophy, or meaningless stories; it is a logical factual presentation of the things that God wants his children to know, understand, and practice.
PLAN FOR SUCCESS
An action plan containing goals for spiritual success is a valuable tool that can help you maintain focus on your goals to grow in the Father's truth and to perform your stewardship within his family. The following are some tips on how to develop a personal plan for spiritual success, some important subjects to make a part of your study plan, and some important attitudes and behaviors to cultivate as you learn and practice the Father's truth and way of truth:
- Write your plan in a binder or hard bound book in order to more easily store, access, review, and edit it.
- Make a list of topics categories, and sub-topics to study and things to accomplish, such as attitudes and behaviors that need to be cultivated and become a part of your character and unrighteous attitudes and behaviors that need to be discarded. The items in this list should be clearly defined and simply stated.
- Leave enough space under each item in your list or place each item on a separate piece of paper in order for you to keep your notes and comments close to each item.
- Prioritize your list and check off items as you complete them.
- Make your action plan a flexible tool that you can modify periodically to fit your needs.
- Review your plan often in order to check your progress and add or edit items to maintain focus on your goals.
THE STUDY PLAN
Regardless of how you structure your action plan for learning and understanding the Father's truth and will for your life, a high priority should be given to reading the entire Bible from cover to cover at least once.
There are many translations of the Bible and each has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. Some help clarify difficult scriptures and concepts, while others do the opposite--they introduce heretical teachings. Because there is no totally accurate translation of the original text, the admonition of Paul to Timothy becomes very important to those who are serious about building a strong spiritual foundation based upon the word of God:
"Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2.Tim.2:15).
No Original Text Available
When reading the Bible, it is important to remember that there are no original copies of the various writings which comprise the Bible available for use by Bible scholars or the general public. Therefore, it is impossible to confirm or deny what was originally written with physical evidence. What we have today are copies of the originals and translations of these copies.
The King James Version
The King James Authorized Version of the Old and the New Testaments, written in early modern English in 1611, was translated from the Masoretic text and the Received text. From the historical evidence and the continuity of truth that is revealed through both the Masoretic text and the Received text, it appears that both of these are reference works through which God is conveying his truth and his will today.
Because of the King James Versions' archaic language, it is helpful to have some modern translations along with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries in order to help clarify difficult passages. The New International Version and the Living Bible can sometimes be helpful in translating concepts that are difficult to understand because of the language of the King James version. You may also find it helpful to purchase a narrated version of the Bible to listen to while reading, while traveling, or while being unoccupied with other endeavors.
Many people take one scripture (sometimes out of context) and build an entire teaching around it. However, the Prophet Isaiah tells us that God's truth is scattered throughout his written word (Isa.28:9-13) and that these truths, concepts, and principles are built one on the other. Therefore, it seems logical that you must perform a search of the entire Bible in order to gain a thorough understanding of a subject. Personally, I have found that topical studies are the best way to understand the teachings contained in the Bible.
A short review of the first five books of the Bible clearly reveal that God is a God of law. The agreement with the twelve tribes of national Israel contains 613 to 759 plus statutes, judgements, and commandments, depending on who is doing the counting. The special agreement that the Sovereign Father has with his earthly family of king-priests also contains laws and instructions that govern their relationship with him, their relationship with brothers and sisters in his holy family, and with other people.
A study of the law with the goal of understanding both the letter and the spirit of the law will give insight into the minds of the Sovereign Father and our Savior, their character, attitude, and behavior. Moreover, these laws reveal how one who is attempting to live a holy lifestyle should think and behave.
Love Toward God
The first laws given to national Israel were the Ten Commandments. Matthew and Mark both record that Christ said the whole law was held together by just two commandments-- love for God and love for neighbor:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is similar to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets"(Matt 22:37- 40 KJV). See also MK.12:28-34.
If you truly have love and respect for your heavenly Father, you will want to please him with your life by following Jesus' example of a righteous life. The Father said of Christ at his baptism, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt.3:17).
The scriptures show us that love and respect for the Father are expressed through one's attitude and behavior toward him and obedience and respect for the law he has set in place to govern the lives of his children. Regarding his behavior toward the Father, Jesus said, "For I do always those things that please him" (Jn.8:29).
Concerning the expression of godly love, the apostle John said , "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (1.Jn.5:2-3).
All of God's law for mankind hinge on the two basic themes of love for God and love for neighbor, but there are many overlapping concepts and principles contained within this body of law which explain and expound upon these two basic themes.
ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS
The scriptures instruct the Father's children to subdue and keep in check their old nature which is in opposition to the holy nature imparted through the indwelling of the holy spirit. See Rom.6:6-12; Eph.4:21-24: Col.3:9-10.
The apostles Peter and Paul list a number of righteous attitudes and behaviors that need to be cultivated and become a part of your character and a number unrighteous attitudes and behaviors that need to be discarded. Many of these altitudes and behaviors are noted in the following scriptures and are worthy of careful study: 1.Pet.2:1; Rom.13:11-14; 1.Cor.13:11; Eph.4:21-32; Col.3:3-15.
Cultivate charity, forgiveness, honesty, humility, kindness, longsuffering, meekness, mercy, peace, tenderheartedness, and truthfulness.
Discard anger, bitterness, blasphemy, drunkenness, envy, evil desires, extortion, filthy speech, fornication, guile, hypocrisy, idolatry, inordinate affection, lying, malice, rioting, theft, uncleanness, and wrath.
Added to the list of attitudes and behaviors to be discarded are things that are clearly in opposition to a righteous lifestyle, such as some personal associations, habits, hobbies, as well as religious holidays, festivals, and celebrations that belong to this world's religions. See 1.Pet.1:15-16; Deut.12:30-32; Jer.10:1-15.
Rules of Conduct
Although, it is important to become conversant with all aspects of the Father's truth, there are some basic rules of conduct that apply within his family which need to be clearly understood and practiced if you are to grow spiritually and become a viable and beneficial member of his family. These rules of conduct and the philosophy behind them are set forth in the Bible as the standards of acceptable and unacceptable attitudes and behaviors for all members of the Father's family.
Each of these rules are clearly spelled out in many scriptures and should be among the first things you learn and make a part of your lifestyle as a member of the Father's earthly family. Without knowing and understanding these rules of conduct, it is virtually impossible to be a good steward of the functions and responsibilities that you have been called to perform. Moreover, these rules also reveal how to express love (i.e., an outgoing concern) for family members and produce peace and harmony within the family. The apostle John said the following about walking in truth (i.e., following the Father's rules for your life) and the rule to love one another within the family:
"I rejoiced greatly that I found of your children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. And now I beseech you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.. . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (2.Jn.4-6 KJV). See also Gal.5:13-14; 1.Pet.1:22, 2:17; Jms.2:8; 1.Jn.3:13-16, 4:20-21.
Although some of the rules of conduct are clearly intended to be applied to individuals occupying positions of service within the family or are gender specific, most apply in principle to all family members regardless of position of service or gender. The following are some of these rules of conduct with which each member should be conversant and practice as a part of their stewardship within the family:
- Attitude and behavior toward doctrinally deceptive individuals (1.Jn.2:4-11)
- Commandment keeping (1.Jn.5:1-3)
- Compassion (1.Pet.3:8; 1.Jn.3:17-18)
- Forbearance and forgiveness (Matt.5:23-24; Lk.17:3-4; Eph.4:32; Col.3:13)
- Honor/Respect/Value other people: (Eph.6:2; 1.Tim.5:3; 1.Pet.2:17, 3:7)
- Love for each family member (Rom.12:9-10; 1.Pet.4:7-8; 1.Jn.4:21)
- Patience (Eph:4:2)
- Reconciliation (Matt.5:21-24)
Be circumspect, be honorable, have self control, be incorruptible in the faith, be benevolent, and be consistent (Titus 2:2).
Be sound minded, be a model of virtuous works reflecting righteousness, have integrity, be dignified, and have speech that cannot be condemned (Titus 2:6-7).
Be circumspect, be honorable, have self control, be incorruptible in the faith, be benevolent, be consistent, have holy behavior, shun evil behavior, drink wine in moderation, and be a teacher of that which is righteous (Titus 2:3-4).
Servants (voluntary or indentured):
Be subordinate/obedient to your master, make an effort to please one's master, do not be argumentative, be an example of your Saviors instructions (Titus 2:9-10; Col.3:22).
Husband and Wife Relationships:
- Sexual relations (1.Cor.7:3-5)
- Unconverted spouse (1.Cor.7:12-16 )
- Submission, love, and honor (Eph.5:22-25; Col.3:18-19; 1.Pet.3:1-7)
- Divorce (Matt.5:32, 19:9; Lk.16:18)
Young Married Women:
Be discreet, be morally beyond reproach, be maternal, be affectionate and subordinate to one's husband, be modest in dress and appearance (Titus 2:4-5; 1.Pet.3:1-3).
- Do not attack another person's character (Titus 3:2).
- Avoid absurd questions about genealogies, as well as arguments and controversy about God's law (Titus 3:9).
- Shun profane babbling (2.Tim.2:16).
- Do not utter foul speech (Eph.4:29; 1.Pet.3:10).
The following scriptures contain a number of rules that apply to those who serve within the family in an official capacity. See 1.Cor.4:1-2; 1.Tim.3:1-11, 5:1-3; 2.Tim.2:24-25; 1.Pet.5:1-6; Titus 1:5-10.
The Judicial system for resolving personal and collective problems within the Father's earthly family is clearly set forth in Matthew, chapter 18 and should be studied and understood. In this chapter, Christ sets forth a step-by-step procedure that each member should follow in order to resolve problems within the collective church. The following is a short list of judicial rules of conduct and instructions concerning how to deal with specific situations within the Father's family:
- Accusation, rebuke, and sanction of an elder (1.Tim.5:19-21)
- Conflict resolution (1.Cor.6:1-9.)
- Rebuke and forgiveness (Lk.17:3-4; Matt.18:15, 18-22)
- Punishment (Matt.18:17; 1.Tim.5:20)
- How to treat a heretic after failure to heed two reprimands (Titus 3:10)
- Withdraw from the disorderly brethren (Rom.16:17-18; 1.Cor.5:9-11; 2.Thes.3:6, 14-15; 1.Tim.6:5 )
DUE DILIGENCE AS A STUDENT
As previously stated in this study, the simple truth is that no one can learn the Father's will for their life or become conversant with his laws, precepts, and principles by osmosis. Learning and practicing the Father's truth and way of truth takes time and effort.
If you are serious about being educated in the Father's truth and way of truth, it is your responsibility to do one or both of the following: 1) Seek out spiritual leaders whom you believe are teaching truth and study their teachings as they relate to biblical topics; 2) Design your own course of study without a spiritual leader or teacher.
Regardless of what method of study you choose to pursue, it is your responsibility as a student of truth to put forth a diligent effort to determine whether or not what is being taught or studied conforms to the Father's truth and way of truth as contained in the Bible. See 2.Tim.2:15-16; Phil.2:12-13; Heb.11:6.
There is a tremendous misconception during this age of the church that only the ministry and those in official positions of service to the collective church are stewards of the church. This misconception has for generations effectively neutralized the Father's family as a powerful and effective instrument of Christ to proclaim the Father's plan of salvation for humanity, to proclaim his soon coming kingdom to the world, and to prepare a people to rule the world with him after his return.
What is a steward and what is stewardship? Who are the stewards and what is the function of stewardship within the Sovereign Father's earthly family of king-priests?
The English word 'steward' as used in the New Testament is translated from the Greek words 'epitropos' and 'oikonomos' and their various derivatives. Depending on the context in which they are used, these words can mean the following:
- A commissioner
- A domestic manager or guardian
- The management of a household, lands, or an estate and its affairs, specifically, the administration, management, or oversight of another person's property.
- One who has the care and tutelage of children
- One to whose care or honor anything has been entrusted, an overseer, (i.e., an employee in that capacity). By extension, a fiscal agent, treasurer of household affairs; especially a manager or a superintendent.
Although there are many nuances to the meaning of stewardship and the aspects of stewardship within the Father's earthly family, the basic function of a steward and stewardship is to care for another person's affairs or possessions with which one has been entrusted.
The Father's children are his possessions, which he has given in trust to his first-born son to oversee while teaching his truth and way of truth to them and administering his work on earth through them. See Eph.1:15-23, 5:23; Col.1:16-18.
Under the stewardship of Christ, the Father has entrusted his children with stewardship over his truth and way of truth, which his children are to learn and practice to the best of their ability while administering their individual skills, talents, gifts of the spirit, and functions and responsibilities within his family as king-priests. See 1.Pet.4:1-11.
A steward within the Father's family is simply a student of his truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct for his earthly family. A steward in the Father's family is responsible for practicing and perfecting what is being learned in the context of fulfilling their personal functions and responsibilities within his family. See Eph.4:11-16.
Stewardship is the most difficult and the most rewarding phase of discipleship. Stewardship within the Father's earthly family of king-priests requires you to be proactive in administering your personal skills, talents, gifts of the spirit, and your functions and responsibilities within the Father's earthly family.
Stewardship is the process through which the Father's adopted children perfect a holy attitude, holy behavior, and holy character (1.Pet.1:13-16) while exercising his purpose for them through diligent and active participation in the affairs of his earthly family. See 2.Tim.4:16-17; Jms.3:13; 2.Pet.3:10-14.
Being a proactive steward requires you to make and carry out personal decisions predicated on your education in the Father's truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct for members of his earthly family of king-priests.
It is through voluntary active involvement in the affairs of the Father's earthly family as a steward of his truth, his way of truth, and the practice and enforcement of his rules of conduct within his family of king-priests, that you can truly grow spiritually and become a viable, productive, and beneficial member within his family.
Each member of the Father's earthly family is bought and paid for with the blood of Christ. Therefore, each member is obliged to be a trustworthy steward of their own mind and body, because they belong to the Father by right of purchase:
"What? Don't you know that your body is the temple of the holy spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore honor God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1.Cor.6:19-20 Para.).
"For one that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also one that is called, being free, is Christ's slave. You are bought with a price; do not be the slaves of men" (1.Cor.7:22-23 Para.)
Stewardship within the Sovereign Father's earthly family begins the instant you receive the indwelling of the holy spirit. From this point forward the things that come under your stewardship continue to increase as your spiritual knowledge, understanding, and gifts of the spirit are increased. Likewise, the things that you are responsible to increase in value for the Father also increase in number.
The simple fact is that everyone who is adopted into the Father's family of earthly king-priests is a steward within his family.
All who are called to participate in the first resurrection are expected to perform certain tasks and fulfill certain responsibilities for God while living in the flesh. However, few realize this important fact and therefore most are ill prepared for their role as a steward within the Father's family. This situation exists because of a lack of education in the Father's truth, his way of truth, and a steward's functions and responsibilities within his family.
PROFITABLE AND UNPROFITABLE STEWARDS
In the parable about the events that will precede his return, Jesus explains the need for each steward in the Father's earthly family to be actively working to increase the value of what has been entrusted to them.
It is no accident that Matthew records the parable of the unprofitable servant after the parable of the Ten Virgins, which tells us that we should always be prepared to meet Christ at his coming.
"It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. . ." (vs.14-15 NIV).
When Jesus returns, each steward within the Father's earthly family must give an account of what they have done with that which has been placed in their trust (2.Cor.5:10). The faithful stewards are the ones who increase the value of what was placed with them to increase. These individuals receive a reward that is representative of their efforts (vs.20-23). However, some individuals will not try to increase what is entrusted to them:
"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master', he said, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you" (vs.24-25 NIV).
Notice what happens to the person who does nothing with the opportunities that come their way and the spiritual blessings and gifts that are given to them to increase in value:
"His master replied, You wicked, lazy servant! You knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed [i.e.,You understood what I was doing and yet you did nothing]. You should have at least put my money in the hands of an investor, then I would have received my money back with some interest added to it . . .. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents . . .. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (vs.26, 28-30 NIV Para.).
There are many important lessons that can be learned from what is said to this unprofitable individual:
- When the Father calls a person to salvation, that person has enough personal attributes to be spiritually successful and secure salvation with the help of the holy spirit dwelling in them; otherwise, that person would not have been called.
- At the proper time, each person is given additional attributes according to their potential to produce value for the Father. See Rom.12:3-8;1.Cor.12:8-10, 28-30; Eph.4:11-16.
- Although, each individual may have different opportunities, attributes, skills, talents, and spiritual gifts to work with, each person is required to add to the value of what they have.
- The parable clearly shows that, if a person feels inadequate or is unable because of some valid reason to do an individual work by themselves, he or she should find a way to place their skills, talents, or spiritual gifts under the direction of someone who is more able to use them to produce a positive result for the Master.
- The parable infers that, if a person will make an effort to accomplish something of worth for the Master, they will receive a reward for that effort.
- Unprofitable individuals will not be punished because of a feeling of inadequacy or because of being unable to increase that which they were to increase; the punishment is the result of doing nothing.
- The reward that the unprofitable person should have received for being a faithful steward will be given to those individuals who seize opportunity and are willing to extend themselves and make an effort to increase that which they were given to increase.
While reprimanding the Corinthians for their cliquish attitude and behavior, the apostle Paul speaks to a person's personal work as a member of the Father's family. Paul explains that your work will be tested for its worth. If the work does not endure the test of fire, there will be no reward for the effort. But if the work endures (i.e., has benefit to the Father), there will be a reward. Regardless of the worth of your work, you will still gain immortal life; if you do indeed put forth an effort to do a work for the Father. See 1.Cor.3:1-15.
When Paul's reprimand is viewed along with the parable of the talents (Matt.25:14-30), it becomes crystal clear that each member of the Father's family is expected to put forth an effort to do something beneficial for him.
Clearly, each member of the Father's family must increase their personal worth for the benefit of the Father, and each member must help to increase the overall value of the entire family through fulfilling their functions and responsibilities within his family.
You are to accomplish something of value for the Father to claim as his own. If you do nothing with what is given to you, you are considered unprofitable and will not be granted immortality. See Matt.25:14-30; Lk.19:12-27; 2.Cor.5:10; Rev.22:12.
THE FAITHFUL AND UNFAITHFUL STEWARDS
Many of the parables that Jesus spoke are clearly set in the context of stewardship in the Father's family at the end of the age. These parables consistently show rewards for faithful and consistent performance of one's calling and punishment for failure to perform the Father's will in one's life. The context of the parable of the faithful and unfaithful steward in Luke 12:42-48 is no different and leaves no doubt as to the outcome of these two opposite attitudes and behaviors:
Jesus says, "Who is that faithful and wise steward whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household?. . . Blessed is that servant who his Lord [Jesus Christ] when he comes shall find so doing. The Lord shall make him ruler over all he has" (Lk.12:42-44 Para.).
Here, Jesus gives the keys to understanding what is required in order to be a faithful and wise steward who is blessed at his coming. These keys that will help to secure your place in the first resurrection are faithfulness, wisdom, and perseverance in your walk with God.
"But if the servant [the elect] says in his heart, the Lord delays his coming [which all ten of the virgins did] and they begin to beat their fellow servants, and they eat and drink and get drunk. The Lord will come in the day when he is not looking for him, . . . and the Lord will cut him apart and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers" (Lk.12:45-46 Para.).
If you become lazy in your calling; neglect your responsibility to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Father and the Son; neglect diligently to carry out your functions and responsibilities as a steward of the things the Father has entrusted to you; or become abusive to others within the Father's family you are in serious danger of losing your salvation.
These types of attitudes and behaviors occurred during the first age of the church and can easily be found within the Father's earthly family during this age. Being cut apart and being seen as an unbeliever alludes to the punishment of the second death from which there is no return.
"That servant who knew his lord's will, and did not prepare, neither did his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But if he did not know [i.e., was ignorant], and did things worthy of stripes he shall be beaten with few. For to whom much is given much is required. . ." (Lk.12:47-48 Para.).
The context of verses 47 and 48 concerns the difference between knowing and not knowing what your responsibilities are before God the Father and Jesus Christ. If you know the Father's will and know what is expected of you, but do not faithfully do it, you will be severely punished by Jesus Christ.
A person who is ignorant of what is required, will receive a lighter punishment, but not because he or she is guiltless, but because he or she is not guilty of blatant and willful rebellion. Instead, that person is guilty of being lazy and faithless in pursuit of the Father's will in their life. See also Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.
The point in verses 47 and 48 is that the more you know about the Father's will for your life, the greater the opportunity to grow spiritually, the greater the opportunity to serve the Father and his family, and the greater the requirement to do what you know is his will in a thoughtful and diligent manner. Whether you have a great or a small amount of skill, talent, spiritual gifts, or spiritual knowledge and understanding, you are expected to diligently seek and perform the Father's will in your life.
The following observations by William Barclay concisely state the necessity for those who believe they are followers of the God of the Bible to diligently seek and perform the Father's will in their life.
In The Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of Mark, Barclay says, "No man can tell the day or hour when eternity will invade time and the summons will come. We would like him to find us with our work completed. If we really know what Christianity means we will know that there is no part of life when the master is away. We are working and living forever in our great task master's eyes. There is nothing so fatal as to feel that we have plenty of time" (pp.167-168).
In The Daily Study Bible Series, Gospel of Matthew Volume II, Barclay observes, ''The parable has two universal meanings, it warns us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. It is far too late for a student to be preparing when the day of the examination is come. It is too late for a man to acquire a skill or character if he does not already possess it. It warns us there are certain things which cannot be borrowed. A man cannot borrow a relationship with God, he must possess it for himself. We cannot always be living on a spiritual capital which others have amassed" (pp. 320-321).
THE PARABLE OF THE SEEDS
Jesus spoke the parable of the sown seeds to a large crowd and ended it with this warning: "who has ears let him hear" (Matt.13:4-9). This means that those who understand must pay attention.
Who are those who have ears to hear in this age? Those who have ears to hear are those who have the holy spirit dwelling in them. These are the ones who have the ability to understand the things of the spirit. See 1.Cor.2:9-16; Jn.14:26,16:12-13.
The parable of the seeds can be summarized as follows:
Within the Father's earthly family, there are three basic categories of people:
- Those who Go Backwards: These individuals endure for a while, but allow the things of the world to become more important than the pursuit of righteousness and revert to their former lifestyle.
- Those who Stand still: These individuals stand still spiritually because they are spiritually lazy, lethargic, and lukewarm. These have little or no desire to grow in grace and knowledge or actively fulfill the functions and responsibilities to which they were called to perform.
- Those who Go forward: These individuals understand that they are expected to do the Father's will in their life and use the physical and spiritual gifts that he gives them to produce something of value for him. These individuals are willing, dedicated, teachable, and responsible students of truth and the way of truth, they grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Father and his Son, and are a reflection of the Father's influence in their life. These are spiritually successful stewards who are doing the Father's will in their life.
A DANGEROUS ATTITUDE
Of all the seven groupings of the Father's earthly children directly spoken to by Jesus Christ, those having the Laodicean attitude are the most pointedly reprimanded and condemned by him:
"To the angel [messenger] of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things says the Amen [Jesus Christ], the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I wished that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth" (Rev.3:14-16 Para.).
These are stewards in the Father's family who are neither faithful nor unbelieving; rather, they are completely indifferent. Their indifference and lack of commitment to the truth and the way of truth is sickening to Jesus. These individuals are so self-satisfied that they think everything is fine and that they are doing great works. They view themselves as the recipients of great spiritual understanding, but they have practically none.
Jesus Says to those of the Laodicean attitude:
"Because you say, 'I am rich; and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold having been refined in the fire by me, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, and your shame and nakedness may not be revealed. And anoint your eyes with eye-salve, that you may see" (Rev.3:17-18 Para.).
Here, we see a people who are so apathetic and lazy because of their perceived knowledge and spirituality that they are in danger of being cast away from God. They are self-deceived into thinking that they are spiritually rich; however, they are spiritually poor. Christ is giving them their last opportunity to repent and become zealous for God. If these people will hear and heed what he is saying, he will again establish fellowship with them. If not, they will be cast into the Lake of Fire with the unrepentant wicked. These individuals are clearly in danger of falling into the category of the unprofitable steward noted in Matthew, chapter 25, verses 24-30.
Their indifference has left them self-deluded and they do not realize they are spiritually poor, miserable, wretched, blind, and naked. Those who lead such a people and do not repent themselves are in deep trouble. These individuals have no real commitment to spiritual growth and they feel secure as long as they associate with a particular group of people. This kind of attitude leads to indifference and complacency, which will result in intense trials in the hope of awaking them to their need of genuine repentance and the performance of their commitment to the Father:
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous then, and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock; If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in to him, and I will dine with him and he with me" (Rev.3:19-20 Para.).
The kind of rebuke that Jesus speaks of here is a severe rebuke that compels a person to see the error of their ways. Christ is showing, in an extremely strong way that some of the elect who are in this decadent condition can expect extremely severe trials that come directly from him.
He says he is at the door knocking (Rev.3:19-20), hoping these wayward children will let him back into their hearts and minds. But he will not force his way into their lives. These individuals have to make a decision to repent of their nauseating quality of being spiritually lukewarm, self-satisfied, complacent, and in need of nothing.
FAILURE TO BE RESPONSIBLE
The writer to the Hebrews gave the following reprimand to those of the Father's family who should have graduated past the beginning phases of their spiritual education and into the more advanced student-teacher function and responsibility:
"By this time you ought to be teaching others, however, you need someone to again teach you the things which are the first principles of the words of God. You have become as infants in need of milk, and not of solid food. Everyone who drinks only milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness and is an infant. Solid food is for those who have matured through having their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb.5:12-14 Para.).
The English word 'ought' is translated from the Greek word 'opheilo', which is a word that conveys the idea of accruing or to owe. Figuratively, it means to be under an obligation. Whoever these Hebrews were, they were not fulfilling one of the reasons for their being called to salvation during that age.
These individuals could not understand anything further about the Father, Christ, the truth, and way of truth. Because these individuals were lazy in their pursuit of spiritual knowledge, they were going backward instead of forward in their spiritual understanding. They were losing sight of the Father's vision and goal for their lives as well as the rest of humanity.
Why were they not fulfilling this responsibility? There are only two logical answers to this question. These individuals were either not mentally capable of instructing others in the Father's truth and way of truth or they were too lazy to spend the time and effort that is necessary to become well versed in the Father's truth and way of truth. Because the scriptures tell us that the Father has given the spirit of a sound mind (i.e., a mind capable of discipline and self-control) to those who are his and has given the holy spirit to lead one into truth, it must have been that they were simply lazy 2.Tim.1:7; Jn.16:13.
The English word 'teach' in verse 12 is translated from the Greek word 'didaskalos', which means 'an instructor' and is used in a number of scriptures in reference to the apostles and those who taught among the elect. See 1.Cor.12:28; 1.Tim. 2:7; 2.Tim.1:11, 4:3.
Here, we have individuals who are in spiritual jeopardy because they have not advanced past the first learning phase of their spiritual walk and have allowed the things they did learn to slip away.
The importance of teaching is self-evident. Without being instructed in the Father's truth, way of truth, and his rules of conduct for his earthly family, no progress can be made toward the goal of spiritual perfection and the Father's truth and way of truth cannot be represented correctly.
The function of teaching within the church carries with it the responsibility to make sure that what one teaches is truth, because if what one teaches is not correct or not thoroughly explained, it has the potential to adversely affect a person's life and spiritual growth. This is why the apostle James said, "My brothers, Not many of you should be teachers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more severely" (Jms.3:1 Para.).
It should be obvious that new students of truth are not equipped to teach what they do not yet fully know or understand. However, a more advanced student who is conversant with the foundational elements of the truth and the way of truth should be able to explain basic concepts and principles to others. This type of knowledge falls well within what the apostle Peter said about sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts and always being ready to explain the reason that we have a hope of salvation (See 1.Pet.3:15-17).
Three things are necessary in order to fulfill the teaching function:
- A teacher must know and understand the subject that is to be taught.
- A teacher must be able to present the subject to be taught in an understandable fashion.
- A teacher must have students who are willing to be taught.
Before a person can assume the function of teaching within the Father's family, that person must clearly know and understand what is to be taught. The understanding of what to teach comes through the process of learning and experiencing the truth and the way of truth and growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Father and his Son our Savior. As a person grows in knowledge and understanding, they will naturally be able to explain what they know to another person.
The reprimand by the writer to the Hebrews can easily apply to other functions and responsibilities that are to be performed within the Father's earthly family. Many other functions and responsibilities also require a depth of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in the Father's truth and way of truth before a person can adequately fulfill them. Therefore, being a willing, diligent, and teachable student of truth is a prerequisite to fulfilling your functions and responsibilities. You cannot do what you are not equipped to do!
Not a Novice
The apostle Paul told Timothy that there are many prerequisites that must first be in place before a person who desires to serve his brothers and sisters in the faith as a bishop (an overseer) or a deacon (one who minister to others) can take on these responsibilities. Moreover, Paul forbids a person who is just beginning to learn the truth and way of truth to fulfill such positions. See.1.Tim.3:1-13.
Although it is neither necessary nor possible for everyone to fulfill every function and responsibility within the Father's family, there comes a time when you should be able to make the transition from a novice to a mature steward in order to adequately fulfill your functions and responsibilities within the family.
The goal of each student of truth should be to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Father and our Savior in order to more effectively carry out their particular functions and responsibilities within the family. This type of growth is only possible through yielding to the Father's will for one's life and through diligent prayerful study and meditation in his laws, precepts, and principles and the fulfilling of one's current functions and responsibilities in his earthly family to the best of one's ability.
FAITH, WORKS, AND STEWARDSHIP
The scriptures clearly reveal that there are two kinds of faith: faith that is belief and faith that is power. Both types of faith have a positive result within a person's life and within the Father's family to the furtherance of his purpose for his family and the work he has given it to do.
In order to successfully exercise faith that is true belief, there are two actions that must be taken:
- You must truly believe in the promises of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
- You must exercise this belief by doing what you know to be the Father's will in your life.
Although the Father and Christ are extremely concerned about our well-being and have great pleasure in fulfilling their promise to help us in our efforts toward spiritual maturity and perfection, they expect us to exercise faith and works as a part of our stewardship functions and responsibilities within the family.
Notice what the apostle James was inspired to record about the subject of faith and works:
James 2:14-17 LBP
"Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone? If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, and you say to him, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty," and then don't give him clothes or food, what good does that do? So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. You must also do good to prove that you have it. Faith that doesn't show itself by good works is no faith at all--it is dead and useless" (vs.14-17). Please read and study the entire second chapter of James.
Notice that you will judged by what you do as well as what you believe. It is very important to understand what James is saying about works. James says it takes physical effort as well as the correct attitude to fulfill God's laws, precepts, and principles in your life.
It is not enough just to have faith that is belief, because belief without works is no belief at all; it is dead and useless. However, you should not try to prove your faith by doing works; true faith produces good works itself, because it is the fruit of God's spirit being manifested in your life.
True faith that is belief and righteous works come from an internal desire to do what is right and good, not from a desire to prove something to another person. True faith and good works are the natural result of yielding to the influence of the holy spirit, being a dedicated and responsible student of the Father's truth and way of truth, and being a good steward of the functions and responsibilities that he has assigned you as a member of his earthly family.
A Doer of the Word
Stewardship has to do with being proactive in administering your personal skills, talents, gifts of the spirit and your functions and responsibilities within the Father's earthly family. This is why the apostle James emphasized the need for faith together with works:
"But you be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone hears the word, and does not do it, he is like to a man looking at his face in a mirror. Because he looks at himself and departs, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues in it , he is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed because of his work" (Jms.1:22-25 Para.).
This analogy pictures the following two categories of the elect:
- The person who truly understands their calling and what is required of them but does nothing about it soon forgets the awesome opportunity and responsibility as member of the Father's family of king-priests.
- The person who truly understands their awesome calling and what is required of them, and do what they know they should be doing in order to be blessed for their effort.
Your attitude toward your calling determines which of these two categories you are in. In James' analogy, self-deception seems to be the result of truly understanding the Father's will for one's life, but believing that it is not necessary to practice his will.
In order to avoid being self-deceived, you must truly know the Father's will and diligently practice what you know to be his will for your life.
It is important to understand that James sets this instructional analogy within the context of an active pursuit of a righteous lifestyle and the various attitudes, behaviors, trials, temptations, problems, and situations that commonly occur as you work out your salvation.
While speaking to those at Rome about the law (in the context of all that is set forth as a way of life for those who truly believe and follow the teachings of the Sovereign God), the apostle Paul states a principle that will help you bring the Father's vision and goal for your life and salvation into focus:
"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom.2:13 KJV).
Many people hear the law (i.e., the truth and the way of truth), but just hearing does not translate into a positive result in a person's life. Paul explains that a person is justified (made righteous) by what one does as well as what one believes. It is the application of truth that brings a positive result in one's life.
Learning the Father's truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct for his earthly family is meaningless unless what is learned is put into practice in such a way that it furthers the Sovereign Father's purpose for one's calling and one's existence as a member of his family.
The failure of the majority of the Father's children to diligently apply his truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct for his earthly family as a function of their stewardship is a root cause of the doctrinal chaos and the lack of unity within his family during this age.
Rules of Conduct
Once the rules of conduct that govern the Father's earthly family are taught, learned, and diligently practiced, internal problems within the family can be easily managed. The following are some of the beneficial results of teaching, learning, and diligently practicing these rules of conduct:
- Expose an errant member's attitudes and behaviors regardless of their function or responsibility within the family. See Gal.2:11-21; 2.Tim.3:1-9; 2.Thes.3:6-12; Titus 3:9-11; 2.Jn.6-11
- Provide quick and just resolution to attitudinal and behavioral problems. See Matt.8:15-17; 1.Cor.5:11-13; Rom.16:17; 1.Tim.6:1-5.
- Maintain peace and harmony within the family. See Matt.5:21-24; Acts 15:1-41; Rom.12:9-10, 14:27-21; Eph.4:1-3; Col.3:12-15; 1.Jn.5:14-17.
UNITY OF PURPOSE
It is clear that the Father's holy nation and family of king-priests on earth was originally conceived and established to function as a team effort to accomplish its task. Those called to be students and stewards within his holy nation and family are intended to be loving and caring individuals who, while proclaiming his good news message, are to exhibit the holy lifestyle taught to them as an example to the world.
During this age, there is no central authority on earth governing the Sovereign Father's family of king-priests scattered throughout the nations, and there is no central authority clearly and concisely teaching the Father's truth and way of truth to his scattered children. However, his family and nation does exist.
The task given to his family to proclaim his message and educate his newly adopted children has not changed. The requirements for living a righteous lifestyle and being a willing, dedicated, responsible, and teachable student of truth and the way of truth has not changed. Moreover, the requirement to be a faithful and profitable steward of the functions and responsibilities with which one is entrusted has not changed. So what has changed?
The only thing that has changed is the perception of what it means to be a dedicated, diligent, teachable student of truth and a profitable steward in the Father's earthly family of king-priests.
Paul explained to the Corinthians that all members of the Father's earthly family have an important function and responsibility within the family and are vital to its success.
Distribution of Power and a Unified Body
"Now God gives many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same holy spirit which is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. The spirit displays God's power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church" (vs.4-7 LPB).
Paul says that different authorizations, gifts, and powers are given for the benefit of the entire family:
"For to one is given by the spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same spirit; To another faith by the same spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of languages; To another the interpretation of languages" (vs.8-10 KJV).
There are two very important things to learn about spiritual authorizations and powers from these three verses:
- Not everyone is given the same authorization or power.
- It is one spirit through which these authorizations and powers flow.
Distribution of Power
The distribution of spiritual gifts within the family is for the purpose of unifying the body into a single powerful and effective force in order to accomplish the Father's goals for its existence:
"But the one and same spirit works all these things, distributing separately to each as he wills. For as the body is one, and has many members, But all the members of the one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For also we all were baptized by one spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, even all were given to drink into one spirit" (vs.11-13 Para.).
What seems to escape many of the Father's children during this age is that the Father's family is a single entity within which each individual member has stewardship over important functions and responsibilities that must be performed for the benefit of the entire family and its collective work.
A Unified Body
"For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, because I am not the hand, I am not a part of the body. Is this true? And if the ear says, because I am not the eye, I am not a part of the body. Is this true? If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole were an ear, How could it smell? But God has set each and every member in the body as it has pleased him"
If the body was only one part, how could it be a body? But, the body is made up of many differing parts, yet, it is one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, I do not need you, nor the head to the feet, I do not need you. . ." (vs.14-21 Para.).
If each member of the Father's family is necessary for it to function properly and perform its collective responsibility, why is it not functioning as a unified entity during this age?
The answer to this question is simple. The family as a whole is dysfunctional in this age, because few of its members know and understand what it means to be a student of the truth and the way of truth and a steward of their individual and collective functions and responsibilities. Moreover, most of those who do know and understand these things are not practicing them or fulfilling their personal and collective functions and responsibilities in a diligent and expeditious manner. See Revelation, chapters 2 and 3--"he that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the called ones."
Paul completes his reprimand and instruction to the Corinthians with the following facts and an appeal for them to put aside their pettiness concerning who has the greater gift, who holds the greater position of honor, and who is the more important member of the family:
"The parts of the body, which seem to be weak and less important and are extremely necessary. And those parts of the body, which we feel less worthwhile we pay more attention; therefore, these parts become more important in relation to the other parts of the body. Moreover, the other parts need less attention. Therefore, God has assembled the body, so that the seeming less important parts will receive greater attention in order to eliminate division in the body and so that each member receives the same care. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member receives honor, all the members rejoice with that member. Now you are the body of Christ as individual members" (vs.22-27).
For a great work to be accomplished during this age, individuals who are dedicated, responsible, and teachable students and stewards of the truth and way of truth having unity of thought and purpose must come together. The apostle Paul has this advice to the church regarding unity of purpose and spirit:
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited" (Rom.12:16 NIV).
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1.Cor.1:10 KJV). See also Eph.4:1-13; 1.Pet.4:1-2.
Although Paul spoke to the Corinthians specifically concerning the stewardship of the ministry, his instruction clearly applies to all members in the Father's family, because all have stewardship over their particular functions and responsibilities within his family.
"Let a man so account of us, as of the servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" 1.Cor.4:1-2 KJV.
JUDGEMENT AND REWARDS
The Father promises immortal life to all who live a righteous lifestyle during this age; however, the authority, the office, and the glory that you will receive in the Father's heavenly family and kingdom are predicated on how you carry out your stewardship of your skills, talents, gifts of the spirit, and functions and responsibilities with which you are entrusted. See Dan.12:3; Matt.25:14-30; 2.Cor.9:6-10.
Because judgement and rewards are predicated on what you do with your skills, talents, gifts of the spirit, and the functions and responsibilities with which you are entrusted. It is extremely important for you to seek to know what these are, and then diligently use them to the best of your ability for the benefit of the Father, his family, and your spiritual growth.
The following scriptures reinforce the fact that each person who has been made a part of the Father's holy nation and royal family on earth is required to do works:
"For we all must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what we did, whether good or bad" (2.Cor.5:10 Para.).
Make no mistake. There will be a judgement of the elect of God and all of humanity.
For the faithful elect, this judgement will be at the first resurrection because of a life filled with learning the Father's truth and way of truth, practicing this truth, and being a profitable trustworthy steward in his family. See Matt.25:32-40.
For the rebellious unprofitable steward within the Father's family, there will be the resurrection to death from which there is no return because of a life filled with evil works or a life of no works at all as noted in Matthew 25:14-30. See also Matt.25:41-46; Lk.19:12-27.
Because Jesus is head of the church and the administrator of the Father's kingdom, he will judge the quality of each person's works for the Father:
"But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you despise your brother? For all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it has been written, I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue confess to God. So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God" (Rom.14:10-12 KJV Para.). See also 2.Cor.5:10.
Each of the Father's children must give an account of their life and the works that they have or have not done.
For those who have been given the opportunity to participate in the first resurrection, the rewards that can be received for diligent service to the Father and Jesus Christ are awesome and far above any offered to those who come after them. See 1.Cor.2:9; Jms.2:5; Heb.11:35.
The apostles John and Paul recorded the following concerning attitudes, behaviors, and rewards for spiritual work during this age of salvation:
"And he said to me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev.22:10-12 KJV). See also Rom.2:7; Matt.19:16-17; Lk.10:25-27; 18:18-20.
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1.Cor.15:52-58 KJV). See also Heb.6:10.
A Student and Steward of Truth
Being a student and steward of the Father's truth and way of truth is not an optional commitment within the Father's earthly family and holy nation; being a student and steward is mandatory.
When you become a part of the Father's earthly family, you automatically become a student and steward of truth and are to participate in a lifelong process of learning, practicing, and perfecting the concepts and principles of this truth under the tutelage of Christ and through the teaching and guidance of the holy spirit dwelling within you.
Moreover, as you begin to mature spiritually, you must begin to assume the functions and responsibilities that you have been called to perform as a member of the Father's family. It is at this point that the educational process and the practice of being a profitable steward within the Father's family has mostly broken down during this age of the church.
Since the demise of the early church, the teachings of Christ and the apostles concerning stewardship have been watered down and have given way to many of the teachings of counterfeit Christianity. Because of this, most of the spiritual leaders among the elect have assumed many of the functions and responsibilities that clearly belong to each individual member of the Father's family. The removal of these functions and responsibilities from their rightful owners has robbed many family members not only of opportunities to grow spiritually but also of potential opportunities to serve the Father, their fellow king-priests, and of the potential rewards for this service.
For most of the Father's family, the lack of understanding true discipleship and the lack of performance of true stewardship has existed for many centuries. Although the solution to this problem is simple, few are willing to implement it for various reasons that are in opposition to the letter and spirit of the Father's truth and way of truth. The reality is that, the solution will not be implemented throughout the Father's entire Family; however, it can be implemented and exercised on a personal level in the minds, hearts, and actions of those who truly understand their responsibility to be a willing and dedicated student and steward of the Father's truth and way of truth.
Because your performance as a steward within the Father's family will determine your eternal destiny, it is important to again state the following:
- The basic function of a steward is to care for another person's affairs or possessions with which the steward is entrusted.
- Under the stewardship of Christ, the Father has entrusted his children with stewardship over his truth and way of truth, which they are to learn and practice to the best of their ability while administering their individual skills, talents, gifts of the spirit, and functions and responsibilities within his family as king-priests. See 1.Pet.4:1-11.
- A steward within the Father's family is a student of the Father's truth, his way of truth, and his rules of conduct for his earthly family and is responsible for practicing and perfecting what is being learned. See Eph.4:11-16.
Functions and Responsibilities
There are clearly functions and responsibilities of stewardship that belong to those in official positions of service within the Father's family, such as the ministry, teachers, prophets, and individuals assigned to assist widows. However, these individuals are not the only ones within the Father's family who are obligated to be stewards. Stewardship is a function and a responsibility assigned to each member of the Father's family. This is noted in many of Christ's parables and the teachings of the apostles.
The question is not whether or not all members in the Father's family of earthly king-priest are stewards, because all members are stewards. The question is what are the specific functions and responsibilities of a steward within the Father's family? In order to answer this question a person must diligently search and study the scriptures to know and understand these functions and responsibilities and their application within the family.
Clearly in order to perform certain stewardship functions and responsibilities, a person must be an active participant in a local congregation of the elect. However, the performance of many functions and responsibilities of stewardship within the Father's family do not require being a member of a local congregation.
The following is a short list of some of the many stewardship functions and responsibilities that apply to each member within the Father's earthly family of king-priests:
- Administration of your natural skills, talents, and spiritual gifts (Eph.4:1-16; 1.Cor.14:12)
- Function as an active team member within the Father's family (Eph.4:16)
- Love for each family member (Rom.12:9-10; 1.Pet.1:22, 4:7-8; 1.Jn.4:21)
- Understand your opportunity of salvation (2.Cor.5:9-10; Phil.2:12)
- Be a righteous example to the ungodly (Matt.5:14-16; Eph.5:8; 2.Pet.1:19)
- Be responsible for your discipleship (2.Tim.2:15; Titus 3:14; Rom.14:11-12)
- Be responsible for your spirit and spiritual growth (2.Tim.2:15; 1.Pet.3:18)
- Work out your salvation (Phil.2:12; 1.Thes.5:21)
- Take responsibility for the conduct and teaching of your children (1.Tim.3:4,12; Prov.22:6)
- Serve family members (Gal.5:13-14)
- Practice God's law (1.Jn.2:4; 3:24, 5:3)
- Preserve knowledge and understanding of the truth (Heb.4:14, 10:23; Rev.2:25, 3:3)
- Submit to authority (1.Pet.3:1; Heb.13:17; Titus 3:1)
- Share and be hospitable (Rom.12:13; 1.Pet.4:9)
- Visit the sick and remain pure (Jms.1:27)
It is obvious from the many problems within the various congregations of the Father's family that few see the benefit or the urgency in handling ministerial, interpersonal, or collective problems in accordance with the Judicial system set forth by Christ and the apostles. However, problem resolution is an important function and responsibility of each member of the Father's family.
The cure for problems within the Father's family is amazingly simple--the cure is adhering to the Father's rules of conduct for his family members. However, few are willing to implement the cure because of peer pressure, a misguided sense of loyalty or duty, or the fear of loss of friends, fellowship, or position in the church. All of these are the wrong reasons for not carrying out one's stewardship concerning problem solving within the Father's family.
Rebuke, conflict resolution, or punishment of an errant Family member are mostly unpleasant experiences; nonetheless, these are functions and responsibilities of each steward in the Father's family. When problem resolution is administered correctly, it yields the fruit of righteousness.
Priestly Functions Within the Father's Family
- Help resolve personal problems (Gal.6:1-2)
- Intercede to the Father on behalf of all family members (Eph.6:18; Jms.5:16)
- Intercede to the Father on behalf of an errant family member (1.Jn.5:14-17; Jms.5:16)
- Reprimand and forgive (Lk.17:3-4)
- Practice the sacrifice of ministerial support (Phil.4:16-18)
- Practice the sacrifice of praise (Heb.13:15-16)
- Serve and sacrifice (Rom.12:1-2)
DUE DILIGENCE AS A STEWARD
Your basic responsibility as a steward is to manage everything that the Father has given into your care, whether physical possessions, skills, personal skills, talents, and gifts of the spirit, or a position of service within his family.
Each steward is required to use what they have been given in order to increase their personal worth to the Father and accomplish something of value for him to claim as his own when they give an account of their life's work. See Matt.25:14-30; 2.Cor.5:10.
A person who is serious about their salvation will make an effort to become educated in the various aspects of stewardship within the Father's family, and then actively perform the functions and responsibilities that apply to them to the best of their ability.
Although discipleship and stewardship are different in execution, one is dependent on the other because neither can fulfill the purpose for which it was designed without the other. Moreover, both discipleship and stewardship must be performed simultaneously in order for one to be a viable and productive member of the Father's family.
Discipleship is learning the Father's truth and way of truth and stewardship is practicing what one has learned. Discipleship and stewardship within the Fathers family is to be a cooperative effort, not a competition to see who can obtain the highest position of honor and prominence within the family. Discipleship and stewardship should be performed to help build the family into a more spiritually mature entity in order to perform the work for which it was established.
The importance of discipleship and stewardship goes to the very core of one's relationship with God the Father, his son our Savior, one's brothers and sisters in the faith, and the work of church. Clearly, if you are serious about your eternal destiny, you should pay careful attention to the many instructions concerning your discipleship and stewardship within the Father's family. The writer to the Hebrews said the following concerning the awesome opportunity offered to those called to salvation during this age:
"But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him [i.e., Christ] . . ." (Heb.1:13-14; 2:1-3 KJV).
The Decision Is Yours
The decision of whether or not to become a willing, dedicated, responsible, and teachable student of truth and a faithful steward of the skills, talents, gifts of the spirit, and functions and responsibilities with which you have been entrusted belongs to you alone.
You must decide what to do with the awesome opportunity to become an immortal spirit-being within the Father's family and kingdom, because our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will not decide for you. Each individual can either quit, stand still, or go forward in their relationship with the Sovereign Father and their Savior. This decision is ours alone. Whether we succeed or fail is entirely our responsibility. Our eternal destiny is totally in our control. Regarding each individuals responsibility to choose, the Creator God told ancient Israel in Deuteronomy 30:15-16:
"See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the Lord your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess."
The Creator God gave ancient Israel an opportunity of life or death, just as the Sovereign Father is giving the opportunity of life and death to those he calls to salvation during this age. This is why Paul said the following to the elect at Philippi:
"Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure" (Phil.2:12-13 KJV). See also 1.Cor.10:13; Gal.6:3-10.
The instruction to "work out your own salvation" means that you must manage your life in such a way that it conforms to God's laws, precepts, and principles. To do this, you must expend a sincere and diligent effort to learn the Father's truth and way of truth and diligently practice it within your life. Only when you sincerely seek to learn, understand, and live according to the Father's laws, precepts, and principles and respect, love, obey, and please him, can he work his will and purpose in your life.
Whether or not you are fortunate enough to have fellowship with other members of the Father's family, it is your responsibility to contribute to the success of his earthly family of king-priests through being educated in his truth and way of truth and being the best steward within his family that you can be.
The Father and his son, our Savior, have committed themselves and their tremendous resources to helping us succeed and obtain the goal of salvation. In order to succeed, all one has to do is put forth an honest effort. See Matt.6:25-34; Heb.13:5-6; Jn.14:12-14; Rom.14:11-12; Phil.2:12.
Because God the Father and Jesus Christ want us to succeed, they have given us a manual for success--the Bible. All we have to do is study that manual, take to heart what is recorded in it, and diligently apply what is learned in our life. If we do this, success is guaranteed.
By B.L. Cocherell a7w7