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God’s Work Done in God’s Way (1 Corinthians Sermon 67)

Series: 1 Corinthians

God’s Work Done in God’s Way (1 Corinthians Sermon 67)

January 31, 2021 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 16:5-12
Evangelism, Missions, Church Vision

sermon transcript

And just turn your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 16. We're looking this morning as, you just heard, verses 5 through 12. As I look at these verses, and I look at what the Apostle Paul shares, I'm led, in my mind, back into church history, to another missionary, a great missionary, Hudson Taylor. Hudson Taylor had a vision, a heart, for the inland regions of China, and he said very famously, "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply." He was a trailblazer in what was known as The Great Century of Missions, the 19th century, leading a missionary thrust into the inland regions of China. He had first landed in Shanghai in China on March 1st, 1854, and in his first missionary tour, he stayed, along with all the other missionaries there, in the port city of Shanghai and the other missionaries also were kind of hugging the coast at that point in the mid-19th century. And he realized that as he traveled around, there were vast inland regions. There were millions of Chinese that had never heard the Gospel, had no opportunity.

And he had a heart for this, and it was a vast undertaking. And he knew that he needed both people and money, those resources that have to be partnered or linked together, that God would raise up qualified individuals and then raise up the funds to support them. This is the very work of the IMB that the Manleys are relying on and that we partner with as you just heard. And he wrote a letter. As he thought about all of the people and then all of the money that would be needed to support them, he was led back to consider God's ways with the Israelites, and he wrote a letter to a friend, he said this, "Our Heavenly Father is a very experienced one." Isn't that a great statement? God is experienced. He knows very well that his children wake up with a good appetite every morning. He sustained 3 million Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years.

Now, we do not expect that he will send 3 million missionaries to China, but if he did, he would have ample means to sustain them all, depend on it. "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supplies," that's the context of that famous statement. Well, the Missionary Society that he founded, the China Inland Missions, was ultimately responsible for bringing more than 800 missionaries to China. They began 125 schools that directly resulted in 18,000 Chinese people making a profession of faith in Christ. 300 stations of work spread throughout all 18 provinces of China, 500 national workers working in those stations. Now, what did Hudson Taylor mean when he said, "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply"? What is God's work? And what is God's way to do that work? That's what's in front of us. Wisdom, the wisdom of God, is a matter of choosing not only the proper destination but the best way to get to that destination.

God's wisdom is meticulous. He knows where we're heading. He is a wise king, but he's also chosen the best way to get there. Now, the ultimate destination of human history is the glory of God, that God's great glory would be put on display in the wise, and loving, powerful, gracious way that he has in dealing with human beings. The greatest display of the glory of God is in the salvation of sinners, by the saving work of Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, and by His resurrection victory over death and the grave. And then by the proclamation of that simple Gospel message to save sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, that is God's work. That is what Paul calls here in this text, the Lord's work.

Look at verse 10. It says, "If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am." The work of the Lord, or the Lord's work, or perhaps we could say God's work. And so the Lord's work is the great commission. As he said at the end of Matthew 28, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

So that's evangelism, making disciples, and then discipleship. Training them up in all of God's ways into obedience, the obedience, comprehensive obedience, of the Gospel. The Bible makes it plain. But what is God's work done in God's way? Has God given us any indication how we are to go about doing that? Is the wisdom of God on display in the pages of scripture to tell us how we are to do this great work, how we are to live in such a way that the work we are doing will last for all eternity?

Now, this is a marvelous promise that He gives us at the end of 1 Corinthians 15. In that incredible verse, the great resurrection chapter, we saw in verse 58, it says, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to,” the Lord's work. God's work, “the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." Do you not see the goodness of God in all of that, that God has delivered us from wasting our lives on things that don't matter, that God actually can deliver you, even this week, from investing in things that will not last at all, that will disappear on judgment day, that God actually can enable you to do work that will not be in vain? So as we're studying this morning, we are going to study the words of the Apostle Paul to glean some aspects of his approach to God's work. What is God's work done in God's way?

This is just kind of a practical closing to this magnificent epistle. The last chapter has lots of different commands, lots of different details. And I wanna zero in and try to find how the Apostle Paul went about his work of church planting and of evangelism. I wanna give you another picture in your mind, it's in my mind now, even as I preach. And it was just a moment ago, as I was talking about not wasting our lives, not doing things that will prove to be in vain.

It goes back to earlier in 1 Corinthians 3, as you remember, in verses 10 through 13. There it says, "By the grace God gave me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it, but each one should be careful how he builds”, how he builds, “for no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is because the day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each one's work."

We don't wanna invest our lives in wood, hay, and straw, do we? We want our works to be proven by fire. To be proven to be gold, or silver, or costly stones. And commenting on this, John MacArthur says, a building must be constructed according to the architect's plans and required building codes. Before it can be used, it must pass inspection to see that the codes were followed. The church's work for the Lord must be done in the same way.

That was a big issue for us and ‘More than a building’. We had a lot of aspects of that old building, 1962 building, that had been grandfathered in, a lot of systems that were out of date. And once you start changing that, it's almost like you have to pay $1.5 million to do nothing. By the way, we found that that's hard to raise money for. "Hey church, we'd like to raise $1.5 million, and we're gonna do stuff in the building that you'll never see, and it won't make a difference at all on what we do, but it's gonna be well worth it. But it was just $1.5 million just to get everything up to code.

And what Pastor MacArthur is saying there is that the same thing happens spiritually, that we have a certain approach that we must take in building the church of Jesus Christ. And we're gonna see in these verses that we just read, vision, Paul's vision. We're gonna see flexibility. We're gonna see diligence, we're gonna see how he seized opportunity. We're gonna talk about suffering and teamwork. Six attributes of the Lord's work done in the Lord's way.

Let's begin with vision. Simply put, Paul had a vision of where he was going, there was a sense of intentionality, a sense of intelligence to his approach to life. He made plans, and he moved ahead with those plans. Look at verses 5 through 8, he says, "After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you. For I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you a while or even spend the winter so that you can help me on my journey wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit. I hope to spend some time with you if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost." So many plans, so much intentionality. You would never go to Paul and say, so what are you gonna do? He’s  like “I don't know, I'll just play it by ear, just kinda go wherever I feel like going.”  It's not that way. He was very purposeful and very intentional in what he was seeking to do, so it must be with the church as well, leaders must have a vision for the future, a plan for where we're going, what we're doing.

But more than a plan, it's not just something we make up on our own, a sense of the Lord's leadership in a certain area. This vision comes through prayer, it comes through reading scripture, and then an understanding of what is going on in our setting. So a sense of direction that comes from the Lord.

So Paul was always making these kinds of plans. His epistles are full of these kinds of plans. Look at Romans, you don't have to turn there but just listen. Romans 15: 24 and 25, he says, "I plan to come see you when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there after I have enjoyed your company for a while. Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem, in the service of the saints there." So I wanna come to Rome, I wanna go through Rome to Spain. I've got some plans for Spain, but before I get to you even, I wanna go to Jerusalem. He's got all these plans. He's going somewhere. So God uses people to think in great detail about the future. Saturating those thoughts in prayer. They ask the Lord, what would you have me do with today, what would you have me do with this week? What am I to do with my time, Lord? How can I best maximize the time I have and the gifts I have for the glory of God?

These are the kinds of plans that involve detailed knowledge about the place where we are planted. What's going on in our city and in our region, or even individual Christians, who are my co-workers? Who are my neighbors? What about my family? Who are the people in my life? And what plans, Lord, would you have me have for each of them? So because we're physical, we have felt needs, we have physical needs. You hear what JP was talking about, about meeting physical needs during the pandemic. There were older people that didn't have food distribution, it was an opportunity. We'll talk about opportunity later in a moment, but there was a sense of, okay, we've got actual circumstances. People have needs. How can we meet them? So God uses this kind of visionary leadership, people who either physically or maybe metaphorically, just spread the map of their city out, look around and say, "What do we have to work with? What can we do?" Visionary leadership.

So the application, I'm gonna be applying this all the way through. For you as a member of this church, FBC Durham, do you approach life this way? I mean, spiritually, in terms of ministry. Perhaps you do with your career, you've got a sense of where you're going, what your plans are, what your ambitions are for your career, okay. For your family, you've got idea of what you want to see happen with your kids, like to see them develop some abilities, I get it. You wanna see them musical, or athletic, or something like that. I understand, and we raise kids too, I know that you make those kind of plans, and that's good.

But what about ministry? What about the glory of God, the building of the church of Jesus Christ? What role are you planning on taking that lines up with your spiritual gifts in the building of an eternal kingdom? That's the question you have to ask. What do I wanna see happen in my life and my family spiritually in the year 2021? Alright, so vision.

Secondly, flexibility. So this runs a little bit opposite of what I just said. But I think we can put them together, flexibility. Look at verse 6, he says, "Perhaps I will stay with you a while or even spend the winter so that you can help me on my journey wherever I go." So when I see a word like perhaps, I find that interesting. I'm going to do X, perhaps. Again, verse 7, "I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit, I hope to spend some time with you if the Lord permits."

So simply put, you take that last point I just made, visionary leadership, and hold it loosely. You hold it loosely. So I'm arguing, in the first point, against indolence and laziness and just not having any direction in your life. But here, I wanna take all of that energy and harness it to the will of the Lord. And to be flexible to react to providence as God unfolds some things. As it says in Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

So that's humbling, isn't it? Or this is an open quotation of this verse, James 4:15, "You ought to say, if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." Paul does that right in this text. If the Lord permits, if the Lord wills, this is what we would like to do. That is humility. I don't know if I'm going to be alive tomorrow. And neither do you. You have today. What will you do with today? You don't know how long your life will go on. There's a humility to our mortality. And there's a humility just even to our plans. If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. We need to be humble, and we need to be flexible.

So Paul did this all the time. He made solid, seemingly wise plans. But sometimes events would overtake him, there would be spiritual dynamics that he had no control over, and so he was moving in a certain direction, and it would be blocked, and he couldn't go in that direction, so he would divert and go a different direction. And maybe that would be blocked too.

You see a good example of this in Acts 16. Remember on Paul's second missionary journey, Paul and Silas went out in Acts 16: 6-10, it says, "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia," listen to this, "having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia."

The Holy Spirit said, no, don't preach in the province of Asia. Fascinating. And then it says, "When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas." So the Holy Spirit says no. The Holy Spirit says, no again, now what? Well, it's not nothing. We're not gonna be motionless, just wait here. And then it says, "During the night, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, then we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia concluding that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them.

So that's going to happen in the lives of people who are energetically moving out to do things for the glory of God. They're going to move out, and then they're gonna get stopped and redirected. Redirected. And so that's what happened to Paul and Silas, and they went over toward Europe rather than east toward Asia. Sometimes interestingly scripturally, Satan intervenes. Satan blocks a certain direction. I find this interesting. How do they work together? We'll find out in Heaven, we'll find out how the Lord gives Satan that kind of freedom to block the servants of God, but 1 Thessalonians 2:17 and 18 says, "But brothers when we're torn away from you for a short time, in person, not in thought, out of our intense longing, we made every effort to see you, for we wanted to come to you. Certainly I, Paul did again and again, but Satan stopped us." That's fascinating. Acts 16, it's the Holy Spirit that stops him. Here, it's Satan that stops him.

I remember reading the great missionary biography of Adoniram and Nancy Judson, ‘To the Golden Shore,’ and they were known for leading so many Burmese to faith in Christ. They worked in Burma, but they didn't sail from America for Burma, they sailed for India. They were gonna go work with William Carey in India. But when they landed there, the British East India Company would not let them do their work, would not let them really even disembark. Fascinating thing. And so they were blocked, and they actually ended up sailing around the Indian Ocean a little bit longer and ended up in Burma.

So all of our best-laid plans can go in a different direction. God wants His servants to be flexible and to be humble, not try to force a square peg in a round hole. It's a feedback loop of providence to say, Lord, is this... Are we going in the wrong direction here? Is there a different approach we have to take?

Missionaries will tell you again and again on missionary trips and missionary recruiters, people that want people to go on short-term mission trips, one of the early training points is gonna be flexibility. You gotta kinda go with the flow when you get into that country and find out the kinds of things you thought you were gonna be able to do and now you can't do them. Flexibility.

Thirdly, diligence. Simply put, the Lord is calling on his workers to be meticulous and diligent, and careful in their work, so here I'm arguing against shoddy workmanship, sloppy workmanship. Look again, verses 6 and 7, "Perhaps I will stay with you a while or even spend the winter so that you can help me on my journey wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit. I hope to spend some time with you if the Lord permits." So Paul knew that the dysfunction of the 1 Corinthian church that we have been swimming in now for a year and a half... This was a messed-up church.

There's almost no category of problem they don't have, and he knew that that dysfunctionality in their discipleship, in their holiness, in their lifestyle was gonna take a while to fix. Paul consistently did careful work in discipleship. He was a careful worker in building disciples. Remember the great commission says, "Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded." It's a comprehensive obedience. Not enough to just know everything God has commanded, the Lord has commanded, but obey it all. It's comprehensive, and Paul knew that. Paul deeply, thoroughly poured the word of God into the churches that he planted. And Corinth, for example, in Acts 18:11, it says, Paul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching them the Word of God. In the sense, he was doing it literally every day.

I get a sense of kind of a three-pronged approach to Paul in Corinth, where during the day, he's in the marketplace debating with lost people, pagans, winning some people to Christ. During the evening, pouring sound doctrine into the discipleship. And then late at night, into the early wee hours of the morning, making tents to support himself and his co-workers. Incredible life.

Well, that was Paul, that was what he's doing in Corinth. So even minor points of doctrine, I'm not gonna read the whole quote, but in 2 Thessalonians 2, it seems that he goes into meticulous aspects of eschatology, end time teaching, about the man of sin and who the man of sin is. And he's gonna send himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God, the whole Daniel teaching. It's a detail of eschatology, and then he says, "Don't you remember that when I was with you, I kept telling you this again and again?" So he went down to the detailed level of theology and did it again and again. This is not shoddy workmanship. 1 Corinthians 3:10, he says, "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it, but each one should be careful how he builds." We don't want any shoddy workmanship, when it comes to the ministry of the Word of God. 2 Timothy 2-15 says, Paul says to Timothy, a young future leader in the church, already present leader, young man. We'll get to him later in the message, but he says, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

It would be a shame factor in shoddy workmanship in the word of God. On sound exegesis, sound theology, build the disciples right. Do it right. That's what he's talking about. Now, it's interesting, I'm a trustee of the International Mission Board, we have a trustee meeting this week, virtual meeting. And one of the kind of struggle sometimes that goes on in methodology between different groups in the IMB is a battle, it seems, between speed of evangelism, speed, and quality of discipleship. There's the speed group, and there's the discipleship group. And they're pitted against each other sometimes. It's not true of everyone, but there are some like this, there's some missionary leaders that are so concerned about people dying and going to hell, as well they should be, they're very concerned about... They're concerned about the birth rate, they compare it to the rate of conversion. It doesn't come close. Friends, it never has, just so you know. But just the birth rate is always going faster than the conversion rate. And they're very concerned about that, and they just think, absolutely the most important thing is to win lost people to faith in Christ so they don't go to hell, and then giving them rudimentary teaching and training so that they can quickly lead other people to Christ.

And that's it, we don't have time for anything else. There's that sense of urgency. Others, on the other hand, may go so far into developing meticulous theological precision that they don't seem to have an urgency in winning the lost. And so they go very far in that other direction and they're pouring into just a small number of people, to a high level of doctrinal precision.

Friends, I'm just telling you, I don't think we have to make a choice. I think when we look at the Apostle Paul, we see the quintessential example of someone who is on fire for winning lost people. Absolutely, passionately committed to winning the lost and passionately committed to deep doctrinal instruction. No one more on either side, ever. For example, on the first, in terms of passionately winning the lost, the fire for winning the lost, Acts 20:24, clear evidence. He says there, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace. That's what my life is, to testify to the gospel, to win the lost." And he advocated speed. 2 Thessalonians 3:1, he says, "Finally brothers, Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you."

But on the other side, I would say there is no one in church history that was a more careful, meticulous, theologically accurate instructor of disciples than the Apostle Paul. This is the man who wrote the Book of Romans. Do you have any idea how many books that book spawned in the libraries of the world. How many books flew or grew out of the Book of Romans alone? And that was his condensed teaching of Christian theology that he gave to the church at Rome, 'cause he couldn't be there in person. I can tell you, you can take one or two verses of Romans and do 10 sermons on them.

So I would say both, let's say both, a fiery zeal for winning as many lost people as we possibly can. Plus a meticulous, careful theological instruction of them, not one or the other. So for us: craftsmanship in ministry. What is your spiritual gift ministry? Is it hospitality? I know it's hard in the COVID era, but it's not gonna go on forever. It's not gonna go on forever. And so if your gift is hospitality, do it excellently, be even better, 10 years from now, at hospitality than you are now. It might be more frequent or just better, betterments on the pillow, I don't know, but just better and better at hospitality. Is your gift teaching? Get better and better at teaching.

Is your gift-giving? Get better and better and more strategic at giving. Is your gift faith-filled prayer, visionary prayer? Then just get better and better at that. And if your ministry is small and to you, it may feel insignificant, it's not insignificant, but it could be larger and much more significant, it could be the Lord is testing you and trying you. In Luke 16:10, it says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." So be faithful with the ministry you have, and God will give you a bigger ministry.

Fourthly, opportunity, look at verse 8-9, he says, "I will stay on in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me and there are many who oppose me." This is a very powerful metaphor, this idea of a door, an open door.

A great door of effective work. He's in Ephesus at that point, he's not in Corinth, keep that in mind. But he's in the city of Ephesus, where you get the Book of Ephesians. We get that church that left its first love and that Jesus talks about in Revelation 2. That's the Church at Ephesus. It's the elders that Ephesus that he spoke to in Acts 20, it's a significant church in Asia Minor. So he's there in Ephesus, and God is using him powerfully there. The open door image or metaphor, whatever, speaks of opportunity, providential opportunity. A God-ordained moment of time for Paul to do work of eternal consequence. He sees things lining up. God orchestrates these moments.

Jesus, speaking to the church of Philadelphia in Revelation 3:8, he said, "Behold, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut." Isn't that awesome? An open door. So God's work done in God's way, includes seeing where God is active, seeing where he is working and moving in that direction, going through that door, that open door.

Years ago, when I was a missionary in Japan, I got a copy of Henry Blackaby's book, ‘Experiencing God’, some of you maybe read years ago, and it was a discipleship book, a Christian leadership book. And I got a lot out of it. And Henry Blackaby, one of the key issues in that book, is to discern the activity of God, to discern God at his work, and joining Him in His work. What is God already doing? How can I join Him in His work? So that's discernment. What is God doing in the people around you? How has He gone ahead of you to prepare hearts to hear about Christ? What great movements of even revival could He be starting to work in, and how could you join in that early on in prayer and then through your spiritual gift ministry? What could you... What is God doing around you?

I think about what the Lord said to Paul in Acts 18: 9 and 10, he says, one night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, "Do not be afraid, Paul. Keep on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one is going to attack you and harm you," listen to this, "because I have many people in this city." They just hadn't been converted yet.

We're looking for the unconverted elect, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, but we don't know who they are. Paul says, "I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." That's what we're looking for. So the Lord told Paul, "I've got a lot of people in the city. Keep at it." Isn't that awesome?

Fifth, suffering, verse 8 and 9, "But I'll stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door of effective work is open to me, and there are many who oppose me." Isn't that amazing? To Paul, opposition, even vigorous, even violent, organized opposition was not proof of a shut door, but of an open door.

It wasn't deterring him at all. I mean, here's a man that in the Book of Acts, was instrumental in starting three riots. Think about that. How many riots have you started by your ministry for Christ? I'm like, I don't think I'd wanna start a riot. People really enraged and angered me, but that was how it was. And I actually feel like... I've talked to some of the guys before and staff, and I said, look, I don't know if there's a Satanic post office with a 10 most wanted, but Paul would have been number one and maybe one through 10. We've GOT to stop this guy. And so there was tremendous opposition to the open door, and it didn't deter him. Didn't deter him.

Paul felt called to protect and to proclaim the gospel, to protect the church, the fledgling church that was starting there. He wanted, like in Philippians 1, to give them courage. He said, "I want you to know that what has happened to me... " Philippians 1:12-14. "What has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard, and everyone else, I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the disciples in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." Looking at Paul suffering gave younger disciples courage. They were not afraid of being imprisoned. So Paul was doing this. The level of suffering that Paul would go through would be extreme. One of those riots was a riot there in Ephesus, in which Demetrius, one of the workers in Silver, who made all those little idols, losing business, very enraged at Paul and the Christians. He inflames the whole city of Ephesus, and they start a riot in which the people are shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for two hours. Mindless mob violence. Many were coming to faith in Christ, and Satan's kingdom was threatened.

He doesn't kick up trouble for Christians who are sleepy, and one of those Lord of the Rings things, whatever, where you're stung by the spider and wrapped up in spider web, and you're just sleepy and leading a worldly life. You're no threat to Satan's kingdom. He's not gonna kick up difficulty for you. But everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. And so if we're willing to step out in faith and share the Gospel, we're gonna start having trouble. We're gonna start having difficulties and problems. So are we at FBC a threat to Satan's dark kingdom here in the Triangle? If not, he's just gonna let us be, but if we're willing to accept suffering for the Gospel, we're going to be fruitful. It is not possible for us to have a vast harvest of souls here without suffering. John 12:24 says, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit." We have to be willing to die. Die to a comfortable life, to an easy life. Even, one-to-one, die to that relationship with your co-worker.

You have to trade in a very average mediocre every day, Hey, how was your weekend? How is the weather conversation, to have a gospel conversation with that person. And from that point on, they might not treat you well, again. I saw it happen again and again in workplace evangelism. I worked for 10 years as an engineer. I traded in a lot of those very mediocre relationships for one good gospel opportunity. Some of them listened, some of them were ready to hear. But many were not, so we have to be willing to step out and be willing to suffer.

Sixth, teamwork. Paul always had a team, he always had an entourage. People he was training for leadership and ministry, as well as men and women who are in those local churches who are vigorous, fruitful co-workers. Co-laborers with him in the gospel. At the end of the Book of Romans, for example, he mentions, listen to this, 24 individuals and two full households that were co-laborers that he's greeting, all of these individuals. And so here, Paul mentions two key men, Timothy and Apollo, and he deals with them differently. 1 Timothy, look at verses 10-11, "If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord just as I am." And then Verse 11, "No one then should refuse to accept him, send him on his way in peace, so that he may return to me. I'm expecting him along with the brothers."

So, Timothy, we know from the rest of the new testament, was Paul’s beloved son in the faith, he was someone he basically became a spiritual father to. He put his arm around him. His father, biological father, was not a believer, a Greek, and his mother was Jewish and poured the word of God into him from infancy. But it was really Paul who became a spiritual father to him, and he calls him my son in the faith. And he was young, perhaps in his mid-20s. Based on what you read in 1 and 2 Timothy and reading between the lines, you get a sense that Timothy was physically weak, maybe tended towards sickly, a little bit sick. He was given also, it seems, to timidity. He had a certain innate fearful-ness toward other people. And given how fractious and rebellious and difficult the church at Corinth was, do you get a sense of that?

I mean, they had a hard time accepting instruction from Paul. And now he's sending that kind of a man, a young man, Timothy in there. Obviously, it might be a concern. There might be a tendency to despise him or look down on him would be one translation, to not obey him, not help him. Even worse than that, they might verbally attack him or insult him or be very, very difficult to deal with. He did not want that to happen, so Paul strongly surrounds Timothy with some words here. With an admonition. Protect this young man. He tells the Corinthians, Timothy is doing the work of the Lord as much as he is. That Paul is behind Timothy, and more than that, Jesus is behind Timothy as well. So they should welcome him warmly and not do anything to make him feel afraid. So it is vital for God's work done in God's way to include caring for God's leaders and servants in a proper way, treating them well. And so that was the concern that he had. Jesus said in Matthew 10:40, "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me." So treat Timothy well. Care for him well.

I thank God for the way that this church treats its elders, its paid elders, and lay elders. It's an amazing transformation, really, that's happened in the 22 years I've been here. I can honestly say there's no church I'd rather pastor than this one, but it was not always so. It was not that way for the first couple of years, and there are many churches like that, that treat their spiritual leaders very harshly and badly. And those leaders have every good reason to feel afraid of how they're gonna be treated by the church.

So it's important for churches to treat their leaders well, and so that, as it says here, Timothy has no reason for fear. Then you've got Apollos, the other co-worker. Verse 12, "Now about our Brother, Apollos, I strongly urged him to go with you or go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity." Now, Apollos is a more seasoned leader than Timothy. He would have been, I think, better received by many in the church in Corinth. He was a polished orator, a deep thinker of theology. There is even a faction in the church at Corinth, remember early on chapter one, "I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas." He would have had his own fan club there, very un-helpfully, but he would have had his own Apollos group there in Corinth. Now, it's clear that Paul wanted Apollos to go immediately to Corinth. I strongly urged him to go and to carry on the work there. And it says, but he was quite unwilling to go. I find this really interesting.

I mean you get a sense there was a conversation there between Paul and Apollos, two very strong men, and Paul was a very strong leader, and he had a sense of what other people should do. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I have a sense or an instinct of what you or you or you could do for the Lord, but he's willing to hold it loosely. He doesn't order him. I mean, that's not the way church authority works. Church authority is persuasive, not positional. And so I persuaded him, I urged him, but he said No. So eventually, when you think about where the Western church ended up, with the papacy, and the Pope became something like a king, like a medieval King, giving commands, he even had an army that he could send out into the field, and you would kneel and kiss his ring and all this kind of stuff. You don't see that in Paul. He was the most influential, the most authoritative Christian leader on earth at that time, and he wanted Apollos to go to Corinth, Apollos did not wanna go now, and he said, Okay, fine, and he doesn't judge him, he doesn't cast dispersions on him. He just says, "Alright, he will go when he has the opportunity when the Lord leads him."

Paul himself wrote in Romans 14:4, "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master, he stands or falls, and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." So Paul wasn't the kind of leader who's judging people around him and compelling and forcing them. There's a lot of toxic church leaders that are like that. Paul wasn't like that. Now, he had a strong opinion. He said, I really think you should go on this mission trip, or I really think you should do this, that. You would express that, but still, let the Lord work in someone's heart.

And we also see as we talked about with JP, the partnership with the churches. He relied on local churches. Look at verse 6, he says, "Perhaps I will stay with you a while or even spend the winter so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go." He did the same thing with Rome, as I already mentioned. When I go to Spain, I plan to spend some time with you and to have you help me on my missionary journey. So he would partner with local churches who would give him money, perhaps even people co-laborers, and they would work together for the gospel.

And this very much reminds me of what JP was talking about, the cooperative program. Maybe you're not aware of what that means. Cooperative means we cooperate, we work together with other local churches, sometimes we call them sister churches, to pool resources, money, and spiritually gifted people, we pull resources to do jobs that are too big for any one local church to do. And so we join resources together and send out missionaries, we do seminaries, we do other things, 'cause those jobs are too big for local churches to do. So it's a beautiful partnership with local churches.

Alright, applications, let's just review. We've been applying all along. But God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply. We've seen key elements of God's way of doing God's work through the example of the Apostle Paul. Vision, having a clear plan, a prayed-over strategy. Flexibility, being willing to flex, to adapt, to change according to God's leading. Diligence, craftsmanship, careful instruction, quality workmanship in the ministry of the gospel, Paul’s willingness to settle in and work in a place for a while and do a good job. And then opportunity, that great door of effective work that was open for him there in Ephesus, looking for opportunities.

And we have to do the same at FBC. What are opportunities in the pandemic era in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill Region? What are some opportunities for us? What does God open... What doors has he opened? And then suffering. If we shrink back from suffering, we will not achieve much at all, but be willing to be rebuked, to be willing to be hated even by a culture that's becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. Which it is. Are we willing to pay the price, to stand in the heat, to stand outside the gate where Christ died and bear the reproach he bore, It says in Hebrews, we're willing to suffer. And then teamwork, to work together even within this local church, to develop leaders, to work together with brothers and sisters in Christ who are gifted, who have different roles to play, and then to partner with other churches.

Now, I began, I've been talking all along about God's work done in God's way. The central work God is doing is saving lost people. But what about you? It is a bad thing for me as a preacher to assume that all of you whose faces I'm seeing now, or all of you that might be listening by livestream are born again, that would be a very bad thing for me to assume. Are you born again? Have you received Christ as Lord and Savior? One of the ways you could talk about the central work God is doing... Jesus talked about in John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him."

You're actually here today, or you're watching this worship service because of a force that was put on you to draw you. That drawing is something the Father works in lost people. It's a precious thing, and what is the destination of that drawing? No one can come to me, said Jesus, unless the Father draws him. The father does his drawing through the Holy Spirit to faith in Christ. And what do you get when you come? You get full forgiveness of sins because he died on the cross for sinners like you and me. And He rose from the dead.

And we don't know how much longer we have, do we? We don't know how much longer we have to be alive, you don't know how much longer you have to hear this gospel, so repent and believe. Now, I don't doubt that most of you that are listening to me have come to Christ and are born again, but you need to hear the gospel too, continually. Not because you haven't been justified, but because it is a rich thing to keep being reminded of the message you heard and to know how much your sins have been forgiven through the blood of Christ, and then to get ready to say these kinds of things this week to some lost people. Close with me in prayer.

Father, we thank you for the work that you're doing around the world. Jesus said in John chapter 5, "My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working." And the work you're doing is salvation, as it says in Peter, "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation." You are patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. God help us to be about that work and help us to be about the work of teaching the gospel so that people are comprehensively obedient to everything that you have commanded, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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