Sunday, February 28, 2016 am                                            Others 2016 Index



Serving others (4)

The Distinction Between the Church and Individuals in Serving Others


This month we have been addressing the subject of serving others.  It is important that a Christian understand that he is a servant and what that involves.  We have tried to introduce these thoughts including examining the life and teachings of Jesus as our ultimate example of what a servant is.   

Today, I want to conclude this study about serving others by taking a look at the distinction between the church and individuals in serving others.  There are some who advocate that what the individual can do, the church can do.  Others see the work of the church as including general (unlimited or expanded) benevolence, social advocacy and a social gospel where the church provides various social activities for its members. 

But in the Bible, we find the work of the church is limited in its scope.   While the Bible does address the works of the church, what and how these are done is restricted to the boundaries of scripture (1 Cor. 4:6).

 I.                     How the church serves

a.       In this lesson, our description of the church is dealing with a congregation (local) rather than the church in its universal sense.  The universal church is the body of all who are saved – if you are a Christian, you are part of that relationship with Christ (Acts 2:47, Ephesians 1:22-23).
A local church is a group of Christians (this SHOULD be determined based upon God’s plan of salvation) who join together in a given location to do the specific works God has given us to do together.  These works include:

                                                   i.      Worshipping God corporately (coming together) – cf. 1 Corinthians 11:18-26, 14:23, 26, etc.

                                                 ii.      Supporting evangelism – Philippians 4:15-17, 2 Corinthians 11:8
Sounding forth the word – 1 Thess. 1:8

                                                iii.      Building up the body spiritually (aka edification) – Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 14:12, 26

                                                iv.      Limited benevolence (in scripture ALWAYS directed only to needy saints) – 2 Cor. 8:1-5, Acts 11:29-30, etc.

b.       In terms of service, the congregation:

                                                   i.      Serves God in worship – worship is about God.  

                                                 ii.      We serve each other by worshipping together – we are edified.  Note how edification is about being built up in the word – Ephesians 4:16
Colossians 3:16 – we are teaching and admonishing one another in our singing.
Those leading the worship service are serving the brethren in that capacity at that time.

                                                iii.      Leaders – serve in the word of God – Ephesians 4:11-16.  We have addressed this previously. 
Elders are watching out for our souls – Hebrews 13:17, and lead by example – Heb. 13:7, 1 Peter 5:2-3, etc.  Preachers are ministers of the word – 1 Thess. 3:2 – (minister in the gospel),1 Tim. 4:6. 

Deacons – who by their title are servants assist the elders in maintaining the church in those matter she is involved in.

                                                iv.      Benevolence – the church can help needy saints collectively – cf. 1 Timothy 5:3 – taking care of widows (but notice the “qualifications” – vs. 9-10).
This might include relieving needy saints in other locations as well
This certainly would be one way that we serve one another.

 II.                   How Christians serve

a.       Our study the past 3 weeks has emphasized this.

b.       1 Cor. 4:2, the steward is to be faithful.  

c.        Galatians 5:13 - Through love serve one another

d.       Matthew 20:26-27 – to be great, become a servant; to be first, become a slave.

e.       Galatians 6:10 – the context is addressing individual Christians.   Sometimes this context is used to say that a local church can do good to all (mankind) as they have opportunity, but when you examine the context (1-10) Paul is addressing individual Christians.
NOTE: Let us be careful to not limit this text to physical “good”.   The text deals with spiritual matters and certainly INCLUDES the sharing of God’s word with others.

f.         James 1:27 – the context is addressed to individual Christians as well.  Beginning with 21-27 we find it very much about individuals. 

 III.                 There is a difference!

a.       The Bible is clear in several passages in making a distinction between an individual and the church.

b.       1 Timothy 5:16 – in a passage that addresses the church and benevolence that IS authorized (5:3-16) it speaks of widows who can be helped.  There are “qualifications” necessary which demonstrate that a congregation is not to be flippant with its resources.
It is clear the church can only help, when all other means have been exhausted!  Consider vs. 8 – and the admonition to family members.  THEN in vs. 16 there is a CLEAR distinction between the work of the individual and the church.

c.        Matthew 18:15-17 – when you have an offense with a brother – take care of it – as privately as possible.  The “assembly” or “church” is not to be involved unless individual efforts fail.  AGAIN, the text makes a distinction between the individual and the assembly.

d.       1 Corinthians 11:18, 33 – when you come together as a church – implies that there are times that you are NOT working as the church (11:18-34).  The way Paul speaks there are things we do when we come together which also implies there are things that we need to take care of when we are NOT assembled as the church (such as eating in this case).

e.       Acts 5:3-4 deals with Ananias and Saphira as they attempt to deceive their brethren concerning their giving.  Peter rebukes Ananias noting that his lie was against the Holy Spirit and God.  While not mentioning the church specifically by name (it was money laid at the apostle’s feet), it shows a distinction between collective (what is done as the body) and distributive (what an individual can do to contribute to the collective) action.  In this there is STILL distinction between the individual and the group.

f.         A failure to make this distinction has caused many to misunderstand the very nature of the church – to build up saints in their faith through the word of God. 

g.       HOWEVER – one thought that we need to address here is how we as individuals affect the church.  The church is only one aspect of our lives as Christians, (next month we are going to examine how every area of our lives affects others).  We have a responsibility to support her in various ways – attendance (Hebrews 10:24-25), worshipping together (1 Corinthians 11 & 14), supporting her work financially (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, etc.), support the elders (Heb. 13:7, 17), and doing our part to spread the word of God (Eph. 4:16).   But, even in other areas of our lives (family, business, social and government), EVERYTHING we do has an impact on the influence the church can have within a community.  Our conduct is a reflection of the church we are a part of.   The point is that our conduct as Christians ought to bring glory to the Lord’s church rather than denigrating her through bad example.  If the church is manifestation of God’s wisdom (and it is – Ephesians 3:10-11), when we live as Christians, it will reflect positively upon that congregation. 
BUT, that does NOT imply that everything we do is the church functioning.  As we have seen, there is a distinction between the work of the church and the work of the individual Christian, though there are times they intersect (i.e. when we are acting as the church).


This is a brief study that shows a distinction between the church and the individual Christian in the matter of being servants.  While it is certainly true that the church depends upon each one of us as members to fully function (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Ephesians 4:16), we have responsibilities as Christians that extend beyond the work of the church.   That responsibility can be summarized in our duty as faithful stewards.  May we strive to be servants of God in all that we do!