BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
The Bible says, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26 New King James Version). By the word “believers” in the title of this message, I refer to Christians; and by the word ministry, I mean service, responsibilities or duties of believers towards one another.
This subject is important because, many times, the church is often viewed from the perspective of the ministry of the pastor to the church and the ministry of the church to the outside world, the unsaved. However, believers, worshipping in an assembly, also have ministry towards one another and even towards their pastors. Fulfillment of ministry, in one area, will not compensate for failure in the other areas. Church members must be aware of all that God expects of them. I want to limit myself, in this message, to the ministry of believers to one another. What are these duties?
1. Believers must love one another. “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8 New King James Version). Hebrews 13:1 says, “Let brotherly love continue” (NKJV). That is not talking about love among brothers or men alone, but also among believers. The New Living Translation makes it clearer: “Continue to love each other with true Christian love.”
In fact, the key to other aspects of the ministry of believers to one another is love. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:10-12 NKJV). If believers love one another, there will be nothing they shall not be able to do for one another.
Jesus says we should love our neighbors (everybody) (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31, 33), including our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27, 35). 1John 4:11-12 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (NKJV).
Believers have the same father; we belong to the same family. 1Peter 2:17 says, Believers are also to love one another, as members of the same family. “Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family” (New Century Version). According to Jesus, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 New Living Translation).
According to 1 John 4:8, anyone who does not love does not know God — for God is love. What is love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us by showing us what love is not and what it does: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (New King James Version).
Do you love brothers and sisters in the faith? 1 John 3:14 says, “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead” (New Living Translation).
However, the love of fellow believers, which the Bible is taking about, is not love by only the words of mouth; but love in action. “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17 New King James Version). Faith works by love (Galatians 5:6b).
2. Believers must be kind to one another. Kindness is a function or an act of love. It is love in action. You can’t show kindness to someone you don’t love. Both are inseparable. Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (New King James Version). The New Living Translation does not use the phrase “kindly affectionate.” It says, “Love each other with genuine affection” (Romans 12:10 New Living Translation). Can you see the relationship between love and kindness? Indeed, “The person who loves others has obeyed all the law” (Romans 13:8b New Century Version).
Believers must be kind to one another. How absurd it is for believers to enjoy some amount of kindness from non-believers, but show no kindness to one another! 2 Peter 1:7 says, “And to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ” (New Century Version).
3. Believers must be of the same mind towards one another. Romans 12:16a says, “Be of the same mind toward one another” (New King James Version). The New Living Translation puts it this way: “Live in harmony with each other.” Romans 15:5 says a similar thing: “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other — each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other” (New Living Translation). Disharmony, discord or squabble is not fitting or appropriate for believers. Unfortunately, these characterize some assemblies today, with serious consequences, including sectarianism, division or splitting, which pollute the entire spiritual atmosphere. This ought not to be so.
As brothers and sisters in Christ, members of the same family, believers should not allow disagreements to degenerate into a serious crisis between them and among them. We should always strive to be in one accord, agreement, unity or harmony like the early believers were (Acts 1:14, 2:1, 46, 4:24, 5:12, 15:25).
The early church had her own challenges concerning disagreement, but these were addressed. Paul had to write, in Philippians 4:2, that two Christian sisters, Euodias and Syntyche, should settle their disagreement because they belonged to the Lord. “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (New King James Version). The New Living Translation says, “And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.”
The church must pray and work to see that believers are in one mind. Believers must be like-minded (Romans 15:5 New King James Version). If they had another opportunity, maybe, Paul and Barnabas would have handled their disagreement in a way that would not cause their separation (Acts 15:36-41).
4. Believers must comfort, encourage or exhort one another. Everybody needs comfort and encouragement at one point or the other, either because of loss, negative incident or experience, sickness or other challenges. Therefore, believers need one another’s help, in form of words of comfort and encouragement.
1Thessalonians 4:18 says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (New King James Version). In this scripture, Paul was talking about those who had died in the LORD and those still alive with regard to the coming of Christ – the rapture. He was giving the believers still living a message of hope as against being despair. The New Living Translation and the New Century Version use “encourage” instead of “comfort” used by the New King James Version. Believers must comfort or encourage one another.
Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage each other everyday while it is today” (New Century Version). Instead of “encourage”, the New Living Translation uses “warn” while the New King James Version renders it “exhorts.” We need to encourage one another, exhort and warn one another, everyday, to stay on the path of righteousness and avoid becoming hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
5. Believers must admonish one another. Apostle Paul says, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14 New King James Version). From that verse, you can see that Paul was confident of the ability of these believers to admonish (Teach – New Living Translation and New Century Version; Guide and advise – The Message) one another.
A pastor should not be the only one to minster to members of his congregation on every matter, except when the church is young. As the church grows, there should be spiritually mature and committed brothers and sisters, who can minister to – teach, guide, advise – others on some matters. The names such mature believers are called are not the issue here, but the duties they perform.
However, where the members refuse to grow, they remain spiritual babes, and at the time when they should be teachers, they will still need someone to be teaching them. Apostle Paul addressed this problem thus: “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right” (Hebrews 5:12-14 New Living Translation).
I must, however, add that the delegation of responsibilities should not mean abdication. There are cases that must be referred to the pastors or that only the different levels of pastors should handle.
6. Believers must give more honour to one another.Romans 12:10 says, “Give each other more honour than you want for yourselves” (New Century Version). The truth is that when believers put one another first, everyone will come first! And when believers give more honour to one another, all believers will be more honored. Believers must “take delight in honouring each other” (Romans 12:10 New Living Translation).
Where there is selfishness and pride, this will never happen, because everybody is first considering how to satisfy his own interest; everybody believes he is better than the rest. But here is Paul’s advice: “When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honour to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life but be interested in the lives of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 New Century Version).
This is the only way to achieve unity of the church, which consists of parts, like that of the human body. Some parts of human body are considered less honourable and some more honourable, but all the parts are necessary and important (1Corinthians 12:22-27).
7. Believers must neither judge one another nor cause fellow believers to fall. The Bible says, “So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path” (Romans 14:13New Living Translation). A believer should not become a stumbling block to another believer. Paul says, “If what I eat is going to make another Christian sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live — for I don’t want to make another Christian stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13 New Living Translation).
Also, believers should not be criticizing one another or be trying to force their standards or opinions on other believers. Each believer should live up to the standards set by the Word of God. No believer should be blackmailed by anyone’s personal preferences or be made to feel guilty.
8. Believers must receive or accept one another just as Christ has received or accepted them.Romans 15:7says, “So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified” (New Living Translation). The benchmark or standard for accepting or receiving fellow believers, as shown in this scripture, is “as Christ has accepted you.”
The question is how did Christ accept or welcome us? The Bible says while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8). Christ accepted or welcomed us with love, without discrimination, to the glory of God. The Amplified Bible renders Romans 15:7 thus: “Therefore, [continue to] accept and welcome one another, just as Christ has accepted and welcomed us to the glory of [our great] God.” The Message translation says, “So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory” (Romans 15:7).
Receiving or accepting one another, just as Christ has accepted us, means that we, believers, should ensure that differences are not allowed to hinder fellowship. Romans 14:1 says, “Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong” (New Living Translation).
There should be no argument about opinions concerning issues on which Bible teachings are not too clear. Usually, such issues are not fundamental or vital to the faith. Our differences of opinion should not hinder fellowship. But the church must always uphold, without any compromise, fundamental teachings of the Bible, which are unmistakably clear. I find a statement in the explanatory notes in the Life Application Bible Study on this subject very useful here: “Our principle should be: In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in everything, love” (Romans 14:1ff).
9. Believers must serve one another. “For you have been called to live in freedom — not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13 New Living Translation). Please, take note of the phrase ending that verse: to serve one another in love. See that all-important word, love, once more. Believers are to use their liberty (as the New King James Version puts it) to serve one another, not to use their liberty to sin, which then puts them in Satan’s bondage. “You are not slaves; you are free. But your freedom is not an excuse to do evil. You are free to live as God’s slaves” (1 Peter 2:16 New Living Translation).
Believers should not feel too big to serve fellow believers. Jesus showed the example of servant-leadership to the disciples, when he washed their feet in John 13. He told them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (verse 14 New King James Version).
It takes humility to serve, particularly to serve someone you are ‘better’ than or superior to. When the disciples of Jesus came to ask Him in Matthew 18:1, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus told them in verse 4, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (New King James Version).
In the Kingdom of God, greatness doesn’t come by aggressively fighting your way to the top or subtly scheming for the top position. It comes by humility, as you’ve just read in Matthew 18:4. It comes by service. The servant is the leader! Jesus says, “In this world the kings and great men order their people around, and yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant” (Luke 22:25-26 New Living Translation).
Mark 9:35 puts it thus: “Anyone who wants to be the first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else” (New Living Translation). Matthew 20:26-27 says a similar thing: “But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave” (New Living Translation).
Believers are called to serve one another. No one should allow his ego to hinder him. No matter your position or status in the society, once you come to the company of believers, all believers are brothers and sisters. From the bishop or pastor to the youngest member, they should serve one another.
Ministering to people is serving God, and must be done cheerfully, with love and in all sincerity. “You younger men, accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for ‘God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5 New Living Translation).
10. Believers should greet each other in Christian love.Romans 16:16 says, “Salute one another with an holy kiss” (King James Version). The New Living Translation renders it thus: “Greet each other in Christian love.”
In 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1Thessalonians 5:26 and 1Peter 5:14, the Bible talks about believers or brothers and sisters greeting one another in Christian love (New Living Translation), which, in all the scriptures, the King James Version and New King James Version, refer to as “holy kiss” except in 1Peter 5:14 where they refer to it as “kiss of charity” (King James Version) and “kiss of love” (New King James Version).
What is this holy kiss or kiss of love? It was a kiss in the early church to express love and unity among believers. Kissing, as a form of greeting, was a common practice in their society; it wasn’t anything peculiar to the church. It’s like the handshake in our society today. But it was called holy because it was a common thing being used for a holy purpose. It was to differentiate it from the common kiss in the society. It was a symbol of the sincere and pure love among believers.
The Hebrews or Jews showed love, respect or peace by kissing. The kissing could be on the forehead, the cheek, hand, feet or any other part of the body. This kissing had no sexual or romantic connotation. It can be compared to the pecking on the cheeks in social circles today.
There are many instances of kissing in the Old Testament. For instance, in Genesis 29:11, Jacob kissed Rachael – they were relations, not yet married then. And in verse 13, Rachael’s father, Laban, embraced and kissed Jacob, his sister’s son. Also, in Genesis 50:1, Joseph threw himself on his dead father, wept over him and kissed him.
Also, in Exodus 18:7, Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, Jethro, bowed down, and kissed him. Prophet Samuel also took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head, and kissed him (1 Samuel 10:1). David and Jonathan kissed each other and wept together as they painfully went their different ways (1Samuel 20:41-42). Also, in 2 Samuel 19:39, King David kissed his friend, Barzillai, and blessed him before they parted. In Psalm 2:12, there is an admonition to kiss the Son, who is Jesus Christ – a kiss of submission, a kiss of loyalty, a kiss of worship.
Also, in the New Testament, we have examples of kissing. In Luke 7:45, Jesus told Simon, the Pharisee, that he gave Him no kiss, but the immoral woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume, had not ceased to kiss His feet since He entered into Simon’s house. For the best reason known to Simon, he denied Jesus the normal courtesies.
Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Matthew 26:49; Mark 14:45; Luke 22:47). Proverbs 27:6b says the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Also, in Acts 20:37, the elders of the church in Ephesus who came to meet Paul at Miletus, wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck kissing him, after he had finished exhorting them.
In all of these scriptures, there was nothing erotic in the kissing. Before the birth of the church, kissing had been part of social interactions. The holy kiss practised in the early church must never be replaced with lustful kiss in the guise of holy kiss! Any teaching that promotes that is from the devil.
What will be appropriate today among believers, especially between a male believer and a female believer, is a loving handshake. That, of course, is different from the romantic kisses (Song 1:2; 8:1) between husbands and wives, which these scriptures on holy kiss are not referring to.
Conclusion: As we, believers, discharge our responsibilities in all the areas discussed in this message, we shall be giving and receiving ministry, and no believer will lack. “The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25 New Living Translation).
If you’ve decided to give your life to Jesus, you need to take the following steps:*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. There, you will be taught how to grow in the LORD and how to discover and fulfill God’s purpose for your life.
Kindly say this prayer now: O LORD God, I come unto you today. I know I’m a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I confess Jesus as my LORD and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I’m saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I congratulate you if you’ve said that prayer sincerely. You are now a child of God. May the LORD make you a Cedar Christian. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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