By Angela Wisdom
God gave us the analogy of comparing His church, the body of the saved, to a Bride in Eph. 5: 22 – 23. Christ gave Himself for His bride, and He wants her to be pure and righteous. He loves her with a divine jealousy (2 Cor. 11:2). He wants her to be pure (Revelation 19:7-8). If Christ wants His bride to be pure, it follows that WE must be pure.
The day we were baptized we became pure, and began to live in a new way (Romans 6:4). And our manner of life is to be worthy of the calling we’ve been called to do (Eph. 4:1).
If we look at Eph. 4:11 we see the gifts Christ gave the church for building up His Bride – they are Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers. The first two gifts (Apostles and Prophets) are ones from the past and they no longer live today, yet we have their work that continues to help us in our hands, the Bible.
The other three gifts of evangelists, shepherds, and teachers are in the church today.
As Christians in Christ’s church (or as the Bride of Christ) we have the responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way pleasing to God. FIRST of all, we are to obey God’s rule, and then the elders’. Elders, preachers, or anyone else cannot give us permission to do things that God has not authorized. God’s commandments come first and are paramount. Peter said in Acts 5:29 “We must obey God rather than men.” God says we are to obey the elders (Heb 13:17 ). I Thess. 5:12 (ASV) tells us: “But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;”
One thing I’ve noticed in the last few decades is a lack of respect out of some members of the church for the office of an elder. Elders are men, just men, but they have been chosen by a local church to do a God-given work. We can help the elders by doing what Paul says in I Thess. 5:13 – by esteeming them very highly in love. Why? -- Because of their work. How many of us would want to take on such a work? There are joys to it, but also much responsibility, heartaches, and discouragements.
How can we help the elders of the local congregation where we worship? Look at I Thess. 5:13 again. “Be at peace among yourselves”; don’t sow discord, don’t murmur, and don’t create problems.
When an eldership has made decisions, some of them are based on their judgment, and we may not like them. But, we need to ask ourselves some questions before we create problems over their decisions. Some things we need to ask are: Is this decision within the confines of scripture? If it is, we need to submit. Is the decision sinful, or is it something I just don’t like? If the decisions an eldership makes does not try to get us to do something unscriptural that will disobey God, then we need to obey the eldership whether we like it or not! Why? Read again -- Hebrews 13:17 (ASV) Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief: for this were unprofitable for you. We’re to OBEY our leaders and submit to them.
I have seen elderships make decisions that were not liked by a lot of the members of a congregation, and some members caused trouble because they did not want to submit. This is dangerous and SINFUL and will cause untold damage to the Lord’s body, His Bride! An eldership should be able to be approached by the members of a local congregation when they’ve made a decision that is not liked. And, an eldership should be willing to listen and change their minds about matters of judgment. But, after their decision is made, IF their decision is scriptural, and if they stand by their decision they’ve made, then it is our responsibility to OBEY. It’s as simple as that. Why? Because they are keeping watch over our souls, and will give an account to God. Not only an account for their own souls but for our souls.
We will give an account to God for whether we have obeyed and submitted to their rule or not. If they have made an unwise decision, that is not unscriptural, then they will be the ones to answer to God for it. Our job is to submit.
But, we like to have our own way don’t we? I like it when things go my way – but how do I behave when things don’t go my way? Do I submit, or do I complain, murmur and stir up trouble?
There are other ways we can build up the Bride of Christ. I Thess. 5: 14 tells us “admonish the idle”. We’re to talk to those who are not working in the Lord’s church and try to get them to do better. There is so much potential among God’s people not used. As a Christian, we can encourage other Christians by getting to know them and perhaps get them involved in a work with us to help “jumpstart” them. Many times we gravitate toward people we like or enjoy being with. How about trying to “admonish the idle” instead?
I Thess. 5:14 also tells us to “Encourage the fainthearted”. When we see others falling by the wayside because of not attending, or besetting sins, we need to encourage them. Call them, go see them, or text them to see what the problem is. Some may be struggling with their faith. I have found that to be so when I have talked to people who have missed the services, and asked them a few probing questions. A man we used to worship with missed one Sunday. I asked him the next week why he missed and told him that we missed him. I was surprised at his answer because he was one of our stronger young men (I thought). He said, “I just didn’t come.” Then I took the opportunity to question him further, and remind him of his duty to God. He told me of some discouragements he was having in his family. He needed encouragement. “Encourage the fainthearted” – sometimes we don’t realize who needs this encouragement.
Verse 14 says, “Help the weak”. The word “weak” means without strength, or sick. Help the spiritually sick with encouragement. Help them by teaching them. “Be patient with them all.” When we think of how longsuffering God is with us, we should be longsuffering with others. That is not to say our longsuffering doesn’t have an end to it. Even God’s longsuffering has an end, and we only have to read our Old Testament to learn this. But, we don’t need to be too ready and too quick to “write off” some people. Give them time to grow and do what is right. This is especially true for new converts.
I Thess. 5:15 says, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Do we always seek to do good to our brethren? There are always going to be brethren we love more than others, but are we willing to love that unlovable brother? The one who “rubs us the wrong way”? Have we thought about the fact that our unlovable brother is trying to go to the same place I am trying to go to – Heaven? (Gal. 6:10)
“Rejoice always” (I Thess. 5:16). Can we find ways to rejoice? Do we look for things to rejoice in? When discouraging times comes,( and they will), do we still find the things we can rejoice in? In God’s word, our Lord, our hope?
I Thess. 5:17 says “Pray without ceasing”. Do we pray always? For the church? That God’s word will spread? For God’s people in other hard areas? For the sick? For those who are weak spiritually? For our spiritual growth? For wisdom?
Verse 18 says “In everything give thanks”. Do we give thanks for our family? Are we thankful for our salvation? For our blessings? Do we give thanks in all circumstances? Can we give thanks when all may not be going so well for us? It is easy to give thanks when things are going well.
As women in the Bride of Christ we are bound by scripture in what we can and cannot do. I Tim. 2: 11 – 12 tells us that women are forbidden by God to do two things:
- Teach over a man.
- Usurp authority over a man.
It is the responsibility of mine as a woman to condition my mind, and the mind of my family, to worship acceptably. How do I do this? Do the necessary things at home to get ready mentally and spiritually. Before Sunday or Wednesday night class, get your own Bible lesson and make sure your children have done theirs. On Saturday night before services on Sunday, get things prepared for Sunday – clothes, Bibles, etc. Make your home on Sunday morning a place where your family is preparing their minds for worship. Think about quietness on the Lord’s Day, instead of having the TV, internet, or radio blaring. Listen to scriptural religious acapella hymns. (Many sound congregations of the Lord’s church have copies of their congregational singing on the internet that we can listen to, etc.) Listen to scripture being read. We live in an age when this is easy with Ipads, computers and Iphones. These are just some ideas.
Allow yourself plenty of time, and get to church on time. No one likes to get to a ballgame, concert or other event late, but we seem to make excuses for getting to services of the Lord’s church late. No one can be in the right frame of mind who has rushed to get dressed, rushed to drive to services, and rushed to get a seat in worship. Children will not get out of worship what they should if they miss the first 10 – 15 minutes of class. This is not good for the children, and it is discouraging and frustrating to the teacher because she cannot get the late child “caught up” to where the class is in the lesson.
If we are teaching a class we need to be in the classroom early to greet our students. Remember that we are leading by example as well as in the Word.
Your husband and you need to purpose beforehand what you will give into the Lord’s contribution (I Cor. 16: 1- 2). Don’t just throw some loose change or bills into the collection plate. This is not “purposing” to give. Giving to God what is leftover after bills are paid and groceries are bought is not “purposing” to give. Israel made the mistake of giving God the “leftovers” in Malachi 1: 7 – 12, and God told Israel how He felt about it.
As a member of the Bride of Christ, teach your children to worship. Teach them to bow their heads during the prayers, and to be quiet and respectful during the Lord’s supper. Teach them to get out a songbook and sing, and to listen quietly to sermon. Even small children can learn these things, and they have to be taught. They will not automatically know how to worship if we do not teach them. If we do these things our worship will be acceptable.
Be willing to meet visitors in our assemblies and make them feel welcome. Think of how you feel when you visit another congregation and no one speaks to you. Think of how discouraging it can be for those who visit.
These things, and so many others, are our responsibilities as members of the Bride of Christ. We have so much work to do! Let’s be doing it!