by Rev. John Fryters, Ph.D., ICADC
President of CHAKAM School of the Bible
Professor of Biblical Counseling, Biblical Life College & Seminary
Over the last 6 months CHAKAM School of the Bible, in collaboration with Bakke Graduate University and the Mustard Seed Foundation in Seattle, has been developing a new course curriculum on “The Theology of Work” or better known in today’s circles as “Market Place Ministry”.
And I have astounded about the revelatory knowledge that comes with searching the Scriptures, as the Bereans did, on a consistent, systematic basis. It almost feels that the Holy Spirit is rewarding us for being in His Word a lot. Not only did He give us revelation about the topic researched but also revelatory nuggets just for today.
In our research we literally found countless definitions of the concept of work, but the one that is one of the most appealing was Dr. John Stott’s definition. He suggests that work is “the expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community and glory to God” (1)
Ever come across a Scripture which sounds strange and even questionable?
I Corinthians 11:1 (NCV)
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Who does Paul think he is? How arrogant can you be? Ask me to try to follow Christ and (maybe) I will, but follow man, I have to think about it twice… And which minister would even dare to ask the same what Paul is asking: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ?
But Paul seems to understand what God wants him to do as he keeps on repeating that same message.
I Corinthians 4:15-16 (NCV)
For though you may have ten thousand teachers in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Through the Good News I became your father in Christ Jesus, so I beg you, please follow my example.
So, here Paul clarifies that you are not just following a man, but you are following a “spiritual father”. While this might be a topic for another sermon later, he continues to repeat “follow my example”. He not only told the Corinthian Church, but also the Churches in Philippi and Thessalonica.
II Thessalonians 3:9 (NCV)
We had the right to ask you to help us, but we worked to take care of ourselves so we would be an example for you to follow.
Philippians 3:17 (NCV)
Brothers and sisters, all of you should try to follow my example and to copy those who live the way we showed you.
I Thessalonians 1:6 (NCV)
And you became like us and like the Lord…
The word “follow” used in this context is the Greek word “mimetes” where our words “mime”, “to mimic” and “to imitate” are derived from. So, we are to imitate our spiritual leaders (fathers) as they are imitating Christ.
The writer of Hebrews adds an additional element.
Hebrews 6:12 (KJV)
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The writer of Hebrews warns the Church in Thessalonica not to be lazy but to indeed follow its leaders.
While all of these Scriptures tell us to imitate our spiritual leaders as they in turn imitate Christ, none of them tell us that our spiritual leaders are perfect, infallible or imitate Christ correctly. Paul was a man, the apostles were men, and we, ministers, are men. The only thing the Holy Spirit tells us, through Paul, is that we are to imitate Christ so that in turn those who we are ultimately spiritually responsible for can imitate us.
No matter what, the statement made by Paul in I Corinthians still remains a tall order!!!
In the context of the “Theology of Work”, it becomes quite clear what Paul means when he said to the church in Thessalonica “not to be lazy”.
An in-depth study of the Scriptures reveals that:
1. The term “God” and “work” are almost synonymous
Commentator Finis Dake tells us that God, through His Word, mentions the concept of “work” some 416 times. Scriptures related to work are mentioned 116 times. The word “works” appears 235 times.
God, in the Scriptures, made it clear that we are to work (Genesis 3:19; Proverbs 10:16) and that we are to work with Him (II Corinthians 6:1).
Our lesson learned: we have no choice. If we are to imitate God, we have to work and work with Him.
2. God’s projects usually begin and end, but his other work continues
While God instituted “rest periods” such as at the end of the week (Exodus 20:8-10; 31:15; 34:21; 35:2; Hebrews 4:11), and at the end of special occasions such as the important Biblical Feasts (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:3-36), since God is eternal, His work actually never ends.
So, since we are eternal, our work (manual and mental or both according to Dr. John Stott) never ends. So much for a set retirement age of 60 or 65!!!
Our lesson learned: our work during the week and on special occasions has to end some times (means “keep your Sabbath”). However, as it relates to end of a lifetime, our work never ends – we continue to work until the Lord calls us home and, I believe, beyond that.
3. God’s work is “perfect”
In Deuteronomy 32:4 and Hebrew 13:21 it shows us that God’s work is “perfect”.
Our lesson learned: when we correctly imitate God, we need to strive for perfection (nothing less) – no matter who we work for.
4. God’s work was “good” and “very good”
The term “good” is used in Genesis 1:10 and Genesis 1:21 – “and God saw that it was good”.
The term “very good” is used in Genesis 1:31 – “and God saw that it was very good”.
The term “good” was used after creating most of creation, and the term “very good” was used after creating Adam and Eve.
Our lesson learned: when we work we need to imitate God in His work and make sure that it is at least “good”. And when we work with other people (humans) we make sure that it is at least “very good”. God, in fact, tells us that we are to become followers (imitate) of what is good.
I Peter 3:13 (KJV)
And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of what which is good?
The Lord also gives us a hint that following what is good needs to be combined with what is perfect.
Hebrews 13:21 (KJV)
Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
5. Not only do we have to work, but we have to do “greater works” than God
John 14:12 (NCV)
I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the same things that I do. Those who believe will do even greater things than these,because I am going to the Father.
Weekly church service after weekly church service, believers are sitting in the pew and are waiting…. and waiting….. and waiting….., and waiting…..
They are not told that they should mimic, should imitate, should follow their spiritual leader who is following (imitating) Christ. Those spiritual leaders are (should be) working hard. After all, that’s what the Lord showed us in His Word this week.
We, as spiritual leaders, should understand “The Theology of Work”. It is true that one is not saved by works, but by faith and through the grace of God. However, we need to tell our followers that once saved, we need to start working and what Paul tells us in I Corinthians, it has to start with us. Otherwise, those in the pew will be waiting…. waiting…. waiting….. and waiting.
© Copyright 2010 by John J.A. Fryters, Ph.D., ICADC. All rights reserved.
(1) John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today, p162
Rev. Dr. Fryters is the President and CEO of CHAKAM School of the Bible Inc. (www.worldoutreach.ca), an innovative Bible College in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, with campuses in Canada, Peru and Uganda. Currently, CHAKAM is also planning to open an additional campus in The Sudan.
Currently, he also serves on the Board of Regents of the Timothy Program International, the Board of Directors of the Saskatchewan Association of Career Colleges, and the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons.