FOR WE ARE FELLOW WORKERS WITH GOD by Bishop Dr. J. Akin Atere

DIOCESE OF BADAGRY’S CLERGY AND WIVES RETREAT HELD AT SALEM CITY, TOPO-IDALE ON OCTOBER 28, 2016 AT 1.00AM.

TOPIC: FOR WE ARE FELLOW WORKERS WITH GOD

TEXT: 1 COR. 3:9

“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”

 

INTRODUCTION

For we are labourers together with God; ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. (1 Cor. 3:9 NKJV)

For we are God’s fellows workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor. 3:9, RSV)

The church at Corinth had an improper estimation of their preachers, resulting into strife and division “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1Cor. 1:10-13), it got to the level of manifesting Spirit of carnality, “or ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Cor. 3:3-4). Paul wrote to correct this anomaly to define in a proper term how now they should see themselves, when he says in “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (1 Cor. 3:5) and he felt that is how they should see themselves “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1).

In further revealing the proper estimation of preachers, Paul mentions that those who share God’s word with others are “fellow or co-workers with God” (1 Cor. 3:9).

Let’s think of a familiar English word derived from Greek “senergos” – Synergy which describes combined action or operation. It is an interaction or cooperation of two or more organisations, substances or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separates effects. In the New Testament, ‘sunergos’ is used only of a co-worker or helper in the Christian work which conveys the idea of an affectionate partnership and not merely that of an impersonal, official relationship. Paul twice specifically included godly women among his fellow workers Prisca or Priscilla “And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Rom. 16:3) and Euodia and Syntyche two godly but quarrelling members of the Church at Philippi who had shared Paul’s “struggles in the cause of the Gospel.” (Phil. 4:3). The word refers to someone who is a team player.

You may work together with others and yet still not be a co-worker because God has to bind you together. For two brothers to be co-workers is similar to binding their legs together, so that together they have three legs instead of four. If two brothers can work together in this way, they are co-workers. To now be a co-worker with God means bounding together with God, loosing yourself into Him. For one to merely be Lord’s servant is easier than being His co-worker because it’s more of bondage. When God works, he works. When He stops, he stops. You may be a diligent person who wants to do more work for God, but God may say “I do not want you to do more work for me right now, I want you to rest with me. I’m resting, so you have to rest.”

What the Church needs is not a group of able workers but a group of people who are bound together with God who are co-workers with God. When God works, you work, when God withdraw, you withdraw. You do this because you are bound with Him as one.

There are visible signs that prove that someone is a co-worker with God. 2 Cor. 6:1-10 gives us these signs We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,  By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;  As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

From the middle of verse 7 through verse 10. Paul speaks of three groups of things and seven kind of person. Paul said that he was commended as a minister of God through three group of things – through the weapons of righteousness on the right and on the left, through glory and dishonour, and through evil report and good report.” As deceivers and yet true: as unknown and yet well known, as dying and yet we live: as being disciplined and yet not being put to death: as made sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many: as having nothing and yet possessing all things” verses 8(b)-10

TEAM PLAYER: There are two aspects of a team player in the body of Christ.

  1. He/She is one who is a fellow worker with God – the Head of the body being the Lord Jesus. We are to get our orders and spiritual strength from the Lord and allow Him to work in and through us. We work by submission to God and by faith in His provision.
  2. He/She is to work together with the brethren in Christ as a part of God’s team. There is no such thing as one man team. (iwo lo gbase, kii se me). We work to build up others and to help the other part of the body to function well. It means work with each believer doing his share for the goals of the Head and the team.

CHRISTIANS AS WORKERS

The following passages show that Christians/ministers are workers “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4) ; “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58); “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal. 6:9); “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2:10); “A man that is a heretick after the first and second admonition reject;” (Tit.3:1); “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22); “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17); “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Rev. 20:13). It is utterly impossible to read the above verses without being impressed with the fact that Christians are to be diligent, active, zealous, excited workers for the Lord. We are to be on fire for the Lord.

There are also some characters Paul referred to and identify as co-worker with him or with other people in the same team on the course of the Gospel. “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” (2Cor. 1:24); “Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.” (2Cor.8:23); “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” (Phil.2:25); “And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Phil.4:3), “And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.” (Col 4:11); “And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:” (1Thess 3:2); “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow labourer,” (Philemon 1:1).

In spite of these passages, however, a large percentage of the members of the Lord’s church do little in God’s work. There are many reasons for this failure to work. Some of the reasons are:-

  1. Some has mistaken participation in worship services as the work of the Lord saying that they help conduct the worship service. As commendable as it is, it is just a part of the work of the Lord. The real work is to teach God’s word to the lost, encourage the fainthearted, helping the needy, and build up the church.
  2. Others do not work but they pass the responsibility onto someone else. The wife passes it to the husband or the other way. They do not seem to realise they have a personal responsibility, a personal obligation, to work for the Lord. Someone else cannot do your work for you, if really you are a co-worker.

The Church needs more workers today. Too many are riding, playing away, not doing any worthwhile work. It is the worker who pleases God.

It is the worker who builds the church and is a blessing to the society.

  1. Others do not work because they are not excited about the cause of Christ.
  2. Others do not work because they are satisfied to find fault with what others are doing. Most churches are divided into two classes – those who do something and those who sit still and find fault with what is being done.
  3. Because they do not love the Lord enough. Love is a dynamic compelling force. It leads mother and father to labour for their children. It led God to give His only begotten son. It compels us to labour for the Lord. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15) ; “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”(John15:14).
  4. Other does not work because they do not realise the seriousness of doing nothing. In the parable of the talents, the man who does nothing will be cast into the outer darkness. “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt.25:30)

As Christians, we are to work together because cooperation shows the world that Christians have love for one another as Jesus commanded in “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35).

We should work together because by cooperation we can do greater things for the Lord. Unity of efforts gives us great strength and the power to win the world to Christ. Lack of cooperation makes us very weak and ineffective. We will never make any tangible impact in our church or diocese until we work together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

More importantly as couple, priest and wife in particular we should work together because this is the only way we will save the lost world.

Christian should work together because each member has a vital role to play in the body of Christ “For as the body is one and hath many members and all the members of the body, being many are one body so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12). Here Paul compares the body of Christ to the human body. Each member of the human body is vital to the welfare of the whole body.

We must not work for our own glory but only for God’s glory. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)

It is a rear priviledge that one be appointed as co-worker with God, even though we are not co-equal. It is a priviledge of friendship, making us equal with Him in His father’s assignment. It is a kingdom assignment and for the sake of the gospel.

God provides the opportunity “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (1 Cor.3:5), He opens doors for us to be of service “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Cor. 16:9), especially for those who have shown themselves ready “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” (Rev. 3:8).

Our role may not be the same (some plant, others water) “I have planted, Apollos watered;” (1 Cor. 3:6(a). But the Lord seeks to show Himself strong to those who are loyal to Him. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”(2 Chr. 16:9(a)

Those who hunger and thirst in the course of labouring will be filled. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matt. 5:6).

Those who seek shall find. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt.7:7-11).

ONENESS OF HUSBAND AND WIFE

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25) Explain the oneness of a Christian couple

“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:19-20) speaks of the power and effectiveness in this union. The oneness is Christ cantered.

When couple is a co-worker with God, they acknowledge Christ as Lord of the marriage. It connects you together spiritually as you fellowship with the Lord. It allows you to hear each other’s thoughts and prayers, which helps you to understand your spouse better. It brings a special intimacy into the marriage relationship as you seek God together.

Doing God’s work together foster discussion on God’s direction and plan. Pricilla and Aquila were Jewish Christians like many of the first believers; yet what we see in Acts 18:26 is a couple’s ministry at work. The scripture refers to them as teaching a man named Apollos, an educated and trained speaker about the way of the Lord.

Many of us dismiss the idea that we are ministers in Christ; our relationship is to glorify God and explain more adequately the ways of God. Some of us do not realise that the original plan for male and female was to be co-partner in a personal ministry teaching, serving and worshipping. Not only do we have a unique design to serve God as a couple, but we miss so many opportunities to show the world Jesus and who we are in Him. Can you imagine the impact Christian couple would have in the world, if we viewed the primary role of marriage to be labouring for God.

GOD PROVIDES THE REWARD

  • God will reward each one according to their labour “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.”(1 Cor. 3:8).
  • The more we sow, the more we shall reap. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7).

Those we lead to Christ will be a source of great joy. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.” (1 Thess 2:19-20)

CONCLUSION

“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

Brothers and Sisters, are you a co-worker? Are you a labourer in God’s vineyard? If you are, you are a steward employed to manage the property of God, therefore, your work together as couple must be the master’s glory. You must co-operate with one another, acknowledging God as the provider. You are spiritual leader, which makes you special. You are expected to be honourable as Jesus, the owner and the Chief shepherd. Faithfulness matter in working with God. Faithfulness in the management of money, people and personal integrity because 1 Peter 5:4 says “And when the Chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” The basic qualification for  Christian workers or labourers in God’s vineyard is salvation. You must then be faithful and always available to move with God when it is convenient and when it’s not. Isa. 6:8 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Be teachable, someone who can be taught by God. Your life must not be a ground for reproach, therefore be disciplined. Be close to your spouse and keep to God’s injunction of marriage vows. Be sober and clearheaded. Don’t be a novice or a baby in Christ. Pray for the grace to be qualified as co-labourers with God in His vineyard.

Remain blessed in Jesus name.

 

The Rt. Revd. Dr. J. Akin Atere

Bishop, Diocese of Awori