People of God — Lesson 8

A Study by Robert F. Turner

Living “As Unto the Lord”

People of God are those people who have heard the call of the gospel, and have obeyed that call from the heart. They have not simply “joined a club” to which they owe allegiance and “attendance” now and then. They “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), and allow the principles of Christ to permeate every aspect of their lives. Colossians 3 puts great emphasis upon this new “life style” by saying, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (v.2). The thought is expanded: “Put to death . . . fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (v.5). Further, “put off . . . anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language,” etc. (vv.8,9); and “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him(v.10).

The Individual Christian “As Unto the Lord”

This last statement clearly sets the proper standard before us. People of God are to let God pattern their lives. Colossians 3:17 states it, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Lest we miss the “whatever,” Paul then calls specific attention to various aspects of the individual’s life. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (vv.18,19). A like passage in Ephesians 5 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (v.22); and “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (v.25). While marriage is applied to the church in a figurative way only, yet this private and domestic aspect of the lives of people of God is divinely regulated. Children are taught to “obey [their] parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20); and parental obligations (in Christ) are stressed (Ephesians 6:1–4).

“Bondservants [slaves, when this was written], obey in all things your masters . . . not with eyeservice, as menpleasers [when being watched], but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men . . . ” (Colossians 3:22,23). Then Paul turns to the slave owner: “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (4:1). This principle applies to employer-employee relations today.

In Romans 13, Paul writes that “the [governmental] authorities that exist are ordained of God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God” (vv.1,2). Later he writes, “He is God’s minister to you for good,” and, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers” (vv.4,6). This was written at a time when the Roman government was corrupt and heavily taxed the Jews. Paul is not commending the specific rulers, then or now; but he teaches that the principle of civil government is “of God.” He calls upon people of God to submit to civil authorities as “God’s ministers,” needful to punish evil doers and have an orderly society.

When Jesus described the final judgment (Matthew 25:31–46), He said that when we minister to the needs of others, “you did it to Me;” and when we fail to be good neighbors, “you did it not to Me.” And so, on it goes! The New Testament is filled with exhortations for the people of God to live “as to the Lord” in every aspect of their lives. Peter puts it this way: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake . . . For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — as free, yet not using liberty for a cloak of vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13–17).

People of God are much more than Sunday morning Christians. They work hard and faithfully through the week, their social life is clean, their business deals are honest and fair. Even their manner of speech is affected by their allegiance to Christ (Matthew 5:34–37). There is no hypocrisy in any of this, for they live “from the heart” and “as unto the Lord.” As we call attention to these things, we are aware that many today (perhaps even church members) will say (or think) “This is just preacher talk — we could not function that way in our world.” First, please note that “that way” has been established with specific citations from God’s word. Second, the people of God are not “of this world,” but are pilgrims, just passing through on their way to “a city which foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10,16). God seeks a people who are not “ordinary.” The way is narrow and restricted, and “few there are who find it,” or who qualify (Matthew 7:14).

The Local Church “As Unto the Lord”

With Christians walking circumspectly “as unto the Lord,” every aspect of their work and worship will of necessity be affected. We will discuss in another lesson the work of the church, but we should notice here the effect “as unto the Lord” will have on the functions of the local church.

(1) The faithful members cannot consistently condone those who ignore the Lord. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:1,2). Verses 4,5 read, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh [i.e., withdraw fellowship, “let him be unto you as heathen and publican” — Matthew 18:17] that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Clearly, “as unto the Lord” affects the conduct of Christians acting collectively.

(2) In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul criticizes them for not settling their differences as Christian with Christian, and failing that, to “go before the saints” (v.1). But instead, “brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!”(v.6). He continues, “Why do you not rather accept wrong?” (v.7). A church that operates “as unto the Lord” and brothers who function “as unto the Lord” have principles in common, even though individual and church obligations are not identical. This does not mean the church is an infallible decision maker. But “tell it to the church” (Matthew 18:17) has reference to brethren who gather “in [Christ’s] name” or in keeping with His authority (v.20). The character of true people of God is shaped by their recognition of God’s presence, and their desire to do His will. This makes for fair judgment.

(3) The Lord’s church will support and encourage the teaching of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27–31), while distinguishing between that which applies to the church and that which applies only to individual saints. Bible teachers will urge honesty in business, and work ethics that regulate each individual (Ephesians 4:28); although the church does not engage in secular business. The Bible regulates one’s conduct at a feast (1 Corinthians 10:27,28), but this does not authorize church banquets. The warning about sin against our body (1 Corinthians 6:18–20) does not authorize a church gymnasium. The Lord’s church supports and encourages Bible teaching regarding respect for civil authorities, but does not involve itself in politics. Individuals “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). The local church has an obligation to support needy saints, but individual obligations go much further. Living “as unto the Lord,” God’s people visit the sick, feed the hungry, as “good Samaritans” as they are able (Luke 10:25–37).

By now it is surely apparent that people of God are not casual about their relationship with Christ. He requires nothing of them that a dedicated and truly converted person or “team” cannot do, and nothing will be accepted that does not come from just such dedication. People of God realize that they function in His presence. They see this not as a dreaded oversight, but as opportunity to serve One who loves them and gives guidance that, in the final analysis, is in their best interest. They are grateful for every blessing, and are keenly aware that were it not for His mercy and forgiveness they would be eternally lost.

Study Questions

1. Who sets the standard or pattern for all Christians?

2. This standard affects what fields or aspects of a Christian’s life?

3. What should “masters” remember as they rule others?

4. In approving civil government, does God approve specific rulers?

5. What does it mean to be a “pilgrim” in this life?

6. How does a local church conduct itself “as unto the Lord”?

7. How should being constantly in God’s presence affect us?

The Churches in Asia (May 23)

The Churches in Asia (May 23)

Given our tendency to drift away from Christ, our only hope is in our willingness to be warned. Christ loves us too much not to call us back to the right way, but His call will not help us if we don’t see that it applies to us very personally.

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