Working for God?

Posted: December 3, 2012 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Introduction

Church language tends to complicate matters. In spite of the anonymous Epistle to Hebrews stating that we are a priesthood of all believers, still we like to make distinctions on who is the priest, minister, pastor, deacon, laity, missionary, etc. missing the point that these are duties one may perform but we are all workers within God. Murray may have been writing 111 years ago one has to ask can these words still bear fruit today. The advent of technology has allowed for many books, papers, and tracts to survive long past their best before date is Working for God among them, or should it still be available?

That is the question as a summary of the work is presented and then the work itself is but to the test of discernment on whether or not the priesthood of all believers can learn and grow from these century plus old words. There is a self-discernment movement afoot within the modern church that states we wait upon God’s call to act, but is this simply not a means to do nothing or to act prematurely out of what we want to present as God’s call but is truly only our desires?

The Reign worker needs to identify what is of them, what is of God, and work out of that which is of God (Murray, 2).

Summary

Failure! It is an ugly word, made uglier by the exclamation point. Yet it is this word that can cause many to become the frozen chosen within the pews.  For Murray failure begins not with an action, but with a desire to complain, or to complain instead of working out of God’s work (2) and it is our role to help those within this failure discover what the cause is (2). As St. James said previously, and Murray paraphrases on page 2 that “those who do nothing with their faith are missing the key characteristic of the divine life”.

The thrust of Murray’s writings is not that we are to be constantly doing for it is in waiting that builds up the strength to work for God (4), but it is not to use the waiting to avoid work, or vice-versa for as with everything in creation there is symmetry (4). It is out of this symmetry that Christ’s disciples are to shine their light into the darkness through our good works (Murray, 5).

Murray leans on scripture as a devotional source for the worker. It is through dwelling in the scriptures that one can grow in God dwelling within them (Murray, 12).  From this indwelling the divine life becomes evident as they are given out of the divine light (you) that truly gives power to good works (Murray, 5).

The essence of Murray’s Working for God is just that. We as believers are called to dwell in God, God to dwell in us and from that dwelling work to work out into the world as an act of salvation. Salvation is our being God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Murray, 15). Faith and works together not compartmentalized as the modern mind likes things.

Interpretation

Murray’s writings can have the feel of speaking with an Aboriginal Shaman. Now before the torches and pitchforks come out, stay with this idea. For in Aboriginal cultures, ones spirituality (faith) is not simply compartmentalized to a title or day of the week or place, rather it is lived out completely within creation for all is sacred. Murray has thrown down the gauntlet, not necessarily with these words, but with the words of his time for it is out of God’s work that we work (Murray, 2) or the idea of divine life (Murray, 5). These ideas lend on the idea of all is sacred, not just a building, or a person, or an act (sacrament). There is a connectedness between God’s love (grace) and the good works we are to do.

One of the biggest debates dividing believers (aside from hymns versus contemporary music, or bible translations, etc) is Grace versus Good Works, what is the route of salvation? Murray provides an answer that can still resonate today, salvation is because we are God made, yet it is also our good works because we are Christ-bearers (Murray, 15). Pause and think on that for a minute, we are saved because God made us, but also because of the good works we do to show Christ within us.

That is quite powerful, 111 years on, and it can still resonate by confounding. There is also more to realize with what Murray writes, for he points out the symmetry in waiting and working (Murray, 2-5). It is within this symmetry that one does not act within isolation. For this believer it is a confirmation that self-discernment can be a falsity, for it is within community (localized Body of Christ) that our role within the work is discerned, and then that we are empowered to work. This work then is complimentary to the other discerned vocations within the localized whole to ensure all aspects are cared for.

It is the connecting web of life that is the local church separated by denominations at the microcosm level, for each church has its speciality, yet each church attempts to be everything for everyone. If we truly held to the fact that God created us all, with a vocational call to work (priesthood of all believers) yet each to their own gifting, then each church can craft their speciality regardless of the brand on the building, and the community itself will be cared for out of our salvation the way God intended through the image of Christ.  Divine service and Divine Life through the divine light that is each of us to turn a phrase from Murray’s writing.

These are the missing pieces within our focus of ministry. Today in Canada, more locally to the context of Calgary, Alberta where the entity that is church just wants to hire a pastor to lead them, do the work and grow the congregation. This totally ignores the Biblical precedence for a priesthood of all believers (Epistle of Hebrews):

                                                19 pTherefore, brothers,3 since we have confidence to enter qthe holy places by    the blood of Jesus, 20 by rthe new and living way that he opened for us     through sthe curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have ta great priest           over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of   faith, with our hearts usprinkled clean vfrom an evil conscience and our             bodies wwashed with pure water. 23 xLet us hold fast the confession of our hope   without wavering, for yhe who promised is faithful. 24 And zlet us consider how to   stir up one another to love and good works, 25 anot neglecting to meet     together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more      as you see cthe Day drawing near.

 

(Hebrews 10: 19-25, English Standard Version)

While it is the writing of St. Peter that clearly labels the priesthood of all believers, it is most notably this one passage with Christ becoming the temple that reveals we all have a role to play in the ministry of the world.

The Body of Christ (First Epistle to the Corinthians):

12 For example, the body is one unit and yet has many parts. As all the parts form            one body, so it is with Christ. 13 By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.        Whether we are Jewish or Greek, slave or free, God gave all of us one Spirit to    drink.

                14 As you know, the human body is not made up of only one part, but of many      parts. 15 Suppose a foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body!” Would         that mean it’s no longer part of the body? 16 Or suppose an ear says, “I’m not an     eye, so I’m not a part of the body!” Would that mean it’s no longer part of the            body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body             were an ear, how could it smell? 18 So God put each and every part of the body    together as he wanted it. 19 How could it be a body if it only had one part? 20 So       there are many parts but one body.

                21 An eye can’t say to a hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 The opposite is true. The parts of the body that we       think are weaker are the ones we really need. 23 The parts of the body that we       think are less honorable are the ones we give special honor. So our           unpresentable parts are made more presentable. 24 However, our presentable             parts don’t need this kind of treatment. God has put the body together and given             special honor to the part that doesn’t have it. 25 God’s purpose was that the body   should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same concern           for each other. 26 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its          suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness.

                27 You are Christ’s body and each of you is an individual part of it. 28 In the church          God has appointed first apostles, next prophets, third teachers, then those who        perform miracles, then those who have the gift of healing, then those who help       others, those who are managers, and those who can speak in a number of languages. 29 Not all believers are apostles, are they? Are all of them prophets?      Do all of them teach? Do all of them perform miracles 30 or have gifts of healing?             Can all of them speak in other languages or interpret languages?

                31 You only want the better gifts, but I will show you the best thing to do.[a]

(12:12-31, God’s Word Translation)

Faith without works is dead (Epistle of James):

                14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do       nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a     brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one     of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you        don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.

                18 Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see    your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into   practice in faithful action. 19 It’s good that you believe that God is one. Ha! Even         the demons believe this, and they tremble with fear. 20 Are you so slow? Do you   need to be shown that faith without actions has no value at all? 21 What about    Abraham, our father? Wasn’t he shown to be righteous through his actions when             he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 See, his faith was at work along with his             actions. In fact, his faith was made complete by his faithful actions. 23 So the    scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and God regarded him   as righteous.[c] What is more, Abraham was called God’s friend. 24 So you see            that a person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through          faith alone. 25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute shown to be    righteous when she received the messengers as her guests and then sent them      on by another road? 26 As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead.

(2:14-26, Common English Bible)

And from the words of Jesus of Nazareth at his Ascension to sit at the right hand of God in the Gospel according to St. Matthew:

                18 And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth.

                19 Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the            Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,

                20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And   lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Amen.

(28:18-20, 21st Century King James Version).

It is not a singular or independent enterprise to build the Reign of God here on earth. It is not this style of enterprise either to be a worker for God.  Rather it is a communal

Conclusion

Two questions opened this paper:

  1. The advent of technology has allowed for many books, papers, and tracts to survive long past their best before date is Working for God among them, or should it still be available?
  2. There is a self-discernment movement afoot within the modern church that states we wait upon God’s call to act, but is this simply not a means to do nothing or to act prematurely out of what we want to present as God’s call but is truly only our desires?

For question one, the answer is simply, yes, Murray’s work should still be available but not in the individual isolation as much as it should be used as a discussion starter within local churches and ministerial on the role disciples should play within their own communities.

As for the second question, is there a definitive answer to this question today? Is it God’s will or our own desires? For the disciple it is truly about moving beyond grace in isolation, to grace in good works which then allows us to reveal the divine light that God has lit us with, live out of this into the divine life to truly show others the power of good works to crafting Christ’s reign here on earth.

 

Reference

Murray, A. (1901). Working for God. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.

 

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