Empowering Subjects of the King to Change the World-6

Workers (part 2, good deeds).

NOTE: I recently received feedback that my posts would be better and more memorable if I shortened them to make them more digestible. Brevity is not my strength, but I’m going to give it a try by breaking down what formerly would have been a single post into several, shorter posts. Your feedback is welcome (contact me).

We have been seeking to discern from Scripture the key elements of the mission God has called us to participate in and point out how the ministry of Empowering Subjects is seeking to heed that wisdom. Last time we noticed that a major key of Jesus’ strategy for addressing the needs of broken hurting people was to increase the number of workers (see Matthew 9:35-38 and the post). We pointed out that Jesus is the one who sends out workers, that we are to pray earnestly for workers, and that workers need to be equipped (Matthew 10).

Now I want to address the important question of, What is a worker? It is tempting to answer this with whatever kind of worker we may feel the need for. Some such answers may be on track while others probably aren’t.

We can better grasp what Jesus meant by a worker in Matthew 9:37-38, however, if we read the passage in its context. Doing so suggests that a worker in this passage is someone who does what Jesus was doing (v. 35). What he was doing was 1) teaching in their synagogues, 2) proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, and 3) healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35). Today we might describe these three aspects of his ministry in terms of 1) teaching/spiritual formation/discipleship; 2) evangelism/sharing the faith/telling the good news; and 3) service/ministry/helping. The fact that the Spirit elsewhere inspired Matthew to summarize Jesus’ ministry in near verbatim terms (4:23) shows that this is not a coincidental description of Jesus’ activities. Instead, it underscores that these are prominent components of his ministry. A worker (vv. 37-38) is someone who does these three things (v. 35). This and the next two posts will briefly explore each of these, in reverse order of how they are listed in the passages.

We begin with good deeds. Jesus’ deeds were miraculous and so had a special power and significance. There is much about miracles that is not clear to me, but I no longer say, as I once did, that God will not do miracles through his people today. My reason is that it seems inappropriate for a servant to tell what his master will or will not do unless the master has stated it with unmistakable clarity, and some of the passages that have been cited to “prove” miracles have ceased are not unmistakably clear.

On the other hand, I will also say that it is not helpful to label things as miracles when they do not partake of the nature of biblical miracles, namely, an instantaneous outpouring of divine power in ways contrary to nature. I will also say that the New Testament clearly states that not everyone even in the first century had the ability to do miracles (1 Corinthians 12:27-31), and that I have not been given any such ability. All this underscores the truth that there is something truly unique about the miracles Jesus did, and these point to his identity in a special way (Matthew 11:2-6; John 20:30-31).

… a worker in this passage is someone who does what Jesus was doing…

Marvin Bryant; cf. Matthew 9:35

Even if we cannot do miracles, however, we can still do good deeds that point to the identity of Christ, the reality of God’s kingdom, and the truthfulness of the gospel. Good deeds are valuable in themselves, but they also point to these spiritual realities and so advance God’s mission. If you are not clear about this, consider what Scripture says about the effect of Christlike lives (Philippians 2:14-15; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:1, 2, 16) and good deeds (Matthew 5:14-16; Titus 2:7-8; 1 Peter 2:12, 15). Godly relationships in the church, too, have a powerful effect (John 13:35; 17:20-21). In all these passages, be sure to notice not only that we are supposed to live a certain way but also that doing so will have a powerfully positive effect on others.

The power of our good deeds will be enhanced if we also do them compassionately (Matthew 14:14), humbly (Luke 17:7-10), authentically (Colossians 3:22), and trustingly (1 Peter 4:11). Good deeds should also be done with no strings attached (Luke 17:11-14), and yet with eyes open for opportunities that may arise from doing them (Luke 17:17; Acts 3:1-12ff.). Doing good deeds in godly ways enhances the power of those deeds.

One part, then, of being a worker like Jesus said is needed is doing good deeds. Because of this, the follow-up training material of Empowering Subjects devotes an entire chapter and week on learning to do good deeds like Jesus. I encourage you to keep your eyes open this week to any opportunity God may give you to advance his work in the world by doing good deeds.

For more info on how Empowering Subjects is equipping people to minister like Jesus, see here.

Published by Marvin Bryant

After serving as a minister for churches for forty years, Marvin founded the Empowering Subjects to equip subjects of the King to change the world like Jesus did.

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