By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
God is involved in the business of redemption. From the beginning of time, God has had a plan to redeem fallen humanity. How has He communicated that plan? In the Old Testament, God used the nation of Israel to be His representatives to the world. Later, it was Jesus and the apostles who proclaimed the ministry of redemption. Today, God has charged the local church to be His messenger of redemption. That is the purpose of the church. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul said that “the church of the living God” is “the pillar and support of the truth.”
How does God use the local church to communicate His ministry? It is certainly by our doctrine. As we have seen in the book of Romans, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (10:17). But God uses the church to spread the gospel not only by what we say about Christ but by how we behave as Christians–specifically, by how we relate to one another in the local body of believers. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The local church is an amazing thing, when you think about it. Every other affinity group comes together because of a commonality–a common interest, a common background, and so forth. Only in the church of Jesus Christ do you have people of diverse backgrounds, races, and economic strata all coming together, loving one another, and functioning together as one. Jesus said this is going to be what validates the truth of the gospel to an unbelieving world: the way Christians love one another and function together.
That is why Jesus prayed for us in His high priestly prayer, recorded in John 17. Did you know Jesus actually prayed for you? He prayed for you and me in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone” (17:20). Who was He talking about? He was talking about the apostles, His followers at that time. He said He was praying not only for the apostles, “but for those also who believe in Me through their word” (17:20). Jesus was looking down through the corridor of history, and He saw you, and me, and others who would come to believe in Him through the word of the apostles. And what did Jesus pray for us specifically? He prayed in John 17:21 “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” The ability of Christians to function as one body will give credibility to the gospel of Christ.
That is where the subject of spiritual gifts comes in. Paul said the local church is like the human body. Although the body has many different parts, all are important and all have to function together. God has given you a unique spiritual gift that is both a motivation and a special power to spread the message of Christ to others.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Using Your Spiritual Gift” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.