The Care Paul had for the Saints
By: Scott Morton
For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.  And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;  That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;  Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
It is clear the Apostle Paul had a deep care for the members of the Body of Christ. He demonstrates this throughout his epistles. Since he is the individual we are supposed to be following (1 Corinthians 11:1) it is important for us to be able to see what he is saying here and have the understanding needed for our interaction with other members of the Body.
Paul states he had a longing for them in his bowels. He is speaking about a deep rooted need that he had to be around them and to express this care. Paul gives us an example of individuals who were demonstrating this:
1 Corinthians 16:15-18
I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)  That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.  I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. [18[ For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.
The household of Stephanas had such a deep care for the members of the Body of Christ it was identified as being an addiction. An addiction is something that takes such a hold of someone's life that everything in their life revolves around and is controlled by whatever the addiction is to. In this case, these individuals were addicted to the ministry of the members of the Body of Christ. They were doing everything they could to try to be taking care of the saints.
This attitude seems to be lacking many times in the local assemblies. It starts by the cold reception individuals receive when they walk in. this can include how someone who is a visitor is treated by the assembly. If the assembly is not welcoming to individuals, why would someone want to come back to that environment? They would clearly feel there is no care for individuals. It is something which clearly goes against everything the Apostle Paul was doing in his ministry.
He does tell us we need to pray for those who would minister to the saints (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). This goes along with many of Paul's prayers. He understood that as the doctrine would be taken in, the individual would be living a life which would correspond with what the doctrine teaches. This is why he always prays for people to grow in the knowledge first (Colossians 1:9-11) so they would be able to do the things which were pleasing to God.
This care that he had for the members of the Body of Christ extended to a longing he had to be around them:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;  Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.  For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;  That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
Paul had a desire to be with these members of the Body of Christ. He states there is a comfort which would come to him by being around these individuals. These are people he has only heard about from other individuals. He did not have anything to do with preaching the gospel message to them. Paul felt that this time they would have together would be mutually beneficial.
This is a feeling we should have when we are around the members of the Body of Christ. Many individuals travel great distances to attend a local assembly on a weekly basis because there is nothing around them which is teaching the message which was committed to the Apostle Paul. Because of this, we do not see them on a frequent basis, as we are not seeing them in the grocery store or do not travel to see them as often as we should. We will be spending all of eternity with the members of the Body of Christ and are referred to as a family many times in Scripture. We should try to spend as much time as we can with the saints.
Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
Paul indicates there is a joy we have with being around the members of the Body. This is how we should feel when we are round each other. This is often shown by how we greet each other when someone walks in and also how we greet visitors when they attend a local assembly. If a visitor is not greeted warmly, chances are they will not be back. Nobody wants to go somewhere that it appears they are not wanted.
The Apostle Paul identifies the pattern of how this should be displayed. He shows how the Lord Jesus Christ gives us the pattern:
2 Corinthians 5:14-16
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:  And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.  Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave his life for all of mankind. This is why everyone has the opportunity (Titus 2:11) to be able to put their trust in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) during this dispensation. This is a major difference from what we see in the program with Israel:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
These two passages show the distinction which is being made in these programs. Israel is being told the idea of what is going to happen is only for the benefit of those who are friends. This would be a direct reference to Israel and the special relationship the nation had with God. The only way the Gentiles would have a chance of getting into this relationship was for them to go through Israel.
There is a completely different idea going on today. The work which was done of the cross is a potential benefit to everyone for salvation. There is no special group of people which God is dealing with today. This is why there should be some feelings and care for all of mankind.
Even with these statements, the Apostle Paul does speak about how there is to be a care for the saints. We see how this starts with the idea of the prayers he had for them. A few of these are listed here:
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,  Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,  Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,
I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,  Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
These prayers all came about as a result of him hearing what they were doing and knowing of their faith. He is responding to the fact that they are members of the Body of Christ and are continuing to stand in the truth of God's Word rightly divided. As a result of their continuing in the faith, he does not cease to pray for them. The prayers that he would have for them would center on this:
1 Thessalonians 3:12
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
Here the Apostle Paul points out his prayer is for them to be able to have an increase in their love toward each other. He realizes this is not always the most natural thing for individuals to be demonstrating toward each other. In order for this to happen in the manner it should, there needs to be some changes occurring. This is where this prayer comes in, along with several other statements from the Apostle Paul:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,  And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,  Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,  Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:  And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,  Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;  Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;  Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:  Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
These two prayers show what the focus should be on. Many times individuals look at prayer like a 'wish machine' and ask for all sorts of things. They get discouraged when they do not get the things they look for, as they think the promises which were made to the nation of Israel (Matthew 7:7) are going to apply to them. There is a lack of understanding of how this is a promise which is made for the ages to come, where there is going to be a lack of the basic necessities of life. They will need to be asking for food in order to eat and God is going to provide this for them.
The prayer life for this dispensation starts with the fact we need to grow in the understanding of the Word of God. This is where the start of everything is going to happen and how we have the increase in the knowledge of His will. This is why he held up the assembly at Thessalonica as a pattern (1 Thessalonians 2:13), as they had this type of understanding of the Word of God and the impact it was supposed to have on them:
The Apostle Paul described the process of how this is supposed to work in the life of a believer:
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:  Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
The Apostle Paul speaks here about the change which is going to happen inside of the individual. This change happens as the Word of God is taken in. The Spirit communicates with the spirit of the believer in order to teach the things of what the Word of God actually says. This is the only way that someone can actually understand what is contained in Scripture.
The key to all of this is the individual has to have the Spirit in them. The only way this occurs is they have put their trust in the gospel for today (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Without this, there is no possibility of someone actually understanding what the Bible says. The only way they are able to look at it without the Spirit is to consider the Bible as just another book. This is the reason why so many people feel the Bible is confusing, as they have not put their trust in the gospel and cannot understand what it says.
This process gives the believer the understanding of the doctrine which is necessary for today. The doctrine affects all areas of someone's life, including the care which should be demonstrated for the saints. As they take in the doctrine, there is a process which goes on inside of them:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The mind gets renewed as the Word of God is taken in. The mind is the spirit which is inside of the man. Paul states here that the believer needs to do this process in order to be able to do the things which God intends, which includes having a care for the saints. The mind is filled with so many things from the world that there needs to be a change. All of the things of the world have to be pushed out, which occurs as the Word of God is taken in. This is why we have the responsibility to study (2 Timothy 2:15), as we need to have this happening on a daily basis, so we can get closer and closer to what God intends for us.
This change of mindset is something which is part of the will of God for all individuals:
1 Timothy 2:4
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
This change comes in two different directions. The first of these is God wanting all of mankind to receive salvation. In this dispensation, the offer of salvation is open to all men (Titus 2:11). This could not be said in time past, where everything was being done through the nation of Israel. The Gentiles were described in Ephesians 2:11-12 as being outside of everything God was doing. The only way a Gentile was able to be saved prior to this dispensation was to join themselves with Israel and receive salvation by doing everything that was in their program.
This is not true today. There is an extension of salvation which is being offered to all of mankind. All someone has to do is put their trust in the gospel message for today (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) and they will receive salvation. This is something which cannot be taken away from an individual (Ephesians 1:13-14) and includes the total forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 4:32). This is what God wants for all of mankind.
There is another step in this process. God also wants everyone to come unto the knowledge of the truth. This means the believer has to study and start taking the Word of God in so that it can transform the believer. This does not happen with everyone, as many stop the process as soon as they are saved. Also, people come to different levels of what they understand as they go around in their lives. This is why the renewing of the mind is a process which continues to occur as the believer is living their life.
The whole process ties in with what the Apostle Paul saw as the responsibility he had:
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Paul knew it was his responsibility to make all men see. This meant he was to go around and preach the gospel to the lost and was to be giving sound doctrine to those who were already saved. This would allow him to function as the minister of reconciliation and ambassador for Christ that he references (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). These roles are the clear things which are needed as we are dealing with other individuals, demonstrating the care which is needed.
The Apostle Paul speaks about how this needs to be communicated to other individuals as they are going about their lives:
That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
The demonstration of the faith (communication) is all shown by how the believer is living their life. While there is no need to be doing good works for our salvation, we should be doing the right thing as the demonstration of the love which was shown towards us. This life which we are living is demonstrated by the Apostle Paul in the following verse:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
We are to allow the Lord Jesus Christ to be living through us. This is the application of the doctrine which has been given to us in Paul's epistles. As we are applying this doctrine and doing the things which are pleasing to God, we are demonstrating His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) and is how we are to be lights unto this lost world.
This really does mean that the Lord Jesus Christ should be living through us in all areas of our life. There should not be any instances of where we think we can handle these things on our own. He is not our co-pilot, as some would teach. If he was, then we would be the pilot and would be the ones who would be responsible for doing the things. This puts it right back to a performance system where we would fail.
Some people really do struggle with the idea of the believer doing good works. They say this is not something we should be doing. However, the Apostle Paul is clear that it is something we should do:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
All of these passages show how the believer should be doing good works. These are not a requirement for salvation, but are the result of the change that occurs as the doctrine is being applies to their life. There is a definitive purpose for the works being done:
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;  Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
The believer will eventually appear before the Lord Jesus Christ. This will happen when we get to heaven, either after death or when He comes back for the Body of Christ. As part of this, the works which we have done will be judged. If we have done the things which God intends for us to do, we will build gold, silver, and precious stones. Based on these being present, we will receive a reward in heaven.
When we do the things which are contrary to the doctrine, we are building the wood, hay, and stubble. These are the things which will burn away at this event. If there is nothing left, the believer is not kicked out of heaven. They still have their salvation because they put their trust in the gospel and have also been sealed with the Spirit. There is a true guarantee which we have. However, there is the possibility of us losing the reward which we should have received.
One of the areas which we earn these rewards is in our care for the saints. This is what the doctrine has instructed us that we need to be doing. This is not for our glory, as there is only one thing which we can actually glory in:
1 Corinthians 1:31
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 3:20-21
And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.  Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
2 Corinthians 10:17-18
But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.  For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.