One of the more important courses I am privileged to teach is Biblical Graduate School of Theology’s “Vocation, Work and Ministry” course where we explore biblical teaching on issues like our daily work, ministry in church and the matter of calling. This year the course has been separated into two, the first dealing with the Theology of Work and the second, the Theology of Calling. We are about to finish Theology of Work. My highlight so far was an evening when I had this exchange with one of the students. I had taught that as Christians, we mediate the person and the presence of Christ into all we do, including our daily work. We bear God’s image in the world.
During the break, one of the students, who is a senior manager in a company involved in coal mining, said: “If we are to bear God’s image in our work, I am not sure I can continue to be involved in coal mining. It is an industry that does serious damage to the environment.”
I was blown away. Here was a brother who not only understood what was being taught, but one who was willing to live out the implications of what he now knew, and probably at some cost because he was doing well in his job. We live in a day and age when most Christians have access to a surfeit of Bible teaching on various platforms. But how many take the time to understand the implications of what they have learnt and live it out in their lives because of what they know to be true.
In Jesus’ parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24–29), the difference between the two builders was not their knowledge of the Word. They had both heard the Word. But the builder who built his house on a foundation strong enough to withstand the storms of life was the one who knew and obeyed the Word, who put the Word into practice. Our spiritual enemies—the world, the flesh and Satan—are quite happy to allow God’s people to live under the illusion that they only need to know the Word. They don’t really need to live it out.
Most of us will know 2 Timothy 3:16–17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)
Many of us will quote the first part of this passage enthusiastically to defend the fact that the Scriptures are divinely inspired. But few will move on to read and apply the second part of verse 16 that tells us that the divine origin of Scripture is meant to help shape those who read it in the areas of right belief and right behaviour.
I wish all who study the Bible would be like the brother in my class, who hears and obeys the Word even if it will cost him. Of course, this means that we who teach the Word must model this. Teachers of the Word must not only teach the Word faithfully, we must model what we teach. We must be able to tell our students like Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it. . .”
The transforming work of God is needed in the world more than ever. But to be agents of God’s transforming agenda, we must first be transformed by God through His Word. Only then can we be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22 NIV)