2. SCOPE OF MUTUAL MINISTRY
What was to be done mutually, or reciprocally, in the primitive community of the saints? In his wonderful thesis on the unified functioning of the divine organism, the apostle Paul points out that there are varieties of gifts, service, and working, although proceeding from the one source. The purpose of the gifts is thus described, “To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Here are a few of the mutual aspects pertaining to “the common good.”
1. Love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God” (1 John 4:9).
2. Hospitality. “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet. 4:9).
3. Forbearance. “With longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2).
4. Forgiveness. “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, for giving one another” (Eph. 4:32)
5. Comfort. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18) .
6. Edification. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19).
7. Exhortation. “Exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13).
8. Teaching and Admonition. “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16) .
9. Care. “The members should have the same care one for another” (1 Cor. 12:25).
10. Confession of faults. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16) .
11. Service. “By love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
12. Burden bearing. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2)
Although, a community when newly planted, would be nurtured and nourished by the evangelist who begot them by the gospel, such a one, like a father, would train the new converts in every phase of service. He would seek to make them capable of doing without his presence, so he could be on with his primary task of taking the Good News to those who had not previously heard it. Every member would be given full opportunity to exercise and develop his ability, and the evangelist would work himself out, rather than work himself in. The goal of the infant community was to reach maturity, to stand upon its own feet, to further the cause without help. They had been called to minister, not to be ministered unto.
When men among their own number had attained the qualifications required of bishops, or pastors, these were selected by the community, ordained by the evangelist, and under their oversight, the community functioned as an independent unit. The evangelist was no longer required. His work with the congregation had been finished. To suggest that such a community “hire a minister” to conduct their corporate devotions, carry on instruction in exhortation and admonition, visit their sick, and administer their communal affairs, would have been an insult, a reflection against their growth in grace and knowledge, and an implication that they were still in a state of infantile weakness and incompetency. The measure of growth in one congregation of saints, is found in the words of the apostle Paul, addressed to them, “I am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”
Mutual ministry applies to every phase of life and activity in the community of the holy ones. It utilizes for the common good every gift, talent, or ability, within the regulation of the apostolic doctrine. It is not limited to the public corporate worship of the community, nor does it exclude it. It does not make a majority of the saints a mere paying membership whose chief function is to provide a stipend for one to minister unto them, but it recognizes that all are ministers without exception, and the term “ministry” is an inclusive one which describes every act and function by which God and man are served.