Some people are just such horrible sinners. It’s really easy to look upon some people and think about how lost they are. How they need Christ in their life. It’s so easy to tell this to our neighbors, friends, pastor, or, in rare cases, even the “sinners” themselves.
Even when we look upon the members of our own Church congregations, we find it easy wonder “What right do they have to be here?”… “How dare they step foot in the house of God when just last night they were sinning?”… “How can they even think they can teach, preach, or do anything of service for this church. Who are they trying to fool?”
Or we take the more “Christian-like” approach, and say “I know I’m a sinner… but I’m not as bad as that person.”
I’m not going to sit here and say that because I write sermons, because I sometimes preach and teach the Word of God, that I am less of a sinner than others. Or that I even think that. Even pastors – if they are honest – would not claim to be less of a sinner, or more saintly, than anyone within or outside the church they serve.
The truth is, we’re all equally sinners. We’re all equally saints. God does not differentiate one sin as more or less sinful. God does not hold anyone in higher favor or saintliness because of their good deeds. While our human minds tend to see these differences – God does not.
And those who do preach and teach, do not do so of their own accord. They do not do so because they feel they have the right to do so. They do so because they are led by God – by the Holy Spirit – to speak Truth. To spread the Gospel of Christ. To share the truth of God’s endless grace, mercy and forgiveness. To equip others in understanding this truth, and in sharing this truth.
This is what each of us are to do. In Ephesians chapter 4, we’re told: 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
God has given each of us a gift. We’ve all been blessed with the Holy Spirit, to speak God’s Truth to one another – both in and outside the Church. To both believers and non-believers. When Paul speaks of equipping the saints for the work of ministry – he’s speaking of equipping each of us, as we are both saint and sinner. We’re to use our gifts, through the guidance of the Spirit, to equip others in using their gifts, to build up the body of Christ.
When we sit in church, speaking or thinking ill of others – when we make those comments whether to ourselves or to others, about how some people do not have the right to be in the church, or do not have the right to preach or teach - we are not doing what God asks of us. We are not building up the church of Christ. We are not equipping each other for the work of ministry. In verse 29, we’re told “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” This is also repeated in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” How are we building one another up and giving grace when we choose to see others as less worthy?
The truth is, it is true – if you go by the sins I have committed in my life, and probably even today, I have no right to preach. If you go by the sins you have committed, you have no right to preach. Even our pastors, preachers, teachers, lay persons, have no right. No human does. Except for the simple fact that God gives us that right – that responsibility – and the faith and ability to do so. And he gives that to each of us. He wants that from each of us. He does not want us putting each other down, and talking badly about one another. He wants us building each other up. He wants us equipping one another for ministry, for unity in Christ.
When we cut each other down – even if we do not do so specifically to the other person – we are still tearing that person down. We are saying that we do not have faith in God’s choice to use that person. We are not building that person up as we are told to do.
So let us “31 Put away from [us] all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven [us].”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
Romans 14:19 ESV
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Proverbs 27:17 ESV
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.