Sunday, January 13, 2013

Polycarp 6 - A Good Work

This is a continuation of my series on Polycarp's letter to the Philippian church. If you are unfamiliar with Polycarp or his letter to the Philippians, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

Paul, in writing of overseers, says, "The word [is] faithful: if any one aspires to exercise oversight, he desires a good work." (1 Timothy 3:1 Darby) In speaking of the characteristics that are befitting of overseers, Polycarp writes.
"And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always 'providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man;' abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin." (Polycarp 6)
Polycarp is less concerned with the qualifications of a presbyter as he is with the character of a presbyter. The presbyters, or elders, were responsible for overseeing the church. However, instead of lording their authority over the church, they were called to serve the church. Jesus put it this way, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28) As servants of the church, they are to serve with compassion and mercy. They should also be slow to anger and free from hypocrisy. And in judgement they should to be just and gentle.

Polycarp also reminds us that, when facing someone else's sin, we should remember that we too are "under a debt of sin." As such, we must always remember to offer to others the same forgiveness we desire for ourselves.
"If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and 'we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself.' " (Polycarp 6)
Regardless of how we serve the Lord, we must serve Him with fear and reverence knowing that He sees all  and judges all; it is from Him that we shall receive the rewards of judgments of our service.
"Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]." (Polycarp 6)
We must remember that God will not be mocked; what we do in His name we should also do in His likeness. When we serve Him in a way that brings honor and glory to Him, we will be rewarded. However, if we serve Him in a way that dishonors His name and nature, then we shall receive His discipline.

The key to serving God with fear and reverence is to serve Him in the pursuit of what is Good.
"Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error." (Polycarp 6)
Pursue good, flea evil, and mark those who have not the love of the truth; these are the keys to serving God.

David Robison

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