When one thinks of the struggles endured by faithful men and women of God, one is likely to think of David’s persecution by King Saul, Jeremiah’s being cast into the dungeon, or of Zechariah’s stoning. One might think of the persecution faced by the apostles of the Lord. Paul enumerates in Second Corinthians 11 a number of the physical trials he personally endured: Countless scourgings, three beatings with rods, a stoning, and three shipwrecks, among other unimaginable life-threatening events. At the conclusion of this gut-wrenching list is a trial not of a physical nature—he adds, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (v. 28). After facing “those things that are without”; that is, those external struggles he had mentioned; they were no longer what concerned him. The fact that he would have to face such struggles again was not what concerned him. But his deep anxiety for all the churches pressed upon him daily. Such love and concern and for the church should move us greatly. But was such concern for the church any more than we should have? No, each of us should have similar concern for the church.
We should have concern for the spiritual growth of the church. Each member of the church is to grow spiritually, thus leading to the growth of the church as a whole (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). We must begin with ourselves in this process, but we do not end with ourselves in this process. We are commanded, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). Many are in dire need of exhortation. When one’s own congregation is holding a Gospel meeting, it is inconceivable that any physically capable member would miss any session thereof. When the church of our Lord is not at the stage of spiritual development where it should be, this should cause our hearts to be grieved.
We should also have concern for the moral purity of the church. Christ died for the church,
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27).
However, the world has greatly spotted, wrinkled, and blemished the pristine church of Christ. There are members of the church living no different from the world once they exit the confines of the church building. There are members of the church living in what the world calls marriage, but God calls adultery (Rom. 7:3). There are members of the church dressing provocatively, some even as they go to worship the Lord. Are we outraged over such things? We should be.
We should also have concern for the doctrinal soundness of the church. The foundation upon which the church is built is the doctrine, or teaching, of Jesus Christ and the apostles (Matt. 16:16-18; Luke 8:11; Eph. 2:20; cf. 1 Cor. 3:11). It is from the doctrine that we derive our spiritual growth and moral purity. Yet in so many churches, the opinions of men hold governing power. Pop psychology is being taught in so-called “Bible” classes rather than the all-sufficient word of God. Pipsqueak preachers shun to preach the whole counsel of God for fear of alienating certain people. If this does not concern us, something is wrong with our hearts.
Paul, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, expressed his deep concern for the church. The Lord continues to have concern for the church. Do we share this concern? While there is much about the church for which we need to be thankful and joyful, we must not let ourselves be blinded from the serious concerns facing the church. Our concern should extend, as it did for Paul, to “all the churches.” We may not have the charge over the church received by Paul and the other apostles (cf. Matt. 19:28). But “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). Let us have concern for the church, and let us use that concern—not to lead us to discouragement, but to do all we can to help the church to follow the path of righteousness.