In the world, confidence is placed in the credentials of professionals. An honorable society of men and women bestow accolades upon their peers and those who join their ranks, giving them a standing. For the most part, we count on this when committing our affairs into the hands of others. It is generally wise to consult and do business with those who have some form of recognition in their field of expertise. Would we go to a physician whose diploma reads: He can slice. He can dice. ~ From the esteemed proprietors of the Handy-Grab Sandwich Shop? Obviously, we look for credentials sourced from authoritative associations. As much as we trust this system, it is a mistake to believe it can be superimposed upon the Lord’s kingdom, as if some august body can can elevate a saint into a higher rank. In fact, such a point of view will surely take us far from the treasures the Lord has hidden in the lives of His saints.
The whole idea of credentials in the Lord’s kingdom falls apart when we think about our approach to Jesus. He said; “I do not receive honor from men.” (John 5:41) Can we imagine a group of disciples coming up with a medal, or a certificate to give Jesus? What a presumptuous thing that would be. It would not be honor, it would be a degrading thing. Every group that deigns to bestow an honor or a credential contains within its own bosom the act of honoring itself. When an organization gives some honor to an individual, the organization in turn serves notice that it has the position and clout to do such. Well and good, but when it comes to Jesus, how can the clay raise up the potter to a higher position? Jesus faced religious people possessing such an attitude; “But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:42-44) If we are seeking the honor that comes from the only God, then we cannot have any self-imposed standing to give accolades to God.
Seeing this is the case, we cannot give such honor to one another. Jesus was quite clear about this when He taught; “. . .But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” (Matt. 23:5-9) Jesus warned the hearers: “do not be called” and “do not call.” Honor in the church cannot be based on self-imposed glory. This is why it is a shame when in the name of service to God one is called father, reverend, rabbi, doctor, or any other honorific. It is a shame to those called and those who call. This kind of honor is not proper for the kingdom of God. If we count this true for the individual, then it holds true for the church. The church cannot glorify itself. After all, what religious minded people have to say about their own goodness, is just that. Any earthly organization can do the same, whether it is some philanthropic group or Dunkin’ Donuts. The value of such commendation only lasts as long the mortal body holds breath. Concerning the religious Jesus said; “. . .they have their reward.” Paul wrote; “But ‘he who glories, let him glory in the LORD.’ For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” (II Cor.10:17-18)
True honor is found in the handiwork of God. What He has done shows off the beauty of His Holiness and causes praise to Him from those who can see. Through Jesus Christ, the Father has caused the lost to be found and life from the dead. The treasures of redemption are there for us to admire the Lord. “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.’” (I Cor.1:26-31)
I am an evangelist sent out by the Old Lamine church of Christ, which meets about 3 miles north of Lamine, Missouri.