The Expository Files

The Greatest You Will Ever Be

Matthew 18:1

The highest compliment that can be given to man is the acknowledgment that he is a Christian. One fact that God's people must learn is that being a disciple of the Lord is the greatest we will ever be. The apostles wrestled with this concept in their day and with some, confusion still prevails today. We must be aware that the only position higher than the one we hold now as children of God, is to be the Christ himself. We are His disciples and there is no higher office to attain. Some may argue that heaven is a higher level, but heaven is not a position one holds. It is a reward for those who maintain the place of the faithful disciple.

In Matthew 19, after Jesus spoke with the wealthy young ruler, he stated that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. This of course relates to the man who trusts in his riches over his service to the Lord. It is not riches which will keep a man from entering the kingdom, but attitude. The disciples replied to Jesus with a question (19:25), "Who then can be saved?". When the disciples of Christ stop looking for a higher plain to reach other than loyal servant-ship, then the statement, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first", will be understood. Jesus used a parable in Matthew 20 to clearly set forth the truth that being a disciple is the greatest we will ever be. Those who were hired at the beginning of the day received the same reward as those that had begun at the end of the day. The fact that they had all entered into the vineyard to work for a specified amount was all they would receive because there was nothing higher to attain. Those who questioned the householder in complaint were indicative of people who do not understand this concept. Their attitudes were not right and their understanding suspect. The people of God must come to an understanding that being a servant of the Lord is the greatest level because there is no level higher to place as our goal. It is enough. And those who look for higher levels to reach have yet to understand the awesome position of which they are a part.

Some claim that there are higher levels in the local church such as elders, deacons, preachers, and then the ordinary or general Christians. But this is a concept originated in the hearts of men, not God. When a man qualifies to be appointed as a shepherd of the Lord's people according to the conditions of 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1, he has not climbed to another level, but rather has testified to his godly life. There is nothing extra-ordinary about a man who is the husband of one wife and has committed his heart to her for a life long arrangement. It is considered strange when he rejects his vow and looks elsewhere for another. There is nothing extra-ordinary about a disciple who has believing children. It is considered strange when this same disciple does not bring his children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There is nothing extra-ordinary about a disciple who "holds the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience". But it is bizarre when a disciple chooses not to do this. Being qualified to serve as an elder or deacon does not elevate a man to a higher level. It is simply a testimony to his serious and sober attitude to the greatest position he will ever reach.

Some have been deceived into believing that becoming a preacher provides opportunity for elevation to a higher level. Sometimes it is the fault of the preacher, and sometimes it is the mind-set of the brethren. Yet, teaching the gospel is just a task of the disciple of Christ. It provides no room for the man seeking professional ambitions and it does not make me more holy or godly because I have chosen to take on this task. In fact, it really is not of great importance that people know I'm a preacher, but rather that I am a disciple of Christ which is the greatest I will ever be. At the risk of sounding repetitive, there is no higher level to attain. There is nothing extra-ordinary about a disciple of the Lord spreading the Good News. The servant of the Lord who understands his position as a joint heir looks for opportunities to tell others about the true riches of Christ. However, it is odd for a true disciple to reject these opportunities and forfeit the chance to plant the seed into a fertile heart.

In primary terms, it is not the task that one endeavors in that elevates him to a higher plain, it is simply the normal response of the disciple who understands the great blessing and responsibility of being a child of God. On the other hand, those disciples who forfeit and reject their tasks, in clearer terms, repel themselves to a lower level called "ye of little faith".

By Tony Ripley
From Expository Files 6.4; April 1999