The Enemy takes great delight in dividing Christians into what are effectively first and second–class believers. The most obvious of these is the ruinous and unbiblical clergy–laity split in which spiritual matters are largely seen as the domain of the ‘professional’, while the rest are content to take a minimalist role. Another increasingly common dividing line is between those who make a great deal of so–called speaking in tongues and look on those believers whose mouths remain under self–control as objects to be pitied. Indeed, many would go further, and intimate that those who are not caught up in this groundswell of ecstatic utterances and apparent signs and wonders, are hardly to be viewed as Christians at all! Others, more sober in their outlook, speak of ‘those who serve’, ‘ministering brothers’ and other such phrases, with the bulk of the saints in apparently slavish awe of whatever is uttered or committed to print. Satan’s aim throughout, is to lead some to have high thoughts above what they should think (see Rom. 12: 3), while the rest are hindered from filling up “the full measure” of their ministry (2 Tim. 4: 5). In many cases, it would be unfair to assume a bad motive for those who support and justify such segregation in the Assembly, but unwittingly, they are furthering Satan’s aims rather than God’s.
One of the most common divisions among Christians (and, on the face of it, one of the most innocuous), is the splitting up of brethren into those in full–time and those in part–time service. Usually, the ‘full–time’ believer has given up his secular employment to ‘live by faith’ in the service of God, while the one in ‘part–time’ service is, by definition, only partly engaged. The reasoning is perfectly understandable, but it is not only false, but dangerous. Part–time service leads, inevitably to part–time Christians. If I live by faith, then it makes no difference whether I am in secular employment or not, whether I am an office clerk in my own country, or a missionary overseas. The point is, as a believer, I am alive to God, and therefore the whole of my life is to be lived by faith. Paul wished the Corinthians to be “without care” (1 Cor. 7: 32), but most of us have distractions that preclude us from being totally focused on spiritual things. This has nothing to do with being in full–time or part–time service, or living by faith or not. Even Paul spent time as a tent–maker (see Acts 18: 3). Yes, his service as preacher was obviously of great value to God, but we must not assume that the cares of this life are somehow dealt with outside of our bondmanship to God.
The believer’s bondmanship needs emphasising, because that is exactly how the Word describes the Christian position. We were “bondmen of sin” (Rom. 6: 17), but are now “bondmen to God” (v 22). There is nothing part–time about such servitude—it applies on Monday as well as on Sunday, and when we are asleep as much as when we are awake. Those who talk of going ‘full–time’ into God’s service have failed to grasp the fact that as believers we entered full–time service at conversion. It was not when we were called to some particular line of duty, or to a specific field of ministry, but when we answered to the claims of the Gospel. I may receive a specific call for a specific service, but such a call never made me a servant.
In Colossians, we read about some Christians who not only were in service to God, but were also in service to man. As Roman slaves, their opportunities to ‘serve the Lord’ (as theology describes it today) would appear severely limited or non–existent. However, despite the fact that the vast majority of their time and energy was spent in service to an earthly master, Paul still exhorts them that “whatsoever ye do, labour at it heartily, as [doing it] to the Lord, and not to men” (Col. 3: 23). Thus even secular work is to be viewed as being undertaken in the service of Christ—indeed so much so that the apostle adds that such work will merit wages from God: “knowing that of [the] Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance” (v24). I may be a missionary or I may be a miner, but whatever the way in which I spend my time, I should labour in it as unto the Lord. Full–time service is not a special calling or choice, but is incumbent upon each and every Christian. If that were more realised, it would transform the way we lead our lives.
A final thought: Paul said that “for me to live [is] Christ” (Phil. 1: 21). Christ was his point in living and Christ was for whom he lived. Now we must not dismiss this statement as being unique and of no application to you and I. The apostle himself exhorted the Corinthian saints (and, by extension, saints today), “Be my imitators” (1 Cor. 11: 1). Now was Paul living for Christ when preaching and serving the saints? Surely, yes. What about the time he spent making tents? Again, surely yes. Why? Because Christianity is a full-time service! Anything less is abnormal, unscriptural, and dishonouring to the Master who has purchased us with His own most precious blood.