Did you know that Jesus Christ personally began a special work that has endured for almost 2,000 years? He immersed His physical life in firmly establishing that work. Once, because He had been too busy to eat, He told His disciples, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34, emphasis added throughout). Later He established His Church to continue that sacred mission.
What is that "work," and how is it sustained in today's chaotic world?
The work of the Church has two primary aspects. First, the Church is commissioned to announce to humanity the incredible significance of Jesus Christ's second coming. Most people can see that our world is filled with problems that defy human solutions. But few people understand how the returning Jesus Christ will solve these dilemmas of humankind. He has commissioned His Church to make that knowledge available to a confused world.
The world's best news
Just before He ascended to heaven, Jesus told His apostles, "Go into all the world and preach the good news [His gospel] to all creation" (Mark 16:15, New International Version). Earlier He had told them that "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world...and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
Do you realize why this good news—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—is so wonderful? You need to know! Otherwise it will be impossible for you to understand the primary message of the Bible.
This gospel—the good news announcing the coming Kingdom of God—was the focus of Christ's ministry (Mark 1:14-15). It is an incredibly positive message filled with hope and purpose for humanity. It also explains why confusion and heartaches permeate the world. And it does not neglect the wonderful truth of Christ's atoning death for mankind.
But at His return Jesus Christ will begin to fulfill the wonderful promises we read about in biblical prophecies—promises to solve the horrible human problems we face. Peter tells us that "the Lord is not slack concerning His promise...but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). That is what the work of the Church is all about—teaching human beings the truth of God to make true repentance possible and to share the hope of a brighter future.
Jesus Christ will return to earth and teach the nations God's ways (Micah 4:1-2). Then "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3). Peace and security will finally blanket the entire earth.
No event in the history of mankind is more important to its well-being than the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Church is to explain to the world just how essential His second coming is.
The Church, however, is also commissioned to thoroughly teach the ways of God to those who will heed the call to repentance. Jesus told His apostles to "make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).
It is not enough just to tell humanity that this wonderful time is coming. Work in preparation for His Kingdom must be accomplished now. Some will be nurtured and trained to aid Christ when He returns. Notice how Jesus plans to use those who have been thoroughly taught and trained in the ways of God: "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne" (Revelation 3:21).
John says: "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection...They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). As Christ's assistants, they will instruct the world in the ways of God. "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3). As a result, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
That is why the work of the Church is so important today. Not only is it proclaiming a message of hope that Jesus Christ will bring world peace in His Kingdom, but it is also preparing those who will assist Him in bringing righteousness to the earth!
A mission based on giving
Gospel means simply "good news." That is why the United Church of God, publisher of this booklet, produces a magazine named The Good News. Through it we bring our readers knowledge that contrasts the ways of "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4) with the wonderful promise of "the world to come" (Hebrews 2:5).
Have you ever wondered how we are able to offer all our publications free?
Our approach was laid out by Jesus Christ long ago. He said, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). Paul said, "I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge" (2 Corinthians 11:7). How was this possible? Paul had expenses. His travels cost money. Yet he never charged the general public of his day for his work in preaching the gospel.
The key lies in yet another responsibility that God gives to His people. Long ago, God called Abraham and promised him, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). God gave Abraham blessings so He could use him in blessing others. That is the way God works, and that is what has allowed His servants to freely disseminate His truth without charge to those who will receive it.
God has always made sure that those who surrender their lives to Him, as Abraham did, would be able to bear the cost of carrying out the work they do on His behalf. Paul put it this way: "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).
God, by His very nature, gives. Those who are converted and become like Him also become a giving people. They want to serve others and participate in the work Christ has given to His Church. They take that commission to the Church seriously.
Abraham practiced a principle that God later included in His law when He entered into a covenant with ancient Israel. When Abraham met with Melchizedek, the "priest of God Most High," Abraham "gave him a tenth of everything" (Genesis 14:18-20, NIV).
Abraham's grandson, Jacob, continued this practice. "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me,...of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You'" (Genesis 28:20-22).
These men of God practiced the principle of tithing—giving God a 10th of their income. Later, when Jacob's descendants became the nation of Israel, God used tithing to finance the service of the priests, the nation's spiritual leaders. He told Israel, "A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD" (Leviticus 27:30, NIV).
Jesus Christ supports tithing
In the time of Jesus Christ, He commended the Pharisees' obedience to the law concerning their practice of tithing. But their failure to apply the law's instruction to be considerate of others made them hypocrites. Jesus said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin" (Matthew 23:23, NIV). In this they were careful to obey.
Continuing in the same verse: "But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness." Here they were careless. "You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." Jesus taught that tithing should not be neglected by obedient servants of God. He tells us clearly that tithing is a practice we should follow.
Today those who support the work given to the Church live by faith just as did the patriarchs of old. In fact, Paul speaks of the true disciples of Christ as "those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (Romans 4:16).
That is why they have the courage to support this work of God today. They believe in the Bible. They practice tithing because they have faith that God will supply their needs. They believe Jesus when He said, "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'...But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:31-33). They know God will provide for their own needs if they become partners with Him in doing His work.
How the work of the Church expands
After preaching for 3 1⁄2 years Jesus was left with only a few who remained loyal after His crucifixion (Acts 1:15). But He had already explained how they could expand their effectiveness. He said to His disciples: "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38).
Jesus made it clear to His disciples that sending laborers into the harvest is God's work. Only God the Father can draw new laborers to repentance and give them the faith to become part of the work Jesus began. At the same time, Jesus assured them that God would do that very thing.
When Peter preached a powerful sermon showing that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 2:2-36), "those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them" (Acts 2:41). In one day the labor force of the Church was dramatically expanded. After that "the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).
Coworkers in the mission of the Church
Not every laborer was formally ordained. Paul speaks of many who helped in various ways, including two women who struggled beside him "in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life" (Philippians 4:3, New Revised Standard Version).
These people supported Paul's efforts in many ways. For instance, Paul commends the Philippians for their generosity in supporting his work in other areas. He wrote: "For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need...I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs" (Philippians 4:16-19, NIV).
The offerings of these Christians supported the work of God that was being done through the apostle Paul.
So it is today. The United Church of God proclaims the truth of God through the spoken word as well as written media such as the Beyond Today TV program and magazine, its Bible Study Course, many invaluable booklets and a vast amount of material on the Internet. Church members actively participate by several means, including their heartfelt prayers and contributions to meet the expenses of this vitally important mission.
It is the commitment of these and other laborers in the Church of God that allows the mission of the Church to continue almost 2,000 years after Jesus started it. It is because of this kind of commitment that others can receive the Beyond Today magazine and other literature free of charge.
As Jesus himself said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). His true disciples are convinced that He meant it when He said, "Freely you have received, freely give." Christ is using the combined efforts of dedicated coworkers to keep the mission He gave to His Church alive and functioning today.