I want to suggest to you that perhaps the better way of thinking of the kingdom and of the church is to move beyond these two classic categories of ecclesiastical and eschatological. We need to take what I would call an ergonomic view of the kingdom.
How many of you have heard the term ergonomic? Have you ever heard it with respect to the church and the kingdom? Probably not. Something historic is happening here today. [chuckles]
As I said earlier, there is an ecclesiastical view and there is an eschatological view that determines your understanding of the church. Which view you hold largely depends on what tradition you are a part of. In this study, I am interested in what Jesus meant and means when he said he would build his church. And I am suggesting that what I call an ergonomic view is more akin to the mindset of Jesus.
What do I mean by this? That which is ergonomic speaks of that which has been designed to increase efficiency in the workplace. The Greek word ergo means work. When it's joined to the word oikonomia, from which we get the word economy, it speaks of the function or organizing activity for the sake of work.
Are you with me? Ergo speaks of work. I am talking about a working concept of the kingdom. It is not an organization. It is not some future millennium. It is a people who presently are filled with the Spirit of the King—attending to his words, obeying his will, and working for his sake. The kingdom is ergonomic. It is that which organizes us and helps us function in such a way as to produce good works, redemptive actions.
We know this term ergo in the New Testament from work (ergon). We have, for example, the works of the law, which is a negative term. Misunderstood, but nonetheless, negative, speaking about a false sense of identity based on your external actions. On the other hand, the word ergon can also be used in very positive ways, for example, the work of God.
Further, we are exhorted to have good works. For example, here's the term in John 10:32, "Jesus answered, saying, 'I have shown you many good works (erga) from the Father.'" In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says to his disciples, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your," what? "Good works (erga) and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Ephesians 2:10, "We are God's workmanship created in Messiah Jesus for," what? "Good works (ergois) which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
God's actions, his works created the universe. It should not, therefore, be surprising that the New Testament tells us the church is the work of God. By his actions, by his works, he saves, he creates, he builds, he empowers the church.
Like creation itself, the church is the work of the Word and the Spirit. In the creation, God's word went forth, and his spirit shaped things. He was hovering over the chaos and put it into order so that it would function properly. In the same way, the church is created by the Word of God, and by the Spirit of God. Jesus spoke the church into existence and he now empowers this living organism by his breath, by his Spirit.
God commissions us to do good works. In other words, to imitate Him.
We are exhorted to work because from the Jewish point of view of the New Testament authors, work is the fruit of faith and the labor of love.
"Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do this more and more" (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
Paul commends these believers in Thessalonica for their faithfulness, their steadfast love, and their abundant good works. Then, in these verses, he says, "you're fulfilling the commandment to love (and that speaks of action, not of affection) and you're doing good works. I urge you to do even more."
Paul is not preoccupied as we Protestants tend to be with fear of good works. He does not warn them saying, "Now remember, you're justified by faith, not of works, so be careful here. Don't go getting proud of your works." Not at all, he is saying, "Hey, you're doing good works. It's showing in your loving acts. Good job, keep it up!"
This is the ergonomic view of the kingdom.
Consider this familiar text from Hebrews 10:23, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." So far, so good. Watch what comes next, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." Good deeds, good works. Exactly the same combination.
In 1 Corinthians 12:6, we find another form of this Greek word, ergon, translated as operations or activities. "And there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." It is God who works, we who do the work. God is at work in us and through us.
We are his workmanship—created, saved, redeemed, commissioned, anointed, empowered, filled, and instructed to do what? Good works! Are you getting this? Good works are the true fruit of faith. They are the labor of love. It is in the good works, that the kingship of God advances.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.