IRON SHARPENING IRON
CREATES A HEALTHY TEAM
In the world’s way, sports teams practice and practice. A coach watches, trainers lead in exercises, and all are hoping to have a winning team. There are many hours in preparation for the one or two hours in the game. Athletes spend much time in training, conditioning, strengthening, and developing skills to even be on such teams. When in a contest, the athlete is then ready to give full effort toward the victory.
The church has a mission, as do the sports teams. The members of the church need ‘iron sharpening iron’ so as to do their ministry effectively. An unhealthy, weak, and sickly church cannot do the work that the Lord wants done.
"... build up the body of Christ."
That verse states what is the same goal of ‘iron sharpening iron.’ Unhealthy congregations cannot effectively evangelize. Spasms of zeal do not replace spiritual health and fitness. Many congregations have been so unhealthy that they only occasionally exert a spasm of muscular effort to evangelize. The effort is short-lived, and so ineffective that it usually leaves its perpetrators with a frustration that discourages any further effort.
When there is sickness in a body church, (such as prejudice, hypocrisies, spiritual abuse, grudges, bitterness, etc.) the congregation is made unfit for the work of the Lord. These sins, and many others, afflict many congregations. They struggle to survive as a body, like a sick patient in intensive care. It will be a wonder and miraculous, if this kind of congregation can just survive till the rapture. The sickly, anemic, body churches will never see sustained growth, revival, and ministry development. They may try programs, contests, crusades, and other outward programs, but the church will always go from crisis to crisis. They may seek someone to blame for the crisis, but the reality of the problem is the anemic, sickly condition of the congregation.
The congregations face the same kind of problems today that they faced in the early church. There are still church cliques. Immorality is still rampant in the congregations. There is immaturity, doctrinal error, marriage troubles, abuse of the spiritual gifts, misused liberty, pride, rule adding, judgmentalism, hypocrisy... etc.
The admission of these kinds of problems in the church congregations of today bring embarrassment, discouragement, misunderstanding, and opposition from the ones who suppose to lead the congregations. The Lord is more embarrassed than any of us. He has made it possible and easy for the church to function properly, but we as a church have failed to heed His way, and have attempted to create dogmas, rituals, and denominational structure to accomplish what they can never accomplish. The congregations will never become healthy by neglecting the path that Lord has directed us to take to find spiritual fitness.
Physical health is shown by measuring blood pressure, heart rate, amount of weight lifted, speed, endurance, etc. Spiritual health in a congregation can be measured by KOINONIA. Koinonia is the fellowship, close intimate friendships, the bearing of the burdens of others, the confessing of faults, the intercession (not gossip and judgmentalism), the exhorting, ministering, loving and caring of the cell churches for each other. This koinonia, with iron sharpening iron included in the fellowship, is the measurement of spiritual health of a body church. Koinonia, with iron sharpening iron, is the test of a healthy church, in the same way that a physical exam is the measurement of the conditioning of an athlete.
True iron that sharpens iron proves the existence of true love. Love proves spiritual health.
"A new commandment, I give unto you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another."
This kind of concern of Christians for each other makes the world marvel. They stand in awe when they see a healthy church body at work. The love is so evident, and so different from the love they see on the soap operas, at work, or in their own homes. Jesus is the divine example and prototype for this kind of love. The Holy Spirit deposits this same kind of love into the hearts of believers. Believers can either allow the love to develop and shared with others, or can allow it to be self consumed. It is so vital to the church, to have this love in operation, that the Lord Jesus made it a commandment.
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
We are bearing another’s burden, when we sharpen iron with iron.
"A new commandment I give unto you... that you love one another."
Iron sharpening iron is to be done only in a manner that shows it is ‘loving one another.’
In some congregations, the love is replaced with judgmentalism, rule adding, critical appraisals of each other. Too often that kind of meanness has been falsely called ‘iron sharpening iron.’
When wardrobe and other outward manifestations of culture become the judging standard of congregations, the love, acceptance, and burden bearing of others' hurts is pushed aside. These congregations may feel superior to others, by reason of their "holy" standards, but in truth are the weak and sickly congregations who are in need of a transfusion of love from the Lord. The cancer of judgmentalism, and hypocritical living will kill many in the congregation. The judgmentalism, and the lack of love that allowed it to grow, must be surgically removed by repentance. Then the Lord will send in the love of the Spirit to restore life and health to the body.
Many such congregations cannot admit to their unhealthy lack of love. This is why the Word of God so emphasizes the confessing of weaknesses. The Bible also encourages the intercession of one saint for another. This fault confession with intercession will bring a sickly church into a healthy condition of love and iron sharpening iron.
"Confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed."
Pride shows weakness. The proud congregation that wants to hide its lack of love, cover over its hypocritical judgmentalism, and escape listening to any sermons on its own sins... will die a sickly body church in these last days. Humility and admitting the need of help shows the strength necessary for the body church to undergo the surgical removal of the cancers that have kept the body sick.
The world teaches that one should reject or ignore one's faults. Some Christians have also taught to only confess the positive, and never admit a fault. This is nearly as un-Scriptural as one can get. Some of these, who won't admit their own faults, will try to blame others for the problems. This creates bickerings, anger, and grudges. Some of them will try silence, and think that if the sins are not admitted, they will go away. They will "put on airs", and hide their faults. Ignored cancer will not go away, and neither will ignoring the lack of love and koinonia make the associated weakness of the body go away. The congregation can only get into right standing with the Lord by confessing their weaknesses.
The loving, koinonia, iron sharpening iron, will, like a sports team in training, bring about a healthy congregation.
After the confession of faults, comes the interceding of one saint for the other. Whenever a fault is admitted to another, the proper response is to pray for them. The next verse after the one encouraging confession and intercession says:
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Following that intercession, comes the loving iron sharpening of iron. It is necessary to note here that the confession of certain intimate and scandalous matters should be reserved for more private times with a proven intercessor. Some have tried to obey James 5:16 and found in so doing that the one who should have then interceded for them was only a gossip and hypocrite. The results are tragic, and the end results have made many Christians shy away from ever attempting to obey this passage. We must not let the hypocritical judgmentalism of some cause us to not obey the Lord. We must simply seek out the kind of loving, caring saint that the Lord wants all of us to be. When we find such a non-judgmental Christian, we can then unburden ourselves with the weight of our besetting sins, and receive the intercession from that one that will result in the church body becoming healthy.
Problems are quickly solved in body churches once admission starts. When a body church starts to openly admit their failures and weaknesses, healing will take place like never before. Many a congregation has sought and prayed for physical miracles and healings to occur. They wonder why they are so rare. The reason for the rarity of physical healings is the spiritual weakness of the body of Christ. When the proper functioning of the body begins, when the saints begin to admit weaknesses, and then intercede one for another, the body church becomes healthy enough that the miraculous becomes normal.
Iron sharpening of iron is described in these passages:
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore him in a spirit of gentleness..."
"If I then, you Lord, have washed your feet, ... you also should wash one another's feet..."
When a church body can get to the loving iron sharpening to those who confess faults to us, spiritual health is the result. The process may seem frightening to the un-experienced. Yet, to those who have seen the body church in health enough to obey the Lord's instruction, know that the miracles, the growth, the health of the body is almost un-imaginable.
The early church came to this kind of accord and love in the upper room. They went from a few sickly, scared members hiding during the crucifixion, to 120 in the upper room. Then suddenly when the body became healthy, 3000 were added with the first sermon. In seventy years, the number of saints in the body grew to over half a million. Then in the next hundred years, the number grew to over 2 million. In the next 100 years, the number again more than doubled to 5 million. When the body churches become healthy again, the church will astound the world with its growth and blessings.