Every believer is a disciple. Therefore, every believer needs to be discipled. Christ’s commissioning last command was to make disciples. This involves making believers then shaping believers into the likeness of Christ as He wants to be seen through them. Believers are taught to practice the disciplines of a Christ-like life – Scripture familiarisation, prayer, worship, witnessing, and spiritual gift development. Every believer is a disciple and benefits from people who care enough to disciple them. But every believer also needs pastoring. Pastoring involves protecting, nourishing, healing, restoring, tending, feeding, loving. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians as both a discipler and a pastor. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide which of the two important roles the great apostle fulfils – especially when he uses words like euparedron.
The Greek word, euparedron only occurs once in the New Testament. It is only used by the Apostle Paul. It is only written to the Corinthians. It involves a believer being both discipled and pastored. The Corinthians had already felt the discipline of the apostle Paul in the first six chapters of his epistle to them. But in chapter 7 of First Corinthians, he changes gears. The topic changes. His focus shifts from dealing with the two big problems within their church (disunity and immorality) to marriage. In some of his other epistles he deals with the theology of marriage. But to the Corinthians, he speaks to them about marriage as a pastor. He tends to them as a shepherd. He stands at the gate of the sheepfold and protects from being ravaged by false teachers, the prevailing culture, and their own flesh.
“I am saying this for your own benefit” he tells them. This is the heart of every true shepherd. They lay down their lives for the lives of their sheep. A shepherd’s life is for the benefit of his sheep. He goes on to say that he is not trying to deprive or restrain them by giving them burdensome commands. “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you.” This is what every true shepherd wants for their sheep: their joy and fulfilment. ‘I want you to be safe and secure’ he tells them. Again, this is pastoral language – “but to promote good order and to secure” he puts it. He then concludes verse 35 as a loving pastor – but this time with the tone of a discipler –
I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
First Corinthians 7:35
Paul’s pastoral aim for his flock is the same as his discipling aim for them. He wants them to be – “fully devoted” to the Lord. The kind of devotion to Christ that he wants for them is undivided devotion to the Lord. ‘Devotion’ is the Greek word, eupa-redron. This is any pastor’s mission. It is my motive in writing this. It is my motive when I preach. It is my motive when I visit. It is my motive when I counsel.
Perhaps God has called you to help shepherd people within our church? If so, perhaps you could make euparedron your mission for those you are caring for? Maybe your heart lies in other areas of Christ’s ministry to each other. Irregardless, we should all strive together to make euparedron (“undivided devotion to the Lord”) our mission for each other.