"These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:14-15). In a household, every member bears a measure of responsibility according to his maturity and the order of the house. Even small children are trained to help with the work of the house just as soon as they are able. There are good reasons for this in a natural household, and there are reasons just as good (if not better) for this in the spiritual household. Let us consider some of these.
In a natural household, one of the main purposes for the order in the house is to bring children up to maturity. This is also true in the spiritual household, and the order of God's household is perfectly designed to accomplish this. The plan and order of God are perfect, for God himself is perfect. When we consider how God builds in the life of one member, we see that He builds in relationships (with Himself and with others), in character, and in a growing maturity of expression of the life of God. Another important part of His building is learning to bear responsibility, for this is how we put into practice what we are being taught.
Basically, we all learn by doing. There are many things that lead up to the doing--example, instruction, supervision and so on--but we do not actually learn until we act upon what we have been taught. It is in this place of "doing" that we actually grow in maturity. As we grow, we are able to bear new levels of responsibility and prepare ourselves to receive instruction for the next step. This "growing up" in the household of God is a continual process that never comes to an end while we are here on earth. There is always more: more of God to be experienced, more to see of His purpose, more of His love to take expression through us, and more responsibility according to the grace and calling of the Lord.
For what are we responsible? First, we are responsible to live in the household alive unto God. That may seem like a simple thing at first, but to maintain a love relationship which results in loving obedience to our Lord is not simple. Love is something we act upon, even unto "our Calvary." Where is love most tested? Is it not with those who are close to us every day? Loving at a distance is easy, but loving our brothers and sisters day in and day out is demanding. However, it is here that we grow in patience, forgiving one another and caring for one another. As we do this, always under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we are changed into His likeness.
Another area of responsibility is to know how God has placed us in the body and to move in faith before God in that grace, that we may be a supply of life to our brothers and sisters. We can make the mistake of either thinking we are "nothing" in God's eyes and come with no sense of responsibility, or we can think we are "somebody" and in fleshly zeal move outside of our grace to try to do the work of God. Both are equally wrong.
Here is what Paul wrote to the Romans: "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness" (Romans 12:3-8).
Notice Paul says that "God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." We cannot hide in the household of God. We are accountable to function in our place. As we have said, functioning not only feeds others but also causes us to grow. But if I do not accept my place of responsibility, I will not grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, and my brothers and sisters will also lack. The lacks will be real. The responsibility to function is real.
Another thing we are responsible for is the testimony of God. A well-known example is the man caught in sin in the Corinthian assembly. Paul instructed the church in what they needed to do, but then they had to do it. The church as a whole had to exercise discipline. This was not easy. It is always easier to walk away, but Paul told them to bear their responsibility, and with love controlling them, remove the man caught in sin from their midst that he might repent and be saved. As they did this, they grew in understanding and the testimony of God was purified.
It is one thing to be responsible for my own testimony as an individual, but it is another thing to be responsible for the testimony of the household. This affects each member's life, touching every last trace of individuality so that only Christ is expressed through the body. Often we do not even realize the natural thinking and expressions that remain. Seeking to move together with my brothers and sisters as one under the authority of Christ is often used by God to reveal and deal with expressions of self. Trying as it may be at times, it is a very important part of bearing responsibility in the household of God.