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Bible verses about Feeding the Flock
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The "feeding of the flock," the care of the church, is each individual's responsibility toward God in his worship of God. One could say it IS the worship of God. It involves every person directly every moment of every day. In doing so, we are truly involved in "the work of God," which is the creation of Himself in us—actively, directly, personally participating with Him in it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

All seven messages of Revelation 2 and 3 reveal a clear, end-time connection. There are statements such as, "Behold! I come quickly," or "Hold fast till I come," showing that His return is imminent. The conclusion is inescapable—all seven will be in existence at the end.

Equally important is that they also show a consistency in that Christ exhorts them all in such ways as, "Hold fast till I come, "Hold fast what you have received," "Remember therefore from whence you are fallen," or "Be faithful." Each of these exhortations is directed toward commanding those seven churches to be steadfast to, or to turn back to, something that they had previously received. Most specifically, we find in several places—in the Revelation 2 and 3 messages, and in other places in the writings of Paul, Jude, John, and Peter—that they are to be steadfast and devoted to the doctrines "once delivered" to the saints through the apostles. With these two factors—the imminence and exhortations to hold fast—the conclusion is that all seven of these very different groups described in Revelation 2 and 3 are part of the end-time church.

Considering both what is happening in the world and the state of the church, we are living these messages right now. The general solutions to our present dilemma are given in them. We have to devote ourselves to returning to "the faith once delivered" through the apostle.

Revelation 2 and 3 give us a sense of direction and urgency. Is there a connection between the preaching of the gospel and the feeding of the flock—even beyond the healing that is so badly needed within the church today? Yes, there is, and it is very important in God's eyes. Neglecting the "feeding the flock" is in turn very badly damaging to preaching the gospel to the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

Psalm 74:12

The work of God is much more extensive than merely preaching the gospel to the public. We have gotten into the habit of using that term "work of God" far too narrowly.

This particular verse indicates

1) God is working. He is actively, continuously, and personally involved in our lives.

2) His work is more widespread than first appears to the casual observer.

He will do whatever it takes. He is not an assembly-line worker doing the same things over and over again. He accommodates for the way things are going within the purpose that He is accomplishing.

Salvation is a term that the Bible uses quite broadly. It literally means "deliverance," but it can be used to include anything that God does in His efforts to bring mankind into His Kingdom. The "feeding of the flock" is His work too. As Jesus stated in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I work."

"Feeding the flock" is a part of His work, just as getting Israel out of Egypt under Moses was a work. The major emphasis, though, was different. Getting Israel into the Promised Land under Joshua was also the "work of God." But, again, the emphasis of the work of God changed. Organizing Israel into a nation under David was part of His work, but again there was a shifting of gears in "the work of God."

Rebuilding the Temple under Ezra was a "work of God" done through men, but the emphasis changed again. The rebuilding of the wall under Nehemiah a little later was also the "work of God." The building of the ark through Noah was the "work of God" at that time. The examples are almost endless, and so the conclusion is that the specific application of the "work of God" can vary from era to era.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Jeremiah 29:6

In times of exile, Jeremiah tells us to get married and have children, and have our children get married and have children too! What does this mean? The key to this is in the final thought, "that you may be increased there, and not diminished." To apply this spiritually, it means we should try to increase our numbers— to grow.

Personally, I have done my part the physical way: Beth and I have had three children in this church. Others have married someone out of the world, who have become converted members of God's church. This is not the normal way it should be done, but it happens every once in awhile. If God is working, if He is calling that person, He finds a way.

This piece of advice deals with "going to the world." The earlier commands relate to "feeding the flock." The third point, "increase as you are able," suggests increase by marrying, by having children, even by some form of proselytizing. But, always, the point is conversion. It is not to happen just to add numbers. We speak of God's flock, whose hallmark is quality, not quantity.

It is very hard both to feed the flock and go to the world. The indication here is first to get in good spiritual condition, and then, if possible, increase our numbers. Matthew 6:24 says we cannot serve God and mammon. It is dificult to do two things at once well, so we have to choose which is the most important. If Jeremiah 29:5-6 are any indication, the first and most important thing to do is to get oneself straight with God, and what resources are left over can go toward increasing one's numbers.

The first two points are most important right now, because God sent the church into exile because of sin. We must get rid of the sin first. Once we solve the problems, we will have the spiritual resources to increase our numbers. In Mark 10:28-30, to pull the principle there out of context, Peter says, "Master, we've left all to follow You." And He says, "Don't worry, Peter, for whatever you have lost I will return to you: mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers a hundredfold." So He will increase us. It is just a matter of when.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Jeremiah 29:7

The first two points in how to survive exile have to do with feeding the flock and getting ourselves back into spiritual shape. The third point deals with going to the world and increasing our numbers. The fourth concerns our witness to the world and our response to it.

Paul advises us to do it in peace. Live peaceably with all men as far as lies within you (see Romans 12:16-21). This is an important point because peace trickles down. Peace in the nation will trickle down to peace among citizens. If we live in an environment of peace, we can accomplish the overcoming, the growing, and the producing of fruit. As James writes, "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18).

We have to be among the peacemakers, even while living in a world full of strife. We should seek God's hand in this, asking Him to give peace so that we can have the time—and not the distractions of strife—to use in producing fruit, getting our families in order, and increasing our numbers. If there is no peace, those things become much harder to do. We need to be peacemakers, which is one of Christ's beatitudes: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). It is vital that we have peace.

"Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). He we see how important peace is to producing holiness. If we fail in this, we will not see God! Peace is vital. In James 4, the apostle curses the recipients of his epistle, calling them adulterers and adulteresses because they were full of strife with one another. They were at war with each other. They were not producing peace. They were certainly not producing righteousness.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Matthew 24:14

Matthew 24:14 is not a commission to anybody in particular—not to the first-century apostles nor to anyone else. It is simply a statement of fact by Jesus Christ, prophesying that the gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness and then will the end come.

Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20 are not synonymous. In the latter verses, though preaching as a witness is included within the scope of the commission, it actually places more emphasis upon the entire process of conversion, feeding, growing, and overcoming than merely witnessing, as in Matthew 24:14. The key word here is "process."

The word "teach" in Matthew 28:19 is the key to this understanding. Many Bibles have a marginal reference beside it: "make disciples." "Go you therefore into all the world and make disciples."

"Teach" is not wrong as long as we understand that it implies a process. All the teaching required to make a disciple cannot occur merely in making a witness. There are major differences between the two. At best, preaching the gospel to the world begins the process of teaching. Disciples are created through steady feeding, a believing response in those who hear combined with overcoming.

The second factor appears in verse 20: "Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." The key here is "all things." That cannot be done merely through a witness. As we are learning, observing all things is a lifelong project requiring the structure of a church. This is the reason why the church exists.

What is being emphasized in verses 19-20, though witnessing is included in it, is the feeding of the flock because it is the called, the elect—God's childrenwho are His greatest concern. These are the ones who are being prepared for the Kingdom of God. It takes a great deal of feeding and experiences with God for Christ to be formed in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

Luke 12:42-47

Here, Christ's instruction to watch continues. However, this time Jesus focuses specifically on the responsibility of the steward—the one given authority over the household while the Master is away. His theme is preparation and faithful continuance of duty. He tasks the steward—a type of the ministry—with giving the household "food in due season."

Similarly, Paul outlines the responsibilities of church leadership in his letter to the Ephesians. Notice that the focus is on the church, not on the world: "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry [service], for the edifying of the body of Christ. . ." (Ephesians 4:11-13). Church leaders are responsible for feeding and preparing God's household and encouraging them to watch themselves.

If the steward does not properly watch, however, the human proclivity is to let down—and abuse. The steward in Luke 12:45 is focused on the Master's return—or lack thereof—rather than on his own alertness and attention to his duties. As a result, he falls into excesses of eating and drinking (rather than providing food for the household). He ends up beating those he was supposed to watch over, as if he thought they belonged to him. Clearly, those who have stewardship responsibilities in the church have an added weight to "take heed to themselves" lest they neglect or even damage those for whom they are supposed to be providing spiritual food.

David C. Grabbe
'As a Thief in the Night'


 

John 6:29

God works to create in His children faith in Jesus Christ because He has decreed salvation is by grace through faith. Faith is absolutely essential, and so He works to create in us a strong trust His Son. This is done through "feeding the flock." Only a small portion of it is done in the initial conversion. We have to live by faith, not merely profess Jesus Christ. It is necessary that faith be built in us because our choices should be made on the basis of faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

John 21:15-17

The King James' translators blur a distinction Jesus makes by translating two different words into the single word "feed." The New King James corrects this deficiency in verse 16 by using "tend," the exact same word translated as "shepherd" in I Peter 5:2. It has a far broader application than the word rendered "feed" in verses 15 and 17. Taken together, these words reveal that a pastor has broad responsibility for the overall health and protection of the flock. Applying this principle back to physical health, good health and well-being require a multifaceted program beyond just eating good food. For instance, we must also get regular and sufficient sleep, avoid bodily injury, and maintain good attitudes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

John 21:15-17

It is Peter who is focused upon. There were seven outstanding men on that shore, and Jesus thrust the responsibility of the care of the church on Peter—not John, not James, not Thomas, but Peter, the first among equals. Peter refers to this in I Peter 5. He had this God-given responsibility to care for the sheep.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

Acts 2:41-42

There was a time, signified by this day of Pentecost, when the church was unified—perhaps as unified as it ever was in its entire history. These verses reveal two elements of the time when the unity of the church was at its very peak.

1) They were devoted to the apostles' doctrine. In the first century that was "the faith once delivered." It means they were constant. They were resolute. They were single-minded. They were determined in learning and following it. They did not drift. They did not swerve from it, and it produced what it is supposed to: faith in God; faith in His way; faith in His church; confidence and trust in putting these things into practice. They were deeply convicted.

2) They took care of each other. They were very much concerned for their brother's welfare. This was not communism, where they sold all their goods and turned them over to the administration of the church to distribute equally to all. But, rather, it indicates they voluntarily looked out for each other personally (individually), striving to meet the needs of each other.

This is the epitome of "feeding the flock"—and ALL of the body is participating, not just the ministry. Everybody is nurturing everybody else. The whole body participating in two major things, pursuing the faith once delivered and taking care of each other.

The New Testament epistles make it very clear that later, when the first century church was splitting, the people were counseled to get back to the faith once delivered—which means that they had drifted from it. They were no longer doing the things they were doing in Acts 2. Again, why? Why counsel them to get back to the apostles' doctrines?

Putting this together, asking where faith arises from, there are two major components. The first is God and what He does (I Corinthians 2). He opens up our mind. He predisposes it for us to receive something. The second is expounded upon by Paul in Romans 10. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the word of God." Those two work together. What God does, by a miraculous act of His mind, of His will, of His Spirit working in our minds, is combined with the message He gives to the person He sends. It is to be the basis and foundation of our conversion and our faith. From that point on, it becomes a matter of learning more specifically the things that are contained within the message that was delivered to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Acts 20:28

Paul tells the elders to be careful how they shepherd the flock. He emphasizes that it is a God-given duty and responsibility. He says, "The Holy Spirit has made you overseers." Elders, ministers, are especially called out to watch over the flock, to guard it, to help it, to lead it. This is no light matter: The ones they are to help are the precious redeemed of God. Jesus Christ has given His life's blood for these people, and they are precious in God's sight. So the ministry is to be very careful how they watch over the people.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Acts 20:28

Paul's admonition to church elders shows that elders have a primary responsibility to provide good spiritual food to those they were ordained to pastor.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

Acts 20:28-32

Regarding God's work changing its emphasis according to need and God's will, Acts 20:28-32 is especially interesting. Predicting that conditions would not always remain the same, Paul warns that significant events would trouble the church after his death. He felt it was critical that they pay special attention to feeding the flock through the Word of God, and in doing so the people would build spiritual strength. Clearly, God's focus, the church's focus, shifts occasionally to meet the spiritual needs of the church and His will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing the Bride


 

Romans 1:11-12

Do not be misled by the word established because it can suggest that they were not already established, which they were. The next verse explains what he means.

The apostle Paul is talking about "feeding the flock," preaching "the whole counsel of God" in infinite detail. The words of God—the gospel—when understood in its broadest sense, include the entirety of the Bible. It is not confined to making a witness so that people might have this held against them in a legal sense by God—as if God were saying, "I gave you My word, but you didn't respond to it."

God's primary concern is to prepare His children to share a relationship in fellowship with Him for all eternity—everybody living exactly the same way. The "gospel" requires an infinite expansion on the bare basics that bring us to conversion so we can see the application of God's way of life in every situation possible in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 9:16

Paul says, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." But on the other hand, "the care of the churches" was also on him constantly.

Considering what Paul says in I Corinthians 9:16 and II Corinthians 11:27-28, and comparing how much time he must have spent preaching the gospel in relation to how much that he spent on feeding of the flock in his daily care of the churches, it appears that the great preponderance of his time and energy were spent in "feeding the flock," not in preaching the gospel to the world.

A pastor has a unique point of view on this because he knows how demanding the pastoring of a congregation is in terms of time, energy, and effort. In comparing what a normal pastor does with what the apostle Paul had to do with a Mediterranean-wide area to cover on foot or by boat, he had to spend most of his time on his congregations, not on the world.

In the long run, what kind of picture does the overt emphasis on preaching to the world give a person of God and His purpose? Is God so limited in creativity that He can only think of one thing for His children to do? Are lives and relationships always so stable that nothing ever arises that creates a necessity for something different to be done?

Is there only one thing that we have to be trained for, so we just keep doing the same thing over and over again? Is there nothing else in God's mind for us that requires analysis, strategy, concern, and the effort of sacrifice and living by faith to produce growth, create solutions, and to overcome? Is our Father in heaven so one-dimensional that all He thinks about in regard to His children and His purpose is that we preach the gospel to the world? Of course not.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

Galatians 6:9-10

In its broader context, Galatians 6:1-10 has spiritual matters more directly in mind than physical needs. This does not deny that there are times to help out physically, but the chapter begins with, "If one sees a brother in a fault. . . ." This the real foundation of the charge in verses 9 and 10. It is concerned primarily with spiritual matters, where the church's problems really lie. The church's problems are spiritual in nature.

In terms of the ministry, from the top of the administration on down, its emphasis must be on "feeding the flock." If there is a spiritual problem within the church, and we are charged first with taking care of the church, then it means that the administration of the church has to shift gears and take care of that spiritual problem first. It has first priority, not the preaching of the gospel to the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Galatians 6:9-10

We are to be doing good, and we are especially instructed to perform those acts for the members of the church. Remember, it takes a church to produce prepared, well-rounded sons of God. The church is the vehicle that God has given us to learn these things. God has put within the church all the factors, materials, and opportunities we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church


 

1 Peter 5:1-5

Notice all the words that suggest leading and/or following: elder(s), shepherd, flock, serving, overseers, lords, entrusted, and examples. This clearly establishes that God's church is a body in which He has placed leaders to oversee and care for His people. Further, the leadership is to provide examples for them to follow.

The Bible nowhere anticipates independent Christians in its instructions, but it always assumes the body has ministers given by Christ to provide teaching and guidance. Too frequently, people separate from one group then regroup around a person whom Christ has not appointed to teach His Word. It is not that this person cannot teach at all but that Christ has not given him the gifts to teach His people in His behalf. He was not placed in the body for that purpose. Steady spiritual degeneration within that group occurs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
'I'll Never Follow Another Man!'


 

1 Peter 5:2-3

The Greek word translated as "shepherd" embraces all the things a shepherd would do for a flock of sheep such as protecting, penning, guiding, and feeding. All these categories fall within the notion of promoting growth. These two verses succinctly define a pastor's job as promoting growth in the flock by feeding, protecting, guiding, and leading the minds of those within it. This function is accomplished in a wide variety of ways, including preaching, counseling, publishing material, being a godly example, and correcting appropriately and in measure.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 

Revelation 11:1

There is no chapter break here. The thought should be continued directly from Revelation 10:11 - "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings." Then He says, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there."

We see a dual commission: First, to go to kings, nations, and tongues, a broad and general commission. The second one is more specific - focused on the Temple, the altar, and the worshippers. This two-pronged approach is seen throughout the Scriptures. There is 1) a message to the world, then 2) a message to the church.

The second part, measuring the temple, the altar, and the worshippers, can be equated to what we call, in these times, "feeding the flock." The first, going to the world, we call "preaching the gospel." These two areas of preaching are never sundered from one another. In fact, one cannot be done one without the other because they always overlap in some bit. They should be done in tandem.

Sometimes, however, one needs to be done more fully than the other or must be emphasized more, as God directs. God likes them to be done simultaneously, if possible. There is a great deal of work that needs to be done. The church must make a witness. Then, the ones whom God calls to do and support the work must be fed to grow and overcome to be part of His Kingdom. They must be helped to overcome and to go on to perfection. So these two things have to be done. If a person starts preaching the gospel to the world, pretty soon he will have people following his message, and they will need to be taught further and brought along.

One can preach the gospel all he wants, but nothing will be done with the fruit of the gospel unless he is also feeding the flock. They must be done in tandem. They do not necessarily have to be done 50 percent each, but they will be done because God's purpose requires them both.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 2)


 

 




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