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Bible verses about God's Work
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Except as we see the fruits of God's Spirit in evidence, we cannot know where God is working today. As He worked in Elijah's day, He is working in ours, doing His main work in the lives of individual Christians. His purpose is to reproduce Himself, to bring sons and daughters into His Kingdom (Romans 8:14-17; II Corinthians 6:18). God taught Elijah that a spectacular public work—even with stupendous miracles, signs and wonders—is not more important than the salvation of His people.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elijah's Dose of Reality


 

The church is a spiritual body, the body of Jesus Christ. It is an assembly of people called to prepare for God's Kingdom and participate in and support the church's work in feeding the flock and preaching the gospel to the world. The church has two primary duties: 1) to provide a means of calling others to reconciliation and peace with God, and 2) to provide the full counsel of God to help the called know God and become holy. This is the vocation, the work, of all Christians under God.

In this church age, sanctification is the process by which an individual's peace with God reaches beyond a legal technicality (as occurs at justification) to be inculcated into the person's character. In God's paradigm, a person cannot really make peace unless he is first at peace with God. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Describing unconverted mankind, Paul says, "The way of peace they have not known" (Romans 3:17; Isaiah 59:8). Until ongoing conversion dissolves that enmity and peace is thoroughly established in a person's character, we cannot truly be instruments of godly peace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

God's major work is not preaching the gospel. This is not to say in any way that it is not important to God's work. We have to make sure that we give matters the right priorities, not putting the cart before the horse. Preaching the gospel is certainly a part of the responsibility of each Christian and, of course, each Christian organization.

God's major work is something far bigger and far more important than that—He is reproducing Himself. In broad generalities this purpose is shown in the opening chapters of Genesis. Right from the beginning, God wants to make sure that we understand where He is headed with His Word so that we can begin to process the information that comes along later in the book.

He tells us in Genesis 1:26 that man is created in His image. This is the first major clue. He tells us in Genesis 2:15 that we must spend our time dressing and keeping what He has given us dominion over. He also instructs us to choose life consciously—remember the Two Trees in the Garden—and to avoid sin and death with the utmost of energy.

But all of us have sinned, and like Adam and Eve and Cain, we find ourselves in bondage to Satan, whom we have made our master through ignorance and sin rather than God. So we need redemption. In Genesis 3:15, God is already talking about a Savior who will crush the serpent's head. Thus, we can be redeemed and get back on the track with His purpose.

It is all there in broad generalities, but it is spelled out much more specifically throughout the rest of the Bible. God's purpose is for us to be in His image. It may not be any more clearly stated than in II Corinthians 3:18, where He says that we are being transformed from glory to glory—from the glory of man to the glory of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works


 

Genesis 1:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Genesis 1:26 expresses the specific purpose statement of the Bible. God, the Creator, the Master Potter, is reproducing Himself! This is THE work of God. He is in the process of making man in His image. That project is completed in two stages, the physical and the spiritual. When the physical aspect was completed at creation, the spiritual one began. This is the overall project He is supervising.

God is already a unit: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4). God is one, but consists of more than one Person. When Jesus came, He proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom of God. In doing this, He publicly announced the expansion of this unit to include others besides the two Beings already revealed.

A kingdom is synonymous with a nation. It consists of large numbers of people, but it, too, is one. Indeed, the church is called "a holy nation" in I Peter 2:9, and though it has many members worldwide, it is one church. Thus, Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God will consist of many more personalities. He also told us how we can become a part of it and how it will be accomplished. Through these means the project stated in Genesis 1:26 will take a giant step toward fulfillment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust


 

Genesis 2:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because the Sabbath is from creation—and the Creator Himself set the pattern for man by resting on it—it has universal validity. It is not from one of the patriarchs or Moses or from the Jews because none of these existed when it was created. The Bible shows three times in two verses that God very clearly inspired the seventh day, not a seventh day.

God could have ended His creative work at the end of the sixth day because it seemed at that point as though He had provided everything man needed for life. But He did not complete it then because all man needed was not yet created! The Sabbath is, in fact, THE VERY CROWN of the creation week. It is vital to man's well-being. So God created a period of rest and holy time—a very specific period, as the context shows.

God draws our attention to four things He did on that first Sabbath. He (1) ended His work, (2) rested, (3) blessed the seventh day, and (4) sanctified it. He created something just as surely as He created physical things on the other six days. He is instructing us that, on the Sabbath, creation continued but in a different form, one not outwardly visible. To those with understanding, the Sabbath symbolizes that God is still creating. Jesus confirms this in John 5:17, when a dispute arises over how to keep the Sabbath. He replies, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working."

The Sabbath is an integral part of the process of creation. God finished the physical part at the end of the sixth day. The spiritual aspect began with the creation of the Sabbath and continues to this day. Through the sequence of events on the first six days, God created an environment for man and life. But God shows through the creation of the Sabbath that the life-producing process is not complete with just the physical environment. The Sabbath provides an important part in producing spiritual life—life with a dimension the physical cannot supply.

The Sabbath is not an afterthought of a tremendous creation, but a deliberate memorializing of the most enduring thing man knows: time. Time plays a key role in God's spiritual creation. It is as if God says, "Look at what I have made and consider that I am not yet finished creating. I am reproducing Myself, and you can be a part of My spiritual creation."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Genesis 2:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God rested on the seventh day of creation. The word "rested" here comes from the Hebrew word shabath (Strong's 7673), which can mean "to keep or to observe the Sabbath." This word is the root for the word shabbath (Strong's 7676), which is translated as "Sabbath" throughout the Old Testament.

God rested upon, or kept, the Sabbath on this first seventh day, not because He physically tired after all His creation work, but to set an example for Adam, Eve, and all humanity after them to do the same.

Some say that only that very first seventh day was made a day of rest by God and not all of the other seventh days since. Moses refutes this in Exodus 20:11 by commanding the Israelites to keep the Sabbath, not because they were Israelites, but because God had rested upon and sanctified the seventh day at Creation.

The evening of the sixth day of creation was not the end of God's work; Jesus says in John 5:17 that both He and His Father continue to work. Just one part of their "work" is the sustaining and maintaining of the operation of the universe. If they withdrew that "work," the whole physical universe would come to a sudden and complete end!

Staff


 

Numbers 18:21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Tithes were given to Levi to do the work of God: to cover living expenses, equipment, upkeep of the tabernacle and its accouterments, etc. Today, our first tithe goes to church headquarters to do the same thing—to do God's work.

John O. Reid
Tithing: God's Financial System


 

1 Kings 19:5-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God sent an angel, possibly the Word, the Angel of the Lord (cf. verse 7; Genesis 22:15; Exodus 3:2), to give Elijah food and drink (verse 5). He needed revitalized after expending so much energy in God's service. But after eating, Elijah did a typically human thing—he went back to sleep (verse 6)! How often have we studied deeply into God's Word, consuming meaty material, then sunk back into spiritual drowsiness after we were satisfied?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elijah's Dose of Reality


 

Psalm 74:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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 7:3-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These people had put their trust that they would be safe in the principle that they were "in the church." The Temple was right there; they could look at it. Since God dwelt there, they were close to God, they thought. But why does God mention these sins? Because they were guilty.

In the same manner, many in the church have unwittingly put their trust in the fact that they have God's Spirit—that He dwells in them—therefore no terrible thing could possibly befall them. However, this overlooks the fact that God's Spirit does not force us to make right choices. It leads, it guides, but it does not force. It does not make us obey. That is our choice.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 2)


 

Jeremiah 23:21-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"I've had nothing to do with them," God says. "Yet they went on their own, presumptuously, to speak their own words in My name."

The work that God says needs to be done in the latter days is to turn the people from their sin, and back to God. It is a message of repentance, of returning and then strengthening the relationship that we have with God. In the latter days, you will understand it. Not only will you understand what needs to be done, but you will also understand why it needs to be done—and do it because what good is understanding if it is not done? Any other kind of work at this time appears to be either window dressing or contrary to the will of God—and presumptuous.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Presumptuousness


 

Jeremiah 25:3-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This passage, along with verses 8-9, gives a simple, clear, and graphic example of why hearing God's Word, believing it, and understanding God's sovereignty is important to practical applications in our life. This is why Jesus admonishes us to listen. The Jews certainly heard Jeremiah's voice proclaim God's warning, but it did not motivate them to act. They did not fear God's sovereignty over their lives. The direct result was disruption in society, the pain of warfare, and the captivity that followed. As almost any parent would say to his child in a similar situation, God is saying, "I told you not to do that. If you had listened to me, this would not have happened."

Why did they not listen? The words spoken by God's prophets carried no authority in their minds because they had no faith in God's sovereignty. If asked, these people would have asserted they believed in God. In reality, they had no faith that God was even anywhere around, that He had the power to do what He said, or that He cared enough for them to do it. They lacked living faith.

Why is it so important to listen to God's message? Because God's summons comes to those who listen to and believe the message, and through them His work is done. Notice John 6:29: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'" God is working salvation in all the earth (Psalm 74:12), and He is doing it in and through those who believe the Son. Only those who believe the Son will willingly submit to God's sovereignty because they look to Him as their Ruler.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Jeremiah 29:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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


 

Habakkuk 1:5-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God says, "You are not going to believe what I am about to tell you, Habakkuk, but I am already at work to deliver you and punish the sinners around you." Then what does He do? He tells the prophet that He is sending the ferocious, bloody, terrifying Chaldeans to conquer Judah!

The prophet must have been stunned! This was not the answer he expected in the least. What kind of deliverance is humiliating defeat at the hand of these utterly godless people who struck terror into the entire Middle East? In addition, they were Gentiles, and God was taking their side and cruelly punishing His own people. It must have shaken his faith to hear God tell him, "I am coming to spank this nation with the worst of the heathen."

And just as God said, Habakkuk did not want to believe it. In his eyes, the deliverance was worse than the original corruption—at least that is what he thought at first. From what he understood of God, this made no sense. How could a loving God punish His own special people with a club like the Chaldeans?

To understand God's answer we have to understand what God's work is. Psalm 74:12 says, "God is . . . working salvation in the midst of the earth." Genesis 1:26 says God is creating man in His own image, building character in us so that we can live eternally as He does. What is astounding is how He chooses to do it because He does it far differently than we would. As the old saying goes, "God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform." To a man's way of thinking, His works are truly mysterious; sometimes, we do not have a clue how He works.

Isaiah 55:8-11 explains that God sometimes does things in a very round-about way, but it has a kind of boomerang effect. At times, it seems God goes in one direction, off the beaten path, but that is merely our perspective of it. We find out later—after we have grown in wisdom and understanding—that He has been following His plan all along. We are the ones who have not kept up. Habakkuk deals a great deal with perspective—man's perspective versus God's. God always gets His job done. When He sends forth His word to accomplish a work, it always comes back to Him with the result He intends. It may not make much sense to us at the time, but it surely works because God is behind it. In the end, it is the best way.

Many have questioned why God has allowed the church to decline and scatter in recent years. What is happening here? Why has God had to do this in order to bring us into His Kingdom? Why must He destroy to make well? We have shaken our heads at the swiftness and brutality of it all. That is how Habakkuk felt with the Chaldeans breathing down the Judeans' necks. If God had told us a few decades ago that the church would lose, say, two-thirds of its members, would we have believed Him? Would we have even considered that a work of God? "Look . . . and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you" (verse 5). Now we can understand how Habakkuk felt. He had prior warning, and it made him question God's very nature.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 2:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

First, God allays some of the prophet's fears by implying that what He has told him is not necessarily a revelation of doom and despair. It may seem that way, but ultimately, the vision is encouraging, hopeful, and glorious. This is why He instructs him to write it down plainly so people will understand it and be encouraged by it—and thus run.

Hebrews 12 contains a similar metaphor of running. Perhaps Paul had Habakkuk in mind as he wrote it, since he quotes Habakkuk in Hebrews 10:37-38. The apostle explains in Hebrews 12:1 that the race we run is our Christian lives. We can take the words of Habakkuk and run because we know that it all works out right in the end (Romans 8:28). Our Savior has already done His work, so if we finish our race, we will be saved. There is no doubt about this because He is not only the beginner of our faith, but He is also the finisher of our faith. So we can run with patience, just as God told Habakkuk to do. Even if it seems to tarry, patiently wait for it, because it will happen just as He has promised. His will will be done.

In Hebrews 12:5-11, Paul goes through a section on discipline, chastening, correction. This is what Habakkuk had just heard—that God would discipline, chasten, correct His people by the wicked hand of Babylon. Paul says in Hebrews that if God does not chasten us, we are bastard children! The chastening, though unpleasant, is for our good. We may not like the humiliation of it, but we can patiently endure it because it is for the best.

Our chastening is not a time to lag or worry but to strengthen ourselves through God and move forward because it is important that we endure and finish (Hebrews 12:12-13). When things get tough, the tough get going. Do not be like Esau (Hebrews 12:15-17), who had a great promise and inheritance and threw it all away for some temporary relief. We should never settle for temporary relief if it will knock us off the path! It is not worth it because it will end in bitterness, tears, disappointment, and failure.

Paul shows in Hebrews 12:28 how we should approach God, even when things do not seem to be going the right way. We must serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear, just as Habakkuk did. Yes, he questioned Him, but he said, "You are God, and You know something that I do not understand, so I will wait patiently. I will see this through, and then I will respond." If we do not approach God properly, we may find ourselves caught under the heel of the Chaldean with the sinners.

"That he may run who reads it" suggests a herald, like in medieval times, who went from place to place with a message from one person to another. God is instructing Habakkuk to put the revelation down clearly so that someone in the future can take it and deliver it into the right hands, those who need to hear it. Anyone in the end time who is speaking God's words fulfills this.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 3:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Habakkuk's plea to God to revive His work is very interesting. God's work is salvation. As John 6:29 puts it, God's work is that we believe Him and His Son whom He has sent. In the midst of the years is a Hebraism that means "between now and the end." In effect, the prophet is beseeching God to save His people before all these terrible things mentioned in the first two chapters occur. Today, we might phrase it, "Cut Your work short." It is a plea for mercy and salvation.

Jesus actually answers this prayer in Matthew 24:22: "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." The apostle Paul also confirms this in Romans 9:28, writing, "For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Zechariah 4:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse is often quoted when speaking of doing the work of God, and doing so follows a correct spiritual principle. When God does something, it is not done through physical strength. It is interesting that might literally means "arms," and power refers to physical activity. The work of God is not going to be done through feats of arms, military victories, or anything that requires physical fighting or contention. Nor can it be accomplished by any amount of physical activity.

As much work and effort as men put into it, they are not what will get God's work done properly. They will be helpful, certainly, because God works though men, and men must exert themselves in order to do God's will. Nevertheless, He says clearly here that all the credit goes to His Spirit. God Himself is at work! Our job is to submit, to do the things that must be done. We must do what the Spirit directs us to do, but God will receive the credit, not us. We could do none of these works by our own means.

God gives the ability. He gives the inspiration, the strength, and the endurance. He opens the doors. He supplies the manpower, the money, and the other resources to go through those doors. He supplies favor so that the doors can be opened. We merely walk through them.

We could say that God's work is an act of grace. It is a kind of oxymoron to say that work is done by grace, since we think of work and grace as two extremes, but they are not! What comes first? The grace comes first: God grants favor and gives gifts, then the work is done. So where is the glory? It appears in the grace. The effort comes afterward and accomplishes God's will.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Malachi 1:6-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Malachi contains a powerful theme that applies to the end-time church. God charges the priests (ministry) with giving Him disrespectful service and despising His name. The priests ask, "How?" God replies that they consider His altar contemptible, as their poor quality offerings plainly show (verse 7). God calls their actions evil!

The altar represents the service they performed as ministers in behalf of God for the people, and the "food" is the Word of God. So bad is their attitude, the priests call their responsibility to offer up the best to God "a weariness" and sneer at it (verses 12-13)! In a modern context, too much time and effort are required to prepare meaty and true sermons.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Who Is Doing the Work of God?


 

Matthew 12:1-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Matthew 12:1-8 adds yet another example of Sabbath encounters Jesus had with the Pharisees. According to the Pharisees, the disciples reaped, threshed, and winnowed the grain; they were guilty of preparing a meal. What was the disciples' motivation? They were traveling, hungry, and had no place to prepare a meal. They were young and strong and could have fasted without harm, but because it was a Sabbath, Jesus drew attention to one of the Sabbath's main purposes. It is a day of mercy.

Christ draws his justification from I Samuel 21:1-6. He reasons that, if David under unusual circumstances could allay his hunger by eating bread consecrated for holy use, then the disciples could also legitimately provide for their needs in unusual circumstances. The emphasis here is on "unusual." How many times did David flee for His life and find himself hungry near the Tabernacle? It happened at least once, but even for a man of war like David, such situations occurred only rarely.

The overall lesson is that God does not intend His law to deprive but to ensure life. If the need arises, we should not feel conscience-stricken to use the Sabbath in a way that would not normally be lawful. Christ admits David's actions were not normally lawful, and neither were the disciples'—except for the circumstances. In this case, they were blameless BECAUSE A LARGER OBLIGATION OVERRULED THE LETTER OF THE LAW. In this circumstance, mercy is more important than sacrificing a meal. Holy bread or holy time can be used exceptionally to sustain life and serve God.

Christ takes advantage of the situation to teach another connected lesson. He draws attention to the extent of the priests' Sabbath labors in the Temple. Their work actually doubled on the Sabbath because of the number of sacrifices God required, yet they were guiltless. Why? They were involved in God's creative, redemptive work, as Christ explains in John 5, 7, and 9. They fulfilled a purpose of the Sabbath that someone had to do.

Because of the disciple's involvement in the work of God, circumstances dictated a profaning of the Sabbath. From this, we can understand that LOVING SERVICE IS GREATER THAN RITUAL FULFILLMENT. What is mercy? It is a helpful act where and when it is needed. It is an act of loving encouragement, comfort, pity, and sympathy for the distressed. It is the relieving of a burden.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Matthew 24:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The church believed in recent years that the ministry of Herbert Armstrong fulfilled this verse, but subsequent events force us to modify our understanding.

It is certain that the end did not come immediately upon the death of Herbert Armstrong. On the other hand, he indeed preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God around the world as it had not been proclaimed since the first century. Though he technically did not witness before every nation, the preaching and literature of the church of God blanketed the globe in a way never done before.

In the context of Matthew 24, however, the timing of this great work of preaching the gospel is wrong if it applies strictly to the ministry of Herbert Armstrong. In the paragraph running between verses 4 and 14, this statement appears at the end of the context, after the opening of the fifth seal (verse 9; see Revelation 6:9-11). Thus, verse 14 seems to indicate a ministry active during the Great Tribulation, the subject Jesus expands on in verses 15-28.

What ministry is active on a worldwide scale during the Great Tribulation? None other than the Two Witnesses! From the summary of that ministry in Revelation 11, we can easily see that God empowers them during the 3½ years of the Tribulation (verse 3). Their ministry is called a "testimony" (verse 7), the same Greek word translated as "witness" in Matthew 24:14. When the Beast finally kills them in Jerusalem, everyone on earth rejoices (Revelation 11:10), indicating that the witnesses' work is worldwide. And three and a half days after their deaths, Christ returns and the age ends (verses 11-13; Zechariah 14:3-5).

Mr. Armstrong would probably be the first to admit this. When he told the church near the end of his life that the preaching of the gospel had been done, he could not have been ignorant of the work of the Two Witnesses. It is clear he meant that he had finished the work God raised him to do. That work revived the truth of God in many areas and prepared the way for the ministry of the Two Witnesses. However, we should see his ministry only as a type or precursor to the even greater work that will be done during the Great Tribulation.

Matthew 24:14 is indeed a definite sign of the end. It applies specifically to the very last days before Christ's second coming when God will give the world a final warning through the mouth of two witnesses (see II Corinthians 13:1; Deuteronomy 17:6).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are These the Last Days? (Part 1)


 

Matthew 24:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are assured in Matthew 24:14 that the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached. God will see it done. He will preach it through whatever means, by whatever agency, and in whatever time He has already ordained. The question for us, then, is whether we will be in alignment with Him and usable by Him so that we can be directed by Him as He completes His work. However, this will be successful only if we let Him lead, rather than assume we already know what He is doing.

Because God is the One who preaches the gospel, and because He sanctifies and prepares His servants to perform His will, He also determines the results of His various works. For 1,900 years, it was not His priority to preach the gospel in a major way. We know this because it was not done. During the last century, a major witness was made because God had ordained it be so. He controls the results and the effects of His preaching. His word does not return to Him void, but it will accomplish what He pleases (Isaiah 55:11). Thus, when we look out today at the various efforts to preach the gospel—and we do not see the same results—it is because something else is God's priority, not that we are not trying hard enough.

Is it possible that the church is not yet "spiritually worthy" to be involved in making a witness to the world? In its present spiritual condition, could the church end up making a witness against God rather than for Him? If a witness is being made against God, does it even matter if the true gospel is spoken?

The bottom line is that we cannot insert ourselves into God's plans. God already knows what will be done, how it will be done, when it will be done, and whom He will use to do it. Our task is to be close enough to God that we recognize His guidance of our lives and to be practiced in submitting to it. When the time comes for Matthew 24:14 to be fulfilled, it will be, according to what God has ordained.

However, whether or not we play a part in the fulfillment of that prophecy, our focus is to be the sanctification that God has already given us. It is through that process of becoming holy and going on to perfection that we become "spiritually worthy" and able to be used by God in whatever capacity He ordains—large or small.

Our goal should not be to fulfill Matthew 24:14. Our goal is to get to the place where we, like Jesus Christ, "always do the will of [our] Father" (John 8:29)—no matter what His will may entail. God is doing far more than just making announcements. He is creating us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and that requires a lifetime of submission and a level of focus and energy far beyond simply preaching to the unconverted world. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

David C. Grabbe
"This Gospel of the Kingdom Shall Be Preached"


 

Mark 3:3-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Mark 3:3-5 reinforces Jesus' attitude toward Sabbath activity. By Jesus' example, His reaction (anger, verse 5), and His words, God very clearly not only intends us to do good on the Sabbath, but also to fail to do good when the opportunity arises implies evil and killing!

Jesus does not appear to have gone out of His way to find people to heal on the Sabbath, but these were incidental occurrences as He went along His way. If a sick person came to His attention, He healed him. But someone unconcerned for the physical and spiritual salvation of others on the Sabbath is automatically involved to some degree in destructive efforts and attitudes, for failing to do good when we have opportunity is sin (Proverbs 3:27-28; James 4:17). God is preparing us to assist in the salvation of others, and it behooves us to begin thinking along these lines.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

John 5:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What work is the Father doing? He is "working salvation in the midst of the earth" (Psalm 74:12). God is always working toward the completion of His purpose - the salvation of mankind. Jesus works within the same process and pointedly makes an issue of this on the Sabbath days. God's work is creating sons in His image. Thus, healing, forgiving sin, and doing good are part of Christ's work as Savior and High Priest that He might be "firstborn among many brethren."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

John 5:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The implication is, "My Father has been working from the beginning, and He's continuing to work." What is Their work? It is creating, creation. God is the Potter, we are the clay. He is the One doing the shaping, the molding, the creating. "It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves." He is the One who is continuing the creation that He began and revealed in Genesis 1. He is still working on us! Continuing the pottery metaphor, the Holy Spirit, then, can be compared to the water that the potter uses to bring the clay to the right consistency to enable him to shape it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

John 5:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We do not use "hitherto" much anymore. It means that the Father began working at some unexpressed time in the past, and He is working still. He began working and has never stopped. His audience understood this because they say that God was working on the Sabbath.

If God has never stopped working, He works seven days a week, 365 day a year, decade after decade, century after century. He is working and has never stopped for the Sabbath. Then Jesus adds, ". . . and I work." The Jews did not like this at all because Jesus associated Himself with God, and He was declaring, "I work on the Sabbath too," basically throwing their accusation right back at them. But the very fact He said it incensed them because they knew immediately that, in order for this to be true, He had to be equated with God.

The Father and the Son began working on a project in the indefinite past. Once that project began, They worked without stopping - "hitherto" - even now. Remember, God is our model, and He works on the Sabbath. But the key is the type of work that He and His Son do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

John 6:44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not a single person can come to God for salvation unless God draws him through Jesus Christ. Saving faith is a very special faith, existing in an individual only because of a miraculous gift from God. It is not generated internally by logical human reason, common sense, or human experience. If faith were not a graciously and freely given gift of God, but rather our own internally generated response to hearing the gospel, God would be indebted to us. In other words, He would owe us because we, on our own, provided the faith to begin and continue in His way.

Notice the conversation Jesus had just moments before what is recorded in John 6:44:

"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you. . . ." Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?" (John 6:27-30)

Jesus clearly says that believing in the One God sent—Jesus Christ—is God's work! He clarifies this in verse 44, declaring that God is that specific belief's Originator and Source; otherwise, we would not have the faith of which He speaks. As usual, the Jews did not completely understand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

John 8:31  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This abiding or continuing in His Word requires that the disciple be continually fed, which, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, is why Christ gave the ministry as a gift to the church. The ministry's purpose is to help perfect the saints "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Who Is Doing the Work of God?


 

Acts 1:6-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Despite spending three-and-a-half years of intense training with Jesus, the apostles retained the common Jewish concept of the establishment of God's Kingdom. Paraphrased, Jesus said, "God is working it out. You need to focus your attention on another area at this time."

The work of God was about to make a dramatic turn, occasioned by something that had never occurred before in the history of the earth. God would give His Spirit, visibly manifesting His power in many, and simultaneously launching His church and the preaching of the gospel! His Family was about to make its greatest numerical advancement to that time. It was a unique time in history. It has not happened in that manner since.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing the Bride


 

Acts 20:27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul said this when making his last goodbye to the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem. Eventually, from there, he went to Rome to face the authorities there. He had spent many years in his journeys crisscrossing the area of what is today western Turkey, preaching the gospel to them, as well as to the world. In making this statement, he is saying, in effect, that a disciple is not made merely by preaching the gospel to him as a witness. There is a vast difference between the two. A disciple of Christ is created through preaching, personal study, prayer, meditation, fellowship, and experience in a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the church. Jesus clearly says in Matthew 28:20 that the disciples were to be taught "all things whatsoever I have commanded you."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 2)


 

Acts 20:28-32  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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 1:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This congregation was already so well established that other people in the world (presumably around the Mediterranean Sea) had already heard of the faith of the converted people in Rome. It must have been outstanding for him to make a statement like this, yet nonetheless, he still wanted to go there and preach the gospel to them.

Does this not show us that it is the responsibility of the ministry, the pastors of the church, including the apostles, evangelists, and local elders, to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God continually to the church? Our faith, the body of truth, remember, is the source of our spiritual strength.

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


 

Romans 1:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul yearned to preach the gospel to already-converted people! He said this because, in a major way, the entire Bible is the gospel. The good news encompasses far more than the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ or His return to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. The Bible's instruction is about God's whole purpose and way of life for mankind until God the Father comes and New Jerusalem is established on earth as His headquarters.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Who Is Doing the Work of God?


 

Romans 1:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

All of Paul's letters, with the exception of the Pastoral Epistles and Philemon, were written to congregations of already-established, converted people. Rome was no exception. The church was already formed there. They had a congregation—a group of Christians who were already disciples—and Paul wanted to go to them.

Why? For them to be converted? No, to continue the process of conversion. And how was he going to do this? By preaching the gospel to them. He was going to preach the gospel to already-converted people.

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


 

Romans 12:3-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These six verses are all tied together by humility—that one should not think of himself more highly than he ought. God has put us each in the body as it pleases Him, so we should not think that we, as, say, the toe are better than the knee because the toe cannot do the knee's job. God thinks of the toe just as highly as He does of the knee, but if He has put us as a toe, why not in faith do the job of a toe because that is what God wants us to be? If He had wanted us to be a knee, He would have put you in the body as a knee, but He made us to be a toe, so be happy as a toe! Do a toe's work in faith!

Paul tells us to think soberly, logically, seriously, that as God has dealt to each a measure of faith, that we in faith can consider our place in the church and deal with it. So, whatever we are to do, do it! Do it with all the gifts and skills that God has given—but do not try to do another's job. It is his job to do diligently, not ours. God put us in the body to do a specific job, our job not his, otherwise He would have given us his job!

If we have been given the job to exhort, then we should exhort. If it is our job to minister and serve others, serve—but do not take another's job to prophesy. Paul is saying, "In lowliness of mind, be content where you are, because obviously God has put you there for a reason. If you do the job that God has given to you, you are fulfilling His will." The church, then, can be united because the members are not competing over each other's responsibilities.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Romans 15:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Within its scope, this verse includes God's work with Israel and with other nations and peoples over the entire Old Testament. This should teach us that the scope of God's salvation activities is far vaster than it appears on the surface.

II Peter 3:9 confirms this: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." In I Timothy 2:3-4, the apostle Paul echoes Peter's statement: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

God is preparing us for what is to come. He has caused these examples and principles to be recorded and preserved so that we would be equipped with the guidance to conduct our life in the right way. The scope of what God is working out in our lives is awesome! If we are to discern Passover and its costs rightly, this has to be considered deeply. When properly understood, every bit of what God is doing is out of love. We will not be able to observe Passover properly unless we can see its importance in its broadest sense.

What a moment in time it was on that Passover in AD 31! God must have been filled with excitement about what was taking place. It was an awesome step toward what He is working out with us.

We must consider Romans 15:4 in light of the historical witness that God is making in our lives. Meditate on this: How many people have lived and died in the vast sweep of the history of each nation to prove a very important point—that there is no way but God's way that will produce the environment that man greatly desires but has never achieved? We need to consider this before taking the next Passover because it is important to our thinking that we look at things from God's point of view.

It is not necessary to recount everything, but from Abraham on, how many Israelites have lived and died without ever being offered spiritual salvation? The numbers become staggering as we expand our meditation further back in time. How many people were obliterated from existence at Sodom and Gomorrah? How many people lost their lives in the Flood?

How many people died in Egypt over and above the firstborn? That land was so devastated that it took generations to recover—and may never have truly regained its former glory! In the days of Ezekiel, God prophesied that Egypt would "be the lowliest of kingdoms" until the Millennium (Ezekiel 29:15), when He will raise it up to be one of three major nations with Israel and Assyria (Isaiah 19:23-25). Egypt must have been an awesome nation, a wonderful people, with plenty of ability, as their remaining architectural monuments testify. Yet, God decimated them to provide an object lesson for us! He can do that—He is God, and it is His purpose being worked out. He perhaps did not have to do it, but He did it to help us to understand and appreciate Passover more fully. God thinks so big that it is beyond our comprehension.

God's Old Testament record of His dealings with them continued to be written right on through Malachi. Even among the Israelites, few seemed to have been called to conversion. From the days of Abraham to Jesus, how many lived and died just as the wilderness generation did so that this record could exist for our edification? What a costly operation!

When we take the Passover, we need to weigh these things so that they make a deeper impression on our minds than they did before. Even so, the cost of the Father and Son's love, as shown by Passover, does not end here. It goes on.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love


 

1 Corinthians 15:42-49  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The image Paul speaks of is not merely that we will be composed of spirit even as Christ is, but that our very nature and character be like His. If God desired that we merely be spirit, He could have made us like angels. Angels, however, are not God; they are angels. God is doing a work in us through which we will become like Him, not like angels.

His purpose requires that we cooperate. Though our part is very small by comparison to what He is doing, it is nonetheless vital. Notice how Paul draws this beautiful section of I Corinthians to a conclusion by drawing our attention to what it will take on our part to make God's purpose work: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:57-58).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

1 Corinthians 15:57-58  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Victory" is from the same Greek root as the word translated "overcomes" so many times in Revelation 2 and 3. Overcoming is being victorious over the pull of human nature against God in the self, Satan, and this world that tries to keep us from entering God's Kingdom.

Paul also exhorts us to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord." His work is creating. Then, by using the words "your labor," the apostle draws our attention to our responsibilities. Our labor is whatever energies and sacrifices it takes to yield to the Lord so He can do His work. Scripture refers to God several times as the Potter, and we are the clay He is shaping. The difference between us and earthy clay is that the clay God is working is alive—having a mind and will of its own, it can choose to resist or yield.

Following initial repentance, finding the motivation to use our faith to yield to Him in labor, not just agreeing mentally, is perhaps most important of all. Real living faith motivates conduct in agreement with God's purpose. Clearly, God's purpose is that we grow or change to become as much like Him in this life as time allows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

2 Corinthians 10:12-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first-century apostles divided the world into spheres, or areas, of responsibility and did not encroach into another's sphere. In doing so, they avoided throwing the church into needless confusion about whom members should look for authority.

We often hear people say, "I think I should go with So-and-so because he is doing this." Another says, "No, I think we should go with Mr. So-and-so because he believes this and is doing that." I Corinthians 1:12-13 says, "Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul,' or 'I am of Apollos,' or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Who Is Doing the Work of God?


 

Galatians 6:9-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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


 

Ephesians 1:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Why does God enlighten us about this? Does He not enlighten us so that we will turn our lives in the direction of the hope of achieving it? Of course. What is the hope of His calling? To attain to the resurrection of the dead—to inherit the Kingdom of God.

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


 

Ephesians 2:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have been resurrected to life, as it were, so that there will be a change in the kind of life we live due to God being at work in us. The Creator is at work; in fact, interestingly, workmanship can be translated "work of art." God is not merely giving a command and transforming us, but He is artistically molding and shaping us.

He takes into consideration all the nuances of our personalities, all of the differences of all those with whom He is working: Americans, Canadians, Australians, British, French, Dutch, Filippino, Mexican, Asians, Jews, and everybody else. He is working with us, not just to stamp us out as with a die, making the same impression on every piece, but He is instead approaching His work artistically. In art, infinite expressions are possible. The greatest Artist of all is at work within us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

Ephesians 5:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Love is extremely rewarding yet also costly, since one who loves will sacrifice. Indeed, sacrifice is love's very essence.

We can illuminate Paul's thought in Ephesians 5:1-2 by placing it in a larger context. Note Ephesians 2:8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Salvation indeed is a free gift; it cannot be earned by works. Yet, after saving us from our sins, God requires us to work! We are to perform work that He has laid out beforehand for us to accomplish. In fact, verse 10, standing by itself, asserts that to do these good works is the very reason we have received justification!

This verse, in the phrase, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus," also says that God, in turn, is working on us. Before being saved, we were not in Christ Jesus. God's creative processes brought us into Christ, and once there, He continues to shape and form us into His Son's image (II Corinthians 3:18).

We are being formed, shaped, and molded by our Creator and Savior to become Christ-like. What kinds of work are required of us for this to happen?

As he progresses toward his statement in Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul says in Ephesians 4:17-18:

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk [live your life] as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. . . .

Is it twisting these verses to say that Paul is commanding these converted and already-saved people to work to sacrifice their lives as Christ did? Doing what he commands takes the work of consciously praying, studying, investigating, and meditating on God's Word to remove a person's ignorance and blindness. It also takes the additional hard work of resisting Satan, human nature, and the world to implement what is learned into daily life.

Such labor will be very pleasing to God, but in no way does it earn us salvation! Moreover, this is clearly obeying God's command. Even though it is not one of the Ten Commandments, it nonetheless expresses God's will for His children after they have been saved from past sins.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required to Do Works? (Part One)


 

1 Timothy 5:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To fail to take care of your own as we have opportunity is denying Christianity. It is denying the Christian faith, and we are then worse off than the unconverted. This is a pretty strong statement. A person who meets the criterion of this verse has disavowed Christianity; he is walking away from his responsibility to take care of his own first.

We can also apply the principle in this verse to the church. Combining this verse with Galatians 6:9-10, it is abundantly clear that God thinks that, even in the best of times, the brethren have first priority, not the world. If there was ever a time for doing good to the brethren, the time is now. In its broader context, Galatians 6:1-10 has spiritual matters more directly in mind than filling 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 is the real foundation of his charge in verses 9 and 10, spiritual matters, and that is exactly where the church's problems lie.

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


 

Hebrews 4:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses show that Jesus was not the first of God's agents mentioned in the Bible to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Bible does not name him directly, but Moses is most likely the one who preached to the Israelites. Did he preach it as he and Aaron were preparing the Israelites to leave Egypt? There is a gap in God's revelation here because it is not terribly important who did it.

We can go further back and suppose that Abraham probably heard the gospel from God Himself as he was preparing to leave his homeland for Canaan. Hebrews 11:10 informs us that Abraham "waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." That city is the heavenly Jerusalem that will come down from heaven with the Father when He comes to earth (Revelation 21:1-5). This, too, is an aspect of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

However, the earliest implication of all appears in Genesis 3:15 within God's pronouncement to Satan of His curse for his involvement in Adam and Eve's sin: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

Early in the New Testament, Matthew 3:2 quotes John the Baptist preaching the gospel, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" However, Jesus certainly gave the most expansive and detailed information regarding the gospel's message. Nobody else even comes close. He also clearly gives the message's title in Mark 1:14-15: "Now after John was put into prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying 'The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.'"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?


 

Revelation 3:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is criticism or maybe it is simply a statement of fact. They are weak. They do have good characteristics, but they are weak. They have "a little strength."

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


 

 




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