What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
This section's main subject is how a minister should approach preaching the gospel. But notice, when we distill His words down, Jesus is saying that, for a minister, preaching the gospel is non-negotiable. In the vernacular, He says to His ministry, "If you go into a town, and you find worthy people to stay with, preach the gospel to them. If they accept it, great. Stay there and preach for as long as you need to. If they reject it, great. Pick up your belongings, dust off your pants, and go to the next town. As a minister of God, you are not preaching for the sake of numbers, or to receive praise from the people, or to make money, or whatever. Preach the gospel. Period."
The minister's job is to preach the gospel. If the people accept it - wonderful. If they do not accept it - well, they will get their reward. The ministry does not have to waste its time in places where the gospel will not be accepted. God does not want His ministers to throw pearls before swine, as it were. He wants them to find those who accept the truth, who want to believe the truth, who are willing to support the truth, who want to help in getting the truth out. And if none are to be found in a particular place, they are to move on. Evidently, God has not called anyone there.
But the truth remains the same. The message must be preached, and it must not be changed. Jesus is pretty hard-nosed about this. A minister of God is not driven by numbers, nor by contributions. He should not be driven by anything designed to make him look "good" because he should not be in it for his own glory. He is in the ministry because he desires to preach the gospel and glorify God. That is what his Master has told him to do, and he is a man, a servant, under authority.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Proselytes were common in the days of the apostles. Acts 2:10 records their presence, with the Jews, in Jerusalem on Pentecost. Nicolas, "a proselyte from Antioch," is numbered in Acts 6:5 as an original deacon. Finally, Acts 13:43, mentions "devout proselytes" who followed Paul in Antioch. In context, these clearly refer to Gentile proselytes to Judaism.
Indeed, Paul's problems with the circumcision party had its roots in the widespread Jewish practice of proselytism in those days. The members of this party - almost certainly (misguided) members of God's church - followed Paul from city to city, telling Gentile converts of their need for physical circumcision. They took their cues from Exodus 12:48 and other scriptures. These Jews were men of their age, and therefore took no exception to the practice of proselytism. Also, they apparently accepted the validity of Paul's commission to carry Christ's "name before Gentiles" (Acts 9:15). Their only issue was physical circumcision. As a result of this controversy, the apostles had to redefine circumcision in its proper New Covenant terms.
In the New Testament, God clearly commissioned some to preach the gospel of God's Kingdom actively. Paul received such a commission, as Acts 9:15 clearly relates. Christ also commissioned His other apostles to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19). These commissions have their parallel in the commissions received by the Old Testament prophets. Examples include the prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1) and Jonah (Jonah 1).
It is important to recognize, though, that neither the Old Testament commissions to the prophets nor the New Testament commissions to the apostles remove the responsibility on the part of the people to be examples. God has always used this means - the example of His people - as a fundamental method of reaching others. As one excellent New Testament example, notice I Thessalonians 1:7-9, where Paul lauds the converts in Thessalonica, pointing out the breadth of their example to other church congregations and to the world at large:
. . . so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. . . .
So strong was their witness that Paul needed not "to say anything." These people certainly did not hide their light under a basket. Example can speak louder than preaching.
Proselytism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Part One)
Paul's statement is very significant in terms of what "preaching the gospel" means. Paul, writing to an already established Christian congregation, wanted to go to Rome to preach the gospel to them! Why would he do that? Were they not already converted? Yes, they were! Paul compliments them earlier: "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world" (Romans 1:8). The congregation in Rome was remarkable, renowned for its faith. Can a congregation be recognized for world-renowned faith only upon conversion?
Though Paul had never been to Rome, these Roman Christians had been converted some time earlier after hearing the gospel through other ministers. They were growing, and Paul wanted to add to their growth by giving them more of the gospel, as he says in verses 11 and 12. "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me." Then, he adds his desire to preach the gospel to them.
Paul wanted to preach the gospel—more of it, in greater detail—to a congregation of converted people! He wanted to be an instrument to reveal more of its glories to them so they might continue to grow. Clearly, the preaching of the gospel by the ministry continues in the church after conversion.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Get the Church Ready!
1 Corinthians 1:18-21
We need a voice - a preacher, a true minister of God - to make the message clear.
By nature, our desires are likely to run amok. We think we know what we want, but we do not always know what we need. A minister's function within the church is to lead us from what we want to what we need.
A brief article excerpted from an old Fortune magazine article chided church pastors for following rather than leading their flocks. The result, it said, was a vicious, downward spiral of spiritual disillusionment in the congregates. The following quotation from that article is quite insightful:
There is only one way out of the spiral. The way out is the sound of a voice. Not our voice, but a voice coming from something not ourselves, in the existence of which we cannot disbelieve. It is the earthly task of the pastors to hear this voice, to cause us to hear it, and to tell us what it says.
This statement is backed up by Romans 10:13-17:
For "whoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah said, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
How can people call on God if they never heard of Him and do not know Him? Paul answers that they cannot hear without a preacher. A preacher cannot go unless he is sent, commissioned as an ambassador with a message revealed to him. Paul's summary is that faith - saving faith - arises from this combination of acts after the message is heard and believed. Faith comes by hearing the Voice of God spoken through a duly ordained messenger of God. This, in effect, means that only He who sends the message can designate who bears it!
In addition, Paul is not simply describing the beginning of faith, but its beginning and all of the progress made by faith throughout a person's conversion. The very strength of faith is by hearing and believing. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is the key that opens the door of salvation, but only to those who will hear and believe and redirect their lives accordingly.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 4)
1 Corinthians 2:2
First, notice that Paul does not say the only thing he would preach was Christ and the crucifixion, as some have assumed; he says the only thing he would know among the Corinthians was Christ, the One crucified. The Amplified Bible renders it this way: "For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified."
Looking at the audience (the people of Corinth were Greek) and the verses preceding this one, it is clear that Paul's intent is not to be distracted by extraneous topics that the Corinthians might have been more inclined to listen to. His statement in verse 2 ties back to two different themes before it:
For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. 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? (I Corinthians 1:11-13)
At the beginning of the letter, we see that Corinth seemed to be more focused on the human leadership than on the Messiah. Paul's statement in I Corinthians 2:2 gives an answer to this. He says, in effect, "I'm not going to be focused on myself, or on any other servant of God; I'm going to be focused on God Himself."
The second theme starts in I Corinthians 1:18 and goes through the end of the chapter. Paul is addressing something else the Corinthians were dealing with: The Greeks are renowned for their love of human wisdom, philosophy, metaphysics, and debate, as well as a religious system of multiple gods and goddesses. To such a mindset, the fact that a God would not only submit Himself to a lower (human) form, but also die for the very people He created, was unthinkable! This is why Paul says in I Corinthians 1:23, "But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumblingblock and to the Greeks foolishness." The God of Christianity, and the whole Christian system, did not make any sense to the Greek philosophers, intellectuals, and theologians.
Paul contrasts the Greek ideals, which were largely humanist, with the godly ideals. In I Corinthians 1:26-29 Paul shows that God is not interested in what the Greeks (or mankind in general) were interested in; instead, He called the weak, the base, the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, the mighty, the noble - those that the Greek world certainly would have been holding in high esteem. Paul continues this thought in I Corinthians 2:1, where he says he did not come to the Corinthians with "excellency of speech" or "wisdom" - again, things the Greeks regarded highly. Instead, as verse 2 says, he came to "know" Christ among them and Him crucified.
It is evident from Paul's letters to the Corinthian church, as well as his other writings, that the life and death of Christ were not his only topics. I Corinthians 5 explains the defilement of immorality. Chapter 6 deals with working things out among the brethren rather than taking matters to a civil court. Chapter 7 contains principles of marriage. Chapter 8 covers not defiling the conscience. Chapter 9 speaks of service and self-denial. It is easy to see that Paul wrote on a great deal more than just the life and death of Jesus Christ - they were just the starting point for his instruction. With Christ's sinless life and willing self-sacrifice comes remission of our sins, and justification - being brought into alignment with God and His inexorable law. Once we have been forgiven and have entered into the New Covenant, our responsibility becomes focusing on the Christian walk and conforming our life to the life of Christ. This is where all of Paul's instructions on "Christian living" come into play.
The ultimate reason for this is that the gospel message is not just about our forgiveness of sins through Christ's sacrifice. The gospel is also about the soon-coming Kingdom and government of God. The scriptural evidence that the Kingdom is a foundational part of the gospel is overwhelming:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:1-2)
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23-24)
For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:18-20)
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matthew 9:35)
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:41-43)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
Now after John was put in 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 in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)
This is just a small sample from Matthew's account (with an additional verse from Mark to demonstrate what Christ preached) - and it does not even include the parables, the vast majority of which were about the Kingdom!
Paul also wrote a considerable amount about the Kingdom, even to the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 4:20; 6:9-11; 15:20-25; 15:50; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; II Thessalonians 1:3-5; II Timothy 4:1-2; Hebrews 12:28-29). James also spoke of inheriting the Kingdom in his epistle (James 2:5), as did Peter (II Peter 1:10-11).
In the face of all of this evidence, it is clear that the soon-coming Kingdom of God, which will be ruled by Jesus Christ on earth (Zechariah 14:3-5, 9; Matthew 5:5, Revelation 5:10; 20:4-6), was certainly a significant part of what Jesus Christ preached, as well as what Paul wrote about. The gospel is not about Christ or the Kingdom; it is about both. It is the good news that a relationship is available with our Creator, on the basis of a sinless life sacrificed on our behalf, but that is only the beginning. The Kingdom is what we are striving for - living eternally with God, and as He lives - but it is evident that not all will make it into the Kingdom. Men have rejected, and continue to reject, the law of the King, and in doing so they signify that they do not want to be ruled by God (Romans 8:7). The perfect work that Christ did is really just the starting point. It allows for the relationship with God to start, but it also obligates us to respond to God in submission and obedience. God is not going to have someone in His Kingdom who will not be ruled by Him! It is our responsibility to begin living now as we will be living in the Kingdom.
This is why Christ and John the Baptist specifically link repentance with the Kingdom of God. Repentance is a wholehearted turning from the ways and acts which caused our Lord to have to be crucified. The first part of repentance is determining what sin is: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4, KJV). It is our transgression of the law which caused Christ to have to die for us. Now that our sins have been forgiven, are we free to live in sin (iniquity, lawlessness) again? "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin [shall we continue to transgress the law] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). Part of our obligation is to determine from God's Word what is the right way to live, the way that is in alignment with God and not enmity against Him (Romans 8:7). God has codified this right way to live in His law; it is up to us to follow through with it!
To focus only on the crucifixion of Christ, to the exclusion of His teachings and examples, as well as the instructions contained in the rest of the Book, is to fail to understand the depth of what God is doing. To leave Christ hanging on the cross, as it were, is to emphasize our forgiveness above what is then required of us.
David C. Grabbe
2 Corinthians 5:11
When God summoned us to His way of life, He persuaded us with various proofs that He exists, desires a relationship with us, and rules not just the universe but also the affairs of men. As often happens during our first love (Revelation 2:4-5), we desire to share our joy and newfound truth with others. Most of the time, our early evangelistic efforts fail to produce any new converts to the faith - instead, our efforts usually cause problems in our relationships.
Most lay-members, after one or two failures of this sort, get smart and desist in trying to convert their relatives and friends. They realize that nothing will ever happen without God first calling the other individual and changing his heart by His Spirit to accept the truth (John 6:44; Romans 2:4-5; 8:7; I Corinthians 2:10-14; Hebrews 8:10; Ezekiel 11:19). All our preaching and cajoling will accomplish nothing unless God moves to initiate a personal relationship with him.
Ministers do not have such an easy out. Certainly, in their personal relationships they can quit trying to "save" those unconverted members of their families, but in their professional capacity, their job is to "persuade men." In personal conduct, counsel, sermons, and articles, they must devote their energies to showing and explaining why God's way is true and will lead to eternal life in God's Kingdom.
Today, that is not an easy task. It has never been easy, really, but the current environment makes it harder than it has been historically. For starters, though a high percentage of people say they believe in God, most people are no longer religious but secular. Religion is not a high-ranking concern, and because of this, religious issues fly under their radar and over their heads. They just do not care, and even when they inquire about them, they do not understand them because they lack the background and education necessary to evaluate them properly.
Another problem is competition. It used to be that most people at least treated Sunday, "the Lord's day," as a Sabbath and devoted most or all of that time to religious pursuits. No longer. Sunday, though it is not God's Sabbath day, is used just like any other day: for work and entertainment. If God receives a few hours on Sunday morning for worship services, most Americans - and Europeans to an even greater degree - think He should feel satisfied that they could spare Him even that much!
Yet a third hindrance is the way moderns think. Too many people, especially younger adults, have absorbed the postmodern, values-neutral approach. This way of thinking considers every idea and belief as equally valid, neither right nor wrong. A person can believe anything he likes - even that the moon is made of green cheese - and he should not be judged as right or wrong. Any god one worships, or for that matter, if one chooses to worship no god, is fine, and no one god or belief system is better than any other.
In such an environment, how can we persuade anyone of the truth? Our success certainly looks bleak.
The answer lies in what Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:9-11: "We make it our aim . . . to be well pleasing to Him." Our judgment does not rest on how many men we persuade but on whether we do the job. We are called to make the witness for God and Christ to the best of our ability and strength. Christ will judge us "according to what [we have] done, whether good or bad." How others react to us and what we say or write matters little; it is "God who gives the increase" (I Corinthians 3:5-8). As Paul says, one plants and another waters, but what happens to the sprout is not under their control but God's.
Thus, we cannot quantify the results of our persuasion as others can. We cannot see the growth of our "business" in statistical form. The true measure of our success will be revealed in God's Kingdom, and even then, we will be unable to claim the glory for it. For in persuading men, we "do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
2 Timothy 4:2
Preaching is not bound to what time of the year it is. If somebody needs the instruction, it should be given! Normally, we would not speak about the evils of Christmas during July, but if it is necessary, we should preach it. If we need to talk about the Feast of Tabernacles during the spring holy days, we should do it! We have to be ready at all times, armed, as it were, to speak about anything that pertains to God's Word and His way of life at any time. A preacher should always give instruction when it is needed, not just when it is routinely given by others.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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)
1 John 2:27
Clearly, he is not saying that these people had no need for someone to teach them the difference between truth and error. They did need it! That is why John wrote his epistle! What they did not need was for anyone to teach them the church's basic doctrines, nor did they need human logic or philosophy to help them understand God's nature.
John had known, seen, heard, and touched Jesus Christ personally. Christ had taught him intensively for three-and-a-half years, and in turn, the aged apostle had taught them the same truth throughout his own ministry. The members of God's church had no need for any heretic to teach them.
As true sons of God, they had received His Holy Spirit, which had opened their minds and led them into the truth (John 16:13). They had been thoroughly grounded in the truth regarding the nature of Christ and God and the very purpose of life itself. God's truth had not changed, so what need did they have to relearn it?
In the rest of I John 2:27, John encourages them to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them and keep them faithful to what they had been taught from the beginning. Their original knowledge was true and no lie: "But as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."
Do we need teachers? Of course! John's epistle is an excellent example of why teachers are needed in the church. When false doctrine threatened members of the true body of believers, John found it necessary to spell out to them the dangers in it, even though the brethren had been thoroughly grounded in the truth. To reassure them that their foundational beliefs were true, he felt he needed to explain the truth to them again. He also saw that they could use some encouragement to trust the Holy Spirit to lead them into the truth.
This is exactly what a true minister of God is to do! The author of Hebrews instructs us to respect the ministry because they are given to us to protect us. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account" (Hebrews 13:17).
Many New Testament examples show us our need for teachers. Philip's experience with the Ethiopian eunuch clearly illustrates how we need experienced and educated teachers to explain and expound the Word of God (Acts 8:26-38). As Philip approaches him, the eunuch is reading an Old Testament prophecy that foretold Christ's sufferings. When asked if he understands the passage, the eunuch has the humility to admit he needs help. He replies, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (verse 31). Philip then explains to him how this prophecy was fulfilled in the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth. This results in the eunuch's baptism (verse 38).
In dealing with the many problems in the Corinthian church, Paul had to send Timothy to refresh them in the truth that Paul had preached.
Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. (I Corinthians 4:16-17)
In his letters to Timothy, Paul instructs the young evangelist about various principles that he should teach the people. "These things command and teach.... Teach and exhort these things" (I Timothy 4:11; 6:2).
In addition, the apostle tells him to train others to be teachers. "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2). Besides this, an elder must be "able to teach" (I Timothy 3:2). The very purpose of the ministry is to help in perfecting the saints (Ephesians 4:11-12, KJV).
Throughout the New Testament, God continually emphasizes the need to provide spiritual food to the church. Jesus says that His servants will be providing "food in due season" to His people (Matthew 24:45). "Feed My sheep" is one of the last things Jesus tells Peter (John 21:17). Paul writes to Timothy, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (II Timothy 4:2).
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints
There is no break between Revelation 10 and 11. Whoever made these chapter breaks missed the very obvious flow from one to the next. The chapter break would have been better inserted at Revelation 11:15, when the seventh trumpet sounds. It would have made for a long chapter 10, but it would have kept similar material together. Perhaps Satan had a hand in this, because the original Bible did not have chapter breaks. Maybe the Devil was able to influence some scribe somewhere to do this and confuse the interpretation of these prophecies. I do not know. However, we need to see these chapters as a whole.
This section is what we could call "an inset chapter" or "an inset passage." It is a digression from the main flow of the chronology - the main flow of events. It takes time out to explain an important subject so we can get caught up and understand what is happening more fully. There are several of these in Revelation: Chapter 12 discusses Israel and the persecutions that come upon it - and later the church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) - by Satan. Another well-known one is chapter 17, about the harlot that rides the Beast, and chapter 18 is the description of Babylon. These insets give us important prophetic information that we need to know.
It is important that we understand this point. The seven thunders and the eating of the little book in chapter 10, as well as the measuring of the Temple and the Two Witnesses in chapter 11, are all part of one major subject. What is this major subject? If we know what the seven thunders are, what eating the little book is, what measuring the Temple is, and what the preaching of the Two Witnesses is, then it becomes quite clear. What do they all have in common? The message and the preaching of that message.
Revelation chapters 10 and 11, then, are an inset passage on the preaching and work of the church - especially its leadership, those messengers God has called to proclaim His Word.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part One)
Find more Bible verses about Preaching:
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