Bible verses about
Scattering of Church
(From Forerunner Commentary)
What is written in this chapter is one of the things that led to the break-up the Worldwide Church of God, and why its members are scattered all over. Its members forgot a great deal about God's requirements of obedience. This theme of not forgetting runs through the book of Deuteronomy.
Virtually every family of people on earth considers themselves to be the recipients of God's favor. They usually designate themselves by a title to indicate this, especially to themselves. The Germans call themselves Herrenvolk. The Japanese call themselves "sons of heaven." China calls itself "the good earth," and Americans, "God's country."
The Israelites were the recipients of the knowledge of God's purpose, then they were given a land in which to prosper and to use that knowledge. However, whatever Israel received, it was miniscule by comparison to what the church was given. Yet, Israel forgot what God had so graciously bestowed, and what happened to the Israelites? They were scattered to the four corners of the earth. Is it possible, then, that the church forgot what God had given it? It became less and less aware that it, too, had been given the knowledge of God and of His purpose being worked out in its members lives. What did we call ourselves? "God's church"!
However, there is a common byproduct of prosperity: "Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; then your heart be lifted up, and you forget. . . ."
Yes, a common byproduct of prosperity—one that could destroy the gift of knowledge of God's purpose for mankind—is forgetfulness! Pride in one's prosperity can gradually persuade a person that he gained it himself, but the fact is that the real reason for the prosperity is what he was given.
There are a number of reasons for the Old Covenant rituals, but undoubtedly, one of them is to remind the sanctified ones who they are and what they are to do with their lives. They are a separated people, called to make right use of their gifts and to glorify God in the use of them.
Being aware of our separation is supremely important to us because it is one of the few ways that gives sense to why God requires certain things. The laws of clean and unclean meats should be a constant reminder of this separation. So should the removing of leaven from our homes before Unleavened Bread. It is clear from the Old Testament rituals that cleanliness—spiritual, moral, and physical cleanliness—and purity are the realities that differentiate us from the world, making us distinctive from others.
This is something, though, that is so easy to forget or to overlook, which is why God gives this warning in Deuteronomy 8. Being spiritually undefiled or uncontaminated is a responsibility because it is in maintaining the cleanliness that a visible witness is made—one that can be seen and evaluated by the world. If we allow ourselves to run amok with the rest of the world, then we share the world's contamination through sin, and no witness is made. Who can see the difference? There is no difference, or so little difference that it is unrecognizable.
Thus, it is in the efforts to be made clean and to maintain cleanliness that many of the sacrificial aspects of priesthood are most clearly seen.
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 2)
The church was scattered when the doctrines were changed, producing confusion and badly disturbing the doctrinal foundation. But David is reminding us that, in reality, God is still on His throne! He knows what is occurring, and we are not to lose hope. He is testing us to see our reaction is to the destruction of what we thought was so solid. But truth cannot be destroyed! We must still have faith in it. If we do, we will use it despite what is happening around us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 3): Ephesians 4 (A)
We should tie this directly to the truth of verse 1: “There is a time for every purpose.” The key word, of course, is “time.” In life's challenges to our faith, in which God is involved with us, some purpose is being worked out. In verse 11, we learn that both the timing and what is being worked out are “beautiful.” The event might be challenging, but God, who is involved in the Christian's life and in this challenge, calls it “beautiful.” With that hopeful knowledge, what should our attitude be?
The root of the Hebrew word translated beautiful literally means “bright.” The Hebrew word can be translated “fair,” “comely,” “beautiful,” “suitable,” “appropriate,” and “timely,” depending on the context. In Job 42:15, the same Hebrew word is translated “beautiful” when describing Job's daughters. It indicates something good and admirable, a blessing.
What an encouraging truth! God's timing, His oversight of events, and what He wants them to accomplish are something good! They are not merely broadly good but also suitable, fitting, appropriate, and timely.
Was the scattering of Israel and Judah beautiful in its time? If we read Lamentations without considering God's entire purpose, the situation appears very ugly indeed. However, over the long haul, the answer is undoubtedly, “Yes, it was beautiful and good!” It was suitable for that occasion.
What about the scattering of the church? Was it beautiful? The same is true. Our going through it may have been stressful, requiring painful adjustments while enduring to the end, but in the long term, it will most certainly be beautifully good.
Is correction good? Do we really want to continue doing things wrong? If God had not done what He did when and how He did it, how many serious spiritual character and attitude flaws would have gone uncorrected? How disastrous would they have been to the salvation of many?
How many nice people have we fellowshipped with in the past but who have seemingly been swept overboard and appear lost? The reality may be that they were “nice tares.” They indeed may have been fine people with many social graces but completely unconverted. Perhaps they no longer fellowship with us because God delayed their true calling, sparing them from the Lake of Fire.
Peter states clearly that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). There used to be a television program called Father Knows Best. Yes, He does! And because of the way God has acted, many more will enter His Kingdom in His image than if He had not intervened. It is even possible to consider that we may all have been lost except for His rough intervention!
It is critical for us to keep in mind always that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). His overview captures the entire span of events; He sees the entire picture. We, though, live in a time-bound, material universe, and all we have is a mere point of view (I Corinthians 13:12). For the most part, we are restricted to grasping things from our narrow perspective. This is why faith is required of us and why Solomon states in verse 11 that we cannot “find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
So how can we meet life's challenges in the right spirit?
If we think the scattering of the church has been difficult to accept in a good attitude, we need to be patient because prophecy reveals that things will become much worse as time moves on! I am personally becoming ever more aware that time is moving on for me. My mother, who lived to be almost 93, said to me once, “Getting old is not for sissies.” She was saying in her unconverted way that, regardless of age, the trials of life never do really end. As one ages, they simply morph into another form.
To help us through our current spiritual trials as well as the intensifying times ahead, we must come to know God through a personal relationship and trust Him to work things out. We must use our faith, knowing that we do not see the entire picture.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time
Forbearance is a vital part of agape love. Paul's immediate change of subject in verse 3 indicates that by bearing with one another in love, unity of the Spirit is produced. Very interesting and helpful for us today.
Forbearance in love produces unity. When we see disunity and scattering, we can be sure that someone has thrown out forbearance, love, and humility, which the apostle had mentioned earlier. When these virtues are absent, the church goes to the four winds because the members cannot put up with each other. They find reasons to be offended, and they scatter.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
We know the title given to the epistle to the Hebrews is reasonably correct, and Hebrews 1:1-2 provides the internal proof. God sent His prophets to the Hebrew Israelites, including the greatest prophet of all, Jesus Christ. There is no evidence He sent prophets to other nations with any regularity.
However, we must understand that this epistle was not written to Hebrews in general. Like the other epistles, it is directed primarily to Hebrews—Jews or Israelites—who had converted and were fellowshipping in church congregations. Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude, and Matthew were all Israelites, as were others converted through them. Note that other apostles did not send their epistles to the world; they sent them to church of God congregations. Paul explains this spiritually, writing in Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” The “Jews” addressed are people with God's Spirit.
The epistle to the Hebrews is inspired, and Christ's words to His church were passed around to all the congregations. This epistle was most certainly not restricted only to Hebrew Christians but was fully intended for all Christians since its instruction is vital to everyone's salvation. Yet, it went first to aid the Hebrews because of what was happening at that time both spiritually and culturally within their nation because of their faith in Jesus as Savior.
The author writes in Hebrews 5:12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” This verse indicates that the Hebrew recipients were not young in the faith. Acts 8:1 records what was happening immediately after Stephen's martyrdom: “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Hebrews 10:32 reminds the epistle's original recipients about their earlier persecutions: “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.” We can conclude that the epistle was written to a group of Christians who were not young in the faith.
Hebrews 13:24 adds: “Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you,” giving the impression that the congregation may have been relatively large. It also suggests that the epistle probably went first to the congregation in Jerusalem (Acts 11:22) and then copies were made and sent elsewhere.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Two)
Contrary to popular belief, we live in one of the most difficult and dangerous ages in all of human history. Some would be willing to argue this, saying that civilization has come a long way and that mankind is not as cruel as the record of history shows that he once was. Certainly living in the first century in the Roman Empire must have been difficult, they might say as an example, since we have the Bible's account of the apostles living in constant danger—and most of them died horrible deaths!
That is true. From what the Bible shows, that constant danger promoted closeness to God; the apostles relied on God to keep them safe and provide deliverance for them at every turn. While we are not being hunted down for our religious beliefs, the danger we face today is far greater—spiritually—in that it does just the opposite: It promotes a slow separation from God. We know this kind of danger by the illustration of the frog in the pot of water. The increase in temperature happens so slowly that the frog fails to realize that it is in trouble until it is too late to jump to safety.
What produces this danger for us, the called-out children of God? What is the signature attitude of the era that we live in? What failing among the majority of people will cause the loss of our freedoms and the downfall of our nation? It is compromising with the laws and principles of God.
We live in a nation that has largely compromised the character it once possessed. Just a minority uphold the Christian principles that underlay documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which provided the foundation for America to become the envy of the world. Now, so many are willing to trade their hard-won freedoms for a little temporary security, essentially selling their birthright.
We face an analogous situation among the greater churches of God. We live in a time when the majority of those with whom we once fellowshipped have compromised the beliefs they used to hold dear. Many of these people have joined worldly churches, or worse, losing faith altogether, have slipped back into the world. Some have contrived strange new doctrines to live by, and despite attending services among the scattered churches, too many have nearly lost their faith and zeal for this way of life.
In our church history, we can see how deadly even a little compromising with God's ways is. It almost always leads to greater compromises until a person is so far from what has been revealed in Scripture that he has apostatized, cutting himself off from God. What a sad end after such a promising start!
In these perilous times, it is of the utmost importance that we resist the urge to use our human reasoning to compromise with God's law. We must be particularly careful in what we perceive as the "smaller areas" of God's Word. Why? Because Satan often makes his greatest inroads by getting us to relax in little things and gradually convincing us to do the same in more vital matters. If he can just get his foot in the door, he feels he has won a great victory and can make us slip away from God. Paul, however, exhorts us, ". . . nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27).
Once we compromise, the process of sin has commenced, and godly character, which is so precious to God, begins to erode, opening the way for sin on a larger scale. If a wise man like Solomon went from ignoring a seemingly obscure admonition to the flagrant breaking of many of God's commandments, we, too, can certainly yield to the peril of compromise. We must learn to spot and avoid the little compromises that lead to big sins.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
The key of David - (See Isaiah 22:22; 9:6; Matthew 28:18) A misunderstanding of this symbol may have fostered abuses of church or ministerial authority. For decades, the church interpreted Revelation 3:7 to mean the church had "God's government," and the ministry too often wielded this club with a heavy hand (Ezekiel 34:1-10; Jeremiah 23:1-3). Revelation 3:7, however, is clear that the key of David belongs, not to the church, but to the One who is holy and true, Jesus Christ. He alone has the authority to govern the church and to open and shut doors before it.
Jeremiah 23:20 predicts that we will fully understand this problem "in the latter days." Having experienced man's misuse of Christ's authority and the church's scattering, we should now see that in its administration the church must be very careful to stay within the bounds of true Christianity and not usurp God's prerogatives.
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia
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