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What the Bible says about Church, Work of the
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Isaiah 40:9-18

God commands Zion (a type of the church) to lift up its voice to reveal Him to the people. In His ensuing description of Himself, God proclaims Himself as the almighty, all-wise Creator. He has such incomparable power and wisdom that the combined might and intelligence of all nations are as nothing before Him. In our childish vanity, we think of ourselves as being of some account, but we are so insignificant that, compared to Him, all humanity combined is less than nothing and worthless! Considering this testimony, whose law should take precedence—God's or man's?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)

Matthew 28:16-20

By stating this as He did, He was admonishing the apostles not to become fixated on the fulfillment of prophecies but to remain focused on preaching the gospel. For that end, He will give them power. He wanted them to concentrate on the job at hand. The Great Commission, though, is now not only global geographically, but in terms of time, it is also totally open-ended. Moreover, no God-given, intermediate goals are in sight. The church today must take its cue from the way Jesus Christ handled the situation with the first-century church.

What began at this critical time in history was that God's global re-educational institution—the church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)—was taking its first steps in teaching everyone worldwide how they should live. The church Jesus founded was beginning to preach the gospel from this starting point in both place and time, an activity that will eventually reach every person who has ever lived. In other words, beginning then, the church became the focal point of God's reeducation program.

Jesus was transitioning His work from what was merely an Old Covenant, Israelite, religious organization—of interest to relatively few outside Israel—to an educational organization that in terms of time will span thousands of years and become of intense interest to everybody. In directing the apostles in this way, Christ wanted His church to inaugurate this work yet keep it contained within the parameters He and the Father set as the church progressively developed at the speed it could handle effectively.

It may be helpful to remember that the earliest brethren in the church had to face their public responsibilities to Jesus without the help of what is now roughly one-third of the Bible—the New Testament. Scholars posit that the gospel of Mark was written first, followed by Matthew, Luke, and John. The earliest possible date even for Mark appears to be around AD 40, but some place it as late as AD 65.

In addition, it appears that I Thessalonians was the first of the epistles circulated within the church, but the apostle Paul did not write it until approximately AD 50. How many new converts even possessed their own copy of an Old Testament in their homes? Very few. There were no printing presses, no radio and television broadcasting, and no computers. To purchase a copy of the Old Testament would have cost a working man an entire year of wages! Was there a reference work similar to a Strong's Concordance of the Bible for somewhat more serious researching? Of course not.

Looking back in this way confirms that the early preaching of the gospel was a work of faith, highly dependent on the apostles' spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. What likely sustained the members' spirituality was the spoken word delivered to people who listened carefully and concentrated with great intensity. These “pioneers” were remarkable, spiritually-minded people.

The Jewish religious leadership perceived that the apostles lacked preparation for such a huge responsibility (Acts 4:13). This terminology does not mean that the apostles had received no education at all. The wording expresses that the Jews considered the apostles to be common men who lacked the educational advantages they would have received had they been prepared for such public evangelism in rabbinical schools. However, recall that Mark 3:13-14 establishes that Jesus chose and appointed those He specifically wanted as apostles so that they might be with Him (that is, to witness His teaching and activities), and He sent them out to preach. Undoubtedly, He was searching for budding characteristics that He could build upon. He prepared them well to carry out their responsibilities.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)

Galatians 6:9-10

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

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

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

1 Thessalonians 2:8-9

Although the context is somewhat different, I Thessalonians 2:1-16, like Romans 1:15, reinforces the point that "preaching the gospel" includes teaching the church. Not just a means of conversion, the preaching of the gospel supplies continued growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul followed this procedure in Thessalonica. He preached to the Thessalonians for a long time, stretching from their first exposure to the gospel through conversion until with further growth they became imitators of the churches of God in Judea (verse 14).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Get the Church Ready!

1 Timothy 5:8

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 Four)

Revelation 2:25

There is no sense that they are going to die before He comes. His return is so imminent, He says, "Hold fast till I come." It is as if He is saying, "You only have a little while to hang on."

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

Revelation 2:25

One can hold fast only to what one has previously been given. They had been given something in the past. They had drifted away into a relationship with the world. Idolatry was present in their character. But Christ says, "Hold fast to that which remains"—something that had previously been given—so that they would not drift any further.

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


 




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