What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Here, Christ's instruction to watch continues. However, this time Jesus focuses specifically on the responsibility of the steward—the one given authority over the household while the Master is away. His theme is preparation and faithful continuance of duty. He tasks the steward—a type of the ministry—with giving the household "food in due season."
Similarly, Paul outlines the responsibilities of church leadership in his letter to the Ephesians. Notice that the focus is on the church, not on the world: "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry [service], for the edifying of the body of Christ. . ." (Ephesians 4:11-13). Church leaders are responsible for feeding and preparing God's household and encouraging them to watch themselves.
If the steward does not properly watch, however, the human proclivity is to let down—and abuse. The steward in Luke 12:45 is focused on the Master's return—or lack thereof—rather than on his own alertness and attention to his duties. As a result, he falls into excesses of eating and drinking (rather than providing food for the household). He ends up beating those he was supposed to watch over, as if he thought they belonged to him. Clearly, those who have stewardship responsibilities in the church have an added weight to "take heed to themselves" lest they neglect or even damage those for whom they are supposed to be providing spiritual food.
David C. Grabbe
'As a Thief in the Night'
John 6:31-40 is an encouraging passage, showing that we are never alone. Therefore, guidance and help in governing ourselves is ever-present as we walk the path toward God's Kingdom.
These verses give people of faith solemn assurance that Christ is always present in our lives and always willing to help. Jesus makes the ironclad promise in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave nor forsake us. A large portion of Jesus' preaching in John 6 is a comparison between food that satisfies a person's hunger and also provides strength and energy to carry out his responsibilities. At the same time, we understand that food enters the body as one eats and becomes a more or less permanent part of the body as the body uses it.
The illustration is drawn from Israel's pilgrimage through the wilderness when God mercifully and miraculously provided food in the form of manna. God produced that daily miracle for the Israelite's benefit so that they could physically make it to the Promised Land, in addition to giving us encouragement by His assurances.
Jesus' concern for us is spiritual, and accomplishing our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God is the goal we strive for. Producing fruit along the way greatly pleases the Father. Bread symbolizes the means of internal, spiritual strength and energy, whereas the fruit metaphor of John 15 is external, something seen and produced because the individual uses the spiritual strength and energy drawn from the "bread."
(We may understand Jesus' instruction in this important discourse more clearly if we focus, not on the term "bread" specifically as bread, but more broadly as including a wide range of strengthening and energizing food.)
Jesus begins in John 6:32 by declaring that He is the true bread. In John 13 and I Corinthians 11, bread is specifically used as a metaphor in a different circumstance. Here, bread is figuratively used as the source of spiritual nourishment, strength, and producing fruit by those making the pilgrimage.
The manna is a type of Jesus Christ. It descended, as it were, from heaven, but the Father was the real Giver. Thus, in the wilderness Moses did not literally provide the manna but only gave instructions for its use. The manna indeed satisfied their immediate need for nourishment for physical strength and energy, but by way of contrast, Jesus, the true bread of God, gives life, not mere nourishment. Verse 34 shows that the Jews, as with virtually everything else He taught, did not grasp His teaching spiritually.
Thus, in verse 35, Jesus says, "I am the bread of life." He explains His mysterious teaching more plainly, essentially saying, "I am the One who both imparts and sustains life." He is, of course, emphasizing spiritual teaching. The Greek shows that He completely identifies Himself with the bread, as it actually reads, "I am the bread of the life." It is not mere life but everlasting spiritual life. He means that through faith and an intimate, spiritual union and relationship with Him that, as the body assimilates actual bread physically, so spiritual assimilation with Him gives everlasting life (John 6:63).
Continuing in verse 35, He adds that "he who comes to Me"—meaning the one who believes in Christ, coming with nothing but sin and needing everything—will in no way become spiritually hungry or thirsty. In other words, he truly will be fed, unlike those in the wilderness who became hungry. Those who come to Him will be given complete and enduring spiritual satisfaction.
Verse 36—where Jesus says to the Jews, "You have seen Me and yet do not believe"—is interesting in that it shows that God does not hold unconverted man guiltless. Indeed, as soon as a person sins, the death penalty immediately falls on his head. Here, Jesus places the entire blame for the Jews' rejection of Him on them. Why? Because, being of Israel, they should have known better by recognizing the fulfillment in Him of familiar scriptures. Thus, their rejection of Him contained a large measure of deliberateness.
Verse 37 ought to be especially encouraging to us because John 6:44 implies that a calling must be given for fuller understanding of what Jesus is teaching. Obviously, we do understand what He is saying, or we would not be in our present circumstance in relation to Him. Verse 37 is a strong promise that He will make every effort to provide us with salvation.
Verse 38, then, asserts to us that, if God calls a person, it is definitely God's will to do so. It is no mistake or happenstance. God's will is being worked in the called one's life. In verses 39 and 40, Jesus adds that it is the will of the Father, and therefore the Son's also, that all those given to Christ should be resurrected to everlasting life!
Verses 39-40 are the closest statements regarding a guarantee of salvation as one will see in God's Word. Verse 58 confirms His words, "This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."
God has appointed Jesus Christ as largely responsible for our salvation. He has already given His life's blood for us so our sins can be forgiven. He has paid the penalty that inhibits us from receiving everlasting life. Once that penalty is paid, the responsibility falls on us to give of our energies to change our lives so that they exhibit consistent obedience.
Whereas in times past we did not care much about our responsibilities to God, it has now become incumbent upon us to be very concerned. In making the New Covenant, we owe submission to the Father and Son, to conform our conduct to agree with theirs. Thus, we will be formed into their image. We must submit to their rule, then, as well as those parts of their rule that they have assigned to others.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part Four)
Verse 13 encourages us to understand that God is purposely exposing our sins to us for our eternal good so that we might share life in His Kingdom with Him. Therefore, He urges us in verses 14-17 to wake up and take advantage of this, for if we continue in sin, we are as good as dead. But because it is His desire to save, He exposes our sins to us so that we can repent.
Doing our part by overcoming is necessary if we want to experience the fullness of our redemption from sin. We must take advantage of the great gift of His Spirit, using every opportunity that comes our way to confront our weaknesses and drive on to perfection. He implores us not to let what has made us special to Him slip from our grasps.
Thus, in verse 17 especially, He urges us to follow wisdom through clearly understanding His will for us. He wants us in His Kingdom, experiencing life as He lives it, but a measure of responsibility for responding in submission falls directly on our shoulders. We know what we must do—we must take the time and make the effort to take advantage of our uniqueness before Him. Time is running out, so let us do it!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Our Uniqueness and Time
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12
Commentators believe these brethren stopped working due to misunderstanding the nearness of Christ's return. Nonetheless, they were breaking the pattern of conduct set by Christ Himself and taught by the apostles. Jesus worked right up until He was crucified. Paul calls their conduct unacceptable and serious enough that those brethren who were patiently working should withdraw from those who quit (II Thessalonians 3:6)!
This example contains a practical truth about work that is not mentioned but is helpful to understand. Costs are tied to work, whether it is for the Lord or an employer, and not the least of these is sacrifice on the part of the laborer. Jesus teaches this in Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'”
To be an active, producing Christian, Jesus says that, in laboring under and with Him, we must deny ourselves and then take up, carry, or bear up under whatever the cost may be. Thus, sacrifices are involved in Christian responsibilities, as well as in our day-to-day job, but Jesus particularly aims this comment about Christian works at His followers. Denying ourselves is required because the carnal nature is always present and invariably desires to take it easy and do the wrong things through ingrained habit. However, if we give in to this, profit in Christian life diminishes.
This we do not want because, without denying ourselves, life is guaranteed to be a failure. Recall how concerned Solomon was about profit. Life will be profitable if we do the right things, but sometimes, to do so we must literally will ourselves to do what is required. Sacrificing is the only means to accomplish what needs to be done.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Two): Works
2 Timothy 3:1
Sufficient pressure comes from the world, so that, if we are lackadaisical in carrying out our Christian responsibilities, we can easily allow ourselves to follow Satan's arrangement of things, as shown in the world. There is much out there that is attractive to human nature and to true Christians, and we can see, despite two thousand years of preaching by the church, the overwhelming majority is still following the broad way.
The world makes it seem as though Christianity is an abject failure—an altruistic experience that has gone awry. The world gives every impression that God has either gone far off, and that His whole creation is nothing more than a kind of cosmic joke. Some believe God never really did care, and the creation is a mere plaything of His with no positive, beneficial purpose in mind.
Thus, with that kind of approach, if we are lackadaisical, the world can be very persuasive. When viewing the expanse of Christian history, it is not difficult for a carnal person to reach the conclusion that God has good intentions, but that He is frequently disappointed because Satan outwits Him or man thwarts Him. God, then, is frustrated in everything that He tries to do. It is as if He says that He wants to bless men, but they will not let Him.
Who with that perspective could take God seriously? It makes it easy to think—and thus to live—as though God really is not sovereign in His creation. We must take these thoughts and questions seriously, yet considering them directly, as we are doing now, we are likely to say that we do not think that way.
We think that God is in complete and total control, ruling His creation. We hope and believe that is true. Even so, experience shows that, though we confess this, we sometimes—perhaps often—live and talk as the world does. Who will not think or live that way? Those who really live by faith.
What does "walk by faith" mean? It means that we are allowing our thoughts to be formed, and therefore our conduct guided, by God's Word, because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by means of the word of God (Romans 10:17). The most frequently repeated command, charge, or exhortation of Jesus Christ during His ministry can be reduced to one word: "listen"! What did He mean? "Listen to the message!"—because this is the very thing that mankind has not done. Faith comes by hearing.
Faith comes by means of listening to the Word of God. How much faith is being displayed on earth today? Not very much! There is so little, that Jesus wondered, "When the Son of man comes, will He find any faith on earth?" He will not find much because not very many people think God is the Sovereign Ruler of His creation. It is that simple! They may think they believe it, but their lives do not show it. If their lives showed it, it would prove that they really were listening to the Word of God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part One)
Noah accomplished a significant witness, persevering for a very long time under horrific conditions. His witness was of sterling quality and worthy of emulation.
These two verses appear quite innocuous. We read them and consider their teaching a matter of course regarding Christian life and salvation. However, for this world's Christianity, they pose a dilemma for those more deeply aware of the intricacies of Christian responsibility.
Calvinist theologian Arthur Pink (1886-1952) says in his exposition of this passage, "The verses which are now to engage our attention are by no means free of difficulty, especially unto those who have sat under a ministry which has failed to preserve the balance between Divine grace and Divine righteousness." Why would he say this? These two verses, almost single-handedly, nearly destroy one of the most treasured teachings of this world's Christianity—the Doctrine of Eternal Security, the "once saved, always saved" or "no works required" doctrine.
Note the end of the quotation: Some ministries have "failed to preserve the balance between Divine grace and Divine righteousness." Preachers who fail to maintain this balance strongly emphasize God's favor while neglecting or ignoring His claims on our lives—our duties and responsibilities to Him—because He owns us! We are His slaves!
To any thinking person, these verses severely undercut those preachers' claims that appear to guarantee grace, that is, to assure salvation. How? Verse 6 clearly states that God rewards those who live by faith, and verse 7 illustrates that, in Noah's case, the reward was that Noah and his house were saved because of what they did.
What did Noah do that was so important to his and his family's salvation? His works produced the ark, the means of escaping death from the Flood. Noah's works were rewarded. Where, then, is grace?
Note that I wrote that these verses "nearly destroy" this concept, not "totally destroy." They do not contain the entire story, but they are very troublesome, to say the least, to those of the no-works stripe. If they do not bother a nominal Christian, he is clearly ignoring what the verses really say, that a person's works play a large part in his salvation. What would have happened to Noah and his family had they convinced themselves that, since God had given Noah grace, no ark needed to be built because God would save them anyway?
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)
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