Richard Ritenbaugh, citing Francis Shaeffer's observation, that bitterness rather than doctrine divides and estranges one member from of Christ's Body from another, suggests that individuals often look for a 'doctrinal' reason to cover up the real reason for leaving a congregation. Perhaps the principal cause of the estrangement between brethren can be explained by the Parable of the Leaven in Matthew 13:33, an image of a process of exaggerated growth, parallel to the mustard see analogy, in which a garden plant unnaturally grows into an imposing tree. Although many Bible Commentaries have assumed that both of these similes simply mean what started small will grow to something large, they fail to take into account the necessity of symbols remaining consistent beginning with the first mention in scripture. Leaven symbolizes corruption from sin, even as we examine the wave loaves, composed of humans laden from sin (from which they have repented). As ambassadors for Christ, already having our citizenship in Heaven, we still have sin in our nature. Interestingly, the grain offering in Leviticus 3, designated for the peace offering or fellowship offering did not contain leaven. As a biblical symbol, leaven stands for hypocrisy, false teachings, sexual immorality, vile corruption, malice and wickedness, a condition which will not exist in God's Kingdom, but is rampant in the Church of God today as it syncretizes doctrine with 'knowledge' derived from the Babylonic worldly philosophies. The woman sneaking in the leaven with three measures of meal in Matthew 13 evidently represents the Church, who surreptitiously mixed Christ's pure doctrine with a little sourdough of worldly wisdom, puffing up the church with intellectual vanity, but destroying the prospects of unity or reconciliation between the numerous splinter groups. With this leavening, Satan has destroyed the relationship between church members by corrupting the doctrines that had bound us together.
David Maas, noticing a recurring theme this past month in messages throughout the greater Church of God, a theme concerning the differences between the faithful and evil servants in the last verses of the Olivet prophecy, focuses on imagery from the Earnest Hemmingway short story, "A Clean, Well-lighted Place," hauntingly emblematic of the dark events of the 1930's, an epoch following World War I, the Great Depression, and the preface to World War II, exemplary of the birth pangs Christ warned about in Matthew 24. The year 1933 seemed to be the watershed year, introducing events that would both haunt, as well as provide inspiration for, those living in the graveyard shift, awaiting the return of our Savior. In the dark days of the Great Depression, FDR provided an inspiring model of servant leadership, encouraging and bolstering the frightened citizenry, comforting them in the midst of the darkness of the Depression and impending war, encouraging people not to seek to be ministered to, but to minister to themselves and others. Herbert W. Armstrong lit a flickering candle in 1933 going on a tiny 100 watt radio station in Oregon, eventually leading to the establishment of institutions training ambassadors for God's Kingdom and the Wonderful World Tomorrow. The ambassador without portfolio has been in his grave for 29 years, and Christ has not yet returned. As ambassadors for God's Kingdom, we have the responsibility not to outguess our fellow servants about the significance of world events as they relate to prophecy, nor to browbeat them by establishing litmus tests for doctrinal purity, but instead to be lights to our fellow servants and the world, quietly modeling God's Law in our lives by exemplifying the fruits of God's Holy Spirit on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute basis. As the collective Bride of Christ, we have the responsibility to "keep the home fires burning," maintaining a clean and well lit embassy for the Kingdom of God, providing light, comfort, and assurance for those sitting in d
The last of the parables of Matthew 13, the Parable of the Householder is addressed directly to Christ's disciples, and beyond them, to God's ministers. Martin Collins reveals that Jesus wants His ministers to use their learning and experience to feed His flock a balanced spiritual diet.
Matthew 13 contains more parables than any other chapter in the Gospels. What many fail to realize is that they are related in theme and organized to teach Christians specific lessons. Martin Collins explains that they provide a prophetic summary of the development of the church.
Richard Ritenbaugh presents an encouraging conclusion to his series on Matthew 13 by describing Christ's work on behalf of the church (Hidden Treasure, Pearl of Great Price, Dragnet) and the work of the ministry (Householder). The church constitutes His treasure, hidden in the world, purchased and redeemed with Christ's blood. The Pearl of Great Price depicts a rich merchant (Christ), the only one who had the means to redeem His church. The Dragnet symbolizes the scope of God's calling while the separation process indicates God's high standards of selection, indicating a time of righteous and impartial judgment. The Householder parable shows the responsibility of the ministry to be authoritative interpreters of scripture, using what they have learned and experienced to instruct the people.
John Ritenbaugh warns that those who have made a covenant with God can be seduced or corrupted unless they make a concerted effort to know God. Knowing God means to realize that God has the right and the power to do with any one of us as He pleases. John the Baptist, when he saw his influence waning, graciously and humbly acquiesced to God's desire, realizing who was in control. Like David and Christ in Psalm 22:6, metaphorically comparing themselves to worms, we must humbly acknowledge our insignificance as well as our gratitude for our calling.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that only those who are governable will ever be allowed to govern. No government (not even God's government) will work without each individual submitting in his area of responsibility. Our elder brother, Jesus Christ, qualified to rule because of his feeling of responsibility (1) to God, in submitting to Him, and (2) to man, in using His powers to provide salvation for all mankind. Following in his footsteps, we must realize that leadership requires becoming a slave or servant. (Matthew 20:24-28)
John Ritenbaugh explains the context in which a tenant farmer would find a buried treasure after the original inhabitant had meticulously hid it fleeing from an invading army. Our calling resembles this parable and the Parable of the Pearl of great price; we seemingly stumble upon it accidentally and intuitively realize its priceless value. The parable of the Dragnet again describes the culling process God uses to separate the truly committed from those mildly interested. God brings forth people from every walk of life with a whole array of skills and talents- gifts that God intends His called-out ones to use for the good of the whole congregation. We need to make sure that a prejudice, 'experience', weakness, or blind-spot on our part does not become a barrier to God's truth. Regarding Jesus siblings, He had at least three sisters and four brothers. Chapter 14 begins with the lurid and grizzly details of the beheading of John the Baptist, caused in part by the blind ambition of Salome's mother as well as Herod's guilty conscience after John the Baptist exposed his blatant adultery and lust. The next part of the study delves into the incredible miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, an example of Christ multiplying the meager talents and capabilities of His disciples. If we yield our gifts and talents to God's work or service, He will multiply them, accomplishing more than we could possibly do by ourselves. The miracle demonstrates both God's principle of generosity as well as the responsible stewardship of physical resources. The last part of chapter 14 delves into Jesus walking on the water and Peter's well-meaning, but abortive exercise in faith. Like Peter, we must keep our focus upon Christ rather than the surrounding physical circumstances. Faith operates when we cannot see what we hope for. [NB: This series of Bible Studies from 1981-82 is incomplete.]
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