By Al Stoner
"Because of the influence of the once-saved-always-saved teaching which has permeated the professing church with all its varied forms and guises, religious men have neglected, for the most part, the all-essential work of believing God and His Christ (cf. Jn. 6:28-30), both for themselves and for their constituents. Religious activities and religious recruitment have now supplanted the feeding of the flock of God (cf. I Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28; Jn. 21:15-17; Mic. 7:14; Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:2-3, 23; II Sam. 5:2) . But what about God's sheep? And what shall be done for Jesus' brethren? Can it possibly be right that such ones as these should be neglected? Those who are begotten of God live by every Word which proceeds out of the mouth of God, and are not able to spiritually subsist on religious duties and obligations. And those "ministers" whose primary focus is upon "the lost", to the neglect of Jesus' sheep, are, consequently, out of step with what the Father and the Son are doing (cf. Jn. 5:17) salvationally, and such ones are at best "hirelings" (cf. Jn. 10:12-13), and possibly even betrayers. (The Lord knows their hearts.)
"The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (I Cor. 1:18). Thus, when the people of God come together, this is not to be a time of campaigning to recruit those who are outside the church. (Those who think that this is the case, only reveal their ignorance of the manor of the kingdom of God, and stumble at the Word of God.) Only a mere cursory recollection of Christ's Words is needed, in order to see through the blatant error of those who have given themselves wholly, or mostly, to what they call "church membership recruitment" (cf. Mt. 11:25-27; 13:10-11; Mk. 4:10-11; Jn. 9:39-41; 12:38-41; Rom. 11:8-10; II Cor. 4:3-4).
The assembly of the saints is to be a time and place where there is an abundance of "edification, exhortation, and comfort" (I Cor. 14:3). It is to be a time "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction," and "for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16). To use an modern-day earthly analogy, the gathering of the Christ's brethren can be likened unto a "kidney dialysis treatment", where souls, weak and weary from a season of fighting the good fight of faith, are once again confirmed (cf. Acts 14:22) and rejuvenated as they give careful and diligent attendance upon the Word of God. This is to be a time when men exhorted to "continue in the faith" and to "maintain good works" (Tit. 3:8, 14). It is, after all, the love of Christ that constrains us (II Cor. 5:14) to do whatever God calls upon us to do. Therefore, when the saints of the Most High God come together, their focus, at that time particularly, is to be upon that which renews and increases that blessed and holy constraint. When the people of God come together for such a holy purpose as this, the Lord Jesus, Himself, has promised to drawn near, and be present in the midst of the ones so gathering (cf. Mt. 18:20; 28:20; Lk. 24:13-33; Rev. 1:11-13, etc.). And it is His sanctifying Presence alone which makes the gathering to profitable for the nurturing of one's faith.
When God's sheep are fed and nourished by the Word of God, they will, indeed, let their lights shine before men (and that, without any coercion from so-called church leaders). Such individuals, who have been regularly and duly nourished by God's Word, will regard ministering that Word to fellow men and women, not only as a responsibility, but also as a blessed and coveted opportunity and privilege. We are laborers together with God in this matter (cf. I Cor. 3:9; II Cor. 5:18-19). And what a blessed thing it is to labor together with the God of Heaven in this matter, and to know that the Most High is speaking through us, whom He has set apart to be His oracles (cf. I Pet. 4:11)!
Salvation is primarily God's enterprise (Ps. 74:12), not ours. "The ministry of reconciliation" (cf. II Cor. 5:18-19) has been given to us by God, and it is a ministry which demands abundantly more that what men, who are walking according to the flesh, are able to give. This is a ministry that is heartily engaged in by those who are new creatures in Christ (cf. II Cor. 5:17), and who have a vibrant connection to the Vine (Jn. 15:2). It is a ministry where God and men are working together, and where God is glorified through Jesus Christ, because it is evident that He is the One that is working. Therefore, it is sheer folly to even think of our engaging in this work apart from God working with us, and we with Him. --The initial thoughts were provoked by a comment by Dan Brueck, and summarized by the Banner editor.