Friday, March 23, 2012

Proverbs 31:17 commentary; the church's strength

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

The work of the church, ministering to the physical needs of its members and the spiritual ones, requires a day to day determination and strength. Church in the modern world is nothing like it was in the first century. There was no public welfare not associated with pagan temples, societies, or heathen religious groups. The church had to take care of its unemployed, its elderly, and the sick if those people had no family to care for them and were willing to work but weren’t able to do so. A simple reading of the book of Acts and the letters from Paul show that if one church in a distant city was suffering from a local famine then other churches would raise money to send relief.

The work of the early church included caring for the helpless, the weak, and the infirm. In the average church today you wouldn’t even know if a senior citizen needed to have their furnace replaced and had no money to do so or if the floor in one of their rooms was rotting out and needed to be rebuilt. Its more of the modern church’s concern to organize a volleyball game for Christ or have a youth rally and concert to try to draw in customers, err, I mean potential members. The modern church is a consumer church. It is more concerned with the church growing in numbers on a weekly basis than the members growing in grace on a daily basis.

How many modern churches equip their members for a daily walk with Christ and daily worship by teaching them how to read and interpret the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit, particularly in a day when education is so uneven across the board? We have a wonderful opportunity today. In the first century it would have been rare for a household to have a copy of the Old Testament, the scriptures that were available and literacy in the first century Palestine would have been limited to males and focused on the reading of the Torah in the Synagogue or learning by disciples of a particular Rabbi; a teacher or a Master in Bible terms.

No matter how literate the Jews were in the first century it is most certain that they did not have several Bibles laying around in every home, collecting dust or being used to prop open a door. We have widespread literacy, even for women, who are no longer relegated to demanding answers to questions in a church meeting in someone’s home and being told they need to learn in silence and ask their husbands those questions at home.

We have the Bible, almost a billion in print, God’s word for all ages of man, present in every Christian home, at least, to the number of several copies. Just as there is no excuse for any person in your assembly to be hungry, to be sitting at home sick without anyone to sit with them, to have no heat in their homes, no transportation to work, etc. there is also no excuse for anyone in your church to not know how to read and understand the Bible by prayerfully cross referencing, reading parallel phrasing, key words, understanding dispensational order, and Christian versus ancient Hebrew doctrine. There is, in addition, no excuse for one person to leave a church service confused because the preacher gave a confused, doctrinally mixed up message that kept the member from reading and understanding the Bible on his or her own.

The church girds up her loins, the foundational muscle, by which an athelete does squats and deadlifts, with a daily heavy dose of the Bible reading and hearing, so that their arms, the physical workers of the church, can perform their work without failure and with true strength ministering to the physical needs of her members that can’t be met otherwise and to the spiritual needs that won’t be met otherwise.

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