9-7 The Limitations Of Pastoral Work
The various parts of the one body supply strength to the rest of us (Eph. 4:16). But the very same Greek word rendered “supply” occurs in the Phil. 1:19, about the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ. How does He supply our need and strengthen us? Through the very human members of the one body. Which is why we so desperately need them, and to walk away from them, reasoning that they ‘give nothing’, is in a sense to turn away from the supply of the spirit of Jesus.
Paul speaks in 2 Cor. 11:2 of ‘presenting you’ at the last day- he uses the same Greek work in a context of ‘standing before’ the judgment seat (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 4:14). Christ will present us to Himself at judgment day, as an unspotted bride / church (Eph. 5:27)- but Paul perceived that Christ will achieve this by working through people and pastors like himself. Paul aimed to “present” [s.w.] every man perfect in Christ by warning and exhorting them (Col. 1:28). We will present ourselves (2 Tim. 2:15 s.w.) to Him at the judgment; but He presents us, and others who have laboured for us will present us, because Christ will have worked through them to present us to Himself unspotted. The cross results in the suffering Lord being able to “present us holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” at the day of judgment (Col. 1:22; Eph. 5:27). Having said that, Paul goes right on to say that his goal is to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:22,28; 2 Cor. 11:2). The sufferings of Jesus were not lost on Paul. He understood that he likewise must share in them, in order to “present” his brethren acceptable at the last day. For Paul, the events of Calvary were not far away in time and place, a necessary piece of theology... They compelled him to act, to stay up late at night preparing something, to pray, to live the life of true concern for others, to warn, encourage, write, endlessly review his draft letters to get them right, search through Scripture for relevant guidance for his friends… this was the life begotten in him by the cross. As the Lord died to present us “perfect”, so Paul laboured to present us perfect. And neither the Lord Jesus nor Paul are mere history for us. This is all our pattern… In one sense, we present ourselves before the judgment seat (Rom. 14:10 s.w.; AV “stand before”). In other ways, we are presented there by our elders, e.g. Paul; and yet above all, we are presented there spotless by the Lord’s matchless advocacy for us. And of course the essence of judgment is being worked out right now, as we daily present ourselves to the Lord, as the bodies of the animals were presented to the priest for inspection before being offered (Rom. 12:1). We are presenting ourselves to the judge right now.
Paul speaks of how he had received, as it were, a measuring line which enabled him to preach in certain areas, including Corinth. When the spiritual growth of the Corinthian converts was complete, then his measuring line would be extended, and the Lord would allow him " to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you" (this is how I would interpret 2 Cor. 10:6,13-16 RV). This teaches what many of us have observed in practice in the work of the Gospel: the Lord's blessing only attends our efforts to further the Gospel if real spiritual fruit is being brought forth in those already converted. Thus according to the freewill response of believers to the call of true spirituality, the call of others to the Gospel can be limited.
We each have our " line" or area of preaching possibility allotted to us personally by the Father [and not by any committee!]. That area may not be merely geographical- there are people brought into your life to whom God intends you to witness. Always have some literature on hand to give them, and be aware that nobody you meet is a chance encounter. In Gal. 2:7,8, we read that Peter was given a ministry to preach to Jews, and Paul to the Gentiles. But in Acts 15:7 Peter says that God used him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles- and the implication of 1 Peter is that he had made many converts in Gentile areas of Asia Minor. The reconcilliation of these statements may be that God changed things around- Peter's ministry to the Gentiles was handed over to Paul, and Paul's initial work amongst the Jews was not for him to continue but for Peter. And so the Father may work with us, too. My simple point is that we are each given our group or area of potential responsibility for preaching, and we should be workers together with the Father and Son to achieve what they have potentially made possible for us. And we each, in God’s master plan, have an area of opportunity opened up to us for us to preach in, and this area may be changed, reduced, moved or expanded according to our freewill response to God’s desire to use us.
For related reasons, we can also limit God's plans to save others in the ecclesia by our attitude to them. We can make others stumble from the path to His salvation. Baasha made other people sin and thus provoke God to anger; his own sin and that of the people are described in identical language, to portray how he influenced them (1 Kings 16:2,7). If the two and a half tribes had discouraged the rest of Israel, then none of them would have entered the promised land: “If ye turn away…he will yet again leave them in the wilderness, and ye shall destroy all this people” (Num. 32:15). If someone gives in to false teachers, then the Truth doesn’t continue with others (Gal. 2:5). If parents didn’t circumcise their children, then they made their sons break covenant with God (Gen. 17:14)- they made others excluded from the covenant by their decisions and laziness. If a brother doesn’t show pity to his fellow brother, this can make the afflicted brother “forsake the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14 RVmg.). " Give none offence (i.e. cause of spiritual stumbling), neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved. Be ye followers of me (in this), even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1; the chapter division is wrong). Paul saw that if he gave offence, he was not seeking their salvation. Like Paul, the Lord Jesus didn't please Himself by being selfishly concerned with His own salvation, but pleased his neighbours for their good unto their eternal edification (Rom. 15:2,3).
We can't be brethren in Christ who have no effect on the rest of the body. We all have an influence on others. Our behaviour, however passive, has a powerful effect on our brethren. We are all members of one body. Job pointed out that the words of another can assuage grief in a way that ones’ own self-talk simply cannot (Job 16:5,6). On the contrary, a whole community can be cursed for the sake of one man’s sin, even if he later repents (2 Kings 24:3,4). The fact we can be guilty of causing others to stumble means that we can limit God's gracious plan for them. By refusing to preach to the Gentiles, Peter was ‘making common’ what God had potentially cleansed (Acts 10:15 RV). We can spiritually destroy our brother, for whom Christ died (Rom. 14:15); we can undo the work of the cross for a brother who would otherwise be saved by it. We can make others sin (Ex. 23:33; 1 Sam. 2:24; 1 Kings 16:19). There is an urgent imperative here, to really watch our behaviour; e.g. to not drink alcohol in the presence of a brother whose conscience is weak.
God somehow arranged things within His purpose so that Zedekiah’s repentance would have enabled the salvation of all Israel (see the ‘thee...ye’ passages in Jer. 38). But his failure to repent meant that judgment came on His people. What this shows is that there are times and places where God is willing to save people for the sake of the spirituality of a third party, but if he or she fails in this, deliverance doesn’t necessarily arise from another place, as it would have done in Esther’s time. Eliphaz perceived all this when he told Job that a truly righteous man can “save the humble person. He shall deliver even him that is not innocent: yeah, he shall be delivered through the cleanness of thine hands” (Job 22:30 RV). And this was proved true later on- for Eliphaz was saved due to Job’s mediation for him.
The Kingdom was once described by the Lord as a time when all those in the ecclesia who cause others to stumble will have been thrown away into condemnation (Mt. 13:41). Yet in some things we all offend others (James 3:2). Our places in the Kingdom will therefore be by pure grace alone; but we must respond to this wonder by trying as earnestly as possible to only upbuild and not to stumble our brethren. A personally ‘righteous’ believer may well be excluded from the Kingdom for the effect he has had on others. Both God and the pastors of Israel are described as having ‘driven out’ Israel from their land (Jer. 23:2,3,8); the pastors’ sin resulted in all the people sinning and deserving judgment, and God worked with this system, confirming His people in the evil way they had taken. There is no doubt that we can be counted responsible for making another brother sin, even though he too bears responsibility for that sin. The man who commits adultery causes his ex-wife to commit adultery too, the Lord observed (Mt. 5:32). Her sin remains her sin, but he too is guilty. Prov. 5:15,16 (NIV) teach likewise: that a man should drink the waters of his own well, i.e. take sexual fulfilment from his own wife, otherwise his waters (i.e. the sexuality of his wife) will overflow into the streets for all and sundry. She will turn to other men due to his unfaithfulness. Sin thus has so many aspects. We may reason that if we fail to upbuild a brother, or preach, then God will somehow do it anyway. But this doesn’t seem to be the spirit of Ez. 3:18: “When...thou givest him not warning...he shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand”.
Quite clearly, the efforts of parents on behalf of their children can affect the eternal destiny of a third party. Prov. 23:13,14 speaks of how we can save a child from the [eternal] grave by correctly disciplining and teaching him. Indeed, the Proverbs have so much to say about how parental influence can affect a child’s eternal destiny.
We Can Save Our Brethren
It is of course true that in some ways, we are ultimately responsible for our own salvation; our brethren can’t really help us, if we wilfully chose to rebel against our calling. And yet there is reason to think that up to a certain point, our prayers and pastoral concern for our brethren can save them, whereas without our effort they would not be saved. Reflect on 1 Jn. 5:16: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask [in prayer], and he [God] shall give him [the prayerful brother] life [eternal life, in the Johannine context] for them that sin not unto death”. This seems to be a fair paraphrase. If it isn’t, what does this passage mean? James 5:15,20 say the same: “...the prayer of faith (uttered by faithful friends) shall save the sick (struck down with sickness as a result of his sin, which seems to have happened in the first century, cp. 1 Cor. 11:30; Acts 5:5)...and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed...he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins”. Behold the power of freewill effort for others: For the sake of our prayers, in some cases sins of others can be forgiven when otherwise they wouldn’t be. For the sake of our conversion of our erring brethren, they can be saved from eternal death and have their sins covered. The Lord’s prayer says as much- we ask God to forgive us our sins; not ‘me my sins’. Likewise only once Israel had passed a certain level of sinfulness was Jeremiah told to cease prayer for them (Jer. 7:16 cp. 11:14). Until that point, God seems to have been willing to read Jeremiah’s prayer for them as their prayer (his “cry” was seen as theirs). And Ez. 14:14,18 imply the same- Noah, Daniel and Job could have delivered Israel up to a certain point, but they were so hardened in sin at Ezekiel’s time that even those men wouldn’t have saved a nation which otherwise, for a lower level of sin as it were, they could otherwise have saved. If we have any grain of love in us, we will likewise dedicate ourselves to fervent prayer for our brethren, seeing it does have effect and validity within certain boundaries. Elders are especially responsible here. They can shut up, or open, the Kingdom to men. They watch “in behalf of” the souls of the ecclesia (Heb. 13:7 RV). Their very examples can influence the flock positively or negatively- for “like priest like people” is a Biblical idea. When the leaders “offered themselves willingly”, so did the people (Jud. 5:2,9).
“When Jesus saw the faith of the friends , He said unto
the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee”
(Mk. 2:5). That man was healed for the sake of the faith of others.
The widow woman’s son was resurrected because God heard Elijah’s
faithful prayer (1 Kings 17:22); and thus Heb. 11:35 alludes to
this incident by saying that through faith- in this case, the faith
of Elijah, a third party- women received their dead raised to life.
The Centurion’s servant was healed for the sake of his
faith; Jairus’ daughter was healed because of his faith
(Mk. 5:36). Hence the Lord told them to believe and stop wavering,
so that she would be made whole, or “saved” (Lk. 8:50). This comes
straight after the Lord’s commendation of the woman with “an issue
of blood”: “Thy faith hath made thee whole [or, saved]” (Lk. 8:48).
It’s as if the two healings are similar in their result- being made
whole, or saved- and both required faith. But the woman’s own personal
faith which led to her healing is paralleled with the faith of the
family of the girl who was resurrected. The mother of another sick
girl got healing for her daughter: “For this saying [of faith and
understanding] go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter”
(Mk. 7:29). Many weren’t healed by the disciples because they lacked
the level of prayer and faith required (Mk. 9:29). Peter commented
upon the healed beggar: "By faith in his name has his name
made this man strong" (Acts 3:16 RV). But whose faith was Peter
referring to? The beggar appears to have just been opportunistically
begging for money from Peter (Acts 3:3). It was surely by Peter's
faith that the man was healed, and not by his own faith. For Peter
didn't invite the beggar to have faith in anything. And Peter explains
to the Jews that he had made the man to walk not through his own
power (Acts 3:12). So here again we have an example of a third party
being healed as a result of another man's faith. Hezekiah obtained
forgiveness and acceptance for those who kept the Passover “otherwise
than it was written”- thanks to his prayer (2 Chron. 30:18). In
Hezekiah’s time, all Israel had to repent to avert total destruction-
but even though they didn’t, the prayer of Hezekiah saved the nation
(Jer. 26:13,19). All of Jerusalem would have been forgiven if there
was even one that truly executed judgment, after the pattern of
Phinehas (Jer. 5:1- or is this a reference to Messiah?).
And the other way round, it was Zedekiah who personally ‘burnt’ Jerusalem- it was his stubbornness which lead to the city’s destruction in the sense that had he repented, the sinful city could have been saved (Jer. 38:23 RVmg). Thanks to Solomon’s prayer, and if he had been obedient, all Israel would have been blessed and experienced Yahweh dwelling amongst them (1 Kings 6:12,13). Moses prayed for God to forgive Israel; and He responded: “I have pardoned, according to thy word” (Num. 14:20) rather than according to their repentance and prayer. Indeed it would seem from Heb. 11:28 that Israel were delivered from the Egyptians due to Moses’ faith in the Christ whom the sprinkled Passover blood pointed forward to. Jethro perceived the vital effort of Moses in Israel’s salvation when he advised: “If thou shalt do this thing…then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place [Canaan] in peace” (Ex. 18:23). Due to Moses’ prayer, “the Lord repented of the evil which he had said he would do unto his people” (Ex. 32:14 RV). Yet these are the very words of Jer. 18:8- if a nation repents, then God will repent. But in this case, God accepted the singular prayer of Moses. Likewise Peter told the lame man: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk”; but the healing was because of Peter’s faith in Christ’s Name (Acts 3:6,16). The Jerusalem Bible makes this apparent: “It is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man”. The RV has: “By faith in his name hath his name made this man strong”- as if the power of the name of Jesus is waiting to be activated by human faith.
It is also worth reflecting how Ps. 132, which was written after David’s time (:8,10), includes a prayer to God to reward David for all his afflictions (:1). Even after a man’s death, faithful men prayed for his salvation; so it seems. This needs some reflecting upon as to its implications. 2 Tim. 1:16 records Paul praying that the Lord would give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; yet the same phrase is used in v. 18 about receiving mercy at judgment day. Here it seems that the whole household of Onesiphorus is to be granted mercy, at that day, because of his faithfulness. Does this imply that some will be in the Kingdom only due to the efforts of a third party? Thus the husband can save his wife…Noah saved his family. The spirituality of those in the land could affect the fate of the others in captivity (2 Chron. 30:9- and these words are applied to us in James 4:8). Indeed, if Judah had turned back to the Lord fully, then the 10 tribes who about 10 years previously had been taken into captivity in Assyria, they would have found “compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land” (2 Chron. 30:9). But they became ‘the lost 10 tribes’ because Judah didn’t respond as fully to Hezekiah’s reformation as they should have done.
Thanks to David building an altar at his own expense and asking God to kill him and his family, God stopped the plague upon Israel (2 Sam. 24:16,17- the stretched out hand of God in destruction was what David asked to be upon him and his family). Israel were suffering the effect of their own sin, in not paying the temple tax (Ex. 30:11-16); but in the spirit of Christ, David was willing to die for them. And his dominant desire was counted as if it had been done, and thanks to his self-sacrificial spirit, the people were saved when they personally were unworthy. The wrath of God can be turned away by the actions of those He is angry with (Num. 25:4; Dt. 13:15-17; Ezra 10:14; Jonah 3:7,10; 2 Chron. 12:7; Jer. 4:4; 21:12). And yet that wrath can also be turned away by the prayers of a third party (Ps. 106:23; Jer. 18:20; Job 42:7). This means that in some cases, our prayers for others can be counted as if they have repented. We can gain our brother for God’s Kingdom (Mt. 18:15), as Noah saved his own house by his faithful preparation (Heb. 11:7). Through our personal dying to the flesh, the life of Christ is manifest not only in us, but is made available to others: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you” (2 Cor 4:10-12). The life that is even now made manifest in us is also made available to work in others because death to the flesh has worked in us personally.
Thus we can as it were do the work of the Saviour Himself, if we truly live as in Him. In this spirit, Moses’ faith in keeping the Passover led to Israel’s salvation, they left Egypt by him (Heb. 3:16; 11:28); and when Aaron deserved death, he was redeemed by Moses’ prayer on his behalf (Dt. 9:20). Moses’ prayer, with uplifted hands, resulted in Israel’s victory over Amalek; without his prayer, and the intensity of it, there would have been no victory for them. However, he had to learn this lesson; for God first of all taught him that if he explained the power of God’s Name to Israel’s elders, then they would hearken unto him (Ex. 3:18). But they didn’t hearken unto Moses (5:20), because he didn’t bother expounding the Name to them. Therefore he did explain it to them (6:1-9 = 3:14-17); but then again they refused to hearken to him (6:9 cp. 3:18). He learnt that what was proclaimed by God as possible all the same depends on human effort. And this lead him on even further, to realise that through his spirituality, he could bring salvation for others.
“Building up yourselves”
Jude 20,21 exhorts us: “building up yourselves...keep yourselves in the love of God”. The use of the plural ‘yourselves’ rather than a singular ‘thyself’ suggests that we are to understand this as meaning that we should build up our community, keep each other in the love of God. Jude had begun by exalting that we are “sanctified by God the Father, and preserved [s.w. “keep yourselves”] [by God] in Jesus Christ”. His conclusion is that we are kept / preserved by God in Christ insofar as we, the ministers of Christ, keep / preserve each other. The Greek for ‘building up’ occurs in Eph. 4:16: “From [Christ] the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase [builds up] of the body unto the edifying of itself in love”. The body builds itself up, if each part contributes. If they don’t, then there is no building up. Using the same figure, 1 Cor. 3:10-14 speak of us building up God’s house, the believers, on the foundation of Christ. And we will be judged for the quality of what is built- our final judgment will be a reflection of the quality of our brethren, in that their spirituality is partly determined by our efforts for them. But Col. 2:4 uses the same word to say that we are built up “in [Christ]...as [according as] ye have been taught...beware lest any man spoil you [through false teaching]. The life of fellowship with our brethren in Christ is what builds us up, if we teach each other the right things. But false teaching means that the house of believers will not be built up. This would have been especially so in ecclesias of largely illiterate members. The point is, we are all builders, each part has something to contribute, and the doing of every ecclesial service must be consciously to the end of building up one another.
The builder of God’s house is ultimately God, the builder of all (Heb. 11:10). We are God’s building (1 Cor. 2:9). But we are also Christ’s building, in that God has delegated this work to Him. And yet we build each other up (Rom. 14:19; 15:2), Paul was a master-builder (1 Cor. 3:10), the body builds itself up (Eph. 4:16). As God has delegated the building to Christ, so He has delegated it to us. The Ephesians were built up on the foundations of the apostles’ work- not that they are the foundation, for no other foundation can there be except Christ (Eph. 2:20 cp. 1 Cor. 3:11). The building up of those early brethren was on account of the work of the apostles. They were the foundation, they were ‘Christ’ to those brethren and converts. Hence they are called the foundation, whereas Christ is the only foundation. This is how far His work has been delegated to us. Without the work of the apostles, if they had been lazy or spiritually selfish, there would have been no Ephesus ecclesia, nor spirituality within it. Quite simply, we are a function of the efforts our brethren and sisters make to build us up.
The Lord Jesus, as the Head, ministers nourishment to the body (Col. 2:19). But how? The same word is used in the parallel Eph. 4:16: every joint of the body supplies (s.w.) the rest of the body with nourishment. The Lord’s work of ministering to us is articulated through us His servants. This is why faith can die in individuals and ecclesias, simply because brethren and sisters are not ministering strength to others. We should seriously consider our words, spoken and written, our motivation, whether or not we challenge a brother or sister over something, the direction of our conversations...for we can obstruct the grace and nourishment of Christ by our raising of that which pulls down rather than builds up. Likewise Col. 2:19 says that God gives increase to the body; but Eph. 4:16 uses the same Greek in saying how the body makes increase of itself in love. It occurs again in Eph. 2:21: “all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple”. This is all so weighty in its implication. Our duty is not merely to retain a correct understanding of certain propositional truths, and ourselves live a reasonable life. The welfare of all others in the body has been delegated to us. Their salvation and perhaps their eternal rejection lays in our hands, to some extent.
Jude further catches the spirit of all this when he writes: “...praying in the Holy Spirit...of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 20-23), just as the Angel had pulled Lot from the fire (Jude 7)- in this sense, Jude seems to suggest, we can do God’s work for him. Likewise we must “make a difference” concerning some, just as the Angels “contended” [s.w.] for men (Jude 9 cp. 22). The fire of condemnation at the judgment is in a sense already kindled, as the Lord Himself had taught (Lk. 12:49). The weak brother condemns himself by his way of life, and falls into condemnation even now, before the judgment (James 5:12; 1 Tim. 3:6; Tit. 3:11). We see this, and have the power in some cases to save the brother by pulling him out of that fire of condemnation. Surely the point is that we can save our brother from condemnation at judgment day by what we do for him now.
Abraham saved Lot out of Sodom by his earnest prayer for him; and there is ample reason to think from the Genesis record and his subsequent reaction to the Angel’s invitation to leave that Lot of himself was simply not strong enough. Without those prayers and the concern of Abraham read by God as prayer, Lot may well have been left to suffer the condemnation of the world he preferred to live in. And yet Lot fleeing from Sodom is used in the NT as a type of our latter day exit from the world at the Lord’s coming. Is this not to suggest that the latter day believers will be saved only by grace, they will not be strong and ready to leave; and their salvation will only be on account of the prayers of the faithful? Lot was not without spirituality; but he was simply swamped by the pull of the world in which he had become entangled, not to mention his unspiritual wife. He was the type on which one could have compassion, making a difference, and pull out of the fire. Indeed, it could even be that Jude’s words about pulling a brother out of the fire may be a reference back to Lot being pulled out of the fire that came upon Sodom. Those in his position sin a sin which is not unto death only in the sense that we can pray for them, so that their sin will not lead them to condemnation. But only in this sense is sin not unto death; for the wages of sin, any sin, is death (Rom. 6:23). But in some cases this sentence can ultimately be changed on account of our effort for our brother.
Whilst the way I have expressed all this may seem radical, it is
surely apparent that it would be pointless to pray for our brethren
if in fact those prayers have no power at all, and if ultimately
we are all responsible for our own spiritual path. There is
in all this an incredible and most urgent imperative. This is why
Paul bowed his knees in prayer for the Ephesians, knowing that his
words could really increase and enrich the quality of their relationship
with God, if not their very salvation (Eph. 3:14-19). If my prayers
can influence your eternal destiny, if they can lead you from condemnation
to the eternity of God’s Kingdom: then I must, if I have any gram
of love and care within me, dedicate myself to prayer for you. And
you, likewise, for me. Prayer for others’ spiritual well-being becomes
no longer something which is ‘tacked on’ to our tired, repetitious
evening prayers. The preparation of exhortations, comments on the
daily readings, all the host of pastoral work which we all ought
to be doing for each other in some ways: these things no longer
should be seen as the repetitious duties required to keep the show
on the road. There is an urgency and vitality about these efforts
to upbuild each other. For we are dealing with nothing less than
the eternal destinies of others. Even if they are apparently spiritually
strong, all the same, our prayers for them make a difference. Paul
asked his brethren to pray for him “that I may be restored to you
the sooner” (Heb. 13:19). The Lord Himself seems to have asked the
disciples to add their prayers to His in asking the Father to send
forth more labourers into the over-ripe, unharvested fields (Lk.
10:2), which, by implication, He alone couldn’t satisfactorily gather.Paul
prayed that others would bring forth fruit (Col. 1:9,10), and he
tells the Philippians (Phil. 4:17) how he is willing to accept donations
from them, because he wanted them to bear fruit. We can help others
please God- by our prayers for them, and by giving them the opportunities
to bear fruit.
Hastening The Divine Program
The RV brings out a significant nuance of the Greek text at Mk.
14:29: "When the fruit allows, immediately he sends forth the
sickle, because the harvest is come". The 'sending forth' of
the sickle is to be connected with the sending forth of the Angels
at the Lord's return (Mt. 13:41). But this moment depends upon 'when
the fruit allows'. The timing of Christ's coming is dependent
upon the harvest being brought forth- both in personal spiritual
development of the last generation of believers, and in the harvest
of converts in literally all the earth. This same principle of fruit
'allowing' events in God's program is reflected in how Paul perceived
his missionary work. He says that if he "satisfied" by
the fruit of the converts in Rome, then he could move on to preach
in Spain, if he could seal the spiritual fruit of unity between
Jewish and Gentile converts in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:24 RV). This is
the spirit of 2 Cor. 10:15, where Paul told the Corinthians that
"when your faith is increased", then the measure or extent
of his missionary work could be geographically expanded.