6. The Apostolic Ministry in Cooperation with Christ's Heavenly Ministry
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  • 05-06,
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Scripture Reading: John 21:15-17; 10:10-11,16; Acts 20:20,31; 1 Pet.2:25; 5:1-4; Heb.13:20-21
I. John 21 is the completion and consummation of the Gospel of John:
A. The Gospel of John has twenty-one chapters,but it actually ends with chapter 20; the entire book covers the earthly ministry of Christ,beginning with His incarnation as the Word of God to become a man in the flesh (1:1,14) and ending with His resurrection as the last Adam to become the life-giving Spirit (20:22; 1 Cor.15:45b); hence,chapter 21 should be an appendix.
B. Although it is correct to say this,it is more intrinsic to say that John 21 is the completion and consummation of the Gospel of John; chapter 21 consummates the entire Gospel of John by showing that Christ's heavenly ministry and the apostles' ministry on the earth cooperate together to carry out God's New Testament economy.
 

II. In 10:10,11,and 16 the Lord unveiled to the disciples that He was the good Shepherd who came that the sheep might have life abundantly and that He had other sheep (the Gentiles) that He must lead to join with them (the Jewish believers) to be one flock (one church) under one Shepherd:
A. First,the Lord's shepherding was in His earthly ministry—Matt.9:36; 10:1-6.
B. Second,the Lord's shepherding is in His heavenly ministry (1 Pet.5:4) to take care of the church,issuing in His Body.
III. In this appendix,when the Lord stayed with His disciples after His resurrection and before His ascension,in one of His appearings,He commissioned Peter to feed His lambs and shepherd His sheep in His absence,while He is in the heavens—John 21:15-17:
A. This is to incorporate the apostolic ministry with Christ's heavenly ministry to take care of God's flock,which is the church that issues in the Body of Christ.
B. The following words of the apostle Paul confirm this:
1. "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock,among whom the Holy Spirit has placed you as overseers to shepherd the church of God,which He obtained through His own blood"—Acts 20:28.
2. "Fierce wolves will come in among you,not sparing the flock"—v.29.
3. "God...brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,the great Shepherd of the sheep,in the blood of an eternal covenant"—Heb.13:20.
IV. Peter was so impressed with this commission of the Lord that:
A. In his first book he tells the believers that they were like sheep being led astray,but they have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer (Christ) of their souls—1 Pet.2:25.
B. He exhorts the elders to shepherd the flock of God among them so that when the Chief Shepherd is manifested,they will receive the unfading crown of glory—5:1-4.
C. Peter tells the elders that their obligation is to shepherd God's flock according to God—vv.1-2:
1. According to God means that we must live God; we must have God on hand.
2. When we are one with God,we become God in life and in nature but not in the Godhead; then we have God and are the acting God in our shepherding of others.
3. To shepherd according to God is to shepherd according to what God is in His attributes—love,light,holiness,and righteousness.
4. To shepherd according to God is to shepherd according to God's nature,desire,way,and glory,not according to man's preference,interest,and purpose.
D. Peter's word indicates that the heavenly ministry of Christ is mainly to shepherd the church of God as His flock,which issues in His Body.
V. The main purpose and goal of the apostolic ministry incorporated with Christ's heavenly ministry are to build up the Body of Christ,which will consummate the New Jerusalem for the accomplishment of the eternal economy of God.
VI. The matter of shepherding God's flock for the main purpose and ultimate consummation of the eternal economy of God is referred to even in Song of Songs:
A. "Tell me,you whom my soul loves,Where do you pasture your flock [for satisfaction]? Where do you make it lie down at noon [for rest]?"—1:7a.
B. "Go forth on the footsteps of the flock,And pasture your young goats By the shepherds' tents"—v.8b.
C. "My beloved is mine,and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies [the seekers of Christ who live a life of trusting in God with a single heart]"—2:16.
D. "I am my beloved's,and my beloved is mine; He pastures his flock among the lilies"—6:3.
VII. Without John 21 as such an appendix,the Gospel of John does not have an adequate and complete ending:
A. If we do not know what shepherding is,the entire Gospel of John will be in vain to us; it is only when we shepherd others that we can know John in an intrinsic way; shepherding is the key to the Gospel of John.
B. We must take the shepherding way to preach the gospel and revive the church:
1. We must not lord it over God's allotments but become patterns of the flock—1 Pet.5:3.
2. We must be willing to be slaves to the saints and must humble ourselves under the saints.
3. The elders should shepherd one another and love one another to be a model of the Body life.
4. We must take care of the saints in everything and in every way for the dispensing of Christ into them.
5. We must contact and visit the saints and invite them to our home for meals.
VIII. We need to shepherd people according to the pattern of the Lord Jesus in His ministry for carrying out God's eternal economy—Matt.9:36; John 10:11:
A. In Luke 15 the Lord Jesus unveiled the saving love of the Triune God for sinners:
1. We need to follow the steps of the processed Triune God in seeking and gaining fallen people—vv.1-10,17-18.
2. Our not having the Father's loving and forgiving heart and the Savior's shepherding and seeking spirit is the reason for our barrenness.
3. We need to cherish people (to make them happy and to make them feel pleasant and comfortable) in the humanity of Jesus—Matt.9:10; Luke 7:34.
4. We need to nourish people (to feed them with the all-inclusive Christ in His ministry of three stages) in the divinity of Christ—Matt.24:45-47.
B. Christ came not as a Judge but as a Physician to heal,recover,enliven,and save the lepers (8:2-4),paralytics (vv.5-13; 9:2-8),the fever-ridden (8:14-15),the demon-possessed (vv.16,28-32),those ill with all kinds of diseases (v.16),despised tax collectors,and sinners (9:9-11) that they might be reconstituted to become people of His heavenly kingdom—vv.12-13.
C. He had to pass through Samaria,purposely detouring to Sychar to gain one immoral woman,cherishing her by asking her to give Him something to drink that He might nourish her with the flowing Triune God as the water of life—John 4:3-14.
D. As the One without sin,He did not condemn the adulterous woman but cherished her by forgiving her sins judicially and setting her free from her sins organically—8:1-11,32,36.
E. He went to Jericho just to visit and gain one person,a chief tax collector,and His preaching was a shepherding—Luke 19:1-10.
F. He cherished the parents by laying His hands on their children—Matt.19:13-15.
G. The first one saved by Christ through His crucifixion was a robber sentenced to death—Luke 23:42-43.
H. In His heavenly ministry Christ as the High Priest,with a golden girdle about His breasts,is cherishing and nourishing the churches—Rev.1:12-13.
I. In His heavenly ministry Christ is the great Shepherd of the sheep to consummate the New Jerusalem according to God's eternal covenant—Heb.13:20-21.
IX. The apostles were a pattern of the glad tidings that they spread—"you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake"—1 Thes.1:5b:
A. In the church the most important thing is the person; the person is the way,and the person is the Lord's work; what you are is what you do—John 5:19; 6:57; Phil.1:19-26; Acts 20:18-35; Matt.7:17-18; 12:33-37.
B. We need to follow the pattern of the apostles to pay more attention to life than to work—John 12:24; 2 Cor.4:12.
C. Paul shepherded the saints as a nursing mother and an exhorting father—1 Thes.2:7-8,11-12.
D. Paul shepherded the saints in Ephesus by teaching them "publicly and from house to house" (Acts 20:20) and by admonishing each one of the saints with tears even for as long as three years (vv.31,19),declaring to them all the counsel of God (v.27).
E. He had an intimate concern for the believers—2 Cor.7:3; Philem.7,12.
F. He came down to the weak ones' level so that he could gain them—2 Cor.11:28-29; 1 Cor.9:22; cf.Matt.12:20.
G. He was willing to spend what he had,referring to his possessions,and to spend what he was,referring to his being,for the sake of the saints—2 Cor.12:15.
H. He was a drink offering,one with Christ as the wine producer,sacrificing himself for others' enjoyment of Christ—Phil.2:17; Judg.9:13; Eph.3:2.
I. Paul indicated in his teaching that the church is a home to raise up people,a hospital to heal and recover them,and a school to teach and edify them—2:19; 1 Thes.5:14; 1 Cor.14:31.
X. "I hope that there will be a genuine revival among us by our receiving this burden of shepherding.If all the churches receive this teaching to participate in Christ's wonderful shepherding,there will be a big revival in the recovery" (The Vital Groups,p.40)—cf.Psa.22—24 (footnote 1 on 22:1 and footnote 1 on 24:1).
 
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