FEED MY SHEEP
In this volume we have explored many avenues of truth. We have begun
with creation and have concluded with the Christian’s task today. We
discovered that the believer, God’s man, has a glorious mandate and
opportunity of bringing the Gospel to this sin cursed world. Christ, the
last Adam, has provided redemption for this cosmos. The good news of
this tremendous historical event is to be shared with all men. Thus, each
is provided the opportunity to forsake his sin and to enter the kingdom of
One might wonder if there is other information in these opening
chapters of Genesis that might lead us to the believer’s mandate or task
today. Surprisingly, there is, as we shall see.
Let us turn back to Genesis 3:23. There we read of the expulsion
of Adam and Eve from the garden following their terrible defeat by the hand of
Satan. We read:
…therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of
Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.
In this passage we want to focus our attention upon the word “till”
which in Hebrew is abad. As we reflect on the Bible’s use of this word we
shall discover very significant truth for man today.
The word “till” was first used in the garden before the fall of man into
sin. In Gensis 2:15 we read:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden
to till it and keep it.
Adam and Eve, in their perfect pristine relationship to God and the
cosmos, were told to “till” or “dress” the garden. It would appear as
“till” is used in this context that they were to cultivate it. They were
to care for it and maintain that which was already good. In this way the
ground would supply the needs of man.
In Genesis 3:23 we are told man was driven from the garden and told to
“till” (abad) the ground from which he was taken. At this point in history
the implication of this command should have been identical to that of
Genesis 2:15, except that the “tilling” of the ground was to be far more
difficult and unrewarding. Whereas in the garden there was perfect
harmony between man and the ground, so that the ground as a subordinate
to man responded willingly and loyally to man’s care, sin brought rebellion
in the ground. Man must now work by the sweat of his face (Gen. 3:19) and
thorns and thistles would come forth as a reward for his efforts (Gen.
3:18). Whereas in the garden “tilling” the garden was a joyful, God-
glorifying activity, after the fall it became a painful difficult pursuit in
which he must engage if he was to eat and have shelter.
In its Biblical use in the first three chapters of Genesis there is
no suggestion or intimation that “tilling the soil” should in any sense
make a man a servant of the soil. In the garden he clearly was lord
over the ground and all creation. After the fall man was no longer lord of
creation, and the ground had become an adversary. But he had not become a
subordinate of the ground. Even as man was cursed, so was the ground. If
man alone were cursed and not the ground, a very difficult situation would
have developed. In a real sense the ground would have become superior
to man, for it would have continued in a perfect relationship to God the
Creator, while man had become estranged from God, as a slave of Satan.
Thus by cursing the ground (Gen. 3:17) God assured that the creation order
was continued. Before the fall this creation order was a glorious
thing with man reigning as king (dominion), as God’s vice gerund. There
was perfect obedience and loyalty of subordinates to those above. After
the fall the creation order continued, but man had lost his kingship and
Satan had become his master and prince of the world. Because the creatures
of the world continued in a subordinate relationship to man, he was to
use them for food and clothing. But his kingship over them had ceased. They
had become rebellious toward man and would destroy man if possible. To
safeguard man and to maintain the proper creation order, God put the fear
and dread of man within the animals and actually had to deliver them into
his hand (Gen. 9:2). This phrase, “deliver them into his hand,” is an
evidence of the total loss of dominion sustained by man by the fall. The
situation required special intervention by God to maintain any semblance of
order in the sin-cursed world.
Similarly, the ground which was to supply the needs of man, also,
continued as a subordinate of man. But man was no longer king over it.
This loss of kingship was manifested by the rebellion and resistance of
the ground to man’s efforts.
We have introduced into this discussion the phrase “creation order.”
Let us look a bit at this term. By this we mean that the Creator in His
wisdom created various levels of existance, which we will call “creation
orders.” The rocks and inanimate parts of creation would probably be
classed as the very lowest order in that there is no life of any kind in
them. They are used by all higher levels of creation to accomplish the
desires of the higher levels of creation.
Broadly speaking the next higher level would be plants and vegetaion.
They are a living part of creation. They are used by the higher “creation
orders” for food. They utilize the inanimate creation which is a lower order
to provide environment in which to exist.
The next major creation order on an ascending level is that of animals.
They are higher than the plants because they have the Holy Spirit’s “breath
of life” within them. They use the lowest order, the inanimate, as a
habitat in which to live. They use the plant order for food. They have no
claim on the highest “order”, man.
Man, the highest “creation order”, is such because he is created in
the image of God. He uses all the lower “creation orders” to accomplish
the purpose for which he was created as God’s image bearer.
It is important to note however, that a higher creation order does not
necessarily exercise dominion or kingship over a lower one. A plant does
not rule over a rock or over water. An animal does not rule over plants.
And neither does man necessarily rule over animals, plants, or rocks. He
uses them for his needs simply because he is of a higher “creation order.”
(It is true that God did originally give man dominion or kingship over
these lower orders, the cosmos itself. But as we have seen, this dominion was
taken away because of his surrendering to Satan.) Thus, to till the ground
in its original intent could never imply that man was to regard the
ground or the animals as a higher order than himself. He would never
“serve” the ground or “worship” the ground. Rather he would care for it so
that it would produce as a lower “creation order” those things necessary for
animals and man. He would also care for animals in order that they would
produce on behalf of the higher “creation order,” which is man. But let us
return to the word abad.
A strange phenomena becomes apparent in the Bible. When we study this
word “abad” we discover that it is used in a distinctly different manner in
most instances in the Bible from that of Genesis 1 to 3. We have seen
that the creation order of things was that of the ground being subordinate
to man or of man being superior to the ground. Thus man tilled (abad) the
ground with the ground subordinate to him in every sense. But lo and behold,
“abad” normally means to “serve” when used in the Bible. Some 214 times it
is translated “serve” in the K. J. V. of the Bible. And this use of abad to
indicate “service” is not that of serving an equal or someone of a lower
order in a helpful considerate way. Instead it is used to indicate the
serving of a superior. It is used to indicate service to God, for example:
Exodus 3:12: you shall serve (abad) God upon this mountain.
Exodus 10:7: that they man serve (abad) the Lord their God.
Deut. 6:13: you shall fear the Lord your God; you shall
serve (abad) him.
Judges 2:7: And the people served (abad) the Lord all the
days of Joshua.
It is used to indicate service to false gods. In fact it is even
translated as worshipper.
I Sam. 12:10: we have forsaken the Lord, and have served
(abad) the Baals.
I Kings 16:31: and served (abad) Baal, and worshipped him.
II Kings 10:21: and all the worshippers (abad) of Baal came.
Now this is a startling development. “Till” (abad) in the first
three chapters of Genesis could not in any sense have related to an
inferior serving or worshipping a superior. Rather the creation order was
that of a superior caring for an inferior. Something had happened in man’s
reaction to mandate of Genesis 3:23 to till the ground.
Romans 1:18-25 states very clearly what happened. There we read
“men…became vain in their reasonings…changed the glory of the
incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of
birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things,…and worshipped
and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Tilling the ground
became an act of serving or worshipping. That which was to be an
act of caring for a subordinate became an act of worshipping a superior.
Man of his own volition had reversed the creation order.
When did this drastic reversal take place? The account of Genesis 4
gives us a clue. We read that Cain was a “tiller of the ground” (Gen. 4:2).
This word “tiller” is the identical word abad which we are presently
considering. The simple phrase “tiller of the ground” does not tell us
whether to understand “tiller” in the sense of Gensis 2 and 3 where man’s
total desire was to care for the earth in accordance with God’s command, or
whether there is any implication of serving or worshipping. But when we
read on, we begin to sense that there is the implication of “serving” or
“worshipping” in “tiller of the ground.” We read in Genesis 4:3-5 “that Cain
brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord,” but the Lord
had no respect or regard for Cain’s offering. In fact, Cain was so
decisively rebuffed that the Bible says Cain was very angry (Gen. 4:5).
This anger was so severe that he murdered his brother Abel, who had
also sacrificed and whose sacrifice was acceptable to God.
Why had God rejected Cain’s offering? We don’t know for certain,
but we know that if Cain had been faithfully obeying the mandate to care
for the ground; had maintained a proper relationship to the ground
with the ground in a completely subordinate relationship to himself; and,
if he now brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the Lord as an
effort to show his praise and adoration of God, there is no Biblical reason
why his offering should not have been acceptable to God. But if we recall
the ten commandments, we remember that the first is, “You shall have no
other gods before me.”(1) If Cain had already begun to look at the
ground, and the products to be derived from it, as something of great value,
as something to be respected and honored, as something superior to man
himself, as something to be served, as something which he had already
subconsciously begun to worship,then he was already guilty of breaking this
first command, as well as the mandate of Genesis 3:23 to till, “care for,”
the ground. That Cain had lost his respect for the creation order, for the
superiority of mankind, is shown by the fact that he could murder his brother
Abel in the premediatated fashion in which he did.
It is easy to see how Cain had fallen into this sin. He quickly
recognized the hidden treasures in this wonderful earth that God had
created with all of its potential to bring creature comforts and
pleasures. Soon he discovered the building possibilities of products
of the earth, so he built the first city. It was his descendants who
discovered in the earth copper and iron. It was his descendants who found
that products taken from the earth could be fashioned into musical
instruments that were pleasant to the ear. This earth was indeed marvelous
in its possibliities and Cain gave it a high rating. He had begun to
serve it as a superior.
That the ground and its products were the root of Cain’s problem is
also suggested by the curse pronounced by God following Cain’s sin. Genesis
4:12 states, “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its
strength.” It was his love of the ground that had tempted Cain to
fall into grievous sin. Hopefully, the ground would no longer be as tempting
We see, thus, that already with Cain man had begun to reverse the
creation order. The ground, the lowest echelon in the creation order,
had been raised to a position even above man himself. In the products of
the ground he hoped to find his joy, security, and hope. He must indeed
explore the ground with utmost diligence and dispatch. This gave him
tremendous motivation to explore the earth to discover its secrets–
its wonderful potential.
Abel Keeps Sheep
When we turn to Abel we see quite a different situation. We read that
he was a “keeper” of sheep. The word “keeper” or (raah) is translated “to
feed” or “shepherd” or “pastor” in the Bible. He was a feeder of sheep, a
shepherd who cared for them. As a shepherd he was following in careful
obedience the command of Genesis 3:23 to “till the ground.” There is no
indication that in his shepherding of sheep he was serving the sheep as a
higher order than man, or that he was worshipping animals in any sense.
Rather he cared for them, viewing them as a subordinate part of creation.
As a shepherd, he must of necessity have also cared for the ground, for in
this way he would provide feed for the sheep. He was truly obeying the
command to “till the ground.” But in no sense had he begun to look at the
ground and the animals as a superior to man himself. He realized that God
only was to be worshipped. His sacrifice of a lamb, the finest of the lambs-
-the firstling, their fat portions–indicated his high regard for God. He
brought of the very highest order of that which was under his care, an
animal; and he brought the very best of these animals to God as a
sacrifice. That his relationship to God, and His mandates, was wholesome
is clearly demonstrated by the fact that God had regard for Abel and his
offering (Gen. 4:4). In bringing this sacrifice he probably unwittingly had
begun to anticipate the sacrifice of the one who would atone for his sins.
Cain–A Type Of Modern Man
In Cain and Abel we can see modern man. We can see his problem and
we can see what ought to be. Modern man, the slave of Satan, has reversed
the creation order. He has discovered the virtually infinite number of
products that can be produced from this creation. He has found that
through technology he can produce goods and services undreamed of by
former generations. Science, technology, business education are all
focussed to produce a better world based on mans’ ingenuity, as he wrests
from the earth, from the atom, from the universe, its secrets. He
believes that from this earth he can reconstruct the history of the earth
and man. He believes that somehow by making more leisure time
available, or more education, or more creature comforts, he can solve the
moral problems of the world. He even speaks of the :Bible” of nature,
putting the natural record on a level with the Word of God.(2)
Ecology: A Desperate Question
He is deeply interested in the question of ecology. Ecoloyg, the
biological relationship of organisms to their environment, is increasingly in
the forefront of his thinking. Is this merely a fad that will eventually go
the way of the hula hoops? Or is it simply a diversion created to take
our minds away from more traumatic subjects, such as, the threat of nuclear
A bit of reflection will show that this is a subject of gravest
concern to man. As we have seen from time immemorial, man has derived his
happiness, his security and his hope for the future from the earth and its
products. From it he receives such vital necessities as food,
shelter, recreation, musical instruments, and medicines.
Hopefully, since man had lived on this earth for a million or more years
(so he believes), this earth should sustain man for the next million years.
But to his utmost dismay and consternation he is discovering that maybe
mother earth isn’t as dependable as he thought. Species of wild life are
facing extinction, rivers are getting polluted, the air is getting loaded
with impurities which won’t go away. Even the oceans, which to former
generations seemed so limitless, are no longer trustworthy as they for
example, produce tuna and swordfish tainted with mercury. Mother earth,
which man has worshipped since the days of Cain, isn’t the boundless
bountiful god man has subconsciously thought it was.
In man’s judgment, one of the most grievous sins would well be this
desecration, this polluting of the earth’s atmosphere and biosphere. Thus,
we can well expect that the subject of ecology which deals with
conservation and pollution is not an incidental subject. It could well
become a most important object of new laws, research grants, and
general conversation in the coming years. And with each new discovery of
pollution, the agitation of man will increase until it could easily
reach hysterical proportions. Such is the concern of natural man to the
subject of ecology.
How does the believer relate to this grave subject? The Bible gives us a
forthsight answer. Did you know, God predicted in His Word that the earth
would reach a condition when it would no longer be the limitless source of
blessing and comfort it appears to have been for thousands of years? In
Hebrews 1:10,11 we read, “Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the
beginning and the heavens are the work of thy hands; they will perish,
but thou remainst; they will grow old like a garment.”
The phenomenon we are experiencing in our generation as we see the earth
becoming increasingly polluted surely appears to be the fulfillment of this
prophecy. This is especially true in the light of all of the other signs
which suggest the early return of our Lord. In other words, God is telling
man that this earth is to grow old. It will increasingly deteriorate. It
will gradually serve man with less efficiency and brightness than it did
in earlier years. Like a garment it will wear out (Ps. 102:26).
This earth, after all, is not a god to be served, to provide security
and hope for man. It is under the curse of sin and has been subjected to
futility by God himself (Rom. 8:20). It, too, will experience the victory of
the atonement when it becomes a new earth. This, of course, is to be
realized after this earth has been destroyed by fire at Christ’s coming (II
The Christian, then, is not to view the rapidly advancing old age of the
earth with alarm. While he doesn’t waste its resources or unnecessarily
pollute it, he realizes this sin-cursed earth is not the earth he is promised
as an inheritance. That promise will be fulfilled when God has brought into
being the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells.
He knows that the sin of man is not the pollution of the earth, but
the rejection of God. This is so clearly set forth in Romans 1:18-32.
Romans 1:25 records “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and
worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
The believer is aware that natural man will recruit the finest scientists
and spare no expense to arrest pollution. For the life of the god he serves
is at stake. If his god perishes so will he. How right he is! He will
indeed be destroyed from this earth and spend eternity in Hell.
The believer, therefore, saves his energies, his effort, and his concern
not to save this earth which is twice doomed (it will wear out, it will be
destroyed) but to save mankind from God’s wrath. This is the problem
that is of critical and eternal importance to man.
Natural man (almost 3 1/2 billion strong) can and will offer abundant
answers to questions related to ecology. The believer’s contribution at
very best can only be quite incidental. His numbers, as compared with
the billions of unbelievers, are so small. His motivation toward this
question can never approach the dedication and intensity of that of the
unbeliever, who looks to this earth for his security and hope.
But the wrath of God is another question. This certain catastrophe
of God’s judgment is infinitely more important than any aspect of ecology.
And only the believers, that tiny band of citizens of Christ’s kingdom,
have an answer for this dread problem. It is the wonderful answer of
salvation in Christ Jesus. This is why he is called an ambassador of Christ
(II Cor. 5:20), the fragrance of Christ (II Cor. 2:15). This is why the
Bible says, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s
own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you
out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). He doesn’t dare get
sidetracked into any lesser issues when he has such a tremendously important
mandate and privilege.
One aspect of the ecological question that natural man is troubled
about is that of population control. Because he is frightened
concerning the future of this earth he feels that mankind must be
limited in his growth. Therefore, today the subject of population control
is openly discussed and welcomed to a greater or lesser degree by people in
every walk of life. Even many Christian theologians have put their stamp
of approval on birth control. Thus far such extreme measures of
population control, as abortion, have escaped general theological approval.
Unfortunately, once a pill is perfected which will permit the aborting of
early pregnancies, we can even expect some theological approval for this act.
It is rather easy to see unsaved man’s acceptance and promotion
of these concepts. He is deeply concerned with this earth and its
ability to provide everything that is desirable for man. Because he has no
regard for God or His providential care of the universe, he is convinced that
he alone is the master of his fate, the captain of his soul. He is,
therefore, even willing to commit mass murder (abortion) to realize what
he believes are legitimate goals.
He argues that the earth is rapidly becoming over-populated. While one
can see the reason for the fright that is producing this idea, the error of
this concept can be shown very easily by a very simple computation.
The state of Texas contains 263,513 square miles of land area. This is
equal to 7,300 billion square feet. The population of the world is
approximately 3.5 billion. If this population was divided into
families averaging four people (parents plus two children), there would
be about 875 million families. If each family was given a plot of ground
6,000 square feet in area, which is the size of many of our suburban lots, a
total of 5,250 million square feet would be required. Since the state of
Texas contains 2,050 billion square feet more that this, there would
be sufficient area in this one state for all the families of the earth
today, with land the size of the state of Iowa left over for streets and
parks. The rest of North America, Central and South America, Europe, Asia,
Africa and Australia would be available for factories, food production and
recreation. Truly man has only begun to fill the earth. Those who
advocate population control really do make completely unrealistic claims.
The Christian, on the other hand, realizes that the Bible has something
to say about this question of population control. God told Adam to “be
fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…”(Gen. 1:28). This command
was repeated to Noah after all mankind was destroyed by the flood of his day
(Gen. 9:1). And it has never been abrogated. It is still a command that
must be obeyed if we wish to be pleasing to God. For it is a part of the
Word of God and, thus, it becomes one of the rules for God’s people to
God does not give this command in a vacuum, that is without supporting
promises. His promises of blessings for those who trust and obey Him
are legion. Isn’t it a fact that God is perfectly true and faithful to all
of these promises?
Even unsaved man experiences the hand of God in caring for him. God
loves this earth and does not abandon it just because man gets more
plentiful. “The eyes of all look to thee, and thou givest them their food
in due season. Thou openest thy hand, thou satisfieth the desire of every
living thing (Ps. 145:15,16).
Moreover, God specifically indicates that children are a blessing of
God. Psalms 127:3 records, “sons are a heritage of the Lord.” Psalms 128:3
and 4 declares, “your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Lo, thus shall
the man be blessed who fears the Lord.”
We thus find irrefutable consistency in the Word concerning the
question of children.
That God is true to His promises to supply the needs of mankind is
seen today. While only a few years ago millions faced the specter of
starvation, today the situation is repidly changing. Thanks to the
development and introduction of rice and wheat strains with far greater
yields, many of the poorest nations of the world are now experiencing
surpluses. Only by God’s sovereign mercy are the minds of men
enlightened, so these agricultural advances can be made at this critical
time. One wonders what tremendous food resources would be available under
God’s blessing if man would give as much attention to solving the problems
of food distribution, and the overcoming of pagan prejudices which
waste food resources (i.e., the sacred cows of India) as he spends on
For the believers a number of truths are worth suggesting:
1. The rearing of children is not only an evidence and
source of great blessing from the Lord, but it is also a
great opportunity to provide additional men and women who can
manifest the love of the Savior to the world. How
desperately they are needed. Can a father or mother
experience a greater challenge than this?
2. The believer realizes that the maintenance of a standard
of living on a level with his neighbor, or of providing a
certain level of education (by the world’s standards) runs a
poor second to educating children in the fear and nurture of
the Lord. (How many christian parents still teach their
children Bible)? Seeking the kingdom of God and his
righteousness is the first priority of His life.
3. The believer recognizes that the intent of birth control
devices is to remove any possibliity of pregnancy. Use of
such means effectively removes God from the picture (under
God’s permissive will these devices are produced. God often
allows the sinful activities of man to be successful.)
The Christian knows that the creation of life is God’s
province. “When thou sendest forth thy Spirit they are
created (Ps. 104:30). “The spirit of God has made me”(Job
33:4). No child is ever conceived without the activity of
God. One who serves God, therefore, takes extra precautions
that he and his children will not be “brain-washed” by the
thinking of the world in these areas of their lives. That
this is a serious problem is readily seen by the feelings of
guilt already experienced by some believers when they become
pregnant for the third or more times.
4. God has provided a means by which married love can be
enjoyed without certain pregnancy. This is afforded by the
fact that usually conception can take place only one day a
month. But this is untrustworthy as a means of birth
control. Abstinence during that period of time may minimize
the possibility of conception, but it does not prevent God
from intervening and causing conception another day.
Conception is recognized as a blessing of God even if the
world looks at it entirely differently.
5. The believer has faith that if men faithfully obey God,
even if such obedience would result in a population many
times greater than that on the earth today, God will provide
every necessary physical blessing. He understands, moreover,
that God has a very precise timetable for this earth’s
existence. Christ will surely return long before the earth
approaches a “standing room only” condition.
It is surely not at all coincidental that today we find occurring
simultaneously, the desire for population control, the easing of abortion
laws, and the extreme decline in sexual morality. These sins surely
appear to be completely related to each other and could well be in the
forefront of those which will bring God’s judgments upon our nation and upon
Man And Animals On The Same Level
As another evidence of man’s reversal of the creation order, unsaved man
strips man of his place in the creation order. Not only does he not
recognize man as being completely unique in that he is created in the image
of God, but he would place man on the same level with animals. He
states this in his evolutionary theories and he shows it in his concepts
of population control, and his moral perversions. He of course, has little
or no regard for God. He is too busy worshipping the creature.
God’s man on the other hand, follows Abel as his pattern. He cares for
this creation but he never believes that the products of this earth will
solve man’s problems. He knows that these products may make man a bit
more comfortable. He knows that God as infinite Creator has provided a
fascinating earth filled with potential. But he never places the earth or
its products between himself and God. Rather he realizes that he is to
feed and protect its creatures. He is to be a shepherd, a pastor to this
earth. He realizes that this earth belongs to man but because of the sin
which has come into the world he will not inherit it until the new heaven and
new earth has become a reality.
Abel–A Type Of The Believer
In God’s revelation the shepherding of sheep is the type that sets forth
God man’s task. Abel, the first priest, is such a type. So was Abraham,
who is called the father of all believers. And so was Moses, the greatest
of the Old Testament prophets. He tended sheep for forty years before God
gave him a similar but higher calling. The nation of Israel, the type of the
church, was dominantly a nation of shepherds, and so was David, who is the
great kingly type of the Lord Jesus Himself.
This brings us to our Savior. He identifies with all of these Old
Testament types by calling himself the “good shepherd.” He brings to God’s
man a far higher relationship to creation than that seen in the Old
Testament. Moses was a forerunner. He went from the sheepfolds to leading
people, caring for them as the most important part of God’s creation. Jesus
Christ, as man, performed in superlative fashion the will of God in caring
for this world and its creatures. He gave his life that fellow humans might
have life. He never got the creation order out of sequence. Man was never
to be worshipped. The animals and inanimate creation were always to be
subordinate to man. And God was above all.
Christ in his teaching and in his atonement showed that the task of
God’s man of the New Testament is not to be a shepherd of physical sheep, as
demonstrated by the Old Testament types, but God’s man is to be a shepherd
of a spiritual sheep, which is man himself. And even as the Old Testament
shepherds cared for these sheep by using the products of this world to feed
and shelter his sheep, so the Christian uses the products of the world to
care for the needs of his fellow human. He therefore should be an example of
mercy, of sharing, of concern. He is concerned about the physical needs
of man even as Jesus was. But the primary focus of his concern is not that
which will be supplied by physical food, but by spiritual food. Jesus
said, “I am the bread of life.” Jesus told Peter, “feed my sheep.” The
Christian, as a follower of Christ, fulfills the mandate of God’s Word to
their highest degree by supplying the Spiritual food–the Gospel. He feeds
the sheep of Christ with the good news of salvation, with the
knowledge that Christ gave himself as a ransom for many.
Abel sacrificed to God the best of the creatures, a lamb. This was
his spiritual worship. The believer also sacrifices to God as his spiritual
worship, a lamb. It is not a physical lamb. It is one of Christ’s lambs. It
is himself. Paul puts the goal of the Christian very well:
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to
present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and
acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Rom.
Abel, himself, was a forerunner of this. He was murdered for his pains.
The Christian is also to suffer, to endure privation, persecution and
physical death itself as he offers himself as a sacrifice.
The Christian realizes with Abel, with Abraham, with all the other Old
Testament types, that the development of the physical earth only brings
temptation, only brings the possibility of shifting the focal point of his
life from God to the creature. He senses the truth of Christ’s statement
when he indicated the difficulty of the rich becoming believers. He,
therefore, is content with his lot in life. The creature comforts and all
that is involved in their production is not the Kingdom of God. As he eats
and drinks and earns a living, he glorifies God; but he knows these are not
the vehicles to be used in his pursuit of a far higher goal, that of
feeding the sheep, that of bringing men into the Kingdom.
The Wisdom Of The World Versus The Foolishness Of Preaching
This truth that natural man has reversed the creation order is clearly
demonstrated by Paul in I Corinthians 1 and 2. There we discover that Paul
is setting up two viewpoints for consideration. The one is the wisdom of
the world, and the other is the foolishness of preaching. What is the
wisdom of the world? It is surely unrelated to the seeking of a Redeemer or
a desire to be reconciled with God. It must be that which the philosopher
and the scientist of the world might discover, as he attempts to find an
objective viewpoint of man’s relationship to this world, and as he attempts
to discover answers from this world which will give hope to man. Romans 1
indicates he became a worshipper of the creature. His problem is,
therefore, that he has completely reversed the creation order. Therefore,
the wisdom of the world will be destroyed. Obviously, it will be destroyed,
for natural man’s desire to find his hope for security and the more abundant
life from the creation rather than from God, is a repudiation of God as the
only one who is to give man a hope. No wonder Paul emphasized on Mars Hill
that “in Him we live and move and have our being.” Natural man is, therefore,
guilty of the grossest sin, not because he is exploring the atom, but because
he is consciously or subconsciously trusting that such exploration will
give him a “hope.”
It appears quite significant to me that Paul’s answer to the futility of
the wisdom of the world is not an attempt on his part to realign the thinking
of natural man, as he philosophies about his situation is the world, or as
he attempts to find his hope in creation. Rather, he comes right to the
core of the Christian’s answer to man’s need, and talks about the “word of the
cross,” “to preach the gospel,” “the foolishness of preaching,” “we preach
Christ crucified,” and “for I determined to know nothing among you, save
Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He surely indicates that the wisdom of
God which the Christian is to proclaim, which is a wisdom that had already
been determined before creation, is not the same kind in any sense that the
world seeks but instead is an altogether different variety. It is to “feed
the sheep,” and the highest manifestation of this is in bringing the Gospel.
It seens to me that the exploration of God’s creation which should have
been a wonderful, God glorifying task given to man as he followed out God’s
mandate to “till the ground,” as he derived food and shelter from the lower
creation orders, and in so doing as he glorified and worshipped God and
his Lord, has been set aside by the results of man’s sin. The fact that
the creation came under a curse, and that man became a slave of Satan as
the prince of the world, has changed the focal point of man’s
relationship to the world. Thus, while natural man answers to the mandate to
“till the ground” by serving and worshipping the creation and deriving
his hope from it. God’s man fulfills this mandate by being a pastor or
shepherd to the world. This was first shown by Abel and was powerfully
reemphasized by Paul in I Corinthians 1 and 2.
Thus, the exploration of the world (science, business, etc.) is
actually removed from the picture of man’s prime responsibility.
The exploration of the world in itself is not sinful but because of
sin new goals are established. It has become sinful for natural man
because of his reason for doing so. It has become unimportant for God’s man
because he has a task that is far more important and necessary–that of
feeding the sheep. He engages in the exploration of the world only as a
means of livelihood–that is, he derives food and shelter from it, but
there is nothing about this effort that should be a goal for his life. He
does these things to God’s glory simply because he as a citizen of God’s
kingdom does everything to God’s glory. But doing these things is not the
“kingdom.” The kingdom consists of “feeding the sheep.” This is his goal.
In so doing, he uses the products natural man has produced because these
products in themselves are not sinful. And by using these products in his task
of “feeding the sheep” he has corrected the creation order, so that the
lower “orders” are used to serve the higher. By using these products, he
is showing that all things can ultimately be used to praise God (even the
wrath of men shall praise God).
Only in the new heaven and earth from which sin and the curse of sin
have been removed, will man again reign over or have dominion over the
lower orders as he originally did in Genesis 1 and 2. There he can do so
because all sin will have been removed, and because there the victory of the
cross will be manifested in its fullest degree, as we will again see
everything in subjection.
In witnessing to the unbeliever in the realm of science and in bringing
Christ’s claim to the field of science, I think the Bible says this;
l. The pursuit of science by natural man should have
resulted in the scientist recognizing God as creator and his
need of a Redeemer.
2. Instead, he believes that in science he will find his
hope. He has rejected God. He has reversed the creation
order. He is under God’s wrath even to a greater degree than
3. Only by humbling himself, acknowledging his bankruptcy,
recognizing that the creation is to serve man and can never
produce a “hope” for man, and worshipping God as his only
Savior and “hope” can he be extricated from his problem.
4. Once he is saved he has a new goal that far transcends
that of being a scientist. He may continue to be a scientist
because this employment provides for his physical needs. But
his new goal is to be a shepherd to the world, and the
highest manifestaion of this is by bringing the Gospel. He
does this by reigning over his own body, by witnessing, by
making his income and physical possessions available to
others who witness, and strive to alleviate suffering in the
world, and by exercising his priestly office of intercession.
5. The pursuit of science thus is set aside as any kind of a
primary goal for God’s man. He might pursue a scientific
goal if in so doing he will enhance his ability to bring the
Gospel. He might work on communications, for example, in
order that a better vehicle might be provided to bring the
Gospel. He might work in areas of food production to help
develop the amount of food available to feed the needy of the
world in the name of Christ. Normally, however, natural man
has so abundantly progressed in these areas that God’s man
can get on with the primary task of bringing the Gospel. He
can pick and choose those products produced by the vast
efforts of natural man which will most efficiently and
effectively help him as he cares for the world.
Man’s Rebellion Against God Is Escalating
In the light of this discussion it is easy to understand the unrest in
the world today. The world, including its inhabitants is rushing pell-mell
to its rendezvous with Christ when He comes to end this age. Natural man,
the slave of Satan, will more and more attempt to find in the creatures, in
the inanimate world, in computers and in the atom, his hope for utopia. And
so he will worship more and more the creature and ever less the Creator. He
is becoming ready for judgment day. For a long time man has been worshipping
the creature. He has been looking to the pursuits of the scientist, the
educator and the business man to provide him with the more abundant life.
This has failed and has left him frustrated, incomplete, fearful and uneasy.
In his upsetting of the creation order he has placed man on a level with the
animals. But this has only added to his frustration, for he knows deep in
his heart that man is more than an animal.
He now has two alternates from which to choose. He can confess to
God or he can blame God. He can confess his total bankruptcy and his
vital need of a Savior, his desperate need for someone who can extricate
him from this morass of misery and reconcile him with God. Because he is a
slave of Satan, because of the pride of his heart, this alternative is
unacceptable to most people. He thus has one alternative left. Whereas
his conscious attitude toward God may have been rather neutral, now he begins
to lash out at God. He feels that somehow God is responsible for
man’s failures and miseries. Cain took this alternative in the face of
God’s express warning that “sin was couching at his door” (Gen. 4:7). Cain
murdered his brother Abel as an overt act of rebellion against God.
Modern man too, as never before, is following this second
alternative. He is in rebellion against God, is striking out against
God. He tries to put God on trial and show that He has failed. This
rebellion takes many forms but it is always directed consciously or
subconsciously against God. It may show itself as rebellion against
authority, child against parent, student against teacher, teacher against
administration, citizen against government. It may be demonstrated by
efforts to change the basic Biblical laws. In this category we find
“situation ethics” where each law is to be tailored to the particular
situation. This rebellion may be evidenced by declarations condemning God
and His church. “Christianity has failed,” “God is dead,” and “the church
must bear its responsibility for contributing to the enslavement of men,”
are common themes.
The degree of man’s rebellion varies greatly. It may begin as a peaceful
demonstration to right a wrong. At this point the Christian can easily
be blinded as to the true state of affairs. He sees some truth, perhaps
much truth, in the cause of the demonstrator. He is conscious of the
cries insisting that Christianity has failed. He may fail to realize
that this peaceful demonstration is reflecting a rebellious attitude toward
God, that it is but the beginning of more and more serious rebellion
which will be taken up by others and could end up with anarchy. He should
realize that God’s man must be the shepherd of this world. But his fellow
shepherds cannot be leaders from Satan’s kingdom. He must realize that as
a priest he has full access to God’s throne room. It is here he can bring the
needs of the sheep. He, as God’s man, realizes that only by careful
obedience to God’s commands can solutions be found. He, therefore,
works from a totally different set of rules, relationships, and
motivations than others, who appear to be concerned about the needs of
this world. He realizes that Satan goes about as an “angel of light” (II
Cor. 11:14), with all of the insidious deceitfulness that term implies.
He, therefore, is extra careful to live close to God’s Word so that he might
not be deceived.
God’s man, the born-again Christian, sees the whole reversal of the
creation order that man has perpetrated. He realizes that he is here to
“care for” this world. Because he is filled with the Holy Spirit, he wants
to follow Christ as Abel followed God. He therefore, is a shepherd as Abel
was. With the work on the cross accomplished by Christ, he realizes the
import of Christ’s words to “feed my sheep.” He has corrected the creation
order by becoming available to bring the cup of cold water, the mercy of
God, and especially the good news of the redemption of the world.
We, thus, see clearly that the Christian’s marching orders are not in any
sense to be those which indicate hs is to have dominion over this earth as he
had had in Eden. This dominion is Christ’s area of responsibility. He
accomplished it on the cross and assures us we will see it as an
accomplished fact in the new heaven and new earth. Instead the
foundational command would rightly be the phrase “till the ground.” But
whereas natural man of his own volition has turned this command into dust
by serving and worshipping the creature, the believer recognizes the
“creation order” of things. God’s man is the only one who can objectively
view every part of creation in a proper perspective.
The Old Testament believer type followed through with this mandate by
becoming a shepherd of sheep. He realized that the abiding city he
looked forward to was a heavenly city (Heb. 11:16). As a shepherd of
sheep he was also looking forward to the great task of the New Testament
Christian. Jesus said in Matthew 28:
“Go ye into all the world…making disciples…”
A disciple of Jesus is a follower, a student of Him. As a disciple he
is a steward of all that Christ has given him. He wants to use his
possessions and time as efficiently and as effectively as possible for
caring especially for the spiritual needs of the world. He, therefore,
gives generously of his time and money to those ministries which advance the
Gospel. And even after death he may continue to provide for Christ’s work
because of a carefully prepared will or by means of other thoughful
deferred giving programs which help to settle his estate as wisely as
possible. Jesus cared for the sheep to the point where He died for them. He
wants God’s man to feed the sheep, to shepherd the sheep. This is the
glorious mandate and opportunity God gives to us.
(Notes to numbered passages in Chapter 4)
l) The ten commandments, of course, were declared thousands of years later
than Cain. The sense of this commandment, however, was surely given to
Adam and all men since him. This is the thrust of Romans 2:15 where we
read that God’s laws are written on men’s hearts.
2) True, the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1); and “for what
can be known about God–has been clearly perceived in the things that have
been made (Rom. 1:19,20). But this does not make creation a Bible that is on
the same level with the Word of God, the Bible.
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