“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ “ (John 21:17)
God’s people are a hungry people.
Jesus knew this and tells Peter to feed that hunger. They have a spiritual appetite. What was the food of which Jesus Christ spoke? It is obvious from John chapter six that Jesus Christ calls himself that food, spiritual bread, soul food that satisfies that hunger. (John 6:35).
Feed them with Jesus you ask?
Now I am not promulgating the clap-trap of cheap, second-rate theology that says, “We don’t need doctrine, we need Jesus.” and you end up not having either. Pure doctrine is directly related to wholesome, nourishing teaching (1 Tim. 6:3).
When Jesus spoke in John chapter six he just miraculously fed multitudes of people. He also spoke of his heavenly Father giving Moses and the people of Israel manna. By this he pointed out that food that spoils cannot give eternal life. By this he demonstrates that He is spiritual food.
This food has fallen from heaven like manna. he is the Word of God made flesh (John 1;1, 14). Christ has come down from heaven to be our life (Col. 4:4). This life is generated and sustained through his words. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63). He makes it clear: it is the Word that he speaks that gives us eternal life.
This is not limited making correct scriptural statements, for as irreplaceable as the verities of Christian doctrine are they must be received and then delivered as, “words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” (1 Cor 2:13) yet, we can be informed and unfed. Yes, we need to be catechized or trained in the truths of scripture, but are people being fed with Christ the living manna or religiously programmed. We must ask this question always for their soul can only delight itself in marrow and fatness and praise God with joyful lips as they are fed with Christ (see Psa. 63:5).
Paul says he received from the word of the Lord and then he delivers the Word (1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3). The Bread of Life, Jesus Christ feeds us is as we pray and believe the promises of scripture (John 6:28-29). If all you want is information you have your reward but if you want your soul to be fed ask the Son of God for his help! This bread of life will come from fresh and hot from the oven of prayer and study. If you receive this Bread you will be able to deliver it, for a genuinely mature Christians not only eats but feeds others. Thus Christ through his words is the living bread prepared by God himself to give to those who are spiritually hungry and through those who have been fed with the Bread.
There are groups who have the right doctrine so it would seem and yet they are like a mother in a supermarket who reads aloud to her child sitting in the basket, the nutrition labels on the packages of food. It is as if she thinks that by reading this facts about the food she is feeding her child. In reality she is so concerned about what is in the food she never feeds their children.
There is certain teaching that causes spiritual malnutrition. It is has no life, no joy and no satisfaction. I listen to some people talk and they seem bent on eroding faith and worship and teach the Bible more like it is a science or history lesson than a nutritious home cooked meal. It is the preparation and serving of the wholesome spiritual food that makes the difference and provides the nutrition.
Be careful of those who read the Bible like it is words on a menu in one of their favorite restaurants. They know how to read religious labels, familiar with catechism and confessions. They tell you it tastes good, in many languages and it sounds so wonderful when they read but they have never ordered from the menu. They have never by faith believed God for his promises and eaten the fruit of the land. They do not know the wonderful taste of the bread of life or drank the thirst quenching water of life! The Bible describes them as, “clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” (Jude 1:12).
Now what we mean is hunger for the things of God after salvation. Hunger is an evidence of spiritual life and the sheep will never thirst (John 4:14) never hunger (John 6:35) and never perish (John 10:28). That has been satisfied and fulfilled by Christ the bread and water of life. The food that satisfies the souls of those who have been saved by Christ is the that which fuels their walk with him in holiness.
We should note that when one is newly born again he “drinks milk” spiritually. A teacher of the Word may discern that the people to whom he ministers are immature so he will give them milk or basic biblical teaching on purpose because that is all they can digest (1 Cor 3:1-3). Peter says that it is the pure colostrum or “breast milk” of the Word like a mother gives her new-born (1 Peter 2:1-2). God’s people are given this food and they must steadily become more acquainted with pure teaching, not be sustained by means of a religious feeding tube. But when people are first saved, the teacher of the scriptures must feed them with the milk of basic biblical truth and be gentle, “like a mother caring for her little children.” (1 Thess. 2:7).
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14). Solid food or “meat” comes for the mature saint of God. They must taste what they eat in order to be, “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.” (1 Tim. 4:6). Barnes says that this verse speaks of “the delicate taste of an experienced Christian.” (Barnes). I like that. Christians are particular about their spiritual diet and have a refined and sensitive taste.
The phrase “good and evil” in this verse are not good and evil in general but good and evil teaching. Good doctrine nourishes the soul. Bad doctrine is poisonous to the soul. The mature believer in Jesus weighs what they hear by what they have already tasted by the Scriptures. Those who are mature are careful to only eat what is good doctrinally and spiritually. They only eat what is scriptural and they grow in Christ. “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.” (Job 34:3).
God’s people take pleasure in the Word as a good meal. “They shall hear my words; for they are sweet.” (Ps 141: 6). How sweet is the Word to a son or daughter of God who eats at their masters table a feast of fat things or, “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” (Isa. 25:6ESV). They hunger and thirst for the sweetness of the living God, for his power and glory and his loving kindness is better than life itself (Ps. 63:1-3)! God promises them of that they will eat to their heart’s content (Mt. 5:6). There is spiritual food for God’s people, and his nourishing words feed their hearts as a sign of his blessing! We ought to pray for this fresh provision of bread or food from the Lord daily (Matt. 6: 11).
© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care
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