The exhortations in Scripture are often misunderstood by casual Bible readers. Yes, they are God’s means to guide His people into holiness, but they are often seen as hopeful but vain attempts to convince the reluctant to obedience. Things could be wonderful if only more people would be convinced to heed His counsel and do what He wants them to do.
There is a notion that the church either succeeds or fails as people are convinced to cooperate. However, when the culture becomes worldly, doing “church” can be difficult if not impossible. “If only Christians could be coaxed to pray for revival, then the church would thrive.” People tend to see God like themselves, wringing His hands in frustration and disappointment at the lack of interest in His program. It would appear that the church’s strategy needs some tweaking. A 2013 statistic reveals that 80% of Americans find more fulfilling ways to spend their weekends than attending church. It is probably worse in 2018.
Scripture, however, paints a totally different picture of God’s kingdom-building program for this age. God does not try anything. He is sovereign over all things. “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance’” (Isaiah 45:23). “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose. . . . I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it’” (Isaiah 46:9–11).
Jesus affirmed that He would build His assembly (Matthew 16:18). Acts 2:47 states, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” In Ephesians 1 Paul extols “the immeasurable greatness of His power . . . [when] according to the working of His great might . . . He put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (vv.19–23). In other words, His church is exactly what He wants it to be. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
God’s work in the church will progress “until all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). His will is unfolding exactly as He planned through the “grace given to each one according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7).
Nevertheless, many have attached themselves to the church who have not received the grace of salvation. As a result, they can be a problem. Paul warned Timothy of those who “will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4). Therefore, exhortations not only prod the saints to obedience; they reveal the disobedient.