Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Interesting Reading

Ok, this has only strained connection to christian apostacy but it was good reading none the less. The subject is the coming US economic collapse and one of the solutions being DIY-independance. Enjoy

Slide [27] Certain types of mainstream economic behavior are not prudent on a personal level, and are also counterproductive to bridging the Collapse Gap. Any behavior that might result in continued economic growth and prosperity is counterproductive: the higher you jump, the harder you land. It is traumatic to go from having a big retirement fund to having no retirement fund because of a market crash. It is also traumatic to go from a high income to little or no income. If, on top of that, you have kept yourself incredibly busy, and suddenly have nothing to do, then you will really be in rough shape.

Economic collapse is about the worst possible time for someone to suffer a nervous breakdown, yet this is what often happens. The people who are most at risk psychologically are successful middle-aged men. When their career is suddenly over, their savings are gone, and their property worthless, much of their sense of self-worth is gone as well. They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers. Since they tend to be the most experienced and capable people, this is a staggering loss to society.

If the economy, and your place within it, is really important to you, you will be really hurt when it goes away. You can cultivate an attitude of studied indifference, but it has to be more than just a conceit. You have to develop the lifestyle and the habits and the physical stamina to back it up. It takes a lot of creativity and effort to put together a fulfilling existence on the margins of society. After the collapse, these margins may turn out to be some of the best places to live.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Raining FIRE in California

Genesis 19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;

C. GALMES: We believed the whole day of Monday that the house was gone, because when we left, the smoke alarms were going on and also it was raining fire.

ROBERTS: Raining fire?

C. GALMES: Yes. Our children had...

P. GALMES: Sparks all over.

C. GALMES: ... sparks all over their hair.
It just was going into the -- when they were going into the car. So we believed that the house was going to be burned completely.

People on the ground said it was RAINING FIRE. How was Sodom judged? RAINING FIRE

California State Senate Passes Transsexual-Bisexual-Homosexual Indoctrination Bill

SB 777 turns every government school into a sexual indoctrination center


Raining Fire, Millions displaced, Making it the law in California to promote an abomination, The Judgement of Sodom.....hmmmmm coincidence?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Problems with KJV Bible

I have problems with the KJV bible. The biggest problem is it's systemic perpetuation of the Nicolaitan system that Jesus hates. This is the manmade clergy/laity system. It also perpetuates and attempts to support participation in pagan holidays. There are other bibles (pretty much all new translations of the bible) that have problems, but there's a bunch of people out there who call themselves the "King James Only" crowd, as if the KJV is perfect. There are entire websites setup dedicated to worshipping "KJV only" I've read their arguments as to why the bible does'nt say what it clearly says, and the arguments don't hold water. I'll only give three examples, but they are all stakes in the heart of KJV "perfection."

<< 1 Timothy 1:12 >> KJV
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

American Standard Version
I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his'service;

Above we see the blatant mistranslation, that is stated in such a way to perpetuate the Nicolaitan system Jesus hates. "into THE ministry" strongly suggests this seperate class of special people (clergy) that do not exist the the true body of Christ. We are all (true believers) priests with direct access to the Father through Christ Jesus.

Now we'll look at the apostate translation that includes the celebration of pagan holidays (easter)

King James Bible-Acts 12:4
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

American Standard Version
And when he had taken him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to guard him; intending after the Passover to bring him forth to the people.

The Greek word which is translated "Easter" in Acts 12:4 is the word "pascha". This word appears twenty-nine times in the New Testament. Twenty-eight of those times the word is rendered "Passover" but somehow MAGICALLY the 29th time, all of the sudden, it's translated as EASTER? Same word? Yep. Sound Fishy? you bet, in fact its blatant mistranslation perpetuating the apostacy/heresy of the nicolaitans.

Another grievous error is the KJV exchange of the word "charity" for "love" Sorry, love goes so far beyond charity it's not worth debating, this is another sickening example of KJV error.

I've read the KJV only crowd's rebuttal's of these errors but they don't even come close to holding water. They spend page after page after page constructing deceitful webs to attempt to make the bible say something that it does not say.

In the end, men must decided for themselves what truth is, and discern error. We are not alone in this task. The Holy Spirit who lives within us points us into all truth. Grace and peace~D

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's Called Judgement

You could also call the Southern California wildfires as a preview of coming attractions.

SAN DIEGO - Faced with unrelenting winds whipping wildfires into a frenzy across Southern California, firefighters conceded defeat on many fronts Tuesday to an unstoppable force that has chased an estimated 1 million people away.

Unless the shrieking Santa Ana winds subside, and that’s not expected for at least another day, fire crews say they can do little more than try to wait it out and react — tamping out spot fires and chasing ribbons of airborne embers to keep new fires from flaring.

“If it’s this big and blowing with as much wind as it’s got, it’ll go all the way to the ocean before it stops,” said San Diego Fire Capt. Kirk Humphries. “We can save some stuff but we can’t stop it.”


Southern California is probably as close to the heart and soul of the beast as you can get. When you stop to ponder the amount of spiritual and mental sewage that the movie studios, the television and music industry and the associated lifestyles that Southern California represents, this kind of fiery catastrophe seems most fitting. Trouble is, most people will not turn to God as a result of this, they will harden their hearts. The book of Revelation gives us some insight into this:

Rev 9:13The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns[b] of the golden altar that is before God. 14It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." 15And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. 16The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.

17The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. 18A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. 19The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.

20The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

How Close to the End Are We?

Luke17:28 Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29 but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: 30 after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed. 31 In that day, he that shall be on the housetop, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away: and let him that is in the field likewise not return back. 32 Remember Lot's wife. 33 Whosoever shall seek to gain his life shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose his life'shall preserve it. 34 I say unto you, In that night there shall be two men on one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 There shall be two women grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 36 There shall be two men in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 37 And they answering say unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Where the body is , thither will the eagles also be gathered together.

The bible says to look for days like those of Lot (think Sodom) and Noah to know "the day that the Son of man is revealed" Well, how much does the U.S. look like Sodom (the days of Lot)?

From todays news:

An official with the World Congress of Families says it was a surprise when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a measure into law that many believe is a blatant attack on the natural family.

SB 777 prohibits any instruction or school-sponsored activity that would promote discrimination against gender. That means terms like "mom and dad" and "husband and wife" cannot be used in California textbooks because they suggest that heterosexuality is the norm. And under the new law, teachers and students who oppose same-sex "marriage" or who express disapproval of cross-dressing or sex-change operations could face disciplinary measures.

Dr. Alan Carlson says the measure -- which he describes as "very insidious" -- is absurd. "This is a huge step in an anti-family direction," he asserts. "This basically turns the public schools of California, in effect ... into indoctrination centers for alternative household arrangements, alternative sexual arrangements."

According to the global coordinator for the World Congress of Families, the measure is proof that the homosexual lobby is not interested in non-discrimination, but in forcing its views on an unwilling public. "It's clearly designed to make defenders and advocates of the natural family ... something like thought criminals, essentially," Carlson says.

The World Congress of Families says although some may find it unbelievable, the new law even allows students who identify with the opposite gender the freedom to use restrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex. Carlson says parents who do not want their children to be subjected to "gender indoctrination" now have no alternative but to withdraw their children from California's public school system -- a system he points out parents will still be required to fund through their taxes.

SB 777 is currently scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2008. A coalition of conservative and pro-family groups, SaveOurKids.net, has begun the process of collecting the signatures needed to turn the referendum into a valid ballot measure for the state's voters to consider. (See related story)

Pastors (more)

We now consider the matter of the "plurality" of elders. No one man has the responsibility to shepherd a congregation. It is given to two or more men jointly. A man can be an elder but never the elder. To use another term, that a man can be a pastor but he can never be the pastor --the term "pastor" being properly used for an elder of the church not for the preacher or evangelist. Wherever we read about elders in the scriptures, there is always a plurality of elders in a congregation, never just one.

Occasionally someone will raise an argument to the effect that a plurality of elders, while desirable, is not mandated, and a church may have one elder where only one man is qualified. The argument is that the plural "elders" can accommodate the singular, one elder. So this is the main matter for our attention on this page.

I'll be the devil's advocate for a while and give you an "argument" to the effect that the plural term "elders" can accommodate the singular one elder.


If I tell you that in my street there are telephones in every home, cars in every driveway, and garden gnomes on every lawn, I am not saying that every home has more than one phone, every drive has more than one car, every lawn has more than one gnome. I am using accommodative language which does not exclude the possibility that here or there a drive might have only one car, a house only one phone, or a lawn only one gnome. If someone asked me, "Are there children in every household?" and I answered yes, I would mean that each household includes at least one child. Likewise, in the term "elders in every church" there is nothing (just in the term itself) to exclude the possibility of a church with only one elder. The plural accommodates (includes) the singular.

Now if Paul had said, "Appoint elders in the church at Phoenix," or if Luke had said, "They appointed elders in the church at Iconium," we would be justified in saying that means "a plurality of elders" were appointed in those particular churches. But Paul refers at once to several churches. "I left you to appoint elders in every city." Luke's terms are similarly generalized: "They appointed elders in every church." Because the one generic statement covers several churches, then we must regard the plural as accommodative of the singular. So the argument runs.

We have no right, continues the argument, to change the inspired term "elders in every church" by adding words of our own, thus making it read "a plurality of elders in every church." By itself, as it stands, the term "elders in every church" may be taken as meaning one or more elders in every church. We have no right to make it exclude the singular by adding qualifying words.


We must acknowledge that this argument would have merit, indeed would be conclusive, were there no other scripture but the statements of Paul and Luke referred to. If all we had to go on were the statements in Titus 1:5 and Acts 14:23, we could not insist on a plurality of elders in every church.

However, we find other scriptures that show that churches had a plurality of elders, and we have no scripture to demonstrate that any church ever had but one elder. So, to answer the argument above, we will look now at the extra information that shows that there should be a plurality of elders in each congregation of Christ, and, in the case of "elders in every church" the plural does not accommodate or include the singular.

When we look at passages that reveal the pattern of eldership, what shape is it? No elders, one elder, or a plurality of elders? The last in that list is the observed New Testament pattern of authorized church government insofar as it concerns elders. Wherever we find examples and references, we find a plurality of elders in a congregation. It follows, therefore, that we should try to achieve the same thing in our local church if we wish to be "a church after the New Testament pattern."


In the list of local churches below, there is a plurality of elders in each case.

Acts 15:2 Jerusalem,
Acts 20:17,28 Ephesus,
Php 1:1 Philippi,
1Th 5:12-13 Thessalonica.
Here we have examples of single churches with a plurality of elders. We have no examples at all of one-elder churches. Admittedly, the elders at Jerusalem might have been from "churches throughout all Judea" (Acts 9:31) and one might complain that there might have been only one elder in some of those churches. That "might have been" may weaken the Jerusalem example a little, but it does not strengthen the argument for single shepherd churches.


In Ephesians 4:11-16 and 1Corinthians 12:12-31, the congregation is conceived of as a body growing by means of a ministry distributed among several persons: some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and so forth. There is no one ministry, and in any particular ministry there is no one minister. The pattern is clearly a plural and distributed ministry. The congregation is served by many ministers, including "some pastors" not one pastor.


1Tm 5:17; Heb 13:7,17; Jas 5:14; 1Pe 5:1-5. These passages do not appear to have a number of churches in view, but rather have in view the circumstances within a local congregation. The concept in these passages is of folk in a church being subject to leaders (plural). The concept of a one-elder church, a flock with one shepherd, does not emerge. The writers have in mind that a member of a local church looks to several shepherds for leadership and help.


In 1Timothy 4:14, the term "presbytery" or "eldership" is a collective noun, and by that we mean a noun like the word "flock". When we say "flock" we think of a group of sheep or by way of metaphor we think of a congregation of saints. In the same way, "presbytery" conjures up an image of a group, in this case a group of elders. Since the presbytery is within the local congregation, the congregation has a group of elders. The collective concept of the presbytery is carried into the symbolic visions of Revelation in which the four-and-twenty elders appear (Rev 4:4).

Author's note: There may somewhere be a New Testament church, which has among its meagre membership only one man who qualifies as an elder, a deacon, or an evangelist. That church might decide that appointing him is one step closer to the scriptural pattern of government, and that it is better to be a church with one official appointment than a church with none. The intention of that church is to grow toward a plural ministry and eldership. They may consider that having one appointment to an office, whilst still unsatisfactory, is nevertheless nearer to the goal, and more satisfactory than having no appointments at all. I have not addressed that approach on this page, but have simply stressed that the New Testament pattern of congregational government is not "no elders", nor "one elder", but "a plurality of elders".



Growing up, my understanding of the church was based purely on what I had seen. Every church, I figured, was just like my church—or, at least, it ought to be. And the reason I figured every church did things the way my church did them was because my church was all that I had ever really seen.

When I went to college, I faced a dilemma. None of my friends believed in the validity of infant baptism. And so, as the topic came up, the views I held from my upbringing were challenged. I was faced with two options: I could (A) cling tightly to what I believed simply because that is what our church had always done and it was all I’d ever known. Or, I could (B) turn to the Bible to see if it said anything about baptism.

That experience shaped how I would attempt to view the church. As the Lord called me to be a pastor, I realized that he had spoken in the Bible and therefore the Bible alone was my authoritative source for understanding God and people, the world and the church.

What that meant was that I did not have to cling what I had always believed or wanted to believe was right. Rather, God had spoken about reality and what he said is true, even if it doesn’t always line up with our philosophical and rational preferences. And, even more, God had spoken about the church—about things like pastors and deacons, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, congregationalism and membership. And, what God said was both true and healthiest, even if it didn’t agree with what I’d always heard, what I’d always seen and to “the way we’ve always done things.”

I resolved at that point to always make my best effort to bring every belief I held and every word I taught in line with the Word of God. I resolved to “throw every theological belief out the window,” unless it was founded on God’s Word. In a way it was scary. I didn’t know where that would lead. Yet, in another sense, it was refreshing and reassuring. I didn’t have to worry about defending what I wanted, I only had to read the Bible and believe what it said.

Where Do We Turn to Learn?

Every one of you has an idea about the nature of the local church and things like membership, the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Every one of you has an idea about pastors and deacons, who they are and what they do. And, every one of you probably bases that on one of two things—what you’ve always seen and done and were told, or the witness of the New Testament. I want to challenge you this morning to go back to the Bible on everything you believe—whether that be about salvation or deacons or our Savior Jesus Christ—and build your beliefs on the foundation our Lord has laid in his word.

It was April of 2006 that I preached at Northbrook in view of being your pastor. So, almost one year ago, many of you were reading over my resume, biography and philosophy of ministry. I introduced my comments on the pastorate with this sentence: “I believe that the New Testament (and not tradition, experience, pragmatics or preference) is the final authority on the role of the pastor in a New Testament church.” I italicized it because wanted to emphasize that Scripture alone was our final authority in deciding how to understand the office of pastor.

So, with that said, let us go to the Scripture to understand what the New Testament teaches about pastors.

Titus 1:5-9

In our passage this morning, Paul is writing to Titus to give him instructions about how to finish ordering the churches they had planted together on the island of Crete. In verse 5, Paul tells Titus, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you…”

What are elders?

The word “elder” is used over 20 times to refer to an office in the local church. In this sense, we could define elders as follows:

The elders are a group of men, called by God and conformed to the Gospel in sound living and sound doctrine, who are set apart by the congregation to oversee and pastor the local church by teaching, ruling, caring for and equipping the saints, as loving and humble examples of Jesus Christ.

The Elders…Oversee and Pastor the Local Church.

I say that “elders…oversee and pastor,” because the terms elder, overseer and pastor are used interchangeably to refer to one office. The terms “elder” (or, presbyter), “overseer” (or, bishop) and “pastor” refer to the same thing. So, we would not separate elders, pastors, and overseers into three different groups with differing functions.

Scriptural Examples

In this passage, Titus (1:5, 7), Paul refers to “elders” being appointed in verse 5. In the following verses, he gives qualifications for elders, but in verse 7 he refers to “an overseer.” So here Paul uses “elder” and “overseer” interchangeably as two terms for one office.

The same is true with the terms “pastor” and “elder.” As far as I can find, the only place where “pastors” are mentioned using that term is Ephesians 4:11, where Paul writes, “he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds (KJV/NAS-pastors) and teachers.” The word “pastor” means “shepherd.”

In 1 Peter 5:1-2, Peter writes, “So I exhort the elders among you...shepherd (pastor) the flock of God that is among you...” Peter tells the “elders” to “shepherd.” That is the elders are the ones who “pastor” the flock of God.

In Acts 20, we find all three terms used interchangeably to refer to the same group of people. In verse 17, Paul calls together “the elders of the church.” Then, as he addresses these elders in verse 28 he says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” Paul tells the elders to care for the “flock,” which indicates they are “pastors” (shepherds). And, he refers to the elders as “overseers.” So, we can conclude from several passages that elders, overseers and pastors are the same thing.

This is historically recognized in our denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. In the Abstract of Principles, which is the first doctrinal statement ever adopted by a Southern Baptist body, we read, “The regular officers of a Church are Bishops or Elders, and Deacons.” Likewise, in the first Baptist Faith and Message, written in 1925, we read of the church, “Its Scriptural officers are bishops, or elders, and deacons.” Bishop and Elder are used interchangeably.

The Elders are a Group of Men.

The New Testament pattern is a plurality of elders for each church. That means that there was not “one pastor per church,” but several in every local congregation. There was not “a pastor” and a group of “elders” to assist. But a team of men, who were equally elders, each with equal vote.

One of the areas that I covered in my philosophy of ministry presented to Northbrook was my understanding of the office of pastor/elder, especially in regard to how many a church should have. I covered this, because it is essential how I understand the church. I wrote:

The pastors/elders are regularly referred to in the plural (Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 4:14, 5:16; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1, 5). When it is possible (that is, when gifted and called men are available), I believe it is expedient to appoint a plurality of pastors/elders to keep watch over the church, as Paul instructed Titus (Titus 1:5). When such men are not available, I believe it is a pastor's duty to look for such men and to train them for such ministry (2 Timothy 2:1-2). Most of these men will not be paid staff but gifted and called members of the congregation who are essentially permanent in their membership….I know that baptist churches differ in their pastoral structure. I am willing to work within different set-ups, though I will guide the church toward what I feel is a biblical model.

Plurality - How many ought there to be in a local church?

When the word “elder” appears in the New Testament and is used in reference to the church office, it appears most often in the plural.

For example, in Philippians 1:1, Paul and Timothy write to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.” In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul refers to the “council of elders” that laid their hands on Timothy. And, in 1 Peter 5:1, Peter address “the elders among you.”

In our passage, Paul tells Titus to “appoint elders in every town.” That means Titus is to appoint more than one. One could argue that there were multiple churches in every town and that Titus was to appoint an elder in each church in each town, thus “elders in every town.” I think that is doubtful. However, this verse by itself cannot lead us to certainty whether a church should have one elder (a single pastor) or a plurality of elders (a group of elders governing that body).

Fortunately, the evidence from the rest of the New Testament, when carefully considered, gives us the understanding that it is the New Testament pattern for there to be a plurality of elders in every local congregation.

In Acts, elders are always mention in the plural (cf 11:30; 15:2, 4, 6, 22-23; 16:4; 21:18). Here are a few important examples:

In Acts 14:23, we read that as Paul and Barnabas visited the disciples in several cities, they “appointed elders for them in every church.” We do not read that they appointed elders in all the churches. Nor do we read that they appointed “an elder” in every church. But, they appointed “elders” (plural) in “every church” (singular). They appointed a plurality of elders in every congregation.

In the same vein, we read in Acts 20:17 that in Ephesus Paul “called the elders of the church to come to him.” Paul did not call “the elder” of every church. Nor did he call the elders “of the churches.” Rather, he called the “elders” (plural) of “the church” (singular). There was a body of elders in that church.

In James 5:14, James writes, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Notice, James does not say to call for “the elder” of the church or for the elders of “the churches.” Rather, he refers to “the elders” (plural) of “the church” (singular).

Plurality & Baptist History

The idea of each congregation having a plurality of elders also has roots in baptist history. When the Southern Baptist Convention formed, they elected as their president Dr. William B. Johnson. In 1846, Dr. Johnson wrote a book on local church government [1] in which he concluded, “It is worthy of particular attention, that each church had a plurality of elders…” And, he wrote, “A plurality [of elders] is of great importance for mutual counsel and aid, that the government and edification of the flock may be promoted in the best manner.” Seeing that having a plurality of elders was the biblical model and the best model for caring for a flock, he encouraged churches to follow this pattern.

Benefits of plurality

Not only do I think that having a plurality of elders is the biblical model, I think it is the best for a congregation. While a group of sinners will always have problems, I think there are several benefits to a plurality over a single pastor model. That is also why I wrote in my philosophy of ministry:

From my experiences, both in pastoring alone and in observing a church with a plurality of elders, I feel an elder team holds many advantages, aside from following the pattern of Scripture. It provides accountability, support, counsel, and assistance in the exercise of pastoral duties. It also gives the church permanence in leadership and continuance in ministry that is not upset if the “staff pastor” should be called away. I know my gifts and weaknesses and therefore know that I will minister best as part of a team.

As another author points out, a plurality of elders: rounds out gifts, makes up for deficits, supplements judgment, creates support, prevents unjust criticism, makes leadership more rooted and permanent, ensures continuity, removes tyranny, reminds the congregation to take responsibility for the spiritual growth of its own members. [2]

At this point, we might ask: What Kind of Men are We Looking for to be Elders?

The Elders Are…Called By God.

The Holy Spirit makes men overseers. When we look for elders, we look for men whom God has called to be elders. We can train people ourselves, but we cannot make an elder. In Acts 20:28, Paul says, “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” So, what will these men look like?

The Elders Are a Group of Men Conformed to the Gospel

In this passage in Titus 1:5-9, as well as 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul outlines a loose list of qualifications for elders. Since Matt Sees preached through 1 Timothy before I arrived, I will not take you line by line through the requirements, but I will note that the qualifications for a pastor break down into two basic categories.

Elders are not required to be perfect or to be Supermen. Don Carson points out that these lists are notable only for not being very notable. He means that every quality listed is expected of every believer (except being able to teach and not being a new believer). The standard is not “higher” for elders, so much as this means that elders should live lives that model what every believer should be. Elders must be known for living out what it means to be a Christian.

…in Sound Living

An elder must live a life of godliness, evident even to the surrounding culture. In Titus and 1 Timothy, Paul says that elder must be “above reproach.” He should be “a man of one woman;” that is, his relationships with women should be “above reproach.” An elder should be “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable” and a man who does not get drunk, get violent, get into quarrels, or love money. He should be a good manager of his household, since he is responsible for overseeing the household of God.

…and Sound Doctrine.

In addition to his living, an elder must have a firm grasp on the essentials of Christian doctrine and be able to communicate them in order to instruct, defend and correct.

In 1 Timothy 3, we are told an overseer must be “able to teach.” Here in Titus 1:9, we are told an elder must “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Elders must be biblically grounded in essential Christian doctrines and the distinctives of their church. This means an elder should be able to explain from Scripture what the Bible teaches on central issues. He must be able to rebuke and correct those who contradict it.

This does not mean they all must be able to preach publicly. There are many ways in which the word is taught—from the pulpit and sitting in a member’s home. However, a man who is not comfortable teaching and defending from Scripture the faith once for all delivered should not be appointed an elder.

We do not follow the world’s standards in selecting our leaders.

We are not Israel looking to have a king “like the nations do.” We are like God, looking not on outward appearances, but on the heart.

Therefore elders are not simply successful businessmen, older men, long-time, involved members or nice guys.

Rather, elders must:

§ Embrace and be skilled in teaching/defending the central aspects of the Christian Faith and the Doctrinal Distinctives of the Congregation.

§ Live out the Christian faith in all areas of life.

§ And, as we shall see, Love the congregation. At a minimum, this means that they attend the stated meetings of the church, they disciple younger believers, and they serve selflessly.

The Elders are…Set Apart By the Congregation.

We should note that have a plurality of elders is not a negation of congregationalism. The congregation remains the final court of appeals in the matters we mentioned. Therefore, my preaching that a plurality of elders is the biblical model does not mean that we will have one. That decision is left up to you. I will present (at a later date) some suggestions for how to implement this. But until the congregation says that we will do this, we won’t make this change.

However, there is a tension that must be recognized. The New Testament speaks of elders as leaders with spiritual authority over the congregation. We read that they are to “rebuke, admonish, rule, and exhort.”

However, while congregationalism stands, the church has certain responsibilities in how they respond to their pastors. The church must:

…disobey them when they contradict the Gospel. In Galatians 1, the congregation is held responsible for not rejecting false teachers. Pastors are never to be followed blindly.
…recognize their elders as gifts from God. In Ephesians 4:11, we are told that Christ “gave” the church pastor-teachers. They are gifts from God to equip and build up the church and should be received as such. If we ever find ourselves believing that our pastors are not gifts from Christ, we should remove them or remove ourselves.
(We should also be encouraged by this too. If ever we find ourselves without qualified men, we should ask Christ to give us some. HE gives pastors to the church! Therefore, we can and should ask for them.)

…give them heartfelt trust as their leaders and teachers.
Christians should honor, respect and highly esteem their pastors. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, Paul writes, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”

Likewise, when their leadership is biblical, Christians are told to submit to their leaders. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”

Likewise, the elders must recognize that the church belongs to God, not to them. In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the Ephesian elders to “care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

This means that the pastor must treat the church like a bride—not his bride, but the bride of Christ of whom he has been made a steward and is accountable for. We have all seen situations in which pastors have used churches as vehicles of self-promotion and stepping-stones in a career plan. This is unacceptable and abhorrent.

This also means that the elders are not free to do whatever they want with the church. The church belongs to God, and therefore God has the final say. Therefore, a pastor must lead as God has led. He cannot say more than what God has said. And, he cannot say less than what God has instructed him to say in the Bible.

The Elders…Oversee and Pastor the Local Church by Teaching, Ruling, Caring for and Equipping the Saints.

The function of the elders is to oversee and pastor the church (1 Timothy 3:1; Acts 20:28; Eph 4:11; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Acts 20:28 says they are to “care for the church.” This means that they give spiritual oversight to the congregation and its members and teach them God’s Word.

Ephesians 4:11-12 says that they are given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.”

1 Timothy 5:17 speaks of the elders “ruling.” This word “rule” refers to a “soft” kind of ruling, not that of a monarch or dictator. It refers to someone who directs or leads.

Teaching is the primary means through which all the duties are carried out. Their oversight and ruling are not done through unilateral commands, but through authoritatively “declaring, exhorting, rebuking, teaching, admonishing, correcting and preaching” from the word of God (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:9; 2:5; 1 Thess 5:12-13; 2 Tim 2:24-25; 4:1-2).

Elders Oversee and Shepherd…As Loving and Humble Examples of Jesus Christ.

In all of these things, elders must serve as examples of Christ, who is the chief Shepherd.

1 Peter 5:1-4 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Jesus Christ lovingly and humbly served as a shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. He died on a cross for their sins, in their place before being raised from the dead in glory. So elders, while they do not die for the sins of their people, patiently, lovingly and humbly must be willing to bear the burdens of the congregation. They must lay down their lives for the church in this world, so that they can receive an unfading crown of glory in the next.

If you are an unbeliever, do not put your hope in a pastor. He is only an example—and an imperfect one at that. He cannot save you. Put your hope in the chief Shepherd, who is also the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

If you are a pastor or believe that God has called you to be one, look to Christ first and foremost as the example of how to love His sheep.

If you are a church member—let us begin to consider how we might go about instituting a plurality of elders in our congregation. I will propose more at a later time, with opportunity for discussion. But, for now, let us begin with earnest prayer that Christ would bring and call and prepare elders to give to Northbrook for our upbuilding and His glory.


Pastoral System of Idolatry

One Man Pastors, Just Say NO!

If anyone ever tells you that they have a "New Testament" church, ask them a simple question: "Who's the pastor?" If you get a title and a name in response (for example, The Right Reverend Holy Father John Doe), you may respond with sublime confidence: "Oh, no you don't have a New Testament church!"
We've got a surprise for you, folks. In the New Testament and in the early church up till about 150 A.D, THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS "THE PASTOR!" We highlight this bold assertion, because there is nothing in radical house church Christianity that offends the unscriptural American church order so much as attacks upon the holy, sacred, and venerable institution known as "The Pastor." But we want to hammer this truth home despite the difficulty that many will have with it. So, here it is again: in the New Testament and in the early church up till about 150 A.D., THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS "THE PASTOR!"

Ironically, radical house church plural-elders government is probably the one thing in our movement with which the status-quo church order has the most difficulty. Yet, the principal of plural-elders, no-one-man-pastor church government is the easiest thing in the world to show scripturally. We will do so in this issue. When we are finished, you will see that the case for plurality of elders is ironclad, ineluctable, and beyond cavil.

We will start with scriptural proof of plural-elders church government. We will then look briefly at the early church before about 150 A.D. We will finally look at the testimony of several scholars, all of whom are within the American church system, but who all agree that in the New testament and in the early church up till about 150 A.D., THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS "THE PASTOR!"

There ain't no such thing as "THE Pastor." There just ain't!!!

In studying the Scriptures concerning pastors, it is necessary to note first off that pastors are called by three different words in the New Testament: pastor (Greek: poimen), elder (Greek: presbuteros), and overseer (KJV: bishop, Greek: episkopos). All three words refer to the same office. A pastor is an elder. A pastor is an overseer. An elder is a pastor. An elder is an overseer. An overseer is a pastor. An overseer is an elder.

The above can be established by showing two fundamental identities in Scripture: first, ""elder" = "overseer;"second, "elder" = "pastor." Once these two identities are established, it is thus proven that "overseer" = "pastor," on the principle that two things that are equal to a third thing must logically and of necessity be equal to each other.

First, to prove that "elder"= "overseer." Paul instructs Titus to "appoint elders in every city" (Titus 1:5), and then tells Titus that the overseer must be above reproach" (Titus 1:7), thus proving that elder" = "overseer." (Cf. I Tim 3:2 with I Tim 5:17. Also, see I Pet 5:1,2; where Peter equates "elders" in v. 1 with "oversight" in v.2. In addition, see Philippians 1:1, where Paul addresses the "overseers" and "deacons," instead of "elders" and deacons. Paul obviously was referring to the elders of the church in Phil 1:1, and yet called them overseers." Also note that the eminent scholar Lightfoot states that "in every one of the extant commentaries..., whether Greek or Latin, this identity [of "overseer" and "elder" ] is affirmed."

Second, to prove that "elder" = "pastor."Note that in v. 2 "pastor" is often translated "shepherd." The Greek word so translated is "poimen," which means "to feed, to shepherd, to pastor."

Now, since we have proven that "elder" ="overseer," and "elder" = "pastor," it logically and necessarily follows that "overseer" = "pastor." Think about it: two things ("overseer" and "pastor" ) which are equal to a third thing ("elder" ) are necessarily equal to each other (i.e., "overseer" = "pastor"). This means that if you ever hear anyone say "I am an elder, but I'm not a pastor," you are justified in asking him to break out his Bible and please explain to you how such an erroneous statement could ever be justified scripturally.

Now that we have established the fundamental identity of "pastors," "overseers," and "elders," we ask the next essential question: how many of such men governed a local church? Here is where the fun begins. If you can show scripturally that the first church was governed by "pastors," (plural), or "overseers," (plural), or "elders," (plural), you have completely demolished the sacred cow of American institutional Christianity: the "one-man pastorate." We will now proceed to do just that. If you have any ecclesiastical or financial ties to the one-man pastorate, we suggest you stop right here, read the Surgeon General's warning, and put this copy of NRR down, because the arguments we are about to give are utterly unanswerable.

For Scriptural evidence of:
one-pastor churches
Arguments Against a One-Man Pastorate
1. "Nowhere in God's word to we find anyone referred to by name as a pastor." (Watchman Nee)

2. Not one New Testament letter is addressed to "The Pastor." If you wrote a letter to a local church today, to whom would you address it. "Pastor So-and-so," of course. Wonder why they didn't do that in the New Testament? (Cf. Phil 1:1)

3. Look at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Paul and Barnabas weren't received by "The Pastor," but rather, the "apostles and elders" there. Was "The Pastor" on a mission trip, or something? (cf. Acts 15: 2,4,6,22 to see how many times "elders" is mentioned, but not "The Pastor.") And quite interestingly, Paul went to the Jerusalem Council, but afterwards, reporting on it to the Galatians, Paul showed he didn't even know who "The Pastor" in Jerusalem was! In Galatians 2:9, he says that James, Cephas, and John were "reputed" to be elders. (Apparently, there were no titles for leaders, but we'll get to that in a later issue.

4. The apostles appointed "elders" (plural), not "The Pastor." (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5)

5. The poor-relief collection was brought by Barnabus and Saul to the "elders" (plural) of the church in Jerusalem, not "The Pastor." (Acts 11:30)

6. It's the "elders" (plural) who are to be rewarded with double honor for ruling well, not "The Pastor." (I Tim 5:17)

7. It's the "elders" (plural) who are exhorted by Peter to shepherd the flock, not "The Pastor." (I Pet 5:1,2)

8. This last argument is the clincher. It is the paramount plural-pastors proof. There ain't nobody that can dodge this one. You just have to remember two verses: Acts 20:17, and Acts 20:28. Remembering that "elder" = "overseer" = "pastor," read those two verses. In v. 17, Paul invites the Ephesian "elders" (plural) to Miletus. In v. 28, he tells these same "elders" (plural) that they are "overseers" (plural), and that they are to "pastor" the church of God. Since a "pastor" is an "overseer" is an "elder," and since "elders" and "overseers" are plural, it follows that there were plural "pastors" in Ephesus doing the "pastoring" (i.e., shepherding) in v. 28.

If someone tells you that his church only has one pastor, look at him as if he is entirely off his nut, and then innocently ask: "But, brother, where is that in the Bible?"
The Scripture is clear. What about the testimony of church history before about 150 A.D.? It is just as clear. There was no such thing as a one-man pastorate. Below are quotations from famous early church fathers.

The Shephard of Hermas (middle second century)
"Read it to this city [Rome] along with the ELDERS that preside over the church."
First Epistle of Clement (c. 95-97 A.D.)
Clement was one of the early elders at Rome. Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity states of his epistle that there "is no trace of a single ruling bishop; instead the leaders of the church are called either bishops and deacons or ELDERS (presbyters)." (p. 125).
Polycarp's letter to Philippi (115 A.D.)
This letter was addressed to ELDERS.
The Didache ("Teaching of the Apostles")
"Appoint for yourself OVERSEERS and deacons. (Didache 14:1 - 15:1)
Let's beat the dead horse with the testimony of respectable scholars. These are mainstream people, they are not weirdos who meet for church in living rooms on Sunday mornings. (The emphases are mine.)

Philip Hughes
Philip Hughes (a Roman Catholic, for crying out loud!), A Popular History of the Christian Church, p. 14, footnote 3: "before that date [the end of the first century] it is likely that the churches were ruled by colleges of BISHOPS."
Unger's Bible Dictionary, "Elders," p. 296:
"Consequently we meet it [the presbytery] everywhere in the plural, and as a corporation at Jerusalem."
Robert L. Saucy, The Church in God's Program, a Moody Press publication), p. 148
"The evidence of the New Testament points to a plurality of ELDERS in a church. Each time the term appears it is plural."
If the evidence in this issue has not convinced you of the proper form of New Testament church government, than nothing will. However, it is entirely likely that many will ask: if plurality of elders is so obviously scriptural, why isn't everyone doing it? That's a good question. We'll take a look at that next issue. Meanwhile, if someone tells you that his church only has one pastor, look at him as if he is entirely off his nut, and then innocently ask: "But, brother, where is that in the Bible?


More on "pastors"

Objections to the Multiple Pastor Model

by Mark M. Mattison

The evidence is clear and unambiguous - the New Testament Scriptures nowhere support the idea of the one-man pastorate. Nor do they support the artificial distinctions we've created between elders and pastors. In spite of these facts, however, Christians everywhere - including Protestants who profess sola scriptura (Scripture alone) and the Priesthood of All Believers - try to justify the clerical system they have inherited. On the one hand this is understandable, since dismantling the clergy entails radical changes in the life of the church (very positive changes, we would argue). Furthermore, even pastors and church leaders who want to conform their ministries to Scripture manage often to do little more than adapt Scriptural language to contemporary practices.

For example, many believe that although pastors are elders, elders are not necessarily pastors. It is as if there are two classes of elder: "lay elder" and "lead elder." The "lay elders" are ultimately subordinate to the "head elder" or "chairman of the board of elders," the "pastor." Unlike the "elders," who provide some spiritual leadership, the "pastor" is the ordained, professional "minister" of the church; he's still the one whose name appears in the bulletin, whose ministry is celebrated on "Past or Appreciation Day," who's addressed as "the pastor."

Yet this semantic compromise does not go far enough. If any distinction between "elder" and "pastor" is preserved, the equality of the leaders will brought into question. The common bond of presbyterial (elder) leadership will quickly be lost in the shuffle the moment the pastor is singled out as somehow the leader of the leaders. We must recognize not only that "pastors" are "elders," but also that "elders" are equally "pastors." Both Paul (Acts 20:17,28) and Peter (1 Pet. 5:1,2) instructed the church's elders to pastor or shepherd the flock. Notice in this last Scripture that Peter did not write to the pastors and their "chief pastor," for the "chief pastor" is Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 5:4). There is no Scriptural sanction for a hierarchical distinction among the elders.

Timothy and Titus

It is frequently objected that Timothy and Titus prove the exception. In many ways these men, and particularly Timothy, inspire and comfort young seminary graduates who otherwise would have to struggle with their obvious lack of spiritual qualifications. This is not in any way to denigrate these dedicated young people who are bright, intelligent, motivated, and probably better educated than the previous generation of pastors and seminary grads, probably better educated than me. It is to say, however, that no amount of dedication, education, and "fire for the Lord" can make up for the accumulated wisdom which comes from years, even decades of hands-on church work. But how can someone gain this practiced wisdom without being a pastor/elder in the first place? Must not young seminarians enter the pastorate and "earn their laurels"? The answer is that aspiring pastors (elders), regardless of the amount of education they have received (or whether they have received a seminary education at all), need to be discipled by experienced pastors (elders) for a considerable length of time - certainly much longer than the typical year or two of "internship" so common in the denominations.

Nevertheless, Timothy and Titus are cited as the exception to this rule. A cursory reading of the letters written to them may seem to reinforce traditional pastoral practices. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are even popularly known as "the pastoral epistles." Paul addresses Timothy as a "minister" (1 Tim. 4:6) who is not to let himself be looked down upon because of his youth (4:12). Furthermore Paul gives Timothy extensive instructions about church teaching, practices, and the qualifications that elders and "deacons" should have. He writes similarly to Titus that he should appoint elders in Crete (Tit. 1:5), and tells him what qualifications he should seek in potential elders (vv. 6-9).

From this it has been gathered that Timothy and Titus were the ancient counterparts to our modern seminarians; young men (likely in their twenties) who were installed in congregations to single-handedly oversee the affairs of the church, delegating their authority by appointing and supervising elders underneath them.

But this reading cannot be sustained. First, we do not know how young Timothy really was. That is a relative judgement. We call Bill Clinton a "young president," but he certainly is not in his twenties. Timothy could have been forty - perhaps young in comparison to other church leaders. After all, the first generation of church leaders in Jerusalem would have been well into their sixties or seventies at that time. Perhaps most church leaders in Timothy's time were in their fifties at least. We simply do not know; given this sliding scale of possibilities, this one verse can hardly be used to overthrow the overwhelming evidence from the rest of the New Testament that church leaders are to be mature and experienced Christians.

Second, neither Timothy nor Titus were pastors. Paul encouraged Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5, NIV). Timothy and Titus were evangelists, "apostles" in a secondary sense, who travelled with Paul and others to organize and strengthen churches. A cursory reading of the New Testament will demonstrate that these two men were not permanently stationed in Ephesus and Crete respectively; they were all over the Roman world.Reference1 After Timothy was finished in Ephesus, he was to leave and join Paul in Rome (2 Tim. 4:9-13). Similarly, Titus was to join Paul at Nicopolis (Tit. 3:12). Paul had left him behind in Crete to "straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town" (1:5). Titus was not the pastor of a church; he was an evangelist who was helping to organize several churches on the island.

This practice of appointing elders after churches had been organized was the standard in Paul's missionary journeys. In Acts we read that after Paul and his companions had evangelized Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra (13:13-14:20), they returned to those cities (14:21), encouraged and strengthened the churches (14:22), and appointed elders (14:23). If we compare this pattern to the instructions written to Timothy and Titus, Paul's method becomes apparent. Before elders were appointed they needed to be observed and tested (Tit. 1:6ff). When churches were formed and the Holy Spirit was given (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11,12), it would eventually become apparent who had been gifted in terms of leadership. If that gift were corroborated by the observable qualifications of maturity and steadfastness, those leaders would be officially recognized ("appointed") by the churches and/or apostles as elders. This two-fold qualification (Spirit gifting and seasoned wisdom) is similar to that described in Acts 6:3, where the Apostles instructed the Jerusalem Hellenist Christians to "choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the spirit and wisdom" (NIV).

All of this is critically important, because it establishes a consistent pattern of church leadership. Pastors (elders) in the early church weren't shipped off to Jerusalem or some other place to receive their academic training as youths, then exported to some congregation they had never seen before. If a young person insists on going to a seminary, then let him return to his own church after graduating. Let him return to the authority of his local church body where he may continue to study and practice ministry under the auspices of the congregation and its leaders. The people of the congregation, who know the elder-to-be, will be much better suited to gauge his developing maturity and qualifications than any denominational ordination or licensing board. The practice of shipping young people away from their home congregations (where their authority may be undermined by recent memories of youthful escapades) is as unscriptural as "ordaining" these elders at age 20 while "lay" elders are "elected" at age 50.

Pragmatic Objections

If the Scriptures themselves will not support the traditional pastoral practice, however, there are far more compelling ways to defend it. The irony is that these objections, which are by far among the most popular, are usually invoked by those who profess sola scriptura (Scripture alone).

One such argument is that someone must be "in the office" (assuming the church owns a building) or "on call" forty hours a week, ready to respond to pastoral emergencies. If the elders/pastors are working during the day, are they not inaccessibl e?

The best solution to this problem is to train self-employed and retired men and women of the church to respond to emergencies in the body. In an ideal setting, some of these retirees should be leaders of the church anyway (elders). They should be the ones on-call if other elders of the church are busy at work and if the crisis cannot wait another few hours. Furthermore, many emergencies can (and perhaps should) be just as well attended by members other than official leaders. Visitation, comfort, and counsel is well within the potential grasp of most church members.

Involving other church members in such ministerial functions is the most effective way to break down that clergy/laity distinction. "The most pernicious influence of that distinction," writes R. Paul Stevens, is:

Secularization by copying the world's leadership patterns. In the Greco-Roman world the municipal administration had two parts: the kleros (clergy, the magistrate and the laos (layperson), the ignorant and uneducated citizen. The same defamatory distinction prevails today when people argue for secular management structures in church organization and when, in response to an appeal for the full liberation of the laity, one hears the jibe, "Would you go for medical help to an untrained doctor? Why would you trust your soul to a nonprofessional?"Reference2

Responding to this argument that churches must be led by professionals, Vernard Eller writes that the early churches:

Were "do it yourself" organizations, sometimes in extremis. Paul, apparently, would convert a few people, start a congregation, and then move on. At times he would leave or send one of his helpers to give some leadership, and sometimes the new Christians were entirely on their own. In any case, it is plain that the people did their own "doing" rather than hiring experts to do it for them.Reference3

Perhaps the most compelling objection to the Scriptural ministry model is that the New Testament way of doing things is no longer relevant. This argument was put to me often when I was searching for a house church to join. I was told that it simply wasn't possible anymore. We no longer live in the first century; we don't wear togas, carry oil lamps, and practice foot-washing. We have buildings and institutions; they didn't. These things require different organizational structures.

But even if we choose to argue for ministry models on practical and utilitarian grounds instead of Scriptural grounds, it seems to us that the New Testament model is still superior to the traditional model. What better way to circumvent pastor burnout and congregational apathy than to distribute the work of ministry?

The Right Thing to Do

We are not saying that institutional churches today aren't doing anything right, nor are we saying that God has not done great things through many godly pastors and churches through the years. We know for a fact that He has blessed many ministries and churches under a variety of circumstances, and we praise Him for that. We are saying only that the pastoral model most often emulated tends to hinder ministry efforts rather than help them.

Perhaps an analogy may be in order. The invention of the heavy plough revolutionized agriculture in Western civilization. Might the implementation of a biblical ministry model do the same for our churches? If God has given us great harvests through our use of the rudimentary plough, what might he grant our ministries when we start using the grand plough which He has designed for our use? And at the other end of the orchard where some pastors are about to drop from fatigue for trying to till the seemingly impenetrable soil, what could be more germane? We have no desire to add to the pressure and grief of the church's already strapped leaders by criticizing their ministries or their intentions. Our intent rather is to prevent problems like pastor burnout and congregational apathy. Putting Christian ministry back into the hands of the entire priesthood - the members of the local church - is in the final analysis the only solution to the vexing problem.


1Cf. Acts 16:1-4; 17:14,15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4; Rom. 16:21; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:1; 2:13; 7:5-7,13,14; 8:6,16,17,23; 12:18; Gal. 1:2,3; Phil. 1:1; 2:29-23; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 3:2,6; 2 Thess. 1:1; 2 Tim. 4:10; Philem. 1:1; Heb. 13:23.

2R. Paul Stevens, Liberating the Laity: Equipping All the Saints for Ministry (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press), 1985, p. 21.

3Vernard Eller, The Outward Bound: Caravaning as the Style of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 1980, p. 25.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Smell of Death

<< 2 Corinthians 2 >>
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life

The more you are full of the Spirit of God, the more you will be "an aroma from death to death" to those who are perishing. Your very presence will somehow get under their skin, you will annoy them without saying a word. Why? Their spirit senses the Spirit of Life in you which is always convicting their unrepentant hearts. Not a pleasant "aroma" to be sure. The next time you are wondering why someone does'nt like you, why you seem to rub them the wrong way for no explainable reason. Realize the reality of the spirit world, and how it is always working.

Grace and Peace

The Churches of Revelation

I've noticed that many christians on the web criticize the laodicean church we see everywhere. They rightly do this since Christ himself said He would spit the Laodiceans out of His mouth if they did not repent. What these christians don't do is take a hard look in the mirror. They are quick to condemn the Laodicean church, all the while, they are eyeball deep in the error of the church at Pergamum. There are maybe 2 or 3 churches I've seen in my LIFETIME that did not practice both the sin of the nicolaitins (clergy-laity system) AND the error of Balaam (worldly involvement-fornication with the world). Which is worse? The sins of the nicolaitins or the sins of the church at pergamum? The Lord says He will spit the lukewarm out His mouth, but He says that He will "make war against them (pergamum) with the sword of His mouth" Sorry man, that "war against them" does NOT sound like something I would want to experience.

Instead of reclining in their chairs of self righteousness, these pergamese christians should see the sword that's poised right above their own heads. The Lord says that He HATES the teaching and works of the nicolaitans. HE hates them, but men LOVE them.

The Bible warns us over and over again to be "sober and vigilant." The Holy Spirit is not talking about beer here, He's talking about walking circumspectly, examining ourselves, taking a hard look at our own life. Deceiving others is bad, deceiving yourself is devastating.

grace and peace

Only a Few Will Be Saved

Matt 7:13 does a great job of giving us the correct perspective.

13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

But that's not the only place we find this theme.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Corinthians 9:24).

All run but only one receives the prize. In the olympics, they give out 3 medals for the top 3 competitors, everyone else goes home empty handed. It's just another illustration of how most people walk away with nothing. In the case of the kingdom of Heaven it's much worse than nothing, they walk away to eternal torment.

We should keep the narrow path, and the few who will make it on our minds at all times. Perspective is so powerful, which is why today's babylonian form of christianity says nothing about it (the narrow path). This is sobering stuff. It's not about is being in "fear" per se, although the "fear of the Lord" is a powerful motivator, it's about seeing the truth for what it is. It's about dismissing the empty images and empty form that the world presents us and embracing the substance we find in Christ. A man must REALLY love the truth to be saved. In a distance race, it requires perseverance, determination and a deep want to succeed. When during the race, you begin to get tired, the "why" you are doing it must be greater than the "why" you should quit.
<< Romans 11 >>
22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

Hebrews 10:31 says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Some people say "Man, that's so negative!" Yep, it's the polar opposite of preachers like Joel Osteen and the TBN crew. I once read a book by Donald Trump, I don't remember which one, but in that book he said something to the effect of: I keep my eyes on the downside of situations, that's where most of my attention goes because the upside of a deal takes care of itself. I could'nt agree more.

Grace and Peace

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eyes on the Apocalypse

I am convinced that it won't be long before the world as we know it is turned upside down. I believe that those who are truly "in Christ" will be spared. Luke 21:36, Rev 3:10 are bedrock that cannot be explained away in my opinion. In any case, there should be no fear as we see the tidal wave of calamity that is about to wash over the world, We must count on the power of Christ to protect and guide us every day that our eyes open to this world. Even if I'm wrong about the pre-trib rapture, so what? We are to live each day as if it will be our last, we live on daily bread. Here's another tidbit from the news that shows how very very close we are to being face to face with our Creator.

Grace and Peace

Dick Cheney & Vigilant Shield: Will a Missing Nuke from the B-52 Incident be used in a Simulated Terrorist Attack?

by Michael Salla, Ph.D. Page 1 of 1 page(s)


From October 15 to 19, 2007, a set of military and civil exercises will be held in Oregon, Arizona and Guam. The exercises, TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield 08, are designed to test official responses to the detonation of radiological dispersal devices on U.S. territory. The exercises will be overseen by Vice President Dick Cheney who, according to unconfirmed reports, will travel to Portland to coordinate all Federal departments and agencies responses to the simulated attacks. This has led to a number of civilian groups expressing alarm that TOPOFF and Vigilant Shield might be used as a cover for False Flag operations that replicate what occurred during the 911 attacks . On September 11, 2001, Dick Cheney was overseeing a series of simulated terrorist attacks involving hijacked airplanes hitting buildings that was called “Vigilant Guardian”. Vigilant Guardian was run simultaneously with NORAD training exercises called Vigilant Warrior and Northern Vigilance that altogether involved as many as eleven hijacked airplanes. This created much confusion and led to stand down orders for the US Air Force that was unsure if the 911 attacks were part of the simulated exercises or real attacks. This confusion accounted for the long delays between initial reports of hijacked planes being used in ‘terrorist’ attacks, and Air Force intercept missions being launched using the few planes not involved in the Northern Vigilance exercise.

What makes TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield especially concerning is that they follow upon an incident involving five (later revised up to six) nuclear cruise missiles found on a B-52 sitting on a tarmac at Barksdale Air Force Base on August 30. The Air Force has launched an official inquiry and so far has announced to the public that the B-52 incident was nothing more than an unusually high number of errors. A Washington Post article on September 23 summarized the main arguments for this explanation which has effectively put to an end any further investigations by mainstream media sources. In contrast, a number of researchers have argued that the B-52 incident could not have occurred without very senior officials giving orders, and others refusing to comply with such orders. According to Wayne Madsen a number of Air Force personnel refused to allow the nuclear armed B-52 to fly in a covert mission to Iran outside the normal chain of military command. Madsen describes the nature of the internal conflict over the B-52 incident: “Command and control breakdowns involving U.S. nuclear weapons are unprecedented, except for that fact that the U.S. military is now waging an internal war against neo-cons who are embedded in the U.S. government and military chain of command who are intent on using nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive war with Iran.”

Madsen is alluding here to the most plausible explanation for the source of orders leading to the B-52 incident. The orders emanated from the office of the Vice President, and in particular Dick Cheney himself. Cheney’s orders were opposed all the way up the Department of Defense hierarchy including Admiral William Fallon, Commander of Central Command, and Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. This is supported by a recent report in the Telegraph newspaper that Gates has become the chief opponent to Dick Cheney’s plans to commit the U.S. to another war against Iran and is encouraging military officers to be more candid in their assessments of a new conflict.

What makes the B-52 incident even more disturbing is that six nuclear cruise missiles left Minot Air Force Base, and the initial Military Times report on September 5 reported that five nuclear warheads were discovered at Barksdale Air Force Base. This was subsequently revised by the Military Times to six in an updated story five days later on September 10. How could the Air Force mix up how many nuclear weapons were initially involved in the incident? The most plausible explanation is that there had been a discrepancy in the number of nuclear weapons that had left Minot and what had been later discovered at Barksdale? The nuclear armed B-52 had been sitting on the tarmac in an unsecured military environment for up to 10 hours before its nuclear payload was discovered. This offered plenty of time for the removal of one of the nuclear weapons. Such an event had to be covered up for national security purposes which is why the Military Times revised its initial report. The possibility of a missing nuclear weapon is augmented by an unprecedented official standown by the Air Force on September 14 where all planes were grounded allegedly to review Standard Operating Procedures. Was the Air Force really conducting an emergency inventory to locate any missing nuclear weapons?

This raises the disturbing possibility that not only was the B-52 ordered to participate in a covert mission to attack Iran outside the regular chain of military command, but that one of its nuclear weapons was secretly siphoned off for another covert mission. If Dick Cheney did give the order for the nuclear weapons to be loaded on to the B-52, it is highly likely that he is aware of the location and potential use of the missing nuclear missile. A number of serious questions therefore need to be asked about the appropriateness of Cheney being in charge of TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield. This is even more urgent if there is a missing nuclear warhead that was taken from the B-52 for a yet undisclosed mission. Could this mission be related to the TOPOFF and Vigilant Shield exercises?

In a Presidential Statement released on May 21, 2001, President Bush gave Vice President Cheney the power to coordinate national efforts in response to terrorist attacks: “I have asked Vice President Cheney to oversee the development of a coordinated national effort so that we may do the very best possible job of protecting our people from catastrophic harm.” An “Office of National Preparedness” was created to implement the “national effort overseen by Vice President Cheney” and would “coordinate all Federal programs dealing with weapons of mass destruction consequence management within the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies.” Effectively, this means that during TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield, VP Cheney will be responsible for all efforts to respond to weapons of mass destruction. He will have the power of override any Department of Defense objections to activities concerning “consequence management” of nuclear weapons. If there was a missing nuclear weapon from the B-52 incident, then TOPOFF and Vigilant Shield could provide the cover for its use.

The possible use of the B-52 missing nuclear weapon could trigger the martial law scenario found in National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 51 after the declaration of a “Catastrophic Emergency.” NSPD 51 defines a “Catastrophic Emergency” as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.” Once declaring such an emergency, President Bush or his successors according to Continuity of Government provisions, can take over all governmental functions at local, state and national levels, as well as private sector activities, to ensure the U.S. emerges from the emergency with an "enduring constitutional government."

So far, the Air Force inquiry is classified and information on a possible missing nuclear weapon has not been disclosed. It is unlikely that much information will be disclosed to the public for national security reasons. The only U.S. Congressman calling for an official public inquiry into the B-52 incident is Dennis Kucinich. As long as the role of Dick Cheney in the B-52 incident is not investigated and the missing nuclear weapon is not located, Cheney should be removed from any position of authority in coordinating civil and military responses to any simulated terrorist attack. Such exercises provide him the opportunity and authority to secretly approve the covert use of a nuclear device that can be used to trigger a declaration of a “Catastrophic Emergency.” U.S. National Security is not served by Dick Cheney having a prominent role in leading TOPOFF 4, Vigilant Shield and any future simulated terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Interesting Reading for Oct 15, 2007

The gods orchestrating the strings of modern finance offer us a Faustian solution: the pleasure of consumption without the pain of saving. Did Mr. and Mrs. Consumer spend more money than they have in the bank? No worries, they can pay it back next month…or the month after…or maybe never.
They’ve been told to expect more for less… They’ve been assured that it’s O.K. to spend more than you make.
This is the game that caters to a new American generation…an entitlement class of children playing children’s games…a generation weaned on the bottle of instant gratification.
The reason seems simple. People find comfort in knowing lots of other people have made the same choices…like fans routing for a sports team. Human beings naturally gravitate towards the crowd. And “crowds cannot think. They can only feel and act.”
So their behavior only seems rational in the fact that “everybody’s doing it.”


And so we come closer to understanding why it is that today's babylonian christianity is so popular. It's the mindless, spiritless power of the mob. It must be right if everyone's doing it right?

Matt 7:13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The crowd is headed through the broad gate that leads to destruction. They comfort each other as they head into the abyss. Men's persuasive words never saved anyone.

1Thess 1:4 knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election, 5 how that our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake.

Words are not enough, it takes words, POWER and the assurance of the Holy Spirit to save men. Men have to love the truth and hate lies but most today love lies and hate the truth. Is the Spirit of God going to hand over the precious gift of His presence to men like this, NO.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pastors (more)

Or The Rise and Growth of the Clerisy


"But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. "
"So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate" - (Rev 2:6,15)
The address to Pergamos follows that to Smyrna. This next stage of the Church’s journey in its departure (alas!) from truth may easily be recognized historically. It applies to the time when, after having passed through the heathen persecution, and the faithfulness of many an Antipas being brought out by it, it got publicly recognized and established in the world. The characteristic of this epistle is, the Church dwelling where Satan’s throne is. "Throne" it should be, not "seat." Now Satan has his throne, not in hell, which is his prison, and where he never reigns at all, but in the world, he is expressly called the "prince of this world." To dwell where Satan’s throne is, is to settle down in the world, under Satan’s government, so to speak, and protection. That is what people call the establishment of the Church. It took place in Constantine’s time. Although amalgamation with the world had been growing for a long time more and more decided, yet it was then that the Church stepped into the seats of the old heathen idolatry. It was what people call the triumph of Christianity, but the result was that the Church had the things of the world now as never before, in secure possession: the chief place in the world was hers, and the principles of the world every-where pervaded her.
The very name of "Pergamos" intimates that. It is a word (without the particle attached to it, which is itself significant,) - really meaning "marriage," and the Church’s marriage before Christ comes to receive her to Himself is necessarily unfaithfulness to Him to whom she is espoused. It is the marriage of the Church and the world which the epistle to Pergamos speaks of - the end of a courtship which had been going on long before.
There is something, however, which is preliminary to this, and mentioned in the very first address; but there it is evidently incidental, and does not characterize the state of things. In the first address, to the Ephesians, the Lord says, "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate" (2:6). Here it is more than the "deeds" of the Nicolaitanes. There are now not merely "deeds," but "doctrine." And the Church, instead of repudiating it, was holding with it. In the Ephesian days, they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes; but in Pergamos, they "had," and did not reprobate, those who held the doctrine.
The question now before us is, How shall we interpret this? and we shall find that the word "Nicolaitanes" is the only thing really which we have to interpret it by. People have tried very hard to show that there was a sect of the Nicolaitanes, but it is owned by writers now almost on all sides to be very doubtful. Nor can we conceive why, in epistles of the character which we have seen these to have, there should be such repeated and emphatic mention of a mere obscure sect, about which people can tell us little or nothing, and that seems manufactured to suit the passage before us. The Lord solemnly denounces it: "Which thing I hate." It must have a special importance with Him, and be of moment in the Church’s history, little apprehended as it may have been. And another thing which we have to remember is, that it is not the way of Scripture to send us to church histories, or to any history at all, in order to interpret its sayings. God’s Word is its own interpreter, and we have not to go elsewhere in order to find out what is there; otherwise it becomes a question of learned men searching and finding out for those who have not the same means or abilities, applications which must be taken on their authority alone. This He would not leave His people to. Besides, it is the ordinary way in Scripture, and especially in passages of a symbolical character, such as is the part before us, for the names to be significant. I need not remind you how abundantly in the Old Testament this is the case; and in the New Testament, although less noticed, I cannot doubt but that there is the same significance throughout.
Here, if we are left simply to the name, it is one sufficiently startling and instructive. Of course, to those who spoke the language used, the meaning would be no hidden or recondite thing, but as apparent as those of Bunyan’s allegories. It means, then, "Conquering the people." The last part of the word ("Laos") is the word used in Greek for "the people," and it is the word from which the commonly used term "Laity" is derived. The Nicolaitanes were just those "subjecting - putting down the laity" the mass of Christian people, in order unduly to lord it over them.
What makes this clearer is, that, - side by side with the Nicolaitanes in the epistle to Pergamos, - we have those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, a name whose similarity in meaning has been observed by many. "Balaam" is a Hebrew word, as the other is a Greek; but its meaning is, "Destoryer of the people," a very significant one in view of his history; and as we read of the "doctrine of the Nicolaitanes," so we read of a "doctrine of Balaam."
You have pointed out what he "taught" Balak. Balaam’s doctrine was, "to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication." For this purpose he enticed them to mixture with the nations, from which God had carefully separated them. That needful separation broken down was their destruction, so far as it prevailed. In like manner we have seen the Church to be called out from the world, and it is only too easy to apply the divine type in this case. But here we have a confessedly typical people, with a corresponding significant name, and in such close connection as naturally to confirm the reading of the similar word, "Nicolaitanes," as similarly significant. I shall have to speak more of this at another time, if the Lord will. Let us notice now the development of Nicolaitanism. It is, first of all, certain people who have this character, and who (I am merely translating the word.) first take the place of superiors over the people. Their "deeds" show what they are. There is no "doctrine" yet; but it ends in Pergamos, with the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. The place is assumed now to be theirs by right. There is a doctrine - a teaching about it, received at least by some, and to which the Church at large - nay, on the whole true souls, have become indifferent.
Now what has come in between these two things, - the "deeds" and the "doctrine"? What we were looking at last time - the rise of a party whom the Lord marks out as those who said they were Jews and were not, but who were the synagogue of Satan: the adversary’s attempt (alas! too successful) to Judaize the Church.
We were looking but a little while since at what the characteristics of Judaism are. It was a probationary system, a system of trial, in which it was to be seen if man could produce a righteousness for God. We know the end of the trial, and that God pronounced "none righteous - no, not one." And then alone it was that God could manifest His grace. As long as He was putting man under trial, He could not possibly open the way to His own presence and justify the sinner there. He had, as long as this trial went on, to shut him out; for on that ground, nobody could see God and live. Now the very essence of Christianity is that all are welcomed in. There is an open door, and ready access, where the blood of Christ entitles every one, however much a sinner, to draw near to God, and to find, in the first place, at His hand, justification as ungodly. To see God in Christ is not to die, but live. And what, further, is the consequence of this? The people who have come this way to Him, - the people who have found the way of access through the peace-speaking blood into His presence, learned what He is in Christ, and been justified before God, are able to take, and taught to take, a place distinct from all others, as now His, children of the Father, members of Christ - His body. That is the Church, a body called out, separate from the world.
Judaism, on the other hand, necessarily mixed all together. Nobody there could take such a place with God: nobody could cry, "Abba, Father," really; therefore there could not be any separation. This had been then a necessity, and of God, no doubt; but now, Judaism being set up again, after God had abolished it, it was no use, it is no use, to urge that it was once of Him; its setting up was the too successful work of the enemy against His gospel and against His Church. He brands these Judaizers as the "synagogue of Satan."
Now we can understand at once, when the Church in its true character was practically lost sight of, when Church-members meant people baptized by water instead of by the Holy Ghost, or when the baptism of water and of the Holy Ghost were reckoned one, (and this very early became accepted doctrine,) how of course the Jewish synagogue was practically again set up. It became more and more impossible to speak of Christians being at peace with God, or saved. They were hoping to be, and sacraments and ordinances became means of grace to insure, as far as might be, a far-off salvation.
Let us see how far this would help on the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. It is plain that when and as the Church sank into the synagogue, the Christian people became practically what of old the Jewish had been. Now, what was that position? As I have said, there was no real drawing near to God at all. Even the high- priest, who (as a type of Christ,) entered into the holiest once a year, on the day of atonement, had to cover the mercy-seat with a cloud of incense that he might not die. But the ordinary priests could not enter there at all, but only into the outer holy place; while the people in general could not come in even there. And this was expressly designed as a witness of their condition. It was the result of failure on their part; for God’s offer to them, which you may find in the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, was this: "Now, therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine; and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation."
They were thus conditionally offered equal nearness of access to God, - they should be all priests. But this was rescinded, for they broke the covenant; and then a special family is put into the place of priests, the rest of the people being put into the background, and only able to draw near to God through these.
Thus a separate and intermediate priesthood characterized Judaism, as on the other hand, for the same reason, what we should call now missionary-work there was none. There was no going out to the world in this way, no provision, no command, to preach the law at all. What, in fact, could they say? that God was in the thick darkness? that no one could see Him and live? It is surely evident there was no "good news" there. Judaism had no true gospel. The absence of the evangelist and the presence of the intermediate priesthood told the same sorrowful story, and were in perfect keeping with each other.
Such was Judaism; how different, then, is Christianity! No sooner had the death of Christ rent the vail, and opened a way of access into the presence of God, than at once there was a gospel, and the new order is, "Go out into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." God is making Himself known, and "is He the God of the Jews only?" Can you confine that within the bounds of a nation? No; the fermentation of the new wine would burst the bottles.
The intermediate priesthood was, on the other hand, done away; for all the Christian people are priests now to God. What was conditionally offered to Israel is now an accomplished fact in Christianity. We are a kingdom of priests; and it is, in the wisdom of God, Peter, ordained of man the great head of ritualism, who in his first epistle announces the two things which destroy ritualism root and branch for those who believe him. First, that we are "born again," not of baptism, but "by the word of God, that liveth and abideth for-ever;" and this, "the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." Secondly, instead of a set of priests, he says to all Christians, "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priest-hood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (2:5). The sacrifices are spiritual, praise and thanksgiving, and our lives and bodies also (Heb. 13:15, 16; Rom. 12:1); but this is to be with us true priestly work, and thus do our lives get their proper character: they are the thank-offering service of those able to draw nigh to God.
In Judaism, let me repeat, no one drew really nigh; but the people - the laity (for it is only a Greek word made English,) - the people not even as the priest could. The priestly caste, wherever it is found, means the same thing. There is no drawing nigh of the whole body of the people at all. It means distance from God, and darkness, - God shut out.
Let us see now what is the meaning of a clergy. It is, in our day, and has been for many generations, the word which specially marks out a class distinguished from the "laity," and distinguished by being given up to sacred things, and having a place of privilege in connection with them which the laity have not. No doubt in the present day this special place is being more and more infringed on, and for two reasons. One is, that God has been giving light, and, among Protestants at least, Scripture is opposing itself to tradition, - modifying where it does not destroy this. The other is a merely human one - that the day is democratic, and class-privileges are breaking down.
But what means this class? It is evident that as thus distinguished from the laity, and privileged beyond them, it is real and open Nicolaitanism, if Scripture does not make good their claim. For then the laity has been subjected to them, and that is the exact meaning of the term. Does Scripture, then, use such terms? It is plain it does not. They are, as regards the New Testament, an invention of later date, although, it may be admitted, as imported really from what is older than the New, - the Judaism with which the Church (as we have seen,) was quickly permeated.
But we must see the important principles involved, to see how the Lord has (as He must have) cause to say of the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, "Which I also hate." We too, if we would be in communion with the Lord in this must hate what He hates.
I am not speaking of people (God forbid!): I am speaking of a thing. Our unhappiness is, that we are at the end of a long series of departures from God, and as a consequence, we grow up in the midst of many things which come down to us as "tradition of the elders," associated with names which we all revere and love, upon whose authority in reality we have accepted them, without ever having looked at them really in the light of God’s presence. And there are many thus whom we gladly recognize as truly men of God and servants of God in a false position. It is of that position I am speaking. I am speaking of a thing, as the Lord does: "Which thing I hate." He does not say, Which people I hate. Although in those days evil of this kind was not an inheritance, as now, and the first propagators of it, of course, had a responsibility, self- deceived as they may have been, peculiarly their own. Still, in this matter as in all others, we need not be ashamed or afraid to be where the Lord is; - nay, we cannot be with Him in this unless we are; and He says of Nicolaitanism, "Which thing I hate."
Because what does it mean? It means a spiritual caste, or class, - a set of people having officially a right to leadership in spiritual things; a nearness to God, derived from official place, not spiritual power: in fact, the revival, under other names, and with various modifications, of that very intermediate priesthood which distinguished Judaism, and which Christianity emphatically disclaims. That is what a clergy means; and in contradiction to these, the rest of Christians are but the laity, the seculars, necessarily put back into more or less of the old distance, which the cross of Christ has done away.
We see, then, why it needed that the Church should be Judaized before the deeds of the Nicolaitanes could ripen into a "doctrine." The Lord even had authorized obedience to scribes and Pharisees sitting in Moses’ seat; and to make this text apply, as people apply it now, Moses’ seat had of course to be set up in the Christian Church: this done, and the mass of Christians degraded from the priesthood Peter spoke of, into mere "lay members," the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes was at once established.
Understand me fully, that I am in no wise questioning the divine institution of the Christian ministry. God forbid! for ministry in the fullest sense is characteristic of Christianity, as I have already in fact maintained. Nor do I, while believing that all true Christians are ministers also by the very fact, deny a special and distinctive ministry of the Word, as what God has given to some and not to all - though for the use of all. No one truly taught of God can deny that some, not all, among Christians have the place of evangelist, pastor, teacher. Scripture makes more of this than current views do; for it teaches that every true minister is a gift from Christ, in His care, as Head of the Church, for His people, and one who has his place from God alone, and is responsible in that character to God, and God alone. The miserable system which I see around degrades him from this blessed place, and makes him in fact little more than the manufacture and the servant of men. While giving, it is true, a place of lordship over people which gratifies a carnal mind, still it fetters the spiritual man, and puts him in chains; every where giving him an artificial conscience toward man, hindering in fact his conscience being properly before God.
Let me briefly state what the Scripture-doctrine of the ministry is - it is a very simple one. The Assembly of God is Christ’s body; all the members are members of Christ. There is no other membership in Scripture than this - the membership of Christ’s body, to which all true Christians belong: not many bodies of Christ, but one body; not many Churches, but one Church.
There is of course a different place for each member of the body by the very fact that he is such. All members have not the same office: there is the eye, the ear, and so on, but they are all necessary, and all necessarily ministering, in some way or sense, to one another.
Every member has its place, not merely locally, and for the benefit of certain other members, but for the benefit of the whole body.
Each member has its gift, as the apostle teaches distinctly. "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, etc. (Rom. 12:4-6.)
In the twelfth chapter of first Corinthians, the apostle speaks at large of these gifts; and he calls them by a significant name - "manifestations of the Spirit." They are gifts of the Spirit, of course; but more, they are "manifestations of the Spirit;" they manifest themselves where they are found, - where (I need scarcely add that I mean,) there is spiritual discernment, - where souls are before God.
For instance, if you take the gospel of God, whence does it derive its authority and power? From any sanction of men? any human credentials of any kind? or from its own inherent power? I dare maintain, that the common attempt to authenticate the messenger takes away from instead of adding to the power of the Word. God’s Word must be received as such: he that receives it sets to his seal that God is true. Its ability to meet the needs of heart and conscience is derived from the fact that it is "God’s good news," who knows perfectly what man’s need is, and has provided for it accordingly. He who has felt its power knows well from whom it comes. The work and witness of the Spirit of God in the soul need no witness of man to supplement them.
Even the Lord’s appeal in His own case was to the truth He uttered: "If I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me?" When He stood forth in the Jewish synagogue, or elsewhere, He was but in men’s eyes a poor carpenter’s son, accredited by no school or set of men at all. All the weight of authority was ever against Him. He disclaimed even "receiving testimony from men." God’s Word alone should speak for God. "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me." And how did it approve itself? By the fact of its being truth. "If I speak the truth, why do you not believe Me?" It was the truth that was to make its way with the true. "He that will do God’s will shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself." He says, "I speak the truth, I bring it to you from God; and if it is truth, and if you are seeking to do God’s will, you will learn to recognize it as the truth." God will not leave people in ignorance and darkness, if they are seek-ing to be doers of His will. Can you suppose that God will allow true hearts to be deceived by what- ever plausible deceptions may be abroad? He is able to make His voice known by those who seek to hear His voice. And so the Lord says to Pilate, "Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice." (John 18:37.) "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;" and again, "A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers." (John 10:27,5.)
Such is the nature of truth, then, that to pretend to authenticate it to those who are themselves true is to dishonor it, as if it were not capable of self- evidence, and so dishonor God, as if He could be wanting to souls, or to what He Himself has given.
Nay, the apostle speaks of "by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2): and the Lord, of its being the condemnation of the world, that "light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). There was no lack of evidence: light was there, and men owned its power to their own condemnation, when they sought escape from it.
Even so in the gift was there "the manifestation of the Spirit," and it was "given to every man to profit withal." By the very fact that he had it, he was responsible to use it - responsible to Him who had not given it in vain. In the gift itself lay the ability to minister, and title too; for I am bound to help and serve with what I have. And if souls are helped, they need scarcely ask if I had commission to do it.
This is the simple character of ministry - the service of love, according to the ability which God gives, mutual service of each to each and each to all, without jostling or exclusion of one another. Each gift was thrown into the common treasury, and all were the richer by it. God’s blessing and the manifestation of the Spirit were all the sanction needed. All were not teachers, still less public teachers, of the Word; still in these cases, the same principles exactly applied. That was but one department of a service which had many, and which was rendered by each to each according to his sphere.
Was there nothing else than that? Was there no ordained class at all, then? That is another thing altogether. There were, without doubt, in the primitive Church, two classes of officials, regularly appointed, or (if you like) ordained. The deacons were those who, having charge of the fund for the poor and other purposes, were chosen by the saints first for this place of trust in their behalf, and then appointed authoritatively by apostles mediately or immediately. Elders were a second class, - elderly men, as the word imports, - who were appointed in the local assemblies as "bishops," or "overseers," to take cognizance of their state. That the elders were the same as bishops may be seen in Paul’s words to the elders of Ephesus, where he exhorts them to "take heed to . . . . all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers." There they have translated the word, "bishops," but in Titus they have left it - "that thou shouldest ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee; if any be blameless . . . . for a bishop must be blameless." (Acts 20:28; Tit. 1:5,7.)
Their work was to "oversee," and although for that purpose their being "apt to teach" was a much-needed qualification, in view of errors already rife, yet no one could suppose that teaching was confined to those who were "elders," "husbands of one wife, having their children in subjection with all gravity." This was a needed test for one who was to be a bishop; "for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?" (1 Tim. 3:1-7.)
Whatever gifts they had they used, as all did, and thus the apostle directs - "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine (5:17). But they might rule, and rule well, without this.
The meaning of their ordination was just this, that here it was not a question of "gift," but of authority. It was a question of title to take up and look into, often difficult and delicate matters, among people too very likely in no state to submit to what was merely spiritual. The ministration of gift was another thing, and free, under God, to all.
Thus much, very briefly, as to Scripture-doctrine. Our painful duty is now to put in contrast with it the system I am deprecating, according to which a distinct class are devoted formally to spiritual things, and the people - the laity - are in the same ratio excluded from such occupation. This is true Nicolaitanism, - the "subjection of the people."
Again I say, not only that ministry of the Word is entirely right, but that there are those who have special gift and responsibility (though still not exclusive) to minister it. But priesthood is another thing, and a thing sufficiently distinct to be easily recognized where it is claimed or in fact exists. I am, of course, aware that Protestants in general disclaim any priestly powers for their ministers. I have no wish nor thought of disputing their perfect honesty in this disavowal. They mean that they have no thought of the minister having any authoritative power of absolution; and that they do not make the Lord’s table an altar, whereon afresh day after day the perfection of Christ’s one offering is denied by countless repetitions. They are right in both respects, but it is scarcely the whole matter. If we look more deeply, we shall find that much of a priestly character may attach where neither of these have the least place.
Priesthood and ministry may be distinguished in this way: Ministry (in the sense we are now considering) is to men; priesthood is to God. The minister brings God’s message to the people, - he speaks for Him to them: the priest goes to God for the people, - he speaks in the reverse way, for them to Him. It is surely easy to distinguish these two attitudes.
"Praise and thanksgiving" are spiritual "sacrifices:" they are part of our offering as priests. Put a special class into a place where regularly and officially they act thus for the rest, they are at once in the rank of an intermediate priesthood, - mediators with God for those who are not so near.
The Lord’s supper is the most prominent and fullest expression of Christian thankfulness and adoration publicly and statedly; but what Protestant minister does not look upon it as his official right to administer this? what "layman" would not shrink from the profanation of administering it? And this is one of the terrible evils of the system, that the mass of Christian people are thus distinctly secularized. Occupied with worldly things, they cannot be expected to be spiritually what the clergy are. And to this they are given over, as it were. They are released from spiritual occupations, to which they are not equal, and to which others give themselves entirely.
But this must evidently go much further. "The priest’s lips should keep knowledge." The laity, who have become that by abdicating their priesthood, how should they retain the knowledge belonging to a priestly class? The unspirituality to which they have given themselves up pursues them here. The class whose business it is, become the authorized interpreters of the Word also, for how should the secular man know so well what Scripture means? Thus the clergy become spiritual eyes and ears and mouth for the laity, and are in the fair way of becoming the whole body too.
But it suits people well. Do not mistake me as if I meant that this is all come in as the assumption of a class merely. It is that, no doubt ; but never could this miserable and unscriptural distinction of clergy and laity have obtained so rapidly as it did, and so universally, if every where it had not been found well adapted to the tastes of those even whom it really displaced and degraded. Not alone in Israel, but in christendom also, has it been fulfilled: "The prophets prophecy falsely, and the priests bear rule through their means, and My people love to have it so!" Alas! they did, and they do. As spiritual decline sets in, the heart that is turning to the world barters readily, Esau- like, its spiritual birthright for a mess of pottage. It exchanges thankfully its need of caring too much for spiritual things, with those who will accept the responsibility of this. Worldliness is well covered with a layman’s cloak; and as the Church at large dropped out of first love, (as it did rapidly, and then the world began to come in through the loosely guarded gates,) it became more and more impossible for the rank and file of christendom to take the blessed and wonderful place which belonged to Christians. The step taken downward, instead of being retrieved, only made succeeding steps each one easier; until, in less than three hundred years from the beginning, a Jewish priesthood and a ritualistic religion were every-where installed. Only so much the worse, as the precious things of Christianity left their names at least as spoils to the invader, and the shadow became for most the substance itself.
But I must return to look more particularly at one feature in this clerisy. I have noted the confounding of ministry and priesthood; the assumption of an official title in spiritual things, of title to administer the Lord’s supper, and I might have added also, to baptize. For none of these things can scripture be found at all. But I must dwell a little more on the emphasis that is laid on ordination.
I want you to see a little more what ordination means. In the first place, if you look through the New Testament, you will find nothing about ordination to teach or to preach. You find people going about every where freely exercising whatever gift they had; the whole Church was scattered abroad from Jerusalem except the apostles, and they went every where preaching (literally, evangelizing) the Word. The persecution did not ordain them, I suppose. So with Apollos: so with Philip the deacon. There is, in fact, no trace of any thing else. Timothy received a gift of prophecy, by the laying on of Paul’s hands with those of the elders; but that was gift, not authorization to use it. So he is bidden to communicate his own knowledge to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also; but there is not a word about ordaining them. The case of elders I have already noticed. That of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch is the most unhappy that can be for the purpose people use it for; for prophets and teachers are made to ordain an apostle, and one who totally disclaims being that. "of men or by man." And there the Holy Ghost (not confers power of ordaining any, but) says, "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereto I have called them," - a special missionary journey, which it is shown afterward they had fulfilled. (See Acts 8, 11, 13, 18; 1 Tim., etc.)
Now, what means this "ordination"? It means much, you may be sure, or it would not be so zealously contended for as it is. There are, no doubt, two phases of it. In the most extreme, as among Romanists and ritualists, there is claimed for it in the fullest way that it is the conveyance, not merely of authority, but of spiritual power. They assume with all the power of apostles to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands, and here for priesthood in the fullest way. The people of God as such are rejected from the priesthood He has given them, and a special class are put into their place to mediate for them in a way which sets aside the fruit of Christ’s work, and ties them to the Church as the channel of all grace. Among Prot-estants, you think perhaps I need not dwell on this; but it is done among some of these also, in words which to a certain class of them seem strangely to mean nothing, while another class find in them the abundant sanction of their highest pretensions.
Those, on the other hand, who rightly and consistently reject these unchristian assumptions do not pretend indeed to confer any gift in ordination, but only to "recognize" the gift which God has given. But then, after all, this recognition is considered necessary before the person can baptize or administer the Lord’s supper, - things which really require no peculiar gift at all. And as to the ministry of the Word, God’s gift is made to require human sanction, and is "recognized" on behalf of His people by those who are considered to have a discernment which the people as such have not. Blind themselves or not, these men are to become "leaders of the blind;" else why need others to be eyes for them, while their own souls are taken out of the place of immediate responsibility to God, and made responsible unduly to man? An artificial conscience is manufactured for them, and conditions are constantly imposed, to which they have to conform in order to obtain the needful recognition. It is well if they are not under the control of their ordainers as to their path of service also, as they generally are.
In principle, this is unfaithfulness to God; for if He has given me gift to use for Him, I am surely unfaithful if I go to any man or body of men to ask their leave to use it. The gift itself carries with it the responsibility of using it, as we have seen. If they say, "But people may make mistakes," I own it thoroughly; but who is to assume my responsibility if I am mistaken? And again, the mistakes of an ordaining body are infinitely more serious than those of one who merely runs unsent. Their mistakes are consecrated and perpetuated by the ordination they bestow; and the man who, if he stood simply upon his own merits, would soon find his true level, has a character conferred upon him by it which the whole weight of the system must sustain. Mistake or not, he is none the less one of the clerical body, - a minister, if he has nothing really to minister. He must be provided for, if only with some less conspicuous place, where souls, dear to God as any, are put under his care, and must be unfed if he cannot feed them.
Do not accuse me of sarcasm; it is the system I am speaking of which is a sarcasm, - a swathing of the body of Christ in bands which hinder the free circulation of the vitalizing blood which should be permeating unrestrictedly the whole of it. Nature itself should rebuke the folly - the enormous inference from such scriptural premises as that apostles and apostolic men "ordained elders"! They must prove that they are either, and (granting them that,) that the Scripture "elder" might be no elder at all, but a young unmarried man just out of his teens, and on the other hand was evangelist, pastor, teacher - all God’s various gifts rolled into one. This is the minister (according to the system, indeed, the minister,) - the all in all to the fifty or five hundred souls who are committed to him as "his flock," with which no other has title to interfere! Surely, surely, the brand of "Nicolaitanism" is upon the forefront of such a system as this!
Take it at its best, the man, if gifted at all, is scarcely likely to have every gift. Suppose he is an evangelist, and souls are happily converted; he is no teacher, and cannot build them up. Or he is a teacher, sent to a place where there are but a few Christians, and the mass of his congregation unconverted men. There are no conversions, and his presence there (according to the system) keeps away the evangelist who is needed there. Thank God! He is ever breaking up these systems, and in some irregular way the need may be supplied. But the supply is schismatical and a confusion: the new wine breaks the poor human bottles.
For all this the system is responsible. The exclusive ministry of one man or of a number of men in a congregation has no shred of Scripture to support it; while the ordination, as we have seen is the attempt to confine all ministry to a certain class, and make it rest on human authorization rather than on divine gift, the people, Christ’s sheep, being denied their competency to hear His voice. The inevitable tendency is, to fix upon the man the attention which should be devoted to the word he brings. The question is, Is he accredited? If he speak truly is subordinated to the question, Is he ordained? or, perhaps I should say; his orthodoxy is settled already for them by the fact of his ordination.
Paul, an apostle, not of men, nor by man, could not have been, upon this plan, received. There were apostles before him, and he neither went up to them nor got any thing from them. If there were a succession, he was a break in the succession. And what he did he did designedly, to show that his gospel was not after man (Gal. 1:11), and that it might not rest upon the authority of man. Nay, if he himself preached a different gospel from that he had preached, (for there was not another,) - yea, or an angel from heaven (where the authority, if that were in question, might seem conclusive), his solemn decision is, "Let him be accursed."
Authority, then, is nothing if it be not the au-thority of the Word of God. That is the test - Is it according to the Scriptures? "If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch?" To say, "I could not, of course, know: I trusted another," will not save you from the ditch.
But the unspiritual and unlearned layman, how can he pretend to equal knowledge with the educated and accredited minister devoted to spiritual things? In point of fact, in general he does not. He yields to the one who should know better; and practically the minister’s teaching largely supplants the authority of the Word of God. Not that certainty, indeed, is thus attained. He cannot conceal it from himself that people differ - wise and good and learned and accredited as they may be. But here the devil steps in, and, if God has allowed men’s "authorities" to get into a Babel of confusion, as they have, suggests to the unwary soul that the confusion must be the result of the obscurity of Scripture, whereas they have got into it by disregarding Scripture.
But this is every where! Opinion, not faith; - opinion to which you are welcome and have a right, of course; and you must allow others a right to theirs. You may say, "I believe," as long as you do not mean by that, "I know." To claim "knowledge" is to claim that you are wiser, more learned, better, than whole generations before you, who thought opposite to you.
Need I show you how infidelity thrives upon this? how Satan rejoices when for the simple and emphatic "Yea" of the divine voice he succeeds in substituting the Yea and Nay of a host of jarring commentators? Think you can fight the Lord’s battles with the rush of human opinion instead of "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God"? Think you "Thus saith John Calvin, or John Wesley," will meet Satan as satisfactorily as "Thus saith the Lord"?
Who can deny that such thoughts are abroad, and in no wise confined to papists or ritualists? The tendency, alas! is, in the heart of unbelief ever departing from the living God, - as near to His own to-day as at any time through the centuries His Church has traveled on, as competent to instruct as ever, as ready to fulfill the word, "He that will do His will shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." The "eyes are of the heart," and not the head. He has hidden from wise and prudent what He reveals to babes. The school of God is more effectual than all colleges combined, and here layman and cleric are equal: "he that is spiritual discerneth all things," and he alone. Substitute for spirituality there is none: unspirituality the Spirit of God alone can remedy. Ordination, such as practiced, is rather a sanction put upon it, - an attempt to manifest what is the manifestation of the Spirit, or not His work at all, and to provide leaders for the blind, whom with all their care they cannot insure not being blind also.
Before I close, I must say a few words about "succession." An ordination which pretends to be derived from the apostles must needs be (to be consistent,) a successional one. Who can confer authority (and in the least and lowest theories of ordination authority is conferred, as to baptize, and to administer the Lord’s supper,) but one himself authorized for this very purpose? You must, therefore, have a chain of ordained men, lineally succeeding one another. Apostolic succession is as necessary on the presbyterian as on the episcopalian plan. John Wesley, as his warrant for ordaining, fell back upon the essential oneness of bishop and presbyter. Nay, presbyterians will urge against episcopalians the ease of maintaining succession in this way. I have nothing to do with this: I only insist that succession is needed.
But then, mark the result. It is a thing apart alike from spirituality and from truth even. A Romish priest may have it as well as any; and indeed through the gutter of Rome most of that we have around us must necessarily have come down. Impiety and impurity do not in the least invalidate Christ’s commission. The teacher of false doctrine may be as well His messenger as the teacher of truth. Nay, the possession of the truth, with gift to minister it and godliness combined, are actually no part of the credentials of the true ambassador. He may have all these and be none; he may want them all and be truly one nevertheless.
Who can believe such doctrine? Can He who is truth accredit error? - the righteous One unrighteousness? It is impossible. This ecclesiasticism violates every principle of morality, and hardens the conscience that has to do with it. For why need we be careful for truth if He is not? and how can He send messengers that He would not have to be believed? His own test of a true witness fails; for "he that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him." His own test of credibility fails, for "If I speak the truth, why do ye not believe Me?" was His own appeal.
No: to state this principle is to condemn it. He who foresaw and predicted the failure of what should have been the bright and evident witness of His truth and grace, could not ordain a succession of teachers for it who should carry His commission unforfeitable by whatever failure! Before apostles had left the earth, the house of God had become as a "great house," and it was necessary to separate from vessels to dishonor in it, He who bade His apostle to instruct another to "follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart," could not possibly tell us to listen to men who are alien from all this, as His ministers, and having His commission in spite of all. And thus notably, in the second epistle to Timothy, in which this is said, there is no longer, as in the first, any talk of elders or of ordained men. It is "faithful men" "who are wanted, not for ordination, but for the deposit of the truth committed to Timothy: "The things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
Thus God’s holy Word vindicates itself to the heart and conscience ever. The effort to attach His sanction to a Romish priesthood or a Protestant hierarchy fails alike upon the same ground, for as to this they are upon the same ground. Alas! Nicolaitanism is no past thing - no obscure doc-trine of past ages, but a wide-spread and gigantic system of error, fruitful in evil results. Error is long-lived, though mortal. Reverence it not for its gray hairs, and follow not with a multitude to do evil. With cause does the Lord say in this case, "Which thing I hate." If He does, shall we be afraid to have fellowship with Him? That there are good men entangled in it, all must admit. There are godly men, and true ministers, ignorantly wearing the livery of men. May God deliver them! may they cast aside their fetters and be free! May they rise up to the true dignity of their calling, responsible to God, and walking before Him alone!
On the other hand, beloved brethren, it is of immense importance that all His people, however diverse their places in the body of Christ may be, should realize that they are all as really ministers as they are all priests. We need to recognize that every Christian has spiritual duties flowing from spiritual relationship to every other Christian. It is the privilege of each one to contribute his share to the common treasury of gift, with which Christ has endowed His Church. Nay, he who does not contribute is actually holding back what is his debt to the whole family of God. No possessor of one talent is entitled to wrap it in a napkin upon that account: it would be mere unfaithfulness and unbelief.
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." Brethren in Christ, when shall we awake to the reality of our Lord’s words there? Ours is a never- failing spring of perpetual joy and blessing, which if we but come to when we thirst, out of our bellies shall flow rivers of living water. The spring is not limited by the vessel which receives it: it is divine, and yet ours fully, - fully as can be! Oh to know more this abundance, and the responsibility of the possession of it, in a dry and weary scene like this! Oh to know better the infinite grace which has taken us up as channels of its outflow among men! When shall we rise up to the sense of our common dignity, - to the sweet reality of fellowship with Him who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister"? Oh for unofficial ministry - the overflowing of full hearts into empty ones, so many as there are around us! How we should rejoice, in a scene of want and misery and sin, to find perpetual opportunity to show the competency of Christ’s fullness to meet and minister to every form of it.
Official ministry is practical independence of the Spirit of God. It is to decide that such a vessel shall overflow though at the time, it may be, practically empty; and, on the other hand, that such another shall not overflow, however full He may have filled it up. It proposes, in the face of Him who has come down in Christ’s absence to be the Guardian of His people, to provide for order and for edification, not by spiritual power, but by legislation. It would provide for failure on the part of Christ’s sheep to hear His voice, by making it as far as possible unnecessary for them to do so. It thus sanctions and perpetuates unspirituality, instead of condemning or avoiding it.
It is quite true that in God’s mode of treating it the failure in man’s part may become more evident externally; for He cares little for a correct outside when the heart is nevertheless not right with Him, and He knows well that ability to maintain a correct outside may in fact prevent a truthful judgment of what is our real condition before Him. Men would have upbraided Peter with his attempt to walk upon those waves which made his little faith so manifest. The Lord would only rebuke the littleness of the faith which made him fail. And man still and ever would propose the boat as the remedy for failure, instead of the strength of the Lord’s support, which He made Peter prove. Yet, after all, the boat confessedly may fail, - winds and waves may overthrow it: but "the Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters - yea, than the mighty waves of the sea." Through these many centuries of failure, have we proved Him untrustworthy? Beloved, is it your honest conviction that it is absolutely safe to trust the living God? Then let us make no provision for His failure, however much we may have to own that we have failed! Let us act as if we really trusted Him.
F W Grant