A Defense of God's Sovereignty
(By Zack M. Guess)
Recently a sister in our congregation has been given some material that blatantly denies the sovereignty of God in salvation. The people who have written this profess to be Christians and I have no doubt that at least some of them are. However, they have a very distorted idea of the sovereignty, nature, and purposes of God. Some of the material at least borders on blasphemy, if not being outright guilty of it. I have found my "spiritual blood" being stirred and I cannot keep silent. I feel much as Paul did at Athens, where it is written of him in Ac 17:16, "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." In Christian circles today many are guilty of making idols of the so-called "free will" of man and of humanistic ideas of the "fairness" of God. God must not violate our "free will," and He absolutely must behave Himself according to our ideas of what constitutes fairness.
There is a fundamental distinction in the ways in which those who unabashedly believe in God's absolute sovereignty differ from those who presuppose what might be accurately called a "user friendly" God. The well-known contemporary theologian, J. I. Packer, clearly shows the difference in his excellent Introductory Essay to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. Here we will give a few revealing excerpts from this essay.
Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing.The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We should suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be "helpful" to man-to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction-and too little concerned to glorify God.[The old gospel] was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its centre of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the centre of reference is man.Thus, we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of His redeeming work as if he had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God's love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence "at the door of our hearts" for us to let them in.The Bible is against us when we preach in this way; and the fact that such preaching has become almost standard practice among us only shows how urgent it is that we should review this matter.[i]
So there we have the fundamental difference in how professed Christians think about God. There is the God-centered approach, which produces reverence and Godly fear, and there is the man-centered approach that tends to bring God down to our human level of fairness. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, "I know not what course others may take. But as for me I will worship the sovereign God Who does not give account of His affairs to His puny creatures!"
Some Preliminary Considerations
Dead In Sin
Before we begin to examine the writings in question, let us look at some basic principles. One of the mistakes that people always make when they make salvation between man and God a cooperative endeavor is to have a basic misunderstanding of what it means to be dead in trespasses and sins.[ii] The Bible teaches that until God gives spiritual life as a sovereign act of His Holy Spirit the sinner is spiritually dead. While giving lip service to this fact, those who say a man must do something to obtain spiritual life teach that he is sick-desperately sick perhaps- but still just sick. Joseph Bianchi makes this clear in God Chose to Save. He speaks of two men in a room. One has had his leg cut off with a chain saw. The other has died of a heart attack. They are both told to go to the other side of the room and to come back. The man with the amputated limb has a terrible time of it. He falls on his face, but finally learns to hop on one leg and returns to his side of the room terribly out of breath. But he made it! The man who had the heart attack, however, is still in his coffin.[iii] Chapter Seven in Bianchi's book is revealing titled "When You're Dead You're Dead!" When an individual can get a grasp of this very simple and basic truth he can begin to truly glorify the God of His salvation Who "saved a wretch like me."
The one who teaches that God is not sovereign in salvation says that God loves each member of the human race, without exception. Yet he freely admits that many of these humans that God loves are going to perish eternally under the wrath of God. There are several inconsistencies in this position. According to this hypothesis either God's love turns to hatred or God loves those who are eternally damned as much as He does those who will enjoy eternal bliss. Let us examine each of these propositions.
What about God's love turning to hatred? This is an impossibility for those who believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God. According to Jer 31:3, "The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." One of the attributes of God is His immutability. God does not change. This is made plain in several Scriptures. He says in Mal 3:6, "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." The New Testament confirms this in Jas 1:17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." God does not change; therefore His attributes do not change. Love is one of the attributes of God. The apostle makes this clear in 1Jo 4:16, "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
Thus it is impossible for God's eternal love to turn to hatred.
Cain and Abel? Jacob and Esau? Paul and Judas?
Having established the fact that God's love does not turn to hatred, let us now consider the thesis that God loves those who will spend an eternity in hell as much as He loves those who will forever be with Him in eternal bliss.
This proposition is absurd on the face of it. It flies in the face of reason and revelation to think that God loves Cain just as much as He does Abel. It does not make sense to think that God did as much for Cain as He did for Abel. If that is truly the case then Abel's part in his salvation was just as important as was God's. That is really a blasphemous concept. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. According to Arminianism God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each did as much as possible for the salvation of sinners. However, all this is to no avail without the cooperation of the sinner. God did as much for those in hell as He did for those in heaven. The sinner is the one who made the difference.
God 's word plainly says that He loved Jacob, but that He hated Esau. He did this even before they had an existence. But according to consistent Arminianism, God loved Esau just as much as He did Jacob and made equal provisions for their salvation. Esau may be in hell but God still loves him! This is simply unscriptural and absurd.
For one more example, according to Arminianism God loved Judas as much as He did Paul. Somehow, Paul "accepted Christ as his personal Savior" while Judas did not. Christ died for the sins of Judas, but somehow this payment for sin was not effectual because Judas did not do his part. Friends, this is simply absurd.
All this sounds very simple. That is because it is simple! Satan likes to complicate things so that truth is obscured. Paul warned about this. He said in 2Co 11:3, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
My friends, the only thing that makes sense in salvation is to give God all the credit and all the glory. The simple truth is that God loves a great many people, but He does not love all. If He did he would have saved them all. God is not going to be eternally wringing His hands and agonizing about many whom He passionately loves but who are suffering the pains of the damned.
That is absurd!
The doctrines of grace have always been controversial. In fact Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, anticipated and met objections to God's good pleasure in salvation more than 2000 years ago. He didn't really argue about it. He simply appealed to the sovereign right of the Creator, Judge, and Sustainer of all creatures and things to do what He would with those He had created. It would be well for all of us to consider the sobering words the apostle penned in Ro 9:20-21, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" We live in an irreverent age when men think nothing of questioning and even lashing out against God when He doesn't meet their expectations of how they think He should behave.
The doctrines of grace cut all the ground from under human pride. Most professed Christians do not mind giving God some credit for salvation. They are usually glad to give Him most of the credit. However, many of them just must reserve a little credit for themselves. Sovereign grace gives God 100% of the praise for salvation. There will be no place in heaven for praise for human "soul winners." The song in heaven is the same we should be singing on earth. That song is found in Re 5:9, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." There is not one iota of praise here for anyone except the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is The Tulip Position Scriptural?
It is now time to consider the material the sister came in contact with from those who deny the sovereignty of God in salvation. They begin with an attack on the acronym, TULIP. This is merely a convenient device to describe the grace of God in salvation. The "T" stands for Total Depravity, the scriptural doctrine that teaches that mankind, who fell in Adam in the Garden of Eden, is completely dead in trespasses and sins before God gives him spiritual life. In this condition the sinner is absolutely unable to do one single thing to contribute to his salvation. He is just as dead and unable spiritually as a human corpse is dead and unable naturally. To raise a man from physical death is a miracle to which he contributes nothing. The same principle holds true in the spiritual realm.[iv]
The "U" stands for Unconditional Election. This simply teaches that God, before the foundation of the world, chose those from the human race whom he would save and left the rest in their sins. He did this out of His sovereign good pleasure. This election was not based on anything the sinner would do or not do but simply on the sovereign good pleasure of God.[v]
The "L" stands for Limited Atonement. This Biblical doctrine is also referred to as Particular Redemption. This teaches that Christ was completely successful in eradicating all the sins of all those He died for. He was not disappointed in any way in His great work of salvation. He did not provide provisional salvation that would be made complete only with the cooperation of those for whom He died. His work was actually saving, not potentially so. He purposely limited the atonement to the ones His Father had chosen before the foundation of the world. His redemptive work was always successful on behalf of His particular people who are known in Scripture by such names as "the elect," "my sheep," "His people," and by other designations.[vi]
The "I" stands for Irresistible Grace. This simply means that when God intends to apply His salvation to an individual by actually giving him spiritual life, He is always successful. This work, which is sometimes referred to as "regeneration" or "the new birth," is accomplished by irresistible power. This does not mean that God saves people, kicking and screaming, against their wills. When He saves them He changes their wills. Scripturally, it takes as much power to give an individual spiritual life, as it did to create the world or to raise an individual from the dead. A failure to recognize this is what gives us the phenomenon of "easy believism." All a sinner has to do is to exercise his "free will" and invite Christ to come into his heart. This is impossible for one who is dead in sin. A man dead in sin is not only unable to respond favorably in a spiritual way, but he has an entrenched and radical bias against true religion.[vii]
The "P" stands for Preservation of the saints. This teaches that once a person is saved he cannot lose his salvation. The same God, who did the saving to begin with, maintains that spiritual life in the child of God. A saint may temporarily fall out of fellowship with God, but can never sever his relationship with God.[viii]
Some of the Accusations
Taking Scriptures Out
of Context of Misapplying Them
Those who believe in the sovereignty of God and of giving Him all credit for salvation and of declaring that He has never failed in His intentions are accused of taking Scriptures out of context or of misapplying them. One of these accusations is based on Joh 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." It is alleged that those who believe in the sovereignty of God use this verse to teach the doctrine of election, but that this verse is related to service. Answer: It is certainly true that this passage does relate to service. This verse is not talking about eternal election to salvation. There are at least three types of election taught in the Scriptures. One is the election of nations to fulfill certain functions. The most prominent example of this is Israel.[ix] Another is the election or choice of one to an office. That is the one under consideration here. These men were chosen by God to fill the office of apostle. This even pertained to Judas, as can be seen in Joh 6:70-71. Judas filled the office of an apostle. He was chosen to this office by God. However, Judas was not chosen for salvation or he would have been saved. The third kind of election and the most prominent in Scripture is the election of individuals to salvation. The criticism directed here against those who give all glory to God is therefore invalid and is made because of a misunderstanding of the various kinds of election plainly taught in the Holy Scriptures.
Another objection against those who attribute all glory to the always-successful Savior is based on 2Ti 2:9-10, "Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." The objection is that if the elect are going to be saved anyway, why should anyone put forth great effort to preach the gospel? Answer: We should preach the gospel simply because God has told us to. This is a simple matter of obedience. If a person responds favorably to the gospel this is evidence that he was elected to salvation before the world began. Paul referred to this in 1Th 1:4-5, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." The word of God coming to them in power did not make them elect, but was an evidence of their election. What the gospel does is not to bring life to the elect; it simply reveals the spiritual life that has been implanted in the heart by the Holy Spirit in regeneration. A Scripture that makes this plain is 2Ti 1:10, "But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." Life and immorality are not given by the gospel, but are brought to light or revealed. In fact the word translated "obtain" in 2Ti 2:10 (tugchanoo in the Greek) is translated "enjoy" in Ac 24:3. Paul wanted the elect to come to a knowledge of their God-given salvation so that they could enjoy it and to glorify Him for it.
Still another Scripture used by those who deny God's eternal election of His children to obtain salvation is 2Pe 1:10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." The objection is "how can you make it sure? You either have it or you don't." Answer: The clear answer to this objection is to examine the context and to see what is under consideration. Peter is here talking to people who were already born again. They had "obtained like precious faith." The word translated "obtained" here is a very interesting one. It is the word lanchano. It means, "to obtain by lot."[x] According to this word "the attainment is not by one's own effort or as a result of one's exertions, but is like ripe fruit falling into one's lap."[xi] These people had been saved according to God's electing grace. Their salvation was secure. As is said in Ro 8:33, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." What is under consideration here is not the obtaining of salvation. What is being discussed here is the assurance of salvation. It is not possible for one to lose salvation after it been obtained. A true child of God can never fall out of relationship with God, but he can fall out of fellowship with God. If I have children, they will always be my children. The relationship is permanent. However, by their disobedience, my children can fall out of fellowship with me.
This can also happen to a child of God. I cannot lose my salvation, but by disobeying God, I can loose the assurance of my salvation. Peter is here telling the saints to make their calling and election sure to themselves and to others, not to God. This is made plain by the context. It is also made plain by the New Testament Greek. The word translated "make" is a present middle infinitive. In English we have an active voice and a passive voice. In the active voice the subject is acting, such as in the sentence, "Tom threw the ball." In the passive voice the subject is being acted upon, as in the sentence, "The ball was thrown." In the Greek there is also a middle voice. In it the subject is acting but also participating in the results of the action. A good example would be, "He is washing himself." In this middle infinitive the idea is to "make your calling and election sure to yourself." The more obedient we are to God the more He is going to give us the assurance that we have eternal life and are therefore among the elect.
[i] Introductory Essay to 1959 Banner of Truth reprint of The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen, pp. 1-2.
[ii] I am sure that even those who teach this feel uncomfortable in actually saying that salvation is a cooperative endeavor between God and man. Unfortunately, however, this is exactly what they teach. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If it breaks at that weak link, all the work of the strong links is to no avail. Therefore, if salvation is achieved as taught by these people, the decision of the sinner is just as important as is the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They may each do their part, but if the sinner refuses to cooperate and properly exercise his "free will," all the work of the Triune God is of none effect!
[iii] Joseph M. Bianchi, God Chose to Save, (Amityville: Calvary Press, 2001), p. 13.
[iv] Some Scriptures which support this are Ge 2:16-17; Ro 5:12; 1Co 2:14; Eph 2:1; Ro 8:7-8, and many others.
[v] Some Scriptures which support this are Lu 18:7; Eph 1:4; Ro 8:33; Col 3:12; 1Th 1:4, and many others.
[vi] Some Scriptures which support this are Mt 1:21; 20:28; Joh 10:11; Heb 9:12; 1Pe 1:18-19, and many others.
[vii] Some Scriptures which support this are Ps 110:3; Joh 3:8; 5:25; 2Co 4:6; 1Pe 1:21, and many others.
[viii] Some Scriptures which support this are Joh 10:27-30; Ro 8:38-39; Php 1:6; 1Pe 1:5; Jude 24, and many others.
[ix] See De 7:6-8.
[x] W. E. Vine, The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Fleming H. Revell Co., (1966 Reprint), Vol. 3, p. 126.
[xi] Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., (1969 Reprint), Vol. 4, p. 1.
As Jonah said, "Salvation is of the Lord." The complete and eternal salvation for each of the elect is absolutely certain. This is guaranteed by the electing grace of God the Father, the redeeming grace of God the Son, and the regenerating and preserving grace of God the Holy Spirit. No one nor no thing can separate the children of God from the love of God. Salvation is entirely of the Lord. That is a most glorious truth that we should constantly be thankful for and rejoice in. The child of God has nothing to do with his or her salvation.
However, the child of God can have much to do with the assurance of salvation. Sometimes we have doubts and fears. We fall into temptation and maybe succumb to it and we wonder if we are truly born from above. Sometimes we may not feel the joy of our salvation. Some very difficult circumstances come into our lives and Satan whispers to us that God does not truly love us or He would not allow such tragic things to happen to us. While we cannot lose our salvation, we can certainly, for a period of time, lose the assurance of that salvation and be in the pit of despair.
Why Assurance is Important
The question may be asked, "Is it really so important that we have the assurance of our salvation? After all, if I am bound for glory and will get there no matter how I feel, why be so concerned about this assurance?"
To have the assurance of our salvation is very important for several reasons. First among them, we can better praise God if the prospect of our salvation is bright and clear to us. God deserves our constant praise. David prayed in Ps 71:8. "Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day." It is written in Heb 13:15, "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." It is obvious that we can much better do this if our salvation is clear to us. Those who are on the way to heaven can offer to their God exuberant thanksgiving and praise. They are likely to imitate David’s example of praise in Ps 103:1-3, "Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases..."
Another reason that makes assurance important is that when we are in an assured attitude of mind, we will be better witnesses to the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Psalmist said in Ps 107:2, "Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy..." If we are happy with our salvation, those about us cannot fail to note it and we will be thus glorifying God by our obvious joy and gratitude.
A third reason that makes assurance important is that when we are confident of our salvation we are better able to be strong in the Lord and to do battle against Satan, the world and our own flesh. We find written in Ne 8:10, "for the joy of the LORD is your strength." We are likely to be better soldiers of Jesus Christ when our morale is high because we expect to be with our Lord forever when we leave this sinful world.
A fourth reason that assurance is important is that when we are in a state of assurance we will be better able to help our brothers and sisters. David, like all children of God, never lost his salvation, but he lost the joy and assurance of his salvation by his sin. He begged God to restore this joy to him in the following language from Ps 51:12, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." David is saying here, "Lord, let me have my assurance back and I will help poor sinners who have lost their assurance."
A very important reason that we should desire the blessed assurance of our salvation is that we will not fear death. Each of us will die if the Lord does not return first. Death is a fearful thing to face. It is the last enemy. Some people think much about death. They live their lives in fear. This fear affects the ways they think and behave. They live in bondage. God does not intend for His children to live this way. In fact, one of the main reasons that Jesus Christ became incarnate was to remove the fear of death from His people. We find this in the glorious passage from the word of God recorded in Heb 2:14-15, " Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
Can you imagine how a fear of death would have crippled Paul’s ministry? Paul had many people who hated him and who sought his life. If he had been afraid of death he would have gone into hiding. But Paul did not fear death, because he had the assurance of his salvation. He revealed this in 2Ti 1:12, "...for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." In fact, he looked forward to death. He said in Php 1:23 that he had "a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better..." Paul knew that he was a child of God and that his times were in the hands of the Lord. He was free to serve his master even in times of danger without fear. How liberating was his assurance of salvation!
It is Our Duty
Even if none of the above reasons were not valid, it remains that it our duty to seek to gain the assurance of our salvation, simply because we are commanded to do so in the Scriptures. We read of this in 2Pe 1:10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall..." What is Peter talking about here? It is certain that he in not talking about making our election sure to God. God chose His people in Christ before the world even began. We read of this in Eph 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love..." The names of God’s elect people were written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world. (Re 13:8; 17:8).
Peter probably is speaking of two things here. We can make our calling sure to others. Paul had never seen the Book of Life. However he knew some people whose names were in it. We read of this in Php 4:3, "And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life." These people demonstrated that they were true Christians by the lives they lived. Paul was absolutely certain that they were recipients of salvation. He also knew some other people were among the elect. He said in 1Th 1:4-5, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance..." He was certain that they were of the elect because of the way they had responded to the gospel. This response was not what had brought salvation to them. The response was an evidence of their salvation. We should live in such a way that our families and brothers and sisters in Christ may know that we are God’s elect.
Peter also had in mind that we should make our calling and election sure to ourselves. God will give us assurance of our salvation as we walk in fellowship with Him. Peter says that we should be diligent to do this.
How Do We Go About It?
How do we make our calling and election sure to ourselves and to others? Peter shows us how. He says in 2Pe 1:1 that he is speaking "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ..." The word translated "obtained" here means "to receive by divine allotment." Faith is a grace that is given to each of the elect when they are born again. Paul speaks of this in Eph 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God..." God not only gives this grace of faith to each of the elect when they are born from above, He also sustains this faith throughout the entire life of the child of God. It is impossible for them to lose this faith. Heb 12:2 speaks of "Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Satan can cause the children of God much trouble. He would like to completely destroy their faith, but he cannot do so. He can so harass and tempt them that they may have temporary lapses of the exercise of their faith, but he cannot obliterate this wonderful grace. Satan turned his most powerful weapons on Peter. However, Peter’s faith did not finally fail because of the intercessory work of Christ. We read of this in Lu 22:31-32, " And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Even today the faith of every child of God is guaranteed by the intercessory work of Christ. We read of this in Heb 7:25, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Christ intercedes for each of His children, and the Father always hears the prayers of His only begotten Son. Therefore, the continuance of their faith is absolutely insured.
This God-given faith is powerful indeed. It enables the child of God to overcome the present evil world that we live in. Every child of God will be an overcomer. This is made plain in 1Jo 5:4, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." This does not mean that the heaven-born person will never stumble nor fall into sin. It does mean, however, that he will not live his entire life in open rebellion against God. He will not lose his salvation, but he may for a time lose the assurance and joy of his salvation.
Adding to Faith
As we have seen, faith is a basic grace, given to the child of God in regeneration. This faith comes as an absolutely free gift, given sovereignly by God with no help or even cooperation on the part of the sinner. In fact, commenting on the word translated "obtained" in 2Pe 1:1, Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says, "In this sentence the point of [the word translated "obtained"] is that faith has come to them from God with no co-operation on their part. That faith is the work, not of man, but of God, or Christ, is not stated with equal clarity in all parts of the N T, but it must be constantly borne in mind."
What then is the child of God to do with this faith that God has given? He is to very diligently add to that faith certain things. Peter enumerates the things that are to be added. They are "virtue" (moral excellence), "knowledge" (of the word of God), "temperance" (self-control), "patience" (endurance under trials in the Christian life), "godliness" (reverence and respect towards God, manifested in attitudes and actions), "brotherly kindness"(exercised toward fellow-believers), and "charity"(love demonstrated to all, enemies as well as friends). I like what John Gill has to say about this: "As faith leads the van, charity brings up the rear, and is the greatest of all."
The result of this diligence is the blessed assurance of our salvation. This is taught in 2Pe 1:8, "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Citizens of the Kingdom
Another place in the Scriptures where the child of God can go for the assurance of his salvation is the Beatitudes. The Sermon on the Mount has been called "the gospel of the kingdom." The portion of this sermon called the Beatitudes describes the characteristics of the Citizens of the Kingdom. If we can find ourselves possessing these characteristics, we can have the assurance that we are heaven-born citizens of this kingdom. The very first characteristic is that of being poor in spirit. This describes one who knows that he has nothing good in himself. He is not proud, self-sufficient, nor self-righteous. He knows that his only hope is that he has a "rich, almighty Friend." The next trait is that of mourning. This concerns mourning for one’s sins. The child of God can never in this world see himself as he would wish to be. He sees how he has failed to glorify his Lord as he should and this frequently causes him grief of soul. The next attribute of the citizen of the kingdom is he is meek. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words has a good description of this grace: "Described negatively, meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because if is not occupied with self at all." Synonyms of the New Testament by R. C. Trench also has a very good description of this meekness: "Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God...It is that temper of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting...This meekness, however, being first of all a meekness before God, is also such in the face of men, even of evil men, out of a sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict, are permitted and employed by Him for the chastening and purifying of his elect."
The child of God is also one which hungers and thirsts after righteousness. He has a desire for perfect holiness which he will not attain until he is glorified. Therefore he will never be totally satisfied in his present state. The heaven-born soul is also merciful. He is acutely conscious of the fact that he is a "vessel of mercy" and this will temper how he deals with others. He will also be pure in heart. These are those who desire to be holy in their motives and principles. They pray as David did in Ps 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."
This individual will also be a peacemaker. He will be prone to use his influence to reconcile opposing parties. Being a peacemaker is the very opposite of "he that soweth discord among brethren," one of the seven things the Lord hates. (Pr 6:19).
These citizens of the kingdom are often "persecuted for righteousness' sake." The world hates these gentle folk as it hated their Lord before them. Jesus spoke to such in the following words from Joh 15:18, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." We who hope to be the children of God should not be surprised at persecution. The word of God instructs us to "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you." (1Jo 3:13).
Assurance From 1 John
The apostle John wrote his first epistle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the express purpose of giving to the children of God the blessed assurance of their salvation. He said in 1Jo 1:4, "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." There are basically three strong evidences of salvation that are interwoven throughout this small but glorious epistle. The first evidence is that of obedience. The born-again child of God loves God and wants to please his heavenly Father by being obedient to Him. The one who walks in persistent and habitual disobedience will not have the assurance of his salvation. This is made plain in 1Jo 1:6, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth..." John also says in 1Jo 2:3-4, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." It is impossible to be assured of our salvation when we persist in disobedience to God.
Another evidence of salvation in this epistle is that of love to God and to our fellowman. The source of this love is God, Himself. "We love him, because he first loved us." (1Jo 4:19). The way we manifest our love to God is by being obedient to Him and in trying to please Him. If we really love God we will love each other. 1Jo 4:20, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" One of the most comforting Scriptures in all the Bible to the sin-tossed soul who is trying to gain the assurance of his salvation is 1Jo 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
How do we know if we love the brethren? By our actions. John expresses it this way: "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." (1Jo 3:17-18). If we claim to love our brethren, but do not obey God, our claims are empty. This is made very plain in 1Jo 5:2, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments."
The final evidence of salvation in 1 John is the evidence of belief in the Lord Jesus. This is plainly shown in several scriptures, including 1Jo 5:1, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God..." Believing that Jesus is the Christ is not what gets one born of God, but it is wonderful evidence that one has been given eternal life. Another Scripture that ties in belief with assurance of salvation is 1Jo 2:22-23, "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also." This is strong but plain language. Still another passage is found in 1Jo 4:15, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God."
The child of God can come to the wonderful book of 1 John and find great comfort in the fact that he believes that Jesus is the Christ, that he, however imperfectly, loves God and his Christian brethren, and that he has a great desire to be obedient to his heavenly Father.
A Great Blessing
There can be no greater blessing for the child of God living in this present world than to be confidently assured of His salvation. Money, prestige, power, will not bring peace and confidence. But assurance of salvation will. The prophet expressed it hundreds of years ago in these words: "Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me..." (Jer 9:23-24).
Fanny Crosby beautifully expressed the joy of assurance in these memorable words:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
When the saint has this kind of assurance, he can say:
This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Saviour all the day long.
Does God want His blood-bought children to be assured of their salvation? He most certainly does, as He has plainly expressed in His word. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the Epistle to the Ephesians. There are two beautiful prayers of Paul recorded in this book. In moving words Paul prayed fervently that the Ephesian saints might be assured of the incomprehensible love that God had manifested to them in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul prayed "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." (Eph 3:17-19). He wanted the saints to be aware of the glorious dimensions of the amazing love of God to them. When they are aware of this love in the full assurance of their salvation they are able to glorify God as they praise Him in verses like the following:
To our Redeemer’s glorious name, awake the sacred song;
O may His love (immortal flame) tune ev’ry heart and tongue.
His love! What mortal tho’t can sketch, what mortal tongue display?
Imagination’s utmost stretch in wonder dies away.
When the child of God has this kind of assurance, he can then say:
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die,
and then I hope to sing this love in sweeter strains on high.
Our dear Lord so wants us to be assured of our salvation that He not only promised it, He confirmed His promise with a solemn oath This is incredible when we consider that the promise of God was absolutely sure in itself. We read in Tit 1:2, :In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began..." However, even though that promise was an absolute guarantee of eternal life to all of God’s children, He confirmed that solemn promise with an oath. This is gloriously recorded for us in Heb 6:17-18, "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us..."
My dear friend, God has graciously provided for us that we may have the assurance of our salvation. He has given instructions and promises to us. Let us be diligent in the use of the means that God has so generously given to us.
Let us say with David when he was an old man: "But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more." (Ps 71:14).
Zack M. Guess
Grace Chapel Primitive Baptist Church
November 4, 2002
Biblical Proof that Jesus Christ is God
The Bible, even to a casual reader, makes it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ is God. This article will only "hit the high spots" in demonstration of this. Much more Biblical proof could be produced. However, if anyone really believes the Bible he or she will be convinced by what is given here. Many people claim to believe the Bible but they reject even some of its most clearly taught truths. A true Bible believer must accept all of Scripture. Those who "pick and choose" are not Bible believers and should not deceive themselves and others that they are.
Plainly Claim that Jesus is God
§ Mt 1:23. Here He is called Emmanuel, which means "God with us."
§ Joh 20:28. Here Thomas called Him "My Lord and my God" and was not rebuked by Him.
§ Ac 20:28. Here the Bible says that God purchased the church with His own blood. Since Jesus is the One Who shed His own blood it is plain that Jesus is being identified with God.
§ Heb 1:8. Here God the Father called the Son "God."
§ 1Ti 3:16. This Scripture says that God was "manifest in the flesh."
Jesus as the Son of God
People who deny that Jesus is God commonly point out that He is called the Son of God. They say that He cannot be both God and His Son. But here they deny the very plain teaching of Scripture. The people who lived in New Testament times knew what was meant in those days by the concept of sonship. In Joh 5:18 and in Joh 10:33 Christ’s enemies plainly understood that when Jesus called Himself the Son of God He was claiming to be God. In fact, they attempted to kill Him for what they considered His blasphemy in claiming to be God.
Jesus Received Worship
Jesus received worship and did not rebuke those who gave His worship. He was very wrong to have done this if He were not God. In Ac 14:8-18 even the Apostle Paul refused to accept worship. In Re 22:9 even an angel refused to receive worship and said "worship God." Yet Jesus received worship in Mt 14:33; 28:17; Lu 24:52, and in many other places in Scripture. In Heb 1:6 God the Father, referring to the Son, said, "And let all the angels of God worship Him."
In Joh 8:58 Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am." Here He was plainly claiming to be the great I AM Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush in Ex 3:14. This is clearly shown by the fact that when He said this the Jews tried to stone Him to death for blasphemy.
The Attributes of God
The attributes of God were manifested by Jesus while He was on earth in a body of flesh. We will look at only two of these although many others could be cited.
Omnipotence: This is the quality of having all power. On one occasion, when He had rebuked the winds and the waves, His disciples said in great awe, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!" (Mt 8:27). The entire Gospel of John is filled with miracles wrought by Jesus Christ, miracles such as raising Lazarus from the dead. Joh 20:30-31 states why those miracles were recorded: "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." We have already seen in this same book of John that for Christ to be the Son of God was to simply be God.
Omniscience: This is the quality of knowing everything. Jesus manifested this attribute in several ways. One of these ways was to show that He knew what was in people’s minds. For example, in one place the Bible says "And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart." (Lu 9:47). This ability to read minds was demonstrated many times by the Lord Jesus. Another way this attribute was manifested was in the ability of Jesus to tell exactly what would take place in the future. Much of the entire chapter of Mt 24, for example, is Jesus telling what would transpire in the future.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that no one but God has the ability to forgive sin. Yet Jesus claimed that ability for Himself. This claim enraged the Jews who said that He was blaspheming by making such claims. The Bible believer can find this account in Mr 2:1-12.
People may claim to have a high regard for God the Father and for Jesus Christ but they are liars if they don’t acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God. This is a biting statement but it, too, is based on Scripture. We close this article with a sobering quote from God’s Holy Word: "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also." (1Jo 2:22-23).
Zack M. Guess
Building the House of God
We all know that God is omnipresent. He is “everywhere present, and nowhere absent.” However, throughout recorded Biblical history, He has often been pleased to manifest Himself in special ways in certain places. One of the first instances of this is recorded in Ge 28:17. Here, after Jacob had awakened from his vision of the ladder bridging heaven and earth, he said, “How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” It is significant that this first mention of the house of God in Scripture speaks of His specially manifested presence. Later, the tabernacle was called the house of God. (1Ch 6:48). We know that the Lord was pleased to reveal Himself in the tabernacle in a very special way. Even later, the temple was referred to as the house of God. (2Ch 3:3). The Lord was manifested in the temple in a unique way. He chose to reveal His presence there in a way that He did in no other place on earth.
In New Testament times the Scripture makes plain that the Lord specially inhabits an entity which is also called the house of God. We read of this in 1Ti 3:15, where Paul speaks of the “house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Now this New Testament church is not a building. The “church” or evkklhsi,a (ekklesia) is composed of those individuals who have been called out from the world by the Holy Spirit and who have been assembled to corporately worship Him. I believe that these are the ones Jesus was referring to in Joh 4:23 when He said, “the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
God, then, has chosen to manifest Himself specially today in the New Testament church. This special presence is what makes a church a church. This special, abiding presence is referred to as a candlestick in the book of Revelation. The Lord has revealed to us in Re 1:20 that “the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
When I am speaking, therefore, of “building the house of God,” I am speaking of building the New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory
At the very outset of our study we do well to emphasize what the Lord Jesus said in Joh 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” We very rarely realize how utterly dependent we are on the Lord. When we have a little success we are so prone to get lifted up in pride. It has been my sad observation to see several good, able ministers let a little spiritual prosperity go to their heads. They got to thinking they had “arrived” and that they had the prerogative to not only pastor their churches, but had earned the right to tell everyone else how to run their business. Even the meek Moses fell prey to this. In Nu 20:10 he said, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” He made a big mistake when he used the word “we.” Moses could have smitten that rock for a hundred years and not a drop of water would have come out of it without the power of God. A very safe course for us would be to give God 100% of the credit for anything good that happens in our ministries, and to accept 100% of the blame for anything that does not turn out right. We have a very good clause in one of the songs that we frequently sing: “All is vain unless the Spirit of the holy One comes down.”
We ministers of the gospel need to memorize and often quote to ourselves Isa 42:8, “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”
One final Scriptural truth that we must constantly keep in mind is found in Ps 127:1 “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Having said all the above, however, I believe that we have the greatest reason to be optimistic and enthusiastic as we go about the task of building the house of God. While it is true that we can do nothing without the Lord, it is also true that, as Paul said in Php 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Another consideration that should set us on fire with encouragement and enthusiasm is the fact that we are actually laboring with God as we go about the work of the ministry. Speaking of himself and other ministers of the gospel, Paul said in 1Co 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God…” That is an incredible truth that you need to meditate on the next time you become discouraged. Building the church is the work of Jesus Christ. In Mt 16:18 the Lord Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He merely uses us as instruments in His hand. This sense of wonder that the Lord has chosen such sinners as we are as instruments to build His church should never leave us. Paul never got over being amazed that God would use such a one as he was in His work. The great but humble apostle said in Eph 3:8, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…”
We also need to remember that the Lord has never called us to be successful. He has called us to be faithful. He has told us in 1Co 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” If we are faithful we will be successful as far as the Lord is concerned, no matter what the outward results of our ministries may seem to be.
My prayer is that as we consider some of the mechanics of building up the churches where we labor, we will work hard because our heart is in the work. If we truly love God’s house, we will give it our best shot. We will have the attitude that King David expressed in 1Ch 29:3, “Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house…”
I have been doing the work of a pastor for more than thirty years, and I have become increasingly convinced that if a church prospers spiritually, that prosperity comes as a result of teamwork. A church may have a powerful preacher, but if she does not have the other necessary gifts functioning as they should, she will not truly be a strong church. The pastor must be doing his job; the same holds true of the deacons and other members. The preaching of the gospel is the most important thing the church does, but the church is not a stage where the preacher is in the spotlight and “performs.” The propagation of the gospel is teamwork. The minister is the one who actually does the preaching, but the entire church is vitally involved in this work. This teamwork is pictured in the New Testament under the figure of the human body. A properly functioning body is a marvel of precision and coordination. We rarely appreciate how smoothly our bodies function until we have a stroke or some other aliment that prevents us from functioning as we should. Just to be able to perform the normal tasks of a day is a wonderful thing. It is amazing indeed to observe the tremendous coordination of a body which is engaged in an athletic endeavor. For the body to work as it should each member must do what it is specifically designed to do, and each member must work in coordination with the other members. This working of the church as compared to the human body is seen in Ro 12 and in 1Co 12. This is also spoken of in Eph 4 and one of the passages that most beautifully describes this is Eph 4:15-16, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Another verse where this teamwork is mentioned is Php 1:27, where Paul says, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” The word translated “striving together” is a very interesting word. It is sunaqle,w (sunathleo). This is a compound of two words: the preposition su,n (sun), which means “with, together with,” and avqle,w (athleo), a verb, which means “to strive or contend.” We get the English word “athlete” from this verb. Put the words together and the picture is that of an army or an athletic team working in close cooperation to win a battle or a contest.
Paul recognized the necessity of this teamwork in spreading the gospel. He thanked the Philippians for their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;…” (Php 1:5). The word translated “fellowship” is koinwni,a (koinonia). This is a very rich word, and one of its primary meanings is “joint participation.” These Philippian “saints,” not just the bishops and deacons, were joint participants in the spread of the gospel at Rome where Paul was imprisoned as he wrote this letter. They participated by praying for Paul, by contributing to his financial needs, and perhaps in other ways. It would not have been possible for Paul to have done what he did without their cooperation and assistance. This was gospel teamwork.
If a church can get a vision of this teamwork they are in for some exciting times. In too many cases, the idea is that the minister, and maybe the deacons, are about the only ones that really have anything to do in a church. The church just kind of exists as a stage where the preacher can do his thing. If this idea prevails there will not be much motivation in the pew. However, if you can convince your church members that each of them has a real and vital role in the spread of the gospel, your church will be a bee hive of godly activity. You must believe and you must convince those to whom you minister, that you cannot do your work to the fullest potential without their cooperation and assistance. A pastor that runs a “one man show” does not have the proper Biblical vision of how a New Testament church is designed to operate.
There is a beautiful passage which describes the inseparable relationship between the pastor and the church as they worship God together. In Php 2:17 Paul says, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” When Paul uses the words “and if I be offered,” he is referring to the drink offering. In many instances in the Old Testament sacrificial system a drink offering was offered in conjunction with the main or primary offering. The drink offering was poured out on or beside the primary offering. The primary offering was the principal one. An example of this can be seen in Nu 28:8. Paul is saying that the worship of the church at Philippi is the fundamental offering and that his worship and service is being poured out in association with theirs. The two offerings are so closely intertwined that they really become parts of the same offering. What a glorious picture this is of the closeness that should exist in the combined worship of a pastor and the flock that he oversees! If both pastor and people could get a vision of this what an inducement it would be for them to work closely together.
Relationship Between Pastor and Flock
Satan knows what tremendous spiritual power there is in a pastor and church loving each other and closely working together in the propagation of the gospel. He will do everything he can to hinder this. It saddens me to sometimes observe tension, resentment, and mistrust arising between a pastor and those to whom he ministers. We must work hard to educate ourselves and our people to the relationship that our Lord intended to exist between pastor and flock. I have experienced it both ways. There have been occasions in my ministry that I have sometimes dreaded going to church, especially to business meetings! For the past two decades, however, it has mostly been a great joy to preach to and lead the flock that God has made me the overseer of. It takes constant prayer, study, and work to maintain this relationship. The results, however, are more than worth the effort.
The pastor is the one who has to take the lead in this relationship. First, he has to have a great love for the people he pastors. This will not always be easy, because God’s people do not always act like they should. The pastor must always remember that he is shepherding sheep that the Lord loves and has shed His own precious blood for. As Paul instructed the Ephesian elders in Ac 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” We must never make the mistake of becoming sinfully angry with the Lord’s people, no matter how much they may provoke us. Moses made this mistake only one time and was not permitted to enter Caanan because of it.
We must love the people and we must let them know we love them both by our words and by our actions. Paul constantly used terms of endearment when he wrote his epistles. An example of this is in Php 4:1, “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” Not only did he tell the people how much he loved them; he proved this love by his actions. He said in 1Th 2:7, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children…” He said in 1Th 2:11, “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children…”
This last-quoted verse brings to mind the God-ordained relationship that God has designed to exist between pastor and people. A pastor must be a kind of father figure to his people. This is clearly taught in 1Ti 3:4-5, where Paul is giving the necessary qualifications for a bishop. He says that a bishop must be “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.” He then asks that “if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?”
A good father must not be a weakling nor a pushover. He must have the respect of his children. He must provide them with direction and incentive. On the other hand, he must not be an unreasonable tyrant. The pastor must also provide this balance. On the one hand, he must be willing to take “the oversight of the flock.” He must not shirk his responsibility in this. Some pastors are so weak and timid that they are afraid to step out and take the leadership. They are willing to turn this responsibility over to the deacons or to other men who have strong personalities. This will never do. A man once wisely told me that if a person in a position of responsibility failed to exercise in that capacity a leadership vacuum would be created. He said that invariably the least qualified person would try to step in and fill that void. This sadly happened to me one time when I failed to assume my God-given responsibility.
However, in exercising this strong leadership, neither a father nor a pastor must be a dictator. They must personally model the proper behavior to those who are under them. Much of their leadership must be by example. As Peter instructed a group of elders in 1Pe 5:3, “Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” This is true of pastors of all ages, but it is especially pertinent to young pastors, who must earn the respect of the people they lead. Paul instructed his favorite young preacher in 1Ti 4:12 to “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” A wise old preacher once told me, “If you have proved to the people you preach to that you really love them, you can come down hard on them with the Word of God, and they will accept it. However, if they do not know you love them, they won’t take it.”
This entire question of pastoral leadership is thrown clearly into the light by an analysis of Heb 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” The word “obey” is pei,qw (peitho). In the middle voice which is used here it means “to be persuaded, to listen to, to obey.” W. E. Vine says “The obedience suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion.” We must persuade our people to do what is right by skillfully, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, presenting the Scriptures to them. The word “rule” in this passage is h`geomai (hegeomai). The primary idea in this word is “leading by going before.” The English word that comes from this is “hegemony.” It can mean “leadership, predominant influence.” That is the way that New Testament pastors rule. If a pastor is leading like he ought, the sheep should be happy to follow him. This will be a very dedicated and hard-working pastor. This is indicated by the word translated “watch” in the clause “watch for your souls.” The word is avgrupne,w(agrupneo), and means “to be sleepless, keep awake, watch.”
I realize that this is a daunting task. It is not easy. A realization of this should drive us to our knees in prayer. When God offered Solomon his heart's desire, the king made a very wise request. This is recorded in 1Ki 3:7-9, “And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” Brethren, if we will ask our God for this wisdom, He will surely give it to us. He has promised us in Jas 1:5 that “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
One of the best practical ways that I have found for a pastor to watch for the souls of those God has placed under his care is to regularly pray for them. A very good way to do this is to daily pray for a few names on the church membership list. It should be a reasonable goal even in a good-sized church for the pastor to pray for each of the members at least once a week. As you are praying for the members, you will be compelled to think about their spiritual condition and about their various needs.
There is another side to this coin. The people of God have a sacred duty to love and support their pastors as long as these men are leading them according to the Scriptures and are preaching to them from the word of God. God’s people need to be taught this responsibility from the Word of God. If, according to Tit 2:4, the younger women should be taught to love their husbands, then the people of God can and should be taught to love and esteem their pastors. We live in a day of rebellion and of wide-spread disrespect for authority. Children are often disobedient to their parents. In many instances employees do not treat their employers with the deference that is demanded by Scripture. This attitude sometimes raises its ugly head in our churches. As I have already indicated, pastors are not to be tyrants. However, they are supposed to exercise strong leadership. If the pastors will not lead, or if the people will not follow, it is impossible for a church to be healthy and well-pleasing to God.
According to the Scriptures, it would be very difficult for the members of a church to esteem their faithful pastor too highly. Scripture has some very strong things to say about this. One of my favorite passages on this subject is 1Th 5:12-13, which says, “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
The word translated “know,” according to the Online Bible, means here in 1Th 4:12, “to have regard for one, cherish, pay attention to.” How rich this meaning is! When you have regard for someone, you show respect and concern for that person. When you cherish an individual, you treat that person as dear and care tenderly for him or her. When you pay attention to somebody, you consciously mentally concentrate on what they are saying. To pay attention to a person is to show consideration for what he is saying. If God’s people would “know” their pastors in the sense of this text, our churches would be in a position to move mightily forward in the work of the Lord.
The expression “esteem them very highly” is a powerful one indeed. The word “esteem” here means “to consider, deem, account, think.” “Very highly” is the same expression translated “exceeding abundantly above” in Eph 3:20. This is a grammatical construction called a double-compound superlative adverb. To attempt to show the great force of this consider that there are three degrees of intensity in adverbs. We might say that a man had done well. That is the positive degree. We might say that another man had done better. That is the comparative degree. We might say that still another man had done best. That is the superlative degree. There is a preposition which is attached to this adverb which intensifies its force. This is preceded by still another preposition u`pe,r (huper), from which we get the English word “super.” It is obvious that the Holy Spirit here is very powerfully showing us that a congregation has a sacred obligation to hold their pastors in the very highest regard.
If we can get back to this: the pastors loving their people enough to die for them, and the people holding their pastors in the very highest esteem, and both of them loving the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts, we will see great things in our churches.
There have been a lot of jokes told of stained relationships between pastors and deacons. I do not think these jokes are very funny. God ordained only two offices in the New Testament Church, bishops and deacons. It is obvious that a church cannot function well if there is friction or animosity between those who hold these offices. It should also be apparent that things will not work if either of those who hold these offices misunderstands the function of the office and tries to discharge the business of an office which does not belong to him. Satan knows how important it is that pastors and deacons work in close cooperation, and he will do everything he can to disrupt this relationship.
In my over thirty years of pastoral leadership, I have had both happy and sad experiences with deacons. There is nothing which can greater demoralize and hinder a pastor than a deacon who opposes him and will not cooperate. A deacon who has a bad spirit and who is out of his place is a curse to a pastor and to a church.
Thankfully, however, a Spirit-filled deacon is the best friend a pastor can have. I am thankful that most of my experiences with deacons have been very good ones. I feel very strong in the church that I pastor, partly because we are blessed with deacons who are loyal to me as long as I am following the Lord. This does not mean that they are “yes men,” but they do respect and support me, and they let everyone know that they are behind me. What a great blessing this is. We need to pray that God will raise up good pastors, but we also need to pray that He will raise up good deacons. The pastor has a responsibility to teach the deacon brethren from the Scriptures how they are to function in their office. Just like a man has to spend some time with his wife if they are to have a good relationship, a pastor has to spend some time with his deacons if he wants to cultivate the proper working relationship with them. One of the best things a pastor and deacons can do is to pray and study God’s word together.
This is really not the place to discuss the office of deacon extensively, however I want to include in the section below, some material I wrote two years ago occasioned by the death of my dear father-in-law, Brother Tony Machiavello. If every deacon had the spirit that Brother Tony had, our churches would be on the road to revival.
One of the greatest blessings a church can have is a faithful minister. However, equally important is to have good deacons. As a pastor for over thirty years, I can testify that a good deacon cannot be valued too highly. The qualifications for the office of deacon are set forth in 1Ti 3:8-13. Brother Tony met those qualifications. Moreover, in the account of the institution of the office of deacon in the New Testament church which is recorded in the book of Acts, there are some other qualifications mentioned which are very important. In Ac 6:3 Peter told the church, "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business." As his pastor for many years, I can truly say that Brother Tony was "full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom." He was not argumentative. He was a peace maker. He was alert. He gave sound advice. During the song service, or sometimes at the end of the preaching, our dear brother would comment on a portion of Scripture or give us a word of exhortation. His remarks were always appropriate and stimulated us to a closer walk with God. He was held in the highest regard by all our church members and by many members of other churches. When he died we knew that we had suffered a great loss.
What was the secret of his being filled with the Holy Ghost and with wisdom? For one thing, he constantly read and studied the Bible and good Christian literature. He had a library that was better than most preachers' libraries. He had a room on his house that he converted into a study. On the night stand beside his bed you would always find a Bible, some books, and some religious periodicals. He knew his Bible well. He was also very well versed in church history and had an intimate knowledge of Primitive Baptist church history.
He was also a man of fervent prayer. Each night he and his wife would lift up family, church, friends, the nation, and the needy before the throne of grace. On two occasions one of our ministers, Elder Bobby Poe, went to the Philippines to preach the everlasting gospel. We at Grace Chapel determined that each night he was gone, we would meet to pray. On one of the trips Brother Bobby was gone for about sixty days. Brother Tony did not miss a single one of those prayer meetings! For over ten years, several of the men here at Grace Chapel have met early one morning of each week to pray that God would send revival to His people. Brother Tony was a regular attendant at these prayer meetings. On the Tuesday morning before his death on the following Sunday, he was at that meeting, even though it was obvious that he did not feel well.
It is not easy to be Spirit-filled. That is why there are not more spirit-filled church members. However, if our churches are ever going to prosper spiritually, we must have spirit-filled members. It is especially important that the leaders of the churches be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. I pray that many who read this will be stirred up to follow the example of Brother Tony in this regard. If you want to be this way, you have got to do it the same way he did. You must constantly read and study the word of God. You must be diligent in prayer. You must not have so many outside interests that they drain away the energy you need to put into spiritual pursuits.
Plurality of Elders
This last part of the paper may be controversial, but I believe I can bring the New Testament to bear on the subject. I believe that in the early days of the church the common practice was that each church had more than one elder. In our day we have lost that in most places. There are many reasons why we have lost it. Sometimes men have been contentious and not able to get along. Sometimes, because of Scriptural ignorance, we have not been aware of God’s pattern for His church. Some of us may have meant well, but have not known how to go about it.
I believe that, properly practiced, a plurality of elders can be a great blessing to both the church and the elders themselves. Let me make it very plain that I am not talking about the practice of co-pastors. I do not believe that this is Biblical. I believe that each church ought to have her own pastor (I will support this from the Bible a little later on). The “buck has got to stop” somewhere. I do not believe in Presbyterianism with its “ruling elders” and such like. However, I do believe the Bible clearly teaches that in an ideal situation there is more than one elder in a church.
Of course, we must go to the Bible to make our case. I will make the bold statement that in each church in the New Testament in which the number of elders is revealed, there are always more than one! Most of our Scriptural data will be found in the Acts of the Apostles. It will be well to establish, first of all, that in the New Testament the terms “elder” and “bishop” are referring to the same person. This can be clearly seen from Ac 20. In Ac 20:17 Paul called for the elders of the church at Ephesus. He gave them a powerful charge, and in doing so he mentioned in verse twenty-eight that the Holy Ghost had made them “overseers” of the flock. The word translated “overseers” is evpi,skopoj (episkopos). This means “one who looks over or superintends.” This is the same word which is translated “bishop” in 1Ti 3:2. Paul called these Ephesian elders overseers or bishops. Probably the word “elder” refers more to the dignity of the office, while the word “bishop” refers more to the function of the office.
A plurality of elders is indicated in Ac 11:30 where the love-offering from Antioch was carried by Paul and Barnabas to the “elders” of the church at Jerusalem. It is plain that the Jerusalem church had more than one elder. That this is so is also plain from considering Ac 15:2,4,6,22-23; 16:4; 21:8. In each of these verses the Jerusalem church is under consideration and the number of elders is plural.
We have already seen from Ac 20:17,28 that there was more than one elder in the Ephesian church. Titus was commanded to go to Crete so that he could “ordain elders in every city.” It is very likely that in each city that he went to in Crete there was only one church, so he was ordaining elders in every church. If anyone would dispute this he needs to carefully consider Ac 14:23 where it is said that Barnabas and Paul “ordained them elders in every church.” Incidentally, a comparison of Tit 1:5,7 shows conclusively that the bishop and elder were the same person.
Other Scriptures which use the word “elder” in the plural are Jas 5:14 and 1Pe 5:1. All of this seems consistent with the way the Lord Jesus sent out His followers personally while He was here in the days of His earthly ministry. He sent two disciples to do a job in Mt 21:1. It says of Jesus in Mr 6:7 “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two…” Later He did the same thing as is said in Lu 10:1 “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.”
I realize that the Old Testament Scripture which I am about to quote has nothing to do directly with how many elders there should be in a New Testament church, but I think an important principle is taught here, nevertheless. Ec 4:9-12 reads “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
I mentioned previously that I do not believe the Bible supports the idea of co-pastors. I believe the Scriptures make it plain that we are correct in the concept of one man who is properly called “pastor.” The primary proof I will give for this is the church at Jerusalem. We have already seen that this church had more than one elder. However, it is very plain from a look at Acts that James was the spokesman and principal leader of this church. This is true even though some of the apostles were members of this church. In Ac 15, when the church at Jerusalem was the scene of a great counsel meeting involving primarily the Jerusalem church and the one at Syrian Antioch, Peter arose and made a speech. When he was finished, James spoke, beginning in verse 13. It is obvious that he held a position of respect and leadership. When he was finished speaking the apostles and other elders were pleased with what he had said and acted on it. Another indication that James was the primary leader at the Jerusalem church occurred when Paul returned to Jerusalem after a long absence. When he did this it is written in Ac 21:18 “And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.”
Most commentators think that the “angels” of the churches mentioned in Revelation, chapters one and two, are the pastors. Each church had only one angel.
I do not have all the answers on this concept of the plurality of elders, but I do have a few thoughts to offer. First, I have been blessed in most of my ministry to work in situations in which there was more than one elder. When I was first ordained there were three young preachers who were in the same church with our father-in-the ministry, Elder Hassell Wallis. Looking back, these were some of the happiest and most fruitful days of my ministry. Brother Wallis was a wonderful pastor and a powerful preacher. We learned from him as we heard him preach. He constantly charged us to study and to be honest and godly ministers. He set the example of sterling integrity. We visited the hospitals and homes of members with him and learned how to deal with delicate situations. We did not know it at the time, but we were being trained for the ministry according to the Biblical path. Paul told his favorite young preacher in 2Ti 2:2 “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
We were also a blessing to Brother Wallis and the church. Everyone knew who the pastor was. We would not have dared to usurp his authority or to be disloyal to him. We backed him up in what he taught and did. He always had a Scripture to support what he said. He let us preach when he could. We had some powerful services, sometimes with more than one sermon. We did not have to wait for a special meeting to have a wonderful spiritual time. For several years, almost every time we met we had a special meeting.
Later, fields of labor began to open up for us and we began to go where God opened doors for us. For several years I labored without the help of another elder. In time God called me to Grace Chapel. That has been almost thirty years ago. In all that time it has been my great blessing to work with a plurality of elders. I will not say that it has always been easy. There have been times when we have had to work out differences. However, we have done this prayerfully and we have done it privately, without disturbing the flock. As I have said earlier, a church has to practice team work. Everyone has to prayerfully seek his place and then has to be content to labor in that place. One advantage we have at Grace Chapel is that we meet three times each week. We meet on Sunday, morning and evening, and we meet on Wednesday evening. After preaching on Sunday morning, it is a great blessing for me to get to hear some able preaching on Sunday night.
One of my fellow elders and one of the best friends I have ever had is Elder Bobby Poe. Brother Bobby is older than I am, but he constantly supports me in the pastoral role in which God has placed me. He publicly supports me in the primary leadership role. This support gives me great strength. On the other hand, I greatly respect him and treat him accordingly. Brother Bobby was the founding pastor of Grace Chapel. I moved out of Memphis to start a new church. When I came back after several years, he resigned Grace Chapel and suggested that they call me as pastor. I was shocked. However, after much prayer, I felt that the Lord would have me to accept that call. He and I labored together for several years. He left for awhile to help some struggling churches get on their feet, and then, to my great joy, he came back. In the meantime there have been several other men with whom I have been blessed to work.
I have found that when the Lord is in the matter, the ministries of several men in a church greatly benefit each other. There are certain gifts that I don’t have that other men have. Some men are more gifted in leadership than are others. Some men are more dynamic preachers than are others. Some men excel in visiting in the homes. Sometimes I have been blessed to do what might be called “team counseling” with the help of one of my fellow elders. It is beautiful to me the see the Lord mold the gifts of different men in such a way that they supplement one another. It is a great blessing to pray with and to seek counsel from fellow laborers when difficulties arise in the church. I believe we should pray that the Lord would teach us to work with other men in the oversight of the flock.
If you are given to jealousy and feel that other men are a threat to you, you will never be able to enjoy the blessing of working in a close relationship with other men. I will offer a word of caution to those of you who may be in a church with another minister who is the pastor. Give that man your strong support. Do not undermine him, either publicly or privately.
One thing that will help men work together is that they pray together. For approximately twelve years now, some of the men of Grace Chapel have faithfully met together for prayer on Tuesday mornings. These have been some glorious occasions. When ministers sincerely pray together on a consistent basis, God will show them how to work together. It is very significant that, according to Ac 13:1-4, when several leaders of the church in Antioch of Syria, began to fast and pray together, the Lord opened up a great door of evangelism on the European continent.
Brethren, we have a great work ahead of us. Our Master has given us everything we need to get the job done. It is our inestimable privilege to be engaged in the greatest work on earth- that of building the house of God! The task is great, but it is worth our very best effort. Let us remember back into Old Testament times when another people had a formidable task of building. They had to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. There were many skeptics and critics who said that the job could not be done. However, with the help of God, they completed the task in just fifty-two days! When Nehemiah called the leaders of the people together he said “…come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.” Then he told them how the Lord had been with him in the planning and preparatory stages. The people were encouraged and they said “Let us rise up and build.” It is finally said in Ne 4:6 “So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.”
Brethren, let it be so with us!
Zack Meaders Guess
Explanation: A godly father recently asked me and several other men to write a charge to his eighteen year old son. This is what I wrote:
Dear Brother ______. I do not really know you, but I do know and respect your father. I appreciate the fact that he is trying to bring you up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I know that you also appreciate this, but you will appreciate it even more in years to come. Having a godly father is very rare in today’s world and it is one of the greatest blessings you will ever receive from the Lord.
The world today has it “heroes,” but they are not really heroes at all. Most of them are sports figures or are from the entertainment world. Most of them are openly ungodly. The great majority of the real heroes in the world today are virtually unknown. In my office I have pictures of several of my personal heroes. Some of them, like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, are from yesteryear. I have the pictures of three men whom I have known personally, but who have gone on to be with the Lord, on the walls of my study. One is my own father, E. A. M. Guess. He went to be with the Lord in 1965, when I was twenty-four years of age. I am now sixty-seven, but he still has a great influence on my life every day. He was not famous, but he was a great man. He set the example of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He was a hard-working man. He had a great sense of humor, but he was very sober-minded. He had a clean mind. He was not vulgar. He taught me by precept and example that serving the living God was the most important thing in life. He was courageous in his death. In short, he showed me how to live and how to die. I charge you to live the same kind of life. Strive to be a hard-working, God loving, clean-minded man.
Another picture in my office is that of my father-in-law, Anthony Machiavello. He went to be with the Lord in 1997. He, too, has a continuing influence on my life. He was born in Spain to Roman Catholic parents. He immigrated to the United States and soon saw the fallacy of Roman Catholicism. He met my mother-in-law and became a faithful, studious, learned Primitive Baptist. He loved the Bible and he loved church history. He was a great believer in the London Baptist Confession of Faith. He was ordained a deacon and was truly full of wisdom and the Holy Ghost. He was a great one to hold up the hands of the ministers of the gospel, but he was not a “yes man.” Sometimes he disagreed with me, but he always did it in a godly way and had a Biblical reason for doing so. He earned the respect of the congregation by his gracious attitude and by his studious devotion to the Word of God. I charge you to live a consistently godly life and to earn the respect of God’s people.
The third picture in my office is that of my father in the ministry, Elder Hassell Wallis. He, too, went to be with the Lord several years ago. He, being dead, yet speaketh. He daily influences me. He was an avid student of God’s Word. Towards the end of his life he virtually lost his voice and was not able to do much public preaching. However, this did not diminish his eager study of the Bible. He was reading meditating and learning until the end. Even though he lost his speaking voice, he was very powerful and effective in private admonition. He was a very honest and courageous preacher. He refused to be a man-pleaser, and absolutely would not play ecclesiastical politics. This cost him a lot of popularity, but the loss of human acclaim did not influence him to deviate from the course of truth and integrity. He had several sons in the ministry and he repeatedly admonished us to remember that we would have to give an account to God for our ministry. I charge you to be a life-long student of God’s Word and have the courage to live by its precepts in the midst of the adversarial and hostile environment of this world.
Remember these words of the great apostle in 1Co 6:19-20, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
I pray God’s richest blessings to be upon you,
Brother Zack Guess
By Judy Guess
i. For his preaching®doors to open; boldness
ii. For him to grow in grace and holiness
iii. For him to be delivered from temptations (don’t be naive)
iv. Let him know you are praying for him
him for personal prayer requests
i. Make it easy for him to study, pray (provide opportunities, esp. Sat. pm, Sun. am)
ii. Don’t be a whiner and complainer (you could hinder his ministry)
iii. Enter into his ministry; be a part, and you won’t feel left out and resentful. Make your home an extension of his ministry.
i. Your husband won’t please everyone all the time. Consider the criticism; don’t be defensive; pray, and then do what’s right at all costs!
ii. The more intense the opposition, the more intense the prayer!!
iii. Remember don’t take matters in your own hands to defend your husband. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."
iv. How you respond to criticism is vital-you must have HUMILITY!
DEAD MEN CAN'T SEE
A Study of 1Co 2:14
The Natural Man
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." This passage from 1Co 2:14 tells us that the natural man (the man who has not been born from above by the Holy Spirit) is totally unable to receive or even to understand anything of a truly spiritual nature. The natural man may be extremely intelligent and well-read; he may be very cultural and sophisticated; he may be artistic and able to converse in several languages -- but he cannot understand even one small spiritual truth while he remains in his natural state.
This man may read the Bible and even memorize whole chapters from it, but he cannot really grasp its true and deepest meaning. This man may go through the motions of prayer, but he is not really praying as far as God is concerned.
Why is this so?
Because the natural man does not have spiritual life. He is totally dead to the entire realm of the Holy Spirit. How did the get to be this way? The first man on the earth, Adam, disobeyed God's command and brought death -- both spiritual and physical death -- down upon the entire race of mankind. The Apostle Paul states the case in Ro 5:12 -- "Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
The purely natural man has physical life but he is spiritually dead. In the Bible this is called being "dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph 2:1). All men are nothing more than natural men from their very conception, and they remain this way unless God gives them spiritual life. David even said, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Ps 51:5).
Natural men do not realize how very dead they are!
Christ once talked to a group of these natural men who didn't realize that as far as spiritual things were concerned, they were utterly dead. He was speaking to a group of Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day. He said, "Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word." (Joh 8:43). This is a remarkable statement. These men did actually hear the words spoken by Jesus, yet Jesus said that they didn't hear His words. Furthermore, he said that they could not hear His words. So there must have been a deeper level of hearing that went beyond the mere physical sound of Jesus' voice. And as far as this level was concerned, these Pharisees were dead, even though they had physical life.
And they are not the only ones who are dead.
Christ said, "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." (Joh 8:47). So only the people of God can really hear and spiritually understand the words of God. They are foolishness to everyone else.
I would like to ask a question. Are God's words foolish to you?
Alive, Yet Dead
How can a man have physical life, be intelligent and active, and yet be dead to the things of God? Why is a man who is able to comprehend physical realities unable to do the same with spiritual phenomena? The simple answer is this: "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1Jo 5:12). So a man may have tremendous physical vitality and be as dead as a stone to the true realities. This explains why many scientists with very high levels of intelligence are able to deny the things of God and some of them actually deny the very existence of God. They may be very brilliant men but they are also dead men.
John said that, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (Joh 3:3). All men are natural men and nothing more at conception. But God gives spiritual life to some by causing them to be born again, and then they are able to see and understand the glorious realities of the kingdom of God. Then they are possessors of both natural and spiritual life. And it must be added that a man is no more able to obtain spiritual life by his own efforts than he is to obtain natural life on his own. The giving of spiritual life is wholly the work of God who gives spiritual life to whom He pleases (Ro 9:15).
But to better understand the mystery of how a man can be alive physically but dead to spiritual things at the same time, let us consider the following: A dog has natural life. There are many things that a dog has in common with a man. They both eat, they run, they breathe, they play, they hunt, etc. but when it comes to the world of rational thought and speech, the dog is dead to the man's world of thought.
In like manner, a man may have physical life and be able to function brilliantly in the world of thought, but, at the same time, be completely dead in so far as the spiritual realm is concerned. A natural man and a "born-again" spiritual man have much in common. They both have physical needs and appetites; they both operate on a high intellectual level and are able to think in the abstract. They can both communicate with speech and can work with mathematics. They can both marry and raise families. There is so much that they have in common. But when they reach the limit of natural realities and enter the threshold of the things of God, the purely natural man must stop. He cannot enter here. He is not equipped to do so. He is dead to this world!
A purely natural man is as dead to the things of the Spirit as the dog is dead to the man's world of the intellect.
A mere natural man may read the Bible, may learn all of its original languages, may make a close study of its grammar, and still not really understand what God is saying in it. He may think that he understands -- many of those Pharisees thought that they understood, too, but Jesus said that they did not understand His speech and could not even hear His word (Joh 8:43).
On the other hand, the most ignorant and handicapped child of God can understand more of the true meaning of Scripture and other spiritual things than the most brilliant of natural men. In fact, the natural man can understand exactly nothing of the true import of Scripture. Jesus said in this regard: "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou has hid these things form the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." (Mt 11:25-26).
The spiritual man will love the Lord God; it is impossible for the natural man to do so.
The spiritual man has repented of his evil ways and turned to God for mercy. Have you repented toward God? Do you feel the need of repentance? The natural man does not even feel the need of repentance.
The Case of the Dead Bible Scholar
I have on my desk a book written by a very brilliant and learned student of the Bible. In his own words he says that this book "is the outcome of an endeavor which has extended over forty years to discover who the man Jesus Christ really was." It seems wonderful that a man would spend forty years of hard labor to find Jesus Christ. The only problem is that from all appearances the author is a dead man. He did not find the real Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because he did not have eyes to see or ears with which to hear. He did not seek Jesus because he wished to adore and worship Him, but that he might blaspheme Him and tell lies about Him. What this man has written in his book shows so clearly that Jesus Christ can't be found by the natural man, no matter how brilliant and studious he may be.
The name of the scholar is Hugh J. Schonfield. the name of his book is The Passover Plot. Let us examine a part of it. We may gain some insight into the workings of the mind of the natural man. This man thinks he is a free agent (all natural men make a loud boast of their vaunted freedom). But to all appearances he is an abject slave to Satan and to sin. Satan is the real author of all the lies about the Son of God which he promotes in his book. Schonfield states that as a youth, the Person of Jesus greatly attracted him (p. 12). But what a morbid attraction it proved to be! He was not like the Wise Men who wanted to find Jesus to worship Him; rather, he was like King Herod who wanted to find Jesus that he might hurt and kill him.
In this man's diligent search he even made a translation of the Christian Scriptures from the original Greek. But in the process he denied that the Scriptures are the inspired word of God (p. 14). He does this primarily because he wishes to do away with the miraculous element in the New Testament. He wants to deal with Jesus merely as a man of flesh and blood and to explain Him apart from being the divine Son of God. This is a common tactic among men who are dead in trespasses and in sins.
In doing away with the supernatural he denies that Jesus Christ was born of Mary the virgin (p. 48). This is a flat denial of the Scriptures (Mt 1:18-25), and amounts to calling God a liar. To use his own words, Schonfield says: "There was nothing peculiar about the birth of Jesus. He was not God incarnate and no Virgin Mother bore him. The Church in its ancient zeal fathered a myth and became bound to it as dogma" (p. 50).
The Fairy Dust of Faith
A blind man cannot see. A man dead in sin cannot receive spiritual things. Jesus, in speaking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit, said: "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him . . ." (Joh 14:17). All that a purely natural man can see is limited to the natural world. The things of the Spirit appear as utter foolishness to him. Schonfield shows his utter inability to "see" in the following statement: "With the birth stories of Jesus, and of John the Baptist also, we pass directly from the world of sober reality into the world of fairy tale" (p. 49); a horribly blasphemous statement that reveals the author's complete blindness. But then, even though he means to be irreverent and sarcastic, he unwittingly utters a great truth. He says, "All we need is the application to our eyes of the fairy dust called faith to enable us to see and acknowledge this."
Schonfield meant to be sarcastic but what he said contained a great truth. Men cannot see without faith. Not all men have faith (2Th 3:2). Men cannot please God without faith (Heb 11:6). No one has the ability to just reach out and get faith. Faith is a gift of God's grace (Eph 2:8). God sovereignly gives this gift to whomever He pleases and withholds it at His pleasure (Ro 9:15-16). As far as true Christians are concerned, "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2Co 5:7). This is why one with faith can believe the account of miracles in the Bible and those, like Schonfield, who have only natural sight, are utterly incapable of such belief. This lack of faith is what makes the Bible such a strange book to him.
The Passover Plot
Schonfield's main thesis is that Jesus thought He was the Messiah. He planned His life so that it would be a fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. He even planned His death on the cross, but he arranged that a narcotic would be given Him so that He would just appear to be dead. He also arranged that someone would take Him down, put Him in a cave-tomb, and revive Him. Then He would appear as if He had risen from the dead. Schonfield says, however, that when the Roman soldier thrust his spear into Jesus' side that He was wounded so badly, He revived just long enough to give some last minute instructions and then He died never to rise again.
In speaking of this plan Schonfield says, "A conspiracy had to be organized of which the victim was himself the deliberate secret instigator. It was a nightmarish conception and undertaking, the outcome of the frightening logic of a sick mind, or a genius" (p. 132).
It is difficult to see how more blasphemous ideas could be entertained or more ungodly words could be written. If anyone doubts this conclusion he has good reason to wonder whether he has eyes to see or ears to hear.
What do you think the Almighty God thinks of these words written about the Son of God who took on Himself a body of flesh and lived, suffered, and died on behalf of His people? What do you think the Lord will do about such words as these? What would you men do if someone called your wife a whore? Would you just smile and shake his hand and agree with him? If you did, what kind of a an excuse for a man would you consider yourself to be? What do you think the God of heaven will do to one who calls His Son a liar and a fraud and never repents of it?
Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Ro 12:19)
Satan is no fool. He will do anything he can to win the favor of God's people and, like the spider, entice them into his net. We must beware. Schonfield says a lot of nice things about Jesus, but this must mean nothing to us when we consider the total impact of his message. He does this to gain the sympathy of a Christian audience. It is as if someone tortured and killed your family and then said, "Oh, what a lovely family you had."
And even in the nice things that this dead man says about Jesus, he lies. For instance: "We have to accept the absolute sincerity of Jesus. But this does not require us to think of him as omniscient and infallible" (p. 41). Or again: "The historical Jesus has always been there for the finding, not faultless, not inerrant, not divine, but magnificently human" (p. 185).
Christ said that He was the divine Son of God. Schonfield says that Christ is a liar.
"Let God be true, but every man a liar..." (Ro 3:4).
If Christ was a mere man there is no hope for us; there is nothing but despair. Paul tells us the full implications of this: "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain . . . And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sin . . . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1Co 15:14,17,19).
I am thankful that I do not share the blasphemy of this dead man, Schonfield. My God is the God of the Scriptures. He lives and moves. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Re 19:16) I believe Him when He says, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death" (Re 1:18).
Because I believe this, I want to say, "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Re 19:6).
Can You Hear?--Can You See?
Do you share this faith in a triumphant, resurrected, reigning Christ, whom you acknowledge as Lord? If so, then, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear" (Mt 13:16).
Are you an unbeliever? If so, then remember that, "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" (2Th 1:7-9).
Nu 23:10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth [part] of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!
Heb 2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Ps 37:37 Mark the perfect [man], and behold the upright: for the end of [that] man [is] peace.
Ps 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD [is] the death of his saints.
Pr 14:32 The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.
1Co 3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
Lu 2:29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
Php 1:21 For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain.
22) But if I live in the flesh, this [is] the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23) For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
2Co 5:8 We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Ps 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore.
2Ti 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
2Pe 1:14 Knowing that shortly I must put off [this] my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
Re 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed [are] the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
Lu 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Ec 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Ac 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
John Warburton- He wanted to speak but could not and gave signs he wanted his children to write something. "Is it to tell us how good the Lord is to you in your last moments?" He lifted up both hands and waving them with peculiar delight, said, "Yes, yes." He still continued to appear as if those around him did not sufficiently understand him. With great exertion he lifted up both hands, pointing with his finger and labouring to articulate something. At last he said, "Hal--, Hal--!" Then followed with a firm voice, without a waver, "Hallelujah!" and he immediately breathed out his soul. . ." 1857
William Gadsby-Amongst his last words were, "I shall soon be with Him," shouting, "Victory, Victory, Victory (then raising his hand), for ever." 1844
John Kershaw- At the end he repeated the lines
"Far from a world of grief and sin
With God eternally shut in."
and added "God is faithful! God is faithful!" and his soul was taken. . . 1870.
Arthur Triggs- "Of any friends ask about me, tell them it is sweet to die in Jesus. Oh, I am longing to be with Him. He is my Redeemer." His last utterance was "Come, Lord Jesus!"-1859
Songs of Praise The Angels Sing
"Borne upon their latest breath, Songs of praise shall conquer death;
Then, amidst eternal joy, Songs of praise their pow's employ."
Jesus, Lord We Look To Thee
"Let us then with joy remove To the family above,
On the wings of angels fly, Show how true believers die."
Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me
"When at last I near the shore, And the fearful breakers roar
Twixt me and the peacful rest, Then while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me, 'Fear not, I will pilot thee.'"
All Praise To Thee, My God, This Night
"Teach me to live thatI may dread The grave as little as my bed;
To die, that this vile body may, Rise glor-r'ous at the awlful day."
He Leadeth Me
"And when my task on earth is done, When by Thy grace, the victory's won,
E'en death's cold wave I will not flee, Since God thru Jordan leadeth me."
When I Can Read My Title Clear
"When I can read my title clear To mansions in the skies,
I'll bid farewell to every fear, and wipe my weeping eyes."
In All My Lord's Appointed Ways
"And when my Savior calls me home, Still this my cry shall be;
Hinder me not! come, welcome death; I'll gladly go with Thee"
Abide With Me
"Hold Thou Thy word before my closing eyes; Shine thru the gloom, and point me to the skys;
Heav'n's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee--In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!"
Nearer, My God, To Thee
'Or if on joyful wing, Cleaving the sky, Sun, moon, and stars forgot, Upward I fly,
Still all my song shall be, Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!"
2Pe 1:11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Ps 32:8-9, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
will instruct thee..."® "He instructs by his providence, and even by afflictive
dispensations of providence; and by his word..."
Afflictive dispensations®Ps 119:67, "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word."
Ps 119:71, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes."
Ps 119:75, "I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me."
Heb 12:5-12, "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees..."
"teach thee in the way which thou shalt go..."® "the path of duty, from whence men are apt to wander; when the Lord hedges up the way they would go with thorny providences, and by his ministers, word, and Spirit, directs them in the right way..."
"I will guide thee with mine eye..."® "He teaches us by his word and guides us with his eye, by the secret intimations of his will in the hints and turns of Providence, which he enables his people to understand and take direction from, as a master makes a servant know his mind by a wink of his eye."-Matthew Henry
"As servants take their cue from the master’s eye, and a nod or a wink is all that they require, so should we obey the slightest hints of our Master, not needing thunderbolts to startle our incorrigible sluggishness, but being controlled by whispers and love touches."-C. H. Spurgeon
"Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle..."
"The caution is, not to be unruly and ungovernable."-Matthew Henry
"It is much to be deplored that we so often need to be severely chastened before we will obey. We ought to be as a feather in the wind, wafted readily in the breath of the Holy Spirit, but alas! we lie like motionless logs, and stir not with heaven itself in view. Those cutting bits of affliction show how hard mouthed we are, those bridles of infirmity manifest our headstrong and wilful manners. We should not be treated like mules if there was not so much of the ass about us. If we will be fractious, we must expect to be kept in with a tight rein. Oh, for grace to obey the Lord willingly, lest like the wilful servant, we are beaten with many stripes."-C. H. Spurgeon
"Consider the causes why a broken leg is incurable in a horse, and easily curable in a man. The horse is incapable of counsel to submit himself to the farrier; and therefore in case his leg be set he flings, flounces, and flies out, unjointing it again by his misemployed mettle, counting all binding to be shackles and fetters unto him: whereas a man willingly resigns himself to be ordered by the surgeon, preferring rather to be a prisoner for some days, than a cripple all his life."- Thomas Fuller
"The horse and the mule are turned with difficulty; they must be constrained with bit and bridle. Do not be like them; do not oblige your Maker to have continual recourse to afflictions, trials, and severe dispensations of providence, to keep you in the way, or to recover you after you have gone out of it."-Adam Clarke
Pr 3:1, "My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments..."
Pr 4:20, "My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings."
Pr 8:33, "Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not."
Pr 2:1-5, "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God."
The Horror of Persistent Disobedience
Pr 1:7, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Pr 8:36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
Pr 1:24-30, "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; 25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; 27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof."
Pr 5:11-12, "And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof..."
1Sa 15:22-23, "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king."
The Four Elements of True Obedience
Promptly- Ge 6:22; Isa
a. Positive example- David. Ac 13:22.
Negative example- Saul-1Sa 15.
Cheerfully- Ps 40:8.
4. From the heart-Ro 6:17.
What will cause an individual to obey?
The fear of God- Ge 39:9; De
5:29; Ec 12:13; Col 3:22.
Love for Jesus Christ - Joh
3. God’s chastisements- Psalm 199: 67. 71.
"Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to
Ps 141:4, "Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity..."
Ps 19:13, "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression."
Ps 119:5, "O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!"
Zack M. Guess
January 16, 2003
The New Testament Church
Jesus Christ personally founded the New Testament Church while He was on earth. The word translated “church” in the King James Version is evkklhsi,a (ekklesia). This word means “called out or called forth…a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly.” This is the proper or primary meaning given by J. H. Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. He gives several examples of the usage of this word. It was used among the Greeks to denote “an assembly of the people convened at the public place of council for the purpose of deliberating.” An example of this usage is found in Ac 19:39. The word is also used of the nation of Israel when they were assembled together in the wilderness in Old Testament times. It is used this way in Ac 7:38. It is also used of “any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance or tumultuously.” It is used in this way in Ac 19:32,41. Thayer also says that the word is used in the Christian sense of “an assembly of Christians gathered for worship.” He further describes this assembly as “a company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake” It can readily be seen that each of these usages of the word evkklhsi,a (ekklesia) conforms to the basic meaning of an assembly.
Then Thayer makes the mistake that many do at the present day. He invents a meaning of ekklesia that is not inherent in the basic meaning. Many times people do this to support some preconceived idea. They leave the basic meaning and accepted and contextual usage of a word because they desire to teach something which is in conflict with the actual meaning of the word. We must be careful and impartial students to make sure that we do not make the same mistake.
In this vein Thayer says that the word evkklhsi,a (ekklesia) refers to “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth; collectively, all who worship and honor God and Christ in whatever place they may be.” He gives Mt 16:18 as an example of this usage where he says “perhaps the Evangelist employs th.n evkklhsi,an [the assembly] although Christ may have said th.n basilei,an mou [my kingdom].” (I have supplied the words in the brackets).
Thayer has made some basic mistakes here that we would do well to carefully consider. First, he betrays a defective view of the inspiration of Scripture. He says that while Matthew says that Christ said “on this rock I will build my assembly,” He might have actually said “ on this rock I will build my kingdom.” This is absolutely unacceptable to one who holds to the only correct and orthodox view of the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus emphatically did not tell Peter “on this rock I will build my kingdom.” He said, “I will build my assembly.”
Thayer obviously had a theological preconception that caused him to make the same mistake that many make today. He equated the church or assembly with the kingdom of God. The assembly and the kingdom are not synonymous. The kingdom of God is more extensive than is the assembly. The church or assembly is in God’s kingdom but it is not the same thing as the kingdom. Even a superficial reading of the Scriptures will show that the concept of the kingdom is quite extensive. This is not the place to study the kingdom, but a few examples will cast some necessary light on the subject. For example, John the Baptist preached in Mt 3:2 that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The kingdom was already there. Yet in the Lord’s Model Prayer we are to earnestly request that “thy kingdom come.” We want God’s rule and reign to be more and more manifest until, finally, in the “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2Pe 3:13) His will be perfectly and willingly obeyed “in earth as it is in heaven.” We also learn that the Lord Jesus Christ “shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.”(2Ti 4:1). This is obviously future. The basic meaning of the Kingdom of God is “the rule and reign of God.” This is manifested in varying degrees. We know from Scripture that God is completely ruling even now. He is right now working all things “after the counsel of his own will.” (Eph 1:11). He is at the present moment doing “according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth…” (Da 4:35). However, God’s rule is not as apparent now as it shall be in the future. Even now, He is in control of all men. Even now according to Pr 21:1 “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Those who think that they act independently of God absolutely do not. God is in control. However, those who are wicked are not willingly and openly doing the revealed will of God. The glorious day will come, however, when all the redeemed family of God will be worshipping God openly, completely, and joyfully. That is when the kingdom [the rule and reign of God] will be manifested in all its perfection.
All God’s children are in His kingdom as soon are they are born from above. This is plain from a study of Joh 3:3-8. However not all of God’s children are in His church while they in this earth. We will examine this truth later. For now, suffice it to repeat that the kingdom and the church are not the same. The church [assembly] is in the kingdom [the rule and reign of God] but it is not identical with the kingdom.
Thayer has made another basic mistake that is commonly made also today by many. He is assuming that Mt 16:18 cannot possibly be talking about a local assembly. After all the language is too extensive to admit of such an interpretation. The Lord Jesus tells Peter that on the Rock [Christ and the divine revelation about Him] He will build His church. Thayer and many modern day writers simply assume that the Lord is talking about some nebulous entity that they call a ”universal church.” After carefully giving the basic meaning of the word evkklhsi,a (ekklesia) which was “assembly” he gave the contrived and unwarranted definition of “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth; collectively, all who worship and honor God and Christ in whatever place they may be.”
There are two things that are fundamentally wrong with Thayer’s view. The first is that he has obviously twisted the basic meaning of ekklesia. How can those who are “scattered throughout all the earth” possibly be said to be an assembly in any sense of the word? This is an obviously flawed and ludicrous concept. The language simply will not bear this contrived meaning.
The other fundamental defect in Thayer’s concept is shown in the way the Lord Jesus used the word Himself. A simple study of this is very enlightening. Jesus Christ used the word evkklhsi,a (ekklesia) 23 times in the New Testament. He first used it in Mt 16:18. He used it twice in Mt 18:17. He used it 20 times in the book of Revelation. Without any shadow of doubt, each time He used the word in Mt 18 and in the Revelation He used it in the basic sense of a local assembly. In Mt 18 He was talking about church discipline. He mentioned the steps one must take who has been offended by an erring brother in the church. After taking the first two steps and being rejected by the offender, the aggrieved party is to “tell it to the church.” If the offender refuses to “hear the church”, he is to be disciplined. It is very obvious that the only interpretation that makes sense here is that the church (assembly) is a local congregation. The same is true of the usage of the word in the book of Revelation. In all of the 20 times the word ekklesia is used here, it unmistakably refers to a local assembly. Sometimes the word is used in the plural such as in Re 1:4 “John to the seven churches which are in Asia…” or in Re 2:7 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” In the final instance in the Bible in which the word ekklesia is mentioned in the Bible it is used in that way: Re 22:16 “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches…”
The other times the word in used in the Revelation the reference is to a particular church. The one example we will give is in Re 3:1 “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write…”
The only passage in which the Lord Jesus used the word in which the meaning could be disputed is the one in Mt 16:18. It appears perfectly obvious that our Lord would not use the word in a radically different sense in this one place. Let us imagine that we hear a man make a speech in which he uses a word 23 times. Let us further imagine that we are not sure how he meant the word the first time he used it. However, let us state that the next 22 times the man used the word the meaning was plain and obvious. Would we not readily assume that the first time he used it he used it in the same way he used it the subsequent 22 times? The evident answer would be “yes.”
The probable reason that some have trouble with the usage of ekklesia in Mt 16:18 is because they have not considered the usage of words in the institutional or generic sense. We use words this way in everyday language many times. The Bible also very often uses words in this way. A prominent example is found in Job 14:1 “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” What does this mean? It means that every man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. One man is taken as an example of the rest of them. Each and every man born of woman is under consideration. It does not mean that there is one big universal man who is born of one huge universal woman. Another example of this usage is found in 1Ti 3:12 “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” Does this mean that there is one big universal wife of whom all the deacons are to be the husbands? To merely state this is see the absurdity of it. This means that each deacon is to have his own wife.
Oftentimes the word translated “church” in our beloved King James Version is used in this institutional sense. This is the way it is undoubtedly used, for example in 1Co 12:28, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” The only way these gifts function are in actual assemblies. The same is true of 1Co 15:9, where Paul said, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” In the first place, he is speaking primarily of the church at Jerusalem. In the second place, if he is speaking of other Christians, he obviously was persecuting baptized believers who were organized into actual local assemblies. That is the only kind of Christians there were at this stage of history.
Many other examples could be given of this institutional, generic, or abstract use of the word translated “church.”
Facts to Know or Truths to be Lived?
God did not give the Bible to His children just so that they could amass an array of facts. The Bible was given so that their lives might be constantly changed and that they might increasingly be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. In other words, as our title indicates, the word of God is not just a set of facts to be learned; it presents truths that are to be incorporated into the lives of God’s children. We are self-deceived if we think that because we know much factual information from the Bible, we are spiritual-minded even if we are not living godly lives. The Scriptures plainly indicate that God is not as concerned with how much we know as He is with how we live according to the knowledge we have.
In fact, knowledge increases responsibility. The more we know the more we have a sacred obligation to apply that knowledge in our daily living to the glory of God. That knowledge increases responsibility is plainly taught in Lu 12:47-48, "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." When God’s children know something good and fail to put that into practice they sin against God. This is clearly taught in Jas 4:17, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
I once knew a young man who was the son of a Primitive Baptist minister. He came to live in Memphis to get a job. He roomed with another young man who was raised in a different Christian denomination. Both of these young men attended the church where I was a member. The young man who was not raised in a Primitive Baptist home became very interested in the doctrine we preach and it seemed as if he would soon want to join our church. However, after a while he quit coming. We didn’t know why. After awhile one of our brethren ran into him and asked him why he didn’t come anymore. The reason was very sad. The son of the Primitive Baptist minister knew the Bible very well. He was very adept at defending the doctrines of grace. In fact, he enjoyed debating his roommate and winning all the Scriptural arguments about the doctrine of salvation. However, he had a very sinful lifestyle that included drunkenness. He knew many facts about the Bible and prided himself on his knowledge and on his ability to win arguments concerning the Scriptures. However, his abominable lifestyle nauseated his friend to the point that he refused listen to what he had to say.
Factual knowledge about the Bible is not enough. This is just the starting point. It is certainly important to learn what the Scriptures say and to know what they mean, but if we stop here, we have not gone far enough. After learning what the Bible teaches, we must prayerfully try to incorporate what we have learned into our daily lives.
All Bible believers love the classic passage that has to do with the divine inspiration of Scripture. We delight in reading in 2Ti 3:16 that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God..." We will go into spiritual combat with that verse against those who deny the inspiration of the word of God. It is good that we do so. The doctrine of inspiration is vital to the profession of Christianity. If we fail here we have no foundation on which to stand. We fervently sing, "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word...?" We read in Ps 11:3, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Yes, the doctrine of the infallible inspiration of Scripture is absolutely essential.
But, in loving these verses that speak of the inspiration of Scripture, we sometimes fail to consider what this same passage teaches us about the reason the Scriptures were given. Reading the last part of the verse we have previously cited and the verse following it we learn that the Scriptures are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." The word "profitable" has the sense of being useful. The Scriptures are useful. They are effective in the daily lives of the children of God. They are designed to teach God’s standards (doctrine), to bring us to conviction (reproof) when we fail, to set us on the pathway of righteous living (correction), and to provide us with the proper training (instruction in righteousness) so that we may live consistent, godly lives. The end of all this is that the child of God might be "throughly furnished unto all good works." "Throughly furnished" means that the Christian is completely equipped to perform the good works that God mandates. God has not left us lacking. This truth is also taught in 2Pe 1:3, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue..."
Is the Bible, then, given us just so we can know enough facts to win a game of Bible trivia or to win a debate with someone on doctrine? No! The Bible is given us so that we may glorify God in our lives. The truths of Scripture must not be only in our heads. They must also be in our hearts (so that we may truly worship) and in our feet (so that we live consistently with our profession).
It is very true that to be faithful to God we must often debate and defend the truth of Scripture. We read in 1Pe 3:15 that we must be "ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear..." The word translated "answer" means that we must be ready to give a "verbal defense" of the gospel. We must know the word of God before we can do this. However, if our lives are not consistent with what we profess, our verbal defense will not be credible. The first part of 1Pe 3:15 tell us that before we are able to give this verbal defense we must "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts." As we sanctify our Master in our hearts so that we can be prepared to defend His glorious doctrine our prayer might well be the same as that of David recorded in Ps 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."
There are many other passages of Scripture that teach the same principles as those set forth in 2Ti 3:16-17 about the purpose of the word of God. The word of God must do something in our lives if it is properly assimilated. God, through the apostle Paul gave Timothy a sacred commandment of things to be taught. What was the purpose of this commandment? He tells us in 1Ti 1:5, "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned..." The word translated "end" here means "aim or purpose." The very purpose of the commandment was to produce Christian charity or love in those to whom it was preached.
Paul was made an apostle and commissioned to preach the everlasting gospel. What was the purpose of this preaching? Was it just intellectual stimulation? No! Paul tells the brethren at Rome the purpose of his being commissioned an apostle. He wrote in Ro 1:5, "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name..." He was to call God’s children to obedience to the faith which was once delivered to the saints. The gospel was designed to make a great difference in their lives. This is in the first chapter of the long and profound epistle to the Romans. To underscore the importance of this principle he repeated it in the last chapter, where he wrote, speaking of the gospel, in Ro 16:26, "But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith..."
Being sinful creatures we are so prone to self-deception. We are apt to think that if we have attended the worship services and attentively listened to the sermon, then that is all that is required of us. After all, we have done better than most. At least we have gone to church. We have sat there for an hour and listened to the sermon. Surely that is all the Lord requires of us. This is nothing else than self-deception. As far as God is concerned, listening to the sermon is just the first step in our obedience. After we have heard the word of God, we must consistently and prayerfully endeavor to integrate that word into our daily lives.
There is a very graphic word picture that our Lord has given us in the Sermon on the Mount that illustrates this point. The Lord Jesus taught of two men who were building houses. One man built his house on a foundation of rock, the other on sand. Troubles came to each of these men. There was rain, floods and wind. The man who had built on the firm foundation survived. The man who built on the foundation of sand suffered a great disaster. The Lord referred to the man who had built his house on the rock as a "wise man." He called the one who had built his house on sand a "foolish man."
What was the difference in these men? The Lord said the wise man "heareth these saying of mine, and doeth them." He said the foolish man "heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not." Both of these men "went to church." Both of them listened to the sermon. They had that much in common. But here is where they parted ways. One of them put into practice what he had heard and the other thought that he had fulfilled his obligation to God by merely knowing what was right, whether or not he practiced it.
James also speaks of this. In the book of James, Jas 1:22-27, he makes it plain that to know without doing means that an individual is self-deceived and that his religion is vain. He plainly tells us that we absolutely must be doers of the word as well as hearers. He says in Jas 1:22, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
In Chapter 2 (Jas 2) of his epistle, James shows that the only way we can know if we have really been given the gift of faith is whether or not the fruit of this faith is evident in our lives. Faith without the works it inevitably produces is not genuine faith. Faith without works produces an empty profession. James asks the rhetorical question in Jas 2:20, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" He answers his own question in Jas 2:26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." It is one thing to say that we believe in God and in His only begotten Son. To demonstrate that we actually believe this, according to the Biblical description of true faith, is something else.
There are many who profess that they know God. They know much about the Bible. They talk a good game but their lives belie what they say. The inspired word of God says of such in Tit 1:16, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
There is nothing more comforting to a poor, old sinner like I am than the glorious truth that salvation is entirely by the grace of God. If a person has any insight into his sinful nature at all, he will readily acknowledge that the prophet had it just right when he wrote in Isa 64:6, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." The truly awakened sinner will be in full agreement with Isaac Watts when he wrote, "Should sudden vengeance seize my breath, I must pronounce Thee just in death; and if my soul were sent to hell, Thy righteous law approves it well." Yes, salvation must be entirely by grace. As one Spirit-taught sinner has said, "I did all the sinning and God did all the saving!"
What kind of effect does this salvation have on an individual? Does he repeat what is written in Ro 6:1, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" If he is truly born from above he answers the same way Paul did in Ro 6:2, "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" When a person really realizes what God has done for him in delivering him from the wrath to come, he is filled with gratitude and wants to demonstrate this thankfulness in his daily life.
The one who understands salvation by grace knows that the doctrine of eternal election is true. He knows that his hope is based on the fact that God the Father chose him in Christ Jesus before the world began. Nothing can erase his name from the Lamb’s Book of Life. Is this truth designed to make him careless in his daily living? "No," a thousand times, "no!" He must heed what Paul said in Col 3:12, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering..."
What about the doctrine of redemption? The truth of this glorious teaching is that Jesus Christ bore all the sins of all the elect family of God on the Cross of Calvary. He paid the price for those sins and satisfied the justice of God. No one can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect. Their justification is complete. The ransom has been paid. The warfare has been accomplished. Does this doctrine, when it is truly ingrained in the heart, lead one to live a careless or slothful life? Again, the answer is a resounding "no!" The individual who realizes the value of the great price of the precious blood of Jesus that paid the price for his sins, identifies with what Paul wrote in 1Co 6:19-20, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
The Bible is such a wonderful book! Being inspired by God, it is chock full of wonderful teaching techniques. It is filled with memorable word pictures. We find one which is pertinent to our subject in Le 14:14-17. There the writer is considering the trespass offering. We read of this in Le 14:14, "And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot..."
The teaching here seems to be obvious. The sinner has his ear cleansed so that he may hear God’s word in an understanding and spiritual way. But hearing is not enough. Next, the thumb of his right hand is cleansed. In Scripture, the hand often designates that member of the body by which we work. We can see this in Ec 9:10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." The awakened child of God has not only been cleansed by the blood of Christ in order that he may hear God’s word, he has also been cleansed that he may do good works to the glory of God. The final place to which the blood was applied, was to the great toe of the right foot. The foot is, of course the member of the body that enables us to walk. In Scripture the walk usually signifies our course of habitual conduct, or our lifestyle. We can see this in Am 3:3, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" We can also see it in 1Jo 1:7, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
It is true as our Lord said in Joh 15:5, "...without me ye can do nothing." It is also true as Paul said in Php 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." That same truth is taught in our word picture from Leviticus. Not only was the blood applied to the ear, the right thumb, and the right big toe, the oil was also applied to these three places. The oil here, as in many other places in the Bible represents the Holy Spirit. Cleansed by the blood of Christ; empowered by the Holy Spirit! Truly our bountiful God has given us all we need to live for Him.
What a beautiful word picture! It is so plain here that the Bible is not just a set of facts to be learned. Learning is just the first step. The learning should lead to godly works and to a godly walk!
God’s blood-bought children know that they are sinners. They want to please God. However, they find that though the spirit is willing, the flesh is, indeed, weak. They identify with Robert Robinson when he wrote, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above." How can they perform those things that please God? Can they really grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?
The answer is a very encouraging, "Yes!" God has not left His children helpless. He has given them means, by which they can be overcomers. The primary means is the word of God. If the Bible is daily read and meditated on, dramatic results will be evident in the life of the child of God. It is not just enough to spend a couple of hurried minutes in the word, however. It must be read, studied, meditated on, and prayed over. It is sometimes necessary to consult with seasoned Christians about how to consistently incorporate the word of God into one’s life in specific situations. Speaking of the way the word should be embedded in the life of the Christian, Paul said in Col 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." To dwell means to live. When we live in a place we stay there much of the time. We reside there. We do not just pay an occasional visit. Unless we are traveling, we are in our home a part of each twenty-four hour period. The definition given by the On Line Bible for the word "dwell" is "metaph. to dwell in one and influence him (for good)..."
God’s people often need to be revived. Their spirits sink. They tend to become to become weary in well doing. What can revive one when he gets in a lowly condition? The wonderful answer is that the word of God can! David was a wonderful child of God. He had ups and downs in his life. The Psalms have been called a biography of his soul. It is amazing how joyful he could be at some times, and how mournful he was at others. He got down, but he never stayed down. God always eventually revived him. What means were used to revive David? He tells us in Ps 119:50, "This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me." The Hebrew form of the verb translated "quicken" is the piel stem. In this form the verb means, "to quicken, revive, refresh."
Dear reader, when you are discouraged or if you have stumbled into sin, get your Bible out. Read it. Pray over it. Meditate on it. Eventually God will use it to revive you and you will find that the word of God is your comfort, even as it was David’s.
When we realize that the Bible is not just a set of facts to be learned, but that it contains precious truths to be lived, we are in a position to glorify our wonderful Lord. A prayerful study of the Scriptures should lead us to practice good works. Why should we be interested in performing good works? We should want to practice godliness because to do so brings glorify to our Heavenly Father. Christ Himself said in Mt 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." He also said in Joh 15:8, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
Do we profess an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ? Let us strive to live lives that are consistent with that profession. Paul said in 2Ti 2:19, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
Zack M. Guess
May 7, 2003
It is significant that when the Bible describes the role of pastor and uses comparisons to further describe that role, it uses the relationship of a father with his family to describe this role. A pastor is not compared to the CEO of a large business organization. This is interesting because in Christendom today, many think that what will make a man a good pastoral leader is that he has good business skills. In fact some "churches" resemble business organizations with all the machinery that goes with that.
The pastor is also not described in the New Testament as a military leader, with an elaborate hierarchy of rank, and one that exercises absolute, dictatorial authority.
The pastor is deliberately described in the Bible as a good father who has authority over his family which is based on love and respect. One of the best ways for a man to learn to be a good pastor is for him to learn to be a good husband and a good father! Rarely will a man be a good pastor who is not a good husband and a good father. A man may be a great preacher without these things, but he will not be a good pastor. The crying need in our churches today is for good pastors. I believe that the Lord is still doing as He did in the Old Testament when He said in Jer 3:15, "And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
I have known many men who had great preaching gifts but who neglected their wives and children. Such men are usually on an ego trip. They enjoy being admired as great preachers and enjoy speaking to large, adoring congregations. Brethren we should not strive to be like this. We should strive to be good family men. There is a reason why God puts such a high premium on family-the family is the first social institution that the Lord set up. The Lord set up the family in the Garden of Eden before He set up a church or institutions of human government. The family is under great attack today in almost all nations. I read in one place that the family is the bulls-eye on Satan’s target.
One of the most effective ways that we can be good pastors to our people is to show by example how to be good fathers and husbands.
In 1Ti 3, we have listed the attributes that must characterize a godly pastor or bishop. Prominent in this list of qualifications are those recorded in verses three and four, "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" Let us examine some of the words in this passage. First, the word translated "rule." What does this mean? Does it mean to rule arbitrarily and inflexibly, with an "iron hand"? The word translated "rule" here is proi,sthmi (proistemi). According to W. E. Vine in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words the word means, "to stand before, hence, to lead, attend to (indicating care and diligence)." The good father and the good pastor is a good leader. He cares for those he is leading. They follow him because they respect him and they know he cares for them. He is the man described in 1Pe 5:3, "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."
This passage in 1 Timothy says that he must have his children "in subjection." This word has a variety of similar meanings. Some of them are "to subject one's self, obey," "to submit to one's control," "to yield to one's admonition or advice." It is obvious here that the father/pastor must have control of his children. As it says in Tit 1:6, "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly." Speaking of Abraham the Lord said in Ge 18:19, "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." It is obvious that Abraham exercised authority in his household. But it was the authority of love and respect. There are two extremes to which we can go in our relationships with our children and with our congregations. On the one hand we can be too lax. We can refuse to exercise our responsibility of leadership, and just let people do what they want to do. The other extreme is to exercise harsh and arbitrary authority. We must not yield to either of these extremes, but must be strong, but loving leaders. God will hold us responsible for instructing our children and our congregations to live according to the Scriptures. Let us pray that He will help us to walk so close to Him that we can maintain the proper balance.
The passage in Timothy says that this father will have to exercise this authority "with all gravity." The word translated here is semno,thj (semnotes). It is a very interesting word. It "denotes venerableness, dignity." It is "the characteristic of a thing or person which entitles to reverence and respect, dignity, majesty, sanctity." Obviously the father/pastor must be a man who so behaves himself that he inspires respect. I do not believe that this means that he cannot laugh or be pleasant to be around. However, he must not behave foolishly or without dignity. He must be essentially a very serious-minded man. My father-in-the-ministry, Elder Hassell Wallis, is such a man. I always wanted to please him and obey him. I wanted to do this because I loved and respected him. I knew that he was interested in me and always had my best interests at heart. My own father-in-the-flesh was this sort of man. My dad was a very pleasant man, who had a good sense of humor. He laughed often and enjoyed life to the fullest. But he was also a very honorable man who took his responsibilities very seriously. We children loved him with great affection, but we also greatly respected him, his life style, and what he stood for. We, as fathers and pastors, must strive to be these kinds of men.
We must have no weaknesses, character qualities, or habits of speech or behavior that would cause those we lead to lose respect for us.
We are not perfect and we will make mistakes. We must learn how to acknowledge those mistakes and to ask for forgiveness when we have done wrong. Many men have the idea that it is a sign of weakness to admit wrong and to apologize. The opposite, however, is true. Those we are over and those we serve will respect us all the more when we acknowledge our weaknesses. Thankfully, both my wife and children respect me and treat me with honor. They do this knowing that I am prone to mistakes but that I am usually quick to acknowledge it when I am wrong.
Usually a pastor who has a happy home will have a happy church.
Another Scripture that shows the family-type relations that should characterize church members is 1Ti 5:1-2, "Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity." Here it is plain that we should treat each older man in our congregations with the same respect we would treat our own father. We should treat each young man as if he were our own brother. We should treat each older woman with the same respect we would render to our own mother. We should treat each younger woman in the church as we would our own sister. And we should be especially careful to behave with absolute purity in our dealings with younger women.
Treatment of Our Wives
One area in which pastors should be very careful is in the way they treat their wives. Some men do not treat their wives appropriately and blame it on the culture in which they live. Some cultures are harsher in their treatment of women than others. However, the Holy Word of God transcends all cultures! Those who believe the Bible must treat their women as God dictates in His word. The Christian pastor must be a great example to the ungodly world about him as to the proper treatment of women. The Bible leaves no doubt about the attitude husbands should have toward their wives. The Lord Jesus Christ tells us in Eph 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it..." We must treat our dear wives like the Lord Jesus treats us. He is patient, kind, tender, and compassionate with us. He is vitally interested in our welfare. He takes time to communicate with us. He is always ready to hear of our fears and misgivings. His ear is always open to our cries. He is never too busy to talk to us. He knows us very well. Sometimes we men are ignorant of some of the emotional needs of our own wives. This is inexcusable and is a violation of God’s Word. He has told us in 1Pe 3:7, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."
One besetting sin of men seems to be harshness toward their wives. We can become very impatient when our wives displease us and be very hurting in our remarks to them. I say that this must be a very common sin of husbands because Paul addressed it specifically in Col 3:19, "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them." The word translated "bitter" is pikrai,nw (pikraino). It comes from a root that means "to cut, to prick." It means to "to embitter exasperate." We should not behave in such a manner that our wives are exasperated at us. In fact, our wives should always feel safe and comfortable in our presence. They should not dread to see us come home. One of the most beautiful passages of Scripture is found in Ru 1:9, where Naomi wished for her daughters-in-law that, "The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband..." The Hebrew word translated "rest" is used 21 times in the Old Testament and is variously translated "rest, resting place, comfortable, ease, quiet, still." We preachers ought to consider it our sacred duty before God to have the happiest wives in the world. After all we must remember that according to Eph 5 the relationship between husband and wife is to reflect the relationship between Christ and His church.
We have already alluded to this but more must be said. What kind of attitude are we to have toward our children? How are we to behave toward them? It is true that we are over them and must insist that they obey us and live proper lives before us. But we must do this in such a way that we encourage them and set the proper example before them. They must absolutely know that we love them and are willing to sacrifice our lives, if necessary, for their sakes. We read in Eph 6:4, "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The parallel passage is Col 3:21, "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." The word translated "discouraged" is from a Greek word which means, "to be disheartened, dispirited, broken in spirit." When training a child we need to control his will, but we must not break his spirit. A father is a masculine symbol of authority but there is plenty of room for compassion and tenderness here also. Paul made this plain in 1Th 2:11, "As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children..." The basic meaning of "exhort" is "to encourage, strengthen." The word translated "comfort" here means "to speak to, address one, whether by way of admonition and incentive, or to calm and console." The basic meaning of the word translated "charged" is "to testify or bear witness." Here, the father is no doubt sharing with his children experiences from his own life. He is telling of successes, admitting failures, and testifying as to the great faithfulness of the Lord to him. All this implies that the father spends much, quality, time with his children.
A father who prayerfully deals in such a way with his children will usually be blessed to have obedient children who love and respect him. For a pastor, children like these will be a great asset to his ministry.
It is imperative that we worship God in our homes. Congregational worship is indispensable. Nothing, including the home, will take the place of the church. But home worship is also a necessity. Blessed indeed is the father who will take the time and effort to instruct his children in the things of the Lord on a daily basis. This home worship was emphasized already in Old Testament times. Speaking of the things of the Lord it was said in De 6:7-8, "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes." This home worship is part of what was under consideration in Eph 6:4, "And, ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." This is a daily task.
Many fathers, strangely even pastors, either dread family worship or feel inadequate for it. Others don’t see the vital importance of it and deem it be a nuisance. We need to develop an enthusiasm for this activity and to plan for it. Satan knows how important this is and he will try to hinder in any way he can. Sometimes, especially when family worship is not properly done, the children, and maybe even the wife, begin to dread it.
We should strive to make family worship as pleasant as possible. Families should spend a little time each day in praising God together in song. It is good to sometimes let the children choose some of the songs. It will be interesting for the family to learn some new songs together. Part of the family worship should be prayer. Family members should tell what some of their needs are. We should pray diligently for our church members and others who are in need of prayer. The father does not have to do all the leading in prayer. He can often let another family member lead. A good spiritual project would be for the family to memorize some portion of Scripture together. At the beginning of each worship session they can check to how the memory work is coming along. Entire chapters of the Bible may be memorized. Perhaps there is a distinct problem in the family that needs to be addressed in the memory work. For example, let us suppose that the family has been bothered by heated arguments among some of the family members. A very helpful Scripture to memorize would be Pr 15:1, "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." Maybe there has been a problem with unforgiveness. A very appropriate passage to memorize in this case would be Eph 4:32, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
No family devotional is complete without some reading of the Word of God and some teaching and exhortation from it. The devotional will go a lot better if the father has put some thought and prayer into it. Sometimes it might be good to just read books of the Bible together as a family. A chapter or so at each session might be enough. There can be infinite variety as we have 66 books of the inspired word of God to choose from!
The dad should take into consideration the ages of his children as he conducts the family worship. A longer time of family worship would be more appropriate for older children than for the very young. Some songs that would appeal to little children are good to maintain interest and teach Scriptural truths.
The family devotional, properly planned, prayed over, and carried out, should be among the most pleasant memories of children of godly homes. One of the best--known of Primitive Baptist ministers was Elder Sylvester Hassell, who lived from 1842-1928. His father was Elder C. B. Hassell. Sylvester, in commenting on the family worship times conducted by his father, said:
As far back as I can remember he was in the habit of assembling his family around the family altar every morning and evening to read a portion of Scripture, sing a hymn of praise, and to pour forth in the most humble and reverent manner his thanksgiving and supplications at the throne of grace. I can truly say that these were the most affecting, happy, and blessed seasons of my life. They are evergreen spots in memory’s waste, forming the nearest approach to Heaven that I have ever realized on earth. He sang well, and taught his children to sing. On Sunday morning, after prayers, he took great delight in instructing his children in Scripture history and the plan of salvation, and continually, both by precept and example, he strove to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I have often felt and said that I would rather have such a father than all the riches, honors, and pleasures of the world.
Dear brothers, it would be a crowning achievement on our lives and ministries if our children and our church members could speak this way about us. Let us prayerfully strive to so worship God in our homes and in our churches.
So, help us, dear God!
Delivered May 4, 2001 at Ministers’ Conference, Iligan City, Philippines
Note: This was written in response to a question about how to help a family develop and maintain closeness.
Dear Sister Patti,
I will answer you the best that I can. I would have answered sooner, but I wanted to talk to my dear wife so we could combine our thoughts.
First, I will say that we have been blessed with a very happy family, both the immediate family and the extended family. For this we are extremely thankful and give God ALL the praise! We have not always done everything right, and we have made many mistakes, but our Lord has been very gracious.
To begin with, the husband and wife need to be in agreement that family life is very important. They have to pull together. Therefore, anyone who highly values family needs to be careful who they marry. In-laws can play a very important in these matters. One of the reasons we are so close is because of the good example set by my in-laws. My father-in-law, Brother Tony Machiavello, who has gone to be with the Lord, was our family "patriarch." He was very godly, but he was also a lot of fun. Every time we visited in their home, we would always have a word of prayer, and oftentimes the reading of a chapter from the Bible and some songs. Thanksgiving was always our favorite time of the year. Everyone from out of town made a special effort to be there. We planned for weeks ahead. We all helped prepare the food. My job, for example, was to get a couple or three gallons of apple cider. Even the children would bake cookies and cakes. Every family would practice on skits. Those who could play the piano and had other skills would get ready.
On Thanksgiving Day, we would sit down to a heavily loaded table. Brother Tony would give a speech about how good God had been the past year, and would exhort us to serve Him. Then, while he carved the turkey, we would go around the table and each person would tell something he or she was thankful for. I am talking about a lot of people. Three children, their spouses, and 26 grandchildren! Everybody in the family knew that we put a high priority on this and on other family functions. We corresponded about these things and planned them. A great deal of effort goes into these kinds of things. However, the effort is more than worth it. We have memories that are more precious than gold or silver. We still carry on even though Brother Tony has gone to be with the Lord. One of the Thanksgiving events now is to go to his grave and to joyfully sing "In the Sweet By and By."
When we are together we also play a lot of football, basketball, and other fun things. Children have a lot of energy and you have to find a healthy outlet for that.
One thing that makes for family unity is the fact that our lives center around the Primitive Baptist faith. Most of us are church members. We love to go to church. We love to fellowship with church people. We sometimes have famly prayer meetings. We also possess for the most part the same values. We try to influence our children to live godly lives. That is much more important to us than them being rich or famous. Our number one priority is that our children serve the Lord. We constantly tell them this. We enjoy our religion. We practice hospitality and consider it a great honor when visiting preachers and other brothers and sisters in Christ stay in our homes. This takes some work and expense, but what a joy it is. Our children have church friends in many different places. We enjoy visiting other sister churches when possible.
Since we emphasize family unity, it is a fact that most of our children's best friends are their brothers and sisters and their cousins. They write, email and telephone their cousins quite often.
My dear wife, my mother-in-law, and some of the other good women in our family are always working to make memories. We make a big deal out of every birthday, anniversary, graduation, ordination, etc. that we can. I should have overdosed on birthday cake and ice cream a long time ago! We support each other. We are there for each other. We have driven many miles and made many sacrifices to share in special occasions. We have shared joy and sorrow together. Our women have helped when other women in the family had babies. In fact, my daughter and my sister-in-law recently delivered my latest grandchild at home. Of course, they are nurses and midwives, and I realize that not everyone can do this. When there is a death in the family we all give our best support and comfort. At least one of my children has constantly stayed with my mother-in-law since she has lost her husband. We try to reach out to others also. On those Thanksgivings, after the dinner and we have rested and played some, we invite a number of friends and brothers and sisters in the church over for a singing.
I will say that my in-laws have taught me how to be a good grandparent. My children almost fight for the opportunity to go to their grandparents' house to spend the night. Some grandparents do not want to go to much trouble to accommodate a bunch of grandkids, but they are making a big mistake. As long as my children have a home, their grandmother will have a home too. Brother Tony has fed many a hamburger from the grill to his grandkids. The grandchildren have to behave when are at their grandparents home. They have the same values that we parents do.
The reason I haven't mentioned my own dear father and mother is because they went to be with the Lord before I was married. However, they were the same kind of people as my in-laws and would have fit right in with what I have described.
I hope that this has been helpful. The bottom line is that to have a closeknit family, you have got to be committed to it, and to be willing to put a great deal of effort into it. I believe that the women are the key and we men need to take the spiritual lead and to help our women out all we can. We must sacrifice some of our free time, hobbies, etc., and to invest this time into building the family.
As the children get older, get out of school, move off, get jobs, have different schedules, etc, things become more difficult. However, you must plan, pray, and do the best you can.
We spend a lot of time with our children. We have always been blessed to either have our own little private school or to homeschool. I have driven many miles with a bunch of my boys and others to play basketball. I have kept score at many games. When the children need to talk, we try to always be there for them. Sometimes, late at night, I have heard my dear wife give sound advice to one of the older children who needed good counsel. Sometimes we get so tired that we think we just can't do it, but we remember how important it is, pray for strength, and go on.
Family life is very important. God set up the family in the Garden of Eden. The family is the basic unit of society. I read somewhere that the family is the BULL'S EYE ON SATAN'S TARGET! Satan hates families. We must do the best we can to preserve them.
Brother Zack Guess
Dear Sister Patti,
There is a very important matter that I would like to add to my last post. There are some who are not blessed to be in ideal circumstances as far as family is concerned. They should not be discouraged or despair. They must do the best they can, and pray for the amazing blessings of God on their efforts.
For example, there are some who are not married to those who believe as they do in a religious way. It is much better when husband and wife agree on religion. My two married children have spouses who are wonderful Christians and Primitive Baptists, for which we are very thankful. However, when people find themselves in other circumstances there is much hope. Timothy was probably Paul's favorite preacher. Paul says about Timothy in Php 2:19-20 "But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state."
However, Timothy was raised in less than ideal circumstances. Evidently his father was an unbeliever. We know that he was not a Jew, because he had refused to have Timothy circumcised. When Paul wanted Timothy to be used to preach the gospel to the Jews, he had Timothy circumcised after he became an adult. We read of this in Ac 16:3 "Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews, which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek." I do not know when Timothy's mother was converted to become a Christian, but it must have been early in her marriage. We do know two things about Timothy: we know that he was taught the Bible at a very early age and we know that both his grandmother and mother were devout Christians. We know that he was taught the Bible from an early age from 2Ti 3:15, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The word translated "child" here means a very young child or an infant. It is apparent that the mother and grandmother did the best they could under the circumstances. I do not believe that they rebelled against the Greek father. I believe that they just looked for opportunities to do what they could. The Bible tells the high regard that Paul had for the mother and grandmother as he spoke of them in 2Ti 1:5 "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."
Doing the best they could, and no doubt being constant and fervent in prayer, they had the blessing of seeing Timothy used greatly of the Lord. What a great blessing this is to any truly devout Christian.
Brother Zack Guess
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” 1Co 3:6
Paul humbly and correctly describes the necessity of our labor in God’s service and the necessity of God’s blessings upon our labors. As preachers ministering in Corinth, both Paul and Apollos had put in time and effort to lead the church there in the right way. Paul did the initial work of ministry there and Apollos followed. One might look at them and think the work was solely “their” work. But Paul was right in noting that it was God who had made their work fruitful. No matter how faithful and diligent we are in labor, we are still utterly dependent upon God to give the increase.
This is true of preachers and pastors, but the principle applies in other areas. Parents may find themselves frustrated at their lack of success in their children’s upbringing. Someone may be trying to warn a fellow believer from going down a dangerous path. We may have opportunities to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbeliever. In all these cases, we must be faithful and do all we can by God’s grace to plant and water. The preacher must study and pray for God’s blessings on his labor. The parent must not neglect their duties to their children. In all these cases, let us be at work with great effort. But while we’re sweating in our worthy labor, remember to look to God for the increase.
Do we not need a great increase in our day? Certainly we do in our churches, in our families, in our nation. Let us look to the God of heaven and earth and petition Him to give a great increase for His glory!
More Scriptures to Use Against Satan
(A look at the word “lust”)
Ps 81:12, “So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.”—We must resist temptation with all our might. It would be terrible if God turned us over to ourselves.
Pr 6:25, “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.”—Read the rest of this chapter and see the horrible consequences of this sin. This is obviously one of those places where Satan shows you the bait but hides the hook.
Mt 5:28, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”—Look at Mt 5:29-30 and see what vigorous action our Savior tells us to take to avoid this sin.
Ga 5:16, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”—
Here is the real answer to achieving victory. Note: This would be a good study. Just what does is mean in daily life to walk in the Spirit? How can you do this? Be specific.
1Th 4:3-5, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God…”
John Gill says on 1Th 4:5. “Not in the lust of concupiscence, &c.] Or "passion of lust"; for the mere gratifying and indulging of that; for a man so to possess his vessel, is to cherish the sin of concupiscence, the first motions of sin in the heart, by which a man is drawn away, and enticed; to blow up the flame of lust, and to make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof:”
“concupiscence” is epithumia which means “desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust…”
Jas 1:14-15, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
John Gill has some interesting comments on this passage:
Jas 1:14. 'But every man is tempted', &c.] To sin, and he falls in with the temptation, and by it, ‘when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed’; the metaphor is taken either from fishes, who are enticed by the bait, and drawn out by the hook; or from a lascivious woman, who meeting with a young man, entices him, and draws him away after her to commit iniquity with her: by “lust” is meant the principle of corrupt nature, which has its residence in the heart of man; is natural and hereditary to him, and therefore is called his own; he is conceived and shapen in it; he brings it into the world with him, and it continues in him, and is called his own heart’s lust, ‘Ro 1:24’. Now this meeting with some bait, which entices and draws it out, or with some external object, which promises pleasure or profit, a man is allured, and ensnared, and drawn away by it, and so the temptation begins: thus, for instance, covetousness was the predominant lust in Judas; this meeting with an external object, or objects, which promised him profit, he is at once enticed and drawn away to betray his Lord and master for the sake of it: so sin often promises pleasure, though it is but an imaginary, and a short lived one; which takes with a man’s own lust, and corruption within him, and so he is allured and drawn aside; and to this, and not to God, should he attribute temptation to sin.
Jas 1:15. 'Then when lust hath conceived', &c.] A proposal of pleasure or profit being made, agreeable to lust, or the principle of corrupt nature, sinful man is pleased with it; and instead of resisting and rejecting the motion made, he admits of it, and receives it, and cherishes it in his mind; he dallies and plays with it; he dwells upon it in his thoughts, and hides it under his tongue, and in his heart, as a sweet morsel, and forsakes it not, but contrives ways and means how to bring it about; and this is lust's conceiving.
Full-Time Ministry--Full-Time Support
I gladly wrote this study in response to a brother in Christ. This is a worthy subject and needs to be considered. I am aware that many people have erroneous ideas concerning this topic. May this little pamphlet open some eyes to the truth concerning this subject.
is only one source of truth which all Christians recognize as the divine
standard-the Scriptures. What any individual "thinks" or
"believes" or "feels" to be true is not important. The all
important consideration is "what does God say about it?"
Does God Want His Ministers to Devote Their Full Time to That Work?
Among the people that I serve God with, most of the ministers devote only part of their time to the ministry of the word and spend the rest of their time at secular jobs. Occasionally, we find a man who, being supported by a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, devotes his full time to the ministry of the word. This situation is just the opposite of what it should be according to the word of God. The Scriptures teach, as we shall see, that the normal situation should be that a minister be in the work of the ministry full-time, but that occasionally in exceptional circumstances, a man of God may supplement his income by secular work.
The fact that the pattern of the Bible has been reversed is responsible, in great part, for the destitute spiritual condition of many of our churches today. A cowardly ministry is responsible for this condition. Most ministers will not speak out on this subject because they know that Satan will move someone to claim that they are greedy of filthy lucre.
Scriptures Supporting the Concept of the Ministry of the Word as a Full-Time Work
There are many Scriptures on this subject that are so plain it is virtually impossible to misunderstand them. We will consider several:
1. 1Co 9:14, "Even so hath the Lord ordained
that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." This entire
chapter from verse one to eighteen is talking about financial support for the
minister. Verse seven says that when a man is a soldier on active duty, his
nation financially supports him so that he can devote full time to the warfare.
Verse nine says that even the law said that the ox that treadeth out the corn
should not be muzzled. Verse ten applies this idea to human
beings--specifically to ministers of the Word of God.. Verse thirteen says that
in Old Testament times the priests were able to minister about the temple on a
full time basis because they lived on their portion of the sacrifices which the
people of God had brought to the altar. And then we come to verse fourteen,
quoted above. This verse does not say that we are to make up our own minds
about the matter. It says that God has "ordained" that they which
preach the gospel shall live of the gospel. That is, they should be supported
financially by those to whom they minister.
The word translated "ordained" here is a very strong word. It is diatasso, and literally constitutes a command to ministers to live of the gospel, as the priests lived of the temple. This is the law of Christ and places an obligation on ministers and people--on the people to give, and on the ministers to be willing to be supported by the church and not from a secular occupation.
This is God’s rule! There are exceptions to this rule as we shall see later, but the rule, as a rule, remains in force. How sad it is that most of our ministers and people have lived by the exception rather than by the rule. This amounts to substituting the traditions of men for the commandments of Christ. The Lord has and will show His displeasure at this tampering with his word. (Mt 15:1-9).
5:17-18, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy
of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not
muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his
Here in verse eighteen Paul quotes from the same Old Testament passage that he used in 1Co 9:9 concerning the ox that treaded out the corn. In both places he is speaking of the full support of the minister by the church of God. So far as the "double honour" is concerned, Paul is simply saying that a hard working minister of the gospel should be paid well. This is obvious from the context. It is also indicated by the New Testament Greek word translated "honour." The word is time. The same word is translated "price" in Mt 27:6,9; it is translated "prices" in Ac 4:34; it is translated "sum" in Ac 7:16; it is again translated "price" in 1Co 6:20, where the verse says, "ye are bought with a price."
Only those elders who continually work hard at this work are entitled to this generous support. The word translated "labour"is kopiao which means "to grow weary, tired, exhausted, to labor with wearisome effort, to toil." The specific work these men are to be laboring in is ruling (to superintend) and doctrine (teaching). If this kind of intense effort had been put into this work all along, our churches would have been much more vigorous and there would be more churches. The fault lies with cowardly or uninformed ministers who will not teach, and with covetous church members who prefer to serve mammon rather than God. The primary fault lies with the ministers, because I believe there are many of God’s people who would do better if they were taught.
6:4, "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and
to the ministry of the word."
Here, the apostles, who acted in the capacity of elders or ministers of the church at Jerusalem (1Pe 5:1), set the example for all time to future ministers. It is impossible for one to give himself continually to these things if his mind and energy are consumed in a secular job forty or more hours in a week. Here, in this chapter, the church at Jerusalem greatly prospered after the ministers’ hands were freed to do the work to which God had called them.
2:4, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the
affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a
The context (see verse two) shows plainly that Paul is speaking to Timothy in his capacity as a minister of the gospel. This says clearly that if a man of God wants to please his Master, he will seek to spend as much time as possible in the active service of the gospel. The minister is a soldier of God in a very special sense. One translator renders this verse as follows: "No one when engaged in military service allows himself to become involved in civilian pursuits, in order that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier."
I remember that before I became a minister of the gospel I labored at secular work. In the course of a day I could not help but be entangled somewhat with the affairs of this life. Often I would go to church weary and tired. My pastor, Hassell Wallis, was a full time minister. He had spent his entire time in prayer and in the ministry of the word. He would come to the worship service filled with holy zeal. He was able to lift up my weary soul by his messages and give me fresh hope. How thankful I was that he had not been out in the world as I had been! If he had been in the same shape I was in, he could not have helped me very much. God knew what He was doing when He ordained things this way.
I have given only a sampling of the Scriptures which pertain to this subject, but the Scriptures that I have given are plain and will be sufficient for the open-minded child of God who honestly wants to do things God’s way.
It is obvious that other Scriptures will not contradict the ones that have been cited, for God’s word doesn’t contradict itself.
Not only does Scripture advocate
ministers of the gospel giving their full time to this work, and the churches
supporting them as they labor, but history shows that our forefathers taught
the same truth. So when we walk in this path we are truly walking in "the
footsteps of the flock."
I now quote a portion of The Philadelphia Confession of Faith. The Philadelphia was one of the oldest Baptist associations in America. She adopted this confession which was essentially the same as the London Baptist Confession of Faith which was issued in 1689:
The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ is his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer (Ac 6:4; Heb 13:17) with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to him, it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all (1Ti 5:17-18; Ga 6:6-7) their good things, according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves (2Ti 2:4) entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising (1Ti 3:2) hospitality toward others; and this is required by the (1Co 9:6-14) law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
This is just a sample of the testimony of the history of our people. Much more of a similar nature could be produced. How encouraging that they stood where Christ and the apostles stood!
Exceptions to the Rule
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions should be rare and exceptional, and not the ordinary thing! In spite of the exceptions the rule still stands.
Sometimes a congregation might be so small she simply could not support a minister full time, but he and they should work and pray towards this biblical goal. It does not take a very large congregation, if they mean business with the Lord, to support a pastor full time. If a congregation of ten families each gave ten percent of their income for the support of their pastor, he would be enabled to live on the average income of his flock. I know of one church which does not even have ten families who are supporting their pastor in full time ministerial work. This has proven to be a great blessing both to them and to him. Of course, this little group really means business with God. They do not just talk about how much they love the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ--they do something about it.
The Case of Paul
There are other exceptions to the rule. When a man does evangelistic work and is used of God to start new churches, he will have to do some secular work unless he receives support from already established churches. It is also sometimes necessary for a gospel minister to do secular work to stop the mouths of those enemies of the gospel who claim that the true gospel minister is trying to get rich off God’s people. A man of God should be more than willing to work with his hands when the occasion demands it.
The example to the gentile ministry is Paul the Apostle. Paul spent most of his life in the full time ministry of the word. On one occasion, when he was under house arrest by the Roman government, he spent two whole years doing nothing but preaching in his own hired house. (Ac 28:30-31). The only way he was even able to rent the house was with money that had been sent to him by the church at Philippi (Php 4:14,18--the Philippian letter was written by Paul while he was in prison in Rome).
While Paul was at Corinth for about a year and a half, he worked only occasionally and on a part time basis. How was he able to do this? Let us hear his own words: "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied..." (2Co 11:8-9). This word "wages" is the same used in Lu 3:14 where the Savior told the soldiers to be content with their wages. This language reminds one of the words used by the Lord when He sent the seventy evangelists out to preach the gospel. He said, "for the labourer is worthy of his hire." (Lu 10:7).
This does not mean that a minister can be bought or hired. It does not mean that he will refuse to preach unless he gets a certain amount. He must preach freely without regard to pay. He must not be a hireling. However it does mean that he is entitled to support from those to whom he ministers. He is "worthy" of this support.
Some people, being ignorant of some things in the Scriptures, teach that Paul worked at secular work constantly and that this is the example to be followed today. This simply is not true. Why would Paul teach that God had ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel, and then himself live some other way? Paul was not a hypocrite, nor was he inconsistent.
Let us examine a few places when Paul did secular work and why he did it. When he first came to Corinth, he lived with a Jewish couple, Aquila and Priscilla, and worked with them in tent making. (Ac 18:1-3). There was not church in Corinth as yet. Paul preached in a Jewish synagogue and his preaching divided the believers from the unbelievers. Then he and the believers left the synagogue and started a Christian church in a home. This is why Paul made tents. There was no church to support him.
After there was a church in Corinth Paul still refused to take any support from them, even though he strongly taught there that the gospel minister should be supported by the church. Why did he refuse this support? He did this to stop the mouths of the false apostles of Satan--evil men who were greedy of filthy lucre, and men who tried to ruin Paul’s reputation by saying that he was trying to get rich off God’s people. See 2Co 11: 12,13. Later, in an amazing statement, Paul begs the Corinthian saints to forgive him because he had not been dependent on them for support! He wrote, "For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong." (2Co 12:13).
At Ephesus Paul worked at secular work part of the time during the three year period he stayed there. He did this at first because there was no church at Ephesus. Later, after a church was established, he continued to work at secular labor to set the example to other ministers to not be lazy. (Ac 20:33-35).
It is certainly true there is no excuse for a minister of the gospel to be lazy. However, when a minister is laboring at prayer, and the ministry of the word (studying, preaching, counseling, etc.) he is not being lazy! People sometimes fail to understand that when a man is locked away in his study for several hours at hard study, he is not being slothful. This is exactly what God has called him to do. (1Ti 4:15).
Some Difficulties Experienced by Those in the Full Time Ministry
The Bible tells us to "know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake..." (1Th 5:12-13). We need to know some of the problems that our ministers face so that we may be better able to pray for them and to hold their hands up.
One problem that a man in the full time ministry sometimes faces is criticism from t