Paul's Passing Thoughts

A Warning To The Watchmen

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 14, 2018

Today, Facebook’s “On This Day” feature reminded me of a scripture passage I had posted a few years ago from one of my daily Bible readings. It was a blessed reminder to me because when I stumble across verses like this it only serves to affirm or reinforce a scriptural truth I have already learned in my constant study.

1 Timothy chapter 3 lists the qualifications of an “elder” or “bishop”. In the Greek, the word επισκοπος (epi-skope-os) is a compound word. “Epi” means “over”. The word “skopos” is where we get the word “scope”, and it means to look outward; to see from a distance; to watch carefully and attentively. The word is really better translated “overseer.”

The function of an overseer is not one of authority. The etymology of the word actually describes someone who stands at the top of a fortress wall as a sentry looking outward for any signs of danger. A sentry has no authority. He has no power to command or enforce action. His job is simply to send out the warning cry when danger is coming so that appropriate action can be taken by others.

This is the way it is with an elder in an assembly. He may be gifted to teach, but his role is that of a sentry looking out for danger and warning others to take appropriate action. Note: he has no call to compel the action. He cannot force others to take action. All he does is sound the warning cry.

With regard to 1 Timothy 3, in most of your bibles you may see the expression, “if a man desires the office of a bishop.” The manuscript says nothing like that. The word “office” is not in the manuscript. In fact the word “man” isn’t even in there. The way this verse literally reads in the Greek is “if any desire oversight,” or “If any desire to be overseen.” The desire to have an overseer begins with the assembly. Overseers are optional. The assembly gets to decide if it wants an overseer or not.

Paul goes on to say further that if you want an overseer, that is a good thing. It is probably a good idea to have someone on guard duty. If there is danger out there, and there is, you probably want to have someone who is adept at finding it; seeing it early, and warning others to take action. But such a person has no call to exercise authority to compel others to take action.

To help us better understand this role of “overseer”, consider a passage in the Old Testament that uses a similar word: “watchman.”

1Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 3if when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; 4then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (5He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him.) But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

6But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.

7So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 8When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

10Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

~ Ezekiel 33:1-11

I realize that this is a rather long passage, and I am not going to break down the whole thing, but I wanted you to see the context. God uses a metaphor that Israel can clearly understand: national defense. The implications are clear. If you have a watchman (i.e. overseer) on a wall who sees danger coming on the horizon and does not sound the alarm, that watchman is culpable for any lives that are lost as a direct result of his negligence. God makes it clear to Ezekiel that his role as a prophet is the same as a watchman. He has been given a message by God to deliver to the nation of Israel. It is Ezekiel’s responsibility to sound the warning cry.

But what should be obvious from this passage is that the only responsibility the watchman has is to sound the alarm; to give the warning. It is not his job to compel the action of those who hear his warning. Notice that God did not give any authority to Ezekiel to compel Israel to action. Ezekiel did not have the power to coerce Israel with “church discipline” if they did not heed his warning.

(On a side note, notice that God specifically says in this passage that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked! Yet you have men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards who blatantly contradict the plain teaching of scripture.)

The words of Ezekiel should be a stern reminder to both the elders and laity in the institutional church.   Elders have no authority. It is their role as overseers to be on the lookout for false doctrine that would do great harm to Christ’s assembly. Instead it is very often the elders themselves doing the harm; teaching for doctrine the traditions of men rather than the plain sense of scripture and compelling the laity to obey them unconditionally and abusing them for their own self-interest. These men will have to answer to God one day for these things. You who follow these men must understand that they will not be the ones standing in your place giving an account for you in eternity. While they will indeed have to give an account for the miserable failures that they are as watchmen, you will be accountable for your own actions (or inactions) as well.

~ Andy

The Desire for and Qualifications of an Overseer – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 22, 2017

Originally published on October 2, 2014

 andy-profile-1As I began to put my thoughts down on “paper” (I don’t actually use paper, I jot everything down in a Word document and then fill in the blanks) it soon became apparent that the nature of this topic would be too unwieldy to limit to a single article. Therefore I have decided to address this topic in two parts.

I was inspired to write this article after viewing Paul and Susan’s latest edition of Gnostic Watch Weekly (9/26/2014). At the end of the video, Susan made reference to the qualification of an elder found in 1 Timothy 3, and used that in contrast to the alleged qualifications that reformed bloggers feel one should have in order to be qualified to post a comment on their blogs. I wanted to expand on each one of those qualifications of an elder in detail. But before I do that, I think it is necessary to first make sure we have an understanding of what an elder is. And before we do that, we first need to discuss the definition of an “overseer”.

What is an “Overseer”?

The word translated as “bishop” in the King James comes from the Greek verb επισκεπτομαι (ep-ee-skep-toh-my). It is made up of the words “epi”, meaning “over”, and “skopos”, meaning to peer about or referring to a watch or sentry or lookout. Taken together, we get the idea of “over-seer”. The word “supervisor” has the same meaning: “super”, meaning over, and “visor”, having to do with vision, seeing, or watching. So an overseer is basically a supervisor. Interestingly enough, a supervisor is a secular role and not specifically a religious one. So Paul is referring to a role that is not inherently a religious one but has a counterpart in the secular world.

How is this different from an “elder”?

While “overseer” has more to do with the role itself, the term “elder” refers more to the individual filling the role. The word “elder” is the Greek word πρεσβυτερος (pres-byoo-ter-os). It comes from the word “presbus” meaning “elderly”. In the Jewish religious/political system, the Sanhedrin was made up of elected representatives of the people called “elders” or πρεσβυτερος. Typically, these representatives were elderly men who were well respected and honored by the people.

The Jewish “synagogue” teaching model was also usually supervised by an “elder”. So with the advent of the New Testament assemblies, followers of Christ (who at the beginning were all converted Jews) simply continued to follow the synagogue model. And each fellowship selected an elder (πρεσβυτερος) to supervise/oversee (επισκεπτομαι) them.

When we come to 1 Timothy 3, Paul is addressing the qualification for the role of overseer, thus the use of the word επισκεπτομαι rather than the πρεσβυτερος. Although, granted, the significance is minor, and in general the words could be used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.

However, there is a significant difference between the forms of the word “overseer”. Please notice the difference between the words in verse 1 and verse 2:

Verse 1   επισκοπη (ep-ee-skope-ay) – noun: oversight; supervision

Verse 2   επισκοπος (ep-ee-skope-os) – noun: overseer; supervisor

Notice, that the words come from the same root, but the words are different! Even though they are both nouns, the first refers to the function, the second refers to the role. Why is this important? Let me explain.

Disclaimer: I am about to say something extremely controversial. Now consider yourself warned.

I believe that Paul is NOT addressing the issue of someone who desires TO BE an overseer.  GASP!  “How can you say that?” you might ask.  Because of the way this reads in the Greek.  While the King James renders this verse this way:

“If a man desire the office of a bishop”

This is how it appears in the Greek:

ει             τις           επισκοπης             οργεται

if             any         (of) oversight        is craving

This is where the difference in the words used is important. It does not say, “if anyone desires to be an overseer.” Literally it reads, “if any is desiring of oversight”. The question we must ask then is to whom or what does the indefinite pronoun “any” refer? Remember the context of 1 Timothy. Paul has gone ahead to Macedonia and has left Timothy behind in Ephesus to act as his proxy. The purpose of the letter to Timothy is to advise him on how to handle certain issues within the various assemblies there. So the “any” in verse 1 of chapter 3 must be referring to the assemblies. Paul is saying, if any of the assemblies desire oversight, they desire a good thing.

Two things should become immediately apparent here. First, that there were some assemblies that did not have an overseer. And second, the implication here would be that an overseer is optional. That’s huge! And that flies in the face of 500 years of orthodoxy. But when you consider the context and the grammatical structure of the text, it fits together perfectly. Paul is telling Timothy, if there are any assemblies that want oversight, that’s a good thing. He then proceeds to instruct Timothy on what the job requirements are for an overseer.

This is very similar to what happened in Acts chapter 6 when the Hellenistic Jews were being left out of the daily distribution to the needy, and the ethnic Jews were getting preferential treatment. The assemblies came to the apostles to solve this problem. But instead, the apostles instructed them to look to themselves for the solution. They gave them a set of criteria for deacons and told them to find men who meet these criteria and have them manage it. The apostles could have very easily said, “Ok, we appoint so and so, and such and such, and they have the authority.” But instead, they believed that those in the assemblies had the ability to select their own deacons. Likewise in this instance, Paul did not instruct Timothy to appoint specific men to the positions of overseer. He left it up to the assemblies to select their own if they so desired.

So, having then examined the relationship of elders and overseers, in part two we will study in detail each of the qualifications of an overseer. You can think of this as a job description. If you were seeking a candidate to fill a role, think about what kind of attributes you would want. What are the attributes that make for a good overseer for a home fellowship?

Andy

Update 12/29/2016: The Cross Conference 2016 Inside Report

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 30, 2016

The Desire for and Qualifications of an Overseer – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on June 28, 2016

Originally published on October 2, 2014

andy-profile-1As I began to put my thoughts down on “paper” (I don’t actually use paper, I jot everything down in a Word document and then fill in the blanks) it soon became apparent that the nature of this topic would be too unwieldy to limit to a single article. Therefore I have decided to address this topic in two parts.

I was inspired to write this article after viewing Paul and Susan’s latest edition of Gnostic Watch Weekly (9/26/2014). At the end of the video, Susan made reference to the qualification of an elder found in 1 Timothy 3, and used that in contrast to the alleged qualifications that reformed bloggers feel one should have in order to be qualified to post a comment on their blogs. I wanted to expand on each one of those qualifications of an elder in detail. But before I do that, I think it is necessary to first make sure we have an understanding of what an elder is. And before we do that, we first need to discuss the definition of an “overseer”.

What is an “Overseer”?

The word translated as “bishop” in the King James comes from the Greek verb επισκεπτομαι (ep-ee-skep-toh-my). It is made up of the words “epi”, meaning “over”, and “skopos”, meaning to peer about or referring to a watch or sentry or lookout. Taken together, we get the idea of “over-seer”. The word “supervisor” has the same meaning: “super”, meaning over, and “visor”, having to do with vision, seeing, or watching. So an overseer is basically a supervisor. Interestingly enough, a supervisor is a secular role and not specifically a religious one. So Paul is referring to a role that is not inherently a religious one but has a counterpart in the secular world.

How is this different from an “elder”?

While “overseer” has more to do with the role itself, the term “elder” refers more to the individual filling the role. The word “elder” is the Greek word πρεσβυτερος (pres-byoo-ter-os). It comes from the word “presbus” meaning “elderly”. In the Jewish religious/political system, the Sanhedrin was made up of elected representatives of the people called “elders” or πρεσβυτερος. Typically, these representatives were elderly men who were well respected and honored by the people.

The Jewish “synagogue” teaching model was also usually supervised by an “elder”. So with the advent of the New Testament assemblies, followers of Christ (who at the beginning were all converted Jews) simply continued to follow the synagogue model. And each fellowship selected an elder (πρεσβυτερος) to supervise/oversee (επισκεπτομαι) them.

When we come to 1 Timothy 3, Paul is addressing the qualification for the role of overseer, thus the use of the word επισκεπτομαι rather than the πρεσβυτερος. Although, granted, the significance is minor, and in general the words could be used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.

However, there is a significant difference between the forms of the word “overseer”. Please notice the difference between the words in verse 1 and verse 2:

Verse 1   επισκοπη (ep-ee-skope-ay) – noun: oversight; supervision

Verse 2   επισκοπος (ep-ee-skope-os) – noun: overseer; supervisor

Notice, that the words come from the same root, but the words are different! Even though they are both nouns, the first refers to the function, the second refers to the role. Why is this important? Let me explain.

Disclaimer: I am about to say something extremely controversial. Now consider yourself warned.

I believe that Paul is NOT addressing the issue of someone who desires TO BE an overseer.  GASP!  “How can you say that?” you might ask.  Because of the way this reads in the Greek.  While the King James renders this verse this way:

“If a man desire the office of a bishop”

This is how it appears in the Greek:

ει             τις           επισκοπης             οργεται

if             any         (of) oversight        is craving

This is where the difference in the words used is important. It does not say, “if anyone desires to be an overseer.” Literally it reads, “if any is desiring of oversight”. The question we must ask then is to whom or what does the indefinite pronoun “any” refer? Remember the context of 1 Timothy. Paul has gone ahead to Macedonia and has left Timothy behind in Ephesus to act as his proxy. The purpose of the letter to Timothy is to advise him on how to handle certain issues within the various assemblies there. So the “any” in verse 1 of chapter 3 must be referring to the assemblies. Paul is saying, if any of the assemblies desire oversight, they desire a good thing.

Two things should become immediately apparent here. First, that there were some assemblies that did not have an overseer. And second, the implication here would be that an overseer is optional. That’s huge! And that flies in the face of 500 years of orthodoxy. But when you consider the context and the grammatical structure of the text, it fits together perfectly. Paul is telling Timothy, if there are any assemblies that want oversight, that’s a good thing. He then proceeds to instruct Timothy on what the job requirements are for an overseer.

This is very similar to what happened in Acts chapter 6 when the Hellenistic Jews were being left out of the daily distribution to the needy, and the ethnic Jews were getting preferential treatment. The assemblies came to the apostles to solve this problem. But instead, the apostles instructed them to look to themselves for the solution. They gave them a set of criteria for deacons and told them to find men who meet these criteria and have them manage it. The apostles could have very easily said, “Ok, we appoint so and so, and such and such, and they have the authority.” But instead, they believed that those in the assemblies had the ability to select their own deacons. Likewise in this instance, Paul did not instruct Timothy to appoint specific men to the positions of overseer. He left it up to the assemblies to select their own if they so desired.

So, having then examined the relationship of elders and overseers, in part two we will study in detail each of the qualifications of an overseer. You can think of this as a job description. If you were seeking a candidate to fill a role, think about what kind of attributes you would want. What are the attributes that make for a good overseer for a home fellowship?

Andy

The Potter’s House: Lesson 71 of Romans Series

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 25, 2015

HF Potters House (2)Series Archives

Romans 15:1-14 audio link. 

The Potter’s House: Romans 15:1-14; Points About Authority and the One Body of Jews and Gentiles

We are finally back to our study in the book of Romans. We have the last two chapters left, and this morning we resume at verse one in chapter 15. The first eleven chapters are a heavy dose of justification, and what we have learned from them has radically transformed our lives. A lot of Bible “learning” unfortunately comes from second hand knowledge rather than God speaking directly to us. After learning many things about justification in the first eleven chapters, we are now learning many things about the roles of Christians in kingdom living. One we should take note of is that there is NO horizontal authority among God’s people. Elders aid believers in exploiting the full potential of their hope—they have no authority.

God’s assembly is not an institution. Institutions are always defined by some kind of authority structure. Authority necessarily needs something to be in charge of, and at least within the walls of the institutional church, it is in charge of truth which leads to orthodoxy. An explanation of truth that is a commentary between God and everyday people is a troubling idea in and of itself. Once you concede that there is horizontal authority in the church, the logical questions that follow are not only troubling, but are answered by the slippery slope of Protestant tyranny. Authority is conceded, but the specific bounds are the elephant in the room because history shows that the church is utterly unable to restrain its own authority. As John Immel often notes, “polity,” or church polity is a soft term for church government. This all implies an authority over truth on behalf of God. There is no orthodoxy—only truth. There is no church government—only gifts, and there is no authority other than Christ.

And as we progress in Romans from chapter 12, we see this reality more and more, beginning with verse 1 here in chapter 15:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. (NIV)

“Neighbors” is really a word that refers to someone close. It doesn’t exclude the literal neighbors of the hearers, but primarily refers to the fellow believers at Rome. Notice that this verse is an exhortation to the “strong,” and “each of us” in general should focus on building others up. This is a glaring pattern in the New Testament. The call to build up the body is to everyone and those we usually deem as God’s authoritarians are conspicuously missing throughout Scripture. In regard to the all-important elders and pastors, where are they? An inspection of Scripture in regard to this question reveals a stunning reality: elders and pastors have little significance in the New Testament. The emphasis is everyone working together for the building up of the body which as we will see includes a call to ministry usually ascribed to pastors and elders. Where are the elders? And who are all of these people who are supposed to be doing their jobs?

Let’s look at the word, “shepherd,” as in, you know, John MacArthur’s annual “Shepherd’s Conference.” The word (poimēn) appears 17 times in the New Testament and mostly refers to Christ or literal shepherds of herds. As far as I can tell, the word is only used once in regard to a pastor and that is in Ephesians 4:11. Think about that, reference to pastors as a shepherd appears ONCE in the New Testament.

Let’s look at “overseer.” The word (episkopos) appears five times in the New Testament. It refers to pastors once in Acts, once in 1Timothy, Once in Titus, Once in Philippians, and a reference in 1Peter about Christ.

Let’s look at the word “pastor.” It is the same word as “shepherd.” The two are used interchangeably in English translations. Both together represent the aforementioned 17 citations of which one speaks directly to the idea of “pastor.”

Let’s look at the word “bishop.” See, “overseer.” Again, these two words are used interchangeably for the same Greek word in the English translations.

But most telling is where these words are not used. In the magnum opus of justification, Romans, elders are not spoken of in any way, shape, or form. In the magnum opus of correction, the two letters to the Corinthians, again, there is no mention of pastors or their supposed roles even in Christianity gone wild. Of the 27 New Testament letters, at least 19 are corrective and address false doctrine, yet as mentioned before, a direct reference to pastors only occur in about five books. Only three books address leadership specifically with the remainder always addressing the congregation as a whole. Even in regard to the letters addressed to individuals, they were obviously intended to be made very public as well.

But most astounding is the fact that throughout the Scriptures those who are primarily addressed, the general congregation of God’s people, are called on to do ministries that we usually attribute to the “qualified pastorate.” And we will continue to see that throughout this study as well.

Romans 15:3 – For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:

“The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Psalm 69:9)

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (NIV)

The Scriptures were written to “teach us.” This is a direct line of sight from the Bible to believers in general. Nowhere in Scripture is there any merit for an orthodoxy overseen by elitist teachers or elders.

Romans 15:5 – May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Listen, this is it in a nutshell: the goal of one mind in Christ resulting in one voice. You decide from what we have learned in the past two lessons; does Paul say that is a result of blind obedience to authority, or is everyone to be convinced in their own mind? Granted, persuading those who are free to follow their own conscience is hard work. But that is the calling of a true elder. The New Testament does not endorse the dictation of truth in any way, shape, or form.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: (NIV)

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;

I will sing the praises of your name.” (2 Sam. 22:50; Ps. 18:49)

10 Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” (Deut. 32:43)

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles let all the peoples extol him.” (Psalm 117:1)

12 And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” (Isaiah 11:10)

When Paul writes, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” he is talking about Jew and Gentile, he is writing about the mystery of the gospel. Remember what that is? It is God’s promise that He would bring Jew and Gentile together into one body for His praise and glory. And I do not think that goal has ceased—this is still the mystery of the gospel. This is why anti-Semitism is completely unacceptable among confessing Christians. Listen, any separation gospel or supersessionism is a blatant denial of the gospel. And this is yet another lost aspect of Christianity that must be recultivated; that is, the mystery of the gospel. Jew and Gentile worshipping together in unity is a major source of glorification. This opportunity is probably lost to a great degree because of Jewish customs that are no longer recognized by Christians. We know that Christ’s assemblies recognized Passover for at least 200 years after Christ’s ascension.

As home fellowships learn and grow, I think we will see the power of God’s word come alive to His glory in many-faceted ways. Also, let’s note Paul’s use of the Scriptures to make his case in citing three Old Testament passages. This speaks to the continuity and truth that guides us.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Once again, on the one hand, we see a sparse emphasis on elders in the New Testament while God’s people in general are told to do the tasks and ministries that are usually attributed to the “expertise” of the elder.

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

The fact that the institutional church pays pastor’s CEO-like wages for something that God’s people are called on to do leaves one dumbfounded in the face of how powerful the traditions of men are. The Scriptures are clear as to what roles pastor’s play in Christ’s assembly.

Ephesians 4:11 – So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

First of all, some of these gifts are starter gifts. Prophets were a temporary gift to the church to get things started. But at any rate, these are “gifts” and not offices of authority. Pastors are not mediators or authoritarians. The office of mediator between man and God and the authority thereof is the exclusive office of Christ. Unity in regard to a single truth is not by authority, but as each Christian is “convinced in their own mind” (Rom 14:5). The apostles who were the forerunners of the elders (1Pet 5:1), and continually beseeched the saints to be “one mind in Christ” (Rom 15:6, Phil 2:2, 1Cor 1:10, 1Pet 3:8, 1Cor 2:16).

Key to this unity and cooperation is a proper biblical ministry model. Listen, if the mystery of the gospel is the joining of Jew and Gentile into one body, who’s in charge? That’s an interesting question, no? The answer is that no one in these two groups has authority—it’s a cooperation of gifts under one head which is Christ. What is the biblical ministry model?

Ephesians 4:4 – There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

When Christ arrived on the scene and began preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, it was in the midst of a Jewish religious community heavily predicated on hierarchy and authority. Judaism was an institutional monstrosity fraught with the traditions of the Jewish sages and ruling sects. The issue of Jesus’ lack of formal authority in institutional Judaism is a constant theme throughout the gospels. This is the reason Jesus came performing authenticating miracles—if you were not a recognized religious authority in that day, your ministry was going nowhere. Jesus broke the cycle and ushered in a new ministry model. Today, we don’t have authenticating miracles to validate our message, but we do have the testimony of the Scriptures.

Regardless of the massive religious system of that day, Christ made it clear that the people were “sheep without a shepherd.” They were not led. Jesus was not talking about a lack in the people being ruled over, there was plenty of that, He was talking about the people not being led in the truth.

The new way is a body of believers working together in mutual edification according to the gifts given them by God—a faith working through love. It is unity in one truth according to the way the one master thinks, and that one master is Christ. We are baptized once into one body with one head—one master—one Lord.

Our calling is unity in the one body and its maturity to God’s glory. Over and over and over again the apostles “appeal” to love and unity—NOT authority. It is a cooperation of gifts that are obedient to the one Master. In the rest of chapter 15 and also chapter 16, we see this in action bigtime.

%d bloggers like this: