Chapter Five ----------------------------------Feedback Box:

"Categories of Church Workers"


So far we've only looked at the format of a church service. Now it's time to go back to Scripture to re-examine all the rest of church structure. Not only should one man do all the talking within a local fellowship, but one organization should not do all the thinking for churches around the world. Apostles is the Bible word for "missionaries", and God never meant for missionaries to go start a church in another country under the influence of their home churches or denominations. Nor did God intend a missionary to go start a church somewhere and then become its pastor. Paul never dreamed of having just one Elder (pastor). And he never dreamed of bringing someone in from out of town to pastor a church!

Categories within this chapter:

CATEGORIES OF CHURCH WORKERS Apostles/missionaries, Elders/pastors, Teachers/pastors <> Introduction: Did you say you long for revival? <> The fact that a practice bears fruit does not prove it is correct in every detail

APOSTLES (Missionaries) "Apostles" translates to our word "missionaries" <> "Apostle": job description, not spirituality meter <> "Apostles" defined <> Apostle: job description, not job skill -- "ministry", not "gift"<> Missionaries did not raise money! <> Missionaries were neither supported nor controlled <> God/Jesus/Holy Spirit appoints apostles, not humans <> Holy Spirit ordains <> God's call confirmed by humans <> "Apostles" not an office in a local church <> Apostles function as elders only in their home churches <> How to test an apostle <> Apostle test #1: spiritual quality of the fruit <> Apostle test #2: miraculous powers <> Apostle test #3: steadfastness <> Apostles are chosen from functioning prophets and teachers <> Missionaries aren't supposed to settle in one place <> First, Second, Third apostolic/missionary journeys <> Reason for moving #1: so many to reach <> Reason for moving on #2: Hen needs to get off so the chicks can hatch <> Reason for moving on #3: Swine are trampling God's pearls

POSITIONS WITHIN A LOCAL CHURCH Pastors/teachers are not two separate positions <> Evangelists <> Elders (pastors) appointed later <> Elders (pastors) appointed from among locals. (Missionaries shouldn't become pastors of the churches they found.) <> Elders (pastors) needed neither formal training nor long experience, but only maturity in relation to other members of their local church <> Once elders were appointed by apostles, they were not subject to apostles, but even had authority, in their local church, over apostles <> The only time apostles can function as elders is in their home churches <> Elders/bishops: same person <> No division of active from passive members, as today's division of clergy from laity <> Clergy/elders rule not by rank but by example <> Elders should "pastor" but elders are not "pastors" <> No dominant single elder (pastor) in scripture <> Elders (pastors) not paid as a rule

The One True Denomination Central church government <> The "only true denomination", or organizational division of christians, is by cities <> Perpetuating denominations is God's definition of "heretick" <> Seven forbidden grounds of division <> No excuse for breaking away from the local church, not even to escape wrong teaching! <> Other passages which seem to justify division ("separation")

Determining Church Membership Discerning members, not accepting members; discerning whom god has accepted, not deciding who we accept <> But how broad a mantle has 2 John 9? <> God invites everyone to the wedding feast (matt 22:1-14) <> We don't need to decide whether to receive Hindus into our fellowship <> The believers are "the church" <> You can't "join" a real church <> We cannot admit members, though we must discern members <> But how can we know how god sees another's heart?!! <> How, then, do we discern? <> Test of the Spirit of Christ in us: ALL our words <> How to get "there" from "here <> Yes, christians really are "one"! Already! <> Getting along with fruitcakes <> What we can do / ecumenism <> Criteria for permissible fellowship discussion topics: they must be relevant to how we live <> Elders "Appointed" by acclamation (Sudanese model)


Categories of Church Workers

Apostles/missionaries, Elders/pastors, Teachers/pastors

Introduction: Did you say you long for revival? <> The fact that a practice bears fruit does not prove it is correct in every detail

Until now this book has only examined the structure of worship services. This section will examine, by the light of Scripture, the structure of leadership within a church, and the structure between churches; that is, the Biblical relationship which is supposed to exist between individual churches.

This chapter relies heavily on excerpts from "The Normal Christian Church Life", by Watchman Nee, published 1980 by Living Stream Ministry. The book was originally published as "Concerning Our Missions" in 1939 in England; the two editions are the same except for Americanization of spellings.

Nee was an influential miracle-working native Chinese missionary who died at the age of 69, in 1972, after 20 years in a Communist prison. I wish I knew how responsible Nee's influence is for the strength of the Chinese church under persecution today.

Nee's application of Scripture is not mere untested theory. Nee and an entire network of missionaries lived by it. It works. Not only did God say to do it, but it works. No one can say "Ah, maybe God commanded it, but we cannot do this, because it will never work." Nee proved that it works.



What Christian does not long for revival? Both in the world about him, and in himself? This is not a controversial longing! It is heralded in songs, and no longing could be more genuine.

So how shall we react, when someone shows us that God commands, not just speaking or not speaking in tongues, or baptizing a certain way, or worshipping on a certain day, but an entirely different structuring of churches, church leadership positions, and order of worship? Shall we react, "I like church just the way it is! 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it!'"?

Shall we tell God that how He tells us to structure our churches, leadership, and worship isn't important, even though "revival" is?

And if someone asks, "if we long for revival, which will constitute a very big change, might it require us to make a big change in anything we are doing?" shall we vehemently shout, "NO!"?

There are many spiritual gimmicks which men long for to prove to them that revival has begun. There are many reverent deeds men do to throw down a welcome mat, if possible, for revival. Men are willing to sacrifice a great deal in order to facilitate revival. But how superficial are metaphysical gimmicks, reverent deeds, and great sacrifice, compared with obedience!

1 Samuel 15:22 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.

While writing these chapters, I have had many discussions with Bible-believing brothers, to relieve some of the pressure of these ideas pouring into me without adequate outlet.

I have strained many a friendship by sharing these ideas. Almost invariably, the objection is not "that's not what God says" or "that's not what the Bible means", but "that will never work"!

Does that characterize your objection?

"No", you insist. "I thought of a verse that contradicts you."

Let's double check something. You see, in any interpretation of whether a verse supports or contradicts a statement, there necessarily enters in, unfortunately, human judgment. Human judgment is necessary because words have more than one meaning, so we must use common sense to select the meaning appropriate to the context. Whole sentences have still more possible meanings, so we must use common sense to select the meaning consistent with the rest of the Bible.

Openness to new insights, combined with refusal to actually embrace them until they are proved from Scripture, qualities the Bereans cultivated, (Acts 17:11), is rare. It requires that when you listen to a bizarre interpretation of a verse, but you cannot positively refute it from Scripture, that you refrain from dismissing it by the authority of your prejudices, and that you admit something like, "well, yes, I can see how this verse might be taken to agree with your position. But it seems like the more usual usage of its grammar would contradict you. However, I will try to keep listening, at least until I can think of something which positively refutes it. Perhaps you can help me by finding something which positively supports your position."

Prejudice can drastically shorten our patience for the above process. It can make us quite unreasonable in our opinion of, for example, the most usual usage of the grammar in question.

A familiar example: "Greet each other with a holy kiss."

So allow me to ask you again. As you consider the church structure outlined here, and two objections occur to you -- (1) a verse which seems to contradict it, and (2) confidence that "this can never work" -- how pivotal is the second objection to your resistance? Would your Scriptural concerns alone, without your conviction that "it will never work", seem to you as compelling?

If your ability to examine what God commands is colored by your extra-Scriptural impression of what will work, the question must be asked: are you sure you believe the Bible is the Word of God? Are you sure you believe all things are possible with God? Are you sure you are committed to obey Him, trusting His commandments to be not only possible, not only practical, but a guide to the best thing you could ever do with your life?

When God tells you to do something you "know" will never work, you can (1) stop listening to God and listen to reason instead, or (2) continue listening to God until you understand how it will work. When your Bible study raises questions, you can either (1) close your Bible, or (2) keep it open until your Bible study finally provides answers.


You say "But God has used 'pulpit-and-pew' churches to bless many people and save many souls! How can you say they are not Scriptural?"

The same way I can say it is not Scriptural to preach Christ motivated by Jealousy, and yet God will bless people even through such preaching:

Philippians 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. 19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

If God would bless only those whose theology and Christian way of life is perfect in every detail, God would never bless anybody! God softens His Heart to accommodate our hard hearts. God even knows how to relax those of His commandments which we will not tolerate, even when relaxing them means much suffering for us:

Matthew 19:6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

But don't we want God's best for us? Don't we want REVIVAL? Then let's seek to obey ALL God's commandments, even those which we "now" will never "work".

We shall start small. No big controversies at first. Just some definitions. Turns out the Bible uses the word "apostle" the way we today use the word "missionary". Maybe it wouldn't hurt to start using Biblical terminology. If we did that, it might make it easier to notice more details about how apostles/missionaries are supposed to act, and how we are supposed to treat them.

APOSTLES (Missionaries)

"Apostles" translates to our word "missionaries" <> "Apostle": job description, not spirituality meter <> "Apostles" defined <> Apostle: job description, not job skill -- "ministry", not "gift"<> Missionaries did not raise money! <> Missionaries were neither supported nor controlled <> God/Jesus/Holy Spirit appoints apostles, not humans <> Holy Spirit ordains <> God's call confirmed by humans <> "Apostles" not an office in a local church <> Apostles function as elders only in their home churches <> How to test an apostle <> Apostle test #1: spiritual quality of the fruit <> Apostle test #2: miraculous powers <> Apostle test #3: steadfastness <> Apostles are chosen from functioning prophets and teachers <> Missionaries aren't supposed to settle in one place <> First, Second, Third apostolic/missionary journeys <> Reason for moving #1: so many to reach <> Reason for moving on #2: Hen needs to get off so the chicks can hatch <> Reason for moving on #3: Swine are trampling God's pearls


Before we can prove "missionaries" is a correct translation of "apostles", we will have to remind you of the verses proving there were more than just the original 12 apostles. Because we are accustomed to thinking of "The Twelve Apostles" as all the apostles there ever were or ever will be. I don't understand how we became accustomed to such an idea, since the Bible lists many besides the Twelve who were "apostles".

The Twelve were certainly in a class by themselves. So was The One:

Hebrews 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

The Greek for "Apostle", apostolos, is defined as "sent". Which is another way of saying "appointed", in verse 2 above.

The Twelve will sit on thrones reserved for them alone. The One is on His throne, and The Twelve will have their thrones. (Less is said about thrones for the wide circle of apostles around The Twelve.)

Luke 22:28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; 30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Revelation 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Not that the rest of us should feel God is unfair to let us be born too late for a shot at that distinction. God offers us something perhaps better, certainly quite incredible:

Revelation 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit WITH ME IN my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Is there but one Throne? Will God share it with all who love Him?

The Twelve were a closed number. None were added, after Matthias was added to replace Judas, who was officially subtracted from their number.

Acts 1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) 16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, ...concerning Judas, ....17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. ....21 Wherefore OF THESE MEN WHICH HAVE COMPANIED WITH US ALL THE TIME that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 BEGINNING FROM THE BAPTISM OF JOHN, UNTO THAT SAME DAY THAT HE WAS TAKEN UP FROM US, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. ....25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, 26 And....Matthias...was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The unique contribution of The Twelve, according to these verses, is that they were "WITNESSES" of all that Jesus did, from the beginning of His ministry. Without any necessity of saying The Twelve were in any way "better" than the many later apostles, it is obvious that no later apostle would be able to say he had been an eyewitness to Jesus' ministry, from the time of Jesus' baptism to the time of Jesus' ascension.

A later verse reaffirms that Matthias was numbered as one of the Twelve:

Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice,

The ten remaining original Apostles besides Peter, plus Matthias, makes 11. With Peter, they numbered 12 again.

But while The Twelve Apostles were a closed number, Scripture lists many other apostles besides the 12.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of THE TWELVE: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of ALL THE APOSTLES. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I AM THE LEAST OF THE APOSTLES, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

First The Twelve saw Jesus, then a few others, and quite later, Jesus was seen by "all the apostles". Obviously "all the apostles" were not the same group as "the Twelve". "All the apostles" of course included The Twelve, but The Twelve were of course not "all the apostles".

Paul says he himself, though he didn't deserve it, was nevertheless an apostle. Paul was obviously not one of The Twelve.

Here are more of the apostles whom the Bible names:

Romans 16:7 Salute ANDRONICUS AND JUNIA, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are OF NOTE AMONG THE APOSTLES, who also were in Christ before me.

Junia was a woman's name! She was not only an apostle, but one of the more notable ones!

When Paul went out as an "apostle", those with him were in the role of apostles, too -- Silvanus and Timothy:

1 Thessalonians 2:5 For neither at any time used WE flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: 6 Nor of men sought WE glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when WE might have been burdensome, [we could have stood on our authority] AS THE APOSTLES of Christ.

How many "apostles" are referred to by "we"? The first verse of the chapter identifies three apostles, neither of whom were of The Twelve:

1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians....

The following verse proves that in the early church, there was an expectation that there would be more apostles than the original 12. Because if there were no such expectation, no one would have been foolish enough to pose as another apostle. By the time John wrote this verse, he was the only Apostle remaining alive of The Twelve, and even Paul had been martyred. So if everyone knew there were to be only The Twelve apostles, not only would there have been no one foolish enough to pose as another apostle, but even if someone had, there would have been no one foolish enough to be deceived thereby. Thus there would have been no need to "try" the impostors, or put them on trial. "Testing" impostors would have been simple indeed: anyone who was not John, was not an Apostle!

Revelation 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Of course, not only does this verse prove there was a general expectation, among Christians in general, that there would be more apostles than the 12, but it proves Jesus, the One speaking these words, shared that expectation. By regarding the testing of those who claim to be "sent" by God as one of the most important things a church can do, He indicates there were quite a number of apostles at that time when John was the last of The Twelve -- enough to necessitate heightened discernment.



The word "apostle" is used in the Bible as if it were a job description. That is, it is used of people when they begin a certain work to which God has appointed them, (1 Timothy 2:7, 2 Timothy 1:11), not when they attain a particular spiritual stature.

Paul and Barnabas were "appointed" or "sent" by the Holy Spirit as missionaries, and it was while they were serving as missionaries that the Bible first calls them "apostles". Here is the passage describing their being sent, followed by the passage a few verses later which, for the first time, calls them "apostles": (By the way, notice how many "prophets and teachers" there were in the Church of Antioch! Not just one! FIVE! And we don't know there weren't more than these, who fasted and prayed together, as the Bible reports.)

Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, THE HOLY GHOST SAID, SEPARATE ME Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So they, being SENT FORTH BY THE HOLY GHOST, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

Acts 14:4 But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. .... 13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14 Which when THE APOSTLES, BARNABAS AND PAUL, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,


Strong's #652 apostolos {ap-os'-tol-os}, from 649. This Greek word appears 81 times in the New Testament. King James translates it as "apostle" 78 of those times, as "messenger" twice, and as "he that is sent" once. Logos (computer program) definition: 1. A DELEGATE, MESSENGER, ONE SENT FORTH WITH ORDERS. 1a) specifically applied to the twelve apostles of Christ. 1b) in a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers. 1b1) of Barnabas. 1b2) of Timothy and Silvanus

See? Even our Bible dictionaries know there were more than twelve "apostles"! How have most of us come to assume there were only 12?!

It's as if we look at the three other apostles whose names we know as unaccountable aberrations. We figure Paul got the title because he was so eminent, and the others, well, we don't know what was so special about them, but that's just one of those many details in the Bible that almost make us look twice, but not thrice because there are other more interesting mysteries crowding this one out of our minds.

But the Bible tells us why they were called apostles. It is because they were "sent out" by the Holy Spirit, as what we, today, call "missionaries".


Other one-word job descriptions in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 have a related word which describes the job skill: prophet/prophesy, teacher/teach, evangelist/evangelize, shepherd/shepherd (the same spelling of "shepherd" serves for either noun or verb). But where is the word form of "apostle" that describes the "job skill" or talent of an apostle -- that describes what the apostle does?

The reason there is no such word is that there is no particular thing which an apostle always does. It is like "soldier". All we know of a soldier is that he is in the service of his army, and he follows orders from his Commander. We do not know, from his job title, where he will be sent, or how he will be armed, if at all! We surmise that through his tour of duty he will be sent many places and will bear a variety of arms. So with an apostle.

The job of Apostle is APPOINTED by the Holy Spirit. The gift of prophecy, or teaching, or tongues, is GIVEN by the Holy Spirit. It's like the difference between being told, by the Holy Spirit, "you're hired", and being told "here are your tools". One uses one's talent doing a particular job, but even if one finishes that job the talent is still his to use on another job. He still has the talent which he used on the job; but he no longer has the job.

This explains why "apostle" does not appear in the list of "gifts to individuals" ["manifestations of the Spirit" which are "given" to individuals -- to "every man"] in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, but only in the list of "gifts to the church" ["God hath the church", "for the edifying of the body of Christ"] in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11-12. Notice that "apostles" are not anywhere on this first list.

1 Corinthians 12:7 But the MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT is GIVEN TO EVERY MAN to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Now notice this subsequent list, which begins with "apostles". It follows the introduction of the items on this list, not as "gifts" to individuals, but as what "God hath set [Gr: set, fix, establish, place, ordain] the church". In other words, the earlier list was of talents given to individuals; this list is of job openings in the Church. "Apostle" is not a job skill which an individual may possess; it is a job description of work an organization needs done.

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles [power], then gifts of healings, helps [laying hold of, apprehension, comprehension, correction; aid, helpfulness], governments ["steersman of a ship", root of our "gubernatorial", meaning election of a governor; a synonym of "authorities" in Romans 13:1, indicating God has "set some in the church" to become politically involved, and to become political leaders], diversities of tongues [this surely refers to miraculous speaking in tongues, but probably also encompasses proficiency in foreign languages acquired the hard way].

Why does the list begin with appointed positions and end with gifts? Well, God does appoint gifts, too, doesn't He, along with everything else from atoms to galaxies? As the song "He" states, "He alone decides who writes a symphony." God appoints who will receive what gifts.

The Ephesians 4 list, we learn from verse 12, also lists what God has done for the church, as opposed to what God gives to individuals; hence "apostle" is on this list, too.

Ephesians 4:11 And HE GAVE SOME, APOSTLES; AND SOME, PROPHETS; AND SOME, EVANGELISTS; AND SOME, PASTORS AND TEACHERS; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

The next verse says the Holy Spirit gives us a variety of abilities, a variety of ways to serve with our abilities, and a variety of results which we see from our service. But it is the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are diversities of GIFTS, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of ADMINISTRATIONS, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of OPERATIONS, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

GIFT: "a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own....". The word is related to the words translated "Grace", "forgive", and "pleasure". This particular form of the word appears 17 times in the New Testament. King James translates it 15 times as "gift" and twice as "free gift".

ADMINISTRATIONS: "Service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others", Greek diakonia {dee-ak-on-ee'-ah}, appears 34 times in the NT. Related to a word usually translated "servant". King James translates it 16 times as "ministry", 6 times as "ministration", 3 times as "ministering", and 9 times in miscellaneous ways. The world then attached no honor to the word, but only contempt. But "Ministers" today wear the title as a badge of worldly honor and influence. They are not the ones who take orders, but who give orders.

OPERATIONS: "1) thing wrought, 2) effect operation." Gr. "energema" appears only twice in the NT. The other time, verse 10, it is translated "working".


Nee, page 36-7: [Nee is the Chinese missionary leader whose book was the impetus for this section, and whom I described in the introduction to this section] "'And from there they sailed away to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared the things that God had done with them and that He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles' (14:26-27)...

"To give reports of the work to those who are truly bearing the burden with us, is sanctioned by God's Word. It is not only permissible, but necessary, that the children of God at the base should be informed of His doings on the field; but we do well to make sure that our reports are not in the nature of advertisements.... In all reports of the work our aim should be to glorify God and bring spiritual enrichment to those who share them. To utilize reports as a means of propaganda, with material returns in view, is base in the extreme, and unworthy of any Christian."

Did Paul ever raise money from his home church, Antioch, to finance his journeys? Almost the opposite! When there were hard times in Jerusalem, Paul raised money for Jerusalem from the churches he founded!

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. 4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.

Other than that, Paul accepted his personal provision from members of the churches he founded --

2 Timothy 1:16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: 17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. 18 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

-- sometimes.

1 Corinthians 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. 16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation [Gr: "administration of a household" a responsibility] [of the gospel] is committed unto me. [Gr: is entrusted to me. The word is Pisteuo, which is most often translated "believe". In other words "God believes in me" or "trusts me to do this work" or "is counting on me" or "I have a sacred responsibility whether I like it or not".] 18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

In other words, Paul didn't solicit help with his personal needs. He went out of his way to make it clear that he was NOT asking for anything. But when a man searched high and low for him to help him, Paul gratefully accepted. Especially in prison where he could not make any tents to pay for his needs.



There is no Biblical precedent for missionaries waiting until their home churches can pay their rent for the next year before heading out. There is no Biblical precedent for ANY financial support of missionaries from their home churches. Paul appealed to the churches he founded only to support other churches in need, and he affirmed that apostles had a right to be paid by the churches to which they ministered.

Jesus followed the same pattern when he sent out the Twelve. They went out penniless, not that they weren't "worthy" of being paid, but they were to be paid by those to whom they ministered, not those by whom they were sent. (Must have worked; they came back and didn't complain about being hungry.)

Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, ...7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. 9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Nee, p. 31: (Just as the three other prophets and teachers did not financially support Saul and Barnabas, likewise) "they had no authority to control the apostles. Those prophets and teachers at the base assumed no official responsibility in regard to their movements, their methods of work, or the supply of their financial needs. In Scripture we nowhere find that apostles are under the control of any individual or any organized company. They had no regulations to adhere to and no superiors to obey. The Holy Spirit called them, and they followed His leading and guidance; He alone was their Director."


Jesus was Sent by God, Matthew 12:18. The Twelve were sent by Jesus, John 13:18, 15:16, Acts 1:2. All the rest of the apostles were "sent" by Jesus, according to Ephesians 4:11, but by God, according to 1 Corinthians 12:28, but by the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 13:2. (The interchangeability of these Names is a testament to their unity.)

(The same Ephesians passage further confirms that there are many apostles beyond the 12, by the fact that ALL the "apostles" referred to in Ephesians 4 were appointed AFTER Jesus' ascension! "Apostles" is one of the "gifts" which Jesus gave after He ascended! Another way we know that all the apostles, referred to in Ephesians 4, were appointed after Jesus' ascension, is that they were appointed "for the edifying of the body of Christ", which is not described as existing until after Jesus' ascension.)

Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of CHRIST. 8 Wherefore he saith, When HE ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and GAVE GIFTS unto men. ....11 And HE gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles,


The Holy Spirit had already called Barnabas and Saul when He told the five to set them apart. So when the other three laid hands on the two...

Acts 13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed...

...they were not "ordaining" them, in today's sense of transmitting authority to pursue a work. Nee writes "the laying on of hands was not by way of ordination, for Barnabas and Saul were already ordained by the Holy Spirit.... It meant that those who remained behind were one with those who went forth, and in full sympathy with them...." (p. 24)


The call which Barnabas and Saul heard was confirmed by the other three. Notice the entire church did not hear, nor was it addressed by the Holy Spirit. Not everyone in any church is mature enough to "clearly differentiate between His will and their own ideas", as Nee points out, p. 23.

See also:

Acts 15:40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

Nee said the confirmation of a call "is God's provision against free lances in His service." (p. 24) True, anyone called by God to do a difficult, frightening work, deeply appreciates human confirmation. Without confirmation through other brothers, those called will need to hear from God the more definitely.

But had no one else heard the call besides Saul and Barnabas, it would have still been a call, and they should still have gone. Probably another reason the Bible idealizes human confirmation of a Holy Spirit call is to ensure the prayer support of the others.

Are we basing too much on too little Scripture? Nee points out "The only scriptural record of the sending forth of apostles is found in Acts 13, and there we see that it is the prophets and teachers who set them apart for their ministry." (p. 28)

Again we must note the inability of today's churches to send out missionaries by the Biblical pattern. In Antioch, there were at least two prophets, and at least two teachers. There may have been five of each, since the two functions overlap. There may have been many more, since the Bible does not say these five were all Antioch had, but only that these five were fasting and ministering to the Lord together.

Today's churches have only one functioning "prophet" (preacher). Some have "assistant pastors", who function as prophets only when the "real pastor" is on vacation or sick. The rest of the time they function as secretaries, or as coordinators of groups within the church.

Compare that with the 1 Corinthians 14 ideal of "prophets" constantly interacting with each other, constantly challenging each other, constantly testing each other. How less capable are today's churches of preparing and sending out missionaries!

Nee observes further: "In sending Barnabas and Saul from Antioch, the prophets and teachers stood for no 'church' or mission;...they were bound by no particular organization, and they were subject to no fixed rules. They simply submitted themselves to the control of the Spirit and separated those whom He had separated for the work to which He had called them.... If thousands of local churches, with thousands of prophets and teachers, each sent out thousands of different workers, there would be a vast outward diversity, but there could still be perfect inward unity if all were sent out under the direction of the one Head and on the ground of the one Body." (p. 30)


This is but another point which is not controversial, but which conforms to our usual practice today regarding missionaries. Yet the value of making this point is to confirm yet again that "apostle" is the Bible's word for what we call "missionary".

Watchman Lee reasons: "'And God has placed some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers' (1 Cor. 12:28). What church is this? It comprises all the children of God; therefore, it is the Church universal. In this church God has set 'first apostles, second prophets, third teachers.' In 1 Corinthians 14:23 we read that 'the whole church comes together.' What church is this? Obviously not the local church, for the Church universal cannot gather together in one locality. It is in this local church that the brethren exercised their spiritual gifts. One would have a psalm, another a teaching, another a revelation, another a tongue, and another an interpretation (14:26), but more important than all these was the gift of prophecy (14:1).

"In chapter twelve, apostles took precedence over the other ministers, but in chapter fourteen, prophets take the precedence. In the Church universal, apostles are first, but in the local church, prophets are first.

"How does it come about that prophets take first place in the local church, since in the universal Church they only occupy the second place?"

Because perhaps the most critical need of the Church Universal is for apostles (missionaries) to go out and found new churches, just as oak trees propagate themselves by dropping acorns; but the most critical need of each local church is to "bring a message from God" which is the definition of the Greek word "propheteo"; and besides, apostles (missionaries) have no formal position in any local church. Sometimes they minister, as they are led, but that is not the norm; and when they do, they have no authority over any church, even a church they have founded, beyond the authority of truth itself. (Evidence for this point later.)

You ask "But why can't apostles hold office in a local church? That is, why can't apostles function as apostles in a local church?"

What function would that be? Before I read Nee's book, I didn't even know there were apostles today. Nee has shown me that missionaries are our word for what the Bible calls apostles. Do you know of some other function which apostles have? And if apostles are indeed missionaries, then a local church can't tell a member "you have been voted to be our Missionary for our Local Church", by definition. A church can send a missionary, who will be honored as a missionary to other places when he returns, and a church can recognize, as a missionary to itself, the person(s) who started itself. But how can the "home church" of a missionary be his "mission field"? By definition, a missionary is someone who leaves his home church to go elsewhere, and take the Gospel elsewhere, and found new churches. It is not a position or a function within a local church, to be filled in the same manner as janitors, secretaries, or choir directors.

You say "But look at Peter. He was regarded as an Apostle, not just when he left his local church, but while in his local church."

Remember that the function of The Twelve was different than the function of all subsequent apostles. The Twelve had been with Jesus from the beginning, and were sent, with that unique experience, to everybody else in the world who had not had that experience. Acts 1:21-22. Not only was he an apostle in relation to everyone who was not one of The Twelve, but he was a founder of the very first church, his "home church", and was thus a "missionary" in relation to his home church.


Nee, page 45-46: "Since Peter and John were apostles, how did it come about that they were elders of the church in Jerusalem? (1 Pet. 5:1; 2 John 1; 3 John 1). They were elders as well as apostles because they were not only responsible for the work in different places, but also for the church in their own place. ...When Peter and John were away from their own church, they were apostles; when they returned, they were elders. It was not on the ground of their being apostles that they were elders in Jerusalem; they were elders there solely on the ground of their being local men of greater spiritual maturity than their brethren.... Let us note carefully that there are no elders in the universal Church and no apostles in the local church."



1 Corinthians 9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? 2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. 3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, 4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?

CONTEXT OF VERSE ONE. Verse 3 says Paul was being "examined". Someone was testing him, a thing which Revelation 2:2 says we ought to do. The whole of chapter 9 is Paul's answer to his critics, and for us, holds God's criteria for how to test an apostle.

We are not told how Paul was challenged, to evoke such a response, but Paul answers that obviously he is an apostle, obviously he has as much right to eat and drink, and get married, and to be paid for his work, as any other apostle. The fact that he did not accept pay from the Corinthians for his work there was not because he did not have the right, but because he just wanted to be as helpful as possible.

Were people saying Paul was not a real missionary, because he wasn't getting paid? What an odd criticism! And yet, isn't that how people reason today?? Don't we look at "Lone Ranger" missionaries with a handful of followers, no budget, no building, and big dreams, as unsuccessful "Pastor Wannabees", while it is those with top salaries and vast congregations who are "anointed" and "successful"?

The affirmations in verse 1 are so strong, as if to say "obviously...." or "of course...". And Paul saw no need to provide supporting argument for any of the four affirmations. This suggests that Paul was not being challenged about any of these details, but rather that Paul was drawing upon these already established facts to support his authority for giving the answer that follows. Watchman Nee points out, p. 16: "The facts are he was free, he was an apostle, and he had seen the Lord." Nee said some people think this verse says one test of an Apostle is whether he has seen the Lord. But Nee wrote "These facts had no essential connection one with the other, and it is absurd to connect them."


How about verse 2, "for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord"? Is Paul providing us a criteria for testing an Apostle? Is he saying anyone who can gather a following is sent by God? God forbid! But notice what Paul says about the relativity of apostleship -- Paul is an apostle in relation to some churches but not others:

1 Corinthians 9:2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord

Today we might frame the argument, "even if I had never been a missionary to any other city, obviously I was a missionary to yours! Otherwise, how do you explain your existence as a fellowship?!"

This paraphrase emphasizes the physical aspect of what an apostle/missionary is: someone who physically comes to another place and gives a message. But "apostle" means not only "sent", but the implication is "sent by God": so does Paul imply that the existence of the Corinthian church also proves Paul was, indeed, sent by God?

Is Paul saying if anyone is able to examine Paul's credentials, it wouldn't be them, since they have nothing to compare him with? That his teaching is all they know? Probably not, because this isn't true. The Corinthians had the Bible to compare Paul with. Indeed, when Protestants first "protested", they had no other human teachers to compare Catholics with. But Protestants had the Bible to compare Catholics with.

But Paul may have meant "you can examine how Biblical your own fellowship is, to test whether God sent me to establish you."


2 Corinthians 12:11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience [Gr: "steadfastness"], in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

Folks who observe that no miracles are done by themselves, and conclude God is doing no miracles in this generation, will not like any application of this verse to missionaries today.

But Nee says "To profess to be sent ones of the omnipotent God, and yet stand helpless before situations that challenge His power, is a sad contradiction." (p. 17)

Signs and wonders are necessary, not only to persuade the new converts that God Reigns, but to persuade the folks back in the home church that the new insights blossoming out in the field really are of God. When Paul went back home and told about the new converts, many were saying that now those new converts ought to be circumcised. After much argument, Peter pointed out that he himself had been sent to Gentiles. The following selection takes up the tail end of Peter's appeal. After it, the church was ready to give Barnabas and Paul another listen, which they used, to tell about God's miracles. That was the encouragement James needed to jump in with more Scripture in their support.

Acts 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. 13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,....

This doesn't mean that if you are a missionary/apostle, and God isn't doing a particular type of miracle through you in each place you to, that you are not sent by God. No doubt you can remember many miracles God did just to get you where you are. In fact, the crime of the Israelites under Moses is that they could not seem to remember, as each new challenge arose, how God had brought them through the last one. Miracles are really quite an everyday thing, even for pagans (Amos 9:7): what is "miraculous" is when a human notices, and is so full of gratitude that he just has to tell people what God did!

Of course the more aware we are of what God has done, the more faith we will have in what God will do. And the more encouragement we will give others when they stand between a rock and a hard place, where relief would "take a miracle". And the more encouragement we can offer others in their distress, the more faith we have, the more God will do mighty works, for others, through us.


Nee concludes from 2 Corinthians 12:12 ("Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience [Gr: "steadfastness"]...") that "Endurance is the greatest proof of spiritual power, and it is one of the signs of an apostle. It is the ability to endure steadfastly under continuous pressure that tests the reality of an apostolic call.... Yes, it takes nothing short of [being "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power" to produce "all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness"] (Colossians 1:11)." (p. 17)


Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Nee: "The Holy Spirit only sends to other parts such as are already equipped for the work and are bearing responsibility where they are, not those who are burying their talents and neglecting local needs while they dream of some future day when the call will come to special service. Barnabas and Saul were bearing the burden of the local situation when the Spirit put the burden of other parts upon them. Their hands were full of local work when He thrust them out to work further afield." (p. 20)

In all fairness to missionaries today, churches today afford them little opportunity to function as prophets, and precious little opportunity to function as teachers. If you want to be a missionary, you may have to take a different 4-year course of study than if you want to be a "pastor"! If you are lucky you might get to "teach" a Sunday School class. If you are very lucky you might even get an opportunity to interact with adults! Not all the adults in the church, of course. No one gets to do that. Not even the pastor, who only lectures, but never interacts with groups.

We say we want Revival. We want the Gospel brought to every man. Doesn't that require missionaries? And might our goal come nearer if we allowed our missionaries to prepare as the Bible counsels?


Or at least if they are, the precedent for it will have to be discovered outside Scripture. Nee: "They were constantly traveling. To be an apostle means to be a sent one, that is, to be always going out. A stationary apostle is a contradiction in terms." (p. 33)

But wasn't that just because persecution drove the apostles on to the next town? Didn't they stay as long as they could before persecution drove them on? So aren't missionaries today justified in staying as long as they physically can?

No. Persecution was Paul's reason for leaving only 3 of 12 cities he reached his first trip, only 3 of 9 cities his second trip, and NONE of the eleven cities, plus other cities not specified, during his third trip. In fact, on his third trip, he cut short his stay in safe cities in order to hurry home to Jerusalem where it had been prophesied that he would be bound!

The Bible gives no reason, most of the rest of the time, why Paul left. In fact, the Bible gives no reason why any missionary should travel to any one place and settle. But it gives at least two reasons why missionaries (apostles) should keep moving. But before we come to them, here is a summary of Paul's three missionary journeys, showing how seldom any reason was given at all for Paul moving to the next city, and exactly how often his reason was persecution.


Seleucia. Preaching presumed but not specified. No reason given for leaving. 13:4

Cyprus, same. 13:4

Salamis, preached in synagogues. No reason given for leaving. 13:5

Paphos, confronted Barjesus/Elymas. Converted "deputy" [governor of the area]. No reason given for leaving. Surely not persecution; how much safer could you be than in an area where you had just converted the Governor?! Why didn't Paul say, as missionaries said at the "collapse" of Communism and the relaxing of the persecution of Christians, "Quick, support us now, while there is an Open Door, before it slams shut again"? 13:6-13.

Perga, preaching not described, no reason given for leaving. 13:13-14. Paul preached there on his return, 14:25.

Antioch (in Pisidia, not the Antioch in Israel). Invited to speak, when Jews left Gentiles invited him back next Sabbath, many followed Paul meanwhile, next Sabbath whole town came, Jews "contradicted and blasphemed", Paul and Barnabas turned away from Jews to Gentiles, Gentiles spread word "throughout all the region", Jews "stirred up...the chief men of the city" (political leaders) "and expelled them out of their coasts" (deported them). So the reason for leaving was that they were ordered out of town by the police. The newly converted disciples were "filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost." 13:14-51.

Iconium. Preached in synagogue, Jews stirred up Gentiles, but Paul stayed there a "long time". For Paul, that is. Miracles done. City divided. Jews, Gentiles, and rulers plotted to stone apostles. Apostles were warned, and fled. Reason for leaving: to escape stoning. But short of stoning, Paul did not consider the opposition he experienced from the beginning a reason to leave. 13:51-14:6

Lystra. Preached, healed cripple, regarded as gods, apostles rebuked the adoring crowd, Jews turned the crowd from star struck to stones. Paul's corpse dragged outside the city. Paul revived and walked back to town. (Paul did not merely barely come to, but he was so miraculously healed that he was ready to travel the next day!) Left next day. Reason for leaving: not to escape persecution, but I guess after a city kills you, your welcome is thin.

Maybe Paul's message, in walking back and then leaving, was "I just wanted you to know I'm not leaving just because you killed me. I'll leave when God says to leave. God alone decides when a man dies, or leaves. I think my return makes that point pretty well, and that is my reason for leaving tomorrow: that message is now given, more dramatically in a day than I could have given it in a year of sermons, (in fact any sermon I could give now would only be a let-down after God's might work), and I am anxious to share the Gospel with others!" 14:6-20.

Derbe. Preached. "Taught many". No reason given for leaving.

Pamphylia. Preaching not described. No reason given for leaving. 14:24.

Perga, "preached the word". No reason given for leaving. 14:25.

Attalia. Preaching not described. No reason given for leaving. 14:25.

(Back home to Antioch. Gave reports to the home church. Acts 14:21-23, also 41, tells how Paul revisited the churches he had founded, on his way back, and ordained elders.)


Visiting old friends: through Syria and Cilicia, to Derbe and Lystra, "confirming [Gr: establish more, strengthen more, render more firm] the churches." 15:41-16:5. Circumcised a Greek to placate Jews. "4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. 5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily."

Four cities: Phrygia, Galatia, (barred by Holy Ghost from Asia) Mysia, (barred from Bithynia) Troas. Preaching not described, but definitely presumed. No reason given for leaving. Acts 16:6-8.

Macedonia. (Other cities listed which they passed through on their way to Macedonia, which they may not have stopped at, since they were sailing part of the way, and they had a specific destination so they may have been in a hurry; although they probably didn't travel on the Sabbath but rather sought out a Synagogue.) Met Lydia, baptized her and her household, accepted their lodging, cast out spirit of divination, dragged before magistrates and whipped, imprisoned, freed by God, used their Roman citizenship to intimidate magistrates who then begged them to leave the city, comforted Lydia and "the brethren", left. Reason for leaving: past persecution, although there did not appear to be the prospect of future persecution. But Jesus had said if you are not "received", to move on, Matthew 10:14; and in light of the public clamor for persecution, and the government's pleas to leave town, Paul probably didn't feel "received". (This doesn't mean missionaries are not supposed to minister to unreceptive pagans. It is premature to judge whether a city has rejected or received the Gospel, before they have heard it.) 16:6-40

Amphipolis, Apollonia. Passed through; preaching unspecified, no reason given for leaving. Acts 17:1.

Thessalonica, reasoned 3 Sabbaths in synagogue, Paul's "custom". Converted "some" Jews, a "multitude" of Greeks, and "not a few" influential women. A Jew-incited mob arrested Jason, for housing Paul, and set him free on bond. Paul left that night. Reason for leaving: to avoid arrest. Acts 17:1-10

Berea. The "noble" Bereans "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." "Many" believed. But Jews from Thessalonica came to stir up the mobs. Paul and his company leave by different routes to throw off the Jews who seemed determine to follow him wherever he went. Reason for leaving: the town "stirred up" by his enemies. Acts 17:10-15

Athens: Paul disputes in synagogue, market, and with "devout persons". Philosophers intrigued, give him a soapbox. Most mocked, a few believed and "clave" to him. No reason given for leaving. No persecution described. Acts 17:15-18:1

Corinth. Met fellow tentmakers, reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath. Paul abandons the Jews, even though the chief ruler of the synagogue believes. He stays with Gentiles. God promises protection. Paul stayed 18 months. When a new governor came the Jews indicted Paul but the governor dismissed the charges. They beat the new chief ruler of their synagogue in protest, an act I do not understand, but the governor ignored them. So did Paul. He stayed "yet a good while" longer, and finally left. Reason for leaving: none given. There was not only no persecution, but Paul enjoyed almost the protection of the governor. Corinth had a strong, populous church. But Paul had no leading to settle down anywhere. Paul was a missionary, an apostle, not a settler. Acts 18:1-18

Ephesus. Paul reasoned with the Jews, and they begged him to stay! Reason for leaving: to attend a feast in Jerusalem. He said he would try to return. Acts 18:19-21

Quick return to all churches, "strengthening all the disciples". Acts 18:22-23


Corinth, 18:1-18 reason for living, nearly two years is just about as long as a missionary can stay! The opposite of persecution: God's promise that there will be none, for God had "much people in this city".

Ephesus, 18:21 No persecution; Ephesians even begged him to stay! But he wanted to leave in time for a feast in Jerusalem.

Ceasarea, Antioch, vs 22-23. No persecution; just a short visit.

All the churches of Galatia and Phrygia. No persecution; short visits. "Strengthening the churches."

Ephesus, 19:1-20:1, stayed 2 years. Or 3 years, 20:31? No persecution. There was a great riot, but Paul was safe and in no clear danger even after it. Besides, the riot occurred after Paul already considered his work "finished", 19:21. Macedonia, Phillipi, Troas, other cities unspecified, 20:1-13 Paul altered his travel plans to avoid assassins waiting for him, but apparently did not need to cut short any visits because of them.

Miletus, 20:17-38, rendezvoused with the Elders of Ephesus, said good-bye until Heaven.

Tyra, 21:3-6, 7 day visit, no persecution.

Caesarea, 21:8-15 No persecution. Only prophecies that he would be bound in Jerusalem. Just the opposite of leaving because of persecution: Paul left places he was welcome so that he could hurry home to face persecution!

Jerusalem, that "killest the Prophets"! (Matthew 23:37) Acts 21:15, Paul's last arrest!

Nee writes:

"On they went again, publishing the Word of the Lord 'through the whole region' (b. 49). Their objective was not one city, but 'all the region.' The modern custom of settling down in one place to shepherd a particular flock has no precedent in Scripture....

"The early apostles never settled down in comfortable homes, nor did they stop for long to pastor the churches they founded...

"Here was a group of new believers, mere babes in Christ, and their fathers in the faith forsook them in their infancy. Did they argue, 'Why should the apostles be afraid of persecution and leave us to face the opposition alone?' Did they plead with the apostles to remain awhile and care for their spiritual welfare? Did they reason, 'If you leave us now we shall be a sheep without a shepherd. If both of you cannot stay, surely one at least can remain behind and look after us. The persecution is so intense, we shall never get through without your help.' How amazing the Scripture record is: 'And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit; (v. 52)....

"Those believers were not like the believers of today, hoping for a settled pastor to instruct them, solve their problems, and shelter them from trouble. And those apostles were not like the apostles of today; they were pioneers, not settlers." (Page 33.)

Probably Nee would acknowledge as an exception to this rule the mission of translators to live with a tribe until they learn its language and can translate the Bible into it. (Of course Paul had the Gift of Tongues to immediately cross language barriers.) But today's customs have made this exception the rule.

Nee continues, page 34:

"They dared to leave them in mere infancy, for they believed in the power of the life of God within them....

"If they had had a pastor to throw light on all their problems, they would have felt little need of the Spirit's instruction; and they would have felt little need of His power if they had had one in their midst who was bearing all responsibility for the spiritual side of the work while they attended to the secular. In Scripture there is not the slightest hint that apostles should settle down to pastor those they have led to the Lord. There are pastors in Scripture, but they are simply brethren raised up of God from among the local saints to care for their fellow believers. One of the reasons why so many present-day converts are not filled with the Spirit is that the apostles settle down to shepherd them and take upon themselves the responsibility that belongs to the Holy Spirit."

But you say "this 'sow to the wind' way of preaching the Gospel may be all well and good for the Bible, but it will never work." But apparently it did work, didn't it? Didn't it topple Rome in 250 years? Or at least mostly topple Rome, and to a greater degree than Communism has "collapsed" in our time? If it could topple Rome in that little time with the primitive communications technology of the time, think how quickly it could transform the world today!

Nee says "We dare not underestimate the value of apostolic methods -- they are absolutely essential if we are to have apostolic fruits -- but we must not overlook the need of apostolic spirituality, and we must not fear apostolic persecution." (p. 36)

There are at least two Biblical reasons for moving on and on and on.


Luke 4:40 Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. 41 And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ. 42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. 43 And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Matthew 10:23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.


John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.


Matthew 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Acts 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. 51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.

Positions Within a Local Church

Pastors/teachers are not two separate positions <> Evangelists <> Elders (pastors) appointed later <> Elders (pastors) appointed from among locals. (Missionaries shouldn't become pastors of the churches they found.) <> Elders (pastors) needed neither formal training nor long experience, but only maturity in relation to other members of their local church <> Once elders were appointed by apostles, they were not subject to apostles, but even had authority, in their local church, over apostles <> Elders/bishops: same person <> No division of active from passive members, as today's division of clergy from laity <> Clergy/elders rule not by rank but by example <> Elders should "pastor" but elders are not "pastors" <> No dominant single elder (pastor) in scripture <> Elders (pastors) not paid as a rule <> Duties of Elders


Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

"Pastor" and "shepherd" are the same word. "Pastor", singular, is found only once in the Bible, in Jeremiah. "Pastors", plural, is found more in Jeremiah, but only once in the New Testament: in Ephesians 4:11, which is reprinted above. "Shepherd" appears 13 times in the NT (KJV). In every case they have the same Greek word, poy-MANE, as was translated "Pastor". The only exception being 1 Peter 5:4, which uses a Greek word meaning "chief shepherd". This explains why Nee makes his distinction between "shepherds" and teachers, without even bothering to explain what that has to do with verse 11 above, which uses the translation "pastors".

Today churches assume "Pastor" means the guy in charge, who does all the talking, and "teacher" means the many who lecture the smaller groups within the larger group. Wrong! Nee makes the case, below, that "pastors" ("shepherds"), insofar as it is in any way distinct from "teachers", is not a Biblical office at all! Later we will consider the duties of an "Elder", and the exercise of "prophecy", which come closer to the authority we, today, associate with "pastor".

Watchman Nee reasons: (page 8) "Strictly speaking, shepherds and teachers are one gift, not two, because teaching and shepherding are closely related. In enumerating the gifts, apostles, prophets, and evangelists are all mentioned separately, while shepherds and teachers are linked together. Furthermore, the first three are each prefixed by the word 'some,' whereas the word 'some' is attached to shepherds and teachers unitedly, thus--'some as apostles,' 'some as prophets,' 'some as evangelists,' and 'some as shepherds and teachers,' not 'some as shepherds and some as teachers.' The fact that the word 'some' is used only four times in this list indicates that there are only four classes of persons in question. Shepherds and teachers are two in one. ....those who teach must also shepherd, and those who shepherd must also teach. ....the word 'shepherd' as applied to any person is found nowhere else in the New Testament, but the word 'teacher' is used on four other occasions. In the New Testament we find reference elsewhere to an apostle (for example, Paul), and a prophet (for example, Agabus), and an evangelist (for example, Philip), and a teacher (for example, Manaen), but nowhere in God's Word do we find anyone referred to as a shepherd. [Ed: or as a pastor.] This confirms the fact that shepherds and teachers are one class of men."


"Evangelist", the noun, is found only twice in Scripture besides in Ephesians 4. Philip is called an evangelist in Acts 21:8, and Timothy is told to do the work of an evangelist in 2 Timothy 4:5. But the only description of that work which God provides us is through the verb form of the word, which is frequent in Scripture. It means "to bring good news, to announce glad tidings". In the OT it describes any kind of good news; in the NT: "used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation."

"Euaggelizo" {yoo-ang-ghel-ID-zo} appears 55 times in the NT. In the KJV it is translated 23 times as "preach", 22 as "preach the Gospel", 2 as "bring good tidings", 2 as "show glad tidings", 1 as "bring glad tidings", 1 as "declare", 1 as "declare glad tidings", 3 as "miscellaneous" (the computer tells me).

The work of an evangelist probably overlaps the work of an apostle, and of a prophet, and of a teacher, with, I suspect, this difference in emphasis: to "bring good tidings" implies that one's audience has never heard such tidings before. Thus the work of an "evangelist" is not done with people who are already believers, or even with people who have heard the Gospel but rejected it. This, fortunately, corresponds to the common definition of "evangelist" today.


This heading erroneously equates "elders" with "pastors".

As we learned earlier, pastors/shepherds are teachers, in the Bible. But today, instead of the positions prescribed by God, we have a new position, which we call "pastors", which combines the exposition of teachers, and the authority of elders, and the "bringing a message from God" of prophets, and the authority outside their home city of missionaries, all rolled into one man.

Although there is a danger that the association of "pastors" and "elders" in section subheadings may mislead readers to equate the two, the association must be suffered, because the alternative danger is that we may leave today's "pastors" ungoverned by any of God's rules for the positions which are Biblical.

But please don't equate the two. Today's model is quite distinct from God's model. Those who seek revival will join the work of returning to God's model.

Nee says when the Apostles founded churches, they left them without elders, or any other leadership, initially. They left the congregation to rely on each other.

Nee: "In studying the Word we outward and a return journey. On their outward journey their first concern was to found churches. On their return journey their chief business was to build them up. Having 'made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, establishing the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God' (14:21-22)." (p. 35)

See also 18:22-23, and Paul's entire third journey, in which he revisited churches established earlier.

ELDERS (pastors) APPOINTED FROM AMONG UNSCHOOLED LOCALS. (Don't give your pulpits to strangers.)

Deuteronomy 17:15 Thou shalt in any wise set [him] king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: [one] from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which [is] not thy brother.

The first appointment of elders in the Church was Acts 14:23. Nee, p. 39: "...we discover who they were, how they were appointed, and by whom. 'When they had appointed elders for them in every church and had prayed with fastings, they committed them to the Lord.' ...The apostles did not request that men be sent from Antioch to shepherd the flocks, nor did one of them remain behind to bear the burden of the local churches.... They did not wait until any arbitrary standard was reached before appointing elders in a church, but 'in every church' they chose a few of the more mature members to care for their fellow believers.

"The apostolic procedure was quite simple. The apostles visited a place, founded a church, left that church for a while, then returned to establish it. In the interval certain developments would naturally take place. When the apostles left, some of the professing believers would leave too. Others would continue to attend the meetings, and would prove themselves to be truly the Lord's, but would make no appreciable progress. Others again would eagerly press on in the knowledge of the Lord and show real concern for His interests. Those who had more spiritual life than others would spontaneously come to the front and take responsibility for their weaker brethren. It was because they had proved themselves to be elders that the apostles appointed them to hold office as elders, and it was their business to shepherd and instruct the other believers, and to superintend and control the church affairs.

"Nowhere did the apostles settle down and assume responsibility for the local church, but in every church they founded they chose from among the local believers faithful ones upon whom such responsibility could be placed. When they had chosen elders in each church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord, just as, with prayer and fasting, they themselves had been committed to the Lord by the prophets and teachers when they were sent out on their apostolic ministry.... We need to know Christ as Head of His Church in no mere intellectual way if we are to let all its management pass out of our hands at the very outset. Only an utter distrust of themselves, and a living trust in God, could enable the early apostles to commit the affairs of every local church into the hands of local men who had but recently come to know the Lord. ...if things pass out of human hands and are not committed in faith to divine hands, the result will be disaster....

"The Word of God makes it clear that the oversight of a church is not the work of apostles, but of elders. Although Paul stayed in Corinth for over a year, in Rome for two years, and in Ephesus for three years, yet in none of these places did he assume responsibility for the work of the local church. In Scripture we read of the ELDERS OF Ephesus, but never of the APOSTLES OF Ephesus. We find no mention made of the APOSTLES OF Philippi, but we do find reference to the BISHOPS OF Philippi. Apostles are responsible for their own particular ministry, but not for the churches which are the fruit of their ministry. All the fruit of the apostles' work had to be handed over to the care of local elders."


"According to the usual conception of things, one would think it necessary for a considerable time to elapse between the founding of a church and the appointment of elders, but that is not according to God's pattern. The first missionary tour of the apostles covered less than two years, and during that period the apostles preached the gospel, led sinners to the Lord, formed churches, and appointed elders wherever a church had been formed. The elders were chosen on the apostles' return journey, not on their first visit to any place; but the interval between their two visits was never long, at the most a matter of months. ....Even among the spiritually immature there are bound to be those who, in comparison with the others, are more mature and have spiritual possibilities, which is all the qualification they require to be their elders.

"A[n entire] church may come far short of the ideal, but we cannot on that account deprive it of the status of a church.... In comparison with the elders of other places they may seem very immature, but if they are more advanced than the other believers in the same locality, then in their own church they are elders. We must remember that the office of an elder according to Scripture is limited to a locality. Being an elder in Nanking does not qualify a man to be an elder in Shanghai....

"Should there be no leading of the Holy Spirit, and circumstances not permit an immediate appointment of elders on the second visit of the apostles, then a Titus could be left behind to see to their appointment later." Nee, page 42-43.

Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Does Nee base too much on too little, in assuming the criteria Paul used to ordain elders was the maturity they had developed in his brief absence? We know the criteria Paul used, from his letters to Timothy and Titus. He was looking for pretty serious-minded individuals. And we know Paul wanted to avoid putting a "novice" in authority, "lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil", 1 Timothy 3:6. That explains why Paul didn't appoint elders during his first visit. Jesus also gave us the principle that a person is most thoroughly tested while the "master" to whom he is accountable is away, for an unknown length of time. Jesus even made the connection that when a person passes such a test, he is given great authority, Luke 12:42-46. Paul's absence, for a length of time unknown to each church, and his unannounced return, is consistent with Paul's concerns that Bishops be tested by time, and with the testing principles explained by Jesus.

The fact that Paul never sent any of the elders He appointed to a 3-year "Seminary" doesn't mean seminary training disqualifies a local church member from earning recognition as an elder. It is controversial enough to insist that a local church member need not have seminary training to fully qualify as a Biblically recognized elder. Knowledge can't hurt. Indoctrination can, of course, if it is not overcome. For example, every seminary I know of teaches that denominations, and one "pastor" doing virtually all the talking, are God's Will. The important consideration is mastery of "sound doctrine", Titus 1:9.


Nee, p. 44: "The Word of God nowhere speaks of apostles managing the affairs of a local church, and it nowhere speaks of elders managing the affairs of SEVERAL local churches. The apostles were the MINISTERS [Ed: the word means "servant"] of all the churches, but they had CONTROL of none. The elders were confined to one church, and they controlled affairs in that one. The duty of apostles was to found churches. Once a church was established, all responsibility was handed over to the local elders, and from that day the apostles exercised no control whatever in its affairs. All management was in the hands of the elders, and if they thought it right, they could even refuse an apostle entry into their church."

Revelation 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Nee, continuing: "How did Paul deal with the adulterous believer in Corinth? He did not just notify the church that he had excommunicated the man. The utmost he could do was to instruct its members regarding the seriousness of the situation and seek to admonish them to remove the wicked person from their midst."

1 Corinthians 5:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Nee, continuing: "In the event of their despising his counsel, Paul could only bring his spiritual authority to bear on the situation. In the name of the Lord Jesus he could 'deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh' (v. 5). He had no OFFICIAL authority to discipline him, but he had SPIRITUAL authority....

1 Corinthians 5:3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven,...

(Verse 7 further confirms Nee's interpretation. It shows that although Paul took spiritual action already, there remains some purging for the Corinthians to do themselves. By the way, Paul's spiritual sentence, "the destruction of the flesh", was usually taken to refer to, according to my Logos lexicon, "troubles by which the lusts of the flesh are subdued and destroyed". I suppose venereal disease would be an example.)

Nee, p. 45: "It was quite within his province to pass judgment where doctrinal and moral questions were concerned, and when Paul did so he was most emphatic; but the actual enforcing of such judgments was outside his province and entirely a matter for the local church....

"An apostle can deal with the disorders of a church whenever his advice and counsel are sought, as was the case with Paul and the church in Corinth. It was because of their inquiries that he could say to them, 'And the rest I will set in order when I come' (1 Cor. 11:34). But the point to note here is that the rest of the matters which Paul intended to set in order...were to be attended to in the same way as those he had dealt with in his Epistle, and they were dealt with doctrinally. [By persuasion, as opposed to physical control.] ...the Corinthians themselves, not Paul, were the ones who would have to deal with the situation."

(Nee's assertion that Paul was responding to queries from the Corinthians is supported by 1 Corinthians 8:1, "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me....", which is followed by chapter-long treatises on several topics.)

Nee, page 64: "The local church is the highest church authority. If other churches object to its decisions, all they can do is resort to persuasion and exhortation. There is no alternative course, because the relationship which exists between the churches is purely spiritual, not official.

"If a brother who has been disciplined in Nanking moves to Soochow, and there proves himself to be innocent of the charge brought against him, then Soochow has full authority to receive him, despite the judgment of Nanking. Soochow is responsible for its actions to God, not to is well for the brother in question not to be received before Nanking's mistake in judgment is pointed out to Nanking [which will do well to listen. But if not] Soochow cannot press anything against Nanking....If the churches are spiritual there will be no difficulty in their relationship one with another."


Nee, page 47: "Elders are also called bishops The term 'elder' relates to their person; the term 'bishop' to their work. Bishop means overseer...."

Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain ELDERS in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a BISHOP must be blameless,...

(Note the interchangeable use of "elders" and "bishop" to refer to the same people.)

Acts 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.

(In this verse, "overseers" is translated from the same Greek word which KJV translates "Bishop" in the other 6 of the 7 times it appears in the NT.)


Nee, page 47: " overseer is not one who works instead of others, but one who supervises others as THEY work. God intended that every Christian should be a 'Christian worker,' and He appointed some to take the oversight of the work so that it might be carried on efficiently. It was never His thought that the majority of the believers should devote themselves exclusively to secular affairs and leave the church matters to a group of spiritual specialists."


Nee, page 47: "Elders...are appointed to 'lead,' and also to 'instruct' and 'shepherd.' 'Let the elders who take the lead well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in word and teaching' (1 Tim. 5:17). 'Shepherd the flock of God among you, overseeing not under compulsion but willingly, according to God; not by seeking gain through base means but eagerly; nor as lording it over your allotments but by becoming patterns of the flock' (1 Pet. 5:2-3). ...[Church is not] an active and a passive group of brethren, the former controlling the latter, and the latter simply submitting to their control, or the former bearing all the burden while the latter settle down in ease to enjoy the benefit of their labors. 'That the members for one another' is God's purpose for His Church (1 Cor. 12:25). (p. 48) ...they did direct the work, but they did it more by example than by command."


Nee earlier made the point that pastors and teachers are the same office. Here he makes the point that the principal duty of an elder is to "pastor". In other words, the noun "pastor", a title, an office, is the same title or office as that of "teachers" (the point made in the beginning of this section). The verb "Pastor", a task, duty, job, describes the same task, duty, and job as that of "elders".

Notice in this formulation how we equate a single "pastor" with plural "teachers" and "elders". That is because today we have replaced the plural "elders" and "teachers" with a single "pastor".

We have taken away the authority of "elders" and relegated them to passing around communion plates. We have removed "teachers" from the main assembly and relegated them to small rooms where they may lecture children.

Nee, page 48: "Paul wrote to Titus that an elder should 'be able both to exhort by the healthy teaching and to convict those who oppose" (Titus 1:9). ...elders help to build up the church not only by teaching and preaching, but by PASTORAL work. To SHEPHERD the flock is particularly the work of elders. Paul said to the Ephesian elders, 'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has placed you as overseers to SHEPHERD [KJV: "feed". Greek: to feed or tend a flock, provide pasture] the church of God' (Acts 20:28). And Peter wrote in the same strain to the elders among the saints of the Dispersion, 'Shepherd [same KJV & Greek as before] the flock of God among you' (1 Pet. 5:2). The present-day conception of pastors is far removed from the thought of God. God's thought was that men chosen from among the local brethren should shepherd the flock, not that men coming from other parts should preach the gospel, found churches, and then settle down to care for those churches."


Nee, page 49: "This work of leading, teaching, and shepherding the flock, which we have seen to be the special duty of the elders, does not devolve upon one man only in any place. To have pastors in a church is scriptural, but the present-day pastoral system is quite unscriptural; it is an invention of man.

"In Scripture we see that there was always more than one elder or bishop in a local church. It is not God's will that one believer should be singled out from all the others to occupy a place of special prominence, while the others passively submit to his will. If the management of the entire church rests upon one man, how easy it is for him to become self-conceited, esteeming himself above measure and suppressing the other brethren (3 John). God has ordained that several elders together share the work of the church, so that no one individual should be able to run things according to his own pleasure, treating the church as his own special property and leaving the impress of his personality upon all its life and work. To place the responsibility in the hands of several brethren, rather than in the hands of one individual, is God's way of safeguarding His church against the evils that result from the domination of a strong personality. God has purposed that several brothers should unitedly bear responsibility in the church, so that even in controlling its affairs they have to depend one upon the other and submit one to the other. Thus, in an experimental way, they will discover the meaning of bearing the cross.... As they honor one another and trust one another to the leading of the Spirit, none taking the place of the Head, but each regarding the others as fellow members, the element of mutuality, which is the distinctive feature of the church, will be preserved."


In America part-time pastors are the least respected. They are regarded as the least successful. But in the Bible, says Nee, "They are simply local men, following their usual pursuits and at the same time bearing special responsibilities in the church. Should local affairs increase, they may devote themselves entirely to spiritual work, but the characteristic of an elder is not that he is a 'full-time Christian worker.' It is merely that, as a local brother, he bears responsibility in the local church. Locality determines the boundary of a church, and it is for that reason that the elders are always chosen from among the more mature believers in any place, and not transferred from other places. Thus, the local character of the churches of God is preserved, and consequently also their independent government and spiritual unity."

DUTIES OF ELDERS. Is a fellowship a Republic or Dictatorship?

The Bible says much about the qualifications of elders/bishops. This subject stirs little controversy, and I have nothing to add to the traditional interpretations of their qualifications.

But the Bible says less about the specific duties of elders, and about their jurisdiction. That is, what are they authorized to do, and what are they not authorized to do? The traditional interpretation, of course, is that "pastors" have to do virtually everything, and they have virtual authority over everyone, within their "church".

I am most interested in the nature of the authority of elders. How dictatorial is it? Do elders give orders which church members are pressured to obey, not just by the power of persuasion and truth and their love of Jesus, but by some sort of human, physical enforcement mechanism?

Can an elder decide what the evening's topic will be, and everyone else has to fall in line? Well, there are multiple elders; so we should ask, do the elders get together and plan the meeting? Or an outreach activity? Or anything else requiring the participation of others? Do their decisions carry weight beyond the weight of their persuasiveness? That is, anyone can speak up and steer the meeting as much as any elder, to the extent he is persuasive? Or does an elder have more authority than his persuasion? That is, if the elders recommend a course of action, but the rest of the Assembly isn't persuaded, do the rest have to go along with it just because the elders are The Boss?

A worldly "office" carries "authority", which most of us assume means the power to force people to do things, as opposed to the opportunity to persuade people to do things voluntarily. Do elders "hold office" in this worldly sense? In other words, do elders "rule" by "consensus building", or can they give "orders" which have force apart from "the consent of the governed"? Is it a Dictatorship? Or a Republic like that established by America's Founding Fathers?

The Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government...

We know from Matthew 18:15-17 that the most severe discipline a church can enforce, "shunning", cannot be imposed by an elder or even by all the elders, but by consensus of "the [whole] church". Can elders impose lesser rulings without consensus?

In a modern "church", where only one man does virtually all the talking, these considerations are meaningless. But try to remember we are talking about trying to reconstruct a New Testament fellowship, where 1 Corinthians 14 would guarantee access to the podium for all. In such an assembly, do elders step up to the podium with any more authority than anyone else? Or are "orders" built by establishing consensus, which anyone may do?

What did it mean when Paul and Timothy "ordained" elders? Was it selection, or training? Did they fly into town, order the citizens to obey these "elders" whom they selected, and fly back out of town, leaving the town stuck with Dictators accountable only to Paul and Timothy who might never return to check on them? Or did Paul and Timothy do little more than train those who showed up, and who cared about keeping the assembly together, how to keep the assembly together?

Did Jesus rule by force, or by persuasion? If by persuasion, then our question is whether Jesus means the Elders of an assembly to have more coercive power over fellow believers than He had Himself?

We will search for the answers to these questions from Scripture.

Acts 14:23 "ordain" means "to vote by stretching forth the hand"; like our practice of "raising" our hands to vote. No wonder elders could not be appointed at Paul's initial visit, but only upon his way back home, which was weeks or months later: the people hadn't gotten to know each other yet. Through a few weeks of meeting, members see the ability of some to keep the discussion productive. But this means they exercised their skill even before they were "ordained". Which indicates that even after some are "ordained", others may still exercise common sense about the direction of group discussion.


I'll never forget a short scene in the "Dallas", that depressing prime-time TV serial in the '70's. The old man had died, and there was a flashback to where Bobby was complaining that he needed more power, in the will, than his evil brother J.R. Ewing, in order to properly manage the estate. His father answered almost impatiently, "real power isn't something you can be given. It is something you take."

Simplistic. But there's something to it. Jesus described power as something you earn, by taking responsibility so well that others will voluntarily give you more responsibility, specifically by delegating some of their authority to you.

Matthew 24:44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46 Blessed [is] that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true [riches]? {mammon: or, riches} 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

While true power is not something you can take, initiative is something you need to take, before you will be given true power.

Matthew 25:24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, [there] thou hast [that is] thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, [Thou] wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and [then] at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give [it] unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus gave virtually a "New Dispensation" of authority. A historical redefinition.

Luke 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. 25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye [shall] not [be] so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether [is] greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? [is] not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. 28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; 30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Mark 10:41 And when the ten heard [it], they began to be much displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them [to him], and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister {slave}: 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:24 And when the ten heard [it], they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. 25 But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.


"Feed the Flock", 1 Peter 5:2 tells "elders". It is almost a word play, because "feed" and "flock" are different forms of the same word. (It's the same in Acts 20:28.) In Greek, "feed" is spelled "poimanate", and "flock" is spelled "poimnion". Poimanate is defined "feed, tend a flock, keep sheep, rule, govern, furnish pasture for food". Poimnion is defined "a flock, especially of sheep". Figuratively, "a group of Christ's disciples".

Paul told the Ephesian elders to feed the flock. This duty is stated in such general terms that we learn nothing of any specific duties. The verse tells, rather, what the purpose should be of our work among the fellowship.

Are elders told, in this verse, to do anything different than what everyone else is told to do, to the limit of their capacity? Aren't we all told to share with each other, especially such essentials as nourishment, to the extent of our capacity?

Proverbs 3:27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do [it]. 28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.

James 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit?

Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Not only are all Christians told to nourish each other physically, but we are specifically told to desire the ability to help each other spiritually:

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual [gifts], but rather that ye may prophesy. ...3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men [to] edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

If all of us are instructed to nourish each other, to "feed the flock", then why is the command to "feed the flock" specifically addressed to elders? Is this a contradiction?

A natural interpretation of these passages is that elders are addressed, not because they are exclusively authorized to "feed the flock", but because they have the greatest understanding of how to do it. Just as I would tell the choir director, not an individual singer, if I wanted the church choir to "go up a step" to the key of Ab on the third verse, and change from 3/4 to 9/8 time. I wouldn't be so sure that every singer in the choir would know what that means, much less how to do it. But I would tell the choir director, confident that he could know how to help all the singers do it together.

Shepherds are translated as "overseers" in Acts 20:28. KJV translates "Overseer" from the Greek word episkopos, "a man charged with the duty of seeing that things done by others be done rightly". The other 6 times this word is found in the NT, KJV translates it "Bishop". It is the word from which the Episcopal denomination gets its name.

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed {Gr: "feed, tend a flock, keep sheep, rule, govern...furnish pasture for food"} the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you,...

Do elders have any more "power" over others than the "power of persuasion"? The rest of the preceding passage tells us the temporal authority of an elder may be even less than the power to persuade! It is the "power" merely to provide an example! Of course, the example has to be good enough for people to recognize it as worth following. In that sense, it has to be persuasive. But the idea of temporal authority is ruled out by the warning "Neither as being lords over [God's] heritage".

1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, {not by force: don't let anybody force you to do it, and don't rule by the use of force} but willingly {voluntarily}; not for filthy lucre, {not motivated by a salary} but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over [God's] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

A shepherd does not drive sheep. That is, he does not stay behind them and force them ahead where he has not himself already gone. He leads them. Not in the sense of giving them orders, but in the sense of being the first to follow his own advice. He goes first, and they follow voluntarily.

1 Timothy 3:1 This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

A worldly "office" carries "authority", which most of us assume means the power to force people to do things. But in this verse, there is not even a Greek word meaning "office". It is a word added by translators. It is true that "bishop", or "elder", is a category assigned to some and not to others. But does is it a position which one cannot exercise without the consent of others?

What did it mean when Paul and Timothy "ordained" elders?

In Titus 1:5, the Greek word for "ordain" is defined "to set one over a thing (in charge of it); to appoint one to administer an office; conduct or bring to a certain place..." True, the first two phrases seem to describe worldy power. But could the third phrase be the essence of New Testament ordination? Could it be that "ordination" was not Paul telling a church who they had to obey, but rather simply coming back, a few months after first presenting the Gospel, finding who was still there and still faithful, and who cared about keeping the Assembly together, and working with them to show them how? Could it be that Titus didn't even rely solely on his own impressions of church members to select leaders, but the judgment of all members? Could it be that he simply saw who were already functioning as leaders, and simply acknowledged, officially, the relationships already growing? Or perhaps he went beyond mere acknowledgment, and taught the leaders, and the people, the responsibilities that go with influence?

This is the pattern followed by Moses in Deuteronomy 1:13-15. When Jethro first advised Moses how to set up a judicial system with appeals courts similar to those we have today, in Exodus 18:17-23, it sounds as if Moses was the sole authority in selecting leaders under him. But when Moses looks back on how he did it, and reminds the people (at the end of his life), in Deuteronomy 1:13-15, he left it up to the people to select their own leaders.

He told them "Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do. So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you...."

So not only did Moses let the people select their own leaders, the ones already influential and respected, which is another way of saying already functioning as leaders, but Moses waited for the people to approve the very idea of selecting leaders.

In Moses' case, Moses did not create new authority over the people which did not previously exist, but he simply delegated his own authority and responsibilities to the newly acknowledged leaders. Likewise it may be that when Titus and Paul ordained elders, they were in effect telling the people "the questions you had for us, ask of these men; God is speaking through them as through us."

Acts 14:23 uses a Greek word for "ordain" which means, flatly, to supervise an election.

Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained [Gr: cheirotoneo, (1) to vote by stretching out the hand; (2) to create or appoint by vote: one to have charge of some office or duty; (3) to elect, create, appoint] them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended [Gr: place intrust, commit to one's charge.] them to the Lord on whom they believed. (KJV)

The apostle Judas was replaced by Matthias, by "casting lots", which was like rolling a dice today. Acts 1:26. But before they cast lots, they narrowed the field down to two. Presumably the eleven apostles made this "appointment", not the whole congregation of believers, but this was a special case: one of the qualifications Peter pointed out was that they had to have been with the other apostles from the baptism of John to the day Jesus ascended into Heaven, v. 22. Only the 11 could know that.

Besides that, Apostleship did not confer authority over any defined group of people who would have any interest in who their leaders were.

Jesus specifically warns Christians not to imitate the kind of dictatorships the world then knew. He did not only tell us what kind of leaders not to have, but He told us how to identify leaders. In effect, He said "if someone called a leader leads by ordering you around, rather than by persuasion and by example, don't allow him to continue doing that. Don't follow him. Rather, acknowledge as your leader one who acts more like your slave, doing what you want done and working very hard." Surely Timothy and Paul followed these criteria in showing church congregations how to select their leaders.

Jesus' criteria followed the mother of two of the Apostles asking that her sons be made rulers, Matthew 20:20-24. Jesus said such authority costs a heavy cross, and even then is a path which God must prepare. The other Apostles were indignant.

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over [Gr: katakurieuo, to bring under one's power, to subject one's self, to subdue, master; to hold in subjection, to be master of, exercise lordship over] them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (KJV)


But why were there such stringent qualifications for elders/Bishops? Didn't that prove only the creme were permitted to Shepherd? Not necessarily. The list of "qualifications" might not be qualifications at all, in today's sense of filters which you must pass or you are not permitted, by temporal authority, to proceed. They might be more accurately interpreted as qualities needed, before you can lead, and expect anybody to be inspired to follow. In other words, perhaps it is not human, temporal authority which will slow you down if you lack these qualities, but rather the natural instinct in most sincere people not to see the advantage of following a loser.

How about 1 Timothy 5:1, which says to never rebuke an elder, but treat him like your own father? Isn't that giving special privilege to elders? Isn't that saying elders can't be corrected by "laymen"?

1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat [him] as a father;...

Actually "Rebuke" comes from a sterner Greek word than we have yet seen. The word is epiplesso, and it is defined "to strike, beat upon; to chastise with words; chide, upbraid, rebuke". That is rougher treatment than we would like to see applied to any Christian brother. Just because we don't want to beat up our elders, that doesn't mean we must never correct them. In fact, "intreat" comes from the same Greek word in 2 Timothy 4:2, (where it is translated "exhort"), describing how elders should interact with others. In other words, 1 Timothy 5:1 tells us to treat elders the same way 2 Timothy 4:2 says elders should treat the rest of us.

The point of the first section of this chapter is not to give orders exclusive to various groups of people. The point is to take every single group of people in your assembly, and illustrate how you should treat them as tenderly as the members of your immediate family.

1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren; 2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

The examples continue in the following verses. The point is not to treat one group different than another group, but to treat all groups with the love and affection which pagans reserve for family only.

1 Timothy 5:1 doesn't even specifically tell us how we should treat elders. The verse is addressed specifically to Timothy! The guy who ordains elders! (Or supervises elections? Or some other means of selection by the congregation, ala Deuteronomy 1:13-15?)

Even he has to treat elders, who would be his inferiors on any ladder of inferiority and superiority, with all the honor he owes his own father! If the man who is the "boss" over all the elders in the territory, with the power to make or break elders, (as some interpret the power of ordination), has to treat elders with honor and respect, should not elders treat their "inferiors" with the same honor and respect? By the same principle that requires us to forgive our debtors to the extent we want God to forgive us, Matthew 18:21-35?

The point of all this talk is to show there really is no ladder of inferiority and superiority in God's Fellowship, which allows those at the top of the ladder to be treated by different rules than the ones at the bottom.

But what about 1 Thessalonians 5:13 and Heb 13:7-8?

1 Thessalonians 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know {cherish} them which labour {grow exhausted with labor or burdens or grief} among you, and are over you {superintend; be a protector or guardian, give aid} in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. [And] be at peace among yourselves.

This tells us to appreciate what others do for us. If those "over" us get there Jesus' way, by serving us more than anybody else, then we have a lot to appreciate. This doesn't mean we shouldn't appreciate anybody else who does good things for us. No standard of appreciation is outlined here which applies only to elders and not others. In fact, the very next verse assigns duties to "the rest of us" which other passages appear to assign to elders:

1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all [men].

How about Hebrews 13:7?

Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation.

"Rule" is defined "used of any kind of leader, chief, commander; leader in speech, spokesman..." More connotations may be available by looking at the root word of which this is the middle voice. That word is defined "Of an animal: To lead by laying hold of, and in this way to bring to a destination. To lead by accompanying into a place. To lead with one's self, attach to one's self as an attendant. Conduct, bring..." This definition is consistent with the command, "whose faith follow (imitate)". How can we imitate a "leader" who is not "in the lead", going before, or at least with, us? Worldly authorities order, and we obey; but we cannot follow their example, because they provide none. They tell us to go where they themselves have not gone. They ask us to carry burdens they themselves will not touch with one of their little fingers.

Matthew 23:2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay [them] on men's shoulders; but they [themselves] will not move them with one of their fingers.

There is no support in Hebrews 13:7 for the assumption that New Testament Church "authority" is at all authoritarian. Our motive for imitating the faith of those who are walking with us, helping us, according to Hebrews, is our "consideration" of "the end of their conversation", which apparently refers to "the manner in which they closed a well-spent life, as exhibited by their spirit in dying". There is no hint of temporal coercion here. The only "power" here is persuasion, and the power of inspiring example.

Are there any duties imposed upon "shepherds/elders/bishops" which are not asked of the rest of us? How about supporting the weak?


Many modern "pastors" preach that the poorest of the congregation will be blessed by giving even from their poverty to the church. Indeed, Jesus said much the same, Mark 12:42-44. But the following verse says the "pastor" is missing his own blessing by receiving from the poor, rather than giving to them:

Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support {lay hold of; embrace; partake of} the weak {feeble, without strength, powerless; needy, poor; sick}, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

But "supporting the weak" is not a duty exclusively for leaders. Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:14 had assigned this duty to us all.

How about silencing opponents?


Titus 1:7 For a bishop must...9 be able by sound doctrine {Gr: error-free instruction} both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. ...11 Whose mouths must be stopped,...13 ...Wherefore rebuke them sharply,

"Exhort": Gr. parakalein "to call to one's side...exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc. strive to appease by entreaty...encourage and strengthen by consolation..." In other words, an elder must be fluent enough in "sound doctrine" to be able to use it in a variety of creative ways to restore order.

"Convince": Gr. elegchein "convict, refute, confute, generally with a sense o shame of the person bring to the light, expose, find fault with, correct, reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove, call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation, chasten, punish". Strong stuff! Elders aren't supposed to be polite at all!

Of course, today's pastors already wax eloquent in exposing wickedness outside the "church", and occasionally within it, although naming names is still risky. But Paul demands the ability to accuse a trouble maker to his face, and in a forum where he has the opportunity to respond. That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

I have a little experience with trying to conduct fellowship along the lines of 1 Corinthians 14, and I can assure you, that "open microphone" will become a magnet for fruitcakes; and even worse, it will draw out the fruitcake in us all.

But notice God doesn't say restoring order is the exclusive duty of the elders. In fact, the help of all the members is necessary in addressing this problem. Matthew 18:15-17 indicates a trouble maker may not be expelled until the "whole church" is in agreement against him. ("...if he neglect to hear the church" infers that "the church" speaks with a single voice. Were it divided, he could say he did "hear" part of the church. In fact, to expel trouble makers before every last member understands their error, risks alienating members who fear the church leadership is arbitrarily exercising human dictatorship for impure motives.

Although elders must have this skill, this skill is desirable in all members. So really the ability to silence trouble makers is a minimum qualification for being an elder. It does not distinguish the duty or authority of the elders from the duty or authority of the other members.

The proof that this is not the exclusive duty of the elders is that Paul is giving Titus these qualifications to consider when Titus ordains elders. In other words, these are qualities Titus was to look for in candidates for ordination before they were ordained. How could these candidates have exhibited these qualities, if no one is allowed to exhibit these abilities (in this case, the ability to silence opponents of Jesus) until after ordination?

But if the ability to silence opponents is something anyone can do, without special "authority", what does Titus 2:15 mean when it says to "rebuke with all authority"? Surely that wording, "all authority", must be interpreted as a rebuke with more force behind it than mere persuasion.

Titus 2:15. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority {Gr: an injunction, mandate, command}. Let no man despise {Gr. let no man think himself better than} thee.

But this was a letter from Paul to Titus. It told Titus to "rebuke with all authority". Do you suppose Titus read that and thought of a few situations where he really would appreciate some temporal authority, and thought out loud to Paul, "Well, this is very nice of you. But where am I supposed to get 'all this authority', Paul?" Was Titus supposed to wave Paul's letter, and everyone would fall down on their knees and say "watch out! Titus has 'all authority' now!"

For that matter, where did Paul get "all authority" in the first place, to be able to confer it upon Titus?

The Bible describes "speaking with authority" as a gift which comes from God, not from men, not from human education, and which puzzles earthly authorities because they can't figure out where it came from.

Matthew 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as [one] having authority, and not as the scribes.

Another verse about rebuking:

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach <2784> the word <3056>; be instant <2186> in season <2122>, out of season <171>; reprove <1651>, rebuke <2008>, exhort <3870> with <1722> all <3956> longsuffering <3115> and <2532> doctrine <1322>.

The numbers are from Strong's numbering system. I left them there because the verse bears study.

"Preach": Gr. proclaim after the manner of a herald, with the suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed..."

"Word": Logos, the same Greek word which John 1:1 identifies as Jesus.

"Instant": Gr. "place at, upon, over; stand by, be present; stand over one, place oneself above; used especially of persons coming upon one suddenly; to be at hand, be ready..." Translated most often in KJV as "come upon" -- 6 of 21 times. Also translated come (4 times), stand (3), stand by (3), miscellaneous 5 times.

"In season": when the opportunity occurs.

"Reprove": Gr. elegchein "convict, refute, confute, generally with a sense of shame of the person bring to the light, expose, find fault with, correct, reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove, call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation, chasten, punish".

"Rebuke": "to show honor to; to adjuge or award, in the sense of merited penalty; to tax with fault, rate, chide; rebuke, reprove, censure severely, admonish or charge sharply." In other words, to "call 'em like you see 'em". To "call a spade a spade". To dish out what people need to hear, whether it is good or bad.

"Exhort": Gr. parakalein "to call to one's side...exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc. strive to appease by entreaty...encourage and strengthen by consolation..."

"Longsuffering": "patience...perserverence...slowness in avenging wrongs"

"Doctrine": teaching, instruction.

Timothy was supposed to proclaim Jesus, be ever vigilant, even when "the door was shut", and to use patience and teaching in order to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort". We are all supposed to do these things.

This study has shown that there are no duties exclusive to elders; no privileges exclusive to elders; no authority exclusive to elders.

But then why are some people called elders? What did distinguish them, if not duties, privileges, or temporal authority?

It works the same way as singing. Not everyone is called a "singer". But everybody is permitted to sing. Some are appreciated more than others. And those who are appreciated the most are called "singers".

But in the last couple of generations, a new artificial barrier to "being a singer" has reared its ugly head upon the scene: the Singing Degree. After you go to college four years, and major in singing, you can get a Singing Degree, and get a Singing Job in a Government school, whether you can sing or not. There is not a strong relationship between a degree in Singing, Computering, Lawyering, or quite a number of other things, so that a Degree, rather than being a true measure of mastery, has been something to work for instead of actual mastery, because it earns one a lot more money than actual mastery.

The same thing has happened to Preaching. Now you have to go to college for 7 years to preach. It used to be that if God calls you to preach, you preach. Now if God calls you to preach, God has to wait seven years.

Now if you study electrical books and learn how to wire an entire factory, it means nothing. You cannot legally wire your own bedroom. Not until you get a license. You cannot even cut your neighbor's hair without a license.

If you are very personable, and love people, and can help people talk through their problems, that doesn't matter. You cannot start a counseling business unless you like jail. You must first get a license. And to get a license, you must go to college for at least 7 years to learn a theology called "Psychology" whose own research proves it cannot help anybody, or understand anybody, any more than anybody else. And after you get your degree, and your license, then you can charge $150 an hour to listen to people talk, even if you are a social wart.

America grew because it was free. Anyone could try anything he liked, and if he proved competent, people would come to him. Licenses and degrees are not how America began, but they could be how America will end. Their power has grown because very highly paid college professors with scandalously light class loads do not want to give up their monopoly over what careers people may choose, and very power-hungry state legislators do not want to give up their monopoly over a growing list of careers which may not proceed until they obey a growing list of arbitrary rules, and pay a growing debt of fines. Er, fees.

Why do you want your church hamstrung like that? Why do you want to censor any voice in your church which is not a "certified expert"? Why not throw away the chains and let excellence arise, unimpeded by arbitrary, man-made rules?

To help you clearly visualize how people in your church can become publicly recognized as "elders", even though they don't have any exclusive duties, privileges, or temporal authority other than persuasion -- even though anyone else can do what they do, limited only by interest and talent -- here is my interview with Jam, a young woman from Sudan, describing how elders rose to recognition in her town, Jubal, the capital city of Southern Sudan.

It is a very natural process. It is not hard to understand how it works. And yet "elders", or "wise ones", can earn such public recognition, without ever having any more right to speak than anyone else, that they are called upon to decide even matters of criminal law.

Chapter 6 "Central Church Government"




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