A New Wineskin

           The Increase of His Government   by:  Allen Logan

 

 

We are in a time of great increase:

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice

From that time forward, even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.   Isaiah. 9:6&7

In order for this increase to come, we must be willing to decrease ---the Spirit of the Lord was upon John the Baptist, and this was his joyous response upon hearing the voice of the bridegroom.  John. 3:27-30

This God given willingness to decrease not only applies to the individual members of the body, but to the man-made, man-ordained  system for governing the church. While God has anointed and used various forms of this government for centuries… “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.  He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”  (Acts 17:30&31) 

While it is true that there are godly men who currently serve in various leadership roles (i.e. senior pastor), I humbly submit that the Lord has lifted His hand of enabling grace from a form of government that leaves the body of Christ lacking in the fullness of understanding how to be ministers of reconciliation. 

This unbiblical framework for government in the church in taking as its pattern the CEO structure of modern corporations has become abusive in it's treatment of the brethren.

While there are also many opinions as to why this happens, I believe the primary cause stems from the inability of the church eldership to collectively hear the voice of the bridegroom, coupled with the tendency to rely solely upon one man’s ability to interpret direction and timing of the Lord.  

This has led (intentionally and unintentionally) to a pattern of control and manipulation Jesus referred to as the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.

As we will see in the following brief overview of leadership in the history of God’s people, of the three primary examples of Moses, David, and Jesus, only Christ had the fullness of grace to walk in the calling of chief shepherd.

While it is not my intent to minimize the life or importance of David, let me submit that one of the primary purposes of God was to re-establish His legal right to rule over the nation of Israel, through the lineage of David.  In 1 Samuel 8:7 the L-rd said to Samuel,  “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”  With this in mind let it be simply stated that through the lineage of David, the Lord did re-establish His throne, as the children of Israel to this day pray for the appearing of Messiah, the son of David.

 The Increase of His Government

As we endeavor to understand what His government is, we would fall far short of our goal without some basic comprehension of the life of Moses and his authority over the children of Israel. It would be fair to say that his span of authority not only existed when he was alive, but was also still in operation at the appearing of Yeshua (Jesus).  “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:21) 

When we look at the impact of Moses’ ministry, (for the law was given through Moses [John. 1:17a]), our purpose would best be served by understanding that certain limitations existed because of his humanity.  As we will see in the following account, Moses lacked the grace to bear the burden alone. 

Numbers 11:10-17 & 24-30 “...Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased.  So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive all these people?  Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people?  For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’  I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.  If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!”

So the LORD said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, , that you may not bear it yourself alone.    (vs. 24-30) “...So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle.  Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.

But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad.  And the Spirit rested upon them.  Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp.  And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”  So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!”

Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake?  Oh, that all the LORD’S people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”  And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel.” 

When we begin to understand what transpired in this account, we not only see the Lord’s gracious provision for the sharing of the burden, we should note that there is also a birthing of the basic pattern for His government. 

With this in mind, I believe there are two characteristics to this government worthy of consideration. The first being that it was crystal clear that Moses spoke with God face to face, and that he was set apart as the leader of the children of Israel.

“Hear now My words:

If there is a prophet among you,

I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision;

I speak to him in a dream.

Not so with My servant Moses;

He is faithful in all My house.

I speak with him face to face,

Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;

And he sees the form of the LORD.

Why then were you not afraid

To speak against My servant Moses?”       (Numbers 12:6-8)

 

The second characteristic that becomes apparent is that there were seventy elders set apart for the purpose of oversight in the congregation of Israel. As we consider the collective experience of these elders, we can see (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit) the roots or historical context in which Paul taught about governmental unity. In Ephesians 4:4-6 the Word teaches us…"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one L-rd, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  These elders along with Moses understood the importance of what is called in the Hebrew tongue (echad) or one, properly united.

As we investigate further, it is interesting to note, that of the 194 times that elders are mentioned in the Word of God, the volume of historical evidence suggests that a governing body of elders made decisions that were plural in nature.

The breakdown is as follows: of the 194 total references; 132 are in the Old Testament (or Tanach), and without exception refer to an anonymous plurality of leaders.

Again, the clear example of leadership passed down from the children of Israel is that God appointed one leader (Moses) and  a group of elders to assist him. This pattern of plurality in the eldership continued after the death of Moses with the Word of God serving as the governing authority over the people.

What does this have to do with the church of today? Simply stated, the pattern never changed or, as the Word says “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” For those who need to see how this authority was transferred to the church, consider the following.

In Deuteronomy 18:15-19 Moses says “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your G-d in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good.  I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him”

The thread of this prophecy weaves all the way to the mountain of transfiguration where in Matthew 17: 1-5 the God of Israel spoke about His son:

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”

Deuteronomy 19:15b says… "by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” With this in mind Yeshua (Jesus) was declared to be the one that Gods people must hear.  This was witnessed by Peter, James, and John, (representing Man); and by Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets. 

Finally Yeshua (Jesus) Himself declared in John 10:27-30  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”

In the New Testament (or Brit Hadashah), of the 62 remaining references that pertain to elders, it would be helpful to break the numbers down even further

1  The Gospels: 25 total  Matthew.- Luke (none in John)

   a. 21 refer to chief priests, scribes, and elders (all in opposition to Jesus)

         b. 3 referring to traditions of the elders, again in opposition to the Lord

         c. 1 referring to the centurion sending the elders of the Jews to Jesus

2.   Acts – Jude:  25 total references as follows;

a. 8 refer to chief priests, scribes, and elders (all in opposition to the Holy Spirit.)

b. 11 refer to elders in a general way implying both anonymity, and plurality

c.  5 refer to the apostles and elders as they considered the question of circumcision of the gentiles in  Acts 15

d. 1 refers again to the decree of the apostles and elders from Acts 15

Let me simply express that I believe the evidence points to a pattern which suggests that wherever an entrenched unaccountable hierarchy of leadership exists; opposition to the Lord and His ministry will eventually weave itself into the decision making process, as well as the actions of any ministry that begins with even the most godly intentions.  I believe it is also an accurate assessment of scripture to state that in Ephesians 4 no hierarchy within the five-fold ministry is either expressed or implied.  

The purpose of any of the five-fold ministers is plainly stated as being “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”…  There are however functional differences in the five fold ministry that should cause us to seek out the wisdom that is in the evangelist;  if we are being lead to press into a city wide outreach, or to seek out the anointing of the apostolic if we are laying foundations, etc.

The remaining 12 references to elders are in the book of Revelation and for the most part refer to the twenty-four elders before the Throne of God. Of these scriptures the Lord spoke to my heart concerning this passage:

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.

So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

                  Truly the Lord Jesus desires to dwell ‘in the midst of the elders’.

Of these words, I can say only this; the honor given to Moses as leader of the children of Israel, and the seat of his authority has been given to the only one who is worthy, Jesus Christ / Yeshua HaMashiach our redeemer.  The writer of Hebrews says it this way: “For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.” (Heb. 3:3)

When we consider the examples of humility exhibited by the first century leaders of the church, I believe we are left with precedents that are consistent and in context with previous examples in the Word of God.  Among these examples we have Paul who wrote “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle” (1 Corinthians. 15:9).  Peter who being given the high honor of participating in and witnessing the salvation of 3000 Jews at once referred to himself as a…“fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ”(1 Pet. 5:1a). 

James the son of Mary and brother of our Lord could only refer to himself as “a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).  John, who leaned on Jesus’ bosom and asked “Lord who is it?” and who was the only one of the Lord’s twelve disciples that remained with Him in the hour of His greatest anguish, would receive no greater accolade than that of being “one of His disciples whom Jesus loved.”

As we look to the source that these examples are drawn from, the true order of His government should no longer be in question.  One being the Person of the Holy Spirit whose very essence is one of pure love and humility.  He receives no accolades but has come in the fullness of His grace to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I (Jesus) said to you” (John 14:26).  The last and greatest example is that of Jesus who “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians . 2:7-8)

When one prayerfully considers the sheer volume of evidence presented one question remains. Who does the title of senior pastor (i.e., chief shepherd—1 Pet. 5:4) belong to? The only answer left to consider is The Lord Jesus Christ!

I believe in clear visionary leadership from a pastor only in the context of team leadership.  In other words; the visionary leadership found in a prophet, a teacher, and evangelist or an apostle is just as valid.   I also believe that the  counsel of God for servant leadership has been placed in the collective eldership / five-fold equipping ministry of the church, and that these gifts working together represent a truer form or measure of the governmental / equipping ministry that Christ desires to raise up as servants to the body. 

The five-fold ministry in totality needs to be understood as being representative of the equipping authority of Christ in the local as well as the worldwide church, and that this equipping authority only has biblical validity when these various ministers are submitted to and part of a governing plurality that also includes elders & deacons.

Beyond this, the Church needs revelation of Christ as the head of the church, not just a mental ascent of the truth, but a functional revelation that places the entirety of the eldership at the feet of our Lord.  In these last days before the Lord’s return, His church needs the whole counsel of God.  It is imperative that the government be upon His shoulders.  He is calling His people to decrease so that He and His government might increase. Are we still able to hear His voice? My earnest prayer is for His abundant grace, so that we might have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to His church in these last days.

 The Lord Bless You, and Keep You

February 1998

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