A Plea for Biblical Governance - Part 2

ELDERS, DEACONS & BIBLICAL COUNSEL

Looking forward into what the Father is about to do in His church and in the world means first of all that we need to be cleansed of any bitterness that may have taken root in us as a result of the hypocrisy or any waywardness we've seen.  One thing we need to remember --- what has happened to the church, has happened over time.  The truth was lost a little here and a little there, we just don't realize it.  Because of this;  I do not believe that the average leadership in a church has had a purposeful intent to control, overlord, or in any way deceive the Lord's people; as many leaders today have simple inherited a religious system that was already off course.

While the justice of a Holy God will most definitely require a reckoning from those who have erred in the faith; we need to remember that the Lord is the one who holds this vengeance in His hands for those who refuse to repent.  He is also the one who forgives and fully restores those who turn back to Him; and our discussion ought to begin with an earnestness in our hearts to intercede on behalf of those who may be off course.

I believe it is equally important for us to cry out to God so that we might release any un-forgiveness that we hold onto for past situations as this is a hindrance in the path of what the Father has for His people to accomplish in the future.

I believe then (speaking in the broadest of terms); that the Lord would first require two things of his people.  One; that we would bring forth the fruits of true repentance; forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us. 

Secondly; the Lord requires that we would walk in the light as He is in the light; making sure that we take the time to address the deficiencies that have hindered biblical community and to make necessary changes so that we don't continually repeat the same mistakes. 

Often any attempt to correct governance within a church eventually leads to a church split as there is no framework that allows for grievances to be addressed.

A spiritual dynamic usually develops as a typical church split occurs.  This dynamic will eventually set the stage for the same events to repeat several years later.  In this painful time when division exists among the body of Christ; members that leave a congregation to begin anew will typically find that they are biased towards or favor the same framework of governance they came out of.  

We as the body of Christ will typically gravitate back in the direction we have come out of only to discover that over a period of several years a cyclical pattern towards the same abusive tendencies occurs.  What has happened?  Simply put: IF we are using the same framework of governance that was prevalent in the old church; then it is the people we have judged, and not the system. 

This in itself is a tragic occurrence as the system we came out of often lacks biblical checks and balances and enables even the best intentioned people to stray from the narrow path and it is often these same deficiencies that are carried forward into a new work, and you end up perpetuating the problem instead of solving it.

Because this happens; a spiritual cause and effect that Jesus spoke of comes into play.  He said: "Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

As a result of this spiritual cause and effect a church that has broken off another congregation will over a period of time begin to manifest the same abusive tendencies they thought they were leaving behind; in other words; the measurement they have used has been measured back to them; setting up a scenario where disgruntled members will now split off of them; reform into a new congregation and begin the cycle anew. 

Rather than this cyclical pattern repeating itself; what should be occurring between brothers and sisters in Christ is that we ought to begin to ask ourselves what changes need to be implemented in the framework of our church government?  Or another way of saying this is:  Having examined ourselves we need to ask; why does the wineskin keep breaking? 

In the inner workings of many churches; because they are governed through the personality of a singular leader within a congregation; often there is a tendency to ostracize those who may have a concern about something that has happened.    Instead of squelching all dissention and calling it rebellion we need to be able to consider the merits of any concern or complaint on a case by case basis; as it will either be an opportunity to correct error, or it will be a learning experience for the one bringing the complaint.

There must be a biblical framework that consistently allows for due process of any and all grievances as they arise or are  expressed.   However if there is no process that is consistently impartial; allowing for all concerns to be biblically addressed; then the lack of such a process and a brushing aside of a grievance; regardless of it's merit will most often have a negative consequence that affects the unity of a congregation, and causes a grieving of the Holy Spirit.

If the framework for biblical government that includes a plurality of elders, deacons and five-fold ministers is not in place; many times if members of a church have disagreements with a pastor, and they are legitimate issues; it will typically lead to an impasse as there is no one available that would be seen as impartial in the situation and therefore able to mediate fairly between both sides. 

On the other hand if someone has a disagreement with a pastor or other five fold minister, and they are wrong in their assumptions; then having others who truly can serve as impartial mediators will help a fellow brother or sister accept that they were wrong since what they were representing as the truth will have been given a full hearing. 

These types of confrontational situations where people can safely and biblically "work out their salvation" and resolve disagreements are infinitely preferable to the backbiting that typically occurs, and having a framework for dealing with a situation before it becomes an emotional flashpoint increases the likelihood of a successful and peaceful resolution.

In other words; when conflicts between brethren arise; any resolution must reflect the justice of a Holy God; allowing the basic dignity of brothers and sisters in Christ to be upheld in such a way that it challenges us all to be held accountable as partakers of His Divine nature.  Remember: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

As I have learned through the word of God and through experience; one aspect of all this that is difficult to address; is that even good earnest men of God will staunchly resist correction if they are in deception.  Jesus said it this way "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"

This one scripture alone underscores the necessity of biblical governance; for we all know too well the nature of sin and iniquity will cause it to remain hidden in the heart of a brother or sister who has stumbled, and the more responsibility you have as a leader in the body of Christ the more horrifying it becomes to have any area where you've fallen short exposed to the light.

Often and yet certainly not always; the infrastructure that surrounds leadership in a typical church is predisposed to side in favor of a leader; sadly even if gross sin is involved.  I must concede though that the tendency to have an inner circle that shields a pastor is understandable as many endure incredible attacks on a continual basis. 

But consider this:  the more that leaders operate within a framework of biblical governance the more the protection and anointing will be on a supernatural level. 

Consider that where true biblical governance exists;  it removes the heaviest burdens from leaders as there is a plurality that bear the burden together and if someone errs in the faith; then there are others on equal footing that will entreat with humility the one who has fallen into false doctrine or has erred in some way.  Or if they are in sin; then others with clear authority in the local congregation will be able to bring correction.

While some may say this statement is a personal observation; I am convinced that a much higher framework of accountability should exist for leaders, and the only factor to consider when a leader is in error, and whether they should be openly rebuked or privately entreated is based on how widespread there actions effect the care of the Lord's flock.

I believe scripture bears this out as the influence of elders as an example to the flock is obviously why Paul wrote saying in 1 Timothy 5:19-20 "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear."

The process of correcting and restoring a brother according to Matthew 18:15-19 is entirely different from the action Paul took when he rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11-21, and while we need to be aware of this difference; I am convinced that these types of corrective measures are best decided upon at the local level by a plurality of leaders.

To clarify this further; in dealing with the sin of Ananias  & Sapphira; clearly it was the authority of the Holy Spirit working through the yielded vessel of Peter and not the authority of Peter himself that dealt with that situation.  Peter's apostolic authority was blended within a plurality of other leaders in that time.

When we couple this example of authority with the need for accountability among leaders; Peter is probably the best example as he walked in incredible authority not only in this situation with Ananias and Sapphira, but also in the accounts of healing others in the passing of his shadow over the sick.  The point is even with all that authority; since he was still in corruptible flesh; there was still a need to rebuke him in Galatia; as Peter then - like all of us today; still needed a framework of accountability.

Bringing correction to a leader who may have sin in his life is just one of the reasons why it is so critical that we re-examine and discuss the realm of authority that leadership has in the body of Christ so that we do not carry our past perceptions forward. 

In establishing a framework for biblical governance; we must have the fortitude to launch into what may be experientially unknown to many; trusting in the Spirit of the Lord to lead us into truer expressions of His government as it is found in His Word, and NOT in the framework of ecclesiastical traditions that have choked the life out of the body of Christ for years.  I have been thoroughly convinced over the years that where biblical government does not exist; the justice of the Lord's ways becomes perverted in the hearts of men.

Understand the bottom line in all of this is that when this happens...when the justice of the Lord is perverted; the Holy Spirit will withdraw the anointing of God ... every time.   This anointing for victory spoken about in the part 1 on governance clearly requires a biblical order that allows for due process when grievances between brethren arise.

As we endeavor to move towards a biblical framework of government within the church; we need to recognize that if our response in dealing with these issues simply attempts to fix what is broken; without addressing foundational concerns then we will end up justifying much of what is wrong. 

The problem hindering the application of necessary changes lies with the fact that once you build the house, you can't lift the house in the air in order to replace the foundation.  In other words it is more than the typical tendency to resist change.  

While the obstacles hindering biblical government in an existing church have more to do with what is already established or accepted practice;  the tendency of many within the house church movement has been  to totally throw out any attempt at true biblical structure. 

While one obviously cannot include all house churches in this statement; I believe most house churches include some people who have been severely wounded in the traditional churches they have left.  Since this is true; we should be careful not to blame them for wanting to avoid any semblance of what they came out of.

Like those believers in the institutional church; their resistance to the government of Jesus Christ is not purposeful or willful; instead it is simply a sign that they are tired of the political posturing they have endured.  However; not moving towards a biblical framework leaves them exposed to other spiritual realities and they will over time also fall prey to the schemes of satan. 

As I have been in the house church movement for several years; I truly do have compassion for those in the house church movement in there reluctance to partake in any form of governance; as I like them have been run through the mill and sifted like wheat.

When I talk about resistance to the government of Jesus Christ; what I mean is simply this: satan cannot create anything; he can only counterfeit what God has ordained or created.  Over the centuries the devil has crafted many counterfeits of biblical government.  Believers all over have been wounded by these imitations of Christ's government...

For many; the extent of these wounds is such that genuine expression of biblical government is also resisted as it feels too much like the counterfeit they have been wounded in.  Walking outside the framework of biblical government causes the Lord's people to typically gravitate towards one of two extremes:

    1) We either find ourselves in the rigid traditions of the "old wineskin"

                                        OR

    2) We take the "new wine" of our recently discovered freedom and set our own ground rules.

Whether we structurally operate within an old wineskin or we have no wineskin at all; the tragic result is the same: "the wine is spilled." 

The only solution we have alluded to already is that which Jesus instructed: "New wine must be put into new wineskins."

This graphic representation below shows that currently believers in Christ are operating somewhere within one of the two extremes shown.   The word from Amos 7:8 says "Behold I am setting a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore."

The following examples show the spiritual consequences that manifest as a result of moving away from the Lord's Plumb Line.

Some may rightly argue that these prevailing conditions while obviously falling short of biblical standards have been allowed by God literally over a period of centuries, yet the time we are living in could also be compared to the time when Paul stood on Mar's hill in Athens... and declared: "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent..."

The one extreme represents the Religious Bondage¹ that is present in every church that has not been built according to the pattern" seen in the book of Acts. 

Only a house built on the Rock of Christ will withstand the wind and the rains that are coming. 

More specifically a congregation that is experiencing Religious Bondage¹ typically:

    1.  has no apostolic / prophetic foundation

    2.  is pastor dominant

    3.  has limited or no exposure to other five fold equipping ministries

    4.  has no plurality of elders who genuinely meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3

    5.  has no deacons present to oversee or look to the welfare of those in need.  

 

Historically or over time; these congregations have resisted the increase of Christ’s government and the pattern established by the apostles of the first century.  They stand in violation of the Word of God they claim to follow; holding the truth in unrighteousness.

As a result of the spiritual realities in this present age; these leadership structures regardless of their affiliations or 'spiritual' claims will many times govern thru control and manipulation and are part of the spiritual infrastructure that is, or is becoming mystery Babylon. 

THE FALLING AWAY

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum; there are also those who have ‘come out of her’ and who are in many ways experiencing a False Freedom from Religion.²  These should be commended for seeing the truth of the religious harlotry they were part of.

However in their zeal to leave the bondage of man made religions; they have moved beyond the plumb line of God's word where they "reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries." 

In resisting biblical governance because of the abuse they've experienced in the past; the are still reacting to the religious bondage they were under; hence the observation that they are now experiencing a False Freedom from Religion.² 

True Freedom in Christ ³ then is experienced by those who are able to receive the increase of Christ's government; as the Spirit of the Lord is THE WISE MASTER-BUILDER of HIS house

Remember; we have all been like "like sheep going astray..." (but now we are being called to return) "...to the Shepherd and Overseer of (our) souls." 

The adherence to biblical governance is in fact a recognition of this "plumb line that the Lord is once again setting forth as a standard for building His house.  Spiritually speaking; if the army of the Lord is not set within the framework of HIS design; and if we do not take our place on the battlefield according to HIS command; we will find ourselves continually harassed and confused by the schemes of the enemy.

As was previously stated: another way of looking at the governance by the Spirit over the church; is again reflected in the genius of the U.S. constitution as there is a clear separation of powers between the three branches of government holding abuse by one branch in check.  While some of the details of this were already shared in the introductory section on governance; remember the wisdom the framers of the constitution drew from was in fact found in the Word of God.

In recalling this; it is my contention that the most effective secular government in history up to this point has been that of the U.S.; at least from the perspective of securing liberty and at the same time insuring the rule of law.  In stating this I am not only acknowledging  the wisdom of the framers of the U.S. constitution; I am emphasizing the anointing that flowed from the word of God and blessed this country as a result of drawing from the deep well of His Word.

I emphasize this anointing and blessing because it is also equally my assertion that the most effective form of church government was the one found in the book of Acts.  Interestingly this government also had a clear separation of authority into the biblical roles of elders, deacons, and five-fold ministers; and also flowed from the same scripture; the pattern again being set forth in Isaiah 33:22

Most importantly... in drawing from this; there was a clear recognition of the Messiah of Israel as believers in the book of Acts had a clear vision of WHO the KING IS!   They understood the AUTHORITY of JESUS CHRIST as the HEAD of the body.

In addressing the subject of biblical governance among the Lord's people in the earth; we must always acknowledge the fact that we are dealing with aspects of God's character as reflected or formed within the heart of His people as each of us have by the Spirit been given a measure of Him.. And while we can discuss the diverse aspects of the Lord as our Judge, Lawgiver, and King; we must also understand the overlap of each aspect as first and foremost we need to acknowledge: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."

So then even though we can see a separation of oversight or authority in the roles of elders, deacons, and five fold ministers; we need to remember "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). 

In other words: while there may be a range of responsibilities handled by different leaders within a local church; Christ is not divided, and neither should leadership of a congregation be.

The Intent of Spiritual Authority

While the stratum of authority that was shown earlier as we briefly examined the Anglican Church of England should indeed be seen as legitimately existing in a biblical community; we should remember that this should be a flexible wineskin; not the rigid lording over that was demonstrated, and most assuredly not in a form that wrests spiritual authority away from the local level. 

As there clearly are echelons of authority within the government of a local ecclesia; we need to first understand the purpose and intent of leadership if we are to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to do. 

As we consider the tremendous population explosion of the last 100+ years we can see that one failure of the church has been the inability to multiply leaders in a way that keeps pace with the sheer numerical growth.  This failure to multiply and equip leaders directly contributes to the inability of the church in fulfilling the "great commission" of Christ.  

Hopefully this statement will help simplify what I am saying:  The greater the perceived authority ascribed to an individual; the greater the responsibility of that individual to 1)  be a servant of all, and 2) be an example to the flock This type of leader will make room for other leaders to be developed and released, and as this numerical and spiritual growth in leadership occurs; the perpetual nature of this kind of disciple making will continually cause multiplication within the body and facilitate the spreading of the gospel at a pace that rivals that of the early church.

Like any other leader spoken of in the New Testament including Paul; there role becomes one primarily of advice and consent; not one of dictating decisions and strategy to others with less authority. 

So then as we take a snapshot of biblical governance in the local ecclesia; we need to understand that while various levels exist within this governing counsel; they serve in separate roles and yet are brought together under one common objective, and that being the feeding or shepherding of the flock of the Lord. 

This shepherding role of tending to the needs in the body of Christ is shared by all servant leaders within a local assembly; whether one is a bishop, elder, five-fold minister (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher), or deacon.  And as previously shared; each of these roles fall within the governmental attributes of the Lord as our judge, lawgiver and king.

Qualifications for Biblical Servant-Leaders (Part One)

As we continue this dialogue and the various areas of responsibility within leadership becomes even more apparent; it is also necessary to address the different requirements for a believer to be set into a governmental servant role. 

If we are to accurate represent this; any successful attempt must be willing to set aside pre-conceived ideas, traditional models, and prejudices.  The only factors determining qualifications for servant-leaders would be 1) textual evidence within scripture, and 2) any event recorded in the text of scripture that sets a precedent.  Such an event would be weighted against any restrictions or qualifications outlined in the text in order to determine whether we have a true precedent or merely an exception to the textual evidence.

ELDERS / BISHOPS

For the LORD is our Judge...

 

Paul in dealing with fleshly contentions in the Corinthian church made this distinction in addressing the need for leadership: "For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you." (1 Cor. 11:19) 

So then the first general principle is that God has given leaders to help bring direction to the body of Christ,  and believers have been encouraged to allow themselves to be persuaded by the prayerful counsel of these leaders. 

As previously alluded to; biblical leadership should reflect the various aspects of the Lord's  governance spoken of in Isaiah 33:22 and made mention of throughout the old and new testament.  While the terminology describing the leadership roles that men have walked out have changed over the years; the primary functions have remained the same. 

Because of the layers of tradition surrounding what constitutes an elder or bishop which stem from multiple denominational and non-denominational expressions; much effort will be devoted to outlining the qualifications of elders / bishops.  Before taking a look at what the biblical qualifications for these roles are; there should be a general sense also drawn from the Word of God concerning the purpose of this role.

Deuteronomy 16:18-19 says "You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.   You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous." 

In short the purpose of elders / bishops in the body of Christ is to work along side five fold ministers and deacons to insure that the justice of the Lord is not perverted.   They are part of the biblical framework that will insure due process of any and all grievances  as they arise or are  expressed.  They are also a resource that provides advice and consent to the local body of Christ as we seek to walk in the command to love one another, and fulfill the great commission of Christ.

The word 'judges' is the Hebraic word 'shấphat' which means (Strong's H8199) "a primitive root; to judge, that is, pronounce sentence (for or against); by implication to vindicate or punish; by extension to govern; passively to litigate"  'Officers' - 'shỏtēr' means (Strong's H7860) "active participle of an otherwise unused root probably meaning to write; properly a scribe that is, (by analogy or implication) an official superintendent or magistrate:—officer, overseer, ruler."

Whether the phrase was "elders of Israel, elders of my people, elders of Judah, or some other context for eldership in the Old Testament; the roles all point to the same Hebraic word; "zấgấn" which means (Strong's H2205) "old:—aged, ancient (man), elder (-est), old (man, men and . . . women), senator."  

The reason for bringing the word "elder" into the discussion is that while there are numerous references to "elders of Israel, elders of my people..." a substantial number of references to elders in the old testament places them in (this, that, or his) CITY... [in all your gates] (See Deuteronomy 19:12, 21:1-6, 21:19-20, 22:15-18, 25:7-9,  Joshua 20:4, Judges 8:16, 11:5-11, Ruth 4:1-11, 1 Samuel 11:3, 16:4, 1 Kings 21:8-11, Lamentations 5:14. 

In the context of being elders in certain cities; these elders judged matters of that city.  Also in the times when Israel or Judah had a king then you see the reference to elders (of Israel, of my people, of Judah) advising or consulting with the king in matters where judgment was called for.  Whether it was the judgment of a criminal or civil matter in a city or whether the context was advise and consent serving with a king; one of the overall function of elders throughout the Old Testament was to serve as judges over a wide variety of matters. 

Historically and biblically as we move from the time of the Hasmonian dynasty (the silent years to the church); to the time period including Christ and on until the end of the second temple period; elders also served within the Sanhedrin in a higher court over the affairs of the Jews.  One does not need to look any further than the illegal trial of Christ or the authority the Sanhedrin attempted to wield over the apostles in order to see their role as judges.  In fact; the phrase "scribes and Pharisees" is even reminiscent of the earlier term "judges and officers" found earlier in Deuteronomy 16:18. 

While the role of elders serving within the Sanhedrin is a departure from the original intent; it is nonetheless worth mentioning in order to demonstrate the consistency in which the Jews looked for or relied upon this type of leader.

AS we come then to the New Testament we find that the English word "elder" in Greek is the word  -- "presbuteros" meaning (Strong's G4245) Comparative of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior;  specifically an Israelite Sanhedrist (also figuratively, member of the celestial council) or Christian "presbyter":—elder (-est), old. 

While we will look at a number of references for elders; we should begin with one that shows forth a biblical pattern in both the old and new testaments.  In Titus 1:5 the apostle Paul tells Titus "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you..." 

This reflects back to the command given by Moses "You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment."

In all your gates... in every city...  Clearly the pattern is the same; the only difference being that instead of the elders serving as judges over an entire city of Israel; the appointing of elders by Titus as instructed by Paul was for the governing of the church in each city; their oversight and service being specifically for the ecclesia in a limited geographic area.

BISHOPS

Bishops - ep-is'-kop-os -  a superintendent, that is, Christian officer in general charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively):—bishop, oversee. 

Out of all the definitions given in this study; this one is I believe driven more by traditional thinking than by the meaning of the word.  While the Greek word Epi (G1909) speaks of a distribution of authority that touches many others; the next part of the word is skopos (G4649) speaks of concealment. 

Setting aside the traditional viewpoint of this word; we are left with a governmental role of clear authority having the ability and liberty to touch many lives, and yet one that remains hidden in the midst of a larger plurality; again in a role that encourages and exhorts through example; not by lording over others. 

Strangely enough; the traditional viewpoint given as the definition for ep-is'-kop-os is more reminiscent of what Jesus observed in the leaders of Israel: "But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.  They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’  But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren."

Before we dig into each of the details concerning the qualifications for a bishop; let us first make sure that we do not set aside or overlook what Paul's instruction to Titus made obvious; and that is - a bishop was an older man: Ch. 1:5-7 "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.  For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict."

'Appoint elders...' - (Hebrew) "zấgấn" - "old:—aged, ancient (man), elder (-est), old (man, men and . . . women), senator."  (Greek) "presbuteros" Comparative of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior;  specifically an Israelite Sanhedrist or Christian "presbyter":—elder (-est), old. 

'For a bishop must be...' the implication of this phrase in Titus 1:7 as it is clearly connected in the text with the directive to appoint elders obviously indicates that a bishop is elderly.  How old is determined as we look at the rest of the qualifications.  We will in an attempt to look at various nuances in the qualifications for a bishop draw from the qualifications that Paul outlined for two younger apostles;  Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3.   I will list parallel references from Titus in red and from Timothy in blue; followed by any applicable comments.

"if a man is blameless..."

"A bishop then must be blameless..."

When I think of blameless; I think of the description of Job "...and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil."

 

"the husband of one wife" (same wording in both references)

This is plain enough and yet I share it to reinforce the point that a bishop MUST only be an (older) MAN.  While we must be careful to stay within the confines of scripture alone; allowing scripture to interpret scripture; I offer this note as an aside:  My personal belief in researching extensively the second temple period of Israel is that Paul was not only reinforcing the requirement that a bishop is male, but he was also interested in excluding a certain sect of Jews who were continually trying to make a case for circumcision of the gentiles.  They were from the school of a certain prominent teacher named Shammai and according to historical records; they also believed in and practiced polygamy.

"...having faithful children not accused of dissipation (indulgence in sensual pleasure; intemperance) or insubordination (rebellious, mutinous, factious, seditious)."

"...one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence.  (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)"  Ask yourself this question: What does younger children behaving a certain way have to do with being able to stand before a congregation as a leader among them.  Answer: Nothing... (since the grace to stand as a leader in your family has really not been tested fully until your children are dealing with life issues themselves).  I believe this scripture hints towards age again as a man's fathering of a seven year old is vastly different from the role of advice and consent that a father has with a son or daughter  in their twenties or older.  Being able to mentor and offer guidance to adult children about there decisions in life is clearly more related to being able to take care of the church of God than it is to being able to ground a ten year old from riding their bike.  The point is I believe the requirement is related to adult children; making anyone walking in the role of a bishop as one who is an elderly married man.

vigilant - KJV (Strong's G3524) neôphalios  sober, that is, (figuratively) circumspect

temperate (exercising moderation and self-restraint)

sober-minded, (sound in mind) just, holy,

sober-minded, of good behavior,

These denote a seriousness or steadfastness in the faith of Christ

hospitable - same in both references -   (Strong's G5382)  philoxenos  fond of guests, that is, hospitable:—given to (lover of, use) hospitality.

Another very plain meaning; you love having people in your home; whether it be for ministry, simply to build relationships, for home church services... what I think of is the "son of peace" whose houses Jesus told the disciples to stay and minister from when he sent them out  (see Luke 10:1-9).  These types of men who will (along with their wife) open up their homes are the kind of men who will be used to build the kingdom of God in an area.

not quick-tempered

not quarrelsome

See "son of peace" above

not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money  (same wording in both references)  greedy - excessively desirous of acquiring or possessing, especially wishing to possess more than what one needs or deserves.*

not self-willed  (Strong's G829) authadēs  self pleasing, that is, arrogant:—self-willed. (see G2237) hēdonē  sensual delight; by implication desire:—lust, pleasure.

not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.  "novice" (Strong's 3504) neophutos  newly planted, that is, (figuratively) a young convert

Being self-willed speaks of one who for all intents and purposes may have tremendous vision from the Lord, but lacks the restraint necessary to seek the wisdom of a greater counsel before proceeding with an assignment that even the Lord may have given.  Now I realize that sometimes in the heat of a battle it is not possible to seek the counsel of others and in those situations a brother must react quickly; not always having time to seek insight from others.  I am also not speaking about getting permission from others.  If the Lord has spoken to you then clearly; you must obey the Spirit of the Lord.  However being self-willed speaks of an arrogance that one continually operates from where they deem the advise of others as having little value; never considering that such counsel may help them walk out what they are called by the Lord to accomplish.

self-controlled

Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

These speak of a self restraint that has been displayed over the years in the community at large; not having excessive personal debt would be one example.

holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

able to teach

While I do not think one can be too dogmatic about this; the general sense is that this part of the qualifications hints at a bishop having served in the role of a five-fold minister at some point; otherwise how would one know if one being considered in this role is "able to teach"

 

ELDERS

As we have carefully examined this; the only difference one can see between an ep-is'-kop-os (bishop) and a presbuteros (elder) appears to be details of their life circumstance.  Some examples that do not necessitate a review of the above qualifications are:  Both ep-is'-kop-os and presbuteros are older men and yet bishops are married with children, while an elder for the sake of the gospel may have been called by the Lord to remain single, or perhaps he was married and him and his wife remained childless.  The point of this is to simply say that there appears to be no authoritative difference between a bishop and elder; rather the difference appears to be experiential, or the circumstances of ones life . 

Clearly to be in a governmental role of elder or bishop calls for some of the qualifications applying to both as for example you would not want an elderly man serving in a governmental role if he was a novice or new believer in the faith.  Just as obvious an elder or presbuteros must also be blameless; demonstrating that the old nature does not dominate his life; as it would clearly be unacceptable to have an elder taking part of the oversight of a church who was quarrelsome, self-willed or lacked self-control. 

We must also remember to recognize or defer to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit concerning the appointment of governing elders.  Even if someone appears to meet the qualifications of an elder or bishop; they are not automatically set forth as a governing elder.  According to all textual evidence given; the biblical pattern set forth in the appointment of elders appears to have been through an apostolic or foundational five fold ministry as they labored among a local congregation.

In other words foundational five fold ministry appointed elders in every city.  In direct contrast to this; established elders or bishops who were know as the "presbuterion" imparted to, prayed over and released five fold ministers as 1 Timothy 4:14 says "Do not neglect the gift that is in you, (Timothy - a five fold minister) which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership (presbuterion)."    This word "presbuterion" (G4244 Strong's) simply means "the order of elders"

 

While we will discuss the apostolic call and function in greater detail in the next section; suffice it to say for now that this one clear check and balance helped to curtail abusive leadership as one aspect of leadership could not perpetuate itself, but required the advice and consent of the other in order to numerically grow its ranks.

 

Qualifications for Biblical Servant-Leaders (Part Two)

FIVE FOLD MINISTERS

For the LORD is our Lawgiver

While we will discuss the purpose of five fold ministers in greater detail in a separate section; I believe a basic statement concerning their purpose should be put forth at this point. As Ephesians 4:12 says that the Lord gave these gifts for "the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry;"  I believe it is a straightforward enough text to say that the tools necessary for the body of Christ to fulfill "the work of ministry" involves giving the word of God rightly divided to those believers in need of being discipled.  In the process of five fold ministers being "lawgivers" there is also the impartation of necessary disciplines so that the one being trained learns to rightly divide the word of God for themselves; thus making the transition from a disciple to a disciple-maker.  I believe it is these disciple-makers who IF they are continually obedient in this role; they will gravitate towards a role within the five fold ministry as they will have been counted faithful (see 1 Timothy 1:12)

Since the criterion allowing someone to serve the body of Christ as a five fold ministers is less rigid; we should be certain that the textual evidence allows for a differentiation between five fold ministers and elders; especially since there is clear textual evidence within the New Testament that demonstrates an overlapping in these roles.  For example: while Peter and John were counted among the Lords initial twelve apostles (i.e.; five fold ministers); they both in their respective epistles referred to themselves as elders (see 1 Peter 5:1, 1 John 1:1 & 2 John 1:1).

Just as clearly though; there is distinction made between apostles and elders in the counsel of Jerusalem (see Acts 15:2, 6, 22, and 16:4).  And even though Timothy appointed elders; as a five fold minister sent by Paul to various churches; we must acknowledge that Timothy clearly was not an elder himself since the apostle Paul encouraged this younger minister in 1 Timothy 4:12 "Let no one despise your youth..."  So then: while not required by the textual evidence; elders can be five fold ministers, and five fold ministers are not required to be elders.

As this subject is departing from accepted traditional viewpoints; I must stress again the authority of textual evidence within Holy Scripture; yet hopefully in a way that still invites dialogue. 

While I cannot dogmatically state this first point; I ask that you would consider that because we are dealing with the equipping gifts of the Lord Jesus Christ; as they were measured unto mankind; my first inclination is to say that even Christ - as He was "in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" - even Christ waited on His ministry until He was thirty years of age. 

Do not misunderstand; I am not saying that a young person should forego an accredited education within the community of faith, and I am not even holding out the age of thirty as a rigid threshold.  I am only stressing that such an education (whether it is accredited according to the world or not); does not automatically qualify one for a governmental role of leadership within the ecclesia.  I believe the focus after education should be that of fulfilling the role of a servant within the body of Christ; as it is the very nature of this choice to serve, and the experiences that come as a result of serving others that will equip one to lead.

This I believe lines up with Christ's definition of leadership found in Mark 9:35, and as one allows the Holy Spirit to grow them into leadership through service to others; they will  in their leadership role later in life; equip others to serve. 

This season of service to others and growth in the ways of the Lord is I believe what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:12 - "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry..." 

I believe then that first characteristic of a five fold minister is that they would be counted faithful by the Lord Jesus Christ.  (This faithfulness I believe will also be recognized by the body of Christ locally).

Secondarily I see that according to Paul's admonishment to Timothy that a five fold minister should "Be diligent (study) to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  The second characteristic of a five fold minister is that they are clearly a student of the Holy Scriptures; ones who take heed to themselves and to the doctrine. 

Thirdly a five fold minister should be set forth in ministry as a direct result of being separated into this calling by the Holy Spirit (see Acts 13) and because in recognition of their faithfulness they have been set forth and imparted to by the "presbuterion" as again 1 Timothy 4:14 says "Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership or presbuterion."

Now let us examine the call of God on a five fold minister as a member of the community of faith, and how this calling appears to transcend a number of barriers.  After making the point that we as a result of being justified by faith are no longer under the tutor of the law; Paul in Galatians 3:26-29 says "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

In other words; members of the body of Christ with a heavenly calling as a five fold minister we are not limited based upon our station in life before we knew the Lord as someone who is a Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female can have equipping roles in the body of Christ. 

Again in order to hold this discussion and maintain integrity; we must remember that the only factors determining qualifications for servant-leaders should be 1) textual evidence within scripture, and 2) any event recorded in the text of scripture that sets a precedent.  Such an event would be weighted against any restrictions or qualifications outlined in the text in order to determine whether we have a true precedent or merely an exception to the textual evidence.

Since there is no apparent controversy with one being Jewish or Gentile in order to be a five fold minister, and the issue of being a slave or a free citizen is a highly unlikely scenario; we will address the obvious controversy surrounding gender. 

First we must look at applicable scriptures to see if a woman is explicitly or even implicitly excluded from this role and then we must examine whether there are any precedent setting textual evidences.  The first scripture that should be considered is located in Ephesians 4:4-12 as these verses actually introduce the thought of the five fold ministry as ones with an equipping function in the body of Christ:

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

8Therefore He says:

     “When He ascended on high,

       He led captivity captive,

      And gave gifts to men.”

9(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ..."

As we look at the tenor of this text in verses 4-6 and see the references to "one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all; we understand that Christ is not divided, and we can see through the Greek word for all ("pas" Strong's G3956) which means - the whole... as many as... whatsoever, whole, whosoever - that verses 4-6 have the same thought as Galatians 3:28 - "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."   This being clearly obvious; there is only one phrase within Ephesians 4:4-11 that even hints at gender; at least in English: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” 

The Greek word for men in this reference is Strong's G444 "anth'-ro-pos"  which means "man-faced, that is, a human being:—certain, man."  In other words Jesus gave these gifts to mankind, and more specifically He gave these equipping gifts to certain ones within mankind i.e., the body of Christ.   While there are over 500 New Testament references to the word "anth'-ro-pos" translated into English as men or man; I will only share a few applications of the word in plural form: (Matthew 4:19) - "Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." - (Matthew 5:13, 16, 19) - "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." --- "...Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." ---  "...Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 6:14a, 18a,) - "For if you forgive men their trespasses..." --- "...so that you do not appear to men to be fasting..."  While there are singular uses of the Greek word "anth'-ro-pos" translated as man in English; the general tenor is still a human being:— or a certain man. 

In contrast to this is the Greek word "aneôr" (Strong's 435) meaning - "A primary word (compare G444); a man (properly as an individual male):—fellow, husband, man, sir."  This word is used almost 200 times in the New Testament and scriptures that directly contribute to this discussion and yet show the general tenor of the word would be: "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."  (1 Corinthians 11:3)

Another scripture that indirectly impacts this discussion; is 1 Timothy 3:2a "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife..." 

The explicit liberty which makes room for a woman to serve in a leadership role as a five fold minister cannot in my estimation allow us to side step the equally explicit limitation placed on a woman where the role of bishop is concerned.  In simple words; based on the overwhelming authority of the textual evidence; a woman could never be appointed to the role of a bishop (ep-is'-kop-os)  While I personally do not fully understand why this limitation is clearly given; I nonetheless must settle my thoughts concerning this and submit to the word of God. 

Since I have made a distinction between bishops and elders based on textual nuances; let me clearly state that all evidence points to only men serving in the role of elders as well.  When we look at the function of elders serving in a role as judges; certainly we cannot ignore Deborah in the book of Judges.  However with the overwhelming textual evidence repeatedly pointing to elders (judges) as men; I must conclude that the service of Deborah as a judge in Israel should be viewed as an exception to the textual evidence; not a precedent setting event. 

Before examining any possible textual restrictions to this conclusion concerning biblically acceptable roles for women; let's briefly list again what must be part of a five fold minister's make-up:

1. They would be counted faithful by the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. They have been diligent to present themselves "approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

3. They have been separated by the Holy Spirit for the ministry and this calling has in turn been affirm or verified by the "presbuterion"

 

Gender - Apostolic Authority & Local Autonomy

As there is one scripture which could sway any conclusion concerning women five fold ministers; it would be an insult to all reading this to simply bypass it.  However in light of the overwhelming textual evidence repeatedly showing Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female as being one in Christ, and having equal value in our Father's Kingdom; we must ask ourselves is this one scripture simply an exception to the textual evidence or does it set a precedent?  Or is it as I suspect simply the counsel of a wise apostolic minister who is cognizant of the Kingdom order that surrounded him and limited even his authority as an apostle of the Lord.  To learn more about the context of this order: CLICK HERE

In light of this Kingdom order and the cultural inclinations that existed in the time of Paul and have been present during most of the history of the church; we can now look at some scriptures that reflect upon Paul's counsel as an apostle.  Remember; these cultural realities not only surrounded him, but they were also part of the daily lives of the people in the churches he was planting.

As we examine this; let me also interject that there were places in Paul's letters where he taught irrefutable & unchangeable doctrine, and there were other places where he interjected his sincere opinion with the full wait of his experience as an apostle and yet left room for the people to work through situations and find the heart of God for themselves concerning a matter. 

Let us look further at what Paul says about women and their liberty; or lack thereof as five fold ministers.  In 1 Timothy 2:8-13 Paul writes - "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 

Clearly; as you shall soon see;  the phrase I do not permit reflects Paul's assessment concerning the limits of his apostolic authority.

Even though it may seem like a total twist; I must state clearly that I agree fully with what is stated as I do not permit a woman to teach either.  Let me work through the text a little deeper to present a full picture. 

Going back to the scripture in Galatians 3:28 we read in part "...there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  The Greek word for female is "thēlus" (Strong's G2338) which simply means —"female, woman."  In contrast to this the phrase "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man..."  the word woman in Greek is the word "gunē" (Strong's G1135) "a woman; specifically a wife:—wife, woman." 

In light of this textual evidence I believe it is easy to see that Paul was saying that even as an apostle he did not have the authority to permit another man's wife to teach.  As he explicitly taught in Ephesians 5:22-24 -- "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."

Can you imagine the turmoil that would have been created had Paul called forth women into ministry without the consent of her husband?  Clearly no minister of the gospel has the liberty to step into a marital relationship in this fashion, and by saying "I do not permit" Paul was removing himself from those types of scenarios and communicating this same caution to Timothy.

As we continue to examine this issue; remember; according to textual evidence presented thus far; one conclusion that can be stated  is that elders / bishops in the body of Christ must be men, and yet based on what has just been presented five-fold ministers can be either men or women.  This conclusion carries additional weight when we consider that the following event recorded in the text of scripture does in fact set a precedent.

Romans 16:7  says "Greet Andronicus and Junia, (a female name)  my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me."   Cambridge annotated Study bible commentary on Romans 16:7 is as follows  "Andronicus and Junia.  Mentioned only here in the New Testament. Junia is a common Roman name for a woman, while "Junias"  as a man’s name apparently is completely unknown. ("my countrymen") = My relatives. I.e. fellow-Jews, as in Romans 9:3. Prominent among the apostles. This phrase can mean that this man and this woman were counted to be among those who were called "apostles."

The question then is simply this: If the apostles of the early church recorded a woman "among the apostles" who are we to exclude a fellow minister of the Gospel from important decisions facing a congregation?  The question of a woman's leadership function in a congregation should never be determined by social norms, but only by guiding principles in God's Word and by the witness of the Holy Spirit. 

In light of this text we can see that  modern examples of female leadership would be Aimee Semple McPherson, who the Lord used in the early 1900's to begin a move of God leading to the founding of the Four Square Church (some say she was an evangelist, others say she was apostolic - the point is she was definitely a five-fold minister).   Another modern era example of this would be Kathryn Kuhlman.

We have now examined textual evidences that demonstrate an overlap of male five fold ministers who can also serve in an additional capacity later in life as elders or bishops provided they meet the strict qualifications for these roles.  Remember though that elders are not required to be five-fold ministers, or this requirement would be in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

We have also looked at less stringent and yet clearly marked out qualifications for the role of five fold ministers that provide a framework for younger believers to be separated into a life of service to the body.  At the risk of being redundant we will list these again with additional comments that reflect what has been documented concerning the restrictions and liberty placed upon women serving as five fold ministers.

1. They would be counted faithful by the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:12). - If you are a single woman then the Lord Himself is your Husband.  If you live in your father's house then according to Numbers 30:3-5 you are still subject to his authority.  If you are married; then obviously as has just been discussed your husband's authority in this matter carries great weight. 

2. They have been diligent to present themselves "approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15). - Male or female,; married or single; this obviously is an absolutely clear precept for a five fold minister.

3. They have been separated by the Holy Spirit for five fold ministry and this calling has in turn been affirm or verified by the "presbuterion" (1 Timothy 4:14) - In examining this; let's look at another aspect of 1 Timothy 2:12 as it uncovers one other check and balance concerning the setting forth of women as fivefold ministers.  Again Paul says - "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence."   "To have" or "usurp" is the Greek word "authenteoô" (Strong's G831) is which is a combination of a word meaning "a worker and to act of oneself, that is, (figuratively) dominate: — usurp authority over." 

This additional criterion for a five fold minister accomplishes two objectives: 1) It preserves the autonomy of a local congregation and 2) if the candidate is a woman; being affirmed by a "presbuterion" that can only be men;  makes it impossible for a woman to usurp especially since governmental authority (and responsibility) within a local assembly is according to 1 Timothy is weighted towards a plurality of elders / bishops.

 

Qualifications for Biblical Servant-Leaders (Part Three)

1Timothy 3:8-13 - Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

As the last two segments were I believe quite exhaustive concerning qualifications for bishops / elders and five fold ministers; I believe we can safely say that the term "likewise" tells us that the threshold for serving as a deacon is every bit as stringent as it is for a bishop.  I believe though that any significant variances in textual evidence between the two calling of bishop and deacon should be noted for the sake of capturing the fullness of what the Holy Spirit initially birthed in Jerusalem after Pentecost. 

The first significant variance is the phrase "let these also first be tested; then let them serve..."   This speaks of the congregational input necessary to appoint deacons as Acts 6:3 also shows the first deacons were chosen by the people and set in place by the apostles.  The phrase also implies youth as older brothers or sisters in Christ would not need to be tested as their conduct over the years would have already proved their worthiness. 

The second phrase which is a departure from the scripture concerning elders is the phrase "Likewise, their wives must be..."  This clearly indicates that the role of deacon could also be fulfilled by a woman.   I will leave it to you the reader to take note of the many servants (deacons) which Paul addresses in his various epistles usually in the salutation towards the end of his letters. 

Many of these greetings to deacons or deaconess (see Phoebe in Romans 16:1) do not mention spouses which is also the case for the initial seven deacons appointed in Acts 6:3.   I believe the textual evidence suggests that a deacon could either be single or as the text of 1 Timothy 3:11 clearly states; married couples could also serve in this calling together.

 

DEACONS

For the Lord is our King 

 

We must remember at the outset of this section on deacons that in the days of the monarchs in Israel; it was the kings who were responsible for the common welfare of the people.  In turn they appointed ones who would serve in the court of the King; administering the affairs of the kingdom...  In like manner; the KING of KINGS has also appointed servants to administer mercy in His kingdom as well.

 

The old saying 'last but not least' is a gross understatement when it comes to the importance of the biblical role of deacons in the body of Christ.  James wrote that "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."

If we as God's people are not showing forth His Mercy to the fatherless and widows; then everything we do is somehow defile or impure in the eyes of the Father.

Let me clearly say that taking everything into account concerning biblical governance; if there are not deacons and deaconesses who are "of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" administering the resources of the local church; then no matter how qualified the elders are... no matter how visionary the five fold ministers are... the merciful attributes of a Holy God will be perverted.  If we lack biblical governance where deacons are concerned; we all will stand at the threshold of the Lord's unbridled fury and we will see "the children and the infants faint in the streets..." even as the Prophet Jeremiah lamented.

Let us now at the end of the age learn the lesson of Jerusalem... 

Remember; after years of apostasy and spiritual harlotry; Jerusalem stood at the brink of destruction with the Babylonian armies of King Nebuchadnezzar outside the gates of the city. 

It was at this moment that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob offered to establish His people as overcomers in the face of certain destruction.  I believe the Lord once again is willing to offer a reprieve to His people. 

Understand I am not saying that the Lord will delay the judgment that is coming; I am only stressing what was said earlier that only those of us who are obedient to His ways will find protection under the shadow of HIS wings as we "thoroughly amend (our) ways and your doings"

Again the Lord require four things:

            1.  "Execute judgment between a man and his neighbor"

            2.  "Do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow"

            3.  "Do not shed innocent blood..."

            4.  Do not "...walk after other gods to your hurt"

Again the tenor of what the prophet spoke to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 7 leads one to conclude that had the children of Israel "thoroughly amend their ways and your doings..." then it is highly probable according to what is written; that the Babylonian captivity would have never happened and the dispersion of Israel throughout the nations would have never taken place.  Verse 7 clearly states this: "Then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever."

THAT is how important the Lord considers HIS MERCY being displayed in the earth.

A Question:  How should this lesson of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah govern our response today as we see the world teetering on the brink of end time events?

Servant Authority

As a more complete vision for HIS MERCY is put forth in the Mercy Ministries section of this website; we will briefly address the scope of authority that deacons have in this area. 

Very clearly the apostles in Jerusalem recognized the need to correct the injustice being done to the widows of the Hellenists in Acts 6.  These widows were being treated unfairly having been neglected in the daily distribution of provision.  According to all we've read; this was an extremely serious violation of The Lord's Justice.   While it cannot be irrefutably proven I believe the Apostles sensed a certain swift punishment from the Lord had they not immediately set in motion a solution that would cause this injustice to not be overlooked again. 

The Apostles clearly committed the authority to administer the financial resources of the ecclesia into the hands of the deacons as they said "seek out from among you seven men* of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business."  

*While the original seven were men; according to precedent setting scriptures already outlined; women can serve in this role as well.

This authority over financial matters in the church seems to override authority given to elders or five fold ministers as various missions within the body could potentially compete for resources. 

However this is not the case as the authority given is clearly an administrative authority where the deacons work closely with other aspects of governance in a role of advise and consent.  

As we understand advice and consent; we need to understand that the call on deacons to be "full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom..."  is absolutely critical, as not being Spirit led in giving aid may cause people to look to a ministry instead of the Lord for provision.  This is obviously not the goal when helping others as this short excerpt of a present hour situation will explain further  CLICK HERE

Remember where all aspect of biblical governance are concerned it was Jesus who set the tone for how they related to one another with these words: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Deacons then are not there to financially allow or disallow what the Holy Spirit is birthing in various ministries.  There role is one of stewardship of what the Lord has supplied so that ALL that the Holy Spirit is calling for will be accomplished; while at the same time not neglecting the daily needs of all who should receive of the "daily distribution."   Again; for more concerning the role of deacons and how they are to administer the "daily distribution" please refer to the section on Mercy Ministries.

Deacons are also not 'elders in training.'  They also do not serve in a subordinate role to elders, rather elders and deacons have different roles within the body of Christ. 

It is also clearly evident that (similar to elders); it appears there is scriptural precedent for some deacons to have an overlapping five fold ministry call just as some elders are also five fold ministers.  Consider the power and boldness of Stephen who was one of the original seven deacons as he testified in Acts 6 & 7.  Remember also that Philip the evangelist was also "one of the seven" according to Acts 21:8.

Like other aspects of biblical governance; as deacons work within the framework outlined in God's word; fivefold ministers are able to give themselves - "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).  As the early church was obedient to the Holy Spirit concerning these thing; this was the result:  "Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith."

 

While the following reflection concerning fivefold ministers, elders / bishops, and deacons is at the beginning of this web site; it bears repeating in the context of this discussion before we continue on to part 3 of biblical governance:

 In Matthew 19:12 Jesus said "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it."

In the Old Testament, eunuchs are mentioned in a number of accounts  - there were several characteristics I noted:

 1) Eunuchs served in the presence of the King

 2) They prepared the bride to meet the King

 3) Because they had been altered, they had no desire for

     the bride and they did not seek the adoration of the bride

 4)They protected the realm of the Kingdom

 5)They protected the future bride

In these last days the Lord is calling His people into intimate relationship with Him. He is also calling His servant-leaders into an additional role - friend of the Bridegroom.

 

As we conclude part two of this discussion; the best advice or encouragement I can share is the simple thought that Paul shared in his apostolic role in the churches...

"Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things."

 Isaiah 33:22

For the LORD is our Judge, (Elders / Bishops)
The LORD is our Lawgiver,  (Five Fold Ministers)
The LORD is our King; (Deacons)
He will save us;

To continue reading the discussion on Biblical Governance in the Body of Christ; Click on of the link below:

Biblical Governance Part 3  (Five Fold Ministry & Equipping)

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