A Plea for Biblical Governance - Part 3

FIVE FOLD MINISTRY & EQUIPPING

The Camp of the Lord

The Camp of the Lord will begin to take shape (I believe) around two realities.  One will be genuine love and nurturing among God's people similar to what family should be.  The other will be the unmistakable order and discipline needed to walk in the midst of a conquering army.  While what is said next will seem to be an obvious statement, some never seem to make the connection.

That statement is simply this: being a disciple of Jesus Christ requires discipline. 

The Captain of the Host (Jesus) not only requires this for your protection in the midst of the battle, but for the victory of His sanctified army as well.

There are a number of spiritual principles to  consider as we begin to examine the camp of the Lord especially as it relates to leaders within a congregation.

If we reflect upon the Kohathites and their responsibility to carry the most holy things within the tabernacle, (see Numbers 3:29-31) we begin to see a shadow of how five-fold ministry teams should carry the responsibility for rightly dividing the Word of God so that a foundation of sound doctrine comes forth to the Lord's people as faith is imparted through the hearing of the word of God. 

When the bible tells us in Ephesians 6:10 to "... be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might," I believe we get a reflection back to the sons of Kohath as they carried on gold plated poles through the wilderness of Sinai -- the gold covered items of the tabernacle.  What an incredible anointing of physical strength and zeal for God these men possessed in order to carry these Holy furnishings.

As we catch a glimpse of the level of commitment to purity in order to carry these Holy furnishings we begin to understand the responsibility of  leadership in the body of Christ today.  We don't need the slick advertising campaigns of Madison Avenue, or another church growth seminar.  Instead what we need is an unwavering commitment to Christ and the increase of His government in our midst. 

As we begin to discern the difference between leadership that is on a career path as religious hirelings from those brothers and sisters whose lives have been broken and spilled out for Christ; forsaking the former and giving honor to the latter;  the Lord of the Harvest will place in our hands every tool necessary to reap the final harvest of the ages that is even now turning white in the fields of the world. 

While much of what has been written in this "Plea for Biblical Governance" by default serves as an indictment of the modern church; if you will permit me to place one admonishment in the midst of what has been shared it would be this, and I do not  share this to personally rebuke you, but to make you aware of one aspect of the spiritual battle you may have overlooked:

As one who has faced and will continue to face increasing peril as a result of laying down my life for the sake of the gospel and the glory of honor of Jesus Christ alone... I say this on behalf of the many like minded brothers and sisters in Christ whom I would consider it a great honor to be counted among the least of:  

We did not abuse anyone, manipulate anyone,  lord over anyone, or steal anyone's tithe for the god of our personal lusts... the hirelings of the harlot called religion did.  Even then many of these did not set themselves on this course with a purposeful intent, and are on some levels even more of a victim of the religious politic than your average churchgoer.

As one voice in the midst of this wilderness I understand that if we are to be conformed to the image of Christ and not to the image of the world; then part of our being conformed involves being despised and rejected of men and being well acquainted with grief.   I also believe each one of us who are trying to walk with the mantle that Christ placed on us fully expected this type of treatment from today's Pharisees, but to be treated this way by "the Remnant" being continually viewed with suspicion as one having an "agenda" because of past abuses that you experienced from other leaders... this is often a sorrowful response that only increases the burden and spiritual warfare we are already under. 

In fact it is an injustice that the Lord Himself will begin to weigh in His scales.   He will watch over those persecuted leaders who are truly walking with Him as they stand outside the camp of organized religion and at the same time are being ostracized on the other side of the divide by the remnant as well.

If you are a leader out there and you pick up your cross daily; doing your best to honor Christ; then I pray that what has been written here will bring comfort and encouragement to you, and I pray to the Father asking in the blessed name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; that many will come along side of you in this hour; supporting you in prayer, and if needed then financially as well... Amen   

I want to remind you though that those who come along side of you in this way have revealed the servant heart of the Lord that is within them also.  They will have demonstrated through this willingness to serve that they are also called to lead others...  Remember to do all you can to help them attain to all that Christ has called them to be as well.

A Minister

Since we are inevitably drawn into a discussion of the "five fold ministry" let us first consider the dynamic of being a minister from Paul's perspective as given to him by the Lord Jesus Himself.   In Acts 26:16 when the Lord appeared to Paul in jail; He told him in part: "But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you..." 

The word minister (in Greek - hupeôreteôs) is defined as an under-oarsman.  The word picture that the Lord painted for Paul would have been seen easily by someone living at that time.  Picture a Phoenician sea vessel; where in the hold of the ship - close to the bilge line there would have been a team of under-oarsmen.  The don't steer the boat as this is the task of the helmsman; who in this illustration would be Jesus.  They simply hear the beat of the drum and row accordingly. 

The Lord wasn't commissioning Paul for some kind of super APOSTOLIC MINISTRY; Jesus was simply appointing Paul to a place of true servant hood where he moved at the pace of Christ's heartbeat.

As we look at the order in the camp of  ancient Israel; we see that there were captains of thousands, of hundreds, and of fifties, which brings us to a first general principle to put into practice.  In Romans 12:8 the bible encourages leaders to lead with diligence. The bible also tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:19 "For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you." 

This is not to be a 'holier than thou' club.  It is simply a recognition of the fact that as certain believers give themselves over to the purposes of the Lord and they have matured as believers -- they will be "separated to the gospel of God"  as they  have been "approved  of God,"  and  also have  been "counted  faithful."    (see Romans 1:1,  Galatians 1:15,  2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, and 1 Timothy 1:12). 

Being "separated to the gospel of God" is not to be seen as a form of spiritual elitism; instead it is simply recognizing that a process has occurred, or a season of preparation has been completed.  It is simply giving oneself over to nothing but hearing the heartbeat of the Lord; so that you might by the Spirit row in unison with others and together fulfill the call of Christ.

When we combine this example of a minister we can begin to see that this in itself is a shadow of what five-fold ministry teams should look like today as God once again allows the weight of His Glory to rest upon His people in these last days.  Just as the sons of Kohath were to carry the ark of the Testimony (see Exodus 25:22); spiritually speaking the five fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:7-16 is to carry the Testimony of Jesus Christ and to equip the saints to do the same. 

This Testimony in general consists of two areas: 1) sound doctrine, and 2) prophecy.  In 1John 5:11-12 the bible says  "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

This is an example of sound doctrine brought forth as the apostle John took in what the Holy Spirit taught him through his personal experiences and  through the Word of God.

This is part of the testimony that is carried forth to the world as we are rightly dividing the Word of Truth, building line upon line, precept upon precept, comparing scripture to scripture.  While all of us within the body of Christ are responsible for this, there is a greater responsibility upon those workers who are approved to God to rightly divide His word and teach the body of Christ His truths, (see James 3:1 & 2 Timothy 2:15).

The second part of the "Testimony" relates to the prophetic aspects of God's Word. Revelation 19:10b says "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  When you think about it; everything written in the bible concerning our future with the Lord and His future second coming upon the earth; while it is sound doctrine, it is also essentially prophetic. 

It is the carrying forth of the "Testimony" into an unbelieving world that continually imparts faith as the bible say is Romans 10:17 that "...faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Witness of the Holy Spirit

While prophecy comes in many forms, true prophetic words will always have the Word of God bearing witness to this truth.  In 1John 5:6-8 (NIV) the bible says "This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water (see note**) and the blood; and the three are in agreement."   In other words what the bible is saying here is that the Holy Spirit (as the Source of all true prophecy) "testifies" and the "water" bearing witness also - will always be in agreement with the "blood of the New Covenant" which was shed on our behalf.

What I have noticed in prophetic meetings is that when I hear prophecy, the Holy Spirit will bring to my remembrance different scriptures that either help to confirm, correct, or rebuke what has been spoken --see 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  (Of course I am in no way implying that I personally must here scripture in order to validate prophetic words, I am merely conveying a governing principle). So then while prophecy is for today, the Holy Spirit will always bring us back to the plumb - line of His living word.

(Note**  According to Strong's Hebrew / Greek dictionary a root word of Torah (or law) is reference # H3384  yaw-raw'  which as a  primitive root means (properly) to flow as water.  Scripture bears this out when we consider that Ephesians 5:26 says that Jesus gave Himself for His bride - "that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word."  In Titus 3:5b the bible also says  that  "according to His mercy He (Jesus) saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,"  I believe then that it is a fair reading of God's word to conclude that the "water" mentioned in 1John 5:8 refers to Holy Scripture.

The Battlefield of Faith

Observing the spiritual landscape of the battlefield before us; we must take into account the words of Christ concerning faith in these last days.  In Luke 18 as the Lord was speaking about avenging His own elect; He says "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" 

In fact faith is such an important aspect of our make-up as believers that Hebrews 11:6 says "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." 

Having expressed this; we will now begin to see that the ministry of the Word given through the five fold ministry is critical for the building up of our faith, not only individually, but together as the local ecclesia so that we might stand as an example of a "measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ"

The spiritual contrast in our lives concerning the presence of faith or the lack thereof is clearly discerned in these two verses:

"And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end will be,
For they are a perverse generation,
Children in whom is
no faith."  (Deuteronomy 32:20)

“Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just
shall live by his faith."  (Habakkuk 2:4)

As we acknowledge the biblical role of five fold ministers to proclaim the word of God; we can begin to grasp their value on the battlefield of faith since again we see that Romans 10 teaches us that
"...faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

In teaching this spiritual reality Paul first explains how the seeds of such faith are sown: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace

Who bring glad tidings of good things!"

We also see in this next verse that the impartation and nurturing of these seeds of faith happens as believers receive from various aspects of the five fold ministry:  "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor."  (1 Corinthians 3:5-8)

As we acknowledge the truth of the above scripture we can see the clear connection between the impartation and nurturing of faith and the preaching of the Word of God.   Also take note of how Paul completely de-emphasizes position saying that neither he who plants or waters (a function) is anything.

In this we can begin to perceive the true role of five fold ministers as a whole since it is clearly not the imparting of carnal skill sets that God is concerned with, but the equipping of believers with prevailing faith as we clearly know that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds..." 

While I do not feel at all led to question what someone's motives may be in this discussion on equipping; I simply want to convey that instructing someone on how to become a minister has almost no value at all compared to the impartation of faith through the anointed preaching of the Word of God.

Whether it was Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost - Paul preaching on Mar's Hill - Phillip in the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch or Apollos who through his preaching "...greatly helped those who had believed through grace" the spiritual fruit of faith that is produced through the preaching of God's word  is undeniable.

In Hebrews 11 the great chapter on faith we see the prevailing faith of the saints "who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.   Women received their dead raised to life again.  Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection."   

As the verse continues; we should reflect upon the fact that the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the first century had little to do with the outcomes that our brothers and sisters in Christ experienced individually; instead the knowledge of Christ and His redemption of mankind spread as a result of the prevailing faith that these saints held in common.

 

FIVE FOLD MINISTERS

For the LORD is our Lawgiver

 

Moving this discussion forward; we should reiterate briefly the qualifications for five fold ministry in light of the scripture in 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."  As was stated in the last section as well:  Without making a hard threshold that would hinder growth; we should remember that Jesus Himself was 30 years of age before he began to "equip" the apostles for what they were called to do. 

These then are the minimum standards that Paul communicated to Timothy as a younger five fold minister; it is I believe a framework for recognizing that a brother or sister in Christ has been "separated to the gospel of God" for the work of equipping others for the work of ministry.

1. They would be counted faithful by the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:12).

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).

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)

Being Persuaded

Looking again at the framework for biblical governance; Hebrews 13:17 speaks clearly of the motive that all who are called to lead should operate from:   "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you."

A paraphrase of this scripture that the Father showed me goes something like this (and this is a partial quote from memory and <a few words from what the Father has shown me>) :  "Allow yourselves to be persuaded by those who stand before you as examples to the flock; <for if they are truly elders; then they have crucified the flesh along with the wrong motives that live in the flesh.  They have lived long enough and walked with the Lord long enough to understand that the counsel they give you and your grace to yield to this counsel has eternal consequences>, and they give counsel as ones who have a hope that when the eternal accounting for their words and your response is reckoned; their hope is that this will be a moment of great joy and not grief"

As we have discussed in the last section; some five fold ministers who continue in this role over the greater part of their lifetime should also be seen as elders / bishops in the midst of a localized ecclesia. This is I believe the correct context for speaking of those who are worthy of double honor.

For a more in-depth discussion on this including a discussion on what I believe are biblically sound financial priorities in the body of Christ:  Click Here

A final thought before we look at equipping.

The Spirit of God drew His people from all over the world to the Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola Florida as several five-fold ministers endeavored "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  Unfortunately however the old wineskin  of institutional church government cannot hold the new wine for very long.

Take note of this fact though as it is clearly part of what the Father is molding together:   The five-fold ministry team that the Lord brought together in Pensacola was both Jewish & Gentile.  While there will be further discussion on this point in the Messianic section of this vision; for now we should simply understand a basic thought that Paul brought forth in Ephesians 2 which was that Christ through the work of the cross "create in Himself one new man from the two (Jew and Gentile), thus making peace... 

Understanding this core biblical truth will aid us in realizing both the fullness of our biblical faith as Christians and also the fulfillment of the Messianic hope of our Jewish brothers and sisters worldwide.

Equipping the Saints

As we continue to look further at the equipping function of the five fold ministry, (which consists of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers),  it is important to see that together these ministers are to walk in covenant relationship; holding forth the Testimony of Jesus both to the body of Christ and also to a lost and dying world  In much the same way, the sons of Kohath carried the Ark of the Covenant as a team. 

Earlier I shared that five-fold ministry teams should carry the responsibility for rightly dividing the Word of God so that a foundation of sound doctrine comes forth to the Lord's people.   While we will further discuss in another section the pattern of house to house and public fellowship utilized by the apostles (see Acts 20:18-21); for now it would be useful to take a snapshot look at what I am trying to convey: CLICK HERE

For those ministers who think you can carry this end time return to genuine biblical governance by yourself, or above others as a 'senior pastor' or 'senior apostle' -- it would serve you well to remember the lesson of the breach against Uzzah recorded in 2 Samuel 6:3-8.  The day has come upon the body of Christ when we can no longer put the weight of this responsibility on a cart! 

This is why so many good and honest leaders have over the last number of years left their calling as ministers behind.  You were never called to accomplish this task alone. 

When we think we can hold a  'senior' position above other five-fold ministers, then we put aside the order mandated by God's word (and the protection that goes with it).

Ask yourself this question:  Why did the apostle Paul beseech us in Ephesians 4:1b-3 - "to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." 

It is very interesting to me that right on the heels of this scripture, Paul introduces the doctrinal teaching supporting the existence of the five-fold ministry.  Let me then encourage the fellow ministers reading this; allow other ministers of God  to walk with you sharing equally the mandate and authority of this high calling. 

I know this doesn't make sense, and I understand given the nature of man, that this seems impossible as the typical response is that there has to be a singular leader, and you know what?  You're right!

Let me remind you, that Jesus Christ in the midst of His people effectually working through the Holy Spirit was perfectly capable of leading the 1st century church, and clearly He is capable of doing so today.  

Permit me to share though that if you attempt to walk worthy of this calling simply by announcing that you are going to operate your ministry through a plurality governing by consensus; - you will be driven to your knees by the impossibility of it; as only with God is this vision truly possible.

The Apostolic Age

There clearly are whole denominations who obviously welcome the ministry of five fold pastors, teachers, and evangelists; yet these same groups doubt the modern day existence of apostles and prophets.  While I do not agree with their assessment; I must address this briefly out of respect to my brothers and sisters who are persuaded otherwise; because in a sense they are correct.

This is what I mean:

1.  In 1 Peter 5:1 we read "The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:"  

The term for elder used here (Strong's G4850) is sumpresbuteros and is only used this one time in the entire bible.  Again the word is a combination of "presbuteros" (Strong's G4245 ) meaning  "Comparative of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior"  preceded by the Greek word "soom" (Strong's G4862 ) denotes "union with or together... including completeness"

Peter was in a very small class:  Elders "sumpresbuteros" who were in union with or had witnessed first hand the sufferings of Jesus Christ.  This age has CLEARLY passed into the history of the first century; since no one but the original apostles and prophets saw along with others in their time; the sufferings of Christ. 

In this sense the apostolic age has passed away in that not one flesh and blood believer is alive today who witnessed the sufferings of Christ on the cross.

2.  On the other hand Ephesians 4:11-13 says  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, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ..."  

I need not go any further than to the plain meaning of the textual evidence and ask this question: Has the church ever experienced the unity of the Spirit?   How can anyone assert that apostles and prophets are not for this age when clearly they were given "till we all come to the unity of the faith."

How unified according to the word of God is the body of Christ where you live?  The lack of biblical unity demonstrates the need for ALL of the five fold ministry to be in operation at this time. 

To understand a little more about what this might look like:  CLICK HERE         

This equipping function of the five fold minister is aided by a plurality of elders and deacons serving in roles that offer advice and consent.  As all aspects of biblical governance work together we will begin to see the anointing of the "Good Shepherd" overtake and bless the body of Christ; molding us into the overcomers we are called to be in these last days.

The Priesthood of the Believer

The expression of Christ's ministry of reconciliation working through you and the vision for this ministry is a direct result of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ through ongoing communion with the Holy Spirit.

When we seek to fulfill the command to "love your neighbor as yourself" the Lord will orchestrate divine appointments and "add to the (ecclesia) those who are being saved"  (The reasons I don't use the word "church"- for ecclesia is 1) "church was not in the original Greek and 2) "church" carries  the connotation of man-made organized effort while ecclesia speaks of a living -breathing community of "called out ones").

This being said, the role then of leaders can only be taken from the example of Christ Himself.  Jesus said in Matthew 20:27-28 -  "And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

This should be the heart cry of every one aspiring to lead.

Instead of continually looking for people who can serve in their program based church, leaders should be asking - "What ministry visions are in the hearts of the people and how can I be a bond servant of Christ and help this brother or sister bring their God-given vision forth and walk in their priestly anointing?"

Again; the proper intent and context for ministers as the call of God increases in their life is to allow yourselves to be persuaded by those whom the Lord has appointed to counsel or guide you as your ministry is brought forth.  

Often this is critical in helping ministers deal with challenges in their life as they mature.   Remember though that elders are there to offer counsel concerning the narrow path you are obediently walking down.  They are not there to give you permission to walk down the path.

Another way of saying this which has been touched on briefly is that we each are being sanctified and cleansed "with the washing of water by the wordand that this in fact is "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit..."

As we look at this a little closer we can see the agreement of the Holy Spirit to the Word of God that washes us.  Jesus as He was with his disciples in the upper room said we “are already clean because of the word which I have (He has) spoken to you..."    He also told them earlier in the same setting that "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean..."  As we are to wash one another's feet; we should see the advice and consent of elders and bishops in this light.

This is not about blind submission, rather it is recognizing the wisdom of Proverbs 11:14 which says - "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety."

Let me caution you here - do not be an isolated ministry without accountability in your life.  The devil wants to kill you - destroy your vision - and in the process destroy everyone God has intended for your ministry to touch.  So then - surround yourself with a "multitude of counselors" as the bible instructs you to.

The vision that I hope is beginning to take shape in your spirit as you continue to read is simply this: Untold multitudes of on-fire believers being led by the Holy Spirit into anointed active ministries being offered up as spiritual sacrifices or acts of worship to our Glorious King.

For those leaders who may be unsure of the coming paradigm shift, let me ask you a question: If you stood before the Lord this day, and were called to "give account" concerning the "the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,"  would you do so "with joy" or "with grief?"  My prayer is that every leader reading this would someday watch believers they have shepherded receive a full reward as overcomers in Christ.  

I pray right now In Jesus' Name that as you read this the Lord would begin a work of cleansing any impure motive, and would impart a singular vision of, and passion for standing before the Lord Jesus giving account of the flock with JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY. 

This is your eternal destiny - " Not that I (you) have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.   Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

The Hope of Your Calling

While there is more to share concerning the framework for governance; the full weight of biblical evidence and the doctrine that has been put forth has been written to say to all who read this...

Jesus Christ has given you the ministry of reconciliation...

He has committed to you the word of reconciliation...

You are an ambassador of Christ... 

You are called to go and make disciples...

You do not need man's permission... "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you (past tense) that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you." - Jesus Christ 

Your separation into a five fold calling depends on your faithfulness to Christ alone...

If you are able to be baptized with the baptism that Christ went through...

If you are willing to pick up your cross daily...

Then let no man hinder you...

Only in this do I charge you in the name of Christ...

Allow yourself to be persuaded by the presbytery of bishops and elders

Permit them to impart to you and release you in the right hour... 

It is not a contradiction to the liberty of Christ...

It is simply a truth that must be spiritually discerned.

Till the Lord comes... "give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.   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.   Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.   Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you."

These things are required amidst the holiness of the Father's courts...

It will be a terror to you to walk disorderly in the midst of the Lord's anointed army for "the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt."

Building with Living Stones

Apostolic & Prophetic Foundations

"Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.   Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."  

Since this portion concerns foundational principles, it would be best to first share a couple guiding principles first. 

As an 'equipping team' - the five-fold ministry has one and only one leader -- Jesus Christ. The functional authority shifts according to governing doctrine within the bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says "To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven."  This is certainly true concerning the countless seasons of life faced in each local congregation. 

There are apostolic times needed so that  foundational doctrine can be put in place and so that biblical order begins to take shape.  Times for prophetic vision to be imparted, helping to guide the corporate vision as individual members begin to grasp the "hope of His calling."  Times for evangelists to impart anointing to the body for evangelism.  Times for teachers to instruct God's children how to live a blameless life in this present age, and times when a congregation is under spiritual attack and needs the comforting assurances pastoral ministers.

These seasons come and go. and since we "as living stones, are being built up (as) a spiritual house" needing structural soundness, it essential that the location and the foundation are correct.  Obviously Jesus is the correct location to build the house for those who hear and do what He says (Matthew 7:24-25).  Jesus Christ Himself is also the Chief Cornerstone.

Because the principles that guided the early church have been lost over the centuries God is restoring ALL the five-fold ministry in these last days.  I know that the history of this 'restoration' has been both flawed, and even short lived; the need for this restoration having only been discerned in the last 200 years or so; yet this does not invalidate what God is doing.  

Even with all of its flaws and all the posturing of false apostles, this restoration in its purest form is from the Lord and even though this 'move' lacks deep historical roots; this fact does not make it less substantial any more than the age of flight only being around 100 plus years somehow invalidates the jet airplane.

When we are unwilling to consider the validity and importance of the apostolic and prophetic equipping gifts in these last hours, we ignore a functional pattern brought forth in scripture.   In Acts 7 Stephen recounted how "Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed; instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen...

As we approach the end of this age, how much more should we reverently consider the pattern that was outlined for us in the Bible.

Ephesians 2:19-22 says "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

To recount what was said earlier, Jesus is the only Rock to build upon, He is also the chief cornerstone.  What then is this "foundation of the apostles and prophets?"

The bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:28 "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues." 

It is absolutely essential to understand that this scripture speaks of chronological order only, a careful study of the words first - second and third reveals that in no uncertain terms.

Strong's Hebrew / Greek dictionary makes this clear:

First - (G4412)  - proôton - firstly (in time, place, order, or importance):—before, at the beginning, chiefly, (at, at the) first (of all).

Examples of this:

Matthew 5:24 – …leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 6:33 – …But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all  these things shall be added to you.

Matthew  7:5 – …Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Other scriptures showing this example include:

Matthew 8:21, 12:29, 13:30, 17:10-11, 23:26, Mark 3:27, 4:28, 7:27, 9:11-12, 13:10, 16:9,

Luke  6:42, 9:59, 9:61, 10:5, 11:38, 12:1, 14:28, Romans 1:8, 1:16, 2:9, 3:2, 15:24

 

Second - Secondarily - (G1208) - deuteros - As the compound of G1417; (ordinal) second (in time, place or rank; also adverbially):—afterward, again, second (-arily, time).

Examples of this:

Matthew 21:30 – …Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and   said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.”

Matthew 22:26 – …Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.

Matthew 22:39 – …And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 26:42 – … Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.

John 3:4 – Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Other scriptures showing this example include:

Mark 12:1, 12:31,14:72,  Luke 12:38, 19:18, 20:30, Titus 3:10,

Hebrews 8:7, 9:3, 9:7, 9:28, 10:9,  2Peter 3:1

Third - Thirdly - G5154 - tritos - third; neuter (as noun) a third part, or (as adverb) a (or the) third time, thirdly:—third (-ly).

Examples of this:

Matthew 16:21 – From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

Matthew 20:3 – …And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

Matthew 26:44 – …So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.”

Other scriptures showing this example include:

Mark 9:31, 10:34, 12:21, 14:41, 15:25, 1 Corinthians 15:4, 2 Corinthians 12:2, 12:14, 13:1, Revelation  4:7, 6:5

Clearly there is overwhelming evidence indicating chronological order within five-fold leadership, not pecking order of authority.  What this looks like then is similar to what Jesus described to Nicodemus. In John 3:8 Jesus says "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Another way of illustrating this is to ask what is clearly a rhetorical question: Did Jesus the apostle have more authority than Jesus the prophet? ...or Jesus the pastor.  Since our Lord as the incorruptible Son was the only one to carry all five equipping gifts and since Christ is not divided; the clear answer is NO! 

Taking this thought a step further either moves us away from the individualistic flavor of today's ministries or leaves us facing the indictment that believers in Corinth contended with as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 - "Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?   A couple of chapters later Paul again reprimands the Corinthians... For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal? 

Down further he makes his point even clearer:  "For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building."  There it is; plain and simple:  No fanfare or exaltation about Paul being this great apostle to the Gentiles and Apollos being some second hand teacher included as an afterthought.  NO!  It is made clear that both of their equipping ministries were purposeful and deliberate.  They were both simply 'God's fellow workers' laboring in the vineyard of the Lord for the sake of the harvest and the glory of Christ alone.

This then will be a foremost characteristic of genuine five-fold ministry teams.  They typically may have no clue in their natural thought processes from one meeting to the next what the Spirit of God may impart through one or more of them. (in a five-fold oriented meeting*).  Yet the Spirit of the Lord will have produced a strong consensus between them concerning what season a congregation may be in. 

*For more on this see the section of the vision called "House to House and Public Fellowship."

In other words they will walk as one in Christ where the Lord Himself walks as the Chief Shepherd among His flock.

At the inception of a new congregation, chronologically the order will be apostolic / prophetic.  Then their ministry must decrease so that the voice of the Bridegroom that is in the teacher, or evangelist, or pastor may increase and be heard. It doesn't mean that the apostolic/ prophetic goes away, they simply blend into the plurality of a growing Spirit Led equipping team.

A caution and this cannot be stressed enough -- When the anointing of the Lord increases making this possible, men and women with a self seeking spirit will be stricken by the LORD of HOSTS in the midst of the congregation of the LORD.  If you have not "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires," the Spirit of God will expose this.  If even your desire to minister has not been crucified, satan will use this to sew "discord among brethren."

The Prophetic Time of Judges

Before sharing some final observations on this section of the vision, I felt impressed to share prophetically what season I believe we are in.

The time of Judges - that led to Saul - that led to King David is I believe a prophetic compass for the time we are in. 

King David is a type or picture of our Blessed Lord and King - Jesus.  The return or second coming of our Lord is what many believe is a rapidly approaching event.

Saul is a type of antichrist (both Saul and satan rebelled against the Authority of the LORD).  In much the same way that the children of Israel asked the prophet Samuel saying "Give us a king to judge us..."

So shall the whole world ask for the rule of the antichrist in the not too distant future.

So then, what time is it now?  Before Saul was the time of the judges of Israel. 

I believe we are entering into a 'time of judges' season before the appearing of the antichrist.

What is the purpose of the judges? 

To deliver the Lord's people (Jew & Gentile) from their enemies and from the enemies of the Lord.

Following the Cloud of Glory

In the final analysis, what I am trying to express is that a "new wineskin" will remain flexible in order to accommodate the changing characteristics of Spirit-led life in the body of Christ or the "new wine".   The picture of this in the camp of the Lord is a framework that can be torn down in order to move with the anointing of the Holy Spirit represented by the pillar of fire. 

Any structure that cannot aid the corporate body to 'follow the cloud' as the children of Israel did, will always lead to corporate and individual idolatry, as the "there" you are in becomes more important than the "there" God is taking you to. **

This is why God gave the five-fold ministry to carry together the anointing if you will, that the Ark of the Testimony represents.

If for example there is true brokenness and humility in a five-fold team, when an evangelist (or prophet, etc.) sees in His Spirit that the cloud is beginning to move, rather than being accused of having an agenda, the rest of the five-fold team reverently takes hold of the 'golden poles' and lifts the testimony of Christ as one unit.  How desperately we need the grace of God to help us walk worthy of our calling in this way, as we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Some Final Observations Concerning the Old Wineskin

Whenever the spiritual needs in the local ecclesia (called-out ones) are consistently unmet, it is an indicator of the need to multiply 'bond-servant' leadership

Any gathering that consistently orients around one aspect of the five-fold ministry or even one aspect of biblical governance will eventually move away from a biblical pattern of government.

Wherever the five-fold ministry is limited to one expression, the leadership & ministry of an assembly of believers will flow from the personality of a man instead of the personality of Jesus (or Yeshua).

Left to their own devises, (no genuine accountability), a pastor (or any other five-fold minister) will feed themselves and not the flock.  This is a reality of the sin nature. The corruptible will always gravitate towards corruption unless yoked with others of like spiritual authority and/or maturity who have a God given mandate to submit to one another.

These are only a few potential pitfalls that exist within the current religious structures of the modern church.   

Answering an Indictment

In Matthew 23:23 the Lord Jesus as the advocate of fallen man issued an indictment against the institution that became a fence between the Lord and those who were seeking His redemption.  He said:  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."

Rather than going down a path that continually criticizes present day Christendom; let us ask whether the Lord's indictment of the institution framework surrounding temple worship applies to the modern church today. 

If it does apply; then we should also ask ourselves if the response of the Lord's first disciples answered this indictment.  Keep in mind that if they did adequately answer this indictment; then we can through the grace that Christ supplies restore the eternal truths found in their response, but we cannot repeat history. 

Herein I believe is the restoration of the apostles' doctrine mentioned in Acts 2:42.  I believe it answers the indictment that Jesus spoke, it encourages us to establish Kingdom oriented communities, and it offers necessary safeguards against institutional religion.

The pattern in Isaiah 33:22 established by the 1st century ecclesia I believe answers this indictment.

For the LORD is our Judge - As we build according to the pattern then the Lord will give us Elders and Bishops to establish His Courts of Justice to help mediate between brothers when grievances occur.

The LORD is our Lawgiver - As we build according to the pattern welcoming and encourage the flourishing of five fold ministry teams; we will then see the word of God increase and the prevailing Faith of Christ grows in our hearts through the hearing of His Word.

The LORD is our King - As we build according to the pattern allowing those who have shown stewardship over their own lives to serve as Deacons in the court of the King; we will see the Mercy of the Father established as the fatherless, widows, and strangers in the gate take refuge under the shadow of His wings.

A Kingdom Mission

One other point concerning Kingdom oriented communities...  Paul wrote in Philippians 4:15-16 "Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only." 

Paul also communicated to the saints in Philippi some of the more mature thoughts He wrote; outlining what might be viewed as  personal loss for the sake of the Kingdom of God... Thoughts like how Christ "became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross," or how Paul counted "all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ."  

Unlike some of his other letters to churches documenting their carnality and strife; this epistle to the Philippians stands out in its revelation of the cost involved in the mission of the Kingdom of God. 

They were the only congregation who seemed to grasp their role in helping Paul through lean times in his ministry.

Of great interest to me in this is what seems like a small detail; at least until you see this detail in light of what has been written in this release. And that is Paul's greeting to the church:  "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ,  To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons..."   It makes me ponder again concerning their depth of maturity and their consistent commitment as a Kingdom oriented community...

THE COMMANDED BLESSING

Maybe as we come to the close of this "Plea for Biblical Governance" we can finally confess that we have grieved the Holy Spirit over the centuries as we have continually resisted the "Increase of His Government."   

There is coming a day when this 'Increase' will no longer be a choice given to a wayward heart as "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

If we will now turn from our wicked ways and bring forth fruits of true repentance; then who can tell... perhaps the Lord will be merciful even in this late hour and grant that grace might be given unto us; that we might keep His command to persevere.  Herein will we be kept "...from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth."

In the coming battle at the end of the age the enemies of Christ "...will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful"

I earnestly pray that all who read this are among "those who are with Him."   For if we are found in Christ as He prayed in John 17 that we all may be one..." if we are "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace..."  then we will overcome with Him, and the anointing of this 'unity of the Spirit' will be upon us.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.

It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD
commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.

This is what the ecclesia of the first century walked in...

While we cannot repeat the history of those moments we read of in the book of Acts; we can even in the midst of the coming trials see the victory of the ages unfold before us as we walk in the commanded blessing of the Lord "Life forevermore."

Finally to the leaders among the flock and the body of Christ at large, I conclude this section  of the vision covering biblical governance with the words of Peter —

"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:  Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;  nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.   Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

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