Its Gifts And Ministry
- Source, Channels, and Extent of Ministry
- The Individual Servant and Ministry
We have previously seen that Christ is the head of the Church and the only head allowed in Scripture and that He directs the various members of His body, which is the Church. Now as we come to consider the particular ministry of the Church, that of teaching, preaching, and caring for souls, we find that this work was in the beginning and is now to be carried on especially by gifts which He, the ascended and glorified Head, has given to His Church.
From Ephesians 4: 7,8, 11-13 we learn, that "unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. . . And he gave some, apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
Source, Channels, and Extent of Ministry
The basis on which the giving of these gifts of ministry by Christ depends is that of the redemption He has accomplished by His blood and of His ascension to heaven. As the victorious risen and ascended Savior, who has led the whole power of the enemy captive, conquered Satan who had held man captive, and who loves His Church and cares for each member of it, He gives gifts unto men for the performance of Christian ministry, that souls might be saved and His people be built up, established, nourished, and perfected-thus attaining unto the stature of a full man in Christ. Christian ministry, then, flows from Christ exalted at the right hand of God as the head and source of all. Hence, there can be no true ministry in the Church, or by it, apart from the recognition and dependence upon Christ as the head and origin of all ministrations.
It should be observed that there is quite a difference between ministry, Christian priesthood, and worship. All Christians, men, women, and children, are priests with access to the presence of God and able to present worship praise and thanksgiving, to God. Priesthood is universal and from man to God, while ministry in the Word is an action through man, from God toward men. It is a varied service by particular members of the body through whom Christ thus acts for the good of all. It is only a few among the many who are what Scripture calls ministers of the Word or public servants of Christ. We speak not now of the general sense in which all ought to be serving Christ every day of their lives; but the question now is of the proper ministry in the Word" for it is plain that all Christians have not the power to preach the Word of God profitably for the souls of others.
According to Scripture, the spiritual ministry of the Church is to be performed by the gifts which Christ has given to the Church-those gifted and enabled by Him for such work-and not by men who have merely chosen the ministry as a profession or who claim the right to minister because they have been trained by man in colleges and seminaries for it and have also been ordained by man to the so-called ministry of their particular denominational church. All this, which is so common today and is looked upon as the proper way for the providing of ministry in the churches, is absolutely foreign to Scripture and opposed to God's will and way for His Church and its ministry as revealed in His Word.
When one searches the Scriptures, considers the apostolic Church, and makes a comparison between this and the organized system of ministry in the present church world, he is forced to conclude that it is wholly without Scriptural foundation and of human invention. We shall consider this more fully later.
Furthermore, it should be noted that our text in Ephesians 4 says that the gifts of ministry which Christ gave are for the perfection of the saints and for the edifying of the Body of Christ. If the Lord has given one a gift to teach, preach, or shepherd His sheep, he is a gift to the whole Church and his service should ever be toward the saints of God, the Body of Christ, and not to just a certain denominational group. We have previously seen that in the Bible God only speaks of one body, His Church of born-again believers, and this is the Church to which He has given gifts and which every true minister of Christ should serve and seek to build up. Thus the gifts and true ministers whom Christ gives are for the benefit of the whole Church of God in a locality, country, or even in the entire world. "Feed the flock of God which is among you," says Peter in I Peter 5:2. It is God's flock, not man's. It embraces all His people around us.
Christ not only gave gifts unto men when He ascended up on high, but He continues there in the heavens and abides as the Head of the Church and as the giver of all needful gifts for the continuation of His Church in this world. He is still giving gifts unto men, raising up and calling this one and that one, causing them to be divinely taught for their own soul's need and giving them a power, not possessed before, to act effectively upon the souls of others in awakening, clearing, or establishing souls in the grace of God, or to communicate truth convincingly to believers. And this will continue "till we all come in the unity of the faith," as our text assures us. So that we are warranted in expecting a perpetuation of ministry of the same character and flowing from the same source as that in the apostolic Church. Whatever is necessary for the gathering in of souls, and caring for them when gathered, abides till Christ comes when all will be completed.
In defining more fully what a gift is, we would add that it is spiritual power from above to act upon souls. It is more than natural ability to speak or teach, though Christ does give talents "to every man according to his several ability" (Matt. 25:15), so that natural ability is taken into account by the Lord in His sovereign distribution of ministerial gifts and talents, but natural gift alone does not make one a minister of God's Word. There must be the positive bestowal of a gift from Christ.
In I Corinthians 12 the various gifts are spoken of as manifestations of the Spirit. The different gifts are looked at there as functioning by the Holy Spirit; "all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (v. 11). The Lord is, however, the real and proper giver; the Spirit of God is rather the intermediate means of conveying the gift, distributing or making it good,-the energy by which the Lord acts.
Apostles and Prophets
These are the first of the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11, which the ascended Christ gave to His Church. "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets." They are what might be called the foundation gifts, which God used for the purpose of laying a broad and deep platform ,on which the Church was to be built. This work was done lby those whom God empowered in a special manner.
Ephesians 2:20 speaks of the Church being "built upon he foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." Of course, Christ is, in the greatest and highest sense, the foundation" Upon this rock I will build my church." But still, to use the words of another, "As the means not only of revealing the mind of God touching the Church, but also particularly of laying down with authority the landmarks of His husbandry in the earth-the Church of God, the apostles and prophets were thus used. To distinguish them the former were characterized by an authority in action, the prophets by giving out according to God His mind and will about this great mystery" (W. K.).
The apostles occupied a unique position in the establishment of the Church which could not be transmitted to others. They were special witnesses of our Lord's resurrection. See Acts 1:22, I Corinthians 9:1 and 15:5-8. Therefore there can be no "apostolic succession" such as various church groups claim today. Only one appointed such by the Lord, and a witness of His resurrection could be an apostle in the full sense of the word.
The twelve and Paul, as the special apostle of the Church, are the apostolic gifts. These were entrusted with the planting of the Church and the nourishing of it during its infancy, as well as with providing it, for its whole earthly history (along with the rest of Scripture) with an infallible guide. This we have in the apostolic writings which are perfectly inspired of God. Thus, while we have not the apostles with us personally, we have them in their writings still with us as a foundational guide in the Church.
The prophets here mentioned do not refer to the Old Testament prophets, but to those who followed Christ. The latter are New Testament prophets, men who spoke directly for God to man, often indicating in a supernatural way His mind as to the present or future. A prophet is one who brings home the truth to souls so definitely- as to connect them directly with God. Judas and Silas, for instance, are mentioned as prophets in Acts 15:32; they exhorted and confirmed the brethren. The Scriptures had not all been written when the Church began and the apostles were not everywhere, so God raised up prophets, who, in certain cases at least, were the means of divine revelation.
But now revelation is complete; we have the full Word of God o^. and want no more. So the need for these prophets in the highest sense is closed with the Canon of Scripture being complete. In a subordinate sense, that which would answer in our times to the prophetic work in question is the revival of truth and the powerful action of the Spirit on saints at large by recalling what was once revealed, but completely lost. The recovery of the truths of justification by faith, the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ, and His coming for it as the Christian's hope, for instance, would resemble prophetic work in this particular, though one might hesitate to call any used in the work either apostles or prophets.
In the strict sense, apostles and prophets were not meant to continue, though something analogous to an apostle may be raised up at fitting times. Luther, for example, is an instance. There was a partial recall, through him, of the saints of God generally, to fundamental truth, long lost sight of. This answers in a little measure to what an apostle did.
"He gave ... some, evangelists." This gift, as well as those mentioned in the rest of this verse in Ephesians 4: 11. is still with us today and at work in the world. The evangelist is the usual instrument used of God in gathering souls to Christ. The man to whom such a gift has been given would not be confined to one spot, but would be ready to go here and there wherever the Lord by the Spirit might lead him to minister to the need of souls.
"Evangelists, as their names would suggest, are heralds of the glad tidings, preachers of the Gospel of the grace of God, who awaken the careless and win souls to Christ. It is not everyone who is an evangelist, though all should have the love of souls, and be ready to point the sinner to Christ. But men who are evangelists by gift have a true passion for souls, true longing and travailing in birth for them; they are instructed how to present the Gospel, how to gather in the souls, to distinguish true anxiety from false and reality from mere profession. It is their joy to bring sinners to Christ, to see those who were in the world brought into the Church.
"The evangelist is a man of prayer, for he realizes that the work is all of God, and that `methods' are but of little worth. He is a man of faith, who counts on the living God. He is a student of Scripture, that he may present only the truth to souls. He is a man of courage, not fearing to go even where `bonds and imprisonment' may await him, that he may carry the glorious Gospel of the blessed God to the perishing. He is a man of energy, instant in season, out of season. He is a man of perseverance, not discouraged if he fails to see immediate fruit from his labor. Lastly, he is a man of humility, glorying in Another, saying from the heart, `Not I, but the grace of God which was with me.' " (S. Ridout).
The evangelist's special concern is for lost and unsaved souls and his sphere of labor is the world, while that of the pastor and teacher is in the Church and among the children of God. The evangelist is like the quarryman who goes out and hews out the rough stones and brings them up from the quarry to be polished. The evangelist finds souls in the quarry of sin and brings them to Christ
Who saves them and baptizes them into the Body of Christ, the Church, by the Spirit. The true evangelist will then see that these new-born babes, his children in the faith, are introduced into the fellowship and care of the Church of God also, where the gifts of the pastor and teacher are exercised for their upbuilding and nourishment.
The Spirit-taught evangelist will not tell the new convert to enter the church of his choice, or of his family, as is often done, but will rather show him that he is already in the Church, a member of it, and should now recognize those who, in the place where he resides, form the local assembly of God's Church. He must search the Scriptures for God's mind and order as to church fellowship as well as follow that Word for God's salvation.
In Acts 21:8 we read of "Philip the evangelist." In the eighth of Acts we have an account of his labors. This passage gives us an illustration of the nature and work of this gift. In the apostle Paul we also see the working of the gift of an evangelist, though he also possessed the gift of a pastor and teacher and was an apostle. His aim was "To preach the gospel in the regions beyond" (II Cor. 10:16) , which words may well be taken as a true motto for every evangelist.
Surely when we remember the Lord's words to "look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest," and that "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into his harvest" (John 4:35; Luke 10: 2), we are constrained to pray for the raising up of true evangelists and the sending forth of those already gifted and called. The need is great and the work is blessed. Evangelist, "stir up the gift of God, which is in thee." "Preach the word... do the work of an evangelist" (II Tim. 1: 6; 4: 2, 5).
Pastors and Teachers
These gifts are given for the care of the new-born babes in Christ and for the purpose of leading and guiding them on in the truth. All the gifts of Christ are given for the purpose of "perfecting of the saints; with a view to (the) work of (the) ministry, with a view to the edifying of the body of Christ ... in order that we may be no longer babes" (Eph. 4:12, 13, New Trans.). God wants His children to grow in the truth, so He has given these gifts for their edification and growth. This is especially the work and purpose of those exercising the gifts of pastors and teachers.
The gifts of pastors and teachers are linked together in our passage. It does not say, "he gave some pastors and some teachers," but rather, "he gave . . . some, pastors and teachers." The two are mentioned together, showing they are closely allied, although they are distinct gifts and one may have the one without the other, or may possess them both. These two gifts are given for the care and help of God's people and are closely associated.
The word for "pastors" here is literally "shepherds," which gives us the thought of one who feeds and cares for God's sheep. This word designates those whom the Lord has fitted and gifted to "feed the flock of God," and whom He has called to this work. The Good Shepherd desires that His sheep not only be delivered from the enemy, but that they be guarded, led, and fed as well. Th pastor looks after the Lord's people; he sees that they do not go astray and seeks to recover them if they do. One who is a shepherd will have a sympathetic heart, administering comfort to the sheep of God in time of affliction. He will enter into their trials and problems and will seek to cheer and strengthen them, giving counsel, encouragement or correction by the application of the Scripture as needed in each case. He watches over souls and warns them if they grow careless or worldly.
A pastor must not only have knowledge of the truth, but the power and gift to urge it day by day upon individuals. He applies the truth practically, dealing with heart and conscience. He interests himself in the sheep of Christ individually and labors for their state. His work may be much in sorrow, which is naturally shrunk from, but it is a most blessed work and much needed. The pastor's work is largely of a private character and he need not be a public speaker nor take a prominent place, though he may also have the gift of preaching and teaching and labor publicly as well. Such are the main characteristics of the gift of a pastor.
In view of the common usage of the term, "pastor" in our day, it may be needful for us to distinguish between this and the gift of a pastor which we have been considering from Scripture. In these days one who is chosen as the minister of a particular denominational church is called "the pastor of the church." But such an office as "the official pastor of a church" is unknown in Scripture and did not exist in the apostolic church. One might be "a pastor," as to gift, in a local church, but in the Bible we never find one man spoken of as "the pastor" or "the minister" in charge of a local assembly of God's people. (We shall take up this matter of "one-man ministry" more fully in Chapter Three).
The man whom Scripture speaks of in Ephesians 4:11 as a pastor, is one who possesses from Christ the particular gift and qualification of shepherding and caring for God's sheep, wherever he finds them. He is a pastor in gift and service, though he may do secular work for his living, while looking after God's people in his locality. Or he may give all his time to shepherding God's children, traveling from place to place serving "the Church of the living God." Again he may labor much in one place. All is as his Master and Head in heaven may direct. There may be several such gifted pastors in a local Lathering of the Church of God, each caring for souls, but none taking the title or place of "the pastor" or "the minister" of the congregation, for this would usurp the place of the Holy Spirit, nullifying His sovereign right to use whomsoever He will as His mouthpiece in the Church (see I Cor. 12:11) .
In the present day organized church systems, one may bear the title of "the pastor of a congregation," and yet not have a pastoral gift from Christ at all; he may not even be converted. Or if he is truly a child of God, he may be an evangelist in gift and yet be expected to do the work of pastor and teacher also, though these gifts may not have been given him by Christ. And because he holds the title and office of "the pastor and minister," though unfitted for it, another in the congregation, who really has a pastoral gift, is not allowed nor expected to exercise it because he is not the official pastor. Likewise the gifts of evangelists and teachers might be hindered.
All this is contrary to God's order for His Church as revealed in the book of Acts and the Epistles and is a hindrance to the free-working of God's Spirit and Christ's gifts. That there are many true ministers of Christ and truly gifted pastors serving in such an official way in the present disordered condition of the Church and doing good work for the Lord, we truly believe. We would recognize all such gifts of the Lord and honor them, though not accepting their unscriptural position. What we are speaking of now is God's order for His Church and the true pastoral gift as found in the Scriptures, which is different from man's order in the church-world of today. The Scriptural order for the ministry in a local assembly of believers, we purpose to develop more fully in the next chapter.
Returning to the subject of the characteristics of the pastoral gift, we may say that, in general, it is one of rule and oversight. The word translated "rule" in Matthew 2:6 and Revelation 2:27 means literally to shepherd and is rendered "feed" in John 21:16; Acts 20: 28; I Peter 5: 2, where pastoral care is spoken of. When Scripture speaks of rule, it means service and he rules or leads best who serves best and most.
The qualifications for one doing pastoral care are given in general in those passages which speak of oversight and eldership, such as I Timothy 3: 1-14 and Titus 1:6-9, for the work of elders is closely allied with that of the pastoral gift. This is seen by considering the charge given to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God."
Surely the gift and work of a pastor is a very important and needful one and we need to pray that the Lord of the harvest will raise up and encourage many true shepherds for His sheep, for as in Christ's day, so it is now, many are "scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (Matt. 9:36). May every one gifted as a shepherd, no matter how small the gift may be, be awakened to a fresh sense of his responsibility to care for God's sheep in a labor of love, and be encouraged in this noble work. If we do not have a pastoral gift, may we cultivate the heart of a pastor that cares for Christ's sheep.
Teachers-The gift of a teacher is also a very important one and closely associated with the pastoral gift we have been considering, for a pastor can hardly be of profit to an individual without being able, in some measure, to teach him. A person may teach without being a pastor in gift, but one would hardly be a pastor without teaching in a certain sense. The pastor has the people more before him, while the teacher occupies himself more with the truth. The teacher sets forth the truth of God and the pastor endeavors to see how the truth is being received individually.
A God-given teacher is one who enjoys and loves to help others enjoy the truth of God. He is gifted in understanding and grasping the truths of God's Word and in noticing distinctions .of truth and shades of meaning, and is able by the Spirit's power to unfold these truths and to impart them to others. Many enjoy the truth in their own souls, but cannot help others or convey to them what they themselves enjoy. Here is where the gift of teaching comes in. One possessing this gift is able to put the truth clearly and convincingly before believers, so as to deal with the affections and carry home the truth with energy to the soul. The truth is put in so convincing a way as to bring the conscience into the light and make it feel its responsibility to follow that light. Such is the effect produced by the God-gifted, Spirit-led teacher.
The teacher is especially a student of the Scriptures and knows how to apply its truths aright, "rightly dividing the word of truth." He unfolds its perfections, expounds its doctrines, and explains its difficulties. He ever loves to lead on the Children of God into the deep things of His Word and to develop the character of God in them. It is the teacher who meets the teachings of error and exposes false and evil doctrines, thus safeguarding and delivering souls. And as Christ is the theme and center of all Scripture and of all its truths, the divinely taught teacher will ever exalt Him and unfold the glories of His person and work. This will be the outstanding characteristic of his ministry.
What a valuable endowment to the Church is the gift of teachers! How necessary they are and how grateful we should be to the Lord for them, for it is He who has given every gifted teacher for the establishing of His saints, that they be not tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). As error and evil doctrines abound on every hand, we need to pray for the raising up and encouraging on of divinely gifted teachers who can set forth the truth of God in power and clearness, that souls may be set free from erroneous and evil teachings and Christians be built up in the faith. We need to pray, too, that His gifts to the Church may be unfettered from "religious machinery" and systems of men, so that they may freely exercise their God-given ministry under the sole direction of Christ their Head.
In our day of perverse, adulterated teachings there is much need for a "teaching-Gospel" to establish and deliver souls that have been awakened. This is a mixture of a teacher's and evangelist's work and is illustrated by the Epistle to the Romans, where the apostle teaches the principles of the Gospel to Christians. In Paul were found many gifts. He was an apostle, prophet, evangelist, "teacher of the Gentiles," and a true pastor. His words to Barnabas: "Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do" (Acts 15:36), evidence the true heart of a pastor and furnish a good motto for every shepherd of the sheep of Christ.
Other Gifts-We have now considered in detail the five prominent gifts to the Church-apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, as mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. These are the greater gifts, and the last three, especially, we may expect to continue till the Church is gathered home in glory (Eph. 4:13). These verses in Ephesians do not give us a complete list of all the gifts which Christ gives to His Church, but they are the most important ones. After mentioning these, the apostle goes on to speak of the whole Body of Christ and "that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part" (verse 16). All the members of the body have something to give for the edification of the Body of Christ. Each has his or her place and service: one may exhort publicly while another may have a little word of wisdom though never appearing in public at all. If we are to profit from the ministry of every joint and every part of the body, there must be room and opportunity given for such ministrations in the Church. A stated "one-man ministry" hinders such functioning and is never contemplated in Scripture.
Various gifts are mentioned in Romans 12:4-8 and I Corinthians 12. Some of these are somewhat the same gifts as mentioned in Ephesians 4, though different forms, modifications, or parts of these. The gifts of prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, and rule spoken of in Romans 12 would all, doubtless, be included under the teaching and pastoral gifts of Ephesians. The "word of wisdom" and "word of knowledge," mentioned in I Corinthians 12 as given by the Spirit to some, would come under the gifts of pastor and teacher, respectively.
These gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12, such as gifts of healing, working of miracles, and divers kinds of tongues and interpretations, were those which accompanied the coming to earth of the Holy Spirit and the inaugurating of the Gospel and the Church. There is no promise that they shall continue till Christ's coming, as is true of the gifts in Ephesians 4. In fact, I Corinthians 13:8 says tongues shall cease, and the language there is such as to differentiate between tongues, prophecies, and knowledge, and to indicate that only the latter two of the three will Continue until "that which is perfect is come"-Christ's coming (see verses 8-10).
In the latter part of the New Testament we read little about miracles, less and less as time passes on. Miracles in the Old Testament never continued, but were exceptional events at the beginning of a new work of God. So doubtless these miraculous powers were temporary gifts to the early Church. With the Church in disorder, division, and rebellion today, the Spirit is grieved and cannot act in full manifestation of mighty signs and thus put His outward seal on such a mass of confusion. We are aware that various ones claim to possess these gifts today, but the true marks of the Spirit's work are missing and we cannot accept their claims as genuine.
The Individual Servant and Ministry
We have thus far been occupied with the various gifts that are given to the Church by its ascended Head. Now we shall consider the individual servant and ministry, but before taking up this subject we would remind our readers that we are considering the matter of ministry in "the Church of the Living God," as revealed in the Scriptures. Our purpose is not to consider how ministry is carried on in the various denominational or independent churches, nor are we going to be guided by what learned doctors of theology and divinity are teaching or by what is the accepted and usual procedure as to ministry today.
"What Saith the Scriptures?" - To the obedient child of God who is exercised about doing the will of his Lord and Savior, there is but one inquiry and consideration, and that is: "what saith the scriptures?" (Rom. 4:3). What are the directions of the Lord about it? To the sincere, conscientious soul, obedience to the Word of God is the most important thing; what the Lord has spoken and revealed as His will for His people and His Church is that which is to be done.
To one governed by the Word of God, it matters little what man says, thinks, or does. With Isaiah of old he would say: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).
Now we truly believe that the Lord has given us explicit instructions and teachings in His Word as to the order and conduct of His Church and of His servants in ministry as well as in everything else, and that He has not left anything to our own choosing and devising. The path and order for the Church and His servants is as clearly marked out in the Scriptures as is the way of salvation and every other truth. We have but to search it out and to learn the Lord's mind about it all.
In the book of Acts we have the divine account of the apostolic Church, the church Christ built, and in the Epistles, those of Paul especially, we have the inspired instructions and teachings as to its order and functioning in this world. The book of Corinthians in particular gives us church order. In these apostolic writings the divine pattern for the Church is laid down for all time. Our business is to study that pattern and follow it; we are not to do what is expedient or what we think is best for our day. In the building of the tabernacle, God's dwelling place in Israel, Moses was thrice exhorted to make everything "after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount" (Ex. 25:9, 40; 26:30). This same exhortation applies to us today with regard to the Church, which is the house of God in this dispensation of grace. May it be the sincere desire of writer and reader to ever follow this pattern of the Church shown us in God's Word.
We have previously pointed out that the public, spiritual ministry of preaching and teaching is to be carried on only by those who are gifted and called of Christ for this service, whether for part time or for their entire time, it matters not. Therefore, human appointments and personal choosing have no place in the sacred work of ministry. It is thus paramount that the servant of Christ ever remember who it is that has called him and gifted him for ministry. He needs ever to keep before him the fact that Christ is his living Head in heaven and that he is to serve under Him and be directed by Him alone.
The Lord said: "one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:8). It is of the outmost importance, then, that the servant of God keep himself free to serve his one Master and Head and not be entangled in a yoke of bondage to religious authorities and systems wherein he often cannot do what his Lord and Savior directs him to do. The apostle Paul gives us a good example as to this. He owned no one as master or authority over him but Christ. He said he did not receive his ministry from man, but from the Lord (Gal. 1:10-20) . When the Lord commissioned His apostles to go out into all the world with the Gospel, He said: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18), and He has never relinquished this power and authority nor delegated it to anyone else on earth, be he Pope, Bishop, or any other person with a pretentious title. Christ works by the Holy Spirit here on earth and He is His only rightful Vicar and Vicegerent. This is clearly seen in the New Testament Scriptures, wherein is not found any foundation for religious systems where there is set up a headship having authority over Christ's ministers and to whom these ministers find themselves in a 'subservient position as are known in the church-world of today. Such authority of man is a usurpation of the authority of Christ and robs Him of His place as Head of His Church.
We are all to be subject one to another and the younger unto the elder, as Peter exhorts (I Peter 5: 5), and we are to work in fellowship with one another. There must also be discipline in the Church for the curbing of fleshly activity, but Christ alone has authority over His servants to direct them in their God-given activities. He it is who calls them to His service, endows them with gifts, and qualifies and trains them for His work. He only can direct them as to when and where they are to serve and what messages they are to give. No one has the right to come between the Lord of the Harvest and His servants or to exercise authority over them. Even the apostle Paul, who had apostolic authority such as no one has in the Church today and so could send Timothy and Titus, who were called of God to work with him, here and there for certain work, did not seek to rule over Apollos and demand that he go to Corinth. He wished him to go there and help them, but as the will of Apollos was not at all to go at that time, he left him free to do as His Master directed (I Cor. 16:12).
The servant of Christ, who realizes that the Lord is his sole Master and Head, will then ever seek to "please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" and a servant of the crucified Savior (II Tim. 2:4), and to do his Lord's will. If one is called to be the Lord's servant, how then can he hire out to be the servant of a denomination or a congregation and do what man tells him to do? When a man is hired, he becomes a servant to those who hire him and must please them. Does it not become him to keep himself free as the servant of Christ alone to serve Him wherever and however his Master directs day by day? Surely so. Again the apostle Paul is our noble example. To the Galatians he wrote: "do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). The apostles referred to themselves as "servants of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:1; II Peter 1:1; Jude 1). Being bought with the price of His precious blood, we are exhorted, "be not ye the servants of men" (I Cor. 7:23). We are to minister to man in loving service, but Christ is our Master.
The Divine Call
The call to the ministry of the Gospel, or to the care of God's sheep, comes from the Lord Himself as truly today as when He called the apostles or raised up others to minister His Word in the early Church (See Eph. 4:11; Rom. 12:6-8; I Pet. 4:10). Even the true prophets of the Lord in the Old Testament were called of Him to their work. Of other prophets, who prophesied lies in His name, He said, "I sent them not, neither have I commanded them" (Jer. 14:14)-words which are certainly true of many false teachers and preachers today.
But every true servant of Christ will be fully conscious in his own soul of the divine call to service. The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those whom the Lord would use as His ministers. His call is realized in their soul, and the heart is exercised and made willing to respond to the heavenly summons. Many examples of this divine calling are given in the Old and New Testaments, which the interested reader may profitably consider. (See Isa. 6; Jer. 1; Mark 1:16-20; 3:13, 14; Acts 9 and 22 as a few examples.)
Without such exercises- of heart, produced by the Holy Spirit, the realization of the divine calling, and some measure of gift for it, no Christian should venture forth into the public ministry of Christ. For it is not given to us to choose our place or service in the Body of Christ; this prerogative belongs to the Lord alone. Our place is to learn His will for each of us individually and to fill the place assigned us. If one goes forth to preach or teach and is not Called of God to this holy work, he will not be sustained of God in it and will break down sooner or later, or fail in accomplishing the Lord's work. Those whom the Lord calls He fits and qualifies for service, and without this divine fitting the ministry cannot be Performed aright.
The nature and extent of the call to public ministry greatly varies. The Lord of the Harvest will make it plain to every exercised servant whom He calls, just where, how, and to what extent he should serve. One may be called to labor locally, another to travel about in the homeland, and another to go to distant heathen lands. One may be called, after due preparation and training in God's school, to give all his time to the work of the Lord, while another may be called to continue in his daily vocation while preaching and teaching in his spare time.
It is a mistaken idea that one cannot carry on an earthly vocation for his livelihood and still be a minister of Christ, or that it is only those who devote all their time to the service of the Lord who are His ministers. There is no such thing in Scripture as the division of Christians into the two classes of "the official clergy" and the "laity," as is commonly known today, or the thought that the ministry is a kind of honorable profession to be taken up for a living, as are other professions. It is rather a holy calling and a heavenly service to be performed as a labor of love to Christ in dependence upon Him for sustainment therein. While it is true that "The laborer is worthy of his reward" (I Tim. 5:18), and that "'they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (I Cor. 9:14), yet we also have the example of Paul, the great apostle, who labored night and day making tents and preaching the Gospel without charge (Acts 18:3, 4: I Thess. 2: 9).
In this connection we would quote the weighty words of C. H. Mackintosh: "We are Convinced that, as a rule, it is better for every man to work with his hands or his brains at some bread-winning calling, and preach and teach as well, if gifted to do so. There are exceptions, no doubt, to the rule. There are some who are so manifestly called, fitted, used, and sustained of God, that there can be no possible mistake as to their course. Their hands are so full of work, their every moment so engrossed with ministry in speaking or writing, teaching publicly and from house to house, that it would be a simple impossibility for them to take up what is termed a secular calling-though we like not the phrase. All such have to go on with God, looking to Him, and He will infallibly maintain them unto the end."
Preparation and Training
Having considered the servant's one Master and his divine call, we may now speak of the matter of his preparation and training for the ministry of Christ. Here, again, the Scriptures must be our guide and not opinions of men or the present day customs and practices of the church world.
Follow Him-When Jesus desired to call twelve apostles as His servants for the carrying on of His great work, He went down to the sea of Galilee, called Simon, Andrew, James, and John from their work of fishing and said unto them: "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men" (Mark 1:17) . He chose simple, unlearned fishermen with just what they possessed and called them to follow Him, promising that He would make them to become instruments that Ile could use in the wonderful work of saving the souls of men. Their preparation and training for this work was to be gained by following Him each day, by being in His company and learning of Him. He would teach them all that was necessary and would make them real soul winners for Himself.
Mark 3:14 also tells us that "he ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that he might send them forth to preach," etc. Companionship with Jesus Christ is that which alone Can fit and train every gifted and called servant of Christ for His service. In the solitude of one's chamber He is found by prayer and meditation over His Word, and there He teaches many things. From this secret place one can go forth in the energy of the indwelling Spirit of God to be a witness for Christ to men. He is the great Teacher and none can teach like He can. He knows what lessons each servant must learn and how to prepare and fit each one for their particular service in the Body of Christ.
School of Practical Experience
Gifts are given by the Lord to those whom He calls, but they are not fully perfected. The gift needs to be perfected and developed by a long and steady growth in the school of God. When the Lord calls one for His work, He puts that one in His school and does the training Himself in various ways and circumstances and by various instruments under His supervision. God would have us learn one from another in His school also. We are to profit from the experiences of others. This is the school of practical experience from which the servant never graduates, but goes on serving and learning day by day in communion with his Master, the most patient, gracious, and thorough Teacher of teachers. In this school one serves and works for the Lord as he learns, and learns as he serves. Practice is combined with theory and truth is learned in the heart as well as in the head, as it ever must be.
This practical school of God is the only training school for Christ's servants with divine sanction, which is found in the Bible, and it is still the only school that can properly train and fit His servants today. No school or college of human device can improve upon God's way for His ministers. There is no education like that which comes by learning at the Master's feet and in daily contact with men.
God chooses men for the ministry from all classes of society and from all walks of life to reach all classes of people. He takes them with just what they possess of learning and experience and by His Spirit and His Word, He does the rest. This is seen in both the Old and New Testaments. Moses, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, is called from the palace to the backside of the desert where he is taught in God's school for forty years while he shepherds sheep. Then he is sent out in God's service. Gideon was called from his threshing of wheat to the work of God. David is taken from the sheepfolds, Elisha from behind the plow, Ezra from the scrolls of the law of Moses, and Saul of Tarsus from his great learning and high place in Judaism to the feet of Jesus, from whence, after some time of solitude in Arabia, he was sent out for the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we allow God to call and train His servants, we will have a divinely-constituted ministry, taken from all ranks of society, from the highest to the lowest and fitted to reach all sorts and conditions of men without the aid of a religious college. We shall have the greatest intellects expounding the Word as they learned it on their knees and simple ones spelling out the message in the same manner.
In most of the present day theological colleges and seminaries a maximum of human learning is imparted with a minimum of Bible teaching. And it is in these very places that Modernism, with its Satanic attacks against the holy Scriptures and the very foundations of the true Christian faith, has rooted itself and is being taught to those who are to become the future ministers. The result is that their faith in the Bible is undermined and they, in turn, go out with teaching that will lead souls to perdition. Such is one result of introducing a plan contrary to the Lord's method of teaching His servants.
Jeremiah 1:5 and Galatians 1:15, 16 show that God marks out and calls His servants even before they are born. In the light of this He fashions the vessel for His purposes and orders all the circumstances of his after life. Everything which he passes through is calculated of God to prepare and train him for his divine calling in life, even though he may as yet be unconverted and unaware of his heavenly calling. The apostle Paul is an example of a man possessing a most remarkable natural character, as well as extraordinary training and acquirements before conversion, all of which were providentially ordered of God to fit him for his special place of ministry in the Church of God.
Study the Word
The instructions of Paul to the young servant, Timothy, show what is most important in equipping the minister of Jesus Christ. "Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . . Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them" (I Tim. 4:13-16). "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things ... Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth ... From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 2:7, 15; 3:15-17) .
That which will fit each gifted servant for the Lord's work is a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures as taught by the Holy Spirit's ministry, coupled with a holy walk in the truth and experience in service. The servant needs to study and to meditate upon the Bible and not upon man's books of theology and the like. Notice, it is heeding the Word of God which makes the man of God perfect and thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Another important point to notice in connection with our subject is found in II Timothy 2:19-21: iniquity must be departed from. "If a man therefore purge himself from these (vessels to dishonor), he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." Here is one essential in true preparation for the Master's use: obedience to the truth of God and separation from all that is contrary to His Word. One cannot expect to be taught of God or used of Him in service while remaining in fellowship with that which he knows to be evil. Ponder this well. dear Christian reader.
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 presents to us another vital principle in connection with service. "Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath" (v. 29). The Lord shows in this parable that the one who faithfully used his talents was given more, while the one who made no use of his talent had it taken away. As we use the ability and knowledge in divine things which the Lord has given; He gives more to use for Him. Thus the servant grows in the school of God and increases unto more usefulness.
The foregoing we are persuaded is God's way of preparation and training for His servants, as many have proven.
The common thought and current teaching in the church world is that one who would be a minister of Jesus Christ must first be educated in a religious school or college and then be ordained (which means appointed and invested with ministerial functions) by a human body of religious authorities. He is then an ordained minister, fully competent and duly authorized to carry on the work of sacred ministry in the Church. Without this formal ordination by man, one is not, according to general theological thinking, a full-fledged, authorized minister and cannot perform all the services of a duly recognized minister such as administering baptism and the Lord's supper.
Such is man's present day teaching, but "what saith the scripture?" is again our inquiry. What does God's Word teach on the subject? This should be our chief concern. It matters not what man says or thinks, be he ever so learned or authoritative.
In the Scriptures we find that there is an ordination by God spoken of which is most important. In discussing the subject of the preparation and training of God's servants, we have referred to Jeremiah 1:5 and Galatians 1:15, 16 to show that God marks out and calls His servants before they are born and prepares them from birth on. We would now quote these passages in connection with the subject of ordination.
Jeremiah says: "The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou tamest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." And Paul says in Galatians: "The gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ ... But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood."
In I Timothy 1:12 Paul thanks God for putting him into the ministry and in II Timothy 1:8-11 he speaks of the salvation and calling in Christ and of "the gospel: Whereunto I am appointed a preacher and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles." So also in regard to the twelve apostles Mark 3:14 tells us they were ordained, empowered, and sent forth by the Lord Himself.
Now these verses distinctly speak of ordination and appointment to the ministry by God Himself. Paul definitely tells us that the Gospel he preached and the ministry which was given him to teach was not after man or received from man, not even of the apostles who were before him. If, then, Paul was called and appointed of God and his ministry was not learned from the apostles who preceded him, how could they or anyone else ordain him? And why would he, or anyone else, need man's ordination and authorization when God, the highest authority, had called, appointed, gifted, and taught him?
No Human Ordination-There was no human ordination or authorization in connection with Paul or any other prophet or preacher in Scripture either in the Old Testament or in the New Testament. Yea, Paul even says that when God called him, he conferred not with any human persons, neither went he up to Jerusalem to receive, as it were, the consent and authorization of the apostles there.
Now the same principle which we see activating Paul ind others in the book of Acts holds true today. God's ordination is supreme and sufficient. For if Christ has given one a gift to use for Him, and has called and ordained that one to His service, he is surely unfaithful if he goes to any body of men to ask their leave to use it, or fails to use it because man does not approve. The gift carries with it the responsibility to use it and the call of God entails obedience to Him. Of course, claims as to gift and calling always need to be proven. Those who are spiritually minded will readily discern whether one has a gift and is called of God or not and will encourage or discourage the Claimant accordingly.
For the Church or any man to ordain or appoint a teacher, pastor, or evangelist who is gifted of the Lord and empowered by the Holy Ghost to preach and teach Christ, would be to set aside as insufficient the appointment and act of Christ. Surely it becomes the Church to recognize and accept Christ's gifts; this is obedience to Him and not to do so is disobedience to Christ. The Church cannot give spiritual gifts, therefore it has no right to choose its ministers or ordain them. It does give material things and is entitled to choose its deacons and appoint those who are to take care of its funds and other business, but this is quite different from appointing ministers of the Word.
The Scriptures do speak of elders or bishops being ordained by the apostles Paul and Barnabas or by those who had a special commission from the apostle for this purpose, but never do we read of anyone being ordained of man to preach the Gospel or to teach or be a pastor over a church. There is no such thought in Scripture; it is entirely of human invention. Elders and bishops (the same thing-see Titus 1:5-7) were appointed men holding office or local charges in the Church and are never to be confused with gifts for ministry. Office and gift are quite different things. Elders and deacons and their offices will be before us later; our subject now is that of spiritual ministry and ministers.
To put the matter very definitely, we would here assert that there is not one single passage in the whole Bible which shows that a gifted person, such as an evangelist, pastor, or teacher must be ordained of man before he can perform spiritual ministry and be an authorized minister in the Church of God. We will now look at a few instances in the inspired historical book of the early Church, the book of Acts, which prove our statement.
Let us consider the case of Stephen in Acts 6 and 7. Who ordained him to preach and minister the Word of God? He was one of those chosen by the multitude of disciples to serve in the business matter of caring for the widows in the Church and was appointed or ordained by the apostles for this work-the work of a deacon. Later we find him speaking the Word of God and preaching to the Jewish council, yet there is not a word mentioned about his being ordained of man for this ministry, neither do we read anything of the Church seeking to hinder him in preaching because he was only ordained to the work of a deacon. What man-ordained preacher ever preached so powerfully or witnessed so faithfully and in so Christ-like a manner as this unordained Stephen?
Consider also Acts 8:4. After the persecution which arose after the martyrdom of Stephen, "they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word." Who ordained them or who hindered their preaching? The same chapter records the successful preaching and evangelization work of Philip, who, like Stephen, had only been appointed to the work of a deacon. There is not even a hint given of his being ordained of man to preach, not even by Peter and John who came down from Jerusalem to Samaria to help in the work. Acts 11:19-23 gives further details as to the work of those scattered abroad after the death of Stephen, but Barnabas, who was sent to them from the Church at Jerusalem, did not ordain them or even attempt to do so. Such a thing was never thought of.
Let us look now at Acts 13:1-4. This has long been he stock passage which theological leaders have been ready to cite as authorization for ordination of ministers. he passage tells us that certain prophets and teachers ere in the Church at Antioch; five are named, and "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost id, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia.
Does this Scripture mean that Barnabas and Saul were now ordained to the ministry? Both had been for years actively engaged in the work of the Lord and had previously spent over a year at Antioch teaching the people and establishing the believers there. How absurd to think that now this infant Church should have the power to ordain them or to make them apostles! Certainly ordination is not implied here at all.
Recommendation and Fellowship
What, then, is expressed in the fasting, praying, and laying on of hands upon Barnabas and Saul? Laying on of hands was practiced way back in Genesis in the case of a father or grandfather laying his hands on the children. It was a sign of recommendation to God by one who was conscious of being so near to God that he could count upon His blessing. So in the New Testament this act was frequently practiced with no pretense of conferring any ministerial character. Here in Acts 13 it expressed a solemn and precious act of fellowship with these honored servants of Christ in the special missionary work to which the Holy Spirit had called them. So Acts 14:26 clearly expresses the real import of the act when it says they later "sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled."
Recommendation and fellowship with the servants of God, then, is the real thought expressed in Acts 13:1-4. This Scriptural precedent and principle still remains for us today and should be practiced. Every called and gifted servant of Christ should have the recommendation, fellowship, and prayers of his home Church or Assembly of believers in going forth into the work of the Lord to which the Holy Spirit has called him. Everything should be in order so that his brethren can commend him to the work of the Lord and to the fellowship of Christians and the Church elsewhere. This is Scriptural and godly order with regard to the servant of Christ and his ministry, while ordination is unscriptural. Thus the extreme of independency and disorder in the Church is avoided on the one hand, and that of the clerical system, which rests upon ordination for its authority, on the other hand.
Special Case of Timothy
Before closing our subject we must touch upon the peculiar case of Timothy where, by the laying on of apostolic hands, a very special effect was produced. We here quote the words of Wm. Kelly: "Timothy was designated by prophecies beforehand for the work to which the Lord called him. Guided by prophecy (I Tim. 4:14; II Tim. 1:6), the apostle lays his hands upon Timothy and conveys to him a direct power by the Holy Ghost, suited to this special service he had to accomplish. Along with the apostle the elders who were in the place joined in the laying on of their hands. But there is a difference in the expression the Spirit of God employs, which shows that the communication of the gift depended for effective energy not in any way on the elders but only the apostle. The particle of association (meta) appears where the presbytery are spoken of, that of instrumental means (dia) where the apostle speaks of himself. It was an apostle that communicated such a gift. Never do we hear of elders thus conferring a gift: it was not an episcopal function but an apostolic prerogative, either to communicate spiritual powers or to clothe men authoritatively with a charge . . . but who can do this now?"
The interested reader may also consider the cases of Judas and Silas in Acts 15:22-34 and that of Apollos in Acts 18:24-28. These also ministered acceptably without ordination by man. Underlying the whole system of ordination by man is the teaching of succession-the power to hand down front one to another the authority supposedly originally received from God-bishops succeeding apostles, etc. But we have seen that there was no such thing as apostles ordaining for spiritual ministry, so how can there be a Scriptural succession of what did not exist? It is all a figment of man's inventive mind. As to apostolic successions there is no such thing in Scripture.
In closing this subject let us consider I Peter 4:10, 11, which contains salutary words of guidance for the servant of Christ, giving the remarkable simplicity of God's order for the exercise of ministry: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever."
Closely associated with ordination by man, is the giving of the flattering titles, "Reverend," "Father," etc., to the ordained one. Since this practice is so universal in Christendom, it likewise needs to be examined by Scripture.
It is striking that the word "reverend" is found only once in the Bible, and that in reference to God. It appears in Psalm 111:9: "He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name." This verse clearly tells us that God's name is reverend and we never find any other name in Scripture called thus. How then can any mortal man, be he ever so godly and worthy of esteem, be given or take a title which is only given to God in His Word? Reverend is an attribute which only belongs to God. The word is never used in connection with any servant of God in the Old or New Testaments. Therefore this title should never be used by any servant of God today or be given by anyone to any minister.
The Word of God surely teaches that Christ's servants and ministers should be esteemed and honored. I Thessalonians 5:12, 13 says: "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." And I Timothy 5:17 exhorts that even "the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine." But nowhere is there even a hint given that they who labor thus should be called "Reverend," etc. Our esteem and honor is not to be shown by giving them a title that only belongs to God. This is irreverence to Him and certainly displeasing to Him to whom all honor and glory belong.
The words of C. H. Spurgeon are worthy of note in this connection: "There are a great many reverend, very reverend, and right reverend sinners in the world. For myself I desire to be known henceforth simply as a servant of God, and I want my walk and conversation to prove that I am His servant indeed. If I, the servant of God, am to be esteemed in any measure by my fellow Christians, it shall not be because in front of my name, an attribute stolen from God has been placed by an ordaining council, neither shall it be because my collar is buttoned at the back, or my coat is clerical in cut, but only for my work's sake."
God spoke of Moses in these words-"My servant Moses ... is faithful in all mine house" (Num. 12:7). What a great honor this is: to be called by God, "My servant"! So the apostles in prayer to God spoke of themselves as "thy servants" (Acts 4:29). And in Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus call themselves "the servants of Jesus Christ." Surely this is honor enough. The Lord said to His disciples: "be not ye called Rabbi (Master or Teacher) : for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matt. 23: 8-11). Certainly these words are plain enough against all present day ministerial titles.
Even back in the days of Job, Elihu said: "Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away" (Job 32:21, 22). It is surely out of place for followers of the rejected and crucified Savior to bear flattering titles. We are rather to expect to receive abusive titles from the world as did our Lord. "Doctor of Divinity" was never given as a title by the Holy Spirit to any man, and the word "pastor" (with a small "p"), describes the nature of one of the gifts from the Lord and is not used as a title in Scripture. But we do read of "Philip the evangelist" (Acts 21:8).
How are the material needs of the servant of the Lord to be supplied in the Master's service? This is a very practical question and one that exercises every true servant at one time or another. We may be sure that the Word of God also gives us important principles and precepts regarding this necessary phase in the work of ministry.
First of all, let us call to mind what we have repeatedly stressed concerning ministry in the Church, that Christ is our living head, that the gift for ministry is from Him, that He has called the servant to His service and He alone is his Master unto whom service is to be performed. The Lord Himself engages His own servants and sends them forth into His vineyard and they are the "servants of Jesus Christ," as we have just seen.
Look to the Master-When these facts are definitely realized in the soul, the servant will be lifted up in the dignity of faith by the empowering thought and consciousness of being the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the matter of material sustainment in God's work will become simple and definitely clear. He will then do as all servants do; they look to the master whom they serve for their pay; the master may use whomsoever he will as his paymaster. So if one is truly a servant of Christ he will look to Christ for all his needs. His business is to serve the Lord. The Lord's business is to care for His servant. Yea, He has definitely promised to do so and He will use whomsoever He will as His paymasters in caring for His servants and rewarding them for their labors in His vineyard.
The servant's path, then, is one of dependence upon his Lord and Master and faith in Him for material sustainment. He is not to depend upon even the Lord's people, much less the unsaved of the world. Though the Lord would use His people as His instruments in supplying His servant's needs, the servant must ever look to the Lord alone. "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him" (Psa. 62: 5), is ever the attitude of true faith. He has said: "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine" (Haggai 2:8), and "every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills . . . the world is mine, and the fulness thereof" (Psa. 50:10, 12), so it is a little matter for God to meet the needs of His servants, as many have happily proven for years.
The Lord told His disciples: "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on ... neither be ye of doubtful mind ... your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Luke 12:22-30). If one spends his time and strength in faithful service to the Lord, He Nvill prove to that one that every promise of His mouth is true and reliable. This has been the blessed experience of every servant who has gone forth in simple faith in the Lord for all.
When Peter said: "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" Jesus answered, "every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matt. 19:2729). The Lord will be no man's debtor; He is a faithful and gracious Master who rewards even for giving a cup of cold water in His name. None ever serve Him without compensation.
Labor in Love and Faith
But the service rendered must ever be a "labor of love" (I Thess. 1:3), "not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" (I Peter 5:2). Paul could say, "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me" (Acts 20:33, 34). He also said, "I seek not yours, but you," and "we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying" (II Cor. 12:14, 19). The true servant of Christ works not for money or to make a living; he labors out of love to the Lord and precious souls, seeking their blessing and not their possessions, trusting the Lord for the needs of himself and his family, thankfully accepting whatever is given to him as from the Lord whom he serves. One whose heart is thus full of love and faith will not need to hire out to man or sign up for a stipulated salary, giving certain services in return. The love of Christ will constrain him to be ever abounding in the work of the Lord with his eye upon his Savior and Lord who has promised to supply every need.
It is important, also, to notice what Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding his service. "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward . . . What is my reward then? Verily that. when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge" (I Cor. 9:16-18). This should be the aim of every Gospel preacher-to present the free gift of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus free of charge. If the collection plate is passed around after the service and the people are urged to give, unsaved as well as saved, the Gospel is not made free of charge. In John's day, the brethren went forth for Christ's name's sake "taking nothing of those of the nations" (III John 7, New Trans.). The unsaved are not expected to give to the Lord's work; the saved are to do it cheerfully out of a free will.
Responsibility of Christians
Thus far we have been occupied with the servant's path of faith and trust in the Lord for material sustainment. There is, however, another side to the matter, namely, the responsibility and privilege of the Lord's people to give of their means for the work of the Lord and the care of His servants, and to minister to those who minister unto them. The servant looks to the Lord for his needs, and the Lord looks to His people to meet those needs in a natural, practical way. A few Scriptures will bring this side of responsibility before us.
Many times in the Old Testament Israel was exhorted to bring their tithes and free-will-offerings unto the Lord and to remember the Levite who served the Lord entirely (see Deut. 12). And in I Corinthians 9:7-14 Paul speaks of what the servant of the Lord has a right to have of material things. "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? ... Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." So also Galatians 6:6 exhorts: "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." In Luke 10:7 the Lord said to His disciples: "in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire," or "of his reward," as I Timothy 5:18 puts it. His servants are entitled to what is given them. In I Corinthians 16:2 we are told: "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." Thus the Lord's people are exhorted to periodical, personal, and proportionate giving unto His interests.
Power for Ministry
Ere closing this subject of "The Individual Servant and Ministry," we must speak a little of the power for this heavenly ministry. We have stressed the need of having a gift from the Lord for ministry, but the mere possession of a gift is not enough. There must be power for its fruitful exercise. That power is found in the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer. Power is not eloquence or oratory that holds people under its spell. It is the power of God at work in a human vessel and acting upon hearts. Upon this divine power the apostle Paul depended. "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (I Cor. 2:4).
For successful ministry, then, there must be definite dependence upon the Holy Spirit to guide one and to give forth the word in living power. For this the Spirit must be ungrieved in the vessel, and the servant in much exercise of prayer and self-judgment. All learning and ability must be laid at the Lord's feet, and one must wait upon Him as an empty vessel to be filled and used by the Spirit. Then there will surely be power in ministering the unsearchable riches of Christ. And such a Christ given and Spirit-used ministry is assuredly all that the Church of God ever needs.
In this connection we would like to bring before the reader the following lines by C. H. Mackintosh on the secret of ministry: -
"The true secret of all ministry is spiritual power. It is not man's genius, or man's intellect, or man's energy; but simply the power of the Spirit of God. This was true in the days of Moses (Numbers 11:14-17), and it is true now. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). It is well for all ministers to bear this ever in mind. It will sustain the heart and give constant freshness to their ministry.
"A ministry which flows from abiding dependence upon the Holy Ghost can never become barren. If a man is drawing upon his own resources, he will soon run dry. It matters not what his powers may be, or how extensive his reading, or how vast his stores of information; if the Holy Ghost be not the spring and power of his ministry, it must sooner or later, lose its freshness and its effectiveness.
"How important, therefore, that all who minister, nether in the Gospel or in the Church of God, should can continually and exclusively on the power of the Holy Ghost! He knows what souls need, and He Can supply it. But He must be trusted and used. It will of do to lean partly on self and partly on the Spirit of God If there be aught of self-confidence, it will soon be made apparent. We must really get at the bottom of all that belongs to self if we are to be the vessels of the Holy Ghost.
"It is not-need we say it?-that there should not be holy diligence and earnestness in the study of God's Word, and in the study, too, of the exercises, the trials, the conflicts, and the varied difficulties of souls. Quite the reverse. We feel persuaded that the more absolutely we lean, in self-emptiness, upon the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, the more diligently and earnestly we shall study both the Book and the soul. It would be a fatal mistake for a man to use professed dependence upon the Spirit as a plea for neglecting prayerful study and meditation. "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all" (I Timothy 4:15).
"But after all, let it ever be remembered that the Holy Ghost is the ever living, never-failing spring of ministry. It is He alone that can bring forth, in divine freshness and fulness, the treasures of God's Word, and apply them, in heavenly power, to the soul's present need. It is not a question of banging forth new truth, but simply of unfolding the Word itself, and bringing it to bear upon the moral and spiritual condition of the people of God. This is true ministry."
May the Lord help all His dear servants to ever give forth their ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.
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