One of the seven chosen men was a man called Stephen. It is
written that he did great wonders and miracles(Acts 6:8). He is
not called an Elder, he was one chosen to serve "tables" and the
brethren in physical matters. Yet he did WONDERS and spoke
Stephen was given some of the gifts of God's Spirit that
Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 12.
In that passage of scripture Paul shows us that God can give
through His Spirit, ANY of the different gifts listed to ANY
member of the body of Christ, whether in the classified "ordained
ministry" or not. Paul in discussing Spiritual gifts is talking
to the whole congregation at Corinth not just the Elders (see
chapters 12:27 and 1:1-10).
We must always be careful not to "hand-cuff" the Lord in
what we think He should or can do through any human being.
At one point in Jesus' ministry the disciples found a man
doing miracles in His name, and because he did not belong to
their Group they asked Christ to give them permission to tell him
to stop! Jesus said: "Do not forbid him to stop, for no one who
does a mighty work in my name, will be able soon after to speak
evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us" (Mark
How does this square you may ask with Jesus saying that
there would be one shepherd and one fold?
Quite simply this: All that are the children of God, with
the Spirit of God, belong to the ONE spiritual body of Christ.
The one true Church of God, the people of the Lord in whom is the
Spirit of Christ are scattered all over the world, they are
connected together through one spiritual organism called in
scripture "the body of Christ" and this has NOTHING TO DO WITH
MAN MADE CORPORATE ORGANIZATIONS REGISTERED in some physical
BUILDING on some physical piece of paper, in a physical CITY in
some COUNTRY on earth!!
Here in the gospel of Mark is the plain truth that God can
and does work with various persons in various parts of the
country or world, AS HE CHOOSES! And these persons may or may not
KNOW THE OTHERS EXIST!
How vain and arrogant of man to think or proclaim to others
that he and his work is the "only" work of God on the earth. I
can think of only one man who could have claimed correctly to
have been the only work of God on earth - that man was NOAH!
Elijah, from an honest heart, believed he and his disciples
were the only work of God on earth at the time, and in voicing
this to God he was answered with a resounding NO! The Lord told
him he was not the only work of God. The Lord had reserved 7,000
others who had not bowed the knee to Baal! Elijah DID NOT KNOW
THEY EXISTED! How foolish is the heart of man at times. How
deceivably pompous can the mind of man become, as to think God is
limited to one man and/or one organization at a time, for His
work to be done in the earth.
God is God! Man is not God, we did not make Him, it was He
who made us! He is the POTTER, we are now merely the clay. God
can at ANY TIME He chooses, raise up as many persons and as many
independent corporate organizations to do His work as He wishes.
It is not we humans who tell God WHEN, WHERE, HOW, and with WHOM,
He will work and do things. It is HE WHO TELLS US!
One large Church of God organization in this 20th century,
thought they were the only ones in the world doing the true work
of God. They eventually adopted the Roman Catholic doctrine of
Church Government and their head leader called himself the "only
apostle of God on earth." Back in the 60's before this
"head-master" became so vain with personal glory, the
organization did believe they were the only ones around with all
"these wonderful truths" of God. Then a few of their ministers
went to South America, into the hills and valleys. There to their
amazement they found peoples who believed and practiced all the
same basic doctrines they practiced and taught. These people even
observed the festivals of God and in some ways had more truth
than the USA organization, for they were observing the feast of
Pentecost on a Sunday which the organization in the USA thought
was error, but later came to see was the truth.
When will we ever learn that it is not God who needs us, it
is us who NEED GOD! Why if need be, the Lord could raise up the
stones on the road to preach His word. That being the case He
certainly is able to use different men and different corporate
organizations in different parts of the world to do His work, all
at the SAME TIME!
Peter was used by God to do a work towards the circumcision,
while Paul was used by the Lord to do a work towards the
UNcircumcision - so it is written, so it was done.
Well let me get back to the account in the book of Acts
about Stephen. Certain of the religious leaders and their
followers started to dispute with Stephen. Now he did not
say that he had no authority to discuss religious matters with
them. He did not run off to get permission from the chief apostle
or Church board in Jerusalem. He just disputed with them. And he
did it so effectively they could not withstand his wisdom. He was
brought before the council and defended himself so well answering
them with power and inspiration, it actually ended up costing him
his life (Acts 7:54-60). Stephen did ALL OF THIS and there's not
one word about him being ordained to some set "rank" of authority
in the Church. At best he was appointed to serve "tables."
This account alone(we shall see others later) should blow
away the idea that deacons and lay members are to just "pray and
pay" and leave the teaching and preaching and witnessing to the
truths of God to the ordained Eldership. If the Lord chooses to
use a deacon in a POWERFUL MIGHTY WAY for His truth and work, He
will do so. And who is any man to withstand God?
THE CHURCH IS SCATTERED
One famous preacher of the Church of God in this century
wrote a book before he died, and in it he had a section that he
was going to prove to his readers and followers that the lay
members were not to preach the gospel or go out expounding the
word of God to the world in general. He was trying to prove from
the scriptures that it was only the ordained ministers or elders
of the Church that were given that commission. He used for the
proof of his teaching verses from the beginning chapters of the
book of Acts, some before and some after chapter eight.
But like so many before him(and no doubt there will be
others after him) who wandered off into doctrinal error, he took
out the horse blinkers and wore them as he read the chapters he
would get his so called "proof texts" from. He read right over
and failed to show his readers a text that would have drilled
holes in his doctrine to sink it to the bottom of the sea.
That text friends is found in Acts 8. I want you to mark
this in your Bible and never forget it!
Let's begin with verse one: " And at that time(when Stephen
was put to death) there was a great persecution against the
Church which was at Jerusalem; and THEY(the 'ekkleesia' - called
out ones - the church) were ALL scattered abroad except the
The CHURCH is made up of all the collective members in whom
is the Spirit of God and Christ. The Church is not the ministry -
the ministry is PART of the Church. The only part of the Church
that was not scattered abroad were the 12 apostles.
Now notice it, verse four: "Therefore they that were
scattered abroad (all the members of the Church, all but the 12
apostles) went everywhere PREACHING THE WORD!"
I did not put it there friend. It has been in your Bible all
these centuries. It was there when this leader I talked about
above wrote his book in which he tried to prove the exact
opposite. There it is in plain black and white, easy to
understand, no College degree needed.
Under certain circumstances and as He wills, when He wills,
God can use the any members of His Church to PREACH THE WORD! So
it is written, so it was done. God will not be limited by the
wishes or false ideas of men.
Among the seven of the "diakonate" of Acts 6, was a man
named Philip. He also was given some mighty gifts of God's
Spirit. He was not of the twelve apostles. He was not an ordained
elder. But notice how the Lord used him: ".....then Philip went
down to the city of Samaria and PREACHED Christ unto them" (Acts
8:5). He also did miracles and healings!(v.6-7). God used Philip
to do a MIGHTY work in Samaria(v.8-12).
This deacon did not have to get the "okay" from some head
apostle before he went to do the work of the Lord. He did not
have to ask his local minister/pastor for permission to be used
by the Spirit of the Lord. The apostles in Jerusalem found out
AFTER the fact what work Philip had done in Samaria, and then
they as a collective decision, sent Peter and John to help
There is no indication or evidence in this section of
scripture that Philip was performing spiritual works that were
"out of rank" for his deaconship. That were only to be performed
by some man ordained to some rank of ministry.
This example alone should "blow to pieces" the idea that men
are ordained to a rank ministry and have certain duties or
workings they can not perform because those duties are only for
"higher" ranked ministers. Such false teachings are derived from
one Biblical error and one carnal human error.
The Biblical error is found in ONLY looking to the Old
Covenant and how God arranged things under that disposition,
while ignoring the fact that today we are under a New Covenant
and under that covenant certain changes have been made by God
Himself(i.e. physical circumcision is not required, a change in
the priesthood, no central city to worship God in, animal
sacrifices not necessary). The New Covenant clearly shows
by example and by direct teaching/commands, that the basic form
of Old Church/State Government is not to be the order for the New
Covenant Church of God during this present age.
The carnal human error is that of the heart of man venting
and taking pleasure in having dictatorial authority over other
men, which in turn leads organizations to establish a "rank and
file" system among its leaders. As Jesus said to His disciples,
that is how the unconverted nations rule among themselves, but it
was not to be so for His servants and followers.
The Lord is plainly showing here in Acts chapter 8, that if
He wants to take a deacon, or any man of the Church and use him
to perform miracles or healings or preach the word some-where, He
WILL DO SO! And He will do so without having to answer to any
other human man He ordained to the Eldership or not, and
certainly not answering to any man made rank system.
After the work Philip did in Samaria, God gave him another
assignment(v.26). He sent His angel to tell Philip to go to a
certain place and to meet a man of great authority under the
Queen of Ethiopia. Philip was used to expound the word of God
more clearly to this eunuch and baptize(a deacon baptizing? Yes!
And we shall see later that you did not even have to be a deacon
to baptize people. Now that should blow a hole in more false
doctrines of men) him into the very family of God(v.27-38).
I hope you are seeing the truths of God as never before. Too
many have been spoon fed, have had their thinking done for them,
have allowed men to manipulate the scriptures without "proving
all things and holding fast to that which is good." By reading
the Bible with an open and clear mind, by willing to be
corrected, the word of God and the Spirit of God will guild us
into all truth and as Jesus said: "The truth shall make you
Again, the lesson to learn, and God gives that lesson to us
over and over again in the book of Acts, is to NEVER LIMIT the
Lord, especially under the New Covenant. He will work whenever He
wishes and with whosoever He chooses for the preaching of His
gospel and the saving of souls.
Another fine lesson here is that Philip did not become all
puffed up and self sufficient. At this juncture in his converted
life he did not know everything. He did not realize he had to lay
hands upon those he had baptized for the receiving of the Holy
Spirit. Peter and John taught him that when they came(v.14-17).
Philip was humble and worked with other men of God. Do you see
the TEAMWORK going on here in the early NT Church of God?
In passing, and while I'm talking about the "laying on of
hands" after baptism for the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Some
may say that this example of Philip shows that it is only the
ordained Elders(Peter and John) that can perform this duty and
function. The very next example God gives us of Philip in the
same chapter shows this thought to be incorrect!
Philip ALONE, without Peter and John, is taken to meet the
Ethiopian eunuch. He only is used to teach him more clearly the
word of God. It is only Philip that the Lord uses to baptize this
man. No ministers(ordained/appointed) or apostles from Jerusalem
came along with Philip to lay hands on this eunuch after he was
From the experience in Samaria concerning the laying on of
hands, Philip would have known now that he should do likewise,
after baptizing someone.
Before leaving this chapter and its examples and lessons,
there is one more thing to meditate on. The eunuch went back to
Ethiopia as a converted Christian, filled with the Spirit of God.
He was in a position of great authority(in the world of the
Ethiopian nation). He would have been very excited about his new
found truth. Do you think he would have been totally silent about
it? Do you believe he would never have shared the truth of God
with anyone in his nation, and others of importance in the
government? I believe he would have been used by God to do a
mighty work in Ethiopia for the spreading, teaching, and
preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was very
very active in those days within the Church of God, the world was
being turned upside-down. Paul and others were later accused of
that very thing - turning the world upside-down with their
teaching and preaching.
God must never be hand-cuffed in what He can do, when He can
do it, and by whom He can do it!
PAUL IS CONVERTED TO CHRIST
On the way to Damascus to persecute the people of God,
Saul(later known as Paul) is struck down by a blinding light and
hears Jesus speaking to him. Blinded, Paul is brought to Damascus
where he is three days without food or drink (Acts 9:1-9). God
sent a man called Ananias, a disciple(the usual Greek word for
the word 'disciple') not an apostle or elder, to heal Paul and to
baptize him (v.10-18).
Here is a clear example of a disciple or a follower of
Christ, used by God to heal, to baptize, to lay hands upon a new
convert into the family of God and receive the Holy Spirit.
Saul or Paul was converted to Christ. He had a religious
background in Judaism, but now the clear truth of God's word was
revealed to him. The scriptures he had grown up on began to take
on new meaning. Paul did not now run off to some supposed "head
quarters" Church of God to come under their authority. He tells
us in the book of Galatians that Christ personally had him go to
Arabia and there He taught him. Then after returning to Damascus
for some unspecified time(from his conversion to returning to
Damascus was 3 years) he went to Jerusalem for a very short
period and visited only Peter and James the Lord's brother (Gal.1
This whole account shows a somewhat "no rush" no "big
concern" on Paul's part to get "in line" with those in the
Jerusalem congregation. It reminds me of the people I told you
about earlier in South America that the famous USA Church of God
found observing all the same basic doctrines as themselves. I
told you this happened in the late 60's. Well the USA
organization sent ministers back to them asking them to be a part
of their work and organization, and acknowledge their head leader
as God's end time "man of the moment." It was reported to the USA
Church of God headquarters that they were just
laughed at and told: "God we know, Christ we know, and Paul,
Peter, James, but who is....(the leaders name, which I will not
I well remember from the publication of this USA
organization's inner magazine to its members(I was a part of
them) the article about discovering the existence of these
people in South America. Then like hot coals of fire nothing was
ever said about them again. It was many years later, when I was
personally talking to one of the very ministers who was sent to
visit them, I found out why the USA organization forgot about
them and went on as if they never existed. The South American
people of God had not only never heard of the Lord's supposed
human "king pin" leader, but they were not about to believe
he was God's only "apostle" for the end time, either.
The South American Church of God were not only correct about
keeping the feast of Pentecost on a Sunday, but they have also
been proved correct that God does not work through one "minister"
or apostle(if you want to use that word) at a time. For that
minister of the USA organization was never alone in what he
taught and preached(other ministers of his day in the Church of
God believed and taught the same truths, but went their separate
way. I now have the facts to prove that is true), is history.
New light and evidence is coming all the time that proves
God has worked with different ministers, in different parts of
the world, often during the same time frame, who did not always
know the others existed, but were teaching, preaching, and
practicing, the same basic doctrines, which often included the
observance of all the festivals of God as recorded in Leviticus
A great deal of historical Church of God Sabbath-keepers and
related history has been done and is continuing to be done by
Richard Nickels. His books and articles can be obtained by
writing to: Giving and Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849.
Paul, it is true, was a unique individual, with a unique
calling to conversion and into the ministry of Christ Jesus. His
calling was directly with signs and wonders, and personal
visitations from Jesus. No man was needed to ordain/appoint Paul
as a minister of the Lord. No ceremony of ordination in front of
others wherein men already in the ministry would lay hands on him
and so induct him as an Elder of the Church.
So, yes, God can do it that way IF He so chooses. After all
He is God. He is the potter and we are the clay. But that is not
the way the Lord does it MOST of the time. The book of Acts and
Paul's writings to Timothy and Titus, show that God works through
other ministers to ordain men to the ministry of Jesus
Christ(Acts 14:23), with at times input from the congregation.
As the Church grew spiritually and in literal membership and
appointed ministers/elders, God gave Paul inspired instruction
for the Church about the basic qualifications needed for any one
to be ordained to the pastor/eldership or deaconship (1 Tim.3;
Such an undertaking is very serious business. So serious in
fact that it is not surprising we have two other very important
scriptures on this matter in the NT. The one is found in - 1
Timothy 5:22. The other in James chapter 3 and verse 1. Please
read this second one in the Amplified Bible translation, and see
some of the Bible Commentaries.
PAUL ARRIVES IN JERUSALEM
"And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he wanted to join
himself to the disciples, but they were afraid of him, and
believed not that he was a disciple" (Acts 9:26).
We have seen from Paul himself in the book of Galatians that
it was three years from the time of his conversion to the FIRST
time he went to Jerusalem. You may like to review this in
Galatians 1:11-20. It was a relatively short visit it would seem,
although we can not be sure of that. Paul says he abode with
Peter for 15 days. He does not tell us the exact length of his
stay in Jerusalem. He stayed with Peter for 15 days but he may
well have stayed with other brethren also, Paul just does not
give us all the details. After that visit to Jerusalem Paul was
in no hurry to return. It was to be 14, yes, fourteen years
later before he went back to that city - Galatians 2:1. And from
the following verse we see that he did not keep in very close
communication with the apostles and/or those in reputation at the
place where it all started, for, he was willing as we have seen
to let them examine his gospel among the Gentiles. That would
strongly indicate a severe lack on his and their part as to what
they and Paul had been doing/teaching and preaching over that
period of 14 years.
Obviously from all this Paul and those who worked with him
such as Barnabas, felt God was working with them just as much as
with those in Jerusalem. They did not feel the necessity or that
it was a doctrine of God, that one human man was in authority
over the Church and that they had to report to him, or get
permission to do this or that in the work of the Lord from some
board of men in a certain city.
Many believe the Jerusalem conference of Acts 15 came after
this second visit of Paul to Jerusalem. We shall look at that
important chapter of the book of Acts later.
So what are some of the lessons we can gain from the
calling, teaching, and preaching of Paul?
First: God is able and free to raise up any man at any time
for the work of the Kingdom and preaching of salvation. God is
able to reveal His truths to any person, at any point in time,
and in any area of the world, regardless of who else God may be
using at the same time. The overwhelming NT examples show that in
this age of the New Covenant, the Lord does not work with just
one dominant leader in His Church, that no one man has
dictatorial authority over the other ministers or members. In
this age God is using various ministers with spiritual gifts and
abilities as the Holy Spirit imparts.
Second: Those that God calls to the work of the ordained
ministry will, as led by the Spirit, work together in small or
large teamwork groups. Peter did not work as a single
self-sufficient minister, neither did the apostle Paul. Their
work was not always in the same area throughout their lives, and
they did not always have exactly the same ministers to work with
in their close immediate circle, but co-operate and work with
other servants of the Lord they most assuredly did do. None of
the apostles or elders believed or taught that any man was an
"island unto themselves." They all knew that "iron
sharpens iron" and the inspired proverb: "In the multitude of
counsellors there is safety" (Prov.11:14).
Third: The Lord directly called and ordained Paul to the
ministry. There is no evidence that he was ordained by other
human men. God is free to so ordain/appoint if He chooses, but
this is clearly by the teaching and examples of the NT, an
exception to the norm. God has established in the New Covenant by
example and direct command that men are appointed to the
Eldership by other Elders and by meeting certain qualifications.
MINISTERS ARE SENT
Acts chapter ten again shows us God directly inspiring and
working with a man, without that man having to give account of
his every move to other men. Peter is sent to the Gentiles to
bring salvation to them. There was within the early Church
freedom to work where the Holy Spirit directed.
God's Spirit should never be hand-cuffed by over
organization. It is written: "Quench not the Spirit........
where the Spirit of the Lord is there is l i b e r t y"
(1 Thes.5:19; 2 Cor.3:17). Then on the other side of the coin
liberty is to be used carefully (James 2:12).
As we have seen, God wants a respectful, loving, servant
attitude within His ministry and Church. He does not want a
minister or group of ministers "bossing about"
with high-handed conceit, another minister/s. Yet, He also does
not want a high-handed "one man show" attitude from any single
minister of His either.
Those that had gone forth from Jerusalem preaching the
word(Acts 8:4) had great fruits to show for it(see Acts 11:21).
So much so that the Church in Jerusalem, "sent forth Barnabas,
that he should go as far as Antioch" (v.22). This shows us that a
Church does have the right to ask a minister to undertake a
special assignment. I say ask, because I do not see where they
can demand - not within the Spirit of the Lord anyway. Notice
verse 25, Barnabas acting within his liberty as a servant of God,
goes to find Paul in Tarsus and brings him back to Antioch, where
they stay for a whole year as teachers of God's word (v.26).
In the 13th chapter of Acts we see the Holy Spirit leading
within a congregation of God's people. A job was to be done - not
a lot of ''red tape'' required - just be guided by the Spirit,
send the men with a special blessing(this was not an ordination
to the ministry - they were already ministers) and get out there
and do the work. For a time they also had John Mark with them
The next point we need to note is in chapter 14:23, ''And
when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had
prayed with fasting ." We find that FASTING and PRAYER
accompanied ordination. Fasting and prayer by the minister/s who
were to ordain to the Eldership other men was a serious
undertaking which required serious preparation and meditation.
In keeping with Titus 1:5 and Acts 20:17 we see that a
plurality of Elders were ordained in every church. It would seem
that the Lord is telling us that He wants to safeguard His sheep
by shepherding them with more than one shepherd to each fold.
This would minimize to some extent a wolf in sheep's clothing
coming and devouring the flock. I said minimize, not completely
stop it, as seen by what Paul said in Acts 20:29,30. We must
remember all of these examples can only be applied when there are
many churches, with many converts, and with many qualified men
who could be appointed to the Eldership. Any combination of the
above factors could mean that it may not be possible to have a
plurality of ministers in a single congregation.
Obviously there did not seem to be a large problem for Paul
and Barnabas to ordain elders - plural, in the churches, at that
It will be asked: "Does not this verse contradict what Paul
taught Timothy(1 Tim.3:6; 5:22)?" Remember that in many of these
towns where Paul and Barnabas taught, there were older Jews or
Gentile proselytes who were very well versed in the scriptures
and could not be looked upon as novices by any means. As far as
not being in a hurry to ordain, we need to keep in mind that when
Paul gave that instruction to Timothy, the Christian Church had
to a large extent established itself in growth and structure.
Here they were at the beginning of a new era, different
circumstances do warrant different methods at times within the
liberty of God's law. At the start of the NT Church era it would,
for the sake of stability among the new converts, be very
important to have established leaders. They did not have Radio,
VCR, TV, Conference Call phone lines, or Cassette tapes.
THE JERUSALEM CONFERENCE
This part of Acts - chapter 15 - is of great value to us for
the understanding of how the NT Church of God worked as a team on
difficult issues. There is much in this chapter for our
1. Important doctrinal issues that effect the individual as
well as the stability of the Church as a whole, will arise from
time to time. Because differences arise which must be "ironed
out" does not mean the Church of God is not the body of Christ.
It is HOW those issues are resolved that proves the true
character and people of God.
2. Ministers from the various parts of the land and earth,
came together in conference at a designated location (verses
3. The indications from verses 12,22,23,25, is that the
conference was an open forum with congregational members present.
Certainly the decision reached was approved by the whole
4. There was much disputing. Time was given for all to speak
5. It would seem from verse 19 that James played a leading
role - maybe presiding as chairman. It was he that gave the
"judgement" that everyone agreed was the correct one. This by on
means teaches that James was head apostle, like a Pope of the
Church of God. As Paul had written to the Galatians, James was of
reputation and a pillar in the Jerusalem assembly, together with
Peter and John. If James was presiding as chairman, with his
wisdom and leadership abilities, it is only natural he would have
seen the "truth of the matter" and summed it all up as to what
the Holy Spirit was guiding them to do.
6. We notice that there was no voting on doctrinal issues.
It was not a case of the majority wins. God's truths that are
clearly taught by the word are not up for "voting on."
7. The truth was arrived at by two criterion: (a) By what
God had done through the Holy Spirit (b) By what the scriptures
plainly taught (verses 7-12 and 13-18).
PAUL AND BARNABAS SEPARATE
In verses 36-41 of Acts 15 we have recorded the different
opinions of two ministers, differences that could not at that
time be resolved, and which resulted in the two men who had
worked together for some time in the gospel, separating and going
their different ways to do the work of God.
What are the lessons we can learn from this?
1. It was not a difference in doctrine over-which Paul and
Barnabas separated, but what we would call today administration -
who was going with whom to do "the work."
2. Where administration of the work of the Lord is not
defined by or in opposition to the word of the Lord, FREEDOM is
allowed. Yet within that freedom men's ideas and personalities
may on occasion - clash! In most cases it should be able to be
solved, but this was one time it could not.
3. Paul and Barnabas remained servants and apostles of God.
Both continued to do the work of the gospel.
4. Despite the weaknesses and differences of men, God is
able to work with and in them, often turning what may appear to
us as adversity into VICTORY for Him. Truly, the Lord works in
mysterious ways at times His wonders to perform.
5. Neither Paul nor Barnabas took their disagreement to a
higher court of Elders, or some "chief" apostle over them, to try
and get the other "black listed" or kicked out of the ministry or
What can we see as we look back on our study? I will list 10
points that I see.
1. Jesus calling His ministers and telling them that, no ONE
individual or small "board" of individuals would have total
dictatorial control and authority over the entire Church of God
or other Elders. Jesus taught that he who thought himself more
important and above the rest, had better be the greater humbler
servant to all.
2. A Church and ministry that was filled with the POWER of
the Holy Spirit. A driving zeal to get on with spreading the
gospel of the Kingdom of God.
3. As the Church grew and the physical burden increased, the
establishing of an ordained/appointed " Deacon - servant"
ministry (Acts 6) to help take care of such matters.
4. We see that the gifts of God's Spirit were boundless,
given freely as He saw fit, to the Elders(Acts chapters 2-5), to
the Deacons(Acts chapters 6-8), and to the whole membership of
saints(1 Cor.12 and 14).
5. God directly called others to the apostleship and
ministry(Acts 9). And ministers ordained other men to the
6. Local churches and elders that had a great deal of
freedom within the law of God(Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-13).
7. Churches raised up with ordained elder S - (plural, Acts
8. Brethren, Deacons, and Elders held together with the
common bond of the Holy Spirit, the love of God, and the same
basic fundamental truths of the word.
9. Major doctrinal issues resolved by ministerial
conferences with the members of the host congregation in
attendance, and participating in the decisions(Acts 15).
lO. A Church not handcuffed or weighed down with over
In closing this section of our study I must, because of
recent abuse within certain parts of the Church of God,
re-emphasize the teaching of Jesus about a humble servant
attitude that all His ministers and followers were to have
towards one another and towards the spiritually blinded of the
Satan has devastated parts of the body of Christ in the last
30 years because this humble servant attitude was not maintained
by some Elders, and the sin of vain, authoritarian power and
dictatorial rulership was exhibited by various ministers over
other ministers and the brethren.
The words of Phillip Keller(a one time keeper of sheep) are
fitting at this point in our study. I will quote from chapter 3
of his book: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. We pick it up as he is
talking about the requirements needed for sheep to lie down.
" The second source of fear from which the sheepman delivers
his sheep is that of tension, rivalry, and cruel competition
within the flock itself. In every animal society there is
established an order of dominance or status within the group. In
a penful of chickens it is referred to as the 'pecking order.'
With cattle it is called the 'horning order.' Among sheep we
speak of the 'butting order.' Generally an arrogant, cunning and
domineering old ewe will be boss of any bunch of sheep. She
maintains her position of prestige by butting and driving other
ewes or lambs away from the best grazing or favorite bedgrounds.
Succeeding her in precise order the other sheep all
establish and maintain their exact position in the flock by using
the same tactics of butting and thrusting at those below and
around them..........Because of this rivalry, tension, and
competition for status and self-assertion, there is friction in a
flock. The sheep can not lie down and rest in contentment. Always
they must stand up and defend their rights and contest the
challenge of the intruder..........
This continuous conflict and jealousy within the flock can
be a most detrimental thing. The sheep become edgy, tense,
discontented and restless. They lose weight and become irritable.
But one point that always interested me very much was that
whenever I came into view and my presence attracted their
attention, the sheep quickly forgot their foolish rivalries and
stopped their fighting. The shepherd's presence made all the
difference in their behavior.......
In any business firm, any office, any family, any community,
any church, any human organization or group, be it large or
small, the struggle for self-assertion and self-recognition goes
on. Most of us fight to be 'top sheep.' We butt and quarrel and
compete to 'get ahead.' And in the process people get
In contrast to this, the picture in the Psalm shows us God's
people lying down in quiet contentment.......The endless unrest
generated in the individual who is always trying to 'get ahead'
of the crowd, who is attempting always to be top man or woman on
the totem pole, is pretty formidable to observe. In His own
unique way, Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd, in His earthly life
pointed out that the last would be first and the first last.
In a sense I am sure He meant first in the area of His own
intimate affection. For any shepherd has great compassion for the
poor, weak sheep that get butted about by the more domineering
ones. More than once I have strongly trounced a belligerent ewe
for abusing a weaker one. Or when they butted lambs not their own
I found it necessary to discipline them severely, and certainly
they were not first in my esteem for their aggressiveness.
Another point that impressed me, too, was that the less
aggressive sheep were often far more contented, quiet and
restful. So that there were definite advantages in being 'bottom
But more important was the fact that it was the Shepherd's
presence that put an end to all rivalry. And in our human
relationships when we become acutely aware of being in the
presence of Christ, our foolish, selfish snobbery and rivalry
will end. It is the humble heart walking quietly and contentedly
in close and intimate companionship of Christ that is at
rest.......When my eyes are on the Master they are not on those
around me. This is the place of peace.
And it is good and proper to remind ourselves that in the
end it is He who will decide and judge what my status really is.
After all, it is His estimation of me that is of consequence. Any
human measurement at best is bound to be pretty unpredictable,
unreliable, and far from final " (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,
To be continued.
First written 1983. Re-written and revised 1996.