As the NT Church started to grow - first in Jerusalem - the
Lord began to show that the ministers(12 apostles) should not
undertake to try and do all the spiritual AND all the physical
duties. Seven, wise, Spirit filled men were chosen to take care
of "this business" (the physical duties) so the apostles
(ministers) could "give ourselves continually to prayer and to
the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:1-4).
The FORM of local Church Government began in Jerusalem.
There was always more than one Elder ruling or guiding (and it is
the ministers who guide the church, not a board of deacons, or
congregational members, see Heb.13:7,17; 1 Tim.3:1-5,
14-15; 4:11-16) the Jerusalem congregation.
Paul acknowledged to the Galatians, some such as James,
Peter, John, were of reputation and seemed to be 'somewhat' in
Jerusalem. He stated they were pillars, but he never stated
they(James,Peter,John) had all power and dictatorial authority in
all matters within the church at Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem church was large in numbers. There were other
apostles there besides the three mentioned by Paul. There were no
doubt also other Elders there also, who had been ordained after
the Holy Spirit had come on the feast of Pentecost.
Nowhere can we find by teaching or example that any NT
church was under the dominance of a few self appointed
demagogues, not within the ranks of God's true ministers anyway.
We can find a false minister ruling like a Hitler, one of the
churches and casting out the true brethren, see 3 John 9-10.
The Church of God at Jerusalem was a fine example for all
churches to follow in the apostolic age. It is the ideal left for
us also, as is the church at Philippi.
There is no teaching in the NT that one man was to have all
the authority over a local church. Instead the example is all
churches were guided by a plurality of Elders!
Never, if at all possible, should the guidance of a church
be placed in the hands of just one individual. The person on whom
everything depends might acquire too great an importance, become
the center, the "king pin" and eventually distract the believer
from looking to the one and only true leader - Christ Jesus.
Human nature is such that it is just too easy for man to
start following another man(it happened to the people in Corinth
- 1 Cor.1:12) and POWER can turn the head of even a true minister
of God if he alone has all authority. It does happen! It has
happened even during this twentieth century in the Church of God.
It is indeed a true saying that goes, "Power corrupts, and
complete power corrupts completely."
Each NT church was pastored and governed by a plurality of
Elders as the following scriptures show:
When Paul and Barnabas had completed a tour through a number of
places, we are told that, "....they ordained them elder-s(plural)
in every church" (Acts 14:19-23). While at Miletus, Paul,
"....sent to Ephesus and called the elder-s(plural) of the
church" (Acts 20:17). The letter to the church at Philippi is
addressed, "....to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at
Philippi, with the bishop-s......" or overseers, elders - plural
(Phil.l:l). To the church at Thessalonica it was written, "We
beseech you brethren to know them(plural) who labor among you,
and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you" (1 Thes.5:12).
Titus was to ordain elder-s(plural) in every city (Titus
1:5). The activities of the Jerusalem church were carried on by
elder-s(plural), see Acts 15:1,2. And those who were sick were
instructed to call for the elder-s(plural) of the church for
prayer and anointing (James 5:14,15).
So clearly taught in the NT scriptures is this pattern, it
is hard to understand why so much of Christianity ever departed
from it. But then so many truths of the word of God have been
departed from by so many.
We need also to be honest with the instructions and examples
left us by the NT church and admit that, there is no evidence to
support the idea that churches were governed by the lay members.
Lay persons were not authorized by God to ordain, to hire,
to fire ministers. They could bring their serious complaints
about a minister to another minister for judgement and
corrections (1 Tim.5:19,20). The lay members could not vote
on what would be the doctrines of the Church of God. They could
be present at important ministerial conferences as seen from Acts
15 and given proper respect by all. What could the lay member do
if after taking their grievances of an Elder/s apostasy into sin
or doctrinal error to other ministers and no repentance was
forthcoming, and the local church was falling into practicing
unrighteousness? They could leave that minister/s and attend
a congregation where the elder/s were faithful to the Lord and
truth was being practiced.
I also realize today that it can be very difficult in some
small Churches of God to find men(plural) who are called to
function as Elders. Often it is fortunate if there is ONE
who has met the qualifications given by Paul in 1 Tim.3. If
there is only one man who can be appointed as elder, what can be
done to safe guard against corruptions and vanity, on the elders
part, and idolizing him on the part of the congregational
Here are a few suggestions.
1. A single local pastor/overseer together with the congregation
should diligently search for, find and maintain, contact(via
letter, e-mail, tapes, magazines, phone etc.) with other Elders
in other local churches. This should be done to inter-act as much
as time and distance allows, so the single Elder church is not
2. A single Elder congregation should try as distance and
expenses allow, to have other Elders from churches with the same
beliefs, visiting and speaking and fellowshipping with them.
3. The one Overseer church must make sure that the Pastor is
using the gifts of the Spirit to the fullest, as given to the
saints. A true Elder under these circumstances will help, teach,
train, give every opportunity for other men to be used of the
Lord as the Eternal wills, and so the door is always open for
more men within that congregation to be called and appointed to
the Eldership ministry. He will regularly be encouraging the
congregation to keep praying that "God will send more laborers
into the harvest." Local men who can meet the qualifications of
1 Tim.3 and so join him in the Eldership.
THE EXAMPLE OF PHILIPPI
Paul founded the church at Philippi - his first in Europe -
during his second missionary journey(Acts 16). As we read the
first and last number of verses in chapter four, it is clear that
there was a special spirit of love and giving between Paul and
the brethren in Philippi.
Notice the governmental structure of the church there:
"Paul and Timotheus to all the SAINTS(believers) in Christ Jesus,
with the BISHOPS(elders/pastors) and DEACONS(servants)"
There were OVERSEERS(Bishops/Elders)-plural, governing the
church at Philippi. There were DEACONS(plural) serving the
church, and there were all the SAINTS(plural) at Philippi.
The church founded by Paul followed the example that the
Jerusalem church years earlier had been guided to adopt - a
plurality of ministers to oversee the spiritual and physical work
of the Lord - a plurality of deacons to administer the physical
duties of the church under the Elders. Both groups working to
serve the saints of the church, and ALL working together to
spread the gospel to the entire world as their means allowed
them, and as the gifts of the Spirit were distributed among all
All of this done with love and respect of each other. That's
how it was between Paul and the church at Philippi - that's the
example - that's the ideal for us to follow!
THE OVER VIEW
As shocking as it may sound to some, the NT never designates
one particular town or city as "headquarters." There are no such
words as "the headquarters of the Church in Jerusalem" in the NT.
Not one writer even came close to claiming Jerusalem as the
"headquarters church" or any such title.
If any did think it was Jerusalem because the "temple" stood
there, then God put an end to that idea in 70 A.D. with the
destruction of the temple under the Roman boot. As Jesus said to
the woman at the well: ".....believe me, the hour comes, when you
shall neither in this mountain nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the
Father........the hour comes and now is, when the true
worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for
the Father seeks such to worship Him" (John 4:21-23).
The NT never designates any one man as chief apostle or
elder. All were equal as ministers, showing mutual submission and
humble respect to each other (1 Peter 5:1-5). All were
individually free to do God's work as led by the Holy Spirit and
within the bounds of the law of the Lord, yet all worked
together(as best they could for the age they lived in, and their
differing personalities and callings and gifts) to "make
disciples of all nations."
From the writings of Paul, and examples of the book of Acts,
we see different Church of God congregations working together to
serve the brethren(when in times of need during periods of
famine) and the ministers.
There is no way to close our eyes to the fact that the body
of believers during the apostolic age were divided into various
Church of God "camps." You had the work that the Jerusalem church
was doing. You had the work that God called Peter to do(and
probably others with him) - going to the circumcision. You had
the work that Paul and Barnabas were called to do by the Holy
Spirit. Then later the work Paul(and others with him) did to the
uncircumcised. There was the work Barnabas went off to do(and no
doubt some others with him). I am sure the Ethiopian eunuch that
Philip baptized did a work in Ethiopia. Apollos had his work in
It is clear in Paul's epistles, some were "with him" in the
work God was doing in "that branch" of the Church. Some were with
him in a "somewhat" way, others with an "off and on" way, while
some were fully 100% all the way with Paul and his "work of the
There were brethren who were probably 100% with the branch
of the work that Peter was doing. Others were fully behind
Apollos and that branch of God's work. Barnabas I'm sure had his
If they had lived in our 20th century their work of God and
supporters would probably have legally registered as a charitable
work with the government and country they were living in, whereby
also having a legal name. So the many branches of the Church of
God today is not really so new after all. The apostolic age was
very similar in many respects to our age concerning the working
of the whole body of Christ.
God, through Paul only took exception to this somewhat
natural way of man and circumstances, when it exhibited itself in
When the brethren allowed puffed up vanity, pride, and
arrogance to dominate their attitude into thinking their little
branch of the body of Christ was the only true work of God
on earth, and the only place where the Spirit of the Lord could
be found. When brethren started to look down their long vain
noses at other brethren. When some started to "compare" men with
men, and ministers with ministers. When they thought and voiced
that their group and their ministers were "the greatest" and
beyond that to the "only ones" then Paul was inspired to CORRECT
them without pulling any punches, see 1 Cor.1:10-31; 3:1-23;
Read the above sections of scripture in a modern
translation. Let the corrective words sink deep into your mind.
Realize what was going on and the carnal party spirit being
exalted. Paul had to painstakingly prove to them that Christ was
"in charge" of His work. All true ministers of God such as Peter,
Apollos, and he Paul, belonged to Christ and were being used
where, and in what way, with what gifts they had been given, to
do the will and work of Jesus.
What a sad commentary is todays branches of the true Church
of God. While most of them preach and teach the same basic truths
and doctrines of the Lord, too many of them (their members and
ministers) act as if they had no idea there were other branches
of the vine out there, and many of those branches came from the
very same single branch at one time, the ministers all being a
part of the parent ministry. Now many of them display an attitude
of contempt and disdain towards each other, even to the point
of pretending the others do not exist.
The local churches were not governed/ruled/cared for, by
one head elder or by a "church board" of deacons or church
persons, but by a plurality of elders who were the bishops or
overseers, and who were helped by the servants of the "diakonate"
- deacons who administered the physical duties under the guidance
of the ministers, and who served the saints, respecting them as
also part of the team(again I refer you to Acts 15).
Each local church supported the local elders and other
ministers(out in the mission field) with their everyday
needs(personal and for the gospel) as the word of God
instructed and their generosity(over and above their duty)
We today do live in an age that in many respects is far
different than the first century A.D. One of those differences is
we have the power to MASS evangelize via Radio, TV, Video, and
Magazines. Someone must have the responsibility to function in
those work stations if they are used to spread the gospel. The
Holy Spirit gives gifts of wisdom, knowledge, helps, and
governments (1 Cor. 12).
It is then only common logic and correct administration to
appoint to the work of mass evangelism, those who have the talent
and gifts to do such work for the Church.
Every person in the body of Christ has a part to play as
Paul so thoroughly explained in 1 Corinthians 12. Everyone is not
the hand, everyone is not the head, everyone is not the foot. The
body is not one member but many, yet the many members make one
body. Everyone is needed and necessary for the harmonious
function of the body.
This is a truth, yet it is also a truth that the elders
collectively have the oversight and pastorship(shepherds serving
and caring for the sheep of the flock) for the whole body and for
the whole work of that body.
We need to meditate on the words of Paul as found in
Ephesians 4:11-16. I will quote those word here as given by the
"And His gifts were (varied; He Himself appointed and gave
men to us) some to be apostle(special messengers), some
prophets(inspired preachers and expounders), some
evangelists(preachers of the Gospel, travelling missionaries),
some pastors(shepherds of His flock) and teachers. His intention
was the perfecting and full equipping of the saints(His
consecrated people), (that they should do) the work of
ministering toward building up Christ's body (the church), (That
it might develop) until we all attain oneness in the faith and in
the comprehension of the full and accurate knowledge of the Son
of God; that(we might arrive) at really mature manhood - the
completeness of personality which is nothing less than the
standard height of Christ's own perfection - the measure of the
stature of the fullness of the Christ, and the completeness
found in Him. So then, we may no longer be children, tossed (like
ships) to and fro between chance gusts of teaching, and wavering
with every changing wind of doctrine, (the prey of) the cunning
and cleverness of unscrupulous men, (gamblers engaged) in every
shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead. Rather,
let our lives lovingly express truth in all things - speaking
truly, dealing truly, living truly. Enfolded in love, let us grow
up in every way and in all things into Him, Who is the Head,
(even) Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. For because of Him
the whole body (the church, in all its various parts closely)
joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with
which it is supplied, when each part (with power adapted to its
need) is working properly (in all its function), grows to full
maturity, building itself up in love."
THE MINISTRY - ITS FUNCTIONS
We read about elders, bishops, apostles, evangelists,
pastors, and teachers. Do these names refer to different offices
of RANK within the church?
By a careful study of the scriptures and the Greek NT, the
word of God shows that EVERY minister of the Church is a bishop
and pastor as well as a teacher and elder.
Consider the following evidence from the scriptures on this
Paul instructed Titus, "Ordain elders in every city as I
have appointed you" (Titus 1:5). Then Paul went ahead and
explained the qualifications of these elders and said that
an elder is a bishop(v.7). Note the word "for" connects verse 7
with verses 5 and 6.
Plainly the elders in each local church in every city were
bishops which in the Greek means "overseer."
This is quite different from the commonly assumed idea that
a bishop bears rule and authority over a group of churches or
less important ministers.
This truth is also seen in Acts the twentieth chapter.
Paul, "....sent to Ephesus, and called the ELDERS of the
church...."(v.17). Then in speaking to these elders he said:
" Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to the flock over
which the Holy Spirit has made you OVERSEERS (bishops - same
Greek as in Titus)" verse 28.
So again we see that elders and bishops are the same!
Then Paul exhorted these elders of Ephesus, "to feed" (Greek
means pastor) "the church of God...."
These elders from Ephesus then were referred to as bishops,
and pastors as well as elders. All of these expressions referring
to the SAME office or function.
Then any minister of God, can at any time, be referred to
as, i.e. elder Jones, or pastor Jones, or bishop Jones. He is all
these words mean from the moment of his ordination, regardless as
to whether he is overseeing one or more individuals or one or
more local churches.
The above truths can be studied in such works as "Word
Studies in the New Testament" by Robinson, Earle, and other Greek
APOSTLES, PROPHETS, EVANGELISTS, PASTORS AND TEACHERS?
Where do they fit into all this? Are they RANKS within the
ministry? Notice! "And God has set some in the Church, first
apostles, secondary prophets, thirdly teachers(l Cor.12:28).
In Ephesians 4:11 Paul adds "evangelist" after prophets, and
expands teachers to "pastors and teachers."
We have seen that all elders are pastors and bishops and
overseers. They are also teachers, for we see that one of the
qualifications for a bishop is that he is able to teach - l
Pastors and Teachers are the same - an ordained/appointed
minister - an elder. But not ALL elders were apostles or prophets
or evangelists in the strictest sense of those words.
It is something like this: All people living in the USA are
Americans, but not all Americans are Californians.
Who decides which man will be an apostle, or prophet, or
evangelist? Do men, other ministers pick an individual and ordain
him to the "rank" of prophet, or evangelist, or apostle? THERE IS
NO VERSE IN THE ENTIRE NT TO UPHOLD SUCH AN IDEA. If it is for
man to so do then truly it would be a ministry built on rank. But
what says the word of God? "And God(not man) HAS SET some in the
Church." God alone must determine who does what function in the
ministry. True, God uses His Holy Spirit to lead and inspire
other ministers concerning various functions that some elders
will perform as needed in the Church and as their individual
gifts allow. Such is an example in Acts 13 with Barnabas and
And there may be certain prayers offered and a special
laying on of hands dedication for the work to be undertaken, BUT
you will notice in that example no person was ordained to another
"rank" of ministerial authority and power over other ministers.
Nor can any example of any Roman Catholic Church type rank
ministers be found in the NT.
Some minister/s may ASK and REQUEST another minister to
perform or undertake a certain task or job, but the minister has
the right to accept or refuse, God being the guide and his
individual circumstances coming into consideration. Again, there
should be an attitude of loving co-operation and understanding on
all sides. Maybe much prayer is needed, sometimes prayer together
with fasting is called for. All circumstances must be considered
including those of the wife of the minister called upon by
Certainly the life of a minister of God and his wife(who is
also a part of his ministry) is a life of service to the flock of
the fold, but in some branches of the Church of God there has in
the past been too much "barking" and ordering around of each
other as if some were masters over puppy-dogs. Loving respect
tied together with humility is what Jesus wants from all His
servants as they work together to feed the sheep and make
disciples of all nations.
GOD HAS SET SOME in the Church, "FIRST (not in rank but
function in spreading the gospel) apostles, SECONDARY (in
function in proclaiming the good news) prophets (and evangelist
added in Eph.4:11), THIRDLY (in function not rank) teachers
(pastors in general, Eph.4:11), after that miracles, then gifts
of healing, helps(deacons), governments(those with good business
and administrative skills), different tongues"(1 Cor.12:28).
A STUDY OF FUNCTIONS
In studying the Greek words and examples in the NT on the
various functions of the ministry, I believe we can come to these
1. An APOSTLE was never an office of absolute, dictatorial
authority, but was "one sent" to preach the truths of the Kingdom
of God to a large area. As such it was a calling and commission
to do God's work, not some lofty rank within the Church. Peter
was an apostle and also an elder, as was John also (1 Pet.l:l;
5:1; 3 John 1).
2. PROPHETS were either inspired fore-tellers of events(such as
Agabus in Acts 21:10-12), or powerful preachers who taught within
the Church (1 Cor.14). Prophets of the latter type are most
definitely with us today in the Church, and prophets like Agabus
will come again before this age comes to a close. Some ministers
have a special gift to understand and put together the many
prophetic passages of the Bible, that could also be classified as
fulfilling the function of prophet.
3. EVANGELISTS were ministers who primarily preached to the
UN-believers, in contrast to Prophets who mostly preached to the
believers. An "evangelist" was a minister who had been given the
special gift of inspired preaching to the public at large. He
could also be pastoring one or more churches. The man Timothy was
such a person and elder. It is obvious from Paul's writings to
him that he was pastoring at least one church, and probably more,
yet he was requested by Paul to "do the work of an evangelist"
(2 Tim. 4:5). So it is understood he had the ability to function
in that office also.
4. PASTORS and TEACHERS. Many Greek NT scholars believe this is
referring to the one office and function of the eldership in
general, who were not fulfilling any of the above specific
5. ELDERS usually meant an older person in age as well as more
mature spiritually. And though used in reference to all the
ministry, was used by Paul to connote those among the
congregation who were already elders - already doing the work of
the ministry and now should be officially ordained/appointed in
recognition of that fact (Titus 1:5).
6. DEACONS were servants of the Church to administer much, if not
all, of the physical duties (Acts 6). Great was their work and
responsibility - great was their need for wisdom and other
qualities (Acts 6:3; 1 Tim.3:813). They, like anyone else in the
body of Christ, could receive any of the gifts of the Spirit
(Acts 6:8). Though not a part of the eldership ministry, at times
and under special circumstances would receive the gift of
powerful preaching as other congregational members did (Acts
7. DEACONESSES as Phebe(Rom.16:1) were women who served in the
Church, not only among other women but men also and the ministers
(Rom.16:2). The Greek had no separate word for female deacons -
the one Greek word covered both sexes. Contrary to the opinion of
some who think Paul was a male sexist and "put down women" is the
fact of many verses in Paul's letters where he had nothing but
high respect for women, and commended many to different church
congregations, with loving commands that they receive them with
all honor and dignity, as faithful servants of the Church and as
co-workers with him in the gospel.
Yes, there was and is a ministry in the Church of God. A
ministry that emphasized SERVICE more than being served - gentle
encouragement more than strong rebuke. Being "helpers of your
joy" more than policemen or authoritarian rulers. A ministry that
emphasized visiting, counselling, anointing the sick, teaching
truths, preaching truths, and encouraging the brethren to remain
steadfast to the "faith once delivered" more than criticizing or
The ministry of the Church was seen as a life time calling
or profession which God placed upon a man. The apostle John was
functioning as an Elder right up to his natural death. Of course
I say this in the context that all normal mental faculties are
working correctly. There is no teaching or example in the NT to
suggest the appointment to the Eldership was limited to just a
chosen time frame of weeks, months, or years. All natural
reading of God's word shows the latter idea, to be just that,
an "idea" from man. Unless the man clearly had dis-qualified
himself by not upholding the qualifications to Eldership
as outlined in 1 Tim.3, he was when accepting the call to
spiritual overseership within the church, accepting an
appointment for the rest of his life. His functions and work load
as an Elder could vary along the way, from MORE to LESS,
depending on the situation, his health, the needs of the
churches, and God's giving of gifts to do the work.
There were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and
deacons, but not necessarily in that order, and not every local
church had all of those ministry functions within its membership.
An elder could have one or more FUNCTIONS at the same time!
He could be a Pastor/Teacher in a local church, and an Evangelist
at the same time. Or he may function for a time primarily as an
evangelist. A minister may function both as an Apostle and
Evangelist. Or an Apostle may function for a time as a Pastor and
Evangelist. A Pastor could also be a Prophet at times. And so it
went and so it is as the Spirit of the Lord directs and gives
gifts to men. Paul at times was functioning as an elder/pastor
in a local church, an evangelist, as well as being an apostle -
all at the same time!
No one seemed to be keeping record but God, and a few carnal
minded enemies that had it in for Paul and others. There was a
work to be done and doing it was the prime concern for the true
men of God.
Jesus, as the head of the Church would decide WHO did WHAT
LIVING OFF THE GOSPEL?
A true minister of God is a man who knows he has been called
to a life long service of unselfish giving of his time, energy,
and ability, to teach the word of the Lord to others.
It is a call to be employed not of men but of God - an
employment that is really a full time job - 24 hours a day - 7
days a week if required.
His boss(Jesus) can call on him to work in pastoring,
teaching, visiting, anointing the sick, performing weddings,
conducting funerals, as well as the basics of studying the
word and prayer. All this and more he can be called upon to
perform in his duty as a servant of the Most High and as an Elder
in the Church of God.
The true servant of the Lord has not been called to the
ministry to see what physical things he can accumulate for
himself, to see how much personal wealth he can acquire for his
family from others. He is, like Paul before him, willing to give
up all for the service of Christ. He is willing to labor
abundantly, suffer persecution and imprisonment for the gospel,
face perils from every direction for the works sake, going
without many of the comforts of life if needs be, and willing to
care for the Church of God (2 Cor.11:23-28).
This is the true minister of God! A servant to the people of
God, and the slave to his master the Lord Jesus Christ. He has
been called to do a special work within the body of Christ, and
in the course of doing that work sometimes the comforts and
stability that most members of the Church experience may have to
But the question must be asked and answered: Can the servant
of the Lord LIVE OFF the people he is serving?
Paul had to answer that question for the church at Corinth.
His answer is recorded in 1 Corinthians 9:1-18. The LIVING BIBLE
gets to the heart of the truth of his words.
"I am an apostle, God's messenger, responsible to no mere
man. If in the opinion of others, I am not an apostle, I
certainly am to you, for you have been one to Christ through me.
This is my answer to those who question my rights." Some were
saying Paul had no right to live off those he served. "Or don't
I have any rights at all? Can't I claim the same privilege the
other apostles have of being a guest in your home? If I had a
wife, and if she were a believer couldn't I bring her along on
these trips just as the other disciples do and as the Lord's
brothers do? and as Peter does?" Peter and others were married.
Celibacy for the ministry as taught by the Roman Catholic Church
can not be found in the pages of the Bible. Those ministers with
wives often travelled together at the expense of the brethren.
"But must Barnabas and I alone keep working for our living,
while you supply these others?" The people at Corinth were not
against supporting in a physical way the ministers of Christ, but
they would not support Barnabas and Paul for some reason.
"What soldier in an army has to pay his expenses? And have
you ever heard of a farmer who harvests his crop and doesn't have
the right to eat some of it? What shepherd takes care of a flock
of sheep or goats and isn't allowed to drink some of the milk?
And I'm not merely quoting the opinions of men as to what is
right. I'm telling you what God's law says. For in the law God
gave to Moses He said that you must not put a muzzle on an ox to
keep it from eating when it is treading out the wheat. Do you
suppose God was only thinking about oxen when He said this?
Wasn't He also thinking about us? Of course He was! He said this
to show us that Christian workers should be paid by those they
help. Those who do the plowing and the threshing should expect
some share of the harvest. We have planted good spiritual seed in
your souls. Is it too much to ask in return for mere food and
clothing? You give to others who preach to you, and you should.
But shouldn't we have an even greater right than them?"
Paul and Barnabas were instrumental in raising up the church
"Yet we have never used this right but supply our own needs
without your help. We have never demanded payment of any kind for
fear that," not that they couldn't have asked for support, but
for fear that, "if we did you might be less interested in our
message to you from Christ."
They were not willing to give to Paul and Barnabas, but as
Paul found out they were willing to give physical support to
other ministers that preached to them.
"Don't you realize that God told those working in His Temple
to take for their own needs some of the food brought there as
gives to Him? And those who work at the alter of God get a share
of the food that is brought by those offering it to the Lord. In
the same way the Lord has given orders that those who preach the
gospel should be supported by those who accept it. Yet I have
never asked you for a penny."
A true minister of God will preach the word, but will not force
or demand any physical thing from those he serves. He will work
at an other job to supply those needs if he must, as Paul did at
times. He was by physical trade a tent maker.
"And I am not writing this to hint that I would like to
start now. In fact, I would rather die of hunger than loose the
satisfaction I get from preaching to you without charge."
That is the unselfish attitude of the true minister of God.
" ..........under this circumstance, what is my pay? It is
the special joy I get from preaching the Good News without
expense to anyone, never demanding my rights."
It was right for Paul to live off the gospel, but often he
In certain quarters some argue that overseers/elders should
never live off the saints, but should always hold a secular job
to support themselves and their families. Often this argument is
held on to by quoting just certain verses of scripture, while
ignoring others. Much deception has been promulgated in religious
circles by so reading and teaching the Bible.
Paul certainly held a job of tent making AT TIMES, but
nowhere can we find any example or statement that Paul ALWAYS
provided for himself because he worked full time at a secular
trade or occupation. After the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, we
cannot find any statement that any of the apostles worked full
time at a secular job to support themselves and their families,
for the necessities of this physical life. Some may have
worked at a trade some of the time, or had investments they lived
off, but we cannot know that either, because the word just does
not say. One thing we are told, people did GIVE to the church,
this we can plainly see from the early chapters of the book of
It is proper at this time in our study to answer a few
arguments, and put the record straight. Some do not like this
concept of a paid ministry, because such would single out
certain ones that could be thought of as "a class or office of
people" somehow special(whatever they mean by special) because
the church would be employing and paying them for their work,
above all the others in the church. So they either do cartwheels
with the word of God to make it try and say something it does not
say, or they just do not want to discuss the topic of "paid
ministers." To them all members are "ministers" (and I
thoroughly expound all that in part two and three of this book),
so the idea of "church employed/paid ministers" doing spiritual
work, causes a problem, for it would indeed put certain men in a
class or office different than the rest of the membership
ministers. And if all are ministers or elders, who would decide
which men would be chosen to be full time and paid by the
congregation? A lot of in-fighting, politicking, and wire
pulling(brown nosing it is also called), could go on. Many church
groups have split in two or more ways for far less wrangling.
If to solve or never have to face such a problem, you teach
there never was a paid ministry in the NT church, then we are
back to showing that argument cannot be founded upon the word of
Was Jesus a minister of God? Oh, you bet! Was Jesus
called, and sent by God the Father to do His work? Christ
Himself said many times that He was sent by the Father! Did
Jesus work at fulfilling that calling? Yes indeed He did, very
much so. He did it for THREE and ONE HALF years - FULL TIME!!
Jesus did not work at some secular job while being employed
in the Father's ministry for those years. Nor did the chosen 12!
Peter stated they had "forsaken all and followed you" - Jesus(see
Even a young child reading the gospels can see that Jesus
and His 12 disciples, WERE FULL TIME IN THE MINISTRY! They lived
off those they served and whatever money or investments they had
put away, which for some of them(who were not at all wealthy)
would have been very little if any.
Concerning Jesus collecting tithe money from people. One
thing is for sure, there is NO SCRIPTURE that says He and His
band of men DID NOT collect or receive tithes. They did have a
treasure bag, Judas was keeper of it the gospels relate. Further
evidence that they MAY have collected or been given tithe money
is the fact that the people living under the Old Covenant did
believe in tithing, it was part of their heritage and culture.
Jesus would certainly have had no hesitation in accepting tithes
that some would have thought belonged to the priesthood of the
temple under the OC law, because Jesus was GREATER than the
temple. He was the God who instituted the temple laws in the
Whether or not they collected or were given tithe money at
that time is beside the point. Jesus and His band(inner core of
men) did not have secular jobs during the three plus years of
Christ's ministry. They were full time in the service of the
Lord, and lived off 1) their investments, bank accounts 2) what
people gave them in the way of food, lodging, and money.
The example of Jesus should be quite enough, all arguments
to the contrary should now come to an end, yet it does not. Some
it seems love to argue just for the sake of arguing.
What about Peter's statement in Acts that "silver and gold
have I none." How does this prove they had secular jobs and did
not live off those they served? If they had secular employment,
then Peter would have had some silver and gold in his pocket!
It is obvious the apostles DID HAVE MONEY from chapter
2:42-47 of Acts(and also chapter 4:32-37; 5:1-2). The early
disciples pooled their physical wealth and gave to each as
needed. Peter would have need, and so he would have received as
needed, for his needs as others also. His living expenses would
have been provided for. There is no record anywhere that Peter
had a secular job after the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The
pooled wealth was for their needs so I doubt that Peter was
walking around with piles of silver or gold nuggets in his
pockets. What Peter said to the lame man was a "figure of speech"
as well as the truth of the matter. He was going to give the man
far more than anything physical silver or gold could do for him.
He was going to give him his legs in full health to walk and run
on! What a miracle in the name of Jesus. A miracle which led
Peter to preach another sermonette to the people about Christ.
Some want to argue about this "money" thing as opposed to
"food and clothes." Let me ask you: What is the difference if a
church buys houses or apartments for its full time ministers to
house them in, and pays all costs of upkeep, taxes, heating/air
condition, utilities etc. brings them boxes of food each week,
buys their clothing, gives them a car and pays their gas and
repairs, all in order for them to do a full time work in the
church, OR gives them money to have all these necessities of life
whereby they can be full time in God's work? WHAT IS THE
DIFFERENCE? It all boils down to "governments" in the church(1
One local church may want to do it the first way mentioned
above. Another local church may decide to use the second method.
Each local autonomous church(and I do believe in local autonomy)
has the liberty to decide how they will provide the necessities
of life to their full time servers.
The last question I want to answer under this section of our
study is the question often asked today as to WHY the law of
tithing to the church of God is NOT mentioned in the NT. Why did
Paul not plainly teach and preach that Christians should now
tithe to the church of God?
The answer is found in Acts chapter 21 to 26. Paul NEVER
PREACHED AGAINST THE OLD COVENANT PER SE! None of the Jews could
find any fault with Paul, even when they had tied up and before
the courts of the land. Many IN the church were zealous for the
law! It was their liberty in Christ to so do. The Old Covenant
with the Temple PRIESTHOOD AND RITUALS was still in operation -
70 A.D. had not yet come!
Was the OC instituted by God? Sure it was! Was the laws of
the priesthood and tithing to THEM instituted by God? You bet it
was from God! 70 A.D. had not yet come. The Temple still stood,
the priesthood, rituals, and tithing to that system was STILL IN
VOGUE! People in Judah were still following those laws, and GET
THIS, MANY IN THE CHURCH WERE STILL ZEALOUS FOR THOSE LAWS(ACTS
It was within Christian liberty to keep them if you wanted
to! It was then within Christian liberty to tithe to the temple
priesthood IF YOU SO CHOSE!
That is WHY you cannot find Paul or other apostles
DOGMATICALLY preaching or teaching that the members of the church
HAD TO TITHE to the church only, for they KNEW such was not the
Many scholars claim the book of HEBREWS was written shortly
before 70 AD. Paul(I believe the evidence shows Paul was the
author) knew what was going to happen in 70 AD(by inspiration and
revelation) to the Temple and Priesthood(coming to an end), and
so was able to write what he wrote in chapter 7 about tithing,
the official one priesthood that would be left, and the changes
God had made from Old to New Covenants. The changes that would
officially come to pass in 70 A.D. Paul was answering the
question about priesthood and tithing once the Old Covenant
priesthood was literally gone.
Up to 70 AD Christians were at liberty to tithe to the
Temple priesthood IF THEY WANTED for it was STILL FROM GOD! It
was still an ordinance of the Lord's that He had not yet brought
officially to an end. Paul, Peter, James, or any other apostle,
could not demand that all tithing was to go to the church, not
while the temple and its priesthood still stood. Hence they never
taught such a thing in their writings. But they did teach that
the ministers of the Lord had the authority to live off those
they served. Early in the NT church that is one of the main
reasons(what I've stated above) as to why people sold lands etc.
to meet the needs(as tithing could not be demanded to be given
to only the church) of all the members who continued to stay on
in Jerusalem, and who had no secular work there because they were
far from home and where their work was situated. Remember many
who were converted after hearing Peter's sermon had come to
Jerusalem to observe the day of Pentecost. They had come from all
parts of the Roman empire.
ATTITUDE FOR THE LAY MEMBER
What does the Lord require of the congregational member of
the Church of God?
"REMEMBER them which are the guides over you" (Heb.13:7 KJV
with margin reading).
A true servant of the Eternal God should be worth
remembering, he has been called to serve the members of the
Church and preach the truths of the word of the Lord to all who
will listen. In remembering him you remember the Lord.
Jesus said, "The laborer is worthy of his hire." The servant
of the Lord labors in the care and feeding of the flock of the
sheepfold - the children of the Lord.
Paul was inspired to write, "Let the elders that rule
well(fulfil their calling with extra care and effort) be counted
worthy of double HONOR..... for the scripture says, You shall
not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn...." (1 Tim.5:17-18).
God loves a cheerful giver! (2 Cor.9:7).
First written in 1983.
Revised and edited in 1996.
To be continued