A NOBLE TASK
The office of an OVERSEER, elder or minister is a noble task
indeed (1 Tim.3:1 RSV). It is a VERY HIGH responsibility to
guide, oversee, to teach, and to take care of the Church of God.
So much so that the Eternal God inspired Paul to lay down certain
very strict and severe qualifications on anyone whom an elder or
elders(and congregation backing) were considering to ordain into
the ministry. These qualifications are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7
and Titus 1:5-9. I have a separate in-depth study article on the
subject of those two passages of Scripture.
A man may have committed many sins - even some very grievous
(as the apostle Paul did, and some of those he tells us about in
his writings) BEFORE his conversion and becoming a child of God.
These are washed away at baptism by the blood of Jesus Christ. A
man may have slipped and fallen into any sin AFTER his baptism -
deeply repented and never fallen into that sin again. His life
and fruits of conversion will clearly show his fruits of
repentance were genuine.
Over a period of time (probably many years as a Christian,
how else can he have proved himself as "ruling well his own
house, having children in subjection.....children not accused of
riot or unruly.....Not a novice......having a good report of them
outside the church......" 1 Tim.3:4,6,7; Titus 1:6) a man must
meet the qualifications as given in 1 Tim.3 and Titus 1. It has
become very clear through FASTING and PRAYER (Acts 14:23) of
other ministers, that this man is called of God to be ordained to
the office of OVERSEER in the Church of God.
The problem with too many church organizations in the past
and maybe in the present, is that not ENOUGH TIME was given for a
man to really prove he had been called to the ministry by the
Lord. Far too often the men were far to young when ordained with
little "life" experience, and with little personal family
experience of their own. Too often it was done for "political"
church reasons, or for expediency of one kind or another. The sad
result of such actions was that many of these men became either
"yes men" to other ministers, or they became so full of vanity
they acted like little Hitlers towards their congregations. Some
placed in a higher organizational profile even thought they were
above any law(including God's) or/and that they had a "special"
calling from God so the Church of God could not possibly function
without them. But the truth of the matter is the Church of God
was alive BEFORE they were born, and it will still continue AFTER
they are dead.
It should not be easy to be ordained to the ministry, it
should take quite a while, of testing and proving, growing
spiritually and moving from being a novice of the word, into
personally being able to correctly divide the word of truth, and
to show leadership qualities within his own family. No one in
Israel could become a Priest until the age of 30 years at least,
that should tell us something. And Paul maybe laying down such
strong qualifications that may take it past age 30 by some years.
To find such qualified men would not be as easy as attending some
Theology University, or putting on your work clothes. That is why
Jesus said as He look at the vast crowds of people out there, the
harvest is GREAT, pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will
send men into the harvest to reap. People were to continually
pray for men to come who could qualify for Jesus' ministry, for
such true servants of God would not come easily, or without pray
Again, let me emphasize - the qualifications for a minister
as given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are VERY demanding. If the
reader has never studied these point by point, then I suggest you
do so with the help of a Greek Lexicon and some of the popular
Bible Commentaries such as William Barley's DAILY WORD STUDY, or
Barnes' NOTES ON THE NT.
DO CHRISTIANS AND MINISTERS SIN?
After a person has repented, been baptised and received
God's Holy Spirit - after they have had all their sins forgiven
and blotted out by the blood of the Christ (Rom.3:23- 25; 5:8-10)
and are now completely clean, is it IMPOSSIBLE for them to sin
God's word answers us very emphatically on this question!
Christians, walking down the Salvation road, are deceiving
themselves if they think they have no sin and no need of
continual repentance(a repentant attitude) before God
(1 John 1:8). An ordained minister is still flesh and blood, as
are all the living members of the body of Christ. An Elder is
still subject to the pulls of the flesh and to the attacks
of Satan as are all other Christians. A minister DOES SIN at
times (as Paul confessed he did - Rom.7:14-25). But a minister
will have proved himself in areas of life and conduct
(as shown in 1 Tim.3 and Titus 1) that give him a high moral and
spiritual step or standard in everyday life (but still humble and
not self-righteous) or he would never have been ordained in the
first place, if 1 Tim.3 and Titus 1 are being followed, and much
time is given to prove such men are qualified for the ministry of
Christians and Christian ministers may at times sin. We all
have our own personal sins to overcome and repent of. Sometimes
a sin may be more OPEN than personal as Peter's sin was,
mentioned by Paul in Galatians 2:11-14. Paul, in this particular
case, with all other avenues tried I'm sure, had NO CHOICE left
but to OPENLY denounce Peter BEFORE OTHERS concerning his wrong
actions and conduct. Paul gave instructions to Timothy about
openly rebuking a minister before other ministers and God's
people IF the situation warranted it (1 Tim.5:19-20). One
important rule was that there had to be two or three witnesses
before such an undertaking of rebuking a minister for a serious
sin, was determined to be the appropriate way to go in the
situation. Obviously, from the rest of the NT, including the
important passage in Matthew 18, all other instructions of
offending brethren had been followed first, and the men Paul is
talking about to Timothy, are truly guilty of serious sin and
unrepentant in attitude. Such was Peter at one time and Paul had
no choice but to rebuke him before others (Gal.2).
As there is no indication that Peter CONTINUED in his error
after having it clearly shown to him, as it was NOT a
RE-OCCURRING sin and Peter did not make it a part of his life, a
practice to live this way - it is, I think, just, to conclude
that this was a ONCE ONLY error, an error and sin that was DEEPLY
repented of, and that Peter never committed again. Thus Peter was
able to continue as a minister of God.
Now, there may be sins committed by an individual minister
THAT ARE re-occurring (I'm now talking about sins that are more
than personal) and involve ONE OR MORE other participants, AND
MAY NEVER BE DISCOVERED BY OTHERS (1 Tim.5:24). Yet God knows
those sins and so does the minister. With what Paul was inspired
to write regarding the qualifications of an Overseer in 1 Tim.3
and Titus 1, should not that man be honest enough and humble
enough to admit his CONTINUAL PRACTICE of sins that are other
than his personal individual sins (that we all strive against,
i.e., impatience, thoughts of jealously, bad temper, revenge
thoughts, lust of the mind etc.), have DISQUALIFIED him from
continuing in the ministry. Should not such a man VOLUNTARILY
RESIGN from the Overseership office in the church?
Oh, yes indeed, but to find such a sinning minister that
will do such a humble move, will be like looking for a needle in
a hay-stack. Especially if such a man is a full time paid
minister, or has some high profile function in his church
denomination, or has been led to believe (by others) that he has
a special calling from God to the world or to the nations of
There have been some few individuals recorded in the history
of the Sabbath observing churches, who, reflecting on their life
style and practices while in the ministry, DID HUMBLE themselves
and voluntarily RESIGNED from the Eldership (i.e., C.W. Stanley
of Lodi, Wisconsin, upon his resignation from the ministry in
December of 1860 said, "I have so poorly filled the office of a
good minister of Jesus Christ......during the eleven years past,
I do this day resign holy office." From, "The Advent Review and
Sabbath Herald, Dec.18th 1860, pp.39-40).
The Lord will honor such humility!
DISFELLOWSHIP AND THE MINISTRY
I have written very extensively on the doctrine of
DISFELLOWSHIPPING, as it applies to the members and the ministry
of the church. I will only say here that if the church has the
right to sanction and disfellowship a member (and they do) who is
known to be PRACTICING open sin (1 Cor.5 is an example), how
much MORE do they have the right to sanction and disfellowship a
minister who is known to be practicing sins that would bring
shame and reproach upon him and the church?
Is the physical act of having hands laid on a man by other
ministers in an ordination ceremony, an automatic (for the rest
of his physical life) GUARANTEE that he is a minister until DEATH
- regardless of how he lives from then on out? Surely no
God fearing person can uphold this kind of theology!
God is NO RESPECTER of persons! If disfellowshipping can be
applied to the members of the church, it can be applied to a
MINISTER! Paul says all in the body of Christ are part of His
body, all are needed, all are given different functions, and none
are greater or above any other in that sense. Certainly in the
disciplinary action of sins and disfellowshipping within the
church, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
The subject of "church disfellowshipping" has been greatly
abused by some and not understood by others. I have a full
in-depth study paper on the subject if anyone cares to request
it. I can send it via E-mail.
If, we as Christians, can FALL from the grace of God (loose
out on Salvation and inheriting eternal life) as we can (request
my study called "Saved by Grace" to see that truth expounded and
how we are saved by grace not works), HOW MUCH MORE can a man
DISQUALIFY himself from the office of DEACON, or ELDER as a
function within the church?
HUMILITY A RARE JEWEL
There have been ministers in the past (and some will no
doubt yet appear) who after their ordination fell into practicing
sins of one kind or another (lies, thefts, maliciousness,
immorality, drunkenness, extortion etc.). They have been guilty
of PRACTICING things as a wrong way of life, that were not only
against the 10 commandments of God, but also broke the
qualifications required of an Overseer in the church, as outlined
in 1 tim.3 and Titus 1.
Some of these individuals, if they were not asked to or made
to resign from the ministry by other ministers or their
respective congregations DID NOT VOLUNTARILY RESIGN, OR IF MADE
TO RESIGN, claimed they were still a chosen minister of God,
and kept on preaching and teaching while CONTINUING TO PRACTICE
SINS contrary to 1 Tim.3 and the 10 Commandments.
What is it that these men have that they believe they are
"above the law" of God, or above the strict requirements outlined
in 1 Tim.3 and Titus 1, for BECOMING and STAYING an elder or
Overseer? Why is it that they may feel and even teach, that 1
Tim.3 applies to others but NOT to THEMSELVES?
The answer is simply, VANITY!!
The heavens did not open to them as they did to Paul - they
were not struck with blinding light - they never heard the voice
of God personally talking to them (as Paul did) that they were
now a minister UNTIL DEATH and could never be disqualified.
They had none of this, yet some have felt that being
ordained by other ministers, having a good voice, being able to
preach dynamically and expound many truths of God's word, being
used on Radio or TV, writing articles in their church's
magazines, somehow gave them a SPECIAL calling - a unique calling
- something different than other ministers - an "individual
mission to Israel."
These individuals have become so filled with SELF-esteem and
PRIDE about what earthy success they have had in forming an
ORGANIZATION, or getting others to follow them, searing their
mind with the idea that they, above others, or along with others,
have some special ministerial calling that knows no boundaries.
They have forgotten or blinded their minds to the truth that a
calling to the ministry is a TRUST that God gives a man, not as
an "automatic until death, irregardless of how you live
commission" but a GRAVE RESPONSIBILITY that requires the meeting
of difficult qualifications BEFORE and AFTER his ordination.
They have forgotten that God is not dependant on man, but man
on God. they have forgotten that the Eternal is able to raise up
and call other men to write and speak and proclaim His gospel if
they should fall and disqualify themselves from the sacred trust
of the ministry. They have forgotten that God needs them not,
but they need Him, and that means the humility to REPENT and to
RESIGN from the ministry if their practices have been such as to
bring reproach and evil speaking against the Church of God.
When the Almighty is able to raise up the stones of the
ground to preach His word if needs be, what right does any man
have to vainly think or say that he has some unique commission
that overrides how he lives? Let such men and all of us learn a
lesson from John the Baptist, who WAS specifically called to do a
work of the Lord in Israel, but when asked if he was the Elijah
that was to come, denied that he was! So great was the humility
this man had that Jesus said none among men, none born of a
woman, had ever been greater.
It is a GRAVE and SERIOUS responsibility to be a TEACHER and
OVERSEER among the people of God. That is why James was inspired
to write: "My brothers, don't let MANY of you BECOME TEACHERS or
MINISTERS, because those who are shall be under GREATER JUDGMENT
and scrutiny" (James 3:1, paraphrased myself).
THE ACID TEST
Jesus gave us one of the main tests whereby we can determine
WHO HAS NOT DISQUALIFIED himself from the true ministry, or who
was perhaps never a true minister at all: "You shall know them
by THEIR fruits....." (Matt.7:16).
Notice, it does not say, "you shall know them by how large
an organization they build around them, " or "how many people
they get to follow them," or even "how many persons come to the
truth through their preaching," BUT IT IS "by THEIR fruits" -
how they conduct themselves in their daily life and activities,
and what fruit is shown in THEIR lives, judged in the light of
God's law and the high standards for those in the ministry as
outlined in 1 Tim.3 and Titus 1.
Teaching the correct DOCTRINE of God's word is the other
important test of a faithful minister (2 John 9-11). This means
not teaching falsehoods that are PLAINLY revealed to be false by
the word of the Lord (i.e., The immortality of the soul doctrine,
denying that Jesus was born of a virgin, denying Christ will
return literally and bodily, believing Jesus sinned while flesh
and blood on earth, claiming that the whole law, or one of its
ten points, is "done away with" today, teaching that one man is
head of the Church of God, with all final authority)
If a man cannot pass these TWO tests, he is not a minister
of the true God. If a man DURING his office as a minister
PRACTICES contrary to these two tests, he has DISQUALIFIED
himself from being a minister, and should for the love of the
righteousness of God, and a desire not to bring reproach upon the
Church of God by outsiders, humbly RESIGN !
If any minister shows over a period of time that he has
failed these two tests, other ministers and members of his church
should demand he resigns from the ministry. If he will not, then
the doctrine of disfellowshipping must be implemented and carried
through to the end if needs be. If such a man leaves and
continues to claim he is a minister, then all who know the truth
should stand away from him, and by no means whatsoever endorse
his work. If such men are able to control and create a following
from within an oraganization, then those who have stood up for
the righteousness of the Lord must depart and leave such sinners
and move on to walk in the light of truth.
It is possible for a minister to disqualify himself from the
ministry, so ministers be ware, all members of the body of Christ
be ware. Let's pray for the true ministers of the Lord, that
they will be kept safe from Satan, and from falling into sins
that will take them out of the ministry. The true ministers of
God need your prayers. And please also remember to pray that the
Lord will send more laborers into the fields for the harvest is
Written first in 1982. Revised and re-written January 1998.