Ekklesia Ministry Structure & Government
by Jeff Pohlman
[The larger title used on the hotlink to get to this page...]
Ekklesia Ministry Structure - Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers, Elders & Deacons - - - All DOERS of The Word - No Clergy, No Laity
This subject is so dear to me. Writing this particular section about our foundational faith has been like George Lucas producing the Star Wars movie-series. He produced Star Wars first (Episode #4 from the series of 6) - in 1977. He produced The Empire Strikes Back (#5) in 1980, and Return of the Jedi (#6) in 1983. By then, the scientific/ technology advancements in the film industry had made such leaps that he re-mastered all three of those, adding footage that had been originally left out or spiffing up parts he thought were lacking in the first versions, and re-released them in 1990. The cash flow from all of that gave him the momentum to continue on, according to plan, so he finally produced Episode #1, and 2, with Episode #3 finally coming out in 2005. There is supposedly an Episode #7 now in the series, which wasn't written when he started with #4, and no one doubts whether he'll produce that one too. His plans originally were that he thought he'd be long gone before that could happen, and he figured that someone else would produce #7, but he's lived long enough and the filming production cycles have shortened, so maybe he'll get to do it, we'll see.
Anyway, in my situation, I wrote quite a bunch of the information, teachings, etc., as well as developed all of the web page's dynamic and formatting themes for the Ekklesia At Richardson portion of the web site, all the while knowing that this particular subject sat in the twelfth spot of fourteen subjects to be written about, under the Our Foundation Faith section (one of nine button-selections on the front page of the Ekklesia At Richardson base web site). There is no financial windfall situation spurring me on to production like there is for Mr. Lucas, just simple time limitations along with other things I do in my life. This is a standout for favorite subjects for me, and it sat in my "patiently-waiting file," mentally, while I developed the other parts of the site.
If you've come here after reading the title on the Our Foundation Faith page, about "Old Testament - New Testament, Law And THE Fulfillment Of The Law," and you just want to see that part for now, then scroll down about a third of the way, just past the centered heading that proclaims - CASE STUDY , to the heading that reads, "Hebrews 10:1-31 - Jeff Pohlman Rendering Version (JPRV)," and there you'll have it.
All of us are pictures of differing proportions of gifts, talents, what have you, based upon Father's designs that He stirred into our individual DNA (genetic) structures. Fairly early on in my adult life, I knew in my innermost being (and it was confirmed by many prophetic and knowledgeable types of people of God), that my main gift is that of teaching, sort of like falling off a log for me. That doesn't mean I am a good one, it just manes it comes naturally to me. Sometimes it means people read my character as somewhat arrogant because I have a confidence as a teacher that is mostly unshakable, because He made me that way. My faith (not to be confused with religion - but faith as exhibited in action) is similarly unshakable. Closely behind that administrative teaching gifting in me comes apostolic, with the prophetic following that. The teachings of the apostles are so exciting to me. Wonderful. I see it. I breathe it. So it is with great glee that I download some of this for you. It's hardly exhaustive in length, on the subject of the five-fold and ministerial gifts for the Body, but it gives a bulwark to one's faith, when viewing it as beginning foundational understanding, for someone trying to make sense of it from their start in the ekklesia spiritual building blocks.
Once that Jesus' Spirit burned so brightly within me in function, starting somewhere in mid-1972 (in comparison to the simple act of asking Him to be Lord of my life in July of 1965, and then only maintaining a nominal Christian life of actions) the clarity of this scenario of administrative functioning of His Body came to vibrant life for me. All I see is His Life stamped all over this subject area, it is truly exciting to first see the foundation, then the bulwark of the framing, the covering, and the outworking. Right from those days in 1972, it has been clear that some of what He has worked inside of me as spiritual gifting has been that of the apostolic (I'll explain more on that word later in the article), so it shouldn't surprise you that this excites me. Other people with other God-given spiritual giftings may not be as excited as I am, for good reason, because He makes us all different, to be different parts of His body. I'm sure you've seen it in your friends like I have in mine, where the prophetic ones love reading the prophecies in the Bible, the evangelists love reading the good news passages and so forth. I've already said it, but just understand that this five-fold-ministerial subject is really exciting to me.
Right up until the time the Lord took him home, my good friend and pastor John Moreland used to joke about how there were ruts worn into his Bible, leading to the book of Ephesians. We used to laugh about it quite a bit. I must confess, Ephesians is the first part of my Bible that gets worn out in the binding, and with dog-eared, tattered-edged paper. We used to razz John and claim that we knew before he spoke, that his first scripture to be quoted was going to come from Ephesians.
I love Paul's way of reasoning with the pagan heathens in the books of Romans and Corinthians. I love the logical reasoning with the Jews by the author of the book of Hebrews. But, if I were Tom Hanks alone on an island in the movie Castaway (and believe me - this is nothing prophetic nor that I am wishing for, i.e. - to be Tom, to be in a movie, or to be alone on an uninhabited island - this is just daydreaming), I'd want the book of Ephesians, a Swiss army knife, and a Fresnel (pronounced freh-nell´ ) optical magnifying lens.
The Lonely Island Survival Kit
Ephesians: For complete spiritual protein, leading to salvation, then directing order for all time afterward.
Swiss Army Knife: For difficult tasks that 5 digits can't do (including one of them being an opposable thumb).
Fresnel Optical Lens: For starting fire J and magnifying reading pages when getting older and eyes dim.
There you have it folks, the world of survival according to Jeff Pohlman. Those three things COULD fit in one pocket, without too much trouble at the design table. I've just rewritten the Boy Scouts' and the entire US Military's survival-training-handbooks in one stroke of the electronic keyboard JJJ.
Anyway, although I am semi-serious, I'll put joking aside for a moment and say, Ephesians really is so wonderful, and directional, that we need to look at what it directs toward, for sustainable spiritual life until He snatches us out for eternity.
Now before we go into the jewel of what Ephesians unfolds for ministry structure and government for the ekklesia, let's first take a look at three pivotal scriptures that are bandied about poorly, because I think they are oft missed in their real importance, or skewed to mean something else for the purposes of filling collection plates in large meetings, all too often.
- - - - -
These following three points are each in themselves, complete teachings. The synopsis for them can be found at the end of each chapter, the headings being clearly in RED, to the left. But all three of them are synoptically drawn together as a sentence for each, within a chapter called "REVIEW" (easily seen if you scroll down) just before I plunge into the meat of the five-fold-and-ministerial gifts for the Body. I tell you this, in case you want to read the Five-Fold part first. Anyway, forewarned. You will probably find this better as a mini-pamphlet that you print up, and read each chapter as a teaching, one building upon the next, and then closing with the five-fold teaching.
- - - - -
1- WHO WILL BUILD & WHO'S IS IT?
This needs to get into the absolute gut, the center, the rock bottom of your spirit.
Matthew 16 : 17- And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18- And I also say to you that you are Peter [Petros - meaning a stone], and upon this rock [petra- meaning bedrock or large rock] I will build my ekklesia; and the gates of hades shall not overpower it. 19- I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
(New American Standard Version [NASV]- AMG Publishers - Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. Greek Study Bible)
The conversation that led up to that passage refers to Jesus talking with his disciples, seemingly in a casual manner, and He was quizzing them about what the rumors going around were, about who He was, referring to Himself in the third-person as The Son of Man. The disciples answered with the most popular answers. Then He turned more serious and asked them directly what it is that they personally say, as an answer back, about who He really is.
If you think about that long enough, you catch the inference that it is possible that Jesus was also asking them about what words they were using in His defense, or as explanations to the others, as if the disciples should already know, and have a ready defense, about who Jesus REALLY was (is). It would be like your kids stumbling into a little crowd of their friends after school one day, and the friends were talking about you, wondering out loud who you are, because they thought you had been absent for a long time and they all noticed that their parents had been talking a lot about you lately.
One said he thought you were the coach on the neighborhood little league baseball team. Another thought you were the guy who delivers newspapers at 4:30 in the morning. Somebody thought you're the man who makes sure Mrs. Smith gets on-and-off the handicapped bus to the library every Saturday afternoon. One boy said his Dad thought you looked like President Lincoln without a beard, when another one said his Mom thought you looked like Paul Newman. One thought you were the father who bought ice cream for your daughter's entire 5th grade class after they cleaned up the school from the burst plumbing pipes last spring. One little girl thought you were the man who spearheads the Girl Scout's cookie drive in the neighborhood every year.
When your kids had told you all the things that were said about you, and sensing their slight frustration about the wrong-guesses, you asked your kids who they said you were, then one son proudly announced, almost defending you because he realized the friends didn't know who you really were, that you are the guy who drives the truck that picks up the neighborhood garbage twice a week, and you had never told him what you do for a living.
Small, subtle glimpse, very slightly different perspective, but enlightening.
When you hear the guessing game that goes amongst your acquaintances over who Jesus really is, what His ekklesia really is or what it looks like, what do you say about who Jesus is? Do you get it right, because the Spirit of The Father has revealed it to you and you caught on (He reveals to everyone - it's just that some choose to ignore Him), or are you simply mimicking what you've heard someone else say as third-person information? Is your answer so correct that He proclaims that He builds his entire group of eternal friends, His chosen called out ones, His ekklesia, upon that spirit revelation, and not on a building, a physical rock, or any other substance, but upon the revelation bedrock that sees Him to be The Relational Being that He is?
It really needs to be understood that flesh and blood don't-and-can't reveal this principle; that Father God, Son Jesus-The-Christ, and Holy Spirit, are LIVING, RELATIONAL, and totally desirous of enjoining us in that fellowship. That the only way to get there, is THROUGH Jesus, as THE CHRIST (the Greek word for this within the text above - verse 16 - is Christos, meaning Anointed Messiah, the only one through whom salvation is possible, the one who will make final blood atonement for our sins, unto everlasting). Everything else is nice, but it pales to who He really is. Even more, it absolutely is dull compared to the realization that He chooses to be in us and through us as us. He shed His blood to purchase this relationship for us, for right now and becoming eternity, starting now.
So. When Peter verbalized above that he got it - really got it - and did it in such a way that it almost seems that he uttered it the way a little child speaks a plain truth to the surprise of his or her parents, Jesus seized the moment. He knew that it wasn't something that would be stolen away from Peter. It is a revelation that comes straight from Father and His Holy Spirit. When a human gets it, he or she really gets it. Therefore - to answer the question which is the heading of this chapter --- Jesus is the flesh-manifestation of the triune God, He is so desirous of relating with us deeply, and upon the bedrock of that understanding, in each one of us who chooses, He (Jesus) builds His (Jesus') band of called out ones (ekklesia). The word ekklesia (wrongly translated church in some Bible versions) used in this passage most definitely does not say temple, cathedral, church building, institutional organization, none of that.
Get it, and get it deep in your spirit. He says He will build His ekklesia - His called out ones, His collection of people going forward, to be His, for all eternity.
In case you are wanting ekklesia to mean building or meeting place, scroll back up and just notice what He concludes with, at the end of verse 18, and you might not want to be part of a physical place. As for one particular physical place that seemingly does have possible building walls, palace walls, or even city walls, the only warring mechanism available to any of them, against Jesus' true ekklesia, are a particular defense mechanism of war, called gates. No offensive weaponry is allotted to them. Only one defensive weapon - gates - and all they can do is open and close in a tiny linear movement. The very hinges they ride upon are burst, the buttress of a door frame that they close upon is shattered to splinters, the bulwark of a locking mechanism is pulverized to powder, in comparison to the fact that what really counts is His Spirit living in and through His chosen human beings, AS His human beings, for all eternity. The gates are dust. Obliterated. Who wants a traditional structure to rely upon for security now? There is no safe, no wall, no lock, no security system, no gate, that can keep the truth of His-love-for-us, from us, that's so deep He wants to be in and through our very beings. Bye bye buildings, structures, institutions with your gates. Hello spiritual relationship for eternity with Jesus!!!
We had a pastoral friend who used to pound this into the heads of people in leadership - - - whatever you do to get them in the door, YOU have to keep doing to keep them coming back in the door. He was most definitely referencing the flaw of what institutional leaders go through in order to keep their circuses flowing profitably. He was also referencing how frustrating it is to be a leader in that sort of setting, because after a while, all leaders burn out. It takes a very special ringmaster to keep the circus going all of the time. What our friend was always suggesting was that we leave the business of bringing (or "ringing," within the circus metaphor) people to our midst to Father. Whenever and whomever He brings, is up to Him, it is our responsibility to work with those He deems timely and necessary.
In the case of Jesus' ekklesia, He isn't running a circus. His ekklesia is just that. His. He told us He would build it. He does. He is. He will. For me or any of us to say that we are planting, that we are building His ekklesia is an act of supplanting Him, and dare I say, not too far from what the ex-angel-of-light said one day when he declared that he was above God, doing God's work FOR Him. Woops - I heard that gasp. Mind you, I will not accuse any of you. I will warn that you'd better carefully examine whether you are in line with what Jesus says here in this pivotal and very preached passage (judge your own motives for yourself). It IS His ekklesia. He will build it. He IS, no matter what you may hear from the surrounding buddies like what the disciples heard as mistaken rumors. Whatever you do to build it, is your effort, and apart from Him doing the building, will most likely come against the same force that those defensive gate mechanisms encounter. It IS His to build, so take your hands off. And I might as well throw this in too, if you are building your own church (different from Jesus' ekklesia), you can imagine what recommendations are, all by yourself, without me trying to throw rock-one at you or your church. Please, choose Jesus' ekklesia, and let Him build it, because He said He would, and He IS.
Before I move on to the next chapter, I am going to give you one small and humbling personal experience that accents this dynamic and organic move of God, compared to a formal institutional structure disseminating orders through committees and boards of directors, from inside a building (chapel, cathedral, temple, etc.). I have been in many situations where He has definitively been the builder, the sustainer, and so forth. One such instance was when I was in the U.S. military, where I and my wife fellowshipped with a small band of ekklesia on the edge of the town where we were stationed. The Lord miraculously assembled a little singing group and we called ourselves Peniel, from Genesis 32:30, a Hebrew word meaning "The Face Of God," and we told people that we didn't want them to see or remember us, but to see God, much like the account that this name comes from, where Jacob knew he had seen God and was spared. Our little group met because we were frustrated at what else was being offered to us at the time, through the well-meaning institutions that surrounded us. We were simply meeting to have prayer and worship as a practice, no other intentions. We were encouraging each other, feeding our spirits together, on the word of God and in songs of praise. It became a ministry. Out of nowhere came bookings for singing gigs. Out of nowhere came money for musical instruments, a sound system, microphones, a portable expandable platform, fuel to drive to and from, and so on. He did it. We didn't have to exert effort, be polished, market ourselves, advertise, and so on. He did it. He sustained it. And He also stopped it in His time, with no fanfare, nor sad feelings, nor thoughts of having done anything wrong. He simply did it. We were available, submitted, and accountable. He started it, He sustained it, He stopped it. We are still close friends, now used by Him in many other ways, but open to the spontaneousness of His Spirit's leading, all the way.
That is very unsettling to someone who hates spontaneousness and who must have absolute structure and order, maybe even tradition, to maintain feelings of security. I am not talking about chaos. Holy Spirit leads spontaneously, and He is anything but anarchy and chaos. To be willing to submit to His spontaneity takes steps of faith. To be willing to have Jesus be The builder of His ekklesia takes steps of faith, and you MUST trust in Him to do it. It might not be the way you would do it, not look the way you thought it would look, but it sure is wonderful to be part of His true work. We have a popular song/ chant at the early part of the 21st Century, which utilizes these very words from Matthew 16:18 and uses the wrong translation word for ekklesia. It repeats the words,
"I will build my church.
I will build my church.
And the gates of hell.
And the gates of hell.
Shall not prevail.
Shall not prevail.
It feels good to sing as a song. Victorious feeling. Yes, I understand the intent, and I do not want to rob the thunder of what it feels like to be able to ride on the coat tails of The King, as one of His kids. However, as you know, He is always checking us for our INTENT, no different than right at the start in the garden with Adam & Eve. He's always interested in whether we are choosing to worship Him of our free will, apart from coercion, and He wants to know that we are not subtly trying to steal what's His Glory in the first place. This is one of the areas where such a thing may be subtly seen - follow my logic here and see which side of the fence you think you end up on (because I cannot, and do not want to judge you in the slightest way, obviously).
I'll not go into the discussion here about the word in the Matthew 16:18 being ekklesia and not church, in all original Bible translations, until King James commissioned his version in the 1600s - you can find discussions about that elsewhere on our site.
The point here being that in the singing of that song, it is usually done within the context of large institutional organizational places, truly called "churches." Further, the singing of it becomes such a mantra chant that many of the people singing it develop the thought that it is they who are building their church. You have to check your own spirit and decide whether you are mimicking Jesus, as if you are speaking for Him, saying the words for Him, as if He were saying, "I will build my ekklesia," or if you are singing it as if you are going to build your own version of something called a church (building maybe?).
If I say that I will build my church, I am then saying something that is in complete antithesis to what Jesus is saying HE will do in Matthew 16:18, and different from the position He wants me to take while HE does the building.
Do you see it saints?
I can't build Jesus church, because there is no such thing, and He's not even building one.
I can no longer build His ekklesia because He says that only He will build it, and I can't even START or plant an ekklesia, because He did the starting a long time ago - commencement complete - so to start something extra, to start another, beyond what Jesus' designs already are, would be the equivalent to taking a prostitute while I am married to my wife.
We are talking about relationship here, not institution or structural building. If you think about this in your flesh, you won't get it, because we are talking about something that is dynamic, relational, spirit.
There's more to say about this, which I'll save until later, but you need to ask yourself this... Wouldn't this Matthew 16 passage have been a wonderful place in the Bible for Jesus to expound on how He desired for His little band of dynamic organic called out ones (ekklesia) to immediately become an incorporated institution (my, my, it took them over 300 years to wake up, to try that old institutional stuff), selling state-approved division (or is it denomination) franchises (that's the legalese word for maintaining an incorporation), sending leaders off to mimic what their contemporary Hebrew friends already had as an example, a 4,000-year-old institutional example, yea tradition, in formal training like what Saul (soon to be Paul) had in the venerated Sanhedrin, and repeating the traditions that had already been built upon, up until that point? I guess His timing was off, or He didn't really divinely recognize the prime opportunity He had to impact that essential truth upon us? (yes - I am being facetious) Instead Jesus prattled on about HIM building HIS group of ekklesia as a dynamic organic relational-group for all eternity, and not even satan's sole-defense-mechanism would prevail against Jesus' one-&-only design. Hmmmmm?
So the first pivotal ekklesia passage we have reviewed, suggests that the Bride Of Christ, the called out ones, ekklesia, is HIS, and it is built by HIM. It is built upon the same personal revelation that is given by Father God, much the same as it was given to Peter, and then positively confessed or proclaimed, by His ekklesians - nothing MORE, nothing LESS. Revelatory Spirit Through Called Out Humans.
Now we come to the second of our three pivotal scriptures leading to a discussion of ekklesia government and ministry. Your name ( if [...BIG IF] you are bought with the blood of Jesus) starts with the adjective - Livingstone. My full eternal spiritual name is Livingstone Jeff Pohlman. In some East Asian dialects and customs, this is truly their formal way of speaking - i.e., the surname, the family name, comes first. In the Kingdom of God, there is only one surname to be had, that of Livingstone. All those of the Deadstone kingdom/ family are either already in, or on their way to, hell, governed by their tortuous family father, satan, bender and twister of light in order to deceive, rob, steal, kill, destroy. Choose this day who you will serve. I pick The Livingstone family myself. How about you?
1 Peter 2 : 4- Come to Him, to that living stone, rejected by men, but in God's sight chosen and precious; 5- and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6- For it stands in scripture [Is 28:16]: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in Him will not be put to shame." 7- To you therefore who believe, He is precious, but for those who do not believe [Ps 118:22], "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner," 8- and [Is 8:14] "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall"; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9- But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 10- Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.
(Revised Standard Version [RSV]- Zondervan Publishers)
You could record that on your favorite recording device, and play it back many times to let it sink in. That will preach all by itself!!!
Here's a phrase that's not been used much, with these exact words, in all of Biblical writing, but pivotal to the pulling down of the tradition-bound institution that Jesus was always pulling down (right up to the point that He tore the huge veil in the temple, seemingly impossibly, from top to bottom - opening up the Holy Of Holies [Himself] for all mankind to have access to), and the building up of His forever-spirit-ekklesia - living stones. Little phrase - BIG meaning.
It doesn't take an etymology expert or literary analyst to figure it out.
Research of the Greek words "living stones" reveals the same thing that our common English lends us. Living stones are something that have the form of a counterpart that is dead/ dying, but instead, a living stone is quickly, lively, fully alive with spirit-anime-life, made possible only by the shed blood of Jesus.
A real dead stone (rock, dirt, earth, clay, building, temple, cathedral, etc.) cannot and will not wish this upon itself, nor can any other God-created object or animal.
However, by God's design, those who are made from pulverized particles of stones (sand), i.e. humans, CAN; and they have a choice to WILL this into happening, to be an alive-being, breathed on-and-through by Him, yet still in bodily human (sand/ stone) form. LIVINGSTONE!!!
In this second pivotal ekklesia passage we see that we were created with this purpose in His mind in the first place. It was assigned to us as our spirit-reality, our position with Him. That purpose for all of mankind was at once abdicated and stolen through Adam & Eve, further enforced by our own repeated individual sinning, thus our Livingstone position of citizenship and heritage was held hostage, requiring a blood sacrifice in order to buy us back for His originally intended purpose, of eternal life with Him flowing in us and through us as us, in perfect and complete fellowship.
3- WHO'S ERECTOR-SET® IS IT & WHO ARE THE PIECES?
Now we look at the last of the preparatory scriptures setting the stage for a discussion of modern ekklesia ministry and governing. We have heard this hammered about so many times, especially on sparsely attended Wednesday-night services within franchised Churchdom where the speaking preacher is heaping guilt upon those who are already attending, when the ones who supposedly need to hear it aren't even there to hear it. What that means for those of us who are trying to review the passage with freshness is that we almost can't see the real meaning because of the heaps of propaganda we've swallowed in our lifetimes. Look for a moment at the pivotal two verses I am alluding to, see if your mind doesn't reel over past sermons you've heard on the subject of "forsaking Sunday & Wednesday fellowship." However, once you've looked at it, it's a refreshing and supportive verse, let's press in and really try to get Holy Spirit's unction on this.
Hebrews 10 : 24- ...and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25- not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.
(New American Standard Version [NASV]- AMG Publishers - Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. Greek Study Bible)
I can enjoy humor about translations of the Bible. My pastor of over 30 years used to joke about being sure to read the Bible in its original text - the King James Version, and he appreciated the fact that Jesus always wrote with a red pen. Saying that always brought out big laughs. But it was his favorite translation version. Why? Because it was what he grew up around, and what was largely used in the Bible college he went to. This is the same for many of us (not necessarily the Bible college part), and I think you can figure out why, because it becomes a comfort level, like the proverbial pillow, blanket or stuffed toy that's near us in our younger years when we sleep.
The version of the Bible that I grew up with, the very one which I feel most comfortable with reading most of the time, but which isn't a very good help for studying root words at times, actually translates this "forsaking our own assembling together" passage as "not neglecting to meet together." At first blush, we think that this isn't too big of a deal. It's only two different ways to express the same thing. Yes and no. The problem is that what it misses in the translation is HIGHLY crucial. So it really is instrumental to understanding ekklesia (as opposed to church [see discussions about such elsewhere on this web site ||||| church or ekklesia ]) and then leading up to proper government as Christ sees fit (not as men see fit). That's a pretty big deal. It's not one to be overlooked, out of convenience, or just because we've been doing it this way since the 300s AD., or just because we have gotten comfortable in our traditions, or we don't want to rock the boat, or we don't want to go against popular opinion in order to exact change to go back to the designs which Jesus set up for us in the first place. So, I submit to you that the meaning of forsaking our own assembling together is far different from not neglecting to meet together, and it is the first translation that is what is intended, so let's look at what the difference is, and why it's so important.
If you would lend me poetic license, while I absolutely avoid stepping into heresy, only because of the grace given by His Holy Spirit, let me paraphrase my own rendering of the whole of Hebrews 10 : 1-31. It was written as a casual narrative for the readers in its original text - it should read as a casual narrative for us today, as observers. So, I have written it to be that, so we aren't caught in the stuffiness of formality, with all of the oddly (for today) punctuated thee's-and-thou's and disjointed quotations. This is a flowing conversation, the way it was originally intended to be. This is such an exciting passage for us and I don't want to see it lost because we have had some oddly distracting teachings on it from our collective pasts. If you would like, you may want to follow along with your regular study Bible to see what I fill in or explain, and to be sure that I haven't skewed the original meaning.
This is an essential teaching, which we had entitled "Old Testament - New Testament, Law And THE Fulfillment Of The Law" on the Our Foundation Faith page of the site. Rather than rewrite it as a standalone, it is truly part of this teaching, and you can excerpt it if you'd like [it is bracketed at the end by another horizontal line], or read it in context of the larger teaching.
Hebrews 10:1-31 - Jeff Pohlman Rendering Version (JPRV)
1- The First Testament law was necessary for a time being, giving a way for those who desired and chose to be The Lords, to have access to Him, albeit through the blood sacrifice of animals to cover their sins, and sacramental rituals to keep them in line with some structure and form of obedience in their day-to-day lives. This is referred to as the Old Covenant or even the First Testament, as in a person drawing up a will and testament, giving one's wishes for the execution of their estate. As a first, it was just an early beginning, a picture or shadow pointing toward the more excellent Last Testament, which was to come. The early-people exercised the will of faith, knowing that a better way was coming through their One Messiah, in the future, and they presumed that His event might be far after their lifetimes. The first, or old testament was simply a hint, a glimpse toward what was coming in the last, or new testament. 2- The true joy of the Last Testament is that the imperfection of having to make animal sacrifices is no longer a requirement, and the proof of the New & Last being far superior to the First & Old is in the fact that the sacrifices never ceased under the First, but THE sacrifice has been made, once and for always, under the Last. 3- Under the First Testament, there was a constant and continual (seemingly endless for some) reminder of their sins because the sacrifices were never removed from their list of things-to-do. 4- They were constantly aware that sacrificing scapegoats and scape-bulls, as proxies (in place of), never completely got rid of their sins, they were constantly reminded that they themselves should have been killed for their sins, that animal blood was only a temporary application of a type of shield, as a metaphor, against being truly killed by God for their sins (which required each individual human's permanent blood sacrifice/death because they). Further, in case any were to conjure up a possible scheme, fallacy as it would be, if you were to be executed during this life without the forgiveness of your sins, you'd be dead and gone to hell, and it would have been your sinful blood (not innocent) that was sacrificed so your execution would have been in vain. An endless conundrum. Unless one's sins could be effectively and finally forgiven through some perfect blood sacrifice.
5,6- Because of the impact of all of what this means, when Jesus came to Earth in his flesh-manifestation-body, He quoted King David directly from Psalms 40:6-8, talking to-and-about Jesus' Father, and said, "Your ultimate desire is not to have humans carry on with animal sacrifices for all time, those sacrifices truly have given you no pleasure, they've just been a temporary fix, but You have prepared My human body to be the one-and-final blood sacrifice for humankind's sin." 7- And Jesus continued this thought-process by quoting Jeremiah 36:2, now talking about His position in relationship with what His Father had already set up, saying of Himself to Father, "Behold then, I have come to fulfill this Your will, as it is truly written of Me in the scroll of Ezra which has been read in the temple all these years." 8- BECAUSE He first quoted David's Psalms, in verses 5 and 6 above, saying that sacrifices, offerings and whole burnt offerings, done in exact obedience to the law, were not pleasing enough to Father, in their final effect, 9- and then He wraps that quote into a final eradication (the "death-blow," in boxing terms), by quoting Jeremiah's repeat of Ezra's initiative, ultimately saying that, "It is Me, I have come to do Your will, My Body will be the final sacrifice," THEREFORE He has truly set aside the importance of the First Testament law of blood sacrifices, which served those who were alive up until the time of Jesus sacrificial death. Clearly He first said He was going to do it, and then He did it, He has fulfilled the First, (thank Him for that, because we no longer need to carry on sacraments like that ever again - we've been set free from that law) and He's created the Last Will And Testament, fulfilled by His final blood sacrifice for all sinning humans. He abolished and fulfilled the First Will & Testament in order to forever establish the Last Will & Testament. The last supercedes the first, forever, Hallelujah! 10- And by that very Last Will & Testament we have been made right, sanctified before The Father, by the confession of our faith in Him, through the offering of the earthly body of Jesus the Savior Christ, the eternal scapegoat for our sins, yes - once for all time, never needing to be repeated.
11- In case you didn't get it that time around, let's look at it one more time. Scholars aren't exactly sure, they don't think Paul the apostle wrote this book, but maybe Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Priscilla (Prisca), Phillip or someone else wrote it, in the first century after Christ was amongst them. But the fact is that it was written within the first 70 years after He was here in bodily form, because this book entitled To The Hebrews speaks in terms before the physical Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 AD. What the author concretely says, is that at that point in time, every Hebrew priest, not living in The Way (what the early Christians were being called) as yet, was still going to work at the altar in the temple each and every day, offering the same old sacrifices that had been made for the last three-thousand-plus years, and none of them was having any effect on wiping out the hopeless sin-problem that existed. Those priests were still doing it at the time of that writing - go to work, make sacrifices, go home, sleep, go to work, make sacrifices, ad infinitum. They're in a hopeless state of affairs as long as they remain under that First Testament law system. 12- But Christ, The Great High Priest, HAS made the single innocent perfect sacrifice: His Body-Blood-Life. That was it. Once He did it, He took a seat at His rightful place, at Father God's right hand, for all eternity, 13- the other priests don't seem to know it, but their jobs are ended, and they have a new calling, yet they remain in their old profession, meanwhile, Jesus is waiting with the Father for His enemies to cave in from utter defeat, and all become a heap of defeat, big enough to be a footstool for Jesus' feet. 14- Jesus' single sacrificial offering of Himself has sanctified and perfected all those who profess their faith in Him for all time. Some professed it before He came; many are still professing.
15- Just to seal it further as a done deal, Holy Spirit confirms it for us too, by putting it down in prophetic words written by the prophet Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 31:33-34, saying... 16- THIS is the covenant, The Last Will & Testament I will make with all of them for the rest of eternity, I'm not going to write it on paper, stones, tablets, nothing that can be seen. There will be no image to be found which has writing, nor any sort of inscription from Me. Here's my plan for the rest of eternity. I will write My will in their spirit-hearts, their very center of their mindful beings. I will do it, and none other, because none other can do this, except Me. 17- Then He adds the kicker in verse 34, AND I WILL NEVER AGAIN REMEMBER THEIR SINS - DONE - FINISHED - COMPLETE.
18- So it is a sure saying that once Father God says that our sins are taken care of for good, THAT'S IT. SETTLED. There is never a need to once again return to the First Testament way of law, and start offering sacrifices, or doing business in the old institutional sacramental way. If you do that, you are absolutely insulting Jesus for what He did, and distrusting Father for the provision He has already made for you. If He says He forgave you of your sins forever, He did. There's no way you can earn your way, you couldn't before, and you still can't.
19- So. We can have the closest intimate fellowship of Him in and through us as us, another way of saying "the sanctuary of The Holy Place," with all confidence, and no need to bow, scrape, beg, wallow, inflict self pain and misery, and so on. We humbly yet confidently approach and ask because Jesus already accomplished it by His blood sacrifice. 20- This might upset those who choose to stay under the First Testament law, but we now have access by a new and living way; - no longer do the priests kill animals and apply their blood to appropriate places around a physical temple, - no longer does one lone high priest enter just once a year into the Holy Of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem through the linen veil that was almost twenty-feet tall; 21- no sir, or ma'am, now we have daily moment-by-moment access to the Holy Place, a Holy-Spirit place, the place right next to Father by way of our Great High Priest, Jesus, with His Body-and-Blood being our veil, another way of saying that His living curtain has made the way for us, and we can enter in with all confidence. 22- So DO IT - draw near, with a true spirit-heart, with absolute faith, having made the step of exchanged life - confessing and giving up your sins in exchange for His Lordship and Life, in and through you as you. 23- He promised, it is real, hold fast with the most firm Spirit-Grip, because it is true. Confess it. It is true. Do not waver. He is, after all, the One who promises, AND is the fulfiller, all-in-one, there is none other who is absolutely capable to fulfill it all. 24- For our part, as best we can as humans, let us continually find ways to positively encourage each other to love and good works (all possible - after Jesus' blood has been first-applied) until the day He comes to take us away - which can be a long task, but joyful. Encourage. Stir Up. Positively incite each other. Spur each other on. Some may not take to being prodded at first, so take a position of humbly helping each other. In time, it will become hilarious encouraging. 25- Here's a point for you to notice in this encouraging, Christ is building a spirit-building, His spiritual building, sometimes referred to as "His Body" or "His Bride." Conceptually you understand that each of the pieces of a building must fit in its place - in order to be one building - in order to be one. Do not resist being put into your place in His spirit-structure. Much like some proverbial 5,000 pieces of a living-breathing-puzzle being assembled in the parlor of eternity, you have your place, and you are not to neglect being assembled into your place, where we all become one, with Christ, in Christ. Find it, fit in it, exercise in it. Be free in it. Find your purpose and fulfillment in it. Be what He has called you to be. Free, and His. Have you ever seen a dog walking down the street with three legs? That's what the Body of Christ looks like when one of the living-stone pieces refuses to be joined by being assembled with the other pieces, into one body. Stop being the cause of the limping. Stop causing His Body to be handicapped. He wants you in your rightful place. Let Him assemble you into your place, in His Body. There are not many days left before He finally comes for His Body, His Bride, wouldn't you like to spend eternity, starting now, knowing that you are rightly assembled in your place as the piece He has designed you to be, rather than wait for the other side to come upon you like a rush, and possibly have to experience eternity with something of a lack, because you resisted on this side? Get in line - be assembled - join the ranks in your rightful place. It is a joy, yes - enjoyable, another part of scripture describes it where His yoke is easy. Believe it. Join in. Stop resisting.
26- Here's the kicker for you. Now that you know, because you've read this truth, that the First Testament law is fulfilled by Jesus, that He has set up the Last Will & Testament where there is no other sacrifice for your sins needed, that Jesus made the ONLY sacrifice needed anymore, then it's done; and if you still continue on in your sin, willfully, now you live with the terrifying expectation of the day 27- when you WILL be brought before Him for judgment for your sins, and you having deliberately NOT chosen the one sacrifice needed (Jesus), you will be judged and submitted to the fury of eternal separation from Him, in the eternal tortuous fire assigned for His adversaries, consumed and obliterated.
28- Under the First Testament, sometimes referred to as The Law of Moses, if you ignored or broke the law, as if you were above it, your violation of just one of its laws quickly brought you to the realization that you weren't above it, and worse, you usually died, most of the time by being stoned to death (because there a lot of rocks - good for hurling - around Israel), at the testimony of simply two or three witnesses, with no mercy. 29- So what punishment do you think will happen to you or anyone else who reads the passages above about His one-time sacrifice made, and turns away from God's Son, insulting His most gracious Holy Spirit? You had best think about it, because there is little time left to make a decision, and now that you've read it, it is time for you to decide, choose this day, and be joined as an assembled piece of His Body, with Him gloriously coursing in you and through you as you, or choose to be totally separated (not just an out-of-socket-joint or slightly-disjointed, as in a sports injury, but completely severed, separated, cut off) from His Body for all eternity, thrown out as garbage in the dumpster of hell-fire for eternity. He's a loving God now, take the opportunity while you have it, in His grace, 30- because He has written in Deuteronomy 32:35, "I will get even; full vengeance is Mine. You will pay your debt for your sins." And He goes further in verse 36, by saying, "I The Lord WILL judge all people," so there's no escaping the judgment. Ignoring it won't make it go away. What's your decision? 31- While He is a loving God, He also absolutely will not tolerate sin. You have to do something about it. While it is today, you have a chance to apply the Last Will & Testament blood of Jesus, but when your turn is up, and if you haven't chosen that way, it will be a most fearful and terrifying event to fall into the judgment-hands of The Living God without Jesus' blood applied to your life. Don't just make the decision because you fear being thrown away as the worst of despicable garbage for all eternity (although that truly is a terror of a nightmare), make the decision of applying His blood to your eternal spirit life, because you WANT to have the Spirit of Christ coursing through you as you; forgiven, non-accusable for all eternity.
As an aside: That is one passage which really accents the need to see entire passages in context, without plucking out one verse just for convenience-sake, where it might say something articulate all by itself, and make our case look real good. The entire passage, as tiresome as it might be to read, is a whole sermon. This is a most difficult point about reading the Bible, because it is tempting to pick out singular verses, which can eventually lead to taking them out of context, without seeing the surrounding texts. For those seeking His wisdom, they find that reading whole passages and meditating on them, brings a perspective which instructs deeply to your spirit.
This gingerly brings us back to the point of verse 25. Within context, looking at the differences between forsaking assembly versus meeting together, did you grasp the weight of how important being assembled as a unit is, versus the tinier interpretation of holding ritual meetings?
You might say, "yeah, I get the 'forsake not...' part, that's not to difficult for humans to grasp, but tell me again, what's this 'assembling of yourselves together'." Another good question is, why do so many leaders try to twist this to mean it for formal service meetings on Sundays and Wednesdays (as an example) while others pretend to be more-or-less righteous and supersede that Saturdays and Thursdays are better days? The whole issue of certain days being proper is a complete distraction. Likewise, the whole issue of a franchised institutional organization and its rules of engagement are a distraction to this verse.
As I said previously, the version of the Bible I grew up with actually translates these particular words in Hebrews 10:25 as "...not neglecting to meet together...", when that is fully not the intended point of the original manuscript writings. Meeting together is a tiny part of the larger intended whole of the message. This argument about "one version of the Bible versus another" sometimes makes it difficult for us common folk to understand the Bible at times, and it gives rise to the argument that only professional people should read the Bible and then interpret it FOR us. Bunk. That, my dear friends, is nothing more than a formula for elitism, and that has no part in Jesus true Kingdom. Jesus wants us to personally take full responsibility for understanding His true meanings and intentions, whether in written word or in spoken lively fresh words given today. Do I hear an AMEN? As an example, that happens to be the thrust of what Luther was after, institutionally denominational as he was. Personal responsibility is the key here, and it rests squarely in each of our laps to take it for ourselves, without giving it up to someone else. Search out what I am writing and saying here, don't take my word for it. Petition Jesus yourself, directly, ask Him for His answer for you.
Relating that back to this snippet of the passage of Hebrews 10:25 that's sometimes mistranslated "...not neglecting to meet together..." I have a responsibility to sniff out what Jesus really meant when He had this written for our understanding - so do you. I'll give you what I've learned, because there are no secrets in Jesus' Kingdom, but that doesn't mean I am special, because you can also go directly and get His answer for you. The words that some scholars translated into "meet together," while other scholars translated into "assemble together," all build from the base original Greek texts, when giving us their "translation" or "interpretation" (meaning - some Bibles are translations, some are interpretations, there IS a difference).
If He meant for this to be a passage that the Wednesday night church-(and I use that word specifically)-preacher could be armed with, in order to gain more attendees, then I want to know that. If He meant it for something else, I want to know it. I presented my whole paraphrased rendering above so you could see the crux of His true intention in verse 25. I'll repeat some of it, to close out this chapter.
The passage is intended to show you that Christ is building an eternal spiritual being, His own spiritual building, sometimes referred to as His Bride. Sometimes we have a difficult time seeing conceptually, and we lean toward physical examples, in order to give us mental-handles on the spiritual principles being presented about. He is assembling a unified structure, in Spirit, as a sort of spiritual Erector Set®. Each of the pieces of the spiritual structure must fit in its place. The essence of this scriptural passage is that you not resist being put into your place in His spiritual building. Who cares how many pieces there are. We should not get wrapped up into what it looks like. That He gave us a picture of His Body, or His Bride, should be enough, because a human body is complex enough in it's structure, and you should be capable-enough to conceptualize that you are a chromosome, or a blood cell, or a skin particle, or a hair follicle, something small, within the context of the more-huge, all-encompassing-whole. You are an assembled piece. Yea, a livingstone.
The essence of this passage is to impact you with the fact that you have your place within the whole Body, and you are not to neglect being built-assembled into your place. It has little if anything to do with whether you attend meetings. That would be such a tiny interpretive part of what it means to be a part of His one whole Body that it would create a myopia causing the whole Body to stumble (Hmmm - I wonder if that's what's happened?). You are a tiny piece of His great and glorious Erector Set® known as His Body and Bride. Repeating what I said above, find your place, He won't let you go clueless - that IS FOR SURE. Fit in it, exercise in it. Be free in it. Find your purpose and fulfillment in it. Be what He has called you to be. He wants you in your rightful place. Let Him build and assemble you into your place, in His Body. Get in line - be assembled - join the ranks in your rightful place. It is a joy.
Point 1 - It is His ekklesia (called out ones) and He will build it. Get it (not a question, but an emphatic statement). You may want to repeat that first sentence to yourself several time until you DO get it. No amount of our chanting, singing, whooping up into a frenzy, stomping the ground, pointing to the north-east-west-or-south, will make it ours, nor is it possible that we can either "plant" it, or "start" it, or start another one, or "build" it. Repeat: It is His ekklesia, He started it, there's only one, He will build it.
Point 2 - The ekklesia are made up of Livingstones, a position gained by the blood of Jesus. Ekklesia are not a building (which is alternately or substitutionally what the word kirk-or-church means - first translated that way in 1611 for various reasons) made up of dead stones put together with spiritually untempered mortar that is also dead. Nor are ekklesia an institution put together by decrees and edicts found in man's courtrooms and boardrooms of the land. No sir, we are those called out ones, Livingstones - dynamic, living, breathing people - spirit-beings.
Point 3 - The ekklesia (His called out ones) are His collective-and-growing spiritual Erector Set®, you are one of His pieces if Jesus' blood has been applied to your life in full, and He gleefully assembles you into your place as part of the whole, to function there for all eternity. This is a dynamic placement, and a most glorious position of having Him living in and through you as you. Enjoy the wild joy of His freedom.
ON TO OVERSIGHT MINISTRY & GOVERNMENT
Can you believe that that's all key for your understanding of what comes next? The following passage, originally written as a collected-whole, is such a precious section that I will not separate it out here, and as a whole, it has such vitality that we need to review it as a whole.
Ephesians 4 : 1- I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2- with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, 3- being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4- There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6- one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. 7- But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.
8- Therefore it says [ed. note - in Ps 68:18] "When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men." 9- (Now this expression "He ascended," what does it mean except to say He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10- He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
11- And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12- for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13- until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
14- As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15- but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16- from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
17- This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18- being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their spirit-heart; 19- and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
(New American Standard Version [NASV]- AMG Publishers - Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. Greek Study Bible)
That is such a wonderful passage!!! But, Jesus never gave particular sorts of directives in any of the gospels written about Him, nor anywhere else we read in the New or Old Testament. (What did I say there? What did I mean? Highlighted accent is the key.)
Paul could have corrected that right here in this passage to the Ephesians, writing it at least 60 years after Jesus had been taken up into heaven.
Or, clearly seeing this lack, after some 40 or 50 years of the early Christian's practical living-out of this new thing, called "The Way," the following could have been written in the The Book of the Apostles -collaboratively, by Paul and Peter for combined impact. Apostles 1 : -1 Now here's the thing. 2- Ignore the God-worshipping structures that existed during Abraham's, Melchizedek's, Isaac's, Jacob's and Joseph's lives. 3- Instead, you are to take a good hard look at the tabernacle and it's structure as it developed, brought by our fathers the Jacobean Israelites, out of the desert, after they left Egypt. 4- Take a good look at what developed in these last few thousand years, from Moses to Joshua and Caleb, through the judges, to King David and on to what we have currently-existing in Jerusalem, 5- yes, on into the institutional temple structure and sacraments, 6- see the thorough design of administration with priests and rabbis, with their boards of directors, ephods, and their decision-making processes utilizing their urim and thummim in their breastplates, all other garments, relics or artifacts of the temple grounds, and the necessary animal sacrifices, 7- and you are to immediately rebuild those ways, that institution, return to the ancient ways; yea, get back into it, because they truly lead to your eternal life.
Did Paul? Did Peter? No. Did Jesus? No. Did anyone? The answer is YES - the Judaizers (a new name placed upon the religious leaders of the day, after Jesus left) of the early-Christian's time period (the time which included Paul and Peter and all of the apostles). Many of those Christian guys like Paul, John, Luke and Peter did indeed write material that became canonized into the New Testament (and which Father God knew He was going to develop into such a book). Gee, I wonder why He didn't see to it to have such writings as Apostles 1:1-7 developed (he asks in jest - rhetorically)? We also have evidence that the early Judaizers were relentless, conniving at every turn, to get the early Christians back into the old fold-first testament Jewish RELIGIOUS ways, even instigating persecution and further murderous acts by inciting the Roman rulers. That's the same tactic they used with Jesus (they thought it worked once, why not keep trying a proven formula), right up until Constantine changed things in the 300's.
Wow, 300 years of some people (the Christians) making the jump to light speed and Jesus' new last testament, while others (the Judaizers) couldn't be dynamited out of the old religion, institutions and their buildings, and trying desperately, with heaps of guilt (satan thinks that's a great weapon), to drag Christians right back into the old laws of sacrificing bulls and goats (not to mention the foreskin-cut-off-ritual/ sacrament of circumcision for ALL adult converts). Boards of directors to the power of 100, animal parts and blood all over altars, priests, high priests, scribes, Pharisees, Saducees, Sanhedrin, the whole bit (there were many more denominational splits amongst the Jews too - are you surprised?). If you think I'm joking, I'm not, it's in scripture as well as history books (Fox's Book Of Martyrs will absolutely convulse you). Meanwhile, the followers of Jesus didn't budge, they were bitterly persecuted, some were even martyred for their new way in Jesus; "The Way."
So why didn't Jesus, or Paul, or Peter, or any of the other authors of the "New Testament" ever even give a hint at reverting to these old structural laws, buildings, and sacraments? Quite simply, when it comes to law -- new supercedes old - completely. Even further, the greater has always superceded the lesser. The new and greater not only completely fulfills the old and lesser, it makes no need for it's resuscitation again, not even a small, tiny part. If we are now living free of old sin-ways, we have no need of old sin-laws to keep old sin-ways in check. Oh is that disturbing to those of the Judaizer-sects. As part of their offense, they even toss up the possibility that those who follow "The Way" are speaking heresy because they're rebellious. The problem is that they want us to be in submission to them and their old laws, institutions, sacraments, and so forth, and in that sense, it is rebellion to them. Jesus started and has led a rebellion, against-and-triumphing over sin, once and for all. And you guessed it, satan is mad as hell, as well as those who still revert to old testament sin-laws.
Here in new-testament-land, we have NO directives to physically carry any burdensome altars (there were many kinds written about, besides The Tabernacle from Israel's post-Egypt desert experience). To build any tents of meeting. To carry any tabernacles. To maintain the budding rod of Aaron and the ashes of the proverbial red heifer. To haul around tablets of stone with ten commandments etched in them. To align our families by particular marching orders when we travel and camp. To cultivate and set aside particular high-breed animals. To sacrifice animals and pour out their blood at MANY times in a year. To daub sheep's blood on our door posts, conduct ceremonies and eat the whole lamb every year during annual revisits to Israel's Passover season. To plant, harvest and distribute crops that are offerings in a temple. To maintain a priesthood that offers substitutions for our sins in the traveling altar/ tabernacle. To worry about whether any of the priests touch the ark of the covenant and get killed, because it has now truly disappeared. And there is nothing special about a wine goblet (grail) nor a bread plate that Jesus may have initiated His remembrance feast from, not to mention the burial garments that may have wrapped Him while in His temporary tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. That all has to do with physical THINGS. HE inhabits spirits in humans, that's what counts. That's what matters. That is irrefutable - no matter how loud the Judaizers scream, no matter how many martyrs they unfortunately cause.
There's even a disturbing thought, following this freedom-pattern, about how we receive-and-return funds and gifts to Father, because what is written in the Old Testament has been fulfilled, and we are now free from the execution of the law. I'll not go into that controversy here.
Let me say this before going further - the old testament also provides for us a good bulwark and example of how things should be done, when we choose to do them out of the goodness He has put in our hearts. So, even though we may be totally free from the exactness of a 10% tithe (as one example) being paid into the priests coffers for their upkeep, it is a good example for us to know, that He gave to us in the first place, and it is a good example that we should be desiring to return all that He gave us, back to Him - meaning that in modern day, we may be required by Him to give back 10%, maybe 20%, maybe more, maybe less.
The example points to and shows us that He IS a God of give-and-take, and He doesn't expect us to become greedy fat little sucklings, with no giving in return for the taking we partake in. His nature is give-and-take, it is then intended by Him to be our nature to give-and-take, and if you find yourself to be a taker-only, you'd best reexamine your spirit-heart motives, because they're probably not of Him, if you're that greedy. Going further, we have no directives to maintain and carry such things as garments worn by Jesus, before, during and after His crucifixion, or articles He ate or drank from, nor dirt he may have spit into to heal a blind person, nor splinters of the cross that crucified Him, nor chunks from the rock Golgotha, nor shreds from the temple veil torn top-to-bottom, nor parchment papers of decrees written about Him during or after His life by the apostles and followers. We are absolutely free to travel through this life without a shred of physical evidence of Him. All we need is faith.
Man is that disturbing to some folks. It becomes even more disturbing when they find out how He HAS evidenced Himself throughout the last 2,000+ years to tribes and whole people-groups (the Greek word is ethne, typically translated as nations), without their having seen written parchments, or physical accoutrements. I'll not go into proof texts of such right now, but He has done it, and He has been miraculous throughout the ages. His Spirit IS awesome.
On to the matter at hand. Here's the disturbing question. If we have no directives to maintain the old Judaic ways, then what? As you can see elsewhere in this site, we are charged to...
- confess our sins,
- ask by faith for Him to apply His shed blood to our lives and to exchange His perfect life for our sinful ones,
- to make an outward show of this by being water baptized,
- to frequently demonstrate your belief and understanding of His exchanged life by partaking in His commissioned remembrance feast (not needing a priest or anybody else) comprised of the purest of bread and wine that are supposed to be examples of His sinless nature (meaning that they are devoid of yeast or tannin [metaphor-parable examples of "sin" in Biblical directive writings], so they are flat bread and unfermented wine) picturing Jesus being taken into you, to live in you and through you as you,
- meet from house to house to continually encourage each other,
- devoting ourselves to the apostle's teachings,
- encouraging one another, until the day He comes and takes us home (which may still be a situation of one by one dying in our own time - or it may be a mass removal - be prepared for the first event, and be pleasantly surprised if the second event comes first).
None of that is intended by Him to be, or become, ritual (sacrament). Nothing is to be officiated by someone over you. If anyone is over you it is Jesus, and He certainly gave it to you to freely do - even alone if the situation presents itself. It is meant to be flowing from your transformed spirit-heart. It is to be a matter of your free will choosing to want to do it. Why? Because you love the point of Him living in you and through you as you, and you want to be as pleasing as can be, because He IS wonderful. Droll ritual stinks. Effervescing life is wonderful.
God is not a God of chaos and anarchy. He does have order and structure, and He does openly express what He desires, clearly, in scripture and through Holy Spirit. We have purpose given to each of us, for our daily lives. He gives us individual talents, skills, abilities, to be about business in this world (just not OF this world and its sinful ways), in the spiritual sense. So that covers the day-to-day for life subsistence, but what of our collection of called out ones and how we relate with each other?
That's where this passage from Ephesians 4 comes in. Some people split hairs and say that there are only 4 ministries represented, that pastors and teachers are lumped together. I'll not go into that deeply. It is a distraction. This passage simply says that these are GIFTS to us, and then it says why - for our continual up-building and encouragement, until He comes back in His finality. If we want to grow, be "built up," then we are to utilize this new structure He gave us as a gift. No need for the old structure. The new has form that the old never had. You never hear of apostles, evangelists, or pastors in the old testament. You also never hear of prophets having positions of temple leadership over the tribes, only the priests and high priests. Prophets gave directive guidance, some were leaders when a king was not in existence, but they weren't considered the leaders over the institutional temple and priests.
The only blended position is that of a teacher, whereas it seems to have a clearer directive in the new testament, and an assumed directive in the old testament. In the old testament, to teach is a Hebrew verb "lamad." One word found that comes from this is the Hebrew word "talmud," which means instruction. Those are the verbs for what a teacher does, although there is no clear directive about it being a key functional position in the administrative working of the body of believers. Ironically, it is the Greek word "rabbei or rabbi," which more properly translated indicates "master," and which we see being used in the new testament, even when pointing to Jesus, where it is a formal gesture of respect toward all teachers of the day, when addressing them. This was a societal custom and not an indicator of a functioning position in the Hebrew temple system. More on the new testament function of a teacher in a moment.
Beyond the five mentioned so far, other functional people whom He also instructed us to be are functions of elders and deacons, not offices, but functions (there is overlap also, where people from the first five functions may also be of the last two also). This is crucial, these situations are not offices, official titles, what have you, they are descriptions of functions of certain people. Not everyone in Christ's Body functions within these functions, only some do, for His administrative purposes. There is no elitism here, it's simply a matter of serving His Body (for the up building and bodily growth, to become mature, and so forth). In 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14 there are further gifts of Holy Spirit that are listed, which are just some (not an exhaustive list) of the individual gifts He gives in the spirit-DNA make up, as it is worked out in the physical-DNA of people's lives. If you truly research these passages in 1 Corinthians and then follow all of the cross references to other Biblical passages, you will find a huge list of wonderful gifts, talents, abilities and functions which Holy Spirit gives to us. These attest to the day-to-day giftings that we see in everyone's lives within His Body, but they are not administrative functions - they are to do with our individual personal relationships with Him.
As for the proper administrative functioning of Christ's Body, Jesus gave us the gifted functions (not the offices) of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons.
As an aside - there is no need for augmentation of these, by adding junior prophets, senior evangelists and so forth. Likewise, pastors are not apostles in training so when they GET 5 or more "churches" under their belts in oversight that they become apostles. This is errant teaching in some of today's circles, but this multilevel marketing approach to Christ's ekklesia in not substantiated scripturally, and the word "church," as used above, really throws a loop into it. Youth pastors are not in training to become real-pastors some day. Youth pastors do not have promotional ladders to ascend from Preschool & K Pastors, to 1st through 4th Grade Pastors, to Middle School Pastors, to Junior High Pastors, to High School Pastors, to College & Career Pastors, to Post Graduate Pastors. In some mega-churches, or large metropolitan seeker-oriented purpose-and-task-driven assemblies (reaching into the tens of thousands in attendance in any one meeting), you find pastors of all sorts of situations, beyond the usual youth and senior pastorate seen in buildings that house around 100 to 200 attendees in a meeting. Greeters-ministry pastor, bus-ministry pastor, book store pastor, caregroup/ house-meeting pastors, grounds crew pastor, parking lot pastor, security team pastor, short-term missions pastor, long-term missions pastor, Bible research pastor, local homeless outreach pastor, pantry and soup kitchen pastor, boys & girls clubs pastors, community day car pastor, daily-vacation-Bible-school (which now has to have a cool title to attract kid's parents) pastor, in-house accountants pastor, golf team pastor, tennis team pastor, nurseries pastor, kitchen cooking pastor, small music teams pastor, orchestra pastor, jazz band pastor, choir pastor, acoustic sound team pastor, stage-design/ set-&-prop-construction pastor, performing theater arts pastor, dance team pastor, prophecy team pastor, neighborhood evangelism team pastor, female accountability-groups pastor, male-accountability groups pastor, garden club pastor, arts & crafts clubs pastor, rare gem collectors pastor, investment club pastor, chess club pastor, and of course the pastor-chaplain of all of the pastors. That's a lot of pastors. If you think I am being facetious, think again.
Back on track, within Jesus' ekklesia, and His designs for this His Body, let's look at each of the five functions (not offices) from the Ephesians passage, plus the two stabilizer functions which Paul admonished Timothy about. Remember, these functions did not exist in this form as such (form follows function) before Jesus came in His flesh-manifestation some 2,000 years ago, when He disturbed and stirred up all of the old Judaic ways. Now He has set in place a collection of administrative functions that have an appearance of a form that is quite different compared to the form utilized in the days before He was here, and the new form functions differently (due to the removal of the sin-part of the equation). Again, as far as administrative functioning of Christ's Body goes (the outworking of the functions of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons), there is no board of directors, no voting in the hierarchy sense, and all of the ceremonial rituals and laws have been wiped, because He fulfilled them. This disturbs some people who are bent on needing obsessive amounts of control and order, because it tends toward an element that was lacking in the old form (pre-Jesus visitation days), and that element is the spontaneity of Holy Spirit. The dynamic of spontaneity is very humbling, because by it's very definition, it can't be nailed down easily.
This brings us to an understanding, that is described as First Amongst Equals. God does desire order, and He stands against rebellion, chaos and anarchy. The walk of faith includes trust in Holy Spirit's infusion of spontaneity. He directs. If all in the ekklesia maintain a state of preparedness or readiness, they also wait on Him to give the directives. A collection of people who play varied instruments is called an orchestra, and let's just say there are 100 of them in this one orchestra. They practice together, and separately, all of the time. Many different pieces of music are always in constant practice and states of readiness. Tuning of instruments is always going on. Personal practice time by each individual musician happens in abundance. When a group performance, and even a practice session, is under way, it is the conductor who gives the cues and maintains the rhythm of the beat for the piece. No one likes listening to an orchestra in rebellious chaos, and out of practice. When it's right, it is a joy. The conductor may choose to present certain passages quietly one time, and louder another time. That's the conductor's choice. Likewise, if we stay ready, it is up to Holy Spirit who He chooses to perform loudly, softly, and even not at all. The point being that we need to maintain our own personal vigilance and state of readiness.
The purpose of Jesus' instructions through Paul and others is that there be order. The purpose OF the order in this design is not so we have over-control, but that we have balance maintained amongst us, via dependence on Holy Spirit, not ourselves. This is difficult for some people to see, because it requires giving up control and allowing an unseen presence (Holy Spirit) from without to have control, and to do so with all faith. A very special parable that can illustrate how all of these seven functions operate is to watch geese flying in packs for long distances. Many many of them are equal in strength. The long distance flying becomes an art of utilizing the wind currents that pass amongst them as diligently as possible, and this is referred to in car racing as drafting. The first goose breaks the barrier of the air, and the swirling vortexes that follow off his wings can cause an effect where a following-goose, in a particular position actually gets sucked in to the draft, increasing the following-goose's speed. Likewise, the following goose has an air barrier which can push the leading-goose which is in front. If they stay in a relative position to each other, they experience this mutual push and pull, within the laws of gravity that our Lord set up. The positions are swapped quite frequently as they fly. They don't fly along for a bit, and then one goose gets jealous so he pounds the leader in the butt causing him to plummet from the sky. No no. They artfully switch places, again and again, without disturbing the draft of air. The benefit overcomes the fact that all of the geese can get exhausted if they stay in just one position. This change and variety allows for rejuvenation, IN FLIGHT, and they go much further than they would if they flew all by themselves, or much more spread out.
I'm sure you can see a spiritual application here. The point is that of cooperation. These 7 functions were designed to work cooperatively together. All the time encouraging. That is what they were set up for in the first place - to encourage growth and maturity in the body of the ekklesia.
So let's look at the gifts and administrative functions in the body of the ekklesians.
Apostle: the Greek word is apostolos (apostoloz) [ap-os'-tol-os]: a delegate set apart and sent out. Surrounding descriptive and embellishing words include; set apart to be sent out on a mission, to send a particular way or to set at liberty and freedom, an ambassador (of the Good News), one who is commissioned and commissions others into Christ, a messenger who is sent, and by inference - one who has miraculous powers.
One of the best descriptions I have ever heard this functional gift described as, is that it's like a general contractor (a GC, or a "general") in the building construction trade. The person has full capacity to see the entire structure from the minute beginning details, all the way through to ending details, sometimes in hyper-minutia. Many GCs have the skills to also perform most of the varied jobs that all of the sub contractors perform. The same for apostles, many times they are multi gifted in all of the five-fold gifts, as well as being an elder or deacon back home, and effervescing with many other of Holy Spirit's spiritual gifts. Using the metaphor of the building trade overlaid over the spiritual ekklesia, Christ's gift of an apostle to His ekklesia most-clearly sees all of the spiritual ekklesians, from Christ's over-all perspective, from the early preparations of the surrounding land, to the sockets of the foundation, to the foundation itself, to the framework necessary, to the covering of the framework, to the finishing out of all of the interior, to the roof and its covering, and all finishing details, all the way to the final award of its certificate of occupancy. I could write books about details within each of those steps. In the spiritual application of these physical principles, the apostle is a true gift to the ekklesian-body. An apostle is obviously sent out from his home ekklesian fellowship, and many apostles are in fact quite silent when they are in their home ekklesian settings, mostly because they receive a recharge and rejuvenation from their home fellowships, and have their own pastoral oversight people and fellowship people who feed them. They are not super-pastors, and they do not bully the pastorate in their home ekklesian fellowship. All the while, they most definitely see the nature-pattern of our Father, He is creative, The Creative One, and He most definitely is up building His ekklesia Body all of the time.
People within, or a person's studying of the medical field, specifically about the human body, also brings a rounded understanding about Christ's Body. Because, the medical field uncovers how the human physical body fits and functions, and it is obviously applied in metaphor/ parable in many parts of scripture when speaking of Christ's Body. This is all great assistive understanding for an apostle, and you'll see apostles utilizing bodily metaphors many times when they teach.
Prophet: the Greek word is prophetes (profhthz) [prof-ay'-tace]: a God-inspired mouthpiece-speaker. Surrounding descriptive and embellishing words include; always a speaker or presenter, of information that is superior to mankind's intellect or natural abilities, the delivery of the message can be in the form of a poet, a fore-teller, a forth-teller, an affirmer.
Elsewhere, Paul especially encourages and reaffirms that we should all exercise the Holy Spirit-given gift of prophecy. That exercising then leads up to a recognition by those in the local ekklesian fellowship that some are truly set apart as being specially gifted from Jesus to serve in this gift-from-Jesus function, as their motive gifting - the one which Christ puts them there for, almost all the time, if not all of the time, as leaders in the Body with the gifting.
This is a good place to toss in an observation from my practical experience of living in this way for the last 30+ years. The Lord seems to also have a design where He "pairs up" brethren when in these functional gifts of ministry to the ekklesian Body of Christ. I'm not talking about an absolute, a dictatorial rule, I am talking about wisdom handed down from Him, and He does it with encouragement, expecting us to exercise with the maturity that wisdom brings. At a minimum, these five-fold functional ministers most definitely submit and are accountable to their pastoral and elder group back home, just for a start, so you can't escape the issue of accountability. His pairing is unique, He puts together all sorts of combinations of His ministers, and if the ministers themselves yield to His directives, the outworking is most delightful. An apostle by himself, a prophet by himself (indeed, any of the five-fold gifts to the ekklesia), can get worn out, easily, even in short order in some settings. But, when the Lord puts an apostle and a prophet or teacher together, or an evangelist and a prophet or pastor together, and so forth, the balance and the flavor is most wonderful, and He moves in dynamic multiples, even exponential ways.
The other value in pairing up is that it helps in issues of accountability, and it prevents an individual "Lone Ranger" from going off and engaging in heresy, or debaucherous sin, which lurks all around as temptations in all of our lives. When this happens, after long periods of cover up and deceit, the effect is devastating within the Body, and the minister himself loses at least ten years from potential ministry during the recovery process, if not losing an entire life of ministry as well as wife and family - a most sad scenario, a Christian-yet-in-exile, empty and cut off, due to one's own foolishness. The seeking out of others, to be accountable to, is a most essential balance point that all ministers should learn at their earliest days. So, in my experience, the brethren who function in the gifts given by Holy Spirit to the ekklesia are far batter off if they seek out others to submit and be accountable to for their actions. I'm not talking heavy-handedness in submission here, don't throw out the baby for the bath water, I am talking about an accountability level which provides stability and sureness of the ministry, maintaining the highest reputable integrity.
Back to the functional prophet as a gift to His ekklesia. Prophecy is a misunderstood function. For those not within this flowing of God's ekklesia, it may be thought of in a showman-sense, one who foretells the future. Unfortunately, this quickly becomes nothing more than a despicable fortune teller. While the Lord uses the function of a prophet to His ekklesia to foretell at times (which IS part of the descriptive of the Greek word), He largely does what is referred to as forth-telling. The speaking forth of truth. The confirming of things that already are, where the prophet has no idea what is going on in a person's mind or personal circumstances, and the prophet reveals it as truth, divinely given to the prophet by the Lord (not by sniffing around before and during a meeting and listening for clues - so as to appear like a mystic in a paid circus tent act).
In the circles I have traveled within for the last 30+ years, modern technology has been seized and the prophetic people I know have tried to utilize recording devices whenever possible, for at least the last 20 years. The devices have gotten so small that recording on compact laser discs is even an easy proposition. By holding oneself to this accountability, a prophet certainly maintains the highest standards on integrity.
Some of the descriptive in the Greek word has to do with a poet. Many prophets are given phrases, key words, metaphors or parable pictures in their minds, by the Lord, about someone, and when they utter forth the descriptions, the words that come forth are very convicting and confirming for the receiver. Some of the poetic-metaphor-type prophets are very gifted at writing down their messages. Another subtlety exists here. Many times, a prophetic message or word will be for one person, but there could be a whole host of other attendees to the ekklesian meeting, and the message or word is not for any of them, just the one. Sometimes it will apply somewhat, but when it doesn't apply to the bystanders, this requires maturity on the part of the rest of the ekklesia to simply acknowledge that it wasn't for them, and not to meddle in the true intended receiver's life as well, just praise God that He spoke to that one, and go on.
This functional gift, where a prophet is a huge affirmer of actions and intentions or desires is most beneficial. Did you notice that as one of the descriptive parts of the Greek word for this particular function of prophet? Affirming (and confirming) is very important. When people speak in psychological terms about a person's self worth, confidence and internal strength, the word affirmation takes one of the highest positions and roles. Repeated affirmation just confirms us and helps drive us from within. Children NEED their parent's affirmation. Likewise, parents need their children's affirmation. People wither and die for lack of affirmation. They wallow in lack of understanding, wondering whether they are doing "right" or "wrong." To experience the affirming and affirmative hand of the Lord, is a wonderful and encouraging motivator.
To think that a prophet is one who goes around slicing and dicing the Body of Christ, and then leaving a lump of metaphorical filleted meat on a table, all bruised and cut up, is a fatalistic view of what is a most wonderful gift to the Body, in the first place.
Aspire to be an affirmer, a forth-teller, an encourager in His Body - yes a prophet.
These people develop a bad rap because they have the keen sense of cutting to the quick and finding the heart of Father, the truest sense of what Jesus wants, and it is most definitely the truth. The truth tends to hurt sinful humans, and the slicing with the spiritual two-edged sword can feel brutal at times. However, Father is the greatest of physicians, and He most definitely has the ability to use the anesthesia of Holy Spirit while He performs the necessary surgery we need in our lives, in order to get-and-keep us on His right track.
Pray for the prophets in your life. They need to stay the course of uttering forth the truth. Not always a popular position. They need to also experience the joy of the love of the Father, because they are indeed affirmers of His will, and as an affirmer, they too need to be affirmed, assured, that they are doing the right thing, and it is UP-BUILDING, not tearing down.
Evangelist: the Greek word is euaggelistes (euaggelisthz) [yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace']: a proclaimer of The Good News. Surrounding descriptive and embellishing words include; to announce, be a messenger of a good message, to show or declare good tidings, to bring a good declaration - like one brings a most special and desirable delicious dish to a picnic.
In the last two centuries we have had many very notable people who have been labeled as evangelists. In the truest sense, those who utilized the "Hell, Fire & Brimstone" deliveries (especially in the early and mid 1900s) were not actually bringers of Good News now were they? This technique is still pervasive today, where some messengers rattle the sabers about what will happen in the tribulation written about in the book of Revelation, or what will your life be like if the Christians really are raptured (taken out) by Jesus and you're not. There's a whole series to be found in "Christian" bookstores and even in popular-book-aisles in grocery stores, heralding this left-behind-so-called-gospel. Unfortunately, much of that fiction is exactly that - fiction, and as such is false prophecy. Too bad for the authors, and the followers who end up being tricked by fiction, instead of being led by truth.
A true evangelist absolutely proclaims the truth of what? Good News!!! (the crowd roars back in response). If it doesn't sound good to you, then is it good news? No one is to be insulted so much that they can't be counted upon to discern what is good, when it comes to good news. It is true that the modern publishing press corps has a saying which goes like this, "No news is bad news, good news is dull news, and bad news is good news." We aren't press reporters for any of the syndicated news wire services. We are just people, needing to know our place in Jesus' Kingdom. So what is the Good News? It IS GOOD. That good happens to be that The Creator of the Universe has made you an offer. If you accept, by confessing your sins, and asking Him to be Lord of your life, He WILL come in to you, and live in-and-through-you-as-you, for all eternity, which starts the moment you proclaim that faith in Him. Can you think of any better Good News?
To have the hell scared out of you is a poor motive for living in Jesus. To escape a probable future unpleasant and hurting event is to exactly-be an escapist. Jesus doesn't promise escape from physical difficulties while on this side of eternity. He promises growing you up into His mature stature, as part of His called out ones (ekklesia), His Body, His Bride in eternity. To gamble and wait, trying to experience all of the sin you can for awhile longer, is to not-get the message in the first place, and you have chosen to believe that Good News is dull news, and bad news is what you'd rather be a part of. The evangelist presents good news, the hearers do the choosing.
Just like with the prophets, the evangelists can tend toward discouragement because they will be about doing their gift, spreading Good News, and they might see little or no results for long stretches, or witness the fainthearted application and complete apathy in their listeners, who mostly want their ears tickled, but don't want to make a move to what is truly Good News as described above. It's easy for an evangelist to get numbers-conscious just like a salesman in business. One week of presentation work might yield hundreds even thousands of salvations, and another week might see nil. The true point of maturity for an evangelist (and for the rest of the Body to pay attention to) is NOT the NUMBER of salvations, BUT how are those salvation-people growing, being nurtured, and maturing to the point of bringing forth good fruit.
Evangelists of the mature variety know that notching up salvation numbers is a poor measure of accountability (many won't even get near the game of broadcasting their "salvations achieved" numbers), and they pour themselves into the work which is required once a person makes the initial step of salvation, and then needs mentoring for the early stages and beyond. True mature evangelists see this. It might irk you that I mention salesmen, but the similarities are there, and they have their good crossover metaphor applications. The salesmen have something known as "buyers remorse" to deal with, and state-enforced laws which allow customers to return goods within a period of time, without repercussions. That may sound odd to you, but believe me on this one, satan and his hordes of hell WILL do everything possible to induce and inflict doubt, his version of buyers remorse to the newly-saved saint. Each case is different, and some could even be violent to deal with, depending on what the sinner was into, before wanting to come out.
Evangelists and their whole back up team (whether traveling with them, or those within the ekklesia they are visiting) should be schooled in this area of mentoring with maturity, and making sure as possible to come alongside the newly saved, with all of the help possible, fending off the doubt-darts from hell. Pray for your functioning evangelists within your local ekklesian group to have stamina, and to be full of His joy as they labor in the proverbial fields.
Pastor: the Greek word is poimen (poimhn) [poy-mane']: a shepherd. Surrounding descriptive and embellishing words include; one who does far more than just feed flocks but one who understands all of the dynamics of tending flocks, ability to guide large groups as well as individuals - not making the decisions for them but helping them see the decision process and then encouraging them to decide upon their own. Overseeing from a physically higher plain of perspective than at the head-level of the flock, avoiding danger, managing exposure to weather elements, tender loving care, vigilant superintendence.
A depth of animal husbandry is a desirable quality of a pastor. However, humans are humans, humans are not animals in God's creation model (maybe you never thought of it that way before), and animals will never be humans, nor are animals as complex as humans, even though some humans think to the opposite.
In a large percentage of God's functioning leadership people, you do find the functions of pastoring and teaching running together, lock step, complementing each other, all within the same person. I wanted to point out a little subtlety though. Don't always assume this is to be so, and don't force it as an expectation. There are pastors who shepherd God's proverbial flock their whole lives and are not adept as formal teachers as much as they are just good plain deep nurturers, caretakers of all souls in their charge. To give you a picture, one of my grandmothers was like this - I think she even cared for the ants in her garden, she was a great nurturer, a wonderful knitter of gloves, but heaven help you if she was asked to teach the designers and other people in the glove-making factory where she worked. For these types of super nurturing and caring pastors, if they had to do the formality of study, development of teachings and public presentations (sometimes even presentation in front of two or more will scare a pastoral person to hysteria) which a teacher does, they'd fall to pieces. Likewise, there are teachers who are outstanding teachers, and who are also lousy nurturers of the flock of God's ekklesia; ill tempered, impatient, but very good, dynamic, influential, informative and provocative as teachers.
One of the key, yet sometimes hidden words, as a side descriptive of a pastor-as-a-shepherd is the word oversight. If you ponder it for a moment, shepherds don't usually function eyeball-to-eyeball at the physical height of sheep for too long in their lives. Being down at their level is a good thing in terms of being able to relate, and the best shepherds can definitely relate to their own sheep at their level. But to also be able to have OVER sight, to be at a different plain (not haughty, not better, just the ability to put oneself at a different plain for the purposes of perspective) can offer an encompassing ability to protect, to foresee, to provide. to sense the potential danger in time to be able to make a change and protect, and so on. Most of the best shepherds don't express that they are better, especially amongst their flock, and they simply guide as a first amongst equals. Understanding animal husbandry gives a pastor the sense about how packs of animals move and interact, and how certain ones attract attention, admiration, while others tend to blend, all the while guidance is needed for sustenance of life itself, and the leaders tend to have innate abilities to guide toward that provision.
Remember this, pastor is not a title as in a noun and a formal suffix before someone's name. It is a function. My wife and I enjoy a particular movie about a particular mountain region in Wales at the time of the ending of World War II, where there were so many people with the same last names, that they commonly named each other with other peculiar traits as well. Jones the butcher. Jones the dairy. Jones the tree. Jones the school. But in our day and age, no one calls me mechanic Jeff, much less pastor Jeff, or apostle Jeff, prophet Jeff and so forth. I understand respect and the need for it, but to ascribe a formal title and then expect someone to measure up to it, only because they went to school to be such, and have yet to set about the full practicing and functioning in the gift, calling or schooling by Holy Spirit, can be disaster, and a waste of people's time. Be careful how you handle these the Lord's gifts to His ekklesia.
Teacher: the Greek word is didaskalos (didaskaloz) [did-as'-kal-os]: an instructor . Surrounding descriptive and embellishing words include; to learn and then teach from one's learnings, a doctor, a master of an issue-or-issues, one who rightly instructs about the truth.
Teachers usually have curiosities which border on the insatiable. They always want to learn more themselves. Then it happens that they are articulate at expressing what they have learned to others. One of the pictures painted by the surrounding descriptives above is that a teacher is usually good because of the ability to learn first, and then make the adaptive application to causing others to see from the learned experience. Occasionally, a teacher may be a good one, via the means of being a good method-actor. Otherwise known as one who is good at memorizing his lines, or the way he should look to portray the part, but in truth, there is little or no substance of personal experience or belief in what is being portrayed, on the part of the teacher. There have been a few of these method-acting-teachers who have done a job of presenting truth to the ekklesians, but by and large, the more forceful and enduring (not to forget endearing) are those who show their learning by doing, and turn their "living it out right in front of their peers," into good instruction. Rather than memorizing a script, rather than gathering the week's lesson from the assigned lock-step preprinted lectionary without making it their own, they actually go through long periods of research, discovery, trial and error, and trial and success. When they experience failure events, they are open about it, ask forgiveness-where-needed, and move on. Where success events happen, they share them openly so others can also join in on the joy of the event.
One of the biggest and most valuable crucibles for most functional teachers (as opposed to the office of teacher or bland instructor) is their family, giving all sorts of anecdotes and fodder for the learning process. And who better to relate to than one's family when portraying the teachings to the Body of ekklesians? It really hits home to the Body when a teacher is being real with his or her own family, and they are sitting right there in fellowship with everyone else. Some teachers have been heavy handed coercive, historically, as if a dictator bribed them to be "good" in front of the Body, but they don't get away with it very long, and the seams of the garment of truth burst fairly quickly, exposing a teachers inability to be real with his family in front of everyone.
As I mentioned above, when God pairs up functional five-fold-ministers in His ekklesia, He mixes all sorts together. In the mix, you'll find the function of teaching being blended in very often. Teachers and prophets go hand in hand on many occasions. Prophets are so concerned that a message gets across that they start out teaching many times and then lapse over into prophecy. Likewise, teachers will develop and see the need for teaching, and it comes at the hands of the prophetic giving insight as to where direction needs to go, based upon the uncovering of where the problems are in the here-and-now. Again, obviously, the Lord does the blending, and He mixes all of the functional giftings, in many ways, but I just wanted to point out how that might work in this one gifting instance.
Most apostles are also gifted teachers, but as master builders, some teach by doing and showing in actions, where others teach by speaking into action. This is not the place for a discussion or teaching on the different types of cognitive learning and a broad philosophical definition of teaching. I just wanted to point out that the other parts of the five fold ministries may also need certain levels of teaching ability along with their main function, so watch for the blending.
Elder: interestingly, Greek scholars argue over this word. Most commonly accepted and seen, is the adjective of presbuteros (presbuteroz) [pres-boo'-ter-os]: elderly senior. The other Greek word used is the action verb of episkope (episkoph) [ep-is-kop-ay']: inspection superintendent . Surrounding descriptive and embellishing words include; an old man, whenever there are two or more people in a group the elder is the older or oldest of them all, advanced in life, the feminine form is used when describing elder women giving helpful instruction to younger women in the ekklesia, there is an understood that this is not a description about rank or titular position but one purely of seniority of age in life, it references an established-respect handed down through the Hebrews, and their Sanhedrists, although that group used this age-delineation to also assign offices for their specific delineations of chief priests, "elders," and scribes.
Some scholars argue (mostly based upon historical evidence found since Emperor Constantine's politicization of their brand of Christianism as a state religion, which became more "church" buildings eventually - than dynamic vibrant called out ones' groups) that as Christians were raised up within the ranks of "church" administrators, they became qualified for appointment as bishops or the word you see above, episkope. Those scholars are stretching at this point, in order to overlay history, and excuse what we have handed to us for the last 1,700 years or so.
Others from the ekklesia side of things (not of the institutional state religious system of Constantine-like institutional "church" structures and buildings) argue that episkope is an overseer much like the meaning of a shepherd-pastor is defined as, one who is naturally older, hence "over" or "above," and the word denotes simply the function or the nature of their work, because it is a verb, and not some ordained office position.
So elders are individuals, and sometimes they are a group, older or oldest people, who maintain accountability by way of being able to see through any subterfuge as spiritual inspectors, and who superintend, or maintain order in case questions or disputes arise. They're an anchor with the past, to maintain continuity, much to the chagrin of youngsters at times. Age tends to shake out the junk religion, much like a sieve shakes out sand and dirt from the bedrocks. Truly seasoned and steady people are not so easily pushovers for the young punks of "new" and "modern" religious beliefs (now having been on both sides of the equation, it makes me laugh to write that, because I still feel like a young punk, yet my kids would differ J). The older ones (elders as inspection superintendents) surely provide a stability that is to be respected and built upon within the ekklesians, and not to be taken for granted nor looked upon lightly. We had a pastor when we lived in Virginia Beach who related this to the multiples of buoys floating in the hundreds of inlets and jetties we had there in the Tidewater area, right on the Atlantic ocean. The buoys provided safe travel, as guidance to the ships and boats. To ignore their indicators and direction-pointing is to run aground and shipwreck one's passage. I'm sure you see the spiritual application and how elders provide that sort of safety-direction-giving.
According to Paul's writing to Timothy (1Tim3:1-7), those who functioned in this gifting, the older ones who did superintending of the ekklesia on purpose...
+ are to be without blame, shame or disgrace (reproach).
+ husbands of only one wife and no concubines or mistresses or divorced past wives.
+ practitioners of moderation and self-restraint, and lacking in excessive or extreme behaviors (temperate).
+ handlers of practical matters with judicious manners, as careful, provident, discreet, circumspect managers of their families and businesses (prudent).
+ deserving and worthy of respect and esteem in the community of the ekklesia, stemming from conventional and proper conduct and appearance - not having bribed his peers for the respect.
+ treat all visitors and guests with warmth and generosity, not narrow minded but receptive (hospitable).
+ possessing the quality of being able to teach where the learners would be receptive, the definition of learning being the positive change of behavior (as opposed to learners being repelled because they find the teaching repulsive, or dull, of no use).
+ by this age in the older man's life he should have learned all about self control and is most definitely not to be addicted to wine or other alcoholic substances (implied is that addictions are to all be removed, not just controlled usage substances - there is a difference)
+ definitely not ever to be a person who loves a good quarrel, or fight, who might be given to argumentativeness on purpose, and definitely not one who goes the step further and is continually combative (pugnacious)
+ manages with easy handling, docile in management-and-control nature, amiable, kindly, gentle, not harsh severe or violent.
+ one who does not look to be contentious with everyone in the ekklesia, but who seeks to be at peace.
+ free from love of money, who knows the controlled management of handling money, maybe even much money, wealth and cash flow, but who definitely has the control over the sin of lustful-love and greed for money.
+ manages all of the affairs of his own household well, a person who is to be an example to be followed and a mentor to be looked up to by the junior people in the ekklesia - this is to be so much so that it extends visibly so for the rest of the community to see, a person of good reputation all the way around, within and without the circle of fellowship of the local ekklesians.
+ expressly included in the above quality is the keeping of his children under control with all dignity. The expectation runs to the point where heavy handedness is to be curtailed, which is sometimes seen when the children leave home and become absolute rebels - an elder person in the ekklesia will typically have many children who have left home, and the example of the elder having done well in the raising of the children is to see the fruit born by having responsible children who have left, and remain responsible, long on into their own adult lives. A legacy of responsibility is to be passed down. Everyone knows that rebellion rears its ugly head in all children, none of us is an exception there, but the passage is well taken about training one's children in the way of the Lord, and when they grow older they do not depart from it. Rebellion in the children gets worked out in fairly short order, in the earliest of young adult years, and it is found in even the best of households. But, an elder who is fit for the function of superintending as an elder overseeing the ekklesia, is critically seen as one who did all humanly possible, and if the child chooses rebellion, it is not because of neglect on the part of the elder. The scrutiny of an elder and his family is of a high standard, and is either accepted by the elder, or the person chooses to no be in that function because the scrutiny would be too intense and open to the public. This scrutiny appears unfair to some, much like the probing that goes on for public government officials today - by the press corps especially, where it can seem to be unfair meddling in someone's life. The balance point is that an elder (older person who superintends) is to be an example in the ekklesia community, and the members of that community can determine with what level of diligence they want to enforce these code words laid down for us by Paul to Timothy. Grace does overlook occasional slip ups, but the key point is that the community is looking to be sure the elder is not predisposed to screw ups for a majority of the time of his life, and the elder himself is not a rebel against God's words and directives, in practice.
+ not be a new convert to The Way‡ of Jesus exchanged life, must be of good reputation with those outside the ekklesia, above shame or disgrace possibly brought by the surrounding worldly friends, and capable of living amongst them, but not given to the snares and temptations that the surrounding friends might be caught in.
‡ I am very careful in not utilizing the words "The Way" very often, because even though it is the phrase chosen to name early the Christian's "movement" by their surrounding peers, it was also chosen as the incorporated title of a sexually perverse cult in the 1970s, so I don't want a mix-up of understanding, and I rarely use those words for that reason.
Deacon: the Greek word is diakonos (diakon0z) [dee-ak'-on-os]: a serving attendant who waits tables, runs errands and other menial duties. Surrounding descriptive and embellishing words include; the picture of an attendant - much like a modern day assistive nurse, physical therapist, chef's assistant, figurative right hand manservant or maidservant, secretary, chauffer, all wrapped into a janitor, grounds keeper and maid - that whole picture is very central to this function - only the service is done for free at no cost to the ones being served, a non-paid teacher or pastor, male or female, selfless with no concern as to how menial the task is - just willing to serve in whatever capacity is assigned, serving being the operative word of depth.
This function is said to hasten to pursue the selfless serving of others. People who exude the gifts of hospitality and service are veritable gems in the body of the ekklesia. This is not something that is faked. One doesn't do this for a short while, looking for eventual gain or promotion, because there is none. These people are genuinely wonderful givers of themselves, with no regard toward getting anything back as a return remuneration. This function is a specifically chosen word in Greek because, the deacon is viewed in relationship to the work that he or she does, where as a closely similar word in Greek for a bondservant views the person in relationship to his or her master. Deacons are not bondservants, they perform their function of their own free will, and they can step out of the service at any given time, if they wish.
Ironically, this is not an office, much less a function, described or found in the first testament. It is a function which Jesus repeatedly talked about, and even more so, EXAMPLED, during His entire stay here, and while he hung around for a few more days after His resurrection. Some people and institutions have taken the words "servant leadership" and catapulted them to meanings that are far more lofty and self serving than what Jesus set as an example, because they go beyond and play games about doing, so they can get. Jesus did deeds, with no expectation of remuneration (doing and getting are cause and affect with expectation of receipt, Jesus just did, with no expectation). He selflessly gave. So should deacons, with NO tinge of guile whatsoever.
Deacon are selected and held to the same standards as those for elders (seen above), mentioned in 1 Timothy 3, although there are a few peculiar alterations for deacons and deaconesses specifically found in verses 8-13.
There you have it. Quite simple indeed. That's the beauty of His design. Simple. Free of human encumbrance. Live in the freedom. Encroach not as a poacher or a pimp would try their manipulative control tactics. Function as He has designed, and you will fit His form. Create your own form and you'll strangle His function. You can't start your own "church" and have it become a substitute for His alive ekklesia that is a dynamic organism, anymore than you can start Jesus' ekklesia for Him. You may have some of His ekklesia in your church, but that doesn't make your "church" His ekklesia. You can't add to His ekklesia, subtract from it or multiply it. It is all His to do, and He has done it.
His designed functions within His ekklesia are so simple that the form absolutely evades carnal sight, and frustrates those who need physical altars, buildings, relics, clothing, liturgy, and cash flow. The people who fulfill these-His-functions do exactly that - they function.
As such performers of functions, elders from localities are well advised NOT to lay hands on people in expectation of them becoming something in an office or title that may eventually replicate the words of these functions, but only to lay hands on individuals who have already proven themselves as functioning within these capacities, with integrity, for some time. The laying on of hands is simply a sign of recognizing something that is already a firm grasp of the obvious of how individuals are already functioning, much like water baptism is an outward physical sign evidencing something that has already taken place in the spirit-heart of the individual. Laying on of hands does not set in motion something that has not been seen heretofore already - that would fall under the heading of soothsaying and necromancy (something that got King Saul into great trouble, just for starters as an example). Jump into His function and be free, be assembled in your place, fit into your spot, be the part of His Body & Bride as He has designed you for, because the saying is sure, He whom the Son sets free, IS free indeed.
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