The God who married Israel was made flesh and dwelt among men, dying for the sins of humanity. Marriages last only as long as both parties live and with the death of the Husband of Israel; the Mosaic marriage Covenant ended and Israel became a widow.
Israel was to remain a widow from that moment on, until she entered into a New Covenant of marriage to God (Jer 31:31, Ez 36), and once Israel enters into a permanent New Covenant she shall no longer be called a widow.
Isaiah 54:4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
At the moment of Christ’s death Israel became a widow and the Mosaic Covenant ended because of the death of the Husband of Israel. Yet as soon as Jesus Christ was resurrected to spirit and accepted for us he became an eternal High Priest of a New and Eternal Covenant. See The Wave Offering article.
The plan of God for the salvation of mankind calls for the calling out of an early harvest over seven thousand years, with a resurrection of those who overcome at the end of six thousand years. Which would be followed by a thousand year Sabbath with Satan removed from influencing mankind, during which all those living after the resurrection to spirit would also be filled with God’s Spirit and would be changed to spirit at the end of their lives throughout the millennial period. Thus completing the seven thousand years of the allegorical prophecy of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. See The Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Those called out to be set apart to God are NOT spiritual priests in this physical life. They are called out to become priests and kings for eternity (Rev 1:6, 5:10). God does not want a priesthood or kings [rulers] who will continually rebel liked the priests and rulers of physical Israeli did!
God established the Mosaic rulers and priesthood as an instructional allegory to teach those called out to the New Covenant spiritual priesthood of Jesus Christ – from both good and bad examples – how to become faithful spiritual rulers and priests forever.
I ask was Abel or Noah or Abraham or any of the called out a spiritual priest or king? No, for they all died NOT having inherited the promises.
The priesthood of Aaron has ended with the end of the Mosaic Covenant; ended by the death of the Husband of Israel.
- At this time there is no longer any physical priesthood on the earth,
- All of those called out to become first fruits, are called to persevere and learn godliness, to become spiritual priests and kings [Judges and Officials] after the resurrection to spirit.
- At the present time, for the sake of order in the assemblies and the spiritual growth of the brethren, as well as the public preaching of the Gospel of Salvation, there are of necessity certain offices of responsibility within the Ekklesia.
- These offices are offices of service; through setting a godly example and teaching all people to live by every Word of God.
- All authority – especially moral authority – comes from God; and the only moral authority any man has is the authority of the Word of God. Therefore when a person departs from any part of the Word of God he has abandoned the source of his moral authority and has forfeited all religious authority being apostate.
- The brethren MUST NOT OBEY apostates, and must follow and obey only those who live by every Word of God and teach men to do likewise.
Brethren: We are presently In Training to become kings and priests, and we will not become priests and kings [rulers or Judges and officials as well as priests] until we successfully complete the course and are chosen to be resurrected to spirit. It is only after we are chosen changed to spirit that we will be set apart [consecrated] as full priests and kings [Judges]; inheriting our place in the priesthood of Jesus Christ!
At the resurrection to spirit of the chosen we will be consecrated as priests before the throne of God in heaven.
Today There is NO Physical Priesthood!
The function of a priesthood is to mediate between mankind and God, to teach godliness to the people and to offer sacrifices on behalf of repentant people to God, so as to reconcile men to God the Father.
The Mosaic Aaronic priesthood offered the sacrifices of various physical animals, which atoned for the nation and for individuals in a physical sense, to keep them in good standing within the physical Mosaic Covenant.
That physical priesthood ended with the end of the Mosaic covenant at the death of the Husband of Israel
Melchisedec on the other hand, offered the perfect sacrifice of the very Implementing Creator of all things [the true Passover Lamb of God], to atone for the sins of humanity and to redeem us from the penalty of death for our sins; thereby reconciling the sincerely repentant with God the Father, and setting before us the gift of a change to spirit and eternal life at peace with God.
The Aaronic Priesthood offered sacrifices on behalf of the whole nation and officiated over the offering of personal sacrifices, which duties they faithfully carried out at the Tabernacle during the post Sinai life of Moses and Joshua. Then their ministrations seem to have been intermittent at best with many periods of falling away.
Since 31 A.D. our spiritual High Priest sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven and daily intervenes on our behalf interceding for us with God the Father. Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ as our spiritual High Priest, the Daily Sacrifice has been spiritual, being the regular daily application of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God before the Father in heaven [even though the physical sacrifices lasted for a few more years] ; where he also intervenes on behalf of repentant individuals!
Today’s ministry are NOT priests or Levites in either the physical or the spiritual sense, they are brethren and priests In Training, like all of the Called Out; but they have been given certain responsibilities to help their brethren overcome and persevere to the resurrection to spirit.
Today the entirety of God’s spiritually called out are in training to BECOME priests forever under the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, but we are not there yet, we are not yet qualified, and we are not yet chosen and changed to spirit.
1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, [we are called to become] an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar [special] people; that ye should [we are called to] shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Only by continually growing in Faith and the Knowledge of God and by diligently applying that Knowledge so as to live by every Word of God, and by persevering no matter how difficult the conditions; will we be qualified to enter the resurrection into eternal life where our lot will be to be made priests of the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ at that time and not before!
For it is written that it is those who have attained to the first resurrection who will be made priests of God the Father in the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ
Why? Because today the priesthood of Jesus Christ is a spiritual priesthood which flesh cannot enter! Why? Because the physical priesthood of Aaron failed and often went astray from their duty.
God does not want another “failed priesthood” therefore God is now TRAINING a spiritual priesthood, which priesthood will be formally consecrated before the Throne of God the Father in heaven ONLY after the resurrection of the Chosen (Rev 15).
Today, ALL of the called out are called to become a royal [kings ie Judges and Officials as well as priests] priesthood of priest kings of Jesus Christ in the resurrection to spirit.
Yet, of necessity, today God has given various persons different Gifts of His Spirit and ordained different offices of responsibilities in the brotherhood for the purpose of teaching and encouraging the brethren, helping them to become the spiritual image [to become like] of Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Why? 4:12 For the perfecting [exhortation and instruction] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [teaching and building up in spiritual knowledge] of the body of Christ:
4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith [until every person comes into the full knowledge of godliness and lives by every Word of God as Jesus does], and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, [we must all become fully Christ-like and ready to enter the same priesthood of Jesus Christ] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
These offices have nothing to do with actually being priests at this time, and today’s ministry is NOT some kind of spiritual Levites or Priests at all!
These offices of responsibilities are gifts of the Holy Spirit from God, to assist every called out person to grow into the fullness of Jesus Christ [to become LIKE Jesus Christ in every way], so that God will raise us up to spirit to become a part of those chosen to enter THE SAME SPIRITUAL PRIESTHOOD as Jesus Christ.
Today’s Christian Dispensation ministry which began in 31 A.D. and will last only until the coming of Christ to rule the nations, when a new priesthood will officiate on the earth; is only a temporary expedient to instruct and build up the called out, until we are properly prepared to be resurrected into the spiritual priesthood of Jesus Christ.
All of the called out brethren since righteous Abel have been until they died or are in TRAINING, to become a royal spirit priesthood, in training so that we will be a perfect priesthood which will last forever, instead of a priesthood which regularly falls away like the priesthood of Aaron; and God in his mercy and wisdom has provided offices of responsibility to help each of us to attain to the purpose of our calling!
Discipleship to Jesus Christ
The calling of God the Father is to the school of discipleship to Jesus Christ. All of the called out since righteous Abel have been called out to Jesus Christ by God the Father. They and we have all been called out to godliness and to living by every Word of God during extremely adverse circumstances, so that we can learn godliness and also learn the weakness of the flesh and the power of God, and so that we can learn mercy for others through suffering as Jesus did.
Hebrews 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
Hebrews 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
Our Calling to Jesus
13 times in the New Testament Jesus is called a rabbi [teacher] (Matthew 26:25,49; Mark 9:5; 11:21; 14:45; John 1:38,49; 3:2,26; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8). 41 times He is called a teacher [rabbi means teacher].
Only one time is he called a carpenter (Mark 6:3).
The indication is that he did carpentry to finance his education; and as he approached the age of 30 when he was fully trained in all the scriptures he became a full fledged Rabbi and teacher of the law.
In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come unto Me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
This refers to the well understood [in his day] yoke of the Rabbi. The yoke of the Rabbi and the yoke of Christ are to learn to learn about all the things of God.
Having likely left Nazareth for advanced studies with the wisest Rabbins in Jerusalem, quite possibly with the famous Gamaliel himself [remember that Jesus had already set this precedent at the age of 12].
Jesus went far beyond his formal learning from men and learned through personal study being led by God’s Holy Spirit to understand the full meaning and spirit of the Word of God, and in so doing he learned to discern between true godliness and the false traditions of men.
Then when he was properly prepared Jesus went out to John to be baptized in the spring at the age of late 29 years old; and then out into the wilderness to be tested by Satan.
After passing that test he returned to Nazareth where he called out to the 12 to come and follow him. In the flesh Jesus continued in the system that he had commanded for Israel as the Husband of Israel, choosing twelve men to become the chiefs of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus also chose Seventy disciples to go before him
Luke 10:1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
Jesus taught His Seventy and his twelve and then sent them on ahead to prepare the way for him, then he followed on after the and preached to the people gaining more disciples.
What did Jesus tell those who wanted to follow Him?
He said: “If you do this thing, you are My disciples” or “If you don’t do this you can’t be My disciple.”
Since we are called by God the Father to be the disciples of his Son; these phrases should carry profound meaning for each of us.
A Disciple of Christ
Jesus said: “If you will enter life: keep the commandments”. John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. Now this does NOT mean that we should literally hate our relatives.
Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church“ But it does mean that our love for God and his commandments should be so strong, that we will be ready to give up all things for that “Pearl of Great Price”. Should you love your family? Yes! But love the Father and the Son; many times more!
Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. To deny oneself means to say ‘no’ to personal desires and pleasures in order to say ‘yes’ to God.
It means that you put God on the throne in the very center of your life. It means denying and forsaking anything that hinders your walk with God (Luke 14:33). It means “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). It means maintaining a passionate Christ-like zeal for the Father and all of his commandments.
A Disciple of Christ, follows Christ everywhere, and lives by every Word of God as Christ does
Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
In John 8:31 “Jesus said … ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeedaaaa’.
If we do not eat for several days we will get weak and even ill. The only people who do not eat are either sick or dead. The same is true spiritually. The Word of God is spiritual food. It is like milk, like water, like bread, like honey, like meat …
The people who do not eat [internalize] God’s Word will become either spiritually sick or spiritually dead.
That is why we must always be diligent to be faithful to our Beloved Espoused Husband and his Father, reading in God’s Word, continually thinking on God’s Word, discussing with other faithful persons, discussing the Word with our Father in prayer; and APPLYING and LIVING what we learn! Following the example and instructions of Jesus Christ and obeying all the commandments of God with enthusiasm!
John 13:35 says, By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. What kind of love is this? It is more than just the being polite and kind. 1 John 3:16 says, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
By being willing to tell the truth in love and helping to focus others in the way to life eternal, we are showing far more love than those who would give a physical gift.
Love begins with loving God and all of his commandments enough to DO them at all times; and then progresses to love towards man.
The second great commandment does not eclipse the first for the first is the foundation of the second.
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 22:38 This is the first and great commandment. 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Proverbs 27:5 Open rebuke [correction from error] is better than secret love. 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Very often demonstrations and claims of love and of affection, are only a deceitful con job to lead men into following others to their own hurt and to the advantage of that other.
BEWARE the man who says; “I love you, come and follow me, for to follow me is to follow God”: TEST him out by the Word of God; because such men are often con artists who will teach their own traditions and not stand on the Word of God.
It is the man who insists that all men follow God and NOT themselves; that is far more likely to be of God.
Once any man or organization starts pushing love and organizational unity instead of a zeal to live by every Word of God; they have apostatized from God; for the godly man and organization will always push unity with God, and love for God and his commandments: Never organizational loyalty.
Unity with others and love for mankind is secondary to love for God and his commandments.
Loving God and all his commandments is the foundation upon which love for mankind is based; and NOT the other way around.
Those who are offended by God’s Word and the person who teaches it; have no understanding of the love being offered to them that engenders the gift of eternal life to them. Love is NOT only a matter of saying “have a good day” and then allowing a brother to rush to his destruction; love is telling him the truth and if necessary warning him of his errors.
The shallowest and most superficial kind of love is about physical things; while the deepest and most sublime love, is love on a spiritual plane! We should love on BOTH the physical and in the spiritual levels.
A Disciple produces Good Spiritual Fruits
In John 15 Jesus said, By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, … and that your fruit should remain; … so you will be My disciples.
God wants each of us to bear “fruit that remains” and to do that we must remain grafted into the true vine of Jesus Christ; who’s foundation is God the Father!
Those who do not bear fruit will be gathered up and thrown into the fire.
A Disciple is called to study and learn; to become a “trained” person.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus comes through being selected and called; by God the Father!
Discipleship itself is a training process. True Christians follow Christ:
1 By imitating His life and diligently following his example, that means that we are also to work hard at setting the very same good Christ-like godly example ourselves;
2 By obeying all of our Master’s instructions and commandments, which includes living by every Word of God the Father (Mat 4:4) as Jesus does;
3 We are to diligently study as Jesus diligently studied throughout his lifetime.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
We are to copy the example of and internalize the full nature of Jesus Christ!
It is by their fruits that you shall discern the false from the true man of God:
Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
I encourage you to make God the Father, Jesus Christ and every Word of God your focus, to get close to them again; to walk as they walk, to live as they live!
God will not walk with you; if you will not live as he lives.
A good Disciple – especially one desiring an office of responsibility – should be fully versed in ALL the Holy Scriptures and be enthusiastically zealous to live by every Word of God; and his example of love for God’s Word should be proven over a very lengthy period of time.
He should be seen as a good example of godliness and fully experienced and mature in the faith and in his personal life.
Brethren, Christ was dedicated to studying the scriptures and did so all of his life. That should be no surprise to anyone. Christ loved his Father and he would have been buried in the scriptures or in prayer throughout his life.
At the tender age of 12 Christ deeply impressed the wise men in Jerusalem at the Temple; and as an aduly He became thoroughly learned in the Word of God and probably was well respected; until he began to go beyond their teachings of the letter of the law and began to teach the spirit and intent of the law.
With that he passed beyond their understanding and offended the religious leaders of the time.
So it was that they demanded: “Who taught you these things” when he explained new things about the purpose and spirit of the scriptures; for they had never heard of such things before.
John 7:14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 7:15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 7:16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me [God the Father’s].
Qualifications for Ordination to the Ministry
In reality we are ALL called out to become priests and kings and these things are the qualifications which we ALL must meet to be among the resurrected chosen first fruits!
To be elders it is required for all “elders” of Israel to be mature men, heads of families, capable men of strong moral character, fearing God, men of truth and integrity. The same things are required of all of us in order to be in the resurrection to spirit and enter the resurrection to the priesthood of Jesus Christ for all eternity.
If we are to be good teachers of godliness; then we must KNOW the Word of God.
Exodus 18:20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
Elders were men who were full of the Holy Spirit (Numbers 11:16-17); they were supposed to be capable men, full of wisdom, discernment, and experience; impartial and courageous men who would intercede, teach, and judge righteously and fairly.
Deuteronomy 1:13 Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. 1:14 And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do. 1:15 So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes. 1:16 And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. 1:17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.
All of those characteristics were involved in the Jewish understanding of the term “elder” (presbuteros). So the concept and responsibility of being an elder was not new to the men of Judah in the early church. The use of the term “elder” to describe church leaders emphasizes that they needed to be mature men of integrity, having years of experience and proven to be strong and consistent in all moral character.
In the New Covenant, the office of elder was regarded as the highest level of LOCAL church leadership. Therefore, the office carried a great amount of sobriety and responsibility. The elders were charged with the care and spiritual guidance of the entire congregation, but it was not to be the kind of authority exercised by secular rulers.
The authority of elders over the church should never be self aggrandizing or bullying; but by setting a godly example and tirelessly teaching and exhorting of all people to live by every Word of God.
In 1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1, Paul gives a clear-cut list of the qualifications necessary for the office of pastor/bishop/elder and describes the kind of mature character and reputation that is required of a pastor in order to fill and continue to fill this office.
1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless [without sin], the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
The Bible is very clear about how elders and pastors – all godly people – are to conduct themselves. We all need to be familiar with these Scriptures to help us to discern that those we are following are truly exemplifying the qualifications that God requires for those who hold the office of elder.
They are to be godly men of the highest moral integrity; those who have crucified the carnal lusts for control, power, money and pleasure; men that are not easily angered or frustrated.
In other words all candidates for ordination [and that includes all candidates for the resurrection to spirit] must be men that have proved that they can rightly rule themselves and have mastery over their human nature and inordinate emotions and that they are patient with others. That they know how to mange alcohol and are not given over to overindulgence of wine or strong drink. They are men who hold fast to the faithful Word of God and teach only sound doctrine and are able (skilled) to firmly oppose those who try to subvert them or their congregations to follow after false doctrines and heresies. They are not to be tainted by any of the Works of the Flesh.
They are to be above reproach in all things, also being excellent examples in their own family lives and in how they treat their women and children. An elder is to be a good husband having only one wife and having children who are obedient and not rebellious.
The qualifications of an elder, then, go far beyond good moral characteristics. An elder must be demonstrably skilled as a teacher and manager of his own life first, before he can teach and manage a congregation. His life must reflect these qualities, and, if it is otherwise, even in the handling of outside business and financial affairs, he is not qualified to be an elder.
To be ordained to an office of responsibility one must not be a new convert to the faith, for it takes time for a man to grow to be spiritually grounded and also to mature and gain wisdom through the experiences of life. There also must be time for other elders to examine his life and evaluate if he does indeed have the proper qualifications.
In addition, elevating someone new to the faith to a position of leadership in the assembly could possibly make that person conceited and think of himself as more important than others.
This list of qualifications informs us that an elder, in addition to being of the highest moral character, must also have a spotless reputation with those inside and outside the congregation. His business and social activities in the community, the church, and within his family, in fact his whole life, must also be above reproach in order to qualify him to the office of elder.
Brethren, such qualifications for an office in the flesh reveal that the same high qualifications will be required to receive the gift of eternal life and an eternal spiritual priesthood [eldership]! We must all be striving to live by every Word of God and to gain a Christ like mastery over ourselves!
Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 1:8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
Another qualification for eldership at any level is that a person must love God and God’s flock [people], being willing to die for each individual.
We can look at John 10 to see that a true shepherd of the sheep loves the sheep and is not like one that thinks of being a shepherd as just a job to earn a paycheck and retirement benefits. A true shepherd is willing to give up his own life for the benefit of the sheep. This can mean to die for them, but more typically it can mean that he is willing to give up his own hopes, dreams, and desires and the kind of life that others have, in order to devote his life to the care of the sheep.
John 10:12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 10:13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
From Old Testament times there were stringent instructions and guidelines beginning with Moses as to the qualifications for elders, and they were carried over into the New Covenant Ekklesia and those qualifications apply right up to our modern times.
Those who are called to offices in the assemblies are placed in a position to give aid and assistance to the body of Christ; they are to lead the sheep just as Christ would lead them and they are to lead the sheep to Christ and to God the Father and not to try to lead them to follow themselves, as we have seen happen so often with most of the COG corporate groups.
Peter also exhorted the elders in his congregations to be sure that they were living up to the very highest standards of what it meant to be a shepherd over the flock.
1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. 5:3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
It is a great disservice and even dangerous when men who call themselves elders and leaders fail to do as Peter charges them and act as hirelings in the pursuit of enriching themselves at the expense of the people who look to them as their spiritual shepherds.
In verse 3, Peter warns elders not to act as control freaks (lords over God’s heritage) and it is a great sin when pastors/elders do not provide godly righteous examples for those who look to them as leaders. The most important way a person can be a leader is to be an example of what he teaches to others and to be a mentor to them.
Paul is very adamant in spelling out the kind of leader that God requires in one who is called to be a guide to others; he condemns those that set themselves up to be leaders, but are hypocrites when it comes to teaching others what they themselves are unwilling to do.
Romans 2:19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 2:20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 2:21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 2:22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 2:23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
How can one be an effective leader if we ourselves do not live the kind of life that we preach to others?
It is very important for the sheep to be alert to the kind of men who would pastor and teach us. If we come to see that a elder, pastor of teacher is not acting like a true shepherd, that he lacks the qualifications that are required as taught in Scripture, then it is in our best interest to move on and not support those that mislead or set bad examples for us and our families.
Public ordination by men while desirable is not always the case. Who ordained Moses, or Paul or John Baptist? In fact the only “Judge” of Israel to be ordained by a man was Joshua. Who ordained Elijah, or Noah, or Abraham, or most of the prophets?
The scriptures indicates that people who demonstrate by their fruits that God has already called them to an office are to be publicly appointed to their office. The Greek word for “appoint” is kathistémi (Strong’s # 2525) and means: to set in order, appoint, “to ordain”.
Ordination is meant to publicly recognize those whom God has already selected with a public announcement setting men aside for special responsibilities. An example is when Timothy was ordained to his office and had hands laid on him. Here, Paul is encouraging him to give full devotion to his calling and not neglect it.
1 Timothy 4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
The laying on of hands is an acknowledgment of what God has already revealed through the person’s fruits (Mat 7): acknowledging that God has already set this person apart to the work for which God has called him.
The one’s laying on hands, are acknowledging and affirming that God has already officially placed the person in that office. and requesting God’s aid to help the person fulfill the office.
Paul also warned Timothy, that in his job of choosing and ordaining other men to the office, he needed to be very careful about whom he ordained. It is imperative that the leaders doing the ordaining seek God’s will and approval of each person that was ordained. And then only after that person had proved (over time, not by a quick snap decision) that he did have the calling and the qualifications to be ordained into the office of an elder.
1 Timothy 5:22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.
A believer must demonstrate over time and show that he would be capable of handling the office, that he does have the qualifications; and all the while demonstrating that he is totally loyal to the whole Word of God and to living by it. Then after a period of time and when it becomes clear that God is choosing him, he can be publicly acknowledged as one who is to be trusted in the service of shepherding others.
The gift of a responsibility from God is a serious calling; the person must be willing to serve in this way, not because he is being compelled or pressured into it by friends and family; or because he seeks the adulation of the people, or seeks to earn money. He will want to do it because God has placed that desire in his heart.
1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.
Those who would be elders must desire and be willing to do whatever the calling requires to be done, to serve in this capacity because of their devotion to their LORD. That is one of the indications that God is calling them and gifting them for the position.
1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”
A man of God who is being called will desire the office, will sanctify himself from the ways of the world, and he will devote himself to prayer and to the Word of God. No one will have to talk him into the office; because serving God is his heart’s passion.
In truth a godly man who loves and is passionate to serve God in ANY office and would be glad to be in any position high or low just to please God; is the person who is fit for ordination to whatever office God calls him to.
Furthermore, he serves “voluntarily, according to the will of God” because in his heart he knows that God has spoken to him and he knows that he must obey the call of God upon his life no matter what anyone else wants for him.
Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
13:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 13:4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
In Acts 13:2 the writer says that as these leaders were worshiping and fasting, the Holy Spirit distinctly instructed them to set apart Paul and Barnabas for a certain work that God had called them to perform. It was God’s choice, not the choice of the men that were present, and He made it be known to them. A call from God to do something or to fulfill a calling is very serious and is not to be taken lightly or ignored.
Unfortunately, in today’s Ekklesia there have been many who were chosen and ordained to be elders without the leaders seeking God’s will, nor did they consider all the qualifications as listed by Paul in his letters.
Many were chosen for their loyalty to a man or group and not for their loyalty to God, and many who were not qualified were ordained. Many men were ordained for the wrong reasons and some were ordained before they spiritually matured and had gained enough experience in the art of living. They just did not have the experience and wisdom yet to handle the responsibilities of being a shepherd over others and the whole Ekklesia has suffered as a consequence of this.
We have a long and complex history of that in the modern day years of the COG’s, but that subject is beyond the scope of this brief article.
The will of God – and the candidates loyalty to God and zeal to live by every Word of God – must always be considered when choosing any person for positions in the Body. Ordination should be public acknowledgment and confirmation of what God has already decided, and the ones doing the choosing and ordaining must take all things in consideration and wholeheartedly seek God first, before laying hands on anyone to ordain him to a certain office.
The ones doing the ordaining, too, must be devoted men of God who are very close to God and who can discern what God’s will is. When the leaders are corrupt or are lacking in godly leadership skills and lack the qualifications of an elder, it is very unlikely that they will be able to discern godly qualifications in others. They generally choose others who are more like themselves.
The the biblical way of ordaining elders is clearly spelled out in the scriptures and ideally it will work if all are going about it God’s way. Elders are to be a group of specially called and ordained men who have a heart and a great desire to serve and please God.
It will be evident by the fruits in their character and in the testimony of their lives that they are being called and gifted by the Holy Spirit. Only then are they to be appointed and ordained, and only if they show-forth evidence of being qualified through their consistent, genuine, testimony of a pure and godly life in the eyes of all that know them.
Paul and the other apostles sought God’s choice of who was to be appointed as elders in the assemblies, with prayer and fasting. It was of utmost importance to only choose deeply converted, godly, faithful men of high moral character. They sought for these positions those whom God would approve by praying and even fasting that He would guide them and help them to identify those qualified to be in the office. Only those who have given themselves completely over to God and His way of life would be serious about leading others to the righteousness of Christ and who would teach sound doctrine; only these are the kind of men who would make good elders.
Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, [in every assembly] and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
Paul’s Own Example and His Instruction for Elders
When Paul was about to depart from Miletus, he sent for the elders of the church and delivered to them a farewell message. At the same time, he wanted to impart to them a somber mandate that they follow the kind of example he had set for the brethren; he wanted them to realize that they had been called to feed, protect and cherish God’s beloved sheep that Jesus had purchased with His own blood.
He gave them warning ahead of time that there would be wolves that would come in amongst the flocks and would do much spiritual damage to the sheep, so they would need to be vigilant in watching out for them. These wolves would attempt to draw away the members of the Ekklesia to follow after themselves, teaching them perverse things. (Most of us have experienced this infiltration and apostasy from sound doctrine in our day as well and to following men and their organizations rather than putting God and His Word above all things.)
He charged them to be on guard for these kinds of people and to protect the brethren from them. This was a warning for the elders of his day, but is also a warning for us as well in the modern day Ekklesia. He gave them his own example of how he labored tirelessly to care for the flock and that they, too, should follow his example of doing so from a heart devoted to a godly love for them and not for what they could gain materially.
Paul was an apostle but he acted as a kind of pastor as well while raising up the many congregations throughout the territories he was sent to. We can see from his example that he himself was as a shepherd to the people of God for he acted in all the ways of caring, nurturing, teaching and guarding just as a shepherd does.
These people loved Paul and he loved them; we can pick up on this as we see the kind of apostle/pastor that he was from reading the following passages. Paul had the kind of love that wanted the best for the brethren and he never backed down from telling his followers when they were wrong and he could be quite harsh with them at times. But it was because he allowed no compromising and no spot and wanted them to be a part of the Firstfruits and not fall away (2nd Corinthians 11:2).
This section in Acts is very much an inspiration for all of us and instructional to all those who would be called to care and shepherd God’s people. It also provides the rest of us with a picture of the kind of pastors we in the Ekklesia should be seeking; and run from those who are not teaching and exemplifying the “whole counsel of God”, or who are more interested in the brethren’s silver, gold and apparel as mentioned toward the end of this message.
Acts 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
20:18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
20:19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
20:20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
20:22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
20:23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
20:25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
20:26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Further preparing these elders for the work ahead, Paul addressed these elders and said that the Holy Spirit had made them overseers. He also said that their duty was to feed the church of God. Paul further gave them a charge and a warning about wolves that would try to divert the people to themselves.
20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
23:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
20:33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.
20:34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
20:36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
20:37 And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,
20:38 Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.
No matter what our calling is, or what our spiritual gifts are, all believers are to be involved in fulfilling the mission of the church. But at the same time, Scripture makes it clear that there are those appointed to be leaders to fulfill various responsibilities; whether it be an office of teacher, pastor, elder, prophet or apostle, and their primary function is to be the leaders and spiritual caregivers of the local assemblies and to preach the true Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ to all flesh.
The supreme model of this role of pastoral/shepherding ministry is seen in the work of Jesus Himself. Descriptive titles of Jesus include: a Teacher from God, the Good Shepherd and the Great Shepherd. The analogy of the shepherd who cares and provides for his flock becomes then the analogy that defines the work of the local pastor.
The End of the Christian Dispensation
Just before the first coming of Christ in the flesh the Mosaic Pharisees became proud, self satisfied, self righteous and full of themselves exalting their own traditions and making the Word of God of no effect by those false traditions. Just before the second coming of Christ the very same situation exists in the church of God organizations.
As in the first century it is those who are humble and seeking God who will recognize the signs of the times and will be ready for the coming of their Master.