Saturday, January 30, 2016

Given to Teach and Tend (Ephesians 4:11-12)

“He gave some … as pastors and teachers,” (v. 11) … “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:12, NASB95)

Looking back specifically to the pastor-teacher and this verse which immediately speaks of these men being given to the church we see unfolded for us key parts of the role to which they are called. The name of the role (pastor-teacher) itself gives us insight as to what these men are called to do, and from the second part we know that an obvious part of what he is to do is teach. While this teaching may or may not include regularly speaking from a pulpit, it does include teaching the truths of God’s word. Looking to verse 12 we see that the content of this teaching is to be focused on at least two specific areas. One of them is equipping for the work of service, and the other is that of building up the body of Christ. There is a lot to these two areas and much has been written on them even as we read in man of the New Testament letters.

Another aspect of the title is that of being a “pastor.” This week I spoke with a gentleman from Great Britain who told me that our term “pastor” is a curious word to him. It not one that he was used to at home where ‘vicar’ and ‘rector’ were the ones he was used to hearing. And as I searched the internet while writing this post I found as many as 103 synonyms for the word ‘pastor’ with a great number of them having nothing to do with our Christian understanding but many did.

A close look at Scripture will reveal that the word “pastors” is actually only seen here in this passage in Ephesians and not even in all translations. In the ESV we see it translated as “shepherds.” The Greek word translated “pastor” here is ‘poimen,’ and in its other usages in the same translations of Scripture it is translated “shepherd.” It is for that reason that the definition included in the last post defines that pastor-teacher as one who is given to shepherd the flock of God. The pastor is a shepherd, and this is exactly what Jesus told Peter to do three times when He restored him to ministry in John 21 and told him to shepherd or tend to His sheep.

As we see them put together the pastor-teacher is more than a person who stands up front and teaches the people, but he is one who is actively engaged with them in helping to guide them in their spiritual walk and growth, both corporately and individually in Christ. He is given by God to care for the flock as Christ cared for His disciples and as we see exemplified by men such as Paul.

We also see in Scripture (though not covered in this passage) that this responsibility is not given singularly to the “pastor-teacher” but also to men who serve in the church as its elders who are charged both as overseers and shepherds.

Obviously, from this passage, we also see that the work of the pastor-teacher implies a result in the people. He cannot effectively equip and build unless people are submitted to the Lordship of Christ and the direction of the one given by Him to fulfill this role. The pastor is not any more or less special that any other believer. We are all called as one in Christ, and He has chosen just how it is that we are to serve. In the process of this happening some are more given to one thing and others to another. This will be expanded upon more as we move through this chapter of Ephesians and we look at the priority of the whole body growing together toward maturity. Peter said regardless of how we have been given by God to do what we have been called to do we are to do it by the strength that He supplies and for His glory.

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10–11, NASB95)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Given to Build–Getters and Shapers (John 4:11)

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:11, NASB95)

Having first looked at the apostles and prophets who were given to lay the foundation for the church, next we look at those that Christ has given to do the ongoing task of working to build up the church—the evangelist and the pastor-teacher. One is given to presenting people with the good news of salvation and the other with the shepherding and instruction in how to live as saved members of the body of Christ—His church. Again, what follows is the summary overview of these two offices from the course on Spiritual Gifts prepared for Calvary Crossroads Church where I privileged to serve.

EVANGELIST. A messenger of God, called and supernaturally spiritually gifted, to influence the unsaved to trust in the good news of Jesus Christ’s redemptive story (Romans 6:23). Jesus modeled this gift of evangelism with Nicodemus (John 3:16). The good news is, in the words of Paul; “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9,10). Philip was known as an evangelist (Acts 8:4-13; 21:8), as was Timothy (2 Tim. 4:5). Surely, there were many more. And there have been many more throughout the history of the church. We even have evangelists today. The New Testament evangelist proclaims the good news.

In the first century, the early church Fathers knew there was no apostolic succession. A study of the first-century church provides helpful information in understanding the New Testament. The things that they believed are indicative of what the New Testament writers meant because there was such a short time span between them. It might be important to note here that the apostles endorsed a new form of church leadership for which guidelines were set forth, and that was the position of elder or overseer.

PASTOR-TEACHER. The supernatural spiritual gift and calling to shepherd the flock of God (guarding, guiding, encouraging, warning, etc.), feed them with the Word of God, and equip them to find their gifts so that they, too, can do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11,12). Peter (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:1-15).

The pastor-teacher is given to the church to remain in a local congregation and minister to its practical needs by applying doctrine. He is doing what the prophet did in a revelatory sense but using God’s Word. He is shepherding the church: guarding, defending, warning, challenging, instructing, building walls around it for its protection, and motivating it on a long-term basis.

Verse 11 began with, “And He gave….” In my time of searching out where God has next called me to serve I have been asked and had to answer the question about my certainty of this calling of God on my life. There is a lot to this answer which includes both desire and opportunity. The church belongs to Christ. We are called to seek after Him and follow Him in obedience. We are also read that He gives us the desires of our hearts. As we seek after Him and submit to His will and His way, He somehow does the incredible work knowing that this is what He wants as He also brings us to where He wants us. Both of these come together to form a conviction that says, “God, I’m yours.” Regardless of whether God has given you to serve as an evangelist or a pastor-teacher or He has given you the gifting and opportunity to serve in any other area of His church we are still His.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7, NASB95)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Given to Build–the Foundation (John 4:11)

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:11, NASB95)

Years ago upon joining the staff of a church I was given the privilege of preparing several courses intended to be used as regular curriculum offerings. One of those classes was on spiritual gifts. In looking at this issue I considered two primary areas gifting which were speaking gifts and serving gifts. Along with that was the challenge to look at miraculous sign gifts and another area which though given is not necessarily considered in the same category as spiritual gifts. This last category is centered not as much on the gift as it is one men who were given by God for specific roles or offices, and the key passage presenting these men together is Ephesians 4:11 where we read of Jesus giving “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers”.

Over the next couple of days I’ll include a significant portion of the course overview concerning these offices and those given to them.

“This area of office versus spiritual gift is one in which there is a difference of opinion amongst educated believers. In verse 11 we read that some were given.... We eagerly acknowledge that whether this passage is speaking of offices or categories of spiritual gifts that in either case they are sovereignly given gifts from God. The distinction being made here is that in addition to the giving of spiritual gifts there also appears to be the added aspect of gifted men, men given by God to key roles or offices.

In this brief passage we read of what might on the surface be five offices, but in actuality are most likely four offices; that of the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, and the pastor-teacher. Because of the grammar we believe the pastor and teacher to be one office, the pastor-teacher.

APOSTLE. One sent forth with a supernatural spiritual gift and a calling into the world with the message of salvation. God sent forth His Son, Jesus (Hebrews 3:1). Jesus selected and sent forth His twelve apostles, empowered by the Holy Spirit with the good news of salvation (Matthew 28:19-20), and universal authority in matters of doctrine for His disciples. These twelve became the first building blocks to be placed on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11,12). They were also given the responsibility to equip for ministry within the church as well as minister to their surrounding community. Each new generation has submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ, His apostles, and their writings up to this very hour. Paul was the last apostle to be placed on the foundation of Jesus Christ, eliminating any need for new apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9). He became a prime example of a man who discovered his gifts and wrapped his life around them; “I was appointed a preacher, and an apostle and a teacher” (2 Timothy 1:11).

Now, some people are confused when they see that word [apostle] appearing in the New Testament. They want to elevate everyone who is a messenger to someone with an official title. So we have to be careful to make a distinction between the official apostles and the simple messengers.

There are a few men in the New Testament who fall into a very special category of apostles. The first is the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 3:1 says, “The Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” He is the first Messenger—the first Sent One. He is the Apostle!

Next, the twelve are called apostles. There are lists of them in Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:13-16 (see also Mark 3:13-19; Acts 1:13). In Acts 1:25-26 they chose one to take the place of Judas. The lot fell to Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Here the word messenger takes on a technical meaning. Before, it had a general meaning. Christ gave it a very special technical meaning; the twelve gave it a technical meaning as an official title. When someone says, “Who is an apostle?” the twelve are referred to.

You say, “Is that the limit of its official use?” No. One other man in the New Testament falls into the category of an official apostle. Romans 1:1 says, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” Galatians 1:1 says the same thing. These are the only official apostles.
There are no apostles today because no one sees Jesus Christ today. The apostle had to be those who had seen, heard, and had a vital personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They had to see the resurrected Christ. When choosing Matthias (Acts 1:22), Peter said, “one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.” They had to see the resurrected Christ. Paul also saw the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:5; 18:9-10; 22:17-18; 23:11).

PROPHET. The prophet was one who had a supernatural spiritual gift and a calling to speak forth the words of God. Prophets in the Old Testament were used by God to speak to Israel about current and future events. Jesus was the prophet to come (Deuteronomy 18:18; Acts 3:22-23). The prophets in the body of Christ were called to speak forth the word of God about present and future events (Acts 2:17-18; 11:27-28). The foundation of the church was laid upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). This foundation has already been laid, and it can only be laid once! It is on this basis that we can say that the office of prophet no longer exists.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19–22, NASB95)”

God’s household has one foundation, and that foundation has Jesus Christ as its chief corner stone. There are not multiple corner stones, just as there are not multiple foundations. All other stones are false and foundations are critically flawed. The one foundation laid by God was comprised of these first two groups of men—the apostles and prophets. These are the ones chosen and called by God to do this work, and it is upon the work and the record given through them that the rest of the building is built with access being gained only through the person of the Son of God—Jesus Christ.

Next we will look at those given by God to both for His use in procuring the bricks and working to see that they are properly laid in place—the evangelist and the pastor-teacher.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sent and Done (Ephesians 4:9-10)

“(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:9–10, NASB95)

Verses 9 and 10 are a parenthetical clarification of exactly Who it is who ascended in verse 8. In verse 7 and throughout this letter Paul makes it clear that he is speaking of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was sent into the world to give the gift salvation to all who believe. In the context of this Paul wrote about Christ ascending and returning to the Father after His resurrection. In these verses he makes it clear his meaning that he is speaking of none other than God the Son who first descended prior to His being able to ascend.

In reading this I was reminded of a children’s action nursery rhyme, “The Grand Old Duke of York,” where the words tell us:

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

It is a simple truth, for one to be in one place and then in another one has to travel the direction necessary to get there. In the rhyme the Duke marched the men up to the top of the hill such that when they were up there they were all of the way up. He also marched them down again, and sure enough when they were no longer at the top but had returned to the bottom they were down. For them to get back to the top they must again march up the hill all of the way. Just going part of the distance would not do it.

While there have been some who have tried to read a lot into the possible meaning of Jesus having first descended (possibly to Hades to being dead believers back with Him), any additional understanding of the passage is not included in the text. A simple reading affirms that in order for Jesus to ascend back to heaven He first had to descend to earth, which is what Scripture tells us He did.

In the English Standard Version verse 9 reads, “In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?”” The adding of a comma between regions (or parts) adds clarification as to where lower is without implying any entrance into an unseen under world or any accompanying action in relation to that entrance.

Elsewhere in Philippians Paul wrote of Jesus, “(5) Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7) but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (8) Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, NASB95)

Jesus is and always has been the pre-existent eternal God, One with the Father and the Spirit. At a point in time He humbly emptied Himself to take on the form of man being born as a baby here on earth. In order to do this, we see that He descended from heaven to earth. Then a short thirty-three years later He laid down His life and then He took it back up again through His death, burial, and resurrection. Some would point to this passage specifically pointing to what happened during His death which is not spoken of in this passage. But the greater picture and the co-testimony of Scripture is that on the third day He rose from the dead to appear to His disciples and hundreds of others (1 Corinthians 15) over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3) prior to Him ascending before Hs disciples’ eyes (Acts 1:9).

In simple terms He came, He conquered, and He returned with the purpose for which He came being fully accomplished. This is the testimony of Scripture. Paul tells us that Jesus is one and the same person Who did this.

I’ve been returning to John chapter 9 in my Sunday message preparation, and in verses 8-12 the neighbors of the blind man who was healed denied that this man who could now see was the same person because what happened was so far beyond anything that they could ever imagine. For man, this is a very reasonable assumption. These things are not things that man can do. But for our infinite all-powerful God there is no limit to His ability. What happened is the truth. The Son of God left heaven for a season to become man in order to give up His own life in payment for our sins. But these sins could not destroy Him. As God He also has the power to take it back up again, which is what He did, and in so doing He gave life to all who believe. When He had accomplished His resurrection and stayed around long enough to prove it real, He then returned to the right hand of the Father where He continues to intercede on our behalf awaiting the time that we join Him in His presence.

And as we will see in the verses that follow, His leaving did not leave us void of His presence or His help. Not only did He give us the Spirit of God to indwell, empower, and enable us, He also gave us one another to build up and encourage each other until we all reach the maturity that He intends.

Jesus is the One who did this. That’s the testimony of His Word.

Monday, January 11, 2016

If it's on Facebook it must be true?? - Palm 146

If it's on Facebook it must be true??
I saw another one of those pictures positing some interesting "FACT."
It claimed that if the Powerball monies of 1.3 billion were divided among the 300 million Americans that we would each receive some phenomenal amount of money each.
Do the math: $1,300,000,000 / 300,000,000 = $4.3 (four dollars). When you consider how much comes off the top for taxes you are left with a small fraction of even this. I think I heard something about a lump sum check of 880,000,000 which divided similarly is $2.93 (almost three dollars) before taxes.
Just putting something into print and getting people to regurgitate or re-post it does not make it true.
Where is your help and your hope?
Psalm 146 (NASB95)
1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
5 How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever;
7 Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.
8 The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous;
9 The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.
10 The LORD will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!