Chapter 1. The Call of God
"Go, for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9:15)
There is nothing haphazard about the ministry of God. From the moment of our new birth God has ordained a life and ministry for us: ?But to each one of us was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore he says: "When he ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.' (Eph. 4:7,8,11-13)
What a privilege it is to hear God's call. Fishermen working for their father's business were called to be "fishers of men." (Matt. 4:19) A tax collector sitting at the receipt of custom heard the call of the Lord: "Follow me." And he arose and followed him. (Matt. 9:9) Saul of Tarsus was met by the living Christ on the road to Damascus after rampaging through the streets, so zealous in his determination to stamp out this new sect called Christianity that many died at his hand. Ananias, the one chosen by the Lord to minister to this seeking man, was told: "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9:15) It is important to note that if we are not called of God, we may be in danger of destroying the work of God rather than building up men and women. I know of many who have assumed that because they live in a certain place where there is no clear testimony of the Lord and the need seems great, that this constitutes the call, but have found that the work came to an end after perhaps five or ten frustrating and fruitless years.
The Place of Gods Call
Every flock must have its own shepherd. God places men in the ministry as it pleases Him, and for as many years.
The pastor must be prepared to stay for fifty years, attend every meeting and not be tempted to be drawn away by what may be seen as an itinerant ministry. Many churches have been destroyed by the shepherd's desertion which has left the flock open to hirelings. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul's distress over the Ephesian church was revealed when he warned them that, "after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves." (Acts 20:29-30) I have sadly experienced this crisis first hand, and believe it to be the worst situation that can ever happen to a pastor and his flock.
God sets the members 'each one of them, in the body just as he pleased.' (1 Cor. 12:18) People can be very difficult. There may be some who do not like you, or even hate you. There will be those who are spiritually blind, deaf, lame; but God has added them to his church. There will be those who regularly sin, needing many times to be led back into the fold.
The Preparations of the Call
God's preparations in our lives take two forms. The first is the preparation before our call when He is dealing with us prior to our new birth. We cannot be able ministers of God if we have not finished with the roots of sin and self. How many thriving churches have come to nothing, overseen by men who, although trained in ministry, still have their roots in sin. I remember visiting a church which gathered over two hundred worshipping people. They had asked a young man to be the pastor, but over a period of ten years I saw the church whittle away to a handful. Deep in this man's heart was unrepentant sin. He had been involved in a homosexual relationship, and this had reared itself again in contact with a young lad in the church.
Many in the church had felt uneasy and had eventually moved to another place. For those left, the respect for men ordained in the ministry had prevailed over their thoughts, and they had been reluctant to face such serious issues, preferring to leave it to others in the church who were elders. Sadly though, the elders' view was that God forgives, and so they allowed the pastor to continue his ministry, but the sin remained. Eventually, due to the testimony of the lad, now a young man in his early twenties, the sin was recognised and the pastor accepted the necessity to withdraw from the ministry. Those for whom he had prayed would not have received that pure clear ministry of the Holy Spirit: 'Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins; keep yourself pure.' (1 Tim. 5:22)
In the Scriptures we have remarkable illustrations of how the lives of God's people are influenced by the sin of others. In the story of Achan we see how such a seemingly small and insignificant sin, by just one person out of all that great multitude, brought the whole blessing of God to a dramatic halt: 'And they returned to Joshua, and said to him, 'Do not let all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai; Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.' So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai.' (Jos. 7:3-4) Again, through David's sin in numbering the people he saw seventy thousand of them struck down by a deadly plague. 'So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. And when the angel stretched out his hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, 'It is enough; now restrain your hand.' And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, 'Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done' Let your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father's house.' (2 Sam. 24:15-17)
Let every minister know that he must be free from sin, so that he may minister the gospel to those he cares for. God must deal with our sin if we are to be able to help those who are in sin. The natural life and the outworking of self is another area which needs the dealings of God. It can create pressure for the minister of God; "I cannot cope", "I need a holiday", "Its all too much". If we look back into the days before the commencement of our ministry, we will know whether we are qualified for such a precious responsibility. If we were unable to handle our everyday work, how shall we handle the work of God'
Joseph was seventeen years of age when God revealed to him his future. His boastful disclosure of this to his family caused the hatred in his brothers that eventually set him on course for thirteen years of suffering in slavery and imprisonment. In the end he was to become the saviour of his family: "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life." (Gen. 45:5)
Preparations During the Ministry
The preparation of Elisha, one of the Old Testament prophets, under the hand of Elijah his predecessor, began well before any obvious signs of ministry were recognised in the simple response to the direction of the one making the call. 'So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, 'Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.' And he said to him, 'Go back again, for what have I done to you?' So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen's equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and served him.' (1 Kings 19:19-21)
Elisha was to become prophet after the departing of Elijah. Although this was not revealed to him at the time, his obedience in staying close to Elijah and following him, proved Elisha's ministerial qualifications and eventually he received the double portion that he had desired. So we see that ?all things work together for good to those that love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.' (Rom. 8:28)
God fashions men as they proceed with the work that he has given them. Sometimes our experiences along the way seem as mistakes or failures but they are all part of the deepening work of God in our lives. One example in Scripture is the life of the apostle Paul: 'For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! you are distinguished, but we are dishonoured! Even to this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labour, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure it; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the scum of all things until now.' (1 Cor. 4:9-13)
Are they ministers of Christ? - I speak as a fool - I am more: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three time I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness - besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.' (2 Cor. 11:23-28)
Chapter 2. The Pattern of the Church
'In whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit' (Eph. 2:21,22)
It is imperative, if we are to be pastors of God's people, that we have in our hearts a clear picture of the church which the Lord is to build: 'And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.' (Matt. 16:18) Just as God led Moses up the mountain, so must we be led of God to see the pattern: 'And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.' (Exo. 25:8-9)
In the letter of Paul to the Ephesians he reveals five pictures that illustrate the various facets of the church, each looking at different aspects.
The word church - ekklesia - means called out ones, from ek- out of and klesis- a calling, and was used by the Greeks as a body of citizens gathered to discuss the affairs of state. It was also called an assembly. 'But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly.' (Acts 19:39) It has two applications to companies of Christians. Firstly, to the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era, secondly, to the singular number of congregations of professed believers, born again by the Spirit of God, gathering in a certain town or location. 'To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.' (1 Cor. 1:2)
For instance, the Ephesian church had been born after the visit of the Apostle Paul to a group of twelve men who had obviously not received the Holy Spirit. After hearing the gospel of salvation they were baptised and the Holy Spirit came and dwelt in their hearts, so that 'they spoke with tongues and prophesied.' (Acts 19:6)
The first picture I want to introduce is that of a building. We are here directed towards foundational things. We are told that the church is a building: 'built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief-corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.' (Eph. 2:20-22) God, in building His Church, must build it upon Himself..
The parable of the wise and the foolish man, illustrates the necessity of building upon rock, not sand: 'Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name'" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!'" Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at his teaching.' (Matt. 7:21-28)
God must deal with all that would cause the building to fall: 'you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.' (1 Cor. 3:9-13)
We see further this principle worked out by God in His instructions to Solomon when he built the dwelling place God required. It was to be built upon Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham offered Isaac and where David made sacrifice for his sin in numbering the people. The Church was to be founded upon the principal of the cross. Peter refers to the church as 'living stones' (1 Peter 2:5) and the picture in revelation of new Jerusalem is one of precious stones and streets of pure gold. Every person whose heart it is to be part of the church, will know the laying of the axe to the root of the tree so that he may be holy and pure: 'And even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.' (Matt. 3:10)
'There is one body.' (Eph. 4:4) This picture directs our attention to our functioning together in church life. I can see an obvious comparison between the Lord's body, which was perfect, and our own lives and the church, as it functions together in purity and love, brought from sin into the pure life of God. 'Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death' Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.' (Rom. 6:3-6)
The new testament is full of incomplete men and women due to sin. Such as blind men, lame men, the deaf and the lepers. Jesus came into the world to restore to wholeness: 'Behold! The lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). 'he himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.' (Heb. 2:14-15) He was the perfect man and so 'he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.' (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus said to the religious of his day that he was going to destroy the body of sin and make a new man in himself: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." But he was speaking of the temple of his body' (John 2:19,21) 'so as to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.' (Eph. 2:15)
Church life becomes the visible expression of this new man, born again into one body, 'For as the body is one, and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.' (1 Cor. 12:12,13) As the body is one in practice, so the church should be one in practice, moving together in unity, revealing the true nature of the body of Christ. 'Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.' (Acts 4:32)
Paul goes on to say, in his letter to the Corinthian Church, more of the functioning publicly of the body, which should be evident in every church.
'From whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.' (Eph. 3:15) The third of our pictures lies central to the five, the theme being family life. This surely is the heart of any married couple, that out of their union together they should bring forth fruit, children after their own likeness. In the old testament there were many women who discovered they were barren, one being. Rachel, who cried: "Give me children, or else I die!" (Gen. 30:1) What we find in the early church is that they became very fruitful, growing at a phenomenal rate. 'Then those that gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.' (Acts 2:41,47)
We shall consider the subject of family life in a later chapter, set aside for this express purpose.
'Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.' (Eph. 5:25) Here we have a picture of the church as the perfect union between husband and wife. Marriage, a corner stone in the purposes of God as a real expression of His heart, is a picture of love and perfection. Later on we shall expand the whole development of marriage but meanwhile let us remind ourselves of this great love as the Scripture recalls it. 'Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.' (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
The final picture is that of the soldier, the warrior fighting the battle alongside the Lord, his captain, dealing with the enemy of the church. 'Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.' (Eph. 6:11) What do we know about soldiers'
They are disciplined men: 'You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, in order that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.' (2 Tim. 2:3-4) They are obedient: 'For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, "Go," and he goes; and to another, "Come," and he comes; and to my servant, "Do this," and he does it.' (Matt. 8:9) Jesus we know: 'learned obedience by the things which he suffered.' (Heb. 5:8) They are men in constant communication with their commanding officer. Duncan Campbell, a man used by God in the revival that broke out in the Hebrides, said that he 'didn't believe in the religion of any one who was not found regularly at the church prayer meeting'.
Jesus, we read: 'often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.' (Luke 5:16) It was the secret of his ministry of healing and deliverance: 'And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.' (Luke 5:17) The soldier is to be clothed with all the armour of God: 'Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteouness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.' (Eph. 6:13-18) The soldiers task is to work with God in defeating the enemy in the lives of those who have been overtaken.
Chapter 3. The Pastor's relationship with the Lord
'But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.' (Gal. 1:11,12)
The main duty of the pastor is to give personal instruction as to how to live the Christian life, how to deal with sin, and how to live free from the world. In other words, show how to be like the Lord Jesus Christ. All ministry will therefore spring from his relationship with the Lord. It is through Him that 'we receive every good gift.' (James 1:17)
Basic Principles of Ministry
It is imperative that every pastor understands the foundations on which his relationship and faith is built, for he cannot minister to others those things which he himself does not understand or has not entered into. On one occasion, the Lord opened up for me, an opportunity to spend a few weeks visiting a group of hungry folk at a church about eight miles from where we lived. The Minister of the church, a little wary of this intrusion, came to one of the gatherings, and during the course of my sharing the scriptures, truth was revealed that we could be 'free from sin.' The brother nearly exploded off his seat: "It's impossible" he said. It transpired later that the man had been unfaithful to his wife, and was in fact in a number of impure relationships with members of his congregation.
To know God is the greatest assurance of salvation we have, and you will note in the reading of Scripture that: 'this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus whom you have sent.' (John 17:3) The catalogue of instances we have recorded for us, reveal that to believe in God is only one step into this relationship. For example, Samuel's own record of his encounter with God when God spoke to him the first time during his early life, was a mystery because 'he did not yet know the LORD.' (1 Sam. 3:7) The reason for this ignorance was a temple life, where the priest and his sons had turned away from the truth, and the light of God was flickering, ready to disappear.
To know God involves the same intimate relationship that makes two people one in marriage. When the angel Gabriel showed himself to Mary, the one who had found favour with God, and revealed that hers was to become the womb for God's greatest miracle, the birth of His own Son, she naturally replied: " but I do not know a man." (Luke 1:34) She was engaged to a man named Joseph and recognised that birth only comes out of a more intimate relationship.
In these days I fear we have lost the truth of the knowledge of God! The church is absorbing the standards of the world and purity has become the prerogative of only a few godly people. We must remember that if we continue to violate the laws of God He will have no alternative but to give us up to our own ways. Paul, writing to the Romans says: 'because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man - and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.' ( Rom. 1:21-25)
John, who for his faith in and love for Jesus, was exiled on the isle of Patmos, knew God. He writes: 'Now by this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in him.' (1 John 2:3-5) He knew God, and therefore found that his fellowship with God superseded any personal agony of heart and any physical suffering.
It is sad to acknowledge that we are living in days when the basis of our fellowship with the Lord, and with one another, is being eroded away by the failure of many to be obedient to the Word of God, so clearly revealed. The devil, who is the enemy of God, and therefore of His people, is successfully seeking to draw us away to a lower plane.
God, time and time again, reminds us to be aware of the subtlety of the enemy's ways. It is therefore my purpose to reveal the ways in which we must guard against losing this privileged fellowship and communion by accepting relationships which would draw us from God.
The root of the word fellowship is from the Greek word 'koinonia' which is expressed in many different ways in the New Testament. Peter uses the word in the beginning of his second letter (translated here as 'partakers') when he says: 'Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.' (2 Peter 1:2-5)
Perhaps it can again be illustrated as Jesus came to choose his disciples. Peter, Andrew, James and John were partners, (again the word 'Koinonia') in a fishing business with Zebedee, the father of James and John. The call of God to them required that they should leave their father and follow Jesus. There was no adjusting period; they left all and followed Him: 'Now Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Then they immediately left their nets, and followed him. And going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. And he called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.' (Matt. 4:18-22) However, as Luke relates, for some reason they had gone back to their fishing again and the story records a night of failure. Peter's reaction after the Lord's command to, " launch out into the deep" was to say: " Depart from me, for I am a sinful man" then they brought their ships to land, and 'forsook all and followed Him.' (Luke 5:1-11)
True fellowship therefore, demands a total leaving of all that we are, and a total commitment to Christ. This is further illustrated as the Spirit of God moved in the early church at that wonderful prayer meeting. 'Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet.' (Acts 4:32-35)
Even in this, the devil had taken advantage by sowing his subtlety in Ananias and Sapphira who, although they had brought most of the money from their sale, had kept back a part of it. In being faced up to this by the apostle, they both died instantly. God is not going to compromise on the basis of fellowship; it is a total commitment to Him.
To be in fellowship with Him and to have His life, Jesus said it was necessary to eat His flesh, and, drink His blood, which was what so upset the religious of His day. They had to enter into the communion of the body and blood of Christ. They, as we know, did not understand what Jesus was saying. I wonder if we have eaten and drunk our Lord to the full, so that there is no desire for anything that comes from this corrupt world.
The communion, or breaking of bread, as it has been ordained for us by the Lord, is an outward sign of the inward action of partaking of our Lord. Paul, in his letter to the Cornithian church confirmed God's instructions. 'For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same manner he also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till he comes.' (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
I have seen so many pass over the eating of the bread in the meeting. I know that Paul says that if we eat and drink unworthily we eat and drink damnation to ourselves, but is it not therefore a sign that we are out of fellowship with Him' What could be more natural for the man or woman who has been born into His life, and baptised into His body, than that he should want to eat and drink Him' It is as natural as for the newborn babe who knows how to drink from it's mother's breast; it does not need to be trained, it is in communion with the one that bore it, and it is this fellowship that the Lord has called us into.
A Common Life
Communion with the Lord brings us into a common bond of life, a life of extravagant love and giving - that which was the hallmark of the Macedonian churches: 'that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God'. (2 Cor. 8:1-5) We are to enter into this bond of love with the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd, and also the door into this fold where His sheep know His voice and follow Him, and another they will not follow. The other spoken of is the thief and the robber who comes to steal and destroy.
So many have desired this life in relationship with God but they have not been prepared to bear the cost. The rich young ruler looked longingly at the potential of this when he asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. He was a follower of the law but his commitment was to his riches. "Go, sell what you have and give to the poor," Jesus said, but 'he went away sorrowful.' (Matt. 19:21-23)
I wonder, as you have read this, whether you find yourself in fellowship with the Lord. Paul says: 'Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteouness with lawlessness' And what communion has light with darkness' And what accord has Christ with Belial' Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever' And what agreement has the temple of God with idols' For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them, and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be my people.' Therefore 'Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be my sons and daughters' Says the Lord Almighty.' (2 Cor. 6:14-18) A life of joy and peace awaits all who will allow Him to be a Father to them.
The Psalmist states: 'Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in his law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.' (Psa. 1:1-4) There is something very natural and refreshing about fellowship. In our new birth we have been planted into Him, and have become partakers of the root and fatness of the tree.
Jesus said: 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.' (John 15:5) There are, of course, those times of testing and trial, of pruning, so that our fellowship life with Him is deepened and enlarged. 'That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.' (1 Peter 1:7-8)
Prayer and Study
Time is the greatest secret of the life of fellowship and communion. The person who really loves wants to spend more time with the one he loves most. This is why Jesus often challenged the lives of the people He met.
No man can minister unless he has learned to rise early and meet with God and soak himself in the scriptures, so that they are then a ready tool in his hand. Spend one hour in preparation to minister five minutes; spend a week in preparation to live one day. See that the work of God is thoroughly wrought in your own life which will now be food for those who feed upon the truth. Daniel's testimony of those who hated him was: 'but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. '(Dan. 6:4) 'Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.' (2 Tim. 2:15) 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God. That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.' (2 Tim. 3:16,17)
Daily and Yearly Bible Reading Schemes
It is important to have a systematic scheme for the regular reading of the word of God in addition to times of deeper study and also to make full use of the study books available, as added material to the ministry already developed in your heart, as it has been imparted by the Lord.
Fasting and Prayer
Daily and weekly times of prayer and fasting should be the normal practice of the minister's life. One day weekly, and perhaps three or four days quarterly, can at special times give extra depth to preparation prior to major church decisions or crusades. On one occasion, a number of church leaders gathered for three days of prayer and fasting. One brother who had quite recently been devastated by the evil work of men seeking to bring division in his church, subsequently causing it to be closed, had been under such personal attack that for a day he seemed unmoved by the sense of God's Spirit among us. Then, on the second day, it seemed that God's love began to penetrate his soul, and the Lord was able to move powerfully in him, releasing an agony of spirit such as I had not previously experienced. There are many such souls who need the ministry of men and women who are prepared to meet together, and break powers which it seems are not able to be broken any other way.
You will recall in Matthew's gospel that some of the disciples had laboured ineffectively with the son of a desperately seeking man, and Jesus counselled them that: 'this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.' (Matt. 17:21) In fact, Jesus encourages his disciples: 'But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.' 'But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly.' (Matt. 6:6,17,18) The early church was found praying and fasting at the sending forth of the apostles, Paul and Barnabus. There are many facets to prayer, as in a diamond that reflects light in different ways. The person in the school of prayer should be able to move into all its precious areas, we shall see this as we develop the truth.
Passport to Life
We need to realise at the outset, that to enter into heaven we must, (as we need to when travelling to another country) have a passport. This can be dramatically illustrated by the words of Jesus: "not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord,Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name'' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practise lawlessness!" (Matt. 7:21-23)
What then is the passport' Hebrews says: 'holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.' (Heb. 12:14) What a shock it must have been for the man in Matthew's gospel who, arriving at the wedding feast, was told: "Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment' " And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, "Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 22:12-13) Holiness is our only entrance into heaven, God requires that we be holy, for it is written: 'Be holy, for I am holy.' (1 Peter 1:16)
Holiness, therefore, is that precious work of God which has been born in us of God. 'If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God.' (2 Cor. 5:17)
Let us test our reactions in all circumstances before we claim to hold that which perhaps, we have not fully entered into.
To be in fellowship with a holy God we must be holy people. I remember that very moving account of the men who were praying for the move of the Spirit in the Hebrides. After many nights of prayer the Spirit of God moved on one young man to quote the scripture; 'Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord' or who may stand in his holy place' He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.' (Psa. 24:3-4) It was then, as they became conscious that they were sinners and began to repent, that there came the first indication that God would move, and shake the little town. God can only be approached in this way.
You may remember that when God moved in the days of Moses, the mountains quaked at the presence of God. Hebrews records: 'For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, so that they that heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them any more. (For they could not endure what was commanded, "and if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or thrust through with a arrow." And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.") but you have come to mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.' (Heb. 12:18-24)
The only way to the Father is through His Son Jesus Christ, who has given His life and shed His blood that we may be cleansed from our sin. The New Covenant was introduced because the old laws could not make those who come to God perfect. Therefore, the way into the holiest is by the blood of Jesus, 'by a new and living way, which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, his flesh and having a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.' (Heb. 10:20-22)
Assuming then, that the Lord has made us pure and clean and that we have gained initial entrance into the holiest of all, there is also a real desire to get alone with Him and we should find, out of this fellowship, that one of our greatest joys is to worship Him.
One of the greatest challenges to me, when reading the account of the disciples, Peter, James and John, was, the time the Lord went off a little further to pray. They were tired and the Lord said to them, "Could you not watch with me one hour'" (Matt 26:40) To me an hour does not seem too long to give to Him who has given everything for me!
Obedience - a Key
To remain in this fellowship we must know an obedience of heart, as did our Lord Himself. In the Old Testament, Saul seemed to have such a great beginning. He was chosen out from among God's people to be king over them.. He was a changed man, in that God gave him another heart, but due to his lack of obedience lost out in his relationship with God, and was eventually rejected from being king. God chose another in his stead saying: "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will do all my will." (Acts 13:22)
Let us then ask ourselves whether we are in fellowship with God, for we can know no real relationship with anyone else if this is not firstly established. We have become the temples of the living God; and we shall shortly be seeing how jealous God is to maintain this precious relationship with us.
Jesus brought afresh this startling revelation to the religious of His day when He made that momentous visit to the Temple. In John's gospel it is stated He : 'found in the Temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers doing business. When he had made a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep, and the oxen, and poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned the tables. And he said to those who sold doves, 'Take these things away! Do not make not My Father's house a house of merchandise!' (John 2:14-16)
He later went on to explain that He was to establish in three days a temple in His own Body that would be the dwelling-place of God and the place of prayer. Sin has rendered our bodies unfit for the presence of God, therefore we are to seriously consider all things which relate to our bodies.
Paul makes this clear when he writes: 'Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by his own power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ' Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a prostitute' Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute is one body with her' For 'The two,' he says, 'shall become one flesh.' But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own' For you are bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Cor. 6:13-20)
Fornication is a physical action between two people, outside of God's ordained pattern of marriage, which subject we shall be dealing with in the counselling chapters. It is our purpose to see that it will deprive us of fellowship with Him and, possibly, is already the reason why we find ourselves in violation of His will.
The Pastor a Reflection of His Lord
It is very easy to speak truth, but it must also be seen in the lives of those who speak. It is always distressing to hear young believers speak of men and women who have had, it seems, powerful revelations of truth, and received prophetic words, and yet in their ordinary everyday lives are such a frustration and concern to those with whom they live. On a trip to Africa, a dear sister was sharing such an illustration.. A co-worker had received remarkable direction but in the rest of her life she was lazy, inconsiderate, and unpleasant to work with.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, lamented that they had 'many instructors but not many fathers.' (1 Cor. 4:15) We must always allow the beauty of the Lord to be seen in us long before we open our mouths. 'But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.' (2 Cor. 3:18) 'But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power, may be of God and not of us. Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our body.' (2 Cor. 4:7,10)
The Pastor is a leader, both in spiritual and natural realms. He is called upon to make sacrifices that others of his flock may not be called upon to make. He must always be aware of the conscience of those he seeks to lead and serve. 'Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.' (1 Cor. 8:13)
There is always a cry in the hearts of men and women for mature ministers of God, and the purpose of the Lord is to develop the life of his people so that they are able and effective ministers. As in the natural life there are five senses, so it must be in spiritual things. If we lack sight or hearing we are incomplete as a whole man. 'For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk, and not solid food. For every one who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness,: for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.' (Heb. 5:12-14)
'He touched me; and Oh the joy that fills my heart' rings out a well known chorus. Just like the woman who, having suffered from a disease for twelve years, reached out and touched the hem of Jesus' garment. It is amazing how men and women sense the atmosphere of our lives and of our homes. On one occasion, having had opportunity to be involved with a young girl in council care, we were visited by the social worker who was responsible for her. The lady commented on the powerful atmosphere of peace in our home. Another testimony of the Lord's gracious presence allowing us to touch the lives of those with whom we come into contact. How different is the atmosphere in many homes.
One day I visited a couple in the church, but on walking up the pathway to the front door could hear that they were in the middle of a gigantic row, both were shouting at each other. Embarrassed, I waited a few minutes, before ringing the doorbell, which seemed to bring an instant quietness. In less than a few seconds the door was opened but there was a very heavy atmosphere as I entered the lounge, and it was not long before confession needed to be made as to the state of their hearts.
Laying on of Hands
Another area of truth so misused in these days is that which comes via the laying on of hands. So much of what is called the 'gifts of the Spirit' are contaminated by those who impart their own spirit, or even that which comes from the devil, rather than the pure holy things of God. Simon, who was caught up with the blessing in Samaria under the anointed ministry of Philip, and who had previously been referred to as: 'This man is the great power of God.' (Acts 8:10) When later he saw the power that could be imparted through the laying on of hands, offered money to Peter and John so that he could have such a gift. (Acts 8:19) The scripture says: 'Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins; keep yourself pure.' (1 Tim. 5:22) If a man has not a clean heart and pure hands, what will he impart'
'We feed on Thee the living bread.' Jesus spoke to the leaders of his day saying: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." " Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:35,53) To the woman he met at the well outside Sychar he said:-"whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14) We must be very sensitive in our communion with God, particularly, through the means of prayer and fasting.
Paul says: 'faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' (Rom. 10:17) How important it is to hear the Lord speak.
I remember one particular afternoon which illustrates this need to hear clearly from God. I was sitting quietly, when I heard very clearly, God speak to me that I should make contact with a certain young woman. I delayed, thinking I would do so later that evening as it was then 4.15pm, nearly time for tea, which we had as a family. I had chosen not to obey the voice, but the conviction grew stronger and stronger until 5.30pm I could delay no longer. I sought firstly to make contact by telephone, but without success, and then, although it took me some time, I tracked the young woman down at her parents home. I asked, 'what did you do at 4.15pm'' as God has spoken so clearly to me. At that she was visibly shocked, and immediately confessed that she had made arrangements to spend the evening with a non-Christian man with whom she had intended to be immoral. Knowing that God had so cared for her, she immediately repented, and cancelled her arrangements. I am sure that the sensitive hearing of the Lord saved her from sin that particular day.
Unfortunately, speaking the word of God does not always cause hearts to respond in a positive way. This particular illustration refers to another young woman, who had come to stay with us. At eighteen she had been openly living with both men and women, and showed a desire to be free. One evening, as Frances and I sat in our lounge, God revealed that the thoughts of her heart were unrighteous towards us, and having spoken to her she responded by taking an overdose, finishing up in the local hospital. Her mother was called, and I can still hear her screaming at me, 'murderer, murderer' in the hospital corridor. Jesus, you will recall, heard the thoughts of the scribes and Pharisees. 'But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered and said to them, 'why are you reasoning in your hearts'" ' (Luke 5:22)
One of the greatest privileges in our relationship with the Lord is to hear his voice: 'And the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.' (John 10:4) The pastor is able to receive the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and faith, that he may effectively minister to the flock over which he is overseer.
By faith we are taken out of the realm of believing into the reality of seeing. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews, the chapter concerning faith, follows on with these words: 'Therefore, since we are also surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus.' (Heb. 12:1-2) How easy it would have been for Peter, having heard Jesus call him out of the boat, to walk on the water and to keep walking, instead of looking away and sinking into its stormy depths. When Elisha was surrounded by the army of the Syrian king, his servant was fearful, but Elisha asked God to open his eyes to the reality of the situation, and he found the mountains full of the horses and chariots of the Lord.
There is an aroma about the things of God. Just as the praises of his people arise as a 'sweet smelling aroma.' ( Eph. 5:2) May our lives be filled with such sweetness. Jesus was often neglected, both by the people he served, and the disciples he taught. One day, while in a Pharisee's house eating a meal, one uninvited sinner broke in among them and began to wash his feet with her tears, and to wipe them with her hair, and then kiss them before breaking open a precious box of alabaster ointment. The scripture records that the house was filled with the perfume of her sacrifice.
The Pastor's Qualifications
Each local church is an autonomous fellowship under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is locally overseen by men who have been qualified by the Lord's calling. As we have seen, these men who oversee church life and seek to bring men into the things of God are known as elders and also referred to as, bishops, overseers and shepherds; and it is the purpose of this section to consider the qualifications of such men, together with the role of the deacon, so that we may make our own comparisons.
Scriptural Basis of Leadership
It is clear that an overall view of the Scriptures indicates that God raises up men to lead His people. In Numbers it is recorded: 'So the Lord said to Moses: Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and the officers over them; and bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the spirit which is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.' (Num. 11:16.17)
The biblical base for eldership is very clear: 'This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.' (1 Tim. 3:1) It's interesting to note that there is very little, if any specific guidance on church organization. The elders are the official oversight body of the local church, which is open to all men of the congregation who meet the Scripture's qualifications and have a Spirit imparted desire to jointly oversee the spiritual welfare of God's household.
Paul, when he was about to depart from the Ephesian church: 'sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.' (Acts 20:17)
The appointment and ministry of deacons is also clear: 'And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.' (1 Tim. 3:10)
What is an Elder?
As we have said there are two words which together clearly define the term elder. One is bishop: 'This is a faithful saying, if a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.' (1 Tim. 3:1) 'For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money.' (Tit. 1:7) 'For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.' (1 Peter 2 :25) 'Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.' (Phil. 1:1) Another is overseers:- 'Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.' (Acts 20:28)
Eldership and Leadership
An elder is therefore a man appointed by God to oversee His church. Hebrews refers to: 'those who watch for your souls.' (Heb. 13:7) He must, therefore, be essentially, a pastor or shepherd if he is to care for God's sheep.
It is also clear from the whole canon of Scripture that these responsibilities are entrusted to men, and in the apostle Paul's writing, the qualifications assume a male subject.
Pastoral oversight was committed to a council of elders, but among these men of God were always those who were leaders, either by gift or calling :- Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Gideon, Peter, and Paul. Paul exercised his authority over the Corinthian church as he had 'laid the foundation.' (1 Cor. 3:10)
What is a Deacon?
Deacons are men appointed by God to serve in a more practical capacity, and although the book of Acts, does not refer to them as deacons, such work and qualifications are a good guide.
What about other Ministries?
Ephesians records: 'He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.' (Eph. 4:11-13)
Paul's instructions to his son in the faith Timothy, give us perhaps the best guide to the qualifications for eldership, which can be enlarged as follows:- A bishop must be blameless, without reproach, of innocent character, one in whom no fault can be found, a man whose life cannot be badly spoken about. He must have only one wife, be self controlled, sensible and prudent, a master of himself, serious minded, leading an orderly, disciplined life. He must be respectable, opening his home freely to guests, be a friend to believers and especially strangers and foreigners. He must be skilled in teaching, not a drunkard, not violent but patient, forbearing, peaceful and gentle and not a lover of money.
He must be one who is a good lead to his own family, serious minded, keeping his children under control, that they be thoroughly well behaved and lovers of the Lord. For if a man has not learned how to manage his own household, he will not know how to take care of the church of God. A bishop must not be a new convert or beginner in the faith, unless, being puffed up with pride, he gets carried away with himself and falls into condemnation of the devil. He must have a good testimony and be well spoken of by those outside the church so as not to incur reproach and fall into the devil's trap. He must not be self-willed or soon angry, nor stubborn or quick tempered, but holy, of pure life, a man who continues to cling to the trustworthy message.
The qualifications for deacons are similar, adding, that they must be men who combine a clear conscience with a firm hold on the deep truth of their faith. They must first be proved and tested and undergo a period of probation so that they may be found without blame, and only appointed to their office if no objection is raised against them.
The Role of the Wives
It would appear from the Scriptures that wives have an integral part to play in the work and ministry of their husbands. Although there is no actual statement to elders wives, it is clearly referred to in the section relating to deacons:
They must be dignified, worthy of respect, serious in behaviour, those who are not involved in scandal, not gossips, saying no evil of others, controlling themselves in all things. They must be women of discretion and self-control, women who can be trusted.
The apostle Peter gives further instruction on the nature of wives seeking to follow the Lord. They are exhorted to fit in with the work and ministry of their husbands, and so reveal by the character of their lives, the truth. Not adorning themselves outwardly, but in the hidden personality of the heart, the imperishable ornament of a quiet and gentle spirit, a beauty which springs from the inner loveliness of the heart .
According to the Acts of the Apostles, God's Holy Spirit has placed elders in his flock as overseers to shepherd his church. God has established government in every area of life, in the family the husband is the head, in the church all believers are priests and ministers or servants, but not all are leaders, pastors and teachers. Elders are church leaders.
Submission is a word which in today's Christian community speaks of man having power over another and modern man reacts to such a concept and with it undermines the whole basis of the truth of God. The Scripture gives instruction on authority.
Children : 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.' (Eph. 6:1) Citizens in Society: 'Let every soul be subject to the governing authority. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist by God.' (Rom. 13:1) Wives to husbands: 'Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.' (Eph. 5:22) Employees to employers:- 'Servants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.' (Eph. 6:5) The church : 'Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.' (Heb. 13:17)
They are to Watch for your Souls
They are men who seek to guide and counsel the church into the requirements God makes on his people. They are to feed the flock over which God has given his life.
They are to Guard against False Teachers
'For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.' (Acts 20:29-30)
Paul exhorts every member to know all who labour hard at leading and admonishing and to esteem them very highly. The natural tendency of the flock is to take elders for granted, forgetting their past labours, complaining rather than being thankful, accentuating the bad and disregarding the good. 'And we urge you, brethren, to recognise those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves.' (1 Thess. 5:12-13)
During difficult times the people of Israel were prepared to stone Moses and David to death. Love is the divine glue that holds elders and congregation together through conflict and disagreement. No council of elders is perfect. All elders have problems and weaknesses, and each believer has a unique perspective of how elders should operate.
The work in the Local Church
Elders will be appointed to oversee the spiritual work:
1. The basis of the ministry
2. The details of its weekly life
i.e. Bible studies, prayer meetings, Sunday gatherings
3. Its evangelism and work amongst the young people and children
4. Its pastoral care
5. Its missionary work.
Elders will also oversee the function of deacons considered in a later chapter.
Chapter 4. When the Church comes together
'How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has a interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.’ (1 Cor. 14:26)
The Apostle Paul gives very clear instructions as to the nature and conduct of the life of the church when it gathers together. As we have seen, he reminds the saints at Ephesus: ‘There is one body.’ (Eph. 4:4) and that, in its local as well as in its worldwide expression, it should be moving together in the unity of the Spirit of the Lord. Jesus’ great prayer was: "that they all may be one." (John 17:21) It seems that there are many reasons why churches are not united together and Paul addresses many of these reasons in his letter to the Corinthian church.
Take Heed how you Build
There is only one foundation upon which the life of the church is built : ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul goes on to say: ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ (1 Cor. 3:11) So often in the preaching of the word from the pulpits of our land, we do not hear truth as revealed in the Scriptures. It is this lack that so often lays at the heart of division in church life.
Called into Fellowship
Paul reminds the church that we have been brought into a real relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, by the Spirit of God. The mystery of the fellowship into which we have been called is a permanent bond stretching out into the eternal realm of God and His love. We have looked at it in relation to marriage: ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.' ' For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.’ (Eph. 5:25-27,30-32) We see that it is the purpose and desire of God to fuse us into a union and that union is with Christ Himself.
Paul tells us that the Holy Ghost is the seal to confirm entrance into: ‘the Gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.’ (Eph. 1:13-14)
Baptised into one Body
We go on then to consider this union with Christ and to detail the different analogies the Scriptures use to help us understand the life into which we have been baptized. Paul, writing to the Corinthians says: ‘For by one Spirit are were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.’ (1 Cor. 12:13) That is a clear picture of the life of the church as a body.
How tragic it is to see churches divided when the truth is so plain. We have to accept that God has: ‘set the members each one of them, in the body just as he pleased.’ (1 Cor. 12:18) ‘That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it.’ (1 Cor. 12:25-26)
If you are not a committed member of the local expression of the body of Christ, may I exhort you to consider it in the way Paul does, that, if you are an eye, what use is that eye sitting on the sideboard? It needs to be in the head to be of value. What use is a hand if it is not attached to the arm? Paul writes that growth is only possible if the body is fitly framed together: ‘But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does it share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.’ (Eph. 4:15-16)
Those not of the One Spirit
I remember with some sadness, a young woman joining the Fellowship and bringing her mother and brother. She seemed to settle in very quickly and was often sharing in our times of fellowship together. After a while she began to draw some of the church into a different kind of ministry, one which we came to see was not of the Spirit of God. It was done very quietly, using two of the homes of the families in the church. One of these couples mentioned these meetings to me in passing, realising of course, that principally there was nothing wrong with extra gatherings to listen to tapes of other ministry, but in this case it was done to draw away some of the church into another spirit. The young woman was furious that I should have been informed, and in a later conversation with her, I discovered that her heart was far from fellowship with me. She disclosed that every Sunday the word spoken brought her into condemnation.
John writes: ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.’ (1 John 2:19) We can be sure that there will be those who will seek to join themselves to us who will not be part of the true body of Christ.
Jesus is the True Vine
Jesus said: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing." (John 15:1-5)
Here the Lord refers to us as fruit-bearing branches. How sad it is to see trees which were once fruitful, now lifeless. Here we must challenge ourselves as to our church life. ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ ‘For there the Lord commanded the blessing - life for evermore.' (Psa. 133:1,3)
As we have seen previously, the lack of blessing experienced by the disciples in Luke’s Gospel was because they had moved out of fellowship with the Lord and returned to their natural trade of fishing. Such was the challenge to Peter that he fell at Jesus’ feet saying: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Luke 5:8) Seemingly, fruitlessness is an indication that we are out of fellowship.
As Paul has brought to our attention the foundation laid by the Apostles, may I say that personally, I do not believe the teaching amongst some regarding the Apostolic Covering Principle, or 'shepherding', to be the desire of the Lord for His church. So many have been brought into the bondage of human dominations, depriving them of the spontaneous expression of life that is given to each of us who are in direct relationship with Jesus Christ.
This error is illustrated for us in Exodus.. Seeing the great task Moses had in caring for God’s people, Jethro his father-in-law instituted a structure which would cause the burden to be shared with others.. ‘So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said "What is this thing that you are doing for the people? why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?" ' (Exo. 18:14) Moses was to be drawn away from a reliance upon the call and command of God into reasonable thinking. Jethro said: "You will surely wear yourself out. Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens." (Exo. 18:18-21)
No one to Care
I recall a young girl knocking on the door of my house at 10.00pm one Sunday evening. She had sought counsel from her House-Group Leader. She was told that she ought to see the Pastor responsible for her area, but he wasn’t free till later on in the week. She called because she needed the care of her church then. Surely the true pattern must be that which is ordered of the Holy Ghost. The shepherd must always be available to hear the cry of the sheep, even if he leaves the ninety and nine and searches out the lost one.
Later on in the book of Exodus we find God’s answer to the needs of His people Israel. ‘So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. Then the Lord came down in a cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.’ (Num. 11:24-25)
What we need in the church of Jesus Christ is men raised up by the Holy Ghost whom He may put over the affairs of the church. We must remember the Church is not a business which needs organising but a living organism overseen by the Lord Himself.
Apostles Appointed unto Death
I believe the Apostolic Covering question would be more easily counteracted if we could see the nature and calling of those members who were ordained by God and, who were undoubtedly, founders of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Paul writes : 'According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.' (1 Cor. 3:10-11)
We are told to: ‘consider the apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to him who appointed him, as Moses also was faithful in all his house.’ (Heb. 3:1-2) Modern day apostleship often provides for those in authority the things usually known only to the managing directors of large individual companies. For example, the freedom to drive in large cars and own luxury homes. I wonder how we would fare if our Lord was upon the earth again - He who came to give His all to gather a group of men around Him who were prepared to give up all to follow Him?
‘Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." ' (Matt. 8:18-20)
I wonder how many would want to be apostles if they saw that their job was to be a foundation and others would build upon them. When we consider our own homes, how many of us have seen the foundations? They are out of sight, but absolutely essential. Let us beware of the false apostles who are: ‘deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.’ (2 Cor. 11:13-14)
The church today is not that powerful force for God that it was in the days of the Acts of the Apostles when the church turned the world upside down. Maybe God sees our church as He did when He spoke through the prophet Ezekiel: "The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then he caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry." (Ezek. 37:1-2)
The prophet was asked whether these bones could live and was commanded to speak to them the word of the Lord. The first great work was a coming together of the bones and the putting on of skin and flesh, but still there was no life. Then the prophet was commanded to call for the Spirit to come and we read: ‘and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.’ (Ezek. 37:10)
What a tremendous challenge a church would be if the Holy Spirit of God was to fill those people and make them the great army that God wants!
The Armour of God
We read in the Scriptures how that many a great battle has been won by following the simple principles which are laid down for us by the apostle Paul under the heading, ‘The armour of God.’ 'Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.' (Eph. 6:14-18)
Let me illustrate it with the story of David arriving at the scene of battle to bring some bread and cheese to his elder brother’s commander. He was confronted by Goliath, the great man of the Philistine army, defying the army of God. David was just a young man in comparison but he was clothed with the armour of God. He knew that when a bear and a lion came amongst his sheep he had gone after them and destroyed them. 'Moreover David said," the Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, he will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." ' (1 Sam. 17:37)
He came to the giant with these words: " You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands." (1 Sam. 17:45-47)
Prayer - the Greatest Weapon for the Church
The greatest weapon in the church today and the only thing which will draw it together is prayer. How blessed have been the times of our all-night prayer meetings which we have enjoyed as a church and which have always preceded blessings from God. Jehoshaphat faced one of his most acute crises and :‘set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.’ (2 Chron. 20:3) When the word of the Lord came the prophet said, 'Thus says the Lord to you: "Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you." And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: "Praise the Lord, for his mercy endures for ever." Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.’ (2 Chron. 20:15, 17, 21.)
Jesus’s great prayer for His church was: " that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me." (John 17: 21,23)
The Common Life
Unity comes from a common life, by the baptism into a common body and the sharing of a common doctrine. ‘Then those that gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.’ (Acts 2:41-47)
The Ministry of Reconciliation
The ministry of reconciliation will often be required in the course of church life. It is unrealistic to think that there will be no problems or misunderstandings between its members. We must always ensure that we are not party to any schisms in the church but seek to work out amongst us any difficulties until we all come into oneness. Paul writes: ‘Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.’ (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
The process by which we seek unity is clearly outlined by the Lord in Matthew’s gospel. Firstly: ‘if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he hears you, you have gained your brother.’ (Matt. 18:15) Every effort must be made not to speak to others first, damaging the brother in their sight. Love is a powerful protective which ‘will cover a multitude of sins.’ (1 Peter 4:8)
Secondly: ‘But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ (Matt. 18:16) Those that accompany you for the purpose of bringing about reconciliation must be respected on both sides, if not, the one who is at odds with you will feel that others are against him.
I remember being asked to speak to a husband and wife in order to help them to be reconciled. As they sat there it was obvious that she was convinced that her husband did not love her. She was also wrong in her dealings with him. If I had supported the husband I am sure I would have lost the opportunity to help them both. I began to relate a story which was similar to their own and detailed the failures of the other wife and how I had counselled them. Suddenly the wife to whom I was talking burst into life and said, "I am just like that woman you are talking about!" The power of the hurt and rejection was broken.
I believe we are often too premature in our dealings with men and women and don’t give time for the Lord to work in their hearts. Paul writes: ‘I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but he who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will reveal the counsels of the hearts; and then each one’s man praise will come from God.’ (1 Cor. 4:4-5)
The Need to Tell the Church
The third stage in Jesus’ ministry is the saddest: ‘If he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.’ (Matt. 18:17)
What terrible agony it is for leaders and congregation alike if it is necessary to expose the sin of anyone at this level. However, it must be done at times, simply to establish the principle that we must be always one. This fellowship into which we have been called is one body. Such dealings must be done after much prayer and waiting on God. May the Lord so move among us that our church life may express the unity that there is in fellowship with God.
These truths from the pen of the Apostle Paul reveal areas of wrong that had crept into the life of the Corinthian church.
Someone in the congregation was in sexual immorality with his father’s wife, and instead of removing the man from the company the sin was left to continue like a cancer. ‘Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?’ (1 Cor. 5:6) The story of Achan is an example of such devastation caused by an apparently insignificant sin, bringing the whole blessing of God to a halt. The people of God had seen great victory and now without further consultation with the Lord, Joshua summons a small army of about 3,000 men to go up and take Ai, but God was not with them, bringing utter despair as they found themselves beaten and 36 of their comrades killed. We find Joshua on his face before God. ‘So the Lord said to Joshua, "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned."’ (Jos. 7:10-11) He had to deal with the sin before victory would again be secure.
The Corinthian church had unresolved problems resulting in members going to court and issuing legal summons against other members, rather than bringing the matters before those who were in a place of responsibility in the church.
Perhaps one reason why members do not come before respected men and women in the church is because they already know in their hearts the answer that is from the Lord. I remember speaking upon the truth of the will of God and afterwards a concerned young woman approached me about the man to whom she was engaged. They were very much in love but he was not the Lord’s and she was in great conflict. She knew the truth but did not want to accept it for herself. ‘Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?’ (Amos 3:3) They have now married.
Fellowship in the World
How sad it is to see real Christian folk being drawn away after the things of the world. There is normally evidence of uncleanness and a desire to live without the knowledge of God. Paul records: 'For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.’ (Rom. 1:18-21)
I am staggered by the thought of our loving God, bearing patiently the sight of the sin of this world, when He has so graciously sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to bear away its sin. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.’ (John 3:16-17) ‘Behold! The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1.29)
God has concluded that this world is totally incurable and a new heaven and earth are to be built. ‘In which righteousness dwells.’ (2 Peter 3:13) ‘Now we know’ says the Apostle, ‘that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’ (Rom. 3:19)
This World shall be Destroyed
We have a picture of the final destruction of this corrupt world in Peter’s second letter: ‘But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore! since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens, being on fire, will be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?’ (2 Peter 3:10-12)
Two great characters present themselves to us in the story of Abraham and Lot, one as the ‘Man of Faith' and the other as the ‘Man of the World.' Both were believers in God and yet took such different paths. The first is Abraham. ‘By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterwards receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.’ (Heb. 11:8-10)
He was a pilgrim on the earth, looking to the promise of God that he was to make his seed as many in multitude as the stars in heaven and as the grains of sand upon the seashore. He was deceived for a while and conceived a son through his wife’s Egyptian handmaid. Although he wasted thirteen years of precious time, eventually he died in faith desiring: ‘a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.’ (Heb. 11:16)
His nephew Lot, on the other hand, was drawn into the plains of Sodom, that city of homosexuality. Such was the awfulness of its condition, God found only one remedy which was that it should be destroyed by fire. How tragic to live in an age when AIDS, a sickness which is usually the result of homosexual practices, is spreading through our world in such epidemic proportions that one wonders whether the end of all things is near at hand again! We read of this man Lot: ‘And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterwards would lead a godly life; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed with the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds).’ (2 Peter 2:6-8)
How sad it was that Lot’s wife, having left the city of destruction but finding in her heart a desire to return, looked back, and became the embodiment of the sin of that city.
Can Two Opposites Agree?
What sadness it is to the child of God to be in such a world as this knowing something of the grief it brings to the Father’s heart. We ask again the question: ‘What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? and what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? and what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:, "I will dwell in them and walk among them I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty." ' (2 Cor. 6:14-18)
The answer to all must be that there is no fellowship between these two kingdoms. One is of God and the other of the prince of the world, the devil. They are total opposites. To be in one confirms we are not in the other. For so many Christians today, a real work of separation has never taken place. New birth has not planted them into the Kingdom of God and they are struggling to find God to be real in a world which seems to be so attractive.
We see therefore, that this world is for the son of God, a no- stopping area. Although the world was created by God it was sold out to the devil by our forefather Adam and has stayed under the power of Satan since the Fall. ‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.’ (Rom. 5:12)
‘And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.’ (Eph. 2:1-3)
All Sin Excludes us from God
This world is under the rule of Satan and he, the god of this age, has blinded those: ‘ who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.’ (2 Cor. 4:4)
Jesus Christ has come to call you out before it is too late. Please remember that believing that Jesus will come will not save you. You are to be ready now. Jesus tells the story of the five wise and five foolish virgins all waiting for the bridegroom to come. The wise were ready with oil in their lamps, the foolish needed to make some dramatic provision when they heard that his coming was near and sadly missed this crucial time. ‘Afterwards the other virgins came also, saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" But he answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you." ' (Matt. 25:11-12)
How many will there be who are not in fellowship with Him in that day? All sin separates us from God and they that have been born in this world will remain by birth and nature separated, whether they believe or not. Remember Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, that leading religious ruler:- "You must be born again." (John 3:7)
In Jesus Christ the warfare is at an end for when He died on the cross He destroyed the works of the devil. ‘And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.’ (Rev. 12:7-11)
The purpose of the devil is to keep us in the world. He need not do anything else. If we begin to respond to the Gospel, he will create conflict for us to make it seem that the things of God are of no value. Just look how he attempted to draw our Lord away in the wilderness. We can be sure he will tempt us all. Paul tells us: ‘It is common to man.’ (1 Cor. 10:13)
We see in the Scriptures two distinct kingdoms, the Kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of our Christ. The Bible makes clear for us the difference between the true Christian and the man of sin. Paul records: ‘The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterwards the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.’ (1 Cor. 15:45-50)
One is the world of sin, coming from Adam, that first man, the other born in us of the Spirit imparting the life and nature of Jesus Christ. Paul writing to the Galatians says: ‘Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revels, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practise such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.’ (Gal. 5:16-23)
We must find ourselves born after one of these men. Jesus says you can only serve one. "You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24) He continues in His sermon on the mount to illustrate the point in the story of two trees. "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." (Matt. 7:18-20)
There is only one entrance into the life of God. All have already entered with mankind through the wide gate and into the broad way. They must change direction. Jesus says: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matt. 7:13-14)
The Corinthian church had cast off traditions received from the apostles. How easy it is to relegate the scriptures to a bygone age or past culture and fail to see the eternal heart of God in providing for us truth that is everlasting. Paul reveals a number of ordinances in his epistle and we shall look at these together.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Cornithian church, refers to the ordinances as being certain acts instituted by the Spirit of God. These ordinances include marriage, baptism, breaking of bread and giving. They are all pictures or outward signs of something more fundamental in the purposes of God in His church. To take away one ordinance and leave others would, of course, be inconsistent and indicate that we are free to choose those things in the Scriptures that we desire to have, and leave those we do not. It also reveals to us that there is a divine order in God’s heart. The spirit of the age seeks to change God’s order resulting in the breakdown of relationships. Marriage is not now necessary. Men and women live together and men have sexual relationships with men, etc.
It was in the beginning that the devil sought to usurp God’s order when he exalted himself above the glory of God and fell from his position of grace to perdition. God’s divine order of men in leadership is unchangeable, whatever the culture of the world. Head covering is God’s ordinance and is here to stay, whatever men may say. God will not to move by His Spirit if we change the order which He has revealed in His truth.
It is interesting to note that Jesus, who was totally free from all traditions of men and their laws, did not choose women for an authoritative position. He was moving in His Father’s ordained plan and purpose. Obviously, submission cannot be forced upon any who gather in the company of God’s people, but head covering must be preached by all those in authority and practised by their wives.
To ‘dishonour one’s head’ means ‘to put to shame’. In some ‘liberated’ circles where women have ceased to cover their heads, it would not be unusual to see a man wearing a hat. None of us, at this time, feel we would be happy with this state of affairs and would probably ask the person concerned to remove his hat as a mark of respect in the presence of God. Men would feel uncomfortable in the worship time praying or prophesying with heads covered. It would not have been too long ago that we would have felt uncomfortable with ladies being ‘uncovered’. It seems that Paul reveals the spirit of the age when he says that, ‘it is a shame for a woman to be uncovered’. The influence of the world causes women to uncover themselves, wear their dresses too short and reveal too much of their bodies.
In the Old Testament, when a women was suspected of being unfaithful in her relationship with her husband, the priest would remove her head covering. To have her head uncovered indicated that she was possibly impure and it would be proven by the drinking of a certain mixture administered by the priest, in the temple. ‘Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse.’ (Num. 5.18)
The woman of the world was recognised by the fact that she was uncovered. ‘Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no more be called tender and delicate. Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, Take off the skirt, uncover the thigh, pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen; I will take vengeance, and I will not arbitrate with a man.’ (Isa. 47 :1-3) The punishment of a woman convicted of prostitution was to be shaven. The apostle says that ‘it is a shame for a woman to be shaven’ and parallels it with her being uncovered.
The man is the image of God and does not cover his head for he represents Christ. The woman represents the church in subjection to Christ. She is the image and glory of the man as the man is the image and glory of God. It is a picture for all to see of the union between the church and its head.
In covering her head the woman is revealing to all the submission of her husband to Christ or, if she is single, she is revealing the submission of the eldership to Christ. To be uncovered reveals that she has no power or authority protecting her or, what is more serious, that the church has no defence against the spiritual powers that would seek to destroy it and thereby undermine the salvation of God.
God may be prevented from moving by His Spirit in a church because devils manifested in lives may enter into those uncovered. The whole weakness of the church may be thus exposed, creating division and disasters such as those spoken of by the Apostle Paul, which at that time were already prevalent in the church at Corinth.
The devil is free to carry away at will those who are uncovered because the leadership has not enforced the ordinance. The woman, by covering her head, is safe under the protection of God and so is the church, for she is a picture of God’s pattern.
Look at nature. Paul writes, doesn’t a man having long hair make him look like a woman? - isn’t he effeminate? - Don’t you wish a man would have his hair cut and look manly?’ So with a woman, natural sense says that a woman should have long hair - it is her glory, but it cannot be her covering in spiritual things because it is her ‘natural’ covering. She covers her hair so that she may reveal the glory of the man and therefore shows the picture, a church in subjection to Christ. Short hairstyles that make a woman look like a man are the product of the spirit of the age. We must realise that the pure, holy base of sexuality has broken down in a world masterminded by the devil, who wants to destroy all God’s principles in the church.
We are not talking of ‘customs’ in church life, relating to the Corinthian Christians alone but an all-out attack of the devil on the ordained principles of God. If we do not follow His principles, the church may be in danger of becoming closed up to the moving of His Spirit.. The truth about head covering forms part of the basis on which the church at Eltham has been established and should be maintained by those ordained of God to build up the church.
The Worship Meeting
Paul again directs us to some aspects of the worship meeting. The three main meeting gifts operate at this time, namely, prophecy, tongues and interpretation of tongues. The other gifts function in the pastoral work of church life, i.e. a word of knowledge, word of wisdom, faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles, and discernment of spirits: ‘for to one is given the word of wisdom by the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.’ (1 Cor. 12:8-10) It is always confusing to see gifts functioning in the wrong place, for example, the public declaration of a word of knowledge.
Hearing the Voice
It is always very important to listen to the voice as well as hear the words. ‘There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.’ (1 Cor. 14:10-11)
Men and women, especially those who are developing in the ministry of God, need to be made aware that they must speak the things that come from God. On occasions, it seems we are made to accept things which have no biblical basis as though God has suddenly bypassed all His existing principles and now speaks this new revelation. The Scripture has given us all a safety valve: ‘Test all things; hold fast what is good.’ (1 Thess. 5:21)
I was visiting some very dear friends of mine who had moved from London to take up pastoral responsibility elsewhere. I was firstly introduced to a mighty man of God (by his own confession) who was recognised by the pastor and his wife as having ministry and depth in the realm of the Spirit they had never known before. My own instinct was that there was something seriously wrong with him and others in the same fellowship felt similarly but were but afraid of confessing this, especially when the leader and pastor supported him with such vigour. He was an aggressive man who spoke loudly in tongues, especially when he was supposedly casting out devils. It wasn’t long before he had ‘blown his cover’. He had been crossed and exploded with rage provoking the brother to inquire as to his background. He was in fact a clairvoyant medium.
The witness of the Spirit keeps us safe from these men of whom John writes. ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God.’ (1 John 4:1) It always seems hard, when meeting a brother or sister for the first time, having to acknowledge that in your heart there is no witness to the truth. Sadly I have seen as many as fifty people drawn away because I refused to accept the instinct in my heart that a brother (whom I loved dearly) had not the same heart to build alongside us but rather to undermine and by subtle means destroy what God had patiently built over a period of years. Fortunately we survived as a church but lost many good men and women to this deception.
Everybody has a Contribution
Every member must come prepared to bring; ‘a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation.’ (1 Cor. 14:26) With the variety of hymns and choruses available today we all have a vast supply of material to draw on. There is perfect safety in church life as the babes and mature members move together with a leadership that does not discriminate, but allows complete freedom of expression, permitting both men and women to function in their place as God has indicated in the scripture. ‘But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head.’ (1 Cor. 11:5) ‘And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. (1 Tim. 2:12)
How a meeting should proceed
Although we wish to acknowledge that the gathering together of the church is the direct response of the moving of the Lord by his Spirit. It is clear that over the years we have learned things which can be useful as we seek to lay down these principles.
Leaders and those in responsibility should arrive in plenty of time to prepare for the meeting. Some may need to be there an hour before, to set out chairs, put hymn books neatly in their place and be ready to welcome those who may have journeyed from afar and have arrived early. Those who lead the music or take responsibility for the worship time should be seated already in the meeting before the start with their hearts open and prepared. Some may have already gathered for prayer, seeking God's blessing on the ministry. As we have learned earlier, Jesus tells of the utter despair and disappointment of those five foolish virgins who, although they were waiting, when the time came for them to go and meet the bridegroom, were completely unprepared and while away finding oil for their vessels were locked out of the marriage feast.
On one visit to a church where I was due to speak, I was advised by the leader that the majority of the congregation arrives 20-30 minutes late! I wonder, if the Lord were to return when we agreed to gather, how many of us would be there to meet Him
I have often been challenged by the truth. ‘But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is judged by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.’ (1 Cor. 14:24-25)
If we arrange our church meetings for 10.30am on a Sunday morning, we should by that time, be moving together in the presence of God. If not the unbeliever will see no more than the coming together of ordinary people.
For those men and women not particularly responsible for arrangements or activities, there must still be hearts prepared of God. The meeting is not a place for catching up on our latest news. ‘How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.’ (1 Cor. 14:26) We must deal with sin or any wrong doing in the times of personal worship and prayer after we have risen for the day. The meeting is not the place to break through into God, trying by loud shouting to stir everybody else up to praise, when the need is in the prayer’s heart. Others of the congregation have already moved into a sweet communion with God. There will always be that element of flesh that will need guiding by the wise leader.
Praise and then Worship
As has been indicated the meeting must be allowed to take its own course as the Spirit moves. Meetings do not always start off with a bang. Hearts need to move in and praise is a valid expression which encourages the heart.
Praise in the Scriptures means to bless, shout, and clap. Many times in the Old Testament the men of God lifted up their voices: ‘and when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, for his mercy endures for ever.” Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.’ (2 Chron. 20:21-22)
Worship is much different. It means ‘the kiss of the hand towards’, entering into God. It does not rely on outward circumstances being good. We read that both Abraham and Job worshipped in their most extreme personal crisis: ‘And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you." ' (Gen. 22:5) ‘Then Job arose, and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshipped’ (Job 1:20).
The Gifts of the Spirit
The gifts of the Spirit function in this atmosphere of love and worship when hearts are opened and sensitive to God. How often have we experienced such moving of God, when in the midst of worship hearts cry out for deliverance or freedom from sin or just to receive more of Himself? I recall one large conference, when during the time of worship, God came powerfully among us. Many were being moved upon and devils were forcing others to be thrown from their seats to the floor. Men and women were moving around seeking to help these distressed hearts.
One lady visiting from the local area felt faint and sought to leave the hall but was overpowered by the conflict between the Spirit of God and the devil. She collapsed as she reached the doorway where certain people were commanding devils to leave. She had been a believer for many years, having regularly attended the Salvation Army but this night God came upon her. She did not know anything of the moving of God, although William Booth would have powerfully preached it in his day. She had no experience of the presence of God, the devil having operated in her life. I helped her to a chair and sought to explain the strange happenings that were going on all around her and had the privilege of leading her into something more of the Lord. ‘This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately.’ (Acts 18:25-26)
Overseeing the Meeting
Those in leadership must pay close attention to those who would seek to lead the meeting off -course and without dominating or interrupting the flow of God, gently bringing people back
The Flow of Ministry
If there is ministry from the Lord it will usually come at this point in the meeting, preached by those who know the leading of the Spirit of God. Preaching is a fire, enabling the ministry to flow, moving men and women into the will and purpose of God. Whether or not the minister may refer to notes, it is important that all ministry be based on the word of God and not on speculation by the preacher.
At the end of preaching comes the opportunity for those who have heard the word to respond, not necessarily by coming to the front to be prayed for or standing up from their seats but encouraged to meet God in their own hearts.
I recall a particular response in Gorongoza, Mozambique, where I was speaking at a Pastors’ weekend during the Sunday meeting. My text was taken from the account of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’s garment. I encouraged everyone to reach out their hands to receive of the Lord. The pastor, a lovely man of God, encouraged any who that morning had given their lives to the Lord, to come forward. One young woman responded but also a good dozen more came forward to be prayed for, wanting forgiveness of sins. I was certainly not willing to lay hands on these. My interpreter, a dear brother who had journeyed with us, explained to them that God can meet them in their seats and sent them back to do business with Him. The pastor shared with us that this kind of response had become a habit in the life of their church. In striking comparison, on my return to my home base in Mozambique, I listened to a tape of a brother who, by the laying on of hands, was seeking to bring people into a blessing that would cause them to be knocked backwards. These two opposite illustrations confirm the necessity of reading the Scriptures and following the direction of the Lord.
After the Meeting
After the meeting is an important time for those who have received the word of God and have been challenged. It is at this point in the conversation of many afterwards that the word can be lost and the devil snatch away the seed.
The Breaking of Bread
The breaking of bread, often referred to as communion or the Lord’s supper, is one of the ordinances instituted in Scripture. It was regularly practised by the early church: ‘They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers. And they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.’ (Acts 2:42,46) Jesus himself instructed his disciples in the breaking of bread and said: "This do in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)
The breaking of bread sprang from the celebration of the Passover after God very wonderfully delivered his people from their bondage in Egypt. The sacrifice of the lamb for the forgiveness of sin lay at the heart of this important feast. Jesus now brings His disciples to an awareness that He is the "Lamb of God," (John 1:29) and that to have life they must "eat his flesh and drink his blood." (John 6:53) He is the bread of life.
Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church brings back to their hearts the seriousness of the occasion, reminding them that they are the ‘one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.’ (1 Cor. 10:17) It seems that they were making the eating and drinking of the Lord’s supper an occasion of drunkenness. Maybe we too must ensure that we do not make this precious time just another item on the busy morning worship calendar. ‘Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord, in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.’ (1 Cor. 11:27) The result of misuse causes ‘many to be weak and sick among you, and many sleep.’ (1 Cor. 11:30)
The Leader at the time of Communion should encourage the congregation to: ‘examine himself.’ (1 Cor. 11:28)
This could be an appropriate time to take up the offering as part of worship and thanksgiving.
The Prayer Meeting
It would seem inconsistent, that any one should desire to go on with God and not be found in the weekly prayer meeting. No Officer, Youth worker or Sunday School teacher is qualified for their job if not found at the times the church gathers for prayer.
The early church was a praying church from its conception. ‘These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication’ (Acts 1:14) ‘And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayers.’ (Acts 2:42) When Peter and John returned from their encounter with the Jewish leaders they joined their company in prayer .‘And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness.’ (Acts 4:31)
All major decisions were made out of praying hearts, seeking for the mind of the Spirit, and crises were resolved as the church gathered for prayer.
Prayer is to find the heart and mind of God, not only as an individual but as a company. One of the great perplexities of the pastor is praying with a number of members who do not come to open up their hearts to seek God. James gives some guidelines to prayer in his epistle. Prayer is to: ‘ask of God’ (James 1:5) to, ‘ask in faith’ (James 1:6) and that ‘you do not have because you do not ask.’ (James 4:2) Prayer is the responsibility of every child of God. ‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain.’ (James 5:17-18) There will be times of waiting on God both daily and weekly.
Other Meetings of the Church
The worship meetings on Sunday, both morning and evening and the prayer meeting should be attended by all the church. In addition to those, there are a number of other gatherings which are either added on to the main times or special times, which because of age or family position are optional in church life.
Although it is the responsibility of each parent to teach the things of God to their children at home, there is undoubtedly a place for specific instruction to those children up to the age of twelve years. Added to the times of worship and ministry, other activities in the week give opportunity for friendships to develop. In these gatherings, both on Sunday and in the week, other children from the area can be encouraged to come via childrens evangelism (for instance) thus providing the means to reach unsaved parents also. It is essential that all childrens’ work be kept in context to the whole church as it gathers, so as not to become the main ministry in the Sunday morning worship, drawing all men and women into a Sunday school. There are needs of adults in later life that will never be embraced in a childrens’ gathering. All teachers should be well prepared and not young people who are only seeking an easier option. All Sunday school teachers should attend the main meetings and the prayer meeting to qualify for their task.
Youth meetings certainly give opportunity for those of the same age to fellowship together and learn to lead in the things of God while also having a basis for practical friendship. It is in these times that instruction should be given on relationships and how to live the Christian life at school, in the home and in the church.
As God reaches into the hearts of the members of the church, He puts within them the burden of the lost world. This results in the call of God to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Those that go out will be supported regularly by prayer and the missionary meeting gives special opportunity to hear news, not only of its own members, but of other work going on in the world. I recall how powerfully challenged I was when attending the wedding of Andrew and Sarah Ledger, when on the Sunday, Mr North spoke on the reasons why we should NOT go to Africa.! I was so challenged that I made immediate plans to go! As a result I became involved very closely with the work of John and Celia Valentine, at one time being responsible for its UK support.
Baptism is another of those ordinances referred to in Scripture to be regularly practised by the church. Jesus instructed His disciples: "Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:19-20) Like the other ordinances of spiritual life, it is an outward sign of something more fundamental than may appear on the surface.
Physically, it is the total immersing of a believer into water. Pictorially, it is a picture of death and resurrection. Ministry by the pastor should make it clear that it is not an optional extra. As we look again at the Scriptures that illustrate this fundamental practise, we will see it’s necessity.
When Peter preached his first sermon on the day of Pentecost men and women responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ and asked what we should do to be saved. Peter’s reply was: " Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." And with many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation." (Acts 2:38-41)
The early church followed closely the teaching of the Lord Jesus and always baptised men and women, both in water and in the Holy Spirit. Sometimes men received the Holy Spirit as they were baptised. ‘And it happened, while Apollos&
Chapter 5. Church Government
The Church, its life and pattern
'Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.' (Heb. 13:17)
In this chapter we deal with the business side of church life. In the book of Acts the Lord moved by His Spirit to bring men and women into life in Himself. His intention in doing so, was not only to bring individuals into new birth, but also to build His church and to give birth to a corporate body of people who would express and show forth His life and character.
Acts provides a history of the church, inspired by the Spirit and written by Dr. Luke. It is a continuation from his first account in his gospel which was: 'all that Jesus began both to do and teach.' (Acts 1.1) The gospel reveals the life and miracles of the Lord Jesus. We also read of times when He granted power and authority, firstly to twelve disciples: 'Then he called his twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.' (Luke 9.1) Then to a further seventy disciples: 'After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before his face into every city and place where he himself was about to go.' (Luke 10:1) This authority was given for a particular purpose, ministry, and time. It did not mean that they had received the Spirit. They were not at that time members of His church.
It is impossible to join the church. A person may attend meetings and do the 'accepted thing', but this will never make them a member of the Church. No minister, pastor or board, has the authority to allow or make a person a member of the Church. This is because the Church is the living body of Christ and the only person who can make you a member is God Himself. Jesus instructed his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received the power from on high. 'You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now' (Acts 1:5). 'For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.' (1 Cor. 12:13)
When God poured out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost, He baptized men and women into His life. Being reborn they left their old life and came into their new family, the Church. 'And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.' (Acts 2:47)
When a child is born, he breathes in, receives life and becomes a member of a family. In the natural order of things he does not apply to be a member of the family!
Likewise when a person receives the Holy Spirit and is born again, he becomes a member of God's church.
A New Testament Pattern
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God was manifested on and through certain privileged and 'called' individuals. The nation as a whole knew times of 'blessing' from God, but the people never received the life and Spirit of God as individuals.
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is given to each believer who is personally brought into relationship with God, they then are personally taught by that same Spirit, which comes to dwell in them.
We must conclude that the Lord has chosen not to write in the same manner as we find in the Old Testament concerning the tabernacle. He could have inspired Luke or Paul to write a thesis on church structure, for each man was recognized to be well educated. 'It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus.' (Luke 1:3) 'And reckon that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation - as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you.' (2 Peter 3:15) However, such was not God's way. His way was to weave the New Testament pattern throughout the account of the growing church, and into its revelation of truth concerning itself. It is also intertwined in the pastoral epistle of Paul, and the other writers.
This allows the Lord to speak and guide men who can humbly submit themselves and seek Him concerning their own local situation. Thus the Lord makes us more dependant on Him. We are able to be guided by His Spirit as we pray and read the Bible and as we seek to find the outworking and finer detail of the pattern for our own local situation, with the 'living stones' (1 Peter 2:3) which He has joined together.
The New Testament Basis for Authority
This humble unassuming approach, was so evidently seen in the life of the Lord Jesus, when He made such statements as: " The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do." (John 5:19) The New Testament emphasis is that a church is built 'on top of' men' 'built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.' (Eph. 2:20) This contrasts so starkly with authority in the world, where 'the boss' is seen to be the top man! The Lord said of Himself: "The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life." (Mark 10:45) This attitude is so clearly seen when we read of how he washed the disciples feet and also the account of His actual death on the cross.
Office in the Church
Although some translations use the word 'office', the word does not actually appear in the original Greek. The emphasis is rather on the action of oversight (for elders) and serving (for deacons). Upon reading through the New Testament it is evident that the most commonly referred to titles for men who held responsibility were elders or bishops.
There is far more detail concerning the responsibility of these men than that of any other ministry within the church. Whilst Paul outlines the qualities of both elders and deacons, the rest of the New Testament contains more information on the role of elders. In the early church, a job needed doing which was too much for the apostles and was distracting them from committing themselves to the preaching of the word. As a result men were chosen by the people for this task and were appointed by the apostles.
Acts refers to Paul appointing elders in every city. We have to make an assumption that, given his tremendous love and graciousness and care for individuals, he would have consulted others in the flock as to their thoughts.
A congregation should be taught the qualifications for eldership, and their requirement is to recognize them, support them, and love them. We need to be: 'kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.' (Eph. 4:32) An unforgiving heart against eldership or leadership will be as a little leaven in a church and can only lead to division in the end. As we saw earlier, congregations cannot make men Christians, neither can they make them elders or apostles. Paul was 'called an apostle' from his new birth. This appointment is not given to inflate the eldership to a super-role. It is important to note in the Scripture that when a crisis occurred the elders discussed the issue privately and then referred their decision to the flock who were 'all pleased' with it. In the pastoral epistles Paul normally addresses his letters to the church, not to the leadership. On the one occasion he did address it to the church and leadership, they appear second. 'To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.' (Phil. 1:1)
Initially the apostles handled the money distribution during early church life in Jerusalem. The work increased so much that a group of men were chosen by the congregation for this one specific task, thus relieving the apostles. 'Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.' (Acts 6:1) Approximately ten years later, money is sent to the Judean church which was received by elders, (not deacons).
Approximately twenty years later, Paul writes to the deacons at Philippi and in another letter to Timothy outlines the qualities of deacons. Presumably during this intervening period, the church realized it needed a group of men who were prepared to serve the church and relieve its eldership of as much practical serving responsibility as possible. They cannot however, move in that which God has laid on the elders shoulders: 'they care as those that must give an account.' (Heb. 13:17)
The church is not a democracy, but neither is it a dictatorship. The Scripture encourages us to keep in fellowship and to sit regularly under the ministry in the meetings. This helps to keep us in the truth and in a place where the Lord can speak to us. The church is the family of God. God is the Father, but the Scripture says other men are fathers also. In more important decisions of our lives it is good to seek the Lord, also to speak with the elders as to their thoughts. This gives a greater place of security. Not that we are to set up some consultative/submissive system, but rather, to keep in touch with our shepherd elders that the Lord has graciously provided for us. Normally an elder should not 'interfere', but he may and should speak out strongly where needed. In Thessalonians, Paul instructs the elders to deal with unruly behaviour.
Communication and Confirmation
Who told the apostles that the Greek widows were being overlooked' We don't know. All we do know is that there was a murmuring against the Hebrews by the Hellenists. The apostles moved on it. They asked the flock to choose from among themselves, and the apostles then appointed those chosen men.
In the major doctrinal difficulty of Acts 15, the dispute started in the church and was debated in private by the apostles and elders. Then the church was told and agreed with their conclusion.
Paul's second missionary tour was committed to God 'by the brethren.'
Leadership and the Training of others
To have a leader in the church of God seems consistent with the whole of Scripture. We have the illustration of Moses: 'And the Lord said, " I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." ' (Exo. 3:1-10) Also with Joshua, 'After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying, " Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them - the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses." (Jos. 1:1-3)
To be a good leader, a man must be after the character and nature of the Lord and develop a team of men around Him. 'From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Now Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Then they immediately left their nets and followed him. And going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. And he called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.' (Matt. 4:17-22)
He must encourage the gifts of the Spirit and the ministries in the church. 'Therefore he says: When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. (Now this, 'He ascended'- what does it mean but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth' He who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.' (Eph. 4:8-16) He must also set the standards for the church in his spiritual life, ministry, family, leisure time and hospitality. A good pastor will encourage others to help in his task as overseer.
Finance is often the most difficult issue to raise, especially by the pastor who may feel he is likely to benefit from such teaching. The call of God is to give up all our wealth to serve Him. 'Now, behold, one came and said to him, 'Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life'' So he said to him, 'Why do you call me good' No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.' He said to him, 'Which ones'' Jesus said, ''You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honour your father and your mother," and, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." The young man said to him, 'All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack'' Jesus said to him, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, 'Who then can be saved'' But Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'' (Matt. 19:16-26)
Church life is a life of faith and we see that when Jesus sent out His disciples they were not to take money in their purses. 'After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before his face into every city and place where he himself was about to go. Then he said to them, 'The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest, to send out labourers into his harvest. Go your way; behold I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, sack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.' And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the labourer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'' (Luke 10:1-11) This is a wonderful lesson to learn for all those seeking to be fully available in the Lord's work.
I remember quite a remarkable story when I wanted to visit Africa many years ago. I needed to raise £500 and believed that the seal of God's will would be His provision. Sadly it did not come. The brother with whom I had planned to go asked if I was committed to the trip. I told him that I was awaiting a 'word from the Lord.' What I really meant was that I had no money. His response was to pray that God would speak to me. I was at the time attending a brothers' conference and on returning to the lounge for coffee, a young brother leaned across from his chair and said "I have a word for you. You must go east." As the destination of my trip was Africa, I accepted that word as God's confirmation and stated my intent to the brother with whom I was to travel. On my return home to Eltham I was given a cheque for £500. The Lord was teaching me to make the decision first and receive his supply as a result.
The Church's Responsibility
Although we must all look to the Lord ourselves, the church has a responsibility in the providing of funds for the support of the work. 'Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,' and, 'The labourer is worthy of his wages.'' (1 Tim. 5:17-18)
The Key to God's Blessing
Jesus said: "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:38) Of course He is not only speaking in financial terms but in every aspect of our lives; time, hospitality, service, and ministry.
In the Corinthian church the saints had showed their great hearts of giving: 'that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. - imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering saints. And this they did, not as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.' (2 Cor. 8: 2, 4-5) Malachi says, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." (Mal. 3:10) Note: Tithes were given by the people of God out of all that they received.
Giving is in the Attitude of the Heart
'So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.' (2 Cor. 9:7) When God wanted to build His tabernacle, He said: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering. From every one who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take my offering." (Exo. 25:2)
Giving is Systematic as well as Spontaneous
Paul writes: 'Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia so you must do also. On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.' (1 Cor. 16:1-2) It is always good to move as the Lord leads and there are many opportunities to give. Jesus said: "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away." (Matt. 5:42) Regular giving requires that you prayerfully seek God as to how much of your income you give, weekly or monthly, to the work of God both at home and abroad.
How does God desire we should give
The Old Testament practice was clear in that the people of God were required to give tithes and offerings. The tithe, or tenth was a basic levy on everyone's income and it was made available to support the Levitical priesthood. The offering, was whatever else they gave of their own free choice. This is certainly a helpful guideline today, although some may decide before God that they will give him a fifth or more and trust Him to provide for any lack in their own needs. In the New Testament the rules of the Jewish people were often surpassed by the total giving of the poorer people. They gave far and above the requirements of the law.
To whom shall I Give
There are many demands upon the funds of the people of God and every member must give prayerful consideration as to whom he should give. High on virtually every Christian's list, and quite rightly so, will be his own local church, where he is fed and cared for and encouraged. Also for the missionary work in which the church is involved. In the local church funds must be divided between:
a. The practical upkeep of a building and its facilities and
b. The care of those in need.
c. Its full time pastoral and other ministries.
d. Its workers overseas
Money can be designated either:
a. By covenant - If you pay income tax the Government adds at the time of this publication 33% to your gift and sends it to the church at no extra cost to yourself. Details of this should be obtained from the church Treasurer who will give you a covenant form and information.
b. By enclosing it in an envelope and putting it in the offering which can be taken up during the breaking of bread. Alternatively, it may put in the box found near the door of the meeting place.
In conclusion, let us remember the words Jesus spoke: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:19-21)
If necessary, the pastor and elders of the church, together with its members, may need to make decisions to put out of fellowship those who continue in sin.
I recall an instance concerning a woman whose husband had, sadly, left her and who had received into her home a married man. They were living together. I realised that I could not allow the continuation of this sin, and very fearfully went to speak with them both. As you may imagine, the man's reaction was very aggressive, accusing me and the Lord of a lack of love and care. To the woman I was able to share that, if she did not cease from sin, I would have no choice but to bring the matter to the church and that we would pray, in the light of the Scripture in Corinthians, that she should be put out of the church. Immediately she responded and the matter was resolved.
Sadly, men and women will disqualify themselves in the work and ministry of the church by their actions, and we must be courageous to deal with each other as the Lord indicates in the Scripture. I have seen a number of precious and gifted brothers become totally unavailable because of allowing sin into their lives causing suffering to themselves and to the work of God. It is a sad day for the church when those in responsible positions overlook sin in the hope that it will go away. We must 'purge out the old leaven' that we may be 'a new lump'. (1 Cor. 5:7)
Chapter 6. The Pastor's wife
'but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.'’ (1 Peter 3:4)
There are varying degrees of involvement a woman may have as a pastor’s wife. It may be necessary, or from choice, for her husband to use their home or he may choose to see some of his flock in the church building. In this chapter, I hope to cover all the possible needs and problems a wife may find (many I stumbled upon myself!) as she seeks to help her husband in his ministry.
Her calling is to serve God, be a help to her husband, and a mother to her children. In the wider sphere - to be a home keeper, one given to hospitality, a listener, an advisor, an organiser, a decision maker, a leader, and an example to the women in the church. In the book of Timothy, her requirement is laid down as an elder’s wife. ‘Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.’ (1 Tim. 3:11) She will be watched closely by the men and the women in the church as to the way she relates to her husband, brings up her children, keeps her home, dresses, and communicates with other members in the body. She, together with her husband, is often called upon to take the lead not only in spiritual matters, but practically as well.
For a young wife this may seem to present a fearful proposition, however, even without the maturity of experience, her life with her family, lived in relationship before God, will be respected by others. When our children were growing up, we found that as we laid down the standard for our children to follow, then others in the church would take the same direction. This included matters such as - how much pocket money - whether they were allowed to go to certain places - what time they had to come home after an evening out - and others. There was always the lament "my friends don’t have to ..." Whilst their friends were allowed more freedom, we did point out the benefits in their lives that their friends didn’t have, such as trips abroad, outings, club activities, visiting other homes. This didn’t always console them!
We had no television, and so had no problem as to what they should watch, as did other mothers, but as they grew older we did allow some videos. We were very particular about what they watched, read, and listened to, not believing in free choice or free expression, but in teaching them the truth, feeding into them things that were honest, pure and good, and always explaining to them why we wanted them to do or not to do certain things. We were sometimes criticised as being too hard on them, we expected them to come to both Sunday morning and evening meetings as part of our family life together and they learnt to respect God and those who were His, and eventually found the Lord for themselves.
The Demands of the Work
The life of the pastor’s wife is a life of selflessness as her husband’s time is taken up so much with the demands of the flock. Much wisdom and discernment is needed to be kept from being deceived by those with whom she comes into contact, who are not yet totally desiring to find the Lord for themselves. As a young wife and mother, learning about the Lord, there would be times when I resented bitterly the time my husband spent in counselling. I hadn’t fully appreciated that he too was a learner and was presented at quite a young age with people who had emotional and spiritual difficulties. I often took remarks, he or others made, wrongly and moved naturally, not in the spirit of wisdom and love. I realised eventually how selfish I was and how harshly I judged others. This was something the Lord had to deal severely with me about, or rather I with myself, until I reached the place of ‘Thy will be done.’ I then found love and friendship with these same people, and a closer relationship with the Lord. What a difference the truth by the Spirit can make to our lives!
Inevitably the home is used for visitors, those needing special care, for receiving endless phone messages and making lots of tea and coffee! Routine housework can be totally upset and plans disrupted, not to mention loss of sleep! It is good for the wife to remind herself from time to time that she is in a partnership, a sharing work. Her husband may be used more directly in spiritual or emotional ministry but she will complement his ministry by playing her part in caring, advising and practical help. An understanding of people’s hearts and needs will help her to know the part she has to play.
As a personal testimony, I went through a time in my life when I felt quite useless and unnecessary in helping those who came into my home. I could see the results of the ministry of God through my husband to those who came in need, but failed to see the wider ministry needed in the total caring for the folk. In my heart I withdrew, although outwardly I pretended all was well. This brought me to a place of despair until I saw that I too could offer love, support and help, not to mention a listening ear, and a strong shoulder. For various reasons many who visited us had not had a happy or secure upbringing and had missed out on so much normal family living. Such simple things as family meals, holidays, working together, being an active part of a church, discipline, understanding and helping others. All these are needed to be taught to make a person completely whole. I remember one teenager who came to live with us who didn’t want to take her coat off and sit down with the rest of us, didn’t want to tell me what she was doing, where she was going, when she would be home. She never thought to help with cleaning up after meals. Only small things really, but very important in being part of a community or family.
It can be quite difficult having someone to stay who is not taking their rightful place in the family. They want to tell your children what to do or even be a wife to your husband! As all these things are pointed out and they accept them, it helps them to receive the things of God, for He is our father, husband, brother, whatever we need. If a person has never known a loving and moral father or been disciplined as a child, he or she finds it hard to accept this of their Heavenly Father. As they see it outworked in others they understand what they are being told of the Lord. I often found that my children were better at making friends and getting alongside those who came than I was. One young lady who visited, was so quiet and shy, that I found it hard to communicate with her, but our eldest son was learning the classical guitar at school and discovered that this lady could also play, this enabled her to open up to him and then to us afterwards. Sometimes even a pet can help people to feel at home. Our cat was often stroked and cuddled by the shyest of people. She helped to break the tension and awkwardness that can arise in new relationships.
There can be some conflicting times when bringing up a family, although in my own situation, I found, when the children were young they adapted very well to the constant stream of visitors, giving up their beds for people to stay and letting other children use their toys, but as they grew older adjustments had to be made regarding their personal property and privacy. With our busy schedule we endeavoured to find times to be together, especially for the boys to be with their father. If there was a trip, on which one of them was able to go with him, he was taken.
The work can cause great pressure on the relationship of the pastor and his wife. By many of the flock the pastor is seen as having no personal cares, difficulties or problems. Of course this is not true, often a great deal of encouragement is needed. Sometimes after many hours, years even of help and counsel, a member may criticize the pastor openly and spread their own disquieting around the flock. This is an obvious example of the enemy seeking to bring disunity and slander, which we are told will come. Any leader is in the firing line of the devil and often that which is intended as being loving and helpful is misconstrued to be unloving. Jealousy can rise up from a member not feeling loved and seeing the pastor appearing to love others more than themselves. Sometimes women, whose hearts are not yet pure and holy, ‘fall in love’ with the person who has endeavoured to help them so much. Every pastor will know a dilemma in this area as he seeks to show love. A wife can help to balance this difficulty by her relationship with her husband and with the member of the church. It is important for a wife to share any misgivings that she may feel, but may I give one helpful hint - take it to the Lord first!
One time a lady came to learn a few basic housekeeping abilities. She had known a very unloving childhood and even though married to a caring man, and having a lovely daughter, had times of severe depression. This took her regularly into hospital for treatment, and prevented her from being able to look after her husband and young child at home. The first night when every one was out she began to shake violently and had difficulty in breathing. This was totally unexpected and I had to call my husband home. He prayed and the shaking stopped. The next day it happened again but this time we had to call the ambulance and she was taken to hospital. We realised there were deeper things in her life than we had thought, and the shaking and inability to breathe continued. We tried to help her and look after her young child.
My husband had to go away for a few days and during this time she became worse. One time I paced the floor in my bedroom trying to decide whether or not to call for an ambulance, (she later told me she could hear me above her). I talked with her for hours, and tried to help. After one bad attack when I was at a loss of what to do, my husband returned unexpectedly early, and I was so relieved to see him. However, the first thing he said to me was "why is the house in such a mess?" - I cried my eyes out! The story has a happy ending however, our visitor had to go back to hospital but found the Lord there, and eventually was completely set free from all her difficulties and has never looked back since.
Often the flock is not aware of the pressure of responsibility a pastor may feel as he cares for those whom the Lord has given him.. Quite often a quip is made such as ‘well its God’s responsibility’, but every pastor cares genuinely for each member. It is not the same as a secular job - hearts are knit and friendships made and heartaches occur when these are broken. However we know it is God who builds His church and each couple in this role seek to be all that God wants for His people, to learn to lean, and rest, in Him.
Occasionally deception can occur, if a person wants the benefit of a secure home but is not prepared to be honest about his or her life, thoughts and feelings.
Openness from those Staying in the Home
In my experience, the amount of need or even the degree of possession of the enemy in a person is not the first difficulty encountered when having people amongst the family. One young man came for help and stayed when our children were quite young. He started to get free from his drugs and began to open up and all was well. After two weeks however there was a heavy atmosphere in the home, the youngest of my children came out in a peculiar rash, not known by the doctor. I had constant headaches to which I was not prone. One night I felt uneasy and sat outside my son’s bedroom (only separated from our guest by a partition), fearing for his safety and praying that the Lord would show what was wrong. It soon became clear that, behind our back, the young man was asking help of an old friend. This conflicted with our advice, and did not show respect for the headship of the house. Eventually he tried to take an overdose and later had to leave us, as he wanted to go back to his old ways. After he left we prayed for each other. The rash disappeared and the headaches went and peace returned. We pinpointed the time of difficulties to exactly the time he decided to go his own way and seek other counsel. The Lord has been totally faithful to our family, in protecting our children and keeping us from what the enemy seeks to do.
A further illustration is when a girl came to stay after losing her accommodation. She had many needs and would react violently during a meeting and collapse on the floor or run out of the room. I began to build up a relationship with her, this was not difficult to do as I wanted very much to help her. She responded to the Lord, began to get her life sorted out and all was well, until she decided she didn’t want to go any further in her pursuit for the Lord, but wanted to return to her life as a lesbian. Tension in the house grew and rebellion set in, until eventually, after some months, we were advised by our friends to ask her to leave. I found this decision a very heartbreaking one, but the Lord gradually showed me, that the spirit through which she was operating, was not the spirit of God, and she was aware of what she was doing. It took eight months to feel free and whole again, such was the trauma of the situation. I realised I hadn’t heeded the warnings the Lord had given me, and had not wanted to take my husband’s advice in letting her go. The Lord did wonderful things for this girl and gave her opportunity after opportunity to come to Him but the old life was too much to give up.
Again we found trouble when I allowed someone who had an evil spirit to come into the home. A young girl was staying who had great need herself and during the night she was terrified and spent the whole time sitting cuddled up in a chair. It had been wrong for me to invite this other person in, as I knew her heart was not towards the Lord at the time. As the young girl wasn’t clear herself she had picked up this spirit. Occasionally, according to the need, it is wiser for the pastor to use other venues, rather than the home to counsel people who are very troubled.
There are many activities the pastor’s wife may become involved with in the church, according to the time available to her. These can include:
Door to door
Childrens’ work - Sunday School
Young peoples’ work
Work with the Elderly
Practical work - teas, decorating, weddings etc.
Not forgetting the ministry of the gifts of the Spirit and prayer, to make herself available to the Lord when the church meets together. Clear instructions are given in Titus for those women who, with experience of the Christian life are to teach the younger women. ‘The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things - that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.’ (Titus 2:3-5)
Talking to Others
Unfortunately a temptation among women is to gossip. Sometimes there is difficulty in knowing what is gossip and what is sharing. We have no liberty from the Lord to talk about others in any form of judgment or story telling. We are to ‘exhort one another daily’, encourage one another, and not spread rumours. More damage is done in this way, I believe, the temptation being, to like talking about others and to like letting people know what we know. ‘Knowledge puffs up’, the Scripture tells us, ‘but love edifies.' (1 Corn 8:1) ‘Speaking the truth in love’ (Eph. 4:15) I believe, means speaking as the Lord. Because of this, it is good to teach that a women's time be spent glorifying the Lord in her home, in her relationships, and in her behaviour. Remembering that marriage is a pattern of the love and relationship of Christ to the church.
I love to hold women's prayer meetings and coffee times. It is so encouraging to share with one another and find together, strength from the Lord. It enables us to ‘stand’ in the difficulties we encounter in our daily lives, especially in these days of broken relationships and rebellious children. Women need help, often they are left to take the full responsibility for the home, the children, and sometimes husbands as well.
I have listed many avenues of work for the Lord in the church. No woman need be idle but everyone must have a faithful relationship with the Lord in order to be of use in these areas.
Finally, the most important of all is to make time to spend alone with God each day, here we find the strength and grace to help us in all the responsibilities. We must have time to pray with our husbands, particularly as we are in the work of the Lord together. In a busy schedule it is amazing how this can be disrupted and times may have to be altered, but this is where our strength lies in our relationship with God.
The work is very rewarding. We have had the privilege of seeing a whole generation come to the church, respond, grow up, marry, and be used of the Lord themselves. Then in turn, teach their own children. Good relationships are made and friendships formed and people are delivered from the power of the enemy into the love of God.
Chapter 7. Understanding the problem
'And his disciples asked him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered neither this man or his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’' (John 9:2,3)
To help us in our understanding of how to care effectively for those who come to us for counsel, we need to know something of why we find ourselves needing help.
Man is made up of three parts: body, soul and spirit. ‘Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Thess. 5:23) ‘For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ (Heb. 4:12) The body is the outward flesh which contains the soul, that is, the emotions, feelings, desires and thoughts, and the spirit which is eternal.
Man receives his body/soul life at birth when he breathes: ‘And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.’ (Gen. 2:7) and his spiritual life with God at new birth: ‘And you he made alive,, who were dead in trespasses and sins.' (Eph. 2:1) Adam missed eternal life because he did not partake of the tree of life in the midst of the garden. ‘And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ (Gen. 2:9)
Mans Original State
Man was created by God and was made in the likeness of Himself. ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”’ (Gen. 1:26)
Woman also was made in His image. ‘And the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found an helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man he made into a woman, and he brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.’ (Gen. 2:18-25)
Man's likeness was in intellectual and moral nature - not in actual form, although God has a form in which He manifests Himself. ‘In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple.’ (Isa. 6:1) Stephen said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56) It is impossible to say how much of this visible likeness was lost in the fall but there shall come a day when God will change our vile bodies. ‘Who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself.’ (Phil. 3:21)
Man was made of the dust of the ground and given an immortal soul. Man is different from the rest of God’s creation, he has self-consciousness, moral freedom, is capable of abstract thought, religion and worship.
Lord of Creation
Man was made lord of creation. ‘Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth, and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." ' (Gen. 1:28) As the first man, all men and women have come from him. ‘And so it is written, The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterwards the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven.’ (1 Cor. 15:45-47)
Man as the Image of God
Even though man has fallen into sin, certain qualities remain from the original image. Like God, man’s spirit is invisible and will not die. Man was created with splendid intellectual powers, will, and self-consciousness.
‘Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.’ (Gen. 2:19) He has a conscience to discern between good and evil: ‘because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man - and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, who changed the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.’ (Rom. 1:19-25)
He was created as head over all God’s creation. ‘For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.’ (1 Cor. 11:7)
What was Man’s Life like before Sin
He was connected with the earth, but also with God. He was intelligent, for example, he named the animals. He was happy and did not have to toil. His relationship to God was one of total dependence, and fearless communion. He was spiritually upright. ‘Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.’ (Ecc. 7:29) There was no conflict between the higher and lower elements. He was sinless. The fall was therefore not a necessity. ‘Adam had no inward urge to sin, his act of sin was disobedience by choice. Conscience is the proof of all this. Adam was not in a state of perfect holiness and true righteousness. He was on trial. He was like an acorn - perfect in embryo, but not developed. He was free to act in accordance with the divine will or against it. He was capable of being tempted, but under no compulsion to sin.’ (Dr. Martin-Lloyd Jones)
The fall - Man in Sin
The Fall is literal history. ‘Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat from every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” And the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.’ (Gen. 3:1-6) ‘But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ (2 Cor. 11:3) ‘For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.’ (1 Tim. 2:13-14)
Sin and temptation came from outside man, from Satan. There was nothing in him to produce sin. He had a free will and could decide for or against any action. Man fell because he listened to slander against God and doubted God’s word. He looked at what God had forbidden and lusted after what God had prohibited: ‘For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world.’ (1 John 2:16) and ultimately disobeyed God: ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.’ (Rom. 5:19) ‘And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.’ (1 Tim. 2:14)
The Steps of the Fall
Satan attacked the woman and she listened, doubted and acted and Adam followed her example. They had a desire for a short cut to divine knowledge but God’s way is of a gradual development. They doubted God’s love and departed from God in their thinking. The devil had already sought to lift up himself in pride and sought to implant the same in man with great success. Man then resented God’s control in his life and put Him on one side.
The Results of the Fall
Adam became immediately conscious of his flesh, he was ashamed of his nakedness. ‘Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.’ (Gen. 3:7) He became conscious of a sense of guilt within himself. ‘Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’ (Rom. 3:19) He was afraid of God, so he said: “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Gen. 3:10) He lost fellowship with God. ‘Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." ' (Gen. 3:22)
He suffered the agony of spiritual death and was put out of the garden of paradise. ‘So he drove out the man; and he placed Cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way of the tree of life.’ (Gen. 3:24) He discovered life became hard. He had to tame nature around him. 'Then to Adam he said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, you shall not eat from it: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat from it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return." '(Gen. 3:17-19) and his nature within but this battle he soon lost.
The woman, God said, was to have difficulties in childbirth and her desire would be to her husband. ‘To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you”’ (Gen. 3:16)
The Consequences of the Fall on all Mankind
All were made sinners: ‘for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.’ (Rom. 3:23) All are unrighteous before God: ‘What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one”’ (Rom. 3:9-10) and remain under a curse. ‘He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practise righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.’ (1 John 3:8-10)
It is also important to note that the natural man cannot believe the things of God. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?’ (Jer. 17:9) and the entire moral and intellectual nature of unredeemed man is corrupted by sin. 'For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practise; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practise. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the person who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.’ (Rom. 7:15-24)
Man is a slave of sin. Our conclusion to all we have considered is that the present standing or condition of man outside of Christ is pictured in the Bible as dark and hopeless. One word expresses it, ‘lost’, utterly ‘lost’.
What is Sin
Sin is moral evil, and may be described as, missing the mark: ‘Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.’ (James 4:17) revolt against authority: ‘For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he also has rejected you from being king.’ (1 Sam. 15:23) a transgression of the law: ‘Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.’ (1 John 3:4) or guilt, unfaithfulness, treason, vanity, perversion, and a twist in nature. ‘For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practise them.’ (Rom. 1:26-32)
Sin is in man’s heart. It is universal. The whole of human nature was in Adam, when Adam fell, all fell. Sin is a condition from which the acts of sin come. ‘But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:7-9) It is directly related to God and His law and is a lack of conformity to it: 'For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law’ (Rom. 5:13) bringing a sense of guilt and failure.
What about Man Today
Original sin is inherent in human nature from birth and is the inward root of all the sins we commit. Therefore we are all born under the penalty of Adam’s sin and are guilty of Adam’s transgression. ‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned - (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offence. For if by the one man’s offence many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offence resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offences resulted in justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man’s offence judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.’ (Rom. 5:12-19) As Adam’s sin and death are passed on, so Jesus’ grace and life from death is given to all who believe.
When God reveals Himself to us we become aware of our uncleanness. ‘Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." ' (Isa. 6:5) Also a pressure within of evil and to do wrong. It is said, therefore, that man is totally depraved. This does not mean he cannot get worse but that he has no hope of getting better. He will enjoy every aspect of sin even if the outworkings of guilt and uncleanness continue. Man has an inherently corrupt nature which is against God and His law. ‘Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in himself one new man from the two thus making peace.’ (Eph. 2:15)
All man’s powers are misused and perverted: ‘Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.’ (Psa. 51:5) The Bible uses terms to describe this state of corruption, the flesh: ‘For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.’ (Rom. 8:13) the old man: ‘Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.’ (Rom. 6:6) the law in our members: ‘For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death’ (Rom. 7:5) and the carnal mind: ‘Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be’ (Rom. 8:7).
The flesh is that principle in fallen nature which resists the Holy Spirit: ‘For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.’ (Gal. 5:17) Man is controlled by the lust of the flesh (food, drink, sex), and of the mind (pride, envy, anger, jealousy). ‘For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world.’ (1 John 2:16) He becomes the tool of Satan and sin sears his conscience: ‘speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their own conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Tim. 4:2)
Man can become outwardly religious: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’ (Matt. 15:8) and capable of natural good, but his motives are wrong. He is not prompted by the word of God. He cannot change his own nature: ‘But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ (John 1:12-13) and does not understand spiritual truth: ‘But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ (1 Cor. 2:14)
His future destiny outside of Christ is that he will die in his sins. ‘Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.’ (John 5:28-29) ‘Then he will also say to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked, and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then they also will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?" Then he will answer them, saying, " Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." ' (Matt. 25:41-46)
He shall be eternally in the lake of fire. ‘Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’ (Matt. 7:19) In a place of conscious and unending torment. ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot; nor can those from there pass to us.’ (Luke 16:26) The destinies of eternity are settled in the life that now is.
Redemption means deliverance from some evil by payment of a price. It is more than simple deliverance. Redemption is entirely of God, and all of Grace. 'Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he has made us accepted in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace which he made to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence.’ (Eph. 1:5-8) It is God’s activity and not man’s.
Redemption was planned before the foundation of the world and we were chosen before creation. Just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world: 'that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.’ (Eph. 1:4) Redemption engages the attention of all three persons of the Trinity. The Father originates, the Son executes and the Spirit applies. The Father and the Son made a covenant together before time to buy back men and women from sin. The plan of redemption is perfect. God has timed everything - the flood - the sending of the Son, he knows the number of the elect: ‘Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”’ (2 Tim. 2:19) The plan of redemption will certainly be consummated. It is certain that Satan will be destroyed and all things in heaven and earth will come together again: ‘that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth - even in him.’ (Eph. 1:10)
The plan of redemption centres in the Lord Jesus Christ and is recorded in the Old and New Testaments as the only way of salvation.
Chapter 8. Counselling - General Guidelines
The Pastors Personal Ministry.
'And seeing the multitudes, he went up on a mountain, and when he was seated his disciples came to him. Then he opened his mouth and taught them,’' (Matt 5:1,2)
The personal ministry of the pastor will take up the remaining time of his weekly life after his own personal times of prayer, reading and study, preparation for the public ministry and attendance at the various church meetings. His work, as has already been considered, is to bring men and women into the things of God. The application of God’s own moving on hearts through His Spirit must be undertaken with great care and preparation.
Every Person Different
It is certainly difficult to lay down specific rules in personal counsel, as every person is different and the answers are particular to each need. For the purposes of our considerations however, we must seek to examine these areas.
Leading Men and Women to God
The purpose of the pastor is to lead seeking hearts along a pathway that leads to God. We take them via the Lord Jesus Christ and the cross into the Fathers presence so that they may cry ‘Abba, Father.’ This is the responsibility of every member of the church. ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ (John 17:3)
We will need to be in fellowship ourselves: ‘as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (2 Peter 1:3-8) We can not take people into a place which we ourselves do not know: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. "(John 15:5)
The purpose of the pastor is to build a relationship of trust, security and friendship so as to allow the seeking heart to feel free should they want to open their hearts in response to the ministry of God. " Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheep-fold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the door-keeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:1-5)
Never assume that you know anything about their heart condition: ‘Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do; for whatever he does, the Son also does in like manner. I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is righteous, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.”’ (John 5:19,30) ‘Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father taught me, I speak these things.”’ (John 8:28) You will only ever know what the Lord reveals, if the Lord is to use you to minister.
Your relationship will never go beyond the natural barriers instituted by God. You will not come between husband and wife or parents and children. A pastor serves the family of God and always ministers reconciliation. It is advisable for girls to be ministered to either by women or a mature married couple because their hearts may be drawn out in natural things. Boys should be ministered to by men.
The pastor’s work takes priority over every other aspect of his life at that time. If we are being led of God this will not cause disharmony in our own lives or that of our families. He will be available seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day: 'And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty have you ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, my flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.” ' (Eze. 34:1-6)
You may begin to minister and discover such depths that you will feel you may need to continue for perhaps two or three hours more than you had anticipated and possibly have to cancel other engagements or even miss dinner.
All are different, have different needs and need different help. Some need meat, others milk, others may never learn. The counsellor must learn patience and diligence in his task: ‘And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.’ (1 Cor. 3:1) ‘For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.’ (Heb. 5:12)
Personal ministry must be simple enough for the one counselled to understand. Men and women who minister in the Spirit will implant truth in hearts which may not necessarily be understood in the mind: ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ (John 8:32)
Needy souls will often criticize the ministry and the person counselling. This may be a cry from the heart to see if that which has been revealed by God is real, or they may be merely seeking the answer they want to hear. It is the pastors duty to humbly bear all suffering for Christ’s sake: ‘For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth, who, when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously; who himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.’ (1 Peter 2:20-25) ‘Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For he that would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile; Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evil-doers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.’ (1 Peter 3:8-18)
There should be honour and respect between the pastor and those counselled so that his counsel comes with the authority of the Lord. Light hearted banter and joking will undermine any real attempt to deal with serious issues particularly in demonic realms.
The pastor must not be a respecter of persons seeking the fellowship of the easy and not the difficult: ‘My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?’ (James 2:1-4) A pastor should be equally available to any need whether it be spiritual, practical or emotional.
The pastor must always be watchful, particularly when the church gathers, because there may be some who seek to minister or draw away, those with open hearts, unable yet to discern ministry which is not from God. The apostle Paul warns a group of elders: ‘For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.’ (Acts 20:29)
Many areas of the needs of many hearts spring from things inherited through parents. Heredity is the transmission from one generation to another of genetic facts that determine individual characteristics. A doctor once said that everybody’s troubles begin in the womb: ‘in sin my mother conceived me.’ (Psa. 51:5)
In the opening of Romans, Paul does not firstly refer to the law but the outworking of sin: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man - and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, who changed the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent,, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgement of God, that those who practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practise them.’ (Rom. 1:16-32) When dealing with men and women we must deal with them on the ground in which they have begun: ‘Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.’ (Job 5:7)
Once a young woman visited the church and began to open up her heart and share something of her background. Her father had become a transvestite and on one occasion visited the church. The young woman subsequently married and had her first child. It was on the returning from hospital that I received a call, ‘There is a devil sitting on the end of his cot’ and I went to visit and sure enough the devil was in the baby’s room and we were able to pray together and see the power removed from the young child’s life.
Ministry to souls has to determine the basis of their lives. The Scripture indicates that there are only two men, the old and the new. ‘And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterwards the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man.’ (1 Cor. 15:45-49)
All sin and therefore death or life is passed on via the birth whether it be natural or spiritual. ‘Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ’You must be born again’. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”’ (John 3:3-8)
The Condition of Hearts
Many of the conditions of men and women spring back to their inherited state, family life, breakdowns in marriage, vegetarianism, eating special foods, worrying about dying of heart attacks or having breakdowns. The relationship between men and women and marriage has been set aside by the world and God’s order violated. Women’s lib began in the garden. Eve should have asked her husband at home rather than to obey the devil’s voice . ‘In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls, or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing good works.. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness, with self-control’ (1 Tim. 2:9-15).
We enter into this new life by a new birth and God plants in us the seed of His Son by the Holy Spirit that it should grow and undo all the devils work in our lives. ‘Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.’ (John 8:34) The devil will not abide in the house once Jesus comes to take up residence.
God’s New Covenant
God promises under His new covenant to write His laws in our minds and in our hearts. Jesus had the new heart laws, He was the new man. When we are born again of God we receive a new paternity. It is internal, therefore, the new life changes the power that governs our mind. We are saved by grace. Grace does not mean the end of the law only the end of the Mosaic law, we are still under the law of the Spirit: ‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death’ (Rom. 8:2) it is in the thought realm and in their bodies men find the greatest problems.
There will be occasions when the pastor will be required to listen to accounts of those who have entered into deep sin. ‘Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.’ (James 5:16) Many times I have been able to counsel those who cannot really believe that God is able to forgive them their sin. Often men and women believe that they must be more sinful than the apostle Paul who said: "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Tim. 1:15)
I recall a man who it seemed had accumulated a catalogue of various sins until he felt he could no longer live and sought to take his own life. He knew what his problem was and sought the counsel of a catholic Priest as he was a member of that church. The Priest could offer him no help and was unable to forgive him. I was asked to talk to him. In his isolated hospital room, under constant supervision sat this desperate man. It was my privilege to share with him the extent of the forgiveness and cleansing of the Lord Jesus Christ which he willingly received. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9) Other times I have sat in my study or in the lounge sharing with those who need the forgiveness of God that He is able to bury their sin in the deepest sea and remember their iniquities no more. I have often been seen digging holes in the floor and burying it away figuratively of course.
Paul writing to the Corinthian church comments that temptation is common to man. ‘No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.’ (1 Cor. 10:13) It is important to note that temptation is not sin, but there are many who believe that if a thought enters their heart, they have already sinned. They feel defeated and think ‘what does it matter now’ and end up doing more things wrong.
There are two persons who bring temptation or testing into our lives. The Father - who wants to deepen and enlarge our faith: ‘Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”’ (Gen. 22:1) -‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.’ (James 1:2-4) -‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.’ (1 Peter 1:1-8) This is for our good to prove the life we have received from God is real and works.
And the devil, who wants to destroy our relationship with the Father: ‘Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he himself tempt any man. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin: and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.’ (James 1:12-16)
Whenever a Christian is born again it is the purpose of the devil that he might destroy God’s work. ‘Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she bore a male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and to his throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.’ (Rev. 12:1-11)
What is Temptation
Temptation is something that attracts, especially with the promise of pleasure or reward, seduction or enticement but in the end is death. ‘For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, and saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding, passing along the street near her corner; and he took the path to her house in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night. And there a woman met him with the attire of a prostitute, and a crafty heart. She was loud and rebellious, her feet would not stay at home. At times she was outside, at times in the open square, lurking at every corner. So she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him: I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows. So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you. I have spread my bed with tapestry, coloured coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day. With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would take his life. Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth: do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; for she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death.’ (Prov. 7:6-27)
There were four main temptations in Jesus’ life and we can see these worked out in our own lives.
The first is to provide for ourselves practically. ‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. Now when the tempter came to him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” ' (Matt. 4:1-4) Jesus was able to provide these things as we see in his later life. ‘When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom’ (John 2:9) And Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks he distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost."’ (John 6:11-12) The devil wanted him to obey his voice.
The devil will seek to destroy you through eating and drinking, drugs and all excesses. How many there are that I know who are always defeated because they are unable to either stop eating or dieting.
The second is to provide for ourselves physically and emotionally. ‘Then the devil took him up into the holy city, set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give his angels charge concerning you, and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Matt. 4:5-7) How many people will not trust the Lord for relationships - love - comfort and security. Jesus could have called twelve thousand angels to assist Him. ‘Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he will provide me with more than twelve legions of angels?”’ (Matt. 26:52-53)
We must realise that we cannot change God’s laws and benefit from what He has provided in marriage unless we also obey him. ‘The Pharisees also came to him, testing him, and saying to him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And he answered and said to them, “Have you not read that he who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”’ (Matt. 19:3-9)
‘Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.’ (1 Cor. 7:1-4)
The third is to provide for ourselves spiritually. ‘Again, the devil took him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve.’ Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.’ (Matt. 4:8-11)
The whole secret of spiritual growth is in the picture of physical growth. ‘Then he called the multitude and said to them, “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. Then his disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But he answered and said, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch. Then Peter answered and said to him, Explain this parable to us.” So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."’ (Matt. 15:10-20) If we receive of him we shall grow into his likeness.
And the fourth is to move away from the life of the cross. This was probably the greatest temptation that Jesus faced. ‘And those who passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests, also mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Even the robbers who were crucified with him reviled him in the same way. Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This man is calling for Elijah!” Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. The rest said, “Let him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save him." ' (Matt. 27:39-49).
If the devil could have drawn Jesus away from the cross we would not have been able to be saved. Paul said: " I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) "I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily." (1 Cor. 15:31)
Laying on of Hands
It is clear when the Spirit of God began to move in the early church, the ministry of new life and the Spirit was imparted by the laying on of hands. ‘Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet he had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity. Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, and preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.’ (Acts 8:14:25) ‘And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”’ (Acts 9:17) ‘Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.’ (Acts 13:3)
‘And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.’ (Acts 19:1-6)
Devils were not cast out by the laying on of hands but by the finger of God. ‘Then one was brought to him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and he healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”. But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or else how can one enter a strong man’s house, and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad."’ (Matt. 12:22-30)
Devils should not need to be cast out in padded rooms over long periods of time but by the authority of God. ‘Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when he had come out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could any one tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God that you do not torment me.” For he said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then he asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly that he would not send them out of the country. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. And all the demons begged him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.’ (Mark 5:1-13)
Guidance and the Will of God
The pastor will be consulted on many occasions to give counsel as to the will of God in the life of his flock. It would be very easy for a confident man to state his views and opinions. He will be required to help as regards jobs, relationships, marriage, moving home or church, the mission field, spending large sums of money. The principles of guidance can be noted as follows:-
The will of God for our lives determines our future as regards our eternal state. ‘Now behold, one came and said to him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So he said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones”? Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” The young man said to him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter answered and said to him, “See, we have left all and followed you. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."’ (Matt. 19:16-30)
To understand the will of God can be a dilemma. Do I choose or does God lead me to do his will. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones states two aspects (a) the decretive (b) the prescriptive: What He decrees and what He prescribes. The former will always come to pass, the latter is often disobeyed. Louis Berkoff states the two in a different way. The decretive and the preceptive, the rules and principles for action are often contradictory.
Men in the Old Testament illustrate these principles: ‘But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.’ (Gen. 45:5), ‘In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’” Then he turned his face towards the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before you in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of my people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for my own sake, and for the sake of my servant David.”’ Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.’ (2 Kings 20:1-7)
‘And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is my son, my first-born. So I say to you, let my son go that he may serve me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your first-born.”’ (Exo. 4:21-23)
It is of great importance to maintain both the decretive and the prescriptive with the definite understanding that although they may appear distinct or different they are one in God. By the former God has determined what he will do or what shall come to pass and in the latter, he reveals what we are by duty bound to do. God does as he pleases.
We can all come to a place of choice. Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden were able to choose between life and death. ‘And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat the fruit of it you shall surely die.”’ (Gen. 2:16-17) The devil possessed man, of whom we have already read, was able to run and worship the Lord Jesus. (Mark 5:1-17)
God’s Will in New Birth
God works out his will in revealing His heart to all those who will receive Him. ‘But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ (John 1:12-13) '...just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he has made us accepted in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace which he made to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth - even in him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.’ (Eph. 1:4-11)
These two aspects of the will of God, work out in the growing life of Jesus as a babe and then as a man. Firstly the decretive: ‘Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all the districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they were no more.” But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”’ (Matt. 2:13-23)
"Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine, and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." (Matt. 18:10-14)
Secondly, the prescriptive or preceptive: ‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Now when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. Now when the tempter came to him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him up into the holy city, set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give his angels charge concerning you,’ and, in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God. Again, the devil took him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve." Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.’ (Matt. 4:1-11)
‘Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and he began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then he said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me.” He went a little further and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, “O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Then he came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again the second time and prayed, saying, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, your will be done.”’ (Matt. 26:36-42)
God’s Perfect Plan
God has a perfect plan for our lives and the pastors responsibility is to seek to guide the inquirer into an understanding of it. Therefore we must be careful not to influence the decision of those seeking
Ask whether the inquirer has sought God for themselves. Many go immediately for help to mature men. ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.’ (James 1:5)
Open up the Scriptures together to see if the Lord has already clearly revealed truth on the matter or if there are principles to follow.
Pray together so as to allow the Lord to confirm His word and then give time for the Lord to speak, a week, a month. It is essential that each person knows the Lord’s voice themselves.
Avoid giving your own views even though they may be clearly of God but draw out the inquirers mind. Also avoid using the prophetic gift to give creditability to the way a person should move.
There are few occasions when it may be necessary to make a decision. Personally, I have rarely needed too, but there was one particular time when I was convinced that the person concerned was on the edge of a nervous breakdown and needed clear direction.
There seem to be a number of areas which are common to many folk in church life that need the direction of the Lord. The most important place is to be up-to-date with every aspect of your life. Everything in its order. Mr. Whitfield said he would not go to bed unless he had put his gloves in their right place. If he should die that night he would not like anyone to say ‘where did he put his gloves.’
People probably get into the most problems when they are not in real fellowship with the Lord. ‘Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.’ (Jonah 1:10)
In church life we can know where the Lord wants us to be: ‘But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as he pleased.’ (1 Cor. 12:18) and what He wants us to do: ‘Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us - see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich. And in this I give my advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you must complete also the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there may be also a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.’ (2 Cor. 8:1-12)
In business and leisure life there are easy principles to follow. ‘Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that”’ (James 4:15) The area of relationships is clearly defined for us in the Scriptures. ‘But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord - how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world - how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world - how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a lease on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction. But if any man thinks that he is behaving improperly towards his virgin, if she is past the flower of her youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes; he does not sin; let them marry. Nevertheless, he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better. A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment - and I think I also have the Spirit of God.’ (1 Cor. 7:32-40) ‘Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?’ (2 Cor. 6:14). ‘Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?’ (Amos 3:3)
The Great Secret
The great secret is to give ourselves totally to the Lord. ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ (Rom. 12:1-2)
Hospital and Sick Visiting
It is the privilege and requirement of every minister to be diligent in visiting the sick and those who grieve, both in hospital and home. ‘When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me." Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?" And the King will answer and say to them, " Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Then he will also say to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then they also will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?" Then he will answer them, saying, " Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”’ (Matt. 25:31-46)
A minister once told the story of one of his elderly members in hospital dangerously ill due to the continuing condition of gangrene. His wife encouraged him to visit, as the man came nearer and nearer to death, but the minister waited until, after a few days, he felt clear to go. On arrival at the hospital he found the member unconscious, and so the pastor whispered in his ear ‘Jesus’! The patient began to respond, stuttering out ‘Jesus.’! In the end, the ward was filled with cries of ‘Jesus’ ‘Jesus’! There was great rejoicing, for God had healed him completely. Visiting the sick must be part of the programme of the love and care of the shepherd but overseen by the Lord who knows all things.
Stay only as long as you feel necessary, remembering that really sick folk find it difficult to talk and they may feel obliged to do so.
Always pray for them, it may be God will be gracious to heal them completely.
As they improve, encourage them in thanking God for his ministry in their lives.
Do not allow those who are sick to assume God will heal them. There is no guarantee in Scripture that all will recover. It has been my privilege to see God heal miraculously and yet others have prayed and believed and nothing has happened.
A certain group believing that we should all be in perfect health were concerned when the pastor became sick and faithfully prayed for his healing. Unfortunately he began to deteriorate and eventually died. They, believing this was of the Lord continued to pray that God should raise him from the dead, but he didn’t arise and the publicity destroyed that precious seeking group, many of them became so devastated that they did not go on with the Lord.
The care of Widows and the Elderly
Paul seeks to give instruction on this in Timothy. ‘Honour widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and specially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, with a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan. If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.’ (1 Tim. 5:3-16) Also in James; 'Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.’ (James 1:27) What a great privilege for the church to provide that practical support and care that should be provided by those who are part of a loving family.
All pastors should regularly seek to talk to all the flock personally
Chapter 9. Counselling - Developing Relationships
'Now Jacob loved Rachel'’ (Gen. 29:18)
There are many areas in which, over a period of time, the pastor will be needed to give guidance and counsel. Every church has young people who want to grow up and receive all the blessing of God which includes marriage, and it is in these early years that foundations are laid for happy marriage.
The Scriptures reveal that God is very jealous concerning His relationship with us. Paul, writing to the Corinthian church says: ‘Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.’ (1 Cor. 3:16-17) Many potential relationships are brought to nothing because of an ‘unawareness of sin’ that can so easily enter in to boy/girl friendships.
Perhaps the most outstanding example of this came to light when I was confronted by a rather distressed young lady whose life had been shattered by a broken relationship. As is the desire of most young people, her heart was drawn towards a young man of her age in the small fellowship which they had joined while they were in college.
Her parents were Christian folk and no doubt had given her to the Lord and prayed for her during her developing years. Now away from them, she was on her own to build a life for herself. The young man did not have such a Christian upbringing but had responded to the Lord as far as he was able, however, there were still deep areas of his life that were not totally given to God. Some of these areas were related to medium involvement and had not been dealt with by the Lord.
As in so many churches, no instruction had been given as to the pure development of relationship between young people and one night while enjoying each other’s company something happened that spoiled their relationship.
The young girl was embarrassed to find that she instinctively knew it was wrong. He, too, was condemned by his action and that night something broke in their bond together. It seemed that although he sought it with much tears he could not find that purity again and, eventually, had to break their relationship. There are those who find God’s forgiveness but we must remember the Apostles words: ‘Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!’ (Rom. 6:1-2)
Marriage - The Basis of the Physical Bond
If we are to remain in fellowship with the Lord we must obey the laws that he has revealed to us, and this chapter is seeking to present to you the principle that only in marriage has God ordained a physical bond.
Probably of all relationships this chapter will concern mainly the young readers, but I hope to say something also to those who are older and are in the state of being single. The Apostle commends the single life whereas our Lord states it is a gift to remain in this state. Paul’s reasoning hinges around the words written to the Corinthian church: ‘But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord - how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world - how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world - how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.’ (1 Cor. 7:32-35)
To remain in a pure relationship with the Lord, it is essential to keep yourself from all other relationships. We surely must commend those who for the gospel’s sake have given themselves solely and gone overseas to bring the life of God to people who have never heard. It would seem that many of those who have gone out are women.
Our Lord Jesus, however, brings light to those who may believe or even fear that God has ordained for them this way of life. These natural instincts desire companionship yet, at present, they do not seem to be finding that right partner. In Matthew’s Gospel it is recorded: ‘His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: “For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it."’ (Matt. 19:10-12)
Fornication is a word used to express a sexual relationship outside of marriage between two people. I believe one reason for the number of unmarried single people desiring marriage, may well be that they have already entered into sexual relationships rendering it necessary for them to be made free in God.
It would seem the enemy is very active, particularly during the impressionable years at school, to pressurise young people into practising physical involvement. For the true born again Christian this becomes a pressure, but if only they could realise the heartache they will experience in the future if they allow another person to indulge in something God has ordained for marriage.
Those of you who unknowingly have crossed this barrier will need to know something of the ministry of the Lord personally before entering into a new permanent bond.
One young man, in his late twenties, met an attractive young woman. Their hearts began to be drawn together and it was not long before he had asked her to consider a more permanent relationship. Within a couple of weeks his heart raged within him. There was such conflict that drew him out of fellowship with God and his only conclusion was that the thing he desired most must not be the will of God. He therefore decided that he must tell the young girl of his decision.
I have seen so many broken hearts and I challenged him to provide me with an acceptable reason why he believed it was not the will of God. He went home that night and, as he told me later, he spent many hours in prayer until the Lord showed him that in a previous courtship he had violated the woman by enjoying a very physical relationship with her. He was now in uncleanness and had been in fornication. As he shared, he wept before the Lord, and found forgiveness and cleansing. The barrier was broken and he was able to be brought into union again with the girl he loved.
I recall a young girl who had ceased all her normal monthly periods for some eighteen months, and the doctors had advised her to enter hospital. This fear became greater than the fear of seeking my help and so the matter was shared with me. As I waited before the Lord I was shown that she had been in relationship with a young man some eighteen months ago and had given herself totally. She was still in oneness with him and although the relationship had been broken the bond still remained. My revelation to her was violently rejected but as we talked she calmed down, willing to begin to believe that she had been in sin. The Lord’s ministry came to her and when she returned home that night the monthly flow had begun and God had wonderfully released her. It seems very natural for young people to seek a physical union and home in the marriage state but first their hearts must be bonded in love.
It would seem that God puts on Fathers a very special privilege in the care of their youngsters. How sad it is to see parents so wrapped up in themselves that their children are left to find their own way in life, but, you may say, ‘My father does not care.’ I assure you that in every true church there are ‘fathers’ who would delight in caring for you and seeking before God His plan for your future.
It would be good to note that God has a plan for every one of us but we must become aware of His timing. According to the apostle we have been predestinated - chosen beforehand to enter into His will. He writes to the Ephesians: ‘just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he has made us accepted in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace which he made to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself.’ (Eph. 1:4-9) He is concerned that we should enjoy every benefit of our salvation, not only in the purifying of our hearts but in the union God has prepared for us all.
How many young people’s lives have been marred by dominating parents, others by uncaring parents who due to their own selfish motives, have been unable to direct their children into the freedom of life that Jesus has for each one of us.
The church does provide loving support for all those whose desire is to remain single, not because of inherent difficulties or sin not worked out but because of a loving commitment to remain in deeper fellowship with their Lord. The Psalmist records that: ‘God sets the solitary in families.’ (Psa. 68:6) This, of course, is not an excuse for the frustrated and lonely to burden themselves upon already committed families but through their loving support provide that extra ministry which is so needed in a world where God’s pure principles are being eroded away.
God has a Plan for our Lives
Joseph must have wondered what was happening to him when, after having some amazing dreams, he finds himself, not only rejected by his brothers and sold into slavery but, eventually, to be forgotten in prison. He recognised that it was all part of the purpose of God in, not only providing him with his future partner in life but, as a Saviour for his people. (Gen. 41:37-45).
His interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams was all part of God’s plan for his life. If we are to remain single without straying into areas that will take us outside of our relationship with the Lord, we must understand that God’s time is not as our time. 'One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ (2 Peter 3:8) We must be prepared to wait. How many have spoiled God’s purposes by rushing ahead. We must be listeners of God. So many have not yet put into practice the things which God has already said, but most of all we must abide in them.
The enemy is very active in seeking to draw us from this position. How tragic it would have been if Satan had succeeded in drawing our Lord away when he was tempted in the wilderness. You will note that these temptations were on very natural desires to eat, to know His Father’s care, and an invitation to have power.
The greatest work of the enemy in these days is to draw young people into fantasy. Fantasy grips the mind and soul and creates in a dream world the realities of which if they have been accepted, will never come to pass. Most of the food for fantasy will be found in romantic novels, films, and even pornographic literature leading on to desires to masturbate, therefore creating the physical experience of what has now become accepted for them as a lost cause. I know that in much of the Christian community this has been accepted but I am convinced that it falls into the fornication realm which the Scripture concludes as sinful and will take the child of God out of relationships.
It is, of course, the avenue in which the devil can make inroads into lives and bring his own uncleanness. I have even counselled young women who have accepted lesbianism as the only way in which to gain physical experiences. To all who find themselves in the realms of fantasy and uncleanness may I commend the truth of the Gospel ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).
Restoring Young People to the Will of God
I remember being introduced to a young girl, about 14, whose family background, according to the principles which are stated, could be considered to be called immoral. Her older sisters would have been encouraged, and were in practice, physically involved with their boyfriends and the spirit of uncleanness that operated in this young life drew her continually into many situations where young and older men had taken advantage of her. Her visits to the church then created a conflict within, which at times, caused concern to her parents thinking the church was bringing her to a breakdown.
It was obvious that before God could establish Himself in her life, the devil would need to be cast out but through fear she was completely shut up. I think it must be said that ministry to those who have, and are troubled, by evil spirits must be undertaken in a caring way, particularly as the reason they are possessed is not necessarily their own folly and sin but that of their parents.
The day came when, by the gracious moving of God, it was possible to pray for her and that which I experienced with her that day I would not want to endure again as I watched the devil’s last attempt to hold on to her.
Matthew records a similar incident: ‘And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to him, kneeling down to him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.’ (Matt. 17:14-18) Mark adds to the story: ‘Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly. (Mark 9:26) I am thrilled to say that the devil did come out of her and I am so grateful that God has ordained men in the church who have the authority of God to set people free. It must be said that not all men have this gift, although all should, if they desire to be ministers of God.
As this chapter unfolds, I trust we are beginning to see that marriage can only be considered from a pure heart of fellowship with God. It would seem totally inappropriate that one could plan to build a relationship with anyone whose heart is not completely in communion with Him. Paul says: ‘Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?’ (2 Cor. 6:14)
Before even commencing a serious intent to move towards courtship each one must know before God that his heart is pure. Uncleanness is as contagious as leprosy was in the Old Testament days and is no respecter of persons, whether of good standing or poor.
In Naaman, perhaps, we have the most graphic account of a man who needs to be made clean. You may remember this story of the Captain of the Syrian Army who was a great man with his master, he had everything that material possessions could give him but, he was a leper.
So many lives have been tragically ruined by sin.. It is inherent in our natural birth. We are told that: ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23) and that: ‘no unclean person has any inheritance in the Kingdom of God.’ (Eph. 5:5) We will all be aware of the uncleanness in us as Jesus says that it is those things which proceed out of the mouth that defile the man.
Fortunately, in one of his campaigns, the victorious Naaman had captured a little Israeli maid who shared the wonderful news that there was a God in Israel who could make her master clean. Initially, of course, he was directed to the King of Israel who, although he was a religious leader, had no knowledge of this tremendous ministry. How sad it is to live in days when, for so many, there is no hope.
Jesus called the men of His day: ‘blind leaders of the blind.’ (Matt. 15:14) Eventually Naaman was found at the foot of the hill that led to the man of God and the servant brought him instructions to wash seven times in Jordan and he would be clean. A rather indignant Naaman stormed off saying: "He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place." (2 Kings 5:11) One of his own soldiers drew near and said: "If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it?" (2 Kings 5:13) He agreed, and after dipping seven times in the Jordan his flesh returned to that of a little child and he was clean.
Jesus Christ promises us cleansing in the precious blood that was shed on Calvary. Hebrews records: ‘For the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?’ (Heb. 9:13,14) Peter follows by saying: ‘knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.’ (1 Peter 1:18-19,22)
God’s Laws do not Change
How sad it is to see young lives spoiled by men who have not yet entered into the purity of the Lord and therefore have contaminated that which before God is pure and holy. I recall, one day, observing in the church the mark of uncleanness upon a young woman. Something had happened between her and the young man who had been attracted to her. It was from that time the relationship was to finish. The young lady found a place of repentance and the Lord drew her into another relationship.
It is recorded that: 'the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’ (Heb. 4:12-13)
Relationships spoiled by the introduction of uncleanness, are often fraught with difficulties. Although it is accepted, by some, as all part of courtship, it may be laying foundations which in the future may cause the marriage to end in divorce, as so many are, in this age.
The Misconception of True Love
The premise that courtship should include the physical relationship springs from a misconception of true love. Because men and women have not entered into the purity of love already indicated in Peter’s epistle, the natural instincts of the heart move further than God has designed into the area which He has consecrated for marriage. Most of the problems experienced in physical sin spring from selfish desires rather than to care for and love one’s partner.
That God intended man and woman to enjoy an intimate relationship together is, of course, illustrated in the opening chapters of the Bible with the instructions to: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ (Gen. 1:28) God had already established the seed principle in the propagation of life but then many would say that inherent in Adam and Eve would have been the desire to be sexually united together, and although this would have been totally within the will of God and pure, no evidence is found that intercourse took place in the garden. What we do read is that they were: `naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.' (Gen. 2:24)
Later on, after the fall and the awareness that they needed to be clothed, Genesis records: ‘Adam knew his wife and she conceived and bore Cain.' (Gen. 4:1) The tragedy was that in that conception was the outworking of sin, of jealousy and murder Cain being the first murderer and Abel his victim. It is my understanding that there was no reason for Eve not to conceive and give birth before the Fall as she was perfectly made but that intercourse was not the basis of their fellowship and oneness together.
The Bond of True Love
There is a bond that supersedes all physical desire and that physical desire became more apparent after sin had entered. In fact, by the seventh generation, men were taking two wives. It is at this point God seems to do a new thing in beginning again a line of life from Seth, which as we know, again ended in the Sons of God taking the daughters of men, resulting in the great flood.
We must understand that we have covered our nakedness because of the corruption of our hearts. Men should not desire to see the nakedness of woman. How sad it is when men are so bound by their thoughts that they cannot look upon a woman without desiring physical fulfilment. The Lord wishes to purify our hearts so that in being brought into relationship we will not defile the precious gift given to us of God. It is interesting to note that Isaac sporting with Rebecca was an indication that they were married.
Having then agreed, I hope, that pure love is the basis of our lives together and not the desire for physical union, how should we conduct ourselves that we may remain in fellowship with Him.
Only One Partner
Paul writes these words to the Corinthian church: ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.’ (1 Cor. 7:1-2) We must remember, as we consider this commitment to one partner, that God has not changed course in His eternal purpose for us. When Jesus was presented with a question from the Mosaic Law concerning the putting away of their wives, He reminded them: ‘Have you not read, that he who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ (Matt. 19:4-6)
God does something in the eternal realm which He does not desire to be destroyed. One of the surest ways of protecting this precious relationship we have, is to keep ourselves prayerfully in relationship with God and with each other. The more time spent in real fellowship with God creates a foundation life which, in days to come, will be very difficult to break.
I think it is good at this point to remember that, not only is the intended partner for life, a child of God, but also part of a family where mother and father have total responsibility before God. It is only on the wedding day that the girl will be given by her father to the intended bridegroom before the minister confirms that they are husband and wife. It is also at this point that the son leaves father and mother and is joined unto his wife.
Fathers are the Pattern
Every loving father longs to kiss and embrace his youngsters. It is probably in this area that there is so much lack, particularly in young girls. I recall a young woman completely devoid of love and affection joining with us in church life. It became clear after many months of counsel that her problems stemmed from an unloving home life. At eleven years of age she had put her head under her pillow because she could not accept the argument going on between her mother and father. This isolation from love was not rectified until God brought her into new birth and created that new life of God.
Father’s love, therefore, is the pattern to be adopted by the intended pursuer. Should he move outside of this pure expression, he will defile the pure person he wishes to marry and may destroy his hopes for the future. It would seem that parents will embrace, hold hands and kiss their children as an expression of love. Outside of this, one would consider it to be reserved for marriage. Also, outside of marriage, clothes cover those areas we don’t want others to see. As a general rule I consider that what you cannot see you may not touch. Always remember: ‘If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.’ (1 Cor. 3:17)
Courtship is a blessed time, as well as a difficult time, to prepare one’s heart, soul and body before God for the days to come. It is necessary, therefore, to: ‘present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ (Rom. 12:1-2)
What should I do if I find myself out of fellowship with God and yet in love with somebody who I recognise does not fully love the Lord? What must be the question? What is more important? The present life or the future place God has for each one?
My thoughts go back to the rich young ruler who could choose between eternal life which he longingly sought, or his riches. He chose his riches.
There is, of course, a short term blessing in most things outside of God but in the realm of marriage not only are our own lives at risk but the fruit that shall be brought forth - ‘each according to its kind.’ (Gen. 1:24)
I began this chapter by saying I would say something to the older single person. Let us remind ourselves of what we said earlier, that the Apostle Paul makes it quite clear that there are certain advantages and privileges available to those whose calling and gift of God is to remain unmarried. ‘But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord - how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world - how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world - how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a lease on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.’ (1 Cor. 7:32-35)
There are realms in which the single person may enter, not enjoyed by those who have the cares and responsibilities of married life. I, personally, value deeply those who have time to give themselves to the work of God, both practically and spiritually for many will be able to boast as Isaiah: ‘Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not travailed with child! for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman, says the Lord.’ (Isa. 54:1)
To be free to bring forth fruit unto God will be of more eternal value than many who have gained earthly happiness and security in married life. I am privileged to be part of a church where those who are single have profited more for the Kingdom of God than many others. There are today those who have entered into a real experience of the Lord due to the ministry of other single people. Do not consider that married life is the only goal God has, remember there are those who will gain much from the single life.
Chapter 10. Counselling in Marriage
'Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.’ (Eph. 5:25) Likewise ye wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without the word, may be won by the conduct of their wives’ (1 Peter 3:1)
The day has arrived and all preparations are complete; the bride and groom have made their way to the church and stand before the minister. ‘Dearly beloved we are gathered here in the presence of God and before this congregation to join together this man and this woman in the holy estate of matrimony.’ So begins one of the most wonderful services to be held in the church of Jesus Christ.
As the service unfolds the minister begins to lay before the family and friends gathered the true meaning and importance of the occasion. The bride is an example of the church of Jesus Christ and the bridegroom of Jesus Himself. Revelation records: ‘And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”’ (Rev. 19:6-10)
She has arrived at the front of the church pure and clean, there is no contamination in her. She is arrayed in white, the expression of purity. We know, of course, that a church wedding has become the standard arrangement for most of the world. Ministers seem quite happy to marry couples regardless of their spiritual condition or desire to know God. Quite recently someone remarked that they had walked to the altar at their wedding three months pregnant wearing a wedding dress stolen from Harrods!
The Bride the Lamb’s Wife
Later on in Revelation we are again introduced to the Lamb’s wife. 'Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. . And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. And her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. and the construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.’ (Rev. 21:9-11,18)
The purpose of God is to bring everyone into this union. Marriage to the Lamb is accepted as the eternal outcome for all of God’s children. When John sees the ‘Holy City’ he sees it prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Marriage, in the Scriptures, is regarded as the only way in which men and women should live together in physical union and it is the will of God that one man should be married to one woman. We will see later that divorce, in relationship to the truth, is impossible to accept. This is also strengthened by the reply Jesus gave when challenged on the divorce issue. He says: “Have you not read that he who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:4-6)
It is interesting to see how the principle of monogamy, one man - one wife, instituted by God in the creation story, changes as mans history develops. Before the seventh generation had evolved, men had begun to take two wives, then the Scripture account of that series of generations ceases and a new series begins with the birth of another son, Seth. It is this son that Luke follows when tracing the heritage of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Later on in the times of the Kings of Israel we read that men were marrying so many women that in Solomon’s case he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. However, whenever the principle of monogamy was not followed, serious problems arose and it is recorded: ‘When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart after other gods.’ (1 Kings 11:1-4)
The Responsibility of the Christian Family
The responsibility of the Christian family today is to exhibit in life and experience the very nature of God. There is to be stamped on every physical union the mark of the purity of God. Paul, writing to the Ephesians says: ‘Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.’ (Eph. 5:25-27)
The marriage bond is therefore a demonstration to the world of the wonderful union that exists between Jesus Christ and His church and I trust we shall seek to search our lives, as married couples, so that we may be examples to the world and our children as they grow up seeing, not only a true relationship with God being worked out, but that married life may be a pattern for them to follow in the future.
Before we look at the two different roles of husband and wife let us, perhaps, lay down ten sound guidelines for our relationship, as God did when giving the law to His people Israel.
1. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength, and your partner likewise.
2. You must love your wife or husband more than any other human being. You must not have secrets, all things must be shared openly.
3. You must never speak of each other in a derogatory way before others. If there is any criticism, fault or correction it should be done in private and certainly never before the children.
4. You must spend, at least, one day with each other remembering that God said, “Six days shalt thou labour and on the seventh day rest” Six days you can be involved in meetings, play squash etc. but one day is for your wife or husband.
5. You must never let your parents rule your life.
6. You must never be angry or speak unkindly or use force against your wife or husband.
7. You must never seek pleasure outside your marriage in unclean literature, films or in self abuse. You must never be drawn out towards a member of the opposite sex.
8. You must never be selfish with time or money. All that you have is each other’s including the chores.
9. You must never twist the truth or tell lies.
10 You must never covet your neighbour’s house, car or any of his possessions that will create spirit of dissatisfaction. Always be content with the things you have.
Having looked briefly at these principles we must remind ourselves that this book is not primarily involved with the physical aspects of married life, for as we have seen in the previous chapter, our concern is to keep in relationship with God thus creating the true basis of life together. However, it must be said that the physical side of marriage is the normal expression of love and should be outworked in the purity ordained by God.
Paul writes: ‘Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.’ (1 Cor. 7:3-5) Every couple will experience a diminishing in sexual desire during times of fasting and prayer.
The Husband’s Part
To the husband, Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians confirms that the husband is the head of the wife and the leader of his family as Jesus is leader of His church. He is the head as Jesus is the head. Paul again says: ‘I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.’ (1 Cor. 11:3)
Before marrying, the man must be prepared to take that responsibility for his wife before the presence of God. Up to the day of the marriage, a true father has taken 100% care of his daughter, possibly for twenty years or so, and now passes this commitment to his future son-in-law. A man who does not lead his wife will fail her and encourage her to be either independent or seek help outside her marriage to the ultimate detriment of her whole family. It is remembered that a wife can only submit to a man when he takes up his headship role properly as a husband.
Marriage certainly reveals the man’s spiritual qualities, not only in the church but also in the home. Paul writes to Timothy concerning eldership: ‘A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?’ (1 Tim. 3:2-5) Surely all Christian men should seek to fulfil this charge.
Prayer - A Secret
Let us be reminded that prayer is one secret of the spiritual man as he considers his wife and family. It becomes part of his daily routine, rising early so that he may prepare his life before God for the day that lies ahead. Luke reveals something of our Lord’s prayer life. ‘Then the report went around concerning him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. So he himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. Now it happened on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. (Luke 5:15-17) It must be said that a man’s prayer life lays the foundation for God to work and move, though not necessarily at the time of prayer, but maybe many days later. I would consider that three months of consistent daily prayer life would reap much benefit in our lives as leaders of our families.
Selfishness should have no place in the home. A man’s decision must always be for the good of his family and not himself. He will never make a decision without knowing his wife’s views of the matter. As the head of the wife he is constantly in touch with his own head, Jesus, his covering, especially when there is conflict so that he might know the mind of the Lord, not that he will demand his wife to be obedient but will, by his love and care, reveal the heart of God.
He must be fair to his wife accepting that, at times, it takes longer for a woman to reach a decision, always showing a tenderness of nature, not one of those men who, if they do not get their own way, become sulky or irritated, doing what they can to make the atmosphere of the home uncomfortable.
Carried Away with the Work of God
Sometimes a man can get carried away with the desire to do the will of God and fail to see that his wife is not able to cope at that time. I remember a very keen young Christian man who invited a homosexual lad into his house to stay. His wife did not find it easy to accept this, but was forced into believing that it was the will of God, which of course it wasn’t. How will the Lord want someone to stay in the family home if it isn’t the desire of all the family?
Often I have been asked to help a wife try to reconcile the family budget while her husband sits in front of the television with the paper in his hand. A true Christian husband will not be a lazy man but will ensure that he makes every provision for his house, even if he has to work overtime or take secondary employment. However, he will not be dominated by material concerns, but seek first the Kingdom of God knowing that the Lord will provide for all his needs.
The home is the expression of a man’s heart. To answer the question, “What is your heart like?” just look around your home. Is it neat and tidy? Is there unfinished decorating? Are your clothes strewn all over the floor? Perhaps you thought that tidying was your wife’s job? I do not believe it is. A man should so live his life so that no one need clear up after him.
If it is true that we get accustomed to our environment so that we do not notice these things, let us pray that God reveal those areas which are not pleasing to Him so that we may put them right. You may remember that the prodigal son finished up in the pig sty before he came to himself!
Husbands Love your Wives
The great secret of Christian marriage is to love our wives as Jesus loved the church. Jesus said that to love was the greatest of all commandments. "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) This is great love, especially if we have it for our wives. How should we love them? The Bible tells us that love is patient and long suffering, and should work especially during those times in the month when, because of her physical make-up, she may become emotional due to the change in the balance of hormones. This is when she really needs that extra warmth and tender love that makes up the lack when she seems less loveable.
Love has time to communicate. It is never too busy to draw out what she thinks, the things she has done, that she might be loved more effectively. It is this lack of sharing that creates many of the problems which exist between couples. Love is always forgiving, it must take into consideration the greater love of Jesus who was prepared to die for the sinner in order to present the sinner perfect to Himself.
Love understands and works for the truth. It doesn’t press itself and demand. Love is kind and seeks not to hurt. Remember, your wife looks to you for encouragement, without it she is utterly desolate. She has given herself; love does not reject her because it doesn’t understand; it never dwells on weaknesses; it protects her privacy. It never reveals things in public but bears them all. Love expresses itself in kind ways. When was the last time you surprised your wife by offering to do the washing up or hoovering the floor? Love tells her he loves her, especially in company.
Love is generous; lets her do the things she loves even if it excludes him. Love is humble; pride destroys a relationship. Love is always quick to say sorry. Love is polite and remembers that there are things that make his wife feel special, like opening the door for her. Love is not easily offended, does not seek disharmony, is not short tempered or irritable. Love is trusting. Love goes the extra mile - and is quick to excuse.
Love brings about a deep serenity and goes out of its way to prove itself by word and deed. Love does not keep accounts of wrong. Love never fails. Love is more important than food and water to your relationship. Love springs from communion with the God of love by living in the Spirit.
The Wives’ Part
Now we must turn our attention to wives. Paul writes: ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.’ (Eph. 5:22) Unless she does this, her husband cannot love her effectively. To submit does not mean that she is inferior or a slave to the passions and will of her husband. It does not mean that she has to be a silent cabbage. Some would say that the Scriptures indicate that the role of a woman in the church is one of utter silence learning only in all subjection and not usurping authority over the man, suggesting that she should not even pray aloud.
Paul, of course, gives her liberty, within the context of submission, to pray and prophesy. ‘But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head, for that is one and the same thing as if her head were shaved.’ (1 Cor. 11:5) The wife is a partner in a union where the husband is the senior partner. Partnership only works if the two are working together in harmony, where we are both responsible to do our part. Wives who do not submit to their husbands become dominant and bossy and take themselves outside of the covering that God has provided to keep them safe. This is the reason that Paul says a woman must cover her head in the church so that she will not become a target for the devil. ‘For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.’ (1 Cor. 11:10-11)
It must be clearly said that there is no evidence in the Scriptures to support the view that women may take up the responsibility to pray against others who are demonically troubled. In experience, this has often led to the devil retaliating against those in whom God has not invested this authority resulting in sickness and spiritual problems. Wives have the privilege of being under the care and authority of their husbands.
Those who do not submit are being deceived by the devil. You only have to remember the beginning of man and woman, where Eve moved away from her true position in relation to Adam and caused sin to enter into the world. Not that we should lay the blame singly upon her but she was a partner in it. Feminism and Woman’s liberation is motivated by the same enemy of the souls of mankind and is one of the reasons for the breakdown in human relationships. The secret of submission is the deepest expression of love that seems to have its outworking in being able to communicate with one another. How often I have encouraged wives to share their hearts with their own husbands.
True submission and its ultimate sharing of hearts is worked out for us in the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson, we know, was a very special man whom God had endowed with great power and Delilah is persuaded by the Philistine leaders to find the secret of his strength. By a process of deception she eventually brings him to the place where the Bible says, he tells her all his heart and comes under her power. Although she desired this knowledge for the gain of her leaders, the principle must be the same for the wife in relationship with her husband. She must know all the secrets of his heart so that she may love him more effectively.
If the husband does not see the way clearly, Peter reveals a key: ‘Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.’ (1 Peter 3:1-2) It can be guaranteed that nagging him will not produce any good. It can only result in making him more stubborn and irritable. Someone commented that the secret of his fifty years of marriage was, “Yes dear”! A wife’s happiness is dependent upon her husband being in loving control, not defeated by the constant demands of a selfish woman. A loving wife will never criticise or run down her husband but will always support and respect him .‘'As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.’ (1 Peter 3:6)
Help from the Wisdom of Solomon
The wife has been created by the Father as a suitable helper for her husband and a spiritual man will realise that he cannot fulfil his ministerial role without her. His whole spiritual ministry is dependent upon her relationship with the Lord as well as his.. No wonder the Bible says: ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing.’ (Prov. 18:22) The woman becomes the outward expression of the man as the church is the outward expression of Jesus Christ.
If we were to update Solomon’s view of a wonderful wife we may read it today as, ‘The home is the centre of her life and the joy of her heart. Her husband can trust her with all his possessions. He is not afraid that, if given the joint cheque book, she will waste the money but only spend on that which she knows she will have his agreement. She does not need to ask him all the time. She will seek to save money rather than ask for more and with what she has will richly supply all the family’s needs.
His wife is totally devoted to him and cannot find another man to match him in any way. She loves to talk to him and share the things of the day. She lives for his fulfilment. The wife keeps cool and calm working with her hands so that she can make her family smart and attractive. She decorates her home and keeps it neat and tidy. She knows where everything goes and can find anything she needs at a moment’s notice. She cleans and dusts the house cheerfully. She buys wisely at various shops where, not only can she provide her family with a well balanced menu but, with a little more effort she can save money and still present meals which are attractively served.
She is certainly not lazy in her cooking but is always learning new ideas from her host of cook books. She rises early in the morning to pray, well before her family rises so that she is ready to prepare breakfast and ensure that she can get them all off to work or school without having to rush to iron a shirt or mend the hole that had appeared the day before. She makes sure they are all safely away before starting her busy schedule. She may consider the garden where she has a variety of plants, cabbages, tomatoes, beans, etc. which will provide her family with vegetables over the following months. She also has a variety of fruit bushes and trees that will provide fresh fruit.
She seeks daily to grow stronger and wiser that she may do many things around the house to help her husband. She will know how to mend a fuse so that she does not have to sit all night in darkness waiting for her husband to come in from the meeting! She does not collapse at about 2.00pm so that she cannot handle her family when they come in from school. Both the children and the husband will return to a home which is tidy and organised. She picks up her sewing or knitting at the times they are free to talk over the day’s events, so as to keep her hands busy. Many of these clothes are for the winter ahead but others are for those who have greater need than herself. She has time to visit those who need encouragement or who are sick so that she may assist them with their homes, bringing instruction in the care and support of the family from her own experience.
She is always attractively dressed so that if she has any callers she is not found in her dressing gown and curlers! - but her dress is not to attract attention. Not only is she smartly dressed but the characteristics of her inner life match that of her outward beauty. When she speaks she is wise, not wanting to speak foolishly. She is careful to guide her family and is not found idly watching television or chatting endlessly on the telephone while the children go wild in the house.
Her husband is respected in the church and she and her children love and respect him, he, in turn, is always boasting of her and singing her praises. She is the most wonderful woman in the world and in the church is an example of the bride of Christ. Her life is one of varied excitement. She is a business woman, partner, lover, homemaker, housekeeper, interior decorator, gardener, cook, chauffeur, investor, clothes maker, student of the word of God and a woman of prayer.’
The Bible doesn’t say a great deal about the way a wife is to love her husband but one way in which she can express her love is in the way she looks. One of the problems of today is being overweight. Slimming Clubs have become a substitute for the discipline we all need to keep ourselves from overindulgence. So many have difficulty in resisting the cream cakes and biscuits that put on those extra pounds. Remember the Bible says: ‘The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.’ (1 Cor. 7:4.) The wife’s body, therefore, must be cherished for her husband. The woman is the expression of the husband. Her outward beauty reveals the life that she lives in her heart, her happiness is clearly displayed on her face.
Should the Christian woman cover this beauty with the countless cosmetics that are available in the shops today? Peter says: ‘Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.’ (1 Peter 3:3-4)
These cosmetics can often be a cover up and even a clearer way of revealing one’s own inner nature. I remember a young girl who, as a teenager, was very unhappy. She was the sad result of a broken marriage and, looking for love, she found many men who were prepared to take advantage of her. As she went deeper into sin and uncleanness so the outward adorning changed until, the last time I saw her, she was wearing the shortest of mini skirts and had dyed her cropped hair red. She now was an advertisement to any corrupt man that she was willing to be used for any unclean purpose.
Beauty is the shining forth of the purity that is within, implanted by the life of Jesus. Esther, we read, when preparing herself to be brought before the King spent a whole year long, purified six months with the oil of myrrh and six months with sweet odours and with other things for the purifying of women. Beauty treatments must make a woman pure. Jezebel, the wicked wife of Ahab was known as an evil woman and on the day of her death it is recorded that she had painted her face. What are we saying? That inner beauty is more precious to God and to your husband than any elaborate hair style or the abundance of jewellery and an expensive wardrobe. Inner beauty comes from times of communion with God as He imparts the divine nature.
The final thing we must say to the wives is that they must be aware of what they think. I have met many who, through the years of insecurity, have a basic belief that they are useless. Remember the Bible says: ‘For as he thinks in his heart, so is he’ (Prov. 23:7). Here is her greatest privilege in marriage, that her husband is now responsible for her before God, so that he might 'present her' to himself a 'glorious body', not having 'spot or wrinkle' or any such thing even as the Lord loves and presents his church to Himself, so she should ‘be holy and without blemish.’ (Eph. 5:27)
Chapter 11. Counselling in Family Life
'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’' (Prov. 22:6)
We now move on to consider the fruit of the union that is produced from the relationship between husband and wife. When God first created man and woman it is recorded that He gave instructions that they should: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth.’ (Gen. 1:28) It is God’s heart for married couples to bear fruit. We must therefore firstly understand God’s fruit bearing principle which is laid down for us in the beginning of our Bibles. ‘Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.’ (Gen. 1:11-12)
And God said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” ‘So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’ (Gen. 1:26-27)
Referring to the seed which is the source of all reproduction, He says it will reproduce itself in future generations. Often it is useful to look at practical illustrations to enlarge the truth of God. In this case I want to compare God’s spiritual laws to reveal the pattern for the lives of God’s families. We are told by Peter that it is the incorruptible seed by which we are born again .’Through the word of God which lives and abides for ever.’ (1 Peter 1:23) As we have already seen the seed will only bring forth after its own kind, apples after apples, corn after corn and so on. It must also be said that those who by the grace of God have received the seed of God will be like the life and nature of the Son of God. John states quite clearly: ‘He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest.’ (1 John 3:8-10)
To those who reject the sublime truth in this verse let me illustrate this using a parable from family life. I remember when I could walk hand in hand with my young boys. They trusted me implicitly to cross busy roads and when going to strange places they would stay very close. Let me picture a scene on a very busy road with high juggernaut lorries coursing down at great speed. Could I have taken one of my young sons and thrown him under one of those lorries? I have the strength to do so but something constrains me, I cannot do it. It’s all by birth and that love that is in me. Let not the devil deceive any of us, we have the power of the seed of the living God and have been freed from the most devastating disease in mankind, sin.
Luke introduces us to the wonderful story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The angel appears to Mary. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore also, that holy one who is to be born will be called the Son of God. For with God nothing will be impossible." (Luke 1:31-35)
As we follow the life of the Lord through the Gospels we see nothing of the devil’s working in His life, although he sought to do so and how that, in the end, He hung on the cross as pure and holy as He was born. There was no sin in Him. This precious life was born into a world of terrifying extremes. Imagine leaving your baby with a known child killer! We know that Jesus was cared for by His Father. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream saying: “Arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” 'Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts.' (Matt. 2:13-18) What a dreadful thing sin is but how powerful is the seed that God has introduced into the world! We must all understand this.
Jesus meeting Nicodemus said: "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:3-6)
A New Birth
At new birth God plants His seed into us and we become: ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ (2 Peter 1:4) I remember meeting a young Christian woman who had been married for a few years and was the mother of a little girl two years old. When we first met she had what was described as an incurable mental disorder which resulted in her shaking from head to foot, constantly. Three months of every six months was spent in a mental hospital seeking, by drugs, to contain this desperate condition. I wanted God to help her and so invited her to my home, but with tragic results for as we loved her, so her state worsened, and she became increasingly distressed until one evening she lay on the floor unable to breathe. Had we left her she could have surely died.
I knelt down and sought the Lord, not praying anything particular but crying out to Him for help, and she started to breathe again and sat up. Although she lived on Valium she could respond so much just to a word of encouragement then at times she would stop breathing again. Now it seemed that no help came from our prayers and an ambulance was called. Through mouth to mouth resuscitation by my wife and the ambulance crew, she arrived in hospital to be given only forty eight hours to live.
The next day she was returned to us, the hospital had discharged her. She told me she had met Jesus Christ in the crisis and on returning to her own hospital at a later date they too discharged her with this note, ‘This woman is a miracle.’ Her background was one of total rejection. She was the product of uncaring parents but God had brought His new life into her heart, she had been born again of that incorruptible seed.
The Ground Must be Cleared
In many who call themselves Christians, there is ground which cannot bring forth fruit. One only has to read the parable of the sower to see that there has to be a complete clearing of the ground before the seed can take root and grow into the fulfilment of its own life.
We have seen earlier that Mary was a very special woman, she was a virgin and the Holy Ghost bypassed the natural conception principle and planted the seed within her womb. Had this not been so Jesus would have been born into the life and nature of His father Adam. God does not recognise any means of salvation other than the implantation of the Holy seed of God in the womb of the life which has been purified and washed in the precious blood of Christ. New birth makes a person totally new and free from sin. Therefore, God promises, before ever moving into a human life, to wash that life with clean water so that it shall be clean and to change the old heart and put a new heart within, thus allowing His Son, by His Holy Spirit, to take up residence. ‘Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a right spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.’ (Ezek. 36:25-26) Mary’s response to the call of God for her life was: "Let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) It was done instantly and Jesus was conceived to come forth in reality.
Life Begins in the Womb
At this point let us compare two men of God, Zacharias in the New Testament and David in the Old Testament, so that we may illustrate that at the point of conception life begins for the new child. God recognises that it is there, even if for us it may only be the size of a pinhead and what we are will govern the life of a child. Zacharias was found faithfully serving in the temple when God brought the news that they were to have a son. ‘For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.’ (Luke 1:15) `And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.’ (Luke 1:41)
David’s son, sadly, was conceived in adultery. ‘Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” Then Nathan departed to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill.’ (2 Sam. 12:13-15) Later we read that David comforted his wife and she bore him a son and he called his name Solomon and the Lord loved him.
Many problems relating to children are caused by the sin of their parents, and families continue to experience tragedies in their lives. One young woman lost two children in cot deaths before God stepped in to deliver her from the sin in which she herself had been conceived. New Birth had set her free. As we have seen through the principles of God’s life, our own children are mirrors in which we see ourselves. These young lives should be a joy to us and an expression of our own relationship with our Father, that is the God of heaven, if we have been born again as sons. We are to fashion our children by the same principle that Paul lays down for husbands to love their wives, that they may present them to himself as holy examples as Jesus presents us to Himself - ‘a glorious church.’ (Eph. 5:27)
Dedicating our Children to the Lord
In the remarkable story of Moses we see a further principle underlined for us, of God. You will, of course, be aware of the background in which the children were being born. Pharaoh had decreed that all the baby boys were to be exterminated at birth. The midwives, we read: ‘feared God, and did not do as the King of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that he provided households for them. So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive."’ (Exo. 1:15-22)
I can imagine crowds of men searching houses to see if they can find any baby boys so as to cast them into the river to their death, probably to the crocodiles! Jochebed, the mother of Moses, hid him as long as she could but finding her task increasingly difficult as the goodly child grew she was forced to put him in the hands of her God.
She did this by taking an ark of bulrushes: ‘daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. And his sister stood afar off to know what would be done to him. Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river. And her maidens walked along the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So he called his name Moses, saying, “Because I drew him out of the water.”’ (Exo. 2:1-10)
I see a very clear picture of dedication here, as we come to the church to present our children to the Lord. If we leave them in the world surely they will be swallowed up by sin. Everything around us is against the principles of God and will influence our children throughout their lives, but God in His great love gives us personal charge of their upbringing that they may grow to become His sons. Children cannot possibly pattern their own lives; they need constant loving guidance and supervision. The Scriptures do not exhort children to love their parents but to obey them. Paul writes to the Ephesians on this line: ‘Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.’ (Eph. 6:1-4)
Fathers must Love their Daughters
I cannot count the number of young people I have counselled who have not respected their parents. “My Father is always shouting. I have to go upstairs to get out of his way.” No wonder they grow up becoming aggressive and rebellious! It is so very important that the family receives balanced love. Fathers love your daughters. The majority of girls who grow up with serious emotional problems come from homes where fathers have not spent time with them or demonstrated practical love. They have never been hugged or kissed, therefore they go out searching for it, and, because they are immature and inexperienced, fall into sexual sin, deceived by men appearing to offer love, but in reality seeking to fulfil their own evil desires. A daughter who all her life knows the security and love of a father will grow up sound and enter into a pure relationship at an age of responsibility.
Mothers love your sons. Demonstrate pure womanly love as a pattern for the future when your son will be seeking a woman to love and cherish. Do not dominate them for this unbalanced love leads to many of the homosexual leanings prevalent in our day. A mother’s love, if not exercised wisely, becomes possessive and will develop effeminate characteristics.
For busy men, one of the greatest tragedies is that there is no time for the children. This has concerned me for many years. As my boys have grown up I have taken opportunities to spend time with them individually. I remember a very profitable trip to America and Canada with my eldest son, Andrew. It combined ministry with visiting the country and we travelled 10,000 miles around the North American Continent, spending time together.
With Philip, days of looking for cars and hours spent on repairs have proved ways in which we have been able to draw closer together. Unless we do spend time it is inevitable that their lives will be forged in the places where they spend most of their time, firstly in school and then at work, imbibing the influences of the world.
I recall a young girl who was a regular visitor in the church, and during her school days she would have confessed that she loved the Lord. When she went to work all that was swept aside and, eventually, she got involved with a married man. As parents, we can never sit back and hope for the best. The responsibility is ours. I believe the apostle had this heart when he wrote: ‘I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me.’ (1 Cor. 4:14-16)
It is God’s Heart to Save Families
It is the purpose of God to save our families, not that I believe we have a guarantee from the Lord. I remember a woman, talking of her daughter who had rejected the things of the Lord and gone out after sin, saying, “I know the Lord will save her in the end.” It is, obviously, something we must constantly pray for until we are sure they have made sound commitments to the Lord. Believing, as young children, may be a simple acceptance of faith but there is no promise that they will grow up into mature sons of God.
We see the great desire of God illustrated for us in the preaching of the Gospel by Paul to the Philippian jailer when he and Silas had been singing and praising God in the jail. ‘"The foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. (Acts 16:26-34)
Before we embark on the bringing of children into the world we must be clear about our purpose for so doing. We need God’s help to care for them effectively. Unless we, as parents, give our children to God He cannot protect them. Matthew records: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 18:10)
What do we do when our children are sick? Naturally we are concerned, but do we straightaway rush to the doctor or do we first ask the Lord? Often it is the children who have greater faith in praying for others than we ourselves! I recall a five year old praying for his sister and God healed her.
Discipline is a Key
Hebrews is our guide and shows the way that discipline should be given. How many children have become wayward, because parents are afraid, at times, to be firm with them, fearing their children will not love them. ‘And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by him; for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then are you illegitimate and not sons. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’ (Heb. 12:5-8)
Probably, like me, you are not a great lover of discipline, either giving it or receiving it, but will have discovered it to be the basis in which we are to live ordered lives. If the instructors are not disciplined what hope will there be for those instructed? - remembering, of course, that people will learn more by what they see than by what is said!
I see five facets that will confirm us as suitable instructors in the realms of discipline. Firstly - our lives are in order. I have often visited families to find the home in utter chaos. I do appreciate that with young children things may, for a time, become out of order but to go to bed leaving the place totally dishevelled or going out in the morning leaving all in a mess is the character of the life within. Secondly - James says: ‘If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.’ (James 3:2) A disciplined life is able to control the tongue. All respect can be lost simply by the sudden outburst from parents who have lost their cool. Thirdly - practical things are in order, especially in the financial realm. How easy it is with the plastic card to be uncontrolled in the areas of spending, fourthly - a disciplined life is one where time is important. finally - timekeeping, if arranging to be at a meeting at 7.30 it is much better to be there early than to keep people waiting.
The secret of the disciplined life can be found in our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and was heard because of his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered. And having been perfected, he became the author of salvation to all who obey Him.’ (Heb. 5:7-9) If we are found in obedience to the Lord we shall have the power needed to bring our families into the obedience of our wills.
Instruction from Proverbs
Proverbs is full of good advice to any parent who is desirous of seeking the instruction of God in this realm. Modern teaching methods deny godly principles. Free expression takes the place of corporal punishment and rebellion the place of submission to authority, particularly in the home. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ (Prov. 22:6) It is the early years that are so important. All basic disciplinary work will be established in the first three years.
The Scriptures also encourage the use of physical discipline. ‘Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.’ (Prov. 23:13) ‘The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.’ ( Prov. 29:15)
It must be said that so many parents avoid punishment. One sound smack on a child’s backside will save hours of nagging and shouting. Love must express itself this way. Natural man does not want to be corrected. Children, however, should not need to be disciplined physically after a maximum age of ten, otherwise the opposite begins to happen and children become hurt and humiliated. How often do young twelve year old children withdraw into themselves because of the fear of being hit by their fathers?
Fathers, you are to love your children and not just launch out into fits of temper, otherwise they will grow up separated from your love. You will wonder why you cannot communicate with them when they are older. I believe the foundation of family joy and love is found in the home, around the dinner table, where the family enjoy eating their meals together and are able to talk freely to one another. It is true to say that if parents are unable to control their children in the home they will not be able to outside. How embarrassing it is when our young child is displaying his true colours in a friend’s home and we cannot do anything about it!
The Pitfalls of Discipline
Now let me detail some of the obvious pitfalls parents may encounter in the discipline of their growing youngsters.
Firstly:- when they are young it will not take too long to discover that they have a nature opposed to your own! Although they have been conceived and born of Christian parents the disposition of the Adam nature is surely in them. They will soon know that by crying they can gain the attention they want and this is proved when you pick them up - they soon stop! They are, of course, seeking to establish their own wills upon you, turning the care you have for them, whether they need feeding or changing, into control over you. Soon they will want to sleep in your bed at nights after being up most of the evening.
As they grow older, when you refuse to give them what they ask for, they will stamp their feet or fall on the floor in a temper. Many parents find themselves in the habit of saying, “No” more than once, developing habits in their children which will encourage them not to take any word spoken seriously. Parents may even avoid saying, “No” stating that this will even encourage their children to feel guilty! When visiting friends’ homes this is worked out by the youngsters emptying cupboards, pouring the contents of tea and sugar all over the floor. Instead of enjoying pleasant fellowship, time is wasted in running round picking up broken pieces of ornaments spoiling what could be precious friendship. The tragedy is that when these youngsters grow up they will not respect others' property and will even be encouraged to steal. If people do say they are wrong they will feel that society is against them and they are being persecuted.
Secondly:- we must be aware of the influences young children bring into the home from their friends. They may swear but please do not laugh at them. This will encourage them to feel clever and find more serious words in order to shock you. It is important to deal with the root of these friendships and discuss them with the children so that only righteous words are ever repeated.
Thirdly:- never leave their spiritual training to others, not even if you have a very good Sunday School. Their spiritual lives are your responsibility alone, although help in that task can be very rewarding. Encourage them to seek the Lord for themselves, especially when they are sick or in later years when decisions need to be made. If they do not find the Lord in their young lives how shall they, when they grow older, learn to trust in Him completely? Guide them into tidiness. So many rooms occupied by children are simply heaps of scattered clothes, books and playthings. Remember that we live in the outworking of our own hearts. If we help them to be lazy they will become real trials to those they marry - husbands throwing clothes over the floor and expecting their wives to tidy up after them. Children should not be free to enjoy their own pleasures until their allotted tasks are completed.
Fourthly:- be very watchful over the literature they read and the television programmes they watch. Remember that the devil’s medium is situated in the corner of most homes ready to soak the vulnerable child in all the permissiveness of sin. They will learn through these means all the wrong things about love and relationships. There must come a time when each youngster must know the clear facts of life and parents are the ones to share these, not the children at school or their teachers.
Fifthly:- never argue in their presence, if you need to argue at all! By doing this you are feeding them with a way of life and possibly preparing them for a broken home in the future. Children will drink of their parents. They can never be better than us; not until the Lord comes clearly to them.
Sixthly:- be very wise regarding how much money they have to spend. It is always good for them to earn their own, not that I suggest they get paid for doing their household duties which all the family should do, but at special times, maybe to wash the car or spend some hours in the garden. Never allow them to go away together as young people without mature supervision. This encourages sin to develop, not because of deliberate intention but out of immaturity. Some young people I have known have been introduced into drugs and sexual relationships this way. Do not allow them to be free to do their own thing until you are convinced that the principles of God are clearly established in their own lives.
Always make sure you know where they are and give them a time to return. This will continue to deepen your relationship with them. Always be sure they know the responsibilities connected with relationships with the opposite sex, especially covering physical contact.
By following some of these rules maybe we shall have the privilege of seeing our young people grow up into mature men and women able to lead their own youngsters to the Lord. It is true to say that the real mark of success in the bringing up of children is how it is worked out in the grandchildren. One older man and his wife I met recently had nine children and twenty six grandchildren who were all involved in the life of various churches.
Chapter 12. Counselling Childless Couples
'Behold, children are an heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is his reward'’ (Psa. 127:3)
Following our chapter on family life we need to consider as kindly and tenderly as possible reasons for childlessness and possible answers from a Scriptural rather than a medical view. It is true that every woman has a natural desire and urge to bring forth fruit that springs from the intimate union that she has with her husband. God reveals his own heart in the beginning of His book. ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”’ (Gen. 1:26-28)
There are certainly medical reasons for barrenness. But, sometimes, mistakenly, a physical diagnosis is given for a condition which is actually spiritual in its root cause. I trust to cover in this chapter, some of the spiritual causes of barrenness, touching upon the following subjects:
1. Our relationship to God.
2. The effect of things in the past, particularly our upbringing.
3. Obedience to the laws of God and right living between couples.
4. Living in a relationship which engenders love and not fear, particularly in the approach to the sexual union which allows children to come in the world.
The Old Testament principle
In Old Testament days and today in the East (not so much in the West), to be a wife without motherhood was and is always regarded, not so much a matter of regret, but as a reproach, a humiliation that might easily lead to divorce. As we look through the scripture and examine particularly the stories of those who were barren, we see a picture emerging and begin to understand some of the reasons why these couples were childless.
Man was created to be fruitful, but the intervention of the devil into the affairs of men and women brought in difficulties in child bearing. ‘To the woman he said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." ' (Gen. 3:16) Surely here is an important point. If we are to benefit from God’s creative laws, we must ensure we follow His principles, and especially those related to having children.
When God made the trees he said: "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.’ (Gen. 1:11), thus indicating that the seed is in the fruit itself. When sin entered into the world, it spoiled God’s perfect creation and therefore we must ensure we are free from all our sin. One illustration mentioned earlier is useful for us to consider here. A young lady shared with us that her monthly menstrual cycle had ceased its natural function for over eighteen months. Her mother was obviously greatly concerned and suggested that she should seek medical advice. As she was sixteen years of age, she did not want to go through much investigation by doctors and sought prayer from us as a church. As I too saw this as a serious matter I suggested we both prayed during the week seeking God’s advice and then the following Sunday we would ask God to heal the condition.
During my daily reading I came across a verse in Zephania where it spoke of ‘saving her that halteth.’ I was convinced I knew the reason for the failure to function normally and with much assurance prayed for the young lady on the Sunday. Sadly the situation remained and I was again asked by her to talk over her concern. When I had been seeking God, I was aware of some questions that needed to be asked, and it was revealed that she had been in a previous sexual relationship and although she had broken it off, was still in sin and therefore needed to confess and be cleansed. When I shared these things she was angry, upset and strongly opposed to the truth, but as we talked, God’s forgiveness prevailed, she accepted that she had been in sin, received the cleansing from God and was healed. Normal periods began from that day.
This truth can be further supported by the action taken by the priest in the book of Numbers when a husband seeks counsel believing his wife has been unfaithful. The priest takes the woman and she is asked to drink a concoction of water and dust from the temple floor. If she is guilty, the water will cause a curse. ‘The priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse. And the priest shall put her under oath, and say to the woman, “If no man has lain with you, and if you have not gone astray to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has lain with you - then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse, and he shall say to the woman - the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh rot, and your belly swell; and may this water that causes the curse go into your stomach, and make your belly to swell and your thigh rot.” Then the woman shall say, “Amen, so be it.” Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall scrape them off into the bitter water: And he shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her to become bitter. Then the priest shall take the grain of jealousy from the woman’s hand, shall wave the offering before the Lord, and bring it to the altar; and the priest shall take a handful of the offering, as its memorial portion, burn it on the altar, and afterwards make the woman drink the water. When he has made her drink the water, then it shall be, if she has defiled herself and behaved unfaithfully towards her husband, that the water that brings a curse will enter her and become bitter, and her belly will swell, her thigh will rot, and the woman will become a curse among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself, and is clean, then she shall be free and may conceive children.’ (Num. 5:17-28)
Free from any Guilt
You will note that if she is free of any guilt she will be able to conceive seed. It is very important in the relationship between husband and wife that there be no guilt from previous relationships. So often in counsel I have known young ladies who have been so tense and distressed even to think of physical relationships that they haven’t allowed themselves to find that place in which conception is possible. Often the fear of not being able to produce children keeps women from being able to conceive. This is illustrated in one young family who after many years of seeking to have a baby eventually decided that they would adopt and not long after they discovered that the wife was pregnant. We must therefore look at how we approach our own physical relationships, being clear that we are totally free of all sin and fear. Sometimes just the experiences of childhood can make the physical relationship unacceptable and instead of knowing a sweet communion together, sexual relationships are forced and unpleasant and conducted more as a matter of duty.
The Bible tells us that Manoah’s wife was barren and God spoke into her heart an important principle: "Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines." (Jud. 13:4-5) I wonder how we approach the bringing forth of a child. Is our relationship a sacred thing or is the inclination more of need and sexual pleasure? Let us look at our overall relationship together. Marriage is to be conducted under the gracious eye of God. It is He who has ordained it and therefore without His direction it will not work as He has promised. ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.’ (Eph. 5:25-33) To bring forth a child Manoah’s wife needed to accept that she was to prepare her body in such a way that the child would grow up to be a special man.
Now I know that not all children are ordained for great things in the heart of God but surely we must not approach motherhood carelessly or even discover we are pregnant following a casual physical relationship with someone who we have no serious relationship with. We must give serious thought to our bodies. Paul writes: ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For “The two,” he says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.’ (1 Cor. 6:15-20) ‘Do you not Know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.’ (1 Cor. 3:16-17) God’s intention is that conception is born out of purity.
We must not Break God’s Law
There are many lessons to be learned from the truth as revealed to us by God in His Word. Speaking to His people God lays down the laws of blessing in obedience. 'Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all his commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.' (Deut. 28:1-2) Whereas the opposite is true in disobedience. ‘Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.’ (Deut. 28:18) Disobedience to any law must eventually be paid in full, that is only fair and just. But what about disobedience to the laws of God? How many young people have omitted to be obedient to God’s law relating to sexual relationships outside of the realm of marriage?
The story of Hannah and Elkanah provides for us further help in considering this very important subject. Elkanah had two wives, his relationship with one of his wives bore children, but his other wife, Hannah, failed to conceive and she was desperate to give her husband a son. Elkanah loved Hannah but she felt miserable and every year went to the Lord’s house to seek God for a child. In her distress as she prayed her lips moved but her voice was silent. Eli, the priest misunderstood her anguish, thinking she was drunk, but when he spoke with her, he came into an understanding of her situation and confirmed that God would give her the child that she had prayed for. What had changed the circumstances of her life? Her promise that if she was to have a child she would give him to the Lord.
Maybe we need to consider afresh why we want children and make sure that our desire is that they should be to the praise of God and not for ourselves. God is the creator of all things and it seems strange sometimes to consider life without Him, His care and His love. Yet so many choose to do so and so often reap the consequences of it.
Even though he was a powerful man, David the king of Israel, fell foul of God’s law when he chose to have an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. Although a child was born it was destined to die. David realised his sin and its inevitable consequence and writes of his own heartache in the famous Psalms. ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight - that you may be found just when you speak, and blameless when you judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which you have broken may rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you.” (Psa. 51:1-13) Many people do not fully realise the consequences of their sin until they enter into normal relationships and find that barriers exist which they knew nothing of. One young woman, now married, came to share with me that after many months she had failed to conceive. She had been involved in a previous relationship but although she had been forgiven, she had not accepted that she could be totally pure and clean. After some strong encouraging words of counsel she accepted the love of God and received His forgiveness and became free to conceive and bring forth children. She now has a growing and healthy family.
Maybe it is the love of God that holds up conception because He has something much better for them. In the story of David and Bathsheba we read these words: ‘Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.’ (2 Sam. 24:24-25)
If we are barren we can of course turn first to the many answers the world has to offer. Abraham and Sarah were probably married early in their lives but after many decades are still unfruitful. God had promised them a son but the Bible reveals their impatience with God’s promise and they turn to the world. The account reveals that Sarah had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar which in Hebrew means ‘wandering’. In Scripture Egypt is always a picture of the world in which we live, its systems and answers. ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.’ (1 John 2:15-17) Until the world is removed from our experience we may not be free to put our total trust in God and His word. Abraham now pursues a human answer. He did in effect bring forth a son but it was the fruit of his relationship. The child was to be wild and uncontrollable. ‘He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.’ (Gen. 16:12)
God’s Promise is fruitfulness
Let us ensure that we do not allow the world to control the things which are Gods. God promises to us that we can bring forth fruit, but it will come out of our own relationships with one another. When Jacob with his wife and family sought to leave Laban, he used a simple principle that governs conception and birth that ‘we reap what we sow’. ‘And the rods that he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink. So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted.’ (Gen. 30:38-39) Let us keep this in mind when we consider birth and if God has allowed us to remain barren let us pray that He will reveal His purpose. Have courage and allow God to reveal the reasons for your lack, let Him plumb your heart and reveal any reason why in His love he has hindered you, that in putting your life right with God, the normal course of life will spring forth out of your womb.
Rebecca the wife of Isaac, Abraham’s son was also barren. The Bible tells us: ‘Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her; “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterwards his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.’ (Gen. 25:20-26) What a tremendous privilege it is to be able to have access into the presence of God, to be able to pray or ask God’s assistance in something which is deeply personal and of great emotional concern.
To be able to pray and reach the throne we must first be committed to the life of God. We will never be able to put into practice what He says until firstly He has revealed Himself to us. It is of no use being religious, Jesus tells the story of two men, one religious and the other genuine. ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men - extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Then they also brought infants to him that he might touch them; but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.’ (Luke 18:10-18)
It has been my privilege on a number of occasions to pray and ask God that He should reveal the areas of lack in young couples lives so that they may be able to have children. I recall a young woman who did not feel within herself that she was acceptable to God, she had been in sin and therefore felt that she had spoiled the pure process of conception and birth. As a single young woman she had confessed her sin but seemed unable to accept God’s forgiveness and continued in guilt and unbelief. If we are to approach God we must come to Him as a loving Heavenly Father who is more willing to forgive than we are to receive His forgiveness. ‘But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.’ (Heb. 11:6)
It is the Father’s heart to help us. He invites us: ‘Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ (Heb. 4:16)
May God bless us all and provide those things we need and which have been ordained of Him.
Chapter 13. Counselling after separation or Divorce
'But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.'’ (1 Cor. 7:15)
Three of the most perplexing questions are considered in this chapter. Does the Lord allow married couples to separate? Can we divorce? Am I permitted to remarry?
The Scripture has much to say on these areas of life and it is our purpose to seek to lay down clear guidelines should we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to consider any of them. We shall also look into those difficulties faced by a husband or wife separated by the death of his or her partner and the responsibility of children to care for their aged parents.
We have to say that we are living in an environment far removed from the heart and will of God. It is estimated that in this country one out of every two marriages will end in divorce and a quarter of a million children will suffer as a result. Although these percentages will not be common in the church we can be assured that these questions we raise will become increasingly relevant.
The pastor finds himself in a dilemma. On one side the clear truth revealed by God in His word and the distress of a young man or woman facing the future with maybe two or three children without a partner who for some reason has left the family home having been drawn away after an adulterous relationship. We must, therefore, look for the truth and communicate the heart of God with love and compassion.
Married Before a Knowledge of the Lord
It is probably true to say that most of those in the life of the church who find themselves separated, were married before they knew the Lord and it is often when one of the partners begins to seek the Lord for the salvation of his own soul that difficulties arise.
This is dramatically illustrated by one young woman who began to attend the church. At the time of her courtship and marriage she was deeply involved in spiritualism and its accompanying uncleanness. Her husband was happy to dwell with her providing she continued in her own immorality. When God began to shine the light of the Gospel into her heart and ministered to her setting her free from the devil’s power the husband found he could no longer live with her and left the home to live with another woman. Although, for some time, he sought the way of the Lord for himself he was not prepared to receive the way of salvation and has chosen the path of sin and destruction rather than the way of life.
The Gospel had brought division in the home and a choice had to be made between the life of God and a physical relationship in marriage. It often seems that there is this great cost that many men and women are not prepared to pay. I wonder how many people have given up eternal life for the temporal joys of marriage?
At this point let us remind ourselves of the instructions of the Apostle Paul: ‘Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?’ (1 Cor. 7:10-16)
It seems that the Apostle is very straight concerning the command of the Lord. The woman is not to leave her husband but seek, by her life and her relationship with God, to reveal the greater life that there is in Jesus Christ.
Saving your Husband
I recall another young family. I had met the wife at a Ladies’ Meeting and had the privilege of being introduced to her three daughters. One by one I saw them come to know and love the Lord. The husband was a good father but had no desire to seek the things of God. He attended the Baptismal Service of his eldest daughter and it was there he became impressed more with the life of the Lord, first seeing it in his wife and now in the ordinary members of the church.
At the baptism of his second daughter, some time later, I remember talking to him after the service and he now acknowledged that the Christian had something that he wanted but he did not know how to receive it for himself. I encouraged him to open up his heart and the Lord would reveal himself.
At one morning meeting the family, without the father, had gathered to worship and God had spoken to us all so clearly on the life of faith and I encouraged the church to ask what they would in faith, believing that the Lord would give it to them. The wife asked that her husband would know the Lord that night as he was due to visit the evening meeting. During the service three young men spoke the prophetic word which, by the Spirit, were all directed to the husband and by the end of the night he had given his life to the Lord.
Jesus talks of Divorce
We must also remind ourselves of the truth as Jesus reveals it when being questioned by the Pharisees, in Mark’s Gospel: ‘The Pharisees came and asked him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing him. And he answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. “But from the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’, so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. And in the house his disciples asked him again about the same matter. So he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’ (Mark 10:2-12)
If any of us seek to put away our partners and take another, we are living in adultery and encouraging the other to commit adultery. It would seem, therefore, that the only end to a marriage contract is by the death of the partner. Paul writes: ‘For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.’ (Rom. 7:2-3)
Here is another very relevant illustration to strengthen the Apostle’s statements. This young woman began coming to the meeting quite regularly. She had been brought up to know the Lord but had pushed it aside to marry. The husband was most forcibly against her attending meetings but she would continue to come, even climbing out of the window on occasions to do so! One day he visited me and said very angrily, “If you don’t stop her coming I will divorce her.”
I was certainly in no position to tell the young woman to stop attending the place where she had opportunity to worship the Lord, and told him so adding that she had to know the mind of the Lord for herself. After shouting and storming out leaving the place shaking around us, he continued to live with her and today, although she is not in regular Sunday fellowship, maintains her link with us seeking to work out her Christian life in her home. Accepting their differences of heart the wife is maintaining her walk with the Lord.
It may be that her husband will never come to know the Lord but is willing to dwell with her providing she does not attend the church services. So many Christian wives have undermined the Gospel by the way they live in their homes.
It would seem that if the relationship between the partners becomes unbearable so that one desires to separate, it must be done with the understanding that she will remain single until such time she can be reconciled to her husband.
Are there any exceptions? I turn to the words of our Lord again: “ I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9)
Under the old covenant law adultery resulted in death. ‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.’ (Lev. 20:10) Adultery was punishable by death but fornication seems, to my understanding, to be dealt with differently. ‘When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife, after she has been defiled.’ (Deut. 24:1-4)
Fornication would indicate some sexual sin prior to their marriage and was obvious very soon after their wedding day.
Divorce not in God’s Heart
In contrast, we have a clear revelation of the heart of God through the prophet Malachi where His hatred of divorce cannot be overlooked. ‘Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did he not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit. And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the Lord God of Israel says that he hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.’ (Mal. 2:14-16)
It is certainly clear that Jesus states an exception and I am sure that there are circumstances which allow for the dissolving of a marriage. It must be said, in the light of experience, that these exceptions are very rare but are used by so many as a reason to remarry.
Each individual must know if they are found in this position and that it is of God. The consequence of living in sin and ultimately finding ourselves outside of His kingdom must be terrifying to consider. We also have evidence that Jesus gave men the choice between the things of this world and life in Him when He said: “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’ (Matt. 16:24-26)
Some must endure hardness so that they may gain eternal life, one of these must be to remain unmarried. I conclude for myself that the whole answer to this realm lies with God Himself. For so many who are currently perplexed by this problem are not seeking to outwork the difficulty in fellowship with the Lord but are seeking relationships, even going into Social Single clubs with the hope of meeting someone to marry.
I remember meeting a young man who had been involved in the drug scene for eighteen years and over this period of time had lived with many women but at this time had been with one for five years. When the Lord met him and delivered him of his drug addiction he realised at once that it was not right to live in sin but acknowledged the fact that he was in love with the woman.
She was not the Lord’s and, therefore, a permanent bond was not possible but during the next few months the woman too came into a real experience of the Lord and it seemed quite natural for them to marry. I was certainly perplexed but in seeking the Lord believed it to be His will that they should be joined together. My only reservation was that she should not be arrayed in white as she had been previously married.
I am committed, therefore, on the realm of divorce and remarriage, to seek God’s will in each individual case keeping before me the principles as outlined above.
Decisions Based on God’s Word not Feelings
So many make decisions in this realm on what they feel rather than on the knowledge and word of God. We may find it easier to obey our feelings than we do the will of God! You may remember that very moving account of the sickness of Lazarus as John records it: ‘Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick.” When Jesus heard that, he said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was.’ (John 11:1-6)
Had Jesus gone straight away He would no doubt have healed His friend but His Father had something greater for Him. He was misunderstood by Martha. ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ (John 11:21) Mary said the same. ‘Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”’ (John 11:33-36)
How often have you moved beyond the will of God and rushed what He has planned for you because you have been dominated by your feelings?
It is in the feeling realm that we shall make our biggest mistakes. Let me record the story of Isaac bypassing his instinct and being ruled by his feelings. ‘Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.’ (Gen. 27:21-22) Jacob had covered his hands with goatskins to deceive his father.
Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) There can be no substitute for obedience in our life and walk with the Lord. Those who move outside into the world may jeopardise their eternal life. On such occasions of uncleanness in the church Paul writes to the Corinthian church: ‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?’ (1 Cor. 5:4-6)
Marriage Ordained from the Beginning
We must accept that divorce is not in the plan of God but has evolved out of a world committed to sin. Marriage has been patterned on the eternal marriage between His Son, the Lamb, and the Bride of Christ, the church.
Some ask, “If a couple are married outside of a new birth experience, are they truly married in God?” We must accept that marriage is an outworking of His plan in creation and not introduced after the Lord had come into the world to reveal salvation.
The Care of Widows and Single Families
The care of the church, especially from the elders and mature couples should be extended to all who find themselves separated or divorced. James writes: ‘Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.’ (James 1:27)
Acts records the move of the Spirit upon the church to raise up men who were to be primarily responsible for the practical aspects of church life. ‘Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.’ (Acts 6:1-3)
There should always be every provision in the church to make up the lack in the various homes should a woman find herself without the care and attention of a loving husband and father, but there appear to be conditions laid upon us also by the Apostle Paul to Timothy. ‘Honour widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.’ (1 Tim. 5:3-6) also, ‘Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, with a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.’ (1 Tim. 5:9-10)
Caring for Parents
I remember talking to an older couple and the parents of the wife were unwell. Believing it to be the heart of God, they moved home to be near them so that they could care for them on a daily basis. The father was so opposed and abusive it became increasingly difficult for them to continue their task happily, and yet for about two years they laboured under these awful circumstances. We felt that something had to be said to the elderly parents. If they wished their children to continue to care they must accept that the Lord’s help must be sought.
It was suggested that a large home be bought near a Fellowship so that the Christian couple could continue in worship with the people of God while also caring for the aged parents but any change was totally rejected. The Christian couple decided that they could no longer care for their parents on this basis and another sister took up the charge and within a few months both she and her husband were verging on a nervous breakdown. Eventually, the elderly parents were settled in a home.
How often I have seen a single woman’s life ruined because she has felt it a responsibility to care for an ageing mother who, instead of being grateful and loving to their child has been dominating and selfish. Paul writing to the Corinthian church says: ‘For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.’ (2 Cor. 12:14)
Luke records a conversation between the Lord and one of His disciples when He says: “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)
It is probably true that there are those who instead of being fulfilled in the life and will of God are bound and committed to parents whose only purpose is to fulfil their own will.
Chapter 14. Counselling - Deliverance Ministry
'And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.'’ (Matt. 17:18)
Deliverance ministry is the work of the pastor and the church in setting men and women free of the power of the devil because he has gained access into their lives.
Who is the Devil?
The devil was part of a host of angels that were created by God before man and the world. They were created by the Son and for him. ‘For by him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through him and for him.’ (Col. 1:16)
About the Angels in General
The Scripture reveals that they have spiritual bodies but take on the outward appearance of man . ‘Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth.’ (Luke 1:26) It is assumed that they would not have wings. They do not have a sex. ‘For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.’ (Matt. 22:30) They are always referred to as masculine. They cannot die. ‘Nor can they die any more, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.’ (Luke 20:36) They are inferior to the Son but superior to man. ‘For he has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you take care of him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.’ (Heb. 2:5-9)
They have many names in the word: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?’ (Heb. 1:14) ‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 6:12) ‘I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.’ (1 Tim. 5:21) ‘Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.’ (Rev. 5:11)
They are without number: ‘But you have come to mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels.’ (Heb. 12:22) They are overseen by Archangels. ‘For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.’ (1 Thess. 4:16) ‘Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”’ (Jude 9) They have great power. ‘Bless the Lord, you his angels, who excel in strength, who do his word, heeding the voice of his word.’ (Psa. 103:20)
Divided into Two
At one time all these angels enjoyed the unity of being in the presence of God and then the Devil was lifted up in his heart and rebelled against God. This meant that he was cast out of heaven and a third of all those rebellious angels were cast into the earth. ‘How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the cloud, I will be like the most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.’ (Isa. 14:12-15) They now are referred to as the lost. ‘Then he will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41) They are compared with the elect. ‘When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.’ (Matt. 25:31)
The work of those angels who serve God, the faithful angels, are occupied in worshipping and adoring God and the Lamb. “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10) They serve God continually and are always looking into the mystery of God’s great salvation. ‘To them it was revealed that not to themselves but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things which angels desire to look into,’ (1 Peter 1:12) ‘To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 3:10) Thus they only know what they outwardly see. This is clearly expressed by the apostle Paul when he reveals the truth concerning the necessity of head covering in the church: ‘For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.’ (1 Cor. 11:10)
Angels are there for God’s purpose as instruments of his will: ‘For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward’ (Heb. 2:2) and they show the will of God to man: ‘But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Gen. 22:11) ‘Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites.’ (Jud. 6:11)
God prepares us to receive ministry through them: ‘Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go towards the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” ‘ (Acts 8:26) They act as God’s messengers in deliverance: ‘Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.’ (Acts 12:7) They also appear in judgement both in this life: ‘Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.’ (Acts 12:23) and on the final judgement day: ‘Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other’ (Matt. 24:30-31 ‘Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.’ (2 Thess. 1:6-7)
The Devil has many names in the Scriptures. ‘Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”’ (John 13:27) ‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ (Matt. 4:1) ‘But when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” (Matt. 12:24) ‘And they had a king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.’ (Rev. 9:11) ‘Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.’ (John 12:31) ‘He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.’ (Col. 1:13) ‘Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Cor. 4:4) ‘In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.’ (Eph. 2:2) ‘How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!’ (Isa. 14:12) ‘In that day the Lord with his severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; And he will slay the reptile that is in the sea.’ (Isa. 27:1) ‘And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? (2 Cor. 6:15) ‘Now when the tempter came to him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”’ (Matt. 4:3)
He is a Person
We must be clear in acknowledging that we are not dealing with a force but a person who together with demons seek to rule over the lives of men and women. ‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. Now when the tempter came to him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” ‘ (Matt. 4:1-3)
It may be valuable at this point to illustrate this by referring to a young man I met, who had been for some seven years a spiritualist medium. He was a simple man, working as a valet and had met a young college student who, realising his desperate state, brought him to a friend of mine whom I was visiting. He had entered into a covenant with the devil when he was sixteen and was now possessed by what he called a master spirit and many demons. When we had spoken for some time he needed to go to the bathroom. He later said that this was to have a cigarette and to communicate with his various demons. We decided that we would embrace and love him with the love of God. At that the devil spoke using the voice of our friend ‘Get your hand off my slave’. The master spirit was the devil himself and he went home that night troubled. Apparently he was tossed all over the room, where he slept, finding himself on the ceiling at one point.
The next day he was desperate to be delivered and said that as we loved him, a chink of light penetrated his dark soul and he wanted to come into the light. We prayed that God would cast out the devil and he came out, as the Scripture reveals, together with all the demons that like parasites hang on to those who are not clear with God. ‘For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralysed and lame were healed.’ (Acts 8:7)
The devil has a greater power than man but to those who are born of God he is limited. ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8) ‘Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”’ (Jude 9) He does not inhabit the holy ways of God. ‘A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there.’ (Isa. 35:8-9) He is however the god of this world and the prince of the power of the air. ‘Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.’ (2 Cor. 4:4) All evil is from him and he controls the power of death. ‘Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’ (Heb. 2:14-15)
His power was illustrated to me when one of our members here, whilst working as a policeman, was sent to arrest a violent man during a domestic scuffle. It took eight strong policemen to hold him still while he was shouting about the power of God. He was being motivated by the devil.
Another young man rang me in the early hours of the morning to tell me that he had seen his motorbike lift one or two feet off the ground and it had terrified him.
Where Does he Live
The devil dwells in high places: ‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 6:12) He seeks to live in human hearts as does the Holy Spirit and all his activity is designed to take the place of God in the human heart.
What is he Seeking to Do
His total purpose is to destroy the work of God, to oppose all of God’s will. He caused the fall: ‘And the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”’ (Gen. 3:4-5) ‘But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ (2 Cor. 11:3) Even though he controls the power of death Jesus has taken away its sting by the resurrection. ‘So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.’ (1 Cor. 15:54-56)
He controls all unbelievers and their activities and binds them and orders their lives. He works actively against the children of God. ‘For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect’ (Mark 13:22). He discourages, tempts, lays snares, sows doubt into our minds and by dropping seeds into our hearts seeks to take root in our lives. All his work is therefore, destructive.
The Devils Way In
As we have seen, the devil seeks to gain access into the hearts of men and women but he must first find a way in. Devil possession is not automatic just because we have been born into a sinful world. The devil will seek to use the following means:
As we have seen earlier, heredity is the transmission from one generation to another of genetic facts that determine individual characteristics.
This perhaps is the most common of the ways in which the devil gains access into lives. There is so much portrayed in the world today that encourages young people into early sexual experiences outside of the will of God. Fornication, sexual relationship before marriage, masturbation, homosexuality, lesbianism, pornographic literature, sexual abuse of children, rape, incest, adultery, these all allow the devil access.
One young teenager who came to stay with us had entered into physical relationship in the woods after school when she was nine and had practised sexual acts while in the playground. She was now full of unclean spirits. Another woman now in her early forties had lived her life with uncleanness and had been troubled for many years because her mother had allowed a boyfriend to sexually abuse her in early life. Parents are often unaware of what is happening to their children at school or in the homes of their friends because they assume they would not do anything. I have proven over many years of ministry that young girls have been introduced to devil possession and its following uncleanness, and then grow up to leave home with a man perhaps twenty years older. Some have moved in with those of their own sex because of the failure of parents to be closely in touch with their children. Husbands too have been so occupied with themselves that they have failed to know that their wives have been drawn away by the devil into adultery.
These include witchcraft, occult, occult reading, spiritualist churches, seances, fortune telling, reading of stars, transcendental meditation, yoga, karate, tarot cards, ouija boards, faith healing, New Age: ‘And many who had believed came, confessing and telling their deeds. Also many of those who had practised magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totalled fifty thousand pieces of silver.’ (Acts 19:18-19) ‘Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.’ (Acts 16:16)
There are many times that the pastor will find men and women troubled in these ways. One night I was called to the home of a couple because they were frightened by manifestations in their house. It was two o’clock in the morning and the bedroom where they were sleeping was icy cold and there was a powerful presence of evil. We sought to establish the area of opportunity that the devil had taken to trouble this Christian couple. As we prayed our hearts were directed to a box on the mantle piece and inside was a ring given to her by her grandmother. As the story unfolded it became clear that her grandmother was involved in spiritualism and the ring the means of passing on of the spirit.
There are always great stories to illustrate the work of the enemy through the medium realm no greater than a story of a young five year old who was seriously troubled. Socially she would have been classed as hyperactive. She was violent, aggressive, destructive and especially set on pulling people’s hair. The father was at a loss to know what to do. He had brought her for prayer and I promised to visit him again in his home on the south coast. My visit was an eventful one. Her mother was not happy at all with the things of God but as we were talking a rather dishevelled cat entered the room with tufts of hair missing. It apparently had pulled out its hair and was generally unsettled. My inquiry as to how long the cat had been in the home matched the same length of time as the young girl had been troubled and it was my conclusion that the cat was acting as a medium for the spirit. I have known so many people who have opened themselves up to the demonic spirit but have refused to accept deliverance from God.
The first three ways in which the devil gains access might seem to be quite obvious but worldliness is perhaps the subtlest way in which the devil seeks to enter into hearts. Films, rock music, drugs, drunkenness are some of these realms deliberately entered into, others unknown, but the devil seeks either to approach subtly or to gatecrash into every heart. ‘And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.’ (John 13:2) ‘But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?”’ (Acts 5:1-3) We are encouraged therefore to: ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.’ (Eph. 6:11-13)
Also illustrated earlier in the book is the story of my visit to the home of a respected leader in church life where I was met by whom I felt was a very strange man. The couple who led the church declared that he was a tremendous man of God who was able himself to cast out devils using the gift of tongues. My spirit witnessed that he was not to be trusted and I did not give any room to the things which he said. The leaders, however, were quite upset that this man was doubted, but fortunately five or six weeks later his true colours were revealed and he turned out to be a clairvoyant medium, well known to other Christians.
Devils Must be Cast Out
It is clear that Jesus gave the disciples instructions to cast out devils: ”Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8) “Then he called his twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.” (Luke 9:1) ‘And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.’ (Matt. 17:18) This was accomplished by the finger of God. (Luke 11:20) The exercising of the authority given by the Lord is, to demand that the devil gives up his ground and that the soul receives the experience of the presence of God. This ministry might seem quite daunting to some, but the Pastor in the hands of the Chief Shepherd will receive teaching.
I had spent some six months seeking to minister to a young woman and although I had seen many wonderful things accomplished, one night I was aware that the devil was laughing at me from inside her heart and went to bed that night rather discouraged. Fortunately, the next day an older brother was to visit as part of a weekend conference and I asked him to see her. We sat in the room and I was an observer. He seemed to put his finger right on the problem and began to pray, just pointing his finger at the young woman. As he prayed she began to scream and shout violently. The devil had been exposed and now he struggled to stay but it was of no avail, after nearly shooting off her seat she was free. My reaction was two fold - thrilled that she was free but aware of the lack in my own experience of deliverance ministry. However some three years later I was asked to visit the sister of a woman in the church who had been up all night tremendously troubled and the three of us sat in the room and as I prayed the devil came out and I realised that God had brought me into the place I had desired those three years earlier.
The Devil Can Return
It may seem distressing to suggest that having once been delivered of a devil, the person now free should open themselves up again, but sadly it is true. The devil can return because the ground of sin has not been cleared: ‘nor give place to the devil’ (Eph. 4:27). There is not an openness in the heart to make sure that sin has been completely dealt with. The devil also will seek to deceive often by fear or insecurity: ’Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared in the same; that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.’ (Heb. 2:14) ‘But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. And these things command, that they may be blameless.’ (1 Tim. 5:6-7) ‘That they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.’ (2 Tim. 2:26) The devils ultimate purpose is to drive men and women to death. If he can persuade souls to commit suicide he has successfully won his battle against God.
All ministers must be ready and prepared to deal with the spirit of the enemy. Jesus said that these things come not out but by prayer and fasting. ‘Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast him out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”’ (Matt. 17:19-21)
May we all be able ministers of the new covenant.
Study 1. The Call of God
There is nothing haphazard about the ministry of God, from the moment of our new birth God has ordained a life and ministry for us - Eph.4:1-16. It may not be so clearly defined in its early days but will inevitably develop as we grow and mature in our Christian life:
- The Lord's call - Luke 3:21-23, Luke 4:1-22,
- The disciples - Matt.4:18-22, Matt.9:9, Luke 5:1-11,
- Paul’s call - 1 Cor.1:1, Acts 9:1-22.
If we are not called of God we will be in danger of destroying and not building the work of God. A need in a particular place is no substitute for men called of God.
The Place of God's Call
Every flock has its own Shepherd and God places men in the ministry as it pleases Him and for as many years. The Pastor must be prepared to stay as long as God wants him to be in a certain place, attend every meeting and be not tempted to be drawn away by what might be seen as itinerant ministry. 1Cor.12:12-37, Rom.12:1-8, Acts 20:29-30. People can be very difficult. There may be some who do not like you and even hate you. Spiritually there will be the blind, deaf, lame, those with withered arms, but God has added them to the Church as it pleases him - Luke 6:10-16. There will be those that fall into sin regularly.
The Preparations of the Call
These take two forms: That which takes place before the call
- The dealing with sin - 1Tim.5:13-25 so that we do not minister our sin Examples: Accan - Joshua 7:3-4, David - 2 Sam.24:15-17.
- Dealing with our natural life - Matt.4.1-11 ‘I cannot cope’, ‘I need a holiday’, ‘It's all too much’ - James 1:12-15, 1Cor.10:13. 3. The unknown experiences leading to God's purpose - The Lord Luke 2:49-51 Heb.3 Joseph Gen.37-47 Moses Ex.2:11 - 3:10.
That which continues during the ministry:
- Difficulties - 1 Cor.4:9-13, 2 Cor.11:23-28, 1 Kings 19:19-21, 2 Kings 2:1-14. God fashions men as they proceed along in their walk with God.
Study 2. The Pattern of the Church
To be involved in leading and building in God's church we must have a clear picture of where we are going
Paul’s revelation:- The word church - ekklesia - means called out ones from ek, out of and klesis, a calling and was used by the Greeks of a body of citizens gathered together to discuss the affairs of state. It was also called an assembly Acts 19:39. It has two applications to companies of Christians. Firstly regarding the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era and secondly to the singular number of congregations of companies of professed believers, born again by the Spirit of God gathering in a certain town or location. 1 Cor.1:2, Act.19:1-12.
5 pictures in the book of Ephesians;
- Body 1:23 compare Eph.4:4, 1 Cor.12:12-31
- Building 2:21 compare Matt.7:21-28, 1 Cor.3:9-13, 1 Peter 2.v 1-9
- Family 3:15 compare Gen.30:1, Acts 2:41,47, 2 Cor.6:14-18
- Bride 5:23-32 compare 1 Cor.13:4-8
- Army 6:10-18 compare 2 Tim.2:3-4.
The Purpose of the Church
- Making disciples of Christ – Matt 28:18-20 – preaching or evangelising Acts 14:21 Baptising and Teaching – Acts14:22,23,28, Acts 15:35
- Maturing believers in Christ Col 1:25-29, Feeding, presenting them mature.
- Manifesting Christ’s glory Col 1:27, 1 Peter 2:12, Matt 5:14-16, 2 Corn 4:5-7
The Thrust of the Church
- Preaching and evangelism outside the church – Teaching and edification inside the church.
Study 3. The Pastors Relationship with the Lord
The main duty of the Pastor is to give personal instructions as to how to live the Christian life, how to deal with sin and live free from the influence of the world. All ministry will spring from the Pastor's relationship with the Lord. James 1:17.
It is important that every Pastor understands the foundations on which his relationship and faith lay for he cannot minister to others the things which he himself does not understand or has not entered into. He must know God. John 17:3, 1 Sam.3:7, 2 Peter 1:3-5.
The Necessity of Personal Prayer and Study
No man can minister unless he has learned to rise early and meet with God and soak himself in the Scriptures that they have become a ready tool in his hand. Spend 1 hour in preparation to minister 5 minutes, spend a week in preparation to live one day. See that the work of God is thoroughly wrought in your own life. Your life will be their food not your words - Luke 5:15-26, Matt.6:5-15, Dan.6:11, 2 Tim.2:15, 2 Tim.3:16.
Daily and Yearly Bible Reading Schemes
It is important to have a systematic scheme for regular reading of the word of God in addition to times of more in-depth study. Also make full use of the study books available as added material to ministry already developed in your heart as it has been imparted by the Lord.
Fasting and Prayer
Daily and weekly times of prayer and fasting should be the normal practice of the ministers life, one day weekly and perhaps 3 days quarterly Matt.17:21, Matt.6:17-18, Acts 13:3. Matt 6:6
The Pastor a Reflection of His Lord
The Pastor is a leader, both in spiritual and natural realms, he is called to make sacrifices that others of his flock may not be called upon to make 1 Cor.4:15, 2 Cor.3: 18, 2 Cor.4:7-10, 1 Cor.8:13
There is always a cry in the hearts of men and women for mature ministers of God and the purpose of the Lord is to develop the life of his people that they are able and effective ministers. As in the natural life there are 5 senses so it must be in spiritual things Heb.5:12:14.
- Touch - Heb.4:15, Matt.8:1-3, 9:20-22, laying on of hands Acts 8:10, 1 Tim.5:22
- Taste - Heb.6:4-5, John 6, John 4, Matt.5.
- Hearing - Heb.2:1, Rom:10:1, 2 Kings 6: 8-12, John 10, 2 Cor.12.
- Seeing - Heb.12:1-2, Eph.1:17-18, 2 Kings 6:13-16.
- Smelling - Heb.13:15, 2 Cor.2:14-16, Luke 7.
The Pastor’s Responsibility
Preaching & Teaching the Word of God.
It is the pastors responsibility to preach and teach John21:17, 1Peter2:2. God’s word is the only spiritual food you have to offer which will cause growth to maturity, Heb.5:12-14, 2Tim4:2 and 1Tim4:13. To preach is to proclaim, to teach is to instruct. Col.1:28. It is possible to teach without preaching but not to preach without teaching.
To serve the church by equipping the saints Eph4:11-13, 1Peter4:10-11 and 2Tim3:16-17. God requires that you use the gifts imparted to you to equip and train the saints for the work of the ministry together with those that function in the church using the gifts given unto them, 1Cor12:1-11, Rom12:6-8.
To guard against false teaching by constantly bringing the truth of the word, Acts20:28-31, 1Tim 1:3-4, 2Tim1:13, Titus1:9 and 2:1. The best way to combat false teaching is to teach correct doctrine from the word of God.
Expository preaching involves:
- Proclaiming the text of God’s word in a systematic way.
- Explaining the meaning so that the hearers understand.
- Exhorting the hearers to obey and apply the truth.
In expository preaching the preacher is simply the instrument through which God’s word, His message, is delivered to the people. It is the unfolding of God’s word and letting it speak.
Characteristics of True Expository Preaching
- Takes and systematically explains the text paragraph by paragraph in the general order and in context in which it appears.
- Preaches through chapters, sections and books of the bible.
- Allows the text to determine both the content and structure of the message.
- Is not topical but many topics will be covered in due time as the word is unfolded.
- Is true to the meaning of the text.
- Uses illustrations and examples that are both biblical and relevant from Christian experience.
- Seeks to apply the principles and truths drawn from the bible.
- Exhorts and challenges the hearers to respond in obedience to the message.
The Elements of Scriptural Exposition
- Explanation to give understanding.
- Instruction –Teaching.
- Conviction to the hearers.
- Response to the truth in obedience.
- Preaching upon certain subjects
- Another means of communicating truth is to take a topic or subject relevant to the hearers, for example faith.
Characteristics of Messages not Based on the Scripture
- Use very little scripture - refers to it in passing or use it only as an introduction or a spring board.
- Express the opinions, traditions and philosophies of men.
- Promotes the world’s view of success.
- Entertains more than instructs.
- Promises health, wealth and material prosperity (a false gospel).
- Presents an inaccurate, incomplete picture of Jesus Christ and Christianity.
- Suggests non-scriptural solutions for spiritual problems, i.e. psychology.
- Manipulate response through appeals or clever speech.
- Tell people what they want to hear.
God’s word does not need the support of music or entertainment but is dependent only upon the ability of God to be faithful to His word, Heb4:12, 1Thes2:13. People need to hear the word of God. Many are ignorant of the bible, John8:31-32. The word of God addresses real problems. The bible teaches the whole counsel of God, Acts18:11, 20:20-27.
Things to remember:
- We are commanded to preach the word for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine, 2Tim4:2-4, 2Cor4:2.
- We must never dilute, distort or devalue from it, make it say what it doesn’t or add or take away from it, 1Cor4:6-7, 1:17-19, Rom1:16-17.
- We must not worry about lack of eloquence, 1Cor2:1.
- Focus on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, 1Cor2:2.
- Preach in humility and fear realising our own weakness and that it is God’s word you are speaking, 1Cor2:3.
- Be careful about relying on clever or persuasive words, 1Cor2:4.
- By faith allow the Holy Spirit to demonstrate His power as you rely on God’s word and not your own words 1Cor2:5.
Preparation of the Preacher
Robert Murray McCheyne once said “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” John Owen said “The word must dwell in us with power before it can go forth with power.”
As we have earlier indicated the pastor has been prepared in his personal life and relationship with God in his times of prayer and study. If he is to preach with power and passion. He is to pray:
- Before he prepares his message;
- As he prepares his message;
- While he preaches;
- During the response;
- For God’s continual work in the hearers lives as they return to their homes.
Preaching is a fire that burns in his heart and it will burn in the hearts of the hearers. He is expectant that God will move as the people hear the word of God, 1Thess2:13, that people will change 1Thess1:5-7, that they will be saved, Rom1:16, that they will be instructed. The preacher is called to:
- Proclaim the message of God, 2Tim 1:11
- To be Christ’s servant, 1Cor4:1, 2Cor4:5
- Act as an ambassador for Christ, 2Cor5:18-20.
Preparing the Message
- First ask God for the word to preach. Never get up to speak without first having something to say which has been prayerfully considered. There maybe exceptions to that rule if you are suddenly called upon to speak then you will have liberty to call upon God for the word.
- Most important is that you have given much time in preparation even if at the last moment you believe God has changed the theme or subject of the message, Ps81:10, Matt10:19-20.
- It is always good when learning to keep a notebook with things that God has spoken to you and simple guidelines and points on which to share regarding a particular passage or subject that God has laid on your heart.
- Endeavour as you mature in the things of God to learn to preach with less or no notes so as to allow the freedom of the Spirit to direct your heart. Certainly do not read from notes. Trust the Lord to bring things to mind.
- You can learn a tremendous amount by listening to preachers and take note of the way they prepare and expand the scriptures using various words in the passage to highlight the next point they wish to share.
- You can either expand a book of the bible or use a topic that is relevant to the hearers.
- Often when reading through the bible, God speaks His word to be studied.
Getting Together Material for the Preached Word
Read and reread the passage of scripture that is to be the focal point of the message or if a topic is to be taken a passage relevant to draw the hearers into the theme.
Look up in the concordance, the passages having the word in it, for example if the subject is prayer, also look up subjects that are relevant to prayer, i.e. pray, intercession, supplication, ask, cry, call. Instead of writing down all the references, note only those that really could be used in the context of the ministry.
Select the passages chosen and arrange them in order. See what you can dispense with i.e. if a scripture is repeated. Bring together points that naturally go together. If the message is to be taken from a book or chapter find the points of your message:
- By careful analysis of the text;
- By asking questions about the text;
- By writing the points down.
Arrange your Points
After noting all the points you need to select three or four main points. Few ministers can wisely speak for 30-40 minutes. To a beginner 20 minutes is often long enough and sometimes too long. In a house group meeting 15 minutes is certainly long enough. It is better to have more points than the time you have to share. It is good to arrange the points in order to allow the message to flow. The first point follows the introduction, the last point is the conclusion. Each point leads us clearly to the next so that the listener follows the word through easily reaching a climax.
If time begins to run out, don’t miss the concluding point but one of the others.
Use an illustration for the introduction and for each point. It is often useful to begin with a story that dramatically gets the course of the subject and then use a story or illustration for each point mentioned.
The Use of Illustrations
Nothing helps communicate the truth better than a well-appointed illustration.
- Make the truth clear. It would be a tragedy if the hearer wants to hear what is preached but does not understand what is being said.
- Impress the truth: the hearer needs to go away with true understanding firmly fixed in his heart. Many people have gone away remembering the illustrations more than the scriptures but the illustrations brings their minds back to the truth spoken.
- To hold the attention of the hearers. Stories help those who have little attention span to break up truth and when they begin to tire an exciting story wakes them up and can be very refreshing.
Different Kinds of Illustrations
- Biblical: From stories of the bible. When telling bible stories put yourself in the shoes of the persons involved.
- From your own experience. Something that has happened in your own life is often more relevant than stories that have happened to others. Do not leave the hearer with yourself but with the truth you are seeking to share.
- Anecdotes. Stories from other people who have lived in the past. Men of revival and others who God has used powerfully.
How to get Illustrations
Be on the lookout for them in reading and listening. Keep a notebook so that you can refer to them in the days to come.
How to use Illustrations
Be sure that you have something to illustrate so they will not become the message but only an illustration to assist the message.
Have a Clear Conclusion
At this point many speakers have difficulty in stopping and applying the important truth of the message. An untidy conclusion will render the message ineffectual.
Teaching the Bible
Expounding the scriptures - this means reading and then adding comments to illuminate its meaning and enforce its teaching. Points to good teaching:
- Make thorough preparation. · Avoid being tedious
- Avoid rambling. . · Bring connected thoughts.
Conversational Bible Study
- Have the class meet in an informal way.
- Give a portion of scripture to be studied the week before the study.
- Avoid being directed off the point.
Study of Individual Books
Ask the following questions:
- Who wrote the book? · To whom was it written? · Where was it written? · When was it written?
- Why was it written? · What were the conditions of the people to whom it was written?
- What are the main thoughts?
Delivering the Message
Things to remember for preachers:
- They have a greater responsibility before God than hearers, Jam3:1.
- Should not lead God’s people astray from the truth, Acts20:30.
- A spokesman for God and represent authority to people, 1Thess2:13
- Should live out in practice what they preach, Matt23:1-3.
- Should never forget that they are learners too, John14:26.
- Should not try to imitate the style or manner of others, be yourself.
- Should not try to entertain or impress people with their message, 1Cor2:1-5.
Hints for Effective Preaching
- Know your message very well.
- Know your congregation and their spiritual needs very well.
- What is unclear to you will be unclear to them.
- Use words that are common, but choose fresh expressive words. Try not to overuse favourite words and phrases.
- Relate your message to what your hearers already know (e.g. Jesus often preached in parables).
- Stimulate the hearers to learn for themselves.
- Be excited about the Lord and enthusiastic about your message - you don’t have to yell to preach.
- Try to draw your hearers into the message through illustrations and examples.
- Convey love, care and concern.
- Learning does not occur until change occurs.
The invitation may take one of several forms:
- To receive Jesus Christ as Saviour by raising their hand or standing.
- To come forward to pray and talk with someone about a problem or decision.
- To make a commitment either by standing or coming forward.
Appearance and Pulpit Manner
- Dress neatly and appropriately but not to draw attention to yourself.
- Maintain eye contact with the audience - don’t read too much of your message.
- Move about freely and naturally but not too much.
- Appropriate facial expressions can be helpful.
- Hand gestures should be natural and spontaneous, not planned.
- Vary the tone of your voice but you don’t have to yell to communicate your point.
- Avoid language, movement, gestures etc, which distract from the message. Be yourself.
Scriptural Messages are easy to Preach when you:
- Read God’s word to your people; · Explain God’s word to your people so they understand;
- Show your people how to personally apply God’s word.
Study 4. When the Church comes together
The Scripture gives very clear instructions on how the early church met together by giving examples from letters to various churches. Paul writes to Ephesus, Corinth and others.
We are reminded:
- There is only one body Eph.4v4 into which we are baptised 1Cor.12:12-25
- There is the functioning together of all true believers Eph.4v16.
- There is the fellowship of each believer sharing in each others lives and building each other up in teaching, counselling, encouraging, administering and rebuking 1Cor.5
- There is unity John 17v20-21, Eph.4v3 yet diversity 1Cor.12v4-6, Gal.3v28, without division. Unity among believers with different backgrounds, personalities and gifts is a direct result of the Holy Spirit.
Note: - Fellowship, is the mutual sharing, partnership, and participation with others 1Cor.1v9, 1John 1v3. Fellowship is not possible with men and women in the world 2Cor.6:14-17.
Several practical things were undertaken following the salvation of God. The church would be:
Gifts of the Spirit
- Studying the Word together · Sharing with each other outside the church meeting
- Eating meals together · Sharing what they owned with each other · Praying and worshipping together.
- It is obvious that they would have met in their own homes as well as in the temple Acts 2:42-47
Each member of the body is able to move in various manifestations of the Spirit 1Cor.12:1-11,26-30, Rom.12:6-10, Eph.4:11-16. Without proper understanding and functioning of the gifts the church will not be able to build up itself. All the Christians are baptised into the Holy Spirit and are given the gift of God, which is his life at new birth. The baptism in the Spirit and new birth are synonymous terms.
Looking at the three passages mentioned we are directed to gifts that are personal and gifts that are ministerial that is are men. These are gifts which relate to individuals and available to all and gifts that are very specific. All gifts are as relevant today as they were when God first poured out his Spirit.
- Word of wisdom 1 Kings 3:16-28 · Word of knowledge 2 Kings 6:8-12 · Faith Rom.12:3
- Gifts of healing James 5:13-16 · Working of miracles John 2:1-11 · Prophesy 1Cor 14:1-39
- Discerning of spirits 1 John 4:1-4, Mark 5:1-17 · Speaking in other tongues Acts 2:5-12, 1Cor.14
- Interpretation 1Cor.14 · Apostles 1Cor.1:1 · Prophets Eph.2:19-22, 1 Peter 4:10-11, 2 Peter 1:20-21 · Pastors/Teachers 1Peter 2:25 · Evangelists Acts 8:5-13 · Helps Rom.16:1-2
- Administrations Rom.12:7 · Serving Rom.12:7 · Encouraging Phil 4:2, Heb.10:24-25
- Giving 1Cor.16:1 · Ruling Rom.12:8 · Mercy Rom.12:8
The church functions under the authority of its Lord and obeys certain fundamental principles related to its life together. These principles were established for the safety, welfare and remembrance of the truth.
- Head Covering 1Cor.11:1-16
- Baptism Matt.28:19-20
- Breaking of Bread Luke 22:14-20
- Marriage Matt.19:4-6.
The purpose of the church is the communication of love 1Cor.13 Eph.4:11-16.
The Worship Meeting
This is the main meeting of the week when all church members gather to love and worship the Lord together. Worship is acknowledging the worth of God and worship is twofold:
- Expressing our love and worth with our lips in praise, singing, prayer, reading of the word, thanksgiving, exalting and glorifying God’s name confessing Christ before men.
- With our lives in serving God, serving others, practising and teaching the word, reverence and fear of God, holy living, giving, obedience to the word, ministering to peoples’ spiritual and physical needs.
Worship is anything we do or say which lifts up and glorifies God and brings honour to the name of Jesus Gen.22:1, Job 1:2, 1Cor.10:31, Col.3:7. The church does not have fellowship with unbelievers 2Cor.6:14-15.
It is obvious that music ministry has a very important role in the worship and praise life of the church and is usually undertaken by one or more persons gifted on musical instruments.
The person responsible or involved must:
- Work with the leader of the meeting selecting appropriate worshipful music for the meeting.
- Help set the atmosphere for worship and preaching by the music presented.
- Teach other members of the church to sing and play instruments.
- Co-ordinate all the music ministry of the church
- Lead sensitively in introducing songs and choruses seeking to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
- Music should compliment and enhance worship and preaching and not overshadow the ministry of the church.
How a Meeting Should Proceed
- Leaders and those in responsibility should arrive 1hr. to 15 minutes before depending upon the job undertaken.
- All other members should be seated before the arranged time 2 Peter3:9-14, Matt:25:1-13, Eph.5:15-16, 1 Cor.14:23-25.
- The meeting is not a place for catching up on our latest news, a lot of noise distracts from worship.
- Allow the meeting to begin and proceed quietly and firmly - seek to restrain the natural spirit that wants to shout. Move into praise - which means to bless, shout, clap 2Sam.6:1-5, 1Chron15:25-28, Ps.100, Ps.150, Ex.15, 2 Chron.20:15-22 and then worship which means the kiss of the hand towards, entering into God through the veil Gen.22, Job1&2, Matt.15, 1Cor.14:23-26.
- The gifts of the Spirit function in this environment, 1 Cor.14:26-33.
- Leadership oversees the meeting and redirects if members of the congregation take things off course, gently bringing people back.
- If there is ministry from the word it will usually come at this point in the meeting.
- At the end of preaching comes the response not necessarily publicly but an opportunity for all to do business with God in their hearts.
- After the meeting give much time for those who are challenged to allow the word to sink into their hearts. It is at this point that the word can be lost and the devil snatch away the seed.
The Breaking of Bread
The Breaking of Bread, often referred to as Communion or The Lord's Supper is one of the many ordinances instituted in Scripture Acts 2:42-46, Luke 22:19. Its foundation began at the celebration of the Passover and continues as a reminder of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ Ex.11:12, John 1:29,35, John 6:53.
Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church bring back into their hearts the seriousness of the occasion 1 Cor.10:16-21, 11:23-34.
The Prayer Meeting
Duncan Campbell said that he didn't believe in the religion of any who was not to be found in the prayer meeting. No officer, youth worker, Sunday school teacher is qualified for their job if not found in the times of church prayer life Acts 1:14, Acts 2:42, Acts 4:21, Acts 6:1-6, Acts 12:5-19, Acts 13:1-3. James said that we have not because we ask not James 4:3, 1:5-6, 5:17-18. There will also be times of prayer and fasting Isa.40:31, Matt.26:36-46, Matt.4.
Although it is the responsibility of each family to teach their children at home the things of God there is undoubtedly a place for specific instruction to those children between the ages of 0 - 12. Added to the times of worship and ministry other activities in the week give opportunity for friendships to develop. In these gatherings both on Sunday and in the week, other children from the area can be encouraged to come via a children’s outreach thus providing means to reach their parents. It is important, however, to ensure that children’s teachers are well prepared and not young people seeking a better option than the main meetings. All children’s teachers should attend one of the main meetings and the prayer meeting to qualify for their task.
Youth meetings certainly give opportunity for those of the same age to fellowship together and learn to lead in the things of God while also having a basis for practical friendship. It is in these times that instruction should be given on relationships and how to live the Christian life at school, in the home and in the church.
Systematic Bible Studies
It is important that the pastor or one of the other leading elders, takes on series of systematic bible studies over a long period of time. Books such as 1 Corinthians, 1 John and John's gospel give most of the teaching relevant to every day life.
House and Bible Study Groups
The heart of effective Bible based training is further developed in smaller groups and Bible studies. Groups can range from 5 to 15 people dependent on a number of factors:
The benefits of the small group:
- The nature of the subject · The number of interested people
- Available people to lead discussions and studies. · Size of the facility available.
- Allows the Bible to be taught in an informal setting.
- Permits exchange of ideas, interaction, discussions and questions centred on the subjects introduced.
- Encourages attention to be focused on issues or problems of common interest.
- Promotes mutual ministry, edification and accountability within the group.
- Creates a sense of belonging. · Elevates ‘spectator’ Christians who get lost in a large group.
The Bible clearly supports small group study (Acts 2:42-47, Rom.16:5).
How to Prepare a House Meeting
- Promote a home that has a foundation to build people into the life of God. A home where the presence of God is known and experienced where husband and wife live in harmony together.
- Do a great deal of advertising personally encouraging people to attend, printing invitation cards that can be distributed to all those you meet in the church, in the school, at the office, college.
- Arrange a programme for 3 months in advance if quarterly and for 3 months if monthly to give opportunity for advance planning for those who are busy.
- Provide facilities for singing with music and words. Get everyone to sing. Singing provides a basis for God to move.
- Be ready early for those who will come before the arranged time having the house in order and the younger members of the family in bed.
- Always begin promptly. · Be as informal as possible. · Make everything brief.
- Be simple in the message and ministry. · Draw people out.
- Vary the approach of the meetings to create better interest to those who do not know the Lord.
- Keep the meeting in order and on the subject being aware of those who want to discuss issues not arranged for that day.
- Have a time for short prayer and opportunity for prayer requests. · Close promptly.
All to be taught by spiritually mature men and/or women dependent on the subjects chosen.
Variety of Groups:
- Focusing on special problems of men at home or in business.
- Reinforcement of roles and responsibilities.
- Accountability. · How to be a godly leader.
- Allowing women’s viewpoints and perspectives to be expressed.
- Providing emotional support. · Reinforcement of roles and responsibilities.
- Marriage principles focusing on problems of mutual concern.
- Building of couple friendships. · Raising children.
- How couples can stay happily married. · The problems of growing old.
- How to make use of time wisely.
Children and Youth
- To respect and obey. · Provide Biblical values. · To present godly adult role models.
- Deal with peer pressure at school, drugs, sex, alcohol, and courtship.
- Follow up new Christians designed to teach fundamental truths of salvation and how to live a godly life pleasing to God.
- How to grow spiritually to maturity.
Factors in Establishing a Group Meeting
- Geographical location.
- Common interest.
- Specific needs.
Baptism is another ordinance mentioned in the Scriptures as to be regularly practised by the church. Like the others it is an outward sign of something far more fundamental. Ministry by the Pastor should make it clear that baptism is not an option. Gen.6-8, Exodus 14:19-31, 2 Kings 5, Rom.6:1-6, 1 Peter 3:18-22. The early church baptised when men and women responded to the gospel - Acts 2:37-40, Acts 8:36-40, Acts 16:25-34. There does not appear to be a series of baptismal classes, although as these meetings need some arrangements the pastor should ensure in his heart that the one being baptised should understand the commitment they are making.
Marriage is always a great time for the local church when two lives who have grown up into the Lord know the Lord's guiding into a permanent union. The pastor is often a guide to the couple although he will in no way be the instigator of such union. The wedding service will follow the wishes of the couple who may give the pastor liberty to preach the gospel as most of the relatives and friends would probably not know the Lord. During the preceding weeks the pastor will give clear guidance on the principles of marriage. These are covered in the section Counselling developing relationships.
These usually follow in course. They are times of recognising the graciousness of God in bringing safely children into the world.
There are 3 aspects for prayer:
- The giving of thanks for the child and it's safe arrival and prayer that the Lord may separate it out from those things which it may have inherited in its birth. Ex.1:15-22, Ex.2:1-10.
- Prayer for the parents that God may give instruction in the bringing up of these children. Col 3:20, Eph.6:1-14
- Prayer for the church, friends and family who will take on themselves responsibility to care for the whole family, watchful lest they should encounter difficulties in later life.
These are times of great opportunity for the minister to show the great love of God and of the church to those who sorrow after the loss of someone they have loved Rom.12:15, John 11:35.
- Visit the surviving spouse, parents, children, relative etc. expressing both God’s love and care and that of the church. Be prepared for some that are grieving to express bitterness, resentment and anger towards God and His church.
- Don’t use trite religious statements and phrases or appear to have all the answers.
- Allow for the emotional expression of tears, grief and sorrow.
- Share appropriate verses of Scripture and pray John 14:1-4, Ps.23.
- Arrange for church members to help meet the immediate needs of the remaining family.
- Find out discreetly enough information about the deceased to make the service personal and meaningful.
In the Service
- Praise the Lord
- Use appropriate hymns and songs
- Pray - Use appropriate Scriptures: Rom.8:28-39, 1Cor.5:50-58, Heb.2:5-15, John 11:1-48, Ps.90:1-17, Luke 16:19-31, Ecc.3:1-14.
- Speak briefly about 20 minutes
- Don’t over-praise the deceased
- Share personally things learned
- Should comfort, encourage and strengthen believers.
- Should convict, challenge and confront unbelievers.
It is almost always appropriate to share the gospel at a funeral service for everyone must be prepared one day to meet with the Lord.
Evangelism is an automatic extension of the life of any living fellowship. There are many ways in which a church can evangelise. Door to door visitation, street work, mother and toddlers club, children’s work etc. It is certain that as a church moves out God moves to bring people in. An insular church will stagnate.
As God reaches into the hearts of the members of the church he puts inside the burden of the lost world. This results in the call of God to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Matt.28:19-20. Those that go out will be supported regularly by prayer and the missionary meetings gives special opportunity to hear news not only of its members but of other work going on in the world.
Study 5. Church Government
These are times for committed members to meet together to consider the issues both practically and spiritually that will need to be decided by the church. These gatherings should commence with prayer and be guided by the Spirit as a basis of love and submission Acts 1:1-8, Acts 13:1-3, Acts 15:6-22.
It is impossible to join the church. The Lord adds to His church as it pleases Him. Acts 2:47, 1 Cor.12:13.
Guidelines for New Members joining the Church
Each local church may want to have some guidelines which new converts may wish to consider before joining a local church. This may avoid difficulty later when certain issues in their lives come into conflict with the biblical based views of the established church.
To this statement could be added:
- The current purpose and vision of the church in its local function.
- A Statement of Faith.
Here is a sample guide:
The church here acknowledge that its members have been led by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour and with profession of faith have been baptised in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. We have, in the presence of God, solemnly and joyfully entered into covenant with one another as a local congregation of the body of Christ.
We have committed, therefore, by the enabling of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian unity and love; to strive for the advancement of God’s Kingdom and the spiritual growth of its church, to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline and doctrines, to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of its ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor and the fulfilment of the great commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel which we support by giving to those who are working overseas.
We have also committed ourselves to maintain family and personal devotions: to biblically educate our children: to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances, to live righteously in the world, to be just in our dealings, faithful in our agreements, and exemplary in our lifestyle, to avoid all gossip, rumour, criticism or anger. To abstain from all things which would cause any one of our members to grieve his conscience or which are prohibited by Scripture or deemed to be harmful to the healthy development of body, soul and spirit such as drugs, drink and tobacco: to be zealous in our efforts to share the gospel of our Saviour and proclaim the glory of God.
We have further committed ourselves to care for one another in brotherly love, to remember each other in prayer: to aid each other in sickness and distress: to promote Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech to be slow to take offence but always ready for reconciliation and to encourage counsel and admonish one another.
We have further committed ourselves to carry out the ministry of this church in the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the principles of Holy Scripture never allowing traditions or culture to nullify the truth of the Word.
Leadership and the training of others
To have a leader in the church seems consistent with the whole of Scripture Ex.3:1-10, Jos.1:1-9, Luke 4:1-32, Acts 2:14-40, Acts 13:1-3, Acts 14:12. A leader will:
- Develop a team of men and women around him Matt.4:17-22, Matt.9:9
- Setting the standards furthermost of the church in his spiritual life, ministry, family, leisure time and hospitality.
Church Leadership in the light of the Philippian Church
The introduction to the letter of the apostle Paul reveals 5 areas of ministry, leadership and responsibility, central to the five is the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the head over all things to the church Eph.1:17-23. The first two leaders mentioned are the apostles Paul and Timothy and then the saints. The apostles and prophets are the foundation layers of the truth 1Cor.3:5-11 Eph.2:19-22. The saints are those separated out by God to reveal the life and character of God so that the world can see Him for themselves 1Cor.6:20. The last two mentioned are the bishops and deacons who under the direction of the Head of the church oversee and care for its life.
The Church was born
Four men visited this town of Philippi after receiving a remarkable vision from God Acts 16:9-12. They were the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke who wrote the account in the Acts of the Apostles. Their first contact was to a woman called Lydia, a seller of purple, Lydia and a group of ladies met for prayer by a riverside. Then on to the Philippian jailer who had been given charge over them after delivering a young girl from the power of the devil. The letter to the Philippian church was written by the apostle some 20 years later and it is obvious by his introduction that they had now recognised and appointed elders and deacons.
It is important to note that God intends that the church functions under the direction of clear leadership. In the Ephesian letter is revealed that God gives gifts to men Eph.4:8-13 and every local church an autonomous fellowship under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ and overseen by men who have been qualified by the Lord’s calling. These men who oversee church life and seek to bring men into the things of God are known as elders, and it is our purpose to consider the qualifications of such men and the role of deacons in relationship to them.
Scriptural basis of Leadership
It is clear that an overall view of the Scriptures indicates that God raises up men to lead His people Numbers 11:16,17 1Tim.3:1. It’s interesting to note that there is very little or no specific guidance on church organisation. The elders are the official oversight body of the local church which is open to all men of the congregation who meet the Scripture’s qualifications and have a Spirit imparted desire to jointly oversee the spiritual welfare of God’s household. Acts 20:17. The appointment and responsibility of deacons is also clear 1Tim.3:8-13.
Who is an Elder
As has been mentioned earlier in looking through the Scriptures there are two words, which for me clearly define the term elder. The first is bishop and the second is overseer: Acts 20:28. An elder is therefore a man appointed by God to oversee His church.
Hebrews refers to ‘those who watch for your souls’ Heb.13:7. He must, therefore, be essentially a pastor or shepherd if he is to care for God’s sheep.
Eldership and Leadership
It is also clear from the whole cannon of Scripture that these responsibilities are entrusted to men. Pastoral oversight was committed to a council of elders but among these men of God were always those who were leaders, either by gift or calling – Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Gideon, Peter, Paul. Paul exercised his authority over the Corinthian church as he had ‘laid the foundation’ (1Cor.3:10).
The Pastors Qualifications
It is to be noted that in the Scriptures 1Tim.3:1-7 and Titus1:6-9 no mention is made of normal standards by which the world selects its men such as appearance, ability to speak well, successful in business, financial prosperity or power and influence.
God is looking for servant leaders ministering ruling and teaching the church who meet His criteria not the worlds. To be considered as a pastor from a biblical prospective a man must meet all the qualifications. If a man does not meet all these then he should not be an elder or pastor. Disqualification from eldership does not prohibit the member from serving in the church or moving in the gifts of the Spirit.
Biblical qualifications should be met at the time of appointment of elder and/or pastors and must be maintained throughout the ministerial life. An elder or pastor who fails to continue to meet the biblical standard should be confronted, rebuked, disciplined or removed from office by the church depending on the circumstances or severity of the offence or sin 1Tim.5:17-20.
Qualifications are therefore:
- Desire a good work. Desire to serve and know a call from God 1Tim.3:1, 1Tim.1:12. A pastor needs to know that God has called him out for the ministry.
- Blameless, above reproach 1Tim.3:2. He must have no flaw in his character, conduct, conversation or serious indiscretion, moral failure or wrongful attitudes or habits, which could bring shame on Christ or the church. He must maintain personal integrity by doing what he says and by saying what he means and meaning what he says.
- The husband of one wife 1Tim.3:3. It seems that God compares His church to that of a relationship that exists between husband and wife and that the pastor should portray that relationship in his home and with his wife.
- Vigilant, temperate 1Tim.3:2. The pastor should exercise control in all areas of his life.
- Sober, self-controlled – 1Tim.3:2. The pastor is disciplined and acts wisely. Although there may be things that are permissible for others they may not be permissible for him or his family – 1Cor.10:23.
- Of good behaviour, respectable – 1Tim.3:2. The pastor gains respect by his good behaviour, his attitudes, actions and appearances as those you would expect from the life of Jesus Christ.
- Given to hospitality – 1Tim.3:2. The pastor loves to have an open home with visitors at all times day and night. He is always ready to provide a meal for those who call in.
- Apt to teach – 1Tim.3:2. Through his study of the word and ministry he is able to teach – Eph.4:11, 2 Tim.4:2.
- Not given to wine, drunkenness – 1Tim.3:3. The balance of Scripture does not indicate that the drinking of alcoholic beverage is wrong but the pastor must be aware of the example he sets and the consciences of those he has in his congregation – 1Cor.8:7-13, 1Tm.5:23. There are special calls on the people of God to give up alcohol – Luke 1:15 wealth – Matt.19:24.
- No striker, not violent – 1Tim.3:3. The pastor must not be known for any form of physical aggression or verbally seeking to resolve disputes angrily but in a peaceful and soft spirit.
- Not greedy of filthy lucre. Not a lover of money – 1Tim.3:3. The pastor is a man who is not directed in his ministry to those that have financial resources which can be used to further the ministry of the church but to those who do not have the means to repay the love and kindness revealed – 1Tim.6:11.
- Patient not a brawler, not quarrelsome – 1Tim.3:3. The pastor is not one who has to argue about issues or desire that his personal opinion is accepted.
- One who ruleth well his own household – 1Tim.3:4-5. He demonstrates by the life in his home the biblical life of the man of God. His children are his example worked out in practical ways. His children are his fruit and a picture of Christ and His church.
- Not a novice, a new convert – 1Tim.3:6. The pastor is one who has experience.
- A good report of those who are without – 1Tim.3:7. A good reputation among believers in the community.
- Having faithful children – Titus1:6. The pastor is one who has raised his children following the guidelines of the Scriptures. They are not rebellious even though they may not as yet given their lives personally to the Lord.
- Not self-willed. Not overbearing – Titus1:7. The pastor must not be selfish or self-centred or domineering over his flock.
- Not soon angry, not quick tempered. A pastor must not have a quick temper, which is easily roused.
- A lover of good men – Titus1:8. The pastor loves what is good and hates what is evil. In the world he has honest values, in the church he is quick to stop gossip that could easily come from those who are discontented – Phil.4:8.
- Just, upright – Titus1:8. Is honest in his conduct in the church and in the world.
- Holy – Titus1:8. He is morally pure and separated from the things of the world and separated apart unto God.
- Holding fast the faithful Word – Titus1:9. Is always ready to share the truth of God.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, God’s Holy Spirit has placed elders in his flock as overseers to shepherd his church Acts 20:28. God has established government in every area of life, in the family, the husband is the head, in the church all believers are priests and ministers or servants, but not all are leaders, pastors and teachers. Elders are church leaders.
Submission is a word, which in today’s Christian community speaks of men having power over another and modern man reacts to such a concept, and with it undermines the whole basis of the truth in God. The Scripture gives instruction on authority: ‘Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you’. Heb.13:17. They are also to guard against false teachers. ‘For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them’. Acts 20:29-30.
Paul exhorts every member to know all who labour hard at leading and admonishing and to esteem them very highly. The natural tendency of the flock is to take elders for granted forgetting what they have done for them, complain rather than be thankful, accentuate the bad and disregard the good. ‘And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves’. 1Thess.5:12-13. During difficult times the people of Israel were prepared to stone Moses and David to death. Love is the divine glue that holds elders and congregation together through conflict and disagreement. No council of elders is perfect. All elders have problems, weaknesses and each believer has a unique perspective of how elders should operate.
The work in the local church
Elders will be appointed to oversee the spiritual work:
- The basis of the ministry
- The details of its weekly life i.e. Bible studies, prayer meetings, Sunday gatherings
- Its evangelism and work amongst the young people, children and old folk
- Its pastoral care
- Its missionary work
- Its practical work undertaken by the deacons
Deacons are men appointed by men to serve in a more practical way. Although the word deacon appears for the first time in this letter, the historical work of deacons appears first in Acts Acts 6:1-8.
In the early church a job needed doing which was too much for the apostles and was a distraction to them committing themselves to the word. So men were chosen by the people ‘for the task’ and were appointed by the apostle. Initially, the apostles handled the money distribution in early church life, in Jerusalem, the work increased so much that a group of men were chosen by the congregation for this one specific purpose thus relieving the apostles. Approximately ten years later, money is sent to the Judean church which, was received by elders (not deacons). Approximately twenty years later Paul writes to ‘the deacons’ at Philippi. Presumably during this intervening period, the church realised it needed a group of men who were prepared to serve the church, and relieve its eldership of as much practical serving responsibility as possible. They cannot, however, move in that which God has laid on elders shoulders, ‘they care as those that must give account’.
The church is not a democracy, but neither is it a dictatorship. The Scripture encourages us to keep in fellowship and to sit regularly under the ministry in the meetings. This helps the Lord keep us in the truth and in a place where He can speak to us.
The church is the family of God. God is the Father, but the Scripture says other men are fathers. In more important decisions in our lives it is good to seek the Lord and to speak with the elders for their thoughts. This gives a greater place of security, not that we are to set up some consultative/submissive system, but rather to keep in touch with our shepherd elders that the Lord has graciously provided for us. Normally an elder should not ‘interfere’, but he may and should speak out strongly were needed. 1Thess.5:12&14 grants them leave to deal with unruly behaviour.
The qualifications for deacons are similar to that of elders but adding that they must hold the divine truth of the faith, men who combine a clear conscience with a firm hold on the deep truth of their faith. Likewise must deacons be grave, worthy of respect, dignified, of serious outlook and demeanour, high principled, honourable. Not double-tongued, sincere in what they say (the word sincere means without wax) not false in word, strait-forward. Not given to much wine, not given to excessive drinking, not addicted, temperate. Not greedy of filthy lucre, of ill gotten gains, questionable money making, money grabbing, craving wealth and resorting to dishonest methods in getting it. Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, knowing the secrets of the faith. Let them first be proved, tested, examined, undergo probation. Being found blameless, unaccusable, without reproach, in whom no fault to be found. Faithful in all things, trustworthy, those who can be trusted. Let the deacons be the husband of one wife, married only once. Ruling their children and their own lives well, they must manage their children and their households properly, they should have happy obedient families. Those that have used the office of a deacon well, who have ministered well or rendered good service will have a good reward. Purchase to themselves a good degree, gain themselves a good standing, gain honourable position and great boldness in the faith, which is in Jesus Christ. 1Tim.3:8-13
The role of the wives
It would appear from the Scriptures that wives have an integral part to play in the work and ministry of their husbands. Although there is no actual statement to wives as regards elders, it is clearly referred to in the section relating to deacons: Even so their wives must be grave, dignified, worthy of respect, serious in behaviour. Not slanderers, who talk scandal, not gossips, saying no evil of others, women of discretion, controlling themselves in all things, 1Tim.3:11. The apostle Peter gives further instruction on the nature of wives seeking to follow the Lord. They are exhorted to fit in with the work and ministry of their husbands, and so reveal by the character of their lives the truth. Not adorning themselves outwardly, but the hidden personality of the heart, the imperishable ornament of a quiet and gentle spirit, a beauty which springs from the inner loveliness of the heart 1Peter 3:1-5.
The Deacons Practical Responsibilities:
- Looking after the practical fabric of the building.
- Assisting in the practical care of those members who do not have fathers and husbands.
- Caring for those who need to be taken home safely.
- Organising the cleaning, washing up and clearing of chairs and tables.
- Making provision for the supervising of children.
- Maintaining and organising the office and its supplies
- Working with the eldership in the planning of programmes of meetings and outreach.
- Regularly participating in the meetings.
- Encourage strangers and seeking to draw them into the hub of the church.
Office in the Church
Although some translations use the word office, the word does not actually appear in the original Greek. The emphasis is rather on the action of oversight (for elders) and ministry/serving well (for deacons).
The call of God is to give up all our wealth to serve Him. Matt.19:16-26. Church life is a life of faith Luke 10:1-11, Matt.21:1-3, 17:24-27, John 21:1-14, Matt:6: 25-34.
Members of the church are asked to give sacrificially Luke 6:38, 2 Cor:8:2,4-5. Provision was made by tithes and offerings - Mal.3:8-10, Deut.14:22-27, Lev.27:30-34, Lev.1:1-9, 1 Cor.16:1-3.
Giving is an attitude of heart
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2 Cor.9:7) Ex.25:2.
Giving is systematic and spontaneous
It is always good to move as the Lord leads, there are many opportunities to give. 1 Cor.16:1-2.
The Church’s Responsibility
- To the poor - John 13:29, James 2:1-5, 14-20, Rom.15:26, Gal.2:10
- To the elders - 1 Tim.5:17-18, 1 Cor.9:6-16
- To the work overseas - 2 Cor.8:1-4, 2 Cor:9:1-15.
The neglect of church discipline over the years has led to a weak, sin-filled church.
What is Church Discipline
Church discipline is the process of dealing with known sin in the church by confronting, chastising and correcting a sinning member for the purpose of restoring that member to fellowship with God and the church. Matt.18:15-20, 1Cor.5:1-13, Gal.2:11-14, Gal.6:1, 1Tim.5:1, 19-20, 2Thess.3:6-15.
Why Should Church Discipline Be Used
The purpose of church discipline is to confront sin in the body so that it can be corrected, the church purified and the sinning member restored to fellowship. It is not for retributions, punishments, revenge or simply to expose a member’s sin - it is remedial and restorative, Heb.12:5-11. It is also for the purpose of training in righteousness, purging sin to keep the church pure is the basic purpose of discipline. 1 Cor. 5:6-7.
When Should Church Discipline Be Used
- When one member sins against another, Matt. 18:15.
- When there is open, flagrant, unconfessed serious sin in the church.
- When a member either rejects the church’s teaching or lives in clear contradiction to it, 2Thess.3:6-1.
- When the conduct of a member amounts to clear hypocrisy, Gal.2:11-13.
- When a member is caught in a sin, Gal. 6:1.
- When accusation is brought against a church leader, 1 Tim.5:19.
Church discipline should apply to both sinful attitudes and actions which adversely impact the church and are a reproach to the name of Christ.
How Should Church Discipline Be Exercised
- The people involved should be kept to a minimum.
- If the sin is against one member then he should go to the sinner and confront him if one or more members catch another in sin they should rebuke and restore if possible.
- Only if the sinning member is unresponsive and unrepentant should others be involved. Confront with two or three spiritually mature Christians first, only after the sinning member refuses to listen should it be taken further.
- The church should publicly be involved only when it is absolutely necessary and appropriate and no more details should be shared than are absolutely necessary.
- Church leaders should not be accused lightly or too quickly.
- The pastor and/or elders should carefully and prayerfully investigate the matter and evaluate it confidently before proceeding.
What Form Should Discipline Take
- Dependent on the nature or extent of the sin:
- Personal warning;
- Private rebuke, confession and correction wherever possible;
- Counselling and corrective action and teaching should be part of the process where needed;
- Restoration should be made to those offended where appropriate;
- A probationary period for the offender under someone’s supervision may be wise;
- Denial of fellowship in the church.
Study 6. The Pastor's wife
The Pastor’s wife plays a vital part in the care and love of the flock, in conjunction with her husband. Her ministry may not have the same outworking, as her husbands but will compliment his.To function as a team ministry, the wife will need to have the same heart for the flock as her husband. This may be something that grows within her as she gives herself to the work. The role is a demanding one, therefore it is essential that she has a relationship with God that will keep her.
The Calling of God
Her calling is to be a help to her husband, a mother to her children and a keeper of the home. Her requirement as an elder’s wife is in 1 Tim. 3:11 a sincere and serious person, not one who talks badly about others, loyal and reliable. A Pastor’s wife is watched very closely. To the flock she is an example in how she relates to her husband, brings up her children, keeps her home, dresses, speaks and also her relationship with the flock. She will be the one who takes the lead and shows by her behaviour how to fulfil the Scripture Titus 2:3-5. She will often be involved in counselling and praying for the flock, singularly or with her husband.
It is a life of selflessness as her husband’s time is taken up with so many other situations. Much wisdom is needed particularly in these days when deception and selfishness is rampant against the Church. Naturally she will defend her husband from attack but wisdom requires the word and actions of the Lord.
Using the Home
Because of the nature of the pastoral ministry the home often becomes the centre of the work. People will call to chat, call for ministry, some will stay short or long term for help. Visitors will pass through. It is a busy place and often the unexpected caller will change any routine she may have had. It is not unusual to be called on during the night. She will need to be adaptable and caring and understand other people’s hearts. She may be put upon or even deceived by others who come into her home. However, the burden is not completely her own it is a shared ministry. She may need practical help from others. She will need to be given to hospitality. Provide endless cups of tea!. She will have to make decisions on the telephone, take messages and answer people’s queries
Bringing up the Children
After her relationship with God, the family is her highest priority. Time must be made to bring up her children in the Lord, to teach love and obedience, faith and prayer so that they may grow up to know the Lord for themselves. Because of the busyness of the home, it may be needful to make more convenient times to speak to people in need rather than when the children are around. Sometimes, because of difficult backgrounds, women have not learnt the basic abilities in running a home. This can be learnt as they visit regularly or stay for a short time. They also see what a Christian family is and it shows them how the Lord is to them as a father and provider. It is important to arrange times when the family can be together. This is essential in prayer and in recreation. Often help is needed practically in the home because of the time taken in looking after others. The children learn to accept others as they see the Lord ministering, changing and delivering those who come, their faith and understanding of God deepens.
The role of the Pastor’s wife in the Church
A Pastor’s wife will usually get quite involved with the daily running of church life. Meetings, prayer-times, fasting and activities. Sometimes also Sunday School or Youth Work or Women’s meetings. She will find ability to lead, as from God, that other women may not find, especially if her husband is also a leader of the church. She may need to encourage the other women to worship and take part in the expression of the body of Christ. She may lead a women’s prayer meeting, outreach, coffee morning etc. To encourage fellowship and practical teaching of the women. She may be the one who organises outings, visits from other groups etc. Mainly she keeps an eye on the women and seeks to see their needs. Older women may find the time factor for this easier and able to do more. Some also go to other situations to speak. She may be able also to visit the sick and visit women in their homes and help others practically.
Demonic and deceptive realm
Because of the closeness between those who come for help and the family environment, the Pastor’s wife needs to discern between good and evil. 2 Cor.2:11. We have an enemy who seeks to destroy the Church and especially those in leadership. Therefore there needs to be an awareness of the intent and heart of those who come into the home. People may stay who have serious problems, the family would have to be taken into consideration. People can be helped in this environment if they stay under the headship of the husband and authority of God in the home. Never move away from the measure and ability given by God. People have been known to cause breakdowns in marriages and leave troubled children behind after their visit. Outward appearances can be a cloak for something more devious. 1 Thess.2:5.
The work is very rewarding. Lovely friendships are made. As people respond to the Lord it is such a thrill and then to see them grow up, get married and often enter into the same role as themselves, being involved in the work of the Lord.
The Role of Women in the Church
There are many areas in church life in which women are able to be involved:
• Practical Help - Hospitality Luke 8:1-3 Open home 1Tim.3:2 Personal needs Acts 9:36
• Visitation - Visiting the sick James 1:27 Elderly and Widows
• Evangelism - Leading people to Christ Acts 18:24 Missionary work abroad Phil.4:3
• Counsel - Helping with problems - Being a peacemaker Rom.16:1-6 Discouraging gossip
• Teaching Younger women Titus2:3-5 Children and Youth Bible Studies – Seminars - Woman’s meetings
• In the meetings - Use of the Gifts 1Cor.12 Prayer and Prophesy 1Cor.11
There are some roles that did not include women, such as the choice of disciples and eventually apostles and elders or bishops as in 1Tim.3. Controversy over passages such as 1Tim.2:11&12 and 1Cor.14:33-35 are thought to be put down to Jewish custom of ‘speak’ as in ‘call out’. It cannot mean to have no part when the church meets together but to not usurp authority over the man is backed up by the God given leadership of man in the family and the church order instituted that there should be no confusion in the church. 1Cor.14:40.
It is necessary to understand that any spiritual ministry must only be undertaken by those who are equipped and mature. The following list is taken from Scripture to show the qualifications for ministry:
- A submissive spirit,
- Under authority
- Quiet spirit
- Busy at home
- A spirit of hospitality
- Taking care of the family
- Behaviour which promotes
- A servant spirit
- One worthy of respect Inward beauty
- Not a slanderer
- Not malicious talkers
- Modest dress
- Self controlled
- A reverent lifestyle
- Kind Not addicted to wine (or anything else)
- Pure lives
Study 7. Understanding the problem
To help the pastor understand the people he will regularly see in his personal ministry we need to consider of the history and background of the human race. Man is made up of three parts body, soul and spirit 1 Thess.5:23, Heb.4:12. The body is the outward flesh which contains the soul realm, that is the emotions feelings, desires and thoughts, and the spirit realm which is eternal Eze 36:26
What makes us man
Man receives his body/soul life at birth when he breathes - Gen.2:7 and his spiritual life at new birth - Eph.2:1. Adam missed eternal life because he did not partake of the tree of life in the midst of the garden - Gen.2:9.
Mans Original State
Man was created by God and the word Gen 1:26 - and was made in the image of God. Woman was also made in His image Gen.2:18-25, Eph.4:23-24, Col.3:10, Rom.8:29, 2 Cor.3:18, Col.1:15. His likeness was in intellectual and moral nature - not in actual form. Ps.17:15, Num.12:8, John 4:24, Col.1:15, God has a form which He manifests Himself Isa.6:1, Acts.7:56, Phil.2:6. It is impossible to say how much of this visible likeness was lost in the fall but there shall come a day when God shall change our vile bodies Phil.3:27. He was made of the dust of the ground and given an immortal soul. Man is different from the animals: He has self-consciousness. He has moral freedom. He is capable of abstract thought. He is capable of religion and worship. He was made lord of creation - Gen.1:28. Adam was the first man, we have all come from him - 1Cor.15:45-47, Acts 17:26, Luke 3:38.
Man As The Image Of God
Even though man has fallen into sin, certain qualities remain from the original image: Spirituality - like God, man's spirit is invisible and will not die. Man was created with splendid intellectual powers Gen.2:19, will, self-consciousness. He has a conscience to discern between good and evil. Rom.1:19-25. He was created to be head over all of God's creation - 1Cor.11:7.
What Was Man's Life Like Before Sin
He was connected with the earth, but also with God. He was intelligent (e.g. Adam named the animals.) He was happy and did not have to toil. His relation to God was one of filial dependence, but fearless communion. He was spiritually upright. Ecc.7:29. There was no conflict between the higher and the lower elements. He was sinless. The fall was therefore not a necessity. Adam had no inward urge to sin; his act of sin was disobedience by choice. Conscience is proof. Adam was not in a state of innocence like a child; his was a state of perfect holiness and true righteousness. He was on trial. He was like an acorn - perfect in embryo, but not developed. He was free to act in accordance with the divine will or against it. He was capable of being tempted, but under no compulsion to sin. Dr. Lloyd-Jones
The Fall - Man In Sin and its results
The Fall is literal history Gen.3:1-6, 2Cor.11:3, 1 Tim.2:13-14. Sin and temptation came from outside man, i.e. from Satan. There was nothing in him to produce sin. He had free will and could decide for or against any action. Man fell because:. He listened to slanders against God. He doubted God's word. He looked at what God had forbidden. He lusted after what God had prohibited 1John 2:16.He disobeyed Rom.5:19, 1Tim.2:14.
The Steps: .Satan attacked the woman. She listened, doubted and acted. Then Adam did the same. Why?. Ambition. Desire for a short cut to divine knowledge. But God's way is that of gradual development. Doubt. He doubted God's love. A departure from God in the realm of the mind. A resentment in man to the control of God. He pushed God's plan on one side. Man has been given a chance of redemption unlike the angels. Possibly because, man's temptation came from outside.
Adam became conscious of his flesh, he was ashamed of his nakedness - Gen.3:7. He became conscious of a sense of guilt within himself -Rom 3.19..He was afraid of God - He lost fellowship with God - Gen.3:22. He suffered spiritual death and was driven out of the garden of paradise - Gen.3:24. He discovered that life became hard. He had to tame nature around him - Gen.3:7-19 and his nature within but this battle he soon lost. The serpent was cursed - Gen.3:14. The woman was to have difficulties in childbirth - Gen.3:16. Her desire was to be to her husband.
The consequences of the fall on all mankind
All were made sinners - Rom.3:23, Isa.53:6, James 3:2,1 John 1:8,10. There is no righteousness outside of Christ - Rom.3:9-10, Ps.14:2-3, Isa.53:6, we are all under a curse 1 John3:8-10, Eph.4:18, 1Cor.2:14. The natural man cannot believe the things of God - Jer.17:9,Gen.6:5, Tit.3:3, Eph.2:3, Col.3:5-7. The entire moral and intellectual nature of unredeemed man is corrupted by sin -Rom.7:5-24, Eph.2:2. Man is a slave of sin.
Conclusion: The present standing or condition of man outside of Christ is pictured in the Bible as dark and hopeless. One word expresses it `lost' utterly `lost' - Isa.6:1-5, Job 42:5-6, Ps.14:2-3.
What is Sin
Sin is moral evil, and may be described as missing the mark James 4:17, revolt against authority - 1Sam.15:23, transgression of the law - 1John 3:4, guilt, unfaithfulness, treason, vanity, perversion, a twist in nature - Rom.1:26-32. Sin is in man's heart. It is in him at birth - Rom.5:12 and comes out from him Matt.15:19. Sin is universal. The whole of human nature was in Adam, when Adam fell, all fell. Sin is a condition from which acts of sin come - 1John1:7-9. Sin is directly related to God and His law and is a lack of conformity to it - Rom.5:13 bringing a sense of guilt and failure.
What about Man today
Original sin is inherent in human nature from birth and is the inward root of all the sins we commit. Therefore we are all born under the penalty of Adam's sin and are guilty of Adam's transgression - Rom.5:12-19. As Adam's sin and death are passed on so Jesus’ grace and life from death is given to all who believe. When God reveals Himself to us we become aware of our uncleanness - Isa.6:5 and a pressure within of evil and to do wrong. It is said, therefore, that man is totally depraved.
This does not mean he cannot get worse but that he has no hope of getting better. He will enjoy every aspect of sin even if the outworking of guilt and uncleanness continue. Man has an inherently corrupt nature which is against God and His law - Eph.2:15..All mans powers are misused and perverted - Ps.51:5, Jer.17:9 Rom.7:5-13, Rom.8:7. The Bible uses many terms to describe this state of corruption. The flesh - Rom.8:13, the old man - Rom.6:6. The law in our members - Rom.7:5, the body of sin and death, Rom.6:6, 7:24: the carnal mind - Rom.8:7. The flesh is that principle in fallen nature which resists the Holy Spirit - Gal.5:17. Man is controlled by the lust of the flesh (food, drink, sex) and of the mind (pride, envy, anger, jealousy) 1John 2:16. He becomes the tool of Satan and sin sears his conscience - 1 Tim.4:2.
Man can become outwardly religious - Matt.15:8 and capable of natural good but his motives are wrong. He is not prompted by the word of God. He cannot change his own nature - John 1:12-13 and does not understand spiritual truth - 1Cor.2:14. His future destiny outside of Christ he shall die in his sins - John 5:28,29, 1Cor.15:22, 1Thess.1:8-9, Rev.20:15, Matt.25:41-46, Rev.21:8. He shall be eternally in the lake of fire - Matt.7:19, John15:6, Isa.66:24, Heb.6:8, Heb.10:27, Matt.13:30, 41-42 in a place of conscious and unending torment - Luke 16:26. The destinies of eternity are settled in the life that now is.
Conclusion: The future state of those who reject the redemption offered to them in Christ plainly declared to be a state of conscious unutterable, endless torment and anguish. This conception is an awful and appalling one. It is however the Scriptural conception also and reasonable one when we come to see the appalling nature of sin, and especially the appalling nature of the sin of trampling under foot God's mercy towards sinners in rejecting God's glorious Son whom His love has provided as a Saviour. R.A.Torrey.
Redemption means deliverance from some evil by payment of a price. It is more than simple deliverance. Thus prisoners of war might be released on payment of a price which was called a `ransom (Gk. lytron). The word group based on lytron was formed specifically to convey this idea of release of payment of ransom. In this circle of ideas Christ as death may be regarded as ` a ransom for many- (Mark.10v.45). Again, slaves might be released by a process of ransom. Among the Hebrews we may discern a different situation, well illustrated in Ex 21v 28-30. If a man had a dangerous ox he must keep it under restraint. If it got out and gored someone so that he died the law was plain the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death but this is not a case of wilful murder. There is no malice aforethought. Thus, it is provided that a ransom (Heb. Koper) might be `laid upon him. He could pay a sum of money and thus redeem this forfeited life. The payment of a price for deliverance is the basic and characteristic thing. It is this, which makes the concept so useful for the early Christians.
Jesus had taught them that `Whosoever committeth sin is the servant (Gk. slave) of sin’ (Jn.8v34). In line with this, Paul can think of himself as carnal, sold under sin (Rom7v14), sold as under a cruel slave-master. He reminds the Romans that in earlier days they had been `the slaves of sin (Rom.6v17). From another point of view men were under the sentence of death on account of their sin. `For the wages of sin is death (Rom.6v23). Sinners are slaves. Sinners are doomed to death. Either way the ancient world would have regarded the situation as crying out for redemption. Failing redemption, the slavery would continue, the sentence of death be carried out. The cross of Christ is seen against this background. It is the price paid to release the slaves, to let the condemned go free.
The characteristic New Testament word for redemption is apolytrosis, a comparatively rare word elsewhere. It is found ten times in the New Testament and only eight times in all the rest of Greek literature. This may express the conviction of the early Christians that the redemption wrought in Christ was unique.
When we read of `redemption through his blood Eph.1v7, the blood of Christ is clearly being regarded as the price of redemption. It is not otherwise with Rom3v 24., `Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. Here Paul is using three metaphors, those of the law court, and of the sacrifices, and of manumission ( to free from slavery ). Our concern is with the last. Paul envisages a process of freeing, but by the payment of a price, the blood of Christ. Redemption is linked with Christ as death also in Heb.9v15. Sometimes, again, we have the mention of price, but not redemption, as in references to being `bought with a price 1 Cor.6v19. The basic idea is the same. Christ bought men at the price of His blood. In Gal.3v13 the price of redemption is given thus being made a curse for us Christ redeemed us by taking our place, by bearing our curse. This points us to the definitely substitutionary idea in redemption, an idea which sometimes receives stress, as in Mk.10v4 - a ransom for many. Redemption does not only look back to Calvary. It looks forward to the freedom in which the redeemed stand. `Ye are bought with a price, Paul can say, `therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s - 1 Cor.6v20. Precisely because they have been redeemed at such a cost believers must be God's men. They must show in their lives that they are no longer caught up in the bondage from which they have been released. They may be exhorted to `stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free Gal.5v1. Leon Morris,
- Redemption is entirely of God - Eph.1:5,8 and all of grace: Rom.5:12-21. It is God's activity and not mans.
- Redemption was planned before the foundation of the world - we were chosen before creation Eph.1:4.
- Redemption engages the attention of all three persons of the Trinity. The Father originates, the Son executes and the Spirit applies. The Father and the Son covenanted together before time. All on earth was given to the Son. Ps.8:6. He was given power over all flesh - John 17:2 - God made Him the head of the new humanity - His people - Eph.1:22-23
- The plan of redemption is perfect. There is nothing contingent about it. God has timed everything - the flood; the sending of the Son - Gal.4: and he knows the number of His elect - 2Tim.2:19.
- The plan of redemption will most certainly be consummated. It is certain that Satan will be destroyed and all things in heaven and earth will come together again Eph.1:10.
- The plan of redemption centres in the Lord Jesus Christ and is revealed in the Old and New Testaments as the only way of Salvation.
- The Lord Jesus Christ is therefore central.
Study 8. Counselling - General Guidelines
'The personal ministry of the pastor will take up the remaining time of his weekly life. After his own personal times of prayer, reading and study, preparation for the public ministry and attendance at the various church meetings.
Biblical counselling is the ministry of giving advice and direction to others out of the wisdom we have received from God.
In the Old Testament the word is ‘EPSAH’ which means counsel or advice Ps.16:7, Ps.1:1. To receive the ‘EPSAH’ of God is to receive God’s will. In the New Testament the word is ‘BOULE’ counsel, will and purpose. There are two words for counsellor in the New Testament ‘SUBOULOS’ AND ‘PARACETOS’ the first meaning the giving of advice and direction, Rom.11:34 and the second the one who stands alongside who comes alongside to aid by giving of counsel, John 14:16,26, 15:26, 16:7, 1John 2:1. The verb ‘PARACALLO’ means to ask, request, teach, entreat, exhort and comfort. The one who is exhorting speaks out of his wisdom Rom.12:1. There is also another word ‘NAITHETIO’ which means to admonish, confront or rebuke Rom.15:14, 1Cor.4:14, 10:11, Eph.6:4, 2Thess.3:15. True biblical counselling will only give direction out of the wisdom, which has been received, from God.
Psychology and Psychotherapy
It is important for us to understand that today’s world of counselling has been influenced by the emphasis of Sigmund Freud. Sigmund Freud was a godless man who believed that people have an unnecessary battle going on within them between ‘id’, the need within the human heart to express primitive desires such as sex and aggression and the ‘SUPER-EGO’ the conscience of a man, which is socialised or influenced by parents, teachers and the church. Freud claimed that a persons difficulties in life came from the fact that the ‘SUPER-EGO’ is over socialised, in other words, it is over developed and makes unnecessary demands. As a result of this unnecessary conflict or guilt feeling the person is distressed or depressed. By re-educating people to realise that this ‘SUPER-EGO’ has been misguided by teaching, guilt can be resolved and the state of men’s hearts be resolved.
In order to deal with false guilt the counsellor would seek to weaken the super-ego so it stops making unreasonable demands. The process includes:
- Ventilation – the letting loose of pent up feelings.
- Re-socialisation - the re-education of the super-ego.
According to *more realistic and reasonable standards one of the major factors of Freudian counselling is the idea that people are not personally responsible for their own problems. They are merely victims of the tyranny of the wrongly educated SUPER-EGO. There are many ‘Christian’ counselling systems, which are based on these principles. It may be noted that there are at least 260 different systems of psychological counselling in use today. As is the medical doctor a man of the body, the biblical counsellor is a doctor of the soul and spirit and studies the Scriptures, seeks the creator and from them to advise the distressed soul back into a healthy relationship with God.
Largely as a result of modern counselling people who have long term needs believe they are the way they are because of the things that have happened to them or the circumstances of their life –
- Parental upbringing - mistakes of parents.
- Circumstances – things that have happened to me.
- Environment - the situation in which I live.
Dealing with Guilt
- It is guilt, which lies at the root of so much of the despair of those who seek counselling. A sense of condemnation before God causes the heart to harden and prevents the guilty one from experiencing the presence of the Lord and walking in fellowship with God.
- This cycle of condemnation provides further guilt, shame and sin.
- Those who are struggling with the pain of guilt need to find a place of forgiveness which often comes through real repentance – Ps.51:4, 2Cor.7:10 which can be helped in measure by confession.
- Often anger and depression in hearts is an outworking of guilt. When a man or women comes to true repentance and acknowledges that he or she has sinned against God and does not put blame on anyone else or any circumstance there is in that moment joy, peace, forgiveness and the anger and depression is dissolved.
Biblical counselling is not:
- Telling people what to do or say. · Not persuading people that you alone are right.
- Not giving advice, which is contrary to or inconsistent with God’s Word.
- Forcing opinions on other people. · Not proposing a course of action, which will benefit you personally.
Leading men and women to God
The purpose of the pastor is to lead seeking hearts along a pathway that leads to God. We take them via the Lord Jesus Christ and the cross into the Fathers presence. John 17:3, 2 Peter 1:3-8, John 15::5.
- The pastor will need to build a relationship of trust, security and friendship so as to allow the seeking heart to feel free should they want to open their hearts in response to the ministry -John 10:1-5.
- He will never assume that he knows anything about their hearts condition -John 5:19,30, John: 8:28.
- His relationship will never go beyond the natural barriers instituted by God, husband and wives, children and parents.
- The pastors work takes priority over every other aspect of his life at that time. He will be available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day - Eze.34:1-6.
- All are different, have different needs and need different help. Some need meat, others milk, others may never learn -1Cor.3:1, Heb.5:12, John 8:32.
- Needy souls will often criticise the ministry and the person counselling - 1 Peter 2:20-25, 1 Peter 3:8-18, John 19:9, Luke 23:34
- There must always be respect between the pastor and his flock - James 2:1-4.
- The pastor must always be watchful, particularly when the church gathers, against those who would seek to minister or draw away those who have opened up their hearts - Acts 20:29
Many areas of the needs of many hearts spring from things inherited through parents. Heredity is the transmission from one generation to another of genetic facts that determine individual characteristics. A doctor has said that everybody's troubles begin in the womb. Ps.51:5,1 Cor.15:45-49, Rom.5:12-19. All sin and therefore death or life is passed on via birth whether it be natural or spiritual John 3:3-8. Pastoral Care - Ministry to souls has to determine the basis of their lives. The Scripture indicates that there are only two men, the old and the new. 1 Cor.15:45-49, Rom.5:12-19. All sin and therefore death or life is passed on via the birth whether it be natural or spiritual John 3:3-8.
There will be occasions when the pastor will be required to listen to accounts of those who have entered into deep sin - James 5:16.
Paul writing to the Corinthian church comments that temptation is common to man 1 Cor.10:13. It is important to stress that temptation is not sin.
There are two persons who bring temptation or testings into our lives:
- The Father who wants to deepen and enlarge our faith Gen.22:1, 1 Peter 1:1-8.
- The Devil who seeks to draw us away from God. James 1:12-16, Rev.12:1-11, Matt.2:1-23, Luke 10:17.
What is temptation
Temptation is something which attracts especially with the promise of pleasure or reward, seduction or enticement but the end is death Prov.8:6-27. There were four main temptations in Jesus’ life which illustrate the way the devil will seek to tempt us.
- To provide for yourselves practically Matt. 4:1-4 Matt. 6:19-34, Heb.12:11-17.
- To provide for yourselves physically and emotionally Matt. 4:5-7, Matt.26:52-53, Matt.19:3-9, 1 Cor.7:1-4.
- To provide for yourselves spiritually Matt. 4:8-11, Matt.15:10-20.
- To escape from the life of the cross Matt.16:13-28, Matt. 27:39-49, Gal.2:20 1 Cor. 15:31.
Laying on of hands
It is clear when the Spirit of God began to move in the early church the ministry of new life and the Spirit was imparted by the laying on of hands Acts 8:14-25, 9-17, 13:3, 19:1-6, 2 Tim.1:6. Devils were not cast out by the laying on of hands but by the finger of God. Matt.12:22-30, Mark 5:1-1
Guidance and the will of God
The pastor will be consulted on many occasions to give counsel as to the will of God in the life of his flock. It would be very easy for a confident man to state his views and opinions. He will be required to help as regards jobs, relationships, marriage, moving home or church, the mission field, spending large sums of money. The principles of guidance can be noted as follows.
- The will of God for our lives determines our future as regards our eternal state Matt.19:16-30.
- To understand the will of God can be a dilemma. Do I choose or does He lead me to do His will. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones states two aspects the decretive and the prescriptive: What he decrees and what he prescribes. The former will always come to pass, the latter is often disobeyed Eph.1:1-14. Louis Berkoff states two aspects, the decretive and the perceptive the rules and principles for action and these are often contradictory. Joseph Gen.45:5, Hezekiah 2 Kings 20:1-7, Pharoah Ex.4:21-23.
- It is of great importance to maintain both with the definite understanding that although they may appear distinct or different they are one in God. By the former God has determined what he will do or what shall come to pass and in the latter he reveals what we are duty bound to do. God does as he pleases.
- We can come to a place of choice Mark 5:1-17 - Demoniac Gen.2:16-17, Matt.25:1-13, Matt.7:21-23, John 17:1-3.
- Gods decreed will in New Birth John 1:13, James 1:18.
Both aspects work out in the life of Jesus. Decretive: Matt.2:13-18, 22-23 Matt.18:10-14. Prescriptive or perceptive: Matt.4:1-11, Matt.26:36-42, John 4:34, 5:30, - Paul Gal.1:13-16, Acts 9.
God has a perfect plan for our lives
In counsel first ask:
- Whether the member has sought God for himself. Many go immediately for help to mature men James 1:5.
- Open up the Scriptures together to see if the Lord has already clearly revealed truth on the matter or if there are principles to follow.
- Pray together so as to allow the Lord to confirm His word and then give time for the Lord to speak, a week, or month. It is essential that each person knows the Lord's voice himself.
- Avoid giving your own views even if they may be clearly of God but draw out his mind also avoid using the prophetic gift to give creditability to the way a person should move.
- There are some occasions when it may be necessary to make a decision.
- There seem to be a number of areas which are common to many folk in church life that need the direction of the Lord. The most important place is to be up to date with every aspect of your life. Christian life, business life, leisure life, love life, John 1:1-16, 1 Cor.12:18, 2 Cor.8:1-12, James 4:15, 1 Cor.7:32-40, 2 Cor.6:14, Amos 3:3.
- The great secret is to give ourselves totally to the Lord. Rom.12:1-2.
Hospital and Sick Visiting
It is the privilege and requirement of every minister to be diligent in visiting the sick and those who grieve, both in hospital and home Matt:25:31-46.
- Stay only as long as you feel necessary, remembering that really sick people find it difficult to talk. They may feel obliged to entertain you.
- Always pray for them it may be God will be gracious to heal them completely.
- As they improve encourage them in thanking God for his ministry in their lives.
- Do not allow those sick to assume God will heal them. There is no guarantee in Scripture that all will recover.
The Care of Widows and the Elderly
In Timothy chapter 5:3-15 gives instruction on the church’s responsibility to relatives regarding financial support.
The church is to give emotional and practical support to widows and the fatherless James 1:27 and today this includes those who find themselves as single parents.
The Apostle Paul calls to the minds of the Ephesian elders the fact that he had taught them not out publicly but also ‘from house to house’ Acts.20:20. We also have the example of the Lord Himself when he visited the home of Mary and Martha – Luke 10:39. Personal contact is the best way to introduce yourself to any person. Many people feel that a pastoral visit is a real privilege when the pastor takes time to show interest in them or their family. It also gives the pastor opportunity to see how their congregation live and the circumstances of their lives. It has been said that ‘one half of the world does not know how the other half live’. People feel relaxed, and at home will more readily open their hearts. Talking one to one gives people the opportunity to share things they would not normally do when in a larger company and gives the pastor the privilege of sharing on more personal subjects related to personal, home and family life. It also brings a sense of the presence of God into a home that may lack the peace of God – Luke 10:5.
How to do Home Visiting
- Be systematic – All pastors should seek to talk personally to his flock at least once a week, or month dependent on the size of his congregation either after the meetings or in their homes – Acts 2:46.
- Look out for those who have been missing from church attendance and make special note.
- Visit the parents of children and young people whose parents do not attend the church.
- If the pastor is truly a man of God he will talk, read and pray over the things of God and leave the house with the presence of the Lord.
- Always pray before starting out.
- Decide whether you should call on the telephone before calling or call with notice.
- As soon as possible move from introductory conversation into the things of God so that the time is most profitable.
Much profit will come in fellowship by being able to sit and talk over the issues of life.
The pastor will be called upon as a Father would to assist in all the decisions of life. He will need to spend time perhaps, looking for cars, decorating, plumbing, gardening etc.
Long term problems
He needs to talk over some of the areas in which it may be necessary to take into one’s home those who need more watchful counsel. It is important to lay down clear house rules of the house.
It is the greatest privilege of all members of the church to be involved in personal conversation between themselves and other members of the congregation. Peter was brought to Jesus by the hand to hand work of his brother Andrew. We do not read that Andrew ever preached a sermon but his brother saw 3000 come to conversion after the outpouring of God on the day of Pentecost.
Mr. Kimball, the Boston businessman, led D.L. Moody, the young shoe clerk to the Lord.
The Advantages of Personal Work
- All can do it. In the normal congregation there are not more than 4 or 5 who can preach but all can speak personally.
- It can be done anywhere, in factories, stations, and hotels and in the street.
- It can be done anytime. · It reaches all classes of people.
The conditions of personal work
- A personal experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ – 1Tim.1:15
- A life that is pure and holy – 2Tim.2:21 · A surrendered life given to God – Phil.1:21
- A deep realisation that men are lost – Luke 19:10 · A deep love – Luke 7:47
- Perseverance – Gal.6:9 · Practical knowledge of the Bible – 2Tim.3:16,17, Acts 2:37, 1Peter 1:23, Rom.10:17 · Prayer
Where to do Personal Work
- After a meeting – watch for someone to deal with after the meeting is finished so that you may follow up someone who has been challenged by the Word.
- In the home – Paul states that he preached the gospel from house to house – Acts 20:20, Luke 8:39
- On the streets – Paul again preached in the market place everyday – Acts 17:17
- In the park – The parks are often full of people who have plenty of time and are willing to talk.
- On a bus – We have the example of Philip who joined himself to the Ethiopian treasurer – Acts 8:29-38
- At our place of work – Mark 2:14. Matthew was called while he was doing his job.
- On boats and planes – You often have great opportunities sitting next to somebody while travelling on long journeys.
- Prisons, hospitals – Here people are gathered from morning to night with nothing much to do.
How to Begin
- The first thing is to find the one to deal with and we should pray God to lead us to someone or one to us.
- Begin a conversation. Ask a question ‘How do you think a man can get real satisfaction out of life?’ You may pass him a tract or ask him what he thinks of it. If on a bus or train show some kindness by offering the person your seat
- A soon as possible find out where the person stands.
- Lead him as directly as you can to accept Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour.
Scriptures to Help Deal with Individuals
- Those who know they are in sin and need a Saviour - Gal.3:13, 2Cor.5:21, John 3:16, Rom.10:9-10
- Those who have little or no concern about their souls – Rom.14:12, Amos 4:12, Rom.1:16, Rom:6:23, John 8:34, Rom.6:16, John 3:18-19, Heb.11:6, John 8:24
- Those who have difficulty - I am too great a sinner – 1Tim.1:15, Matt.9:12,13, Rom.5:6-8, Luke 19v10
- Murderers – Isa.1:18, Ps.51:14
- My heart is too hard – Luke 19:10, Ezekiel 36:26,27, 2Cor.5:17
- I must become better before I become a Christian – Matt.9:12,13
- I am afraid I will fail – Jude 24, 1 Peter 1:5, 2 Tim.1:12, 1Cor.10:13, 2Cor.12:9,10
- I cannot give up my evil ways – Rom.6:23, Gal.6:7,8, Rev.21:8
- The Christian life is too hard – Matt.11:30, 1Peter 1:8
- There is too much to give up – Mark 8:36, Rom.8:32, 1John 2:15-17, Phil.3:7,8
- I will lose my job – Mark 8:36, Matt. 6:33, Mark 10:29-30
- I will lose my friends – James 4:4, Prov. 13:20, Ps.11-2, 1John 1:3.
- I am afraid of ridicule – Proverbs 29:15, Mark 8:38
- I will be persecuted – 2Tim.3:12, 2Tim.2:12, Rom.8:18, 2Cor.4:17, 1Peter 20:20-21
- I have no feeling – 1Peter 1:8, Isa.55:7, John 1:12, Acts 16:31, Acts 2:38
- I have been seeking but I cannot find Him – Jer.29:13
- Christians are so inconsistent – Rom.14:12, Rom.2:1-5, Matt. 7:1-5
- There is someone I cannot forgive – Matt.6:15, Matt.18:21-35, Eph.4:32
- It is too late – Deut.4:30-31, 2Peter 3:9
- God seems to me unjust and cruel – Rom.9:20, Rom.11:33, Isa.55:8-9, Job 40:2, Heb.12:5-7, Heb.10-12
- I cannot believe – Acts 16:31, John 3:16, John 5:44, Isa.55:7, John 7:17, James 1:5-7, John 20:31
I am sure it is the purpose of the Lord that all Christians should have opportunity to gather together in a wider context than their own local fellowship. Conferences, larger rallies, both at home and other parts of the country provide the environment for learning and an opportunity to grow in deeper fellowship with others.
There are some things, which are important to remember:
- Not all that confesses to be of God is of God 2 Peter 2 v 1-2.
- Fast growing churches are not necessarily moving under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
- The apostle Paul warns that 'another gospel' can be preached Gal:1 v 6-9.
- Members of one church should be encouraged to commit themselves to their own local fellowship and not be drawn away to visit other groups Acts 20 v 28
Study 9. Counselling - Developing relationships
Many potential relationships are brought to nothing because of entering into sin, 1Cor.3:16-17.
God needs to bring all those who have found themselves in sin, back into fellowship with himself: Mark 9:21-27 , Eph.5:5, Rom.3:23, Matt.15:18-20, Rom.6:23, Heb.9:14-15.
How sad it is to see young lives spoiled by men who have not entered into the purity of the Lord and therefore have contaminated that which before God is pure and holy Heb.4:12-13
Keeping in the Will of God
The devil will seek to persuade young men and women that God is not able to provide for them a loving companion but we must trust Him to work all things for our good. Gen.45:4-8, 2Peter 3:8, John 15, Matt.4:1-11
The greatest work of the enemy is to draw young people into fantasy. This grips the mind and soul and creates in a dream world the realities of which; if they were accepted would never come to pass. This is also an area where the devil can corrupt the mind and cause uncleanness and sin. 1John 1:9
The Single Person
There are realms in which a single person may enter not enjoyed by those who have the cares and responsibilities of relationship. 1Cor.7:32-35
There are some who decide to remain single for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Matt.19:12
Single people are part of the family of God and bear fruit for Him. Psalm 68:6, Isaiah 49:18-21
This time of relationship is best used to work out a good basis for marriage. To make sure all past hindrances are dealt with in the following areas: - Heredity spirit, emotional realm, sexual sin or abuse. Psalm 51:5, 1Cor.15:49, Rom.5:12, Rom.1:24-27, 2Cor.7:9-11
It is a time to learn to pray and share openly together and to resist temptation and remain pure in God. Rom.12:1
Study 2. The Pattern of the Church
To be involved in leading and building in God's church we must have a clear picture of where we are going
Paul’s revelation:- The word church - ekklesia - means called out ones from ek, out of and klesis, a calling and was used by the Greeks of a body of citizens gathered together to discuss the affairs of state. It was also called an assembly Acts 19:39. It has two applications to companies of Christians. Firstly regarding the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era and secondly to the singular number of congregations of companies of professed believers, born again by the Spirit of God gathering in a certain town or location. 1 Cor.1:2, Act.19:1-12.
5 pictures in the book of Ephesians;
- Body 1:23 compare Eph.4:4, 1 Cor.12:12-31
- Building 2:21 compare Matt.7:21-28, 1 Cor.3:9-13, 1 Peter 2.v 1-9
- Family 3:15 compare Gen.30:1, Acts 2:41,47, 2 Cor.6:14-18
- Bride 5:23-32 compare 1 Cor.13:4-8
- Army 6:10-18 compare 2 Tim.2:3-4.
The Purpose of the Church
- Making disciples of Christ – Matt 28:18-20 – preaching or evangelising Acts 14:21 Baptising and Teaching – Acts14:22,23,28, Acts 15:35
- Maturing believers in Christ Col 1:25-29, Feeding, presenting them mature.
- Manifesting Christ’s glory Col 1:27, 1 Peter 2:12, Matt 5:14-16, 2 Corn 4:5-7
The Thrust of the Church
- Preaching and evangelism outside the church – Teaching and edification inside the church.
Study 11. Counselling in Family Life
We now move on to consider the fruit of the union between husband and wife. Gen.1:26-27.
Many problems relating to children are caused by the sin of their parents, and families continue to experience tragedies in their lives. Children are mirrors in which we see ourselves. Luke 1:15 as with Zacharias and 2 Sam.12:13-15 as with David, show this.
Fathers are instructed to have their house in order. 1Tim.3:12 and to provide for their families. 1Tim.5:8 also to encourage and not provoke their children. Col.3:21, Eph.6:1-4 (nurture - feed, support, train and educate: Admonition – correct and instruct in the Lord). Fathers need to demonstrate pure love to their daughters. Failure to do this results in them looking elsewhere for love, becoming rebellious and against authority of men and no concept of the love of their heavenly Father. Likewise with sons, lack of pure and true affection is being perceived to be a contribution to a child developing homosexual tendencies.
Mothers need likewise to show true physical love not to smother or to hold for herself but to demonstrate pure affection. Also to provide a loving home situation. Tit.2:4.
Bringing up Children
In Ephesians 6:1-3 we read of the commandment to obey parents and honour them, in the Lord. Also Jesus submitted himself to Mary and Joseph. Luke 2:51-52. Children have to be taught these things, by example and often discipline. Example in love and care and Christian living. Discipline is recorded for us in such verses as Proverbs 22:6 – training a child, Hebrews 12:5-11 – chastening a child in love as the Father does to his sons and also Proverbs 19:18. Physical discipline is recorded in Proverbs 13:24, 23:13, 29:15 and others. Gal.3:22-24 shows us that discipline (the law) is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, as also the law applied to our children leads them on a path where they can accept Christ for themselves. In Proverbs 6:20 we read that the law is life giving.
Physical discipline has been abused in the world but is our instruction done in love and to be used sparingly as other discipline can be brought to bear. Physical discipline should only be used in young children, as they grow to an age of understanding it turns to humiliation.
Children need to be instructed in prayer and in the Biblical truths and learn to worship as a family together in the church. Also as they get older, to understand their responsibility to the family life in thoughtfulness and unselfishness towards other members, helping with chores round the house.
It is essential to spend time with each child and listen to his or her needs. Many children turn to help elsewhere because of feeling misunderstood by parents. Parents need to ask for wisdom in dealing with teenage needs. If a relationship is not made by teenage years it becomes almost impossible afterwards.
Caring for the Extended Family
1 Tim.5:8 instructs on responsibility towards family, also the church’s responsibility towards widows.
Study 12. Counselling Childless Couples
We come now to the very important subject of barrenness. Those who find that they are unable to conceive and bear children need to consider their need in the light of scripture both for a medical and spiritual answer.
The Old Testament considered barrenness a reproach. The devils intervention into the affairs of man put a blight upon God’s heart for all to be fruitful and multiply. Psa127:3 Gen1:26-28 Gen3:16 Num5:17-28. We must be free from guilt
We must know why we want children and be prepared
Jud13:4-5 Eph5:25-33 in our bodies 1Corn6:15-20 1Corn3:16-17
We must not break God’s law
Deut 28:1-2 Deut 28:18 but seek God to be reconciled 1 Sam 11:1-12:5 Psa 51:1-13 1 Sam 1:1-28 1John2:15-17 Gen16:12
God’s promise is fruitfulness and we can pray
Gen 30:38-39 Gen 25:20-26 Heb 11:6 Heb 4:16
Study 13. Counselling after separation or Divorce
Three of the most perplexing questions, which are asked: – Does the Lord allow married couples to separate? Can we divorce? Is remarriage after divorce permitted?
It is clear from 1Cor.7:10,11 & 15 that separation had two clauses:- If a partner left because of one person becoming a Christian, they were not to be in bondage about it. If one partner did leave, the instruction was to remain unmarried or be reconciled.
It is clear from Gen.2:20-25 that in God’s heart marriage was forever, and that a unified flesh and spirit could not be separated. Children are the fruit of union and cannot be divided in spirit either.
In Deut.24:1-4 we read of a bill of divorcement given if a woman was found to have committed fornication and her husband wanted her to leave. They were both free to remarry under the Jewish law, but adultery was punishable by death. Lev.20:10. Matt.19:3-12 records Jesus’ view on that. In verse 8 He says, the bill of divorcement was given because of the hardness of their hearts and not the original desire of God’s heart. In verse 9 Jesus states that except for fornication if anyone remarries they commit adultery. In verse 10 we see the reaction of the disciples and Jesus’ answer. Read also Matt.5:33.
The same incident is recorded in Mark 10:2-12 but without the clause ‘except for fornication’. Also read Luke 16:18. Paul commands in 1Cor.7:10-11 that the woman who leaves her husband should remain unmarried or be reconciled and that the husband is not at liberty to divorce his wife.
Confusion comes because the word fornication can be also translated as adultery or marital unfaithfulness. Also when Jesus says ‘not all men can receive this saying’ only those to whom it is given. Again some think it to be just a Jewish custom.
To the Christian it is important to see the heart of God in marriage and that our liberty is only to do the Will of God.
It is clear from 1Timothy chapter 3 that only those who have one wife can be given positions of authority as elders or bishops, as examples of the heart of God. Scripture is clear that ‘death’ is the ultimate freedom from a marriage but remarriage then although legal and Biblical must still be in the Will of God. Rom.7:2-3.
Study 14. Deliverance Ministry
Deliverance ministry is the work of the Pastor and the church in setting men and women free of the power of the Devil because he has gained access into their lives.
Who is the devil
- The Devil was part of a host of angels created by God before man and the world. They were created by the Son and for him - Col. l:16.
- The Angels in general
- They have spiritual bodies but they take on the outward appearance of man - Luke 1:26.
- They do not have wings.
- Jesus suggests to us in Matt.22:30 that they do not have a sex and are always referred to as masculine; then so are all the church referred to as sons.
- They cannot die - Luke 20:36. · They are inferior to the Son but superior to man - Heb.2:5-9.
They are named many things in the Word:
- ministering spirits - Heb.1:14;
- principalities and powers - Col.1:16,
- evil powers - Eph.6:12;
- elect angels - 1Tim.5:21;
- cherubim, seraphim, living creatures, beasts - Rev.5:11.
- They are also without number - Heb.12:22.
- The Archangel is the chief - 1Thess.4:16, Jude 9 - and their power is very great - Ps.103:20.
- They are divided into two
At one time all these angels enjoyed the unity of being in the presence of God and the devil was lifted up in his heart and rebelled against God. Isa.14:12-15, Matt.25:41, Matt.25:31.
The work of the angels
- Occupied by worshipping and adoring God and the Lamb - Matt.18:10.
- They serve God continually. · They are looking down at God's salvation in us -1 Pet.1:12, Eph.3:10.
- They are only knowing what they see that is why head covering is important - 1 Cor.11:10.
- They are used by God as instruments of His will - Heb.2:2 and they reveal the will of God to men: Abraham - Gen.22:11; Gideon - Jud.6:11.
- God prepares us to receive ministry through them - Acts 10:3; sends direction by them - Acts 8:26;
- They act as God's messengers in deliverance - Acts 12:7; and also appear in judgement both in this life - Acts 12:23 and the final judgement day -Matt.13:40-42, 49; Matt.24:30-31; 2 Thess.1:6-7.
The devil and his names
- Satan or adversary - John 13:27;
- Devil - Matt.4:1, Beelzebub, prince of devils-Matt.12:22-30.
Other words used in the Bible include:
- angel of the bottomless pit - Rev.9:11;
- prince of the world - John 12:31;
- power of darkness - Col.1:13;
- god of this world - 2 Cor.4:4;
- prince of the power of the air - Eph.2:2;
- dragon and old serpent - Rev.20:2;
- Lucifer - Isa.14:12;
- Leviathan - Isa.27:1;
- Abaddon and Apollyon - Rev.9:11;
- Belial - 2 Cor.6:15;
- tempter - Matt. 4:3.
He is a person
We must be clear in acknowledging that we are not dealing with a force but a person who together with demons seeks to rule over the lives of men and women - Matt.4:1-3.
He has a greater power than man but to those of God he is limited - 1 Peter 5:8; Jude 9. He does not inhabit the holy ways of God - Isa.35:8-9. He is, however, the god of this world and the prince of the power of the air - 2 Cor.4:4; Eph.2:2. All evil is from him and he controls the power of death - Heb. 2:14-15.
Where does he live?
He dwells in high places - Eph. 6:12; inhabits the heavenly realm - Eph. 1:21 - but seeks to live in human hearts as does the Holy Spirit of God - Luke 11:24-26.
What is he like?
He is an evil, unclean being. Proud, deceitful, a liar and a murderer - John 8:44; Luke 9:37-42.
What is he seeking to do?
His total purpose is to destroy the Son of God and His work. He is opposed to God. He caused the fall - Gen.3:1-24; 2 Cor.11:3. He controls the power of death but Jesus has taken away its sting by His resurrection - 1 Cor.15:54-56. He also controls all unbelievers and their activities - 2 Cor.4:4. He binds them and orders their lives. He works actively against the elect of God - Mark 13:22. He discourages, tempts, lays snares, etc. He affects our minds seeking to sow doubt into us and, by dropping seeds into our hearts, seeks to take root in our lives. All his work is, therefore, destructive.
The devils way in
The devil will seek actively to enter into every heart and will use the following means:
Heredity: The transmission from one generation to another of genetic facts that determine individual characteristics. Eze 19:10
Uncleanness: Fornication sexual relationship before marriage Luke 7:36-8:3, masturbation, homosexuality, lesbianism, pornographic literature, violations of sexual purity, child abuse, rape, incest, adultery Luke 8:26-36, 1 Cor.5:1-7.
Mediumistic realms: Witchcraft, occult, occult books, spiritualist churches, seances, fortune telling, star reading, transcendental meditation, yoga, New Age, karate, tarot cards, ouija boards, faith healing Acts 19:18-19, Acts 16:16.
Worldliness: Films, rock music, drugs, drunkenness. Some of these realms will be deliberate others unknown, but the devil seeks either by subtle approach or to gatecrash into every heart - John 13:2, Acts 5, Eph:6:11-16
They are to be cast out
It is clear the disciples were commanded to cast out devils Matt.7:22, Matt.10:8, Luke 9:1, Matt.12: 24:28, Matt. 17:18 by the finger of God Luke 11:14-26.
The devil can return
The devil can return after he has been cleared out: because the ground of sin has not been cleared Eph. 4:27 because the soul is deceived often by fear and insecurity Heb.2:14, 1Tim.3:6-7, 2 Tim: 2:26 An oppression is different from possession, because souls deliberately go back into sin 2 Peter 2:7-8, 1 John 3:8-10.
The devil is behind many of the sicknesses and suicides through fear, guilt 1 Cor.11:30, Matt.4:24, Matt.8:16-17.
All ministers must be ready and prepared to deal with the spirit of the enemy - Matt.17:19-21.
May we be able ministers of the New Covenant.