Note to the Reader: This treatise was written by a member of the United Pentecostal Church in Rapid City South Dakota in 1977 and distributed to many members, including the pastor, J.H. Yohe. The pastor brought in a UPC "Greek expert" to refute this treatise from the pulpit. The writing was declared to have come "from the pits of hell." A large building program was ongoing when this treatise was handed out. Several families who read the treatise left the church.
"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." Ephesians 5:25-27
Throughout the Bible, it is clear that whenever God made a plan of salvation he demanded perfection. Noah was to build the ark according to the exacting specifications God had given him, and had he at any point refused to do so, all of humanity would doubtlessly been lost in the flood. Moses was commanded to make the tabernacle exactly according to the pattern shown him on the mount, and had he failed to do so in any detail God's glory could never have dwelt there. The Israelites were commanded to follow the law to the letter, ignoring nothing, avoiding nothing, altering nothing, and any disobedience brought judgement and the curse of God.
And what of Christianity? The verses from Ephesians quoted above make it clear that Christ intends his bride to be "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." But while Noah had the verbal command of God himself to build the ark by, Moses had the pattern on the mount by which to build the tabernacle, and the Israelites had the law to live by, what guide or pattern has God given Christianity to go by? He has left it the Bible, and most importantly, the clear and shining example of the New Testament Church, immortalized in the pages of the Book of Acts, to which it must conform in order to be the kind of church that Jesus himself approves.
That the Christianity of the New Testament is the ideal by which all of Christianity, past, present, or future, will be judged is the basic premise of this book, and unless the reader concurs, to read further would be nothing more than a waste of time. No social, technological, economic or even governmental change can or will ever change God's plan for his church, or nullify his Word.
As the return of Christ draws nearer, the promised increase of knowledge has given modern Christianity an ever greater understanding of the writings of the Bible, those of the Old Testament and particularly those of the New. Many words, verses and even entire sections that have hidden in obscurity for centuries have only recently been brought to clarity, and this process of enlightenment goes ever onward as etymological research continues.
Not only this, but Christianity today has at its feet the entire panorama of its birth, its fall to Catholicism, and its progressive return to conformity to the Word of God, a process that continues to this day. If it fails to learn from all this it will have only itself to blame for falling short of the perfection that Christ expects of His bride.
Before we can proceed with this treatise, a few qualifications and explanations must be made. The false doctrines which the author confronts in this writing are those of the United Pentecostal Church in general, and of the U.P.C. of Rapid City, S.D. in particular, although much of it applies to Christianity in general today. While the author readily acknowledges that many U.P.C. churches may not be guilty of the same doctrinal crimes that are exposed in this writing, one can safely assume that all these things are sanctioned by the organization as a whole just the same, since they are allowed free play in several U.P.C. churches.
Also, the author apologizes for his constant use of the King James Version in biblical quotations, but since it seems to be the only version officially approved by the Pentecostal Church, the author is obligated to quote from it. Consequently, much use of the original Greek of the New Testament has to be made since the greatly improved knowledge of the KOINE which is readily available today so frequently exposes the King James translation as in error. So many good books have been written decrying the backwardness of the King James Version, especially in light of its continued popularity, and so many vastly improved versions of the Bible are easily obtained today it would be superficial to try to justify the use of the Greek to those who may be leary of it. The author can only encourage the reader to verify the information that is presented for himself, and a list of references has been provided at the end for that purpose.
For those who may adamantly refuse to so much as consider any challenge to their cherished beliefs though they directly contradict the intentions of the writers of the New Testament, the author can only borrow the words of the apostle Paul;
"But if any man will be ignorant, let him be ignorant."
It is a common doctrine of modern Pentecostalism that there is in each church a group of people known as "the ministry." This group of men, it is held, is entitled to rights and privileges not granted the rest of the church, which it calls "the laity", and holds a position of power and authority in the church which it allows no one to so much as question.
As we shall see, this doctrine is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Bible and is the basis of an entire system of falsehood and abuse of scripture in which Pentecostalism is deeply entrenched.
The use of the phrase "the ministry" to refer to a division of people within the church has absolutely no precedent in the Bible. In the King James Version, the words ministry" and "minister" were borrowed directly from the Vulgate Bible, (the Latin version which was the only Bible accepted by the Roman Catholic Church and fail to express the meaning intended by the writers of the New Testament. In the original Greek, what is translated "minister' is DIAKONOS, meaning "a servant" and "ministry" is DIAKONIA, meaning "attendance to servant-work." Nowhere is "the ministry" ever used to indicate anything but "the attendance to servant work" or DIAKONIA, and using the word in any other way constitutes the perversion of scripture. When, for example, the apostle Paul says such things as "he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry" [I Tim. 1:12] he is not speaking of being elevated into the membership of some elite clique but rather the opposite, of being placed into a position of service to the church.
Strange as it may seem, the use of the word "ministry" to describe a caste of people separate from the "laity" betrays the existence of what can only be a "clergy." Wherever there is a "laity" there must also be a "clergy" the terms are analogous, and in religious usage neither can exist without the other. The substitution of the word "ministry" for "clergy" does not alter this fact, it is merely a deceptive bit of semantics, vainly seeking some foothold in the Word of God.
Describing the body of the church as "the laity" in itself betrays unbiblical doctrine, for like the word "trinity" it is nowhere to be found in the Bible and originates in the depths of Roman Catholicism. The word "laity" is descended from the Greek LAIKOS, a form of LAOS, "the people" and means "pertaining to the people." In the same way, "church" descends from the Greek KURIOKOS, meaning "pertaining to the KURIOS" the Lord. In the Septuagint the LAOS is always the people of God, the entire Jewish nation, and the New Testament uses the word in the same way.
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people (LAOS); that ye should shew the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Which in times past were not a people (LAOS) but are now the people (LAOS) of God." Peter 2;9-10
Since the church is a "holy nation", who is the ruler of that nation? "Our Lord Jesus Christ... the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords." [I Tim.6:15] And since the people of God comprise a "royal priesthood", who is the High Priest of that priesthood? It is "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus Christ." [Heb. 3:1]
Where then does the "clergy" originate, seeing as how all the people of God constitute a "royal priesthood"? It is inherited from Roman Catholic tradition and its very existence opposes the teachings of the Bible. It comes from the lust for power and the love of vainglory and not from the love of God or any care for the church.
The Bible has much to say along these lines and deals very clearly with this subject, as we shall see.
Many households of New Testament times had servants, the word in the Greek being DIAKONOS, each having some work or DIAKONIA to fulfill in that household, verbalized by the word DIAKONEO, "to do servant work." In relation to their owner these servants were DOULOS, or "bond-men", bought for a price or born into the household.
What would prompt men like the apostles to call themselves "ministers" when the word they used was DIAKONOS, meaning "servant" in the strictest sense of the word and not at all in the sense of an exalted caste or "clergy"? The answer is to be found in the following verses as Jesus speaks to the Twelve.
"But Jesus called them to him and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you; but whosoever of you will be great among you shall be your minister (DIAKONOS) and whosoever of you will be chiefest shall be servant (DOULOS) of all. For the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (DIAKONEO) and to give his life a ransom for many." Matt. 10;42-45
These words are to true "ministry" what Acts 2;38 is to salvation, they are the very foundation of all that pertains to true church order. Jesus Christ, who "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant", gave the supreme example of just what true "ministry" is by serving others, and giving his very life a "ransom for many."
The example of Jesus washing his disciples' feet because there was no servant to do so and because none of them thought to stoop to such a menial task, is ceremoniously observed by Pentecostals in "old-fashioned foot-washing meetings." Yet the very lesson that Jesus intended to teach in his actions, that men who are "ministers" must never hesitate to stoop to such menial tasks for the sake of the church, is totally ignored by Pentecostal "ministers" who expect the church to serve them instead. But if God incarnate would debase himself in such a. way in order to be a servant, how much lower ought "ministers" to stoop for the sake of the church in order to follow his example!
The teachings of the Bible and the example of the apostles exemplify a "ministry" that is totally different from that of the Pentecostal church. The apostles' constant use of the words DIAKONOS, DIAKONIA and DOULOS in relation to themselves shows just how much the teachings and example of Jesus were fresh in their minds. Paul and the apostles were servants, bondmen of the church, not in any hypocritical sense or from any meaningless title, but in the truest sense of the word.
"For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves ,your servants (DOULOS) for Christ's
sake." II Corinthians 4;5
This is true "apostolic preaching"; the apostles proclaiming Jesus and not themselves as holding the authoritarian rule, the "lordship" over the church while they themselves were the churches' servants, or "bond-men."
"Therefore let no man glory in men, For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's" I Corinthians 3;21-23
This is true "ministry" and these are the words of a true "minister", the churches which men like Paul had labored to found and establish were not "their" churches but rather the contrary, the churches were Christ's, and they belonged to the churches as bond-men, as servants, out of obedience to the teachings of Jesus the DOULOS.
And how did the apostle Paul desire to be regarded by the church, as the "closest link between the church and the throne of God" as "ministers" call themselves today, as the member of some exalted class within the church, as a demagogue?
"Who then is Paul, and who Apollos, but ministers (DIAKONOS) by whom ye believed?" I Corinthians 3;5
"Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." I Corinthians 4;1
The word which Paul chooses to describe himself to the Corinthians in the verse above is not DIAKONOS but HUPERETES. This word means "galley-slave", a rower of the lowest rank and position in a ship. This is how the apostle wished to be regarded by the church, as the humblest kind of servant.
"For I speak unto you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office." Romans 11;13
To many this verse doubtlessly portrays Paul as "magnifying" his exalted position over the church as an apostle, but the King James distorts the true meaning, as usual. What Paul is glorifying is his DIAKONIA, his work of service to the churches, mistranslated "office", in the verse above.
The popular stereotype of the apostles, and particularly the apostle Paul, as strong-willed, self-assured, powerful leaders is not only unbiblical but incompatible with the work of service to the churches to which these men were called. Rather than an authoritarian "ruler" the apostle Paul was a servant and bond-man of the churches, not only in word but in deed, as the Book of Acts and his own writings make very clear.
After Paul's conversion, we find him in Damascus causing such a stir with his preaching that the Grecian Jews determined to try their hand at killing him. Paul was most likely oblivious to any murder attempts against him and would probably have stayed at Damascus indefinitely had not certain people intervened.
"Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus." Acts 9;30
There is much to be learned from verses such as this as to who exactly ruled who in the New Testament Church.
In the above verse, "sent forth" is EXAPOSTELLO in the Greek, and Thayer's Lexicon lets us know that this word means more than simply "sent forth" but 'suggests official or authoritative sending'. The apostle Paul uses this same word to describe his call from the Lord to be an apostle. "Depart, for I will send (EXAPOSTELLO) thee far hence to the Gentiles." Acts 22:21
Who brought Paul down to Caesarea and set him on a ship to Tarsus in an official or authoritative manner? It was the church of Damascus, the "brethren", who sent Paul away to his home-town as soon as they heard of the plots against him.
We meet EXAPOSTELLO again in relation to another "minister", Barnabas, soon after. When the church of Jerusalem learned that a great number of people had been converted at Antioch "they sent forth (EXAPOSTELLO) Barnabas that he should go as far as Antioch." Acts 11;22
Later, after Barnabas had found Paul in Tarsus and brought him down to Antioch, the church took a collection to aid "the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul."
As this collection grew, the churches in Greece chose someone to accompany Paul to assist in that service. Paul describes this person as "chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace." II Cor. 8:19 "Chosen" in this verse is CHEIROTONEO, meaning, literally, "to vote by a show of hands." Whether or not the churches actually voted is not clear, but the use of this word indicates Paul's eagerness to describe this individual as overwhelmingly approved by the churches.
"But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away (EXAPOSTELLO) Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still." Acts 17:13-14
It is evident in these few examples that the churches of the Book of Acts exercised an authority over its "ministers" that no Pentecostal "minister" would submit to today. No "minister" would think of serving as "delivery boy" for any church, as Paul and Barnabas did for the church of Antioch. No "minister" would dream of lowering himself to such a place where he could be sent anywhere by the authority of the "laity." And no one could ever be chosen into the "ministry" by the approval of the churches as the individual Paul mentions above clearly was. Why? Because Pentecostal "ministers" have no desire to be the servants of the church; they prefer to be its "masters" instead.
"And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way be the church .... " Acts 15;1-3
After the circumcision doctrine began to trouble the churches, the brethren decided to send Paul, Barnabas, and "certain others of themselves" to Jerusalem to determine the judgement of the apostles and elders.
How strange that the "laity" was ever able to dictate to its "ministers" in such a way as this! How much more
"apostolic" modern Pentecostalism is to allow its "clergy" to assume such an exalted position that the church has no say whatsoever in anything that it does! But the fact of the matter is that there was no "laity" in the New Testament Church, the church itself was the "priesthood" and men like Barnabas and Paul were its servants, its bond men, eager to go anywhere and do anything for the sake of the brethren.
In the twelfth chapter of first Corinthians, Paul enumerates the different spiritual gifts, given by no means to any individual or group in the church but rather "to one... to another... to another" and "to another." He then goes on to explain that while the body "hath many members" it is yet one body. "Nay" says Paul,"much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble (ASTHENES) are necessary; And those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, upon those we bestow more abundant honour." I Cor. 12:22-23
ASTHENES in the verse above means "weak" or "helpless" and we shall hear more of this word as we proceed.
Why is it that the "feeble" members of the body should not only be indispensable but worthy of "more abundant honour"?
"That there should be no schism (division) in the body; but that the members should have the same care for
one another." I Corinthians 12;25
What Paul teaches in the twelfth chapter of first Corinthians is incompatible with Pentecostalism for the body is split quite in two, the "clergy" constituting the upper caste and the "laity" the lower. If any "honour" is to be given it goes to the "minister" who not only feels that his "office" entitles him to it but fully expects all the honour the church has to give. "Unless you learn to respect the position of the ministry", he asserts, "you'll never make it to heaven." And the kind of "position" he speaks of is not in any way one of service or bondage to the church but rather one of power, exaltation and authority, a position so sacrosanct that so much as questioning it brings condemnation. Yet it is this very "position" that has brought about the kind of division in the body that the Bible so clearly teaches against, and disqualifies Pentecostalism from truly being "apostolic."
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversity of tongues." I Corinthians 12;27-28
After establishing that there is to be no division in the body, Paul concludes the chapter by describing the kinds of members which comprise the body of Christ. "First" , "secondarily" and "thirdly" Paul enumerates the most important members of the body, apostles, prophets and teachers. These positions are the most fundamental to the church for they exclusively entail the "administration of the Word" both to the world, as with apostles, and to the church, as with prophets and teachers. The whole "household of God", Paul teaches, is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." "After that" come the rest, of which Paul mentions certain spiritual gifts, "miracles", "healings" and "diversities of tongues", as well as "helps" and "governments." "Helps", literally "giving assistance", was an important part of the church of the New Testament, though like apostles, prophets and teachers it is extinct in Pentecostalism for reasons which shall become clear as we proceed. This ministry consisted of assistance to the ASTHENES of the church, the poor, the weak, the outcast. The household of Stephanas, the first converts of Corinth, performed this service in the church, and Paul speaks of them as follows:
"I beseech you, brethren, ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints, That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us and laboureth." I Corinthians 16 of 5-16
This is an example of true "ministry", the entire household of Stephanas devoted to "giving assistance", dedicated to serving the needs of the church. And what has Paul to say to the church of these? "That ye submit yourselves unto such." Clearly the household of Stephanas was mindful of the words of Jesus, that the greatest must be servants of all, and the chief bond-men.
Perhaps in this we can begin to see what kind of people true ministers are, and just what constitutes the biblical "ministry." It was only on the basis of the "ministry" which the house of Stephanas rendered that any submission was due from the church rather than on the basis of an authority that is based on self-exaltation.
Similarly, the apostle Paul deserved the respect of the churches not because of any "flattering title" or because he demanded or expected it in any way, but because of his service as an apostle; the labour, working with his own hands, the hardships, the beatings, the journeys, the perils, the fastings, all endured for what reason? "For that which cometh upon me daily" says Paul, "the care of all the churches." II Cor. 11:28 And this is why Paul so willingly endured such things, not to receive the churches' care, but because of his care for the churches, not in order to exalt himself before the churches, but because the churches were of such exalted importance to him.
There is another service Paul mentions after "helps", that of "governments." "Governments" is from the Greek KUBERNESIS; Paul is speaking metaphorically,for this word refers to the task of steering or guiding a ship, and so is to be taken as meaning "giving guidance or direction." We meet this word's counterpart in the following verse;
"And he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers"
The word "pastors" occurs only this once in the Bible in the metaphorical sense in which Paul uses it, for the word is POIMEN in the Greek, meaning simply "shepherds."
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." Acts 20:28
In the above verse Paul is speaking to the "elders of the church" [Acts 20;17] of Ephesus, reminding them to "feed the church of God" and calling them "overseers."
The word "feed" in this verse is from POIMAINO, the verbal form of POIMEN, meaning "to shepherd." "Overseers" is from the Greek EPISKOPOS, meaning " "guardian" or "caretaker", literally "one who watches over." This word occurs several times again in the New Testament as "bishop."
"Elders" is itself a word that occurs several times in both the Old and New Testaments, and here it is from the Greek PRESBUTEROS. W.E.Vine speaks of the relationship of PRESBUTEROS to EPISKOPOS as follows; "PRESBUTEROS, an elder, is another term for the same person as bishop or overseer." The former term, we are told, refers to the spiritual maturity of one who is well-seasoned in the faith, and the latter to the work of the elders, that of "watching over" the church as shepherds watch over their flocks.
"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder,...Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being an example to the flock." I Peter 5;1-3
The phrase "taking the oversight" in the verse above, is from the Greek EPISKOPEO, which is simply the verb form of EPISKOPOS, and means "to watch over." "Taking" anything is in no way implied in Peter's words, rather fulfilling a duty of care and responsibility to the church is what EPISKOPEO expresses.
Like Paul, Peter reminds the elders, as an elder himself, to "feed" or POIMAINO the "flock of God."
POIMAINO, as we have seen, means literally, "to shepherd" and connotates "to tend" or "to care for", taking into its scope all that a shepherd does in tending his sheep far beyond simply "feeding" them. It implies a thorough care and concern, and in the Greek of New Testament times, the word could be taken to mean "to cherish."
A verse in the epistle of Jude will perhaps shed more light on the meaning of POIMAINO. Jude warns the church against false Christians who are "spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear." [Jude v.12] "Feeding" in this verse is again POIMAINO, and Jude is expressing in this word how such people "tend" or "care for" no one but themselves.
Clearly, using the word "pastor" and the word "pastoring" to convey a position of authoritarian rule, one of doling out commands and orders, is entirely contrary to the very meaning of the words. We shall learn more of just what biblical "guidance" and "shepherding" entail as we proceed.
But before we can go farther in defining the biblical work of the elders, one point must first be made very clear. The belief that one individual called the "pastor" holds the position of foremost authority over the church is not in any way founded on the Word of God, and is contrary to the teachings of the Bible. In the light of the scriptures, no church which is "pastored" by one man can call itself "biblical" or "apostolic" except in purest hypocrisy. The kind of "governments" the apostles instituted consisted of a plurality of elders in each church, none of whom had anything to do with the kind of power which Pentecostal "pastors" hold over "their" churches today. Except for one notable exception, as we shall see, no individual ever "shepherded" any church of the New Testament.
"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things which are lacking, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee... For a bishop must be blameless..." Titus 1:5&7
"And when they had ordained elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." Acts 14;23 [In the Greek, the word "ordained" is CHEIROTONEO. It is beyond the author's scope to cover the ramifications of the use of this word in this instance, however.]
These verses make it clear that a number of elders "governed" the churches of the Book of Acts. Even the verses quoted previously, where Paul addresses the "elders of the church" of Ephesus and where Peter addresses "the elders which are among you" bear this out. The verses from Titus, taken in context, should make it clearer that the terms "elder" and "bishop" are interchangeable.
All elders were "pastors"; it was their responsibility to "give guidance", "watch over", and "tend" to the needs of the congregation. Theirs was a position of respect and not power; the congregation submitted to the elders not because they were lords of the church, but its servants, not because they exercised an authoritarian rule, but in order to expedite their "work of service."
This is a far cry indeed from modern Pentecostalism where what is called in theology the "monarchial bishop" has supplanted the government of the elders for a lordly rule that has no precedent in the teachings of the Bible.
The form of church order which the apostles instituted has its origins in the example of the Old Testament "church in the wilderness."
Even while Israel was in bondage to Egypt, before Moses appeared on the scene, the people of God were governed by elders. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush he told Moses to "Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, the LORD God.., appeared unto me." [Ex. 3:16] The elders are called "officers" in relation to their work as overseers of the brick-making with which Pharaoh burdened the Israelites, and in the Septuagint, this word is EPISKOPOS.
After the deliverance from Egypt, the elders received their place in relation to the law of Moses according to the recommendation of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, as follows;
"Moreover, thou shaft provide out of all the people able men such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands and rulers of fifties and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all seasons;... If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace." Exodus 18;21-23
Moses followed Jethro's advice and later relates to the Israelites how he appointed the elders to the service of the law as judges of the people;
"And I spake unto you at that time saying,.. Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do. So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you..."
Deuteronomy 1;9 ,13-15
Moses charged the people to choose among themselves men of wisdom, understanding and a good reputation so that he could appoint them to serve in the execution of the law. It is noteworthy that the men who Moses put in this position were the choice of the people themselves. The law itself stated that this was to be the way in which elders were to be appointed to serve in the execution of the law from that time on, by the choice of the people.
"Judges and officers shaft thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes." Deuteronomy 16:18
Unfortunately, though the rule of the elders as "Judges and officers" of the people was instituted by Moses himself as an essential part of the execution of the law, this system of government did not endure for long. The elders served in this capacity until the time of Samuel when the scripture relates the following;
"Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." I Samuel 8;4-5
The elders were not content with God's plan for themselves but desired instead to be "like all the nations" about them, nations that were not the people of God as they were. They loved the ways of man more than the will of God, and so desired a king.
"But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord, And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them," I Samuel 8:6-9
In desiring to emulate the nations about them, the Israelites rejected the Lord himself from being their King, as he was when the elders held their proper place.
"And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked him of a king." [I Sam.8:10] Samuel described how their king would take their sons and daughters for servants, the best of their land, a tenth of their seed and vineyards, and a tenth of their sheep, "and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you and the LORD will not hear you in that day." [I Sam. 8:18]
So the king who the Israelites wanted was to make them his servants as he pleased, and make them serve so rigorously they would cry out in despair. And though the Israelites were delivered from the Egyptian bondage when they cried to the Lord "and their cry came up to God by reason of their bondage", yet God warned that he would not so much as hear then when they cried to him because of the bondage their king would bring upon them.
"Your wickedness is great,"said Samuel,"which ye have done in the sight of the Lord in desiring a king." [I Sam. 12:17]
"And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not; for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king." [I Sam. 12:19]
All of this relates very closely to New Testament church order, both in relation to Moses' institution of the government of the elders and in the Israelites rejection of God's plan, and indeed, of the Lord himself, in their desire for a king.
At the very birth of the New Testament church we find the disciples selling their possessions, and giving the proceeds "to all men, as every man had need." [Acts 2;45] They "brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet, and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." Acts 4;35
Later, we learn that the number of disciples had grown so large that the apostles, who as true "ministers" cared for the needy with the monies they were entrusted with, were no longer able to keep up with this service and found themselves with no time left for the work to which the Lord had first called them, the preaching of the gospel. This directly parallels the instance in which Moses was unable to bear the burden of the Israel alone. What the apostles then did makes the parallel even clearer.
"Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefor, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitudes. And they chose Stephen ...and Philip, and Prochorous, and Nicanor, etc." Acts 6:2-5
The striking similarity between the verses quoted above and Deuteronomy 11:13-15, quoted previously, is more than coincidental. It reveals the consistent plan of God for his people.
Where Moses had appointed elders who were chosen by the people themselves to serve in the execution of the law as judges, so the apostles charged the brethren to find among themselves men who were worthy to serve in the "ministration", the DIAKONIA, to the needy. So "governments" consisted of a number of elders both in the Old and New Testaments, but while those of the Old executed the "ministry of condemnation" [II Cor. 3:9] as judges, those of the New executed a "ministry of righteousness" as servants, DIAKONOS of the church. These seven men were the first "ministers" after the apostles, chosen to care for the "feeble members" of the church. One of these appointees, Stephen, holds the honor of being the first Christian martyr.
Despite all this, Pentecostalism knows nothing of the kind of church order which the apostles instituted or the kind of "ministers" which the New Testament exemplifies. It has chosen instead a "King", the monarchial bishop, who holds all power and lordship over the church and whose rule effectively excludes Jesus from his place as Lord, King, Master and Head of the church, exactly as the Israelites desire for an earthly King meant the rejection of the Lord himself as their King.
Rather than serving the needs of the church, as the "ministers" of the New Testament so clearly did, the "pastor" is free to demand the church's service instead. The church's time, its money, its energies are all at the disposal of the monarchial bishop to use entirely as he sees fit, no matter how much hardship it may cause the members of the church. Is this not the kind of "King" which Samuel warned the Israelites about?
Nothing like what occurred in the Book of Acts, as what was quoted above, could ever take place in Pentecostalism today. No "minister" could ever be chosen by the church; indeed, Pentecostal "ministers" freely boast that the "laity" has no voice whatsoever in anything they do.
The Pentecostal "clergy" is, in fact, a self-perpetuating clique, exactly as its progenitor the Roman Catholic clergy, and only the "pastor" has final say as to who may be allowed into its exclusive membership. Can anyone provide precedence for such an arrangement as this in the Bible? Not by any means, of course, for it originates in the traditions of men and not in the teachings of Christ.
Not content with the position of power which he has usurped the Kingship of Christ in the church to obtain, the monarchial bishop desires to be both "lawgiver" and "mediator" as well. He has fashioned himself as another Moses, flaunting himself as the very representative of God to the congregation, and establishing his every dictum and precept as law. The church is to submit to his "Mosaic authority" out of respect for his absolute power or face threats of the condemnation of Korah, Nathan and Abiram.
What has the Bible to say of this?
We have already seen that the likening of "the ministry" to the levitical priesthood is against the teachings of the Bible. But what of the likening of the position of the monarchial bishop to that of Moses? In New Testament Christianity, who holds the position which Moses typified?
The answers to these questions are very clear. Nowhere in the Bible is Moses given as the example or type of elders, bishops, "pastors" or any other such position in the church. Instead, Moses, the mediator of the Old Covenant, is unquestionably the type of Jesus Christ, the mediator of the New, and no other person or position in the Bible fulfills the example of Moses but Jesus. This is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity.
Moses makes this indisputable in his own words when he says "the LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like 5 unto me; unto him ye shall hearken." Deut.18:15
"Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world." John 6:14
"Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet." John 7:40
Clearly, the people who heard the words and saw the works of Jesus were immediately conscious that he was the fulfillment of the promised Prophet that would be "like unto" Moses.
"I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words into his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." Deuteronomy 18;18-19
This is the primary way in which Jesus fulfilled the type of Moses; whereas Moses established the commandments of the Old Covenant, and all who disobeyed were punished, so Jesus established the commandments of "a new and better covenant", and God himself will punish all who refuse to hear it. Whereas Moses' commandments were written in "tables of stone" [II Cor. 3:3] by the finger of God, Jesus' commandments are written in the hearts of men by the Holy Ghost. Clearly, then, the position which Moses held in the "church in the wilderness" is the position which Jesus Christ himself ought to hold through the Holy Ghost in the church.
But Jesus no longer holds this position in the Pentecostal Church for the "pastor" has become the "lawgiver" and "Prophet" with a capital "P." His every dictum is divine ordinance, his very words constitute the "word of God" and all that he forbids, whether it entails using, abusing or ignoring the Bible, is automatically sin. "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat", said Jesus, and it is this same position that the monarchial bishop has distorted the truth to obtain.
And what of Korah, Dathan and Abiram?
"And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: where for then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? And when Moses heard it he fell on his face..." Numbers 16;3-4
What Korah and his followers were after is clear. Jealous of the position of Moses as mediator of the Covenant and of Aaron as High Priest, these men desired power and exaltation rather than the work of service to which they had been called as Levites, and so attempted to depose Moses and Aaron to obtain that power. And because these men sought a position that God had never given them, a position reserved for Christ alone, their condemnation was inevitable.
Miriam and Aaron made somewhat of the same mistake.
"And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us?" Numbers 12;2
The kind of "speaking" to which Miriam and Aaron were referring is clearly that which Moses alone could do as "law-giver", and God intended only Moses, as the type of Christ, to have the power to establish what is sin. "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and destroy" [James 4;12 ] says James, "who art thou that judgest another?"
Ignorant of all this, the Pentecostal "pastor" has gone so far as to codify his commandments in what is called a "holiness standard." Because he has succeeded where Korah, Miriam and Aaron failed, the monarchial bishop is free to establish according to his dictates every detail of "his" church's convictions as to what is right and what is wrong. Everything from beards to colored shirts on men, from braids to zippered dresses on women, everything from watches to wedding rings, no matter how pointless, no matter how trivial, if the "pastor" forbids it it is sin, and all who dare indulge in such taboos are guilty of "rebelling against divine authority."
"And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heavens and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16:18-19
Somehow or another, Pentecostal "pastors" find New Testament substantiation for their practice of "law-giving" in the verses, above. But Jesus is speaking to no one but Peter exclusively here and there is no hint that "binding" and "loosing" in any way refers to determining what does or does not constitute sin. Indeed, if this were the case then this right belongs to the church as a whole as well, for we find the same words but two chapters later, clearly referring to the church.
"Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heavens and whatsoever shall be loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them..." Matthew 18;18-19
The context of Jesus' words above, in fact, is the "disfellowshipping" of a brother who persists in sin. "If he neglect to hear the church" says Jesus, then he is to be regarded as a sinner. The church, of course, has no such power in Pentecostalism. "Disfellowshipping" is the exclusive privilege of "the ministry", reserved for all who refuse to submit to their "Mosaic authority."
There is absolutely no precedent for anything like a "holiness standard" in the New Testament, and its very existence violates some of the most fundamental principles of Christianity. The only thing that even approximates a "holiness standard" is found in the letter sent out from the "apostles and elders" of Jerusalem to the Gentile believers in Christ, described in the fifteenth chapter of Acts. Yet this letter was drawn up not to burden the churches with precepts and commandments but in order to exempt them from such things, not to subject the churches to men who sat in "Moses' seat" but to free them from such people.
In the first verse of the fifteenth chapter of Acts we learn that certain Jewish converts began teaching Gentile converts that they must submit not only to all the laws of Moses but to circumcision as well. Paul and Barnabas disagreed so strongly that the church, as we have seen, decided to send the two apostles, and others with them, "up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question." Acts 15;2
This is the first instance of doctrinal division in the church. The one party, the "pharisaical party", insisting, that the church could not be saved without submitting to the rules and regulations which they promulgated, while the other party, headed by Paul and Barnabas, insisted that submission to such laws defeated the very grace of God.
As soon as the envoys sent be the Antioch church arrived in Jerusalem "they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them." [Acts 15;4] This happy meeting was brought back to earth when the members of the "pharisaical party" stood up and insisted "That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." [Acts 15:5]
After much discussion among the apostles and elder, Peter stood up and said; "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they." Acts 15;10-11
James settled the issue with the words; "Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood." Acts 15:19-20
This is all that the apostles and elders saw fit to proscribe out of all that the law of Moses forbade, and if anyone had any question as to what was or was not sin, according to James, he needed only to consult the law of Moses to find out. "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day." Acts 15:21
The Gentile Christians, meanwhile, were perhaps apprehensive as to the outcome of this Council. Would they be required to submit to the myriad precepts of the Mosaic law? Doubtlessly they feared that, were they required to do so, they would eventually find themselves as self-righteous and pharisaical and entangled in legalistic quibbles as the law-keeping Jews were so well-known to be.
But the apostles had no desire to "trouble" the disciples with rules and regulations, even those of the law of Moses.
"For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication; from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well." Acts 15:28-29
No threats of "disfellowship" were to be found in this letter, no decree of "stricter standards", no call for obedience to "apostolic authority." The writing was so agreeable to the church of Antioch that "when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation." Acts 15;31
Despite all this, Pentecostals are deceived into feeling that the more laws and commandments the "pastor" decrees, the more "apostolic" their church is, when in fact the opposite is the case. At the same time, the "pastor" feels that "his" church would immediately take to the ways of the world like a fish to water were it not for his strict forbiddance of movies, television, dancing, smoking, drinking, etc. etc. What a truly "Apostolic Church"!
The letter sent out by the Jerusalem "Council" was by no means some absolute decree from which nothing could later be deleted. It is clear that as Christianity become an increasingly non-Jewish religion the Council's proscription of "blood" and "things strangled" became a dead letter. Although we are reminded repeatedly in the epistles of the need to refrain from sexual immorality and idolatry all precepts pertaining to food, Paul assures us, are pointless. How sad that the apostle Paul should fall from "the Standard"!
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty where with Christ hath made us free", says Paul "and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." [Gal. 5:1] The apostle later goes on to say, "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty." [Gal. 5;13] Liberty? Freedom from the domineering rules and precepts of men? Yes indeed, but this liberty entails a responsibility; "only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve (DIAKONEO) one another." It is this service, the expression of love and concern, that is the very essence of all that the law of Moses taught. "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
This is the only real "commandment" of Christianity, the only law that the Prophet who fulfilled the type of Moses decreed; "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." [John 15:12] Despite the Pentecostal disdain for it, this commandment of love and love alone brings the righteousness that the keeping of the laws of men could never, and will never, attain. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weakthrough the flesh", [Rom. 8:3] says the apostle, "God sending his own Son... condemned sin in the flesh:" For what reason? "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom. 8;4
When all the "conviction" a church has as to proper Christian conduct is that which is dictated by the monarchial bishop, then it has no convictions at all, only the illusion of "conviction." Observing the laws and commandments of any man, whether Moses or monarchial bishop, can never establish within the hearts of men the kind of holiness and purity that God desires of his people. Rather, true holiness is that which the Spirit of God alone can establish in the heart of each believer, and Jeremiah considers this to be the most important part of the "New Covenant";
"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts and will be their God, and they shall be my people." Jeremiah 31;33
True "holiness" is not the subservience to the dictum of any man, but the imitation of Jesus, as the very word "Christian" means; "Christ-like."
"But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation," says Peter, [ I Peter 1:15] "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."
True "holiness" is the result of a heart-felt desire to "be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." [Rom.12;2] Unfortunately, it is impossible for the Pentecostal to in any way "prove" for himself just what that "good, acceptable, and perfect will of God" is for he is instead assured that mindless, dogged observance of every command of his "pastor" is God's will, and, any refusal to comply constitutes heterodoxy.
There is much more that remains to be said as to the biblical way of true holiness and conformity to the example of Christ but to go on would take us too far afield. So much of the New Testament is devoted to this subject that to discuss it would be superfluous.
In order to see just how the commandments of men can make a mockery of the teachings of the Bible, let us briefly examine but one of the typical precepts of the "holiness standard." [It should be noted that finding biblical grounds for "the standard" in such King James verses as Isaiah 49;22,59;19 & 62;10, Jeremiah 50;2, etc. Is patently ridiculous.]
."..every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishounoureth her heads for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered ...Doth not nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her for her hair is given her for a covering." I Corinthians 11;5-6,14-15
Although the proper wording of the words above is still a matter of debate, the meaning is nevertheless clear. The apostle explains that a woman's hair should be long in order to provide a "covering." Literally, this word means "mantle" or "cloak", referring to any garment that requires wrapping about the body. The use of this word signifies that a woman's hair ought to be long enough to serve as a kind of garment, covering not only her head but her shoulders as well. This point is strengthened by Paul's use of the word KATAKALUPTO in verses 5 (where "uncovered" is AKATAKALUPTO), 6 and 7, translated as "covered." This word means more than simply "covered", as something atop the head like a hat, but the use of the prefix KATA denotes both thoroughness, as "thoroughly covered", and (especially in light of Paul's use of KATA in verse four) length, as "something falling down the head." This is how "nature" has ordered the length of a woman's hair; it is to be long enough to serve as a kind of "garment", modest ly falling down from and veiling her head, symbolic of her submission both to her husband (v.5&7) and to God (v.10).
And what has the Pentecostal love for the commandments of men made of this simple truth? A complete shambles. Ignoring Paul's teaching in the matter, "the ministry" has seized the opportunity to make so much as cutting a split end a damnable sin. On what basis? Not at all on the basis of the Bible, but rather on the basis of the "Mosaic authority" which the "pastor" claims to hold so that he may freely ladle out eternal damnation on whatever pretext he pleases. And Paul's teaching concerning hair-length simply provides that pretext, allowing the "pastor" to be more "apostolic" than the apostle ever desired to be. Paul nowhere so much as mentions sin in his teaching concerning hair length; and would never have dared to, for the law is completely silent in the matter. In making so much as cutting a woman's hair a sin, Pentecostal "pastors" are confident that they have decreed a divinely revealed ordinance and established an exclusive "holiness" that other churches are too sinful to attain. Yet they have defeated the very purpose of having that hair long by further requiring that, at least at church meetings, women must wear their long hair stiffly piled atop their heads. What does Paul say of this? "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered (AKATAKALUPTOS) dishonoureth her head; FOR THAT IS EVEN ALL ONE AS IF SHE WERE SHAVEN."
What Paul is clearly saying is that if the woman does not have her covering of hair falling down from and completely covering her head she may as well have it cut off. "The ministry", then, in professing strictest adherence to the scriptures, has made a mockery of the teaching of the Bible in the process Jesus addressed the Pharisees as follows;
"Thus ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your trad
"For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Romans 8 :12-14
According to the Bible, what qualifies the Christian to be a Son of God is not the receiving of the Spirit, which is only an initial step, but following the leadership of that Spirit. There is no room for equivocation in the apostle's words; the leadership which the Christian must follow in order to live righteously is that of the Spirit and not of some individual who feels entitled to dictate to others what he feels is the leading of God.
The Pentecostal monarchial bishop, however, has made it clear that he has no intention of allowing the church to follow the leading of the Holy Ghost which each member has received, certain that utter chaos would result. Yet at the same time it is only the regulations of the organizational hierarchy which the rule of the monarchial bishop has necessitated that prevents the complete dissolution of the Pentecostal churches as each follows its "pastor". The pillar of fire and of cloud, the perfect type of the Holy Spirit, led all the Israelites together in one direction, as the Spirit would lead the churches were it not for "pastors" who have usurped the position of leadership which belongs to Christ alone.
Despite the claims of the Pentecostal "pastor" that his position of Absolute leadership is patterned after Moses, the Bible never depicts Moses as the leader of the children of Israel as they traveled through the wilderness. Rather, the Bible is careful to make it very clear that it was God himself who personally led the Israelites from Egyptian bondage to the promised land,
"But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea." Exodus 13;18
But did not God use Moses to lead the people, thereby giving "pastors" an example to fashion themselves after? Not at all.
"And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, not the pillar of fire by night, from before the people." Exodus 13;21-22
"Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys." Exodus 40;34-38
Clearly the "pillar of the cloud" and the "pillar of the fire" represent the Holy Ghost, the true leader of the people of God. All must follow that pillar in order to safely reach the promised land. It is obvious that Moses himself followed the cloud with the people, and had he ever even endeavoured to lead the people instead he would have been guilty of usurping the leadership which God was manifesting so miraculously.
How then does the Bible depict Moses, if not as some "exalted leader" of the people?
"And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant (DIAKONOS) for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after." Hebrews 3;5
This is true "greatness" in the eyes of God, not the exaltation of oneself over the church but rather the opposite, the humbling of oneself to be the servant, the bond-man of the people of God.
But does not the apostle Paul exhort the churches to "be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ"? [I Cor. 11:1] Indeed he does, but only in the King James Version. "Followers" in this verse is from the Greek MIMETES, meaning strictly "imitators" and not "followers". What Paul is saying, literally, is " be imitators of me inasmuch as I am of Christ". So it is in all such cases, as in "and ye became followers of us, and of the Lord" [I Thess. 1:6) and "For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God", etc. [I Thess. ]
"My sheep hear my voice", says Jesus, referring not to the commands of any man but to the Holy Ghost, "and I know them, and they follow me," John 10;27
The kind of "following" Jesus wants from his people is true following; that of hearing his voice through the Spirit, and following his leading. In the verse above, this word is AKOLOUTHEO, a word which occurs many times in the gospels, most importantly in the following verses;
"But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." John 10;2-5
Drunk with the power he has robbed from Christ, the Pentecostal "pastor" feels fully entitled to apply the above verses to himself exclusively. Caring nothing for the kind of "pastoring" which the Bible teaches, that of tending and caring for the needs of the church, he holds instead a position of power and exaltation which he has deposed Christ himself in order to attain. He claims he is faithfully following the example of Moses, when Moses never held or desired such a position.
It is not possible that the true authority and power of God can be manifested in men who love power and self-exaltation. God placed Moses in his position not because he was a "born leader", not because he was a great speaker, not because he had a powerful personality or a strong will, but rather the opposite; God chose Moses because "the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." [Numb.12;3] And because of this important trait, God knew that Moses would never seek power for himself, as Korah and his followers did, and so supplant the leadership of God.
This is how it has always been, and will always be with God. Jesus himself impressed true "pastoral authority" upon Paul with the words, "My strength is made perfect in weakness". [II Cor. 12:9 ] And Paul wholeheartedly put Jesus' words to him into practice, even if it meant losing esteem in the eyes of the Corinthian church. "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sakes for when I am weak, then am I strong." II Cor. 12;10
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23;1-3
This is the work of the "Chief Shepherd" Jesus Christ, that of leading: the sheep, and he alone holds that position in true Christianity.
Jesus teaches Peter the kind of work which "pastors" are to accomplish in the following verses;
"He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? ...And he said unto him, Lord thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep." John 21 ;15-17
The first and third "feed" in the verses above is BOSKO, referring to the foddering of farm animals, while the second is POIMAINO, meaning, as we have seen, " to tend" or "care for", referring to the care of sheep. Nowhere does "lead" figure in here or anywhere else, for it is the place of Jesus to lead the church, through his Spirit, exactly as he led the Israelites through the wilderness.
And what word does Peter use when reminding the elders of their responsibility to the church?
"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed (POKAINO) the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." I Peter 5;1-3
The phrase "being lords over" originates in the word KATAKURIEUO, meaning "to lord it over", and we meet the word again in the following verses;
"But Jesus called them unto him and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over (KATAKURIEUO) them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (DIAKONOS); And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (DOULOS)." Matthew 20;25-27
It is very clear both in the words of Peter and in those of Jesus himself that the kind of "pastoral authority" that is so freely flaunted today is not only without any scriptural precedent, but goes directly against the teachings of the Bible. Willfully ignorant of all this, the monarchial bishop has become Lord of the church, and all that the church does is at his command, under his absolute control and no man dares so much as question his authority. All the church's motivation, its direction, its works, its efforts, its goals, are in total subjection to the "pastor", as he fully expects it to be.
Can this even be called Christianity? Is it not simply cultism instead of exactly the same spirit as every pseudo-Christian cult that infects the world today? Biblical Christianity entitles no one to dominate the church, rather it inspires men to "submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God" and "by love serve one another".
How can a church possibly please God when all that it does is the result, not of individual desire to do good works expressed collectively, as it was with the church of the Bible, but of empty subjection to the monarchial bishop, who holds a position never instituted by God, and compels the church to follow his orders "with one accord"? Pentecostalism has become a. mere puppet-show, the "pastor" at the strings, looking so active and alive when it is in fact dead. And even though the world may be fooled by the show, God is not.
"Obey them that have the rule over you", [Heb.13;17] orders the monarchial bishop, referring to himself exclus ively
and demanding obedience on the basis of his kingly "rule".
Certainly this verse may seem to contradict all that the Bible teaches concerning true "pastoring", but in reality it does not. First, the writer of Hebrews does not exhort his readers to "obey him", as though referring to the "pastor", but to "obey them", referring, of course, to the elders of the church. This alone excludes the monarchial bishop from exploiting this verse as in any way referring to himself.
The phrase "them that have the rule over you" entirely misses the intent of the writer of this epistle, any kind of active "rule" is not at all what he wished to convey. This phrase is from the Greek HEGEOMAI, meaning "to be chief" or "foremost". We meet this word again when Jesus says "But he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief HEGEOMAI), as he that doth serve." Luke 22;26
Much is to be learned even from what is translated "obey" in this verse. The word is PEITHO, meaning not "to obey" but "to manifest faith" or "display confidence". Obedience is only suggested by this word, "not by submission to authority", says W.E. Vine, "but resulting from persuasion". This word is used frequently in the King James Version as "to trust", appearing in the same voice in the very next verse: "For we trust (PEITHO) we have a good conscience". Heb.
Perhaps it will now become apparent why Pentecostal "ministers" insist upon the use of the King James version despite the fact that it is well known to be the most corrupt and inaccurate version available today.
Having explored some of the abuses which the monarchial bishopry has brought about, there remains the questions Where did the monarchial system or? since neither the Bible nor the apostles themselves instituted it, and what are the reasons for its inception into Christianity? The answers to these questions are all too clear, as we shall see.
In verse ten of the second book of John, the elder warns the church against heretics with the following words;
"If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed."
The third book of John, however, is not written to the church but rather to John's friend Gaius. Why?
"I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church." III John 9-10
The brethren who had delivered the previous letter from John found themselves victim of the treatment reserved for heretics, and not only so, but whoever dared receive them found themselves cast out of the church. By whom and for what reason? By Diotrephes "who loveth to have the preeminence among them."
Diotrephes is the first known example of a monarchial bishop, and all the evils inherent in that status reveal themselves in him. In his love for vainglory he not only prevented the church from accepting the "brethren", but he freely prated against John as well "with malicious words." That Diotrephes held absolute power over the church is clear, and he used that power to discredit any who would dare affront it. Nowhere is there any hint that Diotrephes erred in doctrinal matters, and he doubtlessly could never have achieved his position if he had, yet of his actions the elder writes; "Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God." [III John, 11]
What induced Diotrephes to usurp total control of the church is summed up in one words PHILOPROTEUO, the composite of PHILOS, "loving", and PROTEUO, "to be in first place". That Diotrephes' love of preeminence entailed the supplanting of Jesus himself in the church is clear the only other time the word PROTEUO appears in the Bible is in the following verse;
"And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the preeminence (PROTEUO)." Colossians 1;18
What Diotrephes lusted for and won over the church was the position of "preeminence", PROTEUO, (the use of this word in both instances is no coincidence) that Jesus alone rightfully holds as the true head of the body, the same position that Korah desired and attempted to discredit Moses to obtain. The parallel is all too clear. Whether or not Diotrephes' church appointed him to his position we do not know, but the very idea of his kingly rule was as distasteful to John as it was to Samuel, and it is clear that the elder fully intended to set things straight with a personal visit.
Whether or not John succeeded in restoring proper church order in this instance we do not know, but history reveals that many more Diotrephes soon usurped power over the churches until eventually all church "government" fell entirely into the hands of the "monarchial bishopry".
We have much to learn from "pastor Diotrephes".
The New Testament deals often with PHILOPROTEUO, the love of prestige, the desire for power, the lust for vainglory. It is a disease that was endemic from the very birth of the church, and even the original twelve fought over who was the "greatest". More than anything else it was PHILOPROTEUO brought about the change from the simple institution of elders in the churches to the great power of the pope.
Paul himself dealt with this problem in his letters to the Corinthian church.
"For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you in the face." II Corinthians 11:19-20
A clearer description of the actions of those who love preeminence could hardly have been given.
It was not by any means their spirituality that brought the Corinthian church into bondage to a man, allowing that man to exalt himself over them, and forcing Paul to commend himself as well, despite his obvious distaste for it. The apostle was indeed of a "different spirit" than such men, whom he labels "false apostles, deceitful workers", for he preferred to abase himself before the church rather than exalting himself, so that the church might be exalted instead. "Ye have reigned as kings without us", writes Paul to the Corinthians. But would to God that "the ministry" would reign instead? How unlike our "ministers" Paul is! "And I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you". I Cor. 4:8
"For ye are yet carnal", writes Paul to the Corinthians. Why? Because the women cut their split ends or the men wore beards, as they all doubtlessly did, being Greeks? Not at all. Although Paul almost single-handedly founded the Corinthian church, he had no desire for any kind of "following", knowing that such idolizing caused only division and a "party spirit" between the disciples and led the people away from Christ, ..
"For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal?" I Corinthians 4;3
This is carnality, the holding of one's allegiance to a man rather than to Christ, for "carnal christians" always find it easier to hold to a man than to follow Christ, and it is upon this weakness that the wolves Jesus warned of find easy prey.
Historically, it is clear that, exactly as the apostles instituted it, the work of "overseership" was exercised by a number of elders in each church for many years after the close of the Book of Acts. However, by the second century the monarchial bishopry had become increasingly popular and even many of the churches that the apostles founded fell under this system.
The first example of the teaching that only one individual holds the bishopry in each church is to be found in the writings of Ignatius, himself the monarchial bishop of the church of Antioch at the beginning of the second century. Whereas EPISKOPOS and PRESBUTEROS were used interchangeably in the Bible., as we have seen, Ignatius separated the terms in order to accommodate the system he advocated.
"For it is right that each of you", he writes the Trallian church, "and especially the elders (PRESBUTEROS) should refresh the bishop (EPISKOPOS) to the honor of the Father, of Jesus Christ, and of the apostles."
"It is good to know God and the bishop," he writes the church of Smyrna, "He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop is serving the devil."
"See that you follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, Let no one do any of the things pertaining to the church without the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic church. It is not lawful either to baptize or to hold a feast of charity (AGAPE) without the bishop; but whatever he approves is also pleasing to God, that everything which you do may be secure and valid."
Ignatius' writings had considerable impact on the church of his time, particularly the words quoted above, where the churches as a whole are described as "Catholic", the first time this word appears in any Christian writing. The term, obviously, later became very popular. It was because the monarchial bishopry excluded Jesus as head of the individual, local churches that Ignatius described Christ as holding power over the Catholic or "universal" church instead. So it was due to Ignatius' promulgation of the monarchial bishopry that Roman Catholicism found its namesake and Christianity became an "organized" religion, structured according to the ways of men and not of God.
In the paragraph quoted above, Ignatius insists, as he constantly does in all his letters [with the sole exception of his letter to the church of Rome, which at the time was still "pastured" by a plurality of elders], that the monarchial bishop must hold absolute power over the church; all that is done must be subject to his approval, any authority in the church is entirely at his appointment and under his control, and all that the church professes and believes is to be set by his dictum. This teaching is nowhere to be found in the Bible, of course, nor in any Christian writings up to Ignatius' time. Ignatius, however, was a most vehement preacher of the monarchial system, and it was not long until nearly all Christian churches abandoned the apostolic "overseership" of the elders for the system he proclaimed. It is this very system, perpetuated for hundreds of years by false doctrine and passed down from Roman Catholicism that holds Pentecostalism in its grip today. Only a church that prefers the Word of God to the ways of men will ever break loose from that system, free itself from the traditions of men, and reap the blessings of true "apostolic" Christianity.
What excuse did Ignatius have for the institution of the monarchial system that it should find acceptance in nearly all the churches of his time?
It was primarily due to the attraction of the ever-multiplying number of heresies that Ignatius insisted on the monarchial form of church government. If all doctrine originated in one person in each church, then all members could be expected to conform to that person's teachings, and any disagreement with the "pastor" would automatically constitute heresy. This would end, supposedly, the divisions that were threatening to dissolve Christianity and impose a nicely unified facade before a still pagan world, and it was for this reason more than any other that the churches complied.
Besides ignoring the fact that the monarchial bishopry was never condoned by the apostles, the Church of Ignatius' time had forgotten the warning which Paul gave the elders of the church of Ephesus;
"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
In these verses, Paul is not speaking to "the laity" but to the elders, the bishops of the church of Ephesus, of whom he warns would come men who would willingly distort the truth in order to obtain their own following. Paul's words were well fulfilled in the years that followed as men felt free to wrest scripture in order to "draw away disciples after them" and the divisions and heresies that this PHILOPROEUO spawned nearly destroyed Christianity. And the monarchial system, rather then effecting any cure, worsened the situation, giving men who loved power more than truth license to "lord it over" the churches. It was Diotrephes' love of preeminence that divided "his" church from John and the brethren that were associated with him. And it was the desire for a following that induced the believing Pharisees to compel Gentile converts to conform to their interpretation of the law, an interpretation that was incompatible with true Christianity.
When Paul wrote the evangelist Timothy, giving instructions concerning the qualification of bishops (EPISKOPOS) and "deacons" (DIAKONOS), he concludes by sayings "These things write I unto thee .... that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the ... living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." I Tim 3;15
This was perhaps the gravest error of the monarchial system; it robbed the responsibility of upholding the truth from the church as a whole and transferred it to the monarchial bishopry. And rather than strengthening the church, it left the churches weak and helpless, unable to perform their biblical function as the very bulwark and stay of truth, and slave to the false doctrines of power hungry men.
"But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1;8-9
It is to "the churches of Galatia" that Paul writes above, warning them that they must reject even an angel, even the apostle himself, anyone who preaches an errant gospel, different from the gospel with which they were initially entrusted. Paul had committed the truth of the gospel, not to other "ministers" in an "apostolic succession", but to the churches as a whole and Paul reminds them of their responsibility to uphold that gospel.
"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." Revelation 2;2
Jesus is by no means addressing any "pastor" or "minister" in this verse, but the entire church of Ephesus, through their "angel" [The "angels" of the seven churches, by the very definition of the word, "are not their presbyters or bishops", says Thayers', "but heavenly spirits". To see just how the lust for vainglory can distort this simple truth, see "The Seven Church Ages", by William Marrion Branham.], commending them for trying false apostles and proving them to be liars.
Yet because we Pentecostals have been so blinded by the false doctrines of power-hungry men, we can no longer even discern that we are in bondage, slaves to a Diotrephes, a "false apostle" who hides behind the title of "pastor". Ignorant of the elders' words to Gaius, we are blindly following "that which is evil" [III John, 11] and we are being led, not to the promised land, but into the ditch, not by another Moses, but by a Korah. And while the Ephesian church exposed as false the self-exalting claims of men, we are like the Corinthians instead, "suffering" a mere man to freely exalt himself over the church, allowing him to "smite us in the face" so fiercely that no one dares to so much as question the position of power and authority which this man has perverted the word of God to obtain.
"Touch not God's anointed", prates the monarchial bishop, referring to himself exclusively in an attempt to frighten the church away from questioning his extorted power.
"When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." Psalms 105;13-15
The verses above, which the "pastor" distorts to enforce "the position of the ministry" and insure a submissive following, are not speaking of anyone who holds a position of "divine authority" but of the Jewish patriarchs. "Anointed" in the verse above, is in the plural, literally "anointed ones", as the best versions have it.
Who, then, are the "anointed ones" of the New Testament?
"Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ and hath anointed us is God; Who hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." II Corinthians 1:21-22
"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." I John 2;27
Nowhere in the Bible is there any anointing greater than that which the entire church has received from God, the anointing of the Holy Ghost.
In the verse from Corinthians quoted above, "anointing" is from the Greek CHRIO, from which the word Christ comes. This is the same "anointing" that the kings, priests, and prophets of the Old Testament received (always CHRIO in the Septuagint), setting them apart from the rest of the people. And this anointing was merely symbolic of the anointing of the Spirit which Jesus purchased with his death for the "royal Priesthood", his church.
Not at all content with this, Pentecostal "ministers" have fabricated another "anointing", one that is somehow superior to that of the Holy Ghost, which they flaunt as entitling them to their privileged position in the church. But this "anointing" is based on pure falsehood, with no origin whatsoever in the Bible, and it makes those who claim it for themselves all but "false Christs".
Having explored some of the more flagrant abuses of the monarchial bishopry, one final point must be made concerning this unbiblical form of church government before we go on to determine the biblical work of elders in the church. It is that the monarchial system, taught by Ignatius and holding sway over much of Christianity to this day, is directly responsible for the extinction of apostles, prophets and teachers, the most essential and important in Christianity.
Adolf VonHarnack, in "The First Three Centuries of Christianity", explains why:
"But Hellenizing was hardly the decisive grounds for abolishing the order of teachers in the churches; here, as elsewhere (i.e. as with apostles and prophets) the change was due to the episcopate with its intolerance of any office that would not submit to its strict control and allow itself to be incorporated in the simple and compact organization of the hierarchy headed by the bishop."
Von Harnack explains that it was the monarchial bishopry that effectively excluded apostles, prophets and teachers from the churches. How? Like Diotrephes, the monarchial bishop of each church was free to use his position of power to berate and cast out those who, like the apostle John, would not submit to his total control or acknowledge his preeminence. And because it was simply not possible that apostles, prophets and teachers could fulfill their callings from the Lord under these conditions, they eventually disappeared from Christianity altogether.
Today, conditions under the Pentecostal monarchial bishop are exactly as they were in the monarchial churches of Ignatius' time and after. As for apostles, any and all "sending" will be done by the "pastor" rather than by God himself. As for prophets, the monarchial bishop is the Prophet with a capital "P", although prophets and bishops are two entirely different positions in the church, and "preaching" and "pastoring" are never equated in the Bible. And as for teachers, as Ignatius insisted, it is the "pastor" who is the source of all that the church believes, the mainstay of the truth, the supposed guardian of the gospel. So while the monarchial bishopry today boasts that its position of power is soundly based on the Bible its very existence has robbed the church of its most essential ministries and of its responsibility to uphold the truth and has destroyed the order which God instituted for the Church .
How long will Diotrephes be allowed to rule?
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" Ephesians 4;11
In this verse, Paul denotes five different positions which are held in the church of the New Testament.
The work of apostles, like the lesser but similar work of evangelists, was that of preaching the gospel to the world. "Go ye therefore and teach (literally, 'make disciple of') all nations", said Jesus, "teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Jesus is not speaking to all those who believed in him, but to the Eleven specifically, reaffirming their call to bring the gospel to the world.
The kind of gospel preaching which Jesus instituted involved almost constant traveling in fulfilling the call to reach "all nations" with the message of salvation. The extensive journeys of the apostle Paul, beginning with his "calling" while in Antioch (Acts 13:1-5) and ending in Rome, exemplify this.
Where the apostles "laid the foundation", founding churches from city to city, prophets and teachers had the responsibility of instructing and strengthening the churches; the former by the inspiration of the Spirit, the latter on the basis of the scriptures. "He that prophesieth", Paul tells us, "speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation (literally, 'encouragement'), and comfort."
While it evidently requires a definite "call" to be an apostle or evangelist, and it requires the gift of prophecy to make one a prophet, the ministry of teaching is open to those who are willing and able to undertake the responsibility of establishing the church in the scriptures. James, however, warns the believers that not many of them should aspire to become teachers, for those who instruct others shall themselves be judged more strictly.
As we have already seen, the work of "pastors" is that of "shepherding", caring for and tending the needs of the church, "watching over" it with the care of a shepherd for his sheep;
"This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop, then, must be blameless…" I Timothy 3;1-2
In this verse, the phrase "office of a bishop" originates in one word, EPISKOPE, meaning "overseership". The true work of a bishop, an "overseer", is such a duty of care and responsibility that, like that of teachers, it is reserved for all those who are willing to undertake it, provided they meet the requirements which the apostle prescribes.
One of these requirements is that the person who aspires to be a bishop, according to the apostle, is that he must be, "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity: For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" I Tim.3;5
The King James wording here evokes an image of bishops "ruling" the church with belt in hand, ready to discipline erring members as they would their own children. Yet this is by no means what the apostle wished to express. "Rule" here is from PROISTEMI, "to attend to (indicating care and diligence)" says Vine's, here expressing the responsibility of the head of the house in looking after the needs of his familly.
More important in this verse is the phrase "take care of", which originates in the Greek word EPIMELEOMAI. Jesus himself lets us know just what kind of care this word is intended to express in the parable of the good Samaritan.
"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion
on him, and went to him,? and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast
and brought him to an inn, and took care of him (EPIMELEOMAI). And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him, (EPIMELEOMAI) and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee." Luke 10;33-35
Beside its surface meaning as the Lord's depiction of what it means to "love thy neighbor", this parable has an underlying relevance that the use of the word EPIMELEOMAI brings out. It is the same selfless, compassionate care as that which the good Samaritan showed the man who fell among thieves that the bishops, or "overseers" are to manifest toward the church. As the apostle makes clear, this is the kind of "feeding" or shepherding that is required of all true "pastors".
When Peter addresses the elders specifically in his epistle (I Peter 5:1-4), charging them to "feed (POIMAINO) the flock of God", he tells them just how to go about that shepherding in order to be worthy of "a crown of glory" from the "chief Shepherd". They are to exercise their duty of "watching over" the church "not by constraint, but willingly", not lording it over and domineering the church, but rather to serve as an example for others to follow.
There is another important facet of Peter's charge to the elders; it is that their "pastoring" must not be done "for filthy lucre", meaning, of course, monetary gain, "but of a ready mind".
Contrary to the teachings of "the ministry", God never ordained that the work of "pastors" be a paying position or any kind of profession. Of the five positions Paul denotes in Ephesians, it is only those who fulfill a calling to preach the gospel to the world, apostles and evangelists, that are in any way entitled to the support of the church financially. As the apostle writes;
"Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." I Corinthians
"But I have used none of these things," Paul writes, "neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void." [I Cor.9;15] The apostle goes on to say that though he preaches the gospel he cannot expect any credit, for it would be misery to him not to preach. Then what profit did Paul get out of preaching at his own expense? It was simply the satisfaction that "when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more." [I Cor.9;18,19] "Servant" in this verse is DOULOS, "bond-man".
"Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought", Paul reminds the Thessalonians "but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable unto any of you." [II Thess. 3:8 ] The apostle refused to so much as eat anyone's food without paying for it, working at a. "secular" job, that of tent-making, day and night not only to avoid burdening the church but also "to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow (imitate) us." [II Thess. 3:9]
Paul felt a responsibility to those whom he had "begotten" in the gospel that far transcended his right to financial support as a preacher of the message of salvation to the world. Writing to the church of Corinth, which he founded almost single-handedly, Paul expresses this as follows;
"Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you; for I seek not yours, but you; for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved." II Corinthians 12;13-14
This is the example of a true "minister"; the apostle's concern for the church was so great he was willing not only to spend but to be spent as well for the sake of the church, whether the church ever even appreciated it or not.
Paul did all this to be an example not only to the church in general, but the elders in particular. After instructing the elders of the church of Ephesus to "feed (POIMAINO) the church of God ", over which "the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (EPISKOPOS)", Paul reminds them of his example of supporting himself and explains Just how it related to their work of "pastoring", as follows
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them; which are sanctified. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak (ASTHENES), and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than receive." Acts 20;32-35
While apostles and evangelists are entitled to the financial support of the church in order to expedite their work of preaching, "pastors" are in the opposite position; according to the apostle, they are to labour, to work at a job as he did, not only to support themselves but the "weak", the ASTHENES of the church as well.
While ASTHENES (literally, "without strength") typically means "sick" or "infirm" throughout the New Testament, here this word has a somewhat different meaning. As the context makes clear, it refers to those who are in need and the use of this word restricts the sense to those who are in need not out of preference or laziness, but because of circumstances that they are unable to change.
Above everyone else in the church, the "pastors" have a responsibility to put into practice the words of Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" as they perform their ministry of tending and "watching over" the flock, caring for the needy at their own expense. This is the kind of "shepherding" that the word POIMAINO, so often translated "feed" in the King James, is meant to express, and this is the "ministry" the work of service which is required of all "pastors" by the Word of God.
The differences between the "pastoring" of the New Testament and that of modern Pentecostalism are so glaring they scarcely need to be pointed out. "Overseeing" no longer has anything to do with "watching over" and looking after the needs of the people of God with the compassionate care of the Good Samaritan; it has become commandeering instead, the same kind of tyrannizing that Peter warned against. But worst of all, while not at all entitled to the support of the church but commanded instead to work for the sake of the church's needy, the Pentecostal "pastor" freely demands and fully expects the financial support of every member of "his" church, indigence being no excuse.
Caring little or nothing for the kind of "shepherding," which the apostles instituted, the "pastor" has made "feeding" out to mean "preaching". And what kind of preaching? That which the apostles practiced, declaring the gospel throughout the world? Not at all, but rather a "preaching" which has no precedent whatsoever in the Bible, directed not to the lost world but to the saints of God, and serving to enforce "pastoral authority", to strengthen the monarchial bishop's position of power and to beat the church into humble submission to his every command. Where Peter warned the elders not to "feed" the church "for filthy lucre", the "pastor" today practices a ministry that not only is the antithesis of biblical "feeding", but one which entitles him to "lucre" that is filthy indeed.
Revolting as the very thought may be to many of our "pastoral", the position which they claim is meant to be one of service, of bondage to the church more than all the other ministries of the New Testament. True "pastoring" is not an opportunity to be first but last, not to be the greatest, but the least, not to exercise authority but to be in bondage, not to be the master but the servant of the church, following the example of Jesus. Only in this is true greatness to be found in the eyes of God. "Whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant" said Jesus, "and whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be DOULOS, bond-man of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many". Mark 10;43-45
Jesus, like Moses, clearly cared nothing for any kind of authoritarian, worldly "rule". "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone." [John 6;15] Though he was the only true King of the Jews, Jesus preferred being a servant to being a ruler, and willingly "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant (DOULOS- bond-man)." [Phil. 2:6 ] Why? In order to give the unsurpassable example of a true "minister". "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you", said Jesus, after washing his disciples' feet. And just as Jesus was an example to the apostles, so "pastors" have the responsibility to be an example to the church in an equal willingness to give of themselves and humble themselves to be the servants, the "bondmen" of the people of God, "Neither as being lords over God's heritage" says Peter, "but ensamples to the flock". Not an example of tyranny but one of love and dedication, expressed in works of service to the people of God, caring for its sick, providing for those in need, assisting the elderly, in every way "addicting themselves to the ministry of the saints." It is works such as these that constitute the true "work of God.
While the five ministries of which the apostle speaks in Ephesians have different functions, they all have one important task in common. According to Paul, it is "to prepare God's people for works of service." Eph.
Here again the King James ("for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry") misleads; "perfecting" here is properly a "making fit" or "preparing fully" while the phrase "the work of the ministry" originates in the Greek, ERGON DIAKONIA meaning, as we have seen, "servant-work".
Rather than demanding that the church serve them, all true "ministers" have the responsibility to teach and to exemplify true Christian "service" to the church, to encourage the church in similar works of love to the needy. "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have skewed toward his name," in doing what? "in that ye have ministered (DIAKONEO)to the saints and do minister (DIAKONEO)". Heb.6;10
This kind of work is the very core of true New Testament Christianity, though it is almost completely unknown to modern Pentecostalism . "Serving God" is serving the needy, first and foremost the needy of the church and "giving to the work of God" consists not in paying the wages of a "pastor" under the pretext of "supporting the ministry", but in financing the care of the sick, the feeding of the hungry, the providing for the poor, though all such things are bottom priority in Pentecostalism and to its "pastors".
At the very birth of the Church, after Peter had preached his Acts 2;38 message and 3000 souls were added to the church, what is the first thing these new converts did? Built a fine parsonage for Peter? Donated to the treasury of the temple (which at the time was still uncompleted)? Not at all, they "Sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, as every man had need". [Acts 2;44] They gave to the needy? How foolish and wasteful this must appear to our "ministers"! But this spontaneous expression of love and concern for those in need which the Jerusalem church established became the standard practice of the churches of the New Testament, an underlying theme throughout the book of Acts and the epistles. And the apostles themselves not only commended and encouraged this work, but were deeply involved in it personally not only at the beginning but throughout the Book of Acts.
We all know too well how those of the Jerusalem church who were "possessors of lands or houses" sold them, laying down the proceeds at the apostles' feet. And the apostles in turn spent these monies, not on themselves, but on the care of those in need, knowing well that to take a pittance of such funds for themselves would make them guilty of the same crimes Judas was famous for. As we have seen, when this work simply became too much for the apostles to handle, the first "ministers" were appointed, who carried on the ministry to the needy.
Later, when Paul and Barnabas had come to Jerusalem to determine the judgement of the apostles and elders concerning the circumcision question, we learn that Peter, James and John bad something special which they wished to remind them after accepting them as partners. What was it? "That we should remember the poor," said Paul later," the same which I also was forward (eager) to do." Gal.2;10
Like the original apostles, Paul was indeed eager to remember the poor, and his actions testify to this fact. The eleventh chapter of Arts tells of a prophet named Agabus who, having just come from Jerusalem to Antioch, prophesied to the church "that there should be a great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the says of Claudius Ceasar." [Acts 11;28] Judea was among the poorest nations under Roman dominance and the brethren of Antioch naturally felt it their obligation to assure the well-being of the disciples who lived there in light of the pending dearth. So they chose Barnabas and Paul to be the trustees of a fund for the needy saints and as the other churches became aware of the need and were equally willing to contribute, the two apostles were entrusted with the collection. The proceeds were to be brought to the elders of Jerusalem, who, in turn would "make distribution to every man as he had need", exactly as the apostles had done years before.
Paul clearly thought very highly of this service, mentioning it often in his epistles, and devoting the entire eight and ninth chapters of Second Corinthians to commending this ministry to the disciples. After arriving in Jerusalem, where he was soon arrested, what reason does Paul give for his reappearance there in his defense before Felix? "Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings." [Acts 24;17] It was for the sake of delivering the "alms" for the needy saints of Judea that Paul, ignoring all the ominous warnings he received, made the journey to Jerusalem that landed him in prison and sent him on his way to martyrdom in Rome. What an example of unselfish devotion to those in need!
The apostles' desire to "prepare the saints for works of service" shows up clearly in their writings, especially in those of Peter, James and John, the same three that were mindful of reminding Paul and Barnabas of the importance of caring for the poor.
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this," says James, and what is it? Soul winning? Obeying the "pastor"? "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." [James 1;27] This verse alone presents a teaching that Pentecostalism has no room for, requiring works of love and consideration for those in need that the "pastors" of today care little for practicing or preaching.
"Visit" here is from EPISKEPTOMAI, simply a later form of EPISKOPEO, both meaning to "watch over" or "look after". Widows and orphans, "feeble members" who are most in need of personal care, are mentioned here by James as the most typical recipients of the church's concern, as indeed they were. Widows were prominent recipients of the ministry of the Jerusalem church to the needy (Acts 6;1) and, in a completely different place and time, Paul gives Timothy instructions that believing families should support their widowed relatives so that the church may be better able to "relieve them that are widows indeed." I Tim.
James lets us know just how much consideration he had for the poor, end how much value he placed on those in need by severely rebuking the church for its callousness toward the "weak". "For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts (lit. 'with evil thought')? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor." James 2;2-6 James goes on to say that it is the rich who have made themselves the enemies of the Way and concludes by saying, "But if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors." James 2:9
James goes on to say, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" And what kind of works is James referring to? Building church buildings? Fortunately, he tells us quite plainly the kind of works that true faith brings in the following verse.
"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." James 1:16-17
Another apostle, John, who we met previously exposing Diotrephes, takes up the same theme as James in the following verses;
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but indeed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him." I John 3;16-19
While James lets us know that caring for the needs of those in the church is the work of faith, John tells us that such works of love are the very proof of God's love dwelling in the heart of the believer as well. John goes so far as to say that it is by our "laying down our lives for the brethren", looking after their needs, and caring for them in their difficulties, that we can assure our hearts that we are really in the truth. It is not at all surprising that the "pastor" has completely ignored John's teaching here, for Diotrephes cared little for this apostle's message, and neither does his successor today.
What great revelation, now unknown to Pentecostalism, spurned the apostles to place such emphasis on caring for the brother or sister in need and inspired the early church to such wholehearted devotion to the needy, the ASHTENES or "feeble members", count them worthy of "more abundant honour"? The answer is to be found in the following words of Jesus.
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory... And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the Vinv say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked , and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or mired, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the king shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25;31-40
It was these words that doubtlessly affected the early church and its leaders so much, depicting as they do the difference between the goats and the sheep, the saved and the damned, more vividly than any other of Jesus' teachings.
When was Jesus himself poor, a stranger, sick, in need of care? The answer could hardly be clearer. Whenever "one of the least of these my brethren" was, Jesus was, and only in serving the needs of such a brother or sister is Jesus himself truly served.
This is the way in which the church of the New Testament served the Lord, not by blindly obeying the commands of a Diotrephes, but by devoting themselves to the care of those in need, following the example and encouragement of their "ministers".
"Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord", says Paul. Doing what? "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality." [Rom.12:1l-13 ] "Hospitality" here is from PHILOXENIA, the love of strangers, and we meet the word again in Hebrews, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers (lit. to have love for strangers); for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Heb.13;2
"Visit" in Jesus' words above (I was sick and ye visited me) is again EPISKEPTOMAI, the same word James used to describe the care of widows and orphans, indicating a watchful care and concern far beyond simply "visiting".
Were not the apostles eager to inspire the church to serve the Lord through "works of service" because they were plainly mindful of the profound importance of Jesus' words above? And did not the believers willingly devote themselves to such works of love because they too were well aware that in serving the needy they were serving Christ himself? Such is obviously the case and the actions of the apostles and the church as a whole testify to it.
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye pave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited (EPISKEPTOMAI) me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or a thirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Matthew 25;41-46
What loophole is to be found in the words above through which Pentecostal "pastors" plan to escape the condemnation reserved for all "goats"? Not only do they refuse to work to support the needy, as God intended "pastors" more than all others to do, but they demand and receive the support of the entire church, rich and poor, as well, freely condemning those who do not. And to top it all, the "pastor" boasts of his great reward in heaven, his "burden for the work of God" and his "apostolic ministry" when in fact the money he receives from the church is spent first on himself, second on other "ministers" whom he approves, and last, if ever, on those in need!
"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees;" said John the Baptist, "Every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire." And what kind of "good fruit" is John referring to? "And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." Luke 3;9-11
Under the instruction of "pastors" who are goats rather than shepherds, Pentecostal church members have been assured of a heavenly reward, not for caring the needy, but for "supporting the ministry" and for donating their time, energy and money to the projects fostered by the "pastor". But such a reward will never come, for the only kind of giving that God respects is that which is directed toward those in need, as his Word makes very clear, and only for this kind of giving is any reward ever promised. Jesus himself makes this point clear time and again in his teachings.
"When thou makest a supper or a dinner, call not thy friend, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again and a recompense he made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." Luke 14;12-14
Addressing the rich young ruler, Jesus said, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me." Luke 18;22
The Old Testament itself abounds with consideration for the poor and Jesus was simply reaffirming the reward that God had promised long ago to those who give to the needy.
"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed, for he giveth of his bread to the poor." Proverbs 22;9
"He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." Proverbs 19 ;17
"Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth; and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies." Psalm 41;1-2
It is certainly noteworthy that while the early church was busy "with one accord" putting into practice Jesus' words concerning the needy, the Lord himself "added to the church daily such as should be saved". This care of the needy, the church's undying devotion to the poor and helpless, was Christianity's greatest impact on the Roman world. Even the preaching of Jesus as saviour pales when compared with this, simply because none of the numerous saviour-cults which were so popular in Roman times, all of which promised eternal salvation, ever incited men and women to such unparalleled selflessness and love as that which Jesus taught and exemplified. No other cult taught its adherents to bind up the broken-hearted, care for the sick and afflicted, give to the needy, and love in such an incomparable way. So Christians were called "Christ-like", not because they were members of his cult, but because they so thoroughly followed his example of love, a love which only God himself could inspire through His Spirit. And it was because of this love that the world was won to Christianity. "By this the world shall know that ye are my disciples," said Jesus, "Because ye love one another." This was the "new commandment" that Jesus gave, and in this is fulfilled all the law which the Israelites could not fulfill, a faith which works in love.
Having examined the kind of giving which the early church was taught by Jesus and encouraged by its ministers to practice, let us now compare this with the kind of giving which is taught by Pentecostal "ministers" today.
Of all the traditions which Pentecostalism has blindly inherited from Roman Catholicism, tithing is perhaps the most inexcusable, being as it is a universal practice in Pentecostal churches today. It is a biblical as well as a historical fact that tithing was not in any way practiced by the early church until long after PHILOPROTEUO had done its damage and Christianity fell prey to the papacy. The practice was introduced to Christianity by Charlemagne in the fifth century in order to provide a consistent means of support for the bishops and parish "clergy"; or to "support the ministry", as they say. By this time, bishops had lost all intention of working to care for anyone end preferred, like our "ministers", to be supported by the labor of others and Christianity had fallen into such darkness that no one knew the better. So began a tradition that has beset Christianity for the past 1500 years and it is only because Pentecostal "ministers" have more in common with the "clergy" of the Dark Ages than with the ministers of the New Testament that it endures today.
Tithing was, however, clearly commanded by the law of Moses and practiced by the Jewish nation for centuries. And what, according to Moses, was the purpose of tithing? Who did God intend to be the beneficiaries of this practice?
"At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates; And the Levite (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest." Deuteronomy 14;28-29
"When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat whithin thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all the commandments which thou hast commanded me; Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou halt given us, as thou swearest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey." Deuteronomy 26 ;12-15
Moses' purpose in commanding tithing was to institute a systematic means of providing for those in need, thereby assuring the people of God's blessing for their faithful care of the poor. The stranger, the widow and the orphan are all mentioned again specifically in the New Testament as worthy of the churches' support. But what of the Levite? Why was he entitled to partake of the support of the people? The answer is simple; because he was forbidden by the law to possess land or property and was therefore entirely dependent upon the consideration of others to survive.
It is very clear, as we have seen that the priesthood of the Old Testament is a type, not of the Pentecostal "clergy", but of the true church as a whole. Perhaps it shall now become obvious why Pentecostal "ministers" flaunt themselves as the fulfillment of the levitical priesthood when they have no biblical basic whatsoever to do so. It is so that the "pastor" first and foremost, and the "ministers" who are next in line as well, may enjoy the privilege of being the recipients of the tithes which each and every church member, no matter how poor, is required to pay. The kind of tithing which these false apostles preach, teach, and command is nothing but a damnable, selfish, and blatant perversion of the kind of giving that God commanded the Israelites to practice. It goes not to serve those in need, but to cater to the desires of men who call themselves "pastors" in purest hypocrisy.
"Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing, that there shall not he room to receive it." Malachi 3;7-10
It is from these verses in Malachi that Pentecostal "ministers" derive their teachings concerning the practice of tithing. Paying ten percent of one's gross income to the "pastor" is preached as guaranteeing the faithful tither of financial well-being and the temporal blessings of God. Tithes are decreed to belong to the tither but to God himself and in tithing one is not giving a willful gift but simply "giving to God (or rather his representative, the 'pastor') what already belongs to him". Those who hold back even a part of this levy are boldly threatened with the condemnation of Ananias and Saphira, and, even worse, those who refuse to comply are labelled as accursed of God, promised poverty, and excluded from active membership. Those who are poor are assured that, so long as they consistently fork over their ten percent, no matter how much hardship it may cause them, God will reward them in heaven and will somehow provide for their needs.
But how did the Israelites "rob God" by neglecting to tithe? By willfully withholding the support for the poor that the tithes provided, thereby neglecting not just the needy, the orphan, or the widow, but the Lord himself. "When ye did it not to the least of these my brethren," said Jesus, "ye did it not unto me." It was for this reason that they earned a curse from God, the same curse pronounced in Matthew, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat..."
But did not Abraham tithe to Melchizedek? Indeed he did, but not out of obedience to the dictates of any man or law, but rather out of a spontaneous desire to give, exactly like the giving the early church practiced. The book of Hebrews speaks of the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood to the levitical in relation to tithing, the writer going on to say that it is Jesus himself who is the High Priest of the new order of Melchizedek, abolishing the levitical order. But since this new High Priest is ascended into heaven, how does one tithe to him, as Abraham did to Melchizedek? "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me", comes the answer, loud and clear. Only in caring for the "least of the brethren", only in practicing the kind of love and compassion with which the early church abounded, only in this does Jesus himself, our true High Priest, receive "tithes".
It should be clear enough by now that Pentecostal "pastors" have no desire to obey the Word of God, but prefer instead to abuse end exploit it not only for their own vainglory, not only for their own love of "preeminence", not only for their lust for power, but for "filthy lucre" as well.
"If you don't pay tithes you're a Judas!" preaches the Pentecostal "pastor", assuring himself a steady income. And just what does the Bible have to say of Judas? It makes it clear that Jesus and his disciples, poor as they themselves may have been, kept a common fund from which they cared for those in need and that Judas, the trustee of this money, felt free to help himself to it as he pleased. Yet our "pastors" are far more bold than Judas ever dared be; they feel fully entitled to freely spend the tithes they rake in upon themselves entirely as they please, "feeding themselves without fear", and delegating what is left to anything but the needy. And if the needy of the church face the greatest difficulties in order to continue tithing, how deeply touched the "pastor" is by such willingness to "sacrifice" for "the work of God"! How benevolent the "pastor" appears to all when he occasionally shares with others that which he has extorted from the church and robbed the needy to provide himself with! What a wonderful example of true Christian giving for others to imitate! But while men are fooled by such fiendish hypocrisy, God is not.
"Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe ye with the wool, ye kill them that are fed; but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and cruelty have ye ruled them." Ezekiel 34;2-4
How can such men be called "pastors" when they are so clearly Judases instead? How could they ever be expected to join the labor force not only to support themselves but those who are in need as well when they prefer to freely butcher the truth, condemn themselves, and compromise the standing of the church with God in order to assure themselves a paying position?
"Beware of false prophets", says Jesus, "which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves". But how is the Christian to know these men, by their church affiliation, by their doctrines? "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore ye shall know them by their fruits." Matt. 7:15-20
Clearly the kind of giving taught by Jesus and the apostles is almost the diametric opposite of that which is commanded by our "ministers" today. Speaking of the collection for the needy saints of Judea, one of the most noteworthy examples of true "tithing" practiced by the New Testament church, Paul nowhere teaches that anyone give a certain percentage of their income but rather insists: "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity (lit. 'out of compulsion'); for God loveth a cheerful giver." [II Cor.9;7 ] Paul had no desire to see compulsive giving practiced by the early church, even if the giving was directed toward those who were truly deserving of it, because he knew such giving would never please God.
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest your alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; that thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6;1-4
Even the hypocrites of Jesus' time knew to whom God intended them to give; "alms" is a word that always means gifts to the needy. But not only is the kind of giving which Pentecostals are compelled to practice directed to those who are in no way worthy of it, but it is conducted in a manner that Jesus himself condemns. Public show is an intrinsic part of the kind of "giving" practiced today. "Offerings", which are provided as a means of allowing the church member to actually practice willful giving, are taken up by the passing of the plate during the church meeting, allowing everyone, especially the "pastor", to witness who is and who is not giving. This is often followed by what is called the "tithe march", when all the faithful tithers are given the opportunity to let everyone know that they are giving their share. This is evidently intended to be reminiscent of "laying the money at the apostles' feet", though the giving is neither willful nor spontaneous and the recipients are not at all apostles. Pledges, for whatever project the monarchial bishop may be fostering are bantered about with everything but the trumpet blast, and posted like union dues to honor those who give the most and shame those who give little, or worse, nothing. But indeed the left hand need not know what the right hand is doing so long as the church treasurer and the IRS do.
While all this is clearly condemned by the Lord, Pentecostal "ministers" initiate and encourage such practices, and promise a heavenly reward commensurate with capital forthcoming. But they are lying prophets, for they make the church trust in a reward that will never come from God, and the blessings they bestow upon those who give are the only rewards such givers will ever receive.
Oh for "pastors" who are shepherds and not wolves, for "ministers" who would willingly "prepare the church for works of service", giving a worthy example of selfless care for those in need, teaching and encouraging the church to practice works of love and kindness, so that it might receive the blessings of God! The world still looks in vain for a church that is truly "Christlike", for the kind of Christianity that won the world two thousand years ago.
Let us now investigate yet another facet of Pentecostal giving, which Pentecostal "pastors" love to teach and preach almost as dearly as tithing, and will distort the Word of God as thoroughly to promulgate; that most sacred cow, the Building Program.
When Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish nation was in the midst of what was to it the most meaningful task undertaken since the days of Solomon ? the construction of Herod's temple in Jerusalem. Because it was destined to be one of the greatest temples in the Roman world, the Jews were naturally very proud of the imposing structure, and felt its magnificence not only greatly enhanced their religion but glorified their God as well.
Unfortunately, the Israelites had forgotten again what Solomon himself said at the dedication of his temple so many years before:
"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" I Kings 8;27
Isaiah echoes the same thought in the following words;
"Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?" Isaiah 66;1
However, desiring to be ''like the nations round about them", the Jews saw their temple as the very dwelling place of their God, reducing "serving God" to serving the temple. Their pride as temple-keepers of the true God led the Israelites to trust in a building and to neglect the true service of God. Jeremiah tangled with this problem many years before:
"Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these (lit. "is here'), For if ye thoroughly execute Judgement between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow... Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever." Jeremiah 7;4-7
It was the very appearance of Jesus, God incarnate, that nullified all the significance which the temple may have had untill that time, and Jesus did not hesitate to make the temple's imminent destruction clear.
"And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Mark 13;1-2
More than almost anything that Jesus said, it was words like this that raised the ire of the unbelieving Jews, to whom the temple represented their entire religious life.
"Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up", said Jesus to the Jews, only to have the words repeated at his mock trial; "...At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it ." Matt.26;60-61
The Israelites were not allowed to execute capital punishment without the approval of the Roman governor, and any execution had to be on the basis of Roman, and not Jewish law. Defaming the temple was itself a capital crime in Roman law, which protected the sanctity of all temples. However, the Jews decided that accusing Jesus of insurrection (Luke 23;2) would more likely insure his execution.
And when Jesus was crucified, again we hear just how greatly the Israelites valued their temple and despised any who dared speak against it:
"And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself." Matt. 27;39
Jesus was not the only one who incurred the wrath of the unbelieving Jews for his words against the temple. In the sixth and seventh chapter of Acts we find the Jews furious with a man named Stephen for exactly the same reasons.
"And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes and came upon him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place (referring, of course, to the temple) and the law; For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs that Moses delivered us." Acts 6;11-14
In his own defense, Stephen was unafraid to confirm the allegations presented against him and quoted Isaiah 66;1 to do so.
"Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool; what house will ye build me? saith the Lord; or what is the place of my rest?" Acts 7;48-49
Words like these were more than the Jews could bear, and put them into such a rage that they took the law into their own hands and stoned Stephen to death without so much as a trial. But the words that Stephen spoke, like those of Solomon and of Isaiah, whom he quoted, express a fundamental principle of New Testament Christianity, repeated by the apostle Paul himself;
"God, that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands." Acts 17;24
It was this aspect of Christianity that not only divorced it from traditional Judaism but brought upon it the condemnation of the Roman Empire. Every religion before Jesus' time, possessed its temple and its elaborate temple cultus, all considered essential to the worship of its god. To the Gentile mind, Christianity was more incomprehensible than even Judaism from a. distance, for not only was it without a temple, but it possessed no tangible objects of veneration whatsoever.
In "Municius Felix", a debate between an idolater and a Christian written in the second century, the idolater Caecilus berates the Christians as follows; "Why have they no altars, no temples, no recognizable images... unless what they worship and conceal is something to be ashamed of?...the Jews worshiped one God by themselves, but they did it openly, with temples, altars, sacrifices and ceremonies and he and all his nation are in bondage to the deities of Rome! But these Christians!
Of course, the God of the Jews was by no means in captivity to the deities of Rome, for although Rome had destroyed the temple and taken its plunder, God no longer had any use for such trappings.
It was for the obvious lack of all that had hitherto constituted religion to the idolatrous world that Christianity jeopardized itself before the authority of Rome and earned condemnation on the grounds of "atheism". And it was Christianity's adamant refusal to compromise with such idolatrous ways, even on pain of death, that eventually brought the entire Roman religious system down. It won the Roman world without a temple or "house of God", without buildings of its own, with not so much as a spot of ground in its possession. Not until Constantine made Christianity the religion of the state and Roman Catholicism took shape were the first "church buildings'' reared. And in the centuries that followed, these "temples" soon surpassed in gradeur the deserted places of pagan worship, blending their features with those of the Old Testament temple. So Christianity obtained its "temples", "altars", "sanctuaries", "pews", "pulpits" and all the rest, not by the institution of the Lord or the apostles but from Roman Catholic syncretism.
Despite all this, Pentecostal "ministers" bestow a sanctity and importance upon church buildings which far more closely resembles the attitude of the Jewish nation and of Roman Catholicism than that of Jesus and the New Testament church. According to these men, the building in which the church meets is no ordinary building, it is "The House of God", a place so sacrosanct that members are forbidden to so much as chew gum in its sacred precincts. Lavishly donating to the building fund gaurantees not only the blessings of the "pastor" but those of God as well, and those who so much as question its necessity are summarily labeled "Sanballats and Tobiases", What a pathetic mockery of God's word this is! Like the people who wagged their heads at Jesus as he hung on the cross, these "ministers" have their minds set on impressing the world with a prestigious building rather than the love of God, and they will not hesitate to condemn those who are not of the same mind. Ignoring not only the example of the early church but the error of the Jewish nation as well, these men teach that a magnificent edifice will somehow impress the world in general, and the rich in particular, into obedience to the gospel of Christ. Desiring to be "like the nations round about them", envious of their impressive but empty buildings, these "ministers" are leading the church not into spirituality but into carnality, not into conformity to the Word of God, but rather into useless, dead denominational-ism.
Rather than devoting so much of its time, energies and money to constructing a building that is somehow endued with the sanctity and importance of Solomon's temple (including even a "dedication" at its completion), the church ought to recoil in disgust from any such "House of God", "tabernacle" or "temple", knowing that its very existence contradicts some of the most fundamental principles of Christianity. It ought to look upon its "temples" as the evidence of a wholesale return to the ways of denominationalism, and recognize those who commandeer their construction, not as "men of God", but as captains who are leading the church back into Egypt,
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles end prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit," Ephesians 2;19-22
This is the only earthly "temple" of New Testament Christianity, the body of Christ, and this is its only "building program", the edification of that body as the very dwelling place of God, the loving care of its members one for another. Yet under the dominance of bogus "ministers", Pentecostals have been led to forsake the "building program" of the New Testament for one that is carnal, phony and damnable, and each member pays the price.
The greatest reason that the church has complied with such falsehood is due to the confusing ambiguity between the "church" of the Bible and the word as it is often used today. "Chinch" originates in the Greek EKKLESIA, meaning literally "called out", referring always to "an assembly" or "congregation" of people. "Church" today is used to refer to a mere building and to all the programs and projects associated with that building. It is upon this ambiguity that our "clergy" plays so cleverly, so that one may now say "I gave a hundred dollars to the church", when in fact no one in the church was in any way helped by such giving, and if it went to anyone, the money went to line the pockets of "the ministry".
Since the early church possessed no "church buildings", in what places did it meet? In view of all the falsehood that has been taught on this subject one would think that the answer to this question was shrouded in the darkest biblical mystery, when in fact it is perhaps as clear as it could possibly be.
The first, and perhaps the most important "church meeting" of the Bible is that which Jesus held with his disciples on Passover Eve. This meeting was held in "a large upper room", the guest-chamber of the home of a friend, with Jesus and the disciples reclining round the dinner table in order to eat the Passover supper and enjoy one last time of close fellowship before the crucifixion. "With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer", said Jesus, stressing importance of this meeting.
The custom of calling this supper the "communion" is at best an unfortunate misnomer, based on the King James rendition of I Corinthians 10;16; "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" "Communion" in this verse is from the Greek KOINONIA, meaning "fellowship". We meet this word many times again in the New Testament but most notably in the second chapter of Acts; "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship (KOINONIA), and in breaking of bread, and in prayers". Acts 2;42
It was the Passover meeting that set the pattern for the New Testament church of a true "church meeting"; almost to its finest details it was the standard practice the Christians of the Bible to meet in exactly the same manner as that which Jesus instituted before his betrayal. Their meetings were held almost exclusively in homes, very often in "upper rooms", and the purpose of these meetings was to enjoy the same kind of warm, personal fellowship, as that which Jesus shared with the disciples in a home. The personable, comfortable atmosphere of a home is the only setting that is truly conducive to biblical KOINONIA, and the fact that the churches everywhere met in homes is made very clear by the Bible; throughout the epistles it is the only kind of meeting-place ever mentioned.
"Greet Priscilla and Acquilla my helpers in Christ Jesus", [Rom. 16:3] says Paul to the Romans, "likewise greet the church that is in their house."
Later, in a clumsily worded verse in the King James version of Romans, we hear of the hospitality of Gaius, in whose home not only did Paul stay while in Corinth, but the whole church of that city met. "Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you."
"Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea", writes Paul to the Collosians, "and Nymphas and the church which is in his house." Col. 4:15
In yet another epistle, Paul sends his greetings "unto Philemon, our dearly beloved, and fellow-labourer", remembering also, "the church that is in thy house".
The wording is never "the church that meets in thy house" simply because an EKKLESIA, a "church", is itself a meeting, the coming together of the disciples for the purpose of fellowship.
At the beginning of the Book of Acts we hear of another "upper room", the home of the eleven apostles. It was in their upstairs apartment that up to 120 disciples met regularly "in one accord in prayer and supplication". It was here, as everyone knows, that the Holy Spirit was first poured out upon the disciples, an occasion of monumental importance. Though most Pentecostals know this part of the Book of Acts almost by heart, none of them seem to have given any consideration to the fact that the original disciples met, received the baptism of the Spirit, and Peter preached his "Acts 2;38" message, not in the temple, not in a "church building", not in a synagogue, but rather in a simple home.
Not coincidentally, the next account that the Bible gives of an outpouring of the Holy Ghost takes place in the home of Cornelius. Peter came to this centurion's home to bring the gospel message despite the fact that it was unlawful for him to so much as enter the abode of a Gentile, and here the first non-Jewish converts received the baptism of the Spirit. That all spoke with tongues when they received this gift is not only well known but studiously imitated by we Pentecostals, but again no one even considers imitating the very setting in which all this took place, a home. While it is a fact that throughout the New Testament there is no account of anyone receiving the baptism of the Spirit anywhere except in a home we Pentecostals apparently love our phony "temples" too much to ever forsake them in order to follow the clear example of the New Testament church.
But did not the believers of Jerusalem meet in Herod's temple? Indeed they did. "And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house (lit. 'in their homes'), dial eat (lit.'share') their meat with gladness and singleness of heart". Acts 2;46
The Jewish christians met both in the temple and "from house to house", where, following the example of the supper at Passover, they ate together 'gladly and with singleness of heart". The apostles themselves taught and preached in the temple as well as in homes. "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus Christ". Acts 5;42
Yet it must be remembered that the believing Jews were well aware that the temple had lost all spiritual significance with the appearance of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who had himself openly foretold its destruction. To the Christians of Jerusalem the temple was simply a suitable place, open to all Jews (and closed to all Gentiles), where they could freely meet together daily. But the use of the temple by the Jewish christians continued only briefly. After Stephen's martyrdom for his refutation of the supposed sanctity of the temple and the repression that followed, we find that the disciples entirely discontinued meeting there, and that the apostles never again preached or taught in its precincts. So ended the only compatability true christianity ever had with an earthly temple.
During the persecution that began with Stephen's death, we find Saul, the future Paul, well aware of where to go to find the christians meeting; "As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." Acts 8;3
Later, when Peter was thrown into prison during Herod's persecution of the church, we learn that "prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him," And where was the church praying? Upon his release from prison, Peter knew very well just where to go; "he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John, whose surname is Mark; where many were gathered together praying." Acts 12;12
When Paul and his companions came to Philippi, a city which had not yet heard the gospel, where did they meet? "And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither." [Acts 16;13 ] It was because of these prayer-meetings by the riverside that the first convert, Lydia, was made and there she and her entire household were baptized. Lydia's home, in fact, became the "base of operations" for Paul and his companions, and after Paul and Silas were forced to leave the city, the others remained at this woman's home to continue the work. We can easily assume that this woman's generosity later provided the Philipian church with a place to meet.
There is yet another account of a Book of Acts church meeting, and it is important in all its details in determining more of just what true KOINONIA fellowship involves. We can safely assume that this meeting was typical of the kind of meetings that were enjoyed by the New Testament churches.
"And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a. certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long, while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted." Acts 20;6-12
Not coincidentally, again we have a meeting held in an "upper chamber", the third floor of a home which served as the meeting-place of the church of Troas once a week. Following the example that Jesus himself set in the "large upper room" on Passover eve, exactly as the Jerusalem church did, the purpose of this meeting was a fellowship dinner, the disciples coming together "to break bread". Paul waited until the last day of his seven day stay at Troas to attend this fellowship meeting in order to speak to the believers, taking the entire night to do so, and leaving the church "greatly comforted" the following morning.
The casual, warm informality of this meeting could not have been made clearer. The setting being the third floor of a home, the purpose being a fellowship dinner, the meeting lasting all the night long, Paul the apostle both speaking and eating with the church, even Eutychus sleeping in the window (hinting of crowded conditions), every detail depicts the relaxed, unpretentious, congenial atmosphere of the kind of fellowship that the churches of the New Testament enjoyed when they met together.
None of this could be so much as countenanced by our "ministers" today, who look upon home meetings with disdain if not pure contempt. While they call themselves "apostolic" and boast of their faithfulness to the Word of God they have no intention of allowing the church to follow the clear-cut example of the church meetings of the New Testament. The kind of KOINONIA that was enjoyed by the New Testament churches has been made impossible by our "ministers", and the meetings these men conduct more closely resemble grade school classes than the coming together of the people of God for fellowship.
The very seating arrangement, ramrod-straight rows of pews, all facing the "altar" from which the clergy "ministers", prevents anything even approximating true KOINONIA. If the entire congregation came in packing crates, able only to see and hear, and be seen by the "pulpit", our "ministers" could still have a perfectly acceptable church meeting, so little importance is placed on fellowship. Talking back and forth during the "service", arriving late, anything that offends the sanctimonious atmosphere of "the House of God" is openly condemned by these hypocrites who call themselves "apostolic" when they clearly care nothing for the ways of the apostolic church. Where once James condemned the church for seating the well dressed in the best places, today one may not so much as play a musical instrument during a church meeting unless in suit and tie, and the entire church is encouraged to dress up when it meets so as not to offend any rich visitors. Clearly our Diotrephes "pastors" have as little in common with James as they do with John and the rest of the apostles.
Church dinners, few and far between, are at best pathetic mockeries of the fellowship dinners of the New Testament church. Rarely is a dinner held at which a sizable entrance fee is not charged, the proceeds going to whatever project the monarchial bishop is fostering at the time. Assisting the needy with such dinners is certainly the last thing anyone has in mind; despite all that Jesus has to say on the subject the church is far too involved fulfilling the wishes of the "pastor" to ever have the time to obey the teachings of the Lord. Such things as "box socials", at which dinners are sold to the highest bidders, while common, are nothing less than insults to the Word of God.
Exactly as Ignatius insisted, all church meetings today are under the absolute control and presidence of the monarchial bishop, or any "minister" whom he approves, and no "layman" dares interfere with this "divine order". But this "divine order" is entirely against the Word of God. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name," says Jesus, "there am I in the midst of them". [Matt.18;20] All it takes to make a true "church meeting" is the presence, not of a "minister" but of Jesus himself, who promises his attendance when so few as two meet in his name. This must be a disgusting thought indeed to Pentecostal "pastors" who feel that all manner of horrible evils would result if the church were ever left to its own devices. The worst that could happen is that it may actually choose to be a "Book of Acts Church" in truth rather than in word alone.
While Pentecostal church meetings differ in almost every aspect from those of the New Testament church, the greatest difference lies in their very purpose. The church of Troas came together weekly for the purpose of having KOINONIA, close, personal fellowship enjoyed over a dinner, and the apostle Paul waited till the last day of his stay in Troas to use this meeting as an opportunity to speak with the disciples that gathered in that "upper room". Yet this is completely upside-down in Pentecostalism today, where the primary reason for church meetings is "to hear the preaching of the Word", and what little actual fellowship may be found in such meetings is strictly secondary in Importance.
What purpose does Pentecostal "preaching" like this serve, since it is clearly counted of greater importance than simple fellowship? The kind of "preaching" that is directed toward the church today serves not to inspire the church to "works of service" but rather to break it down into unquestioning submission to the dictates of the "pastor". The exclusive right of the "pastor" and the elite few that meet his approval, it gives him free license to exalt his "pastoral authority" over the church, to verbally beat it into subjection to his commands, and to condemn all who dare question his unbridled power.
This kind of "preaching", however, is not only unbiblical in its details, but in its very existence as well. And though it is called "apostolic" it is clear that the only kind of preaching that was practiced by the apostles was simply the proclaiming of the gospel to the lost, never in a "Church meeting", but rather anytime and anywhere the opportunity arose, as we shall see.
But did not Paul "preach" to the church of Troas in the verses quoted earlier? Not at all. Of the ten different Greek words which the King James translators chose to translate as "preach", this instance is perhaps the most inexcusable. Here, "preach" is from the creek DIALEGOMAI, a verb form of DIALOGOS, from which comes our english "dialogue". It means to discuss, to converse, to have a dialogue. The word appears a number of times in the book of Acts, either as "to reason" or "to dispute" in the King James Version. "And he reasoned (DIALEGOMAI) in the synagogue every sabbath and persuaded both the Jews and the Greeks." Acts 18;4
The kind of "preaching" which Paul directed toward the church of Troas was absolutely unlike that which Pentecostal "ministers" commonly direct toward the church today. It was simply a discussion, "not by way of a sermon", says Vine's, "but a discourse of a more conversational character", and it was doubtlessly as relaxed and informal as the meeting in which it was held. Playing Moses was certainly the last thing that Paul had in mind, rather he was determined to instruct, encourage, and comfort the church of Troas, and this was the way in which he did so.
All speaking that took place in New Testament church meetings served "to edification, and exhortation lit.'encouragement') and comfort", and revolutionary as the thought may be, the Bible makes it all too clear that it was the right, not of a privileged few, but of every member of the church. Pointing out the superiority of prophecy to speaking in tongues, Paul writes the following;
"If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophecy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all; And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." I Corinthians 14;23-25
Paul would never have dreamed of saying, "But if the Preacher preaches and there come into your meeting one that believeth not, he is convinced, etc. " Rather the emphasis is on the word "all"; "If all prophesy"... "he is convinced of all, he is judged of all ..." "For ye may all prophesy one by one", says Paul, "that all may learn, and all may be comforted." I Cor.14;31
While Paul encourages every member of the church to prophesy, having earlier urged them to "covet earnestly the best gifts", it is clear just the same that not all are necessarily endowed with this gift. But the apostle insists that every member has some gift that will profit the church whether it be prophecy or not.
"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of Knowledge by the same spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to anther divers kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." I Corinthians 12;7-11
Again Paul puts emphasis on the fact that these gifts are given "to every man", saying that "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man". God dividing these gifts "to every man severally as he will". Paul then goes on to write, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, be in many, are one body; so also is Christ." I Cor.12;12
But if all of this is true, then why is it that spiritual gifts are not freely exercised or even evident in Pentecostal church meetings and not all members have the right to prophesy? The answer is simple. It is because the body is no loner one but has been divided in two; "the ministry" holding the upper hand over "the laity". When the body of Christ is no longer one it is not possible for the spirit to apportion gifts "to every man severally as he will". And when the Head is no longer Christ but a man instead, the body is cut off from the source of all true prophecy.
Having by its very existence all but extinguished spiritual gifts, the Pentecostal "ministry" shifts the blame to the "laity", accusing the church of not being enough to be worthy of spiritual gifts and the right to prophesy, and the church, wishing to be more spiritual, ignorantly concurs. But spirituality, in fact, has nothing to do with it. The church of Corinth was perhaps the most notoriously carnal church of the apostolic epoch. "For ye are yet carnal", Paul candidly tells them, reproving them for factitiousness. We find these Corinthians not only guilty of fornication, but proud of it at one point, and we hear of them dragging another to court to settle their disputes. Yet in the same epistle, we learn that spiritual gifts so abounded among the Corinthian believers as to nearly disrupt their meetings!
While Pentecostalism prides itself in having received the same Holy Ghost as that which the New Testament church received, spiritual gifts have all but evaporated from its church meetings, and its members have despaired of ever enjoying such gifts as even the Corinthian church received in surplus. And its members never shall so long as they remain the servants of their "ministers" and not of the Lord.
Since speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit or prophecy, has become the right only of a chosen few in Pentecostal church meetings, the congregation must instead sit through "anointed preaching" sessions meeting after meeting. While most of these meetings contain the kind of "preaching" already described, the balance are "evangelistic church meetings", the object being the preaching of the plan of salvation to the lost. The church is commanded to "bring lost souls to the House of God" so that they may be converted by this preaching.
But this kind of arrangement is entirely unknown to New Testament christianity. The preachers of the Bible went to the world to proclaim the gospel, exactly as they were called to do, forsaking everything and preaching whenever, wherever, and to whomever they could. They never expected the world to come to them, or, worse, required the church to bring the world to them, as our "preachers" do today. In nearly every detail the manner in which these men preached has nothing in common with the "evangelistic preaching" of today.
The first account of evangelistic preaching we find in the Book of Acts is Peter's famous "Acts 2;38" message. Where was this message preached? Most likely from a doorstep or a window. When was it preached? At 9:00 in the morning. Why did the people come? Out of curiosity. How many were reached by this message that was preached to a crowd from a doorstep at 9:00 in the morning? "And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls". Acts 2;41
Peter's next message is preached at Solomon's porch the next day to the crowd that gathered because of the healing of the lame man. How many were converted by this message? "About five thousand", says Acts 4;4.
Peter's desire to preach the gospel later took him down to Ceasarea to the home of the Gentile, Cornelius, whose entire household was converted before Peter even finished his "sermon".
Philip, the only individual who is directly called an "evangelist", we find running along behind a eunuch's chariot out in the middle of nowhere to preach the message of salvation to this one individual.
After Paul's conversion, we find him preaching in the synagogues: "And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God". [Acts 9;20] The synagogues were, of course, not at all an assembly of Christians but of Jews and a smattering of Gentile converts to Judaism, and their meetings were held for the purpose of the public reading of the law and the prophets. Paul's constant use of the synagogues became such a nuisance to the Jews of Damascus that they determined that the only way to be rid of the fellow was to kill him. Despite this, and the resistance Paul met from the Jews everywhere he went, the apostle never desisted going to the synagogues to bring the message of Christ to the Jews and god-fearing Gentiles that gathered there.
Later, when Paul came to Athens, we find him not only speaking about Christ in the synagogue but also "in the market daily with them that met with him". Paul raised such interest at the market-place that the people brought him to the meeting of the court of Areopagus to hear more of the new doctrine. Despite the fact that the court was dedicated to the goddess Athene, and that the discounting of any kind of resurrection was one of its basic tenets, Paul did not hesitate to proclaim the news of Christ's resurrection.
The Book of Acts ends with Paul in his own rented house, where he "received all who came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 28;31
These few examples are of preachers who "had a burden to reach the lost world" in deed rather than in word. They preached from the door-step, witnessed by the river-side, spoke with the people they met in the market-place, preached in places that were entirely alien to the gospel, and preached and taught in their own rented homes. And because these men were servants and not the masters of the churches, they in no way sought to burden them with their desire to reach the lost, because their desire was real, and not a pretext for asserting power over others or taking wages of the believers. By contrast Pentecostal 'preachers" are shut up in an ivory tower of denominationalism every bit as much as the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterians and all the rest. Their idea of reaching the world is by impressing it with a showy "church building", to which the lost must flock like Moslems to Mecca in order to hear "anointed preaching". And if the lost will not fall for such buffoonery, they will just have to remain lost. But the world never will be reached with the gospel truth unless it is reached in God's way, and not man's, according to the clear example of the Bible, and not according to the useless traditions of men.
While there is much that remains to be said in this writing, and nearly every chapter could comprise a book in itself, it should by now be clear enough just how far short of the biblical ideal modern Pentecostalism has fallen.
Despite some admittedly strong wording on the subject, the author readily acknowledges that only God can truly judge whether our "ministers" have so freely abused scripture because of PHILOPROTEUO or simply out of unquestioning, or even unwilling, compliance with tradition. In either case, the blame for the very existence of so much false doctrine lies not only on these "ministers" but on every church member as well. If the so-called "laity" had only fulfilled its responsibility to try the scripturality of these doctrines before complying with them it would not be in bondage to the traditions of men today.
If Pentecostalism refuses to break itself loose from the bonds of tradition and return to the kind of Christianity that was so clearly practiced by the New Testament church it can rest assured that it shall not keep the truth it now possesses for long. God is perfectly capable of removing his light from among those who no longer obey his will, and Jesus himself makes this clear to the church of Ephesus:
"Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick from out of his place, except thou repent." Revelation 2:4-5
Is it not clear enough just what the "first love" that inspired these "first works" was? And is it not obvious just what that candlestick represents?
So long as Pentecostalism chooses to pride itself in baptizing its converts in Jesus' name out of conformity to the book of Acts example while at the same time ignoring the very works and practices of the book of Acts Church, it has only darkness, the same darkness that has engulfed the denominational world, to look forward to.
The sources used for the Greek are all commonly used and readily available. The first and foremost of these is "Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words", referred to simply as "Vine's". Next is "Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament", referred to as "Thayer's". While a few other sources were used, none were relied upon as heavily as these two.