Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Best School for Prayer is on our Knees

The Best School for Prayer is on our Knees

“Do you know what prayer is? It is not begging God for this and that. The first thing we have to do is to get you beggars to quit begging until a little faith moves in your souls” (John G. Lake).

Hello! In today’s “Truth for the Journey,” we are going to begin looking at the whole subject of “prayer & intercession.” We will be teaching on this subject during our “Summer Bible Camp” this year, just a few months from now! So I decided it would be a good idea to bring some of this teaching to you before hand, to give you a taste of the richness of this intimate life subject.

Just to live as a family with peace in the home, takes prayer! Discussion helps too of course, but much can be accomplished through prayer. In fact much of what we want to cast onto others, the Lord tells us to cast upon Him (1Pet 5:7; Ps 55:22). In this context John Wesley famously said, “I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.” And Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.”

We can only be free of our burdens, once we learn to “cast” or “roll” them onto the Lord - a discipline that benefits ALL who apply it, not just those with heavy responsibilities like Wesley or Lincoln. As we will discover, prayer is NOT just for the few. Whatever our station in life, we all need prayer. In fact no measure of success or prosperity can ever be “enough” or “fulfill” our basic need for intimacy – something that can only be found on our knees before the Lord.

So over these next weeks this is going to be the subject matter for our “Truth for the Journey” articles. I trust you will enjoy them and be much inspired to have an individualized revival of your own! Let fresh “revelation” flood your heart and rebirth the desire and urgency for prayer, as you once knew it - in the beginning of your walk with the Lord.

No matter who we are, the cares of this life seek to “crowd-God-out.” This alone makes prayer a “discipline” not a “recreation!”

Below are some quotes that share this conviction to pray:

• Pray, and let God worry.  Martin Luther
• Wishing will never be a substitute for prayer.  Ed Cole
• Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?  Corrie Ten Boom
• A minister's highest mission ought to be to teach his people to pray.  H. MacGregor
• Some people pray just to pray and some people pray to know God.  Andrew Murray
• There is a mighty lot of difference between saying prayers and praying.  John G. Lake
• There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him.  William Law
• Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.  Oswald Chambers
• The shortening of devotions starves the soul; it grows lean and faint...  William Wilberforce
• In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.  John Bunyan
• Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your task.  Phillips Brooks
• We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul  A.W. Tozer

The most basic element of prayer is “relationship.” That is the essential starting point, from which all other types of praying proceed. A rich and intimate relationship with God, not unlike what E. M. Bounds was referring to when he spoke, “Those who know God the best are the richest and most powerful in prayer. Little acquaintance with God, strangeness and coldness to Him, make prayer a rare and feeble thing.”

Yet even the seemingly “successful” ministers of today, who preach regularly in their own pulpits, admit lacking a decent prayer life! E. M Bounds would rightly comment on this phenomena by saying, “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men… men of prayer."

With this in mind it definitely seems to me that just about everything in life is designed to take us “away” from praying. Not least modern technology! Take the latest pet-gadgets for example such as the iPhone or iPad. While they are great “tools-for-the-job,” it’s too easy to turn them on first thing every morning. Or even take them to bed, for that last “fix” before we close our eyes! It can be days; even weeks before we realize that “intimacy” is missing, through neglect of the Word or lost opportunities in the presence of the Lord.

The hope is, that this “void” which builds up within, eventually stops us in our tracks and convicts us back to our place of prayer. Where unhindered and “unpretentious” worship flows and where our inner-man feels most at home!

To continue however, besides this personal and “relational” aspect to prayer, there exists the “responsibility” of prayer, which is the main focus of this next series of “Truth for the Journey” articles that you all enjoy so much! However to clarify right at the onset - intercession is NOT a selective ministry for the few. We are ALL initiates! It is no secret society solely for self-confessing martyrs! EVERY believer has the right and the calling to stand in the gap for others. With a life style of constant “preparedness” so that when the opportunity arises and the need beckons - they are “ready” to pray. Such a readiness can only be “developed” into a person’s life that intercedes continually.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1Tim 2:1-5)

Finally however we must be “skilled” intercessors, as Spurgeon well pointed out, “There is a general kind of praying which fails for lack of precision. It is as if a regiment of soldiers should all fire off their guns anywhere. Possibly somebody would be killed, but the majority of the enemy would be missed” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon). This takes knowledge of the Word and how to rightly “divide” it. Jesus used it expressly in the wilderness to fight Satan; so must we (2 Timothy 2:15; Matt 4:10).

Father, You gave Your Son Jesus to stand in the gap for me. The intercessor of all intercessors, who still intercedes today! Let me know what is on Your heart. Lead that I may follow. I want to allow Your Holy Spirit to pray through me. Help me take my rightful place in the ministry of prayer. Amen

I thank You Lord for the spirit of intercession. I receive a fresh impartation and revelation in Jesus name. I AM AN INTERCESSOR, EQUIPPED AND TRAINED TO DO HIS BIDDING. Lives WILL be changed. History WILL be altered. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes people & Prayer changes ME!

(If you would like to join us at this years Summer Bible Camp Click here for more information).

Motto: ‘God Chooses, then the Spirit Tests, but You Must Respond!’
Copyright 2011 © Alan Pateman Ministries

Friday, 20 May 2011

Elders are Territorial

Elders are Territorial

“Remember your leaders who have spoken God's Word to you. Think about how their lives turned out, and imitate their faith” (GW Hebrews 13:7)

Here we are again for another Truth for the Journey! As we continue with this concept of the apostle. We have taken the last articles along with this one to talk about the role of Elders in the Body of Christ, in yester-world and in today’s-world. All authority has “influence” – and all influence has a “realm of influence” over which it operates. Today we are going to look at this in terms of the world territory. So lets begin by looking at what this word “territory” actually means. Its literal meaning as follows: “an area regarded as owned by the state, social group, individual or animal.”

In addition to this, another significant word that describes territory is “province,” which in times-past was the basic “unit of administration” within the Roman Empire. Its earliest usage, was a general term that referred to the “magistrate’s sphere of administrative action.” This term signified both the “rule” of the governor and the “region” that was entrusted to his care (the geographical sense was dominant); and included the “administration of justice.” Therefore when a province was given to a governor, this was for him to: control, supervise, protect and oversee. It literally became his territory – to rule and to govern - for a specific period of time.

Now when it comes to the spiritual aspect of this matter - there are such things as “territorial spirits” (which are active within the heavenly realms) but this is another teaching altogether! However as believers it is our right to exercise our authority within any given territory and we too are meant to be territorial! We are not merely undercover agents that live invisible to the world, with alter-egos that no one knows about! We are not a secret society! Rather we aught to govern those areas or regions that God has entrusted to us as Scripture speaks about - holding-claim to every place we put our feet! (See “Territorial Spirits” by C. Peter Wagner).

This is too general in thought, even though all believers possess authority to a degree – not all believers are called to governmental office – such as elders and apostles for example. So we must not over generalise this issue and so now lets go beyond this and look more closely at our opening title “Elders are Territorial.”

This statement refers to the fact that God placed Elders within the Church to oversee it. Their influence was not merely for the Church only, but regionally and spiritually (in the spirit realm). Their influence is far reaching both practically spiritually. For instance if we go to the Old Testament, we can see that Elders often acted as “magistrates” and “judges,” who represented the people. Therefore it was their job to “administrate justice” within the areas allocated to them. Even today this whole structure has NOT changed - because of time! Rather it still continues today; the only thing that has changed (as stated in our previous articles), is that elders today have the added responsibility of visiting and praying for the sick. They do so in the power of the name of Jesus and His blood!

Elders also represent “pillars” within the Church: of maturity, wholeness, purity, integrity, righteousness, doctrine and all that is true. Every Church needs good Elders!

How then should the Church respond to such Elders? Well firstly there are three major things that need to be noted from scriptures.

Firstly: Elders are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17). Church members need to respect, uphold and admonish them (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). The job of an elder is not easy and the church needs to encourage those who are overseeing them and not pull them down or make their job more difficult than it needs to be. In fact, church members should obey their elders and submit to their authority, because they are men who keep watch over the church and who are accountable before God for it (Hebrews 13:17). Also, if an elder is serving the church on a full-time basis, then the scriptures tell us that the worker deserves his wages (1 Timothy 5:18).

Secondly: Church members should not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Elders do not need to be the subject of gossip, which only serves to undermine their credibility and authority. Members of the church should stop people who do this and stop something getting out of hand or being blown out of proportion to the truth. However, if an Elder is found to be in sin, they are to be rebuked publicly, so that others may take warning (1 Timothy 5:19-20).

Thirdly: The church members should follow the godly example set by the Elders (Hebrews13: 7).
In closing, we all know that scripture tells us to “seek first the Kingdom of God.” The word Kingdom in also represents the “rule and reign” of God in scripture. But here today we look at the role of Elders as they use their God given positions to reign; to rule and to exercise Godly authority wherever they are placed. They actually represent the government of God within the church and must act accordingly.

All of this ties in with the role of the apostle and the apostolic age. The Elders do not function under their own authority nor do the apostles. All authority given by God must work together in unity not in contest or rivalry with each other. A house divided falls. It cannot stand and until the elders can work together with the apostles in the local church as they were ordained and equipped to do so, there will always be a certain lack of authority and power.

So bring it on! Bring on the order of God. The Church is in need of Her power. She needs to be stifled no longer. Let truth be taught and revelation restored to the Body of Christ. As all man-made-efforts to rule and to govern, have left Her barren and lacking powerful influence within society.

But if She regains Her position and spiritual possession - with all Her dignity in tact – the world will learn once again, what it is to FEAR the authority of the living God - that exists within the local church!

Finally, in closing this article - our son who is 16 years old this year got talking to his mother about the story in the bible off Ananias and Sapphire. They were discussing the awesome authority that the apostles exercised in the early church. However over lunch our son came up with this honest and simple question (and I quote him word for word simply because I think others would ask the same question!): “If the apostle is being ‘restored’ where did he go? What happened to him?”

This legitimate question was deserving of a simple reply! “The fact of the matter is…” I told him, “the apostle never went anywhere! HE is not the one being restored – rather the “TRUTH” about his role is being ‘restored’ to the Body of Christ.” “Why?” “Because over time, truth was ‘REPLACED’ by deception and distortion.”

Which brings us to our closing statement. When TRUTH is fully restored to the Church (before Christ returns) via the revealed Word of God (the teaching of “revelation”) the apostle will be able to take his rightful place, along with the elders. No longer stuffy relics of an age-old institute or relegated to stain- glass-windows of rotting church buildings. No! They will not remain this ineffective but will take their rightful places in their intended role as POWERFUL EXECUTORS OF GOD’S AUTHORITY & JUSTICE.

The government of God within the local church is vital. The apostle has a huge part to play in this, along with the elders. May this RESTORATION OF TRUTH advance with speed! How the Church needs Her divine order – just as God planned it and not as man distorted it – by humanistic ideals and replacement theology!

Nothing can REPLACE truth. We need it in all its glory! Truth brings liberty from bondage. Every generation needs it. So Father raise up those who are adept to teach with a spirit of revelation. Use them by your Spirit to restore truth. Amen.

There is a price for revelation. Apostles have traditionally experienced persecution for the revelation that they carried. The price was worth it. Truth must never lay stagnant and dormant. It is never passive. Rather has always been our liberation (from deception). I choose to take sides with the TRUTH and to stand advocate for it in my generation.

Motto: ‘God Chooses, then the Spirit Tests, but You Must Respond!’
Copyright 2011 © Alan Pateman Ministries

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Functioning of Eldership

The Functioning of Eldership

“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).

Hello once again, as we continue this particular series base upon the apostle. In our previous article, “Church Government,” we did focuse largely on the particular roles that elders play and we will linger on this subject a little longer here again today. Elders are vital components within the structure of the Church, including the restoration of the apostolic. Elders and the apostles must work together. NOT in a power struggle but in complete unison, consulting with one another - bringing stability and strength to the local Church.

Also in our previous article, we looked at the many qualifications of being an elder. Today we will look at some of these qualifications but more in depth. However it is true to say that as we begin to see the apostles and elders working together again like in the time of the early church, we are going to begin to see an unleashing of God’s power – restored to the Church - a power that this world will NOT be able to resist or refute! Authority and power – go hand in hand. When perfect order is restored (concerning authority in the local church) there will no longer be any shortage of power - in the Church of the living God.

So lets begin by looking at the early church, where elders seemed to have been responsible for groups of house-churches, (at that time there were no church buildings!) The elders were appointed to make sure these groups stayed on the right track spiritually. They exercised the greatest authority of all the members of a local church and they brought a sense of the Fatherhood of God to the local church, such as: faith, security, confidence and spiritual covering. Elders were also meant to establish and maintain a family atmosphere in a local church, which enabled the flow of love between members. This enabled the Holy Spirit to move in power and enabled new converts to be kept secure after any evangelistic effort. This meant they had to speak with people personally and not rule by notes in the church newsletter.

Elders were “overseers” who had spiritually responsibility for local church members. It has already been stated: it was the elders and NOT the apostles – that ruled the local churches in New Testament times. Trans-local ministries such as apostles and prophets did at times bring some correction or exhortation, but they mostly allowed the elders to carry out their task of overseeing and shepherding the local church unhindered.

From within a group of elders, God typically raises up a “set-elder” - a leader of leaders. This man is often the pastor, vicar, or full-time leader within a church. The elders may be of equal standing, but it would be very unusual for them all to be equal in leadership experience, gift and ability. The man who is called to lead the elders should enable eldership meetings by “chairing” them - in other words “managing” them and keeping them on the right track.

He is often also the spokesman for the eldership as well as being the main church teacher. Remember, every church member, including the elders, needs to submit to God and to any other person God raises up into a position of authority, e.g. an apostle bringing correction from God or a prophet bringing the “Word” of God. This submission to God and each other enables any church to be coordinated by God and fruitful as it seeks to carry out His will.

The scriptures do not reveal a clear job description for elders, but they do show us something of the way eldership functioned within the early church. Studying this can assist elders today in better understanding their significant role and what it is that God desires of them. The qualifications we see in scripture concerning those serving in eldership – reveal the sheer calibre and quality of such men - chosen and expected to be fit for their task! These men had to serve the church to which they where called in a Christ-like way and other members of the church needed to recognize some measure of spiritual gifting and spiritual maturity in them.

For example those recognized, as elders should: direct the affairs of the church they were entrusted with by God, i.e. they were God’s stewards (Titus 1:1f; 1 Timothy 5:17). The Greek word for “overseer” is episkopos and was used in the secular writings of the time to refer to a person with administrative and judicial functions. Therefore eldership is a governmental function, which has authority, and whose goal in the local church is to increase and maintain the rule of God; this affects each individual member, including their respective families, the church itself and the wider community.

Remember God never instituted “DEMOCRACY” as a means of governing His people. Rather He established “THEOCRACY” which means - government by God Himself. He enables His rule by rising up leadership - through whom He can rule (principally eldership in a local church setting). These men, therefore, must walk closely with God and wait on Him, so that they can hear His Word for the church for which they are responsible and obey His directives and take care of God’s church. They should also have a good reputation with those outside the church so that the church will be seen as a place of integrity, where non-Christians can come for help (1 Timothy 3:5,7). They also need to work hard, help the weak and remember that it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35).

They must be able to teach. The Greek word used here is didaktikos - better translated as “apt or skilled to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). However, 1 Timothy 5:17 suggests that only some had the labour (or toil) of preaching and teaching in the local church. This probably referred to those elders whose main function was preaching and teaching and perhaps even their full-time employment; hence the following verse about the worker deserving his wages (1 Timothy 5:18). All elders need to be able to teach and disciple (even if it is just in a one-to-one counselling situation), however only some are called to preach and teach in a corporate sense.

Elders, when they are asked, anoint with oil in the name of the Lord those who are sick. The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, because the Lord will raise them up… (James 5:14-15) They also need to be on guard and watch over themselves and the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers/elders, because savage wolves will attempt to come in and will not spare the flock (Acts 20:28-31).

In closing, elders are willing shepherds of the flock, that God has placed under their care - serving as overseers and examples of Christ-likeness to their flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2-3). Their example should be Jesus Christ who is the shepherd and overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25; 1 John 2:6). Laying hands on and pray for those in their congregation, thus imparting spiritual gifts and prophecy (1 Timothy 4:14). Encourage (or exhort) those they oversee by sound doctrine and by holding firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, and refute (or convict) those who oppose it (Titus 1:9).

Finally elders are to discern the truth of God in a given situation and guide the church for which they are responsible in the light of that truth. The elders in Jerusalem did this with the apostles and therefore kept the church on the right path (Acts 15:1-31; Acts 16:4).

Father Your entire system of authority is flawless and will never fail us if we trust in You. Help me to trust you as an individual and as part of the corporate Body at large. I want to see the restoration of all things as You promised in Your Word. I want to see the kind of power and authority that this modern world has not seen. Amen

Working with authority instead of resisting & rebelling against it – releases it’s power. ALL authority has power and it is my goal in life is to surrender to God’s authority. Immaturity does not understand the meaning of true authority. Yet I choose to measure all of these things - NOT against my own “moral-muscle” or “limited-human-understanding” but against the very Word of God.

Motto: ‘God Chooses, then the Spirit Tests, but You Must Respond!’
Copyright 2011 © Alan Pateman Ministries

Friday, 13 May 2011

Church Government

Church Government

“…They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

In today’s Truth for the Journey we are going to continue right where we left off. We were discussing the significance and the role of “elders” in both the Old and New Testaments. Specifically in the New Testament we saw that there was an addition to their function which was that of “visiting the sick” (as seen James 5:14) we also saw confirmed through scripture, that elders appear to be the “chief representatives of the redeemed” and have a “…priestly function.”

However as we continue in light of the apostle, it was more in a “corporate capacity” by which he provided leadership for the primitive Church; and that leadership was effective both in mercy (Acts 2:42) and in judgement (Acts 5:1-11). They exercised a general authority over every congregation, sending two of their number to supervise new developments in Samaria (Acts 8:14) and deciding with the elders on a common policy for the admission of Gentiles (Acts 15). So in this degree we can see evidenced, the apostles and elders working together for the benefit of the whole.

In Acts when the pressure of work increased, they appointed seven assistants (Acts 6:1-6), elected by the people and ordained by the apostles. They were to administer the Churches charity; these seven have been regarded as deacons from the time of Irenaeus onwards, but Philip, the only one whose later history is clearly known to us, became an evangelist (Acts 21:8) with an unrestricted mission to preach the gospel. Church officers with a distinctive name are first found in the elders of Jerusalem, who received gifts (Acts 11:30) and took part in Council (Acts 15:6).

This office was probably copied from the elder-ship of the Jewish synagogue; the Church itself called a synagogue in James 2:2 and Jewish elders, who seem to have been ordained by imposition of hands, were responsible for maintaining discipline, with power to excommunicate breakers of the law.

But Christian Elder-ship, as a gospel ministry acquired added pastoral (James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-3) and preaching (1 Timothy 1:5); and although the disturbances at Corinth may suggest that a more complete democracy prevailed in that congregation (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26). The general pattern of Church government in the apostolic age would seem to be a board of elders or pastors, possibly augmented by prophets and teachers, ruling each of the local congregations, with deacons to help in administration and with a general superintendence of the entire Church provided by apostles (not bishops!)

The late Dr Bob Gordon once wrote,

There are two biblical qualifications for eldership; these are distinct from others… elders must not be novices and that they must be able to teach. The other qualifications are a check to make sure that those proposed for eldership are living an exemplary Christian life. Those who are to oversee the church need to be good ambassadors for it, for Christ (i.e. be models of Christlikeness), and for the truths they were teaching and not merely professional leaders.

Elders, therefore, need to be: men of prayer; true worshippers of God; men of the Word of God; Men of true spiritual authority and maturity; men of mature spiritual experience and understanding. Men who are spiritually ahead of those in the church, men of vision (which is sourced in God), who receive God’s guidance and revelation and who are sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit; and men of faith, because without faith it is impossible to please God. Elders are recognised by who they are and not what they do, and not by age or official title. They need to be men who have largely got their spiritual priorities right and their life in spiritual order.

The qualifications in the New Testament for an Elder (Overseer) are many:

1. Shepherds of God’s flock that is under their care, serving as overseers – not because they must, but because they are willing, as God wants them to be (1 Peter 5:2).
2. Not greedy for money nor a lover of money (1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 3:3).
3. Eager to serve (of ready mind or willingly (1 Peter 5:2).
4. Examples to their flock, not lording it over those entrusted to them (1 Peter 5:3).
5. The husband of but one wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). (Note divorce is allowable in Scripture in certain circumstances; therefore, this phrase refers to bigamy or polygamy, not divorce).
6. A man whose children (are faithful and not accused of riot or unruly) (Titus 1:6).
7. Blameless (Titus 1:6-7).
8. Not overbearing (not self-willed) (Titus 1:7).
9. Not quick tempered (not soon angry) (Titus 1:7).
10. Not given to much wine (1 Timothy 3:3: Titus 1:7).
11. Not violent (no striker or brawler) (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
12. Not pursuing dishonest gain (Titus 1:7).
13. Hospitable (a lover of and given to hospitality) (Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:2).
14. One who loves what is good (Titus 1:8)
15. Self-controlled (sober) (1 Timothy 3:2)
16. Upright (just) (Titus1:8).
17. Holy (Titus 1:8).
18. Disciplined (temperate) (Titus 1:8).
19. Able to hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that they can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:9).
20. Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2).
21. Temperate (vigilant) (1 Timothy 3:2).
22. Respectable (of good behaviour) (1 Timothy 3:2).
23. Able (apt or skilled) to teach (1 Timothy 3:2).
24. Not quarrelsome (contentious or given to fighting) (1 Timothy 3:3).
25. Gentle (patient) (1 Timothy 3:3).
26. Not covetous (1 Timothy 3:3 AV).
27. Able to manage their own family well and see that their children obey them with proper respect… If anyone does not know how to manage (rule) their own family (house), how can they take care of God’s church (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
28. Not a recent convert (a novice), or they may become conceited (puffed up with pride) and fall under the same judgement as the devil (1 Timothy 3:6).
29. Of good reputation with outsiders (have a good testimony among those who are outside), so that they will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap (lest they fall into reproach and the snare of the devil) (1 Timothy 3:7).
30. Able to work with other men in mutual submission, because they are called to work as an eldership team and not as individuals (elders of a congregation are always mentioned in the plural).

Important Note: A true elder will tend the sheep whether recognised or not and will not want position or self-aggrandisement, but rather will simply want to serve the flock to which God has called him. A man who starts to do this, but gives up because he was not recognised or officially appointed, proves that he is selfishly motivated. Such a man is not serving because “he is called to the task by God” but is serving for his own gain rather than the Churches good.

Thank You Father for sound Church government. Perfect order exists within Your Kingdom. Nothing works more smoothly thank Your perfect will, IF it is willingly studied and implemented by men. Help us Father to submit to Your pattern of Church government as an act of worship and to signal of our trust in You. Amen.

Today I recognise that it is to my own advantage to follow and obey the pattern that God has laid out for His Church. Today it is my priority to find my place in God’s will and to walk in it by His Spirit.
I will make allowances for others to find their place also, as they grow and learn
Not just extend that privilege to myself alone!
I have a spirit of cooperation; I am not isolated. I am able to work with God and with others.

Motto: ‘God Chooses, then the Spirit Tests, but You Must Respond!’
Copyright 2011 © Alan Pateman Ministries

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Office of an Elder

The Office of an Elder

“…I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” (Revelations 4:4)

Welcome to todays Truth for the Journey entitled “the office of an elder” where we want to get back to talking about the apostle. Many have enjoyed the teaching surrounding the apostle and the apostolic ministry – so much so in fact that one of our friends in Nigeria, who feels passionate about the subject, has gathered together all the articles referring to the apostle and (with permission) is publishing them into a booklet… fantastic!

So lets get back to the teaching on the apostle in regard to those who are promoting the hierarchy of Bishops as the top structure of the Church etc. To refresh the word bishop simply means elder as quoted from my teaching manual in the our first article on this series;

The word episkopos occurs five times in the NT: once of Christ (1 Pet 2:25) and in four places of “bishops” or “overseers” in local churches (Acts 20:28; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:7). The verb episkopeo occurs in Hebrews 12:15 (“watching”) and (in some NT MSS) 1 Peter 5:2 (“exercising the oversight”)… A bishop then has “oversight of,” he is an “overseer.” 1 Peter 5:2 says, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof.” The Greek word for “oversight” is episkopeo, Strong’s ♯1983 - to oversee, to beware, to look diligently, take the oversight. Extra words given: direction (about the times), have charge of, take aim at (spy), regard, consider, take heed, look at (on), mark

So to continue lets take a look at eldership now in both the New and Old Testaments (before we begin let me add that we will be looking at whether it is right to call oneself a bishop or not in following articles!)

The Office of Elder in the Old Testament: The Hebrew word for elders: ‘zaqen’, [OT] Does not necessarily mean an old man, but does imply one of maturity and experience (Numbers 11:16). They where recognised as the highest authoritative body over the people. They acted as the religious representatives of the nation (Jeremiah 19:1; Joel 1:14; 2:16).

As well as handling many political matters and settling inter tribal disputes (Joshua 22:13-33) the town elders where a sort of municipal council, whose duties included acting as judges in apprehending murderers (Deuteronomy 19:12), conducting inquests (Deuteronomy 21:2) and settling matrimonial disputes (Deuteronomy 22:15; 25:7).

The “elders of Israel,” first heard of in Exodus 3:16-18, were assembled by Moses to receive God’s announcement of the liberation of Egypt. The covenant was ratified at Mount Sinai in the presence of 70 elders of Israel (Exodus 24:1,9,14 cf. 19:7), the “nobles” (KJV) or chief men of the nation (24:11). Later 70 elders were specially anointed with the Spirit to aid Moses in governing the nation (Numbers 11:16-25). In cases when the whole community sinned, the elders of the congregation or community were to represent it in making atonement (Leviticus 4:13-15)

The authority of the elders was in principle greater than that of the King (cf, 2 Kings 23:1). It was this group which demanded that Samuel appoint a king (1 Samuel 8: 4-6), and they were parties to the royal covenant which established David as king (2 Samuel 5:3).

In Babylon the elders were the focal point of the Jewish community in exile (Jeremiah 29:1; Ezra 8:1; 14:1; 20:1-5), and after the return to Jerusalem they continued active (Ezra 5:5, 9; 6:7-8,14; 10:8,14). While their authority was originally civil, by New Testament times the ‘elders of the people’ (presbyeroi tou laou) shared with the chief priests the power of determining religious affairs and if necessary of expulsion from the synagogue.

Elders in the New Testament: An elder in the NT is really a ‘bishop’. In his vision of heaven, John saw 24 elders seated upon thrones surrounding the throne of God, clothed in white garments and wearing golden crowns (Revelations 4:4). They fall down in worship and cast their crowns before God’s throne (4:10; cf. 11:16; 19:4), and with their harps and bowls of incense, symbolising the prayers of the saints, they sing a new song to the Lamb (5:8-10).

As elders they represent God’s people; their thrones and crowns symbolise a kingly role, while their acts of worship and the bowls of incense suggest a priestly function. Thus they seem to be the chief representatives of the redeemed as a kingdom of priestly function. (Revelations 1:6; cf. 20:6; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Exodus 19:6).

They used the same word for ‘elder’ in the OT and the NT, but the content of the Christian Elder’s ministry has changed, for it now includes visitation of the sick (James 5:14).

Father help me to understand Your divine initiative where leadership structure is concerned. Help me to grasp, in particular the role of elders and the office of responsibility that they carry. Help me to respect and work with them as I should, as they exercise the role of authority that You have placed them in. Help me to support and pray for them according to Your Word. Amen

God Himself set in place all elders and those in positions of authority or oversight – for our benefit. I choose to work with God’s structure and will not be dictated to by man’s limited idea of structure. I have a spirit of cooperation and not rebellion. I work together with those God has chosen instead of standing as judge over them – waiting for them to fail. God’s system is flawless and genuine – free of hidden agendas and ambitions. Even though those He chooses and uses are still human! My eyes and trust are on God - not on the structure itself. We fail or succeed based up on our ability to keep our eyes on God!

Motto: ‘God Chooses, then the Spirit Tests, but You Must Respond!’
Copyright 2011 © Alan Pateman Ministries