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The “Reproductive Cycle”: Apostles And Elders
We come this morning to the last of a series of studies entitled “The Five Great Ministries” or the “The Five Main Ministries” set by Jesus Christ in the Church. These ministries are stated in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. Of these ministries we have said that four are essentially mobile ministries to the Universal Church. The mobile ministries are apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and the other main ministry is the resident ministry in the Local Church. We have said that in the New Testament there are three different names used to describe these local leaders: elders, shepherds also called pastors, and overseers also called bishops.
We have said that in the Local Church the leadership is plural, the Church is singular. In other words we are faced with two mutually exclusive alternatives. You can have many Local Churches, each with one leaders, or you can have one Local Church with many leaders. Now the New Testament pattern is the second. There is only in any one locality one Church. It’s not the Baptist Church, it’s not the Methodist Church, it’s not the Pentecostal Church. It’s the Church of Jesus Christ in that area. And if you belong to the Church of Jesus Christ Universal without further requirement you automatically belong to the Church of Jesus Christ local in your area. This is the only requirement that you belong to the true Church of Jesus Christ by a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, secondly that you reside in that area.
Now this is very, very different from the accepted pattern that we have inherited by tradition from previous generations. And I said yesterday and I repeat it again today, I believe that God is bringing His people down into the valley of decision. The valley of decision is the place where God puts you where you cannot get out again until you have made a decision. Neutrality and compromise are no longer possible in the valley of decision. God is now presenting to His people by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures, through the ministries that God has set in the Church, His pattern and His plan. And He is saying “Choose. Do you want to go in your own old way or do you want to accept My way?”
You see the fact that God has tolerated a thing for generations, does not mean that that thing is right. In Acts chapter 17 verse 30 the apostle Paul said to the men of Athens about their idolatrous worship,
The times of this ignorance God hath winked at. [He’s closed His eyes to.] But now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.
Many, many people said, “Well God let us do it this way so many generations. We’re going to go on doing it this way.” But you cannot accept that as being the will of God. God closed His eyes to this ignorance, but now commands all men everywhere to repent. So the Church of Jesus Christ is being faced with a decision. And you know for religious people that’s the most embarrassing thing to be faced with—the necessity to make a real positive decision and commitment.
We’ll go over briefly the material that we covered in our previous study which is the nature and the fellowship and the pattern of the Local Church. Then we’ll complete that study in the outline this morning. We just—we’ll quickly review these ministries set out diagramatically here with two dividing lines. A vertical dividing line which divides between the mobile and the resident and a horizontal dividing line which divides between those ministries which are always plural and those which may be singular.
Under the mobile ministries as I’ve said already, we have apostles, prophets, the evangelists, the teacher. Under the resident ministry we have shepherds also translated pastors once, overseers also translated bishops in several occasions, elders whose ministry is also teaching.
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy a double honor especially they who labor in teaching the word.
When we come to the dividing line above this line, the ministries there shown are always plural, always apostles in teams. It’s always prophets together—“Let the prophets [plural] speak two or three and let the other prophets judge.” The leadership of the Local Church is always plural. Never singular. As I’ve said we’re faced with this alternative. You can have many local churches each with one leader, or you can have one Local Church with many leaders. The only way you can avoid dividing the Local Church is by multiplying the leadership, so that the greater the congregation grows the large the number of leaders. If you’re not willing to do that then beyond a certain point one man cannot be the shepherd of a congregation so you have divide the congregations up.
Now I believe that it is totally unacceptable to God and contrary to the great basic principles of the word of God, to divide the Body of Christ. It is one Body and one Spirit. The only solution to this problem is to return to the New Testament pattern of having plurality of leadership. Not one many who is thepastor, but a group of men who are the elders, the shepherds and the overseers of the flock.
Below this line there are two ministries that may Scripturally operate as individuals: the evangelist, the teacher. Philip, the evangelist went down to Samaria alone. Apollos, the teacher, was sent to Achaia alone. I’m not saying that they must operate alone. I’m saying that it is Scriptural for them to operate alone. It is not Scriptural for these ministries up here to operate alone. They are group ministries. And I believe the reason is that they are concerned with Church order. And I believe Church order is so vital that God never leaves it in the hand of one man. There never is to be a dictator who is solely responsible for the order of the Church in any area.
Now we’ll turn onto the next diagram which of course we completed yesterday in the course of our studies. So those of you who weren’t here will be slightly puzzled by this. But we said this is basically this is man’s view and God’s view of a city area and the Local Church. And before all these black lines were drawn we had here just a lot of different denominations: B for Baptist, E for Episcopalian, C for Catholics, P for Presbyterian, P backwards for Pentecostal and so on. And by man’s grouping we have to draw a line that will separate all the B’s from all the C’s and all the rest of them, make all the B’s into one group but separate from all the other groups. Then we draw another line that separates the C’s, another line that separates the E’s, the P’s and P backwards, and even where husband and wife belonged to different denominations we have to draw line between them. You see P forwards is a Presbyterian, P backward is a Pentecostal, married to each other they’re back to back they don’t get on very well. Here we have P forwards and P backwards married to one another—they’re face to face, they get on all right. But nevertheless, when it comes to dividing up the churches, the line has to be drawn right down the middle of the family. Could anything be more obviously contrary to the will of God than that husband and wife should be divided by a denominational label. It is totally in opposition to the whole basic principles of Scripture, both for the home and also for the family.
So you say the answer is for my husband to join my denomination. Your husband says the answer is for you to join his denomination. The answer of God is forget the denominations. Brother Prince you’re a heretic.
All right. Now we have the alternative. And this started as just a blank with the squares and nothing else. A city area divided up into four main sections, each main section divided up into four subsections. And then by the operation of the Spirit of God we pictured people coming to God, being born again, and every circle is a Christian born again of the Spirit. So in every subsection there came forth a group of believers born of the Spirit of God. Then amongst these groups of believers we filled in some of the circles like this, indicating that these filled in circles had developed evidence of spiritual leadership. So in every subsection there came forth spiritual leaders. We have made two in every subsection just for the sake of an idealist diagramatic pattern. So now we have sixteen subsections with believers in every subsection and two leaders in every subsection.
Now the next key is the fellowship of the leaders in each section. So this square in the center of each section is the place of leadership. And we suggested that all the house study or prayer groups met on Tuesday. The purpose of having them all meeting on one night is that you can’t be a group-hopper. You’ve got to stick to one group you see. Some people greet prayer meetings like cocktail parties. When they want a little extra thrill they drop in on a prayer meeting. That is a caricature of God’s purposes. A prayer meeting if it’s going to accomplish anything demands commitment, fellowship, coming together in harmony.
So supposing that all the local group in each subsection meet on Tuesday night, we say the leaders in each section meet on Monday night, so this here is the leader’s meeting each Monday preceding the group meetings on Tuesday. The leaders come together, share their problems, their needs, their personal problems, level with one another and bring the needs of God’s people in their area to the Lord in prayer, share their revelations, their doctrines, their problems of misunderstanding Scripture. You see there’s tremendous safeguard in not going off on your own doctrinal revelation. Put it before the brethren. If it convinces them, if they say “Amen” then it’s probably safe to go ahead. So we have now developed four main sections each with a leader’s meeting held in a central locality once a week.
Then we take a further step. The first Monday of every month all four groups of leaders get together in a central area and you have sixteen, that’s right isn’t it? No there are eight leaders in each of these, so you have thirty-two leaders meeting in this central group. And in this way through the fellowship of the leaders, the believers can be in fellowship. The key to restoring unity and fellowship within the Body as a whole is bringing the leaders together in fellowship. It is actually the leaders who divide the Body. This is a sad saying, but it’s the truth. And it happened even in the early church. In First Corinthians Paul said,
Some said I’m of Apollos, some say I’m of Peter, some say I’m of Paul,
He rebuked them all. He said you’re all carnal. You have no right to talk and think like that. There’s one Lord. It’s Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was crucified, not Paul, not Apollos, not Peter. Don’t become followers of men. He said as long as you think and act that way you’re carnal, you’re babies, you can only take milk, I can’t feed you with solid food.
It always amuses me about the Corinthian church that you’ll hear theologians and people like that say, “Well of course the Corinthian church was carnal.” That’s true. They go on to imply that the Corinthian church was carnal because they spoke a lot in tongues. Now that’s false. The reason why Paul called the Corinthian church carnal was not because they spoke in tongues, but because they were followers of human leaders.
Now exactly the same thing applies to these very theologians who call the Corinthian church carnal because they spoke in tongues. These theologian are themselves Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodist, Mennonites. Essentially they are all followers of human leaders. And as long as the church operates on that plane Paul says, “You’re just babies. God can’t feed you with solid food. You’re just not capable of digesting. You’re remaining spiritual babies all your lives.” Oh what a tragedy. Isn’t it a tragedy to see a child of four or five years old that behaves and thinks and acts like a baby? We see it sometimes. I think they call it retardation. Well, what we see occasionally in the natural is fearfully common in the spiritual throughout the Church of Jesus Christ. People who should be grownup still thinking and acting like babies because they’re carnally minded, they can’t look beyond a human leader.
Now you might say, “Well, Brother Prince, that’s all right in theory the way you’ve pictured it.” You might say that. You might not, but what about the situation in our are? We don’t start with a blank chart. We’ve got a lot of people. That’s our problem. If there weren’t any Christians as in a country like Chile of which Brother Charles was talking, it’s so much easier to start. But in America the whole things been messed up. How do we get out of the mess we’re in?
Now I want to offer a few suggestions on that before I move on to the other part of the diagram which is very important and for which I must leave sufficient time. Let me read to you a verse in Jeremiah chapter 1 verses 9 and 10. Jeremiah chapter 1verses 9 and 10.
Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
Think of the authority of God’s word in the mouth of a young man. It made him the ruler over the destiny of nations. Not because of what Jeremiah was of himself. He said he was a young man, “I’m too young to be a prophet, Lord. Call somebody else.” God said, “I’ve chosen you from your mother’s womb and sanctified you, and when I put my word in your mouth, my word through your mouth will decide the destiny of kings and nations.” That’s the power of the word of God.
But notice there are two opposite processes. There’s building but there’s also pulling down. Now sometimes the problem is not solved immediately by building. It’s solved first and foremost by pulling down. So what we have in many areas, many localities we have congregations that already acknowledge a certain leader who’s the rector, the minister, the pastor or whatever it may be that the particular man is named, and here they are. Now many of these men without a doubt are God-called shepherds of God’s sheep. They have a divine calling. Believe me if they didn’t have a divine calling they wouldn’t stay in that job another six months. Anybody that’s never been a pastor has no idea of what’s being involved in being a pastor. They are men with a calling. They are the shepherds of God’s sheep. But God’s sheep are split up by denominational barriers that shut them off from fellowship with one another.
Now one solution to the problem is to break down the barriers and this will not be done effectively unless the leaders are willing to do it. If the leaders are willing to come together in regular fellowship in an area, share their problems, pray together and act as being co-shepherds of the one flock, then the way is open for the believers, the sheep, to come into fellowship. It’s the barriers between the shepherds that really separate the sheep. If the barriers are broken down between the shepherds by a deliberate act—they choose to come into fellowship with one another - then the barriers between the sheep will be easily broken down. And there will begin to emerge out of the apparent chaos something that is going to form into a scriptural pattern. It is not always to build up. Sometimes it is first and foremost to break down.
At this present time in the United States all over this nation, groups of men are beginning to come together in regular fellowship - men who have some kind of responsibility of spiritual leadership. Some of them are what we would call professional ordained ministers. Some are laymen, leaders of a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship Group, leaders of a local prayer group, leaders of some special outreach or evangelistic activity or rescue mission, or some such thing as that. Men who are marked out by divine calling and by the acknowledgment of God’s people as leaders. And as these leaders begin to come together in fellowship the barriers of mistrust and misunderstanding between them are broken down. The way is open for them to consider themselves as being co-shepherds of the one flock, then the barriers between the flock, between the different sections of the flock are also broken down.
A certain friend of mine said that the Lord, in connection with this problem, had given him this little phrase. Don’t Organize - Recognize. And I think there’s a lot in that. You see if we would only open our eyes in the light of Scripture, and under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we’d see that many of the things that we have pictured here already exist but they’re not fully recognized. There are men in every area who have shepherd qualifications, some who are actually fulfilling shepherd ministries. We do no want to set those men aside. God forbid. But it is necessary that those men come into a right relationship with each other and that the flock as a whole acknowledge them as shepherd. Whether they be of the same denomination or not should not be allowed to be of importance.
And let me say further that God is in this thing. It’s not depending merely on whether you and I are willing to do it. It says in the Prophet Isaiah concerning the progress and establishment of Christ’s government,
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
So God is in this thing and He’s going to see it through. And our option is not really so much are we prepared to let God do it, as are we prepared to move in what God is going to do anyhow. Because God says, “I will do a new thing and no one shall stop Me.” And when God says that woe to the person that stands in the way of God. God is moving sovereignly by His Spirit to complete His purposes for the Church in this age. Our decision is not will we let God do it. Believe me our decision is am I going to work with God or am I going to be left aside. That’s the option. As for me and my house, we’re going to move with God. Believe me we made that decision a long while ago, and we find it’s a good decision.
There’s a time coming when God is going to shake everything that can be shaken. You see a lot of people have got this philosophy, “Well, Brother Prince, it’s all right to preach about church order and these things, but don’t rock the boat. We’ve got it all nicely adjusted. I have my manse. I have my salary. I have my car allowance. I have my pension scheme. Another fifteen years and I’ll be on pension. I’ve got to hold out for the next fifteen years. Don’t rock the boat.” Well I’ve got news for you. Whether Brother Prince rocks the boat or not is really unimportant because God is going to rock the boat. And I’ll give you a Scripture. God is going to shake everything in heaven and earth that can be shaken. And that includes your little ecclesiastical boat my dear brother or sister. It’s going to be tossed to and fro on such mighty billows of God that you’ll get seasick to say the least. Hebrews chapter 12. Let’s have a look at this for a moment. Hebrews the 12thchapter and beginning at the 22ndverse, and it’s very significant—I never saw it until this morning but this is directly related to God’s program for the Church. The 22ndverse of Hebrews begins this way,
But ye are come unto mount Sion, [In the spirit every true believer in Jesus Christ has come to Zion. Zion is the assembly of God’s people.] unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, [we have come to that church] who are enrolled in heaven,
Friend, it is not so important whether you are on the church roll on earth, but it is important that you’re on the church roll in heaven, because they keep very accurate records up there. Be sure your name is on the roll.
…and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.
That I believe to be the Old Testament believers who did not have this dramatic conversion and this single experience of the new birth, but who were gradually made perfect by a lifetime walk of faith, went down after death in Sheol, waited there until after the death and resurrection of Jesus when they were released and brought up into the heavenly regions. That’s the spirits of just men made perfect—the saints of the Old Testament. But the saints of the New Testament by one experience, the new birth, are translated instantly into the company of God’s people in heaven and our names are enrolled up there.
All right, now then going on with this picture, we come also to verse 24.
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Able.
The blood of Able was shed on earth and it called out for vengeance on his murderer. The blood of Jesus is sprinkled in the Holy of Holies in heaven and it pleads for mercy on the penitent. You see it speaks better things than that of Able. Now then verse 25 is a very solemn warning and I trust that every person will take it personally to heart.
See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, [that was Moses] much more shall not we escaped, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
Under the Mosaic covenant those that rejected the commandments of Moses were punished without alternative. How much more solemn if we reject the voice that speaks from heaven. One of the key thoughts of Hebrews is the continual warning against turning back - you’ve begun, don’t turn back. It says for instance in the second chapter,
How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
And all through Hebrews there’s this continual warning—don’t apostatize, don’t turn back, keep going on, you must press through to the end. Here it is in this verse again.
…For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
Whose voice then shook the earth:…
You remember the mountain shook terribly and Moses said, “I tremble, I’m afraid.” Israel said, “We never want to hear that voice again. Moses, you go up into the mountain. We can’t stand that voice.”
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, [and the promise is given in the Prophet Haggai] saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. [That will be the day.]
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth [the last shaking] the removing of those things that are shaken,…
Anything that can be shaken will be removed. Every human institution, every human tradition, every human ordinance that is not based on the word of God will be shaken until it is removed. There is no alternative.
…the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Brother and sister, I trust that you have in your life things that cannot be shaken, because everything that can be shaken will be shaken. And it will happen, I’m absolutely convinced as I said last night, in this generation. This is the climax. Verse 28,
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved,…
Where do we have this kingdom? Within us. The kingdom of God is within you. In our relationships to one another, in our personal relationship to the Lord we have a kingdom that cannot be moved.
…let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: [How much preaching is there today about reverence and godly fear?]
For our God is a consuming fire.
You see this Charismatic Renewal is not a new church game. It’s not an alternative to the cocktail party. It’s not a new way of thrilling bored Episcopalians. It’s God’s last offer of mercy to this nation and we should treat it that way. It’s life or death. And I am terribly grieved when I see ministers playing around with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Friend, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a new patch to put on an old garment of ecclesiasticism. Jesus said, “No man puts a new patch on an old garment,” and He said, “no man puts new wine into old wineskins.” And this new wine that God is now beginning to administer is not going to fit into any old ecclesiastical wineskin. That’s the way it is. You can’t change it—I can’t change it. This is not… Listen I’ve heard people say, “The baptism in the Holy Spirit will make you a better Episcopalian.” I’ll tell you what that is. It’s plain nonsense, and it’s a lie to tell people that.
I was baptized in the Holy Spirit as an Anglican. I’ll tell you it never made me a better Anglican. I couldn’t believe a lot of things that I’d been taught to believe. The moment I was baptized in the Holy Spirit I knew better. And I was honest enough not act as if I didn’t know better. One thing God requires is sincerity.
I was a professional philosopher seeking the truth. The moment I met Jesus Christ I could not be a philosopher ten seconds longer, because I’d found the truth and I knew I’d found the truth. I couldn’t go back to playing religious and intellectual games pretending I was looking for something that I’d already found. I would have been a hypocrite.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit isn’t just a shot in the arm to keep the church order going. It isn’t just a thing that will solve your membership problems or your financial problems. It’s a revolution. It’s a divine revolution. It’s God’s way of shaking the Church world. And He’s going to shake it and shake it and shake it until everything that can be shaken has been shaken to pieces.
Think of the horror in the minds of the disciples when they were showing Jesus all those beautiful buildings of the temple. “Lord, look at this. It took forty-six years to build. Cost three and a quarter billion dollars.” Have you ever heard that about churches? Well the Methodist built one for three million dollars so the Presbyterians are going to build one for four million dollars, and then the Episcopalians are going to build one for five million dollars. And you know what’s going to happen to all those millions of dollars? They’re going to go down the drain!
Charles Simpson told me that after he’d been to India he found out the cost of maintaining one evangelist, full-gospel evangelist full time, in India. And he went back and did a little calculation on the churches in Mobile, Alabama, which is not a very large city. And he estimated that the money spent in building churches for the one city of Mobile, Alabama, if used to maintain evangelists in India would have evangelized the whole of India. That’s a solemn responsibility.
To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Some people after they have listened to preach wish they didn’t know what I’d told them because from then on they can’t act as if they didn’t know it. This is not a game. This is the real thing.
We’ll have to go on. We move on to the next phase and this is near the end to what I call “The Reproductive Cycle.” This is extremely interesting. You see wherever God created anything and put it in being, He created it with the ability to go on reproducing itself. And His commandment after creation was:
Be fruitful and multiply.
This is true in the natural. It’s true in the spiritual. And of the ministries that we have been studying, God has ordained a pattern and a method of reproduction which makes them self-reproducing. In other words, once they are in being and functioning the way they should they will go on reproducing themselves.
Now the two key ministries in this cycle of reproduction are the ministry of the apostle which is represented by AP, and the ministry of elder which is represented by EL. And in this diagram, and the Scriptures that go with it I’m now going to show you how the apostolic ministry is first brought forth, how it in turn reproduces the elders, how the elders in turn bring forth the apostles, how the apostles in turn bring forth the elders, and so you have a reproductive cycle which can continue indefinitely. Now we are taking certain key cities that are recorded in the central chapters of the Book of Acts: Antioch, Lystra, and Ephesus. And we’ll follow now in the text of the Book of Acts in outline the way this came to pass. Acts chapter 13, the first four verses are key verses in the whole of this truth. Acts chapter 13 the first four verses.
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers
And five men are named. Five men whose ministry was prophets and teachers represented there on the diagram by P and T. That’s what was in the local Church at Antioch at that time. Notice that the static situation, local situation is represented by a square, the mobile ministry is represented by the circle, the rolling wheel, just by way of appropriateness. So in the church at Antioch at this point at the beginning of chapter 13, there were prophets and teachers. Now they ministered to the Lord and were in fellowship with one another, and as I have said in another message, out of fellowship there comes forth spiritual birth. No fellowship—no spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit brought the birth out of this, the apostolic ministry. Read this, verse 2,
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them [off] or away.
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, departed etc…
All right. Before the Holy Spirit spoke and revealed the will of God there were prophets and teachers. After the Holy Spirit spoke the other leaders in the church laid hands on them and sent them forth as the representatives of the Church at Antioch. Being sent forth they became what? Apostles. Yes, just check that. Acts 14 verse 4 speaking about Paul and Barnabas it says,
But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles [plural]
[verse 14] Which when the apostles Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes,…
So before they were sent forth they were prophets and teachers. After they were sent forth by the Holy Spirit through the agency of the Local Church they were apostles. All right. The first time Paul and Barnabas went forth, the second time as we’ll see in a moment on the second time round from Antioch, it was Paul and Silas.
Now on the second time round we find in Acts 15 verse 40, Barnabas the second time went off on another journey with Mark. We’re not concerned with Barnabas in the second journey. But it says in Acts 15 verse 40,
And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren [in the church at Antioch] unto the grace of God.
Now we know that the first time they recommended them to the grace of God, they laid hands on them, so we have a right to I believe to infer that the second time likewise they laid hands on them, commissioned them, sent them forth as the official apostolic representatives of the Church at Antioch.
Now in the beginning of chapter 16 we find that they came to a city named Lystra. We’ll read Acts 16 the first few verses.
Then came he [that is Paul] to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus [that’s Timothy], the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was Greek:
Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
Now three cities are mentioned: Derbe, Lystra and Iconium. By inference since Lystra is the only one that’s mentioned twice, Lystra is the city in which Timothy was brought up by his mother, a believing member of the Local Church at Lystra. Timothy had graduated in the Local Church. He had his first degree which was a good report of the local brethren. And no one ever has a right to step out in ministry that doesn’t start with a good report in his local assembly. That’s the first BA degree. Without that you cannot go on to your Masters, your DD or anything else. The first requirement is that you prove yourself on your home territory. If you can’t do it there, you can’t do it period.
All right Timothy had this initial degree so verse 3, him—would Paul have to go forth with him, took him, circumcised him because he had to do that to quiet the Jews because his mother was a Jewess and therefore legally he was a Jew, and it says in verse 14,
They went through the city…
So we have on this second journey Paul and Silas come to Lystra. There’s a young man in Lystra named Timothy, well reported of by the local brethren. He joins the party of Paul and Silas. What does Timothy become through joining the party of Paul and Silas? The answer is found in First Thessalonians, keep your finger somewhere in the middle of Acts, turn to First Thessalonians for a moment. First Thessalonians chapter 1 verse 1. These are the people that wrote this epistle. There are three of them: Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus. Those are different forms of the same names Silas and Timothy. So it is Paul and Silas and Timothy, this group that went on from Lystra here, who are now working together—Paul, Silas and Timothy write this epistle to the Thessalonian Church. And in First Thessalonians 2:6, notice how they describe themselves.
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
Notice they were apostles. Who were apostles? Paul, Silas and Timothy. How did Timothy become an apostle? He was sent forth duly commissioned by the elders of the Church in Lystra. Now this is further described in Paul’s epistle to Timothy so you turn to First Timothy chapter 1 verse 18, first of all. First Timothy 1:18.
This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare.
There had been prophecies given forth indicating the general nature of the ministry and the warfare which God had ordained Timothy for. Now this is given in greater detail in chapter 4 verse 14. First Timothy chapter 4 verse 14 Paul says,
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery [the collective group of elders].
Now some people think the gift was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I cannot believe that because I don’t believe anybody needs to be prophesied over to get the baptism. It’s a part of God’s appointed program for every believer—repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit. This was some other charisma. Now all the five main ministry gifts—apostles, prophets, evangelist, shepherds and teachers—are charismata. They are called that in the New Testament. I believe the charisma, the gift that Paul is speaking of here is the apostolic ministry which was received by Timothy through prophecy when the elders and Paul laid their hands upon him.
In other words, what happened was Paul and Silas came to Lystra, fellowshipped with the brethren. There was a young man there who was particularly outstanding for his Christian character, his faithfulness, his courage and testimony and so on, his knowledge of Scripture. This young man was Timothy. In the fellowship prophecy came forth that Timothy was to go forth with the brethren. The elders acknowledge it, the elders and the apostles probably together laid hands on Timothy, commissioned him and Timothy went forth as an apostle together with the senior apostles Paul and Silas. This is always the Scriptural pattern. The beginner works with those who are more experienced. Gradually he comes to a place where he can work on his own.
So in due course, later on, Timothy and Paul came to the city of Ephesus. And in the city of Ephesus after a while Paul left, but left behind him Timothy as his representative, his co-worker, to finish off what needed to be done in the city of Ephesus for the Church there. Let’s look at what Paul says to Timothy in this connection. Turning again to First Timothy the first chapter verse 3. First Timothy chapter 1 verse 3 Paul says,
As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia,…
Paul left to go to Macedonia, he left Timothy behind in Ephesus, Timothy was exercising the apostolic ministry in Ephesus. He was Paul’s co-worker. They were both apostles, having proved himself in his initial ministry with Paul, he was now considered competent to minister on his own still under general direction from Paul. Now what did he have to do in Ephesus? Turn to chapter three and you’ll find out that one of his main responsibilities was to appoint elders.
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, an overseer, a pastor, an elder he must be so and so, and so and so, and so and so…
Paul says remember these are the qualifications. Then in the fifth chapter in verses 17 through 22 Paul returns to this question with how to deal with discipline appoint elders. He says in First Timothy 5:17,
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and teaching.
For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
Notice that the word honourincludes financial remuneration. This is very clear from the context. If a man spends his fulltime teaching the word of God, he must receive fulltime remuneration. That’s logical. If he only give part time, then he receives part time remuneration. The word of God is very logical and clear on that. Verse 19, and it’s again returning to the subject of elders,
Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
Them that sin [the elders that sin] rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality,
[Verse 22] Lay hands suddenly on no man,
In other words there’s a set of instructions as to the type of person who may be ordained as an elder by the laying on of hands. It was Timothy’s responsibility in Ephesus to ordain elders. Now we have the cycle completed. First of all we come into the cycle by the way of prophets and teachers. If you can have faith for prophets and teachers, out of that the full reproductive cycle, including the apostolic ministry, can develop. Prophets and teachers waiting on God in fellowship; the Holy Spirit spoke said send forth two, Paul and Barnabas; the Church received the message; the leaders endorsed it; laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas; sent them forth; being sent forth by the Local Church they became apostles.
The second time round it was Paul and Silas; coming to Lystra; fellowshipping with the elders; there was a young man marked out by God; accepted by the elders; acknowledged by the apostles; they jointly laid their hands on him; this young man’s name was Timothy; being sent forth he became an apostle. Coming later in his ministry with Paul to Ephesus he in turn was given the responsibility of laying hands on and ordaining the elders in the city of Ephesus. Now we’re back at Ephesus where we were at Lystra. And in God’s providence, in due season, out of that local congregation at Ephesus by the laying on of the hands of the elders, there can come forth the next apostolic ministry. Notice that this is with a dotted line because it’s projected it’s not recorded. But the potentiality is there.
We now have a complete reproductive cycle: prophets and teachers bring forth by a spiritual birth the apostolic ministry, the apostles go forth, come to the city of Lystra, together with the elders they bring forth an apostolic ministry, this comes to the city of Ephesus, the apostolic ministry appoints the elders, and out of the elders there is again the possibility for the apostolic ministry coming forth. You see that the two key ministries really are the apostles and elders. And this is true. You study the New Testament there’s much more said about apostles and elders than about all the other ministries put together. But how do we come into them? It’s by a birth out of prophets and teachers.
Now notice this first of all that the Bible in no way endorses the principle of apostolic succession. The principle of apostolic succession is that an apostle must be ordained by somebody who’s already an apostle otherwise his apostolic ministry is not valid.
Now Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch which was not a very long way away from Jerusalem. At Jerusalem at that time there is no doubt there were several apostles who had personally ordained by the Lord while He was on earth. If the Lord felt it so essential that an apostle should ordain another apostle He could easily have arranged for one or more of those apostles to come from Jerusalem to Antioch and to lay hands on Paul and Barnabas. In actual fact, He deliberately did not do that. The principle of apostolic succession is actually set aside in the New Testament. In its place is a principle of spiritual birth born out of fellowship in the Local Church. And again it is not so much the apostles than send forth the new apostle, but it’s the elders at Lystra. And it’s the elders at Ephesus that will send forth the next apostles. Apostles are sent forth by the laying on of the hands of the elders from a Local congregation, and every apostle is responsible and answerable to the local congregation that sends him forth. Here’s a tremendous principle.
Now notice about Paul. We have seen that he was ordained an apostle through the laying on of hands of his fellow-ministers in the Church at Antioch. Notice what he says about his own apostolic ministry. Galatians 1:1, Galatians 1:1.
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
And you can look in First Timothy chapter 1 he makes a somewhat similar statement. First Timothy chapter 1,
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;
It was human instruments that made the apostolic ministry of Paul effective. But it was a divine calling. God was answerable, and as a matter of fact, all three persons of the Godhead were involved. God the Father, through Jesus Christ the Son, by the Holy Spirit in the Church called and sent forth the apostles. So though the appointment was made by human agency, it was a divine appointment. And this is a principle that goes through all God’s dealing with the Church. God will always operate through His appointed authoritative representative in the Church who is the Holy Spirit. Jesus having sent the Holy Spirit to represent Him in the Church will never bypass the Holy Spirit. Every appointment, every decision, every ordination must be made by the Holy Spirit and it will always be made through human agents. But it is a divine appointment. That’s the inter-relationship between the divine and the human.
Now I think we’ll go on to this last picture, we have just a little time left, which is within the Local Church the relationship of what I call the ministries and the administrative leaders. There’s a difference between a leader and a ministry. At least I like to make this distinction though I don’t want to emphasize it. We have said that within the Local Church there are only two levels of leadership; the elders who are the spiritual administrators who rule and teach, the deacons who serve. Now what happens when a mobile ministry becomes resident? What happens when an apostle becomes resident in a city? What position does he take in that Local congregation? Is he a kind of super-bishop over the bishops? What is his position?
The answer is no. The apostle when he becomes cannot become higher than elder. He becomes a co-elder. Now this is clearly stated in First Peter chapter 5. First Peter chapter 5, verse 1. Peter the apostle is writing. He says,
The elders who are among you I exhort, who am also an elder,
That’s not a very good translation. The Greek is a compound word. I exhort you as a co-elder. When the apostle settles in residence, takes his place in the local congregation, he is not over the elders, he is a co-elder with the elders. The great principle is that there is no administrative authority in the local congregation above the elders. If you once take one step above the elders you will always end in a papacy. You have an elder, then you have an elder over the elders, a super-elder, an overseer. All right. Then all around the area you have fifteen supervisors or overseers, so you appoint a supervisor over the supervisors over the elders. And whether you call him by that name of not, that’s supervisor, over the supervisors over the elders is in actual fact a pope. I don’t say this to criticize. I just point it out. It’s an objective fact. If you’re going to keep the autonomy and integrity of the local congregation which Scripture jealously guards, you must never depart from the principle that there is no higher administrative leadership than elders and they are always plural. Those two principles guarded will keep the integrity and autonomy of the local congregation. If you depart from them you will always end up in an ecclesiastical system with something or someone at the summit lording it over the rest.
Notice what Peter says in this connection going on.
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:
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre [not for money purposes], but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage,…
In my language there are no dictators in the Church. And plurality of leadership is the only effective safeguard. That’s why it is so insisted upon and so jealously maintained in new Testament order. So now we have in the local congregation, the text for this is First Corinthians chapter 12 verse 28, perhaps I should read that for you. First Corinthians chapter 12 verse 28, this is the Local Church with its complete administrative offices and its complete ministries combined. First Corinthians 12:28,
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues.
There are eight things that God has set in the Church: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, steerings, kinds of tongues. There are also the offices: the elders and deacons. Now though I have put a line separating them in a sense, nevertheless there’s much interconnection, because the apostle who becomes resident becomes a co-elder. Likewise the elders in the local congregation are also the teachers. And we could draw many other such lines. For instance, the man who is a deacon may also have the ministry of miracles or the gifts of healing. For instance, Philip was appointed a deacon in the church at Jerusalem, went down to Samaria and had the ministry of an evangelist. You see there’s an inter-relationship. And it’s clear, I think, that Stephen also who was a deacon must have had the ministries and healings, because it says he wrought many miracles and wonders and signs amongst the people.
So there are many interchanges, inter-relationships. There’s not a hard and fast line drawn here. One very interesting thing which I’ll ask you, do you notice that there’s one of the five main ministries not listed in First Corinthians 12:28? Which one is it? The evangelist. Now why is that? Well I’ll give you my opinion. Because as an evangelist he has no place in the assembly of God’s people. Why? Because the evangelist ministry is to introduce the sinner to the Savior, but all the people in here have been introduced. It doesn’t mean the evangelist isn’t in the local assembly, but he doesn’t have a ministry as an evangelist. Contrary to the practice of the church today, the evangelist does not function in the Church. What is the church idea of evangelism, it’s get a meeting of the church, hope that fifteen sinners will come in and one of them will get saved if the evangelist preaches a week. You know where the evangelist should be? Where the sinners are.
A fisherman doesn’t expect the fish to swim into his backyard. He goes out where the fish are. This picture of evangelism that we have accepted in fundamentalist and Pentecostal circles has no relationship to the real ministry. Philip went down to Samaria alone, walked into that alien city and such wonderful miracles took place that the whole city was stirred and turned to God. That is the evangelistic ministry but it has no place in the ministries that function within the Church in fellowship. The Church assembled as the Body of Christ—these are the ministries, these are leaderships. And there are theses inter-relationships between them such that apostles are co-elders, elders have a teaching ministry, deacons may well have the ministry of helps or the ministry of healings or the ministry of miracles, and of course the apostles and prophets may also themselves have the ministry of miracles, healings, and so on.
So that is a little picture of the Church completed. We said that it grew from a cell into a Church when elders were appointed. Then the leadership was made complete with elders and deacons, and finally it came forth the fully-fledged Body of Christ with the ministries and the offices combined. Now that is a wonderful stopping place. God forbid that I should say another word.
Let’s pause for a moment of prayer. Father, we thank you for this wonderful picture given in Scripture of the Church which is the Body of Christ. We notice, Lord, that you set the members in the Body as it pleases you. And we pray that each one of us that’s here and each on that hears this message will be so moved and directed by the Holy Spirit as to find his place as a member in that Body and to serve and function there effectively. In Jesus name we pray, and all God’s people said, Amen!