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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.

August 23, 2009 Leave a comment

One of the most important truths to comprehend is the necessity to discern and “rightly divide” the Word of God. One simple yet profound example of this is undeniably seen from Isaiah 11. In this chapter we are transported, with out warning I might add, into the Millennial age-

“6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. 7 Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.

Wolf&LambThere is pretty much universal agreement that we are not to expect in “this present age” for a nursing child to play by the hole of the cobra or that the leopard will lie down with a young goat! Certainly this is a verse for “the age to come”. Of course, there was (and is) healing in Jesus’ name that causes the bite of the viper to not injure Paul but we will not see this breath of “universal peace and safety” on this side of the 2nd Coming of Christ!

Now is where it gets really tricky, for when we detach these verses from their Millennial context and pull it back into today, we can only get wrong conclusions and distorted belief systems!

Who among us can not admit that they either believe (or have heard) that we will see “the Earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (vs 9) in our lifetimes!!

Yet the immediate context is that this will happen AFTER the Messiah has struck the earth with a rod and slain with the breath of His mouth “the Wicked One” (vs 4)

For more connection on this I offer to you 2 Thess 2:8

”And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming”

One must wonder if this has not been a ploy of Satan thought the centuries to throw confusion on the exact reading of the Word of God and has it not been highlighted by our “clip and paste”, “every Sunday a different message” modern church culture?

What if, for example, we would re-read Isaiah and start with Chapter 1 and read through Chapter 11? I cannot help but think that we would come up with the right interpretation, with the help of the Holy Spirit and with prayer and fasting!

I have been tremendously helped these past few months by two old Bible teachers from another age — B.W. Netwon and his cousin Samuel Tregelles.

George Muller of Bristol wrote of Newton:

“I consider Mr. Newton’s writings to be most sound and scriptural, and my wife and I are in the habit of reading them, not only with the deepest interest, but great profit to our souls… I regard Mr. Newton as the most accurate writer on religious themes of the nineteenth century.”

I am attaching to this post the writings of Tregelles concerning the proper perspective that we need as we come to the close of this age. If you know your church history you will recognize that he is fighting the newly birthed theory of “Post Millennialism” as it sprang forth in the early 1800s in England, Europe and the USA.

B.W. Newton has broken down the history and future of man into 5 separate phases/ages which I find most helpful in “rightly diving the Word of Truth”. The danger of our current church life is that we might error on dividing the ages into unbiblical ages and come up with a “Frankenstein” looking faith!

1. Creation to the fall
2. Fall to Flood
3. Flood to 2nd Coming
4. The Millennium
5. Eternity

Please notice that after each of the first four ages comes divine judgment. Watch out that you don’t pull back into modern day that what is clearly meant for either the Millennium or Eternity. (Psalm 2 immediately comes to mind on that, especially verse 8!)

I leave you now with the writing of Tregelles to whet your appetite for more insight and understanding on these important topics.

In Him,

Jeff Gilbertson

P.S. The whole article is available at the following link.


The Man Of Sin By Samuel Tregelles

“That wicked . . . whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming” 2 Thessalonians 2:8

IF we allow our mind to rest only upon what the Word of God reveals concerning blessing, whether past, present, or future, we recognize but apart of what is therein contained we overlook that which may cause sadness to the heart, but which God has seen fit to reveal; and if we thus take a partial view of His revelation, we fail in estimating aright even that testimony concerning blessing at which we desire to look.

Now if we did not know the things which have happened if we had not the fall set before us, if we did not know the consequences of sin, we should neither know the grace nor yet the necessity of redemption: we should fail to learn aright the work of Christ, did we not see why He came, and what was the condition of those for whose salvation His precious blood was shed: thus it is that the Holy Ghost instructs the children of God, showing truth by contrast, so manifesting the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that it shall appear in all its fullness, as opposed to and triumphing over Satan and all his devices.

Thus it is with regard to the present subject, “the Man of Sin,” respecting whom the Scripture states such awful things; in him will be the marvelous exhibition of the concentrated power of Satan, an exhibition with which it is necessary that our souls should be acquainted, if so be that we would have our thoughts rightly directed concerning the glory of the Lord Jesus which is to he revealed, if so be that we would understand aright how “the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.” Just as the Lord has triumphed over Satan in His resurrection, so will He manifest His power in destroying the dominion of Satan, even though it may seem at the very time to be especially triumphing in opposition to God.

In reading such a portion of the word as the second chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, we may well ask, “When Shall These Things Be?” “When will this fearful discovery of evil take place?”

To such inquiries, this very passage affords a direct answer (verse 8), that it will be just before the coming of the Lord, seeing that it is with “the brightness of His coming” that this “Man of Sin” shall be destroyed. Now this point of time which is so distinctly marked, is not, I believe, a feature of small importance in the description; for thus we see brought together in most marked contrast “Him Whose coming is after the working of Satan,” with the Lord Jesus, Who shall come in His own glory and in His Father’s with the holy angels. Thus whatever we see that marks in this picture the dreadful power to be exerted by Satan over men, and the awful form that it will assume, it tells us also of the glory and power of the Lord Jesus: we have not to rest upon the testimony to grief and misery; the Spirit leads us directly onward to Him Who is above it all, and Whose coming will destroy him through whom it is carried on.

I believe that simply to take this passage as it stands in the Word of God will show very clearly that it is a person who is pointed out; one man through whom Satan will display his working. We read that

“There [shall] come a falling away [the apostasy] first, and that man of sin [shall be] revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not that when I was yet with you, I told you these things ? And now ye know what withholdeth [rather, And ye know that at present there is what withholdeth] that he might be revealed in his time, For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way, And then shall that wicked [one] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might he saved, And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might he damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Such is the description of the Man of Sin; such is his power; and such are they who share his destruction when the Lord cometh. We shall find many other passages, both in the Old Testament and in the New, which so speak of a person who is to arise as to identify him with this description; whilst they at the same time supply many particulars in the detail of circumstances.

Now, although many Christians may have passed over and slighted these warnings, and though many may still deem them to be of no practical importance, it is not for us to overlook that which God has thus revealed; we ought to consent to the wisdom of the Giver by receiving His gift, It is thus that I desire that we may look at the Word of God in examining its testimony on this subject.

The coming of the Lord, as has been already said, distinctly marks the time of the manifestations of this “wicked one, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth”; and in this indication of time, there is an important link of connection with Isaiah 11, a passage to which in these words the Spirit of God plainly refers. is there written: “He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall lie slay the wicked” (v. 4). Here, as in the Second of Thessalonians, the word “wicked” is in the singular, not speaking of the wicked generally. but in marked terms pointing out an individual person. We learn from the apostle that which we do not from the prophet, who the person is that shall he so destroyed by the Lord, even him who shall have set himself as the direct adversary of God in that day. The connection with the New Testament suffices to show that the events which are spoken of in Isaiah 11 concerning the Lord Jesus are such as will find their fulfillment when He comes again, when He will exercise the power of judgment which has been committed to Him, but which He did not use when He came in humiliation to suffer.

If these things will be thus when the Lord appears if at that time Satan’s power over the earth will have a concentrated energy. so that, at the last, God will judicially send to the rejectors of the truth “strong delusion that they should believe a lie” it must he evident that
Towards this Point we are Tending, and to this the world will attain, whatever fair appearances may now meet our eyes.

The final state of the world when the Lord comes will he thus evil it will have increased in wickedness, instead of being, as it is in the thought of many, daily improved, daily less contrary to God than it was when it crucified his Son, It is when the height of evil is attained that the Lord will come in destroying judgment. Thus it is especially important to mark well the testimony of the Word concerning this consummation in judgment, in order that our hopes may be according to what God has revealed, and that they he not formed on any other ground.

It will thus be well to consider a few Scriptures which speak of this point, because it is essential that it should be clearly seen for us to apprehend aright the Scripture history of “the Man of Sin.” The expectations of many Christians have been, that righteousness will increase amongst men, so that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” I am not for a moment raising a question as to whether this prophecy of the Scripture will be fulfilled; but this I do state most unequivocally, that there is no scriptural ground for supposing that this universality of blessing will be brought about by any gradual increase of godliness amongst men, The place in which we find this prophecy ought to intimate this; for in Isaiah 11 the judgment of the Lord on the wicked person (v. 4) is introductory to the universal blessing (v. 9); so that until the one has taken place, the other cannot be looked for. If we really know that such a time will ever come, it will be from the testimony of the Scripture; and consequently whatever intervening circumstances are told us, they must also he taken into our consideration, It is natural to our minds to take some bright object of hope which the Spirit of God sets before us, and to rejoice in the anticipation of the blessing to come; but we fail in using the hope aright if we take it up as though our eyes were to be blind to all the sorrow and evil which is to intervene: we may shrink back in thought from any dark interval, but the object of hope beyond is given us as that which should sustain and cheer us in looking onward: the brightness of the coming morning only shines the more in contrast to the preceding darkness.

The Distinctive Features of this Dispensation not Universal Blessing.

In looking at the close of the things of earth in this dispensation, we ought to mark what are its distinctive features. If universality be not the character of this dispensation, what is ? A passage in Matthew 24 tells us, I believe, very simply “This gospel of the kingdom shall he preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations and then shall the end come” (v. 14). The present is the time when the gospel of the grace of God is to be preached that gospel through which all who receive it are delivered from the power of darkness, and are translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son according to the commission in Matthew 28 to “teach all nations”; but blessed as the message is, and blessed as are its results to all who receive it. yet it is “for a witness” that it is to be preached “to all nations”: there is no intimation that all nations, or even any one nation as a whole, will be converted, but much to show the contrary; for instance the Lord had just said that no nation as a body would receive the gospel, “ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake”; while at the same time there is in Revelation 7, an intimation that in no nation shall the gospel fail of gathering fruit to God; for the innumerable multitude standing before the throne in blood-washed robes are “out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (v. 9). This gives us the true scriptural expectation as to results from the preaching of the gospel: fruit is to be looked for, but not universality; and even though the gospel may prove “a savor of death unto death” unto many, this fruit will be gathered from amongst all nations.

Whilst thus the Lord gives us abundant encouragement in labouring for Him in testimony, we have to bear in mind the intimations which He gives, that there can be no universality of blessing before the coming of the Lord, and His destroying the wicked one. The glory of the Lord Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, is thus to be declared; all the praise is to be His; and until He personally takes the world under His own righteous rule, we have no ground in the word for any supposition of a spread of righteousness, or of the knowledge of God, over the whole.

Widely different is the testimony of the Scripture from that opinion which many Christians have formed as to the prospects of the world It we turn to 2 Timothy 3 we read thus

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

The hope of many is that, instead of these “perilous times,” of the coming of which the Spirit of God thus forewarns us, the latter days of this dispensation will he marked with special blessing and glory. The whole chapter runs on much in the same strain (just as we also find repeatedly in other portions of the New Testament); “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (vv. 12, 13).

Nothing can he more explicit than this testimony How, then, it may he asked, is it that Christians have so disregarded it? The reason, I assuredly believe, is, that they have so rested upon detached portions of Old Testament prophecy, as to form altogether wrong conclusions; and I cannot regard the manner in which the testimony to previous judgment has been and is overlooked (even when, as in Isaiah 11, occurring in the same context) as being anything other than a device of Satan for taking them away from their true hopes, and from the thoughts which they ought to form concerning the world around.

The World is not Getting Better.

If we were to look at the world as becoming constantly less under the power of Satan than it was, so as to expect that soon he would have no place in it, and the whole would be fit for the kingdom of Christ our Lord, then, as desirous of the glory of our Lord we should be called on to use every effort to mend the system of things in the world, so that our energies might help on the expected day of blessing; but if, on the other hand, we learn from the word that we are daily drawing nearer to a more fearful display of the power of Satan than has ever been exhibited, and that the world (whatever appearances may say) is ripening for this; that whether or not there he more evil now than there was a few years ago, yet the evil of the last times will be unequalled then shall we see that our energies should be directed not to the mending of things as they are here, but to the bringing of souls to God. through testimony to the blood of Christ: taking them in fact out of this condemned world, instead of seeking to make them rest in it. It is with this that we have to do, if we regard the testimony of our Lord and His apostles. We may seek to do good unto all men; but to bring souls to Christ, and to establish the children of God, will be our great work, knowing that no efforts of ours can be in any way conducive to bring about the universal blessing of the earth. The Lord may bless us in gathering some to Him: He allows us to be His fellow-workers in this: but as to the bringing of the world into blessing, it is His own peculiar work: His destroying judgment must come first.

The Lord Jesus has given to the Church very direct and simple teaching concerning that separateness from the world to which they are called: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17). Again. “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keen them from the evil.” Now there would not be long a world for the saint to he in, and yet to he separate from, if all was going on to universal blessing and godliness. I need not refer to many portions of our Lord’s instructions; John 13-16, are one continuous strain of teaching, the whole of which would be obsolete if that dream of universal blessing before the coming of Jesus Christ were to he realized.

The Lord in the Parable of the Tares of the Field

(Matthew 13), intimates very distinctly the character of the present dispensation: “Let them both grow together until the harvest” (v. 30), is the judgment of the Lord concerning the tares and the wheat, instead of giving any countenance to that idea which is so prevalent in the minds of not a few Christians, that the wheat will gradually overspread the field, so that at length the tares will quite disappear. The Lord thus tells us that there will be no universality of blessing in the field (which is the world v. 38) before the harvest; but then we read “The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and that do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (vv. 41, 42). Thus pointedly has the Lord told us in many portions what we have to expect, and how and when the prophecies of universally diffused blessing will be brought to pass. We learn much profitable truth from this parable, The Church is to be manifested in glory in the kingdom of “their Father.” No earthly hopes are given to them; their portion is to be as a “little flock,” waiting for the kingdom. The world will still be the world, in spite of Christianity being in it; and in one respect it is made worse, because false professors the tares have sprung up consequent upon the preaching of the gospel. The great truth that I wish to press is, that to the end of this dispensation evil and good are mixed together, and therefore expectations to the contrary are sure to be disappointed; for unless the narrow way were to become broad, so that many should find it. it would he impossible for the predicted glory to belong to this dispensation.

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Pastor or Elder: More than just Semantics

August 6, 2009 Leave a comment

mypastor_red_300In our modern church life, because our whole church experience centers on “the Pastor”, I find this subject of biblical leadership (i.e. pastor/elder) of a local community very interesting.

I have looked “high and low” to research the subject of pastor in the Word of God and can only find one verse that mentions, by name, a pastor in the entire Bible!

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers (Eph 4: 11)

That’s it!

Please notice that the verse prior to this makes it clear that a pastor is a gift to the Body. “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (Eph 4:8)

What we do read about are elders. They are spoken of over 200 times in the Bible! (NASB Version)

What is more, it is clear from Acts 20:17,28 that the apostle Paul thought of “elders” and “overseers” as the same person. What I cannot get out of the NT is that this same person is our current notion of a “pastor” as mentioned in Eph 4:11. The Eph 4 passage describes “pastor” as a gift of Christ (along with apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher), whereas I Tim. 3 and Titus 1 describe the “Qualifications of Elders”, which rules out the suggestion that it was a gift of the Spirit.

Here is the conundrum: A pastor was a gift given to the Body “at large”, like an evangelist or prophet, while the Elder is a role of leadership in a specific local church given because of spiritual qualifications.

If I receive a gift it does not hinge upon my qualifications or gender.

Two things strike me most when I read about elders in the NT:

1. They were chosen.

Elders were “appointed” (Acts 14:23 NASB) on the basis of moral and spiritual qualifications not as a result of receiving the gift of “eldering”. They were appointed because they led exemplary personal and social lives. Being an overseer in the church is not a gift of the Holy Spirit like the gift of prophecy or tongues or giving or service ( Rom 12/ I Cor 12).

Spiritual gifts are given as gifts; not based on gender or qualifications. As far as I can see, one of the only settings in the NT church life that speaks to qualifications and life experience are “elders of the local church”.

When I say that they were chosen, this means that they did not chose themselves, and offer themselves up for service, which is the standard practice in our church world today!

“In the New Testament we hear nowhere of men being invited to offer themselves for any office in the church. The apostles did not offer themselves to be apostles, the seventy did not offer themselves, St. Matthias did not offer himself, the seven deacons in the Acts did not offer themselves: in no church of apostolic foundation was there any suggestion that anyone was appointed because he offered himself. In the Pastoral Epistles, Timothy and Titus were not told to invite men to offer themselves. ‘If a man desire’ does imply that there were men eager to be appointed; but that is quite a different matter from appealing to men to offer.” (Roland Allen The Case for Voluntary Clergy)

2. They were not professional clergy or paid elders.

There is no suggestion that as elders were put in place throughout the Roman world – from Jerusalem to Rome – that they abruptly left their former jobs and became “professional clergy”. This has been a confusing point for centuries but there is no biblical evidence that local elders were paid, full-time professional clergy. Much that is written in the NT regarding full-time wages and support is written in the context of apostles who traveled the world on foot to spread the gospel and found churches where none existed. (See Acts 18:3; 20:34; 1Cor 4:12; 9:6; 2 Cor 11:6-9; 1Thes 2:9)

Many will point to the passage in 1Thess. 5:17-18 (“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor…”) as THE proof text that elders (or modern day pastors) should be paid a wage. While I would agree that this is talking about money as well as honor, I cannot agree that this is a predetermined “salary” but rather gifts. Even the IRS makes the same difference!

Let’s follow Paul’s train of thought on not taking money as an apostle but rather working with his own hands in this lengthy passage from 2 Thessalonians:

“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any one of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example.” (2 Thess 3:7-9)

Paul was so committed to spread the Gospel of a “free Savior” that he denied himself, at certain times, monetary support due him as a right inherent in spreading the Gospel. Sometimes Paul says “I robbed from other churches” so that he could be there to preach the Good News to the people but on other occasions he clearly went out of his way to chose instead to toil with his own hands and earn his own bread.

But over and above this argument is that he was defending himself as an apostle not defining church practice for elders! Moreover, it is very difficult to see this as a explanation for “professional pastors” as we know them today.

I will close with another pertinent quote from my dear friend Roland Allen in his description of the appointing of biblical elders:

”The second qualification which we demand and the apostle [Paul] omits is a readiness to resign all means of living other than that of the sacred ministry. Of this there is not a trace in the apostle’s list of qualifications: there are, on the other hand, many points which suggest the opposite. The men whom he desired to see ordained were all men who were capable of maintaining themselves and their families without any assistance from the church. They had in fact been doing so, and there is nothing to suggest that they would cease to do so. They were men of a well-established position in life. They might, of course, cease to earn their living in their accustomed way when they were ordained, but it is hard to imagine that they would necessarily do so; for there is not a hint that it was considered necessary or desirable by the apostle. It would have been quite simple, and to us quite natural, to have put in a clause to the effect that the bishop [elder] must abandon all worldly pursuits and give himself wholly to the care of the church, but there is not a word about it. Such silence rather suggests that the man will continue to live his life as he has been living it and providing for his family as he has been providing for it.…

The stipendiary system [paid clergy] grew up in settled churches and is only suitable for some settled churches at some periods: for expansion, for the establishment of new churches, it is the greatest possible hindrance. It binds the church in chains and has compelled us to adopt practices which contradict the very idea of the Church.” (The Case for Voluntary Clergy)

In Him,

Jeff Gilbertson

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