Freedom in Fulfillment, Form and Function
FREEDOM IN: FULFILLMENT, FORM AND FUNCTION
In the study of government and politics the age- old tension between freedom and order is readily seen. In our Christian life we also see this. The tension be can be reduced in this area as in any by the intense use of the clear Word of God. Within each of us we must admit there is at times a struggle between primitive (relating to the earliest age) Christianity and the institutionalized form.
None of us can go to Scripture to find the truth with a completely ‘blank slate’ of a mind. We must simply try to set aside as much of what is preconceived as we can. I have tried to do this in my study from the Manual of Life. And African proverb has it that a wise man is like a river. Just as a river rises, so a wise man increases in knowledge. I seek to increase in knowledge. This humble study should not be considered the last word. I pray the Lord that I am always learning and never just ’learned.’
To explore the concepts of fulfillment, form and function in the ministering of the Word I have taken the catechetical approach. That ‘Freedom’ is in the title of this study should not be taken to mean that I a priori assumed such and such and then sought to prove it. Instead, it is a reflection on what I have learned from my searching the Scriptures.
What is the universal priesthood of all believers?
I Pet. 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are all part of the “you” here and not just the exiles of the Dispersion. We are truly as Paul says, “…no longer strangers and sojourners, but…fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” Eph.1:19-20
At the conclusion of the four Gospels we have the Great Commission stated that God has given to us His people.
Mt. 28:18-20 “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. God therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
Mk. 16:15 “…Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.”
Lk. 24:46-48 “…’Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’”
Jn. 20:21-23 “…’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” We collectively individually have been given our marching orders from the Lord.
Luke records for us in his second historical narrative the thrust of the church in any age, “…’and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.’” Acts l:8 In ever widening circles we seek to reach out with the water of life.
Paul in writing to the Corinthians has them contemplate their call, “For consider your call, brethren…” I Cor. 1:26 Each Christian has the call to faith and thus to witnessing of the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Consider the following references on the use of the four Greek words in the New Testament translated as “call, calling, called.”
καλέω is 147 times in the NT. The context decides its exact meaning. It is used more for the general call of all Christians than for a more specific call to a certain task.
· I Pet. 1:15 He who called you is holy, 2:9 called you out of darkness, 5:10called you to His eternal glory
· II Pet. 1:3 called us to His own glory and excellence
· Mt. 4:21 (18-22) He saw two brethren…He called them (parallel with) Mk.1:16 Simon and Andrew…follow…v.20 James and John He called (16-20)
· Mk. 2:17 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (parallel with)Lk.5:32,and Mt.9:13
· Rom. 8:30 He also called (8:28 has the ‘called’ which is a different word), 9:11 not because of works, but because of His call, 9:24 us whom He has called
· Gal. 1:6 called you in the grace of Christ, 1:15 called me through His grace, 5:8 Him who called you
· I Thess. 2:12 called you into His kingdom, 5:24 He that called you
· II Thess. 2:14 He called you through our Gospel
· II Tim. 1:9 called us with a holy calling (different word)
προσκαλέομαι is used 30 times in the NT. The context decides its exact meaning. Once it means the general call. Five times it refers to a call to a specific task.
· Acts 2:39 whom the Lord our God calls to Him, 13:2 the work whereunto I have called, 16:10(after the vision) we sought to go into Macedonia concluding that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them
· Mt.10:1 called to Him and gave authority (parallel with) Mk.6:7 sent out two by two (parallel with) Lk. 9:1f. sent them out to preach and heal
· Mk. 3:13 and called to Him those whom He desired
κλητός has 11 uses. Two definitely are different, ‘many called, but few chosen’ Mt.22:14 (20:16). The ratio with this word is 7:2.
· Rom.8:28 called according to His purpose, 1:1 called to be an apostle, 1:6 yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus,1:7 (in Rome) called to be saints
· I Cor. 1:1 called by the will of God to be an apostle, 1:2(Corinthians) called to be saints, 1:24 called both Jews and Gentile
· Jude 1 to those who are called
· Rev. 17:14 those with Him, called, and chosen, and faithful
κλῆσις also has 11 uses. Two uses are different, I Cor. 7:20, Ph.3:14. All nine of the other uses are the general call.
· Rom. 11:29 calling of God
· I Cor. 1:26 your call (Corinthians)
· Eph. 1:18 the hope to which He has called you, 4:1worthy of the calling to which you have been called/kaleo, 4:4 called/kaleo to the one hope that belongs to your call
· II Thess. 1:11 God may make you worthy of His call
· II Tim. 1:9 called/kaleo us with a holy calling
· Heb.3:1 share in a heavenly call
· IIPet. 1:10 confirm your call and election
The word “call” is used most generally to refer to the call of all Christians. When it is used specifically designating some task to be done or some specific ministry to be done, it presupposes that one is a Christian otherwise one could not do for the Lord that one does not believe in.
Of the specific calls they were: the twelve to be apostles, Paul to be an apostle, Paul and Barnabas for the first journey, to go into Macedonia on the second journey.
WHAT IS THE PUBLIC MINISTRY? WHAT FORM DOES IT TAKE?
As simply stated as possible as we see it in Scripture, it is somebody doing something for somebody else in a public manner. We have a list in I Cor. 12:28. I take the first three, “apostles, prophets, teachers” as the higher gifts. They are numbered and deal directly with the Word. Another listing is inEph.4:11, “and His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, some teachers.” These all deal alone with the serving of the Word. Notice the following glorious profusion of expressions describing especially the serving of one another with the Word.
ἀπόστολος apostle – The expression “the twelve” is never used of anyone except of that group. But the term “apostle” has a wider usage beyond the twelve. Paul is an apostle added to the twelve of course.
· Barnabas-Acts 14:14 “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it…”
· Andronicus and Junias-Rom. 16:7 “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners; they are men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.”
· The following two references because of the context seem to be the sense of “messenger.” Epaphroditus-Phil.2:25 “your messenger/apostle”, Titus and the brother-II Cor. 8:23 “messengers/apostles of the churches”
προφήτης prophet- I thought I read somewhere that there were no prophets in the New Testament. Of course that is not true.
· Agabus-Acts11:27-28 “Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine…” 21:10″…a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.”
· Judas Barsabbas and Silas-Acts15:32 “And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, exhorted the brethren…”
· Barnabas, Symeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul at Antioch-Acts 13:1 “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers…”
· Philip’s four unmarried daughter-Acts 21:9 “And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.”
· Philip-Acts 21:8 “…And we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven…”
· Timothy- II Tim. 4:5 “…do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
ἀρχιποίμην Jesus is the Chief Shepherd as we read in I Pet. 5:1-5 The under shepherds are the elders.
· Eph. 4:11 has the word for shepherd/ pastor in the list.
διδάσκαλος teacher – Besides being in Eph.4 and ICor. 12 references the five at Antioch were also called teachers.
· Paul also singles himself out as a teacher. ITim. 2:7 “For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle…,teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” Likewise in II Tim.1:11
πρεσβύτερος elder/presbyter – One who generally think of an elder as an older man.
· Peter links himself with the elders. I Pet. 5:1 “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…”
· The elders are linked with the apostles in Acts 15:2 “Paul and Barnabas and some others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.” The letter from the council went out 15:23 “The brethren, both the apostles and elders, to the brethren…” James as head of the Jerusalem congregation was an elder. Acts 21:18
· In James’ epistle -5:14 “Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…”
· Crete -Paul had Titus appoint them. Titus 1:5 “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.”
· Ephesus-Paul called the elders to Miletus from Ephesus. Acts 20:17″…called to him the elders of the church.” These elders were to feed the flock, 20:28 “Take heed to yourselves and to the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord…”
· There were elders who preached and ones who didn’t. – ITim.5:17 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”
ἐπίσκοπος bishop/overseer – The word defines itself as ‘watching over.’
· Ephesus – The elders were also called this. Act. 20:28
· In the pastoral epistles they have qualifications. I Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:7
· Philippi- Paul addresses, Ph.1:1 “…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”
διάκονος deacon/servant – While we generally call the seven in Jerusalem by this name, Scripture does not. Acts 6:1-6
· In the pastoral epistle I Tim. 3 they have requirements.
· Cenchreae -Phoebe was female version Rom. 16:1 “a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae.
· Paul and Apollos – ICor.3:5 “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed…”
Paul also refers to himself, Apollos and Peter as “servants (different word) of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” ICor. 4:l There were many “leaders” watching out for souls. Heb.13:17 “Minister” is another word used to describe the service in the church. Rom. 15:16, Phil.2:25
That there were leaders in the church, of that there is no question. There was also a grand egalitarianism of the good sort. Though the leaders were the free lords of all and subject to no one yet through the Gospel they were the servants of all and subject to everyone. The apostles (the twelve) are not completely in charge. James, the half-brother of our Lord headed up the congregation at Jerusalem. Paul refers to Apollos (not one of the twelve), Peter (one of the twelve), and himself (the untimely born, least of the apostles) as servants and stewards. Peter refers to himself as a fellow elder. In Jerusalem it was the apostles and elders working together. The is hierarchy of office at the beginning. Most definitely no oligarchy, nor aristocracy, nor hegemonial lordship.
The term “elder” finds the widest use. Geographically it is used in: Jerusalem, Crete, Ephesus. The elder may or may not have been a ministrant of the Word. As for all the terms there generally is an overlapping in usage which does not suggest a generally consistent usage.
How does one receive an office?
In Acts 6:1-7 we have the seven chosen. The apostles said, “pick out from among you seven men of good repute…” v.3 “And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose…” v.5 There is no question that a congregation can ask its members to perform certain functions. Remember though that the seven were not chosen to minister the Word. The apostles said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” v.2 It is highly informative of the church at that time to then see that two of the seven are rather prominent preachers!
Besides an individual congregation choosing some to serve in a specific capacity, a group of churches also may. “With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel; and not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work…” IICor. 8:18-19 “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker in your service; and as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches…” v.23 Titus and the well-known preacher are performing a work in the collection for Jerusalem for ‘the churches.’
“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.” Acts 15:22 The whole church in Jerusalem had a job to be done and sent off Judas Barsabbas and Silas, leading men among the brethren, with the letter.
And of course we have the congregation at Antioch in Syria sending off Paul and Barnabas as directed by the Spirit. Acts 13:1-4
What we see so far is:
· a congregation picks some from their midst to fulfill a task,
· a group of congregations chooses some to perform a job,
· a congregation chooses some to carry out a specific, limited job,
a congregation instead of asking some to fulfill a function within their midst, sends some out to do the work.
This all so far betokens a free flowing freshness, a spontaneity in the church unimpeded yet by organizationalism and institutionalism. The starch is not yet in the collar.
And now we come to that expansive category of individual appointment to ‘just doing.’ In the study of Paul’s outreach work we see a host of fellow workers. How did they each exactly become such fellow workers? In Acts14:23 “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.” This is the record of Paul and Barnabas on the first journey. Paul wrote to Titus, 1:5 “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” The word for ‘appoint’ in these two references is different. Some have surmised that later the congregations ratified or approved these appointments. That may be, although we do not know. But beyond these ‘appointments’ we have a grand host of workers just doing the work.
I do not believe that when Paul refers to ‘fellow workers’ he is exhibiting merely a generous humility. The record indicates they were in actuality fellow workers. The general statement in Acts. 8:4 is then individualized in numerous accounts and names and places. “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. “Consider Colossians chapter four.
v.7 Tychicus is a “beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.”
v.9 Onesimus is not called a fellow worker. He is sent by Paul with Tychicus to “tell…of everything that has taken place here. “Paul wrote to “Philemon our beloved fellow worker” about Onesimus now being “useful to you and to me.”
v.10 Aristarchus is a fellow worker Phile. 24
Mark is a fellow worker. Phile.24 He also was in the work on the first journey on Cyprus, withdrawing in Pamphylia.
v.11 Jesus Justus along with Aristarchus and Mark are “the only men of the circumcizion among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God.”
v.12 Epaphras, a “servant of Christ Jesus” is a fellow worker. Phile. 24 Inv.13 we learn that he has a relationship not only Colossae, but also with Laodicea and Hierapolis.
v.14 Luke ,the chronicler, is a fellow worker.Phile.24
Demas is a fellow worker, Phile.24, who later abandoned the work. II Tim. 4:10
v.17 Archippus is to “‘…fulfill the ministry which you have received in the Lord.'”
Here we have nine clearly designated as fellow workers. As we see in this as in the following it is the universal priesthood of all believers in action. It would appear that it is more a ‘Can I help you? Can you help me?’ than a clergy/laity distinction which came later.
In the following chart notice there are 29 who are designated in one way or another in Scripture as fellow workers with Paul. There may well be more. Seven women are among the 29. The seven who were with him in Acts20:4 include three who are designated elsewhere as fellow workers.
YEARS PAUL’S EPISTLES FELLOW WORKERS
First Journey begins 46 Barnabas, Mark
Acts 13:3 47
Second Journey begins 49 Silas
Acts 15:40 50 I & II Thess. Timothy, Luke
51 Prisca, Aquila
Third Journey begins 52 Apollos, Stephanas, Fortun-
Acts 18:23 53 atas, Achaicus,Mary,Phoebe
54 Erastus, Urbanus,
55 I & II Cor. Tryphaena, Tryphosa,Persis
56 Romans Sopater,Secondus, Gaius,
57 Aristarchus, Tim., Tychicus,
59 Col.,Phile., Jesus Justus, Epaphras
First Imprisonment 60 Eph., Phil. Archippus, Epaphroditus
61 Euodia, Synteche, Clement
62 I Tim.
63 Titus Titus
65 II Tim.
Ref. – Silas-Acts 16, Timothy – Acts 19:22, Ph.2:22, Prisca and Aquila – Rom. 16:3, Stephanas, Fortunatas, Achaicus -I Cor. 16:15-18, Mary – Rom. 16:6, Phoebe – Rom. 16:1-2, Erastas – Acts 19:22, Urbanas – Rom.16:9, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis – Rom. 16:12, Epaphroditus – Ph. 2:25, Euodia, Synteche, Clement – Ph. 4:2-3
The others we have seen in the citations for except for Apollos, who we will look at under the next question.
Now let’s amble through Acts for a little bit to try and trace the choosing, and appointing and joining in the work of the Lord. The first journey of Paul begins its record in Acts 13:2, “The Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'” In addition to these two Mark goes with them on the journey. They brought him with them when they returned from Jerusalem. 12:25 Mark was with them on Cyprus and then withdrew when they came to Perga in Pamphylia. It was Paul and “his company” that set sail from Paphos. 13:13 Mark left the work. 15:38 On the first journey then Mark was brought along part way until he left. After the Jerusalem council (ch. 15) we have Silas and Judas Barsabbas chosen and sent with the letter. It is delivered and the two return to Jerusalem, while Paul and Barnabas remain in Antioch. In 15:36 Paul says to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the brethren.” One could conjecture that this is still under the Spirit’s call of the first journey. It does seem that as things expand in the second and third journeys it is an expansion beyond the original Antioch call. It is still the Spirit doing it of course. At the outset of the second journey a dispute arose and they divided into two companies.15:39-40 We would still say that Barnabas was doing the Lord’s work. Paul chose Silas and was commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 15:40 These two went through Syria and Cilicia. At Derbe and Lystra they came across Timothy. 16:3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. After the vision they proceed to Macedonia. Luke is now with them. 16:8 “They” changes to “we”. 16:10 Evidently Luke leaves them for a short time. In 17:14 it is Paul, Silas, and Timothy. In 18:18 in going back to Syria Prisca and Aquila accompany him, going on to Ephesus.18:19 In 20:4 there were seven accompanying Paul. Luke is with Paul again then arriving at Troas. 20:5
While we do have individuals asked to do certain tasks for other Christians, we also have no let up, but even an increase in Christians just doing, stepping up to the plate, realizing that they are players in the game. Antioch in Syria which became Paul’s home base, was instrumental in the shift from going to the Jews to turn to the Gentiles. “Now those who were scattered…speaking the word to none except Jews…men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.” Acts 11:19-24 This of course finds its cause in the commission of the Lord recorded by all the evangelists. So also the fact of all the fellow workers carrying out the commission goes back to the call of each individual Christian.
How is the universal priesthood related to the public ministry?
The public ministry comes from the universal priesthood. As we look at the following four examples the public ministry was no limitation on the universal priesthood. In the cases of Stephen and Philip, they were called by the Jerusalem congregation to basically “serve tables”. This in no way limited their witnessing and open preaching. As far as we know, Prisca and Aquila and Apollos had no formal call into a public ministry. We see them very public in their speaking the Word.
The record of Stephen in Acts 6-7 is not of one only waiting on tables. He did “great wonders and signs among the people.”6:8 This we have not the power to do. His speaking of the Word publicly though, that we have the call and authority to do. Those of the “synagogue of the Freedmen…and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia” disputed with Stephen and could not withstand him. 6:9-10 Who does not thrill to read his ‘sermon’ before the council and high priest?
Philip was not limited to one locality. While he was one of the seven, chosen with Stephen to wait on tables, he “went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ.” Like Stephen he had power to perform miracles. The apostles Peter and John were not sent down to disapprove of the work. 8:4-25 By divine direction Philip witnessed to the Ethiopian on the road to Gaza from Jerusalem. 8:26-39 And “Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the Gospel to all the towns till he came to Caesarea.” 8:40 Philip is called the “evangelist” by Luke. 21:8 That was a fact.
Prisca and Aquila serve as a vibrant reminder of what a husband/wife teamwork for the Lord should be and can do. It was at Corinth that Paul “found” Aquila and his wife. Acts 18:2 They sailed with Paul for Syria. 18:18 They worked with or without Paul. They took Apollos aside and expounded to him more accurately the Way. 18:26 These fellow workers with Paul labored in Rome, Corinth and Ephesus.
The only thing that comes even close to a public ministry call for Apollos is “the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him.” Acts 18:27 This was when he wished to cross from Asia Minor to Achaia. He was busy with the Word and travelling. At Ephesus he spoke “boldly in the synagogue” and “powerfully confuted the Jews in public.”18:24-28 In Acts 19:1 he is at Corinth. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “As for our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brethren, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.” ICor. 1:12, 3:4-6, 22 Paul and Apollos were both teachers to the Corinthians, “that you may learn by us to live according to Scripture.”4:6 Where Apollos was going when Paul encouraged Titus to speed him on his way we do not know. Titus 3:13 We do know that he was on the go for the Lord.
Who gives public servants and gifts to serve all Christians?
GOD. As we see from Eph. 4:11-12 and I Cor. 12:28-29 God is the provider. Let us remember that God by means of His gifts wants the saints to be equipped for the work of the ministry and for building up the body of Christ, His church. Eph. 4:12 This same broad picture is found elsewhere in the analogy of the body. “For by grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him. For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Rom. 12:3-6 This same analogy is written in I Cor. beginning with, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”vv.4-7
Upon what basis may one volunteer for a task in the church?
To my mind immediately comes Is. 6:8, “Here am I! Send me. “But let’s go deep down within and consider what one wants and why. “If anyone aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task.” ‘Aspire’ means to desire earnestly, to long after. The word ‘desire’ means to set the heart upon, to long for. If one has a desire like this, it should be in order to serve Christ more and not for earthly glory. Christ came not to be served but to serve and give His life as the ransom. This should be the basis for desiring. There is nothing in the Word forbidding one to step forward with the right motive to serve. Humility is the qualifier.
How does the call today to perform some function for the priesthood differ from the call of the apostles?
One obvious difference is He called them directly. Mt. 10:1-4 Another difference is that He gave “them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.” Mt. 10:1 This authority He has not given to us. The twelve He also sent out with specific instructions that do not pertain to us, “go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…Heal…raise…cleanse…cast out…”Mt. 10:5-8That was their immediate task. Later they followed that which we do also, to make disciples of all nations.
The untimely born was also called directly on the road. He was “a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” Acts 9:15
The seventy also had a direct appointment by the Lord. Lk. 10:1 He gave them the power to heal the sick.Lk.10:9 They returned marvelling “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Lk. 10:17
The Word was given to us as He saw fit. No council of men decided that the 66 books were God’s Word. The church recognized, acknowledged, and used the Word as from God. So also the public ministry. God gives His servants today for the church. And the church recognizes, acknowledges and uses these gifts. To Him alone belongs the glory.