What are you claiming in your Ministry?
by Robert Randle 9/28/2009 / Devotionals
In the follow-up of an earlier work titled "The Calling to Christian Ministry is not an Occupation," there arose a need to expand more upon and go deeper into contrasting current trends and tradition to what the examples or inferences for this important work are, drawn from the pages of Scripture. There is a popular teaching among Evangelical Christians that all you have to do to accept Jesus and receive forgiveness of sins is to recite "The Sinner's Prayer." This religiously sincere fast-food entrée to "salvation" is quicker than a marriage annulment in 'Vegas,' but is this really what the man of God should teach?
Isaiah 59: 1-2
Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened that it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear you.
John 9: 31
Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshipper of Him and does His will, He hears him.
How many Churches today and their teachers promote the theology of all you have to do is just "believe and confess Jesus as Lord?" Even if someone did confess Jesus as the Son of God and believe the same, that doesn't mean the person is saved. Demons/unclean spirits confessed that Jesus was the Son of God or the Holy One of God (Matthew 8: 29a; Mark 1: 24b, 34; Luke 4: 34) and James 2: 19b says: "Even the demons believe- and tremble; yet, no one in their right mind would accept that these beings met the prerequisites for salvation.
Another teaching is called the 'Prosperity Gospel/Prosperity and adding to that, believers were introduced to "prayer cloths" and anointing with "Holy ['olive'??] Oil;" to receive divine blessings for material things such as cars, houses, money, jobs, etc. The Word of God says:
Jesus says in Matthew 6: 31: "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life. What you will eat; nor about your body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing."
I Timothy 6: 9-10
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money [not necessarily 'riches/wealth' per se] is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the 'Faith' in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows ['regrets'].
Hebrews 13: 5a
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.
I Timothy 6: 6-8
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out; and having food and clothing ['shelter'/other basic 'necessities'??], with these we shall be content.
Perhaps one of the most pervasive, easily misunderstood, and over used teaching of all is "Tithing." Many preachers will readily quote Malachi 3: 8-11, but they conveniently forget the all important context [V. 4; Judah and Jerusalem]. Since a few astute clergy are aware of this, a lot of them will use the New Testament to authenticate this faith practice, such as in the Corinthian letters. I will cover this matter in very great detail in the following:
I Corinthians 16: 1-3, 5, 8
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the Churches [assemblies] of Galatia, so you must do also (Cp. II Corinthians 9: 7??): On the "first day" of the week [NOTE: makes sense because of Sabbath Day worship and also this was not a 'Tithe' or offering] let each one of you (1) lay something aside, (2) storing up as he may prosper, that there be (3) no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your "gift" to Jerusalem. Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost (Cp. Acts 18: 21; 19: 21a, 22b; 20: 1-2??)
NOTE: The Apostle Paul brought the Word of the Lord to the Galatians during his First Missionary trip to Asia Minor. These assemblies were in Pisidian Antioch (Cp. Acts 13: 14); Iconium (Cp. Acts 14: 1); Lystra & Derbe (Acts 14: 6-7, 20); Perga [in Pamphylia] (Cp. Acts 14: 25). Also, this contribution is mentioned here and II Corinthians 8 thru 10, but keep in mind the word "gift;" which is something that is voluntary, non-compulsory, and unconditional; if it were not, it would be a command about 'tithing.' Not only that, but the impetus for this event was based upon the dire prophesy of Agabus in Acts 11: 27-30; which Paul and Barnabas sent relief to the elders at the Church [assembly] and temple in Jerusalem the first time. This famine must have been quite severe to have the plea for this outreach to extend so far outside of Judea, of which the Apostle Paul was glad to make the proclamation before Felix the Governor of Caesarea in Acts 24: 17, where he says: "Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation." Also, not to be overlooked, the Corinthians believers were composed of synagogue attendees [Jews] and perhaps God-fearing Gentile proselytes, too.
II Corinthians 8: 1-5
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the Churches [assemblies] in Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints (Cp. Acts 11: 27-29; 24: 17).
And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. And in this I give my advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and desired a year ago (Cp. I Corinthians 16: 1-5); but now you must complete the act of doing it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there must be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack- that there may be equality.
9: 1-2, 4-5
Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous (necessary, expedient) for me to write to you; for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia [namely, the Corinthians] was ready a year ago; and that your zeal has stirred up the majority. Lest if some Macedonians come with me [like Gaius and Aristarchus; Cp. Acts 19: 26b] and find you unprepared, we (not to mention) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised (pledged) that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.
NOTE: It would seem that the appearance of brethren from the Apostle Paul beforehand is some type of psychological coercion, intimidation, or compulsion; even if his concern was just encouragement and a reminder to not procrastinate and finish what you start. It could be a way for Paul to save "face" and not be embarrassed for all his bragging.
9: 6-8, 11-15
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have abundance for every good work. While you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgiving to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
NOTE: Here in a nutshell is what the traditional Christian offering or collection pertains to. Most of the time, only a few select verses in the Corinthian letters are used, accompanied by wonderfully uplifting songs or stern admonitions from the pulpit or altar, but rarely has anyone read the entire narrative in context.
So, what does the New Testament teach regarding supporting the Gospel or those who minister in the Word of God?
I Corinthians 9: 7-15a, 17a-18
Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the Law ["Torah"] say the same also? For it is written in the Law ["Torah"] of Moses, "You shall not muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain (Cp. Deuteronomy 25: 4)." Is it oxen that God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so for me. For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.
II Corinthians 11: 7-9
Did I commit sin humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one; for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.
NOTE: This is a far cry from those members of the clergy and Church leadership today who use the Scriptures to psychologically coerce the believers into 'tithing' or put a "guilt trip" and fear of condemnation on the flock if they do not participate in this offering. Are they like those in Micah 3: 11a, which reads, Her priests teach for pay and her prophets' divine for money or II Corinthians 2: 17a: For we are not as many [hucksters] peddling the Word of God [preaching for personal profit]?
There is one other reference in the New Testament on this matter of support [financial??], and that pertains to the office of a "special" class of Elder, as in I Timothy 5: 17-18, which says: Let the Elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor [just what is this?], especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain (Cp. Deuteronomy 25: 4)," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages." Matthew 10: 10b, which says: "For a worker is worthy of his food." So, just as those who preach the gospel of God have the right to be supported, the Elder who among his other responsibilities, proclaims the Gospel and teaches [instructs in doctrine] is to receive the material things they need just as the Apostles, ministers, evangelists, and missionaries who spread the "Good News." (Cp. I Timothy 3: 1-7; Titus 1: 5-9)
What is the responsibility of the believer? Among the other things which bear fruit, which pertaining to benevolence, hospitality or supporting preaching the Word, are:
Romans 12: 13
Distributing to the needs of the saints.
Galatians 6: 6
Let him who is taught in the Word share in all good things with him who teaches.
What is the responsibility of the preacher, teacher or minister of the Lord, and what does this involve?
Matthew 28: 18-20; Mark 16: 15-16; Luke 24: 47
And what is the Gospel [Evangelion- "Good News"]?
Acts 10: 36-43; I Corinthians 15: 1-4
Notice the first time in Scripture that 'Evangelist' is used. In II Timothy 4: 5b, Paul says: Do the work of an Evangelist, fulfill your ministry. And pertaining to spiritual gifts for the work of ministry and to edify the body of believers, Ephesians 4: 11, states: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. Looking at the background of Philip for guidance, it seems that an Evangelist is someone who goes from place to place spreading the Word of God; much like a Missionary does. Today, those many among the clergy want a stationary or home Church where they are get paid a generous, above-average livable wage, have office-hours for relationship or marital counseling sessions, give motivational talks and seminars, do song rehearsal, practicing for the next sermon or teaching Bible classes; instead of taking a Sabbatical from all of this and go out in the field and preach the Gospel to the lost; trusting in God to provide for their needs (Cp. Acts 20: 34-35a; II Corinthians 11: 7).
The clergy (Preacher, Evangelist, Pastor, Bishop, Priest or Elder) does not have to be involved in the daily activities of the Church, as evidenced in Acts 6: 3-4: Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of (1) good reputation, full of (2) the Holy Spirit and (3) wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and ministry of the Word. The Apostle Paul's charge to Timothy is recorded in II Timothy 4: 2: Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season [even if it's not politically-correct and quite unpopular]. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching [doctrine].
And lastly, Luke 17: 10: "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, "We are unworthy servants. We have done what was our duty to do."