Monday, December 15, 2014

Office, Gift and Priesthood (Part 2)

From Office, Gift and Priesthood by AJ Pollock

There are three great chapters which speak of gift: Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, and Eph. 4 The following remarks in parallel columns may help the reader.

Romans 12: God is the great Agent in this chapter. "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith," (v3). The House of God is the sphere including the Assembly. Gift is given to the individual and differs according to the sovereignty of the Giver.

1 Corinthians 12: The Spirit is the great Agent in this chapter. "All these works that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will," (v. 11). The sphere is the Assembly mainly, though going out to the wider sphere—the House of God.

Ephesians 4: The ascended Lord is the great Agent in this chapter. "When He [Christ] ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," (v. 8). In Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12 gifts are given to the individuals. Here the individuals themselves are the gifts.

Ephesians 4:1-16
Here the subject is looked at from the widest possible aspect. (1) From the standpoint of God's eternal purposes in a past eternity. (2) With the whole work of God in and through the whole Church of God in view. (3) In its relation to the world. (4) In prospect of the full completion of God's work and the Church's entire fitness for glory.

In Psa. 68:18 we read: "Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." Doubtless, this refers to the blessings men generally will come in for, consequent on the atoning triumph and ascension of the blessed Lord, and in particular will be seen in fulfillment in the millennium.

But in Eph. 4:8, this Scripture is quoted, one word being altered: "Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." When the Holy Spirit quotes Scripture in the New Testament, the quotation is as much Scripture in its New Testament place as in its Old, and any alteration in the quotation the Holy Spirit makes constitutes the alteration Scripture.

Here we find the gifts are given, not in reference to Israel but to the Church, but having the blessing of the world in view, for it says, "He gave gifts unto men." If we realized this more how it would help us in our Christian relationships. We are not of the world, but for the blessing of the world through Christ. We are not here to set the world right, but to let our light shine for His glory and that He may use us.

In the millennial age, "The nations of them which are saved shall wall: in the light of it [the heavenly city: the Church in relation to the millennial earth]: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into [literally unto] it." (Rev. 21:24). Of course the Church has no light of her own, it is the light of Christ. It is transmitted light. Alas! How much it is obstructed to-day by carnality and worldly-mindedness and wrong conception that the Christian is here to set the world right, but in that day the medium-the Church-will have no obstructing hindering element, and the light of Christ through the Church will shine forth in all its blessedness and helpfulness.

The gifts were five; apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, these two last bracketed together as their ministrations more or less blend.

What is Gift?
What is gift? The individual here is the gift, but he is a gift in virtue of possessing a gift. What is gift in this latter sense? It is divine ability ministered in sovereign grace by the ascended Lord, whereby He deigns to carry on His work of spiritual blessing in this world. Someone has described it as "the expression of an impression."

In the case of the apostles it must have been a wonderful impression of the whole scheme God had in view, so that, I suppose, the apostles had every gift. The evangelist must have a deep impression of what the gospel is in all its blessedness, a vivid sense of the grace of God, a deep sense of the judgment awaiting the lost, and he gives fervent expression to all this. A teacher must have a deep impression of the truth in all its parts and gives expression to that.

This is distinctly the Lord's prerogative. I remember giving an address in Dublin a few months ago, when a stranger came up to me and said, "What a pity you are not ordained?" I replied, "I am ordained with the ONLY ordination that counts," and went on to explain. Let us be clear about this, the ordination is on high, and there only. Let us refuse every other ordination. There may be happy expressions offellowship in the service of one thus ordained, but the ordination itself is in the Lord's hands alone and is God's sovereign act.

Apostles and Prophets
These are linked together as forming the foundation of the Church. This proves that the work of these gifts, is completed, and that they are not continued in the Christian Church. The foundation is laid, and then the superstructure finds its place.

The apostles (save Matthias and Paul) were personally chosen by the Lord when upon the earth, and in this way they held a unique place, and none could question their position. Matthias was chosen to succeed Judas by lot, the apostles thus recognizing that the Lord had this choice. Paul was ordained direct from glory without the intervention of man in any shape and sense as he points out in Gal. 1

Heb. 3:1 draws attention to Christ as "the Apostle of our profession" [confession N.T.]. By Apostle is meant the One who reveals God, introducing the light and knowledge of God; in short, one who brings God to man, as the Christ, the same blessed Person, as our great High Priest, brings men to God-brings them into His presence as worshippers in the sanctuary.

The apostles chosen by the Lord were men divinely called to carry on the work the Lord began, and were the introducers of the divine system we call Christianity into the world, not as a system belonging to the world, but as drawing men out of the world.

Their work was done when they founded the early Assemblies on the one hand, and by their oral ministry, and in writing the inspired epistles and the Revelation. So Scripture speaks of "the apostles' doctrine and fellowship." (Acts 2:42).

They had miraculous gifts, for the purpose of giving them credentials in the eyes of those among whom they testified. But the main thing was not these miraculous gifts but the spiritual deposit God placed in the hearts of men through their instrumentality. The miraculous gifts were in relation to the spiritual part of their work, evangelizing, pastoring, teaching, as the scaffolding is to the building-the scaffold is removed once the building is complete.

In Rev. 21:14 John tells us that the holy city, figure of the Church in millennial display, had " twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." John in Revelation answers to Paul who in Ephesians gives us the work of the apostles and prophets as forming the FOUNDATION, "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone." Here in John's vision the foundation is seen in final display in a glorified Church.

The prophets too had a unique position in the early Church. 1 Cor. 14 informs us of the character of their gift. Apparently in those days when the Scriptures were not complete, the prophets were chosen of God and inspired by Him to make revelations of truth-such revelations being now found within the covers of the Word of God. Anyone now pretending to an extra-Scripture revelation, to something beyond and in addition to the Scriptures, may be put down at once as an impostor, and severely shunned. At the same time whilst the apostles and prophets have passed away, yet the Lord's servants may have an apostolic and prophetic character in a very secondary sense. A brother may have such an all-round and deep knowledge of the truth and may be so gifted, that the exercise of his gift may have an apostolic or prophetic character in that way, but he is not and cannot be an apostle or a prophet.

The popular idea of a prophet is a foreteller of future events. This is the part of his ministry that appeals to curiosity and the intellect, and herein lies the danger of so handling Scripture prophecy. Prophecy is always intended to have a present and subduing effect on the minds of those who receive it.

But a moment's reflection will show that this is only a part of their ministry. A large part of the Old Testament prophet's ministry was given to bringing the mind of God in relation to the state of the people and calling them to repentance. It was not only foretelling but also forth telling. So it was with the New Testament prophets. But apart from special revelation, which has completely passed away with them, we have the prophetic character of their ministry, and "he that prophesies speaks unto men to edification [building up], and exhortation [stirring up], and comfort [binding up]." (1 Cor. 14:3). How much of this may be sought to-day to real profit.

The meaning of the word evangelist is the bearer of glad tidings. Those tidings are the gospel of the grace of God. Wherever he goes he is characterized by setting forth the gospel of God. Eph. 4 is the only Scripture where the evangelist is mentioned among the gifts. Where the point of view is the exercise of gift in the Assembly or in the wider sphere of God's house, as in 1 Cor. 12 and Rom. 12 evangelists, as such, have no place. But where the whole counsels of God on the one hand, and the full completion of the work on the other hand are in view, the evangelist has his place. What a high and holy privilege it is when this gift is given.

But let it be noted that the foundation of the apostles and prophets is laid before the evangelists as a separate gift is brought before us. That is to say, the Assembly must be his home. He goes forth from the Assembly and returns to the Assembly. He owes his ordination to the ascended Lord alone and to Him alone He looks for spiritual support and direction. The Assembly may not control or direct his steps.

Yet, if it is clear that he has received heavenly ordination, the saints of God will not be slow to lay their hands upon him, in short, to express fellowship with him in his work, and further him in it in whatever way he has need.

The evangelist in his work has been happily likened to a pair of compasses. There is the fixed leg at the center and the loose leg, always attached to the fixed leg, making its sweep at equal distance from the center, describing the biggest circle it can.

So the evangelist has a fixed leg, as it were, in the Assembly. As a saint of God he has his responsibilities as every other saint of God has He is a member of the body of Christ as much as his fellow-believers are.

As an evangelist he goes out on a roving commission, carrying the good news of the gospel far and wide. But his desire is, that his converts should find the same home as himself, even the Assembly of God. There they are brought under wonderful influences, gathered to the Lord's name, enjoying the only fellowship that Scripture recognizes, "the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord," (1 Cor. 1:9), expressing their communion with the death of Christ in the Lord's Supper, coming under the exercise of the gifts of the pastors and teachers, learning what the apostles' doctrine and fellowship is, and being where "the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (Eph. 4:16). We have already pointed out that the evangelist is not under the direction of the Assembly as to the carrying out of his work. Yet, if in his work he transgress plainly the principles of truth, or uses methods and ways which are unspiritual and tend to bring the work of the Lord into disrepute, it is clearly the duty of godly brethren to lovingly point out where he goes beyond scriptural bounds, and if the evangelist is wise, he will pay heed to and be thankful for the admonition. The same may be said of the pastor and teacher. It takes great humility and grace to give godly admonition. It takes as great grace to receive it.

Pastors and Teachers
Unlike the evangelist whose sphere of labor is outside the assembly, the pastor's and teacher's sphere is inside the assembly. The idea of the word, pastor, is that of shepherd. Just as a shepherd chooses the pasture for his flock, so the pastor feeds the saints of God. Peter's exhortation to the elders is, "Feed the flock of God which is among you" (1 Peter 5:2).

The meaning of the word teacher is obvious, suggesting the thought of an instructor of pupils or learners.

It is significant that the pastor is mentioned before the teacher, though in conjunction. The pastor feeds, the teacher teaches. The former has before him the needs of the saints in the way of spiritual food and he is in touch with their condition and knows how to use the Word of God skillfully so that he feeds the soul of the saints. The teacher is more occupied with the truth, and brings it out in a systematic way, and is very helpful to those who are really interested in the truth.

Some have an idea that a pastor chiefly or altogether visits the saints in their homes and pays what is popularly called "pastoral visits." This may or may not be part of his work, happy if it is so, but the gift of pastor certainly finds its chief and highest expression in ministry, adapted to the conditions and needs of those he addresses.

The evangelist goes out with the gospel and brings in his converts, the pastor feeds them and the teacher instructs them in the truth of God.

There should be no rivalry between the evangelist and the pastor and teacher, for their work is under the direction of the same Lord, they are complementary one to the other, and all working towards one grand glorious consummation, even to the display of the Church as the produce of the wisdom and power of God to His glory alone throughout the ages of ages.

The apostle Paul had the ministry of the gospel and the ministry of the Church committed to him, and he was the prince of evangelists, the tenderest of pastors and the wisest of teachers, thus showing how these gifts are complementary one to the other.

The Gifts Perpetuated
The gifts are given "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:12-13). The Lord is faithful to His Assembly. As long as the saints are down here the great Head of the Church, His body, will care for His own. His blessed ministry in this way will go on till the Church history on this earth is over, and we are with and like the Lord.

But just as we take in the ministry of the Spirit as thus given us we shall be growing towards this measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, and shall not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine. Alas! how much this being tossed about with every wind of doctrine characterizes the saints of God to-day. May we be exercised as to this.

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