6. — Its Ministry

We have now reached the point where we can take up the subject of Ministry without giving it an overshadowing prominence as most people do.

In the previous papers we have seen the Church as the Body of Christ, so contemplated in Scripture, as really and organically one. We have seen the priesthood of all believers, and the prominence of worship in the Church economy. All these, as matters of the first importance, needing to be clearly understood before we come to the subject of ministry. It may surprise some that we speak of ministry, as now exercised, as a temporary thing; and yet a moment's thought, with a glance at a few scriptures, will convince them that such is the case. In the list of gifts from an ascended Christ mentioned in Ephesians, we have both their continuity and their duration 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 fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12-13). Gifts will not fail so long as the Body of Christ is being formed, and so long as it needs edifying, and the saints perfecting. They will continue "until we all come unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," which will be when we are with Him in glory. Then there will be no further need for, and hence no further existence of, ministry as we now know it. "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (1 Cor. 13:9-10). While saints were to covet earnestly the best gifts, they were shown a more excellent way — the following after love, which should endure when the necessity for gifts had passed (1 Cor. 12:31).

And yet, doubtless, for all eternity the varied members of the Body of Christ will, as parts of a living organism, enjoy the happy privilege of mutual ministries of love and engage in the limitless service of our Lord. "His servants shall serve Him."

We need hardly say that the results of ministry will abide forever, and that rewards for faithful ministry will most surely be given, and enjoyed through eternity. But this only shows that it is a thing of the past, the necessity for it gone with the earth-history of the Church.

So long, however, as the Church is upon earth, so long as sinners are to be brought into it, and saints to be edified, will there be absolute necessity for ministry, and that of a most varied and complete kind.

Let us now see what Scripture teaches as to the Source, Character, Power and Exercise of true ministry.

(1) The Source and Author of all true ministry is the glorified Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. "Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men … and He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints," etc. (Eph. 4:8-13).

We are reminded in a parenthesis (vers. 9, 10) that all gifts are the purchase of the death of Christ, that His ascension was preceded by His descent first into the grave. So is our adorable Lord ever contemplated now, "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen" (Rev. 1:18; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 2:6-9). As glorified, He has bestowed gifts upon men. That Church which He loved and for which He gave Himself, has not been forgotten or neglected by her absent Lord. He has sent down from the glory all that is needed for the ingathering and upbuilding of His beloved people. As we enjoy the varied gifts of ministry, let us ever remember their source. In this way we gain a clear perception of two things: the love and care of Christ, and the dignity of all Christian ministry. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church" (Eph. 5:29). In every gift, whether more or less prominent, we see the love of Christ. There could be no true ministry apart from His gift. The effect, then, of enjoying it should ever be to lead our hearts up in grateful love to Him. But if on the one hand His love is manifested in the gift bestowed for ministry, on the other we see the dignity and the responsibility attaching to it. "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). "For I neither received it" (the gospel) "of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:12). Such and many other scriptures show the dignity attaching to a Christ-given ministry. If any despise it, in so doing he despises Christ. "He that despiseth you, despiseth me." Nor let any man think to add to the dignity of Christian ministry by investing it with high-sounding names and official position attaching to human greatness. All this is but putting gaudy tinsel upon fine gold. If Christ is the source and author of ministry, it follows as self-evident that there is no place for, and certainly no need for, human authorization. Any attempt at such is but an interference, no matter how well meant, with Christ's prerogatives.

(2) As to the character of ministry, it is most varied and complete, taking in its range all manner of service needed for the Church. In the list already quoted from Ephesians 4, we have apostles and prophets: these are connected with the foundation. "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone" (Eph. 2:20). We need hardly say that these are New Testament prophets, not Old — men who spoke directly for God, often indicating in a supernatural way His mind as to the present or future. Were they Old Testament prophets, they would have been mentioned before, not after, the apostles. The apostles occupied a unique position in the establishment of the Church, which could not be transmitted to others. There can therefore be no "apostolic succession," upon which all Episcopal churches, along with Rome, base their claim. This claim is prevented by the fact that apostles were special witnesses of our Lord's resurrection. See Acts 1:22 with 1 Cor. 9:1; 1 Cor. 15:8-9. Of the absurd assumption of Irvingism that a new list of apostles has been made, it is scarcely necessary to speak. The scripture cited in support of it (Isa. 1:26) does not refer to the Church but to Israel. This new "college of the apostles" has all passed away, and still the restoration has not been effected, nor has the coming of the Lord taken place.

The apostles were intrusted with the planting of the Church and nourishing its infancy, as well as providing it for its whole earthly history, along with the rest of Scripture, with an infallible guide. This we have in the apostolic writings, which are, equally with the whole sacred volume, absolutely and perfectly inspired (2 Peter 3:15-16; 1 John 4:6). Thus, while we have not personally with us the apostles, we have them in their writings. These inspired writings of the apostles, and particularly those of Paul, give us the closing revelation of God. Paul was to complete (Greek) the word of God (Col. 1:25). His apostleship is unique. He tells us he was appointed "by Jesus Christ and God the Father" (Gal. 1:1). As the twelve were connected with the earthly administration of the Kingdom, so Paul is the special apostle of the Church, a witness of its unity, spiritual character and heavenly destiny. We might say the twelve were connected with the Church as the "house of God", Paul more prominently as the "Body of Christ". Of course this refers to their ministry, not to their personal relationship, which was the same in all.

Evangelists, as their names would suggest, are heralds of the glad tidings, preachers of the gospel of the grace of God, who awaken the careless and win souls to Christ. It is not every one who is an evangelist, though all should have the love of souls, and be ready to point the sinner to Christ. But men who are evangelists by gift have a true passion for souls, true longing and travailing in birth for them; they are instructed how to present the gospel, how to gather in the souls, to distinguish true anxiety from false, and reality from mere profession. It is their joy to bring sinners to Christ, to see those who were in the world brought into the Church. The evangelist is a man of prayer, for he realizes that the work is all of God, and that "methods" are but of little worth. He is a man of faith, who counts on the living God. He is a student of Scripture, that he may present only the truth to souls. He is a man of courage, not fearing to go even where "bonds and imprisonment" may await him, that he may carry the glorious gospel of the blessed God to the perishing. He is a man of energy, instant in season, out of season. He is a man of perseverance, not discouraged if he fails to see immediate fruit from his labor. Lastly, he is a man of humility, glorying in another, saying from the heart, "Not I, but the grace of God which was with me."

If it be asked, Where are there such men? Our answer must be, The Master knoweth. Doubtless there are many who while not ideally what we might expect, are truly Christ's evangelists, endowed and sent forth by Him, showing in the blessed results of their labors that they are His gifts. As we look upon a world lying in the wicked one — the millions of souls in heathen darkness who have never heard of Christ — the millions in the bondage of Rome — the millions in Protestant lands, strangers to the grace of God — the multitudes at our very doors who fill the churches and say, "Lord, Lord," but who, it is feared, know Him not — shall we not pray for evangelists? that those already in service may be stripped for their task, and that others may be raised up to go everywhere preaching the Word? Let brethren ask themselves, in the presence of God, if He have not called them to this work. Let us all be more aroused to the need of a perishing world around us. Above all let us be more in prayer than ever.

When the evangelist has been used by the Holy Spirit to awaken the sinner, and to lead him to Christ, he has introduced him into the Church. Here his work as an evangelist ceases. To be sure, the saved soul will love to hear the gospel of salvation again and again for his joy and establishment. If he goes on with God, his enjoyment of the simple elementary truths of redemption increases. To lose taste for the gospel is to lose taste for the love of God, and is one of the marks of spiritual declension. But though he delight in it, it is no longer as one who needs to be saved. In that sense he is out of the care of the evangelist, and needs other ministry.

Let us remark in passing, that the evangelist, in his love for the new-born souls as their spiritual father, will see to it that, as they have through the Spirit been introduced into the Body of Christ, they also may be brought into its fellowship. The true evangelist cannot be indifferent as to their ecclesiastical associations. And yet, do we not hear of new converts being advised to enter "the church of their choice," or of their family? Was it thus with the gospel preached to them? Were they left to make choice of various ways of salvation, as by law-keeping, or reformation, or by religious profession? No! They were told there was but one way, and that out of Christ they must be lost forever. Scripture was given to prove this, and it was pressed until they had accepted God's way of salvation.

So should it be in the matter of church fellowship. The evangelist, in imitation of the good Samaritan, having bound up the sinner's wounds, pouring in the oil and wine — the blood of Christ witnessed to and applied by the Holy Spirit — brings the wounded man to the inn, where he can be taken care of. And in this matter of church fellowship, as great care should be taken as in the matter of salvation; for God's honor is in question in both cases. So, instead of inviting the new convert to enter the church of his choice, he should rather be shown that he is already in the Church, a member of it, and should now recognize those who, in the place where he resides, form the local assembly. Scripture is here, as in all else, the guide.

In answer to the objection that this will bring him into difficulties, our answer is that, as they are not made by the Word of God, they can all be resolved by it. We are bound to own that it must be bewildering to the soul who has just found peace, to be brought face to face with the sectarianism which is our common shame; nor need we wonder if many are stumbled. But Scripture has a remedy even here, and the obedient following of that infallible guide will give relief to those who are really desirous of learning and doing God's will.

But to return. The evangelist introduces the convert into the Church. Here ministry of a new kind awaits him. After evangelists, in the passage we are considering, come "pastors." The word is literally "shepherds," and fittingly designates those whom the Lord has qualified to "feed the flock of God." The sheep of Christ need care. The Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for them, will see that they are not only delivered from the enemy, but guarded, led, and fed as well. It is here that the importance of the gift of pastor is seen. His it is to look after the Lord's people; to see that they do not go astray,and seek to recover them if they do; to comfort them under affliction; to cheer and sympathize with them under trial; to warn them if they grow worldly or careless, watching over their souls as one who must give account. The pastor's work is necessarily largely of a private character. He need not be a public speaker nor take a prominent place. The true pastor's sphere of service is not a limited one. And how such an one is needed by the Lord's people! One who can rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep; ready to give counsel, encouragement, or correction. Are we sufficiently thankful for pastors? What would the Church of God be without them? — open to the attacks of the enemy, the weak neglected, the wanderers unsought, the unruly unwarned. And is it not well for us to pray that this precious gift of Christ may be more recognized and made use of? Let those who have the care of Christ's flock awaken afresh to their responsibilities. They have a work which no man can do for them. That such a gift exists at the present time who can doubt, with this scripture before them? But externality and superficiality characterize these days. Showy talents are most appreciated, and the useful ones which minister to the true health of the Body of Christ are too often despised and neglected. As a consequence the saints grow lean; where a true pastoral care might develop them into usefulness they shrivel and remain weaklings all their lives.

The qualifications for pastoral care are given in general in those passages which speak of oversight and eldership. Of office we shall speak shortly, and will ask the reader to dismiss from his mind, for the time being, all thought of official character in considering the following passage: "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop (literally, if a man desire oversight) he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous: one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?); not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (1 Tim. 3:1-14; see also Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

In general, we may say that the pastoral gift is one of rule and oversight. The word translated to rule (Matt. 2:6; Rev. 2:27; etc.) means literally to shepherd, and is rendered "feed" in John 21:16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2, where pastoral care is spoken of. Rule, in Scripture, is service; and he rules best who serves best.

We have noticed as one of the qualifications for a bishop (or overseer) that he must be "apt to teach," which means that he must be able to meet and answer questions, and make a wise use of Scripture in the performance of his duties.

Closely linked with the gift of pastor is that of teacher. In a distinctive sense, as contrasted with pastor, the teacher is one gifted to unfold the word of God. All God's children have an unction from the Holy One, and need not that any man (apart from the Spirit of God) teach them; this does not do away with the need of teachers, as divine gifts. By the Spirit they have capacity to understand and to receive that which is given to them. They are privileged, and required, all of them, to search the Scriptures for themselves: they will find rich reward in diligent search. It is the most diligent who will most appreciate the teacher who is able, not only to understand but to impart truth.

How important is this gift! It is the truth that makes free, and keeps free; and it is the work of the teacher to minister the truth to the people of God. The word of God is to be unfolded, its perfections to be exhibited, its doctrines expounded, and its difficulties explained. The teacher is the student of this Book, devoted to it. In days like these when all sorts of error abound, professing to be derived from the Scriptures, when the very foundations are being undermined, we need teachers, men who turn us back "to the law and the testimony", and show us that, in the midst of the confusion of tongues, there is still a Voice that speaks with no uncertain sound. It is the teacher who must meet the assaults of annihilationism, restorationism, higher criticism — evils which have fastened themselves upon the very vitals of professing Christendom, eclipsing many testimonies, and leading many souls to destruction. It is the teacher who leads us into the deep things of God's word, and by satisfying us with good, leaves no relish for evil.

The Lord did not intend that we should stop with the gospel of our salvation. That is but the beginning. Yet how prone we are to remain just there, to leave the wondrous truths hidden in the mines of Scripture, and go on all our lives as babes and paupers!

The teacher is given to prevent this, and, for those who will hear, to open the treasure-house and bring out of it "things new and old." Let us pray for teachers: that they may be kept dependent, and so, free from error; that they may keep the even balance of truth and present "the whole counsel of God;" that the study and impartation of the treasures of God's word may never be with them a cold intellectual task, but rather that all their service may be as the river which brings beauty and fertility to its own banks while it bears refreshment on to the country beyond.

Such, then, are the gifts of an ascended Christ to His Church. They are given for the whole Church, not for a part of it only. An evangelist or a teacher is given for the whole Body of Christ. No denomination can claim them; no local assembly monopolize their services. The pastor may never exercise his functions beyond the pale of one assembly, yet he is a gift for the whole Body.

There are other scriptures which give us the same gifts in somewhat different form, but these are the main ones, and others are modifications or parts of these. See Rom. 12:4-8, where prophecy, exhortation and teaching, rule and ministry, would all doubtless be included under the teaching and pastoral care of Ephesians. So also in 1 Cor. 12 we have the gifts of the Spirit where, leaving out those which were of a miraculous and therefore temporary character (1 Cor. 13:8), all might be grouped again under the pastors and teachers of Ephesians.

While not all have the characteristics of, or qualifications for, prominent service in any of these ways, it is still true that all are needed, and none can be ignored — none too insignificant to render valuable service. Nay, "those members which seem to be more feeble are necessary." Every member of the Body is a member of Christ, and is gifted for service to the whole. How can he know his gift and exercise it? Not by thrusting himself forward, but simply by abiding in Christ. "But holding the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15-16).

How beautifully does each member fall into its place to do its appointed ministry here! And what is the secret of this harmonious and effectual working? — holding the Head.

(3) Having seen the various classes of ministry, we are now to inquire whence comes the power for its exercise. And this brings us again face to face with that most evident fact, which is so constantly ignored, that the Holy Spirit is present in the Church as the power for ministry of whatever kind. This in a way is admitted by all evangelical Christians, yet practically denied by the various schemes adopted under the plea of usefulness or necessity.

What is power? Is it the eloquence that attracts and holds multitudes under its spell? The apostle answers for us: "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:4-5). Here, as in other things, "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God," who "has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; … yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things which are; that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Cor. 1:27-29). We measure power by work done, not by the show made. One may be an eloquent preacher; he may draw thousands to hear him; nay, large numbers may profess to have been saved under his ministry; but the only test of his power is whether souls have been truly saved. By this we know that the Holy Spirit has been at work; for new birth is His work by the word of truth, no matter what instrument He may use.

So also with the teacher. He may be a learned man, a scholar, as was Moses in all the learning of the Egyptians, and yet be without power to impart in a living way the unsearchable riches of Christ. "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:11). There may be the greatest accuracy of Scriptural doctrine without one particle of power.

The same may be said of the pastor. One may be qualified naturally to sympathize with, to guide, cheer, and admonish his brethren, and yet fail to accomplish God's work. Power in an evangelist is shown in the conversion of souls; in a teacher, in the divine instruction and up-building of the people of God; and in a pastor, in their true, real shepherding. We repeat — alas, that we all profess to believe it, but so little realize it — that there is no power apart from the operation of the Holy Spirit. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit … For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will … And God hath set some in the Church: first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:4, 7-11, 28). The very mingling, in these verses, of so-called supernatural gifts with the more ordinary ones is significant. Is it not meant to show us that in the things of God all operations are supernatural? that the true exercise of the gift of teaching is as much a divine function as the working of a miracle? and that the one requires the Holy Spirit as much as the other? Were this truth acted upon, we would see less dependence upon man and more upon God. We would see more true prayer, more deep self-judgment, and we would, as a result, see more divine power exercised. Man's power, alas, is like Saul's armor for David, only a hindrance. How often must God strip His people, as in Gideon's day, of all earthly strength, showing them that the treasure is in earthen vessels — and vessels to be broken at that — that the excellency of the powers may be seen to be of Him alone (Judges 7:1-20; 2 Cor 4:5-10).

Let it not be thought for a moment that we would despise knowledge in its true place. There is no virtue in ignorance. Let the man of God be a diligent student. If he is well instructed in human knowledge, it can be of great value. The only danger is in substituting this knowledge for the power of God. Beautiful it is to see the man of learning laying it all at the Lord's feet, and, as an empty vessel, waiting to be filled and used by Him. But we will leave this portion of our subject as one upon which we need, not instruction, but exhortation; not theory, but practice. May God awaken His servants afresh to see where their weakness and their power lies.

(4) We come now to that which is closely related to what we have just left — apparently the same subject. If the source of all ministry is an exalted Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the only power, the whole question as to its exercise would seem to have been settled. And such, we are persuaded, is really the case. A Christ-given and a Spirit-used ministry is assuredly all that the Church of God ever needs.

Just here, however, we are brought face to face with a subject which demands our earnest and prayerful examination — a subject which claims attention from its great antiquity and overshadowing prominence in the present economy of the professing Church. We mean the clerical system, which rests upon ordination for its authority. This system had its beginnings in the early Church; it was practised, no doubt, very soon after the times of the apostles. It has taken root so deeply in the very organism of the professing Church that none of the deliverances granted by God to His beloved people from time to time have availed to loose its hold. It has survived the reformation under Luther, when the Church received again in clearness the foundation truth of justification by faith; it remained after the great awakening of the eighteenth century had revived the people of God. It flourishes amid the gorgeous ritualism of the Roman and Anglican establishments, and no less does it thrive surrounded by the inornate simplicity of Presbyterianism and the independency of Congregationalism. We see it accompanied by all the pomp of ecclesiastical splendor — robes, music, anointing, and all the circumstance devised by man's ingenuity, and borrowed from all times and all religions. We see it also in the simple "laying on of hands," or the modest "minute of approval" in some religious society. Nay, had we eyes to see, we might doubtless trace it in the entirely informal "recognition of gift," which carries with it the weight of authority not divine.

Well may we pause and examine this system. Its very universality demands this, and the fact that it confronts us when we seek to establish the simplicity of scriptural order. Can it be true that what bears the test of orthodoxy so well — Semper, ubique, ab omnibus (always, everywhere, and by all observed) is after all a human invention entirely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the word of God? In all humility, but in all firmness, we must answer, Yes.

Man is slow to believe God. Even the saved soul finds roots of unbelief still remaining. It is hard to trust to and go on leaning upon an invisible arm. This unbelief on the part of God's people, this unwillingness to lean upon Him alone, have been the origin of the various substitutes which put something visible between God and the soul — some visible authority, some one having official right to speak for God. Coupled with this is the principle of succession — the power to hand down from one to another the authority originally received from God. It makes very little difference through whom this succession comes — whether through bishops, as the successors of the apostles, or through the ministers and elders who received their ordination at the hands of the apostles; in either case the principle of succession is established, and in favor of this principle there is no scripture, but very much against it.

Succession denies the cardinal truth that the Holy Spirit is just as really present and as fully active now as when He first descended to form the Church at Pentecost. Instead of teaching us dependence upon the Holy Spirit who is all-sufficient to call, equip, and sustain the servants of Christ, it points us back through the intervening centuries of all manner of unspeakable departure from God to men once set apart for a special work, which ceased after the establishment of the Church.

If we ask for Scripture for this, we are pointed to the various passages which speak of ordination in the Acts and the Epistles. We must therefore take up these scriptures, and see what they have for us on this subject.

"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee" (Titus 1:5.) The word translated here "ordain" is kathistemi, meaning to establish, or set up. It is translated "ordain" also in Heb. 5:1; Heb. 8:3, referring to the high-priesthood. We have the same word, variously translated, in Matt. 24:45 — made ruler; in Luke 12:14 — made judge; in Acts 6:3 — appoint over this matter. It is the word mostly used in connection with appointment to authority. In Mark 3:14, "He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him," it is poieo, i.e., He apppointed twelve. In 1 Tim. 1:12, "Putting me in the ministry," the word is tithemi — to place, translated in 1 Tim. 2:7 ordain, the same word is used also in Acts 20:28 "over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers," and in 1 Cor. 12:18, "God hath set the members, every one of them, in the body as it pleased Him." It is interesting to note that every one of these passages refers to God's act, whether it be putting the apostle into the ministry, placing elders over the church at Ephesus, or setting all the various members in the Body according to His pleasure.

In Acts 14:23 we have another word — keirotoneo: "And when they had ordained them elders in every church." In 2 Cor. 7:19 the same word is translated chosen, which is a more literal rendering, as it means to stretch out the hand, to point out or designate a particular person.

These are the passages which refer to ordination. We must now look at the persons thus chosen, and the manner of their induction into office. This latter is said to have been by the laying on of hands. This expression is used frequently in the Gospels, as showing our Lord's manner of healing. The significance of the act seems to be that of taking possession for the bestowment of blessing. In the Acts we have it used in connection with the bestowal of the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:17-18; Acts 19:6). The thought of conferring something is evident here, as well as in the case of Timothy (1 Tim. 4:14;* 2 Tim. 1:6), where a gift was actually bestowed in this way. No sober student of Scripture would claim such a thing from ordination now.

{*It was pointed out by prophecy; bestowed with laying on of hands.}

When the deacons were appointed by the apostles (note, not by the saints, but by the apostles), "they prayed, and laid their hands on them" (Acts 6:6).

In Acts 9:12, 17 the act of bodily healing was typical of the spiritual; while in Acts 13:3 it was the act of the saints, expressive of fellowship in the work to which the apostle Paul, and Barnabas, had been called by the Holy Ghost. This act surely could not have ordained one that was a prominent apostle already.

In 1 Tim. 5:22 Timothy is exhorted to "lay hands suddenly on no man," to identify himself with no man until he was clear as to his worthiness, whether for fellowship, service, or office.

The passage in Hebrews 6:2, we need hardly say, from its connection, refers to the Old Testament practice of the worshiper laying his hands upon the victim, designating it as his substitute, and thus identifying himself with it (Lev. 1:4, etc.).

The persons ordained were deacons, elders, and bishops. Acts 6:1-6 in connection with 1 Tim. 3:8-13 (where there seems to be an allusion to Stephen in verse 13), makes it quite clear that the seven appointed by the apostles to care for the distribution of temporal means were deacons. Titus 1:5-7 shows beyond a question that elders and bishops were the same persons. See, also, the parallel passage, 1 Tim. 3:1-2, and Acts 20:28, where the word "overseers" is but a translation of episkopos, bishop. We have really, then, but the one case of bishop or elder to examine.

Elder is a word that has descended from the patriarchal times of Israel (Ex. 3:16). The family was the model of government, and in the family the father, as the elder, had authority. This was transferred to the nation, where the heads of houses became the heads of the nation; and in this sense we have frequent mention of the word in the Gospels and Acts (Matt. 26:3, 47, 57, 59; Acts 4:5, 8). In Acts 11:30 we have the first application of the word to the leaders in the Church of God, and thereafter it is quite frequently so used (Acts 14:23; Acts 15:2, 23; Acts 20:17; 1 Tim. 5:1, 19; Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1).

Just here we might call attention to the distinction between elders and bishops. Elder was, as we have seen, the ordinary title of the leading men among the Jews — the rulers. It means simply an older person, and is used apart from the idea of office in such passages as 1 Tim. 5:1-2 (where we have elder women — the feminine form of the word); 1 Tim. 5:19; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1; 3 John 1. Older men were naturally the ones qualified for oversight; and from them the apostles appointed bishops or overseers. Elder, then, designates the person, and bishop the work to which he was called. From what we have seen, the terms were used interchangeably in certain connections. The bishop was always an elderly person, though the reverse was not always the case.

We have now the material before us from which to gather the teaching of Scripture as to ordination and office in the Church of God.

We find that Titus was left in Crete for the purpose of establishing elders or bishops in every place. The qualifications are given — the same as in 1 Tim. 3. There is no mention of laying on of hands by Titus, nor by Timothy, in connection with the qualifications of a bishop. It is an inference, though probable, that Timothy ordained elders; and it would be further inference that this was by the laying on of hands. Taken, however, in connection with the ordination of deacons, to serve tables (Acts 6:1-6), where hands were laid upon them by the apostles, there is no reason for opposing the thought that Timothy or Titus did set apart elders as overseers or bishops in this way. The important point to guard, however, is that this laying on of hands was not exclusively applied to ordination, but was, as we have seen, a simple and ordinary act accompanying healing, the gift of the Holy Ghost, identification and fellowship in service. Paul and Barnabas indicated God's choice of elders in every assembly (Acts 14:23). Here, again, there is no mention of laying on of hands, though it might naturally accompany the choice. The omission is significant, as showing how comparatively unimportant the act was.

One thing, so far, is clear — that the appointment of elders was restricted to those who were especially commissioned by the apostle. So far from this showing that succession in office was contemplated, it does the reverse. Neither Timothy nor Titus were elders or bishops. Timothy was a young man. We never read of elders or bishops ordaining their successors. There is no hint of such a thing. Ordination then was an apostolic act, done either directly by the apostle or by those commissioned to act for him. A reference to the relation of these two men to the apostle will confirm this. Timothy's mother was a Jewess; Titus was a Gentile. The former was the special companion of Paul (Phil. 2:19-23). Both he and especially Titus were representatives of the apostle in the difficult and delicate matter at Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Cor. 16:10-11; 2 Cor. 2:13; 2 Cor. 7:5-6, 13-15; 2 Cor. 8:23; 2 Cor. 12:18).

It is important to note that the name and functions of the elder were derived from Judaism, and that the synagogue furnished the model for this office. We should not overlook the fact that the book of Acts is a history of the transition period from Judaism to Christianity, and that many Jewish practices were permitted during this time, to make the change as gradual as possible. Timothy was circumcised because of the Jews among whom he had been brought up (Acts 16:3). It was the apostle's custom, where-ever permitted, to preach in the synagogues every Sabbath day. What wonder is it then, that in establishing the assemblies he should, under divine guidance, have set up elders to rule?* God was tenderly caring for His beloved people, and would give them no needless shocks. This is the thought underlying the whole book of Acts.

{*It should also be remembered that the New Testament Scriptures were not yet in the hands of the early Church; the divine order given by the apostle had to be communicated viva voce, and maintained by appointed elders. (See 1 Cor. 7:17; 1 Cor. 11:2, 16; Titus 1:5, etc., etc.)}

But where have we a hint that ordination was to go on? 1 Corinthians is pre-eminently the book of Church order, and yet we have no mention of Church officials. The house of Stephanas (1 Cor. 16:15-16) addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints, and the brethren were exhorted to recognize by obedience their devoted service. In 1 Thess. 5:12-13 we have the same thought. Office and ordination are not even suggested. In Phil. 1:1, bishops and deacons are mentioned, but only as part of the assembly at Philippi, to share with the rest the precious unfoldings of Christ in that epistle.

As the Church emerged from the influence of Judaism, it laid aside the swaddling-bands of customs which were appropriate only to a state of infancy, and was left free to be guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit alone. While we bless God for the apostles — the visible representatives of Christ's authority on earth — we recognize that they were connected with the foundations of Christianity, and were never intended to be perpetuated. They have given us the inspired epistles. They nourished the infant Church, and they are now waiting with the Lord until He comes. Then their names will be displayed in the twelve foundations of the heavenly city. But there is not a whisper in Scripture that they have representatives upon earth.

But with the presence of the apostles goes ordination to office, as we have seen . Having passed from under the care of inspired men on earth, the Church has likewise passed from that which was a witness of that care.

So then we are left, not in a state of disorder or incompleteness, but as God intended, with the Holy Ghost in divine authority, and the word of God as our all-sufficient guide. The gifts remain — gifts of oversight, as well as of teaching; but the office, the designation by apostolic authority of a certain person for a certain place, has passed. It is well also to remember that gift was always distinguished from office, even in the apostles' days. They never ordained men to preach or to teach, but only to take charge in the Church. A deacon might preach as did Stephen (Acts 7); not because he was a deacon, but because he had a gift from Christ. An elder might labor in word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17), not because he was an elder, but because he had the gift. The exhortation in Rom. 12:6-8 was to saints, not to office-bearers: — "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us," etc.

It may be urged that the apostle provides for succession in 2 Tim. 2:2. "The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." But a glance will show that it was the truth which Timothy had received he was to transmit to faithful men — a responsibility which remains for all time.

We are living in times of ruin. That which came so fair from the hands of the Lord, has become so mutilated as to be almost unrecognizable. The failure is ours, and ours alone. Even now the Church should be "as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." Her failure, we are persuaded, is not due in any degree to the lapse of ordination of any kind whatever, but to the want of obedient recognition of the Lord's authority and the presence of the Holy Spirit. If the Church were just as God would have it today, we are persuaded we would not have ordination in it.

And so we return to the remarkable simplicity of God's order for the exercise of ministry: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 4:10-11). If this is not enough, we can never have more.

To all objections about unworthy men thrusting themselves forward, to disorder and irregularity in assemblies, we can only say, I f there is faith and subjection to God, they will rise above and overcome such difficulties; if there is not faith, the sooner we realize it by being permitted to fall into confusion, the better. God never intended we should get on without Him. Peter on the water, sinking and crying for help, may not have been as decorous an object as his fellows sitting in the boat, but who was nearer to the Lord? Let us never exchange His all-sufficient power for the formal proprieties of a human ministry.

In closing this part of our subject we would again call attention to the fact that for godly men, whether ordained or not, who are Christ's gifts to the Church, we have only the highest regard and affection. We recognize their gifts. We lament that they should be fettered by this system which we have been examining. Let us pray for all Christ's servants everywhere.