Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Injured – 6

shepherd-carrying-sheepGood Shepherds Bind up the Flock

the injured you have not bound up

In the following post, we will be discussing the third clause in this verse.

Ezekiel addresses the failings of the shepherds of his day, and the application to today’s environment is uncanny.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

True Shepherds Bind up the Broken

This portion of the verse we are considering needs to have some terms defined.

Binding

Binding speaks of bandaging, or restraining. Throughout the book of Ezekiel, this term pictures a tying or fastening. See below for Strong’s definitions.

Broken

Broken defines many types of damage, such as rupturing, crippling, rending violently, being wrecked, crushed or quenched. See below for Strong’s definitions.

True Shepherds Mend the Flock

Ezekiel is describing a very damaged and hurting flock. He is also describing a flock that is being ignored by those who have a calling to minister to them.

In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned the binding the shepherds of Israel were performing. It has changed somewhat since the days of Ezekiel, but only for the worse.

Instead of ignoring the flock the shepherds seem to be taking advantage of the flock. The flock was hurting, and the shepherds loaded them down with burdens, and refused to help them.

Matt 23 :4

4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

Story Time

Recently, I was sitting in a McDonald’s trying to enjoy a cup of java, watching those about me. Things have not changed much about the flock of God. Many in this place seem (only God knows) to be aimless and placing their trust in empty promises.

Just this weekend many folks trusted in the hope of a Mega Millions lottery, where the jackpot was over $640,000,000.

Did you hope in this?

Winning the lottery is a proven recipe for disaster, yet so many hope in the chance of winning more money than they need.

Prov 23 :5

When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
for suddenly it sprouts wings,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.

prov 11 4

Prov 11 :4

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.

Prov 11 :28

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

The sad thing is that many shepherds in the church would encourage seeking this worlds goods. Simply to live in opulence or to find comfort and safety. They would say that He died so that we might live (in comfort)! He became poor that we might have (physical) riches. These dear folk need to read the Bible instead of their imaginations.

Some shepherds in the church would allow (encourage?) the chasing of the wind (seeking wealth), with justifications such as

chasing the wind

If you win you could support the poor
If you win you could help your children
If you win, you could build a church
If you win you could help missionaries…..

It is a rare person that can steward earned wealth properly. Earned wealth is a trust that is granted from the Lord and it is a responsibility to be faithful in the correct distribution of it, to honor the One who bought us.

I can’t imagine the burden and distraction of “found” money, and the emotional turmoil it would cause.

Keep it away! Father, help me understand that riches are a false hope. May You bind up our brokenness, and in that binding, give us the desire and wisdom to help others find Your mercy and kindness.


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Strong’s definition “Bind”
– Transliteration: Chabash – Phonetic: khaw-bash’ – Definition: 1. to tie, bind, bind on, bind up, saddle, restrain, bandage, govern a. (Qal) 1. to bind, bind on 2. to bind up b. (Piel) to bind, restrain c. (Pual) to be bound up – Origin: a primitive root – TWOT entry: 599 Part(s) of speech: Verb
Strong’s definition “Broken”
– Transliteration: Shabar – Phonetic: shaw-bar’ – Definition: 1. to break, break in pieces a. (Qal) 1. break, break in or down, rend violently, wreck, crush, quench 2. to break, rupture (fig) b. (Niphal) 1. to be broken, be maimed, be crippled, be wrecked 2. to be broken, be crushed (fig) c. (Piel) to shatter, break d. (Hiphil) to cause to break out, bring to the birth e. (Hophal) to be broken, be shattered – Origin: a primitive root – TWOT entry: 2321 – Part(s) of speech: Verb

Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Sick – 5

shepherd-carrying-sheepGood Shepherds Heal the Flock.

the sick you have not healed

We are going to continue in Ezekiel 34:4, and with this blog, we will look at the second clause of Ezekiel 34:4.

Good shepherds heal their flock, seek the flocks health, look for signs of life and pray for the best for the flock.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Remember that the principle complaint against the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel’s day was that they did not feed the sheep. The following clauses show how their utter disregard for the sheep, (typified by their not feeding the sheep) was expressed in other ways. The issue in this blog is that the shepherds were not healing the sheep.

True Shepherds Heal the Flock Spiritually

Luke 4 :18

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

I have placed the passage in Luke 4:18 as a primary reference due to the clarification it gives me about what is being healed. Jesus healed physical sickness when He was on earth (and He still does) but the emphasis of His healing ministry is spiritual.

True Shepherds Prioritize the Healing

If I get healed of a sickness today, tomorrow I may die. Healing of sickness is a wonderful gift of God, something that is granted to the believer and non-believer based solely on the mercy of God.

The great physician

Spiritual healing is a potentially eternal condition, that has ramifications in this life and the one to come. His ministry is to heal the sheep of a greater sickness than mere cancer, heart disease or a brain tumor.

Of course the very verse I am referring to above may speak of physical healing (recovering of sight to the blind), but considering how Jesus spiritualized various promises in the Old Testament (see previous blog “A Literal Bible”) the recovering of sight may be referring to spiritual understanding.

Luke 9 :11

When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.

This verse is definitely speaking of physical healing, but the point I would like to draw your attention to is that He healed them that realized they needed healing!

He came to call the sick so that He might heal them. To find healing, one must admit to their illness. This admission of illness (spiritual) may seem counter-intuitive, even fearful, but this verse teaches me of the desire of the Good Shepherd – He will heal all those that need healing.

Is it too much to say that He is anxious (I speak foolishly) to heal those who seek Him.

A True Shepherds Motivation for Healing

Lets consider the motivation for the two types of healing (physical and spiritual) from the perspective of the Great Healer.

1 Peter 2 :24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Of the many verses that speak of healing, the passage in 1 Peter draws me in. Did the atonement grant physical healing to those who have enough faith?

Story Time

A while back I was chatting with a Word of Faith preacher concerning physical healing and the miracles that his church regularly experiences. I asked him about a couple of issues that concern me.

My first question was “Does 1 John 1:9 describe forgiveness as an act of mercy on God’s part?” He agreed, yet I drew his attention to the phrase “faithful and just” in the verse. This phrase tells me that the reason God forgives His people of the accidental sins they commit is due to His faithfulness to the righteous (just) conditions His people are under, not an emotional response based on our strong(?) faith.

1 jn 1 9

When we confess our sins, HE FORGIVES.

In other words, God forgives His people because of the “covenant/contract” He has entered into with His Son, due to His Son’s obedient sacrifice, and our relationship in Him.

It is not an act of mercy that motivates God primarily, but His faithfulness and justness that motivates Him to forgive His people, if we confess our sins to Him.

The second concern was logical. I pictured what I imagined as a typical gathering at his young preachers church. Say one person gets a healing due to their faith. What about the “99” others. Granted some may not need healing. Some may, but do not receive. What does that say about their status of being a believer?

It seems that if I were in the crowd, and listening to the teaching that the death of Christ afforded all believers (who had enough faith) to claim their physical healing, and yet not receive a healing, I would begin to question my salvation.

After all, if God won’t heal a temporal sickness, what makes me think He will heal my eternal sickness.

This young preacher admitted to not having considered these topics. He seemed to be an honest man and I appreciated his willingness to discuss these issues. I believe he has a sincere desire to be healing the flock, but his zeal for God may not be according to knowledge.

The important issue is that God has supplied a Good Shepherd to the church and that Good Shepherd heals His flock.

bad_shepherd 2

If you are associated with a group that is abusive or harmful, and not reflective of the Good Shepherds character, it may be wise to consider the Master and listen to His voice.

His sheep hear His voice


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Weak – 4

shepherd-carrying-sheepA Good Shepherd Strengthens the Flock.

The weak you have not strengthened

Verse 4 has a number of clauses that define the actions of the evil shepherds.

The Good Shepherd is described in the New Testament as fulfilling each of the activities God addresses when He rebukes the evil shepherds.

I loved seeing this – how that the Good Shepherd supplies the very needs of the sheep as opposed to those who simply abuse the flock for self-gratification.

Ezekiel 34 :4

The weak you have not strengthened,

the sick you have not healed,

the injured you have not bound up,

the strayed you have not brought back,

the lost you have not sought,

and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Strengthening Shepherds are Gentle

Remember that the principle complaint against the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel’s day was that they did not feed the sheep. The following clauses show how their utter disregard for the sheep, (typified by their not feeding the sheep) was expressed in other ways. The issue in this post is that the shepherds were not strengthening the sheep.

Matt 12 :17-21

17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

The Good Shepherd will be gentle with the flock, seeking to encourage some, as one would encourage a smoking flax to reignite, and refusing to damage a bruised reed.

Matthew 12-20 A Bruised Reed-portrait

This truth has been very refreshing to me, teaching me that the Lord’s attitude toward a weak child is not that of sneering at them, or despising them or ridiculing them. He will strengthen them, even at the point of their greatest weakness.

A bruised reed has no structural strength. It is literally useless. So often, I consider those that are damaged to be useless, but this seems so anti-Christlike. His attitude is to strengthen the flock, and the verse above exhibits His attitude towards the weakest and most hopeless condition. Ever try to get smoking flax to reignite?

Strengthening Shepherds Supply Strength to Others

Luke 22 :32

32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

The true Shepherd strengthens His people, sometimes through very unexpected methods. This passage is reflecting the time of Jesus speaking with Peter after his denial. How small Peter must have felt, how unworthy! Yet Jesus, in giving the command to strengthen the brethren, strengthened Peter. Peter needed to know how Jesus felt about him and Jesus trusts him with caring for the flock.

This is something wonderful!

The Spirit of the Good Shepherd will be reflected in mutual encouragement among His people, in their communion with each other.

Who is your Good Shepherd? Your Pastor, Priest, Minister?

good shepherd

His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. But if you are in a religious system that does not allow you to obey your Lord, either through your conscience, the written Word or otherwise, it may be profitable to compare your earthly shepherd with the Good Shepherd.

As we venture through the remaining parts of the verse, it will become obvious that Jesus is the perfect anti-type of these wicked shepherds.

The sheep hear His voice and they follow.


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds Compared – 3

shepherd-carrying-sheepShepherds Compared

In an earlier blog, I mentioned how the passage describing shepherds in Ezekiel 34 seems so very modern.

Many times I have come across men (and women) who say they are shepherds and yet might not like to consider what Ezekiel says. Some may say they have had a calling, a vision, a dream.

Ezekiel doesn’t seem to care about stories. He is looking at the impact of the shepherd’s shepherding on the sheep.

Stories are fun and lately have become outlandish as to how some are “called” to be His shepherds. But in the end, they are simply stories, stories that the gullible or (too) trusting want to believe, because of dry skin on thier ears (itchy ears – get it?).

Lets consider what Ezekiel is trying to teach us. In the following blogs on Ezekiel 34, I would like to settle on the 4th verse for a bit.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

This verse defines the failures of the shepherds of Israel during Ezekiel’s time. Instead of simply finding fault, (due as it may be), I would rather contrast these shepherds with the Good Shepherd that we seek to follow.

The Good Shepherd Is Against The Bad Shepherds.

Ezekiel 34 :9-10a

9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God will put a stop to these bad shepherds from feeding His flock. The food these shepherds were feeding the sheep must have been bad food, food that might be described as “leavenous” in a few hundred years after Ezekiel preached! (Jesus ofter warned His disciples of the leaven of the….)

The Good Shepherd God Has Placed Over Us.

Ezekiel 34 :23-24

23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.

God’s servant David, otherwise known as the King of Glory, Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Great and Good Shepherd, He shall feed us.

Are you being fed by the Master? Are you in communion with Him? Do you hear His voice? He is teaching us, are we listening?

By the way – I didn’t ask if you are going to church regularily, or doing good things in the sight of men, or obeying some preachers wishes.

Is He teaching you?

In the next few posts, let’s look at each of the complaints against the bad shepherds. Hope to visit with you again.

May God bless you and your loved ones!

He is Good.


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Ezekiel 34 – A Good Shepherd Described – 2

shepherd-carrying-sheepA Good Shepherd Feeds the Flock

Recalling the previous verses in Ezekiel 34, the emphasis of God’s complaint against the shepherds is that they are not feeding the sheep.

Lets read the verses again and consider a key characteristic of a good Shepherd.

Ezekiel 34 :1-3

1 The word of the LORD came to me:

2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.

The key characteristic of a true shepherd is to feed the flock.

The Good Shepherd Fed His Flock

When Jesus was restoring Peter, He reiterated three times to feed the flock.

John 21 :15-17

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

It is instructive to remember that the last words Jesus told His apostles was to be “teaching them to observe all that I command”

Peter Fed the Flock as a Faithful Shepherd

Peter got it! I think he really got it! He understood a shepherd’s responsibility and passed on this key characteristic to his readers.

1 Peter 5 :2

2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

Paul Fed the Flock as a Faithful Shepherd

Paul got it too, and he passed it on to his readers!

2 Timothy 2:24

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,

Paul Expects His Converts to Shepherd by Feeding the Flock

Interesting that Paul expects to get some milk from the flock. This is even described as a right for apostles to expect some milk from the flock (see verse 12). Paul teaches this, but relinquishes that right in order for the gospel to have one less obstacle (Paul’s word not mine).

Notice that in the next two passages, Paul expected his converts to continue to feed the flock, to pass truth on, since the truth is the very lifeblood of the church, and by it we are able to stand.

Acts 20 :28

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

2 Timothy 2:2

2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Chief-ShepherdThe Chief Shepherd Feeds His Flock

Golly – the very passage in Ezekiel 34 speaks of the priority of teaching within the Shepherds ministry to His flock. God will set up the Shepherd, and the first activity He is seen to perform is to feed the sheep.

Ezekiel 34:23

23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

God has set up His One Shepherd to feed His flock. Are you receiving sustenance from the One Good Shepherd?

It is obvious that God is feeding His sheep, and that He has supplied the Good Shepherd to perform this ministry. Feeding His sheep is the emphasis of the Good Shepherd, but God wants to express His all-encompassing concern for His sheep by describing the various other activities of the Shepherd that pleases God.

Although only One Shepherd fits this description perfectly, it is very instructive to consider the characteristics Ezekiel descibes in this passage, in order to understand God’s will for men who would call themselves shepherds of God’s flock.

(P.S. – Continually reminding someone they are a shepherd may be a clue!!)

This we will do in the following posts. Hope you can join me.


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Ezekiel 34 – Introduction -1

shepherd-carrying-sheep

My wife and I were reading in Ezekiel 34 a few nights ago.

During the reading, it occurred to me that this passage is very New Testamental.

By that I mean, many phrases within this passage are directly addressed in the New Testament.

You know, I would consider this passage to be very modern, dare I say it – even applicable to us today.

Lets read the first three verses to get a gist of the passage, and then let me know what you think!

Ezekiel 34:1-3

1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.

It seems the Lord is using the picture of the shepherd/sheep to describe the spiritual relationships between the leaders of Israel (both political and religious) and the “rank and file” of Israel – what we might call “the laity” in today’s Christian environment.

The principle complaint against the shepherds was that they fed themselves, to the exclusion of feeding the flock. Of course the leaders fed some of the flock, but as we will see, it wasn’t an enviable condition to be in if you were a sheep!

The shepherds of Israel ate the fat.

It seems that the word fat in the first phrase of the charge may be translated as milk (some translations use “curds”). This would show a progression of abuse on the part of the shepherds as to what they demand from the sheep. Since the milk of the sheep was not restricted from the shepherds, the Lords complaint must be regarding the abuse of this privilege.

Excessive taxation and the demand of religious obligations was “milking the flock”, in a very real manner. Today when we talk of “milking it”, I think we are using the term in a similar manner.

The shepherds of Israel clothed themselves with wool.

shepherdcarrysheep4

Sheep are to supply wool. It is one of their principal functions. So again, the issue must be the abuse of the privilege. In the same way that the milk supplied a temporary need, the wool supplied a more permanent benefit to the shearers. But the next phrase seems to indicate that those that were giving the benefits of milk and wool were not being fed, which reinforces the original charge against the shepherds. They (the spiritual leaders of Israel) were taking from the flock, but not feeding them!

The shepherds of Israel slaughter the fat ones.

The final function of a sheep is to supply food to the owner. It seems the shepherds fed these particular sheep. Please understand this is not an enviable position to be in.

If you were starving, at least the shepherds of Israel were just using you (taking milk and wool), instead of intending to kill you.

I suppose a number of questions rise in my mind. Fellow blogger Gerry Palermo suggested I build a survey of the questions. Check out Ezekiel 34 – Introduction -1 – Survey for a chance to respond to the following questions.

  • How do you see the Good Shepherd?
  • Does the Good Shepherd require milk, wool and meat from His flock? Selah.
  • Is He demanding more than you can supply?
  • Do you feel that you are not able to satisfy the demands of the Master?
  • Do you worry about His intentions?
  • When things are going well, do you worry that you are being set up?

Jesus rescuing lamb

By asking these questions to the sheperds of Isreal, Ezekiel is condemning these actions. The character of God in not such, that His intent is to simply take take take.

He does expect fruit from His followers, which is simply the natural outgrowth of abiding in Him. He feeds us, clothes us and provides life, that we might produce fruit for His glory.

Consider the difference. The true Shepherd is fundamentally different than the shepherds Ezekiel is preaching about in this passage. In the following posts, I hope we will find the contrast to be obvious!

Let us give thanks for our Good Shepherd!


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A Study of Eternal / Everlasting

everlastingEverlasting – It boggles the mind – at least my mind!

How can I grasp this concept?

I remember laying in bed at night when I was a young’n and thinking about the eternal, and just when I thought I had it figger’d out, some extra years would appear in my thoughts. I felt like a dog chasing my tail!

“Everlasting” in the Bible

When I was a dog chasing my tail, I didn’t have the desire or will power to go to the source to research this concept. Now that I am a Christian, I have the Word of God to search for answers.

infinity 3

So lets Consider the Bible and search for answers.

First off, lets find out the words, in the Old and New Testament, that the inspired writers used to describe this concept!

Four Old Testament Hebrew words and three New Testament Greek words are translated to describe the concept of eternal/everlasting .

infinity 2

OLAM – Old Testament “Eternal”
The most common word in the Old Testament is “OLAM”.  The following table analyzes this word in describing various eternal/everlasting things.

You might be asking by this time – What’s your point Carl?

infinity 1My point is that we cannot interpret the Word of God in a strictly literal, “technically accurate” manner.  Some folk have complained that this makes the Bible an unreadable document, that is, they could not simply pick up a Bible and understand it correctly.

When was the last time you considered the Bible to be a cartoon?  When I pick up a Blondie or Garfield cartoon, I don’t intend to spend more than a few seconds (at most) in understanding the message being conveyed.  I think the attitude towards the Word should be somewhat different.

The Bible was written in a completely different culture, time and place than what we live in.  To assume that  we have the right to simply understand the message in a 20th century North American context is foolishness.  Unless, of course, we see the Bible as a magic talisman, instead of a message from the living God.

In the case of this particular study, I find it amazing that some things that are described as eternal and everlasting (in our mindset) are not!

Does this take away from the core definition of eternal/everlasting? No – the core meaning is the core meaning!  What I think I have tripped over is how the overall context can affect the specific message of a particular word.

What do I mean?

Consider

Gen 9:16

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

What will happen to this covenant when there is no living creatures on the earth?  (BTW – that will happen!)  It is eternal between the two parties that enter into the covenant, so the default message is that although the term everlasting is used, it is not everlasting/eternal. The everlasting condition of this covenant is dependent on the existence of “every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth”.


How about this one.  The land of Canaan is to be an everlasting possession for the seed of Abraham.

Gen 17:8

And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

Two issues erupt in this verse.

  1. Who is the seed of Abraham?
  2. Is this promise or it’s reaffirmations unconditional?

The first point is simple to answer.  Paul labors the point of describing who the seed is in the book of Galations.

Gal 3:29

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Then two more issues occur to me. – (Come on Carl – gimme a break!!)

Was this promise or it’s reaffirmations unconditional?  Or did the Jewish people misunderstand this verse and “literally” interpret the promise, assuming the land was theirs unconditionally forever?

The very next verse after the great promise to Abraham, the Lord stated…

… Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

Unconditional promise?  Could the Jewish nation survive if they were disobedient and rebellious? (Did they?)  Could they assume upon verse 8 and ignore verse 9?  (What about the nation of Israel today?  Are they presently keeping “my covenant”? )  The everlasting possession was dependent on the Jewish nation’s keeping of “my covenant”.  It is very interesting to me that the covenant being referred to here was the Abrahamic covenant and that the nation’s allegience to the Siniatic covenant revealed the heart of the people towards God.  Additional examples of how the eternal/everlasting concept is modified by the context, can be found above and I would encourage you to consider them.

Does this contextual effect on the concept of eternal/everlasting continue into the New Testament?  I will leave that for you to study out.  Get back to me when you find something out, eh?

I gotta go study some Garfield!garfield


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Salaried Pastors? A discussion with a Pastor 3

Salary 2Quite awhile ago I sent out an email to a number of prominent pastors (8 or 9) within the area I live in.  One out of the nine responded in an effort to minister.  The following  conversation is with that one pastor who sought to help.  I appreciate his willingness to enter into a discussion with me.

This third post is simply some wanderings and considerations I have had after my discussion with the Pastor!  Give me some feed back if I’m way out of line.


Consider 1 Corinthians 9:12

Remember that the topic of this passage is support (not salary) of an apostle, a traveling minister.  These verses, IMHO, do not apply to elders and pastors of local churches, who are able to maintain outside employment to assist the local body if in need.

1 Corinthians 9:12

If others (referring to other apostles – check the context!) share this rightful claim on you, do not we (Paul and his party) even more? Nevertheless, we (Paul and his party) have not made use of this right, but we (Paul and his party) endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

salary 3Is not Paul stating that using this “right”, (that is, support from a body of believers) actually hinders (places an obstacle in the way) the gospel? This is an apostle (not an elder or pastor) teaching this truth about an apostles right to support, which Paul is refusing to exercise.

How can local pastors refer to this same passage (1 Corinthians 9) to establish this right they believe they have, and yet miss this verse?

One important item that I need to clarify, for I know what some may be thinking.  I am not advocating abandonment of the Christian minister.  Support and salary are two completely different topics, and the New Testament exhorts believers to support those who are ministering among them.

Support for a Christian minister, coming from those blessed from his ministry, is a direct relational blessing.  If believers would remove themselves from unbiblical obligations, they could freely give funds, gifts and blessings to Biblically directed recipients, such as:

  • The poor (including widows, orphans, etc)
  • Travelling missionaries (those in a similar situation as the apostle in 1 Corinthians 9)
  • Christian ministers that trust in God.

An additional verse that some may appeal to, to justify the salaried position within the family of God is Galatians 6:6.

Gal 6:6

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Two things to notice

  • The context of this verse is general Christian living, not the requirements of a contractual obligation to a separate group of specialized Christians.  I once asked how this verse justifies the salary of a pastor but does not apply to a Sunday School teacher, or a “lay” Christian teaching in some manner.
  • The good things are just that – good things.  Encouraging words, financial help, a bag of groceries, an invitation to supper, a new car,  etc.

I love the opportunity to assist those I know of that are in need, or that I “sense” may need a “blessing”.  I believe the Lord is able to direct His people to assist His people.  Is that wrong?  Too simplistic?  Too ideal?

salary 1It is becoming obvious to me, that salaried positions for local elders/pastors seems to be foreign to the New Testament.

Help me find justification for the salaried position, so that I can sense that the modern church is still somewhat on track.

Although not scripture, it is interesting to review what an early church document reveals how Christians treated this topic.

Didache 2

Notice what the Didache (Also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve.”) teaches.

Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets.

didache

Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.

A little later in chapter 11…

But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Wow

Story Time

This topic, since I have been considering it for a period of time, was on my mind this morning, when I was visiting with a brother.  He mentioned that the church he belongs to is putting on a Christmas pageant and that they had sold 14,000 tickets, ranging from $8 to $14 each.  I mentioned that, at an average price of $10 per ticket, that church pulled in $140,000, and that this should pay for the minister’s salary.

Oh no no, he says – Our pastor makes $200,000,  plus benefits, vacation and a yearly month-long sabbatical.  Oh and this particular church has a $20,000,000 capital budget for renovations and building projects.

Silver and gold have I none – Peter – 1st century


 

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Stupid Idiots – A Response

Stupid Idiots

I went to hear a brother speak a while back that advocated that Christians should be “stupid idiots”. (His words, not mine!)

To give this brother the benefit of the doubt, and to find out what the intent of the message was, I set off on a wee bit of study into Acts 4:13, his text for the day.

After my preliminary study, I decided to contact this brother, share with him what I found in my study, discuss his message and ask for any clarification. What follows is the email I received from this brother after sending my study to him.


Carl,

Your very e-mail fully supports the whole point of the message. In fact, I shared the exact terms from your e-mail in my message. The contrast seen in this passage is between Peter and John and the learned and wise religious leaders, the very people who made the comments about them. The key was that they took note that these men had been with Jesus. We need the same today accusations from the same people who are so smart and wise (like the religious of this context) against us today. So yes, the terms are beautiful, especially as people take note that we have been with Jesus, that very necessary observation that will make religious leaders take note to label us as stupid idiots. I made it clear that spending time in the Word is what enables us to be perceived this way by the religious. So the beautiful context shows what happens to followers of Christ when they speak filled with the Holy Spirit. They will be labeled stupid idiots by the religious who don’t see miracles for what they are and haven’t spent time with Jesus. We are willing to face death rather than be “wise’ about our words before people who could kill us. I don’t think you misunderstood my message at all.

Pastor Y

_____________________________________

I appreciate this brothers efforts to clarify the issue, but in my mind, the issue is still very muddy. Should Christians seek the label of “stupid idiots”?

In summary, I think the greek words might be better understood as being untrained (unlettered), and unprofessional (a layman).

These words do not say anything directly as to the intelligence or ability of the apostles, but simply the training and associations the apostles had in relation to those judging them.

(BTW – I think it is ironic that this man is a trained professional!)

What think ye?

Should Christians seek the label of “stupid idiots”?


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Stupid Idiots – A Description

Stupid Idiots

I went to hear a brother speak a while back that advocated that Christians should be “stupid idiots”. (His words, not mine!)

To give this brother the benefit of the doubt, and to find out what the intent of the message was, I set off on a wee bit of study into Acts 4:13, his text for the day.

After my preliminary study, I decided to contact this brother, share with him what I found in my study, discuss his message and ask for any clarification. What follows is the beginning of the correspondence I had with this brother.


Act 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

A Description or a Command?

With all these technical definitions, it remains that this verse is an estimation of the apostles by the enemies of the gospel, and not an imperative for Christians to obey.

I wonder if telling the congregation to become “stupid idiots” based on Acts 4:13 was wise. In a society that is increasingly being “dumbed down”, I would hope that Christianity would argue against the trend. I surely do not advocate knowledge for the sake of knowledge, for

“knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth”.

The critical motivating factor and fruit in a believers heart, mind and soul is love to the Master and our neighbor. But the great commandment does include our minds, and that presupposes the intake of (proper) knowledge.

As I was discussing the message with my daughter, I remembered that the apostle Paul described himself (and his entourage) as “fools for Christ” in 1 Cor 4:10. Could Paul have been describing himself from the Corinthians viewpoint (ironically), and not from a point of motivation for him (us) to look to.

I know you believe that the body of Christ is made up of all kinds of folk, some common (like myself) and some professionally trained in the “rabbinical” schools of today. He is big enough to use any person who will spend time with Him and be willing to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I do appreciate the ability to converse with you – I look forward to your reply. I am sure I have misunderstood your intent and appreciate your time in helping me understand.

Thanks for your labors

Carl

What think ye? Should Christians seek the label of “stupid idiots”?

In our next post, we will review his response.


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Salaried Pastors? A discussion with a Pastor 2

Salary 2

Quite awhile ago I sent out an email to a number of prominent pastors (8 or 9) within the area I live in. One out of the nine responded in an effort to minister. The following conversation is with that one pastor who sought to help. I appreciate his willingness to enter into a discussion with me.

Our previous post supplied the initial question and the pastors response. This post will supply my response and appreciation to this pastor. I am still gonna call him Pastor X cause I still think it’s cool.

My response follows.


Pastor X

Thanks for getting back to me on this. Some of these verses seem to be helping with the argument for a salaried position but after looking at their context and setting, it doesn’t seem to be as strong an argument as I thought. I have been a believer for many years now, and have used the very same verses to defend my thinking in this topic, but …

Bound Sheep

OLD TESTAMENT BASIS
As for your reference to the levitical priesthood, we are under a New Covenant where each believer is a priest before God. I fear that I do not see any direct NT link between professional Christians (clergy) and the Levitical priesthood. (Although if you know of any clergy performing the levitical sacrifices to satisfy the old covenant that these provisions were specified under, let me know.)
THE RIGHT OF SUPPORT

salary 3

Your point referring to 1 Corinthians seems to be an argument for an itinerant preacher, and not a stationary pastor. The right of support (support same as a salary?) is valid, but not necessarily for the local pastor/priest associated with one local church body. The apostle Paul did much traveling, where the “pastor” (actually elders) of the churches were stationary and could hold down a “secular” job while ministering to the believers in their group.
As a matter of fact, Paul spoke in Acts that the elders/pastors were to give to the church and not be a burden to the group. They were to help the weak and remember that it is more blessed to give than receive. Notice that the context includes the topic of coveting silver and gold.

Acts 20:33-35

33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.

34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.

35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

1 Peter 5:1-3 seems to address this same topic. (I think Peter is addressing motivation in these verses.)

Peter is kinda rough – using terms like “shameful gain”.

Calm down Peter – you need to get with the program.

1 Peter 5:1-3

1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

DOUBLE HONOR

salary 1

When you referred to 1 Timothy 5:17-18, this is the set of verses that started this concern for me.

1 Timothy 5:17-19

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

As I was studying these verses earlier, I found that honor = Strongs greek # 5091. Thayer definitions below.

Strong’s # G5091, τιμάω timaō

Thayer Definition:

1) to estimate, fix the value

1a) for the value of something belonging to one’s self

2) to honour, to have in honour, to revere, venerate

As I look at these definitions, there doesn’t seem to be any specific thought of money being an issue. This of course does not take away from your argument, that Paul could be gently breaching the salary concept. But if he is, then we need to put widows on a salary, since the same word for honor is used in verse 3.

1 Timothy 5:3

3 Honor widows who are truly widows.

And we need to ensure that all slaves are placing their masters on a salary, since this word is also used in verse 1 of chapter 6.

1 Timothy 6:1

1 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.

Surely, the church of the living Christ is a priesthood of believers. At times, I fear that having paid clergy can work against the church body, creating a group of believers dependent on a paid staff (clergy).

As an aside, I found that Peter used the word cleros (a root for the english word “clergy”?) to define all of God’s people in 1 Peter 5:3. Kinda found that to be ironic!

I heard a believer once say that to find the strength of a church, one needs only to remove the pastor. I realize this is very difficult stuff, and I have feared even bringing this topic up for many months. I am thankful that you responded so quickly and sought to help.

If I am missing something, or you find that I am not understanding a truth, please be assured that I would be very happy to continue this discussion. It is truth that believers need to seek, and not just to blindly follow traditions.

Thanks again for your ministry.

Rom 5:3

Carl


Pastor X has not had the opportunity to reply with any additional exhortations or instruction. I appreciate this mans desire to help me, and I hope the best for him and his ministry.

After receiving the pastors notes, and waiting for a response, my mind started wandering and considering. Some of those wanderings and considerings will be in our next post.

Hope to see you there.


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Stupid Idiots – Unlearned Christians

Stupid IdiotsI went to hear a brother speak a while back that advocated that Christians should be “stupid idiots”.  (His words, not mine!)

To give this brother the benefit of the doubt, and to find out what the intent of the message was, I set off on a wee bit of study into Acts 4:13, his text for the day.

After my preliminary study, I decided to contact this brother, share with him what I found in my study, discuss his message and ask for any clarification.  What follows is the beginning of the correspondence I had with this brother.


Pastor Y

If it isn’t to much, I would like to ask for some clarification. I hope I do not come off as critical or judgmental, but I am concerned about truth and aim to be gracious in my concerns (John 1:18).

During the message today, you were exhorting us to be “stupid idiots”. Surely I am misunderstanding your intent when you say that, and I think others may have also. (At least my daughter was confused.)

I took a look at the verse(s) in Acts that you were referring to and found the following (Forgive the KJV, but I have spent too much time in it to give it up!!)

Act 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

First off – unlearned (Strongs 62)

Vines states – “Unlearned (ἀγράμματοι) Or, very literally, unlettered. With special reference to Rabbinic culture, the absence of which was conspicuous in Peter’s address.”

Robertson states – “They were unlearned (agrammatoi eisin). Present indicative retained in indirect discourse. Unlettered men without technical training in the professional rabbinical schools of Hillel or Shammai. Jesus himself was so regarded (John 7:15, “not having learned letters”). ”

Clarke states – “Αγραμματοι, Persons without literature, not brought up in nor given to literary pursuits.”

ISBE states – “Unlearned un-lûr´ned: Acts 4:13 for ἀγράμματος, agrámmatos, literally “illiterate.” But nothing more than “lacking technical rabbinical instruction” seems to be meant…”

I am not sure if “stupid” and “lacking training” are synonymous. I have known many men and women, both believers and unbelievers, that are lacking in training but I would never consider stupid. (And some who have much training but….)

What think ye?

Should Christians seek the label of “stupid idiots”?


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Salaried Pastors? A discussion with a Pastor 1

Quite awhile ago I sent out an email to a number of prominent pastors (8 or 9) within the area I live in.  One out of the nine responded in an effort to minister.  The following  conversation is with that one pastor who sought to help.  I appreciate his willingness to enter into a discussion with me.

This is the initial email I sent out!  The next post will supply my response and appreciation to this pastor.  I am gonna call him Pastor X cause I think it’s cool.


Brother

I am a Christian, having been saved at the age of 21 from a life of drug abuse and alcoholism.  I have sought to walk with the Lord ever since.  If I could take a few minutes of your time, I would appreciate it.

Salary 2

My question is this.  Does the Word of God explicitly instruct any congregation to commit to a pastor a salaried position?

I have been a believer for more than half my life and have been involved (heavily) in Baptist church’s, but have been challenged lately in my studies to find clear direction for this issue.  I would appreciate your assistance with this and await your reply.

Carl


The following text came from one pastor in a local church.


Carl,

Thanks for sending us your email.  The Word of God is clear that salaried positions within the church are entirely permissible.

OLD TESTAMENT BASIS

In the Old Testament, the Levites (those who worked in the temple) received support in the form of food, money, and even lodging.  See, for example, Numbers 18:20-21 and Hebrews 7:5.

Numbers 18:20-21

20 And the LORD said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.

21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting,

Hebrews 7:5

5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham.

THE RIGHT OF SUPPORT

salary 3In 1 Corinthians 9:3-15, Paul argued extensively that those who work hard to sow spiritual seed should be able to reap material blessing as well.  However, Paul did not use that right (notice he calls it a “right”), but rather preached free of charge so that no one could accuse him of preaching the gospel for material gain, like so many false teachers did.

3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink?

5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same?

9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?

10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?

14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

DOUBLE HONOR

salary 1First Timothy 5:17-19 states that the elders who direct the affairs of the church, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching, are worthy of “double honor.”  And why is this? Because the worker is worthy of his wages, and Paul uses the Old Testament image of the ox not being muzzled when he treaded out the grain.

5:17-19

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Clearly, the Bible teaches that it is permissible (and even wise) for a local church to pay those who work hard at shepherding the flock, preaching, and teaching.  In some contexts (like Paul’s), it may be wise for a pastor not to accept a salary.  Bi-vocational work may advance the Gospel further in some instances.  Paying salaries to pastors allows them to concentrate all of their mental and physical energies on doing the work of shepherding, preaching, and teaching, thus allowing them to do these tasks most effectively.

I hope this helped.

Blessings,

Pastor X


Our next post will include my response and appreciation for this pastors desire to help me understand.  Hope you can visit and comment.

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Stupid Idiots – Introduction

Stupid IdiotsMany times I have heard that Christians are idiots, dumber than a bag of hammers, fools, brain dead… You get my point, right?

Well I went to hear a brother speak a while back that advocated that Christians should be “stupid idiots”.  (His words, not mine!)

During the message, I expected one of two things to happen

  • I would understand his underlying premise and it would finally click, that is, that I would understand the bigger message.
  • The brother would at some point, use the message to rebuke us for our intellectual weakness.

I was wrong on both points, but I clung on to the first point until after the service.  I got home and began to discuss the message with my family, and we were all confused.  It seems we all got the message that Christians should be stupid idiots.

This man is a professional communicator leading one of the larger churches in the area.  The idea that he was misunderstood by my wife, my two daughters and myself was too much for me to swallow!  How could this be?

To give this brother the benefit of the doubt, and to find out what the intent of the message was, I set off on a wee bit of study into Acts 4:13, his text for the day.

After my preliminary study, I decided to contact this brother, share with him what I found in my study, discuss his message and ask for any clarification.  What follows in my next post is the beginning of the correspondence I sent this brother.

What think ye?  Before we go on to our next post, let me know what you think.

Should Christians seek the label of “stupid idiots”?


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Christian Accountability – Watch & Account

What is Christian Accountability and is a Christian influence-or-accountableAccountable to Church Leadership?

This post will address the last two words in our word matrix.

WATCH & ACCOUNT

These words supply two characteristics of the man who persuades and leads the christian are revealed in this passage.

Lets review the passage and then discuss.

Hebrew 13

7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

I have emboldened the verse under consideration. The following posts will address Hebrews 13:17, and a considered review of critical words the apostle uses in exhorting the believers he is writing to.

Following is a matrix of words that need to be considered in understanding the teaching of Hebrews 13, especially verse 17. (See end of study for Strong’s full definitions.)

This next study will incorporate the last two words under consideration, due to both of them describing the christian leader being referred to in this verse

Hebrews 13:17

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Watching

As you can see from the context, the first characteristic of the christian leader is that he is “watching”.  It is very interesting to me that this term has everything to do with being awake, alert, attentive. Attentive to “your” souls.

Is the “your” plural, that is, is the writer stating that the minister is concerned over the body of believers as a congregation, or is it more personal than that.  Could it be that the writer is referring to individuals?

Am I too jaded when I question the watching of men over my soul when they do not even know my name?

How many times have I put myself under a man who has never known what the condition of my soul is, where I am at in my christian journey, whether I understand the gospel, whether I am in sin…..

I do know that there have been times when I was sure the minister was watching over my wallet!

In the future, I would like to address the general topic of a ministers relationship to support, but at this time, suffice it to say, I believe the Word does not give authority of one man over another in the delegation of that man’s gifts or talents.

What is my point?

This verse is describing a man who is giving of himself for the purpose of others.  If taken literally, and I assume that it would play out this way, the godly christian minister would actually lose sleep over the condition of those he ministers to.  This type of minister would be one I would gladly give deference to, and seek to be easily persuaded by faithful Bible teaching.

Account

The minister in this text is one who will give account of the believers he has ministered amongst to the Lord, at least in the last day.  (Could it be that this minister is giving account of those he ministers to during his times with the Lord on a daily basis?)

It is funny to think that many in the church today advocate an accountability to each other to ensure faithfulness to God.  This passage, (and the rest of scripture, I believe) does not advocate any type of primary horizontal accountability.  Of course we are responsible to love and care for one-another.  This is not accountability.

My accountability is to the One who owns me.  My Father, not my brothers.  Love the brotherhood, Fear God.

In His ministry, did not Jesus persuade the populace, even seeking to make those interested more curious by telling dark sayings and parables?  He taught those who wanted to be taught, and lead a life that no man has ever led.  He is One who we should gladly hear and obey.  He is watching for our souls, and if you have a minister that exhibits these qualities in your life (professional or not) be thankful to the Master for him.

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