Monthly Archives: September 2015

Ordaining Deacons

Editor’s Note:

In the May issue of this publication, your editor announced the appointment of two men to the office of deacon by an evangelist. Your editor received the following inquiry from one of our subscribers: “Why does it say the evangelist ‘appointed’ deacons? Please explain to me using Bible verses why that could happen. My understanding is that only elders can appoint deacons.” Since this may be a question that interests other readers, your editor thought it best to answer it in this issue. Your editor thanks the widowed sister who took the time to ask the question.

The sixth chapter of the book of Acts offers the best example of how the early church carried out ordinations. The apostles found it difficult to balance the distribution of money to the widows of the early church with the pressing need to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. To correct what must have been unintentional oversights, the apostles directed the church to choose men who possessed certain qualities (e.g. “full of the Holy Spirit”). Once the congregation found qualified men, the apostles would appoint the candidates to minister to the Christian widows in need. From Acts 6 we can identify a pattern: a congregation chooses qualified candidates and another with authority (in this case the apostles) ordains the candidates.

Acts 6 is by no means an isolated case. Consider the example of Moses in Deuteronomy 1:9-17. In this passage, Moses recounts what took place forty years before in Exodus 18. However, Deuteronomy 1:13 provides one detail that is not included in Exodus 18: the children of Israel chose men from among their tribes for Moses to appoint. The congregation selected its leaders while another with authority appointed them to carry out the work.

We know that non-apostles participated in appointing elders in the first century. For example, Barnabas assisted Paul with ordaining elders in the churches of Galatia (see Acts 14:21-23). Barnabas was sent out by the church at Antioch as Paul’s fellow-laborer on this first evangelistic journey into the broad Gentile world. Paul directed Titus to “ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). We have no reason to believe that either Barnabas or Titus was an apostle of Jesus Christ since neither man is listed as a witness of the resurrected Christ. Therefore, Barnabas and Titus were non-apostles who were authorized to ordain elders in the church.

Neither Barnabas nor Titus belonged to the congregations in which they carried out this work. Barnabas worked with the churches of Galatia in Acts 14 while Titus worked among the churches of Crete. In addition to ordaining elders, both men preached the gospel to the lost, grounded new Christians in the doctrine of Jesus Christ, encouraged established congregations to keep the faith, and worked among a multiplicity of congregations.

The New Testament shows us several non-apostles who performed a similar work among the first century churches. Among these men, Timothy is the most prominent example. “Evangelist” is the only title associated with Timothy. Paul urges Timothy to do the work of an evangelist and fulfill his ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). Paul would not command Timothy to do the work of an evangelist unless Timothy was an evangelist. Therefore, Timothy was an evangelist. Since his work was much like the work of Barnabas and Titus, it is reasonable to conclude that they too were considered evangelists among the churches.

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul lists the qualities that both elders and deacons should possess. Certainly Timothy would need to instruct the church at Ephesus in these characteristics so that the brethren could choose qualified men. But given the pattern established by both Moses and the apostles as well as the work Barnabas and Titus performed among the churches, it seems reasonable to imply that Timothy had the authority to appoint both elders and deacons in the Lord’s church.

In the bodily absence of both a law-giver and the apostles, who then possesses the authority to ordain deacons in the Lord’s church today? The Scriptures authorize evangelists to carry out this work.

~ Wade Stanley

God’s Open Door Policy

A nation may have an “open door policy” in its dealings with certain other nations regarding commerce and trade, but God has a different type of “open door policy.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the door to the church, to salvation, to heaven and to eternal life (John 10:7-10). He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Scriptures also state, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It is important that we emphasize that Christ is the only Savior, the only Redeemer in whom there is salvation, because multitudes of souls have been misguided and are seeking salvation elsewhere.

When we say that God has an “open door policy,” it is because God’s invitation is extended to all people. Through the Scriptures, God offers salvation to anyone who believes and obeys His Word. “God so loved the world [everybody] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever [get that “whoever”] believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men [all the earth’s inhabitants] (Titus 2:11). He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:4). “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say,

‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). Those terms “whoever,” “all men,” etc. should cause people to realize the indiscriminate open door policy invitation of the gospel. There is not one soul in this whole world that God is not concerned about, and the same is true in each generation of time.

One of the major problems is that many people simply do not believe the Bible but have been deceived by false teachers who proclaim “You don’t have to be a Christian to be saved” or “You don’t have to be baptized to be saved” or “One church is just as good as another.” God has an “open door policy” for the salvation of anyone who will comply with the terms He has given in the New Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament Law that was given to the nation of Israel is not binding on Christians. It is now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). “We have been delivered from the law” (Romans 7:6). “He [Christ] has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). The New Covenant that God promised in Jeremiah 31 is now in effect, and the offer of salvation is open to all who submit to the plan of God revealed in the New Testament Scriptures.

People must have a Bible based faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The Scriptures identify Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, who came from heaven to earth to be our Savior. He said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). But faith alone will not save a man. Saving faith demands action, obedience (James 2:17, 20, 26). God’s plan of salvation requires that we repent of our sins (2 Peter 3:9, Luke 13:3,5), confess our faith (Romans 10:9-10) as did the man from Ethiopia (Acts 8:37), and be baptized (Acts 2:38).

How can people believe that baptism is not essential for salvation? Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). The command is recorded. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Again, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The apostle Peter commanded those gathered at the home of Cornelius to be baptized (Acts 10:48). In obedience to the instructions to be baptized, we have the specific record of about 3,000 who were baptized on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). Men and women were baptized at Samaria (Acts 8:12-13). The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized (Acts 8:38). Saul of Tarsus, later called Paul, was baptized (Acts 9:18). Lydia and her household were baptized (Acts 16:15). The jailer at Philippi and all his family were baptized (Acts 16:33). And everyone since that time who has obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, the gospel of Jesus Christ, has been baptized.

Many people consider themselves to be Christians but have never been baptized as commanded and exemplified in the Scriptures. I find no Scripture of people being in Christ unless they were baptized, but Galatians 3:27 does teach that “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” And it is “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Without Him there is no promise of salvation, but rather the God given warnings of the eternal fires of hell. The way to eternal life is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14) but the door is still open. “Now is the day of salvation”

(2 Corinthians 6:2). Submit yourself to the Lord and obey the gospel while there is time and opportunity and the door is still open.

~ Thomas D. Dennis

Your Ship Has Docked?

A windfall comes your way. Your ship comes in. What do you do? How would you use it? With increasing frequency I am asked by and hear brethren talking about retirement or an inheritance. Often the question is asked, “What will I do when I retire?” or “What should I do with retirement?” Or, these questions surround the sudden receipt of an inheritance or other material blessing that diminishes the need for secular earnings.

We have heard the saying, “My ship may have come in, but I must have been at the wrong dock,” implying that we didn’t see or get it. But the truth is today that for most our blessings have far exceeded our needs, expectations, and, at least materially, theyhave exceeded our ancestors.

For many Christians, “their ship” has come in, be it an inheritance, pension, personal savings or all of the above. Many Christians are blessed with several decades of financial comfort after their secular working days have ended, leaving them with 20, 30, or even 40 years of freedom from required secular work and earnings. Some will be retired nearly as many years as they worked. We have been blessed. Our “ships” have come in.

Our question then is “How will we use it?”

If someone had asked the apostles how they should spend their retirement or inheritance, it is likely the apostles would have looked at them rather quizzically. Retirement was not a common thing if it existed at all then.

Retirement is a new blessing. A wonderful blessing for many. Should we feel guilty about this blessing? Absolutely not. But this freedom is also a new and great responsibility. “To whom much has been given, much shall be required” (Luke 12:48). What a resource of time and support Americans have been given.

So how can we use these blessings to the best service of the Lord? What should the Christian perspective on retirement be?

The short answer is that the Bible doesn’t mention retirement as we know it today. A form of retirement is specifically mentioned once in Numbers 8:23-26. But there it applied only to a certain group of people: the Levites. The Levites were charged with serving God by doing much of the work in and around the Tabernacle and later the Temple. At age 50 they we relieved of this task. We are not told specifically why, but logic would lead us to think that because such work became more physically difficult in later years they would need relief. And it would also give the younger an opportunity to serve. But even so they were not relieved of working for and serving God (verse 26). They were to still work in the service of the Lord.

Age and infirmity could limit the type of work opportunities one has, but there is nothing in Scripture that indicates a person should work a certain amount of years, save money, and suddenly stop working, enjoying only a life of leisure. Serving the Lord is a life time charge.

While we live in an era of increasing challenges, we also live in an era of increasing opportunities.

Retirement, now an expected right of many, has only been around for 100 years or so and has only been common since the 1930s for the majority. Some trace it back to the German Otto Von Bismark in the 1800s. But in America during colonial times, work was inseparable from life. Not until 1840-50 did industrialization cause people to think of retirement. Before 1930, forced retirement of older workers was done primarily by industry seeking cheaper and stronger workers. With the Great Depression, government saw retirement as a way to stabilize unemployment. In 1935, the Social Security Act and the Railroad Retirement Acts were passed. Americans now began to expect retirement. These acts were likely more politically motivated than socially motivated as ways to lower the unemployment figures.

For 35 years (1940-1975), retirement turned into a cherished institution. It was marketed heavily. Slogans, like, “You’ve earned it” and “Take it easy,” hit the marketing scene. The emergence of AARP and Medicare further entrenched America’s thinking. These evolvements mark one of the most dramatic changes in America.

Well the truth is many ships have come in. But the question is still, how will we use it?

What clues can we get from Scripture?

In Joshua 14, we see Caleb at the age of 85 requesting a chance to conquer a mountain, more work for the Lord.

In Psalm 71:18, we find the aged Psalmist still wanting to work for God: “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.”

In Luke 2:25-38, both aged Simeon and Anna are in the Temple serving the Lord.

Titus 2: We see the older being exhorted to teach the younger. Retire from teaching? Not according to Paul.

In 1 Timothy 5:6 we find this pointed warning: “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.”

Does this mean we must relocate, spend all of our time evangelizing or have no time set aside for recreation? Does this mean we cannot have times of travel and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation? Certainly not. But our primary focus is to be serving the Lord.

There is much to do right where you are — visitation, Bible studies, transporting the needy, mentoring the young, easing the burden of a struggling family, sharing your practical knowledge of Christian living, building up your home congregation in ways you previously did not have time for. The list is endless, but our lives are not. Retire from secular work, YES, but not from a life of service.

~ John Lee