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Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Non-Prison Epistles - Part 3

If you're wondering when I include the Greek and/or Hebrew in my posts, it's not to be clever, but rather so we know what word the Holy Spirit has chosen. There are three primary reasons for this. First, we can see where else a word may have been used and compare contexts. Second, the English translators may have used the same English word for different Greek words, causing confusion. Third, We can look up the original meaning of a word instead of relying on the possibly biased opinion of the translators.

In Part 3 we will briefly look at the next three offices on our list.
  • Teachers didáskalos
  • Apostles apóstolos
  • Prophets prophḗtēs
  • Evangelists euangelistḗs
  • Pastors poimḗn
  • Overseers epískopos
  • Elders presbýteros
  • Deacons diákonos

To add some additional context to these studies, we will recall the difference between the "bodies" and "churches" active in the Acts Age and the "Body" and "Church" of the Post-Acts (current) Age. In the Acts, a local church was made up of many parts, each with an identifying gift. Every person had a gift. 

There was a diversity of gifts (1 Cor 12:4). Christians zealously desired gifts (1 Cor 14:12) and were encouraged to "covet earnestly the best gifts" (1 Cor 12:31). This is another indication that the age of miraculous gifts (indeed all personal gifts) has ended. What we see, then, are individuals, without a head, all expressing spiritual gifts in local bodies.

In the Post-Acts Age, we have a corporate Body which has a head (Christ). It is like the "student body" which is a whole led by a Principal. We do not have "churches," but rather a single "church." The bodies in the first Corinthian letter are compared to eyes, ears, noses, hands, etc. 

And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. -1 Cor 12:16-18

In this current dispensation, the Body is One, with Christ as the Head, We are the "one new man." This new man is said to have been "created" (Eph 2:15). It no longer separates Jew from Gentile as was the case in the Acts Age. It is an entirely new work. It is to this single Body that Christ gave the gifts of Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors/Teachers.


PROPHETS

The office of Prophet is often simplified as foretelling the future. A more precise description would be those who spoke directly as God gave them utterance. It was not just predictions. The Book of Jonah contains the story of God "prophesying" the destruction of Nineveh and Jonah was to go and tell that city of God's intention. Nineveh repented and God relented. There was no distant foretelling.  And that which Jonah was told would happen never did. 

John the baptist was a prophet. He proclaimed repentance and called on Israel to prepare the way of the Lord. Arguably, John was a greatest prophet ("Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist" -Matt 11:11).

This office was necessary when Paul revealed the Dispensation of the Mystery. Men chosen to proclaim this new revelation which was hidden in God from before the overthrow of the cosmos. When the canon was completed and Paul had "filled up" and completed the revelation of God, it was no longer necessary. It was indeed a "gift" of men to the Body, but for the change, not for today.


EVANGELISTS

This word is slightly troublesome because of its use in the English churches. Whereas the idea of a "bringer of good news" (NAS Exhaustive Concordance) is not wrong, but filtered through the clergy system it tends be thought of as one who stands in the pulpit and preaches the simple gospel of Christ's sacrifice. That's not horrible, but it can limit the word.

εὐαγγελιστής is only used 3 times in scripture (noting no references in the Septuagint). Philip, one of the deacons chosen in Acts 6, is called "Philip the evangelist" in Acts 21. Philip was one of those who pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem for fear of the Jews.

But what do we know of Philip's evangelistic work? In Acts 8, Philip meets the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road to Gaza. This man had to have been an Ethiopian Jew as Peter later testified that it was he who was chosen to first take Christ to the Gentiles. That occurred in Acts 10 in the house of Cornelius.

So what good news did Philip share?

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture [Isaiah], preached Jesus to him. -Acts 8:35

This is consistent with  Paul's testimony that he preached "nothing but that which was spoken by Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 26:22) in the Acts Age. But remember, in Paul's revelation in Ephesians, he states that the good news to Gentiles of the "one new man" (Eph 2:15) was not known to the prophets. It was hidden from "before the overthrow of the cosmos" (Eph 1:4).

So the Evangelists in Ephesians (First epistle of the current age) and Paul's encouragement of Timothy to do the work of an Evangelist (Last epistle of the current age) are connected to Paul's good news of this age. That Good News is, of course, built on Christ and His sacrifice ("there is no other foundation which can be laid"), but it is unique in its hope and promises.

This gifts to the Body were necessary to help spread Paul's message of the Dispensation of the Mystery. We can still "do the work of an Evangelist" (2 Tim 4:5), but I don't think the office still exists. We all must teach Christians this truth and free them from the Law and all earthly ordinances. We must help them see the glory that awaits the Body, independent from any covenant.


PASTORS

This may be the most troublesome office as it has become almost a positional equivalent of a guru in Christendom. How many have surrendered their responsibility to study and endeavor to show themselves approved unto God bu submitting their minds and wills to fallible men?

The pastor is a shepherd. Even in its original calling, it was meant to be a position which "mended" broken saints and prepared them for their own ministry of spreading the good news of (a) God's reconciliation to man and (b) the one new man in the Post-Acts Age.

The Greek word translated "edifying" in Ephesians 4:12 in regard to what these gifts to the Body are supposed to accomplish is "oikodomḗ." The idea is building up. Thayer defines it this way: "the act of one who promotes another's growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness." The verse always notes the offices are for the "maturing" [perfecting] of the saints.  That is, these men equip others, they do not Lord it over them, they hold no title, they deserve no privilege.

As we have noted, the Body in this age is corporate. Individual members will answer to the Head. We will each answer for the deeds done in the flesh (Colossians) and we are responsible to work is such a way to be approved unto God as we seek to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim). I fear many do not study and do not question a man with a title like "Pastor."


Everything the offices listed in Ephesian 4:11 is for the equipping, preparing, perfecting, maturing of individual believers to the benefit of Christ and to the whole Body. The gifts in the Acts Age edified the individual. As we have noted, in the Acts Age, Christians were called on to zealously "desire" and "pursue" gifts. Post-Acts, the gifts are men to given to Body as a whole.

The Acts Age gifts surely benefited the church of that age (especially prophesying), but an outward gift like tongues was specifically for unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22). The Jews required a sign. The message in that age was still "to the Jew first."

Clearly, in this age, we do not see all believers manifesting miraculous gifts. In fact, men who deceive millions with a claim of a unique "gift of healing" plague Christendom. Just as troubling is the movement of Gentile believers to claim to be "real Jews" or "true Israel."

The gifts of men to the Body spoken of in Ephesians 4 were given to specifically to equip believers to spread the incredibly good news that God has revealed a new hope and that hope is independent of all covenants and earthly ordinance. It concerns being where Christ is in the "far above the heavens."  It is the fullness of Christ. It is Christ alone. It is Christ as Head with no priesthood or rituals. It is the pondering of the "unsearchable riches of Christ!"

We've sacrificed much of that in Christendom to the desire for gurus and the weak and beggarly elements of the earth.


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