(Message given in Ethiopia, June 2, 2012.)
[For a printable version click here.]
Praise the Lord. If you want you may look in your Bible to the 20th Chapter of Acts. You know, I was just thinking while we were singing here today, when I get on a big airplane to fly and I come in through the door and the cockpit for the pilot is on my left and the pilot is almost always sitting there already waiting. I don’t usually see the man’s face, but I see the back of his head and if I see gray hair I feel good because I know he is an experienced (elder) pilot. I’m sure he has been in trouble before, he has lived and he has come through it. Amen. Do you remember the pilot that landed the airplane in the Hudson River by New York City? Birds got in the engine. It is most unusual that he could land that airplane in the river and it didn’t sink. So God has a purpose for elders in the church, in the natural and in the spiritual. Amen.
Now in the 20th Chapter of Acts Paul is finishing his missionary journey in this particular area where he had been traveling and ministring. He is on his way back to Jerusalem. He will not come back to these cities again. He will write to them, but he is going to be bound in Jerusalem and he is going to be sent to Rome. So since he is the man that planted the seed in these churches, he laid the foundation and he set the churches in order. Sometimes he sent Timothy to help him put things in order and at one point he said to Timothy to go to the church and to recognize the elders and to set the order. He didn’t say anything about setting Pastors in the church, he just said to set the elders in order.
Now it says in verse 17:
Acts 20:17 “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.”
That’s verse 17. Does your Bible say the same thing? Amen. So we are in agreement. Now he is giving them his last word. He is giving them the Word he believes to be most important for the church. In verse 28 I am going to show you that Paul is saying.
Vs 28 “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers…”
I just read the 1st half of verse 28. Now remember he has called the presbuteros, the elders. To them he is saying, “take heed…unto yourselves, and to all the flock” which is the sheep, the poimnion. “Over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers”, episkopos, overseers, not bishops. That is the same word that the bible translators put as “bishop” in some other places. Ephesus wouldn’t have that many of what the church today calls bishops. So Paul is saying that the elders are the overseers overseeing the sheep, the flock. Who made them to be overseers? How did they get that job? What does it say? The Holy Spirit appointed them to be overseers.
You see, God sees into the hearts of men. God puts these gifts into men. God sees faithfulness. God sees maturity. You know there are some men who are not responsible. I’m sure you know men like this? They promise you that they are going to be at a certain place at a certain time to do a certain job – and they don’t come and they don’t do it. Maybe they are forty, maybe they are fifty years old, but they are still like a child. Sometimes God sees men that are only thirty, but they are faithful: always faithful; keeping their word; making a promise and keeping their word. This is the way we deal with our spouses our marriages; we are faithful. So this quality trait of life carries over into everything that we do.
Vs 28 “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
“Feed” is poimainowhich means to see that the sheep have good pasture, good food to eat. The shepherd doesn’t have to pick the grass and put it in the sheep’s mouth, all he has to do is to take them to the good pasture, present the food and the sheep know how to eat. And if they are sheep, they will eat the proper food that is presented to them.
So again, what we see here is the responsibility of the elders to shepherd sheep. Amen. Elders shepherd sheep and elders oversee the flock. They don’t just feed sheep, but they are also watching. As they are watching the flock, sometimes they see sheep that need to be healed, wounds that need to be bound up; one sheep didn’t get enough food, give some special attention to this one. But in watching, you are also watching for wolves.
Vs 29 “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.”
Now these wolves will not come looking like wolves, they will come looking like sheep. But the responsibility of the elders (plural) is to spot the wolf and confront the wolf.
“What are you doing?”
We haven’t had many wolves come around where I live, I mean spiritual wolves, but we have had a few. I remember we had some special meetings where one of God’s prophets came and there came a man that we didn’t know and the next thing I know he was over in the corner laying hands on people and prophesying things to them. His own life was a mess. He was living a terrible life. But apparently he wanted to be a Pastor and he was going to take a little sheep here and a little sheep there. But his ministry was destroying people. He was giving them terrible advice. So with a couple of us elders we said to the man:
“You may come to the meeting, but you are not to pray over people and you are not to prophesy over people.”
He didn’t come back.
So we see the shepherd ministry is pretty well defined already, isn’t it? Can we go to the book of Ephesians? We do want to look at ministry. You probably have heard so much about what went wrong in the church systems that you would like to know what is right. We need to hear the positive of what is right. So the first positive is that God wants elders to take responsibility among the flock. Amen. That is a very good thing. Some of you are Pastors, this word is not meant to say that you have no place in the church. You will have a very important part in the church, but you won’t be calling yourself Pastor and you won’t be acting like the Lord over the flock.
Now I am talking so far about the local fellowship, but God also has ministries that reach out beyond the local fellowship and of course these ministries are also part of a local fellowship. Now when I say ministry, here is another one of those words that got corrupted over the years. The original meaning of the word ministry means servant. But when I drive the streets of Addis Ababa I see: Ministry of Water; Ministry of Education; Ministry of …; all kinds of ministries of government. So you see from the word servant it has come to be the head man, the chief man. So the word has changed its meaning, but if you will understand me when I am using the original meaning of the word ministry I really don’t have a better word to use. We will talk about five-fold ministry.
Eph 4:11 (We are talking about Jesus where it says),“And he gave some apostles…”
Let’s go back up to verse 8 where it says He gave gifts:
Vs 8 “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”
So these ministries are gifts that God has given to the church. When I say “church” I mean the “true church”, another word that has unfortunately changed in its meaning over the years. So many times when we say “church” we are talking about the whole system of churches, but I am going to use the word that God intended to have – HIS CHURCH.
All right, so He gave these gifts.
Eph 4:11 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors shepherds and teachers;”
Somebody was telling me here in the beginning of the meeting that they have a friend or man or somebody that they know. He gave them a card or something with his name and it said: “Apostle Doctor” or something like that – “Doctor Apostle”. By the way, I think I have only known one real apostle in my life. However, I do believe that God has more of them. I have read a couple of wonderful books about men that I believe with all my hearts are true apostles of God. I don’t know how many He has. I don’t know if I will ever meet another apostle. I will say this: there aren’t very many of them. Going and getting a Doctoral Degree in Theology, printing a calling card with a title and traveling on the road does not make you an apostle. You can even plant two or three churches and that does not make you an apostle. Amen.
Now the word apostle means sent, men who were sent. Brother Burt told you the other day how Paul came and submitted himself to the local fellowship. The Spirit of God began to move when they fasted and prayed and the spirit of prophecy came to the people there. We know there were prophets in that fellowship as well. The spirit of prophesy said: “Separate Paul and Barnabas unto me,” and they laid hands on them and sent them out.
Now we are sent of God. We who came here are sent here of God, but not one of us would say that we are an apostle. We may have other gifts, but we don’t have the apostle gift, but what we are bringing you is an apostolic Word. We bring an apostolic vision to you and we have been influenced by the ministry of an apostolic Word. We have been taught by an apostolic Word. Paul said to Timothy to find more faithful men and pass the word on to them.
The Holy Spirit has given a word to us that in Ethiopia faithful men would be found to carry this message. If we have 50 people here, will there be 1 who will catch this vision, who will be stirred in his heart and will say:
“Yes, I want to be among the sons of God.”
“Yes, I want to teach other young men this word.”
“And I want to stand before Jesus when my time comes and I want to hear Him say, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’.”
The second ministry gift is the prophet. If I had time to draw the sides of the boards of the tabernacle building itself, the wooden boards that were covered with gold, the boards that speak of members of the body and these boards had golden rings and there were five bars that went through that held the boards and kept them in order. [See illustration below].
This is the function of the five-fold ministry, to keep the church in order so that we don’t go off on some strange doctrine, so that we don’t listen to some wolf. There are many deceptive ministries where I come from leading many, many people astray. Some of them have BIG television programs. Sometimes a whole church under a Pastor will go down and travel to be a part of this – whatever is going on. But you see, if these churches had access to the full five-fold ministry of God they would not be deceived like this. They would have a solid doctrine that is in agreement with the Word of God.
So the bar in the middle goes all the way across, which is the apostle bar. Then there are the two on the top, the prophet and the evangelist. And there are two bars on the bottom, the shepherd and the teacher.
Now you know the ministry of the prophet. I don’t have to talk to you a lot about that do I? You believe in the legitimacy of the prophetic ministry, do you not? You know the interesting thing about (shall we say) the world of churches, is that most of the churches that are not in God’s order, do not receive the ministry of the apostle; and they do not receive the ministry of the prophet. These are two of the most important ministries, (if I dare use the word important), and they have rejected by the churches. If they have apostles they have corrupted the meaning of it and they have probably appointed themselves.
Brother Burt Asbill: I would like to add a comment with regards to the apostle and the prophetic ministry, is that scripture states that the foundation of the church is established on those ministries.
Brother Mark: Yes, I was going to mention that. Thank you Burt. The foundation of the church is based on the ministry of the apostles and the prophets (Eph 2:20).
Eph 2:19 “…of the household of God:”
Vs 20 “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”
Amen. In verse 22 it says:
Vs 22 “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
Brother George Herrig: A second witness is 1 Corinthians 12:28.
1 Corinthians 12:28 “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.”
So those three ministries are listed in Corinthians. By the way, if you want a follow-up, if you go over in Revelation, I think it is Chapter 18 or 19 when you find that the beast/the harlot hates the ministries of the apostles and the prophets (Re 18:20). If you want to go to the Old Testament you can find that Jezebel hates the prophets and she went about to destroy the prophets and there is still a very active Jezebel influence in the churches today. Jezebel puts false prophets in to prophesy falsely, to live falsely and to deceive people – because the sheep have lost the ability to discern by the Spirit. You see, the gift of discerning of spirits is also gone from most of the church. People come in and prophesy and say things. Where are the little people that are supposed to have these gifts of discerning? They may not be elders; it may even be a child who says,
“Brother, there is something wrong with that man.”
You know, I used to be friends with a Puerto Rican couple when I lived in another city. When this woman was a little girl in Puerto Rico twelve years old, they would go in the mountains and pray and fast every Saturday. One day an evangelist came to their church. This twelve year old was so stirred by the Spirit that she got up from her seat and went up front and she said:
“Thus says the Lord, Mister, you must repent.”
The man was living in sin and he fell down and admitted his sin.
Now would we rebuke that little girl? Do you know what, these big ministries, these big television ministries; you cannot get close to them. They have twelve security guards around the platform. If you come close to that platform one of these security guards will grab you and take you out. How will you know them that labor among you if you can’t meet them or even talk with them? I’m just telling you – Jesus said that many will rise up and say that “I am of the nature of Christ”. He said, “Do not go after them and do not follow them.” The church apparently has forgotten to read what Jesus said because they go after everything that comes. Come on, brethren, we have to start overseeing and watching the flock to see that this thing doesn’t come in to the house of God.
All right, so you know something about these five ministries. My hand has five ministers. The hand of God has five ministers, does it not? Amen. So what shall we say about these five? One of these, the key member of my hand is my thumb. Now I can’t do much with my hand without a functioning thumb. I cannot pick this Bible up without my thumb. Try to pick up a glass of water without using your thumb. You might be able to do it, but you won’t do it well. You will be very unstable in what you are doing. So the thumb is key to keeping the balance of the hand. He is not the lord, he is not the boss, but he is an important servant. If he is like Christ he is a humble servant. He is also a partaker of the suffering of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t have to carry a little card that says he has a Doctoral Degree. He will probably never tell you that he is an apostle. You will have to know him for a while and then you will say:
“I wonder if that brother is an apostle.”
“He brings such a powerful word.”
“His word shakes the heaven and the earth.”
“His word is so correct.”
When we first heard the man that I am talking about in my experience, he came to our local fellowship. He said many powerful things that shook us up.
When we went home my wife said to me, “Brother Mark, either this man is 100% wrong or he is 100% right.”
I said, “Sister, what I have heard tonight is 100% right.”
She said, “But he opened the door and blew everybody away!”
I said, “That is okay, the things that cannot be shaken will remain as the kingdom of God.”
So the next finger is the prophet. The prophet points the way:
“Thus saith the Lord…”
“Brother the Lord has a word for you…”
Amen. Then when my wife used to come to me with the finger I knew I was going to get a prophetic word. One day she brought the finger to me and she said to me:
“Brother, your life has gone into wood, hay and stubble and that is not what God called you to.”
I didn’t quarrel with her. I put my head down and I said, “O God, I need to repent. I’ve got to get rid of that wood, hay and stubble that I have been involved with, because it will be burnt if I bring it before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ.
One of my fingers (the middle one) is longer than the others. Can you see which one? One of the ministries reaches out quite far. The evangelist ministry goes out to many places. Now I don’t know that Timothy was an evangelist, I don’t believe that he was. But Paul said to Timothy, “…Do the work of the evangelist...” (2Ti 4:5).
So you don’t have to be an evangelist to do the work of an evangelist. You don’t have to be a prophet to prophesy. Not everyone that prophesies is a prophet. The gift of prophesy is also in the body of Christ. Sometimes a little child will prophesy.
So the evangelist is a gift that reaches far out. Like the apostle and the prophet, the evangelist doesn’t have to come and say, “I am John Brown and I am the Evangelist.” If he preaches like an evangelist and he has a concern for reaching out to the lost he might have the gift of an evangelist.
Now we have the next finger. I call it the shepherd finger. What do I have on this shepherd finger? What do you see there?
You see a golden wedding ring. What is the meaning of that golden ring? It is a ring of covenant of love, is it not? The shepherd has a covenant of love between God and his sheep and he loves the sheep. He lays his life down for the sheep.
By the way, did you know that:
Jesus is ALL of these ministries?
He is The Apostle.
He is The Prophet.
He is The Evangelist.
He is The Shepherd.
He is The Teacher.
He has it ALL but he parceled it out to men. He didn’t give us all those gifts to one man. Amen. So the LOVE ministry, the shepherd ministry is loving the sheep that are sometimes difficult to love. Have you ever met people that are difficult to love? They just don’t want to be loved, but you love them anyway. When I have trouble loving some people I think of Jesus and I’m thinking that He loves this person. If I am His servant, I am going to have to change my nature and my attitude to be like Jesus. Okay.
The last of my fingers, it’s the smallest, the teacher. But let me ask you a question. If I want to get into my ear, which finger would I use? This one works best. So the teacher ministry can get into your ear. Amen. He breaks the word down so that you can digest it, understand it.
Now there is one more little subject that I would like to bring up if we have a little time here yet, don’t we? Let me find the page here. Let’s not leave Ephesians 4 right away. Here we are. The purpose of this five-fold ministry and how long is this ministry going to last? It says here He gave these gifts to the church, to the body of Christ until when? Forever? No.
Eph 4:13 “Till we all come in the unity of the faith…”
Are we all in the unity of the faith yet? I don’t think we are all in the unity yet.
Vs 13 “…and of the knowledge of the Son of God, (till we come) unto a perfect man…”
There is that word that George was talking about yesterday, the perfect man, complete, mature, lacking nothing.
Vs 13 “…unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Many years ago we went to Prague in the Czech Republic and a woman came to our meeting and she said, “Oh, I have met other people that are just like you. They are preaching the same word.”
This is many years ago at the time when the iron curtain of Communism came down there. I guess the curtain came down everywhere, didn’t it?
So I said to her, “Well, if there are people who are preaching the same thing I would like to meet them.”
So she brought two men over to where we were staying. I greeted them.
I said, “Well, the little sister here says that we are all preaching the same thing.”
They said, “Okay, tell us what you believe.”
I said, “Well, we believe in the five-fold ministry. We believe in apostles and prophets.”
The man said, “Oh, no, no. No more apostles and no more prophets.”
I said, “What? It is in the Bible.”
“No, no. The apostles and the prophets all died out when John died. He was the last apostle.”
I said, “But the Word of God says, ‘until we all come…’” and I read that verse.
The man said, “Well we are all in unity.” He said, “We are in unity.”
I said, “How can that be? We can’t even agree about this?”
He said, “Well, the whole Bible is written, therefore we are all in unity.”
But you see; we weren’t in unity. So we still need the ministry. Then verse 14 says:
Eph 4:14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”
So again, God is describing the ministry as protecting the flock from the deceiving wolves. Let me go to one more place before we leave this. I think we will go to the 23rd Chapter of Matthew. Jesus was talking to the ministers of the church of His generation, the scribes and the Pharisees. Now let me read a few verses here.
Mt 23:6 “And (they) love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,”
Now what is the motive here of liking the chief seats and liking the uppermost rooms at the feasts? The motive of this ministry of course is that they want recognition by men. The servant that washes the feet gets no recognition of men. The man that opens the door or the gate doesn’t have a very important place of recognition. But if he doesn’t open the door I can’t get in.
Okay, so, they love the:
Vs 7 “…Greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”
So we are talking about titles and we are talking about means of recognition. So the Rabbi would wear clothes of special distinction of some sort that the people in the market would recognize him as a Rabbi. I don’t have much experience with that here in Ethiopia, but I have experience in America where we have Roman Catholicism. The priests have special black clothes that they wear and I have observed people responding when they see these men in the market place. The people come and they say:
“Father, Father, good day to you.”
They bow a little bit you know and I have noticed that the priest enjoys this. He smiles and you know that he likes the recognition.
Jesus was saying the same thing in His day. The Rabbi wanted people to recognize that he was a Rabbi in the market place. It has nothing to do with his spiritual place of teaching the word. He just wants the personal recognition of honor.
I mentioned that when I first went to the city where I live there was a Pentecostal Church, it was part of a denomination and it was the biggest church one in town. One night after a meeting we went to a certain little restaurant in the city. I knew some of the Assistant Pastors that this man had. I thought I saw one of the young men sitting at another table, but I was confused because he had the black shirt with the little white trim at his collar.
She said, “I don’t know, it looks like him in his face.”
I said, “No, no, it can’t be him. He is dressed up like a Catholic priest.”
Then I thought, “Well maybe he is an Episcopal priest.” So finally my curiosity got the best of me and I got up from my table and I walked over to the table where this man was sitting.
I said, “Excuse me. Do I know you? Are you Brother So and So?”
He said, “Well, yes I am.”
I said, “Oh, I didn’t recognize you with that collar you are wearing. I thought you were a priest or something.”
He said, “Well, we want to be identified with our Catholic Brethren.”
I had no more to say. I went back to my table. I was just grieved. I thought, “Is this what is happening to the church? Is this where Ecumenicism is moving that we are all going to be of the same church? That we are even going to join with the harlot church?”
Well, so He says:
Mt 23:8 “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”
What is Jesus saying? Come on, help me to put this into terms that we can understand. Are there any Rabbi’s here today? No, I don’t see any Rabbis. Is this verse talking to us? Can we just cross it out and say that it doesn’t apply to us? Throw it away that it has no meaning to the church?
He is saying that you are taking the title Rabbi, which means Master. You are doing it for recognition. He said, “Not in my church – NO. All of you are equal brethren. You are a sheep just like the other sheep in my eyes. Don’t call yourself anything else but a brother.”
If you want to put that on your card – put it on your card. Brother John Jones – but you don’t even have to put Brother.
Let’s go on.
Vs 9 “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.”
“Well, that is just the Catholic, or the Coptic, or the Orthodox.”
“That doesn’t apply to us.”
But it is the principle of what Jesus is saying. The man who is called Father has a position of recognition, he has an office and he enjoys being recognized as such. Jesus is saying to the people, to the sheep, “Don’t do that. Don’t call them that.”
You know, I have known some of the Pastor friends that I have and they use the title Pastor in the same way. I have seen people greet the Pastor in the market place. They don’t call him by his name, they call him Pastor and he has no other name. When they come they bow:
“Good morning Pastor.”
“How are you today Pastor?”
No, I am serious. I called the office of one of the men that I knew; he was a friend of mine. His secretary answered the phone.
I said, “Is Brother John in?”
She said, “Pastor is not in.”
I said, “Well, when can I meet Brother John?”
“Pastor is not at home.”
“Well I wanted to ask him about this little item that he wanted to sell.”
“I will leave word for Pastor.”
I’m thinking, “This girl doesn’t know his name.”
I said, “Well, I’ll call another time.” I said, “Is he still the pastor of this church?”
She said, “No. He is an apostle now.”
I said, “Oh, how did he get to be an apostle?”
She said, “Well he travels around a little bit and now he is an apostle.”
Oh my goodness. But this is the way some of the Pastors insist that people call them. New people come to our fellowship, people that I’ve never seen before.
They greet me, they say, “Hello Pastor.”
I say, “I’m Brother Mark.”
“Oh good to meet you Pastor.”
“Okay, I’ll let it go for a little while. Next time you come back, I’m going to stop you again and I’m going to tell you clearly, please do not give me a title. I am Brother Mark. If you need to give me a title, give me Brother.”
“If you have a child, you want to teach your children to call you brother. If you are a man like me, just greet me and say, ‘Mark it is good to see you.’ I won’t be offended. No, no, I will not be offended.”
Jesus went on and He said:
Vs 10 “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.”
“One is your Master” – now the word master has a meaning. It means the chief teacher, the one who is in control of the classroom. By the way, I met the Master one day face to face. Jesus stood before me when I was in a hospital bed and I saw His face. He had the face of a Master and He was not happy. He told me some things that were going on in the body of Christ.
He said, “I am not going to put up with it much longer.”
I know who it was. I saw His hands. I know HE was the Master. He didn’t have to tell me anything. I knew the Master.
Vs 11 “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”
Vs 12 “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
So you see, the kingdom of God is in reverse order of the kingdoms of this world. So when they said that Paul turned the world upside down, he was putting it right, the right way that it should have been. Amen.