Christian Churches of God
Selecting the Ministry
(Edition 2.0 20000419-20110701)
In today's information age we can only marvel at the number of groups and churches in the world using the name of Christ. Even when isolated to those who incorporate the words "Church of God" in their name, they still number in the hundreds. Do they all have credibility? How do we select the right ministry to lead us in Christ? Should we look for a continual line of leaders appointed consecutively from Christ down through the ages? How can we test them, and find the true Church?
Selecting the Ministry
In today's information age we can only marvel at the number of groups and churches in the world using the Name of Christ. This was prophesied to happen.
Matthew 24:4-5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (KJV)
Some have realised that the name must be according to Paul's usage.
2Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: (KJV)
1Thessalonians 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
Even when isolated to those who incorporate the words, "Church of God" or "Churches of God" in their name, they still number in the hundreds. Do they all have credibility? Are they all established by Christ? Is Christ divided? How can we test them, and find the true Church?
Continual line of appointments?
Some may feel that there should be a continual line of consecutive appointments from Christ down through the ages. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Sometimes a leader who takes over from another becomes corrupted, and leads the Church into apostasy. This happened at the end of every Church era through Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Let's investigate the events of the first Church apostasy.
Jude 3-4 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that yea should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (KJV)
The truth was being watered down, and eventually denied. They were led by some in the ministry to believe that grace means they can continue in their sin. These problems occurred so that the false members can be made known, for they will happily go with the apostasy.
1Corinthians 11:18-19 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (KJV)
Eventually the lampstand has to be taken from the appointed leader, and given to another.
Revelation 2:5 Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (RSV)
Therefore, it occurred in times past that Christ had to resurrect the Church from death with a new leader.
Speaking of his Father, the Rock on which the Church is built, with Christ being the cornerstone, Christ said to Peter, a pebble at that time:
Matthew 16:17-18 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (KJV)
This implies that at times Christ will have to prevent the Church from virtual extinction or death, signified by the term “hell”, i.e. the grave. The Church leadership would have been considered spiritually dead and unauthorised to appoint a new leader acceptable to Christ. The apostate leader would be expelling other truthful leaders, as has happened.
3John 9-10 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. (KJV)
When the Church has reached this state, where even the human head has sunken into apostasy, he will obviously not appoint a new leader who will prove the previous leader wrong. Therefore, in the changeover from one Church era through Revelation 2 and 3 to another, a new human leader has to be appointed from the ranks of the faithful remnant that has been expelled by the apostate leader. The authority to appoint leaders is vested in the Church and the function of baptism is the means of passing the Holy Spirit. God said to the Church both to the elders and to the brethren:
Matthew 16:18-20 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (RSV)
The apostles together formed a body of leadership. The argument here has been used to develop a case for the preeminence of Peter. However, we should refer to the texts in Ephesians 2:20 and Revelation 21:14.
The play on words here is on the Aramaic form for rock and pebble. The words are Petros for Rock and petras for pebble, which referred to Peter.
The true Rock of the Church, the Kepha, was God and it was on God that Christ would build, and this point is deliberately obscured by a Trinitarian system that sees itself uniting under a Papal structure for survival. Peter was appointed bishop of Antioch and most lists no longer acknowledge he was ever bishop of Rome (cf. the List of the Popes and Anti-Popes ).
The power was formally vested by Christ in the seventy at their ordination, and then finally on the entire Church and whatsoever the Church ordains that is bound in heaven (see Luke 10:1,17). The entire fallen Host and demons were subject to the seventy. They became the governing council of the Church, which took over the power and function that formally had vested in the Sanhedrin of Israel. From this point, Israel also became a spiritual body and Salvation was extended to the Gentiles.
We then see that power was vested in the entire body of the Church. We see that it appointed its leaders and they were ordained by the leadership within this framework. The power to bind and loose is committed to the Church.
Matthew 18:15-20 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (RSV)
The authority to bind and loose is vested in the Church as a whole and its appointed leadership. The concept that authority is passed from man to man is one of magic and is not true Christian doctrine (see the paper ).
Therefore we can not expect a continual progression of appointments from Christ to the present time. We will have to prove the truth and so prove where the true Church is.
Matthew 7:15-21 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits yea shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (KJV)
We are instructed to search for the ministry that obeys God, the Father, and keeps all His Commandments.
Ministers of the complete Word
The prophets of old have already given us guidance. The ministry of God and His anointed Son will live and teach according to every Word of God, implying His Law.
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (KJV)
The true ministry will live by every Word of God.
Matthew 4:3-4 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (KJV)
They will obey and teach all the commandments of God. They will understand that Christianity is to become like Christ, in the love of God and His Commandments.
Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (KJV)
Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (KJV)
In this we have enough guidance to find the true Church. For instance, it will be a Sabbath-keeping Church, celebrating the New Moons and Holy Days within the Calendar of God (see ). We see that the general population criticised the original Church for doing so.
Colossians 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (KJV)
The Church has been an identifiable body over two millennia, persecuted for its obedience to the Commandments of God and the Testimony or faith of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:17; 14:12) (see the paper ).
Establishing the ministry
How is the ministry established? Does the Bible give us guidance? Is there a certain selection procedure whereby members of the true Church are appointed to the ministry?
Yes, there is. We will investigate this.
The first apostles of Christ
We see the first appointment in the replacement of Judas.
Acts 1:15-20 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17 he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” 18 (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, ”‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ”‘May another take his place of leadership.’ (NIV)
Now we will see the selection process.
The highest human position
First of all, we need to understand that when Christ walked the earth, he was the highest authority in human form. He told, (or ordered) the apostles to join him, as they had been given to him by God, who chooses all of the elect and gives them to Christ. He personally informed them of their calling. God chose the twelve apostles. Christ informed them of their appointments. However, Christ did not physically present himself to them at this point to personally select the replacement apostle. Furthermore, the other eleven apostles had equal authority at this point. Therefore no one of them could simply appoint a person under him, for this twelfth apostle had to be of equal rank over one of the twelve tribes.
Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
So, at this highest human position, God's Will had to be searched. This was done in a twofold process.
1. Set the selection criteria
2. If more than one qualifies, cast the lots to seek the choice from the next higher authority, which is Christ.
This was done in accordance with God’s law, as the high priests had always been chosen, namely by lot.
Setting Selection Criteria
Firstly, the selection criteria had to be established.
Acts 1:21-22 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (NIV)
If only one person can be proposed who fulfils the criteria, then he would have been the choice. But sometimes more than one person fulfils the criteria, and since the next higher authority was Christ, the matter had to be resolved by divine miracle in this case.
Acts 1:23-26 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
This is the way in which the highest current human position is placed. Obviously the twelve apostles already filled their positions, and they are not available anymore. Those posts are taken. However, through the eras of the Church as per Revelation 2 and 3, a new human leader had to be chosen, for we all die eventually. The seventy formed the leadership of the Church for two thousand years and these also form the 70 plus 2 making up the 144,000 of the administration of God (see the paper ).
What about the rest of the ministry?
Once the human leadership has been established, he establishes the rest of the ministry by appointments. Again a selection criteria is set and judged by the fruits of the suggested leaders. Those leaders selected are then appointed.
Acts 6:1-6 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look yea out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
We also see that this process of setting selection criteria and appointing leaders was followed as the Church grew.
Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
Therefore a minister can not be self-appointed. He has to be approved by the true saints who make up the body of the Church, and appointed by the leadership under authority of the Church.
Sometimes there is no congregation to propose a leader from their ranks. Sometimes there is only one person in a geographical site. It is clear that there is then only one choice.
People often wonder about the following scripture:
Hebrews 5:4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. (KJV)
The question then arises as to how one can be sure if a man is called by God to be a minister. However, this is not quite what this verse is about. Let's view it in context:
Hebrews 5:1-10 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: 2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. 3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. 4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. 5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. 6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. (KJV)
In this section Paul is talking about the high priest, the one who offers for the sin of people. Only Christ can, and has fulfilled this role. Therefore verse 5 deals with the anointed one, Christ, the Messiah, and not the current earthly human ministry. All the ministry of the Church stand for Christ, as priests of the order of Melchisedek, for no one can be High Priest of an order that has no priests. Thus the elect are themselves all of the order of Melchisedek as co-heirs with Christ (see the paper ).
After the leadership of an era has gone into apostasy, Christ has to resurrect the Church and establish new leadership. Members who know the true doctrines delivered to the original saints of the first century select potential leaders among them based on certain criteria as specified in the Bible.
1Timothy 3:1-7 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
If there is more than one person who appears to be on the same level of spiritual development, then the leaders must cast the lot after prayer and fasting, so that God through Christ may select the leader.
This leader then asks for proposals from the congregations for leaders, and he or his council then appoint people based on their fruits, depending on what is practical.
In the case of the Church acting within its operations, as the Christian Churches of God and its subsidiaries in all nations, the procedure is established by written constitution and the powers are vested in the leadership of the Church. The leaders as Coordinators-General hold all the ranks and duties and appointments of the Church as apostles and bishops, evangelists and pastors, so that they may appoint others to those duties in accordance with the expressed will of the Church.
They are themselves determined by lot every Sabbatical year at the reading of the Law, in accordance with the law of God.
We are called to be a nation of kings and priests, an holy people (Rev. 1:6; 5:10) and it is written that every one who is to be king must prepare for himself the Law of God (Deut. 17:18) so that he will follow the commandments of God in his appointment. So it is with us and so it is ordained in the Churches of God and enshrined in our laws.
All of the ministry hold their office for the benefit of the Church and are credentialed as determined by the Church.
There are two ranks of ministry, Elders or Bishops and Deacons. These officers may carry out the functions for which they are ordained.
A Bishop or Elder may hold any office of the Church and may ordain others to an office as determined by the Church.
A Deacon may hold the offices of Evangelist, or Pastor, or Administrator and may perform the sacraments of the Church to which he is credentialed, within the limitations imposed on him by the Bishop or Elder (see the ).
Deacons have the power of baptism as did Phillip in Acts 8:26-40. In some instances the bishops may direct deacons to baptise, and reserve the laying on of hands if there is a serious problem, as was the case with Simon Magus (cf. Acts 8:12-17). However, it is not normally done that way. Deacons baptise in their own right. No matter what is done it is done for the glory of God, in accordance with His will and for His elect.
No matter what is done let it be done in all humility and let all be subject to those appointed to serve them.
Love one another and let all serve in the meekness and love of God.
Numbers 8:24-26 “This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: 25 And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: 26 But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service.” Thus shalt thou do onto the Levites touching their charge.”
A man must be thirty before he can teach. Christ himself was no exception to this. In the Levitical system they entered into service at twenty-five and ceased at fifty. After fifty they stayed in the ministry of the brethren.
However, ordination can take place before thirty, as was the case with Timothy who was ordained prior to this prescribed age, which we see from 1Timothy 4:12. We can deduce this was necessitated because he had to be sent on a mission and so required ordination.
1Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (KJV)
We have the concept of authority and the ministry and we also have the concept of the use of women in the Church. In 1Timothy 2:11-13 we read:
1Timothy 2:11-14 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve; 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (KJV)
The point being made is that Deaconesses were appointed in the Church for service in the instruction of women. They were not allowed to instruct or have authority over men, but they were labouring in the Church and they did instruct women and have instructed women for centuries.
The question of instruction in the Church can be seen from 1Timothy chapter 5 (KJV).
1Timothy 5:1-2 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him
as a father; and the younger men as brethren; 2 The elder
women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
The text then goes through the structure of widows in the church and the proper ordering of the people in the church (cf. vv. 3-16).
Continuing 1Timothy 5:
17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
The elders in the church laboured in different fields. Those who were labouring in the word and doctrine (teaching and organising) were considered worthy of honour.
18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
This whole question of elders being given a reward is for various tasks and they are allocated tasks within the church. It is improper to use an elder of the church with muzzling, i.e. not giving him a reward.
Also in 1Timothy 5:19ff. we read in terms of charges.
1Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but
before two or three witnesses.
These things are important for good order. As we understand the elders of the church have been targets over the years.
20 that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. 21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. 22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. 23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. 24 Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. 25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.
The structure of this text is keeping the ministry in honour; keeping them under charge; showing no respect of persons in all of the ministry and laying charges against the ministry with due care. All of these things are done for order in the church.
The order of the Church is upheld by the ministry and the brethren supporting them, so that it is not a divided church, but they all work together for the glory of God. These things are important in understanding what we are to do with the ministry in their selection, their training and their long-term supervision and assistance by all of the brethren.
We should all be praying for the ministry and working together to help one another in the service of God. Each one of us should be supportive of our ministers, not easily making accusations and charges against them and certainly not seeking to find fault and undermine the ministry.