Gospel Order, Part 3

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1Cor.xiv,33.

We stated in our last, that to arrive at, and preserve gospel order will be a work of labor, care, and mental suffering to those who are called to labor for the spiritual good of the flock. And that it is of the highest importance that those who go forth to teach the Word should be in union in sentiment and in their course of action. It is evident that the reverse of this would cause unhappy divisions, and confusion among the flock.

We will now briefly notice the calling, qualifications, and the duties of a gospel minister. And first, he must be called to this responsible station by the Great Head of the church. In the morning after Jesus had “continued all night” in the mountain, “in prayer to God,” he “called unto him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve.” Luke vi,13. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” Mark iii,14. And as their Master sent them to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he said; “Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matt.x,16.

And as our Lord was about to ascend into heaven, “the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain, where Jesus had appointed them; and when they saw him, they worshiped him; but some were afraid. And Jesus came, and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matt.xxviii,16-20.

Thus we see that the first apostles received their commission from no less authority than the Lord Jesus Christ. Says the apostle Paul: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Gal.i,11,12. Again he says: “Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man; but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father.” Paul received his commission also from the Great Head of the church. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,” etc. 1Cor.x,2.

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 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. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Eph.iv,11-16.

Here is order set forth, its objects, and its happy results. Pastors and teachers are among those given of God to accomplish the glorious work named by the Apostle. It will not do to say that this scripture applied to the first century alone; for these callings and gifts were to continue “till we all come to the unity of the faith,” etc. It is evident that the church has never arrived at the state of unity and perfection here mentioned. She has ever been, and still is, more or less “tossed to and fro.” Therefore these callings and gifts still remain with the church, though in her confusion and pride they have been nearly hid from sight. It will not do for professed teachers and pastors to say that these gifts and callings belonged alone to the first century. Not long since while in conversation with a minister, he took this ground. We then told him that if the gifts and callings such as evangelists, pastors, prophets and teachers, were confined to the first century, then the commission that he had taken upon himself run out about 1800 years ago! He had no more to say on the point.

But the main point before us is, that God calls men to the work of the ministry. It is the great and dreadful God who singles them out, and sets them in the church to preach the gospel. It is perdition to refuse his call. It is certain ruin to heedlessly run before being sent. In a matter of such infinite moment as the work of the gospel ministry, God will not leave the consecrated soul in doubt. Those who stand where they can hear the voice of the Lord, and are willing to obey, will hear distinctly if God calls them. The evidences to such will be of such a character as to remove all doubt. They may be tempted for the moment, as on all points of revealed truth, yet when the evidences of their call to the work of the ministry are called up, temptations will flee.

And not only will the called and chosen one feel on the subject, but the church, if standing right, will also feel the burden of the matter. The church will feel it, if God is selecting one of the number for the gospel ministry. How natural and reasonable that the body should feel deeply, while the Lord may be rolling upon one of its members the weight of the responsible work of laboring for the eternal interests of men. And while the individual may feel utterly incompetent for the work, as he sees his own frailty, and, also, the importance of the work, and may shrink back from his duty, the church will feel to urge him out into the field.

Those who may wish to teach, whom God has not called, usually feel well qualified for the work. They have confidence in themselves, and venture to go forward without the counsel and approbation of the church.

“How ready is the man to go, whom God hath never sent!
How tim’rous, diffident and slow, God‘s chosen instrument!”

“Go teach all nations,” said Christ to the eleven, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Here baptism is closely connected with teaching. Those who go forth to teach should, then, baptize those who repent and believe. Why should repenting, believing souls wait six months, or even one day, to see whether they will backslide or not before being baptized? Rather let them have the benefit of this, and all other gospel ordinances, to keep them from backsliding. This seems to be gospel order.

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you.” Acts ii,28. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.” Verse 41. “But when they believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.” Chap.viii,12. Read the account of Philip and the eunuch in verses 26-40; also that of Saul in chapter ix. As soon as he received sight, he was baptized. When the Holy Ghost fell on Peter’s Gentile hearers, he said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?” Lydia, who heard Paul preach by a river’s side on the Sabbath day, was immediately baptized “and her household.” Chap.xvi,13-15. The jailor was baptized in the same night he believed. But candidates for baptism should ever have the sacredness of the ordinance set before them, and that in being buried, they profess to be dead to this world, and that the act is a sign of their faith, not only in the death and resurrection of Christ, but also in the resurrection of all the saints, in Christ‘s likeness, at his second coming.

Who should administer the ordinance of baptism? We have seen that this ordinance is closely connected with teaching. “Teach all nations, baptizing them,” said our Lord. Then those, and those only, should administer this ordinance who have been called of God to teach his word. {December 20, 1853 JWe, ARSH 189.7}
Jesus ordained twelve from among his disciples “that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” Said Paul to Titus, “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.” Titus i,5. In verse 7, an elder is called a bishop. He is a true shepherd, or one who is to take the watch-care of the flock, and administer the ordinances of the gospel. Christ is called [1Pet.ii,25] the “Shepherd and Bishop” of souls. He is also called the “Chief Shepherd.”

Said Paul, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them: that they profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. 1Tim.iv,11-16. “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” 2Tim.i,6.

From this we learn that the order of the gospel is that men who are called of God to teach and baptize, should be ordained, or set apart to the work of the ministry by the laying on of hands. Not that the church has power to call men into the ministry, or that ordination makes them ministers of Jesus Christ; but it is the order of the gospel that those who are called to the ministry should be ordained, for important objects.

1. That those who go out into a cold world to teach the Word of God may know that they have the approbation and sympathy of ministering brethren and of the church.

2. To produce and secure union in the church. The laying on of hands should be done, we think in behalf of the church. A united expression of the church in this thing would certainly have a tendency to unite the people of God. It would also lead them to realize the situation of the ordained preacher, inquire for his wants, and follow him into the Lord‘s vineyard with their prayers.

Union is strength. And where there is union of action, the union is real and abiding. Each will then take some responsibility, and labor cheerfully in the common cause of truth. But where there is not union of action, there is but little lasting interest, and but very little accomplished. What is every body’s business is no body’s business. The united action of the church relative to those who take the watch-care of the flock, would have a powerful influence to unite the church in love.

3. To shut a door against Satan. In no one thing has the gospel suffered so much as by the influence of false teachers. We can safely say, from the experience of several years, that the cause of present truth has suffered more in consequence of those who have taken upon themselves the work of teaching, whom God never sent, than in any other thing. In sending out these men, Satan has caused reproach to be bro’t upon the precious cause. “But,” says one, “you must leave such with the Lord.” Very well. We will, as Paul left the copper-smith with the Lord. Paul was not silent, however, as to his evils. He says to Timothy: “Alexander the copper-smith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works; of whom be thou ware also.” 2Tim.iv,14. When we have done our duty, then we can leave such men with the Lord to dispose of, and not before. Paul raised the warning. So will the faithful watchman whenever he sees danger.

Some have taken it upon themselves to baptize who profess no calling to teach. Others have gone out to teach the word whose lives were not correct at home. Both have injured the cause. We will not stop to dwell upon painful particulars.

To save the flock from imposition of this kind, the gospel plan is sufficient. Let those who are called of God to teach and baptize, be ordained according to the Word, and known abroad as those in whom the body have confidence. By this course the greatest cause of evils that has existed among us as a people, will be removed. Our preaching brethren West and East now wade through prejudices among the people, caused by men who have traveled quite extensively, yet not called of God; who manifested much zeal for the present truth, but exhibited no sound judgment in the presentation of it. They will testify that much of their labor is to break down the prejudice caused by some of those who ran before they were sent. Brethren, shall we still mourn over these things, and make no effort to prevent them? God forbid. We will rather strive for the order of the gospel, which will heal the breach already made, and prevent these heart-rending evils for the future. Let us shut this door against Satan.

The eyes of many are upon us brethren, and you know that some are ready to report our faults. Lies are made against Sabbath-keepers, and some Advent Ministers and others also, love them exceedingly. This they show by their activity in reporting them. Let this work together for our good. It certainly will. We should be glad that we are watched, even for our faults. Others, who are convinced that we have the truth, are watching to see what effect the truth is to produce in us. If they see with us, love, meekness and good order, they will take their stand with us. The destiny of many hangs upon the course we pursue. God help us to rally around the standard of gospel order, that we may be in a position to rescue souls from impending ruin.

The necessary qualifications for a minister of the gospel are plainly stated in the Word. And if none were received as spiritual guides but those who come up to the gospel standard, the church would be saved the worst of all evils, a corrupt ministry, and would be saved most of the disorder and confusion now existing. Here is the place to begin to labor for gospel order. Those who lead out the flock of Christ must be men of God, fully qualified for the work.

Said Paul to his son Timothy: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre: but patient; not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” 1Tim.iii,1-7.

Many seem to desire the office of a bishop, or elder, who fail in many points named here by the Apostle. He must be “blameless,” “vigilant,” “sober,” “patient,” “not a brawler.” He must rule well his own house. How is it possible that the Holy Ghost should make a man an overseer of the precious flock, to rule over them, [Heb.xiii,17,] who knows not how, or neglects to govern his children at home? Here the Apostle appeals to our reason. And it seems the greatest absurdity that such a man should be called to rule the church. God does not call them. He will not trust souls to their care.

“Not a novice,” or one newly come to the faith, as the margin reads. The reason is given. “Lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” This is almost always the case with those who with little experience go out to teach, not called of God, neither approbated by the church. They have no real sense of the importance of the work, what it is to save souls; they do not see their own frailties, they become puffed up by Satan, who rejoices in the victories he gains through such persons.

“He must have a good report of them which are without.” There are men who preach the most unpopular truths of the Bible, who are blameless, and unbelievers, or those without, are constrained to give a good report of them. Such men have influence. An honest, strait-forward course, a holy life, gives them influence, and gives power to their preaching.

There are those who would teach the people who, by their careless lives and conversation, have destroyed their own influence. They have laid stumbling-blocks in the way of sinners. They have an evil report of those who are without. The best of men may have evil reports out against them; but they will soon live them down. Says the Saviour: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” Matt.v,10,11.

“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. On their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, or as a busy-body in other men’s matters.” 1Pet.iv,14,15.

“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. Having a good conscience: that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” Chap.iii,14-16.

“Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Chap.ii,12.

“For this is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” Verses 19,20.

“For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God: not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Titus i,7-9.

Let the above qualifications, pointed out by the Holy Ghost, be well considered. If they are necessary, and most certainly they are, then no one should presumptuously try to fill the place of a gospel minister without them. But let men of God go forth with these qualifications, and they will have a holy influence on the flock. Order will be restored, and the church will be “like a city set on a hill.” Her light will SO shine before men, that they seeing her good works will glorify God.

The duties of the gospel minister are also plainly stated. Mark well the solemn charge to Timothy, given by the apostle Paul, as the time of his departure was at hand, and he was ready to be offered. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 2Tim.iv,1-5.

To preach the word, then, is the duty of the gospel minister, instead of preaching “fables.” And there never was a time that called for the plain word of God to be preached as at this day, when fables abound. The word exposes them. The word will stand in the coming storm that will sweep away man-made creeds and fables, as with the besom of destruction.

Men will not endure sound doctrine. They love teachers that turn them from the plain truth to fables. How much more pleasing to many, to hear of a temporal millennium, than the Lord‘s coming. The fable of a first-day Sabbath is pleasing, while to observe the Lord‘s holy day is by many considered quite a disgrace. It is especially necessary that the servant of God should at this time watch in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of his ministry.

“Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned: that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” Titus ii,6-8.

“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.” Acts xx,28.

We may also learn something of the awful, responsible duties of those called to speak the word of the Lord by the following texts, although addressed to the whole church. “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.” Heb.xiii,7. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.” Verse 17.

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God‘s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1Pet.v.1-4.

— James White, Review and Herald, 12/20/1853

< Part 2 | Part 4 >

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We'd appreciate it if you would take the time to go over our comment guidelines, especially if you are new here.