Acts The Church and Ministerial Training

Kaitiaki's picture

Basically this is just a "what do we learn about the Church from Acts?" thread. As we watch Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas building the Church in Acts, what can we learn about their concept of the Church as a whole? Robert suggested my original plan was too cumbersome so asked me to create new threads.

Thread Moderator: Kaitiaki

There are two aspects to this thread: the training of the local congregation (for the work of ministry - as in Ephesians) and the theological training of ministers (or pastors).

Acts shows us local congregations that trained young men (and women) for every appropriate aspect of Church work. That included the work of ministry and missions. Discuss this statement. Do you think it is valid? What implications (if any) are there for the present system in almost every denomination of sending young men to a seminary to be trained? How does your Church seek to apply those implications in the way they train ministers and missionaries?

CLARK E. WADE's picture

What we learn from Paul's concept of the Church?

"As we watch Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas building the Church in Acts, what can we learn about their concept of the Church as a whole?"

This turned out a little longer than I anticipated, but my excitement at this very question is hard to curtail. My discoveries in the Word of God regarding Paul's methodology in planting and equipping churches is far different than most of our modern concepts or practices of the church today. I'm excited this venture here at CCEL is dedicated to the proposition of digging into the scriptures to see what was going on then, and what we can learn from apostolic ministry as compared to our own ideas, methods, or practices.

So what was Paul's "concept of the Church?" In the mind of Paul, the church is Christ. Actually, this is what the church is in the mind of our Lord, and this was something that Paul understood.

The writer of the book of Acts was the Holy Spirit through Luke and Acts 5:14 says this:

"More {and} more there were being "ADDED TO THE LORD" those who believed [those who acknowledged Jesus as their Savior and DEVOTED THEMSELVES TO HIM joined and gathered with them], crowds both of men and of women..."

In being "added to the church" they were "added to the Lord" as well. The church and the Lord are truly one. The church is Christ! When Paul met our Lord on the road to Damascus, Jesus said to him regarding his persecution of the church:

"Why do you persecute ME?"

The church is Christ!

The Leader of the church is Christ. The power behind the early church was a very simple structure that allowed the whole church to focus on Christ as their Leader rather than upon human leaders dominating their meetings together. This is what Peter and the apostles replied to Sanhedrin who were demanding that they stop teaching in the Name of Jesus (Acts 5:31-32):

"God exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver, in order to grant repentance to Israel and to bestow forgiveness and release from sins. And we are witnesses of thse things, and the Holy Spirit is also, Whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him."

The real equipping leadership of the early church was through the Holy Spirit:

"So the church throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was edified--growing in wisdom, virtue and piety--and waking in the respect and reverential fear of the Lord AND IN THE CONSOLATION AND EXHORTATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, continued to increase and was multiplied."

This was in fulfllment of Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit as His only successor, in His place:

"However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say, it is profitable--good, expedient, advantageous--for you that I go away, Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you--into close fellowship with you. But if I go away, I will send Him to you--to be in close fellowship with you." (John 16:7)

It is the Holy Spirit, our Lord says, that will come to the believers to "testify regarding Me," and it was this Holy Spirit that the disciples were told by our Lord to "wait for the promise". The actual, viable, virtual presence of Christ in the assembly was everything to the early believers. The major characteristic of which they were known can be summed up in our Lord's own words:

"Wherever two or three gather togeter in my name, there I am in theri midst."

This "promise of the Holy Spirit," Peter said, wasn't just for the early church but Peter preached:

"For the promise is to you and your children, and to and for all that aare far away, even to as many as the Lord our God invites and bids come to Himself." Acts 2:39)

How far we have fallen from this dependennce on the Holy Spirit, the Promise, is evident in the utter strangeness to our ears of John's exhortation to the church (1 John 2:27):

"As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and YOU DO NOT NEED ANYONE TO TEACH YOU. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him."

We really don't get it because we are accustomed to the idea of being fed milk of the Word of God through intermediaries, we call clergymen. "Milk" is sustenance that has been prepared, eaten, regurgitated by another person and given to others as food. Paul says we should be eating meat, that we should be hunting our food, which is Christ, rather than being dependent on what another person has eaten for our own nourishment.

But it was through this unction, this anointing, that the early believers mutually admonished one another. This is the key thing. There is one scripture in the entire New Testament that admonishes us to assemble together, and gives us the characteristic which should define such meetings (Hebrews 10:25)

"Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but ADMONISHING (WARNING, URGING, AND ENCOURAGING) ONE ANOTHER, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching."

Paul reemphasizes this in his letter to the Corinthian churches (I Cor. 14:26):

"What then, brethren, is [the right course]? When you meet together, EACH ONE has a hymn, a teaching, a disclosure of special knowledge or information, an utterance in a [strange] tongue, or an interpretation of it. [But] let everything be constructive and edifying and for the good of all."

I think the modern church has lost this sense of the Holy Spirit, the Headship of Jesus Christ, as being the Testifier, the Teacher, the One we look for, wait for, yearn for, in our meetings together, and speaking throughout His members, the members of the body of Christ. The focus of our meetings are on pulpits and sermons. I can't find this emphasis anywhere in the New Testament or in Paul's way of planting churches. Much of our way of doing things has been borrowed from the Greeks, in their oratory, and from the Jewish Synagogues, who gathered around the Torah. For this reason, the Jews were known as "the people of the book." Much of the evangelical community are also known as "the people of the book" but this wasn't so with the early church because the early Christians were known as the people of the Man, Jesus Christ!

I do not attend an institutional church, but I do listen to their sermons on the radio, and most often, what I hear are sermons about the bible, or biblical principles for living the good Christian life. The life of the church is Christ, but there are times I can hear an entire sermon and the name, the blessed name of our Lord Jesus Christ, cannot be found. The early Christians didn't preach a book, but they preached Jesus Chrsit:

"AS FOR myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom; for I resolved to KNOW NOTHING (to BE ACQUAINTED WITH NOTHING, to MAKE A DISPLAY OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF NOTHING, and to be CONSCIOUS OF NOTHING) AMONG YOU EXCEPT JESUS CHRIST (the Messiah) AND HIM CRUCIFIED (I Cor. 1:1-2)

The emphasis in the early church was never on one or two eloquent people to bring messages to a passive audience week after week and year after year. Beloved, this just can't be found or justified in scripture. The overwhelming method of teaching and admonishment came through the entire body of believers who had been properly equipped through apostolic ministry of Paul and his co-workers, including Timothy and Titus. It should be understood that the epistles to these co-workers have been improprely labeled "pastoral epistles," as it gives the mistaken idea that Timothy and Titus were pastors who gave sermons every week in their churches. We read into the scriptures our mistaken notions of the things we do today as what was going on then. These brothers were itinerant workers as was Paul who would go around to the different churches encouraging and equipping them to function together without their presence. The overwhelming emphasis of these apostolic workers was to encourage mutual functioning of each member together in the pursuit of Jesus Christ as the singular Head of the church. Human headship over the church might be presumed because of our own error, but this wasn't the case at all:

For example, Paul writes this to the believers in Rome (15:14):

"Personally I am satisfied about you," So, why was Paul "satisfied" with the Roman Christians? Listen to what he then writes: (because) my brethren, you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and COMPETANT TO ADMONISH AND COUNSEL AND INSTRUCT ONE ANOTHER ALSO."

No mention of listening to sermons here, but mutual functioning is what brought great "satisfaction" to Paul.

And there's Colossians 3:16:

"Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, AS YOU TEACH AND ADMONISH AND TRAIN ONE ANOTHER IN ALL INSIGHT AND INTELLIGENCE AND WISDOM [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts."

Again, no mention of listening to sermons but Paul is encouraging mutual functioning, edification of the saints, by the saints without the benefit of a professional clergy class which is so common today.

Paul emphasized such mutual functioning because our Lord ascended on high leading captivity captive givng "gifts" to men for the mutual edification of His body by the mutual functioning of all His members (I Corinthians 12:7):

"God has given to each one a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

Paul's method of church planting was to equip the saints for the work of the ministry in building up the body of Christ (Eph. 5:12). Paul's emphasis was on "each part, of the body of Christ, working properly in all its functions, growing to full maturity, building itself up in love" (Eph. 5:16). No where do we find Paul setting up ecclesiastical offices to officiate over the church of Christ, while the rest of the body of Christ sits mute and passive. For example, we also find this in Paul's letter to the Romans (15:4-8):

"For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use, So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another]. Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, LET US USE THEM: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching; He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness."

Again, no mention of listening to sermons, but of mutual edification.

Once one begins to see this, it completely revolutionizes his concept of the church. While I don't advocate people leaving the institutional church, I do advocate that the brethren begin taking these passages of scripture very seriously and learn to gather together to seek HIS presence, HIS Headship, HIS dominance, HIS centrality and supremacy without clergymen leading their meetings. We must go beyond bible studies so that we are no longer considered just "people of the book" but disciples of the Man, Jesus Christ. It is HIS voice we seek, HIS living presence in our midst (John 10:27):

"The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me."

Thanx brothers and sisters for your time and your prayerful consideration,

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the presence and fellowship in the Holy Spirit be with you all.