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?



I will try and take you up on your invitation to focus on the specific verses you cited. Still, the scripture you cited is very brief, save perhaps your snippet of Paul's sermon. If you want to focus like a laser on a particular scripture, you must broaden your scope. You have to know the landscape before you can appreciate the road.

II Tim. 3:16-17 writes that "every scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction...for correction of error and discipline in obedience..."

1) "every scripture" refers to the OLD TESTAMENT. Check the previous verse, and you will see that Paul is referring to the scriptures which Timothy has known since his childhood. It is a big jump to use this verse to support Pauline inerrancy, since as you pointed out (we'll get to this) the early church had no New Testament to rely on.

2) "God-breathed and profitable for instruction" does not mean "literally applicable in every circumstance regardless of context." When you begin with this verse as a major defense for your position, you're starting to substitute your interpretation of how scripture ought to be applied for the broad range of possible meanings. This seems to signal that you've let your desire to advance a certain movement color your understanding and presentation of scripture snippets.

It is important to recognize the particular situations scripture was intended to address. This passage is not written to defend the sacred nature of scripture, but rather to explain the proper role of scripture in the hands of a pastor. Timothy doesn't need to be persuaded that the Old Testament scriptures he learned as a child are holy and sacred--he needs to understand how to apply the scriptures as a pastor.

They make him wise unto salvation in Christ Jesus (vs 15); the theology of Christianity is necessary for pastors, including thorough education and spiritual development, which Timothy the Pastor had.

They are "profitable for doctrine," ie "useful in understanding and establishing orthodoxy." The Old Testament illuminates the dilemmas of the early church with the light of experience. The Old Testament can help with teaching Christians what is ideal moral behavior, teach about the nature of God (in order to make one wise unto salvation in Christ). The Old Testament provides framework which can be called upon in formulating all kinds of answers to questions which had not yet originated. But the word "profitable" is not the phrase "entirely sufficient."

The Old Testament is not sufficient in the construction of doctrine--if it were, there would be no need for Christianity. Orthodox Judaism would've been just fine on its own. As I'm sure you'd agree, for the Christian the Old Testament is not complete without gospel of Christ, which is (in part) that the life and death of Jesus Christ have fulfilled the Old Testament, and the Spirit of God had been granted to the Gentiles and Jews alike. Accordingly, the authority of the Old Testament became subject to the commonly-shared Spirit of God, which resulted in the application of broader (looser) interpretations of scripture, based on the essence of passages rather than their literal, contextual application; the question ceased to be "What do the scriptures instruct?" but rather "What did the Author intend to accomplish in his audience?" It is ALWAYS necessary that Christians ask themselves this question when they want to apply scriptural doctrine in a present context. What effect does the writer (or Writer) intended to have upon his audience? This is the Spirit of the Writer, the Spirit of God.

And in this passage, Paul declares that the scriptures can be used to bolster or support the Christian imperative to change the behavior of the wicked into the behavior of the righteous, by changing the character of the wicked into the character of the righteous. He does not say that scripture can be wrested away from context to support all arguments; he does say that scriptures (in the Old Testament, specifically) in context can shed light on appropriate religious response to spiritual questions. Without the context of scripture, doctrine supported by snippets fails to meet biblical criteria for scriptural authority in religious action. These types of doctrines, theologically supported by the integration of disparately-intentioned scripture, are authoritative only to those who wish to follow them. They are refutable on the structural criteria established in the scriptures.

"Don't neglect to assemble together but ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER." Heb. 10:25

Hebrews 10:22-25 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Paraphrase: Let us continue in confident development, because we have been forgiven for our baser instincts, and baptized into the faith. We need to continue declaring our faith with consistency, because God will do He promised. Also, think of one another, and push each other to be better and better people. Be faithful in gathering together, unlike some, so that you can improve one another, especially since you know the big day is right around the corner."

The paraphrase is intended to shed light on how I see the passage; I don't consider it a perfect translation, but the general concepts are sufficient.

This passage teaches that groups of Christians need to gather together again and again to sustain the Christian community in a hostile environment; it does not suffice for extrapolating concrete doctrine about how people gather together, with what regularity and in what intervals, with what kind of order or non-order. As long as there is exhortation and encouragement occurring in the Christian community, as long as all people in the community have interaction with other Christians, there is no violation of scriptural precedent in an "Order of Service" in a large church, nor in a small group service meeting without leadership, nor in informal gatherings of Christians outside of a definite church format--by this verse, a "Men's Meeting" consisting of a BBQ and genuine conversation falls under the moniker of "church."

"I am satisfied about you my brethren that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and INSTRUCT ONE ANOTHER." Romans 15:14

Romans 15:13-15 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God.

You use this verse to support the claim that Paul was declaring that Christians are smart enough and spiritual enough to teach each other whatever they need to know without outside help, that somehow this proves there is no need for leadership.

Paul is wrapping it up in Romans, saying goodbye to the Romans which hear his letter. He is explaining directly his motives in writing. He says, "Personally, I'm convinced that you are full of goodness and possess all the knowledge you need, and are fully capable of reaching correct answers to your questions on the power of your own collaboration."

BUT Paul goes onto say, "Still, I was so direct with my own teaching because I've been called by God to preach unto the Gentiles." Although some Christians--specifically these cosmopolitan, Hellenized Jews and Gentiles in Rome--had the ability to self-instruct, Paul was 1) Appointed to teach 2) Aided by his teaching those who were capable of doing it, because by teaching the body he can improve those who require aid. There is a deep need in the church for this kind of leadership, which is committed to sustaining the healthy autonomy of Christian groups as they develop, and not determined to preserve its supremacy. But this is leadership, nonetheless, and not all are appointed to lead.

"His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints that THEY (not the work of a clergy class) should do the work of ministerng toward building up Christ's body." Eph. 4:12

Ephesians 4:11-15 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 fulness 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:

Paraphrase: "Some are called to be missionaries; and some, visionaries; and some, preachers; and some, shepherds and teachers, for the purpose of developing individual saints, for sustaining of the church infrastructure, and for the benefit of the entire group."

Right here, in the preceding passage to the one you cited, is established the existence of different roles in a church, callings on individuals to lead the group, to instruct the group. This requires a level of authority granted to an office, a submission to those in authority, so that their guidance and teaching and edification does not fall on deaf, rebellious ears. This scripture is written to specifically remind people that not everyone is equipped to act in every or any such capacity.

Vs 12-15 These offices exist precisely to build up the church and unify it. Without these offices, the church collapses. These offices create a fuller communal vision of Christ, providing a stable base for Christian development when men with dishonorable intentions attempt manipulation. But the authority of office must be exercised with love (and all the respect that entails) so that those who need instruction now will spiritually develop until they no longer need instruction from anyone but Christ.

Authoritative structure is only healthy when it teaches one how to govern ones self. All else leads to failure, dissonance, rebellion, and contradiction. So are there pastors that fail, with messiah complexes, with domination and power issues? Absolutely. But that still doesn't invalidate pastors or leadership or the need to submit to decisions regarding the group when gathered together with the group.

"Let the word spoken by Christ hasve its home in you in all its richness as you TEACH AND ADMONISH AND TRAIN ONE ANOTHER in all insight and intelligence..." Col. 3:16

Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

While psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are methods of worship, notice that these things are conducted in a group; the advice is to group-worship using music to collectively reverence God, but to also carry this sacred behavior to all aspects of word and deed; this is instruction about how religious ritual leads to spiritual development, about bringing about in the Body through music that which will transform them into new people and sustain their Christian faith beyond the confines of group settings.

The scope of this passage seems to be so much wider than "the proper format to have church." But at best for your argument, the principle established is that whatever formal worship takes place, it should produce transformation. CS Lewis tells of a powerful moment when he, sick and tired of boring ordered church and stale hymns, realized the fervent, simple man across the aisle, singing with his whole heart, was 10 times the Christian he was. It is a heart matter, not a technical matter. A Christian seeking God in an ordered church service will find Him; a Christian determined that He is not there will not see Him. "You shall search for me, and find me, when you search with all your heart."

"What's the right course? When you assemble together, EACH ONE OF YOU has a song, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, and interpretation of tongues." I Cor. 14:26

This is a reproach, not instruction. But it is part of a powerful passage supporting group participation in service. But the point of the passage is not that everyone MUST participate, but that all things should be done "decently and in order." Christians shouldn't be so eager to share their insights, experiences, musings, and understandings that they trample on the insights of others. This particular passage amounts to "Wait your turn." It orders services which have multiple speakers; it does not order that service to have everyone speak.

"So LET TWO OR THREE PROPHETS SPEAK, (sounds pretty clear-cut to me) those inspired to preach or teach, and let the rest pay attentiona and weigh and discern what is said." I Cor. 14:29

Again, the point is not that many should speak, but that the number of speakers be limited, so that the majority of the congregation learns from a few. The contextual demands of this verse are satisfied by a church which has Minister A preach one service, Preacher B speak at another service, and Teacher C at another service, while the rest of the congregation devotes their energies to pondering the messages. Nothing here says that every time the speakers must be different, or that all saints will be called to preach publicly. It only prevents leadership from expanding so much that church becomes a bureaucratic nightmare and a hierarchal tangle. Keep it simple, Paul says. Rely on a handful of wise leaders, and let them speak.

Question: And what of "bible exposition." The early Christians didn't have the bible as we know it. Is there a passage where we can find the early church gathering together around a bible expositor, or lectures on the bible?

Yes. They didn't have our Bible, but they had a Bible. It was called the Old Testament, and it was the frequent subject of examination, in the gospels, in the epistles, and in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul exhorts Timothy to use the scriptures to make people wise unto salvation and to persuade his congregation to act like Christians.

Paul only had one sermon, and it was this:

"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 [concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men] 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. 2:1-2

Paul says he didn't come to the Corinthians without lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom, but he also says "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you." 1 Corinthians 9:22-23. Paul approached one congregation with simplicity and boldness. But look at Romans. He approaches them with careful legal arguments, high language, and deep philosophical analysis of scripture, all to present a sophisticated argument for the Lordship of Christ Jesus.

So when he says, "For I resolved to know nothing among you except JESUS CHRIST (the Messiah) AND HIM CRUCIFIED," you have to remember that he had a specific strategy for approaching this particular strata of Hellenistic culture. He actually goes on to say (after that particularly moving statement) "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 1 Corinthians 2:6-7."

"Still," says Paul, "we do teach complex concepts in the circles of developed Christians--not wisdom based in traditional philosophy or knowledge, but we speak about the mysterious, foundational, eternal, glorious wisdom God has imparted to us." He speaks of the Spirit, teachings of which are deep and complex and reserved for those prepared to handle it. Paul affirmed his desire to preach the simple gospel among the undeveloped, but acknowledges that privately the theology of the gospel gets more and more advanced from individual to individual. Paul approached the Corinthians in a simple manner because he teaches different audiences differently, not because simplicity is the preferable format. When Paul spoke at Mars hill, reports Luke in Acts, he spoke with deep philosophical eloquence and carefully-crafted, complex logic. Concluding from one isolated passage that Paul condemns formal training or instruction, or the office of instructor, or pastor, or preaching as a central element of church services is to ignore much evidence to the contrary, evidence presented above. Every congregation must be managed appropriately, which is not the same as uniformly.

Well, that covers the verses you wanted to focus on, though the issue of an "Order of Service" never surfaces, and I'd hoped to address that more. I eagerly await your response--I spent waaaaay too much time on this :)

Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life;
And these are they which bear witness of me;
And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life. (John 5:39-40)