Prayer or Politics? (Politicking in the Church)

Prayer or Politics?
Robert Wurtz II 

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:1–4 KJV) 

As we begin the quest to elect a new president in the United States, I wish to turn our attention to our passage to help identify politicians who are operating within the churches of God. Whether running for the president of the United States or some office in the churches, the strategies are nearly identical; and they are as old as Satan himself. Denominations create “offices” not knowing that this will almost guarantee that a dangerous and divisive political element has been introduced along with it.

James answers a question that is on many peoples’ minds these days who attend denominational churches, “where are all of these fightings coming from? Why all the strife and division? Why can we never seem to come into unity?” Notice that James practically assumes that there are “wars and fightings” among God’s people (James 4:1). He identifies the trouble-makers as “friends of the world” and “enemies of God” (James 4:4).

Let’s make it plain from the beginning that practicing politics in the churches of God is pure worldliness. Jesus warned the Disciples about worldly power structures commanding them, “It shall not be so among you.” We are not to seek to be the “greatest” or set up offices where a man can be the “greatest” and voted on every two or four years. Did Paul and Barnabas get voted on every few years? How about Peter? There is no example in the New Testament of such behavior  but this has not stopped many Evangelicals from doing it (Matthew 20:24-28). The only thing worse than creating the office to begin with is to afterward covet holding it  knowing it’s not supposed to exist. One of the most “unChristlike” things a person can do is covet an “office” within the churches.

Unlike the procedure in the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit separated ministers to the works that He called them to do, men have set up a democracy within denominations, and it’s dreadful parliamentary procedure akin to Western nation-states. The apostles would have trembled at the thought, but in modern times men have come to believe that democracy is God’s way. Some even believe that casting lots is casting votes. Others suggest that casting lots is a less spiritual way of ascertaining the mind of God than what we see later in the Acts. This may be; but have we somehow confused democracy with what was done in the book of acts? I believe we have. 

Moreover, we ought to really ask ourselves, “Do we truly think we can improve on God’s way of setting up ministry?” I suggest that God is willing to sit back and wait for us to realize that our way is creating a total disaster and maybe — just maybe we will be willing to return to the word of God and do things biblically and not “worldly.” That’s right, “worldly”… the way the world does things.   

While many preach against “worldly” living they ignore the fact that politics in ministry is as “worldly” of practice as the most liberal church on earth. In fact, James calls the promoters of this type of church politics not prophets and priests, but adulterers and adulteresses (friends of the world). When men set a Christian organization up like God’s enemy would, is there any wonder He would call their actions adultery and the parties involved adulterers? Heaven doesn’t operate like a Gentile power structure  nor should the churches of God.   


Notice how James identifies the problem saying, Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Clearly, the problem is lust warring inside the people who are causing the “wars and fightings” among the saints. It’s the same thing that caused a stir in Matthew 20:24. This could be lust for power; lust for money; lust for popularity; lust for control; etc. The war of fleshly lusts raging inside the person not only “wars against their own soul” (1 Peter 2:11), but it spills over into the churches to destroy them as well. In order to get what they want, the “luster” will fight, war, and kill. In centuries past this was quite literal. In modern times, the warfare is different. In fact, it’s the same drama playing out in the run up to the presedential elections right now in America. 

Prayer or Politics?

When a person prays for something they are coveting and God does not answer that prayer, the coveting one is tempted to take matters into their own hands. If it is money or merchandise — they are apt to steal. If it is an “office” they tend to “fight, war, and kill.” Generally speaking, God will not answer the prayer of a person who wants what they are asking for in order to “consume it upon their lust.” If the lust is for power  they want the higher office to satisfy that lust. No matter how they may spin it, God knows their true motivation and is not answering the prayer. What happens? When prayer doesn’t work  they resort to politics.

When a person decides who they want to be in certain “offices” in ministry  they stop praying all together. If ministers really wanted God’s will done they would stop playing their democratic/political games and pray until the body heard from God and acted on it. Democracy seeks to snuff out God’s say in the matter. I need to ask, what are people afraid of? Are they afraid that God may have someone in mind to do a ministry other than them or one of their family members or friends? This is a very serious question that needs to be explored. Why do people say they want God’s will and then refuse to come together in a biblical way and try to ascertain it? In fact, the people with “voice and vote” in these so-called proceedings are people who pay tithe  or meet some other man-made qualification. Is that how the churches were led in the book of Acts? Of course it wasn’t. Do these men still claim to be God-fearing, spiritual, and Bible believing? Of course they do. But we need to face the music here. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 KJV) 

Are you concerned about who is going to “take the position” when it’s vacated? Have you lost sleep looking over your shoulder? Do you feel threatened that someone is “gunning for your position” in the church? If you can say yes to one or more of those questions it is almost a guarantee that what is being built is man’s kingdom and not God’s. Think about it. If it were truly God’s kingdom we would not be talking about anyone replacing God. We would continually be commended to God and the word of His grace and not be looking to “men” to do what the kings in Israel were forever doing. God wants to be king. This is as plain as it gets. Paul wept for three years while at Ephesus because he knew there were politicians wanting to take over that church (Acts 20). If we could hear the grieving of the Holy Spirit right this moment for all the politics going on in the churches we would be rocked to our core.  

A Culture of Obstruction (You fight, war, and kill)

A politician will never help his opponent in any meaningful way. He covets what another man has and will do what is necessary to get it. In fact, he moves in what may be called “passive aggressive” behaviors that deal blows without causing a scene or leaving a bruise. He sets up policies that promote his political objectives. He enforces them when they promote his intentions, and sets them aside when convenient (propose a “variance”). The better the politician, the more proficient he/she will be at this methodology. A good politician can wage war (stir the pot), but do so in such a way that it leaves the opponent looking bad, not the politician. Dr. Michael Brown posted a Meme in October 2015 that is well worth gazing at for a while. Here we have one person helping their brother; the other one silently happy that they failed. 

A politician is not concerned with the furtherance of the kingdom of God; they are focused on building their own kingdom. This is why they can never help the person that is in the “office” they are coveting. To the contrary, they will obstruct their success, expose their weaknesses, laud their errors, and focus on their failures. All the while never lifting a single finger to help them. Why? They want them to fail so they can campaign for their office on the platform of “CHANGE.” It is the oldest trick in the book. “Change is coming! Change is coming!” Is the cry of the politician. 

“Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.” (Proverbs 8:33 KJV)

How can you take the job of a person who is successful? The diabolical attitude of the politician can bring an entire denomination to a standstill. What happens? Nothing gets done because the politicians are sabotaging the people who occupy the offices they are coveting. Sometimes they do this publicly, but generally they do it privately by spreading what the business world calls F.U.D (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). They sow all kinds of discord behind the scenes in order to undermine the people who occupy the offices that they covet. The next time you are invited to dinner and the conversation begins to bite and devour a person who holds an “office” be advised that you are probably eating with a politician or one of his/her campaign supporters. What is the most shocking thing of all is how they put on a public “face” to deceive the people at large. The poor and unsuspected people have no idea what is going on and will often defend the person because they only ever see the “Jimmy Carter smile.”

A politician in the kingdom of God is a “snake in the grass.” Most people know who they are but are powerless to deal with them. They behave like a spoiled child who was raised to believe they are above their peers. They act out and everyone just has to put up with it. This is the practical side of it all. From God’s perspective, they are fighting and warring against the people of God in an attempt to satisfy their own inward lusts. This is the spiritual reality of it. They have confused God’s will with their own and usually have a band of supporters and “enablers” who partake of their evil deeds.

All the while, the kingdom of God suffers; the sheep get wounded and scattered; and the politicians continue with their glib — adulterous behavior. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). “Adulteresses is the feminine term is the general designation of all whom James here rebukes. The apostate members of the church are figuratively regarded as unfaithful spouses; according to the common Old Testament figure, in which God is the bridegroom or husband to whom his people are wedded. See Jeremiah 3; Hosea 2, 3, 4; Isaiah 54:5; 62:4, 5. Also, Matthew 12:39; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7; 21:9.” (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament)

How To Exercise Kingdom Authority (Why Satan Fell)

How To Exercise Kingdom Authority
Robert Wurtz II

And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ “But it shall not be so among you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” (Luke 22:24-26 NASB/KJV)

Here we read that the disciples quarreled over who would be the greatest among them. The context has a direct relationship to authority. So the argument among them was simply a matter of who should be in command. Our Lord challenges this mindset from the beginning. He said that the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them. In other words, the Gentiles liked to ‘lord over’ the people. This is certainly one of the reasons why God never wanted a king in Israel save Himself. He knew that fallen man cannot handle authority correctly. A cursory look at history is replete with abuse of power and authority. Jesus said plainly, it shall not be so among you.

The Mind in Satan

Sin and rebellion are older than the human race. Satan is the arch enemy of all creation. It is helpful to understand the ‘mind that was in Satan’:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exaltmy throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)

Notice how Lucifer (Satan) has become self-concious. As the anointed Cherub that covers his role was to exalt God, but now he is dead-bent on exalting himself. He went from holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty to… I will ascend…, I will exalt…, I will sit also upon the mount…, I will be like the most High. This is the trapping of leadership. It snared the Pharisees until finally they decided to kill God- having plotted to crucify him after many previous failed attempts. They loved the chief seats (I will sit…), they loved to be called, “Rabbi, Rabbi” and any other name that would exalt them (I will exalt). Jesus asked them, How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? (John 5:44 KJV) Suffice these examples to make the point as it is superfluous to name them all. 

The Mind in Christ

Jesus Christ is the Son of God from all eternity. He is the second person of the Godhead and recipient of the perpetual worship of the Cherubim. He knows what it is to be God. He knew what it was like to create the Universe. And yet He chose a staggering means of defeating Satan and his angels. He would do it through the humiliation of the cross.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and cbeing made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 KJV/NET/ESV)

It may sound cliche’, but it is truly impossible for us to grasp how humiliating crucifixion on the cross was in ancient times. It was the lowest form of degradation reserved for slaves, criminals, and enemies of the state. German professor Martin Hengel’s work Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross is to be regarded as one of the greatest works on the subject. The notion that God would save the world through such a means as this was utterly foolish to the ancient world. The cross was a barbaric and cruel treatment; it was obscene in the original repulsive sense of the word. And yet Jesus Christ humbled Himself from being the Son of God to endure such dastardly treatment.

Let This Mind Be in You

While Satan is saying in himself, I will ascend…, I will exalt…, I will sit also upon the mount…, I will be like the most High– Jesus Christ was living out in flesh and blood; I will descend; I will condescend to man; I will humble myself unto death- even the death of the cross. That is the greatest contrast our finite minds can conceive; and yet we are told, let this mind be in you. Let the mind of Satan be replaced with the mind of Christ. Jesus said to the people, the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ “But it shall not be so among you.” They were worldly — but Christ was other-worldly. His kingdom was not of this world. They were moving in the mind of the Prince of the Power of the Air — but Christ came to teach the way of God.

Kingdom Authority

He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself… (John 13:4-10)

The Kingdom of God is not a multilevel corporation. It’s not a Gentile business model. Here are these disciples arguing over who will be in charge and here is their Master… He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe [them] with the towel wherewith he was girded. No doubt their Zionist hopes were being dashed to pieces before their very eyes. Jesus Christ was not here to set up a Kingdom in which they could be His generals, He was here to show forth the true example of life for all the human race to rise and take heed. This is it — there is no other. Let this mind be in you, for this is the mind of Christ.

The Sin of Favoritism (prosopon: Eli, Hophni, Phinehas)

The Sin of Favoritism
Robert Wurtz II

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5:19–22 NKJV)

Our passage brings to mind the awesome responsibility of handling difficult situations that arise within the churches in a God honoring way. The directive is challenging from the beginning because most people don’t like being put in a position to have to do what’s being asked here. Whereas the tendency would be to overlook leaders when they sin and keep the situation “quiet,” the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to charge the other leaders saying, Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.” This is the exact opposite thing to what usually happens and the consequences are disastrous.

When a leader sins and “gets by with it” they have a tendency to get proud and go forward as if they never sinned. They may even laud the fact that their sins are “under the blood” and forgiven. However, Paul doesn’t seem to take that into consideration. The issue is not whether a minister, deacon, elder, leader, pastor, evangelist, etc., can be forgiven. Paul is concerned with handling the sin properly to make sure everyone learns from what happened, and nobody is encouraged to commit similar sins. Moreover, once the offending party is dealt with publicly, everyone will know about it and the person will be less inclined to develop a proud Pharisaical attitude towards others when they sin. 

 Charged to Observe These Directives

Paul did not leave it to Timothy’s discretion as to whether he should follow this directive. He did not tell Timothy to pray and seek direction from the Holy Spirit. He told him plainly,  I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. It is folly to pray for wisdom and direction when these things happen. We are already told what to do. No substitute action can replace what God has said; God’s commands cannot be improved upon. To disobey this directive will have many unintended consequences.

Paul not only charged Timothy to, observe these things” but to do so, without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.” Pre-judging” (prejudice) means that an accusation would be received without two or three witnesses and then “judged” without giving the man a chance to answer the charges. He is guilty without a fair hearing. Not even the Romans behaved that way. A Roman citizen had rights and could not be locked up without due process. Should the churches of God be less just than the Romans? Obviously not. When due process is not followed it is always because the prosecutors are wanting the accused person prosecuted — irregardless of guilt. Such actions would warrant an outcry in society, how much more in the churches of God?

An Old Testament Example 

On the other hand there is the possibility of a person being guilty by the testimony of two or three witness and yet they are not held accountable. Their sins are overlooked. Why? Partiality. Paul charges leaders to do nothing with partiality.” We have an example of both prejudice and partiality together in a familiar Old Testament story.  

During the time of the judges, Eli was a notorious High Priest who fell from grace in a most horrendous way. God had warned him repeatedly about allowing his sons to cause Israel to despise the worship of God. Nevertheless, he honored his sons more than he honored God (see 1 Samuel chapters 1-3). This is always a temptation for anyone who has children in ministry. In fact, Eli’s sons were functioning in the priesthood and were “sons of Baal.” Perhaps he thought getting them involved in ministry changed that fact. It did not. All it did was pollute the ministry — it never changed his sons. 

In spite of God’s repeated warnings, Eli let his sons by with all kinds of gross sins and yet had the nerve to accuse Samuel’s mother of drunkenness without even hearing the matter out. She was crying to God for a child because she was barren; yet Eli assumed she was drunk and reprimanded her. He pre-judged (prejudiced) Samuel’s mother, defaming her in the process. And he never apologized. Why? Eli’s never apologize — not even to God. He slandered Eli’s mother while being partial to his own family — overlooking the sins of his philandering sons. Sound familiar? Sadly, the spirit of Eli lives on today. What he did not know what that this woman was “praying in” his and his families’ replacement.

Favoritism is from the Greek word prosopon and it means “to receive the countenance” of a person. Leviticus 19:15 tells us that we must not respect the countenance of the rich or the poor. We must do things fair and without favoritism (compare Luke 20:21; Romans 2:11; and Jude 16.). Everyone understands this principal because it is one of the easiest behaviors to spot. A child can see it. When nine children receive five candies each and the tenth one receive eight candies — all the children notice and will protest. Why? Because God has placed in us a sense of equity or fairness. Why did the nine get five and the one get seven? There must be a reason and the children know that. They may not be able to explain it, but they know that the one has been exalted above the others. They assume that the one child is “better than them.” What does the scripture say?

“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1–4 NKJV)

It is evil thinking to show partiality in the kingdom of God. Yet it happens. A family comes into a church and contributes much to the offerings. A poor person comes in and is homeless. Who do you suppose will receive the preferential treatment? Who will be invited out for lunch? Who will have all of their life events celebrated — from birthdays to baby showers? If the poor are shunned and the wealthy are favored it is evidence of evil thinking. And evil thinking is progressive. It’s bad enough to have favoritism in the events listed above, how much more when it comes to the ministry? Favoritism will destroy a church and leave it in total chaos. This is why Paul’s warning and directive are worded so strongly. He did not “ask” Timothy to follow it… he “charged” him to follow it. 

Favoritism of Four Groups 

So we see then that here are four groups of people that are inclined to receive partiality:

1. Family
2. Friends
3. Rich
4. Famous 

Paul knew the story of Eli and he knew the attitudes that brought the travesty about, He may have even been thinking upon the story of Eli as he penned his words in 1 Timothy 5. Who knows. Nevertheless, he adds to these directives, Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. In other words, don’t be quick to restore people to ministry or cover up their sins. Don’t give family, friends, rich people, or famous and “well liked” people a free pass. It will only lead to complete disaster. It may take 10-20 years to manifest, but it will surely happen. 

The clear implication of these verses is that if we disregard what the Holy spirit is telling us through Paul we will surely become partakers of the sins of fallen ministers that we do not handle properly. We are responsible before God for these things. You may think you are doing a friend a favor for covering their sins up, but God says we will share in their sins. The person is almost certain to become prideful and problematic to the churches. Don’t be partakers with them. Follow God’s procedure for handling them and by doing so you will keep yourself pure.  

When God Comes (The Presence of God)

When God Comes
Robert Wurtz II

When Israel went out of Egypt, The house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became His sanctuary, And Israel His dominion. The sea saw it and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, The little hills like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you fled? O Jordan, that you turned back? O mountains, that you skipped like rams? O little hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the God of Jacob, Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of waters. (Psalms 114:1–8 NKJV)

The Psalmist brings into view the awesome manifestation of the presence of God and its profound effect upon everything and everyone subjected to it. God had once walked with Adam in the cool of the day, but had been largely absent from the earth until the events relayed in our passage. That is not to say that God had utterly forsaken man: He did not. His Spirit still strove with them and He provided for their needs that the people of this world might feel after Him and find Him — for He was never far from any one of them. All of this was done in an attempt to lead man to repentance. The hearts of men need to get right with their Creator. The events of Psalm 114 were so breathtaking that it would seem that everyone without exception would have been convinced and changed. 

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” 
And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:18–21 NKJV)

Moses had a heart to draw near to God. The people, on the other hand, were content to go on playing and doing what they do rather than changing their hearts towards God. It is sobering to think that God had such great plans for this group and yet they died in the wilderness. He lived in their midst in the Wilderness Tabernacle and worked desperately to teach them His ways. He gave them all kinds of measures that were intended to teach them and remind them continually of his word. Why did He do this?

That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth. For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him; Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves. (Deuteronomy 11:21–23 KJV)

Focus in on the phrase, That your days may be […] as the days of heaven upon the earth. God wanted a place where His will was done on earth as it is in heaven. That place was the land of Israel and the Law served as a sort of “tenancy agreement.” The land belonged to God in a unique sense — just like Heaven is uniquely God’s as was the Garden of Eden. Everything belongs to God, but some places are special because He set them aside to be His unique dwelling place. When Satan acted out, he was cast out of Heaven. When Adam acted out, he was cast out of the Garden of Eden. When Israel acted out, they were cast out of the land. This is the sobering pattern of it.

God In the Midst

We read in Hebrews that things are different now that we are under the New Covenant. We have not come to the Mount that might be touched and that burned with fire. We have not come to the place where Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake” but we have come to Mount Zion and the city of the Living God (Hebrews 12:18-29). In fact, what Moses experienced was a mere foretaste of the reality that we have come to now. Whereas the Psalmist stated concerning God’s presence at the time of the Exodus and wandering, The sea saw it and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, The little hills like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you fled? O Jordan, that you turned back? O mountains, that you skipped like rams? O little hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord… the writer to the Hebrews says that now God is not just shaking the earth but heaven as well! This clearly implies that we need to be more serious about the things of God than even Moses was when the mountain trembled. In fact, the writer concludes his remarks by saying, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28–29 NKJV) 

Although we are to come boldly before the throne of Grace on the basis of what Christ has done, we have the ongoing risk of “refusing Him that speaks from heaven” or “trampling the Son of God under foot.” We have more privilege, but with it comes more responsibility. The New Covenant is a “much more” covenant so it is right for the writer to Hebrews to remind us “how much sorer punishment shall one be worthy” of disregarding the New Covenant and its Mediator than the Old Covenant and it’s mediator Moses. 

Most Christians read the book of Acts and gloss right over the fact that three people were smitten dead on three different occasions. Two men were smitten with blindness (Saul and the man in Acts 13:11). In fact, in Acts 2:43, 5:5, 5:11, 9:31, and 19:17 the fear of God was upon the people as a result of God’s dealings. Sadly in modern times it’s almost like people don’t want to accept that such things could happen. Perhaps some want to believe in a kingdom where God doesn’t care of we lie to Him “once and a while” or steal His glory from “time to time.” How easily we forget the words of Paul who stated plainly concerning the Lord’s table, For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:29–31 NKJV) Paul knew of specific instances where people had died because they did not discern the Lord’s body. Their cavalier attitude cost them their health in some cases and their lives in others. 

We don’t see God moving today as He did in the book of Acts because by and large people do not reverence God as they did in the book of Acts. What says the scripture? Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. (Acts 9:31 KJV) They walked in the fear of God and comfort of the Holy Spirit without contradiction and were “multiplied.” To the saints in the book of Acts the love of God and the fear of God were complementary terms. They feared the Lord because His manifest presence was there. They were comforted because His manifest presence was there. They were multiplied because His manifest presence was there. They were a sanctuary of God in the true sense of the word. It wasn’t the mountains that trembled; the people did and nobody complained about it.  

God wants us to be prepared for Heaven. He is trying to teach us about it. We have never been there, but if we follow His word and readily receive the Spirit’s dealings we can get our hearts right… and thinking right. God is love, but God is also a consuming fire. He loves us, but not in such a way that He will allow sin and rebellion to go on in the churches or in heaven to come. Paul explains further, For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31–32 KJV) If we would get our own lives together, God wouldn’t have to do it for us. He is trying to prepare us for heaven. We need to recognize this fact and take seriously His dealings–just as the saints in the book of Acts did. 

A Ready Mind (episkopos: feeding the flock)

A Ready Mind
Robert Wurtz II

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. (1 Peter 5:1–4 KJV)

Our passage takes us back to some of the final words of the Lord Jesus in John’s Gospel, who in restoring Peter after His great fall, charged  him with the care of His flock. The flock is made up of saints (sheep and lambs) at whatever stage of spiritual growth they are found in. In fact, Jesus basically told Peter that if He truly loved Him and wanted to demonstrate the fact, he would look after the sheep and lambs He was entrusting him with. 

Peter reminds us that the will of God for him in taking care of the flock is the same for all who function in that capacity. In that way one could insert their name into John chapter 21 and hear the Lord ask, “do you love me?” and the follow up remarks, “if you do then you will feed and tend my flock.” In 1 Peter 5:2 we read, Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof. Feed, here, could be better rendered “tend” the flock. For ages it has been the pattern of shepherds to lead their flocks into grazing lands that are safe and well suited for grazing. Psalm 23 comes to mind. The Great Shepherd prepares the “table” even in the presence of enemies. Peter is telling the elders who labor in the word of God to do the same thing. They are to prayerfully labor in the scriptures to provide sustenance for the people — but more importantly lead them in the areas of biblical emphasis necessary to keep them growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

Second, Peter says taking the oversight thereof. This simply means “to watch over.” The Greek word for “oversight” is episkopos epi (over) skopos (look or watch). If we pray for the Lord to “watch over” us and our families, what do we mean by that? We are asking the Lord to guard and protect us. The elders are charged with watching over the saints. But there is more. Peter adds, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. In other words, don’t do the job like a hireling who would rather be doing something else but feels stuck doing it. If a person has to force themselves to prepare sermons and watch over the saints they definitely have not been called to the ministry. 

Moreover, if they only preach if they are likely to be paid they are definitely not a shepherd (pastor). Why? Because they don’t have a shepherds heart. A shepherd does not need to be compelled or constrained, but they do the job willingly. In fact, the Greek word for “willingly” is hekousios and it could be translated as “voluntarily” or “because you greatly want to.” It is a word only used here and in Hebrews 10:26… “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge…” Peter then qualifies his remarks, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. God has ordained that all who labor in the word should live of the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:7-11 is one of several places in the New Testament that address this fact. Unfortunately, a piano player is ten times more likely in 2015 to receive of the Gospel than a Bible teacher. It would be fraud to do such a thing in the world (James 5:4). How much more in the churches of God? Nevertheless, a true shepherd will do their job in spite of this fact and as unto the Lord. They don’t labor among the flock for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.

The most challenging of all things that Peter stated is, Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. The responsibility of all shepherds is to point the people to Jesus Christ. They are to disciple them to Him — not themselves and not a “ministry.” My sheep hear my voice and they follow me, said Jesus. Peter warns the elders not to usurp the Lord’s place in the peoples’ lives. It is of Satan to want to sit in God’s seat in the midst of the congregation — yet men do it and preach it and write books on how to do it. Amazing! Rather, the elder is called to be an example of how to follow Christ, the Great Shepherd. Can you see the contrast? Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. Don’t Lord over people… lead them by example. It’s not enough to say it, it has to be done in reality. Actions and words have to match.

For those willing to obey this pattern we have this promise, And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. In other words, don’t look for your reward here on earth. The world rewards with carnal possessions, popularity, and pleasure. These must not be our reward. If one is pursuing these things, one is in the wrong line of work. Worldly rewards are fading away. They are temporal. The rust and moth may corrupt the worldly rewards of those who labor for filthy lucre; but for those who work voluntarily, willingly, and of a ready mind there is the promise of a reward that will never fade away.     

When Paul Wept (lukoi bareis: Savage Wolves in the Church)

When Paul Wept
Robert Wurtz II

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. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:28–31 KJV)

It’s hard to read these chilling words and not be reminded of the Lord Jesus, who during the Last supper informed the disciples stating, “verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (John 13:21). Just as Jesus had walked the earth for three years with a man who would ultimately betray him; so too, Paul had ministered to the Ephesian elders for three years with a few betrayers lurking in the midst. Sadly, they were so “wolfish” or self-deceived that they didn’t hear a word of it. Just as Jeremiah wept over the Israelites saying, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD… (Jeremiah 23:1), so to Paul wept saying, For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 


Why Paul Wept

So long as Paul was around the sheep were safe; it was after he left that he was concerned about. He warned of “grievous wolves” (lukoi bareis) entering in. Bareis is a Greek word that means heavy, rapacious, and harsh. The word rapacious means “greedy and power-hungry.” This is always a deadly combination of character traits. Jesus had already so described false teachers who would raven the fold (John 10:12 A. T. Robertson); that is to say, they would ravage, pillage, and scatter the saints. Wolves can be identified by their reckless behavior that wounds, scatters, and even kills the sheep. They have the opposite nature to a shepherd who instinctively protects the sheep with his own life. 

What is most interesting in our text in Acts 20:28ff is that Paul apparently did not know who the “wolves” were. Had he known he would have surely dealt with them. He only knew that after his departure that certain men would “not spare the flock” as they attempted to exalt themselves. To “not spare” means he will not pity them, nor show mercy or kindness. The heart of a wolf does not lend it to show compassion. These deadly characters were so well camouflaged that Paul could not identify them after three years being around them. They wore their “sheep clothing” so well that even he could not discern the difference. Apparently, they could do the things that sheep do. Perhaps they could teach, preach, or even work miracles. They could fool most of the people — most of the time. However, time and opportunity would expose them for who they were and the damage they would cause. 

You know a tree by its fruit. It would be easy to identify who the wolves were once they started doing their deeds. The Ephesians might look up one day and the church be scattered here and there with wounded saints all over the place. Whereas Paul cultivated a spirit of love and unity among the saints; the wolves move in their own ambitions and agendas and have no regard for the sheep. Their actions wound the sheep in ways that only God can heal. They are so self-deceived that they cannot put two and two together or they simply don’t care. This is why Paul wept for three years night and day.

I wonder if we really comprehend this? I wonder if we want to? Can you imagine a grown man weeping day and night for three years? What on earth could possibly cause him such distress? Clearly he had a profound love for the sheep and would guard them with his own life if he could; but he was being sent to Jerusalem and then Rome and would not be around to fight their battles. He was leaving it up to the elders to guard and protect the flock. In fact, in Acts 20 Paul commended the elders to God and to the word of His grace. Not to men. Not to some “leader.” He commended them to God. Circumcise your ears if necessary and let this truth sink down into them. Ephesus needed the guidance of the Holy Spirit — not some personality. It was personalities that threatened to destroy the church. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. You know you are dealing with a wolf when the “leader” demands that you follow them instead of God. 

The sheep have to have a place to go after the wolves have scattered them. Unfortunately, wounded and scattered sheep can be found all over the world. Only God knows how many of them are out there.. roaming around, wounded, scattered by the wolves. What happened? They were in a church that walked the same path that lay before Ephesus and the consequences were disastrous. More times than not these sheep are ignorantly labeled as “rebellious” or “wounded” and need to repent. But this was not Paul’s attitude and nor is it God’s. It’s the attitude of the wolf in sheep clothing. Why? because a true shepherd would instinctively feel compassion for wounded sheep and work to nurse it back to health — not mock and heap more insult upon their injury. Selah.

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1–4 KJV)   


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