|Vol. 14 No. 2 February 2012||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Synonyms for “lying” include “deceitful,” “dishonest,” “two-faced,” “insincere,” “untruthful” and “double-dealing.” The Greek word “pseudes” means “lying” or “false.” It is the basis of the English word “pseudo,” which means “being apparently rather than actually as stated: sham, spurious.” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary says of the word “lie”: “Any statement or act designed to deceive another person.”
The seriousness of lying becomes apparent in Revelation 21:8 when one realizes that it is paired with other sins, anyone of which will cause the impenitent sinner to be eternally lost. “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 NKJV).
A question comes from a reader of Gospel Gazette Online in Saudi Arabia, pertaining to a Pilipino brother in Christ working in Qatar. Apparently, the brother in Qatar lied to his employer, saying his wife had a medical emergency in the Philippines. Using this scheme, he absented himself from his employer, to whom he is under contract. Upon returning home, he resigned from his employer so that he could follow up on a better job offer in Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, this brother requested benevolent funds from congregations of the Lord’s church and fellow Christians to make the transition to Saudi Arabia. Approached with the sinfulness of his actions, the brother remains impenitent. Howbeit, Christians within one or more churches of Christ are divided whether to provide congregation and personal funds to the brother, and this episode may split the church.
In what way independent congregations of the Lord’s church disperse benevolent funds is a matter of human judgment and an internal matter. Likewise, how one spends his money is a personal decision. However, congregations and Christians ought to be careful not to become accomplices with sinners. “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1993. CD-ROM. Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, 1996.
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
When it comes to appointing elders in the church, is Titus 1:5 a binding example of a preacher doing the appointing (though not necessarily meaning he does the choosing himself, but the congregation, though he would assist in giving scriptural guidance - Acts 6:3-6)? When I ask this, I don’t ask if a preacher can do it, as Titus 1:5 gives an example. I ask if this example is a binding example, meaning that the appointment can’t be scripturally done by anyone else but by the preacher.
For something to be binding instruction in the New Testament (whether it is a direct statement, approved example or implication from which we must infer), it must also be exclusive instruction. For instance, the New Testament only authorizes observance of the Lord’s Supper weekly on the first day of the week because we have exclusive instruction respecting the frequency and day on which it was observed with apostolic approval (Acts 20:7). Lacking alternative instruction or example to include additional days, occasions or frequencies, Christians properly observe the Lord’s Supper or Communion each Lord’s Day, rather than monthly, quarterly, annually or at weddings.
Non-exclusive instruction on a biblical topic broadens its application. For instance, John chapters 14-16 were spoken by our Lord only to the apostles. Consequently, only the apostles were the promised recipients of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is so since all other references to the then pending baptism of the Holy Spirit either directly specify the apostles as the recipients, or the passage can be translated correctly and reasonably to distinguish between the apostles as the recipients of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and others in the multitude to be the recipients of something else (Matthew 3:7-12). However, John 14:1-3 speaks of Jesus returning someday to take faithful children of God back with him to heaven; does that apply exclusively to the apostles, too, since chapters 14-16 about the baptism of the Holy Spirit apply only to the apostles? No! The return of our Lord at the Second Coming to retrieve the faithful appears in additional passages of Scripture to include more than the apostles only (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The message of John 14:1-3 respecting the apostles who were the recipients of this speech by Jesus is not exclusive to the apostles because other passages of Scripture apply this promise to all faithful children of God. John 14:1-3 is not binding doctrine about the apostles only because the teaching therein is not exclusively applicable to the apostles.
The appearance of elders in the early church (Acts 11:30) precedes mention of the appointment of them that appears in Titus 1:5. The mention of elders in New Testament churches appears where no reference is present respecting their appointment (Acts 20:17; Philippians 1:1). Consequently, students of the Bible typically concur that there is no binding New Testament instruction as to the manner of appointment of elders to be elders.
Furthermore, there is no exclusive teaching, and therefore no binding instruction, pertaining to the manner of appointment of elders in the Lord’s church. Elders, though, who have been appointed by a congregation to serve are said in Scripture to be made elders by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).
We can discern from Scripture (Acts 6:3-6) the need for a local congregation to select its own church leaders (or official workers). Following the congregational selection in this instance, there was a definitive appointment, induction or validation of the new and official role they were to commence. Though western culture neither fasts nor practices laying on of hands today, a certain solemnity and official induction ought to follow congregational selection of its church officials (deacons, elders and why not preachers?).
The New Testament notices several different persons, through laying on of hands, validating or appointing someone to something: prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1, 3); evangelists (Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23); apostles (Acts 6:6); elders (1 Timothy 4:14). When one realizes there is a difference between “selection” and “induction,” the induction or appointment is secondary and a matter of solemnizing or officiating the selection.
In summary, a congregation is to select its own officials (deacons, elders, preachers, etc.), and once selected, they are to be publicly acknowledged as selected to serve in their respective roles. Not part of this study, though, specifically deacons and elders are to be selected according to listed biblical qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-8). Then, teachers, evangelists, elders or other designate by the congregation on its behalf ought to solemnize the selection of elders, for instance, on behalf of the congregation.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone posed the question in the search engine for Gospel Gazette Online, “Can a man serve as deacon in one congregation and preacher in another?” The question, of course, is whether such activity is biblically permissible.
Respecting every venue (e.g., politically, socially, religiously, etc.), humanity is prone to extremes. Religiously, even true Christians often tend to position their thinking either left of biblical center or right of biblical center. Instead, the children of God ought to seek a biblical balance – neither adding to the Word of God nor subtracting from it (Revelation 22:18-19).
Furthermore, Christians ought to be as tolerant of fellow Christians as biblically permissible (Mark 9:38-40; Romans 14:19, 22: 1 Corinthians 10:29). Certainly, none of us should imitate the posture of first century Pharisees who with their manmade additions to and interpretations of God’s divine revelation were the object of rebuke by our Lord. “…you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition …in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:6, 9 NKJV). “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24).
Some things are salvation issues, but not everything is a salvation issue. We must be careful not to elevate our opinions to the status of Scripture. All of this said, we just need to make sure that our motives and attitudes are what our Lord would have them to be, especially when we encounter a fellow Christian or a way of doing things that differs from what we would do.
Now, let us more directly approach the question at hand. Philip was selected and appointed to a deacon-like role or perhaps as a deacon, along with others, in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5). Later, he traveled to Samaria and preached the Gospel (Acts 8:5-13). Still later, Philip traveled from Jerusalem to Gaza and preached to the Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 8:26-39). Afterward, Philip preached in various cities en route to Caesarea (Acts 8:40).
In seems to me from the foregoing information that, yes, a man may serve a congregation as a deacon and also preach at one or more congregations. It appears, though, that the Jerusalem church was the primary congregation with which Philip was aligned.
Somewhat different of a scenario, Paul and Barnabas or Silas apparently were members of and remained members of the church in Antioch of Syria, despite being absent for months or even years on missionary journeys.
In summary, ordinarily we would think that a deacon of a congregation, though preaching for another congregation, would primarily invest himself in the church that appointed him to the role of deacon. For instance, such a deacon might preach once on Sunday at the second congregation but spend other assembly times with the first church. By the way, deacons are not just deacons on Sundays and Wednesdays, but they are still deacons on other days of the week at non-assembly hours; most of what deacons typically do has nothing to do with when the church comes together in one place to worship God or study the Bible. Finally, a deacon’s role for a congregation may, like Paul, Barnabas and Silas, take him far from his home congregation for a period of time (e.g., personally follow up on foreign missions abroad). We should refrain from criticism when a congregation and its designates, such as deacons, serve our Lord, even if we would not do it that way – as long as they do not overtly and plainly transgress the law of the Lord under which we live. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4 KJV).