Having faith in God while waiting

waiting“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14 Wait on the Lord. Waiting is one of life's most difficult challenges. Impatience is a common thread in the history of humanity, and in today's fast-paced society addicted to instant gratification, waiting even just a little bit has become agonizing. We often grow tired of waiting and either give up whatever it was we were waiting for or try various other methods to achieve the result we wanted.

This mindset can leak into our spiritual life, and impatience in spiritual matters can pose a threat to our faith and trust in the Lord. The longer we wait, the greater the opportunity for our courage and conviction to waver. The human heart, after all, is a frail thing.

There are some among us who are waiting on the Lord to work in our life. It could be guidance with which college to attend, what degree to pursue, what career to enter, or what man or woman to marry. It could be help with broken relationships, health problems, financial issues. During the wait, we may struggle with a wide range of high and low feelings, such as confidence in the Lord and discouragement when He seems to be quiet. We know from the Scriptures that the Lord hears us when we pray to Him. In Isaiah 65:24, the Lord promises: "...before they [His people] call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." We know this, of course we know, but there are times when our weak humanity overwhelms us and we feel lost, alone.

Waiting is hard, even for the Christian.

So what do we do? Do we give up? Give in? God forbid!

Waiting is never easy, but there is always a reason. Even though we cannot see it while we are in the present, the Lord knows exactly what we need and when. If we look back over those times in our lives where we thought the Lord was not answering our prayers, when the waiting seemed to be unbearable, we are able to see the Lord's hand guiding us through. That alone should give us courage to push onward and endure any future waits.

However, if you struggling right now, perhaps you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Whatever it is you are going through, others have experienced it and, through the strength of the Lord, overcame the agonizing wait (Philippians 4:13). Some testimonies have been recorded in the Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 10:11, we are told: "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."

For those waiting for a life-changing event, remember that exiled Israel had to wait 70 years for the fulfillment of the Lord's promise through the project Jeremiah to bring them out of exile. (Jeremiah 29:10-13)

For those waiting for the right marriage partner, Isaac was forty-years-old when he married Rebekah according to Genesis 25:20.

For those waiting for a child or struggling with infertility, Sarah, Hannah, the mother, of Samson, and Elisabeth all endured the agony of infertility before the Lord blessed them with a child. And according to 2 Samuel 6:23, Michal, the first wife of David, never had children.

Whatever it is that you are waiting on the Lord for – no matter how long it seems that silence is your only answer, no matter how dark your current situation may seem – hold fast to the promise of Romans 8:28.

Real quickly I want to diverge onto a tangent, and this is very important. There are three things that we, humans, tend to do that make waiting worse: worry, coveting, and running ahead of God.

Let's look at the first: worry. Worry has a way of getting inside our minds and taking root very deeply. Some individuals, for whatever reason, are more pre-disposed to anxiety than others, and anxiety often has more than just psychological effects. Some people experience physical pain associated with high anxiety. Worry, anxiety, is not healthy physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It causes us to chronically view life from a negative perspective, overlooking all the blessings by focusing in on only the bad things. If left unchecked, this anxiety can damage our relationship with the Lord as well as our relationships with others. The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi with these encouraging words: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

The second, covetousness, is similar. Covetousness often begins with a harmless, passing thought, perhaps along the lines of: "I wish I had a good job like that." or "Why not me?" It settles into our hearts and minds and pumps out poison into our lives. Without realizing it, we grow dissatisfied with what the Lord has done for us and greedily long for the blessings the Lord has bestowed on others. James 1:14-15 gives us insight into how this transformation occurs in the heart and mind. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Like worry, this discontent will weaken our faith and trust in the Lord.

The third way we tend to worsen our situation is by running ahead of the Lord. After waiting a certain amount of time, our impatience leads us to doubt the Lord or come to the faulty conclude that the Lord must be waiting for us to act first. It is just like that saying, which is often erroneously attributed to the Bible but actually originating from ancient Greece, “God helps those who help themselves.” We use human logic and reasoning to talk ourselves into doing something that is not guided by the Holy Spirit. The end result often only complicates the situation. For example, after waiting for years and years with no apparent answer from the Lord, Abraham and Sarah tried to bring about the Lord’s promise of a child themselves: Abraham took Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar as a second wife. The history of God’s people was complicated by the misunderstandings and hatred that sprung up between the descendants of the son of promise, Isaac, and the son of man’s way, Ishmael. Proverbs 3:5 tells us clearly “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” and Proverbs 14:12 warns: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

So how do we strengthen our faith and deepen our trust in the Lord while we are waiting?

I believe the key to this is coming to understand that even though we may be waiting for the Lord in whatever situation of our life (family, career, health, whatever it may be), we cannot be idle. The apostles, in the upper room, were waiting on the Lord but while they waited, they were not idle. They put away their differences, selfish desires, earnestly drawing together and pouring our their hearts to the Lord in prayer. And the result? The Holy Spirit fell upon those waiting and many were reached for the cause of Christ.

Even though we may be waiting on the Lord, we need to have faith that He has a plan for our lives. We need to keep our faith in the Lord on fire NOW through studying God’s Word, praying, fellowshipping with believers, witnessing to those within our sphere of influence, and living every single day for the glory of the Lord.

Remember, it is the little moments that happen every day that often make the biggest difference. We often wait for the Lord to give us a grand mission—a call to ministry, an opening as a missionary to a far-off place, whatever the dream may be—and while He may do that, He also expects us to live every day in faith. That includes sharing the Gospel in any capacity that we are able to in the "short term". We have an individual personal responsibility to witness for Christ NOW, not tomorrow or in ten years.

Think of it this way: the Lord has placed you in this exact time and place for a reason, even if you cannot see it. In Acts of the Apostles on page 109, Ellen White spoke of "a large class [of people] who need to be taught by such missionaries as Philip—men who will hear the voice of God and go where He sends them. There are many who are reading the Scriptures who cannot understand their true import. All over the world men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in."

The first priority in our life should always be sharing the message of Christ with those in our sphere of influence: our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and community. Let nothing else, not even what we may be waiting for, get in the way of this prime directive. In the end, having a career, marriage, children, etc. will mean absolutely nothing if we did not use what the Lord blessed us with to win souls to Christ. And what a glorious message we have to share! No other branch of Christendom has been given the privilege, and responsibility, of sharing the first, second, and third angels' messages.

In Evangelism, page 119, we read: "In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light-bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import,—the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention."

And in Christian Service on page 145, we are told: "Let every Seventh-day Adventist ask himself, “What can I do to proclaim the third angel’s message?” Christ came to this world to give this message to His servant to give to the churches. It is to be proclaimed to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. How are we to give it?"

Even though we may be waiting on the Lord to move in our own lives—whether it is help with finances or health issues, concerns for wayward children, which person we should marry, or what job to take, we cannot forsake our duty to share the good news of Jesus with those around us today, right now.

A different kind of dinosaur

dinosBack in 2006, my company completed a spray-foam insulation project for Indianapolis Allison, a large GM plant in the heart of the city. The weather was good, and the project was eventually completed. I have to be honest. I have not seen so many lazy people in one city block as I did at that plant. And I blame the labor union mindset for that diminished work ethic. As we move into the year 2013, I sense that the time is right to ask ourselves, “Do Adventist Christians have any business joining labor unions?”

The first head of the American Federation of Labor Samuel Gompers, summed it up nicely in 1886 when asked what organized labor really wanted, he replied, “More.” There is more, and we are going to unmask it in this article.

Trade unions rose to prominence at a time when industrialized countries were growing at a staggering rate. In those days employee safety was often secondary to profits and job security was mostly non-existent. That was the 1840’s. Organized unions were a necessary provisional corrective to the exploitations of early industrial-revolution business. Then, as the industrialized nations matured, working conditions along with ingenuity, production safety, and efficiency all improved. By the 1920’s the industrial climate typified by Henry Ford and Herbert Hoover reached an apogee, buttressed by endemic optimism, efficient government and a profound confidence in the future. May I remind you that today’s situation has made labor unions a wholly unnecessary dinosaur standing in the shadow of a great federal regulatory beast? Unless workers are held at gunpoint, it is not possible to "exploit" them for any length of time today.

Here’s irony. Today’s progressives find fault with the church for clinging to “outdated” morals and beliefs (as if Biblical belief could ever be outdated). In liberal circles it is vogue to mock the church as clinging to a faded image etched onto a Victorian daguerreotype.

This is why it is interesting to watch so-called "Progressives" tout 19th century solutions for 21st century problems. Liberals in the church who support labor unions (and there are a growing number of them) are themselves museum curators cultivating the relics of antiquity. Labor unions are modern dinosaurs that should by now be extinct. They were needed at the turn of the 20th century to protect workers from dangerous working conditions, but they survive today as a political tool to influence elections and exert economic power. However, another (and far more sinister) goal is "increased forced unionization.” They want everybody to be like them!

It is not surprising unionized companies like GM, Chrysler, and Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt, and that heavily unionized states like California, New York, and Illinois are in deep financial trouble. By their very nature, unions must seek to drive their employers into bankruptcy. If they don't, then they aren't doing their job. Too harsh you say? Not at all.

The purpose of a union is to extract from its employer more than the market wage. If it doesn't do this, then there is no reason for workers to support it or to pay dues to it. And because companies must sell their output at market prices and pay market returns for the capital that they employ, they cannot afford to pay more than "market" for any major input. Accordingly, any unionized company for which labor is a significant part of its cost structure will eventually be destroyed. Thus, I can sum up the labor union mindset as trying to take more out of the system than they can put back into it.

As mentioned earlier, unless workers are held at gunpoint, it is not possible to "exploit" them for any length of time. That is why labor unions have become a modern dinosaur. In my opinion, they ought to go away. They once served a purpose but that time has long since passed. They have turned into very powerful, self-serving organizations that are hurting America and our ability to compete with the rest of the world. Yet I don’t think they are going away. Here’s why, "The trades unions will be one of the agencies that will bring upon this earth a time of trouble such as has not been since the world began" (LDE 116).

Whoa. With these startling words, the Spirit of Prophecy pulls back the curtain of the future. This is what’s coming. I told you there was more.

Could it really be that these “harmless” trade unions, many of which began in the 1840’s could become a ferocious monster in the time of the end? Absolutely. A fitting emblem of the “lamb that speaks like a dragon” is these organizations that began with decent intentions, and end with the fiery outbreath of persecution.

“But can’t we join one anyway and ignore these old outdated warnings?” You can, yes. At great peril.

“I need to provide for my family, and God wants us to be happy right?” No. The Lord wants us to be faithful. As we are faithful to His ways, joy comes into our lives. “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

Those who claim to be the children of God are in no case to bind up with the labor unions that are formed or that shall be formed. This the Lord forbids. Cannot those who study the prophecies see and understand what is before us? The transgressors of the law of God have taken sides with their Leader, the General of rebellion. He understands how to devise his Satanic schemes and through whom to work for the carrying out of them. He is striving to lead every soul to take sides with him, and under the influence of his temptations, thousands are binding themselves up in bundles, ready to be consumed by the fires of the last day. 4MR 78

Samuel Gomper said it. Interviewed in 1886, his answer to the question “What do you labor unions want?” was “More!” Ok. Now let’s look back at the results of another interview in the Heavenly Country above. In the God-to-Isaiah transmission of truth all the unholy desires of Lucifer–-as he mutated into Satan–-are easily summed up in this one word “More!” (Isaiah 14:12-17). He wanted to take more out of the system then he was able to put back. This wrong spirit introduces friction into the universe and ultimately leads to violence (John 8:44). That explains why labor unions tend towards violence so easily.

The work of the people of God is to prepare for the events of the future, which will soon come upon them with blinding force. In the world gigantic monopolies will be formed. Men will bind themselves together in unions that will wrap them in the folds of the enemy. A few men will combine to grasp all the means to be obtained in certain lines of business. Trades unions will be formed, and those who refuse to join these unions will be marked men. 2SM 142

So what do you think? Is it ok for Adventist believers to join labor/trade unions?

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what ‘union’ has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

We’ve been warned.

The narrow road of faith and the two ditches on either side (Part II)

While the fanatical belief that God will always heal us if we have enough faith is a ditch on one side of the straight and narrow path, an extension of this “ditch” is the fanaticism of presumption which is based on the erroneous idea that God will only work through natural means and miracles but not through the care of the physician. Consider the extreme beliefs of Breatharianism. These individuals believe that one of God’s eight doctors, sunshine, can provide them all that is necessary for life. 

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The subject of ecclesiology in the New Testament is a broad, interconnected and complex one. Therefore, as we consider this one aspect, there will inevitably be other areas left unresolved. Further studies dealing with deacons, ordination, apostles, E.G. White's understanding, etc. are needed, and will be proposed (Lord willing). The hermeneutical intent of these articles is to follow where the biblical evidence leads, and make conclusions based upon reasonable and consistent lexical, contextual and comparative evidence. In the investigation of these articles, two interesting points regarding leadership structure in the church have emerged: 1) There is a distinction between the offices of presbuteros, episkopos and poimen, and 2) while some offices are spiritual gifts (conferred by the Spirit and recognized by the Church), others are positions established through external, objective and verifiable criteria through prayerful evaluation by the church. This is not the final word on this subject, more research should be done. Part two has been added to help clarify some of the initial conclusions. I also wish to apologize for the technical nature of this article, but feel that some of these issues must be tackled. A word needs to be made in regards to lexical studies and hermeneutics in general. Ferdinand de Saussure has stated that in language “tout se tient” (all things hold together). What he means is that language must be viewed as an interconnected system in which the context provides the clues as to the meaning of the individual words used. Theologian Henry Scott Baldwin makes the following salient points:

  1. Lexical studies are nothing more than the summaries of contemporaneous uses of the word under consideration. Lexis is a description of what people who use the word normally mean to indicate.
  2. We have a pre-understanding of the word based on its use in other contexts. This is the dictionary meaning (denotation) we have in our lexicons. We then attempt to apply the meaning to the present context, and then check to see if the resulting sentence makes sense using this meaning.
  3. This methodology seeks to separate verb and noun. There are numerous examples in Greek where the verbal form does not correspond to all the meanings of the noun. We cannot uncritically assume that a noun we are studying is exactly equivalent to the verb forms in every one of its uses.

As shown in the first article, there are impressive lexical (dictionary) differences between the office of presbuteros and episkopos. An inaccurate understanding of what a word means at the time it was written, will negate all the good contextual, syntactical exegesis we may attempt. There is no doubt that context plays a critical role in an accurate understanding of the text. However, the meaning of the written words are the very foundation of an accurate biblical study. The context will determine which meaning should be used, but the objective starting point is to understand how a word was understood when the author wrote it. The lexical definition, therefore, should not be underestimated, when considering the meaning of a passage.

When dealing with the issue of hermeneutics--the self-authenticating, Protestant principle that Scripture interprets Scripture--should be maintained. We cannot assume that a specific passage or biblical writer will make sharp differences and distinctions between closely related subjects within a chapter, epistle or even all their writings. Examples of this include most of the fundamental beliefs (i.e. justification/sanctification, the differences within the trinity, etc.). It would be far more difficult to understand what Paul means when he penned “absent from the body and present with the Lord” if we didn’t have non-Pauline passages to help us know when we will be present with the Lord. Therefore, when approaching the subject of ecclesiology, we shouldn’t assume one writer will present the corpus of material, nor should we expect to necessarily find the answers to differences within a single passage or context.

1. Are elders (presbuteros) and bishops (episkopos) different and distinct offices?

A. Lexical and comparative evidence shows a distinction as seen in part one, the lexical meanings for presbuteros include primarily administrative, executive and judicial functions:

These definitions matched the biblical evidence when applied to this office. We also noticed that the primary definitions for episkopos focus on guarding, investigative and supervising roles. These definitions harmonize with the comparative biblical evidence as well. We should not underestimate the importance of lexical (dictionary) meanings.

While it is tempting to “run to the text” first and attempt exegesis, we will come up short unless an accurate understanding of the primary and extended meanings are discovered. Only after we know what a word meant when it was originally used, can we apply it to a biblical passage and context and hope to understand it.

B. The offices of episkopos and presbuteros seem to be indicated:

While this should not be the only argument in favor of an office for the episkopos and prebuteros, it is a supportive one. The Greek word episkope has several different meanings (Please see footnotes for a lexical breakdown). There are essentially three definitions for the Greek word episkope:

  1. Visitation, inspection, examination (usually by God, in mercy or judgment, He looks into, searches)
  2. Office of episkopos- specifically, ecclesiastical overseer.
  3. Office (generally), leaders of Christian communities, position, assignment (The N.T. uses episkope in the sense of ‘office’ as well as ‘visitation’)

There are four references for episkope:

  1. Lu. 19:44 “. . . knewest not the time of your visitation.”
  2. Acts 1:20 “ . . . his bishoprick let another take.” (KJV)
  3. 1 Ti. 3:1 “if a man desire the office of a bishop . . .”
  4. 1 Pet. 2:12 “. . . glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Both Luke 19:44 and 1 Peter 2:12 harmonize nicely with definition one when episkope is placed into their contexts. Acts 1:20 is contextually referring to apostles, so the meaning of an “office in general” would best align with this passage. Gerhard Kittel supports this understanding: “the apostolic office is described as episkope. . . The term is used for the apostolic office in Acts 1:16 only because the selection of a replacement was seen to be a fulfillment of the prophecy in Ps. 108:8.” The context of 1 Tim. 3:1 refers to the episkopos (1 Tim. 3:2). Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the “office of episkopos” (and not an “office in general”) is what Paul is referring to in 1 Tim. 3:1. Kittel agrees with this conclusion: “The term episkope in 1 Tim. 3:1 does not derive from Acts 1:20 or its O.T. original. It is newly coined on the basis of the title episkopos, which had meantime established itself in the early Church. This is the more easily possible, of course, because episkope is already used for ‘office’ in the language of the LXX.”

An argument in favor of an office for the presbuteros can be made from the word presbuterion. Lexically, there is support for a distinct office or body (Please see footnotes for references) which represents these officers. With presbuterion, there are essentially two meanings:

  1. Office, body, college, assembly, council of elders, “body of eldership.”
  2. Council or Senate of Jews (Sanhedrin), Christian Church, or any body.

There are two references of presbuterion in the N.T.:

  1. 1 Timothy 4:14- “. . . hands of the presbytery (presbuterion).”
  2. Acts 22:5- “. . . and all the estate of the elders (presbuterion).”

In Acts 22:5, the context is referring to the Jewish Sanhedrin, so definition two would apply. In 1 Timothy 4:14, the context is the Christian Church, not the Jewish body, so it is likely that it refers to the body of elders (definition one).

C. The names of the words themselves indicate they are offices, not functions:

For this study, we have been looking at presbuteros and episkopos as nouns. If these words indicated a “function” rather than an office, they would be represented by a verb or an adjective. For example, episkopeo is the verb “to look diligently.” While there are adjectival and verbal forms of these words, we have only been focusing on those represented by a noun.

D. Presbuteros and episkopos are referenced in different situations and with other offices:



Acts 14:23 “ordained elders in every church”

Phil. 1:1 “with the bishops and the deacons”

Acts 15:2,4,6 “the apostles and elders”

1 Tim. 3:2 “a bishop must be blameless”

Acts 20:17 “called the elders of the church”

Acts 25:15 “chief priests and elders”

Titus 1:5 “ordain elders in every city”

2. Is “pastor” a spiritual gift that is it given to all leadership?

In an effort to justify a calling or leading to pastoral ministry (the modern name for “Pastor“ does not seem to be in harmony with the biblical roles of episkopos and prebuteros), some are using the “Gifts of the Spirit” argument to support their belief. It is true the poimen (pastor) is a spiritual gift; it is listed in Eph. 4:11. But as we saw in Part One, the definitions for this word are specific, and do not include the meanings denotated for the presbuteros and episkopos. Furthermore, the biblical references for pastor (poimen) parallel the lexical meanings. In my opinion, this is significant, since it undermines the major propositions in favor of a subjective calling of God into the office of presbuteros or episkopos.

Finally, some see this gift as a function or activity that all or most leadership positions receive. The following include several reasons why this is untenable:

  1. Ephesians 4:11 -- “He gave some pastors....” It doesn’t say “He gave many” or “He gave all.” 1 Cor. 12:8-10 -- "The Holy Spirit gives . . . To one, to another . . . ., to another . . ., etc." signifying a selective distribution not a comprehensive one. Romans 12:4,5 -- Paul states that “all members have NOT THE SAME OFFICE . . . Having gifts differing....” Therefore, the gifts of the Spirit (including poimen) are selectively given by the Spirit to certain individuals. There is no textual evidence that poimen, or any other gifts, are given to a majority of the church;
  2. The noun poimen refers to a position. The verb poimaino refers to an action. The position of nurturing and caring is a spiritual gift, but this was not given to the presbuteros and episkopos. While the presbuteros were admonished to “feed (verb poimaino) the church of God” (Acts 20:28) and to “feed (verb poimaino) the flock of God” (1 Pet. 5:2), they were never asked to be the poimen (noun) in the Church of God. The action of feeding, caring and nurturing are simply duties Christ enjoined upon the leadership of His church (“feed My sheep" (Jn 21:16), not gifts.
  3. Can elder (presbuteros) perform the duties of bishop (episkopos) and vice-versa? There is persuasive evidence that an elder (presbuteros) can and should perform the duties of a bishop (episkopos). As noted in Part One, the presbuteros has the extended function of overseeing, and therefore can also be considered as an episkopos. This is seen in the following passages: Acts 20:17, 28 Paul “called for the elders [presbuteros] of the church. . . take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos] . . .”; Titus 1:5,7 “... and ordain elders [presbuteros] in every city ... a bishop [episkopos] must be blameless.”

Biblical evidence shows that the presbuteros fulfilled both its own roles and that of the episkopos:


  • Acts 15:2,6 “the apostles and elders [presbuteros] to consider this question . . . Consider this matter.” (See also Acts. 16:4; Acts 4:5,8,23)


  • Matt. 27:12 “He was accused of the chief priests and elders [presbuteros] . . .” (See Mk 15:1; Lk 9:22)


  • Acts 20:31 “. . . therefore watch . . .”
  • 1 Pet. 5:2 “. . . taking oversight . . . Of a ready mind”

The function(s) of the episkopos are outlined in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9. In these passages, the episkopos’ duties do not include those of the presbuteros. Rather, they are in harmony with the lexical understanding of this office.

  • Instructing -- 1 Tim. 3:2 “...able to teach" (didaktikos)
  • Guarding -- 1 Tim. 3:5 “...take care (epimeleomai: to take care, Careful attention- of the church of God.”)
  • Inspecting/Supervising/Review -- Titus 1:9 “Exhort (parakaleo). . Gainsayers"; Titus 1:9,13 “Convince (elegcho) . . . Gainsayers . . . Rebuke (elegcho) them sharply . . ”

An overview of the New Testament evidence does not show the episkopos functioning as an executive, administrative or judicial authority as do the presbuteros. Therefore, from the weight of evidence, the office of presbuteros can function as an episkopos, the episkopos obviously functions as itself, but the episkopos does not fulfill the role of the presbuteros.

4. Who is called to pray over the sick?

Interestingly, James 5:14 calls for the elders (presbuterous) to “pray for the sick of the church.” We have traditionally referred to this verse as referring to the local elders. At this point there is no attempt to take a dogmatic position on specifically who the presbuteros are, but it is certainly within the lexical understanding of presbuteros, to be involved in the caring and nurturing functions of the church, including prayer for the sick. Furthermore, unless we are compelled otherwise by Scripture, the episkopos and poimen are not included in this injunction.

5. Is the office of apostles (apostolos) linked with that of the bishop (episkopos)?

At first glance, Acts 1:20 seems to say that the office of the apostles is the same as the office of the episkopos, "his bishoprick (episkope- KJV) let another take." We have already seen that the office of the episkopos was referred to by episkope, but should the “office of the apostles” be understood in the same way? As already seen, the word episkope has three meanings: 1) Watching over, visitation, inspecting; 2) The office for an episkopos; 3) An office or “charge“ in generally.

From the context we know that Peter was speaking of an “office” and not an “action”- so meaning #1 is not possible. Also, we know from the context, the object of Peter’s presentation were not “Episkopos”- but rather “Apostolos.” Therefore, it is not referring to the office of the Episkopos, but to an “office” in general. This is why several translations have rendered it:

  • “Let another man take his office” (NASB)
  • “his office let another take” (ASV, RSV)
  • “Let another take his office” (ESV)

Therefore, the office of apostles is not connected with the office of the episkopos. Rather, we must use the extended meaning for the word episkope and its meaning should be office or position.

6. Is the position of pastor distinct from its function?

The pastor (noun poimen) as discussed in part one, had the basic role of: guardian, nurturer, guide and teacher. As we discussed in question two above, there are times when the elders (presbuteros) were instructed to feed (verb poimano) the church of God. However, since feeding, nurturing and caring were actions, and not spiritual gifts, we must make a distinction between a function and a spiritual gift. Here are a few examples of presbuteros acting out the poimano:

  • 1 Peter 5:1-4 "The elders [presbuteros] who are among you I exhort . . . To feed [verb form- Poimano] the flock of God which is among you..."
  • Acts 20:17,28 "[Paul] sent to Ephesus and called for the elders [presbuteros] of the church. . . take heed . . . to shepherd [verb poimano] the church of God..."

This point is important, since some want to interchange the verbal forms of a word with the noun forms. In doing so, they neglect the contextual and the lexical meanings for the word. No where in Scripture do we see the presbuteros given the spiritual gift of being a pastor (poimen) whether explicit or implicit. While they lexically fulfill the functions of the poimen (nurturing, caring), they were not referred to by the poimen (noun).

In conclusion, after re-evaluating the N.T. testimony regarding the presbuteros, episkopos and poimen, the weight of evidence leans strongly in favor of three distinct and separate offices. As stated in the disclaimer, a thorough treatment of this subject should include the confirming influence of E.G. White’s statements. However, at this point, only a biblical study is possible due to time constraints. The role of pastor (poimen) is a spiritual gift, while elder and bishop are not (presbuteros, episkopos). What difference does all this make, especially in light of the current discussion regarding ordination? When church members assert their right to become a pastor by reason of an inner calling from God, we must ask them to which position are they called? If they feel called to the nurturing, caring and teaching position of the pastor (poimen), they have a legitimate argument to fulfill this role. If, however, they feel that it is the administrative, executive, judicial role of the presbuteros or the inspecting, watching role of the episkopos to which they are called, then the church must evaluate that subjective calling with the objective criterion that are listed in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8. Scripture must be the final arbiter of all callings, leadings, or gifts or we are left with wild subjectivism with no check or restraint. Finally, although a discussion for another day, bear in mind that the list for episkopos and presbuteros mentioned in Timothy and Titus, not only includes gender specificity, but also marital status and child-rearing responsibilities. We need to be consistent in our exegesis of these passages, by focusing so hard on one area, we may fail to account for other important criteria.

Footnotes will be added soon.

Women’s ordination: official GC voted statements

A Need for Accurate Information on Women’s Ordination Though I had attended both the 1990 and 1995 General Conference [GC] Sessions, somehow, over time my memory of the actual votes taken regarding women’s ordination had become fuzzy and confused. It was only since mid-2012, and in the midst of the expanding debates on this matter that I went to the recorded minutes of those pivotal GC sessions to consider what was voted, and on what stated basis the decisions were made.

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