Monday, December 18, 2006

How to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

If you knew the gift of God (John 4:10)

The first prerequisite to receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is to know that such a baptism exists. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that there was a gift from God and it was available to her. So what is the gift of God that Jesus spoke of?

When Peter went to Cornelius house, as he was explaining the Gospel to them, those listening were suddenly baptized in the Holy Spirit. This surprised Peter and those who accompanied him. “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” (Acts 10:45) Later, after returning to Jerusalem, Peter was called into account to explain why he went to the gentiles and offered them salvation in Jesus Christ. Peter explained that it wasn’t his fault but God’s. “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” (Acts 11:15-17) In these scriptures, and others in the book of Acts, Peter clearly equates the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the Gift of God.

One of the main reason many Christians today have not received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is because they do not know that it exists and that it is the “promise of the Father.” (Acts 1:4 NKJV) This was the case for the believers at Ephesus. The believers at Ephesus had been disciple by Apollos, but when Paul passed through, he noticed that something was missing in their experience with the Lord. “Paul said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.” (Acts 19:2, 6) They had not received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit because they did not even know that there was a Holy Spirit. Many Christians today are living an incomplete Christian life because of a simple lack of knowledge and understanding.

Knowing about something, however, is not the same as believing in something. Many Christians today know about the Holy Spirit but, because of fear, misunderstanding, or even bad teaching, they believe that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not for them. Many people have been taught that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was for a time past and not for today, but is this really the case? When Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost to address the gathered crowd, he said this about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’” (Acts 2:38-39) Peter said that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was for everyone whom the Lord would call to Himself, and this includes both you and me. Peter also quoted the book of Joel, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29) The clear implication is that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all believers, not just a select few in the first century. By the testimony of the scriptures we can believe that God wants to give us what He promised, He wants to baptize even us in His Holy Spirit.

More to come… David Robison

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How to be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Part 1)

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ She said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’” (John 4:10-11, 13-14)

I’m sure when this Samaritan woman woke up that morning, she had no idea what was in store for her that day. A routine trip to the well to fetch some water was about to turn into the most important encounter of her life. As she was drawing water, a Jewish traveler spoke to her and engaged her in conversation; an encounter and conversation that should have never happened in their culture, given the hostility between the Samaritans and Jews. The Jewish traveler, Jesus, offered her something beyond her wildest imagination. He offered her living water; water that, once you drank from it, you would never thirst again. As the story goes on, she accepted His offer and that day she became a child of God.

So what was the “living water” Jesus spoke of? Jesus reveals the answer later on in the book of John. “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water,” but this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39) The living water that Jesus spoke of was the Holy Spirit that was to be poured out upon all mankind after His death and resurrection. Fifty days after His death, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those waiting in the upper room. The out pouring of the Holy Spirit was accompanied with such signs that people from all of Jerusalem gathered to see what was happening. Peter stood up to explain what the people were witnessing. “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)

This event is what is commonly referred to as the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” After Jesus’ resurrection, He gave this command to His followers. “Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’” (Acts 1:4-5) The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is many things, but its result is a dynamic out flowing of the Holy Spirit through the lives of ordinary every day people. There is an interesting reference to “living water” in the book of Genesis. “And Isaac's servants dig in the valley, and find there a well of living water.” (Genesis 26:19 YLT) The water was “living” because it was bubbleing, flowing, and springing forth. The water was not just stagnant or placid, but it was alive, moving, and active. So it is with us when we experience the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that is resident in us bursts forth and begins to flow in ways that gives witness to God, His word, and His will. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit opens up for us new dynamics in God, both in our relationship with Him and in His ministry through us. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is like when the children of Israel stood around and sang to a dry well. “From there they continued to Beer, that is the well where the Lord said to Moses, ‘Assemble the people, that I may give them water.’ Then Israel sang this song: ‘Spring up, O well! Sing to it! The well, which the leaders sank, which the nobles of the people dug, with the scepter and with their staffs.’” (Numbers 21:16-18) When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, our wells spring forth, watering both us and those around us.

I believe that this scripture in the book of John gives us the keys to receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Over the next few posts we will be looking at these keys.

More to come… David Robison

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Biblical Roles: The Brethren (Part 3)

Ambassador of Christ

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

The Greek word translated here as “ambassadors” means “to be a senior” or “to act as a representative”. While some apply verse 20, “we are ambassadors”, to the apostles, I believe that Paul was referring to all believers, not just to himself and his fellow apostles. In context, we have all been reconciled to God through Christ and we have all received the word and ministry of reconciliation. Because of this, we have all been called as ambassadors of Christ.

As Christ’s ambassadors, it is important to remember that we are called to represent Christ rather than ourselves. Our lives should be a reflection of the one who sent us rather than a reflection of our own will and desires. If a king or president sent an ambassador to a distant country, he would expect that his representative would act in a way keeping with his own. But if that representative proceeded to live an unruly life or act in a way contrary to the nature of the one who sent him, then he would not be a faithful representation to those to whom he has been sent. This is why Paul encourages all believers to, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1) We are to walk worthy because we have been made worthy by Him who called us, and when we walk worthy, we are portraying a clear representation of Him who called us. When we walk worthy, we also give testimony to the truth that God has sent us to proclaim. Paul writes of those who chose to live a life contrary to the truth of God saying, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” (Romans 1:18-19) As believers, we have the truth within us, that we have been reconciled to God, but if we live as if we had never been reconciled, living in our old ways of sin, then we obscure the truth of God and suppress it with our unrighteousness.

Along with walking worthy, we must also remember that our message is His message, not our own. The message we have been given to deliver to the world is a message of reconciliation. I have meet some Christians who believe that they have been given a message of judgment for the world, but even Christ said “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47) This is not to say that we should not speak of sin or try to help people understand that they are sinners, but the message we have been given is not that people are sinners, but that their forgiveness has been purchased by Christ and that through His sacrifice on the cross they can be reconciled back to God. It’s not a message of condemnation, but a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. We are called to take this message to the world, to implore people everywhere to be reconciled to God; to let people know that, though they are sinners, in Christ they can find forgiveness and reconsolidation through His blood. “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.’” (Luke 14:23)

David Robison

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Biblical Roles: The Brethren (Part 2)

The Work of Ministry

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13 NKJV)

It is the role of the brethren to perform the “work of ministry.” Ministry is not to be relegated to a select few or to the “professional” clergy, but ministry is the responsibility of each and every member of the Body of Christ. All believers are to be “full-time ministers” regardless of whether they draw a salary from the church or not. There really is no such thing as a “bi-vocational” minister. Regardless of what we do to earn a living, we are all called to be ministers of the Gospel.

Unfortunately, many in the western church have grown complacent and have been content to leave the work of ministry to the paid ministers. We have become like those whom Paul referred to in the book of Hebrews. “Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers , you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:11-12) We have churches full of people who, by now, aught to be teaches, yet for all the teaching they have heard, they still have need to be taught. The reason we have become dull of hearing is because we have failed to practice the Word we have been taught. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) If we would get up and start doing the work of ministry, start practicing the Word we have heard, then we would begin to grow stronger and our ministry would begin to develop and grow. By practicing the Word of God we will progress from student to teacher, from one needing ministry to one who is a minister.

After departing Egypt, the children of Israel spent almost a year and a half on Mount Horeb being taught by the Lord. Their time there was pleasant. They were feed by the Lord, their possessions did not wear out, and the Lord was a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. One day, the Lord came and spoke to the congregation saying, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey…” (Deuteronomy 1:6-7) The children of Israel had grown comfortable, they liked it at Mount Horeb and were content to stay, yet the promise land still awaited them. As long as they stayed on the mountain, they would never inherit what God had for them; they had to leave and journey to the land God had promised them. So it is for us today. Many of us have become comfortable in our churches. We like coming on Sunday, fellowshipping with our friends, and hearing the preaching by the pastor. We are content being spectators; watching the clergy minister in our midst. But God is speaking a new word to us. We have been on this mountain long enough. It is time to rise up and possess the promises of God. It is time to leave the comfortable place and journey to our promised land. It is time for us to start doing the work of ministry, not waiting on others to do it. This is our inheritance; this is our calling.

More to come… David Robison

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blog Sightings

I was excited to see that my blog was mentioned this month by the Chrurch Report Online. You can check it out for yourself here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Biblical Roles: The Brethren (Part 1)

The role of the Brethren

“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas -- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them, ‘The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.’” (Acts 15:22-23)

I believe that in this verse, Paul outlines the governmental structure for the church: the Apostles, the Elders, and the Brethren. In this post (and those to come) we will look at some of the roles of the Brethren. This list is not exhaustive, but contains some of the role I believe to be important.


“But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:24-27)

It is the brethren who are to provide care to the body. It is not the responsibility of the pastor, the elders, or any paid staff; it is the sole responsibility of the brethren to care one for another. God has designed the Body so that each member should care for the other members of the body. Unfortunately, in the western church we have strayed away from this reality. We hire pastors and paid staff and expect them to care for the people. When we have a need, we look to the pastor for counseling, prayer, and comfort. When someone in our church is suffering, we direct them to someone else for ministry rather than ministering to them ourselves. We fail to see ourselves as ministers as much as we fail to see that all of God’s people are capable of ministering. There are two keys to making the transition from a staff/pastor led system of care to a becoming a body of caring believers.

First, we must accept that we are needed and that we need the other members of the Body. “If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Corinthians 12:15-16, 21) We are all part of the Body and we are all needed; we all have something to offer and we all have a part to play. In the Body, there are not suppliers and consumers; some members that supply care and other that consume it. Rather we are all to be supplies and consumers of what the Body has to offer. It is in the giving and receiving that we grow in the strength and stature of the Lord.

This leads us to the second key; we need to develop genuine relationships within the Body of Christ. “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16) A joint is the place where two parts meet. Joints represent relationships between two parts of the body. Notice that it is at the joint where each member gives and receives life from the other members. If we are to be a church where each member cares for one another, then we must become a church that is “fitted and held together” by the relationships formed between its members.

More to come… David Robison

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Biblical Roles: Elders (Part 3)


“The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

The Greek word used for “rule” means to “stand before” and to “preside over”. This is the same word Paul uses when listing the qualifications of an Elder. Paul stipulates that an elder, “must be one who manages [rules] his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?).” (1 Timothy 3:4-5) Elders are appointed to rule over the church, not boards, not the congregation, not a committee, or even “the pastor”. God’s church is ruled by His elders. Paul likens and elder’s rule as that of a father over his household. As such, some of the roles of an elder include,

Leadership: Elders give direction and leadership to the church. Without leadership, a church can often become adrift, uncertain about decisions to make, where to go, or what to do. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7 NIV) This is not to say that elders must make all the decisions, but when there is confusion or differing opinions, it often falls to the elders to make the final decision and to set the course for others to follow. Just like in a family, all the members are responsible to make wise decisions regarding their own lives, but when it comes to making decisions that affect the entire family, it is the father that has both the final say-so and responsibility for the decisions he makes.

Conflict Resolution: As in any family, conflicts will arise between family members. When these conflicts grow to the point where they cannot be resolved among those involved, then it is the role of the elders to step in and help the warring parties to resolve their conflicts. In writing to the church at Philippi, Paul urges the elders to help two such women to work together in harmony. “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel.” (Philippians 4:2-3) For some reason, these two women had become “sidewise” in their relationship with one another. It is unclear exactly who the “true companion” is that Paul referrers to but it is reasonable to assume that it was one of the overseers to whom Paul addressed his letter. Elders do not need to be involved in every little dispute within the Body of Christ, but when two believers have tried and yet have failed to rebuild a broken relationship, the wisdom of the elders may be exactly what is needed to restore harmony and fellowship.

Discipline: One of the hardest things an elder has to do is to execute discipline on a member of the church. Jesus laid out the process for church discipline, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17) In telling it to the church, it is the elders that represent the church and preside over any disciplinary action taken by the church. Discipline is never fun, but there are times when it is necessary for the health of the church and for the redemption of the one disciplined. Some elders shy away from discipline, hoping that the problem will resolve itself or simply go away, but when we ignore discipline it only makes the problem worse. In the church at Corinth, there was a sinful situation that called for discipline, yet none of the elders were taking action. So Paul made the decision for them and wrote to them commanding that they carry out his decision, “For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:3-5) An elder must never cower away from the difficult task of discipline, if he does, it will only weaken the church, yet if he faces it courageously it will benefit the church greatly. “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:11)

More to come… David Robison

Friday, December 08, 2006

Biblical Roles: Elders (Part 2)


“Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, God prophesied of a time when he would give his people shepherds who would shepherd them after God’s own heart. They would shepherd God’s people just as God would shepherd them and they would feed then and tend them just as Christ would. There are three primary aspects to being a shepherd.

First, a shepherd is called to feed the flock. “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.” (John 21:15 NKJV) Paul said that an elder should be “apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2 KJV). An elder is to feed the people of God with the Word of God. They are to teach not only the milk of the word, but also the solid food found in His scriptures. Yet an elder is not to simply “spoon feed” the sheep, but a good shepherd leads his sheep to where the best food is to be found. An elder not only teaches the word of God but He points God’s people to the one who is the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. An elder’s teaching does not only educate, but leads the people into a more vibrant relationship with the one whom the scriptures speak about, they lead them to Jesus.

Secondly, a shepherd watches over the flock. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17) Remember when the angels came to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, they found them “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). An elder is to watch over the people of God. He is to be on the guard against attacks from without and attacks from within. He is to watch for and defend the flock from the lion and the bear and also from the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Much of this watching is done through prayer. An elder should be watchful in prayer and sound the alarm to the flock when danger is near.

Thirdly, a shepherd is an example to the flock. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3) Someone once said that values are more caught than taught. It matters little what an elder teaches if their lifestyle does not line up with their teaching. Elders are to be an example to the flock. An elder should always be aware that people are watching; watching to see if the word of God is really true and can really be lived out in our lives. If we cannot live out the word of God, what hope do the people of God have? We need to live the truth we teach, we need to be examples of what is possible when the God of the universe, and His word, lives inside of us.

More to come… David Robison

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jay Adkins reviews "The Blog of Job"

I want to thank my friend and fellow blogger, Jay Adkins, for his recent review of my book, "The Blog of Job". Jay's blog is one of the few blogs I read on a regular basis and he always seems to have something interesting and worth while to say. If you are interested in getting your own copy of my book, "The Blog of Job", it is available directly from the publisher as well as from Oh, and remember it makes a great Christmas Gift too!

David Robison

Monday, December 04, 2006

Biblical Roles: Elders (Part 1)

The role of an Elder

“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas -- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them, ‘The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.’” (Acts 15:22-23)

I believe that in this verse, Paul outlines the governmental structure for the church: the Apostles, the Elders, and the Brethren. In this post (and those to come) we will look at some of the roles of the Elders. This list is not exhaustive, but contains some of the role I believe to be important.


“So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’” (Acts 6:2-4)

At its inception, the twelve apostles were also the elders of the new church. As the church grew and the needs of the believers grew, the elders found themselves squeezed for time. There was the always pressing need of the people and there was also their personal need to spend time with God. The elders of the early church understood that their chief calling was to labor in the word and in prayer. Their calling to pray for the people was greater than their calling to personally serve the people. Their solution was to ordain deacons to see to the ministry “tasks” while they gave themselves to prayer.

An elder is to pray for the people. Intersession is one of the primary roles of an elder. They are like the Old Testament priests that carried the names of the twelve tribes of Israel before God. “As a jeweler engraves a signet, you shall engrave the two stones according to the names of the sons of Israel; you shall set them in filigree settings of gold. You shall put the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of memorial for the sons of Israel, and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for a memorial.” (Exodus 28:11-12) Elders continually bring the people of God before God, they continually offer up their names as a memorial before Him.

When Paul was passing through Ephesus for the final time, he called together the elders and commanded them to “be on the alert.” (Acts 20:31) The Greek word for “alert” is literally “watch”. Paul commanded them to be on the watch. How do we watch in the Spirit? “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’” (Matthew 26:40-41) The watching Jesus was referring to was prayer. We watch in prayer. When elders pray and intercede, they are standing watch over the flock. It is in the place of prayer that God can reveal His plans and purposes for the body. It is also in prayer that God can warn us of the plans and purposes of our enemy. Watching is praying.

It is the continual temptation of elders to become busy with the “work” of ministry, but an elder must never allow the needs of others to draw them away from their primary role as intercessor. The more there is to do, the greater the need for elders to pray. Without prayer, we lack the wisdom, guidance, and revelation from God that is needed to lead the people of God. Elders must pray!

More to come… David Robison

Friday, December 01, 2006

Biblical Roles: Apostles (Part 3)


“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7)

Paul was not only a father to the churches, urging them on, but he was also a mother to them, tenderly caring for their condition. Paul’s care was not for the “church” but for the people of the “church”. Paul cared for them, not because it was his “job” but because he genuinely cared and loved them. Paul’s heart was bent towards them and he delighted when he was able to be with them. In his letter to the Romans he told them, “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11-12) And in his letter to the Philippians he said, “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:8) Paul’s care for them flowed out of the love and affection he had for them in Christ Jesus.

Apostles have a mother’s heart for the people of God. Their concern for the churches is constant, even when they are absent. Paul write of his daily concern for the churches, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (2 Corinthians 11:28-29) When absent, they bear the burden of concern. When present, they are gentle in their care.

Conflict Resolution

“I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.” (3 John 9-10)

There are times when, in the life of a church, things can go awry. Often this is the result of sin and pride, and most often it is sin and pride within the leadership of a church. Paul warned the elders of the church at Ephesus, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30) Notice that Paul told them that the wolves would arise from amongst the elders. Many times, the problems that can destroy a church are problems within the eldership. In times such as these, apostolic ministry can be a lifesaver to a church. It is times like these that apostles can step in and, with their authority in Christ, set things right and restore order to the church. “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:11)

David Robison

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Biblical Roles: Apostles (Part 2)


“For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:15)

Paul was a spiritual father to individuals, such as Timothy, but he was also a father to churches. Paul reminds the church at Corinth that he had become their father in the spirit because he was the one who brought the gospel of Christ to them and he lead them to new life in Jesus; he birthed them and he fathered them. While many would come and minister to the believers in Corinth, they would never replace Paul nor the place he held in their hearts and lives.

Apostles are fathers to churches. Either because they were the one who brought them the gospel and “birthed” the church or because of the relationships they formed with those in the church. Many churches today are birthed without any apostolic involvement from the beginning, but this does not mean that they cannot be fathered. Many churches today are seeing the need for fathers and are reaching out to apostolic people and ministries to receive the fatherly ministry that the church needs. So what does it mean to be a father to a church?

“You know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

A father exhorts and encourages his children to reach their full potential. He encourages them to be the people who Jesus has called them to be. He does not caudle them in their weakness but implores them to rise up in the strength of Christ and overcome their weakness. He does not excuse them when they sin; rather he calls them to repentance and holiness. As a father, he is like a coach that is able to inspire, motivate, and provoke his children to give and be more than they ever though they could give or be.

“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” (Acts 20:27)

A father tells his children what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. A father, in love, tells it like it is. One of the hardest parts of growing up is hearing things about ourselves that we don’t want to hear. While the truth can set us free, it often hurts first. Before we can receive the forgiveness that is in the gospel, we must first receive what the gospel has to say about us being sinners. None of us likes to see our children hurting, but we also know that sometimes the sorrow of God must first precede the life of God. A father does not shrink back from telling the truth, from telling us what we really need to hear.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

Fathers bring discipline. No child ever grew to maturity without discipline. It is through discipline and instruction that we bring our lives into conformity with the image of Christ. A father’s discipline should never be the result of anger but rather should always be exercised with the best interests of the child in mind. A good father disciplines his child out of a desire to see his child grow and mature. It is for this reason that our heavenly Father disciplines us. “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10) Fathers discipline because of the hope and certainty they have for what their children can and are called to be, therefore, they discipline in hope not anger.

More to come… David Robison

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Biblical Roles: Apostles (Part 1)

The role of the Apostle

“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas -- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them, ‘The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.’” (Acts 15:22-23)

I believe that in this verse, Paul outlines the governmental structure for the church: the Apostles, the Elders, and the Brethren. In this post (and those to come) we will look at some of the roles of the Apostles. This list is not exhaustive, but contains some of the role I believe to be important.

Master Builder

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

As a “master builder,” Paul describes himself as one who oversees the building of the church. While Paul did not oversee every little aspect in the church, his role was as an architect. He was concerned with what the church was to become, and as such, his chief focus was upon the foundation. The foundation determines the extent of what can be build upon it. If you have a small foundation or if it is build with inferior material, then only a small building may be build upon it, but if the foundation is laid upon a rock and built with superior material, then there is no limit to the structure that may be built. Jesus put it this way, “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” (Luke 6:47-48 NKJV)

One of the roles of an apostle is as a master builder. In this role, an apostle is responsible for laying a solid foundation in the church. Paul makes clear that the foundation they are to lay is Jesus Christ. They are not concerned with establishing a denomination or with teaching sectarian aspects of one or another sect of Christianity. Their main concern is seeing Jesus Christ established at the center of every believer’s heart and at the center of every local expression of the Body of Christ. Apostles understand that, unless Jesus is the foundation of everything we do, then all our works will be like those built upon the sand and whose end will be, “the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:49)

In laying a foundation, an apostle also understands that a foundation is not what you know, but what you do. Jesus said that the man who laid a solid foundation was one who “comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them.” (Luke 6:47) An apostle is not as concerned with changing someone’s doctrine as they are with changing someone’s way of life. They want to see people’s life changed and they want to see all believers come into conformance to the image of Christ. Paul put it this way, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” (Galatians 4:19) As a master builder, they are concerned with the heart, not the mind. They are concerned with transformation not education. They are concerned with the foundation not the outward appearance of the building.

More to come… David Robison

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: We are all brothers

You are all brothers

How do we resist the temptation to lapse back into a class-based religion? Jesus gives us the key, “You are all brothers.” (Matt 23:8) We must always remember that, in Christ, we are all brothers and sister. Paul reminds us that in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) God does not see any distinction between believers. He does not see clergy or laity, rich or poor, young or old; He only sees sons and daughters. Even when Paul went to Jerusalem to submit to the Apostles the gospel he was teaching among the gentiles, he recognized that there was no difference between him and the Apostles or even the rest of the brethren. “But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) -- well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.” (Galatians 2:6)

God does not make distinctions among men, but far too often we do. We elevate some and appoint to them the professional ministry of the gospel. We let them to the work of ministry while we remain but spectators of the kingdom of God. As leaders, we often relish in the promotion we receive in the estimation of others. We like being thought highly of by others. We can even begin to see ourselves as being special, better than the people we lead. While we may see ourselves and others in this light, God does not. We must renew our minds to realize that, no matter the specific function we fulfill in the Body of Christ, we are all equal; we are all bothers and sisters in Christ. Whether Pope, Priest, Father, Bishop, Pastor, Teacher, Elder, or believer, we are all bothers.

In the church, there is really only one who is special, one who has first place, one who is preeminent and that person is Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us shed the old garb of clergy/laity and return to a biblical understanding of the body where we can once again be simply brother and sisters in faith.

David Robison

Monday, November 20, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: Desiring to be Praised

A desire to be praised

In describing the Pharisees, Jesus said, “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.” (Matthew 23:5-7) The Pharisees loved the praises of men. They loved being honored and respected by others more than by God. All their works were motivated by their need to be noticed by men. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:1-8)

When we allow others to call us Pastor, Teacher, Elder, or Father we open ourselves up to the desire to be praised. We can easily fall into the same trap as the Pharisees, where we desire the notice of men more than the notice of God. When we live for the praise of men, our lives become wholly about us; we cease to live to serve God and man and instead live only for ourselves. Praise can become an intoxicating drink that clouds our minds and perverts our judgment. This is why King Solomon said, “Each is tested by the praise accorded him.” (Proverbs 27:21) It is better to be praised by God than to be praise by men.

When we live for the praises of men, we grow weak in our faith. Jesus said, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44) When we look away from our heavenly Father and seek to receive praise and acceptance from men, we loose sight of the promises of God and we grow weak in our faith. Our strength comes from looking into His face and receiving what He has to say about us. Our confidence grows when we understand how much the Father loves us and when we learn to hear His praise for us. With men, we might have our “15 minutes of fame,” but with God, His love and acceptance for us is eternal.

David Robison

Monday, November 13, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: Desiring to be Served

We Desire to Be Served Rather than Serve

On the night Jesus was to be betrayed, there arose a dispute amongst the disciples as to who was the greatest among them. Jesus answered them saying,

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27)

When we allow others to call us teacher, leader, and father, we open ourselves up to the temptation that we are to be served more than we are to serve. Jesus notes that those in the world who have authority are call “Benefactors,” in other words, the leaders of this world are the one who benefit from their leadership. For example, many of the most dictatorial leaders today are also the wealthiest amongst those whom they lead. Their leadership has gained for them great wealth; often at the expense of those whom they have led. Jesus tells us clearly that this should not be so in the Body of Christ. Those who lead in God’s church are to lead in a way as to serve others before themselves. The benefactors of their leadership should be those in their charge, not themselves.

If you are a leader in the church, ask yourself these following questions:

  • How much effort in the church goes to supporting and growing my ministry as opposed to the ministries of others in my church?
  • Do your corporate expressions and meetings center around your gifting and ministries more than the ministries and gifting of others?
  • Do others in the church serve to support your ministry more than you serve to support others ministries?
  • How much attention in the church is given to your personal preferences, likes, and comfort?

I have actually known some pastors that even have their own personal bouncers to keep them from being inconvenienced after a service by those who desire their attention, counsel, and prayers.

Jesus tells us very clearly, “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11) Jesus was among us as one who serves; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humbled Himself to serve mankind. In the same way, we too are called to serve. We must never let our high opinion of ourselves convince us that we deserve to be served or that serving is beneath us. The greater our authority and our calling of leadership, the greater is our responsibility to serve.

David Robison

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: Desiring to be First

These verses in Mathew 23 not only address what we call others in the body of Christ but they also caution us about what we allow others to call us. These verses say that we should not allow others to call us Rabbi, Teacher, or Leader. When we allow others to address us with such titles we open ourselves up to the temptation of the devil. Here are some of the things the devil will tempt us with.

The Desire to be First

I have over the years meet many people who wanted to be leaders, teachers, and pastors because the loved the titles more than the loved the work. For them, the titles served to elevate them above others, set them ahead of the crowd, and make them special. This was the case of a man named Diotrephes. John wrote of him to his friend Gaius saying, “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.” (3 John 9-10) Diotrephes was one who loved to be first. Diotrephes was apparently distinguished among many in the church and obviously possessed a mantle of authority. There were also other elders in the church, including the beloved Gaius, to whom John wrote his letter. But Diotrephes was not content to be one among many; he sought to be the head, or the ruling authority, in the church. He wanted to be first amongst all the brethren, the one calling the shots, the one in charge. In the end, it caused him to become suspicious of even John and the men ministering with him. Diotrephes ended up rejecting all outside ministry and authority and requiring that all those in “his” church to do the same.

It is very tempting for leaders today to fall into the same temptation as Diotrephes when we allow our parishioners, or congregants, to lift us up with lofty titles that create a class system of clergy/laity within the Body of Christ. These titles serve only to create distinction amongst members of the one Body. They lift some up while placing others beneath the exalted ones. These titles identify a group of people, the leaders, teachers, and pastors, as being more important, of having preeminence, and of being superior to the other members of the Body. And, if we are not careful, as leaders, teachers, and pastors, we can begin to believe these lies ourselves. Unfortunately, the fruit of these lies is not greater ministry, but like Diotrephes, its suspicion of others and a desperate struggle to hold on to our position, power, and authority.

Jesus views being first very differently then we do. For example, consider apostles. Paul says that they were appointed as first in the Body of Christ. “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28) But it was Paul’s personal experience that, as an apostle, being first was not all it is cracked up to be. “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13) Paul understood that, in the Kingdom of God, being first meant being last. Paul understood that his calling as an apostle was a calling to be the servant of every man. Being an apostle did not mean that he got to be first but that he got to be last. His needs and his desires were to forever become subordinate to the needs of every other man.

When God calls a man or a woman to be a pastor, teacher, or leader, He is calling them to take up the lowliest place and to give their lives serving the needs of others. This is why Jesus reminds us that, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12) Let us not allow the titles bestowed upon us by others to go to our head. Let us remain humble and remain willing to take up the lowliest place, as servants of the mighty King.

David Robison

Friday, October 27, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: Discerning the Body

We divide ourselves along human lines

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-7)

A generation ago, divisions among Christians were predominantly drawn along denominational lines, but with the explosion of non-denominational and evangelical Christian churches, things have changed. Today many Christians distinguish themselves based on who their leaders are more than what denomination they belong to. This was certainly the case in the first century church at Corinth.

For many of the Christians at Corinth, leaders like Paul and Apollos had become more than brothers in Christ, they had become elevated in the minds of their followers, they had become leaders of become leaders of churches and leaders of movements and for those who gathered around their ministry and leadership, they became a distinction by which fellow believes divided themselves. This is not to say that Paul or Apollos elevated themselves, but it was the people who elevated them in their own estimation and used Paul and Apollos as symbols to divide the body of Christ.

Many churches today are leader, or pastor, focused. Many people’s affinity to their church is based on their pastor’s or leader’s ministry. Loyalty to the church is often equated to loyalty to the pastor or leader. When a believer’s identity to the body of Christ is found in their identity to their pastor or leader, then we become like those in the Corinthian church who say, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos.” Paul tells us that when we make distinctions among believers based on who are leaders or pastors are, then we prove ourselves to be carnal and fleshly. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves.

  • Is the primary goal and purpose of our programs and efforts to increase our church’s attendances, finances, and commitment among its members or is it to expand the Kingdom of God?
  • Do we rejoice as much when God is blessing another church in town as we do when God is blessing our church?
  • Are we just as likely to partake of the ministry of another church or group as we are that of our own church?
  • Do any of our regular corporate expressions of our faith include the fellowship with believers from other churches or only with those from our own church?
  • Do we boast about the ministry of our church and that of our pastor and/or leader or do we boast about what God is doing in the earth?

The truth is that God has placed ministry, including pastors and leaders, in the body to benefit the whole Body of Christ. Paul concludes his rebuke to the Corinthian church saying, “So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) God has given your pastor and the pastor at the church down the street for your benefit, and for the benefit of the entire body. They are not “your” pastor; they are the body’s pastor. They are not “your” leader; they are leaders within the Body of Christ. God has not given our pastors and leaders that we might divide the Body of Christ but rather that they might be a blessing to the whole body. Let us no longer divide ourselves around those whom we call “leader” for “all things belong to us.”

David Robison

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: Accepting our responsibility

We transfer our responsibilities to others

In the evangelical and charismatic churches, we have become very “pastor” or “leader” oriented. If we have a problem, our solution is to find a “pastor”. If our children are not growing with God, then we must need a children’s or youth pastor. If marriages in our church are in trouble, then we need to find a marriage pastor. Some churches even have a facility pastor who cares for the physical church building. Why is it that so often our answer to needs in the church is to find someone else to meet those needs? While God has placed many gifted people in the church, their giftedness does not absolve us of our own personal responsibility to fulfill God’s word and work. For example, maybe the answer to the needs of our children and youth in the church is for us to mentor the youth rather than hiring a “professional” to do it all for us.

In Mathew 25, Jesus describes the end of the ages, when God will judge all mankind. Jesus describes this event as the judging of the sheep and the goats.

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’” (Matt 25: 31-36, 41-43)

In this picture of the end of the age, all we see are sheep and goats. There is no clergy or laity, there are not priests or pastors, there are no churches or ministries, just sheep and goats, and their judgment and their eternal destination is determined based solely on their individual participation in the work of God. In that day, it will not be enough to say, “But it was my pastor’s job to handled all the hospital and prison visitation,” or “But our church had a committee focused on how to feed the poor,” or “But we gave money to the missionaries.” In that day, it will not matter what your pastor did, what your church did, or what a ministry you supported did, all that will matter is what you did. We cannot abdicate our personal responsibility to the “professional” clergy; we all must individually participate in the work of God.

So what is the purpose of pastors, teachers, and other ministries in the Body of Christ? Paul wrote that “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) The purpose of these ministries in the Body of Christ is not to do all the work, rather they are to train and equip us to do the work of ministry. You pastor’s job is not to do all the work; it is to train you so you can do the work.

In saying this I am not sounding the call for believers to become more involved in their church, but rather to become more involved in the purposes of God. The sheep and the goats were not judged based on their church involvement but based on their involvement (or lack there of) in the purposes of God. We must realize that we all bear individual responsibility to work the work of God. We cannot delegate our responsibility to someone else, nor can we hire someone else to fulfill our responsibility, it is ours alone to do. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

David Robison

Monday, October 16, 2006

This week's on-line prayer meeting

I will not be available for this week's on-line prayer meeting. However, if others are interested in meeting together for prayer, the TeamSpeek server will be up and running. This prayer meeting is open to all Christian Bloggers who have a heart to pray for each other, our blogs, and our ministries. If you are interested in joinging us, drop me a line and I will set you up with a loging.

David Robison

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: Eliminating the middle man

When we use labels like “priest”, “pastor”, “teach” and “father” to refer to leaders and ministers in the Body of Christ, our speech often serves to perpetuate the clergy/laity system of religion. Here are three specific issues that arise when we demote ourselves to laity and elevate others to the level of clergy.

We place others between us and God

As we have said before, under the Old Covenant, the Jewish priests served as intermediaries between God and man. “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.” (Hebrews 5:1-3) Under God’s new covenant with mankind, we can dispense with the intermediary and approach God directly. Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, we now have direct access to God. Paul writes of this access and encourages to take full advantage of it and to come boldly before God. “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Unfortunately, many Christians still live as if under the Old Covenant; seeking others to intermediate their relationship with God. We claim to know and love God but we are more comfortable approaching God through another rather than on our own. For example, ask yourselves the following questions.

  • When I have a difficult decision and am in need of counsel, do first set up an appointment with my pastor to discuss the situation or do I first go to God in prayer?
  • When I am sick, do I find myself in a prayer line asking for healing before I have asked God directly for my healing?
  • Is my main source of scriptural teaching that which I glean from my pastor or another teacher that I admire or is it from my own personal study of the scriptures?
  • Am I so satisfied and comforted by the love and fellowship of the brethren that I often neglect spending time with God; loving Him and being loved by Him?
  • When I sin, do I confess my sins to a priest or someone else close to me, yet forget to first confess my sins to God and ask Him for His forgiveness?

This is not to say that those who function as pastors, teachers, counselors, and ministers are not important or that they do not have a place in the Body of Christ. Rather, it is to say that we should never allow them to become a substitute for God in our lives. The gifts, anointings, and callings that God has give to individuals in His body can never replace our need for a personal and intimate relationship with God Himself. Far too often, the people of God have misused and abused the giftings and anointings God has place in the Body because they sought them as a substitute for their relationship with God. The truth is that the one you call “pastor” is not your “pastor”, God is, and until we come to know our heavenly Father as “wonderful counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) we will not know how to relate to those whom He has called to be His under shepherds. Those who lead your church are not your “elders”, Jesus is, and until we are willing to yield to the authority of our “elder brother” (Romans 8:29) we will not know how to respond to those whom He has chosen to delegate some of His authority. Those who teach you are not your “teachers”, the Holy Spirit is (1 John 2:27), and until we train our ear and learn from Him, we will not be able to discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error in all that we hear.

The message in all of this is that Jesus wants us to come to Him directly, without feeling the need for someone to intermediate our relationship with Him. Jesus told His disciples, “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” (John 16:23, 26-27) When we have a need, we don’t need to find a friend, make an appointment with the pastor, or seek out the man of God, we can go to the Father directly for everything we need. When we pray, we don’t need to pray to a saint, to Jesus’ mother, or even to Jesus, the Father has invited us to pray directly to Him for all our needs. What a wonderful blessing we have received under this New Covenant, that we can have our own personal relationship with God. Let us not despise this privilege by seeking others to serve as our intermediaries.

David Robison

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: Part 1

“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12)

I believe that the Christian church at large has mostly ignored this verse. Growing up, the only time I heard this verse quoted was when someone was questioning why the Catholic Church uses the title of “father” for their priests. While it is true that the Catholic Church has some explaining to do in regards to their use of the term “father”, the protestant church is not completely innocent with regards to this verse either. While we may not use the term “father” we have our own set of terms that, if Jesus were here, He would have included them in this verse. We use such terms as “Pastor”, “Teacher”, “Leader”, and “Elder” when referring to others within the church. In reality, there is little difference between the titles we use when referring to our “leaders” as when the Catholic Church calls their priests “father”. Whether protestant or Catholic, we all have to deal with this scripture and what it has to say about how we refer to others within the Body of Christ.

I believe that in this verse, Jesus was declaring the end to the Clergy/Laity religious system. Under the old covenant, there was a clear distinction between priest and layman. The priests were those who were anointed by God to approach God and to intercede before God on behalf of the people. The laypeople were not permitted to approach God on their own; the priests were their intermediaries in their worship of God. Even in the offering of their sacrifices, they had to first present them to the priests who would then present them to God on their behalf.

It has always been God’s heart to have a one-on-one relationship with all His people. However, because of sin, our spirits are dead to God and our natural response to God’s presence is fear. This was evident when God appeared to the people of Israel to establish His covenant with them. “All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. [Then they said to Moses] ‘Go near and hear all that the Lord our God says; then speak to us all that the Lord our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’” (Exodus 20:18, Deuteronomy 5:27) The people were afraid to hear from God so they asked Moses to be their intermediary. With the giving of the law and the establishing of the tribe of Levi as priests, the system of clergy and laity was born, yet its days were numbered. Just as the glory that shown from Moses’ face was fading, so the system of religion established under the Old Covenant was also temporary and passing away from the start. It was set in place until a time of reformation, a time when Jesus would come to establish a new covenant, a covenant where everyone could approach God on their own, and a covenant where everyone was a priest and where everyone was anointed to minister.

Consider what Peter had to say about us as children of God. “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:5, 9) It is not only some who are a royal priesthood; we are all part of that priesthood. It is not only some who offer up spiritual scarifies; we are all free to offer up our own sacrifices to God. It is not only some who are holy while the others are common; we are all holy to God. We are all priests, we are all saints, we are all holy to God.

In the coming posts we will look at why we should not call others “father”, “teacher’, and “leader” as well as the problems that arise when we let others call us by these names.

David Robison

Friday, October 06, 2006

Service: An Elder's Function (Part 4)

Provide Counsel to Those Over Them

“King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, ‘How do you counsel me to answer this people?’ Then they spoke to him, saying, ‘If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.’ But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him.” (1 Kings 12:6)

The book of Acts describes the authority structure in the church as, “the apostles, the elders, and the brethren.” (Acts 15:23 NKJV) While the subject of apostles is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to note that the main ministry of apostles is to “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4) More than apostles, elders tend to be more directly involved in the lives of those entrusted to them. Because of their association with the people of God, they tend to have greater insight to the condition of the flock and the needs of the people. This insight can prove to be a valuable asset to the principle ministries leading or overseeing a church. They are uniquely qualified to provide counsel as to the needs of the people and how people are being affected by the ministries within the church.

At the reunion of Jacob and Esau, Esau offered to let his men lead and escort Jacob's sons, wives, and livestock back home. Jacob turned down the offer, saying, “But he said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die.’” (Genesis 33:13) Jacob reminded Esau of the needs of his flock. He was concerned for their health and well being. In the same way, elders should look out for the needs of the people. Their voice should be the voice of the people. They should be the eyes and ears of the apostolic ministry among the people. Together, elders and apostles can prove to be a dynamic team to shepherd and care for the people of God.

David Robison

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Service: An Elder's Function (Part 3)

Bearing the Sins of the People

“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)

Elders do not live in a vacuum, but in their hearts bear before God the sins and weakness of the people of God. Paul's complaint with the Corinthian elders was that they had grown callous to the sins of the people. Their abhorrence of sin and their zeal for righteousness had degenerated to an arrogance rooted in their own self-righteousness. They were no longer touched by the weaknesses and stumblings of their brethren. In striking contrast, Paul showed us he was deeply touched by the weaknesses of others. “Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (2 Corinthians 11:29)

Aaron was instructed to wear two stones, one on each shoulder, when he appeared before God. On each stone were written the names of six of the tribes of Israel. In wearing these stones he was to, “Bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for a memorial.” (Exodus 28:12). In the same way, elders are called to draw near to God with the names of the people of God on their shoulders, to remember them before God and to pray that their weaknesses be strengthened and their stumbling be pardoned by the blood of the lamb.

Judgment and Discipline

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother... [they] shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-19, 22:18 NKJV)

Paul says that we have become, “fellow citizens... and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19 NKJV) Peter says that we are, “A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV) The church is to be a family and community of believers. In every family and community, there come times when discipline and judgment are necessary. No family or community can exist without order, and when God's people begin to stray outside of God’s law, it is the responsibility of the elders to bring order and correction. Bringing discipline and judgment is never fun, yet the actions of an individual member can never be allowed to jeopardize the health and well being of the whole body. Joshua and the nation of Israel learned this when, through the sins of one man, defeat fell upon the whole nation (Joshua 7:1ff).

When the elders in Corinth neglected to execute discipline on one of their members, Paul stepped in. “For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:3-5) Elders should never shrink back in fear from their duty to bring judgment and discipline when needed.

David Robison

A call for other Christian bloggers

It has been on my heart to meet with other Christian bloggers to pray for each other, for our blogs, for our readers, and for our ministries. To this end, I have started an online prayer meeting using a TeamSpeek server where we can all pray and hear each other. If you are a fellow Christian blogger and interested in meeting online for pray, let me know and I will set you up with access to the server. The next meeting is this Thursday, October 5th at 9:30 PM EDT. Thanks and God Bless

David Robison

Monday, October 02, 2006

Service: An Elder's Function (Part 2)

Examples to the Flock

“Nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3)

Jesus Himself referred to His people as sheep. One of the qualities of sheep is their need to be led. Sheep, left to themselves, will never find the right way, rather, each will turn to his own way. One of the mistakes commonly made by those who are called to watch over the flock of God is their belief that somehow the people of God will naturally find their own way into the things of God. We preach holiness and assume the people will become holy. We preach obedience and expect the people to become obedient. We preach the will of God and expect that the people will find their way into the will of God.

While most people know what they should do or be, they don't know how to do or be. We have become very good at telling people that they should be holy, obedient, and in the will of God, but we fail to show them how to be holy, obedient, and find the will of God. Elders are called to be leaders, to take the lead, to go before or ahead of the flock. An elder's primary function is not to merely tell the people that they should be holy, but to demonstrate with their own lives the way of holiness. An elder should not merely talk about obedience, but rather should demonstrate it. They should show God's people what holiness and righteousness look like; to be an example that the rest may follow.

Moses was given explicit instructions about how he was to anoint Aaron and his sons as ministers of God and of His tabernacle. “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. You shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the tunic and the robe of the ephod and the ephod and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod; and you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. Then you shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him.” (Exodus 29:4-7) All of this was to be done in the sight of the people. It was important to God that the people witness the process of cleansing and anointing. It is not always comfortable to be stripped and washed in the sight of all the people, to have God working in our lives while people are watching, but God deemed it necessary. Elders are not only to be examples of the finished product, but also of the process of being conformed into the final product. We need to learn to be transparent to the point where others can see what God desires in their life and the pathway to obtaining that goal.

Laying on of Hands

“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” (1 Timothy 4:14)

Too often when we look at the church, all we see are people; people full of problems, quirks, and needs. When Jesus looks at the church, He sees a “glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” (Ephesians 5:27 NKJV). We tend to look with the natural eye while Jesus looks with the spiritual eye. When we limit our sight to what we see with our natural eye, we fail to see the deposit of God in our lives and the lives of those around us. Part of the ministry of elders is to help people identify that which can only be seen by the spiritual eye. Most people do not need to be reminded of who they are in the flesh; we have an enemy who’s very good at that. Rather, people need to be reminded of who they are in God. They need to see themselves as God sees them. People need to see the richness of who they are in God rather than the depravity of who they are in the flesh.

When elders look out over the people, they should not only look with the natural eye, but should also with the prophetic eye. They should look with prophetic insight to identify the giftings and callings latent in the people and to call these gifts and callings into being. Through the laying on of hands they should seek to impart, identify, and confirm the deposit of God in people. For many of the people of God, this impartation and confirmation can be the difference between victory and defeat. It can embolden the people of God to fight the “good fight of faith.”

“This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight.” (1 Timothy 1:18)

David Robison

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Service: An Elder's Function (Part 1)

There are a number of practical ways which elders extend care to the people of God. I will list just of few of them found in the scriptures.


“The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

“An overseer, then, must be … able to teach.” (1 Timothy 3:2)

Jesus spoke of a faithful servant who was put in charge of his master's household to, “Give them their food at the proper time” (Matthew 24:45). An elder's teaching ministry is very much like the ministry of that servant. Elders are called to feed the people of God with the Word of God. Their teaching ministry should not only give the saints an appreciation for God's Word, but also help them to see themselves in the Word and to learn how to apply the Word of God to their lives. Their ministry is very much like the ministry of the elders in the day of Ezra.

“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up... also... the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:5-8)

The teaching ministry of elders is not the laying down of doctrine; this is the role of the apostles and prophets. Their role is to take the word as it is preached and to “translate” it to the people. To help them understand how it applies to their lives and to help them to grasp the word and to graft it into their lives.

Praying for the Sick

“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15)

An elder's care for the flock of God should not be limited to the spiritual needs of the people, but rather their care should extend to the whole person; body, soul, and spirit. Elders should not allow themselves to become isolated or insulated from the people. Elders are called to both celebrate with those experiencing the triumphs of life, and to help and comfort those experiencing the disappointments and the losses of life. Jesus shared life with those whom He was with. He was found both at the wedding in Cana and at the widow’s son’s funeral. He healed the sick and blessed the children. Jesus did not hide himself away in a monastery, seeking life-long solitude with God, rather he was found with the people, seeking to help them in this journey called life. Elders, likewise, are called to be involved in the lives of people, to be open, approachable, and personable. One of the ways that elders minister to the physical needs of the saints is though their prayers for them when they are sick. Praying for the sick in one of the ways that the genuine care they have for the people of God is expressly felt by those under their care.

David Robison

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Superintendency: An Elder's Role

The New Testament writers used two different Greek words interchangeably when referring to elders. The first word, “presbuteros”, is normally translated “elder” and was used to reflect the honor the people held for their leaders. This is the same word from which we get our English word “presbytery” and “presbyter.” The second word, “episkopos”, is normally translated “bishop” or “overseer.” This is the same word from which we get our English word “Episcopal” and “Episcopalian.” The definition of this word has to do more with function than with honor. An elder can be defined as,

“An overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent.” (Joseph Henry Thayer)

When defining “superintendent”, Noah Webster adds the notion that such a person has authority to direct the actions of others as to what should be done and how it should be done. A superintendent’s role is to ensure that what needs to be done is done and done properly. Elders function in this kind of supportive role. Their job is to insure that the will and plans of another are properly carried out. An elder's role in the church is very similar to the role of a vice-president of a corporation. It is the responsibility of the vice-president to insure that the directions of the president are carried out in a manner consistent with his (or her) policies.

While Moses’ main problem was the multitude of people he was called to shepherd, Paul faced a different problem. Paul’s major problem was not the number of churches for which he cared, but rather the distance between them. Often it was several months, or even years, between visits to the different churches under his care. Paul could not personally care for the day-to-day needs of the individual churches. Paul's solution was to establish leadership in the local churches through whom he could extend his care and love for the people of God. “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” (Acts 14:21, 23)

In appointing elders, Paul was not relinquishing his care and authority for the church to them, but rather he was extending his care, authority, and anointing through them. Their authority came from Paul and they themselves were subject to him. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, rebuking them for not disciplining one of their members, he said that his main purpose in writing was to test their obedience to him. “For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.” (2 Corinthians 2:9) Paul goes on to say that they had passed the test with “flying colors.” “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:11-12)

The idea of being obedient to another and being earnest on another's behalf is odious to many in our generation. We like autonomy. We like having it our way. We don't want someone else telling us what to do or how to do it. Today, many pastors are held hostage by their “elders” and their board of directors. Instead of being extensions of the authority placed by God in the local church, many elders have rebelled and sought to impose their ways and agendas upon the church. As those who are called to superintend the work of God, we must once again recognize the apostolic authority which God has placed in the church and begin to subject ourselves to it, allowing God to use us as an extension of the pastor's ministry.

David Robison