What is the biblical form of church leadership?
Dr. R. J. Rizzi, Pastor
March 3, 2006
Establishing a plurality of elders as a form of church government is quite popular
among many present-day churches. There are many opinions and articles
addressing this issue.
Until the day of Pentecost, the term elder was strictly used for a leader in the
Jewish faith. From that point on the church adopted the term to refer to a man
who could be called upon for their discernment concerning issues of importance.
While this study is not meant to be exhaustive, I trust that it will be thorough
enough to establish a case either for or against establishing a plurality of elders in
local church polity.
The best place to begin is the Bible. If we are to defend any position we must
base it solely on the Word of God. Although we may gravitate toward our own
opinions the Bible, and the context in which each word is written, is vitally
important. When we as people attempt to circumvent the authority of Scripture,
we do damage to the information God has imparted to us for the benefit of
establishing a sound biblical New Testament Church.
Thesis: All pastors are elders; not all elders are pastors.
A pastor is an overseer and the definition of pastor finds it basis in 1 Timothy
3.1-7, Titus 1.5-9, and Ephesians 4.11,12.
The word “elders” is used 194 times in the New King James Version of the Bible.
It can mean someone who is elderly or someone of mature spirituality in the
Jewish faith and the Christian faith. It is used to describe an older man or
woman. From what I have read those who wish to establish a plurality of elders
in a church use some terms interchangeably. The terms are Pastor, Overseer,
and Elder. Let us look at these terms separately.
Pastor - (see appendix one)
Definition - The term pastor is given to a man who has been called of God to
shepherd or have oversight of a congregation. It is not a title as much as it is a
From this, we can determine that a pastor is one who is a shepherd, a
superintendent. He is responsible for equipping the congregation for their work in
ministry ( Eph. 4.12 ).
It is the pastor of the church who is given the ministry of oversight of the flock or
The pastor’s role is to spiritually feed the congregation from the Word of God.
This spiritual nourishment is to equip the saints for ministry.
Overseer (Bishop) - (see appendix two)
Definition - Overseer refers to a position or office that is to be filled by a man who
strives to live according to the criteria given in 1 Timothy 3.1-7. The position or
office of overseer is, as described in 1 Timothy 3.1-7, given to a man who meets
certain qualifications. The overseer is one who offers oversight to the
He will have the duty of superintendence over the local congregation in a very
personal way. The definition of the related words indicates personal supervision
over individual believers and the corporate body of believers. The words
visitation and inspection are used in the sense that the overseer will be one who
would be entrusted with the examination of each in the congregation. An overseer
will be the one who is entrusted to “look out for” those under his watch-care.
Elders. (see appendix three)
Definition - The term elder refers to a certain status a person attains because of a
combination of age, spiritual knowledge, wisdom and maturity. Elder is never
referred to as an office nor a title, or position as much as it is a designation and
description of where a person is in their walk with the Lord.
An Elder is a man or woman of advanced age. As a man who has a mature
understanding of the Christian faith, he is an ambassador. When a group or
council of elders was convened they would then be called on to offer a direction
to remedy an area of contention or division. They would rule or render judicial
decision over an issue concerning an individual or body of believers.
One example is found in Acts 15.4 where a council of elders was convened to
offer a resolution over the issue of whether or not Gentile believers had to be
An elder is a man of knowledge and experience in the arena in which he serves
and represents. Just as Jewish elder is wise in the context of the Hebrew faith so
is the Christian elder wise in matters pertaining to Christian doctrine and
Further Study ~
The calling of a pastor is one that is ordained by the Lord and not by men.
People do not appoint a person to be a pastor since it is something that the Lord
Himself gives to the man.
The pastor of a church is elected by the congregation of the local church in
recognition that this man has been ordained by the Lord to serve a church as
pastor. Nevertheless, this was not always the case. In the early Church, the
pastor was likely a person who had grown up in that church.
Because of a lack of male leadership in many churches, it has become necessary
to go outside the local body in order to find a man qualified for service as pastor.
The pastor is the shepherd or overseer of the local body of Christ. He is the
superintendent of the local church ministry. He is to feed the flock from the Word
of God to equip them for personal ministry. The pastor offers protective oversight
to the flock to ensure their spiritual well being. He is the guardian of the spiritual
oversight of the local church. The position of pastor/shepherd is quite different
from that of a man seen simply as an elder. A pastor may be an elder and led by
the Lord to serve in the capacity of pastor/bishop in the local church.
What can we say of this specific term?
The word for bishop comes from, as far as I can gather, a mispronunciation from
the Old English of the late 1,500's. They would say the word bicseop and mean
to say episcopus.  In any case, the term bishop in an English Bible refers to
the word episcopus meaning overseer, the proper understanding of the word.
It is different that the term for elder.
The term Overseer (bishop) (1 Tim. 3.1) seems to be a separate title or office
given to those (men) who desire to serve the Lord in a specific capacity. The
bishop or overseer in the church is one who then is entrusted with the oversight
of the church.
This responsibility of oversight would then be interchangeable with the duties of a
man who has been appointed by God in the calling of pastor (poimen) as used in
Ephesians 4:11. Someone with the calling of the Lord to serve as pastor will
desire the position of Overseer (bishop) and this is called a good work (1 Tim.
In this text (Eph. 4) we find that God has listed certain specific offices pertaining
to the oversight of the church and its ministry. Elder and deacon are not listed
here. The position of Overseer (bishop) is that of superintendence, shepherding
if you will, the ministry of the local church. The position of Overseer (bishop) is
the very same as the position of pastor. However, it is not the same as the term
In Titus 1:5 Paul writes to Titus and instructs him to appoint elders (plural) in
every city (plural).
He then continues, in verse 6, to address the qualifications of overseers or
pastors. Nowhere in Scripture do we find that elder is addressed as an office nor
is there a list of criteria that define such an office.
In the context of Titus becoming involved in the appointment of the leadership of
the church at Crete, Paul was giving instruction to Titus concerning many of the
same issues he had instructed Timothy in. Titus, being familiar with Paul’s writing
style and philosophy of ministry, would know what Paul meant in this letter even if
the ideas do not seem to make sense to the modern reader.
As for the issue of elders here in Titus 1 verse 5, I believe it to mean that Titus
was to appoint elders as overseers in each city. That would mean that it was
only necessary to have at least one elder per city.
Nevertheless, we realize that many believers could be considered an elder
because of their age, wisdom, and knowledge.
Paul is telling Titus to ordain/appoint elders for a specific area of service in each
city. Elders in cities means just that.
There is nothing specific that tells us that there is a plurality of elders in each
church. In Acts 14:23 we find the record of elders (plural) being appointed in
every church (again plural). There were elders appointed in churches. Yes, a
plurality of appointed elders in a plurality of churches or cities as is the case here
in the context in which we find the use of the word elders.
The word for appoint in Titus 1.5 is kayisthmi (kath-is'-tay-mee ).(Strong’s 2525)
It means: to place down or to set; constitute; set down in a place, to render or
cause to be. To ordain.
It is used here (Titus 1.5) in the sense that an elder is to be set in place or set
aside for a purpose. (Perschbacher 215)
The man is not being set aside to be an elder but that an elder is being set aside
or ordained to a particular responsibility, that of overseeer (i.e. pastor).
There are several examples of this appointment process in Scripture:
Matthew 24.45 - a servant is made (kayisthmi) a ruler over the master’s
Acts 6.3 - seven men are appointed (kayisthmi) to see about the business of
serving the church.
James 3.6 - the tongue is appointed (kayisthmi), or set among the rest of our
body in such a way that it can bring shame on us.
James 4.4 - those who are friends of the world (those who are unwilling to follow
the Lord) are appointed (kayisthmi) as enemies of the Lord.
Thus, I believe Paul was giving a directive for Titus to appoint (ordain) elders in
cities to the office of Overseer (pastor), of each church. He was to designate or
distinguish certain men who desired the position of overseer (1 Tim. 3.1) and that
is why Paul then goes on to tell Titus how to qualify these men (Titus 1.6-9) for
their service. They were to be set in place to be Overseers.
From our text, in Titus 1 we find that there were qualified elders in each city who
were to be appointed as overseers of that particular body of believers.
In the case of Acts 20.17-29, I believe that Paul is addressing elders who are
overseers among the men who are gathered at this meeting. That is that some of
the elders gathered there were also serving as Overseers or that these elders
gathered are all appointed as Overseers.
In 1 Timothy 5.17 elders who rule are to be counted worthy of double honor.
The term for rule here is proisthmi (pro-is'-tay-mee ).(Strong’s 4291)
This term means to stand before, i.e. (in rank) to preside, or (by implication) to
practice: maintain, be over, rule. It means one who has been appointed with
This indicates a man (elder) who is an Overseer, one who presides before or has
the duty to supervise.
In the case of 1 Peter 5.1-4 we have much the same context as in Titus. Peter,
who is an elder due to his age and maturity, is exhorting other elders who are his
peers. He tells them to “feed the flock”. The word for feed here is poimainw
(poimono) not poimhn (poimen) or shepherd. They are to be involved in the
episkopew (episkopeo) to watch out for the flock and their well being.
The elders here are to act as mature guardians of the congregation.
There is no indication that they have been appointed to the office of Overseer
here in this text although some may have been.
There are people who believe that the terms, overseer, elder, and pastor are
I do not hold this view. While some take this to mean that overseer and elders
are the very same, why then did God inspire two different words? Is it to describe
the same office with two different words or is it two different words to describe two
An elder, in respect to the Christian Church, is a man mature in age who has
been saved for many years. He will be a man who has a very good
understanding of Christian doctrine and Theology (1 Tim. 5.1). He will be a man
who can then be trusted to make delicate decisions concerning the ministry of the
local church. He will be able to make administrative and spiritual decisions
without bias. In Acts 15 the council of elders and apostles were called together to
address the contention about certain teaching that went against what Christ had
established. An elder of this standing will be appointed or set aside for a
As is the case with the council of elders (Acts 15.1-21) who met in Jerusalem to
consider the issue of the Gentile believers and their coming to a saving
knowledge of Christ.
It was the council of elders who made a judicial decision there that dictated the
early church doctrine, but it was under the authority of the apostles who came to
this council as well.
The first mention of elders in the context of the Church is in Acts 11.30 where
Paul and Barnabas came with financial relief to the region of Judea and offered it
to the elders there. Here we find multiple elders represented because it is a
The term elder refers to one who has some experience in the administration of
the local church body. They are mature individuals who called together to
discuss issues of contention between individuals.
We see that the eldership is in place at the time of the founding of the Church
and the question is, “How does this apply to the local church government?”
There is every indication that elders, those men who are mature believers in
Christ, were called upon to address certain issues as a council in conjunction with
In Acts 20.17, Paul wrote from Miletus to the church at Ephesus for the elders of
the church to come and meet with him where Paul exhorted them to continue to
remain faithful and on course.
As addressed earlier, elders were appointed by the apostles (Acts 14.23) and
also by Titus (Titus 1:5) as commanded by Paul. The appointment of elders was
under the direction of the apostolic office.
An elder may be a man who has proven himself in a position of service for a
number of years. An elder may serve the church as a deacon. In 1 Timothy 3:10
to be qualified to serve as a deacon a man must first be tested. That is to be
proven faithful to the Lord. One example of where an elder would serve and be
tested well is to be a delegate to an ordination counsel of a man from another
church. This would fit well the definition of an elder in the Christian church today.
How appropriate for a man who has been tested, once he has matured in the
faith, to then be appointed to the position of deacon or bishop. He may desire to
serve or is currently serving as pastor/bishop of a church since the position of
overseer is one that demands discipline.
Conclusion or Confusion?
After reading the material in this study on the terms pastor, overseer, and elder, I
have concluded that the position of pastor and overseer are one and the same.
The terms are synonymous and complimentary.
I have concluded that there is no office of elder because the Scripture does not
bear this out.
The pastor is to be the overseer or shepherd of the church. A pastor will have
been ordained of God and proven in his faith. He offers superintendence and
spiritual oversight to the local church body. The pastor provides direction to the
ministry and he will be consulted in matters that affect the ministry regardless of
how small or big something may seem to be. Every decision does have an effect
on the direction of the ministry of the local church. Just as Jesus is Shepherd of
the Church, the pastor is the shepherd of the local church. Jesus is never
referred to as the “great elder” but the “Great Shepherd”(Hebrews 13.20).
The pastor is one who has been ordained of the Lord or called into the pastoral
ministry. It is a position of preaching and teaching in the local church. The two
terms, presbuterov (elder) and episkoph (overseer) each have differing definition
while the definition for poimhn (pastor) is very much the same as episkoph
An elder who is mature in age and knowledge concerning doctrine and Theology
of the Christian church may then be called upon to serve as counsel in the local church setting. The tasks of an elder and that of overseer are compatible in that they balance and distribute authority and administrative tasks so that when difficulties arise in a particular church, elders will be convened to adjudicate the issue, offering opinion and counsel. But the general oversight of the church falls to the overseer.
The term elder, though we find it in use in the early church, is not being applied
as it was during that time period. An elder would be one who has a great amount
of experience in matters of the faith. He would be recognized by the apostles and, at the discretion of the apostles, called upon to discuss issues of importance to the church.
He may be a man who is ready to serve in another capacity in the local church or para-church ministry. We no longer have the apostles to direct the appointment of elders to the office of overseer. Even without apostolic appointment, any elder who is considered for any appointment will be a man who has a good working knowledge of the Word of God. He will be able to preach in the absence of the pastor and teach a Sunday School lesson or lead in Bible study during the week.
An elder appointed to the office of overseer would be a man who has been trained and tested for a great number of years before being considered for this appointment.
An elder would be one who understands matters of doctrine and Theology so that
when issues of contention arise in the local church he could be relied on as one
who has been well trained and can offer biblical wisdom.
He will not rely on his own opinion but rather will use the Word of God to find an
An appointed elder is one who is an ambassador of the church. He would also
offer himself as impartial counsel to another church to resolve issues of conflict in
conjunction with their elder or elders and also their bishop/pastor. The caution
here is to associate only with those church of like precious faith. The early
church did not have to take this precaution since there was not a great diversity of
denominations as we have today.
I see no compelling argument from Scripture in favor of the office of elder or a
plurality of elders in a local church. I believe that men who are elders and meet
the qualifications from 1 Timothy 3.1-13 are to be appointed as overseers and
I believe that there are to be, at the very least, a pastor and deacons as officers in
the local church.
I believe that a New Testament church will have a pastor or pastors depending on
the size of the congregation. I believe that a New Testament church will have
deacons who aid the pastor(s) in serving the congregation areas of physical,
financial, and material need.
I believe that a church can designate (appoint) one or more elders who assist the
pastor in the oversight and counsel of the local church. They are to be men who
have been tested in prior service. They will be men who understand the doctrine
and Theology of the Christian faith. They would in fact then be designated as lay
pastors or deacons. They will have many years of prior service such as being
discipled to preach and teach in the absence of the pastor.
It would be wise for these men to be ordained by the local church.
They will not allow human tradition, philosophy, opinion or perception to distort
their conclusions. They will be relied upon in times where matters of conflict arise
and there needs to be a time of counsel and guidance.
Appointed Elders would then serve as an ambassador, with the pastor, to the
wider community of believers. How they are appointed would be determined by
their qualifications and maturity in matters of the Christian faith such as doctrine
Final Note: I began this study to determine what the term elder represented in the
context of the New Testament Church. I thought as many have, that there is
indeed an office of elder in the local church polity.
What I have found is that there are people who hold that the terms, pastor, overseer (bishop) and elder, all refer to the same office. Some would say that they refer to the office of elder and some hold the position that they pertain to the office of Overseer or Pastor. What I have found is there is one office of Overseer/Pastor of the church. If there is a plurality of leadership it would be a plurality of Overseers or Pastors.
I am now of the opinion that there are men in the church, elders, who are to be
appointed to the oversight (pastor) and administration (deacon) of the local church based upon their knowledge of Biblical Doctrine and Theology. Men who are deemed Elders are then examined to see if they meet the qualifications for Overseer or Deacon.
They will meet the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3.1-7 or 1 Timothy 3.8-13.
They are to be relied upon for their wisdom in resolving conflict within the local
church and serving other churches of like precious faith. They would be men who
hold no worldly bias but rather a Christian world-view. They would apply Biblical
principles to their dealings with the world rather than applying worldly principles to
the ministry of the church.
These appointed elders would be considered lay pastors or deacons and ought to
be ordained in their local churches.
As stated above and from what I have studied, my conclusion is that all pastors
are elders but all elders are not pastors.
Pastor - (appendix one)
4166. poimhn poimen, poy-mane'; of uncertain affinity; a shepherd (literally or
figuratively):--shepherd, pastor. Perschbacher: enos; o; nom. sg. m. n. - one
who tends flocks or herds, a shepherd or herdsman; Matt. 9.36; 25.32; met. a
pastor, superintendent, guardian.
(17 times as shepherd, shepherds, pastor* once).
Mt 9:36 - sing.
Mt 25:32 - sing. - shepherd
Mt 26:31 - sing. - shepherd
Mr 6:34 - sing. - shepherd
Mr 14:27 - sing. - shepherd
Lu 2:8 - plural - shepherdLu 2:15 - plural - shepherd
Lu 2:18 - sing. - shepherd
Lu 2:20 - plur. - shepherd1Pe 2:25 - sing. -
Shepherd - of Christ
Joh 10:2 - sing. - shepherd
Joh 10:11 - sing. - shepherd
Joh 10:12 - sing. - shepherd
Joh 10:14 - sing. - shepherd
Joh 10:16 - sing. - shepherd
Eph 4:11* - plur. - pastor
Heb 13:20 - sing. - shepherd
1Pe 2:25 - sing. - Shepherd - of Christ
Related words -
4165 - poimaino: fut. poimano: aor. poimana: to feed, pasture, tend a flock, Luke
17.7; 1 Cor.9.7; trop. to feed with self indulgence, to pamper, Jude 12, met. to
tend, direct, superintend, Matt 2.6; John 21.16; et al.; to rule, Rev. 2.27 (11 times
to rule or feed - used synonymously)
4166 - poimhn poimen, poy-mane' (Strong’s) of uncertain affinity; a shepherd
(literally or figuratively):--shepherd, pastor.
Persch. - One who tends flocks or herds, a shepherd, herdsman, Matt. 9.36;
25.32; a pastor, superintendent, guardian, John 10.11,12,16 . . .
4167 - poimnh poimne, poym'-nay (Strongs) contraction from 4165; a flock
(literally or figuratively):--flock, fold.
Persch. - a flock of sheep, Luke 2.8; 1 Cor. 9.7; a flock of dsciples, Matt. 26.31;
Overseer (Bishop) - (appendix two)
1984. episkoph episkope, ep-is-kop-ay'
from 1980; inspection (for relief); by implication, superintendence; specially, the
Christian "episcopate":--the office of a "bishop", bishoprick, visitation. (4 times
used for visitation, or office of bishop.)
Perschbacher - inspection, oversight, visitation; of God; visitation, interposition,
whether in mercy or judgment, Luke 19.44; 1 Pet.2.12; the office of ecclesiastical
overseer, 1 Tim 3.1, from Hebrew, charge , function, Acts 1.20
1980 - episkeptomai episkeptomai, ep-ee-skep'-tom-ahee; middle voice from 1909 and the base of 4649; to inspect, i.e. (by implication) to select; by extension, to go to see, relieve:--look out for, visit.
1981. episkhnow episkenoo, ep-ee-skay-no'-o: from 1909 and 4637; to tent
upon, i.e. (figuratively) abide with :--rest upon.
1982. episkiazw episkiazo, ep-ee-skee-ad'-zo: from 1909 and a derivative of
4639; to cast a shade upon, i.e. (by analogy) to envelop in a haze of brilliancy;
figuratively, to invest with preternatural influence:--overshadow.
1983. episkopew episkopeo, ep-ee-skop-eh'-o: from 1909 and 4648; to
oversee; by implication, to beware:--look diligently, take the oversight.
1985. episkopov episkopos, ep-is'-kop-os: from 1909 and 4649 (in the sense
of 1983); a superintendent, i.e. Christian officer in genitive case charge of a (or
the) church (literally or figuratively):--bishop, overseer.
1909. epi epi, ep-ee': a primary preposition; properly, meaning superimposition
(of time, place, order, etc.), as a relation of distribution (with the genitive case),
i.e. over, upon, etc.; of rest (with the dative case) at, on, etc.; of direction (with the
accusative case) towards, upon, etc.:--about (the times), above, after, against,
among, as long as (touching), at, beside, X have charge of, (be-, (where-)fore, in
(a place, as much as, the time of, -to), (because) of, (up-)on (behalf of), over, (by,
for) the space of, through(-out), (un-)to(-ward), with. In compounds it retains
essentially the same import, at, upon, etc. (literally or figuratively).
4637. skhnow skenoo, skay-no'-o: to tent upon, i.e. (figuratively) abide with :--
4638. skhnwma skenoma, skay'-no-mah: from 4637; an encampment, i.e.
(figuratively) the Temple (as God's residence), the body (as a tenement for the
4639. skia skia, skee'-ah: apparently a primary word; "shade" or a shadow
(literally or figuratively (darkness of error or an adumbration)):-- shadow.
Uses of episkoph episkope, ep-is-kop-ay:
#1983 - episkopew Heb 12:15 - oversee; look diligently 1Pe 5:2 - giving oversight
#1984 - episkoph Lu 19:44 - of visitation; position of superintendence
Ac 1:20 - of visitation; position of superintendence
1Ti 3:1 - office of overseer
1Pe 2:12 - of visitation; position of superintendence.
#1985 - episkopov
Ac 20:28 - general oversight; generic
Php 1:1 - overseers
1Ti 3:2 - overseer
2Ti 4:22 - of Timothy, first overseer of Ephesus
Tit 1:7 - overseer
Tit 3:15 - of Titus, first overseer of Crete
1Pe 2:25 - of Christ our Overseer
Elders. (appendix three)
For the sake of this study we will only deal with the term elder in the context of the
New Testament. From Strong’s concordance we derive our definition of elders:
4245. presbuterov presbuteros, pres-boo'-ter-os comparative of presbus
(elderly); older; as noun, a senior; specially, an Israelite Sanhedrist (also
figuratively, member of the celestial council) or Christian "presbyter":-- elder(-est),
4242. presbeia presbeia, pres-bi'-ah - from 4243; seniority (eldership), i.e. (by
implication) an embassy (concretely, ambassadors):--ambassage, message;
legation (to bind), a body of ambassadors, legates.
4243. presbeuw presbeuo, pres-byoo'-o - from the base of 4245; to be a
senior, i.e. (by implication) act as a representative (figuratively, preacher):--be an
4244. presbuterion presbuterion, pres-boo-ter'-ee-on - neuter of a presumed
derivative of 4245; the order of elders, i.e. (specially), Israelite Sanhedrin or
Christian "presbytery":--(estate of) elder(-s), presbytery.
4246. presbuthv presbutes, pres-boo'-tace - from the same as 4245; an old
man:--aged (man), old man.
4247. presbutiv presbutis, pres-boo'-tis - feminine of 4246; an old woman:--
Perschbacher - 1 #4245: elder in respect of age; senior; advanced in years; an
elder in respect of age, person advanced in years (1 Tim. 5.1), pl. spc. Ancients,
ancestors, fathers, (Matt. 15.2; Heb. 11.2; as an term of dignity, an elder, local
dignitary (Luke 7.3); member of Jewish Sanhedrin (Matt. 16.21; 21.23; 26.3 . . .);
a presbyter of the Christian Church (Acts 11.30; 14.23.
When we look at the uses of presbuteros in the NT we find a variety of
Listed 62 times in the NT:
Mt 15:2 - of Jewish elders
Mt 16:21 - of Jewish elders
Mt 21:23 - of Jewish elders
Mt 26:3 - of Jewish elders
Mt 26:47 - of Jewish elders
Mt 26:57 - of Jewish elders
Mt 26:59 - of Jewish elders
Mt 27:1 - of Jewish elders
Mt 27:3 - of Jewish elders
Mt 27:12 - of Jewish elders
Mt 27:20 - of Jewish elders
Mt 27:41 - of Jewish elders
Mt 28:12 - of Jewish elders
Mr 7:3 - of Jewish elders
Mr 7:5 - of Jewish elders
Mr 8:31 - of Jewish elders
Mr 11:27 - of Jewish elders
Mr 14:43 - of Jewish elders
Mr 14:53 - of Jewish elders
Mr 15:1 - of Jewish elders
Lu 7:3 - of Jewish elders
Lu 9:22 - of Jewish elders
Lu 15:25 - of an older boy
Lu 20:1 - of Jewish elders
Lu 22:52 - of Jewish elders
Lu 22.66 - of Jewish elders
Joh 8:9 - of the oldest person
Ac 2:17 - of an old man
Ac 4:5 - of Jewish elders
Ac 4:8 - of Jewish elders
Ac 6:12 - of Jewish elders
Ac 11:30 - of Christian elders
Ac 14:23 - of Christian elders
Ac 15:2 - of Christian elders
Ac 15:4 - of Christian elders
Ac 15:6 - of Christian elders
Ac 15:22 - of Christian elders
Ac 15:23 - of Christian elders
Ac 16:4 - of Christian elders
Ac 20:17 - of Christian elders
Ac 21:18 - of Christian elders
1 Ti 5:2 - of an older woman
1 Ti 5:17 - of Christian elders
1 Ti 5:19 - of Christian elders
Tit 1:5 - of Christian elders
Ac 22:5 - of Jewish elders
Ac 23:14 - of Jewish elders
Ac 24:1 - of Jewish elders
Ac 25:15 - of Jewish elders
1 Ti 5:1 - of an older man
Heb 11:2 - of Christian elders
Jas 5:14 - of Christian elders
1 Pe 5:1 - of a Christian elder
1 Pe 5:5 - of Christian elders
2 Jo 1:1 - of Christian elder
3 Jo 1:1 - of Christian elder
Re 4:4; Re 4:10; Re 5:5; Re 5:6 -
Re 5:8; Re 5:11; Re 5:14; Re 7:11; Re 7:13; Re 11:16; Re 14:3; Re 19:4 - of
Christian & Jewish elders
Only 31 times used to describe a Christian elder.
Elder (presbuteros) - singular is also listed:
Lu 15:25 - sing. - of an older son
Ro 9:12 - sing; 3187. meizwn meizon - of someone older serving a younger person.
1 Ti 5:1 - sing. - of an older man.
1 Ti 5:2 - sing; feminine - of an older
1 Ti 5:19 - sing. - of an elder who rules
1 Pe 5:1 - sing; sumpresbuteros of
elders who serve as overseers
1Pe 5:5 - sing. - of an older person
2 Jo 1:1 - sing. - of an elder (John)
3 Jo 1:1 - sing. - of an elder (John)
1 - Perschbacher, Wesley 1 J.; The New Analytical Greek Lexicon; Hendrickson
Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts; 1990.
2 - Strong, James; Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; 1890. Public domain.
Berry, George; The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament; Zondervan; Grand
Rapids, MI.; 1958.
Liberty Bible Commentary; Old-Time Gospel Hour; 1982
3 - Middle English bisshop, from Old English bisceop, from Late Latin episcopus,
from Greek episkopos, literally, overseer,
revised last - 01.15.19
From the sermon, Church v State by Richard J. Rizzi, Phd/Theo; DD
preached on May 31, 2020
Let’s begin with reading our text right up front today:
1Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Romans 13.1-7 nkjv
Imagine yourself as a German citizen, a Christian, under the regime of Adolf Hitler. As his power grows, the nation becomes increasingly anti-Semitic and systematically round up and exterminate as many Jews as they can find. Some of those people were your neighbors, good friends, people you ate meals with and enjoyed great conversation and good times. Those people are ripped from their homes, taken to death camps, never to be seen ever again.
Your government officials call on you to help them find even more Jews.
It is the command of the “governing authorities”.
Even the pastors of churches all over your country are asked to preach from Romans 13.1-7 and tell every person in every congregation to obey the government because this is the very will of God. Nearly 6 million Jews were killed by order of the “governing authorities”
We are not in 1930 Germany. We are in 21st century America. This is where Roe v Wade has been decided as law of the land since 1973. The “governing authorities” have decided that Abortion on demand is to be accepted as a right of women who wish to end a pregnancy for any reason.
Since 1973, 61,628,584 lives were ended because of the legalization of abortion on demand.
I have heard many messages, read many commentaries and articles about how we as believers are to obey the earthly government and the laws that they enact and seek to enforce in each of our lives.
I disagree with this position and have prepared this message to propose that Romans 13.1-7 does not mean believers are called upon by God to obey an earthly government, especially when it violates the commands and instruction of God and His will.
Now follow along as I share with you the rendering I have from the Greek as, what I believe, a more precise reading:
1Every immortal soul is to be in subjection to the higher powers. Because there is no power except from God, the powers that be are appointed by God. 2So if anyone resists the powers resist the appointments of God and those who resist will be condemned. 3For those who rule are not to bring fear about doing good works but to what is wicked. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from them. 4Because they are servants of God to teach you good, if you do what is evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain, he is the servant of God to carry our justice and execute wrath on those who practice evil. 5So you must be submissive, not because of the wrath but for conscience’ sake. 6And this is why you offer tribute, because they are God’s servants attending to this very thing. 7Render to everyone what you own them; tribute to whom tribute is due, money to whom money (is owed); fear to whom fear and honor to whom honor.
(As exegeted from the TR, the basis for the NKJV and the KJV)
The very first thing we are to learn from this passage is that there is no caveat or warning of any condition, stipulation, or limitation on the higher powers (or governing authorities) as defined by God in this passage.
I have been told that the Bible demonstrates that believers are to obey an earthly government and that there is a stipulation that we can refuse when it violates our faith in God.
One such text is from Mark 12.17:
Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” His reply left them overcome with wonder.
Mark 12.17 CEB
This statement caused Jesus’ audience to wonder what He meant. If this was a clear and concise message to obey the earthly government, then they would have understood this completely. That is not the case in Mark 12. Just the opposite. What did Jesus mean, then?
I have my thoughts and that is what this message is about.
If we, as believers, are to obey every earthly command, edict or law enacted, except for those that go against God and our faith in Him, would there not be a place in Scripture that teaches this? Would God not have given us that very specific instruction so that we could say, without any doubt that when we disobey our earthly government by following the doctrines of God, we do so in the name of the liberty that He has granted us?
When we look at Mark 12.17, we have to ask ourselves: “What did Jesus mean by this?”
I say this because there is one small word in the text that makes a huge difference.
In one translation the text can read:
Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” His reply left them overcome with wonder.
Mark 12.17 CEB
Or it can read like this:
Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar or to God what belongs to God.” His reply left them overcome with wonder.
Mark 12.17 CEB
The word is Kai and can be translated as either and or, but the context is important.
I have not found a passage that indicates to me that God has told His people, ever, to obey earthly government except when it violates Biblical principles.
I can cite for you several instances of believers who refused to obey those who were in the position of authority over them.
What I do find in Scripture is a message to we who have placed our faith in Christ as to exactly which governing authority we must submit to.
Jesus told His disciples:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6.24
Now, remember this verse: Isaiah 9.6: For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government* will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
*Hebrew - hrsm misrah, mis-raw' = the power of the empire (Note - The kingdom of God. RR
The government, written of here Isaiah, is not an earthly government. It has nothing to do with elected officials, fallen humans, with all of the flaws and personal preferences and prejudices, but a governing from the only One who could possibly offer His people the best message on how to live lives according to His plan.
Our Savior, Jesus, is the One true authority in this world and unless an earthly government patterns every one of its laws, statutes, and rules according to the Word of God, it fails and is rendered impotent. It is something that believers will tolerate and observe as long as it does not violate our faith in Christ, but the truth is we have no real obligation to follow earthly laws. Yes, to willingly disobey earthly laws would mean earthly penalties.
That would be giving to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. Jesus said, “Give to God what belongs to God”. And by giving to God all that belongs to God, none of us would have a qualm over ignoring what leads God’s people in the wrong direction, away from giving to God what is God’s.
Here’s what Paul wrote about the true authority for believers:
5Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
Paul and the rest of the apostles had been given grace and the calling of their work in ministry for “obedience to the faith” - to be a testimony to all the nations of what faith in Christ really means.
It does not mean giving into an earthly government first (unless it violates your faith). It means you give into God’s calling, to obey His message to you, only.
In the dawning days of Christianity, in the face of a very powerful Roman Empire, what did those people do?
42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
There was no caveat in any text that I can find that tells us to obey those who have power in this world unless it violates our faith, ever. We are to (back to Romans 13) look to the higher powers, the leaders appointed by God, and follow Christ.
Ephesians 4.11-14a: 11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors* and teachers**, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine...
Greek: *poimhn poimen, poy-mane' = shepherd; pastor
**didaskalov didaskalos, did-as'-kal-os = master; teacher
I believe that this is consistent with what we find with the calling upon the elder who “rules” or presides before the congregation to present the teaching of the Word of God.
cf = 1 Timothy 5.17 RR
The position of overseer, pastor/teacher is to be carefully accepted because God does instruct His people through the precise teaching of His Word.
1 Timothy 3.1,2: This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop*, he desires a good work. 2A bishop* then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach**...
*Greek - episkoph episkope, ep-is-kop-ay' (overseer; pastor) = to look out (for); guard
** Teach = to instruct; didaktikov - did-ak-tik-os'
(Note - best word is overseer and is consistent with the position of pastor. RR)
Now the message to any man seeking to accept the position of overseer is this:
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers*, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3.1
(*teachers = instructors; Greek - didaskalov - did-as'-kal-os)
The warning is given to those men, appointed by God, to instruct the people of God for the work of God from the Word of God.
There are many examples in the Word of those who followed God first and not the laws or rules given by mankind.
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah refused to obey the earthly authority in their lives. The consequence was a fiery furnace. They were saved by God but their testimony was this:
16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
You might say that’s the Old Testament, God was always doing great things like this. OK, what about the New Testament?
In 1 Peter 2.13-16: 13Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men– 16as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 1 Peter 2.13-16
The meaning of this text, knowing the Peter and John had been thrown in prison for preaching the gospel. What did these men do when commanded by the earthly government not to preach Christ? They faced their punishment for disobedience. They submitted to accept the penalty for their violation.
17But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” 18So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4.17-20
My conclusion is this:
Romans 13.1-7 is a message to God’s people about following God’s Word and His will.
When it comes to earthly laws, statutes, and rules, know this, that when we follow God first, like Peter, John, Paul, and many others, we must realize that earthly consequences are justifiably applied to us.
Yes, we must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
We must accept the earthly consequences of disobedience.
Romans 13.1-7 is about being obedient to God by heeding the biblical instruction from the Word of God, His sword, that gives us complete instruction to live the life to offer the testimony of faith in Christ.
Everyone has the right to choose. I am here, not to command you to obey God and disobey an earthly government. That has to be your choice because God is convicting you to do so. My calling is clear. I am here, by God’s appointment and your acceptance of that appointment, to offer you the best, most clear instruction from God’s Word to the very best of my ability. I know that God will have me stand before Him and judge my actions and my intentions.
It is my intention that this place of worship not stand closed as a testimony to fear, but stand open as a testimony of a people’s faith in Christ.
Easter vs Pascha (Passover)
Dr. R. J. Rizzi, BRE, MARE, PhD, DD
April 12, 2020
Each year the holiday comes around and people everywhere, Christians and atheists alike, all wish others, “Happy Easter”.
Unlike everyone else, it seems, I cringe at those very words. Other Christians do not seem to have any qualms at all, accepting the term, Easter. as something from the Word of God and something to be celebrated.
I ask the question today: “Why do believers not question something that most unbelievers accept and celebrate?” I ask because, as a believer in Christ, I want nothing to do with what takes place in the name of celebrating anything but the Resurrection of the Savior at this time of year.
Oh, I was ignorant of the truth when I was young because my parents did all of the Easter things, the chocolate bunny, the jelly beans, the colored eggs, etc...
But then once I placed my faith in Christ and began my doctrinal search into what God’s Word actually teaches, I began to question just about everything associated with things of faith.
The Word teaches us this: When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things. 1 Corinthians 13.11 CEB
Also: Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it. Proverbs 22.6 CEB
The reason so many people inside the Church celebrate 'Easter', almost to the detriment of observing the, is that all too many have accepted the word Easter as a substitute for what is actually in the Bible.
If you are interested at all in why I will never celebrate Easter, read the rest of my article. I ask that you be open to what the Word of God teaches and that you might reject the paganistic influence of what ought to be a Christ-focused celebration.
The event of the Resurrection of Christ is not something believers are to take for granted, nor should we dilute it in any way. As with anything in this world, there is an influence by God’s enemies to steer people away from Christ toward anything else, especially self. This, in my opinion, is what the modern activity of Easter does.
The Resurrection is the key to the whole Christian faith.
If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. If Christ hasn’t been raised, then our preaching is useless and your faith is useless. 1 Corinthians 15.13-14 CEB
Without the resurrection of Christ, there would be no reason to follow Him.
He would have died like so many other men who have come and gone and proclaimed a message of eternal life in some form of heaven. But Jesus was not just another guy who came to create a following. As God with us, He became man to offer all the world the promise of eternal life. Only Christ could be the perfect lamb of God, a perfect sacrifice to end all sacrifices that had been the hallmark of the Hebrew faith.
From an article by Anthony McRoy, Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday:
“Anyone encountering anti-Christian polemics will quickly come up against the accusation that a major festival practiced by Christians across the globe—namely, Easter—was actually borrowed or rather usurped from a pagan celebration. I often encounter this idea among Muslims who claim that later Christians compromised with paganism to dilute the original faith of Jesus.”4
I would say that they (Muslims) have a valid point because from the outside looking in, when an unbeliever is examining the Christian faith seeking to find the answers from God who calls on His people to be holy as He is holy, they find something else. There are people in the world who are not ignorant of what paganism is and what Christianity ought to be, even if they have not trusted in Christ.
When an unbeliever questions the use of paganistic elements in a “Christian” celebration but the believer does not, there’s also a real problem.
McRoy continues: “The argument largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes from pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is the Christian Passover festival.”
No, 'Esaster' is NOT the Christian Passover celebration at all. How can it be when pagan elements have been mixed into the teaching?
He goes on: “neither the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism.”
His statement should be entirely accurate, however, the introduction of the Easter elements has done damage to the celebration of the Resurrection in my opinion.
I truly believe that the modern “celebration” of Easter minimizes the Resurrection of Jesus in favor of something that excites the sensual - The Easter Bunny that the kids all run to for pictures, the egg hunt and the candy that is a reward for celebrating Easter, and all of the elements that point to the fertility goddess rather than Christ. And I do understand. Parents want to see their children have fun, joy and excitement. It really is a vicarious thrill for parents to see their children enjoy themselves and quite possibly someone will think they are being a good parent by making their children happy this way.
But is that really the best for the child, spiritually speaking?
Just a very brief exploration of the internet uncovers countless sources tying Easter to the pagan goddess Eostre. There are many adherents today who worship her.
so far, I have very rarely heard a plausible lesson to bridge the teaching of the bunny and eggs to the Resurrection of the Savior.
I challenge any 'Christian' parent who has promoted the bunny and egg concept to examine what they taught their children about Christ while the kids chewed the ears off their chocolate bunny or during the hunt for eggs.
And think of this, the child is exposed to the visuals of “Easter”, long before that can even understand the meaning of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus who came to save them from the penalty of sin. What will stay with them longer? What will have a stronger impression upon their souls? I would say that the earliest impressions that are constantly reinforced year after year will be the hardest to change.
In my opinion, there is a huge 'leap' to say on one hand that the Word for the celebration of the resurrection is 'Easter', when the word used in the Bible is Pascha (Passover) to then say, without any support whatsoever, that Easter is the ‘Christian Passover’.
Brent Landau in his article (2), “Why Easter is called Easter, and other little-known facts about the holiday”, wrote this:
The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century. As religious studies scholar Bruce Forbes summarizes:
“Bede wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus had been called Eosturmonath in Old English, referring to a goddess named Eostre. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season.”
From a pagan website, https://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/ostara/about.html
“The name "Eostre" (Old Germanic "Ostara"), is related to that of Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn, and both can be traced back to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn. Her material is so scant that some scholars have speculated that she was not a goddess at all, but simply an invention of Bede, but it is unlikely that someone as heathen-phobic as Bede would have gone about inventing goddesses; he seems to have preferred to keep all things pagan at arm's length.” (5)
This only supports my view that Bede was totally against the use of “Easter” in reference to celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus.
From another pagan site:
“Eostre first makes her appearance in literature about thirteen hundred years ago in the Venerable Bede's Temporum Ratione. Bede tells us that April is known as Eostremonath, and is named for a goddess that the Anglo-Saxons honored in the spring. He says, "Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month."7
Landau seemed to think that Bede was supportive of the use of the pagan name for the holiday by the early English believers. The way I read the statement by Bede, I would believe that he was bothered greatly that anyone who claimed to believe in Jesus would continue to celebrate it by using the wrong term.
At least the second article from a pagan site offers the quote from Bede, that what Christians celebrated in the 8th century was to be known as Pascha, or Passover, rather than Easter, even if they fell back into their paganism and away from Christ.
One reason, in my opinion, that many Christians use the word Easter in association to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection is found in the King James Bible.
In Acts 12.4, in the KJV, we have this -
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
The problem we find is that the original word, found in the Textus Receptus in not Eshtar, or Eostra, which would translate to Easter. The word in the TR is Pascha, meaning Passover.
Another version corrected this - So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.
The only problem with this is that the correction came way too late. The Church has already assimilated the elements of Easter into their celebration of the Resurrection.
The people who had been exposed to the message of Christ in the days of Bede, around the 7th century, were very pagan. Even though they were exposed to the Christian gospel, and some may have even trusted on Christ as Savior, they continued to practice their paganism along with Christianity, meaning, in my opinion, a lack of understanding of true faith in Christ as being the sole subject of our worship through faith. My opinion is that one cannot have faith in Buddha or any other god that comes along and have true faith in Christ for salvation.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
I believe that king James was most likely not a true believer in God and brought the English a version of the Bible that was to appease their desire for the Word but still used terminology that allowed the people to feel comfortable.
By adding the word Easter to his version of the Bible, the king would seem to support the common man’s faith in anything pagan and still make it seem as though he was for Christianity. In this way, he could Christianize the paganism and make it tolerable for those who truly believed. The saying that is common today that might have been in the mind of some back then is, “Well, at least they are going someplace for ‘church’”. Yes and no.
It’s great when people go to church if they are hearing the unadulterated Word preached, offering biblical doctrine and Theology. But when the doctrine is based on a bad version offering very poor ‘translation’ of the word, or using what some might call a ‘dynamic equivalent’, then all a preacher is doing is preaching heresy and blasphemy.
For all too long, people have tried to Christianize (sanitize) pagan celebrations by taking their rituals and saying they are going to celebrate Jesus.
But look at what using the wrong term for so many years has led to - namely, that people who do not believe in the resurrection of Christ also celebrate Easter in its modern expression. The bunny, the eggs, everything but looking to Christ for this particular calendar event.
Anne Theriault at The Belle Jar wrote this:
"Here’s the thing. Our Western Easter traditions incorporate a lot of elements from a bunch of different religious backgrounds. You can’t really say that it’s just about resurrection, or just about spring, or just about fertility and sex. You can’t pick one thread out of a tapestry and say, “Hey, now this particular strand is what this tapestry’s really about.” It doesn’t work that way; very few things in life do." (7)
Note this statement: “Western Easter traditions incorporate a lot of elements from a bunch of different religious backgrounds”.
If that is not reason enough to avoid the use of Easter and promoting the elements of the pagan celebration, I guess nothing will be.
According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary: “The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eastra, the goddess of spring, in whose honour sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo–Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.” (9)
The reason I object to the use of 'Easter' to designate the Resurrection of the Lord is that it still points away from Christ, especially when people continue to celebrate the exact same was as those who do not believe in Christ.
Easter, or Eosturmonath, was a celebration to worship the goddess Eostre, the one who could grant fertility and virility, something very desired by people of every generation. Women want to have babies and men want to make babies, or at least enjoy the process. Crude as that seems, that’s the “basis” for Easter.
My conclusion is this:
The Christian who desires to honor the important celebration of the Resurrection may want to consider how the elements of the Easter celebration. Ask yourself, “How does Easter reflect my faith in Christ, especially when even a world of mostly unbelievers also celebrate Easter?”
How are you, in celebrating the Resurrection, portraying the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior when you offer the children bunnies, eggs, jelly beans and other things?
How will you explain to your children that even though you do not believe in the practice of a pagan religion, that those who celebrate ‘Easter’ may do so.
Remember, your ‘Easter’ celebration as a Christian will probably very closely resemble the ‘Easter’ celebrated by the unbeliever. This will be confusing to children, as well as adults, and an end result could be that the ‘Easter’ celebration will overshadow the remembrance of the Resurrection of Christ.
I would encourage all professing believers to shed the ‘Easter’ traditions and begin to explore and apply the lessons of the Passover and the Resurrection of the Savior. You can still enjoy giving the children a Pascha basket that will have a chocolate cross, a white chocolate lamb, and, just for fun, you can throw in some other candy as well.
My wife and I have developed a theme of ‘Levi the lamb’ who tells the children a story of great joy because of the Passover.
We have begun to develop a coloring book with the story of ‘Levi’ so that the children can take it home and reread the lesson.
I believe that its very important for parents to lead their children toward God and not point them in the wrong direction.
Richard J. Rizzi, Phd/Theo; DD
October 15, 2015
Romans 13.1: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. NKJV
KJV - Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
What is meant by “governing authorities” or “higher powers” in the Greek?
Higher - uperecw huperecho, hoop-er-ekh'-o = excellent
Power - exousia exousia, ex-oo-see'-ah = authority, power and strength
Note - look at Rom. 13.1b - no authority except from God; Only God appoints them.
cf. Ephesians 4.11. RR
Exodus 20.12: Honor* your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
*Hebrew - dbk kabad, kaw-bad' = glorify, make rich, boast in, promote.
Isaiah 9.6: For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government* will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
*Hebrew - hrsm misrah, mis-raw' = the power of the empire
(Note - The kingdom of God. RR)
Ephesians 4.11-14a: 11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors* and teachers**, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine...
*poimhn poimen, poy-mane' = shepherd; pastor
**didaskalov didaskalos, did-as'-kal-os = master; teacher
Note: This would be consistent with the calling upon the elder who “rules” or presides before the congregation to present the teaching of the Word of God.
cf = 1 Timothy 5.17 RR
Ephesians 6.1-3: 1 Children, obey* your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: 3 that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. (In the Lord = as long as they are not dishonoring to God)
*Greek - upakouw hupakouo, hoop-ak-oo'-o = conform to a command
Ephesians 6.17: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword* of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
*Greek - macaira machaira, makh'-ahee-rah - a knife, i.e. dirk; figuratively, war, judicial punishment: a sword.
Note - The sword, same as in Romans 13.4, is what the governing authorities/higher powers use to guide their lives and lead they’re congregations.
1 Corinthians 12.28: And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
Note - these are the governing authorities RR
1 Timothy 3.1,2: 1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop*, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop* then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach...
*Greek - episkoph episkope, ep-is-kop-ay' (overseer; pastor) = to look out (for); guard
Note - best word is overseer and is consistent with the position of pastor RR
1 Timothy 5.17: Let the elders who rule* well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
* Elders - see Titus 1.5...
**Greek: proisthmi proistemi, pro-is'-tay-mee = to stand before; preside before; to hold up and present
Titus 1.5,7: 5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you– 7 For a bishop* must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money...
*Greek - episkoph episkope, ep-is-kop-ay' (overseer; pastor) = to look out (for); guard
Note - I believe this portion of Titus teaches that the apostle Paul gave the order for Titus to find men who mature in the faith, elders, for the purpose of appointing them to the position of overseer/pastor. Titus was appointing elders to the office/position of overseer/pastor. RR
7Remember those who rule* over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. 17Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account**. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Greek *hgeomai hegeomai, hayg-eh'-om-ahee = to lead, have account over
**1 Thes. 5.12: And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you
Who are the "governing authorities"? Because they are appointed by God - a term we see elsewhere
(1 Corinthians 12.28; Ephesians 4.11) and that God has appointed elders to be pastors (Titus 1.5) who "rule" = "preside" (1 Timothy 5.17) before the congregation, I believe that Romans 13 speaks of the pastors, leaders of the church not earthly government.
Now I know in v.7 some have rendered the word phoros as taxes but I believe it is better rendered as tribute, something that is to be offered to those leaders written of in 1 Timothy 5.17.
A good rendering (translation of Romans 13.1-7):
1 Every immortal soul is to be in subjection to the higher powers. Because there is no power except from God, the powers that be are appointed by God.
2 So if anyone resists the powers resist the appointments of God and those who resist will be condemned.
3 For those who rule are not to bring fear about doing good works but to what is wicked.
Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from them.
4 Because they are servants of God to teach you good, if you do what is evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain, he is the servant of God to carry our justice and execute wrath on those who practice evil.
5 So you must be submissive, not because of the wrath but for conscience’ sake.
6 And this is why you offer tribute, because they are God’s servants attending to this very thing.
7 Render to everyone what you own them; tribute to whom tribute is due, money to whom money (is owed); fear to whom fear and honor to whom honor.
I truly believe this because, as pastors, we do not "bear the sword in vain" but to encourage people to do good and not evil.
When we approach the Word of God, we must do our very best to exegete the original languages to the best of our ability. We have enough evidence from history, many good copies of the books of the Bible in the original languages so that we can offer very accurate answers pertaining to any passage.
To simply read an English version of the Bible and teach what is says at face value, and only repeat what has been erroneously taught over the course of too many years has rendered the Church very weak.
There are many instances of Christ and the others who disobeyed earthly government and laws as an example of my case.
Jesus violated the Sabbath frequently, a violation of any Jew.
My conclusion is that Romans chapter 13 can only mean that believers are to obey those who preside before them and hold them accountable.
Pastors are not perfect and the Word does address that we who preach must be very careful what we teach and why.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3.1
To teach those entrusted to your care, for their spiritual well being, to follow after a corrupt government that does not truly care about the Word of God is, in my opinion, very wrong.
We will all stand before God and answer for what we do and teach.
I personally feel very confident in my treatment of this text because I will never simply take what may be a traditional application, taught for generation after generation, is very misleading at best, heresy and blasphemy at worst (2 Peter 2.1-3).
I am not seeking to insult my fellow pastors or other believers with what I believe. My prayer is that I am staying true to the text as God inspired it.
The issue of man’s responsibility for his part in faith and salvation is a hotly debated topic. For hundreds of years, there have been people who argue for the free will of man, the ability to believe or reject the good news of the gospel or that man has no part in anything related to the reception of God’s grace.
First, I want to address the position of some who state that man has absolutely no part in the process of being saved. There are labels used today - Calvinist,
Reformed... No matter what the title, the meaning is the same. For those who hold this view, man has no part in whether they go to heaven or go to Sheol or Hell.
The opposite of this view is the Arminian or Free Will view. That man can and does have a responsibility to respond to the invitation of God and repent of sin, trust in the Lord, and accept the gift of God’s grace.
The contrast in the two positions is great and I tried to simplify it to make the rest of this article easier to understand.
In looking at the first position I am going to examine the verses GotQuestions.org* used to support and defend the position that man has no free will. I will follow each of the references with a response.
GQ - Jeremiah 17.9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
While reading this verse on its own we can conclude that the heart of mankind is deceitful and wicked. The GQ article states:
“In our natural, unregenerate state, we are carnally minded, not spiritually minded. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be”
Response: Just because someone wrote: “for it (the unregenerate state) is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can it be”, it does not speak to the issue of those who are convicted over sin and follow the Lord through that conviction turn toward repentance and surrender to God’s laws.
In fact, the context of the verse must be considered in whole to grasp that man does have a responsibility to turn to the Lord.
7“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. 8For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. 9“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17.7-10.
One keyword and an instrumental concept in man’s place in the process of salvation is (v.7) “trust” ( xjb batach, baw-takh'). The meaning is:
to be confident in or sure of; be secure in. To rush to take refuge.
The call on man to place trust not only indicates or hints at man’s ability to do so, but it’s also explicit in that we have that ability and to ignore it is going to be held against us. Trust in the Lord is a very significant aspect of our receiving the gift of God’s grace. Some references concerning this trust: Psalm 2.12; 34:8; 125:1; 146:5; Proverbs 16.20; Isaiah 30.18.
GQ - Romans 8.6,7: 6For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
The GQ response to these two verses is that: “before we are saved, we are at enmity (war) with God, we do not submit to God and His law, neither can we.
The Bible is clear that, in his natural, man is incapable of choosing that which is good and holy. In other words, he does not have the “free will” to choose God because his will is not free. It is constrained by his nature, just as the prisoner is constrained by his cell.”
Response: The jail cell is a great analogy however it misses the mark as being of the world and does not address the merciful aspect of God’s love and grace for those who are born into sin and do not ever deserve salvation yet He grants this as the sovereign over all creation. (My use of sovereign here is in the very strictest of sense as in the biblical definition meaning: to reign; to ascend the throne; to induct into royalty; hence to take counsel: consult, be or make, set a, set up as a kingdom, begin to reign, to rule.)
(It is good to note that the word sovereign(ty) is only used in the Word when addressing Saul’s establishment of his kingdom and not used of the Lord.)
I take issue with the statement: “we are at enmity (war) with God, we do not submit to God and His law, neither can we.” The reason I take issue with this is that the Bible never states that man is incapable of responding to God through faith and trust and submitting to Him, but does say we are at war. We are at war when carnally minded but because of a great many verses speaking of man’s faith and that we have the ability to believe or reject, we can submit by choice and have the conviction to do so.
In the case of not having a will, there would be no issue, no struggle to do what is right or wrong. Man, if incapable, would only do the wrong and never be at war - There would be no struggle.
Romans 8.5 tells us: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
A key to understanding that man has the ability to accept or reject the Lord is in the phrase: “set their minds on...” they give into things of human carnality.
It is a deliberate act of reaching out and accepting the sinful things in spite of what the Lord offers.
It is here, because we are in the book of Romans, that we ought to look at Romans chapter 1, a very important aspect of understanding the will of man.
First, Romans 1.18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
The word, suppress, is an undeniable element in this complex formula.
The word is: katecw katecho, kat-ekh'-o - to hold down or hold fast, to have, to keep in memory, let, make advance, to possess, to retain, seize on, stay, take, withhold from.
In simple terms, man is deliberate in his choices. If it were not so, the wording in the Bible, in my opinion, would specifically tell us that man has no choice or responsibility in responding to the invitation by God to believe in Him.
Now, because of the presentation of Romans 1.18 into this thesis by GQ we are to take in the greater context of this and consider the verses around it.
Romans 1.18-32: (words underlined that I believe demonstrates man’s responsibility to act and place their faith in the Lord or reject Him.)
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
This portion of Scripture, I believe, demonstrates an unwillingness on the part of fallen man to accept and react the plan of God for man to be reconciled to himself through His Son, Jesus. An unwillingness also indicates the ability for willingness.
We must remember that God created man and woman in His image and that He said it was good. (Gen. 1.26-31) I do not believe that original goodness was removed (we are still made in the image of God who is good) but the goodness is made corrupt and, because of sin, man born separated from God, tempted to live according to the dictates of sin and give into temptation until and unless man is willing to give into the calling of God.
God has revealed Himself to this fallen world (v.18) and as such the world is obligated to respond to Him. My position is that because of this evident obligation the Lord has allowed man to respond. There would be no need for God to be revealed to man unless it was to draw people to Christ. (John 12.32)
What is known of God is (v.19) is evident (manifest) to all the world because God has shown it to all. If it were true that man has no will to exercise in the process of receiving God’s grace, what would be the reason for God to make Himself known? It would be a tease to man who then are “unable” to respond.
I believe God makes Himself known, as well as making all of His truth known to the world so that the world might, through belief, be saved. (John 3.16,17)
In v.20 we find, in my opinion, the most compelling reason for the free-will argument. God has made Himself known to all the world from the very foundation of the world and that all the world understands that by following Him they can have eternal life. If salvation was only by God’s independent selection of some and the rejection of others (I am not rejecting the thought that God has that right, but that He does not exercise it in this way) there would be absolutely no need for belief or faith to be part of the mix.
The issue of man being without excuse is then made null because to leave out man’s obligation for responding to the call of God to believe would then be an excuse. (V.20) And a person who has not placed his faith in Christ yet does believe that God is real - they believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (and many of the fundamental elements of faith) they can say they simply have not been selected by God for salvation.
This also refutes the very will of God that plainly states:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3.9
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
1 Timothy 2.3-5
Please note here that it is God’s will that no one perishes and go to eternal condemnation and that all should repent of sin. If this truly is God’s will - and it truly is, by the testimony and authority of Scripture - then there has to be some other answer otherwise all would be saved. The answer is that man can and does exercise a free will to either place their faith in the Lord or reject Him. This is the same free will that Adam and Eve exercised in the garden when they ate of the tree God forbade them to eat of. I do not believe this freedom of choice has been taken away from man, for in doing so, it would mean that God creates people He knows will not be saved and that there’s not chance for them for be saved. This would make God the maker of sin (people who have no ability to place faith in Him) and thus a murderer by sending them to eternal death.
The Bible teaches the exact opposite. Romans 1 continues to demonstrate that man does know who God is and that many reject Him. Many, if not most of mankind, gives into fleshly desires and the foolishness of their hearts and deliberately change (make different - a deliberate action to ignore the truth and present another idea) the glory of God for something else. It is an exchange of God’s truth for the lie that man knows better than God and it is deliberate.
The exchange of God’s truth for the lie that man has a better way is known to man (v.32) and I believe it's because sin has allowed people to give in to the temptation of the immediate gratification of their sexual impulses as well as all other forms of lust and greed. People know there’s a better way through faith in the Lord, but like Adam and Eve, are lured away for what seems to be more attractive to a now fallen and carnal people, namely to feed the desires of the flesh rather than the spirit and soul.
In Ephesians 2.1, the GQ writer has begun to describe the process of salvation but has not used the full context of the Book of Ephesians, and unfortunately does not even quote verse one properly. This is most likely unintentional on the writer’s part but must be addressed.
In looking at Ephesians chapter 1 and then 2 for a further explanation of how man’s will comes into play we can see a great blessing from the Lord.
Back in chapter 1 of Ephesians we find in vv.3,4 that there is a very specific in the fact that it is “in Christ” that the Lord has chosen anyone for the gift of His grace.
Please look at Ephesians 1.1-13: (Again, I have made bold 10 instances where the Lord speaks to our position in the Savior. I have also underlined areas of importance that demonstrate an ability for man to decide to follow the Savior)
1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
5having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him.
11In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
13In Him you also trusted, after* you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Please look at v.13* - “it reads that “you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth...you were sealed...” It is only after one acknowledges the truth of God and places their trust in Christ that they are saved.
There is an order by which the Lord makes possible the gift of grace applicable to a soul and that is people are exposed to His truth, the place their faith in Christ and are saved.
Also, the blessing of Ephesians 2.8,9 becomes more clear:
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.
We are saved “through faith” in Christ and by His grace, we are granted that which we do not deserve but for the reason that God has initiated the plan of salvation at all: that we repent and come back to Him in humility, asking for forgiveness of sin. God’s grace, salvation, is the gift we obtain through faith.
Faith is not a “work” but a deliberate response to the conviction of sin and separation from the Lord. Faith is a response in true humility.
This goes to the mechanics of Romans 8.29,30: 29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
What would the Lord need to emphasize in v.29 concerning His foreknowledge?
Those who would be saved. Salvation is what we are most concerned with for those who are perishing and so we must understand the details of how the Lord works it out. I believe that it is the foreknowledge of those who would place their faith in Christ that God “predestined” a path to His eternal kingdom.
The important element of salvation that the Word of God emphasizes is faith.
Faith is a key element in understanding the issue of free-will. Without faith, the ability to believe or reject, we are mere puppets guided by only our carnal instincts. And because all man has sinned and fall short of God’s glory, and that there is none righteous, no not one, that would mean that no one ever should have grace applied because God is no respecter of people - meaning He sees us all the same: Sinful, fallen, carnal and undeserving of grace and forgiveness.
Certainly, His love is unconditional, but there is one condition set by God that anyone may have eternal life and that is by faith alone in Christ.
17So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. 18But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.” Romans 10.17,18
The GQ article noted, as the source of my contention, an illustration is used of a man in a prison cell. Yes, we are born into a prison cell of iniquity. We are slaves of sin and as such the penalty of sin is eternal death. But it is through our faith that we can be set free from the bondage of our prison.
31Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8.31,32.
It's important to note that those who believed and live in Him would be set free.
The Lord does not simply set free just anyone. Only those who believe and abide in Him.
In John 11 the article tries to demonstrate that those who are dead cannot raise themselves and makes a comparison with Ephesians 2.1.
In taking a look at the two words for dead we find they can both be used literally or figuratively.
From Eph. 2.1: nekrov nekros, nek-ros' - from an apparently primary nekus (a corpse); dead (literally or figuratively; also as noun):--dead.
From John 11.14: apoynhskw apothnesko, ap-oth-nace'-ko - to die off (literally or figuratively):--be dead, death, die, lie a-dying, be slain (X with).
So, in light of that being a conflict we must find a way to understand the difference between physical death and spiritual death.
The best illustration I know that demonstrates a major difference is found in Luke 16.19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
In this great illustration, we find that both the rich man and Lazarus experienced physical death. But what of their spiritual condition? The Word of God teaches us that the rich man went on to suffer in Hades and that Lazarus was being comforted by Abraham. In fact, neither one of them were unable to speak or make decisions. The rich man made the decision to ask for help. He wanted something cool to drink because he was tormented by the flames.
When told he would not be able to receive what he asked for he made another request - to send Lazarus to his father’s house to reach his brothers with the testimony of truth. I believe it's important to see that being physically dead is not necessarily the same as being spiritually dead.
Lazarus was physically dead yet he experienced living for a time with Abraham.
To state: “ We are spiritually dead, unable to rise” is unfair to the reader of the article and, unfortunately, does a great injustice to the whole counsel of God by avoiding many verses that refute that statement.
Yes, we are all spiritually dead and the meaning of that is that we are separated from the Lord. But spiritual life comes by grace through faith in Christ and when we believe in Him He raises us from the grave.
The writer of the article references 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ*, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new, and states: “He calls us out of our spiritual graves and gives us a completely new nature, one undefiled by sin as the old nature was.”
But this reference does not support that statement, in my opinion, and ought not to be in the article unless backed by another Scripture. I have often said in my preaching that stating something with conviction does not make it true.
(*emphasis on being “in Christ”, once again, is very important)
It is the position of being “in Christ” that makes us a new creation. Being “in Christ” means the grace of God is applied and it is applied by and through faith in the Savior. (Eph. 2.8,9)
We are not given a new nature for no reason but because we have placed our faith in the Savior.
The article then goes on to reference Ephesians 1:4-6 but again does not consider the entire context of chapter 1 and the rest of the book of Ephesians.
Because without tying Ephesians 1.4-6 to Ephesians 2.8,9 the writer ignores the very important element of man’s faith that he can exercise and believe “in Christ” or reject with truth and believe a lie. (Romans 1)
Isaiah 48:11 seems so out of place in the article without showing it in a bit larger context: vv.9-11: 9“For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, And for My praise I will restrain it from you, So that I do not cut you off. 10Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.
This portion of Scripture is specific to the redemption of Israel and may not really mean what the writer wishes it to mean. While one may want to apply it to the salvation found in Christ, I believe it to be yet one more unfair treatment of the Word by the writer who, while being well-intentioned, might want to see things in the light of all of God’s Word.
Also referenced in the article: 2 Corinthians 5:20: Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
The meaning is that we who are saved plead with the lost to make a choice and repent of sin. The question is posed: “how do we know who has been saved “from the foundation of the world”?” Of course, no one knows who will be saved.
But to ask who has been saved from the “foundation of the world” is very misleading. Yes, we are chosen “in Christ” from the foundation of the world but by the foreknowledge of God based upon those will place their faith in Him and have grace applied and we who first trusted in Him are to be to the praise of His glory. But there is absolutely no need for us to plead for someone to “be reconciled” to God unless they can make that choice.
To be “reconciled” means: katallassw katallasso, kat-al-las'-so -
to change mutually. Really, to go against and make a change.
This is related to the act of repentance - to make that 180o turn to the Lord away from the path of unrighteousness. It is deliberate on the part of the individual and I can state from my own experience that this can in no way make a person who is genuine in their faith want to brag about doing anything to save themselves but to be completely humbled at the truth that God allows any of us to come to Him and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
The acts of repentance and reconciliation do nothing for the soul who is brought out of the prison of sin that can make us feel as though we accomplished anything at all. It is because we recognize our brokenness and surrender to the Lord in and by faith that we are healed and raised up.
John 6:37 is referenced at the end of the article but once again I want to expand the context here.
John 6.35-40: 35And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
A grave injustice is done when we ignore the context of the verse referenced.
In vv.35 and 40 that important element of faith comes, once again, to the front of the testimony of Scripture.
We find that here: 1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Hebrews 11.1-3
I would like to add one more set of verses to the conversation
8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel...
2 Timothy 1.8-10
It is my position that God invested the purpose and plan for grace in and through Christ before time began. I do not believe that we are called before time began or the Word would state that we are saved before time began making it unnecessary for Christ to come and die for our sin.
To understand faith is to understand free will. Our free will is both a curse and a blessing. For we can exercise our will to believe in the Lord and have eternal life or reject the message of truth and exchange it for a wide variety of lies.
It is my desire for people to know the truth of God’s Word and not have them pass off the idea that those who do not believe are not “chosen”.
There is a biblical balance to maintain in the doctrine of election.
I believe it lies in the will of God who grants man the will to trust or reject Him.