When I saw the words in “Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28), I believed religious pastors and elders were all established by the Holy Spirit; it was the Holy Spirit who placed them among the flock as overseers to shepherd the church; since they were approved by God, we believers should listen to and obey them; and we were actually resisting the Lord when we didn’t obey them. And I kept holding onto such a view …
One day, I encountered Brother Chen and we talked about the topic unconsciously. Brother Chen asked, “Brother Xie, is this verse ‘Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God’ said by Paul or the ?” I replied, “It’s certainly said by Paul.” Brother Chen continued, “We believers in God should solve any problems according to the Lord’s words, because only God’s words are the truth. Even if man’s words are enlightened by the Holy Spirit, no matter how true they are, we could just say that they conform to the truth but are not the truth itself. What’s more, many people’s words in the Bible are not in accordance with the truth. Take Paul’s words as an example. Paul said over the flock the Holy Ghost has made you overseers. Is this saying based on God’s words? Which item of truth does it confirm to? The Lord Jesus has never said that all those church leaders, pastors, and elders are appointed by God, nor has the Holy Spirit ever borne witness to them. However, we believe that pastors and elders are established by God according to Paul’s words. Is such a view we cling to based on God’s words?” Hearing Brother Chen’s words, I thought: Right! We believers in God really should regard the Lord Jesus’ word as our standard. But there are so many believers obeying this word of Paul and practicing according to it. Could it be that we are all wrong? Then, what’s the right path of practice? So I inquired, “Brother Chen, you’ve enlightened me with just a few words. I’ve always believed that religious pastors and elders are all established by God, so have many believers. In hindsight, holding onto this view doesn’t have a basis in the Lord’s words. So how should we look at the issue? I don’t quite understand this aspect of the truth. Please fellowship with me.”
Brother Chen answered me in a very serious tone, “You asked a good question. It’s very important to make it clear whether the pastors and elders are established by God or not, because it involves a question whether we believers in God are following and obeying God or man. We learn from the accounts of the Bible that in every age of God’s work He chooses and establishes some people to coordinate with His work; they are all personally appointed, used, and arranged by God; and God personally appears and bears witness to them. Like during the Old Testament Age of Law, God appointed Moses to bring forth the Israelites out of Egypt, which is proven by God’s words, and it’s recorded in the Scriptures: ‘Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come to me: and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt’ (Exodus 3:9-10). We can see from the record of the Bible, when God appointed Moses, He personally appeared to and called upon Moses, and revealed to Moses the work He desired to do and His will, told Moses to lead the Israelites to leave Egypt. We can see that God directly appeared to Moses to command him to do the work, neither giving him a dream or revelation nor using an angel or any other way to convey His will. During the New Testament Age of Grace, when God used Peter, He also personally entrusted the church to Peter and asked Peter to shepherd His sheep. It’s written in the Bible: ‘And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19), and ‘He said to him, Feed my lambs. … He said to him, Feed my sheep’ (John 21:15-16). According to the Lord Jesus’ face-to-face commands to Peter, we can see that Peter was personally established and borne witness to by the Lord Jesus, that he was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven by the Lord Jesus and gained authority, and that the Lord Jesus told His will to him, entrusted the work to him, and exhorted him to look after His sheep and the churches. The Lord Jesus had never made such an exhortation to anyone apart from Peter, including the other disciples He personally called upon. Peter was a man who was personally called upon and established by the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace. From Moses and Peter, we can understand: Those established by God are personally chosen, predetermined, called upon, and testified to, as well as arranged by God, and they directly carry out the work commissioned by God. By contrast, the religious pastors and elders are different from Moses and Peter in the background of their work. Most of religious pastors and elders graduate from seminaries, relying on graduate certificates in theology to become pastors or elders, and God or the Holy Spirit doesn’t testify to them at all, so they are not ones appointed by God, the Holy Spirit doesn’t place them among the flock as overseers.” Brother Chen’s fellowship was well-grounded, and the more I listened, the clearer I became. I thought: Why is it that I don’t have such pure acceptance and understanding as we read the Bible similarly? Although I have read the Bible for so many years, I haven’t understood such an important truth. It seems that I didn’t pay attention to pondering and seeking the truth and that my faith has been truly confused. Then I pondered it over: The pastors, elders, and preachers have been preaching according to Paul’s words that the leaders of the churches are all established by God. Are they not misleading people? It’s really not easy to discern this matter without seeking the truth or God’s will. After realizing the importance of seeing it clearly, in order to understand this aspect of the truth thoroughly, I continued listening to Brother Chen’s fellowship with full attention.
Brother Chen said sincerely, “According to the records of the Bible, we can see that every time God opens a new age and does a new work, He establishes a person to cooperate with and lead the churches. Then what’re God’s intention and His aim in doing so? What are the differences between the man used by the Holy Spirit and the other apostles and workers? I saw it’s said clearly in a book.” Brother Chen took out a book from his bag as he spoke, and then he read the following passage: “‘The work carried out by the one who is used by God is in order to cooperate with the work of or the Holy Spirit. This man is raised up by God among man, he is there to lead all of God’s chosen ones, and he is also raised up by God in order to do the work of human cooperation. With someone such as this, who is able to do the work of human cooperation, more of God’s requirements toward man and the work that the Holy Spirit must do among man can be achieved through him. Another way of putting it is like this: God’s aim in using this man is so that all those who follow God can better understand God’s will, and can attain more of God’s requirements. Because people are incapable of directly understanding God’s words or God’s will, God has raised someone up who is used to carry out such work. This person who is used by God can also be described as a medium by which God guides people, as the “translator” who communicates between God and people. Thus, such a man is unlike any of those who work in God’s household or who are His apostles. Like them, he can be said to be someone who serves God, yet in the substance of his work and the background of his use by God he differs greatly from the other workers and apostles. In terms of the substance of his work and the background of his use, the man who is used by God is raised up by Him, he is prepared by God for God’s work, and he cooperates in the work of God Himself. No person could ever stand in for his work, it is human cooperation that is integral to the divine work. The work carried out by other workers or apostles, meanwhile, is but the conveyance and implementation of the many aspects of the arrangements for the churches during each period, or else the work of some simple provision of life in order to maintain the church life. These workers and apostles are not appointed by God, much less can they be called those who are used by the Holy Spirit. They are selected from among the churches and, after they have been trained and cultivated for a period of time, those who are fit are kept on, while those who are unfit are sent back to where they came from’ (‘Concerning God’s Use of Man’).
From the words above, we know that the man used by God is personally established and raised up by God to do the work of human cooperation among people, and because of the man’s cooperation with God, His work goes much easier. God can use the man appointed by Him to instruct us about what we don’t understand or receive, so that we can gain a greater understanding of God’s will, understand the truth, and have a way to follow. He is a person who leads all the followers of God and has the confirmation from the Holy Spirit, and his work is upheld by the Holy Spirit. When we followers of God obey the leading and shepherding of the man used by the Holy Spirit, we’re truly obeying God’s work, and those who don’t accept his leading and shepherding are truly resisting God, and even will be punished by God. Like during the Old Testament age, God established and used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and later set forth the law through Moses. So we can see that Moses’ work was directed and controlled by the Holy Spirit, was cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit to lead the entire age. At that time, besides Moses, there were many other chiefs leading the people. They were not established by God but selected from among people. They were responsible for some one-sided work in limited areas, and they could continue doing the work if they obey God. But then, 250 leaders among them didn’t submit to Moses’ leading and cast judgment, saying that why God used Moses rather than them. They desired to replace Moses and keep God’s people for themselves. On the surface, their actions were the attacks on Moses, but they were just resisting God in substance. They had directly offended God’s disposition, and so Jehovah God made them perish in a crack in the earth. In the Age of Grace, God chose Peter to feed the church of God, so Peter gained the authority from God, and when he was working, he was full of power and had the guidance of the work of the Holy Spirit. These are facts known to us all. By contrast, the religious pastors and elders aren’t established by God, and they can only do some simple work of the ministry and supply. They cannot do the work of leading all those who follow God. As they have some gifts and can speak a few spiritual doctrines, they preach and work among brothers and sisters and shepherd the church. If their actions are practicing God’s words, bearing witness to God, and bringing people before God, then the Holy Spirit’s work can be seen within them and God will continue using them. If the pastors and elders, while preaching and working, just focus on studying the Bible and theology, teach people to follow some rules and rituals, but never practice God’s words or observe God’s commandments in their experiences, if they only speak letters and doctrines to hold themselves up high and bear witness to themselves in service, so that the believers look up to them and worship them, and have no progress in life and obtain no provisions in spirit under their leading—this can prove that they don’t have the confirmation of the work of the Holy Spirit, much less the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit—they are not personally appointed by the Holy Spirit at all, and their work is not commissioned by God directly, nor has the Holy Spirit placed them among the flock as overseers.
Therefore, the saying that the religious pastors and elders are all established by God and not obeying them is just resisting the Lord isn’t based on God’s words but the conception and imagination of man. If we are dictated or bound by this kind of thought and view, even if we have seen those ‘head sheep’ create discord within the church and their actions obviously violate the Lord’s will, we would not dare to discern and expose them. Instead, we would blindly follow them and obey all the words they have said without any contradictions. If so, we would be no different from the Jewish people who blindly followed the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees in opposing the Lord Jesus two thousand years ago. So, we believers should honor the Lord as great and seek His will in all things, and only in this way are we truly obeying the Lord.”
After hearing Brother Chen’s fellowship, I felt ashamed and said, “Brother, through your fellowship in this manner, I have understood even more clearly that the people used by God are truly established by God. Just as Moses and Peter, they accepted God’s commissions directly to lead all the followers of God, and their work couldn’t be done by other leaders and workers. But I was blind and didn’t understand this aspect of the truth. I have always considered that the pastors, elders, and preachers who graduated from seminaries are appointed and approved by God, and that we should listen to and obey them. I have held onto such a mistaken viewpoint for several years, and been deceived by the preaching of the pastors and elders into walking the wrong path. Today, but for hearing your communication in this manner, I would keep holding onto it, believing that obeying the pastors and elders is obeying God. Thank the Lord! Through your fellowship, I realize I must correct this mistake. But how exactly should I treat the pastors and elders? Please communicate with me about it.”
Brother Chen smiled and said, “When it comes to how to treat the pastors and elders, we should seek the truth. If the pastors and elders are people who love the truth and pursue the truth, then they will surely have the work of the Holy Spirit and can lead us to practice the Lord’s words and observe the Lord’s commandments, and we can follow and obey them. When we do so, we are obeying the work of the Holy Spirit but not a person. But if they don’t love the truth or pursue the truth, nor do they lead the believers to practice the Lord’s words, but only explain the Bible knowledge and theological theories to delude the believers, which results in the believers not obtaining the provision of life or knowing God in the slightest after believing in the Lord and listening to the sermons for many years, then they are holding themselves up high, bearing witness to themselves, and building themselves up to cause the believers to follow them. During their preaching, they exalt and bear witness to man’s words in the Bible but not the Lord’s words, using man’s words to replace God’s words and make God’s words irrelevant, so that they bring the believers before them and into notions and imaginations. Their service is serious resistance to the Lord, and we shouldn’t listen to and obey them. Especially regarding such an important event as the return of the Lord in , the pastors and elders should lead the believers to seek the truth about it and search for the footprints of the work of the Holy Spirit. Since sheep belongs to God, it should be returned to the Lord when He returns. But some pastors and elders don’t give sheep back to the Lord. They furiously bind and control the believers to prevent them from seeking and investigating the true way. All their actions confirm that which the Lord Jesus said in His parable about the wicked vinedressers. If we blindly listen to, obey, and follow such pastors and elders, having no discernment, not seeking or investigating the true way, and following them in slandering and condemning the Lord’s return, we are actually being hostile to God. So, today we believers in God must gain discernment and never blindly follow or obey the pastors and elders. If their actions conform to the truth and the Lord’s words, then we should obey them, but if not, never obey them. This is just as Peter said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).
Through Brother Chen’s fellowship, I have a new knowledge and insight of the truth about the pastors and elders being not established by the Lord and how to correctly treat them, and my mistaken viewpoints in years of belief have been turned around. Thank God for His guidance! All the glory be to God!
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