When most believers in the Lord read these words in : “Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed of God” (Acts 20:28), they think that religious pastors and elders are all established and placed among the flock as overseers by the Holy Spirit to shepherd the church, and that since they are acknowledged by God, then believers should follow and obey them, and failing to obey them is resisting the Lord. Does such a viewpoint conform to the truth? Is this verse the word of the apostle Paul or the ? Are there words of the Lord to back this up? Does the Lord approve of it? If there isn’t word of the Lord as proof or the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, is our holding such a view that the pastors and elders are established by the Lord according to Paul’s words really after the Lord’s heart?
Brothers and sisters, we can know from the biblical accounts that in every age of His work, God chooses and appoints some people to coordinate with His work. They are all personally appointed, used, and arranged by God, and God personally appears and testifies to them. Like during the Age of Law of the Old Testament, God appointed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. This was confirmed by God’s words, just as it’s written in the Bible: “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 these records of the Bible that when appointing Moses, God personally appeared to and called upon him; He revealed the work He desired to do as well as His will to Moses, and asked him to bring forth the Israelites out of Egypt. When God commanded Moses to do the work, He directly appeared to him rather than gave him dreams or revelation or used angels or other way to convey His will. During the Age of Grace of the New Testament, when God appointed Peter, He personally gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, asking him to shepherd His sheep, just as it’s recorded 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). From the face-to-face conversations between the Lord Jesus and Peter, we can see that Peter was personally called upon, appointed, and witnessed by the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace; the Lord Jesus gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven and authority; He also told His will to Peter and entrusted him with the work of shepherding His sheep and watching over the churches. Apart from Peter, Jesus had never made such exhortations to anyone, even other disciples He personally called upon. Through Moses and Peter we can understand that people appointed by God are chosen and predestined by God Himself, and that they are called upon, witnessed, and arranged by God to do the work that God entrusts to them. But the religious pastors and elders differ from Moses and Peter in the background of their work: Most of them are seminary graduates, relying on graduate certificates in theology to become pastors and elders. They don’t have the testimony of God or the Holy Spirit at all. So they are neither established by God, nor placed among the flock as overseers by the Holy Spirit.
From the records of the Bible we can see that every time God ushers in a new age, He would appoint a person used by Him. Then what are His intentions and purposes in appointing this person? Is there any difference between this person and the other workers? Let’s look at the words of God: “The work carried out by the one who is used by God is in order to cooperate with the work of Christ 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 , 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 God’s words we can know that the man used by God is personally established by God, and is raised up by God among man in order to do the work of human cooperation. Because of such a person’s cooperation with God, God’s work becomes much easier. The man used by God leads all the people following God and is actually the “translator” who communicates between God and people, and through him, God can show us many things that we don’t understand or can’t accept, so that we can gain a greater understanding of His will and have a way to follow; he has the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and his work is upheld by the Holy Spirit. Followers of God obeying the leading and shepherding of the man used by the Holy Spirit is truly obeying God, while all those who don’t accept his guidance and shepherding are resisting God, and even could be punished by God. Just like the 250 leaders that resisted Moses in the Age of the Old Testament: They didn’t obey Moses’ leading, which in essence was resisting God. As a result, they directly offended the disposition of God and thus perished in a crack in the earth. Because Moses was established and appointed by God to lead the whole work of the Old Testament, and through him God decreed laws for man to abide, he was unlike any of the workers; while the 250 leaders were selected by man, among whom those who were unfit would not be used by God, and if they severely offended God, they would be destroyed by God. Similarly, in the Age of Grace, God chose Peter and gave him authority to shepherd the churches, so that he was full of power and had the guidance of the work of the Holy Spirit while working, which are the facts we all know. In contrast, the religious pastors and elders are not established by God. They can only carry out some simple work of ministering to and supplying man, but are incapable of leading all the followers of God. It’s just because they are blessed with some gifts and can speak of some spiritual doctrines that they preach and work among the brothers and sisters and shepherd the churches. If what the pastors and elders do is practicing God’s words and bearing witness to God and can bring people before God, then it can be seen that there is the Holy Spirit’s work within them, and God will continue using them. But if, when preaching and working, they only pay attention to researching the Bible and theology and teaching people to abide by some rules and rituals, and never practice the Lord’s words or observe the Lord’s commandments, or if during their service, they merely preach letters and doctrines to exalt and testify to themselves to make others admire and worship them, and under their leadership believers haven’t progressed in life or received any supply in the spirit, then it can be proved that these pastors and elders neither have the confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s work nor the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit’s work. So they are absolutely not personally established by the Holy Spirit; their work is not directly entrusted by God; and the Holy Spirit has not placed them among the flock as overseers.
Therefore, our viewpoint that the religious pastors and elders are all established by the Lord and disobeying them is resisting the Lord, comes from our conceptions and imaginations, and has no basis in . If we are ruled and bound by this viewpoint, when we see that those lead sheep engage in all manner of misconduct, which obviously goes against the Lord’s will, we will still think that we should follow and obey them without any disobedience no matter how inappropriate their acts are. Then this is no different from the Jewish people who blindly followed the words of those chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees and thus resisted the Lord Jesus. So, in our faith in the Lord, we should honor the Lord as great and seek His will in all things. This is what it means to truly obey the Lord.
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 and pursue the truth, they will have the work of the Holy Spirit and can lead us to practice the Lord’s words and observe His commandments; then we can follow and obey them. But, if they don’t love or pursue the truth and never lead us to practice the Lord’s words, but instead do all they can to exalt and bear witness to themselves and build themselves up during their service to make us obey them, then they are opponents of the Lord and are detested by God. Especially when it comes to the big issue of the coming of the Lord, some pastors and elders, in order to protect their status and livelihoods, not only don’t seek and investigate the way of truth, but furiously slander and condemn the true way and even bind believers and prevent them from searching for and investigating it. In that case, if we still blindly obey and follow them, we are actually opposing God, and how can we with such belief be commended by God?
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