Equal But Not The Same

wp-1481429297405.jpg

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

We were in our last couple nights of evangelism meetings when a water pipe burst, flooding a room behind the sanctuary, near the baptistry entrance. One of the deacons told a local elder to help the other deacons pump the water out. The elder politely replied that he could not do that, because he had to visit with the baptismal candidates to clear them for the baptisms coming up. The deacon then accused the elder of being on an ego trip, thinking he was too good to do manual labor. But that was not the case at all. As an elder he had a job to do in getting people ready for the baptism, and could not do both at the same time.

The early church ran into a similar problem where certain necessary duties were keeping them from preaching and teaching.

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4 NKJV

Hence the office of deacons came into the church. Like the elders, the deacons were to be men full of the Holy Spirit. They are not less than elders, but their duties are not the same. Yes, Steven preached in Acts 7 and Philip baptized in Acts 8. Every office in the church carries the equal responsibility of sharing the gospel. But deacons and deaconesses are also given responsibilities of caring for the physical upkeep and maintenance of the church, and even caring for the physical needs of the members. This frees the elders from “waiting on tables” so they can be spreading the gospel.

That evening that the water pipe burst, the deacon told the elder that a real leader should never ask anyone to do a job he would not be willing to do himself. He then handed him a bucket insinuating that he should get to work and show a little humility and lead by example. There was only one problem. The elder had appointments with several candidates for the baptisms the next couple nights. They were waiting for him right then, and they worked the next day before the baptisms the following nights.

It wasn’t that the elder thought he was important. It wasn’t even necessarily that he thought clearing people for baptism was more important than fixing a water break. Obviously the water break had to be fixed to have the baptisms! Both the deacon’s job and elder’s job were equally important but not the same. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about different gifts and ministries in the church. He talks about how the foot and hand are both needed. However while the foot is equal to the hand, the foot is still not the hand. While being equal they are not the same. Each has their own distinct purpose.

Deacons are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and able to preach. And elders have gladly taken up the offering and locked up the church after a meeting, taken out the trash, so long as they can still accomplish their gospel responsibilities. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us one ministry is not superior to another, while Acts 6 tells us our offices are not the same.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Satan’s Counterfeit Gift

Heron Channelside (5)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Last week we studied about the gifts of the Spirit. This week we are studying about the Holy Spirit and the church. Satan has a counterfeit for most everything. There are some people in the church, who claim to have the gift of “discerning spirits,” when in reality they have Satan’s “gift” of judging and condemning.

1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love thinks no evil. Titus 1:15 NKJV tells us,

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we look for good. Those who truly have the gift of discerning spirits will find good as well as evil, but I have witnessed too many people in the church, claiming to have the gift of discernment, who could only discern evil. But those with the mind of the Holy Spirit gravitate towards,

whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— Philippians 4:8 NKJV

In a former district there was a woman, who would not allow her husband to even talk to women at church, because she “knew” they all wanted him. She would not allow her teenage daughters to date even in groups, because she could “discern” what “all” the boys were up to. I thought the woman was really strict and conservative, until her trustworthy family members confided in me, that she had numerous affairs of her own. I should not have been surprised. Paul says,

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1 NKJV

Satan accused God of being a tyrant when in reality Satan was the tyrant. I have often found that when people talk about others, they are really talking about themselves.

Those who truly have the gift of discerning spirits don’t make a habit of accusing others. Jude talks about those in the church who make bold accusations, while Michael, who definitely could discern spirits, made no accusations.

 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Jude 1:8-9 NKJV

So what do those with the real gift of discerning spirits know and do?

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 NKJV

The Holy Spirit teaches and inspires the Word of God. See 2 Peter 1:21. Those with spiritual discernment can tell when ideas come from man, or from the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus tells Peter that his revelation came not from flesh and blood but by the Father. Later in Matthew 16:23, during the same conversation, Jesus says, “Get thee behind me Satan!” When Peter comes up with an idea that was not from the Father or Holy Spirit. Jesus was not calling Peter “Satan”, right after telling him his previous revelation came from the Father. Jesus was not accusing Peter of being Satan. Jesus just discerned which of Peter’s ideas were from the Holy Spirit and which were not. The gift of discerning spirits is just that, discerning spirits, not people. Those with the gift of spiritual discernment can reject an unbalanced idea without condemning the person, just as Jesus did with Peter.

Let no accuser of others credit himself with discernment; for in so doing he clothes the attributes of Satan with the garments of righteousness. -Ellen White, Review and Herald, March 12, 1895