Liberty of Gift is Unhindered
The evidence is overwhelming that in NT assemblies the leadership and ministry was shared. Acts 13: 1 names five prophets and teachers in the church that was at Antioch. Even so we read in Acts 15: 35, “Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the Word of the Lord, with many others also.”
Some assemblies in North America practice open reception (receiving denominational believers who intend to go right back to their denomination). Some also have moved to the concept of having one man as a pastor who does most of the preaching, or sometimes all of the preaching. That hinders the development of gift.
I’m thankful for every assembly where the Holy Spirit can give a gift to a young brother and he is free to develop that gift subject to the Word of God and godly overseers and eventually be commended to the grace of God for the work of God without graduation from a Bible school or seminary.
Loyalty to the Word of God is Uncompromising
Our greatness is similar to Israel’s. They were not great in numbers and neither are we. “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loves you” (Deut 7:7-8). That is not an explanation of the love of God.
A monument of grace,
A sinner saved by blood.
The streams of love I trace,
Up to the fountain God,
And in His sovereign counsels see,
Eternal thoughts of love to me.
Israel’s greatness is in Deuteronomy 4:7-8 and it is similar to our greatness. “What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them; as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon Him for?” I am going to link that verse with our greatness in Acts 20:32. How much more is that true of us? “Having therefore boldness (or confidence), to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19). In Acts 20:32 we read “I commend you to God.”
“What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day.” How much more is that true of us who have the whole NT as well as the OT? Linking it with Acts 20:32, “I commend you to the word of His grace.”
Some have wondered why God didn’t put all the principle of assembly gathering on three or four pages. Here is one good reason. Any person can follow a set of rules without their heart being in it. God wants our hearts to desire to please Him. We can get assembly principles from the Word of His grace, but we also need spiritual power to carry them out and we can get that from God. “I commend you to God.”
Our only rule book is the Word of God. There are good books on assembly principles. Their value is in the measure in which they show us what God’s Word teaches, because that is our only rule book. We read three times in Hebrews 13 “they that have the rule over you (or “those who are your guides or leaders”). How do they rule, guide or lead? It is by the Word of God (v7): “Who have spoken unto you the Word of God.” It is not an arbitrary rule, but rule according to the Word of God. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves.” W. E. Vine tells us that the obedience is not to authority, but the result of persuasion. The persuasion comes from the Word of God. When overseers watch for our souls as they that must give account, they surely deserve our submission! We read in 2 Timothy 1:14, “That good thing that was committed unto you keep by the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us.” That good deposit is the truth of God and the Holy Spirit can help each of us to keep the truth of God.
The late Clay Fite told me about the late Robert Dowdy. Pastor Russell (the head of those known as Jehovah’s Witnesses) got permission from a big newspaper in Pittsburgh to print his doctrine for free, with the understanding that anyone who wanted to refute it could put his articles in for free as well. The editor probably thought this would create a good bit of interest. That newspaper circulated in an area of about a million people, so it is incredible that no evangelical preacher took up the challenge to refute his doctrine! (Although there were attacks on his character, his doctrine was not refuted).
When Robert Dowdy (an assembly overseer with a full-time job in the steel mill) saw that no evangelical preacher was taking up the challenge, he did. I would be glad to find out how many articles Robert had in the newspaper before the editor put this note in. “Keep up the good work, you have him on the run.” Shortly afterward, Pastor Russell had to withdraw because Robert Dowdy was effectively showing that what he was teaching was error. Surely, Robert met the qualifications of an overseer to an exemplary degree, “Holding fast the faithful Word as he has been taught that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9).