Letter: Sept. 21, 2000
When I saw the letter I sent you in the Servants’ News it seemed to convey an idea that was entirely opposite to the one that was intended. There was a copying error on the second page that implied that elders at Antioch were subordinate to, and took their instructions from, the congregation. Under normal circumstances this is not true. The decision whether new Gentile converts were required to be circumcised was made by the elders and the Apostles (which are also elders), not the congregation (Acts 16:4). The whole purpose of quoting Acts 15 was to demonstrate that elders were subordinate only to Christ and the Father. This is why James 5 tells the sick to call on them for prayers an anointing.
In Acts 15:3 where it states “the church sent them on their way”, it simply means as a group the congregation sent the delegation, but did so by the authority and leadership of the Antioch elders. The congregation most likely helped supply transportation, food and money for the journey to Jerusalem. To give an example of how this same phraseology is used today, in the second world war the army sent an invading force. This force although sent by the army, was really sent by the authority and orders of the generals overseeing the army. The soldiers didn’t gather together to work out a plan so they could instruct the generals what to do. Many times in the news we see a ship aground on a sand bar. It is true the ship did strike the sand bar but it was the officers in charge who steered it that way. It was not each crew member taking the wheel and directing it. That would be a mutiny. The real sending took place in Acts 15:2, where it states “they determined” (Strong's 5021). The people given the responsibility of shepherding the Antioch congregation would determine who to send to Jerusalem.
Again, I would like to focus on the New Testament elders to show that they are not subordinate to the congregation while they hold that responsible position. Although it is true that the elders are chosen by the congregation provided that they meet the criteria laid out in1Tim 3 ad Titus 1 (as shown in Acts 1:22-23 and Acts 6:3), and also true that a congregation can remove an elder as their overseer if he no longer fulfills the required criteria (3John and 1Tim 5:19-21), but while he holds the position of elder he answers directly to Christ and the Father. The congregational discussions to remove would most likely be led by other elders in the congregation. elders are always spoken of in the plural (Titus 1:5, Acts 20:17). The remaining elders would be subordinate to no person or party (completely impartial in their decisions) and have a good track record (1Tim 3 and Titus 1).
A. Elders must be able to teach in their congregation (1Tim 3:2). The question is: do teachers get instructions from the students or are students instructed by their teachers?
B. John was an elder (3John 1), but also viewed himself as a father to God’s people (verse 4). The question is: Is the father subordinate to the children or are the children subordinate to the father? Also, a father has responsibilities in his own family but has no authority over the neighbor’s family. All he can do there is point out to them areas of concern.
C. Elders are compared to shepherds over God’s people (1Peter 5:1-2), and answerable to the chief shepherd (verse 4). The question is: Is the shepherd subordinate to the sheep or are the sheep subordinate to the shepherd? The shepherd is only responsible for his own sheep not every sheep in the countryside; they are the responsibilities of their own shepherds.
D. Elders are compared to an overseer (Strong’s 1985, “a superintendent i.e. Chr. Officer in gen. Charge of a (or the) church”) (Acts 20:17-28). The question is: If a person is an overseer of a group of people is the overseer subordinate to the people or are the people subordinate to the overseer?
E. An elder is said to be one with authority (Titus 2:15, 2Cor 10:8). The question is: If a person has authority over God’s people is he subordinate to the congregation or is the congregation subordinate to the one with authority? Authority is a word that many ex-Worldwide Church members dislike because of past abuse of this authority. However, were these elders in the Biblical sense, or simply people appointed by, and subordinate to, a religious party?
F. Elders are spoken of as a person who rules (1Tim 5:17). I am puzzled why anyone would think elders are subordinate to the congregation.
I have every confidence that the Antioch elders fulfilled their responsibilities as shepherds, overseers, rulers, teachers and fathers to the congregation. These elders used their authority correctly in this case and sent the delegation including Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-3). This was a very difficult question because all the congregation had to go on was the old testament, so these people from Judea had a very good point.
The point of my first letter was that the majority of today’s elders are subordinate to religious parties or independent congregations (mostly because they are paid by them), which makes them different from their New Testament counterparts. They in no way, shape or form resemble the Antioch elders.
Norm, there is a world of difference between the New Testament elders and most of the elders today, yet people think the result will be the same when anointed by these modern elders when they are sick. I’m not denying that some miraculous healings do occur, among the Sabbath observers as well as Sunday observers, however I believe that healings are granted not because of the authority of the elder, but instead because of the faith and pure heart of the elder and the ailing congregational member. Few elders or the members they are anointing are aware of the difference between these modern elders and their New Testament counterparts.
— John Leitch, Canada
Response: John, I thought I was clarifying your article in a couple of places. I think you agreed with some of my changes, but I’m sorry when I made it worse in one place. You are quite right that the meaning of “sent” in Acts 15:3 does not mean “sent a subordinate”, but more like “helped on their way”. You have outlined many scriptures showing where elders were responsible to God for the people, yet we can also see where brethren chose leaders (Acts 6:3, 2Cor 8:19) and where they are responsible for rejecting bad ones (Rev 2:2; 2Cor 11:13; 1Jn 4:1).
I think the problem of how leaders can be both appointed by the people, yet “over” the people can be understood from the Old Testament. God commanded the people to appoint the elders (these were the same people who were commanded to give offerings three times per year in the previous two verses):
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous” (Deut 16:18).
But once a person was appointed a judge, he had authority over the people, and those who defied them were to be put to death.
“Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel” (Deut 17:12).
This may seem like a paradox, but the answer is quite simple. The majority
of the people appointed a judge, and then the judge had authority over individuals
as they came to him. If an
individual disagreed with a judge’s decision, there was not much that he could do. But the majority of people could remove a bad judge.
What stops the majority of people from rejecting righteous judges and appointing evil judges? Sometimes, the Eternal in His mercy will intervene. But, often, He does not stop it. Today, there are many unjust judges, and only a very tiny percentage of people ever bother to vote for judges. The Eternal warned that people often like unrighteous leaders:
“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer 5:31).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2Tim 4:3-4).
Obviously, elders are responsible to God to do what is right and just. Brethren should follow those elders, unless they believe the elder has departed from the Eternal--in which case they should first talk to the elder, then to others, then to the entire congregation (Matt 18:15-17).
Thanks for your article and letter. I hoped that everyone learned from it.
Letter: Sept. 6, 2000
Undoubtedly, woman was created equal in value to man. There are many examples of the ministry of women in the Bible. Yet for all this, Christ did not tell women to "feed my sheep" (John 21:17). Nor did he choose any women as apostles. Paul excluded women from authoritative teaching role of pastor or elder (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
Question: Is it appropriate for women to give opening/closing prayers in front of the congregation during Church services? This issue has become a controversy in our congregation where opinions are divided on the matter.
Shall be grateful if you will please enlighten me on the subject with scriptural notes if possible. Thank you.
— Dr E H Tiku, PhD, via the Internet
Response: The issue of what women should and should not do in a service is an emotional and difficult one. It is emotional because so many people have lived their lives with specific ideas of their own roles and their spouse’s roles; making changes at this late date is like starting over from scratch. It is a difficult issue because there are disputes about the correct wording and translation of Bible manuscripts.
As one example of the debate, you said that Christ did not choose any women apostles, and that is certainly true of the original 12. But notice Romans 16:7 in the NIV: “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Greek manuscripts differ here as to whether the name should be “Junias” (a man), or “Junia” or “Julia” (a woman). The KJV and NKJV actually say “Junia”, but they use the expression “of note among the apostles” which makes it sound like they were simply someone the apostles “noted”, rather than being apostles themselves. Nevertheless, many translations clearly say that these two were apostles. Since they were believers before Paul, they may have met the qualifications given in Acts 1 when Judas was replaced.
We cannot thoroughly cover this issue or all the many other difficult issues regarding the role of women in the Scriptures.
Fortunately, the issue you asked is fairly straight forward. The issue of women praying and prophesying is covered in 1 Corinthians 11:4-16. Some people will say that Paul is talking about the way people pray and prophecy at home. To me that is inconceivable as Paul starts chapter 11 by commanding them to keep the traditions he gives them, and ends this little section by saying: “But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God” (1Cor 11:16). Can anyone be contentious about the way someone else prays or prophecies at home? How would they know whether others do it at all? Furthermore, the purpose of prophesying is to edify the church (1Cor 14:3-5).
These verses in 1 Corinthians 11 show that it is acceptable for women to pray in services. I do not have a definitive answer for whether this scripture is talking about long hair or some other kind of head covering. A woman should do what she understands it to mean. Some people are quick to point out that the singing of Psalms were considered “prayers” at that time and that this verse is simply allowing women to sing along—much as they do in our church of God tradition.
I do not see these verses limiting women in that way. Even in the CoG groups, a skilled woman could write a prayer or brief message, set it to music and sing it to the congregation as a part of “special music”. Why not let women who cannot write songs pray, also?
The Bible actually gives us three examples of women praying in a group. “They [the apostles] all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14, NIV). “On the Sabbath we [Paul and others] went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there” (Acts 16:13, NIV).
“Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:36-37).
Here is an example of a woman both praying and prophesying in a public place—the same as the instructions we find in 1 Corinthians 11. The Bible actually says very little about classes of people who should not or can not pray. It says that everyone should pray, but prayers are not heard because people are sinning or because they ask for the wrong reasons (Pslm 66:18-19; Jms 4:3).
Nevertheless, there are many objections that people might raise to the idea of women praying in services. No one should ever be forced or coerced to pray publicly. If there are no women in a fellowship who want to pray publicly and some brethren who think the concept is wrong, then it does not seem sensible to divide a group over a moot point (though someone has related a case where this actually happened).
Of course, if anyone hears a woman (or a man) pray and disagrees with it, they need not say “amen” after it.
I hope that your group is able to come to a decision that the members agree is Biblical and acceptable to everyone.
Letter: August 14, 2000
[personal paragraph omitted]
My mail is forwarded sporadically, so I read the new SN when I get it, and the old ones, too—enjoy them all. My appreciation and thanks to the Eternal, and to you and all the SN staff and helpers for keeping the SN coming.
[personal paragraph omitted]
The requests from readers and your newer approaches to articles and letters of the Work being done by individuals and groups of brethren are inspiring. I hope many are encouraged to enter their stories. Brethren visiting prisons, teaching orphan boys in Texas, blanketing cities with flyers and training local churches to help hold a campaign to bring the public together on a certain topic as Alfred Harrell is doing, others working with Sunday-keeping acquaintances as one lady does, and Barnabas Ministries on the net, reaching an impressive number perhaps for the first time (Nov-Dec 1999 and Jan-Feb 2000 issues).
What do you think of the idea of putting Shelter in the Word in waiting rooms of various professionals and businesses, etc. if readers wish to photocopy some and do this? Just on a very casual basis? A local member’s home number could be added at the end for info. If seems that there are so many people who are looking for a good Christian, non-CoG connected paper with sound doctrine/articles.
For those long-time readers of the Servants’ News tired of WCG problems and solutions, I would like to make this point: There are those with a WCG past that are fairly new readers, perhaps even some leaving PCG, and do appreciate these articles, who are perhaps still trying to put it all in its rightful place. I hope those fortunate enough to have “discovered” your magazines a long time ago, will not mind bearing with this help to the newer readers. I know of lots still caught up in the confusion of organizations, past and present, who may well “become acquainted” with your paper, and be able to see the hierarchical error. With comments in this area interspersed throughout your articles and related subjects, it is so important at the first for the new reader, and the “veteran” readers can receive advanced material at the same time.
Of the tapes and literature I have come in contact with, only a few, I feel, are as helpful or teaching and inspiring as the Servants’ News and Shelter in the Word and your other papers that you have written. I truly look forward to each issue. There is a purity, honesty and humbleness here—you do not extol your experience in a given matter to be the complete and irrefutable answer. No pedestals here, thank you!
I hope you are able to continue such a level of Christian help, and I pray the Eternal gives you the guidance, strength and ability to keep on helping for a very long time.
Thanks Norm, and have a great Feast.
— Marilyn Harris, Canada
Response: Thank you very much for your encouragement. There are times when I sit in front of my computer and think: “Are not there thousands of others with the Holy Spirit who are being taught directly by the Eternal? The answer is undoubtedly “yes”. “Then who am I that I should be teaching the Bible to other people and receiving money for doing so?”
The answer is, “I am not anyone ‘special’—not any more ‘special’ than the many other children of the Eternal—one whom He is now teaching and has given specific gifts and jobs to do. As your letter so well pointed out, people are at many different stages. Some Servants’ News readers are just coming out of the PCG and other controlling hierarchical groups. Others have been out for a long time and are more interested in how to have effective local meetings and teach others.
I have no difficulty with putting Shelter in the Word in waiting rooms. Some of the back issues were good, but the many that dealt with Y2K are no longer relevant. The latest 4 issues were very short, except that they contained the eternal judgment articles. I will try to avoid putting something so long in them in the future. I hope that the future issues will be good material for a waiting room program. Placing them in an attractive binder would probably be a good idea. Thanks for your suggestion.
Letter: August 28, 2000
I became a member of CGI back in 1989. Garner Ted convinced me of the truth about the 10 “Lost Tribes” of Israel.
I believe I am a descendent from one of the Tribes. However, the present groups from CGI seldom if ever mention the tribes, which I find very disappointing.
I realize that they want to attract more members and think preaching the Identity [of modern-day Israel] movement might have a negative effect on some groups of people. But the Identity message seems to me to be of important substance. How do you feel about this subject? I assume you are an Israelite descendent.
My wife and I enjoy and appreciate the Servants’ News. Keep it coming.
— JDC, Lillian, Alabama
Response: I believe that the 10 tribes of Israel now live in North America, Western Europe, Australia, and other places. I think some information written on this subject is good and some writings try to “help” the history and form conclusions that are not correct.
Personally, my father’s family is descended primarily from English, but partly from French families. My mother’s parents came from Czechoslovakia where numerous ancient peoples settled and passed through. I do not have extensive genealogies going back hundreds of years for either side of the family. I cannot “prove” that I am an Israelite. Neither can millions of others.
I do not see that knowing for sure that I am or am not a descendant of Israel would make much difference in my spiritual life. Paul taught: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Being descended from Israel does not make it harder or easier to follow the Eternal.
Nevertheless, the fact that there are millions, maybe billions of descendants of Israel shows that God does keep his physical promises to His people in the Old Testament. If ancient Israel was supposed to be a model nation for the rest of the world because they had the Old Testament scriptures (Deut 4:6), how much more so are the descendants of Israel today to be a “light to the world” with the New Testament?
Nevertheless, I am saddened when some preachers teach that “who you are” (who you are descended from) is more important than “what you do with your life”. Some go as far as teaching that salvation is only available to descendants of Israel—which I believe is completely wrong. A mixed multitude left with the Israelites from Egypt (Ex 12:38). Later, Paul wrote: “but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Rom 2:29).
I have heard that some groups attract more new members by preaching “identity” doctrines, and some lose members by doing it. When I was first studying the Bible, I found the doctrine very interesting and it spurred me to study more. Obviously, the teaching is probably most interesting to those who might actually be descendants of Israel. It is less relevant to African or Oriental brethren.
Paul’s general principle for services was “Let all things be done for edification” (1Cor 14:26). If the Eternal stirs someone to preach this doctrine, then they should preach it. If He stirs men to preach something else, then they should preach something else. If someone is preaching the “identity teaching” just to feel superior to “non-Israelites”, then they are making a mistake.
Thanks for your encouragement.
Letter: October 4, 2000
Thank you for your careful article. I believe from my own research that the Roman method of time-keeping is not consistent with God’s way for man because its subtle implications deny the separation of the week into a clear seventh day sabbath and six-day work-time for all mankind. The inconsistency arises, in direct opposition to the Spirit of Truth, not only for people such as spacemen or eskimos who cannot experience timings by sunset locally, but more disastrously for anyone crossing the dateline or travelling by supersonic plane or rocket; these people move in and out of the sabbath as it artificially rotates round the globe under our current false time system, making a mockery of God’s Law by defining there to be anything between zero and two days of sabbath per week. There is no way around this anomaly by “ministry” within this way of reckoning time by the overhead sun being 12:00 hrs for everyone worldwide. We are so used to this system that we are blinded to its cruel deceit of most of the world and untenable unresolvable anomalies for a few.
The bizarre possibility of certainly missing sabbath completely simply by moving an inch across a man-devised invisible line just before sabbath is so obviously wrong that Satan seems to have fooled mankind curiously well with this one… People I mention this to, just shy away, possibly because it is very hard to admit that something as basic as timekeeping has been corrupted worldwide, and we do not like to admit that we are keeping the wrong times, that we too have been deceived and are missing part of our sabbath by that deceit.
The only way around this fundamental paradox is to see that time is the same for everyone (worldwide or in space), sunset is a specific time only for a specific place and a person at rest relative to the earth. Clearly the place is well-enough defined for synchronising the sabbath from the words of the Bible, it is the realisation that the event is at the same time for everyone that has somehow been stolen from mankind… God was not father to this inconsistency and deceit, it cannot be too soon to straighten this out and return to God’s (definitely not Roman) consistent timekeeping, allowing everyone to benefit from the true sabbath at the same time, without missing or duplicating it by crossing a line, going to fast, or simply rejoicing at the wrong time because of a false inconsistent, but worldwide,ancient inconsistent tradition… this one is insidious and very hard for some to see, but look at the consequences… a massive and evil deception attacking the very sign of our God.
— Roger William Chamberlin (internet)
Response: I agree with you that using sundown to start and end the Sabbath may not provide anything close to a 24-hour Sabbath for people in airplanes or spacecraft, or for people who live on the international date line or north of the Arctic Circle. However, I think you will agree that this is a relatively small portion of the Earth’s population.
If people all over the world all kept the Sabbath between sundowns in Jerusalem, they would all have a Sabbath very close to 24 hours, but how would they know when to keep it? We must remember that electronic communications are only about 100 years old and accurate clocks are only a few hundred years old. For most of history, people told the time by the sun. If one traveled directly east or west from Jerusalem, one could learn a sun position for any local area that would correspond to sundown in Jerusalem (e.g., Sabbath would begin Friday, about 2 hours after sunrise in Los Angeles). But if one travels hundreds of miles north or south of Jerusalem, (to Rome for example), the time difference between local sundown and Jerusalem sundown will vary from summer to winter—a rather complex calculation.
When Paul wrote the Romans, did he carefully explain when they should start the Sabbath? How could people at sea or those migrating over land keep track of Jerusalem time and know when to start their Sabbath? Can you find any biblical or historical evidence of people far from Jerusalem keeping the Sabbath via Jerusalem time? An obedient person on the international dateline, arctic circle or in space can find a just way to keep a 24 hour Sabbath. A disobedient person can break the Sabbath anywhere. Let us not introduce solutions that are worse than the problems. — NSE