Grace For The Journey
Ruling, leading, administration, and governing. Words that can have quite a few different meanings to different people.
- Some think of rulers as autocratic. They are in charge and everyone else must do as they say.
- Others think of leaders as those who will get out in front to make a path for those who will follow. They put themselves at risk before anyone else does.
- Then there is administration and governing. In mind of some, that is the person who does all the administrative work on behalf of the majority of the group that tells him what to do.
In today’s blog we are going to find out what the Bible says about those that God has specifically gifted to lead in His church. We continue in our study of spiritual gifts in Romans 12. In verses 1 through 7 we read as follows, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, [let each exercise them accordingly]: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
In coming to a discussion on the gift of “leading,” or “ruling,” it is vitally important to stress once again the humility that must be part of the Christian’s character regardless of what particular gift they might have. The particular gift or gifts that each Christian has as well as the way in which that gift is used in ministry and the effectiveness of that ministry will differ from other Christians according to the will of God (1 Corinthians 12:4-7), and all of it is for the common good of the whole body of Christ. Every single Christian and every single gift and ministry is needed for the body to be healthy and effectively accomplish all that God has called us to do. There are no insignificant gifts. There are no unimportant ministries. Every believer and everything they do is to be for the glory of God.
The Christian leader who understands these principles of God’s gifting of His people will be humble, because they will recognize that they are really no more important than anyone else in the church even if they do have additional responsibilities. They will also be humble because they will understand that all that they do is to be for God’s glory and not for building up their own little kingdom for their own glory. A godly Christian leader is never jealous of others because they would rejoice in all that God does through everyone including those who have greater prestige. The goal is God’s glory, not our own. That is true of every gift and every ministry.
In our study so far, we have already examined the gifts of “prophecy,” “preaching,” “speaking,” “service” or “ministry,” “helps,” “teaching,” “exhortation,” and “giving.” We have also seen that God requires every Christian to serve Him to some extent in each of these areas, but there are also those that serve the Lord beyond what is generally commanded in these areas. A person who does that is demonstrating their area of giftedness. We only really know what our giftedness might be as we use it is service to the Lord. A person gifted in an area has greater effectiveness than normal in that area in glorifying God and helping other believers in their Christian walk.
Every Christian is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), but the person with the gift of prophecy is able to proclaim what God has said with effectiveness in helping other believers become more like Christ. Those who do this in a public settings would also have the gift of being appointed by God as a “preacher” (1 Timothy 2:7), while those who do this in a more general nature may have the gift of “speaking” (1 Peter 4:11). There are those today that claim to have the gift of prophecy in the sense of foretelling the future, but such a claim would have to be backed up by being 100% accurate 100% of the time, otherwise they are false prophets who are to be rejected and who are under God’s wrath.
The gifts of “service” or “ministry,” and that of “helps” are related to each other. “Service” literally refers to a table waiter and is a general term meaning service “manifested in every sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus’ name” (MacArthur). “Helps” has a root meaning of “a laying hold of” and came to mean “to aid, help” or “rendering assistance.” The main difference between the two gifts would seem to be that “helps” is more personal in nature, and “service” is more general in nature, though there is much overlap between the two. The person with either of these gifts glorifies God and encourages other believers by the assistance and help they give to other believers in their work.
Those with the gift of “teaching” are especially effective in being able to transfer knowledge of spiritual things along with understanding so that the truths learned are applied to life. This gift can be manifested in all sorts of ways with different kinds and ages of people and in different ministries ranging from not only speaking and writing, but also in music, art, and drama.
In my last blog, we saw that the gift of “exhortation” can manifest itself in many different ways including advising, pleading, encouraging, warning, strengthening, and comforting people. A common thread in all these different aspects of exhortation is their tie to using the truth of God to help a person live according to it. We urge people to know the Bible. We exhort believers to live according to it. We are comforted by its promises. We warn people about the ignoring it. “Exhortation” is to be a common part of the lives of every Christian, but those with this gift are especially effective at it.
The gift of “giving” is much more than just giving of finances. It could be money, but it could also be the specific items that will meet the need at hand – food, clothes, gas, or even your own blood. The person with this gift “gives of himself, not for himself. He does not give for thanks or recognition, but for the sake of the one who receives his help and for the glory of God” (MacArthur). All Christians are commanded to give, but the one with this gift goes beyond normal in sharing of himself, his abilities, and what he has for use in glorifying God and helping others to become more like Jesus Christ. Those with this gift have a keen sense that God will meet their own needs even and He uses them to meet the needs of others.
The next gift in Paul’s list in Romans 12 is that of “leading.” The word here is also translated as “ruling” and its basic meaning is “to set over” or “to stand before.” It occurs 8 times in the New Testament and it ranges in meaning from “lead,” “to have charge over,” “to manage,” “to rule” and “to maintain.” The idea of leading or ruling in this word is joined with the idea of protecting and caring for. The leader in the church is not to be like leaders in the world who think of themselves as more important than others and see those below them as existing for their benefit.
In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus told His disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and [their] great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” This would be the same sense of leading or ruling that Paul speaks of here in Romans 12:8. It is not a matter of authority, though the church leader does have authority as we shall see in a few minutes, but rather one of service. Peter instructed elders in 1 Peter 5:1-4 to “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
Peter says the leader is to carry out this work “with eagerness,” and Paul tells us here that the leader is to do so “with diligence.” The church leader has a genuine concern for those under his care, so he is earnest in carrying out his responsibilities toward them. This again emphasizes that leadership in the church is one of true service on behalf of others, and not about getting others to serve the leader.
Now in a few minutes we are going to concentrate more on those that also are called to be church leaders in the sense of holding the office of pastor and deacon, but let me first make it clear that this concept of leadership Paul speaks of here is to be true for all leaders in the church regardless of the particular position they might hold whether it is something in which they lead lots of people or only one or two.
Leadership as used here is a general requirement for most Christians.
- Husbands have a responsibility in loving their wives by providing for them and caring for them. That includes leading them spiritually. Ephesians 5 specifically calls husbands to love their wives in the same manner in which Christ loved the church which included seeking her purity. Husbands should be diligent to assist their wives in becoming holy and blameless.
- Fathers and mothers have a responsibility in leading their children by raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
- Any Christian who is discipling another believer has a responsibility in caring for that disciple by teaching them to obey whatsoever things the Lord has commanded and living their own life as an example of godliness before them.
These same truths must be demonstrated in the lives of pastors and deacons otherwise they are not qualified. 1 Timothy 3:4 states that the pastor must be “one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” The word “manage” here is the same word as in Romans 12:8. The same word is used again in 1 Timothy 3:12 in applying this same truth to deacons who must also be “good managers of their children and their own households.”
Paul uses the word again in reference to pastors in 1 Timothy 5:17 saying, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” The word “rule” here is the same word as well. But notice here how “preaching and teaching” would be a sub-category of this “ruling.” The elder/pastor does have authority to direct, but his ruling is done through managing. We generally think of rulers as those who dictate what must be done, but the elder/pastor seeks to exhort, encourage, and prod people into doing what is right through the Word of God and godly wisdom. That is why the idea of management fits so well here. It is getting people to do the things that need to be done more through motivation and example than dictatorial threats. A good manager will clearly communicate what needs to be done while instilling in people the vision for getting it done and eliciting from people their very best in accomplishing the work.
The requirements placed on pastor/elders are the examples that everyone else should follow. Those who have the gift of “leading,” but are not in a church office, will still lead in the same manner. It is important to note that Paul’s introduction to the requirements for “overseer” (pastor) in 1 Timothy 3:1 is that his emphasis is upon the work and not the office of being a pastor – “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.”
Several passages tell us that pastors do have authority, but as pointed out here, it is to be in humility through their care for those they are leading. In 1 Peter 5:2, Peter tells us that elders were to “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight. . .” Shepherding describes the work the pastor is supposed to do. It involves leading, feeding, protecting, and binding up the injuries of the sheep under his care. The sheep do not tell the shepherd what to do. The sheep follow the shepherd wherever he goes because they trust him. So it is in the church that the pastor has the work of leading the sheep, the flock of God, into righteousness. The shepherd may need to correct the sheep at times to keep them on the right path and safe from danger, but the correction is done out of love for the sheep. The pastor must also do with his people at times. From the Latin translation of “shepherd” we get our word “pastor.” Overseer, bishop, elder, and pastor refer to the same person. Some of the words refer to the office and some refer to the work.
The pastor also exercises oversight. Oversight is from “episcope” which means “overseer,” – “one who looks over to care for.” The noun form of this is translated as “bishop.” The pastor is also a “bishop,” and that refers to his position by which he carries out his work. The pastor oversees the flock that he pastors. He cares for his sheep.
Hebrews 13:17 uses a different word to refers to church leaders, but it also emphasizes the wisdom in obeying their leadership, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” The word here for “leader” is used of one who has command authority such as a chief or governor.
A godly leader makes good decisions on behalf of those under his care. He directs those under his authority into doing the right things even while seeking to train them to operate on godly principles instead of his personal direction. He cares for the flock God has entrusted to him. He will warn them of their own bent toward sin and seek to protect them from ungodly influences from outside.
Those who are in an office of church leadership must also demonstrate these qualities. Those who are gifted in this area will perform these ministries whether they have an official church office of some sort or not. They would simply be about the business of using their gift to lead others into greater Christlikeness.
Another word that is used for church leaders is found in 1 Corinthians 12:28 in which Paul lists “administrations” as another spiritual gift. The word is used for those who “steer or guide, such as a ships’ pilot.” This is just a synonym for “leading” in Romans 12:8, for both carry similar ideas. A difference here would be that this word does not carry as strong the idea of caring for those being lead. There is more emphasis on the work itself of leading and directing.
Those with this gift would have the ability to guide or pilot. This would be helpful to individual Christians, but it is also needed for the local church. To use the sailing analogy since the word can mean pilot. The ship of the church has a course to take and a destination to reach. There needs to be someone who can keep the ship on course while also avoiding the dangerous rocks and shoals that could seriously damage the ship. A person with this gift can handle all the stuff that can flood a church with offers and opportunities and pick out those that will help the church in its ministries while keeping it from being sidetracked on peripheral issues. They would also help the church to avoid those things that might cause harm to the church’s ministry. They can keep the church moving forward
A person with this gift might function quietly within a small ministry, or it could expand all the way up to having a position on a church or missions staff as the “administrator” who keeps the organization functioning smoothly. They are a great blessing because they can help people function in harmony with others according to their gifts. They enjoy seeing others succeed in ministry.
The final gift in Paul’s list in Romans 12 is “mercy.” The idea of this word is “to have pity and extend compassion toward those who are in need.” It is a practical gift of action. Feeling pity and compassion without acting upon it is a worthless stirring of emotion. Mercy reaches out and gives of itself to lessen the burden a person is having by both pointing them to the hope we have in God and His promises and seeking to meet the physical, emotional, or mental needs that are present.
God desires that every Christian become merciful because we are to reflect the mercy that God has shown us. Our salvation itself is based on God’s mercy. Ephesians 2:4-6 tells us that it was, “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him.” Titus 3:5 tells us that, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Mercy is a characteristic of the wisdom from above which is, “First pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
There is the mercy of granting forgiveness to those that wrong you, for it reflects the forgiveness that God grants us in Jesus Christ for our many trespasses against Him. We are to, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). In fact, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:7 that those who are merciful receive mercy, and in Matthew 18 that the person that will not show this mercy of forgiveness will be held accountable to God and will not be forgiven themselves.
But there is also the mercy of compassion given to those who are suffering from some affliction or sorrow. Christians are to, “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12-13). This is the demonstration of love we are to have for one another. The Apostle John tells us that, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). He then goes on in the next verse to apply this to everyday life asking, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). God’s love is not in such a person. Jesus made this clear in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 which was given in response to a question about who is my neighbor that God calls me to love.
The person with the gift of mercy goes beyond these general commands with a special sensitivity to those suffering and in sorrow. They will notice what others miss and then seek to bring relief to the person. It is the emotion of compassion put into practical action.
This gift may express itself in individuals in many different ways and to different degrees. What one person with this gift can deal with someone else cannot. Some people with this gift are drawn to those with medical problems and easily deal with those who have horrible conditions and diseases, yet they might have little compassion on those in jail. Another might minister to those in jail, but they cannot handle blood and will faint if they go into a hospital. Those with mercy might minister to the homeless, the lame, the sick, the mentally handicapped, orphans, widows, the lonely, those in despair, those emotionally distraught, those who are dying, those who are grieving, and those suffering from any of the other multitude of afflictions that affect mankind.
The actions they take can range from a kind word to motivating a major relief effort for victims of some catastrophe. It could be simply holding someone’s hand along with a quiet prayer, or giving physical care to someone who cannot care for themselves. The one with this gift does not have to ask how they can help, they see the needs and strive to meet them, and as Paul states here, they do so with cheerfulness. Things may be tough. There may be sadness. But God is bigger than all of that, and the one with the gift of mercy points others to hope in God. That is the important element in this gift, as it is with all gifts. It is done in such a way that God will be glorified and/or believers will be helped to become more like Jesus Christ.
If you are a true Christian, then God has gifted you to serve Him. It is up to you to discover your gift by trying different ministries that interest you and seeing what God will do through you. Pray about what God would have you do, and then do it.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”