The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

Gaius Commended for His Hospitality

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely, how you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers. Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth.

Diotrophes and Demetrius

I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true.

From Ray Stedman:

Third John gives us an intimate glimpse into the life of the early church. It is a delightful accompaniment to the second letter, which was written to a Christian lady about how to handle the false teachers who were abroad in that day.

The third letter of John was written to a Christian man about how to take care of the true teachers who were traveling about ministering the word of God. There is thus both a contrast and a similarity in these last two letters from the pen of John.

Third John shows us something of the problem of personalities within the church, and three people are mentioned here. There is a man named Gaius, to whom this letter is written; another man named Diotrophes, and a third individual named Demetrius. These three men are like three kinds of Christians found in the church in any age. Like all the letters of the New Testament, this is a very up-to-date and relevant letter.

First, there is the man named Gaius. This may be one of the three Gaiuses mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, although Gaius was a common name in New Testament times, as is John. In any case, John evidently knew him, and addresses the letter to him in a warm and friendly way. We can gather from the letter that Gaius was a genial, gracious, generous individual. Three things that John says about him are important to notice. First, he was strong of soul; that was what warmed John's heart:

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in health; I know that it is well with your soul. (3 John 1:2 RSV)

That is what the Revised Standard Version has, but I think the Authorized Version is a little more accurate:

...that you may prosper in health just as you prosper in soul. 3 John 1:2b KJV)

That is a wonderful thing to say about someone, isn't it? "I wish you could be as strong in body as you are in spirit." It would be interesting to apply this test to people today. If your physical appearance reflected your spiritual state, what would you look like? Would you be a robust individual -- strong and virile? Or would you be a doddering weakling, barely able to move? Well, Gaius w as the sort of man about whom the Apostle John could say, "I wish your physical life were as strong as your spiritual life."

Further, he was consistent in his actions:

I greatly rejoiced when some of the brethren arrived and testified to the truth of your life, as indeed you do follow the truth. (3 John 1:3 RSV)

He showed the truth in his life, what impressed John was not that he knew the truth, but that he followed the truth. He lived it. He had a consistent life. He did not preach cream and live skim milk. He walked in the truth. And finally, he was generous in his giving:

Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their Journey as befits God's service. (3 John 1:5-6 RSV)

One of the signs that a person has really been genuinely touched by God is that his pocketbook loosens up. His giving becomes generous, gracious, and cheerful, just as God loves. And this man is faithful (loyal) in his giving. This means that he is regular and systematic in his giving. He does not just give when his emotions are moved, but he plans his giving, and he carries it through, faithfully continuing with the work that he has promised.

It is clear, too, that he gave cheerfully, because John says he gave "as befits God's service." That is, worthily of God. He does not want us to give because we feel we have to or because somebody is taking a special offering. Or to feel that if we do not, we will be looked down upon by other Christians. And Gaius gives because he delights in giving.

We will come back to verses seven and eight in a moment, but first let us look at this man Diotrephes:

I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, prating against me with evil words. And not content with that, he refuses himself to welcome the brethren, and also stops those who want to welcome them and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. He who does good is of God; he who does evil has not seen God. (3 John 1:9-11 RSV)

This is the first example in the New Testament church of a church boss -- someone who tries to run the church. He may have been an elder or a deacon or perhaps a pastor, it is difficult to tell. But it was someone who conceived of his role as that of telling everyone else in the church what to do. Now the early church apparently had some kind of a membership roll, and if Diotrephes did not like somebody, he would scratch his name off the list, and put him out of the church. And John objects to that. John indicates here that Diotrephes was guilty of four particular wrong attitudes and actions. For one thing, John says that this man was guilty of slandering the apostle, "prating [preaching] against me with evil words." He refused the authority of the Apostle John.

We know from other letters that the apostles had a unique role in the history of the church. They were to lay the foundations of the church, and were given the authority to settle all questions within the church. It is this apostolic word that is passed along to us in the New Testament, which is why the New Testament is so authoritative to Christians. So here was a man who not only disregarded the authority of the Apostle John, but he even spoke against him. He said slanderous, evil things against the apostle.

Furthermore, he says that Diotrephes is refusing to welcome the brethren who came, when these traveling ministers who went about from place to place, speaking the truth of God, came to this congregation. Diotrephes would have nothing to do with them. He turned them aside and refused to allow them to speak in the church.

A third thing is that he also puts people out of the church who would have taken these men in. He indulges in what we would call today "secondary separation." He not only objected to the men who came, but he objected to those who would have received them. This has been one of the curses of the church ever since. Because of this tendency to refuse fellowship to someone who likes someone you do not like, a wide divisiveness has come into the church, doing injury and harm beyond recall.

But of those three offenses, none was as severe as the thing John puts first. The most serious problem Diotrephes had was that he put himself first. He loved to be first, which is a dead give-away that he was acting in the flesh. This is always the philosophy of the flesh -- me first. Me first, and the devil take the hindmost. In doing that, he was robbing the Lord Jesus of his prerogative. It is he who has the right to pre-eminence; he should be first, but here is a man who put himself first, and that is the really serious thing.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of men like Diotrephes in the churches today, and they are always characterized by this attitude. They want to be first. They want part of the glory. They rob God of his inheritance, stealing that which alone belongs to the Almighty. I remember reading some years ago that Dr. H.E. Robertson, an outstanding leader among the Southern Baptists and a great Greek scholar, once wrote an editorial in the denominational magazine about Diotrephes. Later, the editor reported that twenty-five deacons wrote to cancel their subscriptions, feeling personally attacked.

Now let us see what John's counsel is in this situation. Notice that he does not advice Gaius to organize a split away from the church. Rather, he says,

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. He who does good is of God; he who does evil has not seen God. (3 John 1:11)

In other words, do not follow these men who want the preeminence. If you see somebody who is always jockeying for position in Christian relationships, always wanting to be in the public eye, do not follow him. He is following his own way and not that of God.

There is, finally, a third generation mentioned here, Demetrius, and all we know of him is what John says:

Demetrius has testimony from every one, and from the truth itself; [a widely accepted and honored man] I testify to him too, and you know my testimony is true. (3 John 1:12 RSV)

He is speaking here as an apostle with the gift of discernment. Now He says, "I want to underscore what everybody thinks about Demetrius. Here's a man you can trust. He is a man of the truth. He has borne testimony from all that he is to be trusted." Evidently, Demetrius was the bearer of this letter to Gaius, and was probably one of those missionaries who traveled from place to place. I reserved verses seven and eight until now to comment on Demetrius, because they describe the kind of man of which he was a sample:

For they have set out for his sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen. So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth. (3 John 1:7-8 RSV)

These words describe the first group of traveling missionaries. As they went from place to place they would enjoy the hospitality of the various churches. They labored as evangelists in that area, reaching out into places where the church had not yet gone, being supported and strengthened by these various churches.

The Apostle John says three things of them. He says first that they have gone out; they have left things behind. They gave up their income and their work, and went out to obey this higher calling. Not everyone goes -- that was true in the early church as it is today. There were some, such as Gaius, who were to stay to help support these men. But there were others to whom the Holy Spirit said, "Come, I've called you to a special task." Their motive is given here, too: "...for his sake." Literally, for the name's sake -- the name of Jesus.

Back in Old Testament times, the Jews treated the name of God in a unique way. The name of God, Jehovah, which appears throughout the Old Testament, was called the Ineffable Tetragrammaton. Tetragrammaton means four letters, and ineffable means unspeakable, or incommunicable. So whenever they came to these four Hebrew letters for God they did not dare speak them, so holy was the name. Even when the scribe wrote them, he would change the pen away and continue with another one. Scribes also changed their garments before they would write the sacred name, so reverently did they regard the name of God. In the famous passage of Deuteronomy, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4 RSV), the name occurs twice, which would have required two changes of clothes and four pens to execute.

In the New Testament, then, the name is that of Jesus. The Apostle Paul says,

God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-10a, 11 RSV)

Concern for his name was the underlying motive for missionary work in the first century. It ought to be the underlying motive for missionaries today. It is not the need of people that calls us out to different places in the world to preach the gospel. Need is abundant everywhere. Everyone without Christ is in need. And sometimes the most pathetic cases are not those who have physical needs, but those who have everything materially, but who are wretched in their inner spirit.

I remember when John R.W. Stott, speaking at a conference, said that it was primarily a jealousy for the name of God, a conviction that he should not be denied what is rightfully his, that should be the great motive for missionaries -- that the Lord Jesus had died for the sins of men everywhere and that he longs to have from every tribe and nation a people for his name.

Now notice the part that the people who stay home are to have:

So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth. (3 John 1:8 RSV)

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, after you got to glory, God wrote "FWT" after your name, in addition to whatever other degrees you may have. Fellow Worker in the Truth. What a degree to have!

Now John closes his letter with these very personal words:

I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them. (3 John 1:13-15 RSV)

What an intimate little letter. It seems as though it came not only from John, but from the Lord himself. I like to read this letter as if it is reflecting what the Lord Jesus is saying to his own church. He is really saying to us, "There is much that I'd write to you about." He has written a whole book here, and he has much more to tell us about, but he says, "I'd rather not write with pen and ink. But I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face." --Ray Stedman: A Tale of Three Men


Diotrephes was a man mentioned in the Third Epistle of John (verses 9–11). His name means "nourished by Jupiter". As Raymond E. Brown comments, "Diotrephes is not a particularly common name."

In addition to being ambitious, proud, disrespectful of apostolic authority, rebellious, and inhospitable, the author of the letter says that Diotrephes tried to hinder those desiring to show hospitality to the brothers and to expel these from the congregation. Not even the location of Diotrephes' church can be determined from the letter. It is debatable whether the antipathy expressed in 3 John is based on "a theological dispute, a clash of competing ecclesiastical authorities, a disagreement about financial responsibilities for the mission, or personal dislike".

Adolf von Hardback was of the view that Diotrephes was the earliest monarchical bishop whose name has survived. Diotrephes was a man mentioned in the third Epistle of John (verses 9–11). His name means "nourished by Jupiter". As Raymond E. Brown comments, "Diotrephes is not a particularly common name."

In addition to being ambitious, proud, disrespectful of apostolic authority, rebellious, and inhospitable, the author of the letter says that Diotrephes tried to hinder those desiring to show hospitality to the brothers and to expel these from the congregation. Not even the location of Diotrephes' church can be determined from the letter. It is debatable whether the antipathy expressed in 3 John is based on "a theological dispute, a clash of competing ecclesiastical authorities, a disagreement about financial responsibilities for the mission, or personal dislike".

The Ego Papers

1. The "I am god" Problem

2. The Great God Self

3. King Ego

4. i am not god

5. The Impacted Ego

6. God as the Great "I AM"


From Ray Stedman

The Lord and His Church.

Series: Servant Leadership

The following study grows out of a question that was handed me on one occasion during a question and answer hour. Many have asked it before and since, and it deserves an honest and straightforward answer. The question is, "On what basis do you feel that the present church government at Peninsula Bible Church is scriptural?" I am very happy to attempt an answer, for I feel that it is a great and important issue. Church government is a matter of real concern and one that we need to be very sure is based on the principles of the Word of God.

Among the great denominations of our American church life there are three major forms of church government today:

One of them (undoubtedly the oldest), is the episcopal form of government. This form is found in churches such as the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, the Methodist, and certain smaller groups as well. Final authority in the episcopal form of government rests in a bishop. There are other governing agencies besides the bishop, of course, but, by and large, the major, final decisions are made by the bishop. This form of government grew out of an attempt to recreate apostolic authority. The apostles were recognized as the final human authority in the early church, and, in more or less degree, the churches that follow this type of government are trying to recreate that apostolic authority.

Another form that is quite widespread in this country, as well as in Scotland, is the presbyterian form of government. This stems largely from Reformation days, when the reformers broke away from the rigid control represented in the Catholic church and established what they felt was a more modified and more scriptural form of government. This is represented in this country by Presbyterian churches of various types. Final authority here is vested largely in a group of ministers called a presbytery. It is made up of the pastors of a given number of churches within a specified district or area. They make final decisions about matters of policy and matters of government, control buildings and property, and settle disciplinary problems. This form of government seems to have arisen out of the concept of the ascendancy of the clergy over the laity, that is, that the clergy are especially ordained by God to exercise ruling power within the church.

The third, and most widespread, type of church government in our country is called the congregational form. This is utilized by the Congregational churches, Baptist churches, the Church of Christ, and many other similar groups. It is probably one of the newest forms of church government, dating back no further than the early part of the 17th, or even the later part of the 16th century. It arose out of the widespread adherence of democratic ideals that came with the rising of democracies in our western world. It was assumed that in the church the people ought to have the voice of authority, and in congregationally governed churches the voice of the people (usually determined by a majority vote) is the final voice, and the church is regarded as a democracy.

Now, in examining these systems, I recognize that men are very apt to be creatures of their times. It is easy to be influenced by our background of politics and the customs of the times in which we live. Therefore, if I take the position, as I most sincerely do, that none of these systems represents a clearly scriptural position, it is not in any sense an attempt to be critical. I am sure that Peninsula Bible Church is doubtless missing the full scriptural pattern as well. There are things to which we are emotionally blind and which are not in accord with the Scriptures, for we too have been influenced by traditional thinking. I would like to make it clear that there is no sense of criticism intended along this line.

But having said all the above, I firmly believe that the present form of government at Peninsula Bible Church is the closest to the Biblical pattern that I have seen. If there is one primary reason for this, it is because the men who began this work were unconscious of the Spirit's goal. They did not begin with the idea of forming a church, so there was no occasion to intrude their own concepts of church government in the planning involved. Peninsula Bible Church began in 1949 with five businessmen who were led of the Lord to begin a little Bible class, which met Sunday evenings in the Community Center in Palo Alto. These five men could not foresee, and did not foresee, that in setting up the organization as they then envisaged it that it would become a church. So they could not, and did not, go into the question of church government. In many ways, therefore, Peninsula Bible Church, like Topsy, just grew. But, in looking back on those early days, we can see the over-superintendency of the Holy Spirit in setting up the form of government. These five men became aware only later, as the Lord made evident what was taking place here, that a New Testament pattern had been woven into the warp and woof of the original constitution and articles of incorporation that were drawn up to govern this group.

Now, the thing at question, of course, is what is it that marks Peninsula Bible Church as a Biblical church? Unquestionably, it is the enthronement here of the central idea from the Bible of what a church ought to be. The basic idea of church government in the Scriptures is the Headship of Christ!

Let me state that negatively. The church is definitely not a democracy, nor is it to be governed by clergy. Neither of these two ideas finds any support in the New Testament:

The concept of the clergy as a special governing class is decried throughout the New Testament. It finds its most severe condemnation in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. There the deeds and the doctrines of the clergy as a separate group that ought to be elevated above the laity and run things within the church is decried. Christ says, "I hate those things." To make a distinction between the clergy and the laity in governmental matters is to invite endless difficulties.

But neither is the church a democracy! When you read in the New Testament that Christ is Head of the Church, you immediately are saying that it cannot be a democracy. If the Head has final authority then the people cannot be the authority. Now it is interesting that the final authority of Christ is given great emphasis in the very first mention of the church in the New Testament. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, the Lord says to Peter,

I will build my church [my church] and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, (Matthew 16:18 KJV).

Why will not the gates of hell prevail? Because it is his church! He will govern it and defend it. This is the first and most essential thing about the church -- it is a body under the headship of Christ.

The Epistle to the Ephesians is the great letter of the New Testament that has to do with the church, and in that letter Paul develops two figures to illustrate the nature of the church:

One is that the church is a body and it has a head. Just as our body is governed physically by our head, and our hands and our feet and all the other elements of our body never move except by the command of the head, so the church is a living organism, a body that is not to move except by direct command of the Head, and Christ is the Head. Then, in another passage, Paul compares the church to a building. It is a temple, he says, that is holy, spotless, and growing gradually to be a holy temple that is to be occupied by the Lord himself.

In both figures the idea of growth is emphasized -- the body is growing, the building is growing. But in each case, as well, all authority is vested in the Lord. Christ is the Head of the body; he is the Lord of the temple. Therefore, the basic function of church government is to make room for the ministry and superintendency of Christ as the Head of the church, through the Holy Spirit.

Now it is also revealed in our New Testament that the Lord chooses to make known his will through men whom he designates and equips to carry on the spiritual oversight of his work. These are called by various names in the Scriptures. They are designated as elders in one place, and in another place they are named bishops or overseers (the same word in the Greek), and in still another place they are called pastors and teachers. These all refer to the same office, but they designate different aspects.

The word "elder" is a reference to the man himself. It indicates a man of maturity, a man not necessarily old in years, but mature in judgement. The word "bishop," or "overseer," is a word that has reference to the work. Such a one is to have the oversight: he is to be in superintendency over a group. Then the double word, "pastor and teacher," has a regard to the duties involved. A pastor is a shepherd. The job of these men in any church is to shepherd the flock, to see that they are fed from the Word of God, to see that they are disciplined if necessary, to see that their needs are met, whatever they may be. This is the important task of those who are bishops, elders, pastors, teachers, or whatever title may be used in the Word of God.

It is also clearly evident that there was never just one of these in any given church. There is no instance in the Bible of there being but one individual in authority in the church, other than the story in Third John where Diotrephes is referred to, and John speaks in the most severe terms of this man who "loveth to have the preeminence" (3 John 1:9 KJV), and who lifted himself up and singlehandedly started running the church. In all other churches there were always several elders in charge. Also, in every case, you will notice that these elders (plural) were to serve for life, or until conduct or circumstances rendered it no longer possible for them to serve. This can easily be established as you read through the New Testament. There is never any place where a term of office is mentioned for these men. They were evidently to serve for life, and the only thing that was ever brought to question was their fitness to serve on the basis of their conduct, or the fact that they had moved away, or were otherwise incapacitated.

Immediately, the great question is: "How were these men selected?" What method was used to determine who should serve in this capacity? This is the very heart of the issue. As you read through your New Testament, it is quite obvious that they were, first of all, appointed by the apostles. In Acts, the 14h chapter, Verse 22, we learn that the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, came back down through the cities that they had formerly visited,

...confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:22-23 KJV)

Here is a clear-cut instance of the apostles selecting these individuals, ordaining elders in every church, praying with them, and then commending them to the Lord. These men were not chosen willfully, according of the apostles' own desires. They did not go into a church and take the first good looking man who had become a Christian, and had a pretty sizable bank account, and make him an elder. They were not guided simply by personal preference. It is clearly indicated in the Word of God that they prayed and fasted over this, seeking the mind of the Lord. Who does the Lord want? What does the Head of the Church want as instruments in the governing of his church? Again, this is made manifest in Acts 20, Verse 17, "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church." Then in Verse 28 he says of them,

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28 KJV)

Here are men that the apostles had appointed to their office, but they had first determined that these were men chosen of the Holy Ghost, gifted by God. Then, later on, it is apparent that the apostles appointed apostolic delegates to do this task. Two of these were Timothy and Titus. These were two young men who traveled with Paul, and both were commissioned to this work. In Titus, first chapter, verse five, Paul says,

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee. (Tit 1:5 KJV)

Though Titus was not an apostle, yet he could represent Paul and was commissioned to this task. In First Timothy, the third chapter, Verses 1-7, Timothy was likewise commanded to ordain elders and the qualifications were given specifically that they might recognize the ones whom the Holy Spirit had chosen.

"But," you say, "we do not have apostles or apostolic delegates today!" Yes, we do. There are apostles authorized by the Lord to select elders today!

I remember, on one occasion, I was meeting with two or three Mormons in a home in which we were discussing the tenets of the Mormon faith. One of their constant boasts is that they have the only church that has twelve apostles as well as a council of seventy. They claim, of course, that this is the mark of the true church. They said to me, "You do not belong to the true church. Your church doesn't even have apostles, but our church has twelve apostles." I said, "You are mistaken, my friends, our church does have apostles." They said, "What do you mean? What sect do you belong to?" And I said, "The group I belong to makes no difference, but the apostles that we have are the true apostles." He said, "Well, who are they?" I said, "The apostles we have are the original ones, Paul, John, Peter, James and others who are listed in the New Testament."

"How do you mean," they said, "how can that be?" I said, "Any time I want to find out what the Apostle Paul has to say about a subject, I simply turn to Romans through Hebrews and read his words. If I want to know what the Apostle Peter has to say, I turn to Peter's letters and there is Peter still speaking today." The church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and they still speak to us today. Christ's plan for government has never changed. If you desire to know the qualifications for elders, go to Paul the Apostle, and he will tell you what qualifications you must look for. Ask Peter what are their duties, and he will outline them for you. Then those in positions of leadership see men gifted in this way by the Holy Spirit and they are to recognize that the Spirit of God has chosen such to be in a position of authority within the church. It is really the Apostle Paul who has identified him. He has given us the qualifications by which that man is to be chosen. He still speaks to guide the saints in recognizing who among them the Lord has marked out for this work."

Here is a most significant point. Never once in the whole of the New Testament do you read of churches choosing their own leaders. Never once! Sheep never choose their shepherd. That is always the job of the Chief Shepherd. The sheep never get together and have an election to decide who is going to be their shepherd. Neither is the church, the flock of God, to do it. But, once chosen, the flock is constantly exhorted to recognize that the Chief Shepherd has set these men among them and that they are to honor them, to respect them, and to follow them. In the letter to the Hebrews believers are exhorted,

"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." (Hebrews 13:7 KJV)


Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief, for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:8 KJV)

Then in First Thessalonians, Paul writes,

We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake, and be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 KJV)

This is the Apostle's word to the church concerning those who are in positions of authority over them. Neither are these men left to their own devices on how to run the church. They are carefully instructed by the apostles as to their duties. The Apostle Peter addresses "the elders which are among you" (1 Peter 5:1a KJV), and urges them:

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, neither as being lords over God's heritage, (1 Peter 5:2-3a KJV)

That is, do not think that you are to be the boss of the church and are simply to give orders and everyone must follow what you say. No, remember, this is God's flock, and you are not to lord it over them.

...but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:3b-4 KJV)

These are wise words and they are very badly needed in church government. Other instructions appear in First Timothy and Titus, given to inform the elders of the church where their limitations lie and what form of activities they are to engage in.

Perhaps someone is saying, "Why has this been so largely abandoned today?" Let me answer this with a quotation from W. E. Vine, a noted English scholar. He says:

The course of departure from apostolic teaching and precept is easily traceable. Human pride and rivalry, a struggle for ascendancy and power early produced a class of ecclesiastical officials who obtained their position in a manner very different from what is set forth in Scripture. The case of Diotrophes provides an illustration. The method was adopted, too, of electing church officials by vote, hence the popular or the strong man obtained a coveted position. Dependence on the Spirit of God and the recognition of the evidence of his operation have given place to officialism and formality, and the evil spread gradually but surely, and eventually became general.

I am greatly in the belief that the strong and wonderful fellowship of the Spirit we enjoy here at Peninsula Bible Church is largely because we have been unconsciously led of the Lord into this ancient form of government which so nearly represents what the New Testament sets forth. It is wonderful to see how the Lord can control men whom he has set in the position of authority.

In Isaiah 11, there is a wonderful passage which predicts a time when the wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and the calf and the lion and the fating shall lie down together and a little child shall lead them. In reading that I have often thought, "This sounds like a Board of Directors' meeting at Peninsula Bible Church." If you know these men intimately, as I have had occasion to know them, you would recognize that some of them are pretty strong-minded men. One fellow is like a lion, taking the leadership like a lion, a strong, wonderful man that way. Another one is like a leopard, quiet but deadly! Then another one is more like a wolf. He can snap a bit at times. Still another fellow in his weak moments is more like a bear, sometimes surly and growly. And here am I, poor innocent lamb, in the midst of all these wild animals! But I can testify with a full heart that when we meet together as Directors of Peninsula Bible Church, a miracle takes place. The wolf lies down with the lamb; and the lion and the fating lie down together; the cow and the bear feed together, and so on. We have found a deep bond of peace and fellowship because of the superintendency of the Spirit of God in all these matters.

Perhaps somebody says, "Are we just to leave the church to be run by these men, with the congregation never allowed to decide anything at all?" The answer is, "No." This group is not to decide all questions within the church. On spiritual matters and matters of essential policy within the church their job is to determine the mind of the Lord. They are not to determine their own will, or the will of the people, but the will of the Lord. We believe this is best determined by seeking unanimous action on decisions so that, through the years, there has been an unwritten law that the Board of Directors will not operate by majority vote, but there must be a unanimous vote. Sometimes we must wait quite a while before the Lord gets some of the lions and the bears around to the place where they agree, but it has always been accomplished. When there is unanimity, we believe the mind of the Lord is made manifest. But on matters that have to do with the disbursement of funds for major projects, the voice of the people is rightly heard. This is a matter that concerns the church. When people give money they have a right to say where it is going. A giver has the right to direct his gift. We have tried to recognize this and to set up opportunities for the voice of the congregation to be heard about matters that have to do with the undertaking of missionary projects, building programs, and that type of thing.

I sincerely believe that at Peninsula Bible Church we follow this New Testament pattern as closely as it is possible to do today, and yet I am aware that, even as I write this, there are doubtless areas of failure to which we are blind because of our closeness to the situation, our varied backgrounds, and the times in which we live. Yet I thank God that we have been led of him into a basic form of organization that is close to the New Testament pattern.

Now, before I bring this to a close, let me come back to the all important thing, and that is the Lordship of Christ: How comforting it is to know that we are not left to run things ourselves. We do not have to make final decisions on church matters. When problems come before the church, we do not need to stew and fret, and attempt to solve them ourselves. We are, of course, to investigate and discuss and plan. The Lord wants us to know what is happening. We are to look into matters to see what the underlying principles affecting them may be. The Lord does not work apart from us, but through us. But in the final analysis, we are not to listen to the voice of the people; we are to listen only to the voice of the Lord. We can be sure that when he is in the midst of his church, direction will be given. This church is not ours, it is his church. It was bought with his blood. He cleansed it, and purified it by his Word. He appointed its ordinances. He is the one who has chosen those to guide in spiritual matters, and has equipped them with the necessary qualifications to do the work. It is the Lord who has distributed the talents of gifts and ministry among the whole congregation so that each one has a special talent, a special gift to be exercised in the ministry of the church. It is to the Lord that we bring our gifts, not to the church. If they are withheld, you withhold them from the Lord, not from the church. If you bring them, you bring them to the Lord, not to the church. That is what he meant when he said, "Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me," (Matthew 25:40b).

This is the place where God's honor dwells, where evil doctrines and evil associates are not to have any practice or place. I do not mean this building, I mean this people. This is the place of worship in spirit and in truth. This is the place of witness in love and in power. Of this church, as of all other churches, it is written, "If any man defile the church of God, him will God destroy," (1 Corinthians 3:17). And of this church it is written,

"I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," (Matthew 16:18b KJV)

So traditions and customs and the trappings of men must be put away. We must now take our Bibles and search out these things, and walk in the light of his Word, dwelling together in unity and in peace, speaking the truth in love, and above all else, holding to the Head, who alone has the right to raise up and to put down, to direct and to guide, and before whom we must all give an account.

The Lord and His Church.

Series: Servant Leadership

Special thanks to Pastor Bruce Maez


Reference Reading

The Glorious Church

The Spiritual Gifts

Papers on Prayer I

The Prayer Papers II

The Church Papers

Body Life

The First Begotten

The Central Glory

The Exchanged Life 

Christ in You


Jesus: Our Great High Priest

Notes by Lambert Dolphin 

Email is Welcome: Lambert

Lambert Dolphin's Place (Home Page)

Original Web Site (1995)

Personal Testimony

Music for today 

Come Ye Thankful People, Come (Charles Wesley)

O Come, O Come Immanuel

A Glorious Church

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Jesus, The Light of the World

I Can Not Come to the Banquet

April 10, 2022.

         Google Custom Search